Eimear Ni Bhraonain: No stranger to hardship, councillor pledges help
On the canvass with Paddy Kennedy
Published 17/02/2011 | 05:00
A YOUNG dad hurries out and opens the door of his three-bedroom family home almost immediately.
The story he tells is repeated throughout Kildare, where couples paid inflated prices for modest homes as the influx of commuters -- unable to afford to settle in Dublin -- flooded towns and villages.
Paul O'Connor and his wife Michelle bought a pretty house in Yellow Lough Park in Newbridge for €335,000.
Yesterday, a sign outside their estate in Jedward's home village of Rathangan advertised a "huge €180,000 reduction".
Today, the O'Connors could buy the same house for €170,000 -- or a four-bedroom detached showhouse across the road with a sunroom and more square footage for their two children for €249,500.
Paul was good-humoured as he held his four-month old baby, Laoise, in his arms and explained his predicament to Independent Paddy Kennedy, who canvassed his door.
Paul and Michelle also have a six-year-old daughter, Chloe, who is going to school.
The household is run on an income of less than €600 a week since Michelle had to take maternity leave. They now struggle to pay for essentials, particularly if one of their children is sick.
"We were refused a medical card and the back-to-school allowance. We were told we were earning too much," Paul told the Irish Independent.
To make matters worse, the couple's dishwasher has broken and their shower is damaged because of the high lime content in their water supply.
Mr Kennedy, a Rathangan native himself, now living in Newbridge, has heard this complaint many times before.
"My own daughter had that problem. You need to put in a filter system to address it but they cost about €600."
A few miles away in Newbridge, a sign is erected outside on the gate of a house on a busy road stating 'Strictly no Fianna Fail or Greens'.
Mr Kennedy -- who is from a working-class background -- has never been a member of a party.
He hit hard times after suffering an injury in the 1990s and was out of work on disability benefit.
"I started a business delivering flyers and leaflets after I went on a back-to-work scheme.
"For the first year, I got three-quarters of the disability benefit and then each year after it was reduced until it stopped. It was a great scheme because it helped me to try something and get back on my feet," he said.
"I know hardship. Myself and my wife Carmel had five young children to rear (Liz, Louise, Patricia, Anthony and Valerie). Families are suffering today and I've been there, I want to do something to help them," he added.