February 3, 2011 at 10:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


This is the voice of the poor. It is almost never heard. It may not be heard at all during the election campaign. Yet, this is our country too.

This is who we are.

We are one of these:

620,000                 people who live at risk of poverty;

140,000                 who are long-term unemployed;

40,000                   who are Travellers;

15,425                   who were committed to prison in 2009;

5,694                     who are children in care;

5,582                     who are in direct-provision hostels.

5,000                     who are homeless

4,000                     with disabilities who live in outdated institutions

This is our country too.

Let me tell you a bit more about us. You may not know. We live in the land of whys. Perhaps you can answer.

80% of Travellers leave school before completing their 2nd level education. Why?

In 2009 155 children were admitted into adult psychiatric hospitals, which is regarded as a breach of international human rights. Why?

In the ten years to 2009, 501 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children went missing from state care. Why?

Almost 20% of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have attempted suicide in Ireland. Why?

Lone-parent families are up to ten times more at risk of poverty than other families. Why?

Men in the poorest parts of our country live on average four years less than those in more affluent areas. Why?

199 children and young adults died in State care or known to social services in the ten years up to 2010. Why?

The Bertelsmann Foundation found that Ireland was the 5th most socially unjust country in the OECD behind Chile, Mexico, Greece and Turkey. Why?

Ireland has the lowest acceptance rate in the EU for refugee status – 1%. Why?

The OECD has shown that just ⅓ of those with disabilities are employed in Ireland and ¼ live on less than 50% of the national median income. Why?

More than 4,000 people with disabilities are confined to outdated and unsuited institutions of care. Why?

Only 21% of the State’s community mental health teams have their full staff and disciplinary complement. Why?

The safe number of prisoners in Mountjoy is 540. Yet there were over 670 there on many days in 2009. Why?

There is no allocated social worker for 20% of our children in care. Why?

Out of 21,000 reports of child abuse or neglect, no social worker has been allocated to more than 6,500 of them. Why?

In the ten-year period up to 2009 there were 3,183 prosecutions for welfare fraud involving €43 million and 39 prosecutions for tax evasion involving €2.25 billion. Why?

Less than half of the 600 promised primary health care teams have been established. Why?

Life expectancy for Traveller men is 61.7. This was the national average in the 1940s and is 15 years lower than settled men today. Traveller women life expectancy is 70, 11.5 years lower than settled women. Why?

Only 13.8% of Travellers are in mainstream employment. Why?

Suicide rates are seven times higher among Traveller men than settled. Why?

We live on the underside of your society. You don’t really know us. Perhaps you barely see us. But we are here, silent and silenced. It is not an accident that we are here. The top 10% of income earners have 24.48% of all disposable income. We, the bottom 10%, have 2.28%. The bottom half of our society have 25.25% of all disposable income. 25% of families in this country in 2006, when the Celtic tiger was roaring, lived on incomes of less than €20,000. 58% lived on less than €40,000. 5% had incomes of €134,000 on average.

These are all facts. But they are dry figures. They don’t really tell our story. Ours is a story of waiting, of anxiety, of shame, of fear, of anger, of loss. But it is also one of hope. Despite all, we endure, we go on. Despite all, we have a dream of a better world. Our hope is a hope for everyone.

Now you know why. This is the society you have created. We want it to change. That is our call. That is our hope. Will you do it? Will you vote to really change it on February 25th?

If not, why not?


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