Suffer little children this Christmas in our wealthy country

Colette Sheridan reflects on the housing crisis situation, ahead of Christmas as 4,000 homeless children remain living in emergency accommodation.
Suffer little children this Christmas in our wealthy country

HOMELESS: Will Santa find us in our temporary home? That’s what 4,000 children are probably thinking this Christmas. Picture: Stock

LEO Varadkar’s assurance to the 4,000 homeless children living in emergency accommodation, that Santa will find them, was probably the most useful thing he has said about the housing crisis.

However, his utterance, in the Dáil no less, enraged a mother of two living in emergency accommodation in a hotel in Ennis.

The Taoiseach was probably a bit dewy-eyed about the plight of the nation’s unfortunate children who don’t have a chimney on a family home down which the big fat bearded bearer of gifts can descend.

But Margaret Maughan, mother of seven-year-old Kevin and six-year- old Shakira, wasn’t having any of it. As she pointed out, how does the Taoiseach know that Santa will be able to find children in their temporary (but often long-lived) accommodation?

It will be the second Christmas in a row that her family will be spending the festive season in a hotel. Kevin, who wrote to Santa, asking him to ‘come to the hotel again,’ has developed asthma as a result of living in a damp room while his sister has been admitted to child mental health services. Who’d have that on their conscience?

Every Christmas, it’s the same old story. Families at their wits’ end, trying to get through the Christmas, hearts broken that they are letting their children down.

It isn’t the parents’ fault. They can be victims of vulture funds repossessing houses in mortgage arrears (not usually down to negligence but rather the vagaries of the cruel market) or they languish on housing lists or they’re thrown out of their rented dwellings when rack-renting landlords raise the rent.

Rent is now at a stratospheric level, meaning grown-up children often have no choice but to return to the family home. Those that manage to scrape the rent together have no hope of saving for a down payment on a mortgage. It is completely mad.

I’m of a generation where there was just one earner in the household on which a family could depend. We weren’t rich but the money set-up made sense. You worked and you were rewarded with enough to keep a family — and have some left over for a summer holiday. We took it for granted that we had our own roof over our heads.

Now, the internet is full of ads for assembling tiny houses in which you couldn’t swing the proverbial cat. Suddenly, micro homes, which can be put together for five figure sums, are being touted as fashionable. You’re nobody unless you can compress your life into the equivalent of a handkerchief-sized back yard. Talk about down-sizing. I can only think it would wreak havoc with your mental health. And that’s not even allowing for a live-in partner. That would almost justify homicide.

As for minister-of-state in the department of housing, John Paul Phelan, having a go at celebrities for weighing into the homelessness debate, he should think about the need for getting the Fine Gael house in order. I’m thinking Dara Murphy who squeezed so much money out of his TD gig involving signing in and scarpering off to his Europe gig. It was all perfectly legal but it showed the system for what it is — a gravy train for the entitled. The rest of us are in the halfpenny place. But at least most of us are not homeless.

I have no objection to the likes of actor, Cillian Murphy and musician Glen Hansard, highlighting the plight of the homeless. While celebs belly-aching about injustice are two a penny, these two guys don’t appear to be ego-trippers trying to paint themselves in a humane light by expressing concern for their fellow men and women. They’re just incredulous that homelessness is such an issue in a relatively wealthy country. And they’re using their prominent positions to give oxygen to a serious societal problem.

Cork-born Cillian, at a homelessness protest outside Leinster House recently, said if there was enough ‘imagination’ and ‘resources’, the housing crisis could be resolved. Supply and demand is what it boils down to. For the people in charge, it shouldn’t be rocket science.

It must stick in the craw of the homeless that, according to the UN, we have the third highest quality of life in the world. Ireland is the twelfth richest country with a gross national income of €55,265. We have managed to climb thirteen places between 2012 and 2017.

But you wouldn’t want to be trying to rear your children in an over-crowded hotel room where you don’t even have cooking facilities. Not to mention asylum seekers in often awful conditions in direct provision. Ireland is no country for the dispossessed.

Here’s hoping Kevin Maughan gets his Batman toys.

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