So we have reached 2019, and at the start of a new year there is always a case for renewed hope on all fronts. We certainly hope that it will be a safe, successful and healthy year for us and our families. But, as we look into the distance, there are huge challenges ahead.
We are constantly being told that Ireland’s economy has the biggest growth rate in the EU – and there is no doubt that there has been a recovery in our economic fortunes. Leo Varadkar, Paschal Donohoe and their government colleagues have taken credit for our improved circumstances – and that’s fair enough. Employment, in particular, is plentiful, and the most important aspect of any economy is the ability to offer our young people a chance to work in jobs that will provide them with a reasonable standard of living. We are, at least, doing that.
However, as we enter 2019, we are living in an Ireland where many of those young people who have good jobs – such as Gardai, teachers, nurses, prison officers and others in the civil service – have no chance of ever owning their own house, particularly if they live close to any of our bigger towns and cities. In fact they are struggling to even rent accommodation as prices are spiralling almost month by month.
We have over 10,000 people homeless, and despite many fine words and countless plans from Government ministers, that problem is getting worse. We have a health system which is bursting at the seams, with hundreds of thousands of people on waiting lists and sick people lying on trolleys in our hospital A&E units as overworked staff struggle to cope. These problems simply have to be addressed and it is not good enough to fob people off by saying that “we are doing our best”.
Here in Roscommon, we have the same problems which are being encountered in most rural counties. We have very few young people around…except for an odd weekend, and Christmas and Easter. I fully realise that they have to chase the jobs in Dublin and Galway and the bigger cities, but nothing has been done to create employment within our county. Or if efforts are being made, they haven’t been successful. Roscommon is a great county to live in, but ask the personnel at any small GAA club about the alarming fall in the number of young people that are available to play and train on a weekly basis. It’s a symptom of modern-day rural Ireland. The Government has been paying lip service to rural Ireland, and we have the likes of Shane Ross –who frankly hasn’t a clue about rural Ireland – making rules and regulations that will have far-reaching effects on the way of life of people who live in counties like Roscommon.
I haven’t mentioned Brexit – or the personal debt crisis – both of which are huge issues for people in Ireland as we head into 2019. So Leo, Paschal and the rest will have to roll up their sleeves and address the many problems that we have as we head into 2019. A lot done maybe, but very much more to do.
Happy New Year to one and all!