In a compelling interview, one working class Irish couple speak to the New York Times about the financial difficulties they face every day as a result of Ireland’s downturn.
Speaking from their home in County Louth, Brian and Rosie Condra say the Celtic Tiger, meant for the first time in their lives they could do more than simply makes ends meet.
“We were on the up and up,” Mr. Condra said.
“It’s like we drew the lottery ticket made in hell,” said Mr. Condra, who says he gets by with only two pairs of shoes, one for work, so that he can afford to meet the needs of his growing children.
“Suddenly we see that the Europe we’ve bought into isn’t a golden utopia.”
The Condras’, who both work in public service jobs in hospitals and as a result have seen their wages cut by 20 percent on the last two years, with further spending cuts and further tax cuts on the horizon.
Now they say their biggest fear is making their mortgage repayments every month.
“Now we’re terrified that we won’t be able to pay our mortgage, and could move into social housing,” Brian Condra said.
“It’s the psychological impact of austerity that bites the hardest and lasts the longest,” the father added.
Two years ago, before the recession hit, Condra’s take home pay working as a hospital porter was 1,200 euros ($1,718) a month. The couple began saving for their children’s education and secured a loan to purchase their first home. But as Ireland’s banking crisis hit, his pay was gradually reduced and he know takes home 240 euros ($344) less a month. His wife’s income also fell, as she was forced to reduce her weekly hours so the couple could spend less on their childcare bill.
The biggest fear now for the father of three is for his children’s future and that they do not get caught up in a poverty trap.
The married couple have stopped saving for their children’s schooling, they no longer pay their electricity bill on time and a vacation trip is out of the question.
The hospital porter spends an hour on the bus to and from work each day, as added expense of a car is not feasible.
The couple told the New York Times that almost everyone they know is having difficulty with their mortgage repayments and one neighbor expecting to foreclose in the coming weeks. In April alone, eight homes in their working class neighborhood were burgled.
The future according the Louth man is bleak, who admits he tries to stay positive: “you have to hope for the best and plan for the worst. Because in Ireland, we haven’t gotten past the worst yet.”