The Forgotten People

I have to say that unlike lots of people, my anger was raised about a 1000 millibars by the shock annoucement during the week that the taxation provisions for civil partnership were simply unceremoniously dumped from the Finance Bill. I am quite sure than 80% of people in Ireland somehow managed to quietly slide this event out of their brains, but a small few of us are very angry indeed.

Now to be honest with you, I'm no huge fan of CP, indeed I think much of the campaign towards legal recognition of gay relationships is part of a huge and caustic conservatism in the gay world, whose main message is "we are just as unchallenging as you" and no, we don't do polyamory, serial monogamy and we are just as good as you at pretending that there is no kink and excitement in our sex lives. Meanwhile there is a quiet but persistent campaign in gay society to marginalise and exclude anybody who represents the old, sex-friendly, non-monogamy friendly movement of non conformist relationships and non relationships. So bloody hell are we angry. We were promised CP was "equality" with a small e and now we are somehow suggested that its so hard and terribly horrible to bring in simple equal provisions for tax equality, guess what, it has to be dropped and probably booted around as some kind of political football so FF can pretend its everso holy and moral about the whole thing.

The thing that angers me is this idea that its "hard" and "complex" to give us gay folk equal rights. That is a great big pile of shit. There is nothing hard about NOT raiding our bars, NOT criminalising us and NOT discriminating against us a la Section 28. So what is so hard about making tax law non gender specific?

Anyway I am also enjoying a bit of debate with Ronan Lyons. Unlike many of Ireland's economists, Lyons is basically the propoganda mouthpiece for Daft are a good, and long standing web based property advertising service. They have pedigree as basically they were first into the idea of placing ads online rather than in evening papers. They changed a lot in property services, such as photos, accurate details, proper information: remember that in 1999 or so it was normal to be subjected to rubbish such as having to pay to be part of an agency to get access to listings and contacts or finders fees were sometimes payable. Daft swept most of that aside, along with the pretty nasty practice of "turn up at 7pm on Monday night and bring cash" culture.

Anyway, the reality is that Lyons is paid to sing up the whole ideology of Daft and its industry. Basically that is the acceptance that either you pay up and buy a house or rent at whatever asking price is demanded of you. The reality in Europe is that there are loads of alternative housing models that compete with this. Its only in Ireland that massive tax breaks were available for a subset of investors and others. Lyons has been particularly peddling two notions: firstly, that current prices represent "good value" for buyers and secondly, that rents at the moment being "cheaper" (which actually isn't really the case) many would be "better off" renting.

Lyons suggests that with current averages of around 500 a month for sharing tenants in Dublin, everybody is a "winner." I argue that this is 20% over RA allowances, that its a significant proportion of median incomes for what is often very unpredictable standards and basically that this still represents poor value for money. Basically, all I am saying is that rental housing in most of Ireland is still considerably above realistic affordable rates for the kind of tenants who are most likely to require rented housing - welfare recipients, students, low to average income earners. In fact I'd say to people to try to stuff as much savings away as possible as with high emigration and stagnant prices, the bottom is yet to arrive, plus deposits needed will remain high for some years.

What I really do feel though, is that in Ireland we really only have all or nothing models - you buy or rent privately, that is it. Affordable systems are basically subsets of outright buying. There is no cooperative or Swedish style models where you can buy into coop housing as reasonable rates, though with limitations. Social housing is basically shut off for all but a few very desperate cases. Really, what we need is not more polemic, but extensive and reliable reseach, published and verifiable factual statistics in great details, and realistic options for below average earners.


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