Abnormal Normality


From top: Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien English TD; Tony Groves

I’ve been feeling very Russian this week; not in the Tolstoy verbose way, or in the cool Constantin Gurdgiev way. I’ve been feeling like a Babushka Doll. You know the ones, the Russian nesting dolls that you open up to reveal a smaller identical doll inside of it, and so on.

I feel like a tiny little Babushka Doll.

A recent Research Report on Leadership of Corporate Culture, conducted by one of the largest professional services firms in the world, delivered what the most unsurprising results of all time..

The report covered 450 CEO’s, CFO’s, board chairs, executive and non-executive directors, company secretaries, risk officers (shoutout to Jonathan Sugarman) and investment managers. The respondents represented both private and publicly listed companies and were drawn from the UK and across Europe.

It’s a very detailed report, but it really just put in writing what many of us already know. Tone, cultural tone, is set at the top of organisations.

This is important in an Irish context. No, it’s not only important, it’s a matter of life and death. As the Director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, Eileen Gleeson tried to walk-back her comments on homeless people on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show, she made another telling Babushka Doll moment.

When asked by Sean to respond to the criticisms of Fr Peter McVerry she replied that she would not be getting into a slagging match with the “service providers”. I listened agog.

Fr Peter McVerry was clearly seen as a service provider and not as a humanitarian, or a altruistic man, or any other way you might describe a man of such generosity. Nope, in the eyes of the state he is a service provider.

Tone from the top. Almost a month ago the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar referred to homelessness as normal at a Fine Gael dinner.

Since then he’s repeated these claims. Even when presented with the statistics that show our “normal” level of homelessness is in the range of 1,500 to 1,650 he still persists with the normalising of the abnormal.

Then yesterday the junior housing minister Damien English, launched an impassioned plea for us all to stop (as Bertie might have said) cribbing and moaning about what is a normal phenomenon.

He said:

“Some of this narrative has seeped into international coverage of our housing system and is damaging to Ireland’s international reputation, that our social response to this issue is being portrayed as dysfunctional.”

The system that created the situation that finds 3,124 children homeless isn’t dysfunctional. That’s normal according to Damien. No, what is dysfunctional is people thinking it’s abnormal.

The junior housing minister also said something very interesting. Something that nobody has picked him up on.

When he said “assertions have been made that homelessness in Ireland is at such crisis levels that we should be excused from the requirements of EU in responding to the issue”, he meant that the government have accepted a level of homelessness is acceptable.

He is saying that, despite EU law allowing for individual states to act to protect their citizens, that this Government will do no such thing.

It was a startling admission that this government values our international reputation more than the well-being of our citizens.

The 8,200 people who are already homeless need to accept this at the new normal. The tens of thousands of families currently at risk of homelessness should accept their plight as the new normal. People barely clinging on need to accept this as the new normal.

Those of us lucky enough to be secure can’t be seen to be talking down the country. Sure isn’t it the new normal.

Tone from the top. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has made the immoral moral and the abnormal normal. And when you open him up Damien English pops out, and when you open him up Eileen Gleeson pops out. That’s normal these days.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld.

Earlier: “Years Of Bad Behaviour”


38 thoughts on “Abnormal Normality

  1. diddy

    No Gombeen Minister is going to have any effect the perception of Ireland abroad. Word is undoubtedly already out that DUBLIN IS FULL! and theres no sign of the housing situation getting better anytime soon.

    non EU immigration needs to be put on ice for 2 years until we get our house in order. That would be just one thing we could do. Dublin hasn’t got room for a 100,000 foreign language students from brazil Taiwan and south korea aswell as the irish and EU citizens were trying to house. Time to get creative!

  2. bisted

    …Matryoshka doll Tony…feeling like a Babushka doll is a sort of Russian Oedipus complex…Constantine will know…

  3. Cian

    1. When Fr Peter McVerry talks for the Peter McVerry Trust – which receives over €10 million annually from the State to provide services – then he is talking as a Service Provider. If Fr Peter McVerry speaks as an individual then respond to the humanitarian and altruistic man.
    2. If something is ‘normal’ this doesn’t follow that it should not be changed – it just means that it is not exceptional.
    3. “the government have accepted a level of homelessness is acceptable” no, they are saying that the EU would not allow an exception to be made to our National Debt parameters because of the “Irish homeless crisis” – when the homeless numbers in Ireland are broadly similar to the rest of the EU. (see point 2)

    1. Nuala MC Namara

      Ireland just uses 3/7 Categories of homeless so comparisons can’t be made especially when 4/7 Categories of homeless excluded plus rough sleepers & 4007 women &children in refuges!Also the ‘offical’ figures in OECD are 2015 figures,’offical’homeless figures now 8374!

      1. Cian

        I replied elsewhere – but the I don’t think the numbers that you are quoting here are correct. There were
        “1,658 individual women and 2,349 individual children stayed in refuge” at some point in the year – not all at the same time. Homeless figures are point in time totals – not how many people have been homeless at some stage in the year.

        But I take your point that the 800-odd women& children in women’s refugees + 150-odd rough sleepers should be included.

    2. Nuala MC Namara

      By the way From Peter receives no salary etc for the great work he does so has more freedom to speak out & caring for homelessness and highlighting it year after year after year with no pension if he ever retires!
      Crimes like assaults,abuse,murder etc happen in other countries,but people don’t say it’s normal,it’s their fault,figures are low,etc they would be viewed as outrageous comments & rightly so…..so why is it acceptable to make those comments re homelessness….well in my view it’s not acceptable and their situation isn’t normal,it’s abnormal!
      CSO ’16 Report shows Homelessness increase by 81% since 2011.
      Why doesn’t Ireland use all ETHOS light 7Catagories of homeless that Europe trying to have a common assessment of homelessness but Ireland just uses 3/7…why?Why excludes Cat 1 rough sleepers it’s supposed to include,Cat 3women&children in refuges excluded,Cat 4,5,6&7 excluded.
      If Government want a real ‘Republic of Opportunity’for all citizens in Ireland then use all the 7 Categories of homeless& don’t exclude ANY homeless person,family or child!This is a National Emergency and it’s the damage to homeless Government should be most concerned about!It’s not about the Political Left, Right or Centre,it’s about thousands and thousands of our fellow citizens!

      1. b

        Peter Mcverry runs a charity that spends about 10mln in salaries for around 300 people. He is a great man but is not the fact that he doesn’t take a salary doesn’t make him immune from any questions if resources are been spent properly. Two other homeless charity heads are on record today saying there is duplication of services for some homeless people

        1. Nuala MC Namara

          I for one don’t question his integrity &he’s a person I’d 100% trust re how money is spent!
          Seeing that Homelessness has gone up 81% since 2011(Census’16),I’d say they’re very busy!

  4. b

    Service Provider /Service User is an extremely common term used across state entities, particularly in the social and mental health services. Its preferred to using terms like patient, client, customers etc

    it’s an odd point to find issue with

  5. Pádraig Ó Raghaill

    There comes a time when highlighting problems starts to achieve the opposite effect of what awareness of problems is meant to achieve; it starts to become ad nauseum. Moving past awareness and into action should be the preferred workflow. It is beyond painfully obvious that FG/FF and not going to extract any kind of digit that will appease either the leftist community or make serious inroads into homeless issues.

    Maybe, it is time to form an actual plan outside of in power government to “be the change you want to be” no amount of outrage is going to effect diddly squat, that is just a cold reality.

    While I am more than sympathetic to the homeless (donating coin and supplies in our local area) a barrage of moral postering (as that is what the left have been doing as their preferred means of awareness) becomes somewhat tiring. “Service provider” as mentioned is also a common term and having been involved in may health and education sectors is a standard term.

    Awareness is fantastic when few people know about problems that face communities, when more know than do not know the workflow has to change.

    /rant off

    1. Shayna

      Pádraig, would you ever be related to “The O’Rahilly” who was, well, met his demise in 1916, and lent his name to many GAA clubs in Ireland. Mine own is Clonoe O’Rahillys in Tyrone, I know in Drogheda, there’s the O’Rahillys there. I’m an O’Neill, I’d always give a nod to another O’Neill (if I knew they were in fact), like-wise I’d give a nod to an O’Rahilly.

        1. Pádraig Ó Raghaill

          I don’t actually know, it would have to be in the name etymology I would say. I know we go back to Cork, that was a long time ago though. I will ask the oracle, (father in law) he is always good with that kind of question.

          1. Shayna

            Sure, it’s great to have an oracle in the family. Mine is my Aunt Eileen, 86, she kinda knows all the beejezus about The O’Neills in Tyrone.
            Please ask your oracle, I’m interested Pádraig.

          2. Pádraig Ó Raghaill

            I will; we just lost the most senior one, 93, that man had lived. We were saying we should have written down more of his stories as it was living Irish history. He had a funny one where he was quite annoyed at Hiter invading Poland as he was meant to go there for training horses, that seemed to be the main thing he was angry about. Nevermind anything else, he halted my horse training ambitions.

          3. anne

            A long line of me feiners it seems.

            ‘a barrage of moral pestering becomes tiresome’ huh.

            off you go with your ‘workflow’ then if it’s tiresome..

  6. SDaedalus

    Great piece, it really identifies the realpolitik of our Government, which is just do enough to keep them happy, while we promote our own careers apace.

    No justification for homelessness in such a highly taxed country, there should be plenty of money to provide services.

    And compassion and understanding never goes astray, and costs less than our elected representatives’ personal expenses.

  7. phil

    Tony I agree and its pretty grimm , but there is hope , I dont know if Im average, but if I am , historically I never would vote for FF because I knew them, I saw plenty of evidence of what they did and what they said. I didnt really know FG, many roared and screamed about economic decisions they made, but I was willing to except their excuses , the country was a mess, and many would disagree with me, but they dont sound like FF to me.

    I now know FG, I see evidence of their ideology, who they admire, and it wasnt hard for me to conclude that I will never vote for them in the future .

  8. realPolithicks

    “No justification for homelessness in such a highly taxed country, there should be plenty of money to provide services.”

    That’s it in a nutshell Sibling, what they don’t have is a real desire to resolve this crisis. Neoliberal parties like FF/FG and so many others consider there is a certain amount of “acceptable” homlessness in society and therefore won’t take the steps necessary to really get to grips with the problem.

  9. Steve

    The Establishment bashing on BS is strong this week. The Shinner bots must be in control of the edit button. Might have missed it but any articles on SF being wholly responsible for collapsing the Stormont talks and returning NI to direct rule?

    Also there is a LOT of statistics being thrown around at the moment. I’m wondering if there is an inverse relationship between Shinnerbot articles on BS and the fortunes of SF/Hard Left/Soccies in the polls.

    Oh the lolz.

    1. catherine ryan

      Haha, The haaaard left that has never been in power? It probably seems mad to the rabid-right, but citizens don’t like stepping over homeless people in sleeping bags when they’re doing the Christmas shopping. It upsets them. It makes them think that there’s a pack of dossers in government who don’t have a clue how to sort basic things out & that they might be next. Odd that.

    2. realPolithicks

      I’ve always wondered if there is an inverse ratio between the use of the phrase “shinner bot” and a persons IQ, Steve has answered the question for me.

      1. Steve

        Ah yeah actually the comment was aimed more at the shinners. the trots are irrelevant, shouting from the ditches. they will be gone as a voice in the next election. same for indos. they were a 5 year apparition, single numbers in next election, the north korean trip lol has just confirmed that. its why you’re seeing FF/FG now consistently averaging a combined 60 odd % in the polls.

        SF jumped on the water bandwagon, but that’s gone now and there is nothing really left to bring the hundreds of thousands out on the streets and get them into the mid 20s in the polls. The Army Council have realised this , so that’s why they are willing to let the juniors/inters sign off this weekend on becoming juniors after the next election. And if they go Junior they will have to compromise and make difficult decisions – it won’t be like Stormont where they can throw their toys out of the pram and blame the Shankill and get London to sign their cheques. It will be welcome to the Establishment Mary Lou. Ireland is moving back to the 2.5 party system – it will be interesting to see how SF deals with being the .5

    3. Nuala MC Namara

      Ah the auld deflection tactic,but I’m sure you’d agree that Census’16 &OECD Reports,2017 Research by Trinity College etc are respectable enough to quote!(note:up to date figures!)!But it’s the real people behind the figures that matter & some of us just care,it’s about thousands and thousands of men,women and children!
      Why must it be assumed if you dare question Government policies,etc that one must be a ‘shinnerbot’,is that a new type of Llama or sock or God forbid new fangled modern technology we are ‘so frightened of'(quoting dear leader!)!

      1. Steve

        Ah I just use it in the same way BS tags establishment voters like myself as traitors. Ridiculous – but I know it annoys ye.

        “Some of us just care”. Spare me. The Shinners and hard left have had a fair crack of the whip at addressing this problem through DCC, but are using their powers to stop social housing/increase the homelessness problem for their own political purposes.

        1. Nuala MC Namara

          I’m neither ‘shinner’ or ‘hard left’ neither of which by the way under whose watch we had a banking crisis wrecking economy and harsh austerity & no’ game changer ‘s re banking debt all of which wrecked lives of ordinary people, families,communities&services leading to crisis after crisis developing into emergencies!
          I don’t care who you vote for ,that’s entirely your business ,what I care for is the people that have to live daily with the Consequences of bad policies including years of austerity!
          By the way is it true as Brendan Ogle said on Tonight show that most the houses being built are for rental housing?
          Daft.ie Report said that this year over 4 main CITIES of Dublin,Cork, Limerick and Galway only 10 houses built by LA’s & that was in Fungal…..10!It would take decades and decades to build 120,500 social houses at that rate as 120,500 on Social housing lists!
          SF refuted what you said re DCC.Minister English was defended Taoiseach for opposition to housing in his area!
          Nothing annoys me re your comments here because this granny is well able for you& you’re entitled to your own opinions,incorrect as they are at times!

  10. Eoin

    A lack of affordable housing in places where people work is part of the issue. You can be re-homed by the state miles away from any job, but that’s not much use. What would help, I reckon, is to keep government out of the markets for a start. NAMA was set up to prevent properties from collapsing to fair market values and the banks that made dodgy loans and got bailed out. That needs to stop. Banks need to take responsibility for their loan book and the state should be prevented from using taxpayers money to re-inflate property bubbles. But of course the banks could just sell their mortgages on to foreign investors so this is really an international issue. Still, banning them from doing that might help at least prevent them lending without a care….which is what got us where we are today.

  11. AndrewSB49

    This is the kind of commentary / analysis we seldom get in the media known as the ‘mainstream’ – it’s as if they’re all working to an official script.

  12. egghead

    The commentary on here is unreal. People offended that offensive and hurtful things are hurtful and offensive. I gave up commenting here for a while, but too many people seem to think it’s cool to defend things that should embarrass us and put the country to shame. It’s not and you lot should be embarassed and ashamed.

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