Editorial: 'One girl reveals cold truth behind our seasonal cheer'
There are strife-torn parts of the world where surviving childhood is something of a miracle. Thankfully this is not one of them, yet being young, poor and homeless here can be a deeply scarring experience as the story of 'Ciara' reveals today.
We are one of the wealthiest countries on the planet and our Government is enjoying record revenues; so why are thousands of children without somewhere to call home?
Dr Seuss mischievously dismissed adults as "just obsolete children". But under the dark sarcasm was the presumption of an entitlement to a time of carefree innocence and protection that is the right of being young.
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But it is no longer a given. The little girl tried not to let her emotions come through, but what child could make sense of being shunted out of society at a time when we celebrate the season of goodwill, with streets teeming with Christmas shoppers?
"People feel we are not as good but we are the same as any other children.
"We are not animals, we are normal people, we are no different," she told our reporter.
Her life now is a procession from one B&B to the next. The seasonal phrase no room at the inn comes to mind, but that only happened one night in Bethlehem, under exceptional circumstances.
Ciara's story is not unusual - it is repeated every night in practically every city in the country.
We have a Government that is trying to fix things but is struggling to keep pace with the scale of need.
The housing shortage can only be solved by building more houses. But vulture funds are rapidly swallowing swathes of new developments on a buy-to-let basis.
Affordability and inability to meet demand quickly enough have turned a crisis into an emergency.
It is easy to lay the blame at the door of Fine Gael, but the roots of the problems are deeper. We have not been keeping pace with population growth.
Yet Rebuilding Ireland is not succeeding in easing the degrees of hardship families are facing. It has been described as an "abject failure" by homeless campaigner Peter McVerry.
Last week, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the State is "letting children down" by having them live in emergency accommodation. "Letting children down..."
That much we know.
But what Ciara and thousands of others need to hear is how the Government is going to help them get in from the cold.
Here's to some new thinking and 20/20 vision, or this time next year we will all be witness to another modern Nativity story on our streets.