Homeless people will now be able to use their local post office as an address at which to receive mail. Standards have fallen to such a degree that the media and the rest of us celebrate this fact without a second thought.
Of course many homeless people will use the service and it will allow them to access basic services that the rest of us take for granted.
But it doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of what needs to be done and what is really needed. Instead of investing heavily in housing and associated projects a relative pittance is given to this new project.
A Sinn Féin bill that would make it illegal “to evict tenants in buy-to-let properties on the grounds that the property is being sold” has been perfunctorily blocked by the government with Fianna Fáil’s support.
AIB can sell so-called “non performing loans” to an American vulture fund and the government doesn’t even bother to blush. This is despite the fact that the government owns roughly 71% of the bank. And then there’s the bill that would stop banks from selling mortgages to vulture funds without the permission of the borrowers.
The Department of Finance can say with a straight face “we are not convinced that for the current mortgage holder this Bill would necessarily do a lot for them”. It’s not like they don’t know what happens when mortgages are sold to vulture funds.
As reported by the Washington Post, in the US city of Memphis, Cerberus, using a property company, “files for eviction at twice the rate of other rental home property managers”.
In the same article it is pointed out that:
Cerberus-owned homes in Memphis also racked up property code violations this year at a consistently higher rate than other single-family rentals in the same neighborhoods, equal to a new violation every day or two.
And it is Cerberus who just bought from AIB 2,200 loans for “mostly buy-to-let properties” for nearly €1 billion.
But this is all perfectly acceptable. This is how the system is supposed to function. People, who are supposedly citizens with inherent rights, can’t be allowed to stand in the way of profit. They also can’t be allowed to stand in the way of egotism.
Hence we have a Taoiseach whose letter to a pop star asking for an audience with her is the pinnacle of government mediocrity.
Using the headed paper of the Taoiseach’s office Leo Varadkar would rather a nice photo opportunity than actually use the same paper to achieve something that might help people. But that would be counter to free market principles and therefore it’s a non-starter.
It has been somewhat overblown, especially on social media. However, it does reinforce a point I’ve previously made here: Leo says what he means and he believes what he says.
That explains his office fighting against the freedom of information request to have the letter released. He understands propaganda and he definitely understands a propaganda disaster like the publication of a fawning letter he sent to a pop star on the same date that a national housing rally was taking place.
And there’s his defence of TDs accepting tickets to matches from the FAI. This, he says, is a non-issue. In the world of neo-liberalism the government is supposed to be chummy with big business.
Even though the FAI is a hardly the Apple or Google of the soccer world, it is a valuable sinecure for certain of its noteworthy members. And just because members of the Dáil, who are supposed to have oversight of it, receive gifts from it does not mean they will not be effective in their jobs. As we all know, politicians regularly bite the wealthy hand that feeds. Therefore, oversight of the FAI is assured against any untowardness.
So, this is the situation we find ourselves in. The homeless can remain homeless knowing that at least they’ll get their mail. And the Taoiseach can use his position to live out his fandom fantasies. How can any of this bode well for the future of the country?
With the rise of the far right and its various representatives in Ireland we are faced with challenges on two fronts: Fighting against a corrupt government enthralled to neo-liberalism and at the same time fighting a rearguard action against the extremists in our midst who are attempting to use the massive discontent in Ireland to both empower and embolden themselves even further.
This is the pattern right across Europe as the far right tries to profit from governmental malfeasance and its lack of concern for the people who voted them into power.
The left have a lot of catching up to do but there are some successes, such as the Connolly Youth Movement here in Ireland. New branches have begun appearing throughout the country, signifying that there is an appetite for a left wing movement that places activism, education, and solidarity over moral pontification. The other major left-wing parties would do well to take notice.
As for what’s next, it’s always hard to predict the future, especially when it comes to political or social issues. But one thing is certain: Unless neo-liberalism and its defenders in the Dáil can be gotten rid of once and for all then our future is one that will make dystopian fiction redundant.
Defenders of the neo-liberal faith will continue to enrich themselves while the population grows poorer and sicker. And with nowhere to live, expect homelessness to increase too. In a debt-laden society where the government puts profit above everything else, don’t expect basic social welfare services to remain in place for much longer.
But, when the inevitable comes, at least we’ll all still be able to get our mail.