Will your lifestyle survive?
By Kathy Sheridan, Saturday, April 11, 2009,
irishtimes.com/newspaper/wee … 33619.html
THE GARDA and the Army have been refreshing their riot-control skills in recent times. Clearly, the fear is that the Irish might emulate their French and Greek counterparts and stage a peasants’ revolt. But even Opposition party members are taken aback by the “rather eerie silence” around the constituencies in the wake of the emergency Budget, writes KATHY SHERIDAN
“The only flashpoint was the Pat Kenny show with Brian Lenihan,” says one Fine Gaeler. That programme featured a 51-year-old teacher on €63,000 who stood to lose €800-€900 a month. Although she might be considered better off than most, she claimed to understand “how people go home and hang themselves”.
MEANWHILE, IRENE WINTERS , a Fine Gael councillor in Wicklow town, notes the swelling number of “asset-rich” self-employed (disqualified from benefits) reduced to living on food parcels left on the doorstep. “They are the new poor,” she says. “They can’t eat their bricks and mortar. A big part of the problem is that property values are so over-rated by estate agents and the banks, who can’t afford to reflect the worthlessness in the balance sheet. If people think it’s bad now, they really have no idea of what’s coming down the line.
“The first thing that has to happen is that the Department has to sit down and review how they do their assessments. We need a new system for the new poor.”
Meanwhile, Caroline, a mother of four from Castleknock, Dublin, is reeling at the prospect of further inroads into her family’s income. “I was a civil servant; my husband is a guard. We’re a well-educated couple. I would always have felt we were middle-class; our aspirations were always middle-class. We planned to send our girls to Mount Sackville [a private secondary school near Phoenix Park].
“I would certainly have wanted them to go to college. I would never have thought of the swimming lessons and the music lessons and the Gaeltacht in the summer as luxuries – just part of a normal rounded education. But that’s all gone now. If one of our children goes to university, I’d be surprised.”
But they were “already poor”, she says, even at the height of the boom. “Even then, we qualified for the GP medical card, because our income was so low.”
IF CAROLINE STRUGGLES with what it now means to be “middle-class”, Ruth is unquestionably in that bracket. Ballet and piano lessons and private healthcare costing €2,000 a year are part of the family fabric.