Tag Archives: Dr Rory Hearne

From top: The National Housing Demonstration in Dublin city centre last December; Dr Rory Hearne.

In an interview on RTE’ Radio 1’s ‘Drivetime’ yesterday, I outlined that it is really important that any discussion of housing taking place at the moment starts by stating that that there is nothing normal about our homelessness crisis.

There is nothing acceptable about it and nothing normal about an increase in child homelessness from 500 children in 2014 to almost 4000 in 2018 – a 600% increase in just four years.

There is nothing normal or acceptable about a generation of people being locked out of affordable housing – contrary to what some people have been saying.

The discussion of developers’ incentives to build such as reducing VAT has to be put in context of a wider discussion about our housing crisis – because this isn’t something that can just be tinkered around with.

The government has already made a number of incentives in relation to house building. One of the very significant incentives was done in 2015 when they reduced the obligation in private housing developments to provide Part V social housing from 20% down to 10% – similarly there were changes were made to apartment standards.

The problem is if you look at it from a policy perspective and how housing systems operate you can give all the incentives in the world but that doesn’t mean that the private sector will build or not. There are a number of issues determining that such as access to finance, access to land and profitability.

Dublin City Council are doing a number of initiatives such as the cost rental housing proposal that offer a solution. Because the problem is we got into the crash in 2007 and 2008 because developers were over incentivised – there was too much credit flowing in and pushed up prices.

We had huge supply but we still had no affordability.

At the core of that problem is that we don’t do what countries that provide successful affordable housing systems like Denmark and Austria do – where the state and not-for-profit housing providers (housing associations and cooperatives) provide a very significant proportion of the supply of housing.

Yet in the first three quarters of last year only 800 local authority social housing units were built by local authorities across the country and only 350 were built in the wider Dublin area.

We need a new form of supply of affordable housing, done by the state and guaranteed. That also guarantees a supply of work for builders and construction workers as well.

The state needs to see that the private approach of incentivisation of the private market hasn’t worked and it won’t work to provide affordable housing .

The cost rental and affordable rental model is a way that the state should be doing it – the way that can guarantee provision and it should be providing 20,000 affordable units per year.

Even Tom Parlon, head of the Construction Industry Federation agrees as he outlined in the discussion on ‘Drivetime’:

Philip Boucher Hayes [host]: “You don’t seem to be in any disagreement with Rory – that getting the state to step in to do the building and you guys tender to do the work?”

Tom Parlon: “Yes, it is a solution.”

There may be a chink of light emerging in this crisis. But we have a long way to go!

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

Listen back to interview here



From top: Members of different unions and homeless organistations in front of a derelict building in the City Center of Dublin calling people to join a housing protest protest on Saturday; Dr Rory Hearne

Doing anything Saturday? Here’s a few reasons that might encourage you to join the housing protest march in Dublin City Centre.

You would think there wasn’t a housing crisis or a housing emergency if you you listened to the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s keynote speech to Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis last weekend. He spent most of the speech talking about his desire to reduce taxes and remove billions from state coffers, as a result.

It is utter madness – to be reducing, via tax cuts, the public finances that are needed for investing in building affordable housing, providing proper public health, affordable quality childcare, public transport etc.

The Taoiseach then stated that “fairness drives our approach to the country’s finances” and that “biggest social housing programme in decades is now underway” and that “Fine Gael is the party of home ownership”.

I’m not sure who he is talking about being fair to. His party’s policies in government have been fairest and most beneficial to property investors, vulture funds and landlords and have been deeply unfair to those renting in the private rental sector, aspirant home owners, the homeless, those in mortgage arrears and those on social housing waiting lists.

Rents have been allowed to rise to horrendously unaffordable levels and global investors encouraged to come in via low tax schemes and buy up new rental housing and raise market rents.

And in terms of Fine Gael being the party of home ownership – that is utterly delusional.

They are the party of property ownership –for the few – for high income households who can afford to buy and investors and landlords. But for most people looking to buy a home this government has done very little – they have not built one affordable house in their eight years of government.

But in that statement of the Taoiseach – “Fine Gael is the party of home ownership”, at least he is honest about their anti-social housing ideological bias. This helps explains their utter failure to build social housing on any scale over their decade in power.

We need a political party in government that is a party that prioritises and stands for ‘the right to a home for all’ – that aspires and acts to ensure everyone has an affordable secure home – be that rented or owned.

In regard to his claim of the government undertaking a “major social house building programme” that is more spin and mis-truths.

In their main housing plan, Rebuilding Ireland, 85% of the total new social housing is to be provided from the private rental sector through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP, which is an insecure form of housing as tenants can be evicted by landlords, and it is much more expensive for the state than building directly) and Part V (bought off private developers) or leased (long term rented) off the private market.

Just 15% is new build social housing by local authorities and housing associations. We can see this continues this year.

The figures in the table below that I have put together and analysed from the Department of Housing for the first 6 months of this year show that just 7% (800) of the total new social housing units (12,358) provided are actually new build (just 487 built by local authorities).

A staggering 90% of all new social housing came from the private market with 76% (9,444) of all new social housing coming from the private rented sector via HAP or RAS.

This approach is more expensive and adds to the problem of a lack of affordable supply and fails to do the key thing that government can do to address the housing crisis – build new public housing on a major level.

Their Rebuilding Ireland policy approach involves the outsourcing and privatisation of social housing and is a key reason we are in this crisis.

Rather than the State guaranteeing the supply of new social and affordable housing by funding sufficiently and overseeing the building of housing via local authorities, co-operatives and housing associations, it is turning to the private market.

This is despite the private market’s repeated failure to deliver social and affordable housing, as well its failure to provide value for money.

The only conclusion one can draw is that the Government, has an ideological aversion to the State actually building social and affordable housing on any serious scale but it is solely focused on trying to reboot the property market. (I explained this in my presentation to the Oireachtas Joint committee on Housing and Planning and Local Government on November 14th – see link here)

Varadkar is right though when he said that “the housing crisis was many years and perhaps decades in the making”. It is decades of neoliberal pro-market and speculative investor policies that have lead us into this crisis.

But he and the government are claiming that their policies and plans (which continue the failed neoliberal and pro-speculative market approach) will work – they just need more time.

As Varadkar says

“it was never going to be easy to turn things around but bit by bit, just as we did when it came to unemployment and the economy, we will”.

But the problem is the longer we leave Leo and his government to implement the Rebuilding Ireland policy (which has a failed private market oriented approach as I outlined above) then this housing crisis will continue to worsen.

Giving this government more time to continue implementing its housing policy will mean rents rising to even further unaffordable levels, more homelessness, and more and more people pushed into generation rent.

We have to see that our housing system has fundamentally changed. We now have a fifth of households in the private rental sector. We have a generation who are going to be in the insecure and unaffordable private rented sector.

What we need to do is to change utterly how we see social housing. We need to re-imagine social housing and to change it to this idea of public affordable housing that is available, as in Denmark and Austria, to anybody on any income.

We need to see that it is not about tinkering around the edges. We need in Ireland to move to providing a third of housing coming from the non-market, not-for-profit sector to some form of social or public affordable housing, housing associations or co-operatives.

Currently it is only 10%. The reality is that the private sector will not build affordable housing. That is the problem we have had over the past 30 years.

However, government have shown they are ideologically captured by their belief in the private market approach to housing. And this is the principal reason why we need a major protest movement.

The government have shown they are not willing to change policy to what is needed and they are ignoring the many alternatives we have outlined (from the public affordable housing model I have outlined to the Cooperative Housing like O Cualann, or the Fair Rent cost rental model outlined by Housing Action Now, NERI, NESC, the ICTU housing charter, and many others).

There is a need, therefore, for the Irish people to stand up and pressure the government to change policy.

The new housing movement has grown substantially in the last two years – from occupations such as Apollo House, the My Name Is protests, to the national Homeless and Housing Coalition march last April to Take Back the City and the large Raise the Roof demonstration in October.

Combined with the homeless NGOs, charities and many grassroots groups who continue to provide vital support to those affected by the crisis on the streets and in communities, there is a substantial civil society pressure for change.

And the range of groups supporting the housing protests is widening all the time. For example, Saturday’s protest is organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition and is supported by many large trade unions, NGOs like Threshold, Focus Ireland, Inner City Helping Homeless and Simon, the children’s charity Barnardos, the Left opposition parties, academics, and the Union of Students in Ireland, the Dublin Tenants Association, Irish Traveller Movement and many more.

This is one of the main strengths of this movement – the way in which so many diverse organisations and civil society groups and activists are working together – putting aside differences – for the broader goal of creating a massive housing movement that can achieve the right to a home for all.

The National Homeless and Housing Coalition explains why the protest is being organised:

“We will be on the streets on December 1st to tell the government that we will not be ignored – after October 3rd we got a landlords budget and an abject failure to act on the Dail motion that called for radical action on the crisis, including an accelerated programme of public housing on public land, an additional 1bn euro funding in the budget for housing, an end to evictions from the private sector motivated by profit making, a reduction in rents and to hold a referendum to enshrine the right to a home into the constitution.”

There is a real opportunity in the coming years, if we learn from this crisis, to achieve a right to housing for all in Ireland. There is a real opportunity to ensure everyone has access to affordable and secure housing in well planned and designed communities.

The majority of people see the housing system is failing them, their children, their neighbours, the 3800 children homeless and their families, and the country at large. And they are asking what is the solution? Is the crisis solvable?

And it is answering these questions and convincing the majority that is the key challenge for those of us who advocate a shift to a housing system to one that guarantees and ensures the right to housing for all. We have to convince and mobilise the public behind the policies that can achieve this. That is our challenge.

To succeed we need to make housing the major issue in next year’s local elections and the next general election – and highlight the governments abject failures in policy, unwillingness to change and the alternative policies that need to be implemented.

To succeed we need to build a mass social movement – to educate and organise people throughout society – to engender a cross society sense of solidarity – that this affects us all and together we can change it.

We need to educate people about the alternatives and show that the crisis is solvable. If we mobilise in major numbers like the water movement, Repeal, and the historic Civil Rights Movement, we can have a real impact.

The truth is that when people stand up together and campaign and protest they do have a power to force governments to change direction.

Protest can change policy. In fact a cross society movement standing up is our main hope in solving this crisis.

That is why it is so important that you get out and join the protests on Saturday – the bigger this movement becomes the more pressure the government will feel and the sooner we can force them to change the failing approach.

But we also have to go beyond protest – and create a movement that reaches into every sinew of society. We need to start the conversations amongst each other about how the housing crisis affects us in so many different ways – to break the stigma and silencing – just like Repeal.

And show that the crisis is not our individual faults but results from a deeply flawed approach to housing that treats it as an investment commodity and wealth accumulating asset and not as a human right, guaranteeing a home for all.

We also need to support the alternative proposals for building affordable housing – work with local authorities, co-operatives and housing associations to organise the building of affordable housing and communities.

Why not set up housing cooperatives amongst trade unions, NGOs, and activists as well? This housing movement can grow to become the biggest and most impactful social movement in modern Irish history.

It will need to be to achieve an affordable secure home for all.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne


From top: Reboot Republic logo; Dr Rory Hearne

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

The actions of housing activists occupying vacant buildings in Dublin have once more captured the public imagination and highlighted the ever worsening housing crisis.

Just over two weeks ago housing campaigners occupied a building on Summerhill in Dublin’s inner city.

Ten days later and after gaining significant public support, they were ordered to leave by the high court.

But this is, as the activists explained, not a short term temporary protest.

So last Friday they took over a vacant property on North Frederick St and are demanding that Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy uses the powers of the state to Compulsory Purchase (CPO) such private vacant properties and use them for ‘public use’ such as homeless accommodation or apartments for public housing.

The Reboot Republic podcast (see link below) is recorded directly inside the occupation with two spokespeople from the housing campaign.

The activists explain that the reason for the occupation is to highlight the widespread abuses of tenants that is taking place across the private rental sector and the failure of the government to use vacant property to provide much needed homes.

They are correct- there are tens of thousands of vacant homes and property across Dublin while people are homeless and there is a lack of property available for rent.

It is illogical and immoral that such vacancy exists when there is such a level of need. And this provides an important context for the issue we raise of the legality of the action.

We ask if the activists are concerned that this could be an illegal action? They explain that it is a civil matter between them and the owner.

It appears that the Gardai, and the Irish state are reluctant to intervene at this point.

This is likely to be a reflection of the Government’s concern that they cannot be seen to come down hard against genuine activists who are trying to address and highlight the housing crisis like this occupation.

However, that could change, and that is why public support for the Occupation is vital.

We also discuss what has been learned from the high profile occupation of Apollo House. This includes the focus on action that is sustainable over a longer term, that the activists look after themselves to try and avoid burn out, and that this is an action to highlight the crisis, rather than aiming to provide a service to the homeless.

The spokespeople point out that this occupation has a diversity of participants that reflects the widening housing crisis.

This is, in particular, those in the private rental sector facing major rent increases and eviction; from renters, workers, students, migrants, to homeless families.

The work by the Irish Housing Network, Dublin Bay North Housing Crisis, Dublin Central Housing Action and many other grassroots groups over the past few years in supporting those affected and building an ‘empowerment’ approach – that is about supporting those directly affected to raise their voice and challenge the crisis.

The Occupation is important as it places the housing crisis into the public sphere on a constant basis for as long the Occupation can last.

It breaks through the silence, the apathy and the lethargy that dominates government approaches thus far to the crisis.

It shatters the dominant narrative of complacency and acceptance that nothing can be done to challenge the housing crisis – that we, as citizens are powerless in the face of the policies and forces that are transforming our cities into unliveable places of unlimited profit for the wealthy landlords and property investors.

It raises the question of why do we not have a real debate about our housing policy, and about why we do not have a right to housing in our constitution.

You can support the Occupation by getting in touch with the organisations above on their Take Back the City Facebook page, by helping out doing ‘shifts’ in the building, informing your friends and family, contacting your local TDs and councillors asking are they supporting the demands.

What is clear talking to the activists is that they are committed and are not going to give up. As the crisis worsens, and they campaign extends, we are likely to see more Occupations, and further housing protests.

A radical change in direction in housing policy is required away from the failed Rebuilding Ireland policy and towards funding local authorities sufficiently to engage in a major house building programme for a range of households including cost rental housing, protecting tenants through permanent leases and affordable rent measures, and putting the Right to Housing in the constitution to the people in a referendum.

The Housing Minister and Taoiseach, Varadkar, and Fine Gael, have shown themselves unprepared to do this. So while Fine Gael appears to be riding high in the polls, this housing crisis could yet be its Achilles heel.

Either way, citizens are leading the way while the government and housing Department dithers.

And when a broad group of active citizens become empowered and take action with clear demands, as we saw in the Water Movement, Apollo and the recent referendums, they are a force that can force the government and state to change.

The housing movement is growing to that point. What better time than now for you to get involved and add your voice to make sure, together, we achieve a housing system that ensures the right to housing – an affordable and secure home – for all.

Listen here

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

Last night.

On RTÉ Radio One’s Late Debate, presented by Sarah McInerney.

The panel was: John Paul Phelan, Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform; Dr Rory Hearne, of Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute; Fianna Fail TD for Kildare North James Lawless; Jennifer Bray, Deputy Political Editor of the Times Ireland edition and Emmet Ryan, business and technology reported at the Sunday Business Post.

During an item on housing, Dr Hearne (again) laid out steps he believes would help ease the housing crisis.

He added that the local authorities in Dublin have enough land to build 20,000 houses and, elsewhere across Ireland, local authorities have enough land to build 40,000 houses.

Dr Hearne asked: “Why is that public land not being used to build affordable houses?”

Mr Phelan went on to give updates on the most recent quarter – saying commencements are up 40 per cent, planning applications are up 20 per cent and that planning laws have been changed.

Dr Hearne specifically asked Mr Phelan how many of these new home will be affordable housing for people on an average wage.

After a pause, Mr Phelan responded: “I don’t know.”

Watch back in full here

Irish Water protest on O’Connell Street, Dublin in August 2015; Dr Rory Hearne

The focus in recent weeks on the Taoiseach’s self-imploding spin machine (from his spinning of yarns to impress Trump and the exposure of the Strategic Spin Unit) hasn’t been all bad news, however, for Varadkar and his band of merry Ministerels.

It has served to distract attention from the Government’s consistent failure to address the biggest crisis this country faces – the housing crisis – or as it should be called – the affordable homes emergency.

The latest reports show that rents and house prices continue to rise, making housing even more unaffordable for the average worker.

Tens of thousands of home owners in arrears still face repossession and eviction, and over 3,000 children and their families remain in homelessness emergency accommodation.

But the reality is that this crisis is likely to worsen further in the coming months and years.

There is no reason (aside from public and political concern) why the numbers of children and families in homelessness couldn’t rise from 3000 to reach 6,000 or 10,000 in the coming decade.

The authorities can keep building more ‘Family Hub’ emergency accommodation and ignore the evidence of the damage being done to children and families.

There is no reason why rents won’t keep rising faster than wages, that overcrowding won’t continue, and people will be stuck living at home with parents or in the private rental sector.

Just look at the US and the extent of housing inequality and suffering that is tolerated there.

That is the ‘dystopian’ housing system we are heading towards in Ireland. But it is not inevitable.

It depends on who wins the battle for housing that is underway at the moment. We are in the midst of a ‘moment of reckoning’ in the Irish housing system – a type of war –and the winners are determining its future for decades to come.

On the one hand, there are the current ‘winners’ – the vulture funds, the banks, the financial and property investors (investing on behalf of the global and Irish wealthy), Real Estate Investment Trusts, landlords, estate agents, and property developers.

And, within these, are many of our politicians (a quarter of the current cabinet are landlords) and media (who benefit from property advertisements).

This class, or even cabal, I call the property-finance complex – are in the process of converting more and more of our homes into commodities (investment assets to be profited from) through which renters and students can be exploited and mortgage holders fleeced.

The property-finance cabal has no interest in building affordable rental properties or homes for purchase. And they have government working on their behalf – implementing policies of tax breaks, selling off NAMA and bank assets, privatising public land and social housing facilitating a huge profit and wealth transfer to the property-finance cabal in order to ‘incentivise private sector ‘supply’ (and boost the profits of the banks).

The table below shows that in December 2017 property investors – (household buyers-non occupiers and non-household Buyers) – bought over a third (37%) of homes that month, 2,379 homes.

In contrast, first-time buyers bought much less – just a fifth (21%) of homes purchased – 1,358 homes. So the property-finance cabal are clearly winning, backed by current government policy.

But, on the other side, there is a growing population of people losing out – and they range from our most vulnerable homeless families to average and professional workers, from guards and teachers to university academics who cannot afford to buy a home.

The extent of people affected by the housing crisis is reflected in the shift in attitudes amongst the Irish public towards housing.

Housing has moved from being a relatively marginal issue in public and political debate to becoming the issue of single most concern.

The most recent Eurobarometer poll (undertaken in December 2017) shows that, for Irish people, they think housing is the most important issue facing the country. 57% of respondents cited it as the most important issue.

The second most important was health and social security (cited by 33% as the most important), followed by rising prices/cost of living (cited by 22%).

We can see the dramatic rise in importance of housing as an issue (as the crisis worsened) from the Eurobarometer November 2013 poll when just 4% cited it as the most important issue to November 2014 when it was cited by 13%. But then in November 2015 housing jumped to being the first issue of concern at 34% and in November 2016 it was again first with 42% citing it as most important.

Alongside this, there has been a growing movement of citizen action (most notably the Apollo House occupation), civil society groups and political parties asserting that housing should be provided as a home – as a human right and that everyone should have access to affordable secure accommodation.

These have been putting forward alternative solutions such as setting up a new semi-state housing agency to build affordable ‘cost-rental’ housing for a mix of incomes, co-operative affordable purchase homes, putting in place tenant protections from eviction, funding local authorities to build social housing on a much greater scale, putting the right to housing in the constitution and new initiatives to support Housing Associations not vulture funds to buy the mortgages in arrears.

But many are asking why there hasn’t been more citizen action on housing – why have there not been housing protests like the water movement?

There are a myriad of explanatory factors, including the active undermining of society-wide solidarity on the issue by government and state agencies blaming the victims like the homeless and those in mortgage arrears.

It has been a real challenge to convince people why they should partake in such protests and public action and motivate them to get involved.

At the MyName protest concert we organised outside the Dail before Christmas, for example, there was a good turnout – possibly close to a thousand people there at one point. However, we thought there would be more there.

But there are also two other important interlinked explanations.

Firstly, the various housing action campaigns and NGOs and trade unions representing the diverse groups affected by housing exclusion have been ploughing their own furrows – doing great work – but not coming together to create a sufficient mass of united impact.

Secondly, and this is linked to that issue, is that many of those affected – from private rental tenants to those on housing waiting lists to aspirant home owners – have not been convinced that the campaigns and protests are relevant to them and can make a difference.

Next Saturday, April 7, in Dublin the National Homeless and Housing is organising a protest calling on the government to make housing a constitutional right, to end evictions, to build public housing and legislate for real security of tenure for tenants, amongst other issues.

The coalition is now one of the largest civic alliances created on the housing issue to date in Ireland involving trade unions, tenant’s groups, community groups, artists, musicians, NGOs, charities and political parties.

This is an important attempt to bring together the diverse groups affected by the crisis.

There are many reasons why it is worthwhile attending housing protests such as the one on April 7.

Firstly, if you want to ensure everyone has access to an affordable and secure home then you are going to have support public action to make that happen. The Government has shown that it is not going to do it willingly.

But, as with water, or medical cards, and many other issues – the evidence shows that public protest and a public outcry on an issue can change government policy. But it has to be big enough that politicians can’t ignore it.

So each additional person that is there on April 7 will make it more likely that it is a big enough protest to have an impact on politicians.

Politicians don’t like negative publicity and people pointing out what they are doing wrong.

They prefer citizens to be passive and to leave their democratic ‘involvement’ to voting every four or five years. Large protests shatter the cosy consensus that government decision makers have an inalienable legitimacy to govern.

Large protests also challenge societal tolerance of the present crisis. They challenge the idea that the crisis is acceptable and it is the only possibility.

Public action disrupts this fallacy and points to alternative solutions and pathways. Importantly, it raises the aspiration and expectations of people affected to not have to just accept their current difficult housing circumstances.

Being part of the protest is a way to shatter the silence around housing victims who are being stigmatised and attacked on a constant basis by politicians, on social media and elsewhere. This is probably the essential reason to join the protest on April 7.

Joining the public protest is an act of true citizenship – an act of solidarity with your fellow country people who are really suffering.

Homeless families I have worked with have told me how their children have asked them ‘how can we be left like this without a home’.

The children asked them ‘does nobody care about us? Why does nobody care about us?’.

Thousands marching through Dublin calling for action on this affordable homes emergency and demanding the right to a home for everyone, will show these children that there are people – genuine citizens – who care and are not going to tolerate this crisis continuing.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne


Previously: Ireland’s Home Truths

From top: The Dublin Tenants Association; Dr Rory Hearne

Private renters have been amongst Ireland’s forgotten and ignored households. But politicians can no longer downplay their importance and the difficult situation many live in the sector.

Over 800,000 people in this country now live in the private rented sector – that’s almost 20%, or a fifth of all households. This is double the number of households in the sector over a decade ago. And in the cities and towns it is even higher.

In Dublin, it is estimated a quarter, one in four households, are in the private rental sector. However, up to this point the voice of the private tenant has been largely absent within debates on the housing crisis, with the voices of landlords and other interests much more dominant.

We also know that the new global investor landlords like Kennedy Wilson and Real Estate Investment Trusts have the ear of the government.

So how can private renters make their voice heard in the public and political debate?

Tonight there is an important public meeting taking place in Dublin City Centre  (details here) to try and do just that. If you are a tenant in the private rental sector you should try and get there.

It is being organised by the Dublin Tenants Association (DTA). DTA is a “private rented sector tenant-led support group, who believe that decent affordable and secure housing is a right for everyone” and that tenants are “primary stakeholders in the private rented sector” and, therefore, should be an important concern for housing policy.

The meeting tonight is discussing the issue of tenant security – how poor it is in Ireland, where tenants cannot get long-term leases and can be evicted relatively easily by landlords.

There will also be advice for tenants on their existing entitlements and discussion on improvements to security of tenure that could ensure tenants are not forced to go from short-lease to another short-lease and so they can actually get long term security, create a home in a community, and do not live in fear of eviction.

Charities and NGOs like Threshold, Focus, Simon and Inner City Helping Homeless, have been doing a really important job raising issues of rising homelessness resulting from unaffordable rents and evictions and poor conditions in the private rental sector.

However, they are not explicitly set up to represent and mobilise tenants in the private rental sector as a group.

There is a need, therefore, along with these important services and charities, for the growth of strong private sector tenant’s organisations, such as Dublin Tenants Association, that can organise and represent private tenants, just like trade unions do for workers or the IFA does for farmers.

Given that households renting in the private rental sector are now such a large and growing proportion of the population, and many of these households are families with children they require greater political attention and a voice of their own.

Particularly as they often face living in substandard conditions, unaffordable rents, and the lack of security of home and, therefore, an inability to set down roots and be part of a community –which is a major problem for families with children who need a secure base. They are constantly facing possibility of being moved.

Part of the reason why private tenants have been treated like second class citizens in housing and politics is that it has been reviewed as a temporary or transitory form of housing, with home ownership seen as the ideal or where people are going to. But that is no longer the case.

A majority of households aged 35 and under are now renting their home. Back in 1991, a majority of households over the age of 26 were renting their home. So now we have added a decade of renting to people’s lives.

This is ‘generation rent’. But given the lack of affordable housing many in ‘generation rent’ could be in rental accommodation for their life. Policy has to recognise this and change to reflect this new reality. It has to improve tenant’s rights to ensure they have a secure and affordable home.

The other reason why private tenants have been ignored is because they are viewed as a profit-making investment for people with money and wealth. Government and banks have promoted the private rental sector as a key investment – for people’s pensions, for the wealthy, and for global property investors like Kennedy Wilson. The buy-to-let sector has been a key area for investment.

But we have seen the failure of this approach with a high level of buy-to-lets in mortgage arrears. These are a significant proportion of the mortgages in arrears being sold off by PTSB and other banks which means the tenants in these properties are facing losing their homes also.

The government has done little because they have viewed rising rents as a key way to attract in investors and vulture funds to buy up these ‘non-performing loans’ off the banks and get them back to profitability, irrespective of the impact on those living in these properties as their home.

Government took the view that introducing greater tenants’ protections and rights would lessen their investment attractiveness and therefore refused to intervene and allowed rents rise – and homelessness rise- and left tenants be evicted.

Of course it is no coincidence either that one in five TDs and Ministers are landlords. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have the highest number of landlords amongst their TDs, with key government Ministers such as former Minister for Environment and Housing and now Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, Junior Ministers Paul Kehoe and John Paul Phelan and Dublin Bay South Fine Gael TD Kate O Connell all landlords and owners of investment properties.

This has to be a major issue of conflict of interest. It is landlords making decisions to benefit landlords. The elite in Ireland protecting the investments of the elite.

The Fine-Gael Labour Government introduced the tax break for big global investors in rental property –through the Real Estate Investment Trust tax incentive in 2013. This, added to many other tax loop-holes available for investors in Ireland, has seen investors now buying more homes than first-time buyers.

For example, just recently global property investors just bought Ireland’s tallest residential tower – the Elysian in Cork City Centre according to the Examiner. The Elysian has 211 apartments and a rent roll close to €5 million per annum. Kennedy Wilson now owns 2100 residential units in Ireland, and aims to expand to 5,000 units over the coming years.

In 2010 First-Time buyers bought 12,000, or 42% of homes for sale, while investors (named in the graph below as Household Buyer-non-occupier and Non-Household Buyer) bought half that number, just 6,254, or 21% of homes for sale.

But by 2017, the proportion of First time buyers had fallen substantially as they bought just 21% of all homes for sale, while investors now bought almost twice the amount of first time buyers and increased their proportion – now buying a third of all homes (33%, 20,000 properties) for sale.

Currently private tenants are not seen as a political force in Ireland and politicians pay little attention to their concerns. But this is likely to change as private rental tenants are stuck and are increasingly frustrated and angered by an inability to buy affordable housing and unable to make a home in private rental housing.

It will also change if private tenants raise their voice – get organised and take public action – like these public meetings, the actions against landlord evictions being taken by Dublin Central Housing Action, and get involved in wider housing crisis protests such as that being held on April 7th by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition.

They need to increase their media profile and mobilise tenants to define and highlight their key policy ‘asks’ or ‘demands’. There are real political opportunities coming up in the next 18 months between local elections next year and a likely general election. These are key points where private tenants could intervene – by engaging in a voter registration drive among tenants, producing a set of policy demands and highlighting which parties support (or not) these.

The political reality is that we are in a volatile time – no political party can take for granted voter support or allegiance as was the case in the past. And none of the big parties are likely to get an overall majority in the coming election so they are reliant on others for support, and this makes governments politically weaker and more open to public opinion at times. Voters are also much more influenced by a variety of factors and are increasingly making their decisions during elections.

This means groups such as Dublin Tenants Association and other civil society and campaigning groups can have an influence, in influencing policy of government but also in the run up to and during elections if they are organised to highlight their issues at this time.

Particularly in places like Dublin, Galway, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, if private renters got organised and took action they could be a substantial political force.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne


From top: Emergency Beds for homeless people set up in St Catherine’s Community Sports Centre, Dublin 8 by the Peter McVerry Trust yesterday; Dr Rory Hearne

Homelessness continues to rise and tens of thousands more face potential homelessness from vulture fund take-over of mortgages in arrears.

Despite all the policy documents and plans – the housing and homelessness crisis continues to worsen. And this is five years into an economic ‘recovery’ and the fastest growth rates in Europe.

Despite all the claims of ‘complexity’ the reason we are in this crisis is relatively straightforward, as are the solutions.

The cause lies in the fact that successive governments for almost thirty years have withdrawn from the state directly building and supporting the provision of social and affordable housing.

The years of austerity (2008-2015) saw that policy brought to its ultimate conclusion – the effective cessation of building of social and affordable housing.

The other cause is the prioritisation of the interests of Irish banks, financial institutions and property investors (landlords, developers, vulture funds, Real Estate Investment Funds etc) over the housing needs of people.

Finally, the problem is housing policy is driven by financial and economic goals rather than fulfilling the housing needs and right to housing of our population.

The result – we now rely principally on the private market to supply housing in Ireland.

The problem – the private housing market is made up of multiple competing interests and is inherently dysfunctional, uncoordinated, inefficient and fails to provide ‘affordable’ housing – as its goal is to maximise profits and, therefore, prices and rents.

The result – unacceptable levels of homelessness. Which continue to rise year after year. The latest homelessness figures show another indictment of the continued failure of government policy to deal with crisis.

In the two years since Jan 2016 there are additional 1,437 children homeless – a 78% increase in that two years. That means over two children were made newly homeless every day in this two years.

The figures also show the expanding geographical reach of the homelessness crisis as homelessness increased in 22 out of 26 counties including Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Wicklow, Laois, Westmeath, Limerick, Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Donegal (where it increased by 37%), Waterford (15%), Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wexford, Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

In the two years since January 2016 there an additional 633 families became homeless and entered emergency accommodation – a 71% increase in just two years.

The majority of people are disgusted and ashamed of this – that our fellow human beings are treated with such indignity – and that this wealthy state is so unequal that it does not ensure all its people have access to the basic need and right of an affordable, secure, home.

And that is why the government and it’s cheerleaders in various policy and academic circles are trying to ‘normalise’ homelessness and to try blame those in mortgage arrears as trying to ‘get a house for free’. They want us all to blame the victims of the housing crisis, austerity and economic crash.

It is all to try divide society – between those who ‘get up early’ and work hard to pay their mortgage and those who are ‘sponging’ to get a ‘free’ house.

This is an unethical and wrong approach.

There are very very few who get a house ‘for free’ in this country – everyone in social housing pays a rent, everyone in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment pays a rent, those in mortgage arrears have a debt and paid at some point and will pay again when their income and housing situation becomes sustainable.

The lie and the myth at the heart of this argument is that somehow the middle class home-owners will lose out if the government builds more social and affordable housing and delivers on the right to housing for people like increasing tenant protections.

The fact is that our housing system is more expensive than countries which have more social and affordable housing.

Our housing crisis now affects families who are working and can’t afford to buy a home, it affects students unable to find affordable housing, it affects companies unable to source workers, or people who can’t move and get a job in the cities.

Rising rents and house prices is ‘lost’ money’ from the real economy – the main beneficiaries are a minority wealthy landlord and financial elite.

The reality needs to dawn on the generation seeking to buy housing – for most of them the only possibility of accessing affordable housing will be if the government builds it.

And that’s why your concern with rising homelessness should rightly be one of an ethical and moral disgust with the treatment of your fellow human beings.

And the solutions are common – for the government to engage the entire machinery of the state to undertake a massive social and affordable house building programme.

There is no doubt that the biggest fear of the government and wider state and property establishment is the emergence of a citizen’s movement on housing similar to the water movement.

Access to affordable and secure housing, and particularly an opposition to evictions, is strongly embedded in our national psyche. Nothing stirs our passions more than home – unfortunately that has been turned into an obsession with rising property prices and housing speculation.

But as more and more people are excluded from our broken housing system this could be changing. There is increasing demand for a change in direction – for housing to be provided as a home primarily rather than a speculative asset for investors.

Just look at the increasing citizen and political action being taken to try respond to the housing crisis. From protests (see Uplift’s on-line petition here) against the sell-off of  loans to Vulture Funds and proposals for legislation to set up a Housing Co-op to buy the loans.

To the Dublin Tenants Form on tenant security taking place on March 13 (see here:), to the national protest march for Housing is a Human Right on April 7 (see here) organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition, to the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s Charter for Housing Rights.

Such a growing wave of citizen action has the potential to change the direction of this sinking ship.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne


From top: Mary Lou McDonald; Dr Rory Hearne

Tomorrow you continue the journey of history-making.

The decisions you, and your party, make in the coming months and years will determine if your Presidency of Sinn Fêin marks an important step towards an Ireland of social justice and an end to this failed Republic of corruption, inequality and continual crises – or if it marks a continuation of the status quo and another step on the road towards Sinn Féin becoming part of the Irish establishment.

I am writing this to you in an air of hope.

Myself and yourself have been part of many of the same campaigns over the last two decades – from protests in the 2000s against the Dublin Incinerator, for a Europe of social rights at the EU summit in Dublin in 2004, Shell to Sea, marches against the visit of war mongerer George Bush, and the campaign to Save St Luke’s Hospital in Rathgar.

To the 2010s when we marched against austerity, cuts to community and youth services, of course the historic water charges movement, and more recent housing crisis protests.

These were, and remain, movements of ordinary citizens – concerned with the state of their communities, their country and even the planet. Some ‘won’, some ‘lost’ – but I know that you are proud of your involvement in these, as I am.

I know you understand that these are the seeds of change – the grassroots so-called ordinary citizens in society. Many of your supporters were part of them and they were (and are) inspired by your involvement and championing of these issues. That is where your heart is.

But to the thorny difficult issues that I don’t think should be ignored on this historic day for you. Most importantly, the question of government and, coalition government specifically.

Before the last election you and your party signed up to, and advocated, the Right2Change policy principles that include the right to water, decent work, housing, health, debt justice, education, democratic reform, equality, a sustainable environment and national resources, that would form the basis for ‘a progressive Irish government.’

Your position at that point was to only go into government as a majority party. Your position has changed and you are now open to go in as a minority party. There are clearly different views within your party about whether to go into coalition or not with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

But on the eve of this historic day for you, I would like to make the case to you that supporting a Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil lead government would be a major mistake, not just for Sinn Féin as a party, but also for the wider movement working towards progressive substantive change on this Island.

Of course you will ask, well what is the alternative to a coalition government with either FF or FG? Gerry Adams has asked where and who is the left alternative that could go with Sinn Féin?

Firstly, there are others, although currently small in number, like the Social Democrats, and independents. But we are in a period of political earthquakes and instability. New political forces can emerge quickly. Ireland is not immune from international political trends.

After the next election the broad left is likely to increase its numbers, not to be in a position to form a government, but parties like the Social Democrats and Sinn Féin will increase their seat representation. That means a larger opposition after the next election. A larger grouping to put forward alternative policies. That is, if you or the Soc Dems do not go into government.

There is little point Sinn Féin going into government as a minority party because that means – quite obviously – you have not received a public mandate for your policies. There is no point in the progressive Left being in government if it does not have popular support for its policies.

Otherwise they will just be continuously opposed by the media, the establishment, IBEC etc and undermined without the broad public backing necessary to respond to such attacks. All of us on the progressive broad ‘centre’ and ‘genuine’ Left have a job to do before we should countenance entering government.

And that is to convince a majority of the Irish people that our policies are the best ones that can guarantee them improved living standards and a decent quality of life – from affordable housing, to access to quality healthcare, secure and well-paid jobs, women’s rights, community services, well-funded infrastructure for a sustainable steady economy, reforming the EU etc.

Importantly also the social forces that can do play a big role in society – the social movements, the civil society NGOs, the trade unions, the community groups – they need to be supported to enable that process of citizen education and mobilisation for alternative policies.

The lessons of the Labour party, the Greens and every small left party that has entered coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should surely warn you away from such a coalition move. What real fundamental change did any of those parties achieve? Very little I would argue.

They would have been better to stay in opposition, build that popular support for their policies, become the main opposition and then, when they have the public majority support, enter government and deliver real change.

And so I would argue you should take the path Labour have never been brave enough or willing to take – stay in opposition.

Being in opposition is not an irrelevant political place to be. Your decision after the 2016 election not to go into government resulted in the current historic situation whereby Fianna Fáil are supporting a minority Fine Gael government.

This has meant the government is weak and open to legislation being proposed from the opposition, the citizen’s assembly, and even civil society. It has made the Oireachtas committees, and therefore our democracy, stronger. Imagine what you could do as the main opposition party?

But importantly, to go back to those grassroots campaigns I started with. They, and the communities they come from, many of the most deprived in this country, but also many middle class people, and increasingly the younger precarious and excluded generations –many of them are your supporters. What do they want you, and Sinn Fein, to do?

Their response to Labour in the last election shows what they do not want you to do. They want real genuine change.

They want politicians and political parties like Sinn Féin to stand up for them, for the excluded, for the voiceless, and not to prop up another conservative government and implement policies you previously opposed. Citizen trust in politics is at a low ebb. We have a fragile democracy.

Will your decisions result in further disenchantment and disillusionment or in an empowered and hopeful citizenry? Where will these people go if they no longer feel represented by a Sinn Fein that ends up defending the establishment?

Will your name sit along-side those like Joan Burton, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Pat Rabbitte and others who promised in 2011 to stand up for working people but after the election ended up hammering those they were supposed to represent?

Pat Rabittee’s words should haunt you – you will rememberwhat he said when challenged on reneging on pre-election promises – that they were just pre-election promises after all – made to be broken.

Or will you, Mary Lou McDonald, President of Sinn Féin, stand for something fundamentally different? Will you be the first female Taoiseach of a first broad progressive centre Left government in Ireland? Will you transform and grow your party and the wider Left and progressive civil society to become a real new politics in Ireland?

This is a time of possibilities. It is possible.

Are we at the dawn of a new Republic of Equality for all, or are we at the point of witnessing it being confined to the history book recordings of the 1916 Proclamation? You have a central role in determining the answer to this question – in determining this country’s path and its future.

You can shine the light on injustice –wherever it hides and crouches, carry the torch of hope, shake this tired corrupt establishment, and chart a road toward a real Republic of Equality, social justice and democracy. Dear Mary Lou, congratulations and good luck, but just please, don’t become them.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

Top pic: Rollingnews

From top: Nigel Farage and John Waters at the irexit conference in the RDS on Saturday; Dr Rory Hearne

It is incredible how angry supposedly sensible people get when you express a contrarian view point. Or if you even raise questions about supposed ‘truths’ and general ‘commonsense’.

The impossibility of Ireland leaving the EU, or Irexit as it come to be called (or probably more appropriately Eirexit) is apparently one of these accepted ‘truths’.

On Saturday I had the temerity to question this assumption on twitter and got one hell of a reaction.

I posted the simple tweet:

Now to make it clear from the outset, I am not arguing that Ireland should leave the EU, and I am pro-immigration and I actually blame the policies of our own successive Irish governments of various hues of Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Labour/Greens/PDs as being the primary cause of our current problems. Although I do think the EU/ECB has had an important role too.

Clearly then I will have nothing to do with the Nigel Farage/John Waters Conference and any potential new Irexit party. They stand for a right-wing, conservative vision of Ireland and Europe that offers nothing positive for Irish people.

However, what I am saying is that there is a ‘progressive’, outward and forward looking critique of the EU that has real legitimacy, and it is this critique that needs to be listened to seriously.

For if it is not addressed, and quickly, then support for Irexit could grow.

I am also, therefore, making the case that some of those expressing support for Irexit have legitimate concerns that represent a not insignificant proportion of the Irish people.

Rather than dismissing these concerns, the Irish and European establishment should take them serious and engage in a radical overhaul of the direction of Ireland, the EU and its institutions.

There is a problem with our democracy, our political culture and this exists in wider Irish society. We are afraid to question and challenge the status quo. And our government and establishment media even more so.

Our ‘state’ not just dislikes questioning and challenge – it is terrified by it. And that’s why it actively silences dissenting voices – through gag orders on charities such as homeless NGOs or community organisations working on poverty.

And the system likes to portray those who question as dissidents or ‘Left-wing’ in order to try undermine your concerns. Rather than maturely engaging in a discussion there is a hysterical over-reaction. And this is reflected in the response to my tweet.

Why is it not possible to be pro-Europe and question fundamentally the current EU structures and process?

I am involved in the cross-European ‘Re-InVEST’ study into the impact of the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent austerity on the most vulnerable in 13 European countries.

The project aims to contribute to a more solidarity and inclusive EU through an inclusive and powerful social investment strategy at EU level and to give voice to vulnerable groups and civil society organisations.

We have found that:

“As a consequence of the recent economic crisis, institutional trust in these countries has fallen to dramatic levels. In particular, in Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain, the effect of the economic crisis on public trust in institutions is especially prominent…respondents with low subjective incomes, low level of education, and those who are unemployed report significantly lower trust in national parliaments and the European Parliament”.

The reality is that in response to the 2008 crisis the EU institutions focused on macro-economic stabilisation rather than social consequences. As a result poverty and inequality have increased, particularly in the peripheral countries and political trust has declined. There has been a rise in the support for populist, anti-establishment, political parties.

But this is not just something that started in 2008. Inequality has been on the rise since the 1980s and the shift to neoliberal financial capitalism.

The EU has played a key role in promoting the free-market, neoliberal globalisation model. Citizens have become much more insecure – particularly in relation to work, pensions, and housing. The future for their children looks much more difficult than they had it.

There is a sense of going backwards, or not going in the right direction. And there is a sense of loss control over major decisions.

Ireland is changing too and Irish people are increasingly experiencing these insecurities. The generation in their 20s and 30s are scarred by emigration and insecure jobs and unaffordable housing.

Poor communities remain excluded across the country. Who represents these excluded groups? The establishment, particularly as represented by Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael, continues to ignore the excluded and is more focused on trying to stem the tide of change – as Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohue said after the last election –“ That is why it is more important than ever that the centre of Irish politics holds” he wrote in the Irish Times in April 2017.

There is a real danger that if these concerns are not given a political expression then the support for a right-wing xenophobic Irexit could grow.

That is why progressive, civil society, and ‘Left’ critiques of the EU and the unequal Irish model should be given a much bigger voice in the Irish media, and it is why the political left in Ireland need to maintain a strong critical voice in relation to EU – arguing for a Europe of social justice and human rights and opposing the current free-market corporate-dominated EU.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne




From top: Preparations ahead of this week’s World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland; Dr Rory Hearne

The global elite of governments, corporate CEOs, and financial investors meet for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland this week.

Their discussion topics include such heart-warming titles as ‘Saving Economic Globalization from Itself’, ‘Global Markets in a Fractured World’ and, interestingly, very aware of the inevitability of another global economic crash, ‘Could 2018 Be the Year of the Next Financial Crisis?’.

But at the World Economic Forum it is the global elite talking to themselves about how they can protect and expand the privileges and wealth of the elite, while doing just enough (or even giving the impression that they are doing something that’s just enough) to keep the majority of their populations happy and ticking along without politically challenging the system.

Just look at the world they lead – Oxfam’s Even It Up! campaign )see below) has highlighted that the eight richest people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population.

This is the result of forty years of economic globalisation and hyper-capitalism – the policies promoted by the elite at the World Economic Forum. Inequality, economic instability and environmental destruction have worsened substantially under their leadership and policies.

The reasons for the rise inequality are multiple and complex, but strong contributing factors include the fact that wages (which is most people’s income) have not increased relative to the dramatic rise in the wealth of those at the top of society and corporations.

The deregulation and globalisation of financial markets and the spread of speculative investment into all aspects of our lives has also unleashed the inherent instability and boom-bust cycles of the market in increasing frequency and ever-greater impact.

Inequality has also risen because the state has reduced its role in providing public services like health, social welfare, housing, and education, which in the past played a strong role in reducing inequality and providing more balanced economic development. Now the private sector and the market are much more dominant in these areas.

And this was the ultimate purpose of the neoliberal globalisation revolution promoted by global leaders from Margaret Thatcher, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Angela Merkel and their friends – to facilitate corporations to make as much profit as possible by reducing worker’s conditions and privatising public services, lowering the taxes corporations and the wealthy have to pay, and paying little attention to increasing the risk of financial crises and environmental destruction.

So now the dominant policies globally are free market economics (despite causing the great financial crash and recession of 2008) that measure countries’ development in terms of crude measures of economic growth such as GDP.

And this means that measures of people’s and society’s well-being – from health to mental health, economic and social inequalities, housing affordability, sense of safety and community, or the support for caring roles for our vulnerable populations and disadvantaged communities – these are all secondary (and even lower in policy and political priority terms) considerations and are not prioritised.

At the World Economic Forum (WEF), there will be lots of discussion, sincere frowns and strong words about the state of the world. This year they even have sessions on ‘Society Divided’ and ‘Solving the Economic Generation Gap’. But there will be no acceptance of the role of their policies in bringing us to where we are.

Business will continue as usual and governments, corporations and financial investors will meet, ‘network’ and exchange ideas and approaches on new ways of how the private sector can get more government contracts – like Public Private Partnerships – in areas like health care, elderly care, climate resilience, housing and transport – and how taxes on corporations, high earners and the wealthy can be minimised and finance further de-regulated.

How the economic globalisation train can be kept on its tracks – shuttling us and the planet towards a global dystopia.

Irish Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe (and possibly the Taoiseach) will be there speaking and representing the interests of big Irish businesses and large multinationals based in Ireland. But officially they are there representing you, the Irish public.

But don’t worry. They won’t mention any of the ‘downsides’ of the great Irish economic ‘recovery’. Instead they will extoll the speed and extent of the recovery (again using the narrow measurement of GDP growth).

There will be no mention of the socially and economically damaging housing crisis and homelessness (remember Fine Gael is the party whose Minister Damien English scolded us malcontents in the Dail in November last year for ‘talking down our country’ and ‘damaging Ireland’s international reputation’ by having the temerity to suggest that the government’s response to homelessness is ‘dysfunctional’).

And don’t worry – our reputation will be kept intact.

We will put our best face out for the global elite. There won’t be any mention of the deep inequality in wealth in Ireland. Where the wealthiest top 10% hold over half (53.8%) of all of Ireland’s wealth while the bottom half of the population have just 4.9% of the wealth. Nor will there be mention of the income inequality resulting from the very high rates of low pay in our workforce. 105,000 people who are working are living in poverty – the “working poor”.

Nor will there be mention of one of the most social corrosive and damaging issues which is given very little consideration – our high poverty rates – which are still double what they were prior to the crash in 2008.

The proportion of our population (8.3%) in consistent poverty is double the 2008 rate. And for our most vulnerable –lone parent families and their children – a quarter (24.6%) of them are in consistent poverty (up from 16.6% in 2009).

Don’t worry, neither the Irish Ministers nor the compliant media will embarrass you by mentioning the 790,000 people in Ireland who are living on an annual income below €12,358 (60% of the national median income – who are defined as being ‘at risk of poverty’.

Or that a quarter of a million of these are children. Or that a fifth of our population – 1 million people in Ireland – are experiencing deprivation. And a quarter of all children experience deprivation (still much higher than the 15% rate in 2007).

Deprivation is defined as households excluded from goods and services considered the norm in society, due to an inability to afford them. Individuals who experience two or more of eleven listed items are experiencing enforced deprivation. Don’t worry this hidden underbelly of a deeply unequal recovery will get little attention.

The reality is that Ireland, in contrast to what our Minister for Finance will be saying in Davos, should not be held up as a poster child economy for other nations to follow.

We are a tax haven facilitating some of the wealthiest corporations in the world to avoid contributing to society and we bailed out our banks and developers at enormous and devastating costs to society.

Both of which have resulted in massive austerity and under investment in public services leaving us with unprecedented housing and health crises that are amongst the worst in the developed world.

But if you think about it – Ireland is in fact the real poster child for global capitalism and the global elite in Davos. Here in Ireland we are a model ‘hyper-capitalist’ nation. Corporations pay little tax and make massive profits, workers do not have strong labour protections and collective bargaining –unions are not allowed to represent and organise workers in many private companies.

At the height of the crash and recession – the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael/Labour governments encouraged the vulture funds and financial investors to come in and feed off the carcass of an austerity ravaged population.

So the wealth of the global and Irish wealthy has grown even further from the exploitation of the population, most significantly the poor and young people paying ever higher housing costs as rents or mortgages. Public investment in public services is one of the lowest in the EU which leaves lots of opportunities for the private sector to provide public services and make a huge profit (we can see this in the growth of private healthcare).

There is scant constitutional protection for citizen’s human right to housing or healthcare – but the right to profit and private property is promoted and protected. Indeed, Leo’s Republic of Opportunity is a nice little corporate paradise for the private corporations, financial investors and the wealthy.

But Ireland’s reliance on its tax haven status, the financial sector and multinational corporate investment and the low level of public services and indigenous business investment makes Ireland deeply exposed to the future financial and economic crash, as was the case in 2008. This is rarely spoken of.

And even more importantly for the global elite – Ireland has played a very important role in the rise of global inequality in the past three decades – our financial tax haven industry based around the IFSC has helped the corporate and financial elite reduce and avoid taxes owed to national governments and thus increased their profits and wealth accumulation. No wonder then the Irish politicians get such a welcome in Davos.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Countries like Sweden and Finland have much more equal societies, better public services, better businesses and more sustainable economies – everyone is better off in more equal countries.

And even the global elite at the World Economic Forum know that their global order of hyper -capitalist globalisation they have created is deeply unstable –with another financial crash inevitable, is deeply unequal, and threatens the future of the planet. But they aren’t going to change direction – they have already shown they have no interest in that, and why would they – the elite benefits from the status quo.

So, as always, it’s up to ordinary citizens, communities, social movements, trade unions, critical NGOs, progressive politicians, and others, like you, to come together and bring about the change needed towards fairness, social and environmental justice.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

You can read more about what you can do at the Fight Inequality Alliance who are co-ordinating a week of action around the World Economic Forum, here

Top Pic: AFP