With the five-year anniversary of the nationalising of the Irish banks having just passed us, one would think that at this stage we would have some answers. One would be wrong. Of course, much has been written about the topic in the years since. However, as much as we and the media enjoy blaming the elites of the world for what happened, the media also had a large role to play in the inflating the property bubble which has since burst and the consequences of which have hobbled the country. They toed the party line regarding property prices, and as a result, played an important propagandising role in the country. Whilst over the previous week there have been numerous articles written about the bank guarantee and the resulting economic downfall, as far as I am aware, nothing has been said about the media’s culpability. This is an important omission, but not entirely unsurprising.
Nevertheless, one Irish-based academic has looked at this particular issue. In April of this year, Julien Mercille, of the School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Policy in University College Dublin (UCD), published a paper entitled “The Role of the Media in Sustaining Ireland’s Housing Bubble”. The paper, which got a very limited amount of publicity at the time of its publication, goes into great detail regarding the functioning of the economy prior to the bank guarantee and the media’s role in helping to inflate and sustain the property bubble. As early as 1998, economist David McWilliams was writing about the dangers of a property bubble emerging in Ireland as all of the signs pointed to one. He wrote that, “general credit in the economy is up more than 20 per cent in 1997 alone. A quick glance at property prices suggests that we are definitely entering asset-price bubble territory”. However, such viewpoints were rarely heard in the national media and reasons for this are simple: The centralisation of power, overlapping interests, and clientelism/cronyism. We can see this when we look at the composition of those at the top of the various private and state-owned media in Ireland.