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.
Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer
Previously: What Shall We Freeze?
Earlier: Not Just For Christmas