Behold the dark side of prosperity.
As recently as the 1980s, young people had to leave Ireland to find work and millionaires were as rare as hen’s teeth, as the Irish say. But by 2005, according to the Bank of Ireland, the country of 4 million people had 30,000 residents worth more than a million euros, or about $1.5 million. A year later, the number of millionaires had jumped another 10 percent.
Ireland’s per-capita income is now among the highest in the world, surpassing those in the United States, Sweden and Japan, according to the World Bank.
Wealth has given the Irish more options and less time — a bad combination for the local pub. More people are spending sunny weekends in Spain rather than evenings of “craic,” as good times and conversation are known, down at the pub.
Fewer people are farming the valuable rolling green hills around Carney’s, about 50 miles south of Galway, and more are commuting long distances to better-paying jobs. And all over the country, when the weary commuters return home, many now prefer to stay in their comfortable homes with a glass of chardonnay in front of their flat-screen TVs.
The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, which represents rural pubs, said the number of pubs outside Dublin has dropped from 6,000 to 5,000 in the past three years. Some estimates suggest the number may soon dwindle to 3,500.
That’s just wrong. I suppose if I ever want to experience a real Irish pub, I’d better get a move on before it’s too late.