Sunday 15 December 2019

Lorraine Courtney: 'Our country is not working for its people - maybe Corbyn's blueprint can work here too'

Promises: UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launches his party’s manifesto. Photo: Darren Staples
Promises: UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launches his party’s manifesto. Photo: Darren Staples
Lorraine Courtney

Lorraine Courtney

After Jeremy Corbyn set out his political vision last week, shadow minister and possible future deputy leader Laura Pidcock said: "I was nearly crying on the stage, because this was so hopeful." There was lots of hope in it. It is "a manifesto of hope", as Corbyn put it.

Whatever your views on Corbyn, you have to allow he's not offering more of the same. He's not offering something too extravagant or too much either as some of his critics are claiming, unless you think having a home of your own is too extravagant for the rest of us.

And if you're one of those people who think Corbyn will destroy the UK economy, who exactly do you think a country's "economy" is for anyway?

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Did you know that we are the 14th richest country in the world? This is according to a study by 'Global Finance Magazine'. You see our GDP per capita of €42,820 puts us well ahead of countries such as Canada, Germany and Sweden. But when the 14th richest country in the world can't give its elderly a hospital bed or its young people a future, its economy is useless.

Increasingly, nothing here seems to work, but we're told by our politicians nothing more can be done. We live in a tangle of rising rents, rising damp and hospital trolleys. The Government appears to be sitting around on its hands, ever more complacent and out of touch.

We did everything right: We went to college and got a degree. There weren't any jobs so we got another degree. We got PhDs. We applied for a million internships and worked hard. It wasn't enough.

The housing crisis has toppled our dreams of ever growing up, settling down and having a family. Ten years after the property bubble burst, homeless figures keep on rising and Dublin is one of the world's 10 most expensive places to rent, ahead of cities like Tokyo and Singapore.

We've lost hope and the generation growing up behind us has lost hope. The 'Growing Up In Ireland' study published last week said 20 year olds are anxious, living with parents at home and nervous about housing. It made for very sad reading to see another generation growing up into a rental trap.

Meanwhile, the millennials who are paying too much in rent are slowly turning into tomorrow's middle-aged people paying too much in rent. If you earn an average wage and are renting, there is no amount you can save that will ever mean you can buy a house in Dublin.

Your only options are to move back in with mom and dad (if you're lucky enough), a different part of the country (if you can find a job there) or earn more money. Well, forget that last one because you'd probably already be doing so if the option was available to you.

According to property website Daft.ie's latest rental figures, the average monthly rent has risen to €1,403 in the third quarter of this year.

In the Dáil last week, Leo Varadkar insisted rent freezes, backed by Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, were not the solution to the country's housing crisis. Without a freeze, where will we end up? Forking out most of our salary and living off Dublin's traffic-scented air most likely.

Yes, employment is up, but other economic conditions have declined since the 2008 recession. Degrees are being devalued and while jobs may be plentiful, stable and reliable careers are increasingly hard to come by.

Social mobility is going backwards. From the mid-1970s to the height of the boom, average gross income (adjusted for inflation) more than doubled, but average for the top 10pc more than tripled while the top 1pc had almost five times as much.

In 2017, TASC, in partnership with FEPS (Foundation for European Progressive Studies), found Ireland continued to rank in the middle among European countries in income inequality. But, in market inequality terms, Ireland was the most unequal in Europe.

We are all waiting for some leadership from out-of-touch politicians. But every day of waiting is a day wasted, with potential going untapped and opportunities squandered.

We just go on never putting a nail in a wall or owning a front door key for more than a year, always just one stolen deposit away from homelessness.

Without fundamental top-to-bottom change there's really no way an entire generation won't be lost in a wash of renting, precarious jobs and hopelessness. Something needs to change, before we all sink.

Our own pre-election season is gearing up with promises sliding through the letterbox but none of the promises is very promising. Our politicians don't want us dreaming big and losing the run of ourselves. But our country isn't working for us. Ireland needs a manifesto of hope and a credible party that commits to people as much as to big business.

Will anybody step up with a vision that gives young people a sense of hope, hope that maybe one day we'll be able to see ourselves living in a house of our own, with the brazen luxuries enjoyed by our parents, like pensions and a functioning health service?

Irish Independent

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