Ireland’s Greatest Shame is Asleep in a Doorway


Homelessness was bad in Ireland during the boom. It got a little worse during the recession. But the road to recovery has been paved with rough sleepers. Ireland has ensured that the poorest have paid for the sins of the rich.

Every time the homeless problem is featured on the RTÉ evening news someone will comment that this is a failure of the state. It is no more a failure of the state than it is the success of a failed state. Even at the height of the economic boom there were women and men dying on the streets of Dublin. The cold, hard truth is that Ireland has never given much of a crap for those people who have fallen through the cracks. Since its foundation Ireland has been and continues to be a state of and for the privileged classes, and this is seen nowhere more clearly than in the sheer indifference with which it treats those who have been made homeless.


One might expect homelessness, as a sign of economic failure, to be a consequence of Ireland’s own economic failure, but, no, homelessness has been a result of Ireland’s apparent economic recovery. Right now, according to EU forecasts, the Irish economy is performing at more than twice the European average; a brilliant indicator that Ireland – at least on paper – is recovering from the mess it found itself in from mid-2008. Ireland is a safe space for the many multinational corporations that rake in billions of euros each year in the country, it is a tax haven that allows dubious billionaire traders to stash their wealth away from their own national exchequers, and it is a light, service based economy that has remained attractive to international investors and tourists alike – but the recovery of this little nation has been a curse for the poorest and most vulnerable.

How can this be? Well, the answers have been introduced in the introduction of this article; Ireland is a state for the Irish wealthy élite, and the so-called recovery – like the so-called Celtic Tiger – has been a miracle only on paper. Recovery has been coupled with the introduction of water charges (suspended for the time being due to massive public protest) and deepening, increasingly savage social spending cuts. Ireland’s recovery – that is the recovery of the upper-middle class – has been achieved by robbing the poor – the traditional Irish way.


Owing to the property owing class largely being synonymous with the political class in the country, wealth has always been – as is happening now – artificially generated by inflating the cost of housing and the government’s refusal to invest in social housing. What this has meant in reality is that those earning the least, in an environment where the cost of living has skyrocketed while wages have stagnated, are finding themselves completely unable to buy or rent property anywhere in the country. The result is a no brainer: more and more people are being forced from their homes and into emergency accommodation, and those already in such accommodation – young people (who have found their social welfare capped at a pathetic €100 a week) and those affected by addiction – are being forced out onto the streets to make way for the thousands of families with children who have been made homeless.


It is no exaggeration of Peter McVerry to describe the situation as worse than the Famine, because the level of people currently homeless in Dublin is worse than it was during the height of the Famine. Only yesterday I entered into a flat in on the South Circular Road to witness the aftermath of another inner city eviction. The door had been kicked in and the locks shoddily replaced. There were toys scattered about the floor, the previous occupant’s belongings unceremoniously packed up into bin bags (of course it has to be bin bags for people who are routinely treated as rubbish), and tins of baby formula in the kitchen presses. These are the victims of the landlords – young, defenceless families. As the landlords are also the ministers of government, hell will freeze over before anyone comes to their aid.


030 029 008

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