Tag Archives: rory on thursday


From top: Blind Boy of The Rubber Bandits on Channel 4 News; Dr Rory hearne

Ireland’s ‘millennials’ are a generation in crisis.

But they are fighting back.

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

Last week Blindboy Boatclub of The Rubberbandits was on Channel 4 News talking about how the recession has stolen ‘their 20s’ from young people and that there’s “huge amounts of suicide, jumping into rivers, and emigration” and for “a lot of young Irish people, they don’t see a future.”

Blindboy is absolutely correct. Ireland is no country for young people and families.

The recession and austerity had a devastating impact on younger generations (particularly those now in their 20s and 30s – the so-called ‘Millennial’ Generation or Generation Y) and the recovery has failed to improve things.

A global debate is taking place about the plight of the Millennial Generation and the ‘intergenerational inequalities’ they face. The Guardian ran a series of articles on ‘The Trials of Generation Y’ where it described how they face “a perfect storm of debt, housing and joblessness.”

From high unemployment in Spain and Greece, and massive debt and stagnant wages in the US, to the UK where they face high house prices locking them out of home ownership and into extortionate, dismal rental arrangements .

They are the the Jilted Generation – set to be the first generation to do worse than its parents. Studies have also shown this generation to suffer from anxiety at much higher rates than previously.

The Millennial generation in Ireland have it even worse with the biggest impacts in terms of ‘generational inequality’ hitting them from the austerity related public sector recruitment embargo, lower pay rates for new public sector employees, casualisation of employment, exorbitant child care costs and an unprecedented housing crisis.

The public and civil service (e.g. guards, nurses, teachers, civil servants) have traditionally been a huge area of employment for new college graduates but it was effectively shut off to young people with the public sector recruitment moratorium introduced in 2009 by the Fianna Fail/Green government.

It was continued by the Fine Gael/Labour government until just last year when it was lifted in some areas.


The impact of this can be seen in the dramatic fall in numbers employed in the public sector from 369,000 in 2008 to 327,100 in 2015 (see graph above).

The result is a generation shut out from the public sector. We now have the situation where the average age of staff in the Civil Service is close to 50 and just 4 per cent are under 30.

To make matters worse the younger generation faces a further discrimination. New entrants to the public sector since 2011 are on a 10% lower pay scale than those employed prior to 2011 (this is on top of the 14% cuts to all public sector employees).

This issue was raised at the teacher’s conferences this week where they spoke of the inequality and unfairness of this two-tier pay scale which will result in young teachers receiving up to €300,000 less than their older colleagues over their career.

TUI General Secretary John MacGabhann explained to the Irish Times that these young teachers “cannot afford rents, are being forced – by poverty – to give up part-time jobs, to emigrate…they cannot plan, have no creditworthiness, have their personal independence compromised. Why? Because government marked them out for especially punitive treatment.

On top of the public sector moratorium and the lower pay rates – new entrants to the public sector have also faced a growing problem of ‘casualisation’ or ‘precarious’ contract work.

This is where workers are employed on short term temporary or fixed contracts – often for six months or a year – and then either let go or the contract is extended on a further short term basis.

The campaign group Third Level Work Place Watch explains that younger researchers and teaching staff (tutors and lecturers) have no job security at all, face exploitative rates of pay and worse working conditions. This casualisation also erodes academic freedom and is a major threat to higher education.

This problem of precarious and low paid work is affecting younger workers across the economy. It is part of a ‘race to the bottom’ as employers reduce wages, hours of employment, benefits, and job security.

The most extreme form of casualisation has been experienced by those forced into unpaid internships and Jobbridge schemes which are being used by employers as cheap labour for restaurant staff and even teachers, community workers and psychologists.

I experienced this precarious work as a community worker and contract lecturer. I went from short term contract to short term contract and I felt forced to leave lecturing as it was explained to me that there was little prospect of my contract being extended ‘because of the impact of austerity cuts to the university budgets’.

It is hugely stressful working in such situations, particularly if you have significant financial responsibilities such as young children and a mortgage (both of which I have).



Childcare costs I can tell you for certain are a huge impact on parents. Ireland has the second highest childcare costs in the OECD for couples and the highest in the OECD for lone parents.

For others it is extremely difficult to plan your future such as getting a mortgage or even having a family while you are in such an insecure employment situation. And of course it’s much worse for those unemployed – our youth unemployment rate is still 20%.

Housing is a crisis for this generation. Whether it is being stuck in mortgage arrears, facing escalating and unaffordable rents with no long term security of tenure or an inability to purchase your own home. The harshest end of this is felt by those pushed into homelessness.

All of these issues have created a gaping hole in our generation as it has forced 250,000 (mainly young people aged in their 20s and 30s) to emigrate between 2010 and 2015.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

These all result from political choices and, therefore, different political choices can achieve equality for all generations and all households. This means prioritising affordable housing and childcare, secure and well paid jobs, a top class public health system and a genuinely free and fair education system.

There is hope for this jilted generation from the increasing numbers of young people involved in campaigning for social justice and equality.

These can be seen in the Marriage Referendum, growing housing campaigns (e.g. Dublin Tenants Association, Housing Action Now, the Irish Housing Forum), Third Level Work Place Watch, the young workers network, young teachers, new student activists (e.g. Seanad candidate Lynn Ruane), Right2Water, mental health campaigners and the Repeal the 8th Campaign.

The courage of this new generation was most evident last weekend when the young homeless mother Erica Fleming organised a protest at the housing crisis and how it represents a failure to achieve the Republic of Equality that is outlined in the Proclamation.

[I am hoping to raise awareness of these issues by making them central to my campaign for election to the Seanad. In a short video I explain the reality for Generation rent, debt and job insecurity. You can watch it 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


From top: The Cruise Park housing estate in Tyrellstown in West Dublin, whose developers’ Ulster Bank loan was bought in 2014 by a Goldman Sachs vulture fund; Dr Rory Hearne

Homeowners and tenants need protection from vulture funds such as those owned by government advisors, Goldman Sachs.

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

There needs to be an immediate suspension of the sale of Irish housing loans to the vulture funds and emergency legislation to protect tenants and those in mortgage arrears from eviction.

There is also a need to investigate the role of Goldman Sachs, the vulture fund involved in evicting residents of Tyrrelstown, in advising the Irish government.

Goldman Sachs is a multi-billion dollar US multinational investment fund company. It is involved in more ways than we realise in Ireland. Beltany Property Finance is the Goldman company involved in the Tyrrelstown development and it bought the loans in 2014 from Ulster Bank.

Goldman also played a key role in advising successive Irish governments on the restructuring of the banks from 2008 to 2013 (for which it was paid  €8million), and it is still contracted by the Department of Finance to advise it on the potential sale of AIB.

Surely there are potential issues of ‘conflict of interest’ and the profiting from ‘insider knowledge’ here?

Goldman could have gained intimate knowledge of the properties and assets held on the loan books by the Irish banks such as Ulster Bank. Goldman, as other vulture funds, tend to make significant profits from buying these ‘toxic’ or ‘distressed’ loans at discount prices and then selling them on when the markets rise – as is going on now in Ireland.

Questions need to be asked about why Goldman Sachs remains in such a prominent position advising the Irish government on the restructuring of the Irish banks. Especially given this clear conflict of interest where Goldman can profit from this intimate knowledge it gains of the restructuring of these very same Irish banks.

Is it because of the close relationship between Goldman Sachs and governments?

For example, Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, is a former employee as was the Treasury Secretary in the US. And then there is Peter Sutherland, recently retired Chair of Goldman Sachs, who is a leading member of the political establishment in Ireland.

Haven’t we seen disastrous outcomes from this close relationship between politicians, financial institutions and property before?

Goldman Sachs was actually charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for its role in causing the 2008 financial crisis – directly linked to its role in the subprime housing mortgage market.

Goldman, profited from, and played a role in causing, the 2008 financial crash and the 2010 European debt crisis. Rolling Stone magazinehas called Goldman “the giant vampire squid” for its vampire like profit squeezing from economies and the devastating impact on ordinary people’s lives.

And yet it continues to hold huge influence over governments?

It begs the obvious question. Why would you ask a financial investment fund, who have consistently shown that they will always act in ways that are most profitable to them, for advice on an economic and social crisis like our banking and housing crash?

You only ask investment funds like those if you want to know how to maximise the interest from vulture funds in buying up distressed properties and assets.

And this is the heart of the explanation of the current situation in Tyrrlestown and our ever worsening housing crisis.

It is the thinking that underpinned the decisions taken when the Irish housing market and banks collapsed and the scale of the losses and mortgage arrears crisis became apparent.

Government and policy makers focused on removing the ‘problem’ of toxic housing loans from the bank’s balance sheets in order to save the banks and help them return to profitability and ‘healthy status’ as soon as possible.

This was the priority in policy decisions. The impacts on home owners and renters living in the houses and any future housing crisis, was a distant consideration.

Policymakers knew (thanks to the advice from the likes of Goldman) that the non-bank funds buying these loans (bundles of mortgages) would be mainly interested in high rates of profit and making that as quickly as possible by selling off the property as soon as the housing market would recover.

So the result was the ‘pillar’ Irish banks (and European financial system) were ‘saved’ by the taxpayer bailouts and the sale of distressed toxic loans (i.e. developer’s loans –land and thousands of houses like Tyrrlestown) to various vulture funds and subprime housing companies.

The price for this policy is now being paid by the families losing their homes in Tyrrelstown and the tens of thousands more who will face a similar situation in the coming months and years as receivers, banks and vulture funds all look to profit from a rising property market.

The other associated price for this approach is the escalation of rents and the homeless crisis which arises, in part, from the failure to introduce rent control. Rent control would have reduced the interest of vulture funds in buying up Irish distressed property and that explains the political coolness towards it.

The scale of the increase in ownership of Irish housing, particularly mortgages in arrears, by non-bank vulture funds is staggering. My analysis of central bank figures shown in the table below reveals that these ‘non-bank entities’ (vulture funds) now hold 47,461 mortgage accounts.

And of these 19,818 are in arrears of more than 90 days, with 13,050 of these in arrears over 720 days. Therefore, these funds hold almost 25 per cent of all mortgage accounts in arrears of more than 720 days.

Their increasing role is shown by the fact that they have doubled their holding of the total Irish mortgage stock in just two years from just 2% of the total stock in 2013 to 5% in 2015 (6.3% in value terms).

graphThe growth in Non-bank entities (vulture funds) in holding Irish housing 2013-2015

Something can be done to change this and protect people in their homes from the vulture funds. It requires the government temporarily suspending all further sales and repossessions of housing and loan books including Irish residential property by either NAMA or the banks.

A new housing and homes agency should be immediately set up to purchase these distressed properties and work on solutions that protect the tenants and homeowners in their homes.

Furthermore, emergency legislation is needed to strengthen tenant’s rights to enable them stay in their home, and rent control is required to avoid economic evictions of tenants.

Finally, the Department of Finance and other government contracts with vampire vulture squid, Goldman Sachs, should be ended immediately.

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


From top: Begging on the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin; Dr Rory Hearne

The rich are getting richer and the vultures are circling.

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Very true words spoken by former US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Unfortunately if we apply them to Ireland we can see that we are certainly making plenty of ‘progress’ in adding to the abundance of ‘those who have much’, according to a report released last week by property agent Knight Frank.

Their Wealth Report 2016 showed that the number of ultra-wealthy individuals in Ireland increased by 18% between 2005 and 2015, and that number is set to increase by 28% over the coming decade. This follows on from the recent Sunday Independent Rich List which showed that the top 300 wealthiest Irish people doubled their wealth since 2010.

This increase in wealth at the top of society while we have growing numbers of homelessness and child poverty at the bottom is morally wrong and socially unjust. It is shameful and unethical.

Look at the stark contrast between this rising wealth for those at the top of Irish society and the reduction in wealth and income for those in the middle and at the bottom.

For example, in terms of deprivation, in the same period of time as covered by this increase in wealth, the number of children aged 0-6 suffering from deprivation in Ireland doubled from 55,000 in 2007 to 105,000 in 2014.

How is this right? How is it allowed to continue?

These ‘ultra high net worth’ (UNHW) individuals in Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2016 are individuals who have a net worth of at least US$30 million (after accounting for shares in public and private companies, residential and passion investments such as art, planes and real estate). That is a massive holding of wealth.


The Wealth Report (you can read it here) also finds that the number of millionaires in Ireland is projected to increase from 66,000 in 2005 to reach 100,400 by 2025 (see Table above).

The Knight Frank Wealth Report also needs to be looked at in the context of our worsening housing crisis.

The Report highlights that property (residential housing and commercial real estate property) is a key aspect of wealth accumulation by the wealthy. The report explains how “super-normal returns” from residential property “helps underpin the net worth of the ultra-wealthy”.

Knight Frank, of course, benefit from this themselves as they are a global ‘property agent’ and property advisor, handling sales of very large properties. Clearly, promoting the role of property in wealth accumulation for UHNW individuals is an important aspect of their business model.

Their Report shows that housing property (primary residence and second homes) accounts for a quarter of UHNW’s investable wealth, while commercial property investments make up 11%. Thus, total property investment makes up almost 40% of the wealth of the UHNWs while financial investments (equities, bonds, etc) makes up a smaller proportion (28%).

And the importance of property as an asset has increased in recent years. The reason for the increasing importance of purchasing property was its role as an ‘investment to sell in the future’ and a ‘safe haven for funds’.

This is in contrast to how most of us see housing as a home rather than an investment asset.

The investment in property by the wealthy is playing a role in recent property price increases in ‘prime’ markets (like Dublin). The report highlights that “it has been the weight of money from wealthy investors looking to secure assets in leading world economic hubs that has propelled markets to record levels”.

I have shown here before the role of global wealth funds in worsening the housing affordability crisis in Ireland by driving up rents through the sale of property and land by NAMA to vulture funds.

So the vulture and wealth funds, the wealthy and banks increase their wealth by dispossessing the poorest of their homes and extracting ‘super profit’s from speculative sales of land and property, along with what they get from rental income.

This wealth isn’t ‘created’ from thin air – it is being paid for by the Irish taxpayer through the bank bailouts, austerity and NAMA, mortgage distress, homelessness and escalating rents and house prices.

The result of this is most visible in our housing crisis –from the 37,000 still in mortgage arrears to the 1,570 children and their families who are now homeless in Dublin.


Source: Department of Environment

It is interesting to read in the Report that even the wealthy are realising that the growing concentration of wealth, particularly within the advanced economies, is a major problem.

There is a specific Chapter in the Report entitled ‘Wealth Inequality takes Centre Stage’ which highlights the ‘growing sense of disenfranchisement” that “is changing the political landscape globally”. They explain:

“wealth inequality has continued to climb the political agenda and is now one of the biggest issues facing politicians as they try to address those who feel disenfranchised”.

There is an increasing desire from ordinary people to see a stop to rising inequalities and for policies that will make society more fair.

One proposal that could make a fairer society is a wealth tax. Interestingly we had a wealth tax before in Ireland – it was introduced by a Fine Gael Labour government in 1975.

It was levied at 1 per cent of the value of assets in excess of £100,000, with family homes, bloodstock, livestock and pension rights exempt. But after the 1977 election Fianna Fáil abolished it.

It is time to look again at the merits of a wealth tax. A 1% wealth tax that would apply only to the top 1% of households (and would exclude homes, farm land and pension savings) in Ireland could raise up to €500 million.

That is a very large amount of money (but insignificant to the ultra wealthy) that could build housing for the homeless, fund our health service and provide school meals to address child poverty. Isn’t it time for a wealth tax?

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




From top: Water protesters arrive in Dublin for a Right2Water rally in August, 2015; Dr Rory Hearne

The water protests and Right2Water have changed Ireland. They have helped people realise that we do not just have to accept everything that we are told, that there are alternatives.

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

Again they will come to Dublin this Saturday in their tens of thousands – from every corner of the country and from all parts of Dublin.

Another tidal wave of the ‘ordinary’ men, women and children of Ireland – taking to the streets to make their voice heard against austerity, the ‘unjust’ water charge, the unequal recovery and to have ‘a government for the people’.

It could be the biggest water protest yet.

And this one is even more significant because it takes place just a few days away from the general election. This is because the water protest movement, the largest protest movement in Ireland since the 1913 lockout, is changing the course of politics in Ireland.

The government and mainstream media have never fully understood or wanted to understand why so many people took part in the water protests and how they are changing how people think about politics.

The water protesters have become like the irritating fly that buzzes around a nice quiet room. We were supposed to be in recovery and austerity finished yet the protests just got bigger and bigger. They upset the cosy consensus. And so the government sent out Alan Kelly and the Gardai as their swat to try kill it.

But they have failed.

There will be tens of thousands of people in Dublin on Saturday saying to the entire political establishment, ‘we are the Irish people awakened from our slumber of passivity – we are saying ‘no more’, we want our country back to be run for the welfare of its people, and we are going to vote for politicians who have stood with us’.

This is a profound statement that will have a major bearing the outcome of the election because it shows that the Irish people are not just lying down as they did at the start of the crisis in 2008 and when the Troika rolled into Dublin to takeover in 2010.

Remember all the questions about why didn’t the Irish protest at the imposition of austerity, the bailout of the banks and the Troika (IMF, ECB and EU) taking over the country?

Remember when the former Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, said in April 2009 that other European countries were ‘amazed’ at the extent of austerity inIreland and that there would be “riots” if these were introduced in any other European country.

Remember Enda Kenny, smil the cover of Time magazine in October 2012 where he explained to the world that there had been no large-scale demonstrations in Ireland because “(Irish) people understand that you have to do difficult things to sort out our own public finances”.

They thought they had convinced the Irish people to stay quiet by getting us to blame ourselves for ‘partying to hard’ in the boom years.

They thought the election was going to be the Irish people sensibly choosing stability over chaos.

But the government never learned from their mistaken attitude to the water protests. They didn’t listen to the people then and they still aren’t listening now.

Through the water protests and the Right2Water/Right2Change movement –made up of communities, trade unions and Left political parties – the Irish people found their voice of protest. They found their dignity and decided to take a stand.

Water was the issue people could take action on. They could stop a water meter being installed outside their house in a way they couldn’t stop a cut to the local hospital or community centre.

They could protest on the street at a water protest. And through that people could express their anger at all the injustices of austerity, the bank bailouts and the debt. And while there had been smaller on-going protests such as the Ballyhea Says No against the Bondholder Bailout in Cork, against local hospital closures – the water campaign united everyone.

This is why the water campaigners are a key force that is making this election like no other in the history of the state. They are a key influencing factor in the decline in support for the establishment parties of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour and rise of the independents, Sinn Fein, Social Democrats and the AAA/PBP.

This is because the water movement, and particularly the communities who first started opposing the installation of water meters, took a stand to defend the Irish people against austerity when no one else would do it.

And their constant presence in communities and again on the streets this Saturday reminds people of this simple fact – that when the Irish people’s backs were to the wall – the establishment parties of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour and the Greens prioritised the bondholders, vulture funds, the ECB, developers and corporations – and made the ordinary joe soap pay the price.

It is interesting to compare the huge numbers of Gardai deployed to enforce the installation of water meters in the face of local community protests with the lack of policing available for communities being overrun by drug gangs.

And of course who benefits from the installation of water meters? Siteserv – the company belonging to Fine Gael’s favourite oligarch – Denis O Brien. It says it all about the government and Irish state’s priorities and who they actually represent – and it’s not ordinary people. And when it comes to voting next Friday week the people will not forget that.

The power and influence of the water movement is shown in its ability to involve people who were never involved or interested in politics or activism before.

And we know this because myself and some of my students in a module on social movements I was teaching in Maynooth last year undertook a survey of over 2000 water protestors. We found that over 55% of water protestors had never protested before (see findings of the research here).

The water movement has also successfully used new forms of media – particularly social media – to play a key role in providing a means of communication of a different analysis of issues and information that people would not have received before from the mainstream media.

This change is being translated into the election as the Right2Water/Right2Change campaigners have worked on getting people to register vote. Also through the Right2Change list of candidates they are encouraging people who never voted before out to vote (delivering 200,000 newspapers outlining this in the next week).

Just as with the Marriage referendum that motivated young people to register and vote in greater numbers than before so too the water issue and Right2Change candidates give people, particularly in disadvantaged areas with traditionally low turnout, a reason to be bothered to vote.

They see in the independents and Left parties politicians who have protested with them and who will stand up for them. That increased turnout of anti-establishment voters will have a big bearing on the election.

On top of that not only are people voting for alternatives, they are no longer giving preference transfers to the establishment parties. So after voters vote 1,2,3 for their favourite Independent, Sinn Fein, PBP-AAA, Social Democrat, they are stopping. In the past they would have filled out the whole ballot paper. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will lose from this reduced number of transfer votes.

But the water protests have done even more to change Ireland. For years people have been talking about the decline of community and active citizenship and that people in Ireland had just stopped caring about their neighbours and society.

Now the water protests have brought people together in local community campaigns. It has moved from the water issue to people getting together to see how they can address homelessness and the housing crisis, to local hospital issues, to educating themselves about politics, to looking for community centres and space for people to meet their neighbours and see how they can improve their community.

It has brought back a sense of solidarity and cooperation with people seeing how they can work together to build a better country.

The protests and Right2Water have changed Ireland. They have helped people realise that we do not just have to accept everything that we are told, that there are alternatives.

Make sure you bring your rain coat and umbrella on Saturday. It looks like rain.

Dr Rory Hearne is a Senior Policy Analyst with TASC, the Think-Tank for Action on Social Change. His column appears here every Wednesday. Rory is an independent candidate for the Seanad NUI Colleges Panel. Follow him on Twitter: @roryhearne

Right2Water rally information here



Previously: Joan Collins TD Arrested