Time, Leo, to man up and deliver…

Paul Hopkins – Talking the Talk

IF you were an alien from some far-flung universe landing Ireland, you’d be forgiven for thinking Ireland a grand little country altogether.

We are inundated with data about the economy, all pointing to a remarkable turnaround in the State’s economic fortunes. Headline growth, at 7.8%, the highest in Europe by a length. Employment growing at a faster-than-expected 3% and the Live Register now close to what it was before the Celtic Tiger rolled over.

‘ Up to 10,000 homelss… an incredible 707,000 on waiting list for hospital procedures…’

Even retail sales, the strongest indicator of consumer confidence, are growing by 6%, though that begs the question have those who shop ‘til they drop penciled in what a post-Brexit scenario and Trump’s tariff wars hold for the future? Remember, it was too much spending got us into trouble the last time around.

Our post-Eight referendum saw us euphoric, if not bordering on the hysterical, and took our eyes off the ball. Sure, Leo and Simon are grand lads, altogether. Now, comes the collapse of Sammon, the uncertainty over whether the builder would be appointed to finish a €100m. schools construction forcing the contractor into liquidation with the loss of 200 jobs.

And the subsequent fears that work on the schools in the South East and elsewhere will not be finished before September.

The Carillion/Sammon debacle is but the tip of the iceberg. Schools using prefab dwellings claim their pupils are being denied equality. Figures show there are more than 1,300 temporary classrooms around the country, an increase of almost a third in the last two years, with some claiming the figure is nearer 1,600.

The Government must do better. As they must, with the escalating housing crisis. Simon Coveney says his department is “dramatically responding” to the crisis and he is pledging up to 10,000 social homes annually.

Try telling that to those among the figures released last week that show that 9,652 people are living in emergency accommodation, including 3,689 children.

Meantime, rents and house prices continue their steady climb, while the banks, culpable in the first instance, continue to evict so, so many unable to meet payments on negative equity.

Alone has just launched a campaign to raise awareness of the crisis among older people, where, it claims, more of such end up on the streets. “At the moment, an older person relying on their contributory pension can’t afford to rent a home,” says CEO Sean Moynihan.

More of us growing older, more in need of increasing health care and accommodation, and dwindling State pension funds – you do the maths…

And please pencil in the alarming figures on those lying on hospital trolleys – 9,100 nationwide in April, an incredible 707,000 still waiting for procedures – the shortage of medical personnel as our well-trained nurses and doctors continue to emigrate, the cervical smear scandal – and now the cases of children with hearing problems – the decentralised bureaucracy of the HSE and the Slainte health-care proposals that continues to gather dust…

Since 2013, GDP has grown by 50%, the value of the Irish economy now close to €300 billion, 56% higher than it was at the peak of the Celtic Tiger in 2007.

Needless to say, Irish people are not 50% better off. Far from it. Telling people there’s an economic turnaround when it’s not translating into bread on the table and a roof over their head is a dangerous thing, as the Government found to its cost at the last election.

Fear not Leo, you’ll be okay. Enda is getting a €328,000 lump sum and €126,000 a year pension.

Meantime, State pension age for the rest of us is jumping to 68 years…