'I'm sorry". These should be the first words you hear from any property developer. It amazes me how so many people seem to find it a difficult word to say. I am certainly sorry.
I know many developers, bankers, lawyers, and accountants and I can safely say that very few of them feel any kind of remorse. They are waiting to be saved by Fianna Fáil.
We have done long-term fiscal damage to Ireland which will take years of hard work to correct. This damage needs to be acknowledged. We then need to focus on rebuilding. The country now has a high-quality stock of roads, houses and buildings of all kinds. These need to be put to use in the national interest and as a platform to drive the country forward.
This property bubble was clearly a very large one and the wreckage and hangover from this phase of Ireland's development will take years to work through. Personally, I think that the market has farther to fall and that it will take 10 to 15 years for prices to reach their 2006 levels again.
We should not be in any rush to get property levels back to the peak. The cost of a house, office or shop should be as low as possible to allow Ireland to compete on the world stage. Expensive property led to an expensive economy. Property diverted us from the real business of building jobs and companies and improving people's lives.
The property business is old-fashioned, boring and unglamorous. Its function is to provide homes, offices and factories to the real economy. Let's finally kill our fascination with this business. It was all a mirage.
However, we now have the property assets and infrastructure to allow businesses to form and prosper. Let's use these buildings to develop a real economy, and to support Ireland's most vulnerable.
Let's tackle the overcharging of rent and put legislation in place to allow businesses to breathe. Let's not replace the overcharging landlords with a Nama that seeks to overcharge on rent. The cost of funds for Nama is only 1%, which will allow them to reduce rent on all businesses, and these businesses can then hire staff and grow.
That said, debt is still rigid, and until a process is put in place to write off debt for companies and individuals, a lasting recovery cannot take place.
We have huge amounts of personal debt, and we have falling gross and net incomes with which to service and pay back this debt. Personal borrowers and homeowners who are hopelessly insolvent cannot expect the same result as Nama provides to the banks. Instead people may be reduced to grovelling to the bank manager.
We are now busy saving and restricting consumption. We seem intent on becoming net savers rather than net borrowers. In years to come, this will place the country in a much stronger position, but the transition will close many businesses.
There is clearly an oversupply of almost everything in the economy, the only exceptions being truth, integrity and honesty.
During the Celtic Tiger era, we proved our ability to get out into the world and get business done. Yes, we over-geared and bought many assets for too much. Yes, we focused too much on property, but now we have the experience and we certainly have the ability to be a wealthy, vibrant, sustainable and fair country. We need to make some decisions and get working on a better future for ourselves and our children.
We are legally bound to pay back all the banks' bondholders. We cannot make a brave decision like Iceland recently did, and allow the people of Ireland a referendum on the bank bailout issue. Wall Street will get paid by the Irish. This additional debt with which the government has burdened the nation will make our task more difficult but I think we can trade our way out of this. We need to be busy, visionary and creative and we need to start this now.
We all need to stop looking to the government for answers. There is no central body that can answer the question as to what we should do. The answers will come from the people and entrepreneurs of Ireland by their actions. The industries that will succeed and grow cannot be centrally planned by some overpaid minister whose only experience of life is lunch in the Dáil restaurant. Instead, the government should be like the engine of a good car. Its work should be efficient but silent.
Hopefully, as a result of this crash, we will lose our unhealthy interest in property. John B Keane's The Field was written in 1965, yet the grip that property has on the Irish mind is as strong as ever. I have met and know many Bull McCabes.
I was a property developer who didn't believe in property. I drank the wine and tasted all the good things from the boom but I never believed it to be real.
I want to be a positive force in the rebuilding of society and business. We are a young country with talented people. I know the challenge seems daunting, but I also believe we can use this recession to build a better, stronger, more sustainable Ireland for the benefit of all.
As Barack Obama said: "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."