Quiet despair of the ‘lost generation’ who’ll never own a home

As we welcome refugees from Ukraine, we shouldn't be afraid to raise the plight of Irish seeking homes, says John Dolan
Quiet despair of the ‘lost generation’ who’ll never own a home

SHORT SUPPLY: Where will 200,000 refugees from Ukraine live, and what will it mean for people desperate for their own home, asks John Dolan.

THE pregnant lady I spoke to was approaching 30 and was on the verge of tears, for a number of reasons.

The first reason was the most obvious one, even for a dopey bloke like me. Her hormones were tripping like a hipster on an Ibiza beach.

The second reason was the fact I had just brought up the war in Ukraine, and how Ireland had welcomed thousands of its refugees into our hearts and homes. Her heart was breaking for them, and she was so glad her country was playing a part in providing them refuge.

(I was silly to bring up such an emotive subject to a pregnant, hormonal lady, I know, I know).

The third reason she was upset was because we had been discussing her own domestic arrangements, and she was feeling nothing but despair.

The lady had found her Mr Right, they were now expecting a child, and they have been saving frantically for a deposit on a home here in Cork for years. Both were living with their parents.

But their hopes of ever getting a home of their own were receding further into the distance each month, when they pooled their savings and saw they were barely keeping up with rises in property prices.

This lady was part of the ‘lost generation’, who cannot afford the cost of sky-high rents, and who cannot afford the cost of a home. We, Ireland, and its State have failed them - and now we are taking in thousands of fleeing war refugees, with perhaps hundreds of thousands more to come. And we are right to do that.

But... it’s an uncontestable fact that this will put huge pressure on the meagre supply of housing in Ireland.

My friend was stuck in the middle of this equation: She wanted her country to help the people of Ukraine, and realised her own plight paled into comparison to theirs; but, of course, the situation was only going to add to her own anguish.

When I mentioned to my pregnant friend that I would like to share her story - the story of so many young people in Ireland - in The Echo, she recoiled in horror.

But she wanted to welcome refugees from the war in Ukraine, she said, her heart broke for those people. And she probably knew that a peep out of her would bring the virtue-signalling liberal mobs on social media down on her like a ton of bricks.

She would be cast as heartless and far-right wing, just for bringing up her awful predicament; even though she too wanted to welcome refugees to her country. She just wondered how this would affect her own chances of ever owning a home here, that was all.

No, she said, she wanted to be anonymous if I was writing such an article. So I left her in her quiet despair, and resolved to write about her story myself - and anyone who wants to brand me as heartless and far right can go take a running jump!

******

Is it possible for me to write an article whereby I say Ireland is doing the right thing to welcome refugees from Ukraine, while also bemoaning the effect this will have on our already low supply of available housing?

In some people’s minds, probably not, but I’ll give it try anyway - for the sake of that tearful pregnant lady I met, and for all the other people who have spent years in limbo, desperate for a home to call their own.

The first thing you have to ask is, who are these people saying we have the capacity to fling open our doors to refugees from Ukraine? The Taoiseach, ministers, politicians, and many members of the public - most of whom, I’ll wager, already own their own property.

It makes you wonder: Perhaps we should be asking the people of Ireland’s ‘lost generation’ who cannot get a home of their own how they feel about it? We know these young people are good and kind, and will be only too happy for Ireland to do its part in the crisis... but perhaps there will be a caveat.

At the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, a poll suggested two-thirds of us think Ireland should take 20,000 or more refugees from Ukraine. That is not surprising, the Irish are a welcoming people, and know themselves about the devastation of emigration.

However, a breakdown of that poll revealed something else too: 28% said Ireland should welcome more than 20,000 but not unlimited numbers, while just 38% said as many Ukrainians as want to come should be welcomed here.

I wonder how many of that latter number already own their own home, and are sitting in their mortgaged ivory towers, safe in the knowledge that the arrival of huge numbers of people will have no material impact on their lives.

I have to confess, I was among that number, until I met that pregnant lady the other day, when I felt ashamed that, in my race to be compassionate to a war-torn people, I had failed to show compassion to her circumstances.

Did the government heed the findings of that poll, in which many people were happy to throw their arms open to Ukrainians, but felt there should be a point where we have to bear in mind our housing crisis?

Apparently not, because to date we have welcomed 21,000 people from that stricken country here, of whom 13,400 are being provided with accommodation by the State in hotels and guesthouses. The supply is said to be reaching exhaustion point already. You don’t say.

Yet we are told Ireland can expect to take in at least 68,000 people from Ukraine, and that the number could hit 200,000.

As the war showed no sign of ending, politicians this week were already starting to indicate that the arrival of these refugees was stretching our already dire housing situation to breaking point.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin admitted housing all these people is going to become “extremely challenging”. You don’t say.

The Government acknowledged the housing situation for refugees is acute and raised the possibility of paying people to host them in their homes, while the search for additional sources of accommodation is said to be resembling a ‘scramble’.

Could nobody in Government see this coming? That there had to be a ceiling to our compassion for the refugees of war?

Desperation has kicked in, and we have only taken in 21,000 from Ukraine so far. Where on earth would another 180,000 live?

Among the measures being discussed is one in which feasible empty buildings are identified for refurbishment. I wonder what my pregnant friend makes of that kind of emergency measure?

The answer is, she won’t tell you because she is afraid of being labelled an uncaring racist.

But we shouldn’t be afraid to raise her plight, should we?

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