It's the best of times or it's the worst of times in Ireland, depending on who's talking.
This week's news of rapid economic growth in the Irish economy contrasts sharply with the exploding numbers of homeless people sleeping rough on the nation's streets.
First the good news. The Irish economy has grown by an eyebrow raising 10.5 per cent (year on year) in the third quarter of 2017. “Gross domestic product (GDP) accelerated by 4.2 per cent in the third quarter alone amid a pick-up in personal consumption and further growth in exports,” the Irish Times reported this week. “This was nearly eight times the growth rate recorded in the euro zone as a whole.”
Impressive, or alarming. Take your pick.
But there's another parallel Ireland in which the booms and busts of these volatile markets don't seem to make any difference, even at Christmas.
At 8,374, the number of homeless people in Ireland is now at the largest number recorded in the history of the state.
It's as if one section of the nation has entirely decoupled from the other. It sounds as if attitudes on both sides are hardening too. The Irish left, increasingly enraged by government inaction on the exploding homeless crisis, are casting about for a viable third way politics that offers the homeless more than political platitudes. To them the homeless crisis represents a foundational challenge that asks who the Irish have become as a people?
Speaking at the Songs And Words For A Home For All event outside Leinster House this week (organized by the group Inner City Helping Homeless) Oscar-winning songwriter Glen Hansard reworked the lyrics of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's “Happy Christmas/War Is Over” thusly:
“A very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, let's hope it's a better one, get your arses in gear: Eoghan Murphy, Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar, what's the story? A doorway's no place, to be sleeping, a hotel's no place, to raise your children.”
Recent reports about the housing crisis have failed to note that tens of thousands of Irish families are now in mortgage arrears, placing many of them at the mercy of foreign vulture funds who are more aggressive in their repossession attempts.
Soon they may be thrown out of their homes according to veteran campaigner Paul McVerry, who also spoke at the Home For All event this week and has called for a national day of protest on April 7.
Meanwhile in a scathing takedown of the country's prime minister Leo Varadkar and deputy prime minister Simon Coveney Irish film director Terry McMahon accused Coveney of deceit.
The people of Ireland have elected people to protect them who actually “do not care if you and your mother and your father and your brothers and sisters die in a doorway,” McMahon told Home For All rally.
On Friday just 19 TD's (ministers) attended a morning debate on child homelessness in the Dail (parliament). Only 13 were present at the beginning of the debate.