Manifesto for the Right to Housing – Launch 12 June 2014

 

The housing crisis in Ireland is reaching epidemic porportions – there is nothing more debilitating to a human being that to be homeless or in a perpetual state of housing insecurity.

Your life is stalled, you cannot function as a member of society, you cannot interact in any meaningful way with state bodies.
From the Manifesto by Housing Action.

 

“HOUSING FOR ALL
We did not create this housing crisis. We did not vote to increase homelessness.
We did not ratify a treaty that allowed private investors and speculators to push us out of our homes.

We did not give our consent to evictions. We did not choose to throw families out onto the streets.

We did not make a collective call to be ruled by debt. We made no rallying cry to introduce chaos and fear into our housing market.
We participated in no movement that sought to repress the accommodation rights of oppressed minorities.
We did none of this. And yet we are being pushed out of our homes; we are being pushed out of our cities and we are being pushed out of our country. And this makes us ask: does this country belong to speculators and developers whose only concern is their pockets?

Does this country belong to an apathetic government who refuse to protect the unprotected majority, but instead chooses to protect those who profit off our fear? Or does this country belong to the public?
The answer is clear and the solutions are clear-cut. The time for change is now.
We want housing for all.”

Ireland after NAMA

Got us home

Back in March, Taoiseach Enda Kenny made the claim that “If you had 30,000 three- bedroom detached houses in Dublin you’d sell them all in a week. That’s the pent-up demand that’s there”. This has been part of a discourse that seeks to once again talk up the property market; to encourage the construction and sale of houses as a means to both stimulate the economy and to provide housing through the mechanisms of the private market.
The casual slippage back into the development logic of the Celtic Tiger era seeks to ignore both the remaining material evidence of the property crash – in the form of the persistent problems of mortgage arrears, negative equity, and unfinished developments – and the burgeoning housing crisis in the Dublin region.
In short, this strategy seeks to resurrect the property market to the detriment of addressing the housing crisis.
To tackle these…

View original post 158 more words

Out On The Streets in Ireland

 

That’s how people see homelessness in Ireland isn’t it?

The Homeless – they live on the streets, have drug and alcohol issues and possibly mental health issues, they clutter up the nice streets, they smell, they commit petty street crime and – they’re a bloody nuisance.

But thank God there’s only a few of them – throw them a few coppers and your conscience is salved, and sure won’t all those charities take care of them, The Simon [1] The Vincent De Paul [2] anyway there’s loads of hostels they could go to, loads of “services” because moving beneath the surface of the superficial conscience salving few coppers that you threw them – is another thought – it’s their own fault.

“Those who were least well off before the economic crisis remain so, and their difficulties have been worsened due to cutbacks to the supports and services on which they rely. Those who have lost jobs, had business failures, seen significant falls in their income or are affected by over-indebtedness require supports in the short, medium and longer term to ensure that they are prevented from falling into long term unemployment and poverty. [3]

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said that more and more people are turning to the Simon Communities across the country for support.

“There are now over 90,000 people on the social housing waiting lists; rents are rapidly increasing all around the country at the same time as the numbers of properties available to rent are decreasing. People on low incomes are effectively being priced out of the market. It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure people in need have access to housing so they do not become homeless in the first place and so they can move out of homelessness, when it does happen, as quickly as possible.” (emphasis added) [3]

On Thursday 5th June a protest was held – a Sleep Out – outside the offices of Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown Council Offices – I was there.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD of People Before Profit was at the forefront of this protest – the issue was Social Housing, or rather the lack of Social Housing.

“Richard Boyd Barrett TD said: “In 2011 the government abandoned the direct provision of social housing and farmed out housing to private landlords. Now that landlords can get higher rents on the open market they are pulling out of these deals and families are being forced into homelessness. Rents are rocketing and with no investment in social housing the crisis is spiralling out of control.”

I don’t believe there is anyone either in Ireland or in the western world who doesn’t know that we had a “housing crisis” though more correctly a “housing crash” here in Ireland – a recession of epic proportions that literally brought this tiny inconsequential country on the periphery of Europe to the brink of economic destruction – but we were “saved” by the EU and the IMF – they came charging into the rescue and bailed us out. Then we voted for those who made promises that they had no intention of keeping.

 

Labour said: “The fiscal strategy set out in the EU-IMF deal . . . involves excessive austerity, which will put growth at risk”. That was the strategy they implemented and they take pride in that! Where was the mandate

There was no mandate for taking in taxation from the poorest 10 per cent of the population the same proportion of their income as being taken from the richest 10 per cent – this was achieved via the VAT increase in the 2012 budget, even though the USC was removed from incomes between €4,004 and €10,036.

There was no mandate for the cuts in child benefit for the third and subsequent children and Labour was adamant there would be no cuts in child benefit at all. There was no mandate for cutting the disability allowance. No mandate for cuts to rent supplements. No mandate for the changes in PRSI that impact most on the working poor. No mandate for a property tax that is imposed irrespective of income. No mandate for the increase in prescription drug charges. And so much else.” [4] (emphasis added)

We made a pact with the devil – or rather our political leaders at that time on our behalf made a pact with the devil. Then we kicked them out of office and………….same shoite, different day – or different devils.

As it turned out – it wasn’t us – The People – that our political elite decided needed our arses pulled out of the fire, it was the very ones who had caused and precipitated this crisis – the bankers, the developers, politicians, financiers, and then our own “rescuers” decided to make the deal with the devil work.

“National pension fund plundered

The Irish population is paying for the repeated saving of the financial sector through brutal austerity. Ireland had to co-finance its own “rescue” by €17.5 billion, €10 billion of which were taken from the public pension fund NPRF, originally set up to secure Irish pensions in the future. The fund’s money was used for direct bank recapitalization (7). In late 2013, the government decided to entirely transform it into an investment fund, safeguarding future pensions is no longer a priority (8). Furthermore, the population was hit hard by six (?) years of austerity measures: The VAT was increased to 23 percent, child benefits were lowered, unemployment allowances for young people cut in half (9) and tuition fees tripled to 2,500 Euros (10). Altogether, over €28 billion have been squeezed out of Irish society since 2008 (11).” [5] (emphasis added)

They got the rescue – we got the bill.

A bill we are still paying, and will be expected to continue paying until every last man, woman and child for the next two generations of Irish people has been squeezed dry.

“Ending the bailout is “not the end of the road”. Ireland has already announced a new round of spending cuts and tax rises for next year, in the 2014 budget announced recently. Noonan was clear that further cuts lie ahead if Ireland is to lower its deficit to 3% by 2015.”

“This isn’t the end of the road. This is a very significant milestone on the road…But we must continue with the same types of policies.” (emphasis added) [6]

Till we are a people so demoralised, so disenfranchised, so browbeaten into submission that we are no longer a people, no longer free citizens of a free Republic – we are merely pawns, utilities, economic units valued only for our usefulness as dupes, as a means to an end – to ensure that the gravy train keeps rolling, that those who have continue to have – and those who have not – never ever get to have – anything – including a roof over their heads – the dignity that every human being is entitled to – a place to call home.

“Housing: a new philosophy

A series of publications by the economist Professor PJ Drudy of Trinity College have offered an interesting new approach to how Irish society views housing. In his paper at a 2005 Social Policy Conference, in a co-authored book with Michael Punch -entitled Out of Reach (2005) – and in a chapter in the Social Policy in Ireland book (Drudy, 2006) he has outlined these views.

The essence of Professor Drudy’s proposal is to view housing as a home rather than as a market commodity. In his conference paper Professor Drudy stated that we should “place the emphasis on housing as a home – shelter, a place to stay, to feel secure, to build a base, find an identity and participate in a community and society”.

Therefore he continued: “housing thus becomes a central feature of ‘development’ – a process not simply comprising increases in economic growth, but containing positive actions to improve the quality of life and wellbeing for all” (2005: 44).

In concluding his paper, Drudy suggested that Irish society now needs to address “a fundamental philosophical question: is it the purpose of a housing system to provide investment, speculative or capital gains for those with the necessary resources or should the critical aim be to provide a home as a right for all citizens?” (2004: 46).

In his view it is time now for Ireland to move away from seeing housing as a commodity to be traded on the market like any other tradable commodity; and to accept the latter opinion that views housing as a social requirement like health services or education.” [7]

I started off by saying that “The Homeless ” brings to mind a certain type – a certain image – a myth that we can call up to salve our consciences with – as being – a small problem that affects only a very small very particular section of our society – with that underlying thread weaving its way through the narrative – “it’s really their own fault”.

Here are the facts.

“About Homelessness

Homelessness can mean sleeping rough, staying in emergency hostels or shelters, staying in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation or staying with friends and relatives when there is nowhere else to go. Homelessness is all of these things. For people experiencing homelessness it is about a lack of security, a lack of belonging and often about being cold, sick and isolated.The current economic climate means more people are at risk of homelessness than ever before with further cut backs in health, education, welfare services and training more people will become homeless and turn to the Simon Communities for support.” [8] (emphasis added)

According to the Simon Community in 2011 these were the figures for “Homelessnes” or in “Housing Need” – figures for 2005 in brackets. [9]

Household Homelessness – 2,348 (2,399)

Living in Unfit Accommodation – 1,708 (1,725)

Living in Overcrowded Accommodation – 4,594 (4,122) – increase of 475

Involuntarily Sharing – 8,834 (3,375) – increase of 5,459 – almost 62% (5,477)

Not reasonably able to meet the cost of Accommodation – 65,643 (25,045) – an increase of 40,598 – almost a 62% increase. (40,698)

Are they on the streets? No – not all of them – what they are is caught in a trap – they are “unable to provide accommodation from their own means” which is how one qualifies for either Social Housing [10] or if none is available (which it isn’t) for Rent Supplement [11] in order to pay for private accommodation while waiting for your turn, your number to come up to the top of the list – and that list would be the Housing List – and every Local Authority, City and County Council has its own “List”

Here they are – a breakdown of every single city and county council’s numbers. These figures are from 2011 – but I seriously doubt if those numbers have gone down appreciably in the last three years.

“Housing Needs Assessment 2011 – Background

In February 2011 housing authorities were directed by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government1 to carry out an assessment of need existing at 31st March, 2011. Detailed guidance was issued by the Department to assist authorities in carrying out the assessment and in order to insure as much consistency as possible across authorities. This was to be a ‘snap-shot’ assessment based on an extract of data from each housing authority in respect of each household that has been approved for social housing support at 31st March, 2011.

The Housing [Miscellaneous Provisions] Act, 2009 provides for a new process of housing assessment with effect from 1st April, 2011. This Assessment of Housing Need gives a national picture of the level of housing need across the country as these new regulations come into effect.”

For the vast majority of Irish people on these “Housing Lists” they are out of options, though there are those in this country who would take the attitude “well get a job and buy your own house

“Net Housing Need

The net housing need figure at present shows that 98,318 households were in need of social housing support at 31st March 2011. Table 1 shows that the largest category of need by far was those unable to meet the cost of accommodation – accounting for about two-thirds (66.8%) of households, with the next biggest category of need, medical and compassion reasons, accounting for one-tenth of households (9.7%) and this was followed by those involuntary sharing (8.7%). Older persons and homeless households respectively account for just over 2 per cent of need, while Traveller families, unfit accommodation and people with a disability each accounted for less than 2% of the country’s net housing need.” (emphasis added)

I look forward to the release of the Report for 2014 – after all – it is now three years since that last one.

In order to buy a home of your own – you need a job – and a job that pays enough, not only to service a mortgage, but with enough left over each month to feed, clothe and take care of yourself and your family, pay your bills, heat that house, pay a doctor if one of your kids gets sick, pay the Household Charge/Property Tax on that new home of yours, in fact, being able to insert the key into the front door of your own home and walk in, is only the beginning – because even if you manage by some miracle to “get a mortgage” every state support (what little there is) gets withdrawn – you may finally have a roof over your head – but that roof is both a blessing and a curse.

There is a phenomenon called the working poor [12] – there are those for whom working is actually more of a trap than not working, for whom the only jobs, of the few that are available are so badly paid, so precarious and so demoralising that working actually causes and creates more stress, more anxiety – if that was even possible.

You would have to find yourself a permanent well paid and secure job in order to be able to breathe out.

The chances of getting that dream permanent job – the one that will get you that magic mortgage and last long enough – 20 – 25 years – to keep paying that mortgage are slim to none, though I wouldn’t count on being able to afford little luxuries – like food – while you are paying that mortgage.

You are now – truly on your own – and the hawks are ever circling – the spectre of unemployment waits brooding in the wings – the government churns out ever more “charges” ever more “penalties” ever more “cuts” and each one is designed to squeeze you, to wring every last cent out of you they can, as they work tirelessly and feverishly to – rescue those who need the least amount of rescuing – the ones who caused all this in first place.

The Irish People are being held to ransom by bankers, by politicians, the EU – we are paying for the privilege of being disenfranchised, kept in penury, and kept in a prison of poverty, of housing insecurity, of ongoing and never-ending worry, stress and anxiety.

They also live in fear – of saying the wrong thing to “officials” of one of these “officials” some petty little civil servant not liking the look of us – not liking our “attitude” deliberately making any interaction with “officialdom” as stressful, as tortuous as possibly – of having your “application” dealt with at the whim, the mood, of whoever you are unfortunate enough to encounter. This was something that came up over and over again from the people sleeping on the street outside Dun Laoighre- Rathdown Council offices – fear.

Within all these government departments are petty little tyrants, bullies and sneering “civil servants” who treat their fellow citizens with contempt, derision and hostility. This I know from personal experience – a story for another time.

All this, so that our political elite can go to Europe and kiss EU ass and assure them that the ones who robbed and are robbing this country blind can keep doing just that.

Our politicians have assured the EU that Ireland will pay its “Debt” – except – this is not our debt – and this “debt” is being paid on the backs of the Irish people – this “debt” is being paid in devastated lives, hungry children, sick and frail elderly people, homeless men women and children, and in some cases the actual life blood of Irish men – for some – the combined pressures of unemployment, housing insecurity, the anxiety of feeling useless, powerless and trapped leads so many to take their own lives. [13]

“3.4 Suicide and economic adversity

Economic adversity and recession specifically has been shown to result in an increase in suicide rates59. Studies have also shown that factors in the current economic crisis, such as falling stock prices, increased bankruptcies and housing insecurity (including evictions and the anticipated loss of a home), and higher interest rates are all associated with increased suicide risk60,61. People who are unemployed are two-three times more likely to die by suicide than people in employment62.

A recent Irish study has shown that during the boom years of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ male and female rates of suicide and undetermined death were stable during 1996-2006, while suicide among unemployed men increased. Unemployment was associated with a 2-3 fold risk of suicide in men and a 4-6 fold increased risk in women63.”

Of all these factors – a roof over your head – place to call your own – for you and your family gives you an anchor, a safe haven, a sense of security from which you can direct the course of your own life – shelter from the storms raging outside, protect your family and weather those storms – because at least you can say – “well at least we have a roof over our heads” we can get through anything as long as we have that.

Except – there are no roofs to be had – there is no shelter from the raging storms – there are no safe harbours, no shelter to be had – and no way to get any of those things.

Because we now live in a country where “The People” don’t matter – where “The People” are now subsidiary to policy – and the current policy?

Paying a debt incurred by the greedy avaricious and venal to maintain a system that ensures that who have and have always had, continue to do so – and in order to do that – take it from those who have nothing.

The very thing that caused this crisis in the first place – the housing bubble? The movers and shakers are starting to inflate it again. Rents are going up – house prices are going up – and Rent Supplement is going down – and the criteria for becoming eligible is getting more and more stringent – less and less flexible and has absolutely nothing to do with the actually lived reality of most people’s lives.

A case in point is the father who was refused Rent Supplement as a parent and classified as “single” by the Department of Social Protection even though he has four children, and has nowhere not only for himself to live, but is being deliberately prevented from being able to parent his own children including providing accommodation for them when they are with him.

See – “Money Makes the World Go Round………Not Ideology….Feminism is Just Along for the Ride”

Our current government is actually encouraging this – by doing exactly what the last government did – standing by and sanctioning the same corrupt and discredited policies, by taking the same cynical and laissez faire attitude to the practices of the bankers, the gombeens, the chancers, the corrupt and the venal so that once more they can proliferate.

The crisis ripped away the safety net for the Irish people – but at least it was there – provisionally – there is no safety net now – it is gone – yet here we are – getting back up on the trapeze – or being forced back up onto that trapeze.

It is time to end this circus – time to rip down the big top – time to say enough. It is time for this circus to leave town.

The night before, on Wednesday 4th June 2014 I attended a People Before Profit meeting in Wynne’s Hotel in Dublin city centre – it was by way of being a celebration of the electoral success achieved by PBP in the recent council elections. What is clear is that there is a growing sense of anger, of a people who have had enough, the results indicate that the coming election in 2016 may change the face of Irish politics forever.

I started this article by saying that there is a perception of what it is to be homeless, that “being homeless” inspires certain images, brings to mind certain pictures of “the homeless”

Nothing could be further from the truth – yes there are those who literally have no place to go, and yes the vast majority of those who fit that profile of the homeless are men.

“Over 60 per cent of the persons enumerated as part of the homeless count were in the Dublin region on Census Night. Of the 2,375 people enumerated in Dublin, just over two thirds or 1,590 were male. The next largest region was the South East. Of the 403 homeless persons enumerated in this region, 216 were male.”

“Among the 3,351 homeless persons aged 15 and over, two thirds were single compared with 42 per cent for the general population. Some 189 homeless persons were either married or re-married, representing just under 6 per cent of the group. In contrast, almost 48 per cent of the general population was married. Almost 17 per cent of the homeless population aged 15 and over was either separated or divorced, significantly higher than the general population for which the equivalent figure was 6 per cent. Just over 8 per cent of homeless women were married compared with 5 per cent of men, while 19 per cent of homeless men were separated or divorced compared with 13 per cent of women.” [14]

Men women and children – Irish men women and children – the effects of homelessness and housing insecurity are myriad and debilitating – and personal – the causes are political, structural, institutional and economic. That’s who I met – Irish men women and children – families – ordinary people.

“Cllr Melisa Halpin added: “We are sleeping outside the council tonight with families and individuals on the housing list to highlight the severity of the housing crisis. The new council meets tomorrow and we want to ensure that housing becomes the number one issue for the new council.”

There are currently 4000 families on the housing list in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and the plan is to build 19 houses in 2014! This situation cannot continue. We want a radically different council – one that starts telling the government what we want and what the people who elected us want rather than just taking orders from Leinster House.” [15]

The mechanisms through which these causes are visited upon Irish people are government policy – THIS governments policies.

The reasons?

Political expediency – elitism – a cynical disregard for the effects of government policy on people – on real live human beings.

This is not politics – this is not democracy – this is apartheid – this is an oligarchy – this is wrong – and this needs to stop.

 

I am not personally a member of People Before Profit or of any political party for that matter, what I am is a Human Rights Advocate – and a roof over your head is a basic fundamental Human Right.

Someone made the point during a very very long night that if we (Ireland) had suffered a natural disaster like a tsunami or a hurricane and thousands of people had been made homeless, money would pour in from all over world in order to assist those people, in fact our own government would probably send aid to any other disaster struck country – yet here we are – with our own housing crisis – where there are thousands of Irish people, men women and children – who do not have a roof of their own over their heads and this government…………….this government through one of our Local Authorities, just spent 36 million euro’s on a library, according to Marie Baker a Fine Gael councillor in Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown [16]

 

I wonder how many Social Housing units they could have built for that 36 million euro’s? Well – at €100,000.00 a pop – 360 – reducing the current housing list of approx 4,000 to 3,640 – it would be a start.

What else has Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown County council earmarked millions of euro’s for? What about all the other Local Authorities, City and County Councils? Because it isn’t housing.

 

 

 

References

[1] The Simon Communityhttp://www.simon.ie/home.aspx

[2] Society of St. Vincent De Paulhttps://www.svp.ie/Home.aspx

[3] European Commission is not listening to the peoplehttps://www.svp.ie/News/Press-Releases/European-Commission-is-not-listening-to-the-people.aspx

SIMON COMMUNITIES CALL FOR FULL CABINET SUPPORT FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION PLAN ON THE STATE’S RESPONSE TO HOMELESSNESS

http://www.simon.ie/MediaCentre/MediaReleases/TabId/206/ArtMID/851/ArticleID/50/SIMON-COMMUNITIES-CALL-FOR-FULL-CABINET-SUPPORT-FOR-THE-IMPLEMENTATION-PLAN-ON-THE-STATE%e2%80%99S-RESPONSE-TO-HOMELESSNESS–.aspx

[4]Irish people did not sign up for what was done to them in the bailout – Vincent Browne

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/irish-people-did-not-sign-up-for-what-was-done-to-them-in-the-bailout-1.1631046

[5]27.12.2013, Irish „rescue”: 67.5 bn of bail-out loans, 89.5 bn to banks – Attac investigation shows: cash flows from Ireland to the financial sector significantly exceed bail-out loans / EU crisis management policy bleeds out people and economy to funnel billions to the banking system

http://www.attac.at/news/detailansicht/datum/2013/12/27/irish-rescue-675-bn-of-bail-out-loans-895-bn-to-banks.html

[6]Ireland prepares to exit bailout after ‘biggest crisis since the Famine’ – as it happened.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/dec/13/ireland-prepares-to-exit-bailout-business-live#block-52aaee51e4b008af53c5c3bb

[7] CORE POLICY OBJECTIVE: HOUSING & ACCOMMODATION

http://www.socialjustice.ie/sites/default/files/file/SER%202010/2010%20-%20SER%20-%207%20-%20Chapter%203%205%20-%20Housing%20and%20Accommodation.pdf

[8]What is Homelessness – Simon Community.

http://www.simon.ie/sci/Homelessness/Homelessness.aspx

[9] How many people are Homeless?

http://www.simon.ie/Portals/0/Docs/How%20many%20people%20are%20homeless%20in%20Ireland%20-%20Sept%202012.pdf

[10] Qualifying for Social Housing in Ireland

http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/housing/

local_authority_and_social_housing/applying_for_local_authority_housing.html

[11] Qualifying for Rent Supplement in Ireland.

http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/social_welfare/

social_welfare_payments/supplementary_welfare_schemes/rent_supplement.html

[12] http://www.cori.ie/Justice/545-cori-justice-claims-the-working-poor-are-among-irelands-most-vulnerable-and-should-be-protected

[13] The Human Cost – An overview of the evidence on economic adversity and mental health and recommendations for action – Mental Health Commission – September 2011

http://www.mhcirl.ie/file/hcpaper.pdf

[14] CSO Special Report on Homelessness

http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/census/documents/homelesspersonsinireland

/Homeless,persons,in,Ireland,A,special,Census,report.pdf

[15] http://richardboydbarrett.ie/2014/06/05/sleep-out-will-commence-at-7pm-this-evening-td-and-cllrs-sleep-out-overnight-with-homeless-families-to-protest-housing-crisis-prior-to-new-council-agm-in-dun-laoghaire/#more-327647

[16]Dun Laoighre’s New Library

http://mariebaker.net/2014/dun-laoghaires-new-library/

 

 

Out on The Streets in Ireland

Tom Golden has an article on A Voice For Men, called “Is homelessness a men’s  issue?

It is an excellent article highlighting not just the fact that the majority of homeless are men but also exploring the myriad causes of male homelessness and how a snowball effect happens in many cases which propels men into homelessness

“Some folks are starting to understand that there may be some powerful underlying aspects to homelessness that most are simply not seeing. The sad fact is that most every homeless man may have started out his slide into homelessness with a huge trauma like divorce, death, illness, loss of job and probably more than one of these or others all rolled up into one big plate of stink.

These trauma overload the system of any person, but they are particularly hard for men. Why? Because no one wants to hear his pain, and no one wants to hear his story. When people see a man in pain they run, when they see a woman in pain they consider it a call for action. So men are left alone to deal with huge amounts of pain. Often they find ways to move through it and sometimes they end up paralyzed and homeless.”

Tom also points out how male homelessness, and in fact any issue to do with men’s pain is swept under the carpet. Deliberately.

“Not only are men the majority of the homeless, but homelessness is the dead end for so many other men’s issues. How many homeless men do you think have been raped by the family courts? How many homeless men do you think have been falsely accused? How many homeless men have been victims of domestic violence and ignored? How many homeless men have been severely depressed and overlooked.

The sad fact is that homelessness is the end of the road for many men after they have faced years upon years of misandry, people looking the other way, and no services available when they face hardship and discrimination. Nearly all of the issues we discuss and work to bring into public awareness find their dead end in the two male exit points: homelessness or suicide.”

The over-riding theme is, that when it comes to “men’s issues” in particular male homelessness, the default position seems to be that it “must be his own fault” therefore very little by way of sympathy, compassion or more importantly, services are available to these men.  Can you even imagine in this gynocentric culture such an attitude towards women who find themselves in “crisis” situations? No.  Of course you cannot. I’m not even going to bother putting up links to the innumerable services available to women. You know, and I know that they are there for the taking, in spite of the whining from feminists about the “lack of resources and funding for women’s issues

Men in trouble, men with “issues” are invisible, and are doubly invisible apparently, if they perchance find themselves in the public spotlight in connection with some other more, “worthy of compassion” creature. To what am I referring? I sense you asking in puzzlement. What “other creature” could demand more compassion than a homeless human being?

Answer. A rabbit. Yes, you read that right, a bunny rabbit called Barney. Go take a read of the article linked here, and pay special attention to the comments.

Have you read it? Good. Did you notice something about the comments? Almost all of them focus on the plight of poor Barney the bunny, rather than John the human being.

Let me just say this first, it was absolutely reprehensible what that “youth” did, a terrible thing to do to a poor defenseless animal, and he was rightly punished for it.

But. HELLO! Homeless human being here, homeless MAN here, in fact, a brave compassionate man who dived into the Liffey, (the river that wends its way through Dublin) to save another helpless creature.

Now, to be fair, his story did evoke a response, did result in recognition of not just his bravery and compassion, and did inspire many to make gestures of generosity and compassion towards John, the human being.

Within days he was given a Compassionate Citizen Award for going above and beyond the call of duty to help an animal in need.

His story touched the hearts of thousands of people nationwide, with many offering donations and food.”

But the comments from some of the people who did comment on this story? Unbelievable. For example. This poster quoting John Byrne the homeless man, had this to say.

osmundbullock

{{ “I’ve always had animals on the street with me to keep me company and to keep me happy,” Byrne added. }} Hmmm..really? I suspect the main reason Mr Byrne has animals on the street with him while begging is that it increases his appeal to the sentimental, and gives him a higher income (over and above the one the state gives him). Nothing wrong with that, of course, it’s just good marketing – and certainly no reason to throw the poor rabbit in the river. But one would appreciate a bit of honesty about why it was with him in the first place.

5 Dec 2012 01:53

and

Clem2

138 convictions? Lock this guy up!!! Poor bunny… that was SO cruel ;-/

1 May 11:53

Quite a few focused on the young man who actually threw the rabbit into the river, in particular in light of this revelation.

The court heard that Kearney was brought up in care, has 138 previous convictions and is already in detention at St Patrick’s Institution.”

St Pat’s as it is/was known in Dublin has a less than savoury history, as have many institutions that operated in Ireland, particularly those tasked with the “care” of young boys.

Am I condoning what Gary Kearney, the 20 yr old who threw John Byrnes rabbit Barney into the river did?  Absolutely not, but if you look past the superficial details of this story, if you ignore the carefully crafted hype around the plight of poor Barney, beneath the surface you will see several issues.

First and foremost, a homeless human being, John Byrne, was begging on O’Connell Bridge when Gary Kearney came along and threw his pet into the river.

Outside the court, Byrne, who has been living on the streets for 23 years, said he was in shock when he saw his pet swimming around in circles, looking up at him.”

Did you see that?  23 years living on the street, earlier in the article it states that Mr. Byrne is 37 years old – do the math – he was 14 years old when he became homeless. 14 years old! Now I’m only guessing here, but if Mr. Byrne had alcohol or substance abuse problems, it would’ve been mentioned, in a faux sympathetic way as “poor alcoholic man” but mentioned.  It wasn’t.

Regardless, think about the fact that this man became homeless at 14 years of age, a boy, a child, and here he is 23 years later still homeless, still living on the street!

Can you imagine any woman, whatever her “issues” substance abuse” or whatever would have been left “living on the streets” for 23 years? I certainly cannot.

Now before I continue, this linked article in the online Irish independent has slightly different details than the Huffington Post one, for example it states that Mr. Byrne has been living on the streets for 24 years rather than 23, though still cites his age as 37 years old. Also it does confirm these details.

The court heard the culprit Kearney was brought up in care, has 138 previous convictions and is already in detention at St Patrick’s Institution.”

Both articles confirm Gary Kearney is from Crumlin, a working class area on the south side of Dublin.

With regard to Gary Kearney, the young man convicted of animal cruelty, again absolutely condemn what he did, absolutely endorse his conviction. But, I do find myself wondering, taking into account the limited information given about this young man’s history, and in spite of his abhorrent actions, what detail is missing?

In fact, for what it’s worth, this young man’s history, brought up in care, incarcerated in St. Pats and growing up in a predominately “working class” area, acting in this cruel and reprehensible manner is almost inevitable, not excusable, not justifiable but, inevitable. In fact, after Gary Kearney serves his sentence and the remainder of whatever other sentences he has or receives, and if and when he is released, it is almost also inevitable that Gary Kearney himself will end up living on the same streets as John Byrne. If not inevitably then at least possibly.

Does this make me glad? Absolutely not, do I believe he “deserves” this? Again, absolutely not? Am I just being a “bleeding heart liberal”? Nope. All I am doing is hoping to raise some deeper issues, shed some light on some of the more complex factors that contribute to male homelessness, and perhaps to ask, are the seeds of those factors that lead to male homelessness planted in childhood? In the types of lives that some boys are forced to live? As well as the factors in adult men’s lives as outlined in Tom’s article on AVfM.

Whatever circumstances caused Gary Kearney to grow up “in care” in Ireland, and “in care” in an Irish context* doesn’t have a warm fuzzy connotation to it. Whatever dysfunctional life he was born into that set in motion the events that led up to his throwing poor Barney into the river, and may also have led to John Byrne finding himself homeless and on the streets at 13 or 14 years old, and still on those same streets 23/24 years later. Those factors need to be examined, addressed and as eloquently articulated by Tom Golden made part of the public debate on Men and Boys issues. in answer to Tom’s question “Is homelessness a men’s issue?” My answer is YES it is, but even more it is a Human Rights issue. Are men not Human Beings?

And yes, I am glad that Barney is safe and well and in the care of, what seems to me, a kind and compassionate man like John Byrne.

 

*There really is too much evidence, too many reports, to post links to the level and extent of child abuse perpetrated in Ireland, just type “child abuse in Ireland” into Google and you will get “About 21,500,000 results

 

© Anja Eriud 2013

 Related articles

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/homeless-people-being-failed-by-system-which-lacks-compassion-1.1593985

http://www.trust-ireland.ie/

State Rep. Uses Sledgehammer To Destroy Homeless People’s Possessions(nationalhomelessoutreachday.wordpress.com)