Katherine Butler: Irish shopkeepers' eyes for a bargain

Dublin Notebook: My €200 gift voucher would have to be spent before barter took the place of commerce

Ireland's economic collapse has been so swift, so spectacular and written about in such apocalyptic terms (with a certain relish it has to be said) on this side of the Irish Sea – that I had been expecting famine-style scenes. Things were so dire that in some areas of Dublin, shopkeepers were, it was whispered, selling teabags in ones. So after a bumpy landing at Dublin airport my first act was to hurry to Brown Thomas, Ireland's most deluxe department store. A €200 gift voucher left over from Christmas would have to be spent, I reasoned, before the Hibernian equivalent of Harvey Nichols closed its doors and barter took the place of commerce. Would I find the wind whistling through the Diane Von Furstenberg rails? The last few pots of Crème de la Mer marked down?

The picture was more nuanced than that. True, I was asked at least eight times by assistants with time on their hands if I needed help. And two ladies of a certain age were lamenting the plight of their respective offspring. "It's the young people I feel sorry for", said one. "We're fine – but what in God's name will they do?". But to put things in perspective, they were standing next to the €800 Roberto Cavalli dresses as they commiserated with one another.

In my home town a couple of hours drive from Dublin, victims of the bust have clearly been piling up faster. As I turned the corner into our street I found the tasteful wine shop run by a gentleman who had his own vineyard in France had been airbrushed out of history by a vulgar plastic sign over the door. "Two Euroland" it screamed, while a few doors away, the windows of the boutique that specialised in quirky and pricey Spanish fashion were boarded up and "Discount World!" stood where previously you could pick up stylish items of French country furniture and Belgian linen. All in the space of three months.

Billion-dollar brains

Chuck Feeney is a quiet US philanthropist born in New Jersey during the Great Depression, who is now said to be considering giving some of his vast fortune away to the country his ancestors emigrated from the last time Ireland was a true economic basket case.

The notion of a "secret billionaire" appearing with a cheque book seems too good to be true. Except, hang on. Ireland has had a secret billionaire for years now – Germany. If it is dawning that the protection (and largesse) of the EU is the country's best hope of weathering the tornado, then perhaps Irish voters will repent and vote through the Lisbon treaty in the autumn.

Banker is just the Trichet

Those in charge of Europe might also take heart from knowing that Jean-Claude Trichet is officially now a household name. My sister, a music teacher not previously noted for her knowledge of global economics, mentioned the name of the President of the European Central Bank casually over lunch as if he was the manager of her local branch. And everyone present nodded solemnly in recognition.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn