This week Leo Vradkar took his seat at the top of the table in the Dáil. He is now the leader of the Fine Gael party and the leader of the country. The media have concentrated on his age, being the youngest ever Taoiseach, his sexuality, being the only ever gay Taoiseach and being half Indian. Nothing about his right-wing philosophy that will affect the lives of the poorest in Ireland. He expressed his right wing views when he was canvasing for the position, as he spoke about working for ‘those who get up early in the morning’ and his attempt to divide the people of Ireland, as he spoke of ‘two groups of people in society, one who wants everything but does not want to pay for anything and one who pays for everything’.
Mr. Vradkar was very lucky to be educated at some of the best education institutions in Ireland. He grew up in a home where everything he needed to get him to where he is today was available to him. Food, shelter, love, education and encouragement was provided. He did not have to struggle to avail of any of these things in his life, and is unaware of what it is like to struggle and sees those that do, as scroungers and skivers. Just like the philosophy of Ian Duncan Smith of the Tories, across the water in the UK.
The housing, and health crises show no sign of easing, in spite of ‘the recovery’. We are constantly told the economy is in recovery and we need to keep it going and, only Fine Gael can do that. Families with young children continue to reside in hotels and ‘housing hubs’, and the Minister in charge has run away to a new department. He realised, he could not keep his promise of housing homeless families residing in hotels by the end of July. Sick people continue to languish on hospital trolleys, while the staff struggle to do their job with a scarcity of staff and beds. People continue to use food banks, and continue to work zero hour contracts for large companies who are making huge profits.
Across the water in the UK we have just seen the greatest tragedy involving the deaths of poor people. People who are not in a position to avail of housing through the market therefore, are pushed into high-rise flats with no safety for them, or their children. A cladding was used in these flats that was banned in the US because of safety issues. I said in a previous blog, class is still alive and kicking and this is another story of class. Profit is the main objective for the people who used this cladding in the refurbishing of these flats. The welfare of the people residing in them was less important. This is the world we live in, profit over people. High rise flats are built by the state to house as many people as they can in order to reduce costs. Certain lives matter less than others.
We cannot thrive if we do not have a secure home base. Children need the security of a warm home and sufficient food in order to thrive both, physically and cognitively. If children are not given the opportunity to thrive cognitively and go on to be creative in society, the chances are they will grow up angry and destructive and are then referred to as ‘scum bags’. If we continue to exclude these young children from the social necessity of a secure home, we are depriving them of their ability to grow and be the best they can be. We are forcing them to live with the stigma of homelessness, and when they don’t fit the picture of the ‘ideal’ citizen they will judged harshly and their parents will be blamed.
The political right-wing rhetoric of Leo Vradkar here in Ireland, and Ian Duncan Smith, in the UK creates a divided society and sets one class of people against another. This lets them off the hook, as the anger is vented towards those who are vulnerable and marginalised, because of the unequal organisation of society. It is about time this rhetoric was challenged, it damages our society and is coming from people who are totally unaware of what it is like to struggle and to have no voice. The voice of right wing politicians such as Leo Vradkar and Ian Duncan Smith drowns out the voice of families living in hotels and dying in high-rise flats. Their rhetoric makes invisible, the real causes of the problems these families are faced with- neoliberal polices of privatisation of services and commodification of housing.
Ireland is currently experiencing an unprecedented level of homelessness due to the increasing number of families becoming homeless since the 2008 financial crash. At the end of April the figures from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Planning showed there was a total of 1,302 homeless families, with 1,091 in Dublin. Within these homeless families there was a total of 2,708 children in total, with 2,262 in Dublin. The figures show that single parent families are over represented among homeless families, with 843 single parent homeless families in total and 717 in Dublin.
These unprecedented levels of family homelessness means homeless families were placed into commercial hotels due to the lack of emergency accommodation for families. Commercial hotels are not sufficient spaces for families with young children to reside, as we have heard from the experiences of some of these families. Some of the problems faced by these families include, lack of cooking facilities, children being cooped up all day with no space to run free, parents suffering with stress as they have to travel long distances to their children’s school. They have spoken about the boundaries placed on them, as they are hidden away from the hotel guests for fear of the hotel losing business.
These are just some of the problems faced by these homeless families. However, the Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney promised these families would be out of these hotels by July 2017. This promise was welcomed however, what he did not say was they would be provided with homes, and so, he has created ‘homeless hubs’. These homeless families have been placed in refurbished buildings and given cooking facilities and play ares for children. This was what he meant, and now he thinks he is off the hook, they are out of the hotels, he kept his promise. However, there are still some families in hotels and he still has a month to get them out and into these ‘homeless hubs’. Will they ever get out of those hubs? This could be history repeating itself for Ireland as single mothers are hidden away, just as they were hidden away in institutions such as the Magdalene Laundries previously.
So why is it that a rich country like Ireland is housing families in places such as the one pictured above? Well, when we think of homelessness we usually think of scruffy old men with alcohol problems sleeping in a shop corner in a manky sleeping bag or, young drug addicts spaced out of their heads tapping people in the streets for money for drugs. This image of homelessness is the dominant discourse of what it is to be homeless among many institutions in societies all over. This discourse assumes the individual is homeless due to their own personal failings. They did not work hard enough, they are addicts because they are weak people who, as our new leader would say, do not want to ‘get up early in the morning’ to go to work like the rest of us. Basically, they are responsible for their own destitution and society owes them nothing.
Assuming this to be the case, our rising homelessness in Ireland means we should be seeing a rise in drug addictions and alcohol addictions leading to high levels of rough sleepers. However, there is no evidence of a massive rise in drug or alcohol problems causing people to sleep on the streets. The highest level of homelessness is among young Irish families, mainly single parents. So to answer the question put earlier – why is it that a rich country such as Ireland is housing young families in ‘homeless hubs’ and commercial hotels? we need to reflect on the political philosophies of the dominant political parties that have governed Ireland since Independence, and the international embracement of the neo-liberal policies associated with Globalisation.
Since Independence, Ireland has mainly been governed by the two civil war parties, Fíanna Fáil and Fine Gael. Fine Gael, a right-wing party who take the individual approach, that people are poor or homeless because they didn’t work hard enough and, are basically scroungers who want everything for free. Therefore, they promote low taxation and low public expenditure on public services. Fíanna Fáil, on the other hand, started out as a populist party, increasing public spending and investing heavily in social housing in the 1930’s and 1940’s, presiding over the great slum clearance in 1932. However, Fíanna Fáil progressively took a more market approach to housing provision in Ireland and became more right wing in their philosophy of public expenditure. The result, provision of housing is now mainly through the market and a house is no longer regarded as a ‘home’ rather as an ‘investment’. Social housing is no longer provided by the state, but by private landlords with rent allowance supplied by the state to line the pockets of these private landlords, a move that crept in without much notice from the citizens of Ireland. There are still people I speak to who are not aware of this change. They still believe social housing is housing supplied by the state.
The second thing I feel is important here regards the issue of class. While some argue, we no longer live in a class society, it glaringly obvious class is still alive and kicking in Ireland. During the 2008 recession, the Fianna Fail Government implemented an austerity program that impacted the lives of those on low pay and dependent on social welfare more harshly than higher earners. This austerity program was continued after the election of a new coalition Government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. This new Government continued with the fiscal adjustments making cuts in social welfare, health care and education. Labour market adjustments saw those on the lowest earnings taking pay cuts of 14% in some cases and high rates of redundancies in both the private and public sector. The introduction of a new Universal Social Charge- a new tax of 7% was also applied regardless of earnings. Those dependent on social welfare, saw cuts to their payments of €8.30 for those on disability allowance and €8.00 for those on job-seekers payments.
Lone parent families, have been identified as one of the most disadvantaged groups in society, and have historically been treated appallingly in Ireland. They are more likely to be living in consistent poverty than any other group, due to lower levels of education attainment, they were impacted hugely by the austerity cuts introduced since the 2008 crash. Back to school clothing and footwear payments were cut and, tightened entitlements to the allowance were introduced. Cuts to the one parent family payment, and cuts to child benefit for the third and subsequent children affected low-income families and, families on social welfare payments. A policy of reducing the income disregard for lone parents who are in receipt of the one parent family payment, from €146.00 to €60.00, means that work outside the family home, does not pay for lone parents while, the mantra from Joan Burton was ’employment is the only way out of poverty’.
Another policy that affected lone parents negatively, was the movement from one parent allowance, to job seeker’s allowance once their child turns seven. This means the parent must seek employment or, face losing their benefit however, in the absence of a robust childcare system this is extremely difficult for those who lack the social capital to take care of children after school hours. As they are more likely to be employed in the low pay service sector, and on zero hour contracts, they lack the economic resources to pay for private childcare. They also faced incremental reductions from 20 to 25% in rent supplement and, more than doubling of the contributions from the tenant, alongside an unwillingness of landlords to make any reductions to rents. Meanwhile, ‘vulture funds’ were using section 110 in Irish taxation, which is charitable status, to pay as little as €250.00 in tax, and now they are calling in the debts and leaving more families homeless.
Parallel to these fiscal adjustments, the building of social housing had nearly come to an end in 2015. The number of units built reached an all time low of 75 units, and the private sector has continued to be the preferred way to provide housing by the two main political parties, despite the fact that those in most need cannot afford housing from the private sector. This action is based on the assumption that the market it the best way to provide homes to people. This assumption is embedded in the neo-liberal doctrine that views the market as the solution to all social problems. Privatisation of services, and deregulation is embraced. Provision of housing by the state to the poor is viewed as creating a state of ‘dependence’ and so the poor become less self-reliant and competitive. Harvey (2007, p.22) describes neo-liberalism as:
‘A theory of political and economic practices that proposes human well-being can best be advanced by the maximization of entrepreneurial freedoms, within an institutional framework characterized by private property rights, individual liberty, unencumbered markets and free trade’.
As the number of families continued to rise, the Minister for Housing promised these families would be out of hotels by July 2017. While he appeared genuine about this promise, he has been a big let down, as he moved them from hotels to ‘homeless hubs’. Any unused building such as the picture above, is being used to cramp these families together, hide them away and ‘job done’ for him. These families are manipulated into believing this is great, so much better than a hotel. Well it’s not. It’s a disgrace and not acceptable. It is not healthy and there will be no hurry to provide housing for these families now that they are hidden away and kept quiet. These children will suffer in the future and will be judged by society if they do not ‘fit into society’. But, who cares? Leo Vradkar sees them as a group of people who want everything for nothing, and wants others to judge them as such. It is clear who Fine Gael and Fíanna Fáil are working for.
It is obvious the Irish Government is placing the interests of the private developers and financial institutions over the interests of majority of Irish citizens. The exchange value of housing is placed above the use value. A house is seen as a commodity rather than a social necessity and without a right to housing in our Constitution these families will continue to suffer. Enda Kenny, in the Rebuilding Ireland document says there is a ‘need for new thinking’ in delivering housing. However, radical new thinking would require a move away from the dominant idea of provision of housing through the private sector and the idea of housing as a commodity. Radical new thinking requires a human rights approach to housing however, Professor Patrick Drudy argues, this can only happen when a house is viewed as a social necessity rather than a commodity. This will not happen as long as we have Fine Gael and Fíanna Fáil in government.
Today is the beginning of the end for the people of Greece. No longer are they willing to bow to the demands of the hierarchy of Europe. We have to admire them, they have been beaten down for so long and they feel they have nothing more to give, so it’s time to take a chance and stand up to the bully. Their lunch box has only crumbs so to hell with it we will fight back. However, to fight the bully, you sometimes need the backing of your family and friends urging you to fight back and their reassurance that they have your back. The people of Greece had this backing from their government. They gave them the courage to fight they stood by them and instead of handing over the crumbs in the lunchbox they said to the people of Greece, we are all in this together and you have your say. This is what democracy is all about. Now, no matter what happens the Greek people have won. They will come back from the brink, and at last the bully is standing speechless with it’s open hand empty.
On the other hand, the people of Ireland did not have the backing of their government, they were alone and were told to give to the bully, you have no other choice, it’s in your best interest. We must give to the bully in order to survive and we know best so trust us, we cannot ask you to choose because we are so scared you might want to fight the bully and we are too scared to support you. And so, off they went to Brussels and with our lunch box and gave away our lunch. However, this government of ours, still have their lunch and we have nothing. We struggle everyday to survive and in doing so we have lost our souls. We battle every day to keep our homes, our jobs, our sense of what it is to live on this earth. We have no one to turn to and so we begin turning on each other. Fighting each other for the scraps. Putting down those who are less fortunate and blaming them for their demise. Meanwhile the bully, living in luxury smiles and taps our government on the back and says ‘Good lads, this is how it is supposed to be, fuck that democracy shit’.
The question is ‘When are the Irish people going to have what the Greek people got? A government who is brave, speaks the truth, and stands with us as we say to the bully ‘enough is enough you are not getting our lunch box today’.
Two young women are currently awaiting their destiny in a prison in Peru for drug smuggling. As a parent I can only imagine how their parents must be feeling. It’s frightening. Parents don’t raise their children to be drug smugglers they want the best for their children, but what is “the best” in this crazy world we are living in?
Well we want a good education for our kids that will lead to a good job with great money and they can enjoy the “finer” things in life, and maybe grab some “power” on the way, now that would be good then you can boss people around and show you are better than them. Ah yeah that’s a good life isn’t it? This is what living is all about having the money to buy what you want and having power over people, well this is what we have come to in society today. This is what parents and children are brainwashed into believing is the framework for a good life. Capitalism breeds societies of people whose only love is the love of money and what it can buy. It rids people of all feelings of love for each other, and for themselves. While they think having the latest designer gear i.e Iphone, smart television, designer clothes, bags etc. need I go on, I’m sure you get what I mean is loving themselves, they haven’t got a clue about who they really are or what they really want. Capitalism tells them what they want, and tells them not to worry about who you step on to get it. It’s a loveless life and the world can’t carry on like this. It will crash, just like the property bubble crashed and it all came falling down. This ideal of “out with the old, and in with the new” is killing the world and it’s frightening, because we haven’t a clue what to replace it with.
These young girls are prime examples of the breeding of capitalism. Have what you want and at whatever cost. They don’t see the drug addict who cries in pain because he needs this stuff and will rob or sell themselves just to get this drug. They don’t see the families of these drug addicts who are broken hearted and all out of ways of helping them. They don’t see what this will do to their own families. None of this matters to them, what matters mostly is the shoes with the bling on them, the fancy phone, the designer clothes, the holidays, the false nails, eyelashes, hair and god knows what else. This is their drug, but this drug is legal the need for the next new commodidity, and they will do anything to have it because society says they must have it or they are not up to scratch. They wont fit in they are weird. This drug is more lethal, because a person addicted to cocaine or heroin, can, with the help of drug councillers get off their drug, but there are no councillers to help those who are addicted to these commodities, to an ideal that breeds a society of people whose need for sparkle overrides their love of human beings. This is the legacy of those like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan. Don’t worry about your community, you look after yourself. So how can we sit in judgement of these two young women, when they were born into a society that encourages the lifestyle they are addicted to.
We have some great men and women who are trying to fight this drug, and they speak out against it, they think outside the box and rather than consenting to the “status quo” they speak about bringing about change and ridding our world of the drug, but unfortunately they are classed as “crazy” people and ridiculed by the media and our governments, and of course by those who own the drug, the big corporations mass producing commodities that only have a short life span, so the addict must find the money to buy the next new “drug” on the market.
We need more people to think outside the box and we need to start listening to those who do, and instead of a world feeding on a drug of commodities we can create a world where we feed on a drug of “love” for ourselves and each other.
Well, well, well can you believe it? Our bankers hold us the people of this country with the greatest contempt. They screwed us over big time, and now as I sit at my kitchen table reading the transcripts from these tapes I wonder do our politicians feel the same contempt for us? If ever we doubted that there is an elite in this country who are being treated extremely better than we are the proof has just been laid bare before us, and when I say “is” I mean there still is an elite who are classed as a better breed of people than we the ordinary working class people are. We are the working class who keep the wheels of industry turning in our country, and for our troubles we are repaid with contempt. The “plebs” of society who are here to be treated as slaves and looked down on because we didn’t have the same opportunities as these elite. We must work for the elite and do as we are told for the mere pittance and the privilege of working for these people. Isn’t it sickening? How much more will we take before we rise up and demand that we be treated with respect and that our children will no longer be treated with contempt.
The bankers that have brought this country to it’s knees have no respect for us or our children. The culture that feeds into their minds that they have the right to do what they like has turned them into a bunch of self-righteous bastards (sorry for the language). They still believe they did no wrong it was everyone else’s fault. So those who steal cars, rob from shops, etc. are “scum” but not these lads, they are highly educated men who have every right to steal and they deserve to be paid large sums of money for their troubles. They don’t see themselves as crooks or bad people they have been brought up to believe that because they had a better academic education than the rest of us, and came from a better side of town than us that anything goes. That’s the way it is, it is our culture. Look at what this culture has done to the rest of us. People with disabilities are suffering, children with special needs are suffering, unemployed are suffering, and not only that, but being branded as lazy because they get too much on the dole, people are losing their homes, people are committing suicide, need I go on I’m sure you all know the rest and I’m sure if you are reading this you have been affected in some way, or know someone who is.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to hear politicians in the Dáil next week blaming each other. I do not want to hear Enda Kenny or Michael Noonan shouting across at Michael Martin that it was his party that created this. We have gone beyond this now. I want to see the politicians that we voted in to work for us working together to bring about a complete change in the way banking works and to stop telling us that they must pay these high salaries or they will go abroad. This is the culture that gives them the idea that they can do what they want because we need them so much. This is not true this is socially constructed and can just as easily be deconstructed and it has to be done now. If our politicians are not willing to bring about this change then it is up to us the people to break this culture and doing things differently ourselves. Think outside the box and find other ways of doing our financial business, just boycott these banks altogether. I am sure if we all put our heads together we will find a way. We just cannot sit back and allow this one to just sail by and do nothing.
I will watch this space now and watch how our politicians handle this one. We must hold them to account on this. They have pulled the wool over us for too long now. David Drumm is in America living it up while we are forced to pay property tax, water rates and the rest. When those that killed Veronica Guerin, they had overstepped the mark and they were punished, these guys have overstepped the mark and need the same treatment we must ensure they are treated equally. Just because they wear suits and were highly educated (although listening to them you wouldn’t think it) does not mean they are allowed to walk away, and if I hear any tittle tattle in the Dáil this week from Enda Kenny, or Eamonn Gilmore I will be contacting them I hope you do too.
In a society where GNP and GDP matters more than the well being of the people of the country we can expect nothing else but the appaling mistreatment of our young children which we saw tonight on RTE’s Prime Time. These poor children leave the comfort of their homes every morning and are led by the hand of their parents into a den of wickedness. These poor little children do not understand why they are being left here and why they are being treated in this way. They do not know why their parents are not their to protect them from this behavior.
The reason why this is happening is this. We live in a society where profits are put before the care of our children and our most vulnerable people. The care of our young children has been put into the hands of those who use it as a business, and they want the parents who pay mortgage rates to pay for these services to pay for the training of those who work there, while those that own the business retain their profits. The other reason for this is that our government do not want parents at home looking after their children they want them out there paying their way in society. They don’t see caring as a career that contributes to society. Well how wrong are they? Being a parent is the hardest job one can have. Parents ensure that the future generation are a well balanced generation and in doing so these children will one day give back to society when they evolve into well balanced adults. We all know the first six years of a childs life are so important and what happens in these years will determine how they develop as teenagers and eventually as adults. If they are presented with this type of behavior every day it is only natural that they will have problems as they get older. We will then ask the question in a few years “Why have we so many problem teenagers”? The answer, “Because our government didn’t care”.
We listened to our Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald day after day and night after night when she wanted us to vote yes on the childrens referendum, but where was she tonight when Prime Time asked her to appear and speak about this behavior? She was unavailable and couldn’t even be bothered to send someone from the department on the show to speak. Once again we see our politicians only speak to the people when they require us to vote in their favour, once we have done this they no longer want to bother. This is not good enough. How long are we going to accept this from our governments? We need to demand that they come out and speak to us on issues as important as this. She cannot be allowed to shy away when it suits her. The government, through their policies are forcing parents to leave their children every day in institutions that are opening their doors to young children just to make money. These parents are going out to work to pay the pensions of bankers and politicians who have destroyed this country and in doing so are putting young children through this disgraceful abuse. Isn’t it time now we stood up for our children and grandchildren?
It’s Friday morning, the sun has just gone back in as usual. He doesn’t seem to like Ireland much he is visiting us less and less each year, and God knows we could do with his presence a bit more. Things don’t seem to bother us as much if we have Mr. Sun with us, and he gives us the umph we need to get up and do something. Ah well we will just have to make do with our few days with him, he spends a lot of time in Australia I hear, but then who doesn’t these days half of our young people are there and some of our older ones. Not for me are the blue skies of Australia I will stay here in Ireland and continue to watch the madness that is this crazy country. Politicians like children shouting at each other across the room like young children “he said” no “she said”. Every day trying to get one up on each other rather than running the country.
I am now sitting at my kitchen table writing this blog. I have not blogged in a long time as I have been so busy getting my assignments done for college. Now we are finished and I graduate next Thursday, I want to start shouting on my blog again. I have really enjoyed my time at college and I have achieved grades I never thought I could. I am quite proud of myself, I must say, and I wish my Father was alive to see it. He loved education and was always telling us how important it was, but such is life that we don’t listen to our parents until we get older and realise they were so right back then, and regret not listening to them. Ah well best late than never. I have done it and I’m sure he is looking down giving me the thumbs up. I have applied to Trinity College and got an interview, so fingers crossed I get it. There are only 3 places for mature students so I would be very lucky to get that the Da would really be proud of that.
Well I just wanted to let you all know where I am at, at the moment that’s of course if you are interested, and hopefully my blogs will be more prolific now that I have more time. Ah Mr. Sun is back looking in my kitchen window he must like my blog. I hope he stays around now for another while, and I hope he is looking in your kitchen window too. Have a great weekend folks.