Losing another generation

A Letter From Ireland

a Chara,

I’ve been thinking about emigration. We are losing another generation. This time to Canada, Australia, and Britain. My own daughters will be leaving soon.

In the past people were forced into emigration by poverty, unemployment, or repression. Today is different. There are jobs. In the South we are reaching full employment.

The generation emigrating is leaving good jobs and trades. The single biggest issue is housing. A generation in work that cannot afford to rent. A generation that has lost all hope of owning a permanent home and raising a family.

The housing crisis is undermining the economy and society. Essential public sector workers, guards, nurses, and teachers are being priced out of our cities. Tenement living is now back in Dublin. We have a record number of homeless families.

Companies are facing recruitment issues with living costs and rents pushing up wages.

Into this crisis has stepped some who claim that Ireland is full. Ireland is not full, our population has not yet recovered from the famine. We are a wealthy and relatively underpopulated island.

The subtle and at times not too subtle inference that inward immigration is to blame. This crisis was not created or sustained by people fleeing conflict and poverty. This crisis was caused by Irish landlords, developers, and politicians.

The housing crisis is Irish-made. In the 1950’s when the Irish state was impoverished they built houses. Young families could secure public housing with the security of tenure. Houses were affordable and home ownership was an option. There was always a private sector for those who would not fit into the public or home ownership models. The same was true in Belfast where I grew up.

Public housing was sold off to tenants and never replaced by similar levels of new investment. The public housing stock was reduced. The market would provide housing. Developers controlled the supply and cost of new housing. Private landlordism increased as did rents and house prices.  A self-perpetuating cycle of increasing costs. This worked for the market with greater returns on investment. It has failed society and the economy.

The problem is entirely man-made (and mostly led by men). It can be solved. It is not complicated, We need to build affordable public sector homes with the security of tenure. Develop affordable homes for families to invest and live in, and regulate the private sector.

These are not radical ideas. They have and will work. They are from the Ireland where I grew up. At a time when a house was a home and not a commodity.

This housing crisis cannot be blamed on anyone outside Ireland. It was and remains the creation of years of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments.

It will only be changed by a change of government. Sinn Féin has the people and policies to build a new Ireland. One in which I hope all our children will return.

Have a great weekend.  

Is mise,

Ciarán

Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.