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Comment & Opinion

Will Ireland’s children ever be in a position to leave their parents’ homes?

Nearly half a million Irish adults still live at home with their mum and dad, recent figures reveal

DO you remember the old Irish cliche about the bachelor farmer who lived at home with his mother even when he was well in to his sixties?

Do you remember how we all had at least one parent from a huge family and there was, more likely than not, at least one uncle who actually lived up to that cliche?

Do you remember though how that is all now part of the past?

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After all, this is post-Celtic Tiger Ireland and Leo Varadkar’s Ireland and the Ireland of the cineplex and the motorway and the internet and the iphone and whatever else you have in the modern world we have it too.

In Blarney and Belturbet and Bundoran. In Newcastle West and Newry and Newcestown. We are in the modern world right alongside you now.

Old Ireland is dead and gone, after all.

Yet, in July this year, the Central Statistics Office released figures that showed nearly 460,000 adults over the age of 18 still live at home.

The home they lived in as children. Nearly half a million of them.

This echoed a survey carried out in 2016 that suggested 1 in 4 Irish adults over the age of 25 were still living in the family home.

So it actually seems that in 2017 the old Irish cliche is actually alive and well.

The bachelor might not be sitting by the hearth watching the fire down die any more, he might be moaning instead about the broadband connection or the wifi.

But it seems like he is still there. And his female counterpart too. Is that progress?

This is the Ireland we have created. This is the Ireland we have bought and sold to each other.

This is the Ireland we have flogged when we decided that the only thing worth doing was owning property and making as much money as possible out of it by selling it on to each other.

This is the Ireland, in fact, the Ireland of the untrammelled free market that we have created.

This is the Ireland where, like everything else, housing is not a service or a citizen’s right or a social good. It is something for sale in the market place.

In this way all of those thousands and thousands of young adults are at home waiting for their lives to start.

They are not waiting to inherit the farm or dreading being stuck on it or too frightened to go anywhere else.

They are simply outside of the market for a home of their own because that is the Ireland we have created.

It is the Ireland Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have made, that the PDs cheered and believed in, and that Labour and the Greens were too weak and unwilling to do anything about.

Not far from where I write this there is a house being built in a field by a farmer’s son. Its a big house, as is the wont these days, in an Ireland where the families got far smaller and the houses far bigger.

So young people are still getting homes of their own. But they are simply either young people who are given the valuable start of family land or who have wealthy enough parents who can help them with a deposit.

Is that the Ireland we wanted? Is that the way it should be?

Is it right that only those who have a background of some kind of privilege or other be given the chance or the possibility of starting out in life with their own roof?

Is it right that we say to the others, just stay at home with your parents? Is that good enough? Is that fair enough?

I was a long way along the line before I owned any property. I was married with two kids and living here in Ireland before we ever had a mortgage. But we had been able to rent for all of the years before that.

If even renting was not a possibility I’m not sure how life pans out.

And what does all of this mean for my own kids growing up here in Ireland?

Will they be able to drift along for a while renting like I did? Will they be able to buy a house if they want to?

Are the only possibilities the housing crisis or living endlessly with mum and dad?

Homelessness, of course, is the main crisis, but this backlog of half a million adults at home is all part of it too. Part of a country and culture where we seem to have sacrificed so much at the altar of values that serve only the few.

Brian O’Dowd MPU

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