Today is Christmas Eve 2018, I’m a person who loves Christmas, the festive season is usually full of hope, cheer, and joy. But even the most enthusiastic Christmas nut would find their festive spirits dampened by the fact that 4,000 children will spend Christmas without a home this year. This is a direct result of another year of failed housing policy by Fine Gael, supported by Fianna Fáil.
Research conducted by Focus Ireland revealed that 68% of families entering homelessness lost their home in the private rental sector, which Fine Gael insists can sort itself out. Even more worrying is that 60% were one parent families, who already find the Christmas season to be a strain on resources before taking into account the €1,334 national average rent. It comes as no surprise then, that Capuchin Day Centre prepared almost 3,000 Christmas food parcels to hand out to the struggling families of Dublin. The reliance on charities and generosity of the people to step in where the state should provide is a terrible indictment of this Government.
The reality of living in a homeless hub during Christmas couldn’t have been better illustrated than through the words of brave 16 year old Lauren. Lauren speaks of how she doesn’t want to be thinking of Christmas, as the stress and overwhelming nature of the situation her family find themselves in takes precedent. Her Christmas spirit killed by the sterile cramped environment she and her family have no other choice but to stay in. Through the window of the hub she can see the Christmas lights on family houses, representing a society which she now finds herself outside of.
The intense reaction to the forced eviction of other families around Ireland is still ongoing. The forced eviction of the McGann’s from their home in Roscommon has seen nearly 2,000 people come out in defiance as they take march in Strokestown. The general mood of the crowd summed up by the booing of Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy as he took stage.
We have also seen more violence recently after the damages done to two KBC branch banks. In my own experiences on attending marches, it’s clear the majority of people would like to achieve change through peaceful protest. The hostile events over the past week was conducted by a small minority, but the sentiment behind their actions, represents an ever growing resentment towards the Government and their failing policies.
But what have Fine Gael done in recent weeks to help the situation? Nothing. In a Trump style move Leo Varadkar has taken to blaming social media for allowing comments surrounding the Roscommon evictions. Leo claims they were an “incitement of violence and hatred”. Like Trump, the timing and predicted outrage to his statement is important because it serves as a distraction. It came only a few days after the Government confirmed the €600m payout to Junior bondholders, after we heard Laurens story, after Fine Gael voted against a bill to protect tenants from eviction loopholes.
For me, one line from Fintan O’Toole sums up Fine Gaels attitude towards homeless children, “One homeless child is a tragedy, four thousand homeless children is a policy.” While I do encourage you to enjoy your Christmas, let’s go into the New Year with a sense of purpose to change this worsening crisis once and for all and put the people in place willing to do it.