A couple of days ago I got a phone call from a man who started off his chat with the words “I hope you voted for Peter Casey”.
I told him I hadn’t, which didn’t impress him much. He then started to talk about the new rung in Irish society, i.e. the Squeezed Middle. The man told me of a conversation he recently had with two schoolteachers who are married to one another and who are both working in Dublin.
Basically they told him that they cannot afford to even think about starting a family, such is the crippling cost of childcare, and they also told him that they can never dream of trying to buy their own house – an amazing situation considering they are two highly educated people, both of whom are working, and effectively – as teachers – responsible for the education of our next generation.
As Peter Casey did earlier, the man contrasted their situation with that of the travellers in Tipperary who turned down the six new houses which had been built at a cost to the taxpayer of €1.7m. It is easy to see why the Squeezed Middle are becoming more and more restless.
Later that evening I spoke with an educated professional person, and in her opinion we now have a three-tier society – the social welfare one (where certain sections seem to get everything from free housing to free medical services to fuel and footwear allowances, etc.), the very wealthy who don’t contribute anywhere near their fair share to the economy, and the Squeezed Middle, who get caught for everything and now have nowhere to turn.
The latter group’s problem is that they are earning too much to qualify for any social welfare, but the cuts which they suffered during the recession mean they are now stuck in no man’s land, and the banks (who had to be bailed out by all of these P.A.Y.E. earners because of their own outrageous mismanagement) have turned their backs on the very people who saved them – and their extremely strict mortgage guidelines mean these middle-income earners are now trapped in a poverty trap.
In Dublin it is not uncommon to be paying up to €1800/€2000 a month in rent for a two-bedroomed property, and despite continuous promises of its intention to address this, the Government has done nothing about it (or certainly achieved nothing).
The teachers I am talking about are stuck with the outrageous rent prices that are being charged now. As in the case of a lot of people, they could buy their own house for less monthly outlay than they are now paying if the banks would only give them a mortgage.
It’s the classic Catch 22 situation, but the fact that 340,000 people voted for an unknown candidate simply because he highlighted the unfair treatment of a section of our society must surely make our politicians more than a little uneasy. Maybe it will force them to act. We’ll wait and see, but we’re not holding our breath.
Now we all know that there are true, genuine social welfare recipients out there, who need all the help they get, but we also know that large numbers are trying to milk the system, while a good number of our millionaires and billionaires have overseas residences’, and in some cases pay very little tax, even on money made in Ireland.
The truth is that the middle-income earner is an easy target, and is getting hit at every turn. I believe he, and she, has had enough, and the revolution may be just around the corner.
My prescription: Cut back on claims culture
Sometimes you would wonder as to what sort of world we live in today. One of the biggest causes of concern to me, and to many ordinary people like me, is the big surge in legal claims against every type of company and individual – and the huge sums of money that are being awarded for what often appear to be relatively minor complaints.
One of the areas that seems to be particularly vulnerable is the medical services sector. I have to say that if I was a doctor or a consultant (or any type of medical professional), I would need to make sure that I had adequate insurance in place.
Now nobody wants to see patients or their families suffer as a result of medical negligence, but it seems to me that hardly a day goes by without some claim or other making the national papers. Sometimes I think we expect too much from our overworked, stressed-out medical professionals. No matter how well educated and trained our doctors and nurses are, it is not possible for them to be immune from making mistakes, particularly as they are dealing with something as complicated as the human body.
I have to say that if I was young and starting out in life, even if I had the ability I would turn my back on a life in medicine. Even tradesmen, who are working with lifeless objects, can get things wrong occasionally, so is it any wonder mistakes can be made on the human body, which has so many different bits and pieces involved in making it up?
Now I am not showing favour to any side, as I am well aware at how traumatic a wrong diagnosis can be, but it just seems to me that there is a neverending stream of lawsuits going on. If it continues like this, will anyone at all train to become a doctor? If not, we will eventually have no health service at all.
Another feature of our society is the reality that there are several fraudulent claims being made (across the board, not necessarily against medical personnel) and there are families and gangs who make hundreds of thousands of euro through staged accidents and other such scams year in year out. For ordinary, everyday folk, this goes against the grain. I think we would all be better off if we saw less lawsuits and lower monetary awards.
Sporting success stories
Finally for this week, yesterday afternoon I took a stroll around the grounds of Creggs Rugby Club, where the floodlights for the new 4G pitch were being erected. In the cold light of day it is an amazing sight and a development that the club and the village should be rightly proud of.
When all is done there will be a total of five full-size rugby pitches in a village with a population of about 100 people. I am told the first match on the new pitch, and under the new lights, will take place in a couple of weeks or so. All I can say is make it your business to get there, as in every way – both in terms of the rugby the teams are playing and the way the club is developing – this a great local success story.
Talking of success stories, well done to our neighbours Fuerty on winning the Intermediate Football Championship last Saturday and to St. Brendan’s ladies on winning the Connacht Intermediate Final last Sunday.
Going back a week or two ago, it was great to see Aidan Tully’s beloved Kilglass Gaels finally winning the County Junior Championship after a few years of heartbreak. Congratulations also to our good friends (sometimes) from St. Joseph’s, Kilteevan, a club we in Creggs have had a lot in common with down through the years…well done on winning the league title, and if any victory was better celebrated, I would be very surprised.
When all we hear is doom and gloom about the decline of rural Ireland, it’s great to realise that sport, in whatever guise, can lift the spirits of so many small communities. All of these different villages (including Athleague after their great County Hurling Final win) will get through the winter in a better way as a result of their exploits on the sporting fields.
So congrats to them all, and also to John Whyte, who became President of Creggs last week. Great performances from all involved – well done!
Till next week, Bye for now!