Won't somebody please think of the poor posh boys? 1 year ago

Won't somebody please think of the poor posh boys?

Over the course of 2018, Ireland's homelessness figures have risen to roughly 9,900.

3,824 of them are children. Rents are now higher than their Celtic Tiger peak. Across the country, people are asking questions of Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

When the Dáil returns, it will vote on a motion of no confidence in the 36-year-old TD from Dublin 4, proposed by Sinn Féin.

But this weekend, anyone with concerns about Murphy was politely told to, hey, ya know, give it a rest.

Dr. Elaine Byrne's article in the Sunday Business Post (€) contended that "reverse snobbery" is the real root cause of the country's ire. Rather than the details outlined above, the country's real problem with Murphy is his accent, and where he was schooled.

Nonsense.

The phrase "reverse snobbery" should not even be allowed to enter our lexicon. The idea that somebody can be victimised for being rich is predicated on a weird logic that would also allow for someone to be mocked for being too handsome, or too healthy. You can't be disadvantaged by things that are inherently advantageous.

Eoghan Murphy isn't just being criticised because he's from a wealthy background. He's being criticised because he has not proved himself capable of the most basic demands of his job.

Nobody is disputing the idea that this crisis can't be solved overnight — but the idea that we should be scared to criticise, or indeed put pressure on, our public officials, is harmful.

Throughout Eoghan Murphy's tenure, homelessness has only increased. Rent has gone up. Fewer and fewer people can afford to put a roof over their heads.

It is entirely worthwhile for the Irish people to consider why that might be.

Could it be because Murphy has never experienced first-hand the benefits that social housing can offer? Could it be because that throughout his entire education and professional life he has had extremely limited face-time with those who are affected by issues like poverty and homelessness?

Could it be because his ideology is informed by his background and his privileges, as is the case for so many people?

We don't like to talk about economic ideology in Ireland, because it brings us face to face with the worrisome reality that the only two political parties who have ever governed us have the very same one. An unwavering belief in the free market, and letting private landowners and contractors and developers and businesses and banks make their own rules as much as possible.

People like Leo Varadkar and Eoghan Murphy simply do not believe that building social housing is the correct answer to the housing crisis.

They believe that the solution is to build hotels, so that more money trickles into our economy from industries like tourism. They believe that the solution is to keep corporation tax low, so that high income earners from abroad will relocate here in order to work for companies that screw us on their tax bill. Because, you see, they don't believe there is a crisis.

There are schools of thought that believe that in order for the economy to function, there is an acceptable level of homelessness. A systemic level of poverty that conforms to the broader philosophical algorithm. In order for GDP to grow by this much, this many people might just have to deal with being poor.

It's that kind of thinking that allows a politician to see five-digit homelessness in our tiny, not-densely-populated, full-of-vacant-houses country, and think "this is fine".

The Taoiseach has acknowledged this himself, less than a year ago, when pressed on the homelessness figures by The Journal. Outside the Fine Gael National Conference, he said: “We are actually a country by international standards compared with our peers that has a low level of homelessness. They’re the stats and we can provide them for you and that of course is a good thing. It’s a good thing that in Ireland we’ve a low level of homelessness compared to our peer countries."

Fine Gael

Never mind that Ireland itself is breaking its own homelessness records with every new report. That's not what Varadkar and Murphy are concerned about. But don't call them posh boys! That would be uncalled for.

Appeals to Irish begrudgery are effective, surely. There's no denying that, as a people, we don't deal well with those who make themselves out to be important. Even at the best of times, we are unhappy with the behaviour of our government officials.

But to use this old trope to paper over the very real cracks that Fine Gael are pounding into the pavement is an insult. Worse, even. It stymies the progress of movements that are demanding solutions to a problem that is resulting in ever increasing hardship.

Assuming that everyone who has been affected by the renting crisis has been bothered to look into Eoghan Murphy's background is also pretty blinkered — and the kind of thing you'd only think if you're paying too much attention to Twitter and not enough attention to the material world, where people can be cold and hungry.

Hell, I'll confess right here and right now: I don't even know what school Eoghan Murphy went to. And I certainly don't care. If you told me he was raised by wolves, I'd still think he should be building more social housing.

To argue that Eoghan Murphy is a victim of "reverse snobbery" is to forgive him for every homeless child, every evicted family and every economic migrant.

It is to paint the people who are concerned by these issues as the bad guys. To paint the ones failing to stop it as the victims. It's an insult, and it shouldn't go unchallenged.

The posh boys get enough protection as it is. There are other people who need it more.