Over half of all adults in Ireland are middle-class now, but that’s only half the story. Because within that, you have a collection of sub-groups jostling for position in the social order. I rank these new micro-classes and show how they use cars, cash, muscles, bikes and gay best friends to establish their credentials. So, where you do you stand in the scheme of things?
THE TECHIE COUPLE
They met at work, during an out-of-hours email system upgrade. One thing led to another, and they ended up having it off in a meeting space called The Westport Room. Their best man based his wedding speech around the episode and Fr. Fitzgerald nearly swallowed his false teeth, with all the laughing.
They drive a Hyundai Tucson, one spec up from their neighbour’s Hyundai Tucson. (She’s only a teacher.) What do they eat? The faces off each other every Friday night, after drinking two bottles of wine from the middle shelf in Aldi. It’s the reason they have three kids instead of two and they’re thinking of cutting back.
They like to holiday on campsites in the south of France that aren’t covered by U.K. or Irish tourist operators. That’s because they went with an Irish operator one year and ended up holidaying next to their plumber. He gave his children pizza every night (!). They discussed reporting him to the local police, but agreed there is no way they’d find another plumber.
Middle-Class Rank: 6. He can be quite common after a few pints and they’ve never been show-jumping.
THE ONE PER CENTERS
The new officer class in Middle-Ireland. They will often introduce themselves as VP for Blue Sky On-Boarding at EvilNerds.com. Under no circumstances should you laugh at this title. They are your overlords now, the last people with a decent job once Chinese Robots have replaced teachers and accountants. The correct response is to prostrate yourself on the floor and ask if they need their gutters cleaned.
They live in two places. The first is Dubai for 6 months and a day of each year. If you don’t understand why, ring the Revenue. The rest of the time they live in a house in south Kerry that looks like it might belong to a super-villain. The doorbell even says “Ve meet again” when you ring it. It’s their idea of a joke. It’s on you.
Mind you, they have a tough life. It’s not easy to hire an entire Bangladeshi family to load the dishwasher in Dubai, only to return home to Ireland and find you have to do it for yourself.
A word for those of you who’d like to join our one percenters. It turns out that hopping on a conference call at 4am every morning to discuss Project On-Board Going Forward 3.0 is as awful as it sounds.
Middle-Class Ranking: 1. They are your future, bow down before them.
THE SQUEEZED FOODIE
The Squeezed Foodie is squeezed for the same reason most of us are squeezed; she’s still paying off that Celtic Tiger mortgage and can’t resist a spa-break deal where they throw in a glass of sparkling wine on arrival. She rejects any notion that she belongs to the Squeezed Middle though; that would lump her in with people who tuck into a Marks and Spencer Meal for Two deal on a Friday night.
As she never tires of pointing out, that kind of food is for the masses. (‘The masses’ is her third favourite phrase, after ‘a documentary on YouTube about sugar’ and ‘poisoning your kids.’)
Her natural habitat is a small, hipster grocery shop called Why Pay Less For Carrots? She can’t afford the stuff in there, so she waits until the coast is clear to load up on nearly-gone-off kimchi in a jam-jar, now only €17.99 a pop. Ok, so the guy at the checkout knows her game, but he has a working-class accent and probably thinks jam is a fruit. So, who cares what he thinks?
Middle-Class Ranking: 5. It turns out the Why Pay Less for Carrots? bag is worth the hassle.
DECLAN AND DERMOT
Obviously, not all gay people are the same. It’s not like they all live in a big house in Dublin 4. Or, RTE, as it’s known by that defrocked priest who keeps firing off angry letters to your local newspaper. But, what some people still call The Gay Crowd are now all the rage in Middle-Ireland circles. We hear it’s impossible to go to a barbeque in Athlone without being introduced to a bemused looking couple known as ‘our gay friends, Declan and Dermot.’
Declan and Dermot are a bigger hit in suburban Middle Ireland than decking was back in 1996. It’s got to the stage where they rarely see their gay friends any more, unless it’s a particularly big barbeque and the hosts invite extras to make sure they don’t run out of gay friends. This new-found popularity is the price of the Same Sex Marriage referendum. Dermot is actually considering being seen around town with a woman, just so they can get a weekend to themselves.
It’s not like they’ll miss the conversation at these barbeques. Dermot: “We’re adopting a little girl next week.” Irish mother on her 3rd glass of prosecco: “The poor thing will have no Mammy!” Declan: “I know. Isn’t she lucky?”
Middle-Class Ranking: 4. And the only way is up.
THE GUY WITH LOADS OF MONEY
You know him alright. The guy in your estate with a 2017 Audi, a carbon-frame, Cube Litening C:62 Race bike worth almost three grand, a two ski-holiday minimum, and no obvious source of income. He’s driving people nuts. It’s got to the point where there is only one topic at the weekly mother and toddler event – where does he get his money? Fiona in number seven tried to start a rumour that it’s drugs, but it failed to get off the ground because he’s just so normal and nice.
People can’t help admiring him. It wouldn’t be so bad if Guy With Loads of Money was fat, and sat around all day watching Jeremy Kyle. At least that way, people could go ahead and assume he won the lottery. Unfortunately, he’s got a BMI of 19, speaks Mandarin Chinese and leaves the house at 6:30 every morning. There was hopeful talk he might be a skanger when news broke he was going to Tenerife on holidays; that evaporated when it emerged he was going to a yoga retreat on an organic plantation.
Middle-Class Rank: 8. Fiona is right, he’s a drug dealer. That yoga retreat in Tenerife is full of them, apparently.
OLD MONEY MARCUS
It’s all in the tan with Marcus. You know it didn’t come out of a bottle, and it’s not wind-tan from sailing, because they’d let anyone out in a yacht these days. Under no circumstances should you ask him where he got this tan. It’s just an invitation to say he’s been to an exclusive wellness centre in Namibia with an unreasonably good-looking German, called Heidi. He will show you the photos and this will make you feel bad about your life.
Marcus owns a chain of loss-making donut shops. That’s quite an achievement in the current climate. Don’t waste your time looking for a link between his income and the limited edition, 1980 Mercedes 380 SL he drives at the weekend. Focus instead on the fact that he still lives at home with Mother and Dad-Dad, in a house that was once like a second home to George-Bernard Shaw. Marcus is trying to get the old pair to put solar panels on the roof to impress a minor German aristocrat that would remind you of Bella Hadid; Dad-Dad is having none of it.
If you are upset that Marcus’s Armando Cabral sneakers are worth more than your car, tell him that he’s only middle-class. That’s for bogmen and people from Dundrum, says he, launching into the story of how he’s descended from the Earl of Kildare.
Middle-Class Ranking: 2. There is no substitute for class, or a rich Dad-Dad.
THE MUSCLE COUPLE
She’s showcasing her ass in expensive activewear and owns three nail bars. He has a startling hipster beard and tapered-leg tracksuit. Both are perfectly toned and carrying a brightly coloured vitamin drink. Neither are wearing socks. Welcome to the Muscle Couple.
You will find them in Pavilions Shopping Centre, Swords before 10 am at the weekend. Before 10 am is their way of saying we weren’t out last night. This sets them apart from their siblings, who are still out at 10 am, and will probably end up living in an affordable housing scheme.
The Muscle Couple want to get ahead and have already traded up from their mid-terrace to a semi-d on the estate. They are hoping to make it big on social media, which is why they spent €1500 for an online course called How to Make a Fortune as a Vlogging Couple without Banging Each Other.
They have been watching a lot of Amy Huberman shows in preparation for the biggest challenge of their lives. Yes, they have plans to step-up and start hanging out in Dundrum Shopping Centre at the weekends. You wouldn’t want to try that with the wrong accent.
Middle-Class Ranking. 10. Tracksuits. They’re still just tracksuits.
THE FAMILY THAT OWNS THE TOWN
Their name is on the local G.A.A. jerseys, they own the convenience shop on Main Street, the undertakers next door and a clothes shop called ‘Lookin’ Good, Nora’. Every place in rural Ireland has one. They’re the family that owns the town.
Most of them live in a modest pile just outside of town, in case people think they are up themselves. The rest of them live in a modest villa on the Algarve until their post-crash bankruptcy gets sorted out. They’ll be home soon.
Their main challenge now is to get their entitled kids to take over the reins. Cian and Cliona didn’t spend four years doing Business Studies in U.C.D., just so they could stand behind a counter and listen to old Mrs. MacCarthy talking about the black taxi drivers above in Dublin. Their aim is to take the business on-line, going forward, and deploy robots to listen to Mrs. Mac explain why she isn’t a racist. Their father, Frank, reckons Mrs. Mac will be fine with this, as long as the robots are white.
Middle-Class Ranking: 3. Never bet against anyone with a slew of cash businesses and a ‘friend’ in Jersey banking circles.
Jonathan and Deirdre aren’t happy to be back from Zurich. They have never been happy about anything. That’s one of the things that attracted them to Switzerland.
After a spell working in bio-pharmaceuticals, they decided to move back do Dublin to be nearer to their families. That’s shorthand for the Swiss wouldn’t talk to us and you wouldn’t believe the costs of babysitting. The key to getting on with Jonathan and Deirdre is to avoid talking to them at all costs. Unless you want to get a lecture on how Ireland would be a better country if we only paid loads more tax and gave everyone their own tram.
Don’t worry, you can still keep in touch with their lives. The Irish Times has decided to focus on the returning emigrant market by giving every one of them their own column, as long as they have a degree.
Given their salaries, and inflated notion of self-worth, Jonathan and Deirdre were hoping to get their kids into an elite school aimed at the super-rich in south county Dublin. However, it turns out the only group they can compete with on this list is the Muscle Couple, and that might change if your one opens up a fourth nail bar. So Jonathan and Deirdre are now looking at second-tier private schools like Clongowes and Alexandra College. It isn’t making them one bit happy.
Middle-Class Ranking: 7. They are livid to be ranked below The Family That Owns the Town – that would never happen in Switzerland.
ANGRY PROFESSIONAL 2.0
Their predecessor, A.P. 1.0, was a solicitor during the Celtic Tiger years. He got sick of doing the paperwork for property deals on behalf of a former class-mate school who could barely spell his name. That’s why he borrowed 10 million and bought into a property syndicate with other solicitors in 2007. Angry only scratches at the surface of his mental condition.
And yet he has a sunnier disposition than Angry Professional 2.0. Why? At least he was rich for a few months. That’s something beyond the reach of the new batch of doctors and lawyers. These people spent a fortune during their five years in college; some of them even went to lectures. Now they can’t compete in the property market with nerdy types who are working on a slew of apps to replace solicitors, doctors and various other golf club bores. Our A.P 2.0s lie awake in their rented houses at night, muttering darkly about their nerdy overlords. And regretting the decision to put Law above Computer Science on their CAO application.
Middle-Class Ranking: 9. If there was such a thing as relegation from the Middle-Class, they’d be in the mix.