How far can a speculative bubble go? Judging by the Irish property bubble, it can go further than anyone can imagine. House prices in the Emerald Isle defy all understanding. Their housing numbers are so bizarre, so incredible and so inflated that they make the US bubble a model of restraint.

Consider the following 10 incredible facts about the Irish property market

1 - Since 1970, Irish property prices have increased by around 4,600 percent.

2 - Over the last 10 years, prices increased by an average of almost 14 percent a year.

3 - The growth rate has not fallen below 8 percent.

4 - One Irish worker in eight is employed in the construction industry.

5 - About a quarter of Irish GNP is dependant on construction.

6 - New residential housing construction makes up nearly 13% of GNP.

7 - There is one house for every 2.5 people.

8 - Since 2000, around 75,000 houses have been constructed each year - about a 5 percent increase in the housing stock each year for 6 years.

9 - Around 15 percent of homes are empty.

10 - In 2006, P/E ratios for private housing in some parts of Dublin were approaching 100. The rental yield in the city was just a little over 1 percent.

Take any measure of affordability, and Irish property looks bad. Examine housing inventory, and the market is saturated with supply. Look at personal debt, and the Irish are in so deep they can't see sunlight. And yet, prices just keep rising

When will it end? Who knows? Ireland is so vulnerable to a housing shock that this might be a secret to its durability. No one dares to stop the bubble, because when does finally come to an end, the Irish economy will literally collapse like a house of cards.

Nevertheless, there are tentative signs during the latter half of 2006 that prices have flattened out as a prelude to an all out crash. Moreover, housing construction needs only to fall back by about half and the unemployment rate in Ireland shoots up by 7 percentage points.