In Dublin, the builders are back.

Across the city centre glossy office blocks are sprouting up in a tangible sign of Ireland’s economic recovery.

There are more than 30 tower cranes across the skyline and construction firms are hiring.

When the outgoing government took power in 2011 unemployment was over 14% and the economy was barely growing.

Today, unemployment is below 9% and Ireland probably has the fastest growing economy in Europe.

In an election campaign, that fact should give a huge advantage to the centre-right Fine Gael and the centre-left Labour who have been in power for the last five years.

But the polls indicate they will struggle to form a majority. Labour could lose as many as half its seats.

Economic growth has not translated into a feelgood factor.

Architect Hugh Wallace believes the coalition deserve more credit for their economic management.

At the peak of the boom his studio employed 160 people, but in 2009 the economic crash pushed the business into liquidation.


Now he’s back, employing a team of young designers and working on projects from Belfast to Oman.

“I think Noonan [the Irish finance minister] has done an amazing job. People forget what 2011 was like here. Nobody knew what was going to happen.

“But Labour, I think, have been kicked for the wrong reasons.”

Sources of dissatisfaction are easy to find.

Citizens have been hit with a raft of spending cuts and tax rises over the last five years as the coalition continued to implement the austerity demanded by the international institutions which bailed Ireland out.

There is a housing crisis in Dublin. A dysfunctional market which delivered too may houses in the wrong places now can’t provide enough in the right places.


The Capuchin Day Centre in the north inner city is at the sharp end of that crisis.

It provides food and medical help for hundreds of homeless people every day.

It is run by Brother Kevin Crowley who says his main concern is “the number of family and children coming in here every day.

“It’s absolutely appalling to see the number of children who are leaving here to live in hotel rooms,” he said.

“The government has done nothing in the last number of years for housing.”

Only a small minority of people will have experienced the trauma of homelessness but there is a widespread feeling that the fruits of recovery have not been widely shared.

There is a perception that the winners have been been people in Dublin who work for multinationals.

When it comes to job creation that is not necessarily borne out by the numbers.

Prof Alan Barrett, from the Economic and Social Research Institute, says most regions have benefited.

“Dublin is experiencing the greatest growth and things are not good in the west, but places like the border regions and the south east are experiencing employment growth,” he said.

“Over the last two years we’ve created about 100,000 jobs and something like 20% are in construction. So it is broadly based.”

The coalition has just two weeks to convince the electorate that it is best placed to build on that progress.


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