HAT’S it all about? That is what many people will ask in exasperation as the Christmas rush reaches a crescendo.
This year, we have seen contrasting fortunes, as the better-off who have benefitted from the economic uplift jet off once again to places like New York to do their Christmas shopping. On the other hand, there are far more families despairing at the thought of how they are going to fulfil their children’s hopes for Christmas and these are people with jobs who find it difficult to make ends meet because of rent prices, while others even less fortunate may be living in hotels, B&Bs and other emergency accommodation enduring an interminably long wait for social housing.
Our Taoiseach and government who spend so much of their time trying to put a flattering ‘spin’ on how good we have it, should be ashamed of themselves in light of the straitened circumstances so many people find themselves in and this highlights the fact that their understanding of the true reality of life today is lacking, as is their empathy at times.
It is alarming that Cork Penny Dinners should have more people coming to them now for food than there was during the economic downturn – a sure sign that the rising tide is not lifting all boats. The gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is widening and this is breeding understandable simmering resentment.
Caitriona Twomey of Penny Dinners in Cork said: ‘It’s time politicians stepped up to the mark. We can see the people that are hurting when politicians are doing nothing. Now we need the government to go above and beyond.’ She said that they would be able to solve the problem of food at Christmas, but she warned that, ‘in 2019, we need to get it right.’
Officially, we’re told, there are almost 10,000 people homeless, but some charities and social justice advocacy organisations put the true figure at over 11,000 and almost a third of these are children. There are 110,000 families seeking social housing, but nowhere near enough houses either being built or acquired to meet the demand.
Then, we have a public health service that is creaking at the seams – through no fault of the over-worked frontline staff – with 700,000 people on waiting lists for consultations or treatment. Where’s the Christmas cheer for the people suffering as a result of the ineptitude of successive governments?
Of course, we would like to be more upbeat for this festive season – and we should all do our best to enjoy it – but we really need to reflect on what we can do on a personal level to alleviate the plight of those less fortunate; then do it! And, as always, look in on elderly neighbours to see if they need any help or company.