The country has a temporary government, political parties are still unable to create a working coalition, and a public health emergency is changing the way we live and threatening to turn the Finance Department’s public spending calculations inside out.
It’s likely that the economic consequences of the Covid-19 trauma will be as grave, in the short term at least, as those of the financial meltdown in 2008. Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin are right when they say the crisis will pass, and that, as the Taoiseach said during his short stay Washington DC, “… in time, our lives will go back to normal”.
But what is his idea of “normal”? Normality for many working in the public sector — health, education, and the Defence Forces — means severe cash and staff shortages. These problems will be in ministerial in-trays when normalcy is restored, and among them — still — will be homelessness.
Our special report today highlights the work being done in Dublin by the country’s first homeless night café, where a mat on the floor can, for some, be an alternative to a blanket or a sleeping bag in a wet doorway, and the challenges faced by staff at the Central Placement Service and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive. These are the men and women who, shift after shift, try to help those pleading for emergency accommodation. Unlike politicians, they see the very sharp end of the housing crisis.
They know that the causes of homelessness are many and varied: Marriage breakdowns, job losses, drugs, unmanageable debts, and sheer misfortune.
For immigrants, dreams of stability and prosperity can be shattered by happenstance in a new land that cannot provide them with a decent home. The workers who each day and night hear all of these stories are unlikely to share with Mr Varadkar his notion of normality.