Few people foresaw that the legacy of the Celtic tiger era might be ruins: shattered banks, ghost estates, persistent high unemployment, emigration and unhappiness
A popular video on YouTube in Ireland is a television news report by the national broadcaster RTE from the early, heady days of the Celtic Tiger.
With savage irony, it shows the government rejecting out of hand a report in 2000 by the state-funded think tank, the Economic and Social Research Institute, calling on the government to slow the economy. The report called for the abolition of mortgage interest relief and suggested other measures to try to cool what was then an economy chugging along at record levels.
"I'm not going to put my hand on the dyke to stop it," said Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach at the time. Charlie McCreevy, the finance minister, said the return of emigrants to work in Ireland was a sign of the country's "economic manhood".
Fast-forward 10 years to the snow and ice coating the "ghost" housing estates in the suburbs around the capital. The contrast between the days of mass immigration and frenzied spending and the dormant husks of houses in these grim developments is stark. Thousands are leaving again to find work in other parts of the world, and the economy seems as frozen and barren as these ghost estates dotting the suburbs and rural areas that served the capital during the boom.
The department of the environment reckons there are 2,800 of these ghost estates, and the giddy property boom left an oversupply of 100,000 homes.
Late 2010 brought some positive signs for the Irish economy. The economy grew in the third quarter as export expansion outweighed the ongoing gloom in the building sector and in consumer spending.
But the deadening weight of the €85 billion [Dh418bn] bailout provided by the EU and IMF to shore up Ireland's banking sector appears to have blasted any positive sentiment.
In December, Moody's cut Ireland's credit rating by five notches and warned that the country faced an increasingly uncertain economic future. It said the cost of rescuing the banking sector had left Irish debt a risky option. And cutbacks during the next four years would harm domestic demand, it said.
Ernst & Young's Winter Forecast for the euro zone expects the Irish economy to shrink 2.3 per cent this year, after a 1.5 per cent decline last year. It will be two years before there is any increase in employment, even though large-scale emigration will take some of the sting out of the problem of joblessness. About 170,000 people will leave to find work in the next four years.
The report anticipates an expansion to an economic growth rate of 2.5 per cent in 2014, but that will do little to ease the chill in the bones in the capital. It seems a long way away. Kick-starting domestic demand remains a major problem. Domestic demand is set to fall 4.7 per cent this year and 2.2 per cent next year. Consumer spending is forecast to fall, while investment could fall 9.5 per cent this year.
The government's tax-and-cuts austerity programme comes as fewer people are at work, there are growing concerns about how to pay the exorbitant mortgages people took out during the 2000s, and the banking sector remains in crisis. Last month, the government appeared to be taking the necessary legal steps to take control Allied Irish Banks - the fourth lender that it has nationalised after Anglo Irish Bank and the building societies Irish Nationwide and EBS.
Ireland is expected to have an average annual employment rate of 14.7 per cent during the next four years, slightly better than the other sick man of the euro zone, Greece, with 14.8 per cent, and much better than Spain, with 19.8 per cent. The euro-zone average is expected to be 9.6 per cent.
So where are the positives?
The longer-term view is that the current period of retrenchment will produce a more competitive, less wasteful Ireland, better able to perform internationally.
Ireland's export sector is performing well, which is encouraging. And despite the general air of depression, the shopping precinct Grafton Street and Dundrum shopping mall were busy in the run-up to Christmas. Irish people can be miserable for only so long.