TIM FAN­NING MY VIEW

The psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma of be­ing forced to live in an apart­ment as a child…

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FOOD & DRINK -

Pe­rus­ing RTÉ’s new au­tumn/win­ter sched­ule the other day, I came across a pro­gramme to be aired at some date in the fu­ture called Apart­ment Kids. We’ve al­ready had a scat­ter­ing of doc­u­men­taries which have aimed to tell the story of life in post- Celtic Tiger Ire­land, and this is an­other.

This pro­gramme will ap­par­ently ex­am­ine a new phe­nom­e­non, that of ‘a gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren grow­ing up in iso­lated, subur­ban apart­ments’. Trapped in neg­a­tive eq­uity, their fam­i­lies ‘have lit­tle choice but to raise their chil­dren in small spa­ces, apart­ments built with­out chil­dren in mind’. Worst of all, ‘the so­ci­o­log­i­cal fall­out im­pacts the chil­dren, their par­ents and the community at large’. Now, all of this may or may not, de­pend­ing on your point of view, sound a bit breath­less.

There are thou­sands of fam­i­lies around the coun­try who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing con­sid­er­able hard­ship as a re­sult of crip­pling mort­gage re­pay­ments for prop­er­ties they have out­grown or which are far from the ar­eas in which they wish to live. They may well have en­vis­aged that the small apart­ment they bought to get on the prop­erty lad­der would be swapped for a mod­est two- bed within a short cou­ple of years. Many Ir­ish cit­i­zens were also mis­led by a whole range of in­sti­tu­tions, not least the Gov­ern­ment, who had a stake in keep­ing the price of prop­erty spi­ralling up­wards.

On the other hand, I won­der what some of our neigh­bours in Europe think of all of this. Ital­ians and Spa­niards man­age to get by in small apart­ments with­out any psy­cho­log­i­cal or so­ci­o­log­i­cal dam­age that I can see. They have a strong sense of fam­ily. They so­cialise in restau­rants, cafés or at home. And their towns continue to sup­port bak­ers, gro­cers, butch­ers, fish­mon­gers and cob­blers. Com­pare this with Ire­land, where, in­creas­ingly, the lo­cal shop means Spar or Mace.

Yes, jerry-built boxes were built throughout the land dur­ing the boom, with­out proper reg­u­la­tory prac­tices be­ing en­forced. But I’m not sure the fact of liv­ing in a small apart­ment is the prob­lem in it­self. In fact, it may be that we Ir­ish, for far too long, have de­manded to live in houses as a right, with­out much re­gard for proper ur­ban plan­ning. At this stage, I’ll make a con­fes­sion. I grew up in an apart­ment. With the ex­cep­tion of about five years, I’ve spent my en­tire life liv­ing in them. And I’d con­tend that the ab­sence of a stair­case, a broom cup­board and a back gar­den didn’t have any ma­jor im­pact on me, so­ci­o­log­i­cally speak­ing. But then I’m no so­ci­ol­o­gist.

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