You may find it curious that at the moment the Irish Times is doing extensive coverage of Irish developers, those brave and assiduous men, and they are all men, who are bringing this country the type of shopping centres and office blocks that we could only have dreamed of when we sat watching Dallas in the late 70s.
It is curious too to see Frank McDonald being profiler-in-chief, and letting the petit bourgeoisie know what makes a good developer tick. McDonald up to now has been a bit of a lone voice when it comes to chronicling the debacle that is Irish urban planning, pointing out systematically how poor planning and bad government decision making has led to snaking traffic jams, the mushrooming of commuter belt suburbs without adequate amenities and poorly managed spiralling construction costs for public projects. But of course, there is no connection between property developers and government, so there’s no reason for him to make the connection, right?
But you may say: why shouldn’t the Irish Times profile these men in such an ‘in-depth’ way? They are changing the face of modern Ireland after all, and what is the Irish Times for but reviewing the ‘…times we live in’? Of course, a cynic would point to the acquisition of myhome.ie, the Irish property website for €50m (that is, €15m higher than the expected price) and suggest that the Irish Times have a significant financial stake in the Irish Property market. And the deeply cynical might point to the Sunday Independent business article on the 21st of October which rather gleefully (as you would expect) tells us:
“What looked like an aggressive move back then is now looking decidedly less sound, in its most recently filed accounts profits halved to just €750,229 post tax from €1.57m a year earlier. Pre-tax profits were also seriously dented coming in at only €1.12m from €1.7m a year earlier. Not only did the Irish Times pay top whack for myhome, it has also put some €1.4m in an ill fated investment in newaddresss.ie — a company that aims to take the pain out of moving home.
It spent some €700,000 acquiring the company just a year earlier and then pumped as much again into it. In July this year it sold the company to Tico, but the amount paid has not been revealed.”
To suggest that a paper’s editorial decision making is determined by its own commercial interests is a very strong accusation. A paper’s reputation, after all, is based on it being able to demonstrate its objectivity so that you can be sure that the news you read is accurate.
Which brings me to the good news about myhome.ie. It has won an award. And not any award but the Irish Times Property Advertising Awards 2007. And it won in the only category in which it was eligible, Myhome.ie Best Property Industry Website Award.
This isn’t a misprint, Myhome.ie won the Myhome.ie Best Property Industry Website Award at the Irish Times Property Advertising Awards 2007. Judging of the Awards was done, according to the application form which was required in order to be entered for an award:
“by a jury made up of members nominated by each of the seven organisations, The Irish Times, IAVI - Irish Auctioneers & Valuers Institute, IPAV - Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers, CIF- Construction Industry Federation, IAPI - Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland, ICAD – Institute of Creative Advertising and Design and SCS - Society of Chartered Surveyers.”
The Irish Times article chronicling the awards itself is pretty hilarious. Tom Parlon, once Minister for State and PD now the director general, no less, of the Construction Industry Federation said that output next year could fall as low as 45,000 units. Thanks goodness he’s not a director general with his head in the sand. They have a good man there, I think you’ll agree.
But wait, he says more:
“We in the CIF hope to be wrong with these figures, but at present market conditions, that is what the output will be according to our members on the ground.”
Phew, I thought he was going to say something stupid there, something like, ‘if we play our cards right it can go up rather than down’.
Oh no, I was too quick to judge. He’s as dumb as I thought:
“It doesn’t have to be, of course. If confidence and common sense can be restored to the market, output next year will be substantially higher.”
“The €36 billion construction industry is crucial to the country’s economy”, he said.
No shit, Sherlock. Because of you and your cronies the country’s economy has become over reliant on the construction industry. And he also reveals what a pot of money is involved for the Irish Times with regard to the advertisement of Irish property:
“The many spin-off industries include the €155 million advertising sector, which is significantly ahead of sectors such as food, entertainment, motor, banking and recruitment, he said.”
So if you’re still wondering why the Irish Times are providing such breathy coverage of Irish Property Developers it should now be clear. They simply have no shame.
One final point. In the Sunday Independent article it said that “myhome is running into further controversy, blocking access to bloggers who have been compiling lists recording the steep falls in house prices over the past year. All names and prices are now embedded in images so programmers can no longer use the data to do automated trawls.”
Does anyone know who these bloggers are?