Is This The Ireland You Want?
In a couple of days the Republic of Ireland will contest what is quite possibly it’s most important election in decades. The post-crash election in 2011 wasn’t important, it was pretty much a given that Fianna Fáil, along with their cohorts the Greens, would be wiped out. The only real “alternative” at the time was Fine Gael, propped up by Labour. I cast my first vote in the 2011 election for Labour, which is cringe inducing thought now.
Nevertheless, I was delighted to be taking part in the democratic process. Despite graduating from care-free secondary school into a wider Irish society that had been thoroughly beaten and strangled to within an inch of it’s life by the soft hands of bankers and international accountant types, I was optimistic. First year of study at University College Dublin was going well, despite some inner dilemma on whether I wanted to finish my course there or transfer to NUI Maynooth. I decided to follow in the path of the great Irish heroes Dermot Morgan, Dara O’Briain, Roddy Doyle et al and see out the next couple of years in Belfield. With this new government, maybe the country would be in a stabilised position by the time I finished my course in 2013? Well, it is now 2020 and I’m writing this from my home in Scotland while my partner and our child sleep beside me. Fine Gael have been in power for all of my adult life (bar the first couple of months with a zombified Fianna Fáil running the shitshow) and that optimism disappeared years ago. Instead of a prosperous Ireland, where the young didn’t have to leave to have some chance at a life, we now have something much different. An Ireland that looks good on paper, in power point presentations and on spreadsheets. The reality for much of the population, particularly for people of my age that should be proud homeowners possibly thinking of starting a family, is grim.
Housing in Ireland is a joke. We all know it is. We have a pain in the teeth complaining about it. We believe we need to build more houses, that will solve the problem. What happens when no one can afford the houses? There are ghost estates lying empty all over Ireland, a hangover from buzz of the Celtic Tiger. We always need to be building houses for an ever increasing population of course, but what about the thousands of homes lying empty? The real problem is not the availability of housing, but the greed of the housing industry and particularly landlords. An unregulated housing market has led to young Irish people living with their parents until they are no longer “young Irish people”. This is the new normal; live with your parents until your 30 or fuck off to Canada or Australia for a few years with the faint hope that things might be different when you come back.
We have landlords squeezing 8 people into a room on bunkbeds for €1000 each per month. The majority of these are young professionals from other countries, places like Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Romania, India, etc. A quick look on any Dublin rental group page on Facebook will see a multitude of posts from people with exotic names advertising early 20th century Dublin tenement conditions. You might be reading this and thinking “oh he’s another right-wing sap, blaming the immigrants”. First of all, I don’t fall anywhere on some arbitrary political spectrum (due to my massive brain, obviously) and I’m not blaming them at all, they are being exploited by these disgusting landlords the same as everyone else. Except they don’t have the comfort of a family home to fall back on. The cowardly landlords even get these foreign tenants to advertise the rooms knowing full well they will get the brunt of the abuse for posting a mattress in a bathtub for €900pcm. Landlords will charge these people whatever the fuck they want because they can’t exactly turn around and say “well no, that’s far too much” due to their desire to live in an Ireland with a completely fucked housing market.
Fine Gael make their claim to be re-elected in the General Election on Saturday with the claim that they are addressing the housing crisis. One solution to this was co-living spaces, a marvellous idea where 20 strangers share a kitchen. Our ever-wonderful Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy defended criticism of these living schemes by saying “if people don’t like them, they don’t have to live there”. Ah of course, because there is so much alternative affordable housing out there! Mr. Varadkar himself tweeted about a new estate Cherrywood, South Dublin being built with the caption “and they said we would never finish building it!”. The accompanying picture was a derelict looking building site fence. Newsflash Leo, you still haven’t fucking finished it. When it is finished, expect a small number of those homes to be social housing while the rest will be deemed “affordable housing”.
Fine Gael’s idea of affordable housing is €300,000 starting price. In my area of Clondalkin, I saw homes being advertised on Daft.ie and the multitude of other shit sites for around €400,000, with one even going as far as €500,000. Are these homes in the nicer end of the village, where people don’t wear tracksuits and you don’t find burnt out cars strewn along the fields close to housing estates? No, these are houses from these “undesirable” housing estates. These are houses built years ago (probably early 90’s like my parents house) that would have been on sale for £20,000 at the time. I know this is the price because a lovely elderly lady from Clondalkin posted the advertisement for these new houses in one of those “Local Area Memories” Facebook groups. Thank you, local OAP, for filling me with immense sadness.
Oh, but that was 30 years ago! Things are more expensive now.
Using the Bank of England inflation calculator you can find out exactly what £20,000 is worth in todays money as the value of the Irish punt was 1:1 with the English pound. £20,000 is equal to £45801 in modern times. Converting that into Euro would make it €53958.16. So where the fuck are they pulling half a million from? I understand that property value increases with time and maybe some improvements have been made to the house but the walls weren’t plated with solid fucking gold. It is nothing but pure, opportunistic greed that has been allowed to flourish under Fine Gael.
Like I previously mentioned we all know housing is in the shitter. So what do young Irish people do? What we have always done, emigrate to see if we can have some semblance of a life. After finishing my BA I went back to college to study for my MA. When I graduated I found myself trapped in the wilderness for a few years, accumulating a little bit of money while the cost of everything grew and grew, turning that savings pot I was creating into little more than pocket money. Housing and rental prices continued to spiral out of control. The cost of day-to-day living began to creep upward. In the glory days of 2011 you could get a pint for €3, nowadays you’d get a splash of cordial with some ice for the same price. So, after stagnating for a couple of years, a course of anti-depressents and battling alcohol abuse for the guts of 2 years, I decided not to become another suicide statistic and to follow in the footsteps of many of my fellow countrymen that have left their beloved isle. Emigrating is not for everyone of course, I got lucky. I managed to find a nice job very quickly, me and my partner suddenly found we were expecting a child! We saved a bit and along with some money that was already saved we managed to purchase a house in Scotland. The price of this house was £62,500. Now that's more in line with the rate of inflation.
You may say “ah, you were looking at houses in Dublin!”. Well yes, we were, but it’s the same story all over the country. After the arduous task of deciding on a name for our child we decided we wanted to raise him in the country of his birthright. After all, we gave him the name of a legendary Irish figure. The British wouldn’t be able to pronounce it! Before we purchased this house we went onto Daft.ie (more like Shaft.ie considering the rip off prices) to see if we could find somewhere cheaper outside of Dublin. Not a hope. We found some places for maybe €60,000; but these were quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Oh and they were missing a roof and windows. The property we now own in Scotland would probably be worth €200,000+ in Ireland and trust me, it’s not worth that much. It’s our home, and we have settled here now. Our boy with the most Irish name since Darby O’Gill will grow up in the United Kingdom. He will possibly get to visit Ireland once a year (twice if we’re lucky). He will have the pleasure of barely knowing his family. He will experience his grandparent’s warmth and love via the glow of a phone screen.
My experience is just one of tens of thousands. Since Fine Gael took power in 2011 a sizeable number of my generation have had to seek greener pastures, many of whom would love to return to the island if it was possible. The emigrant voice has been ignored during this general election and it seems that we have been completely ignored. Unlike a large number of forward thinking Western countries you can’t even vote from abroad. You can remain on the register sure, but you’ll have to take the trip back from London, Berlin, New York, Sydney or Toronto. Ironically enough now that I am registered in the UK I am entitled to a postal vote here. I could literally move back to Ireland and vote in UK elections, yet I can’t seem to do the same vice versa. It’s a ridiculous situation and I guarantee if many of those who have been forced out of their country had the ability to vote then Fine Gael would be absolutely wiped out come Sunday.
That being said, I have faith in my fellow countrymen and women to get the job done. There seems to be a sea change happening, people are fed up. To anyone experiencing the difficulty at home you need to use your vote to make a difference. Vote for a better future for yourself. For those unsure, The Republic of Ireland has had the same two parties in power since it’s inception as a sovereign nation. The definition of madness is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. For the love of God, please think about which direction you want the country to take. Vote for real change.
It’s their fault you are 27 and still live with your parents.
It’s their fault your favourite pub was sold off and turned into a hotel.
It’s their fault your friends emigrated.
It’s their fault so many Irish families have to communicate over Skype, Messenger and WhatsApp.
It’s their fault you will never own a home.
It’s their fault you will never be able to afford a family.
It’s their fault you will wait until 67 for your state pension, signing on the dole when you’re elderly.
It’s their fault your mate killed themselves because they saw no hope for the future.
It’s their fault your granny spent 12 hours on a hospital trolley in a fucking corridor.
It’s their fault you get a shit 3 month temporary contract working in a job you hate for minimum wage, while they give themselves a pay rise of €6,000 a year and dine and travel on taxpayer money.
Is this the Ireland you want? If not, then please do something about it. Don’t let your country suffocate under the current regime any longer.