Editorial: 'Tale of two Irelands has left too many in poverty'
Stories come in many forms making for a welcome distraction; that's why we love them, especially at this time of year.
'A Christmas Carol' or 'Les Misérables' will pack them in over the festive season.
In these festive favourites, the audience will have their heartstrings tugged but will leave the theatre with an afterglow.
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Hard times will come and go, but decency and goodness will win through. While our consciences may be pricked, we can rest assured all will be balanced in the universal goodwill ledger.
But reality has a troubling way of asserting itself. True-life stories, like the ones revealed today by the latest CSO figures, come without the salve of cheery sentiment.
They say childhood is the first precious thing poverty steals from a child.
If this is so, we should be worried. For according to the CSO, one in five of our children are living in a household struggling to keep the wolf from the door.
Consistent poverty is also five times higher among children than it is for those over the age of 65.
Household incomes are rising but the working poor can ill afford to meet soaring rents.
The prospect of getting on the property ladder is so far out of their reach, the dream of owning a home for many might also be consigned to fiction.
Having a job is no guarantee against a bitter struggle to make ends meet for a family, even with both parents working - for single parents the struggle is so much greater.
The Ireland of Opportunity Leo Varadkar spoke of so spiritedly seems to have a moat around it for too many.
The Taoiseach pledged to be there for the people who get up early in the morning.
Getting up early and going home late is no guarantee against hardship.
The numbers of working poor are higher now than 10 years ago.
We have built an economy, but we have failed to engineer a society which is inclusive.
One in six families has an income which is 60pc of the average.
This amounts to around 760,000 people at risk of poverty.
Seán Healy, of Social Justice Ireland, is adamant the percentage of people in poverty today is higher than a decade ago.
He is just as strident when it comes to deciding who is to blame: "The Government is not putting in place the mechanisms to tackle the working poor issue."
Were Charles Dickens with us today, he would have no trouble recognising a tale of two Irelands.
Victor Hugo, author of 'Les Misérables', might also be surprised how resonant the lines of his epoch-making work still are despite the turning of centuries: "There is always more misery among the lower classes than there is humanity in the higher."