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Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s heartfelt speech at the Labour Party Conference reflected the harsh and extreme reality endured by many Irish households. But the time for emotive language and patriotism has long since passed.
Counting coins and raiding every possible stowaway is all too familiar for those struggling to pay the bills and make ends meet. How can we afford diesel, milk, bread, ham, and butter?
Chances are you don’t know me or some of the problems my family face on a regular basis. I put on a brave front or a false smile, but inside I’m hurting. I’m angry, but do not hate; sorry, but blessed and grateful. I have the clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and enough food to get me through the day.
Mr Gilmore praised the resilience of hard-pressed families and distressed borrowers, saying that their sacrifices have edged Ireland closer to recovery.
“For six long years, our country and our people have been to hell and back. Since 2008, we have been through the worst economic crisis in our history,” he said.
There are only so many cuts, taxes, and charges that ordinary people are willing and able to take. Pension levies, water and household rates, increased third-level fees, and reduced wages are crushing those already vulnerable — an economic noose so to speak. Why does someone have to be on the dole for three months before they can get an internship under the JobBridge scheme?
The issue of blame is something of a political football. Fianna Fáil will downplay and ridicule the coalition at every opportunity. Fine Gael and Labour will hit back, claiming that the country wouldn’t be in this mess had the previous cohort done their job.
Yet, we see little or no action taken against those who brought the country to its knees, and those who can afford to pay.
However, his most poignant point came in regard to living standards and the question on everybody’s lips, the future.
This will resonate with those in mortgage arrears and struggling with debt, those leaving our shores for a better quality of life elsewhere, and those suffering from the depths of depression.
“Too many of our people are still just getting by from day to day, and from week to week. Existing, rather than living. Too many people are worried about what next week and next month will bring, and about the future of their children.
“These are the people for whom we have to make the recovery real.”
Is it greed to want to live, not merely exist?
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