Home­less­ness cri­sis shows how lit­tle we have learned from past

Irish Independent - - Letters & Editorial Comment -

■ “Fam­i­lies shut out as State flogs homes to in­vestors” was the head­line on the front of the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent on Satur­day.

A fur­ther head­line ap­peared on page six warn­ing of an “avalanche of home­less­ness” as the cri­sis deep­ens. The last time we had an avalanche of home­less­ness was in 1820, 20 years af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Pitt promised the Ir­ish peo­ple the same life­style that Bri­tish peo­ple en­joyed in York­shire or Som­er­set, as the div­i­dend of the Act of Union 1800.

The avalanche then was due to the in­crease in pop­u­la­tion in the pre­vi­ous 100 years from three million to six and a half million. The coun­try was at that stage “owned” by the ab­sen­tee land­lords, the fore­run­ners of the current “vul­ture funds”. In the 1820s, the rents were paid in Ire­land by the Ir­ish labour­ers who re­lied on grow­ing enough pota­toes to feed their fam­i­lies and pay the rent.

I am not sug­gest­ing that the sit­u­a­tion in Ire­land is as bad as it was then, but this is 200 years later and, as a fur­ther story states, “822 fam­i­lies are cur­rently stranded in ho­tels af­ter 2016 prom­ises are bro­ken”. The home­less fam­i­lies to­day can carry their en­tire be­long­ings in a suit­case.

In the years af­ter World War II, mil­lions of homes across Europe had to be re­built and all the gov­ern­ments agreed the re­build­ing should not be left to the free mar­ket. Ac­cord­ing to the ar­chi­tect Le Cor­bus­ier, one of the most in­flu­en­tial plan­ners of that era, gov­ern­ments that al­lowed the free mar­ket to act unchecked were ef­fec­tively fail­ing the peo­ple that elected them.

We have ob­vi­ously con­tin­ued to dis­re­gard his­tory, whether it is 200 years or 70 years ago, and al­low the State to ab­di­cate its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, watch­ing a State body like Nama plac­ing our re­cov­ery in the hands of the vul­ture funds, land­lords and the “benev­o­lent” pri­vate sec­tor.

Sleep­ing out one night a year is just “to­kenism”.

Hugh Duffy Cleg­gan, Co Gal­way

In­flu­en­tial plan­ner Charles-Édouard Jean­neret, known as Le Cor­bus­ier

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