A Rising Shame

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From top: Carrying wood from Sackville Street, Dublin after the 1916 Rising Dr Rory Hearne

What right do we have to commemorate when the very men and women who took part in the Rising would abhor what is going on in Ireland today?

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

The 1916 rising commemoration on Sunday will start with a reading of the Proclamation at the GPO.

I wonder what will go through the minds of the dignitaries, politicians, the thousands lining the streets and those watching on TV when they hear these lines read from the Proclamation:

“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally”

Will they think of the 138,000 children in poverty across this country? Will they think of the 8000 children who went to the Capuchin day centre last year in order to get a hot meal? Or the 3 year old girl who was fed from a soup kitchen on O Connell Street last week?

Will they think of the 1,570 children living in emergency homeless accommodation in our capital city?

Will they think of the 90,000 on housing waiting lists? Or the 46,000 people living in homes owned by vulture funds? Or the 37,000 homeowners in long-term mortgage arears?

They should. I will be. I have thought a lot about the commemorations and I am disturbed by the hypocrisy and contradictions in them.

I cannot stop thinking about the shameful disgrace of thousands of children hungry and homeless in this country while we commemorate the Rising and Proclamation of this Republic.

A Republic which was founded on the very principles of ensuring such children would be cherished equally.

How can we genuinely commemorate the Rising and Proclamation without feeling an intense sense of guilt and shame at the current housing crisis?

What right do we have to commemorate when the very men and women who fought in the Rising would abhor what is going on in Ireland today?

The right thing to have done would have been to cancel the commemorations and in their place to hold a national crisis summit on the housing and homeless emergency.

Vulture funds and landlords are evicting families as you read this and just last week it emerged that Dublin rental prices are now higher than their peak. Rents are completely unaffordable for low income earners.

For example, the average monthly rent for a house in Dublin is almost 85% of the monthly minimum wage of €1546.3 (while the average national rent is 60% of the monthly earnings for someone on a full time minimum wage income).

It is troubling to see how the history we are commemorating is repeating itself. For many involved in the rising, particularly socialists like James Connolly, the terrible housing conditions that existed in the tenements in Dublin at that time was a strong motivating factor.

The bitter irony is that 100 years on housing conditions are again a major human catastrophe in this country.

There is also an eerie parallel with today’s housing crisis and our history as a colonised country. 100 years on we are again being colonised by external forces – this time its the foreign vulture funds who are taking over our housing, land and mortgage loans. In 1916 as with today, this colonisation is being facilitated by our own political and business (property industry) establishment.

But some things are very different. We now have control over our own destinies and so there can be no excuses for not solving the housing crisis. We can’t blame a foreign empire (although Europe did have a role in forcing the bailout and austerity – but it was our own political choices to cut social housing funding).

The biggest difference between 1916 and today is that we are now one of the wealthiest countries on the planet.

Therefore there are no excuses for children being without a home or going hungry. Did you know that €45 million is being spent on the various commemoration events this year? Wouldn’t this be better spent on addressing the housing crisis?

We know the solutions to the housing crisis.

Focus Ireland outlined this week a five Point Plan that it is calling on a new government to implement including a ‘cast iron commitment to ending the family homeless crisis, setting a firm deadline to achieve this, building at least 40,000 social houses over the next five years and holding a referendum on the ‘right to a home’.

The Dublin Tenants Association has also made a very logical call for the banks to be stopped from selling mortgages to third-parties (vulture funds), for a removal of the ‘sale of property’ as grounds for the termination of a tenancy and for NAMA to stop selling housing or debt secured by housing to vulture funds and other bodies.

It’s not as if we don’t have the land and finance to build much needed housing. There is a huge amount of state owned land held by local authorities while NAMA has enough land and finance to build 50,000 affordable and social houses.

There is also 2,233 hectares of undeveloped zoned land in the wider Dublin region which could provide 102,500 new housing units but developers and speculators are sitting on it waiting for prices to rise further. An emergency tax should be introduced to force building on this.

The problem is we just do not have the political and institutional will to do what is necessary.

Vested interests of the property industry, developers, vulture funds, landlords, estate agents, banks, and financiers are ensuring that the status quo does not change and thus the housing crisis continues to worsen week by week.

It is time to raise the public pressure to counter these vested interests and demand a housing system that is primarily based on meeting people’s need for a home and not based on relying on the private market – which is the property industry and speculators – which has failed over and over to provide affordable and secure housing.

I want to commemorate 1916 and I am proud of this history. But I am ashamed of our present. We have no right to commemorate 1916 in any way – other than to use it to reflect back to us our failure to deliver the basic right to housing to citizens of this Republic.

There is a very genuine commemoration of the Easter Rising and the Proclamation taking place on Easter Sunday and it is a Protest for the Homeless. It is being organised by Erica Flemming, who, along with her daughter is homeless. She explains that she feels she has to take to the streets and she is organising the protest in order to:

“stare at power in the eye and hold it to account for the experiences of poverty that are facing my child daily. Her playground is a hotel corridor: I rarely get to provide her with a home cooked meal. As I tuck her in at night, I can’t even afford her the dignity of leaving the room. This isn’t the Republic that people died for and I feel duty bound to demand that my daughter be cherished equally in the eyes of this State”.

Erica is organising a friendly, family orientated event on Dublin’s North Earl Street on Sunday at 1pm to “highlight that our children matter and that a home is the minimum we should be affording our children on this anniversary of an event associated with such strong themes of equality and what it truely means to live in a Republic”.

We can only truly commemorate 1916 when the housing crisis is dealt with and there are no children and their family like Erica’s who are homeless or suffering poverty.

For information on the Homeless Protest on Easter Sunday see here:

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic & social justice campaigner. His column appears here every Wednesday. Rory is an independent candidate for the Seanad NUI Colleges Panel. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

52 thoughts on “A Rising Shame

  1. Polaroid Fluid

    here’s a clue, they will think it’s time to give abortions to the people who want them and to stop paying people allowances to have kids which inevitably buys them beers and drugs.

  2. Tish Mahorey

    The state that took shape over the last 100 years is one of social apartheid, a planned and managed inequality.

  3. ahjayzis

    Off topic, but by ‘children of the nation’, they meant Irish people young and old. They probably employed the odd 8 year old chimney sweep, like.

    These weren’t 21st century progressives, lets stop transmogrifying them as such.

    1. newsjustin

      Indeed. They’ed have laughed you off stage, and immediately gone to confession, if you mentioned same-sex marriage and such like to them.

    2. Andy

      The final paragraph of that bastion of progressiveness placing Ireland in the hands of God

      “We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most HighGod, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms”

      Not so sure too many progressives would be in favor of this part!

  4. Eamonn Clancy

    Any kid going hungry today has their parent to blame. Unfortunates who are homeless don’t have rent to pay, anyway the dole is sufficient to feed a family. Trot down Meath St and see how cheap meat is. I defy anyone to prove otherwise.

    1. Gock

      Yeah Eamonn, those homeless, they have it so easy. The dole is, of course, sufficient to feed a family. Do you think because they don’t have a home they have no costs? With no home, where do these parents, who are of course to blame, cook this food? Homeless means kitchenless, means cookerless, means having to buy cooked food for every meal. How many meals for a family would you get out of the dole? Loads I suppose, as of course you’d have no rent to pay. Sure, they don’t even need to do any washing of plates after their dinners either, or cleaning of the house. Them homeless, you’d almost envy them how easy they have it.

      1. JOE MC VEIGH

        Fair play gock. I was once homeless myself only last year it’s not fupping easy and then ppl think your scum and a junkie and an alco. Your always downgraded for been homeless. Yes ok they are ppl homeless ppl out there that are like that but you have to think about it why are these ppl homeless. Have they got a mental proplem or something. I have met loads of homeless ppl in waterford. Some of them are in a hostel but the majority of them are dying on our streets of Ireland this goverment sucks. what happens to the Irish family’s they get thrown out on the streets to fend in a bin to feed there family’s. Fupp you eamon you have no fupping idea what’s it like here you fool.

    2. Paddy Roddy

      Equality for all the children of Ireland was never the policy of any Government that ever sat in the Dail .

  5. DubLoony

    Can we get a bit of perspective.
    If the 1916 commemorations serve to remind us of core values, then that is good thing.
    I like that we have a sense of outrage about homelessness and poverty, not just accept it as other countries do.

    Ireland has a gini coefficient value (measure of income inequality after taxes and transfers) of 30. This puts us on par with Netherlands, Germany and France. But not quite at the level of Nordic countries.
    Source:http://www.tasc.ie/download/pdf/tasc_cherishing_all_equally_web.pdf page 22.

    We have it in our country to solve these problems. 5 years ago we had a housing surplus, construction slumped. 3 years ago the shortage became obvious. Two years ago Labour put over €3billion into the biggest social housing investment this country has ever seen.
    The problems are in implementation, no lack of cash. I do believe a housing minister and task force is required to sort out things like land banks, dealing with long derelict sites, spatial planning (more urban sprawl?) the inevitable objectors who won’t want social housing near them.

    We can solve our problems, we will solve them. And we can celebrate the founding of one of Europe oldest democracies as well.

  6. Liam Deliverance

    I couldn’t agree with you more Doctor Hearne. This weekend is a commemoration as you have said and it is not a celebration. At least it has given us a focal point on which to reflect on what is Ireland? What have we become? Are we proud Irishmen and Irishwomen anymore? Is what we used to be, being eroded a tiny piece at a time and we are starting to forget what it means to be Irish? The system of politics is flawed and until we get rid of that flawed system of electing those to the upper and lower houses nothing will change. If you want to solve a problem you must identify the root cause and deal with that first otherwise it’s just sticking plasters and under-the-rug sweeping on a national scale and that can continue for centuries. There is a long, long list of serious societal issues after the housing crisis that also need to be dealt with to avoid more crises in the future and it can get a whole lot worse I think. At the moment we have two similar parties, both right of center, who will not form a government because it may jeopardize their future aspirations! It really beggars belief. No sitting government for February, March, and probably April and then they will be on holidays in July for 2 months.

  7. scottser

    More careerist pearl clutching from hearne. Be under no illusions, this guy would traipse over the bodies of the starving poor to get to a seat on the board.

    1. paul

      +100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 All shouty socialists lack humanity and empathy

  8. Harry Molloy

    100 years on from 1916 and we have half of our elected officials saying they are unwilling to work with anyone else to form a Government. Putting their own self interest before that of the country. No courage, no selflessness, none at all. Wasted votes.

    1. some old queen

      If there is one thing to come out of this FG/FF charade it is the glaring disconnect with public opinion. They were elected to govern together and if they refuse they will just add fuel the already palpable cynicism which exists.

      I have no doubt but they are horse trading going on in the background and it is extraordinary that something which happened before most of us were even alive can hold such importance to some.

        1. some old queen

          Yes and the only two parties who can make up the numbers for a stable government are FG and FF? The will go back to the electorate at their peril because most people genuinely do not understand what the problem is.

        2. some old queen

          It is bad enough the public being so cynical but when those they elect act even more cynical, a backlash is guaranteed. As for what happens in eighteen months time… where did the year and a half deadline actually come from?

  9. VinLieger

    They probably would abhor women voting, women working once married, homosexual rights and the vast vast majority of other social changes that have taken place in the last 100 years. Your arguments basic reasoning and everything based on it fails for this reason

    1. LW

      Yep, your “probably” has completely undermined his argument. When the Irish free state was created it gave women equal suffrage, so it’s something of a stretch to suggest they’d be against it.

      1. VinLieger

        And what about homosexual and transgender rights, also up until 1982 it was illegal for women to continue working in the civil service once married you think the founders were forward thinking enough to think this was absolute garbage 70 years ahead of time? How about abortion and divorce? His argument is based on people from 100 years ago not agreeing with how the country is being run, of course they would considering how much the world has changed, I’m typing this on an smart phone which is as far removed from anything they could ever imagine they would probably class it as magic before understanding it was technology and how it works

        1. LW

          The marriage ban across the civil service came in in 1935 and went out in 1973 actually. I do think the signatories would have considered it garbage – read the proclamation. Similarly divorce wasn’t outlawed until 37. I don’t know about their views on homosexuality and transgender rights.
          Did you mean “of course they would” or “of course they wouldn’t”?
          How well do you understand how your smartphone works? It may as well be magic to me, I certainly couldn’t recreate the trick.
          Finally, and crucially, I don’t see how Hearne’s argument that the signatories would abhor the social inequality in Ireland today is undermined by your (incorrect) assertion that they’d be against women voting.

      2. VinLieger

        Also notice I said probably cus I cannot say anything for certain about what they would think as they have been dead most of them for 100 years, just likely Rory has no idea 100% what they would think but he is happy to speak for them for some reason

    2. Andy

      Actually, no. The proclamation included women’s suffrage.
      Can people not read the bloody thing?

  10. Andy

    Every child gets child allowance,
    Every child gets free access to education,
    Every child gets free health care,
    Every child benefits from Children’s Rights,

    What Rory tends to forget or misunderstand is that children with extra clothes, better quality food, better education (grinds etc) or with “Elite” luxuries for want of a better SJW term, are afforded those luxuries by their parents.

    The state is not dropping out healthy meals, Ralph Lauren jumpers or broadband to little Maximilian and Tribeca in Foxrock. Max and Becs get their extra stuff from their parents not the state.

    As such, the state treats [“cherishes”] all children equally.

      1. Andy

        Us Blueshirts/Capitalist Pigs/Neo Liberals/Landlords/Vulture Funds/Profiteers have to stick together Harry.

        *thumbs up*

    1. ahjayzis

      Quit bringing Sarah Jessica Parker into this. It’s such a MCOPACE thing to do. It drives me up the wall like a total PWGDUW.

    2. MoyestWithExcitement

      ”What Rory tends to forget or misunderstand is that children with extra clothes, better quality food, better education (grinds etc) or with “Elite” luxuries”

      You seem to have forgotten that hes talking about children living in poverty. The state was founded with a dream of an equal society. You have basically built a straw man.

      1. Andy

        Have you even read the Proclamation?

        It was about the right to self determination for the Irish people through armed insurrection against a foreign people and government.

        It was not about entitlement to equality of assets or standard of living. It was about equality of opportunity.

        I would love for you to point out where the state affords children of the “rich” more opportunity than the children of the “poor”.

        As noted above, through the assertion of our rights to self determination as a sovereign nation, the Irish crafted a society where some people have more assets than others – similar to every other country in the world. Any superior standard of living afforded children of the “rich” does not come from the State. It comes from the means and ability of those childrens parents.

        In summary, the state was not founded on “a dream of an equal society”. Equal rights perhaps, but not equal in the sense you want i.e. give me what the rich person has.

      2. ahjayzis

        “The state was founded with a dream of an equal society. You have basically built a straw man.”

        Really? The revolutionary generation ruled us for 50 years after independence, where we lagged farther and farther behind the rest of the continent in equality and fairness. We were a theocratic, censored, beaten-down, backwater that locked up women, raped kids and silenced free expression – under the revolutionary generation.

        When the UK were introducing the NHS, Ireland’s government collapsed for the scandalous heresy of offering healthcare to mams and their kids.

        1. some old queen

          Or perhaps after 800 years of being colonised, a religious vulture fund swooped in.. Remember the mass rocks? Catholicism was seen as a freedom. The same happened in Poland so we are not unique.

          It actually doesn’t matter what the intent of those who wrote the proclamation was. It is what we interpret it to be today which is important. And people dying on the streets or families suffering in hotel rooms is not acceptable, under any circumstances.

        2. MoyestWithExcitement

          ”Really? The revolutionary generation ruled us for 50 years after independence, where we lagged farther and farther behind the rest of the continent in equality and fairness. We were a theocratic, censored, beaten-down, backwater that locked up women, raped kids and silenced free expression – under the revolutionary generation.”

          Well, under DeValera. What was that quote about knowing how Ireland feels by looking into his own heart? With a couple of small gaps, he was Taoiseach from 32 to 59 when he resigned to walk straight into the Aras. That Ireland was his personal vision, not the revolutionaries. No indication the likes of Markievicz or Connolly wanted that. The good ones all died.

  11. wearnicehats

    Ahhh sits back, opens beer, lights fire and looks forward to seven peaceful days on the mainland not having to listen to all this “any old chance to jump on some sort of 1916 themed bandwagon” poo Let me know if anyone is holding a memorial to all the soldiers killed by these great rebels and I might consider popping back for it.

  12. William Penn

    Gross impiety it is that a nation’s pride should be maintained in the face of its poor.

  13. Kieran NYC

    The article *starts* with a picture showing the horrible conditions children in 1916 lived in, for fupps sake! IT’S AN ACTUAL SLUM.

    While Ireland in 2016 is far from perfect, stop pretending Irish children are living in the stone age and haven’t benefited from remarkable, if frustrated progress over the last 100 years just so you can have a misery wank and indulge in some self-gratifying, clothes-rending ‘my problem is I care TOO MUCH’ bullpoo online.

    “The right thing to have done would have been to cancel the commemorations and in their place to hold a national crisis summit on the housing and homeless emergency.”

    You absolute insincere dick.

    1. some old queen

      And so says an Irish man living in New York. Enjoy the gays displaying their homosexuality at every opportunity last Thursday did you?

      1. Kieran NYC

        Actually I was in work.

        I’ll be displaying my homosexuality at every opportunity for New York Pride in June though.

        I’ll send you a picture, chicken. x

        1. some old queen

          Please do. We are planning a terrorist attack on the Front Lounge to be rid of that awful dark grey colour before ours.

          X.

  14. Truth in the News

    Since the Democratic Programme that was endorsed by the first Dail and
    abandoned by every Dail since, the Nation has slid backwards and the two
    people that were intrumental in the sabatage of the 1919 ideals are the
    Cosgraves and the Devs and their respective parties, all they did was to
    protect those that had and to ignore those hadn’t, and to crown it all we
    had Kenny elected with votes from the FF electorate block in 2011, who
    screwed the poor and the weak, in 2016 the lent votes went back to FF
    Don’t expect either FF or FG to do anything in “National Interest” anything
    the do is in their own “Self Interest” full stop

    1. some old queen

      Remember that the Catholic Church was and is a very class based organisation. It’s influence on Ireland should not be underestimated, even today.

      Take health care for example. It is no coincidence that the Mater Private has religious statues all over the place and it is the Protestants not the Catholics who even now are the strongest advocates of an NHS.

      I would think that at the time that document was written they had no idea the extent the CC was going to colonise. They were somewhat niave and certainly didn’t bank on such corrupt political opportunism.

  15. Mícheál

    Yet another petty “:look at me – see how clever and concerned I am” diatribe.
    We rightly celebrate the Easter Rising for what it achieved, not what we have done. Selfish outpourings like this only show a total lack of understanding on the part of the writer and I personally would be ashamed to put my name to it.
    Dublin was a totally failed city in 1916 with the worst slums in the world almost (second only to Cslcutta) and the highest infant mortality. We were being robbed blind by a foreign power and had no control over our own destiny. The men and women of the Easter Rising were brave enough to try to change that and deserve our thanks and praise. We would fail them if we did not celebrate their achievement.
    If the author had half their concern for our citizens and believed what he has written he would be doing something positive as they did instead of sitting in a corner like a spoiled child, sulking.
    His arguments about the state of the country today have merit but are a separate issue to the honouring of those who had the courage of their convictions and should not be mixed up with them. Wrong forum.

  16. Paul Browne

    Sentimental drivel. I don’t give a rats what the leaders of a bloody rebellion might think we’re they still alive. Look at the state of the Ireland they eventually delivered. Impoverished and partioned. I abhor them and do not commemorate them

  17. Matthew O' Reilly

    Ireland is a tiny country. The people who are in political control of it are identifiable with those who determine the social and societal texture of life for the marginalized. Get rid of the people in political control and you destroy the system they create and nurture. Getting rid Of Fainna Fail and Fine Gael is a prerequisite for the transfer of wealth back to the Nation and its people. These two political groupings ” Two sides of the same coin” have been around since 1926., in there present incarnation. Like the British social slackers who occupied and misruled the country for centuries, these two parties are there illegitimate offspring ” Shoonens ” more English than the English, doing the bidding of Ireland’s erstwhile masters..

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