Sunday 25 September 2016

Why Dublin's desperate housing crisis comes first

Published 20/03/2016 | 02:30

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan

Asked on any one day last week what I might be writing about on Sunday, the list would be as follows.

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The prospect of Sinn Fein alone in opposition, my talk on 1916 in Drogheda, the prospect of Donald Trump as president.

But looking back, I realise what bothered me most were the desperate, daily reports from my friend Jack on his search for a Dublin bedsit below €1,000.


To borrow a line from Alexander Pope, media coverage of the talks on government "drags like a snake its slow weight along".

Reporters who should be digging into real stories, like the Dublin housing crisis, lazily recycle cliches from their colleagues.

Constant calls for coalition in the "national interest" are now augmented by the abuse of the word "spooked" to describe legitimate concerns about leaving Sinn Fein alone in Opposition.

Claire Byrne Live struggled with that concern when it was voiced by Billy O'Reilly, a member of Fianna Fail in the studio audience.

O'Reilly: "We certainly don't want a grand coalition for obvious reasons. We certainly don't want Sinn Fein as the major, unfettered opposition, building up their base for the next general election."

Byrne: "But that's no basis not to go into coalition. Because Sinn Fein is a big, scary threat, according to you. That's not operating in the national interest."

Claire Byrne has been dizzy with success since her competent handling of second leaders' debate.

But chairing a debate does not make her a major political analyst.

There are sound political and moral reasons for rejecting a grand coalition that would give Sinn Fein a solo run while it has friends like Slab Murphy.

(Meantime, Jack texts to say he turned up an hour early for a 4pm viewing to find 11 people ahead of him.)


To Drogheda, at the invitation of the Drogheda Civic Trust, to give the annual Whitaker Lecture, provocatively titled 'A Personal View of 1916'.

Alan Costello, of the trust, who introduces me, has been forewarned by my friend, local historian Sean Collins, that I am not a big fan of the Rising of 1916.

But Alan blithely seems to believe I will get a good hearing. To my surprise, the packed hall in the Tholsel listens tolerantly to my thesis.

My basic belief is that the Rising was politically and morally wrong, but in many ways redeemed by the courage, character and compassion of its leaders.

(Jack texts to say that he has been gazumped by a guy ahead who offers to pay the owner €200 over the asking price in the ad.)


David McWilliams, in the Irish Independent, makes a convincing - and costed - case for a state building programme.

The rents on such houses could be as low as €800 a year. And the wages of building workers would boost the domestic economy.

The McWilliams Plan should be the primary principle for forming a government to which all parties in Dail Eireann should subscribe.

The Labour Party should lead the charge. And think twice about not going into government.

Labour running away to lick its wounds is a classic case of "and each fresh move was only a fresh mistake".

For the second election in a row, Labour is doing the reverse of what it should have done.

After 2011, Labour was lost in the shadow of Fine Gael, whereas it would have shone in Opposition.

Conversely, if Labour goes into opposition now it will be a sprat party - outnumbered, outshouted, marginalised, and finally swallowed by the killer whale of the Sinn Fein machine.

Naturally, some of the "socialist" dodos in Labour think they can shout louder than Sinn Fein.

No, they can't. And if they try they will simply sound squeaky and weak.

Paradoxically, the public will have more respect for Labour if it stops panicking, goes back into government, and gets solid concessions.

Small parties can die in government coalitions. But they die faster in opposition when overshadowed by a bigger party.

Labour should take another long, hard look at the line-up and think twice.

(Jack texts to say that in the long queue for a South Circular Road bedsit one sad man carries a suitcase because he has been living for weeks in his car.)


Public intellectuals, as the 1930s proved, were more vulnerable to the incense of Stalin and Hitler than almost any other class.

Sadly, two of America's finest contrarian writers, Camille Paglia and Victor Davis Hanson, are now hanging out near the Trump bandwagon. Expect more.

Hillary Clinton can be hard going. She is a PC politician in love with money and power. No wonder so many Democrats find her hard to like.

But Bernie Sanders is not an alternative but another classic Trot. Take his talk about the "Nordic model of socialism".

As a Finnish journalist pointed out, however, there's nothing particularly socialist about Finland.

The Finns pay high taxes to get great public services. Which mostly benefits the middle class.

Like all Trots, Sanders is actually a political adolescent. Deep down he is happy to leave government to adult politicians like Hillary Clinton.

Hillary is no paragon of political purity. But her faults are not sufficient to warrant supporting Trump.

Now I'm not one of the PC hysterics who denounce Trump as a fascist in the Hitler or Mussolini mode.

Trump is more like a wealthy American version of the Irish taxi driver who gives you an earful of his panaceas, which always finish with the same line: "D'ye know wha'? I'd throw out the whole crowd of them and put Michael O'Leary in charge."

But if the worst comes to the worst, Trump will turn out to be one soft pussy in the White House. You read it here first.

(Jack rang back a landlord as requested earlier - who denies ever speaking to him before.)


Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty is one of the few politicians totally in tune with public fears about Sinn Fein in future government.

She catches the public mood perfectly in mocking Gerry Adams comparing himself to black civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

Doherty rejoined: "Mr Adams's narcissism has reached dizzying heights."

Adams's mixture of self-pity, self-promotion and self- delusion is helped by his use of social media to promote his celebrity status.

Why is he always attention-seeking, looking for the limelight? Perhaps he's terrified of being left alone with his thoughts.

Alas, Adams is not the only needy narcissist around. Pundits who share their opinions on social media, minute by minute, must have an inflated notion of their own importance.

Yes, I, too, have lots of opinions. Few are worth sharing in their raw state.

Furthermore, I think it's cheating for journalists to publish opinions on Twitter and then reheat them for their newspapers.

(Jack calls, close to tears. An owner opened the door, read his references, and promptly let him the bedsit at the price advertised.)

Cork woman, of course.

Sunday Independent

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