From top: taoiseach Enda Kenny; Anne Marie McNally
Nothing can spoil the ‘recovery’ party.
Except a few home truths.
Anne Marie McNally writes:
This week we were declared the 10th most prosperous country in the world in the Legatum Prosperity Global index. We ranked higher than ever before in terms of safety, security and personal freedoms.
– That’s grand so eh? Pat on the back there lads we’re doing great.
– But hasn’t the child poverty rate doubled over the past 5 years?
– Yeah but don’t mention that.
– What about the 130,000 families on the housing waiting lists?
– Yeah, let’s not talk about that eh?
– Aren’t there over a thousand children in hostels and homeless shelters right now? Don’t we have Labour Minister’s smiling as they open food-banks to feed families who can’t afford basic meals?
– ah will you shurrup you’re ruining the nice sparkly story we’re trying to tell here about the greatest little country in the world in which to be rich. We’ve got stability don’t you know? Sta-bil-i-ty.
The script of Roddy’ Doyle’s latest Barrytown instalment or a current snapshot of political dialogue in the Irish public sphere? Unfortunately, it’s the latter.
We’re all supposed to sit back and listen to Enda’s tall tales about recovery and fellas with two pints being happy with their water charges and homeless men being only too delighted that the man from del-mayo has deigned to lean over and say good morning to them on his daily walk to work – the walk that makes him ‘normal’ apparently.
Actually, being able to walk to work in the city centre makes him anything but normal because at the moment you’d have to be earning about 10 grand a month to be able to live in a dog box within walking distance of Merrion Square such is the state of our housing crisis.
But it’s not OK anymore to mention the housing crisis, or the homeless families, or the children living in deprivation, or the people lying on trolleys, or the two year waiting lists for basic childhood medical procedures, or the overcrowded classrooms, or the teenage suicide rate that’s double the EU average or anything else that casts a negative light on the claims of recovery and stability. To do so apparently makes you a ‘leftie whinger’ or someone ‘always pointing to the problems’.
Well be that as it may but if someone doesn’t call ‘bull’ to all this talk of stability versus chaos then we will continue to spiral on this path of make-believe led by king of the fairy-tale himself. We’re in the emperor’s new clothes territory and someone has to let it be known that he’s in the nip on this one.
Prosperity indices are all well and good but how many children sleeping in a hostel tonight feel that they have ‘security’, ‘safety’ and ‘personal freedom’? Do they know they’re in the 10th most prosperous country in the world?
Those who claim to speak for ‘Middle Ireland’ tend to bemoan ‘leftie whingers’ with talk of social ‘welfare scroungers’ etc. but they very rarely think to look up at who above them is hoarding the wealth. Who is really scrounging?
Why is there such a significant wealth divide and what are the knock-on effects for society? Study after study shows that rich countries (& given our top 10 placing on the prosperity list, we count as one of those) with significant inequality fare far worse at all levels of society in terms of health and social indicators. The jury went out and the results are in – fostering a more equal society benefits those at every level of society and in almost every way from reduced crime levels to longer life-spans.
So it is not ‘whinging’ to point out that one section of society having an extra few bob in their pocket is of little use to society as a whole if we are leaving a pile of people behind and pushing forth with the ever widening wealth divide.
The problems are not just for today – we are storing up a whole Pandora’s box of problems when the children of today’s skewed policies mature into the disadvantaged and disenfranchised youth and adults of the future.
It’s a vicious circle and the only way to break it is to prioritise investment in key social services with universal access and an end to the two-tier system where your health and education, for example, are directly related to how much you have in your bank account. Campaigning for Marriage Equality united the whole country (well, apart from David Quinn & a few lads!) Now let’s start campaigning just as fervently for equality, full stop.
Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and will be a candidate for the Social Democrats in the forthcoming General Election. Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally