If in a ‘western’, civilised society, we have people living, sleeping and dying on the streets, then we have failed. We have failed as a society, failed as a community; we have failed our fellow beings and their families and we have failed ourselves. An Ireland for all has become a laughing stock, a hideous picture of corporate greed where a Government fights to overturn a dodgy tax deal and give a corporation the tax they should pay back, before dealing with thousands of empty homes and homelessness.
We could talk endlessly about spikes in doorways, seats designed to stop you sitting or lying for too long, ASBOs and one way train tickets; we could talk about how we devalue life, how we degrade other humans, how we do it every fucking day, how we let it happen, every, fucking, day. We step over the homeless, we clear doorways, we dump the rubbish in spots they call home and we complain about the smell.
We try to ship them elsewhere.
We could talk endlessly about how successive governments seem to have made a mess of fixing the issue time and time again; about how some councils seem more inclined to save a few quid on cladding and fire safety, about how that is more cost effective than looking after those more unfortunate than ourselves. How Dublin City Council are rushing to demolish Apollo House before another Christmas highlights just how empty this city centre building is, how its usefulness is allowed to rot.
To our governments and councils, homelessness is something to be swept away, along with the poor. They don’t bring inward investment, they clutter the streets up and block doorways. This shouldn’t be a surprise, publicly funded and charitable hostels are cleared every morning, people with multiple, desperate needs thrown out to fend for themselves with nothing but an old coat on their back to keep out the winter. Everything to cut costs and save the public purse.
To hell with how many souls are lost in a death trap of a tower, that five quid a square meter has value elsewhere. Right?
In the last year Dublin City Council has spent in the region of one million Euros to secure and maintain a 24 hour watch on Apollo House, god forfend someone might want to use it to tackle the greatest number of rough sleepers Dublin has seen in a generation. An audit taken on November 7th put the number at 184. 184 mothers, fathers, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, all left to rot on the street because the system, the Government simply doesn’t care. Life expectancy for a homeless woman in Dublin is 38, for a man it is 42. I’d be dead by now. How much time would you have left?
We’re better than this surely?
I reprint this from Terry McMahon, delivered at the Axis Theatre in Dublin about one year ago by way of an explanation for the taking of Apollo House. It is a remarkable speech, filled with rage and anger. One we should all aim to repeat. Every Day.
So little has changed in that time that is frustrating to watch, the only answer for us is to demand more of our politicians, its all very well letting lose on Facebook, its all very well to get angry on Twitter. But here’s a thing, lift the phone, call your representatives, call them and demand more. Write to them, demand a change. Because I for one and sick sore and tired of putting up with a world where people have to sleep in doorways and on benches. When we’ve allowed them to.
This Is Our IrelandA hundred years ago men and women fought a bloodywar for our better future. The most idealistic among us,the bravest among us, the best among us, from everyrung of society, put everything on the line for ourIreland. They are the forefathers of our revolution. Weare the sons and daughters of their sacrifice. And wehave failed them. Miserably. Horribly. Shamefully.This is our Ireland and it’s a different war now.Insidious. Malignant. Cancerous. Idealists are liars.Heroes are cowards. Bullets are banks and bombs arebig business. They don’t call this war a Rising. Or aRevolution. They call it Austerity. People are profitmargins now. Politics is criminal negligence. Death iscollateral damage. In this one year, the centenary of1916, more people have died by their own hand thanwere killed in the entire Easter Rising. In the eight yearssince the implementation of Austerity, more peoplehave committed suicide than were killed in the entirethirty years of the Northern Irish Troubles. This is ourIreland and a hundred years after 1916, Austerity is notjust a lie, Austerity is murder.This is our Ireland. Where corporations can operate tax-free with impunity. Where natural resources can bepurchased for a song. Where our leaders can lie on theworld stage about our national recovery. Where stateprotected banks can rip people from their homes andvulture capitalists can peck at the carcasses. Wherefamilies can be burned to death and survivors can bedumped in concrete car parks. Where the Census Officecan report a quarter of a million empty properties andthe homeless can fuck off and die.This is our Ireland. As ideals fought for by people braverthan us are systematically destroyed, one human rightat a time. And still we wait. As citizens and non-citizens,in second-hand sleeping bags, lie on the cold concrete,while elected and non-elected scum, in three-piece suits,protect the criminally corrupt. And still we wait. As ourparents or grandparents lie terrified on a hospitaltrolley or slumped alone on an emergency room chair.As our children or grandchildren make plans to leavethe country and never look back or put ropes roundtheir necks because of the legacy we handed them. Assheriffs come knocking for the keys to our doors and therights to our homes. All in the name of Austerity. Thatcon. That scam. That lie. That blood splatter.And. Still. We. Wait.This is our Ireland. Which is why we have no intentionof causing any hurt. Which is why we will operate withinthe law. As much as possible. Which is why, as long as aquarter of a million properties lie empty and ourgovernment continue to do nothing, we will fight toensure nobody else dies in a doorway. We are doing thisto show the forgotten forefathers, the futuregenerations and the entire world that Ireland is madeup of a proud and protective people who will use ourstrength to look after our most vulnerable. We are doingthis to become the change we yearned for.This is our Ireland. Not the government’s. Not thebank’s. Not the corporation’s. Not the dehumanizingscum who know the price of everything and the value ofnothing. Ireland belongs to the dreamers, the fighters.the explorers; the deeply rooted, the Traveller and therecently arrived; the pink-skinned, brown skinned andevery in-between skinned; the old, the young, thestraights, the LGBTs, and the sitting on the fencers.Ireland belongs to the musicians, the poets, the artists,and to the audience; the vulnerable, the special needs,the carers; the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisterswho find the courage to wake up every day and fight forour better future. Ireland belongs to the people whomake you proud to know them. The storytellers whomake you crack up laughing then break down weeping.Ireland belongs to the innumerable beautiful bastardsknown worldwide for their humanity. Their decency.Their goddamn Irishness.Our freedom was fought for a hundred years ago, andtoday we ask ourselves what are we prepared to do forthe people who need us most? We ask ourselves, if notus, who? If not now, when? And finally, we ask ourselveswhen exactly did we allow a tiny coterie of controllingclass scum make us forget what a fucking sublimenation we are?This is our Ireland.Terry McMahon2016