THE FACT OF THE MATTER
It hasn’t gone away, you know. Covid-19. But this time around it won’t be the coronavirus that will be making the breaking news.
Although the men and women in white coats are warning of another tough few months when the virus could reappear as another variant, or the combination of a coronavirus surge and the regular flu could see a short, sharp shock for hospitals. That said, some medical experts argue we may have put the worst of the rogue microbe behind us. We’ll see.
In the meantime, however, we have more pressing problems – the shortage of teachers, the closing of creches, the shortage of medics and hospital beds, the two-year queues to see a cardiac or oncology consultant, the CAMS catastrophe, the closure of banks and credit unions and the cutbacks in citizen bureaus. The insufficiently-thought-out refugee fiasco. I could go on but let’s just stop right here and agree that the two biggest issues facing us in the coming winter of discontent are the rapidly rising shortage of housing and accommodation — and the spiralling costs of what is available — and, yep, the ridiculous rise of energy costs, goaded by global inflation — cyclical, but that’s for another day’s debate — and Putin’s ongoing madness to take over the world.
A new EU poll – don’t you just love surveys! – says we Irish are more worried about the rising cost of living, housing and healthcare than most of our European counterparts. A majority (65%) of Irish people say price hikes are the biggest issue facing the country, compared with 54%. on average across the bloc.
According to Eurostat, housing comes second in our list of concerns, with healthcare third. Luxembourg is the only EU country that saw a higher proportion, 51 per cent, mention housing as a key issue.
Accommodation is a key issue. With colleges returning to on-site classes many now face long daily journeys to campus, with others deferring for a year or giving up on going to college altogether because they can’t find a place to put their head down, or if they do the rent is way beyond their means. That, alongside an estimated 1,000 people from Ukraine arriving here weekly and in need of a home, sees the situation long beyond serious.
Education Minister Simon Harris’s suggestion that the public should consider taking in students, because they could earn up to €14,000 a year, tax-free, gives not one notion to the possible social and legal implications of such, regarding insurance implications or potential bad behaviour.
What is really happening here, Minister Harris, is that the Government has now entered ‘super-crisis’ mode when it comes to housing. Years of being told that we weren’t building enough houses and doing very little to address the problem has come home to roost – with catastrophe looming large.
To heap insult on injury, comes the news that property prices will continue to soar beyond Celtic Tiger levels in the coming months, despite the cost-of-living crisis and fears of global economic slowdown, according to the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).
The banking lobby group says that continued supply of housing is required to stem house price increases and improve affordability.
On a brighter note, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has given the strongest indication yet that energy companies making huge profits will be hit with a windfall tax to fund help for homes and businesses – given the out-of-control price hikes, that’s funding for each and every one of us – to meet the crazier costs.
It seems the EU is likely to make huge interventions in the energy market under plans that include a levy on huge electricity and energy company profits, and potential caps on gas prices.
I wait to be convinced that any moves will be sufficient enough to stave off a winter of discontent and hard times.
Mind you, I had long left home before my parents had central heating installed in the home of my upbringing, a home where wall-to-wall lino was considered ‘posh’ and a bath was a weekly event. I recall many a winter’s morn scraping, with abandoned joy, the gathered frost off the inside of my bedroom window. And I recall, with some horror, school mornings in winter and I crouched precariously over the one-bar electric fire trying to get my underpants on and shaking in the process with the bitter cold.
A the end of the day, it did me no harm.
Meanwhile, it seems our political masters and those in ‘power’ have got their underpants in a right twist.