How the racing aristocracy of Ireland have fared in slump

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The Independent Online

The collapse of the Irish economic miracle has been dramatic. A long boom, powered by low corporate tax rates and a property bubble, came to an abrupt end with the 2008 financial crisis.

The Irish government's bailout of the banking sector, which had fuelled the property boom with cheap lending, failed to avert a deep recession and rising unemployment.

House prices have fallen by 50 per cent since the credit crunch. A series of cost-cutting budgets have cut public spending as well as public sector wages and raised taxes.

The latest four-year austerity plan will cut another €15bn over four years but the country's budget deficit will still be the equivalent of 32 per cent of GDP this year. The €85bn rescue plan agreed between the Republic and the EU has done little to restore confidence in a society whose optimism about the country's economic future has been shattered.

Ireland's leading property tycoons and businessmen haven't escaped the misery. The number of people earning more than €1m has fallen from 1,447 to 796 since 2008. The number earning between €500,000 and €1 million has fallen from 3,946 to 2,522 between 2008 and 2010.

Seá* Quinn, who once topped the Forbes Ireland Rich List, lost nearly half of his estimated €3.3bn fortune, when his insurance business was placed in administration.

John Magnier, Ireland's leading thoroughbred stud owner, has seen a decline in the prices charged for the services of his Coolmore studs in County Tipperary, Kentucky and Australia; this has reduced the value of the studs by an estimated £50m to £90m this year.

Others, such as JP McManus, the bookie-turned-investor, have weathered the storm better. Mr McManus, who owns 100 thoroughbreds at his studs in Newmarket and Limerick, is reported to have increased his wealth to £481m last year.

And despite the bursting of the property bubble, 31 Irish business figures remain on the Estates Gazette UK Rich List, accounting for €5.4bn of the €85bn total in commercial and real estate assets owned by the UK's top 250 developers and investors. But with incomes for ordinary Irish households continuing to decline and public sector employees losing up to 14 per cent of their salary following income and pension levies, the Cheltenham racetrack is one of the few avenues where the Irish can currently take solace.

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