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Crypto’s Rise in Ireland: Young Investors Remain Loyal Despite Risk


The recent market crash in the crypto industry has led to a global decline in leading currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. This contradicts the belief that digital assets were immune to cyclical trends.

The collapse of the FTX exchange and global interest rate hikes amid soaring inflation led to the sharp decline in the industry. However, despite the warnings from the Central Bank of Ireland and other institutions, crypto’s rising popularity nationally led to the founding of dedicated Irish exchanges such as Bitcove, with other global providers including Bitpanda and Revolut joining the Irish market to satisfy the demand to acquire the assets.

James Nagle, a UCC graduate and co-founder of Bitcove, an exchange that mostly serves an Irish customer base, says they have seen trade volumes in 2023 rise by 25% compared to the second half of 2022 following the market crash. “Irish investors have been open to virtual assets,” Mr. Nagle told the Irish Examiner.

Aidan O’Sullivan, a 23-year-old university graduate, invested €2,000 of his own money into the cryptocurrency Cardano in January 2021. Before long, Cardano’s price more than doubled, with the value of Aidan’s investment increasing to over €4,000.

Two years later, in February 2023, what was €4,000 now stands at just under €500, with little to suggest that Cardano will recover to its pre-crash levels anytime soon, but Aidan isn’t going anywhere.

Young people are left with less and less disposable income, and whatever cash they have remaining rots in a savings account. The housing market has become inaccessible for a large proportion of Ireland’s younger population, pushing them to explore alternative avenues.

Mr Nagle notes that the digital literacy of Ireland’s youth “lends itself well to the exploration of virtual assets”, saying, “it is reasonable to expect that these individuals will be curious about the first digital native form of value”.

The volatility of crypto and its lack of regulation has been heavily criticized, with the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Gabriel Makhlouf, recently calling it a “Ponzi scheme,” telling the Oireachtas that unbacked crypto like Bitcoin “has no social value whatsoever.”

Mr Makhlouf made specific reference to the large proportion of young adults who have put their money into crypto, which he warned was fueled by an “uncomfortable level of advertising targeted at a younger cohort.”

After investing €2,500 in a crypto portfolio including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and smaller currencies in early 2022, 25-year-old business development manager Eabha explained her decision to invest as a “no alternative scenario.” “My savings account is losing value as we speak. There is no incentive for me to hold my money in a bank, at least with crypto there is a possibility I can actually gain something.”

While both investors agree that their motivations were largely money-driven, neither was dissuaded after suffering huge losses. “Greed,” Aidan answers bluntly. “The second you sell, you’ve lost it. If I hold, there’s always a chance I can get it back, and more.”

“I’m in it for the long game,” says Eabha. “Anyone can see that these are not the best conditions to invest in, but things will pick up again. And when it does, there is always a chance that I could put in more.”

Although crypto remains a volatile investment with a lack of regulation, young investors in Ireland remain hopeful for the future of virtual assets. Whether crypto is the future of money or nothing more than a slot machine, only time will tell.

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