The Minister for Housing is Darragh O’Brien. He is a member of the Fianna Fail party. Its coalition partner Fine Gael previously held this ministry. Since 2011 Fine Gael has been in power. The two parties formed a coalition after last year’s election (although a de-facto coalition existed from 2016 to 2020). The housing crisis has exploded over the past decade since Fine Gael took office. O’Brien’s predecessor was named Eoghan Murphy – a man whose picture appears next to the word ‘failure’ in my personal dictionary (https://midnightmurphy.com/2019/07/03/eoghan-murphy-a-chocolate-fireguard ) . He was an elected representative for the Dublin Bay South constituency, which is the wealthiest in the land. Fine Gael clearly has its finger on the pulse of the nation when it appointed a rich boy whose granddad Russell Murphy was a swindler accountant who fleeced his clients for hundreds of thousands, to solve the housing emergency. After the 2020 election Eoghan Murphy was relieved of ministerial duties. Some months later he decided that politics was not for him. He resigned his seat. Prompting a by-election for a parliamentary seat in the leafiest of suburbs.
Some important facts about housing in Ireland are relevant here. The cost of purchasing a house in Ireland is out of reach of people on an average wage. In Dublin, the situation is even worse. Unless you are earning a minimum of 70,000eur a year as a single person you can forget about owning your own home. This is deliberate government policy – supply has been reduced to a trickle, while prices soar to help banks and institutional investors. Meanwhile vulture funds buy up entire housing estates and apartment blocks to rent at extortionate rates to tenants. Tenants who because they are spending 50% of their available income on rent are unable to save to try to buy a property. These renters aren’t burdened with tenancy rights of any substance. Every now and then a scandal erupts, and the government pretends to act. The housing crisis continues and purchasing or renting a property in Ireland remains a national disgrace.
As the housing crisis will be front and centre of the coming by-election to replace Eoghan Murphy, I thought I’d look at some the candidates for this seat.
My phone beeped to notify me that a new pair of jeans were ready collect in Dunnes’ Stores on Henry Street. I had ordered them online four days previously to prepare myself for winter. The time was 2pm. Having spent the morning drinking tea, and exchanging scurrilous and libellous gossip with a friend in London I needed to take an excursion to get some exercise. I decided to walk through Sean McDermott Street in the north inner city on my way to the shop. I wanted to see the Mother and Baby Home on that street.
It’s now seven months since the soggy lockdown was introduced. This initial stage – pre official lockdown – was when we were all sent home, told to work from there, and to maintain physical distancing from people outside your household. As I packed up my laptop and mouse on that happy Thursday, I was expecting to be back in the office in the Wastelands by April 1st. I wonder how that bag of apples I left in my locker is faring?
Two weeks from now it will be seven months since the hard lockdown came into force. It seems like a decade ago. Back then I had a trip to Latvia and Lithuania planned for Friday 20th March. Sensibly I postponed this trip to the distant mists of the future, to a time when we’d be back gamboling through Fairview Park, with the global pandemic but a distant memory – September. September was last month. Both countries were – at the time – on Ireland’s green lists. This meant that I’d be spared the consequence of self-isolating for two weeks upon my return to Ireland.
I received a call from a friend a couple of days before the new lockdown for Dublin was declared; asking if I’d be interested in accompanying her to the Druid Theatre production of ‘Druid Gregory’ in the grounds of Coole Park in Gort on Sunday evening. She had acquired a pair of tickets for the sold out show. I had a very brief internal debate about the wisdom of traveling West on the weekend that the capital closed up shop once again. Considering I live alone, work from home and only meet a small handful of people at a socially distanced level on any given week, my decision was easy. I was going to the theatre for only the second time since March (in August I went to see Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’ by Bewley’s Café Theatre in the Irish Georgian Society building on South William Street in Dublin.
Last week I was suffering from cabin fever. I have been quite conscientious about getting out and about in Dublin for walks during the Plague, and at this stage I could probably become a tour guide for Dublin with little training – if tourists ever come back to Dublin that is. By last Thursday however my patience was running thin. Would I ever go anywhere again? During normal times this would be the point where I’d log on to the website of Satan’s favourite airline and book a flight on a blue and yellow airplane, to go somewhere last minute for the weekend. Obviously this was no longer possible. I decided a train trip would be a suitable alternative. My destination was to be Kilkenny.
I am sitting at my workstation, gamely pretending to work. In actual fact, I am staring out the window at the Luke Kelly statue, swearing vengeance.
Later today there will be further announcements regarding updated recommendations from NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team. New restrictions on movement and public gatherings are expected. There has been a recent spike in corona cases (200 on Saturday – the largest daily number since early May) and outbreaks in meat-processing plants and direct provision centres (the inhuman, degrading places where Ireland places asylum seekers – often for years – while their cases are being processed). The outbreaks in the meat plants and DP centres has already led to localised lockdown in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly. The virus is spreading in the community again. The shutters will be coming down, Action must be taken. (click link below for next page)
Thursday, March 26th marks two weeks since the announcement that normal life was suspended, in an attempt to ward off the horrific consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic that have been witnessed in northern Italy. Since then, the restrictions have become tighter – now only essential businesses are allowed to remain open (although there is debate over what constitutes an ‘essential business’). Thankfully the supermarket and chemist shop are categorised thus – I do like a face to face encounter. Continue reading From a distance – The Coronavirus Diaries – day 14. The walks.→
Thursday was the day that I had planned to travel to Latvia and Lithuania for the first time. With the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic running amok, my plans were altered last week as soon as Ryanair announced that it would not be charging passengers to rebook flights for later in the year. Here’s hoping that by August this incredibly weird, semi-lockdown experience might have passed. Continue reading From a distance – Day 8: The Coronavirus Diaries and a trip to the theatre→
Some months ago I was invited on a guided tour of Dublin being organised by a group called ‘Dublin Decoded’. I didn’t investigate the event too much. As the people who invited me have impeccable taste, and I’m weak for guided tours, I suspected I would be in safe hands. Well yesterday was the date of the event. I glanced at the ticket. It was called ‘Dublin’s Great Lovers and Romantics: A walking tour of art and of history’, which seemed appropriate given that Valentine’s Day had occurred a couple of days earlier. Despite my devil-may-care-Texas-playboy demeanour, I would be able to enjoy such an excursion. Further details revealed that the two hour walking tour would be split into halves. The first hour would be inside the National Gallery of Ireland (the congregation point). The second hour would be in the streets outside. Continue reading Dublin decoded – a guided tour about love→
People who regularly read my musings will know that I have limited patience for marketing and PR guff. For example I make a point to avoid any food establishment that styles itself as an ‘eatery’. Adding an ‘-ery’ to the end of a verb does not a noun make. Likewise a food venue advertising ‘street food’ should – by definition – cook and serve the food outdoors. My little OCD heart demands this. When I saw that a new deli was proclaiming itself part of the ‘rotisserie revolution’ my blood boiled as I pictured the cocaine addled PR hack in some advertising agency coming up with this ‘concept’.
Which brings me to today’s launch of ‘Brand Limerick’ – a €1 million campaign by Limerick City and County Council is to promote the city’s reputation on an international scale. The PR firm M&C Saatchi will be overseeing the campaign with input from the students of the Limerick School for Art and Design. This company has previously done branding campaigns for New Zealand, Abu Dhabi, Malaysia, Georgia and others. Continue reading Brand Limerick – Atlantic edge, European embrace→