Leo Varadkar at a recital of Christmas carols by Department of the Taoiseach’s staff choir this afternoon
Eamonn Kelly, responding to comments from his post on homelessness on Friday (What Shall We Freeze?), writes:
I can see the role of supply and demand in the whole homeless crisis, as some of the comments have pointed out, but I find it a bit tragic that we appear to be so helpless against market forces. I don’t think we are. I think the government chooses to believe we are helpless and uses this impression as an excuse to do nothing.
They don’t do anything about imposing some kind of rent freeze. They don’t do anything about building social housing. They throw us all on the mercy of the market, standing over a system that is seeing Irish people dying on the streets of Dublin. And they are doing nothing to prevent this.
If there was a will to prevent or deal with homelessness there would be no homelessness, but there is no will. And that was most apparent at the dismal turnout for the Dail debate on the issue. No ideas are put forward.
For instance, off the top of my head, as some kind of recompense for providing tax avoidance loop holes for multi-national companies, you could factor in a deal that they build social housing or worker housing, like industrialists did in the 19th century.
Something like this could be done if solving homelessness was a priority at political level.
But it’s not just the government to blame for this neglect. It is, apparently, the majority of Irish people supporting these policies with their silence.
It seems that a consensus has been quietly arrived at that we can afford to “lose a few” in pursuit of economic recovery. And besides, the new Taoiseach is kind of trendy looking. That’s progress too, in a way.
And the media too, in a wrong-headed approach to increasing economic confidence they are exaggerating the recovery. That 10.5% I mentioned in the original article, as trumpeted by the Irish Times, had become, by the RTE News at 9, “just under 12%”.
The effect of these exaggerations, as one commentator pointed out, is to attract emigrants back into a system that literally can’t accommodate them, returning due to a falsely raised hope of a recovery more advanced than it actually is, piling even more pressure onto the creaking system.
Lots of people are doing really well from the upsurge in private rents. It’s not just anonymous international vulture capitalists driving this. It’s “ordinary” Irish people too.
It’s so cruel and heartless, and justified in the main on prejudicial thinking, that sometimes it crosses your mind that the entrenched Irish establishment is made up mainly of those who survived the famine.
When I framed the question in the title of the original piece, What Shall We Freeze? I didn’t have a ready answer. I was being a bit cute. But an answer came to me hours later. What shall we freeze? Our hearts. We must freeze our hearts for the sake of the economy’s health. It’s the only way forward.
Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all. May you never have to make your bed out in the cold.
It has been said before that there is a kind of denial of class division in Ireland. But everyone knows that there is a class system, a lower and upper and so on, though the insistence appears to be that there are mainly “normal people like us”, who are annoyed for the most part by “skangers”, “scumbags”, “posh fuckers” and the “super rich”.
The socially unfortunate are explained away by seizing on a kind of Catholic throwback understanding, part karma and part divine retribution, which amounts to the judgment that they “brought it on themselves” by, usually, “not working hard enough”.
The new homeless fall into this category, a kind of secular damned, suffering the torments brought about by original economic sin of borrowing too much, and, presumably, “not working hard enough.”
The various prejudices that hold the whole thing together are supplemented by selective readings of the news. Stats are particularly good for propping up the illusion that everything is hunky dory. Just don’t contrast stories from different ends of the spectrum or they’re likely to ignite and blow up in your face.
Take today for instance, December 15th 2017.
The Irish Times had a story reporting over 10% growth in GDP, with the strong pick-up due to “personal consumption”. If you want to support the system, Leo’s Ireland, and pat yourself on the back for being of optimistic outlook, you’ll seize on that reported 10.5% growth figure and think no more about it.
But if you read down through the article you’ll find that the figure isn’t as solid as it might first appear to be, due to difficulties in acquiring accurate measurements of GDP. By the end of the article the true figure for GDP growth is somewhere between 6.5% and 10%, maybe.
Goodbody analyst Dermot O’Leary is quoted as saying:
“the headline GDP growth estimate of 10.5 per cent year on year is not a realistic gauge of the pace of growth in Ireland in Q3 2017…”
That the article leads with the headline “Irish economy surges to double-digit growth,” is a fair indication that the Irish Times believes that this is what we should believe. But the headline is an inaccurate exaggeration of the true story, almost tabloidy, so, proving that in mean times even the formerly urbane may become a little calloused.
Meanwhile, over in RTÉ, Fr Peter McVerry was also quoting figures to Cathal MacCoille on Morning Ireland, the dialogue reported in Broadsheet. Fr McVerry was calling for a rent freeze, describing the current housing crisis as “beyond crisis”. He warned that within months all available hotel accommodation would be used up.
“In January this year, there were 410 families in emergency accommodation. In July, there were 659 families in emergency accommodation. The numbers are just going up and up and up. And I would describe the situation,
it’s like a boat that’s drifting, it’s drifting towards the rocks and there doesn’t seem to be any engine that’s trying to drift it away from the rocks and there doesn’t seem to be anybody in charge. The problem is just getting worse and I see no measures being taken to try and address that problem in the short term.”
Fr McVerry added:
“The primary cause now of homelessness, of 90% of the new people becoming homeless is the private, rental sector. Their rents have gone through the roof. People can no longer afford them…”
Wait! Didn’t the other article in the Irish Times say that the GDP was up due mainly to personal consumption? From the times article:
“The latest quarterly national accounts show gross domestic product (GDP) accelerated by 4.2 per cent in the third quarter alone amid a pick-up in personal consumption…”
Hmm… Could these stories be connected?
Fr McVerry said that he and others have been calling for rent freezes for over a year now, but these calls have been ignored, and while rents have increased dramatically, rent supplement from the department of social protection has decreased.
“The rents, nationwide, in the last three and a half years have gone up by an average of €50 per week. In Dublin they’ve gone up by over €90 per week on average and the rent supplement has been reduced by 28% – there is just no correlation now between the rent supplement and the rents that are being demanded by the landlord.”
Fr McVerry added that Alan Kelly, Minster for Environment, Community and Local Government had promised a rent freeze last February:
“…he said he was going to do it – he actually said he was going to introduce emergency rent freeze. We’ve heard nothing since.”
If there were some correlation between increasing rents and “surging GDP” due to “personal consumption”, a rent freeze might mess up the surging GDP, effectively freezing the recovery.
This leaves the government really with a choice on what to freeze, like so many economic housewives. Given that many of them are landlords we shouldn’t be too surprised that they often choose, by neglect, to freeze the homeless. Sure, they probably deserve it anyway. If they’d worked harder when they had the chance they wouldn’t be homeless.
They’ve only themselves to blame.
Meanwhile, on Facebook, someone shared a Christmas card from President Michael D. Higgins. The president’s Christmas Message was:
“To give protection, food and water to those who are fleeing war, oppression or starvation is a matter of fundamental, universal human solidarity. The refusal to do so goes beyond that remarkable phrase coined by Pope Francis – ‘the globalisation of indifference’, as indifference is slowly turning into mistrust and hostility.”
If the sentiment of that rubs you up the wrong way, there was consolation to be found further down the news feed, where someone shared a clip from the Dáil debate on homelessness, with Richard Boyd Barrett quoting the Taoiseach as saying “There is no such thing as a free home.” Which stands as a nice contrasting Christmas message to Michael D’s perhaps dated sentiments.
As you can see, with careful selectivity, the news always has something for everyone.
I was a bit inspired myself by the Taoiseach’s quote, and I made up a Christmas card meme (top) in keeping with the sentiments and priorities of Leo’s New Ireland.
Our teams are doing unbelievable work, making sure that all who we engage with – anyone who is experiencing #homelessness or vulnerability at any level – is supported. If you can get involved then get in touch.
Tents along the bank of the Royal Canal. The Inner City Helping Homeless group has accused Waterways Ireland of trying to clear rough sleepers from the banks and bridges of the Royal Canal It said the agency issued eviction notices to people sleeping in tents beside the canal.
Homeless people’s tents along the Royal Canal and an eviction notice served on a homeless person in August
Stephen McDermott, of Dublin Live, reports:
“Residents in Drumcondra have called for the removal of a number of tents along the Royal Canal, claiming the rough sleepers who are living in them are intimidating locals.
“And Dublin Live can exclusively reveal that Waterways Ireland has already asked those living in the tents to leave the area, as gardai continue to work on a plan to deal with the issue.”
And in relation to a residents meeting on November 7 about the matter…
“Fine Gael councillor for Dublin City Ray McAdam, who also attended the meeting, said that locals felt the site was becoming a “semi-permanent encampment”.
Mr McAdam added: “There would be a level of concern that the residents feel intimidation. Of course, everybody’s level of intimidation is different, but there’s an anxiousness about the potential for further anti-social behaviour.
“I’ve also heard that people who live there have seen an increase in behaviour, where ‘undesireables’ – to use the word of locals – are publicly drunk and inebriated, and the consequence of that is that it’s attracting similar activities into the area.
“My view is that there is a public order issue here and that the Gardai need to act.”
Fact: 147 people slept rough last night.
Fact: Beds were unavailable from 9pm last night.
Fact: The 200 promised beds are still not in the system
Fact: Enough is not being done, their will be more deaths. @ntlhomelessdemopic.twitter.com/au7wnZBD6P
A man who had been known to homeless services was discovered unresponsive in the area around the Four Courts on Monday evening
“The latest two deaths in Dublin bring to 7 the number of people sleeping rough that have died in the past 12 weeks, said the Peter McVerry Trust,
“We calling on the Government to commit to housing every person currently sleeping rough in Dublin by the end of next year.”
The charity said there are currently just over 180 people sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin and called on the Government to “commit to ring-fencing 180 social housing units for our most vulnerable citizens.”