The Property Porn Hub

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The irish Times’ property supplement

On Saturday, during the ‘Danielle Carroll Summer School’ the matter of the Irish Times and the property industry was raised.

The event, named in honour of a young mother who took her own life while living in emergency accommodation, heard from investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty.

Ms O’Doherty said the Irish Times was repeating the mistakes of a decade ago producing ‘property porn’ in an overheated market.

She said this was helping to pay the salary of journalists such as Kitty Holland, a fellow speaker at the school; with her socially aware journalism providing cover for the paper’s fawning property coverage.

For a newspaper to feature a mother and her children forced to sleep in a car while extolling the value of a one-bedroom cottage in Dublin 8 priced at €500,000 is more than just bad taste.

The reaction was swift.

While acknowledging the paper was partly ‘culpable’ in overheating the property market, Ms Holland then tweeted that Ms O’Doherty was an ‘appalling fantasist’ among other things and stated:

“Soaring house prices would happen with or without the Irish Times. Yes we sell advertising and yes wages have to be paid. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if journalists would work for nothing? The target of ire re housing crisis should [be] our neo-liberal economy. But that needs thought.”

In 2016, when Geraldine Kennedy was invited by the joint committee on the crisis and asked to explain her paper’s role in the boom and crash of the Celtic Tiger, she took a similar route.

She laughed at the mention of economist David McWlliams, who had predicted the crash, calling him ‘entertaining’ but like a ‘stopped clock’.

She described Dr Julien Mercille as a “world class conspiracy theorist’ for highlighting the internal contradictions at the Irish Times.

She stated unambiguously that the standard of news journalism and property journalism at the paper was identical.

Property revenue, she said, had “enabled us to have a correspondent in London, Washington, Paris, Berlin, one in Moscow and for a while one in China.”

It also helped secure matching salaries of €300,000-plus for the paper’s then managing director Maeve Donovan and Ms Kennedy, whose pay at that time was comparable to the editor of The Daily Telegraph.

Ms Kennedy was appointed editor of The Irish Times in October 2002, and retired in June 2011.  In her first four years in charge of the paper, revenue from property advertising increased from €10 million in 2002 to €22 million in 2006.

This was 17% of the total revenue of the business compared to 7 per cent of the Irish Examiner’s and 9 per cent of the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent combined.

Between these years the price of an ordinary home increased each year by the equivalent of the average industrial wage and the average timespan of a mortgage between parents and their children increased from 20 years to 40 years

Unlike most other newspapers, the Irish Times is owned by a trust and the structure allows for the editor to have a seat on the board.

But Ms Kennedy stated during her time as editor:

The property bubble was never raised or discussed by the board.”

In August 2006, the Irish Times began the purchase of Myhome.ie which would eventually cost upwards of €40 million (and would have been €50 million if it reached certain boom-era targets}; enough to produce the entire paper without ads for a full year.

The actual deal with MyHome.ie, whose shareholding was controlled by three estate agents and a bank, was not signed off until the second quarter of 2007.

Some months after Morgan Kelly’s article in the Irish Times in December 2006 showing how threadbare the underlying  economy was.

Asked if she had voted against the deal at board level, Ms Kennedy said:

“I expressed reservations about the decision but one was not asked for one’s support since there was no vote.”

Ms Kennedy was asked did she not think of calling a vote?

“No, I did not. I did not feel strongly enough about it because there was a case for diversifying in The Irish Times and property was a big revenue stream for the newspaper.”

Did anyone in the Irish Times publish an article criticising the purchase of MyHome.ie?

“We published a story about it. It was announced in The Irish Times.”

But, she was asked, did anyone write any critical comment on it?

“No, but nobody was stopped from doing so. That is very important.”

Following the crash, the paper embraced the new politics of austerity with gusto.

Dr Mercille, Ms Kennedy’s ‘world class conspiracy theorist’, outlined, with evidence, that 57% of all opinion articles and editorials in The Irish Times discussing Irish Government budgets between 2008 and 2013 supported austerity with opposition only to specific cuts voiced by 15%.

Ms Kennedy, who had left the paper in 2011, said:

“I believe, personally, and would probably have pursued the policy as editor, that there was very little option for Ireland unfortunately but to try to get its house back in order. It required great sacrifices by ordinary people.”

A deputy noted that political parties are subject to limits on donations and protest that those donations have absolutely no effect on their policies, but nobody, least of all the Irish Times, believes them.

Ms Kennedy said the Irish Times should be believed because of its ‘wonderful’ journalism.

A generous bonus structure for property sales executives at the paper remained after the crash.

In fact, little has changed in the way the paper approaches property advertising, property journalism or, indeed, constructive criticism.

Ms Kennedy was asked: did The Irish Times contribute to the property boom?

“I suppose there is the fact that people were looking at houses and here one had a supplement where one could look at beautiful houses. Did that encourage people to go out and buy them?

I do not know. If they were to go out and buy them they have to get mortgages and everything like that. We were not telling them to go out and buy them or get mortgages”

Earlier: Day For Danielle

23 thoughts on “The Property Porn Hub

  1. Cian

    Hmmm.. So the Irish Time, with a circulation somewhere around 110,000 (in 2007) was responsible for the whole property bubble and crash?

    Just as well it’s circulation is down to 60,000;

    1. D

      above

      “contributed”

      your comment

      “responsible for the whole property bubble”

      I don’t know why anyone bothers with the likes of you?

      1. Cian

        Good point. I should tone down the hyperbole. :-)

        I suppose I should be asking how much does the author think it contributed? If it affected one person to pay over the odds then yes it contributed.

  2. Capitan Alatriste

    I love a catfight. The woman sleeping in the car story was actually broken by a local paper in west dublin.

    1. Dhod

      Heard a story yesterday about AIB staff in bank centre, ballsbridge. Loads of them arrive at 6am and get 3 hours kip in their cars to ensure they nab a parking spot. There’s only a handful of parking spots and competition is fierce. Fairly unrelated, I know

      1. Lilly

        That’s sad. Why don’t they just start work at 6am and leave at 2.30pm. That would make more sense.

        1. Dr.Fart MD

          because, Lilly, their hours are 9-6 presumably, and those are the hours they’d do business with customers and so on. if they started at 6am, people wouldn’t avail of their services until 9am. Very few jobs allow you pick your own hours. If i worked in a clothes shop i couldn’t say “hey i know it’s 9am and you just arrived, but im closing up, i came in early and opened up from 1am, thats 8 hours so im off.

      2. thefatlad

        Can they not get public transport in? Genuine question

        Its well serviced by DART and bus

  3. Pearls FitzG

    Does Geraldine Kennedy speak entirely in impersonal pronouns? One suspects the use of the passive voice could be a deliberate attempt to cognitively deflect the blame in other directions. ;)

  4. M

    I live in Amsterdam.

    50% of all residential units in the city are owned by Trusts for public housing.

    Property is never talked about here.

    It’s not an issue.

    And everyday I look at the front page of the Irish Times and there is some bullshit about what 250,000 would buy you in Meath and Bulgaria.

    Malignant is the word that comes to mind.

    1. Toe Up

      The thing that annoys me about it is how much prominence these stories get on the web site, they are generally displayed above the actual hard news stories on the site.

    2. andy

      I have a friend who’s currently working in the US.
      She is from Amsterdam and has been in the US for 7 years.
      She has not rented out her apartment in Amsterdam because getting the apartment back were she to return to Amsterdam would be difficult as a non-resident landlord. They have punitive rental regulations. She works with lots of other Dutch people who are pretty much all in the same boat. Those that did rent out their homes in Amsterdam did so to ex-pats on secondment to Amsterdam as they knew that at some stage they would be able to get it back.

      Lovely city though.

  5. Ollie Cromwell

    It’s bonkers to blame a newspaper for contributing to a property crash.
    It’s the greed of people willing to take on unfeasibly large amounts of debt to own a home often with the express purpose of flogging it on in the short-term to trouser a handsome profit.
    The ONLY people complaining about a property bubble are those not able or unwilling to risk investing in the market after it crashed.
    I say bring it on and let that Tiger roar again and watch another succession of idiots who don’t know when to get out at the right time get burned.
    Great entertainment.

  6. john f

    The property market here is disjointed. One of the major problems is that no relatively major property developments have been built over the past 9 years. In this time through births, immigration returning emigrants et cetera the demand for housing has increased substantially.
    This time around people are not buying 2nd, 3rd, 4th houses for investment purposes. There is genuine demand. There may well be an external shock to the system internationally that will see asset prices fall across the board but it will be in no way as dramatic as it was in 0819

    1. john f

      Sorry, that 0819 should be 08/09
      part of the problem is return on investment. Right now there is no return on monies held on deposit. To get something back investment funds et cetera are putting money into property. Legislation could be passed that prevents foreign hedge funds from buying up developments in the Irish market. This would help lower the demand and hopefully the price.
      On an unrelated note planning laws in this country are a joke. There is far too much red tape and this greatly limits the supply of housing.

      1. Ollie Cromwell

        Actually legislation was passed specifically to encourage foreign hedge funds to horse into the Irish property market in a bid to kick-start the whole thing again.
        Shortly after the crash the government brought in tax changes to allow no capital gains tax payable on properties was held for 7 years, since reduced to 5.
        Large numbers of empty apartments around the fringes of Dublin were bought by fund managers who took a big risk but found handsome reward.
        Dontcha just love capitalism.
        I do.

  7. Truth in the News

    Those who consider themselves the custodian of the high moral ground are up to their
    necks in the morass of the property bubble that they gave the oxygen of publicity to, their credibility is nil and then the brass neck of lecturing the rest of us about this and that
    Did not Madam Kennedy consort at one stage with that lesser spotted mongrel the PD’s
    is it not their political doctrine that created the spiral that got out of control at the behest
    of their quick rich supporters so they could cash in
    Gemma O’Doherty has exposed the rotten and corrupt in Irish Society, she would give
    that present incumbent of the Vice Regal Lodge a run for his money, in fact he’d take
    the Pension scamper back to Galway, incidentally he avoided attending last Saturday’s
    Aula Maxima session at 11.30 with Catherine Corless on the Tuam Scandal, he was
    listed to grace Aula proceedings at 10.00 am, this was shifted to another site on UCG’s
    grounds, why did he not stand his ground and even join in the session on Corlesse’s
    research,

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