Boom to bust to a bet­ter life

As the econ­omy hints at an­other up­swing, four peo­ple who were rid­ing high in the Celtic Tiger be­fore crash­ing and then rein­vent­ing them­selves of­fer lessons on keep­ing your head in good times and bad, writes Tanya Sweeney

The Irish Times Magazine - - SOCIETY -

Look care­fully, and you’ll find ev­i­dence aplenty that we’re round­ing into a new bout of eco­nomic pros­per­ity: cranes punc­tur­ing the city sky lines. Miche­lin- starred restau­rants no longer tak­ing reser­va­tions. Coats re­tail­ing in Dunnes at ¤ 950. The statis­tics hint at a new boom, too: the Ir­ish econ­omy grew by 7.8 per cent in 2017, and GDP is ex­pected to grow by 4.8 per cent in 2018, three times faster than any other Euro­pean coun­try.

Eco­nom­ics is of­ten called the “dis­mal science” and this all may sound like am­brosia to the ears for some. Yet there is a size­able fac­tion of peo­ple likely to be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a queasy case of deja vu.

Fif­teen years ago, much of Ire­land was marked with a new, abom­inable swagger. He­li­copters to the races, limos to the First Com­mu­nion, Swarovski chan­de­liers in the util­ity room, cham­pagne in the hair­dressers, week­end flights to New York. Those who didn’t ac­quire much ma­te­ri­ally didn’t have far to fall by the time the bust ar­rived in 2008, but many others flew close to the sun, and had a shud­der­ing bump back down to earth.

At 23, Ja­son O’Cal­laghan suc­ceeded Terry Keane as the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent’s so­cial di­arist in 1998, and found that ev­ery door in Dublin’s so­cial set sud­denly opened for him. For a decade, the weeks were a blur of res­tau­rant open­ings, clubs, high- end store launches and fash­ion shows. Thanks to loans, he bought a Har­ley Dav­i­son and a Porsche. Later, he ac­quired mul­ti­ple prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing a bolt­hole in Cannes.

“I was get­ting 100 calls a day from celebri­ties like Pierce Bros­nan, Michael Flat­ley, U2,” he re­calls. “I was hav­ing din­ner and free drinks with mod­els – not bad for some­one who be­came a waiter when he left school.” In ret­ro­spect, he refers to him­self as “some­one at the pin­na­cle of the bullsh** t gen­er­a­tion”. “I bought into my own bulls** t and be­came too big for my boots,” he ad­mits. “Jour­nal­ism, it turns out, is hugely detri­men­tal in re­la­tion to anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.” Overnight, he lost his job, and the phone abruptly stopped ring­ing. He broke up with his girl­friend and hit rock bot­tom. “Within two years of los­ing my job I found my­self work­ing on the Sa­mar­i­tans’ helpline,” he re­veals. “By the time the re­ces­sion hit in 2008, it was all about re­train­ing and re­build­ing and re­brand­ing.” As a mu­si­cian, O’Cal­laghan was able to gig on week­ends while get­ting a Mas­ters in Ap­plied Psy­chol­ogy at Trin­ity. He started his hypnotherapy prac­tice, the D4 Clinic, out of his front room. He re­cently moved to new premises in Black­rock, and these days O’Cal­laghan, a fa­ther of three, is hap­pily liv­ing the sub­ur­ban life and do­ing the school run. His sav­ing grace dur­ing the heady boom years was that he never took drugs. “We all had shed­loads of money and cham­pagne but the one thing is I never got in­volved in any of that stuff,” he re­calls.

I was get­ting 100 calls a day from celebri­ties like Pierce Bros­nan, Michael Flat­ley. . . not bad for some­one who be­came a waiter when he left school

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