20 February 2010

Available on Flexible Terms

Friday afternoon, Dublin 2, from the Grand Canal to Stephen's Green the signs are all around you. Dublin is 'To Let'. Dublin is 'For Sale'. Dublin is 'Available on Flexible Terms'.

Stephen's Green, Bank of Scotland. No, not the one just closed down with 750 lost souls across the country and a white notice on the door to its customers saying, "who could have know?". No, the one opposite that, diagonally across the Green and around the corner from the Concert Hall. Boarded up and empty since its tenants all fled, flagship and landmark tagged in red and yellow paint by children become urban shadows. The refuse of homeless nights gathered around doorways and behind metal grills built to block all trespass. Soiled sleeping bags. empty coffee cups from the empty coffee shop across the road, now too available on flexible terms. Who could have known?

Hume Street Hospital, opened in 1911 and closed December 2006. Empty, derelict, tendered out to developers and set to become a wellness centre and restaurant. In its doorway between two sets of Georgian columns lie four people all under 25, two men, two women, wrapped up in blankets and sleeping bags like Charlie Bucket's grandparents. Grandpa Joe, Grandma Josephine. Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina. All under 25. Its 4pm on a Friday afternoon in the doorstep of the future wellness centre. Twenty five meters away and around the corner on Ely Place and you're in the Royal Hibernian Academy. Twenty five meters and a million miles away for the Mirror Mirror exhibition of artists' self portraits chosen by artists who portray the self, in a great round circular hug of self-appreciation. A mirror raised to Ireland and all we see is ourselves in the foreground, the background remains opaque. Twenty five meters away between the decaying pillars of our glorious past our present is ignored and our future is made purposefully opaque.

The National Institute for Spatial and Regional Analysis says there are 302,625 homes lying empty in the country. The Department of the Environment says there are 56,000 households in urgent need of social housing. Five empty houses for every household that needs one. The Homeless Agency reports that there are almost 2,500 homeless people in Dublin alone. The NISRA says we built 4 times the number of houses needed in Dublin between 2006 and 2009, yet every night at least 100 people are turned away from the city hostels and shelters and back onto the streets.

6:30pm, Wednesday 17th, Green Party Senator Dan Boyle brings down a Government Minister with a single Tweet. The Greens take a stand, they express their principles, the Minister for Defence goes or they go. "I don't have confidence in the Minister" says Dan Boyle and so the earth moves and the stars align and the Minister is forced to go. His crime, to deny making allegations to a journalist about a political opponent. The Greens can stomach the simultaneous introduction of a Blasphemy Bill and the bankrolling by the taxpayer of the Catholic Church's payments to victims of Clerical Abuse, a Criminal Justice Bill that allows convictions on the word of a retired Garda alone, the submission of irregular expenses by the Ceann Comhairle and the mortgaging of our future to bail out property developers and bankers with NAMA. None of these issues trouble the Greens who stood shoulder to shoulder with their Government colleagues at every juncture, but allegations that a politician tried to smear an opponent in a campaign is their Rubicon, this is the high moral ground where the Greens choose to take their stand.

56,000 households in urgent need of social housing says Green Party leader John Gormley's own department, but this is where the Greens choose to take their stand, over whispers in a bar and recorded innuendo. 2,500 homeless people in Dublin alone, 302,625 homes lying empty nationally, the developers and banks who created this catastrophe are being rewarded with public money, and the Minister for Defence is the one they have no confidence in.

A mirror raised to Ireland and all they see is themselves in the foreground, the background remains opaque.

"Available on Flexible Terms" the signs on the streets of Dublin say.

Mirror Mirror at the RHA
Hume Street redevelopment plan
Homeless Agency Dublin report
NISRA's original analysis here and follow up here
Eoin O'Brion at Politico on the current Social Housing Crisis
Department of the Environment's Homelessness Strategy National Implementation Plan (PDF Link)

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At 12:06 pm, Blogger Love Rhino said...

Too true, comrade. Your revelations are in themselves a mirror on our own insistance on helping ourselves out of the myre while wearing invisible blinkers as we choose to blatantly ignore the rest of our neighbours and their plights. What we need now is that zombie haulocaust promised by so many Romeros. That would clean house, if you'll pardon the lack of pun.

At 6:28 pm, Blogger artied said...

Beautifully put,

thanks for the inspiration

- a disaffected 'Green'

At 12:46 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

@Love Rhino - if ye have ever been to an ard fheis of any party you will know that the zombie apocalypse is already upon us.

@artied thanks! It took me a long time to leave the Greens, the scale of the NAMA/program for Government vote was the final straw, but at every crises I still hold out hope that they will do the decent thing only to be cruelly disappointed. I never learn.


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