Circus masks real issues

IMF Headquarters, Washington, DC.
Image via Wikipedia

I love a good election campaign as much as the next journalist, but we are in danger of letting characters, spin and incomprehensible economic waffle cloud the real issues of this election.

All the talk of the IMF leaves a lot of people cold, but the real repercussions of austerity are being felt and will continue to be felt.

Talk of ‘a new politics’ and ‘responsible economic management’ should not be separated from the impact that talk and those policies can have, and there were two major news stories in the past week that illustrated clearly what the  real story of our political situation is.

New research published this week by Social Justice Ireland (formerly CORI, a Church-run group) shows that the gap between rich and poor has widened since 1987.

Giving the lie to claims that this is a particularly middle-class recession, the research shows that policies since 1987 have resulted in the top ten per cent of Irish households receiving almost one-quarter of total disposable income.

The bottom ten per cent receives about one-tenth of that.

The poorest 50 per cent of Irish households, collectively, had almost the same amount of disposable income as the top ten per cent.

The organisation said in a statement;

“The EU/IMF Bailout and the Four-Year Recovery Plan are continuing the process of supporting the better-off and seem set to produce a dramatic increase in poverty and social exclusion. Welfare rates are being reduced, services are being cut and charges are being introduced and/or increased.

“Resources are being taken from the poor to bailout gambling bankers and senior bondholders and to increase the incomes of the top ten per cent.  This process of dispossessing poor people by appropriating their resources to pay for activities they had no hand, act or part in may be legal but it is deeply unjust and unfair.”

With tragic timing, the inquest into the death of 30-year-old Dublin mother of two, Rachel Peavoy, illustrated perfectly the powerlessness of the poor in Ireland and provided a very harsh warning to those of us who believed that Irish society would not condone somebody freezing to death.

The historic wrong that is the Ballymun Flat Complex has not gone away, and the worst injustice of the waste that was the boom years is that these problems were not fixed when we had the money.

Rachel Peavoy froze to death in her flat in Ballymun because the complexes have centralised heating systems that cannot be controlled by the tenants. The heating in her block was turned off due to works being done, and despite repeated pleas, it was not turned on although Council workers and officials knew she was there.

She was offered temporary accommodation but chose not to take it.

The real problem here is that this problem exists at all; contrary to what many middle class people believe, much local authority housing is substandard. And now, with increasing austerity and talk of how we’re all in this together, it’s going to stay that way.

So next time you’re watching the Frontline or Vincent Browne, try and see the reality behind the soundbites and see how policies of different parties will affect real people. You might be surprised.


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