I first recommended the Emerald Isle as an overseas retirement haven 25 years ago. A young editor, fresh out of university, I was enchanted by what this beautiful, magical land of patchwork fields, ancient fortresses, and hospitable, fun-loving folk had to offer.
Never did my 21-year-old self imagine that, just over a decade later, she’d be taking off, with her family and her business, for a new life in the Auld Sod. The Ireland I relocated to more than 13 years ago bore little resemblance to the one I’d written about early on in my retire-overseas career. In the interim, the Celtic Tiger had begun to roar.
Sleepy, overlooked Eire, for decades perhaps the most affordable place to retire and own property in all of Europe, had become, by the mid-1990s, the golden child of the European Union. For the first time in anyone’s memory, this country was no longer a net exporter of population. Irish lads and lasses had no reason to look beyond their own shores for opportunity. It existed all around them, in abundance enough to begin luring their compatriots home. Irish people who’d left the island in previous decades began returning. Growth and inflation continued unchecked through the new millennium. And the face of this country changed.
Country pubs were replaced by super pubs with disco balls and sometimes two or three levels of dancing. Young Irish labor in hotels and shops was replaced by immigrant labor from Eastern Europe. The young Irish were off now working for international customer call centers and Dell. Real estate agencies popped up on street corners across the country, selling not only Irish property, but property overseas as well.
When I arrived in Ireland as a new resident, I made an observation: It’s only a matter of time before this runaway freight train rolls off the cliff. My prediction regarding the collapse of the Irish market didn’t play out while I was still an Irish resident, but it is certainly the reality today. I arrived in Ireland with a business agenda at a time when all of Ireland was all about growth and profits. However, when I think of Ireland today, the things that come to mind have nothing to do with making money.
Today, when I think of our time in Ireland, I remember the owner of the corner shop we frequented almost every day. He and his wife sent us a small gift when our son Jack was born and they inquired after both Jack and his older sister Kaitlin every time we saw them. I remember the cabinet-maker who helped to restore our big old Georgian house to its original glories, shutter by shutter and wood plank by wood plank. I think of the castles and the gardens we explored on weekends. And I remember the few times we braved the beaches at Tramore, sitting on the sand in sweaters, shivering and shaking our heads, while the Irish swam and surfed out in the cold Irish Sea. I think of cows in the roads, sheep in the fields, our daughter Kaitlin learning to ride a horse in our front paddock, and of our new son Jack learning to walk in our forever muddy back garden.
I think of these things more often as time passes. And the Auld Sod is returning to her old self. The international investors have pulled out, the overseas property agents have closed up shop, and the East Europeans who came to Ireland in search of opportunity are moving on. Beyond the hubbub surrounding this dramatic reversal lies the real Ireland—the enchanted land of green fields, stone castles, and pub-loving folk. This real Ireland is re-emerging.
Ireland is more affordable than it has been in more than a decade, and I predict that it is going to become even more affordable over the coming couple of years. This country is one of the world’s longest-standing overseas retirement havens. It is also one of the most charming places on earth to think about spending your retirement years. As prices continue to drop, it’s worth a new look.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.