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A Failure Of Irish Government And Irish Politics As 10,000 Left Homeless

How on earth has Ireland’s politics come to this? Degenerated so deeply that a sizeable body of elected representatives can regard the crisis of homelessness as little more than a footnote in an otherwise inspirational tale of economic recovery from a decade of austerity, unemployment and mass emigration? How have we sunk so low that senior government ministers can think it acceptable to claim that any public discussion of the subject should be sidelined in favour of feel-good stories about foreign direct investment and hi-tech jobs? I’ve all but run out of condemnatory words to describe those who would ignore, downplay or mishandle the scandal, even though it worsens with every passing month.

New statistics from the Department of Housing indicate that at the end of February there were 9,807 people without accommodation in the State, including 3,755 minors in 1,739 families. Compared to the same period last year, this represents a 32% increase in overall homelessness, a 47% increase in homeless children and a 40% increase in the number of families without a home. These unprecedented figures are a grave indictment of our society and of those who would govern it. It is beyond reprehensible that this crisis has arisen and it ranks alongside the reluctance to reform and extend the health service as further evidence of the shortcomings of conservative politics in this country. Whether they stand under the banner of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Labour Party or the supposed Independents, the advocates of the ideological right have failed the voters they supposedly serve.

In particular, an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has led his party and nation towards an especially vacuous form of neoliberal politics, free of conscience or obligation. He has adopted a laissez-faire attitude to the housing crisis that would not be out of place among mid-19th century British politicians during the era of An Gorta Mór, trusting in the market to find a solution to every challenge, no matter how calamitous. Unfortunately, we are well beyond the nebulous good intentions of the free market will-o’-the-wisp, and the new Lord Trevelyan of West Dublin has done little to make one believe that he dissents from the opinion that a little hardship is an “effective mechanism for reducing surplus population”.

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8 comments on “A Failure Of Irish Government And Irish Politics As 10,000 Left Homeless

  1. Wondering how many of those homeless are immigrants…

    • Does it matter? They are still human beings. How many homes could we have built with the money wasted on the water charges and Irish Water fiasco?

      • Oh but it does matter. That’s a Veradker style liberal attitude.

        • In an ideal world I would have no problem with prioritising cases based upon citizenship, putting Irish residents first, but honestly that is the wrong angle to approach this matter from. Even if one were to go down that route, surely finding permanent accommodation for non-Irish children or families would take priority over doing the same for a single Irish adult, no matter how otherwise prioritised. It’s the humane and moral element that matters. Every case should be judged on its merit or need.

          And talk of priorities wouldn’t matter if the government had a viable strategy instead of acting in this reactive and frankly uncaring manner. We need to move away from the property-owning obsession and towards low-rent, lifetime leasing, as you find in parts of Germany and other continental nations.

          We are heading back to a housing boom-and-bust cycle.

      • Yes it does. It’s not wise to encourage beggar-tourism to Ireland. I saw a documentary recently about homeless Latvians in Ireland. They are mostly criminals/addicts who don’t want to work. So they beg on the streets, steal stuff, get incarcerated, etc.

    • Ah, good ol reliable Devils advocate Janis, always on hand to steer the conversation in a direction to where Seamus stands primed to pounce.

  2. Does Ireland have many folks who are homeless by choice? The US has a situation where individuals, those who whether due to mental illness or simple choice, live on the streets, more or less, of their own volition. You can argue that the mentally ill are unable to make a sound decision on their living arrangements, but unless they are a danger to themselves or others, they can’t be kept somewhere they don’t want to be. I don’t know what percentage of homeless in the US fall into this category, but they represent an outlier – folks who don’t have homes and, for whatever reason, don’t want them. That said, those that need and want housing should be able to find it readily.

  3. ar an sliabh

    Of course we do. Many wish to be left alone, without scrutiny of their individual preference of substance abuse. Although substance abuse (inclusive of alcohol) is a giant problem in Ireland, just like in most countries, it is no where the size it is in the United States. Having spent and still spending most of my time working in humanitarian non-profit there (and providing consult here), I can confidently report that from the street level. The United States has a disproportionate number of mentally ill in all levels of society, largely because of their incredible magnitude of substance abuse and the duration this level of abuse has prevailed in the country. Despite the large number of the severely mentally ill (who are beyond volunteering but are just left out there), and the voluntarily homeless, the (much) larger number of homeless overall, even in the United States, is homeless involuntarily. They need and want help. It is sad that most effort in assisting the destitute in America rests on non-profit organisations, despite the incredible wealth. There is only so much help available. Here in Ireland, the homeless problem is more directly related to the availability of work and services. There are really only very few larger cities, and it is pretty much down to Dublin for a job and if you need actual professional and modern treatment for mental or physical conditions, especially if it is children who are affected. So many live in destitute arrangements in and around Dublin to be able to gain or maintain employment and / or have availability of critical health services for themselves or their children (or simply go to University). The housing industry in Dublin is taking full advantage of that, and housing prices are often much more than an average income in Ireland can afford. All while only very little new housing is constructed. This makes many, many regular income people in Ireland homeless (who are actually employed). This issue is further exacerbated by the lack of public transportation services, which often fail to provide adequate services for shift workers or in the evening hours, only 30 miles from city centre (which is even worse for Cork and Galway). This, aside from a lack of essential services for those who are homeless due to substance abuse, mental illness, or both, constitutes the crisis here.

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