Ireland has become so expensive and costs have risen so much since I lived here in 2000 that struggling artists like me coming to live and write here can forget it. San Francisco is cheaper in every way.
Only recently a survey of all European cities put Dublin as the fifth most expensive city in which to live, above London and Paris, which if you told me that twenty years ago I would have thought you were insane.
Today it is very bad, cost-wise, for everything. Americans would be shocked at the cost to fill their gas tank here; clothes are twice the cost of what they are in the US; electrical goods, iPhones and accessories are three times the cost that they are in in the US.
The list is endless: new cars; electricity; public transportation is at least four times the cost in the states, even a coffee here in Starbucks will set you back $6 for a medium latte. And we Americans just love our bargains, but you won’t find many in the land of green or now the land of greed.
I was at a kiosk chain coffee shop recently and being a struggling writer, I had my own coffee, milk and even my own cup. All I needed was the hot water already boiled in the kiosk’s water boiler. The assistant kindly gave me hot water for my coffee, but requested I pay one euro (roughly about $1.06) for a cup of hot water.
When I protested, he said he wouldn’t be giving me back my cup with my own coffee and milk and his hot water. The shocking thing about all this is the kiosk belonged to an Irish State company (which means the Irish taxpayer pays for its existence).
Americans would find this hard to believe, but the Irish Prime Minister is paid more than most European leaders who oversee about 50 million more people than the 4.5 million people Enda Kenny oversees. His answer when asked about his salary of well over $3,500 a week was that he “was worth it.”
Now George W. Bush, when he was President, came out with some howlers in his press conferences, but surely George W. would have found something more intelligent and humane to say than he was “worth it.”
The Kenny comments were crass especially now since so many Irish middle class families are suffering financially from the very high Irish living costs, the cost of housing and rental accommodation, property rates, and now the water rates in an ever-wet rainy country called Ireland.
The Irish will then jab at the US healthcare system and our social welfare programs for those out of work. I look around me in Ireland and listen to all the news of social welfare cuts left, right, and center. As for the Irish healthcare system it might be free but you could spend up to eight to 12 hours on a hospital trolley waiting for the hospital to find you a bed. Of course, this depends on the location of the hospital and the nature of your emergency.
I know what most working Americans would say, I am happy my employer pays for mine or I am happy I pay monthly for my own healthcare plan rather than spend eight to 12 hours on a hospital trolley in an Irish hospital corridor with no guarantee of a bed in a busy Irish Emergency Room.
My personal story today is my shock at how Irish dentists have taken the green out of green and turned it into greed, greed; greed. Some years ago Irish dentists did very well when the Irish State paid for their services for patients who were in low income bracket or unemployed.
Then the Government cutbacks started to eat into those services they provided. My bone of contention with Irish dentists is this – I know dental materials are very expensive, but their profession is not like when you or I go into a store to buy some item. They are also in the healthcare profession and denying people immediate care because it is no longer covered by the Irish taxpayer is plain and simply wrong and immoral.
For too many years I have listened to Irish dentists criticize American dentists, always pointing out that they are driven by money. My recent serious and very unpleasant experience through no fault of my own has left me in no doubt that Irish dentists are now the equal of American dentists when it comes to their appetite to be paid on the spot, even as the blood is flowing from your mouth following required, important oral medical attention.
I highlighted the word medical because that is what dentists are trained to be: doctors. Hence, they have the letters Dr. before their names.
Today in Ireland, and especially in Dublin city, if a dentist pulled your tooth and you didn’t pay the bill there and then, I could see him or her hammering that tooth back into your mouth (unless the costs were covered by a Medical Card, which the government offers to those who are unemployed or on low income).
So there I was on Monday, March 16, the day before the world went green for St. Paddy’s Day in my old dentist’s practice. I had been with him on and off for six years in the past. I traveled 200 miles from Dublin city into rural Ireland for urgent teeth repair.
A misunderstood message meant that when I arrived the dentist in the practice who is covered by my health insurance was off for the week. The owner of the practice stood there and demanded payment there and then. It was not a massive sum, but I would not have it until payday (Thursday, March 19).
Did he budge when I promised that he would get it when I was paid? No. Unlike in America, no post-dated checks were accepted. Nothing. Pay now or no service. Actually, I do not need "a service." I need oral medical emergency work, which I require through no fault of my own.
I had traveled 200 miles to get this emergency repair done (as Dublin dentists are rip off merchants). I was hungry, tired and fed up with the cold, wet Irish weather and there he was standing over me with his paw out for money which I wouldn't have until I got paid three days later.
Sure he might not have trusted me, but then the signs all over his waiting room showed he trusted no one, pay now or we’ll send the heavies after you. Seriously though, I would understand if I was a stranger who had walked in off the street, but I was his patient for almost six years in the past and he was never stiffed by me then for any dental work he had done. I was embarrassed because no matter what payment plan I suggested, he wanted payment there and then.
I think it has to be one of the saddest sights – a patient leaving a dentist's office with his tooth parts unrepaired, in his hand all because the paycheck will not be in the bank for three more days. Anger, hurt and sadness would be an understatement of what I felt and confused as to what had happened to my old country, Ireland.
As I left his surgery the newspaper headlines screeched that Irish Government ministers would be spending over $215,000 of the taxpayer’s money on trips abroad for St. Patrick’s week, leaving only one government minister to run the country. Bob Geldof was right in the 1980’s – Ireland was (and still is) a “Banana Republic.”
All I can say to all of you in America traveling to Ireland this summer is: Cead Mile Failte to “Rip off Ireland.” As for me – I’m heading back to the good old USA.