In a world full of outrageous housing bubbles, few countries could match the Irish mania for property speculation.
The Irish bubble was driven primarily by a massive increase in housing construction. Holidy homes were a particular specialty. People took out huge loans to build country retreats, hoping to sell them later when prices rose sufficiently to cover the construction costs.
The bubble left the Irish countryside littered with empty bungalows. Perhaps as many as one in eight houses in Ireland are unoccupied.
The bottom is now fallen out of the Irish housing market. Construction, which depended heavily on the housing bubble, has collapsed. As a consequence, the economy is in freefall. Ireland now finds itself in one of the nastiest recessions in Europe.