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I don’t know who/what I loathe more: the grandstander goons hopping about on the nation’s paint-chipped bargain patios or the government and health agencies who’ve pulled much-needed funding for life-sapping human diseases, but either way I’ve a pain in the proverbial with the ice bucket challenge (IBC). I found the ‘no make-up selfie’ frenzy aggravating enough [women reassuring other women that they still looked ‘pretty’ or ‘lovely’ without the splat while being utterly convinced of their own sincerity] but there’s something about this latest on-line delirium that marks the end of autonomy as we know it. What would’ve been considered ugly chain mail in more saner times is now a marker for cyber success and skewed social acceptance. If you don’t comply, you’re anti-charity, a spoilsport, uncompassionate, selfish, a schismatic ne’er-do-well.
I have tried to picture the child estate agent to be: pasty and sulky, selling on satchel-warmed lemon curd sandwiches or a half-eaten Mars bar in the school playground for a stupidly inflated price. Failing English grammar and spelling tests…dreaming of a commission-loaded life with a leatherette clipboard and a Smart car. A life of ‘gently urging’ people to buy poorly constructed plywood homes without gardens, not far from a motorway, but still managing to share the same sewerage pipe as a once-famous now-dead Irish person of vague literary worth who managed to pen a novella drunk.
Now after a decade of unprecedented smarminess, the grown-up estate agent is no longer nestled in a good place at all. ”Rare as hen’s teeth!” s/he hollers out about a dormer bungalow for sale in Dublin 15 – one of the capital’s slowest selling enclaves. ‘Rare’ opportunities abound, a chance to snatch up a bungalow, for instance, even though there’s 5,570 bungalows for sale nationwide at the moment. In an attempt to ambush the flimsy heartstrings of hapless arty types, there’s a deluge of property specs marketed at the budding poet, artist or fisherman ’where you can also enjoy the panoramic views over lush green surrounds’, in the middle of nowhere. The desperation is quite staggering. ‘One of the last opportunities to purchase a “raw” house on this salubrious road’. What exactly is a ‘raw’ house? One with its walls removed? If we’re not permitted to lie about the contents of food, why is it admissable for a house purchase? In essence, do we need to read such brainless turgid crap three years into bust?
Irish history continues to infect the bijou mind of our more-than-happy-to-help estate agent as well. You can nab a semi-derelict cottage in Leitrim that’s handily positioned ’near’ Sean McDermott’s Cottage, a well-known tourist attraction and the birth place of the 1916 leader, but nothing whatsoever to do with the house for sale. The sales hunger for famine cottages hasn’t abated either – perfect for a ‘lifestyle change’ the estate agent assures us. Or how about Gordwin Swift IV’s gaff? Never heard of him? That’s OK. Another spec reads: ‘Behind its funky facade…the lavish and stylish art deco foyer provides a unique atmosphere that perfectly complements the building’s history.’ Yeah, how so? It’s an apartment refurb in Dublin 3 that’s not selling and is being flogged for half price. ‘Hurry hurry hurry, before it’s too late’, the man with the white towelling socks says.
Then there’s the almost generically applied *** WOW *** WOW *** WOW *** category which some estate agents are using for every house sale: a 3-bed in the heart of Poppintree Ballymun or a terrace in deep downtown Finglas. ’Wow what a stunner!’ the agent says about this Tyrrelstown house in a hideously inglorious part of Dublin no-one wants to live in. Wilson Moore is one such estate agent that uses this ‘wow wow wow’ insignia on almost all its sales briefs, regardless. Let’s not forget too the estate agent’s excruciating post-boom rewrites…houses like 19A Long Lane dubbed the perfect bachelor’s bolthole at €425,000 in the grip of boom. This week it’s eventually ‘sale agreed’ after being unashamedly flogged as a ’low maintenance home’ for €155,000. The reason why it suits a single gent or a sociopath is because the house is only two metres wide (around 7ft), being an old laneway that was filled in to create a uniquely anorexic house that has nose-dived in price by at least 68%. You absolutely could not swing a cat and you’d definitely have trouble energetically shagging your Mrs.
From the peak of the market in 2006, Dublin house prices have fallen in real terms by 45.7%, while nationally, prices are down by 40.2%. This and a whole host of other stats we’re already laboriously aware of. But where and how did we lose our minds so utterly? There’s an apartment block in Parnell Street with a ‘putting green for the golf enthusiast’ – directly opposite alleyways where the city’s crack cocaine dealers do a roaring trade. Wyckham Point in Dundrum is an apartment complex which offers an ‘on-site gym, sauna, steam room, cardiovascular & resistance gym equipment and heated relaxation zone’. Tullyvale in Cabinteely has a resident’s swimming pool on site although a lot of the apartments are now being sold at a substantially reduced price. I imagine the swimming pool is fast draining of chlorine and charm. Did they really think the luxurious gimmickery could last forever?
Remnants of boom-based mentalness still exist in some high end properties too. ‘Things only happen when we dream’ the intro reads, for a multi-million euro apartment overlooking the River Liffey. The 2-bed [plus guest accommodation as extra] apartment is decked out by a ‘revolutionary stylist’ we’re told, to include none other than a three and a half carat andrée putman lacquered oak coffee table, floors custom-made from antique oak cobbles, a “Vous de Jouer” mirror [one of only 20 in the world], ‘cupboards concealed behind felt-coated doors whose colour and texture mimic the heather and granite tones of the Irish countryside’, a hammam steam room, and a Gien Polka tea set that the designer ‘noticed’ during an official trip to Soviet Russia…It was on originally for excess of €4 million in April 2007, but later dropped to €3.74m and now it’s a straight forward ‘price on application’, though you might nab it for a bit less if you ask for some of the 45 bespoke designer items to be taken out of the loop.
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the current estate agent invective is the ‘Reduced To Sell’ signs flung up in gardens all around Ireland over the last year or more. We’re expected to believe prices are reduced only as a favour to us and not as a result of a totally impacted market. An ’exceptional opportunity has arisen to acquire a unique and attractive property’. Except there’s nothing exceptional or unique about it at all. Where were the equivalent ‘Inflated To Sell’ signs during the boom?
As Mosney residents continue to protest against the transfer of 111 people to different hostels across Ireland, an Irish Facebook group is migrating its own brand of racist invective. [Atrocious grammar in the following is not my own]:
Stop scaming the State, GET THEM ALL OUT, And reopen it for the Irish! – Janice Smith, Baldoyle.
There money grabbing foreıgners tat are responsıble for mst of the problems in tis country – Ray Kelly.
A fat arse politıon open the gates gve them houses for FREE money FREE taxis FREE dıd ya see the cars at mosney i dıd my mate lives near it oh and childrens allowance for theır NONE irish brats – Janice Smith (again).
They will be relocated to somewere else with beds, water, cooker, food, clothes. The homeless Irish in Dublin do not have it this good…They should be forced out, Its not their land – Shane Donnelly, Dublin.
The country barely has a pot to piss in yet they are probably spending millions of taxpayers money on this group of people to be shacked up in mosney – John Clarke, Artane.
The Irish Government gave away a great amenity when they gave Mosney Holiday Camp to asylum seekers without any consultation with the Irish people – Anne Donnelly.
What about the normal irish person out of work now with kids that need a summer holiday we should have it back to ourselfs now and let them look after themselfs – Michael Murphy, Limerick.
What started out as a ‘happy memories’ lament to the traditional Irish holiday of the 1970s/80s, soon turned to racist rants from some of the 5,000-strong Support The Reopening of Mosney group. Since news broke about the Monsey residents last week, a dangerous herd mentality began stomping and tail-swishing in the Irish breeze. Back in 2000, when Mosney’s doors shut for good, hardly anyone ranted and raved or protested at all. They were too busy sunning themselves on cheap package holidays in Majorca, Ayia Napa, Turkey and Bundoran. Of course there were the odd few…like Alderman Frank Godfrey, Mayor of Drogheda, who expressed ‘concerns’ about the local area turning into a ‘ghetto’, and a couple of letters from locals were published in the Irish press.
No-one questioned Fianna Fail’s decision, for instance, to award Mosney owner Phelim McCloskey £15 million [Irish pounds] for leasing the 300 acres and its facilities to the Department of Justice for a five year period. The most pressing concern was where to accommodate the much-loved Community Games that had always been held at Mosney. Bertie came to the rescue and ordered alternative venues in case the housing of ‘refugees’ meant the holiday camp was not available for the games. Apart from that, the transition to a holding camp for asylum seekers barely lasted the month as a news or feature item.
The dour relationship between recession and racism is not new or even news. Since the recession has cosied down like an evil-smelling blanket over Ireland in the last two years, racist incidents (and attacks) have increased at an alarming rate. Just yesterday a new Racist Incidents Support and Referral Service was announced. One of the founders, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy told the Irish Examiner: “For too long, Ireland has been in denial about the racist incidents occurring in our communities and our collective responsibility to combat racism. We know from our experience working with migrants who have experienced racism that people are subjected to violence and threats of violence, have their property damaged and are subjected to racist taunts and discrimination”.
It is the usual yack, that when recession worsens, those who feel most vulnerable look for people to blame and immigrants, foreigners, asylum seekers, basically anyone marginalised, become easy targets. The result is a virulent undercurrent of social unrest and tension, leading to the type of brain-dead rants found on the Mosney Facebook group. Interestingly, there is a total absence of cussed comments towards the real originators of the bust: property developers, banks, politicians. Let’s also be fair here: the Facebook group’s admin are folk with good intention whose message is quite simple: ‘please join this group to share happy memories of the camp and let’s hope one day it [Mosney] reopens’.
Recently, through its membership, the Irish section of the European Network against Racism had cause to insist that Facebook remove a similar group that was using the platform to racially abuse members of the Travelling Community. “Eventually Facebook complied and deleted the group,” explains Ken McCue, International Officer of Sport against Racism Ireland (SARI). “We’ve asked the Gardaí to investigate the Mosney group on Facebook but their powers are limited as it’s published in the US. However, I have reported this hate attack to the Gardaí and ENAR.”
Yesterday after reading the comments on the site I phoned a journalist pal who’d recently been to Mosney to interview some of the residents for a UK paper. He was incensed as I read out some of the malevolent messages splattered all over the group’s wall. “While I was at Mosney I met doctors, engineers, all kinds of professionals that would do anything to work and contribute to Irish society but are not being put to good use because the bureaucratic process is a mess,” he said.
He also talked about a footballer from Africa who coaches young Irish kids for free, using his own pittance to get out and train them. “I was also hugely impressed at how clean the Mosney flats were, even the stairwells were spotless unlike native Irish ones which are reeking of piss, covered in graffiti and strewn with used needles.”
The fact that the Mosney residents are not allowed rent or own property, they are only allowed stay in these hostels…that they live on €19 per week, and cannot work, or that the money to accommodate them stems from EU funds, seems to have alluded most of the ranters on the Mosney site. And let’s be clear on this €19 for the plelthora of ignorami out there who’ve never bothered asking how the payment is chopped up or made. On an asylum seeker’s social welfare receipt, there’s the full whack of €196 per week allocated that any Irish unemployed person gets…minus €177 that goes direct to the landlord on behalf of the State. And guess who’s in bed with the state when it comes to choosing/allocating landlords and accommodation? Very good, you’ve guessed right: property developers, investors, business folk, etc., the real ‘money grabbers’ who made handy lucrative deals with government to provide this much needed shelter. Make no mistake, the asylum process here is an enormous business machine and one of the few going concerns in Ireland right now in a constant state of profit.
By contrast to the reams of racist tripe we’ve been hearing of late, a letter in today’s Irish Times mirrors what a lot of ordinary Irish people feel about the plight of the residents: ‘It is bad enough that these most vulnerable of people must put their lives on hold for up to seven years while the Department of Justice decides their fate, but to herd them around like cattle from one holding pen to another is an outrage. Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern and his officials should hang their heads in shame,’ it read.
Mags Treanor, a poet from Galway, who has worked with asylum seekers, has reported the Facebook page to the authorities for incitement to hatred. “To hear that people [on this site] actually think asylum seekers are the cause of the current economic situation and not the greedy Irish business people who creamed money from the state for using it as an accommodation facility is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.
Around 96% of refugees in Ireland have their initial asylum applications rejected under a system human rights campaigners have denounced as “inhumane”. Only Greece has a lower rate of accepting asylum seekers in the EU, taking in just 1.2% of refugees, according to the European commission body Eurostat. In the UK, 26.9% of asylum applications were accepted upon application last year. On appeal, those numbers rose to an estimated 30% for the UK, but to only 7.8% in Ireland, Eurostat said. [Source: The Guardian]
While the people of Mosney have yet to find out their fate, the racist underclass in Ireland continues to lobby for the return of their holiday camp, which in my memory at least, was famed for its floating turds in the glass-encasaed swimming pool, karaoke (before karaoke machines) and greasy chips in polystyrene cones. In all reality this latest round of Facebook ‘comments’ is nothing to do with feeling sentimental about a budget holiday destination or about expressing how broke and marginalised, frightened and powerless, people feel during recession. It is about blame and ignorance and stupidity and how the moral impunity of social networking allows hate to thrive.
“The five years given to house asylum seekers is up and that’s that,” writes Sarah Heavey. Her opinion is fairly typical of many who have left messages so far: ”Either re-house them like planned or send them home. I am not racist and I truly sympathise with them, but Ireland is in financial ruin now and reopening Mosney will provide much-needed employment, as well as providing holidays for people.”
In Ireland in the 1970s, the streets were strewn with rivulets of fresh mustard piss. Firstly, the suburban laneways where men just couldn’t make it home from the Bookies on time, to the pathways of public parks, Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium, all around O’Connell Street on St. Patrick’s Day and just about anywhere else you can think of. I even recall a man standing pissing at the side of Victories Credit Union when I headed down at the age of 12 to open my first account.
Irish men were such prolific pissers it was almost laminated to the Constitution as an indelible part of their liberty and right to live. So it should come as scant surprise when I moved back to the parental home last October to write and help out for a while…that the old man was pissing all over the house without any due cause to care.
For a while my mother said nothing. This has been a kind of ostrich-head + sand tradition going back to when I first tasted Liga. It wasn’t until I walked into puddles late at night in the kitchen, or took the stairs barefoot to bed when drunk or made the mistake of whiffing the cushions on the couch in the sitting-room (what crazy instinct was this?) that I realised there was a urinary tract conspiracy in full liquid swing.
“Don’t say anything because he gets awful embarrassed about it,” the Ma said. This nugget of emotional blackmail worked for a while. He’s hitting 80 after all, his legs are gone, he can no longer make it out to the pub and he’s lost interest in almost everything apart from whiskey, war documentaries and the lotto. But like everything in an alcoholic home, avoidance strategies and colourful denials are destined to come crashing down at the first foretoken of crisis.
A few months ago my mother got cancer (well she’s had it for a good while but it’s taken at least a year to get her to own up to the four/half stone weight loss and general body-breaking-down weakness). During the haitus between smashing her denial and getting to a hospital, we started fighting about the old man’s pissing habits. One night I caught him pissing in a bucket outside the kitchen door and when I reported back [in a blind rage] to the Ma about ”how utterly disgusting” it was, she admitted quite calmly that she laced the Piss Bucket with disinfectant regularly and emptied it once a week. “You mean you’ve actually known about this!?” I barked.
Up until that point I’d taken an active part in the spare him any hurt household games, taking his piss cushions from his armchair in the dead of night and washing them, drying them on radiators and shoving them back again before he crawled down the stairs for his boiled egg the next morning.
“He just can’t make it up the stairs,” she explained, again, over breakfast. Well then get in a downstairs toilet for starters, that’s what normal people would do. “He doesn’t want to lose the cloakroom”. But he can’t go out anymore, so what’s the use in a cloakroom!? ”He says he’ll deal with it and get to the toilet quicker.” Of course he won’t! It’s just going to get worse…much worse, Jesus! He’s going to have to deal with it or I’ll contact social services!”
Three weeks ago as I cleaned the house in preparation for her return from hospital I eventually sat the old man down and attempted to talk piss politics openly. “I can’t help it!” he whinged, adding that if he had to wear ‘padded pants’ like I was suggesting, he’d rather kill himself. Another thing about alcoholics is that no matter what is going on in the world around them, it will still always be about them. I resorted to shock tactics telling him that no-one visits the house anymore because of the stench, that my brother home from the UK to visit my mum was knocked back in anger by it all (“smells like a bag of ferrets”) and had pledged to write a stern letter on his return…that fire-hose pissing on this scale was a clear and irrefutable health hazard, potentially dangerous…someone could slip and fall, there’s a cancer patient returning home with an open wound and serious infection could mean a summer picnic to Glasnevin Crematorium. Nothing but blank bulldog stares.
“I bleed five days a month and I can’t help that either,” I told him, not so subtley, ”but imagine if I didn’t stick something in my knickers and deal with it!? Imagine if I just bled on buses and in the GPO when queueing for stamps or in Beshoffs buying chips or all over the floor in Penneys shopping for cheap socks…wouldn’t that be completely and utterly INSANE!?”
The crux of the battle came (and not on dry land) when I stormed off to Finglas in search of Tenapads in a terribly hungover state two weeks ago. I left them on the kitchen table on a placemat where he sits for his dinner and just to avoid any further denial, I left a note with them: ‘You have to wear one of these when you’re drinking and at night-time in bed’.