SIPTU members at Shanganagh Waste Water Treatment Plant, Co.
Rich party while poor starve
Another disgraceful milestone has been reached under the brutal regime of FG/Labour and ‘troika’- sponsored austerity. According to a report titled ‘Constructing a Food Poverty Indicator for Ireland’, commissioned by the Department of Social Protection and carried out by Safefood, more than 450,000 people (or 10% of the population) suffered food poverty in 2010.
Having risen to its highest level in six years, the research showed that those particularly affected by food deprivation in Ireland included most of those groups singled out for punishment by successive right-wing governments and the EU/IMF to bail out the wealthy financial elite.
Most at risk were those on low incomes such as young families, households with three children under 18, the household head being unemployed, ill or disabled, or lone parents.
Following the report’s release, Dail Health Committee chairman, Dr Jerry Buttimer, admitted, “The experience of food poverty is very real and damaging to the health of children and adults and impacts on their future prospects.”
The criteria for measuring Ireland’s growing food deprivation scandal were an inability to afford a meal with meat or a vegetarian equivalent every second day, a roast once a week, or those who missed a meal in the previous fortnight because they couldn’t afford it.
A separate study further rammed home the ugly and unpalatable reality that poor and vulnerable working class children in particular are now experiencing hunger as a result of vicious cutbacks in areas such as welfare spending and tax hikes for the low-paid among others.
An online survey, carried out by Empathy Research, discovered that 69% of teachers said pupils were coming to school hungry in the mornings.
A third of the teachers questioned believed it was down to a lack of money. While the FG/Labour government have talked frequently about protecting the ‘natural and imprescriptable rights’ of the most vulnerable, they have chosen to remain deathly quiet on these appalling findings, leaving Safefood’s Director of Human Health and Nutrition, Cliodhna Foley-Nolan to sum up the results accurately.
Pointing out that poor concentration and energy levels in children were among the immediate effects of food deprivation, “the longer-term public health consequences for those households living in food poverty are ill-health and higher rates of diet-related chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers,” she said.
Even though the food deprivation report is shocking, it still doesn’t tell the whole story.
The numbers are almost certainly underestimated and only covers private households – excluding groups vulnerable to food poverty such as the homeless, asylum seekers, travellers and those living in institutions.
The report is also two years old and doesn’t take into account subsequent austerity budgets and further cuts to welfare payments, cutting tax credits for the lower- paid, the Universal Social Charge (USC) and a 2% increase in VAT.
There’s also been a 0.8% year on year rise in the price of food.
With another 3.5 billion in cuts lined up for December, Ireland’s food poverty shame is only going to get a lot worse.
Yet as increasing numbers of the poor go without enough food, the Irish rich have never had it better.
While the vast majority of the population toil under crushing austerity, for the tiny elite at the top the boom times are back.
Their private debts are being paid by Joe Public, stock markets are rising, the personal wealth of the top 300 have soared to 67 billion this year, and many of the top 20% earning between 130,000 and 590,000 a year are only paying effective income tax rates of between 29% and 21%.
Time for the biggest private freebie party in five years!
According to a recent Irish Independent article, more than 1500 guests attended an extravagant and exclusive party hosted by billionaire horse owner JP McManus at his 400-acre Martinstown stud estate in Co. Limerick.
In what was described as ‘a throwback to the days of celtic tiger excess’, bottles of Dom Perignon 2002 ‘bubbled and flowed like it was going out of fashion’.
The ‘cream’ of the Irish ruling class was present: failed politicians mixed with ‘broke’ developers. Bertie Ahern, Michael Lowry, Mary Hanafin, Phil Hogan and Michael Noonan rubbed shoulders with the likes of ‘bust’ builder Bernard McNamara and Nama debtor Sean Mulryan. Charlie McCreevy, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, Bill Cullen and Pat Kenny were also there among others.
Under an enormous two-storey marquee tent, all enjoyed a feast of fresh prawn cocktails, aged fillet of Irish beef with fondant potatoes, seasonable vegetables and red onion marmalade, rounding it off with iced passion fruit and lemon parfait with a berry and vanilla compote.
Guests then washed that all down with Dom Perignan 2002, Baron de L Ladoucette Pouilly Fume 2008 and Chateau Lynch Bages Pauillac 2000.
The loud background music to all this opulent revelry was a rousing rock anthem that went with the lines, ‘We are the champions, no time for losers, cause we are the champions…of the world.’
Naturally, this luxurious oasis far from any poverty and hunger was totally removed from the economic collapse and cruel cutbacks visited by this same discredited ruling class on tens of thousands of working class parents forced to watch their kids head to school hungry each day or go without themselves, so that their children have enough to eat.
There’s only so much that people can endure.
Time to give the rich a real bellyache and take to the streets in protest for an end to the cuts and the bank-rolling of greedy fat cats and their gluttonous appetites.
Michael Wallace Clondalkin SWP
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