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Cost of living meeting hears another generation is emigrating


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Cost of living meeting hears another generation is emigrating Cost of living meeting hears another generation is emigrating

From the Galway City Tribune – Twelve minutes before the advertised start time of the public meeting organised by Cost of Living Coalition Galway last week, a dozen souls took the bare look off the restaurant to the rear of the Western Hotel on Prospect Hill.

Sitting patiently for the event to kick off, some perused free copies of The Socialist newspaper, its lead story headlined: “Profiteers fuel inflation crisis” with a sub-heading, “Double-digit pay increases now!”.

But just like the cost of living crisis that ordinary Galwegians had come to discuss, the crowd increased rapidly. By 7.30pm, attendance had multiplied five-fold to 60-plus people – a decent turnout for a Monday in September.

They were mostly young people, in their twenties. A generation, the meeting heard, that was emigrating again, priced out of Galway and Ireland.

“The way this country treats its young people is shameful,” declared Imogen O’Flaherty, Vice President and Welfare Officer of the University of Galway’s Students’ Union.

She cited a National Youth Council of Ireland study showing 70% of people aged 18-24 are considering emigration.

“The conversation among me and my friends is not about if we will emigrate, it’s when,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

Imogen O’Flaherty, Vice President and Welfare Officer of the University of Galway’s Students’ Union with Lorraine Lally of the Galway branch of Access for All at the meeting.

“For us it’s a no brainer. Cheaper rents, cheaper car insurance, cheaper bills, cheaper to socialise, better nightlife, better quality of living and to be respected by Government; why would we stay here?”

She said she was inundated daily with students in “panic mode” faced with the choice of going to college and being homeless, or dropping out.

With rents soaring, and fees among the highest in Europe, “the University of Galway is essentially selling a €10,000-a-year package deal”.

“Working class families are putting themselves into thousands of euro of debt to enable their child to go to college. It isn’t how it should be, and it isn’t normal,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

She said Government failed to act, and she hoped it would be remembered at the next election, “as me and my friends won’t be here to vote”.

Eager to capitalise on that disaffection was Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell (SF).

“People are really angry, and rightly so. People feel failed by the political system because they have been failed by the political system. But it’s up to us to give voice to that anger and to channel that anger for the greater good,” she said.

Ordinary people struggle “to keep the lights” while “billionaires of this world are engaged in a space race”, she fumed.

She cited Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) figures showing 90% of the Government’s inflation supports were not targeted.

“That means wealthy households, who we know increased their savings during the pandemic, are getting the same support as people who literally can’t put food on their tables,” she said.

Deputy Farrell declared the housing disaster was deteriorating. On Monday, on there were 18 properties to rent in the city, and 49 in the county, but simultaneously 604 properties were available on Airbnb in Galway, she said.

Adrian Curran, People Before Profit representative in Galway, said local people faced a choice of “heating or eating”.

He gave the example of his friend, a hospitality worker, whose girlfriend is a care worker. They’re both working full-time but “simply cannot afford to live in Galway City”. They moved back into their respective family homes, on opposite sides of the county, and commute into the city but don’t see each other often. “What exactly are young couples supposed to do?”

He advocates eco-socialist policies, including price caps on electricity, energy, fuel, and home heating oil.

Adrian Curran speaking at the meeting.

Mr Curran said private energy companies are duty bound to maximise profit, “and so be it if people freeze to death in their homes”.

“I reject that logic,” he said.

Mr Curran said that energy usage should be reduced “not in the way Eamon Ryan wants us to – only washing our clothes at night or sharing a kettle with the neighbours or growing cabbage on window sills”, but by saying ‘no’ to more data centres and providing free public transport.

Conor Burke, local Socialist Party representative, said costs had spiralled long before Covid-19 or the Russian war on Ukraine.

“Rents and mortgage repayments were already through the roof. Insurance premiums were at exorbitant levels.

“Childcare costs are like a second mortgage for many households. People are considering whether it’s worth their while to go to work when nearly all the money they’re earning is spent on childcare costs,” he said.

Mr Burke said workers need a pay rise “to keep the lights on, to keep the heating on and to avoid becoming homeless”.

“Families are one pay cheque or increase in rent away from finding themselves in emergency accommodation,” he said.

To address “blatant greed and profiteering” he called for price controls “to keep essential food, energy and fuel at affordable levels”, he added.

Urging people to attend a cost of living demonstration in Parnell Square in Dublin on September 24, Deputy Farrell added: “Let’s rattle them [Government] three days before the budget, and make sure that when they get up in the Dáil on September 27 and announce their budget, that at the very least, they can be ashamed of how little they will do for the ordinary people. Let’s put them under pressure.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune, September 16. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

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