Irish Lives: the ‘Downturn Diaries’ revisited
In early 2010 The Irish Times asked a group of people to record their fortunes in recession-hit Ireland. Some were badly hit by the downturn but hoped things would get better. Others were just starting out in careers and feared having to emigrate. So how has reality matched up to expectation? These are the accounts of three of the original participants
Maura O Keeffe
Ann Elizabeth Guan
A few years ago I had money saved for a rainy day. But all those rainy days have come and gone. Whatever savings I had are long since depleted.
Everything is so expensive over the past few years: property taxes, septic tank fees and water charges are on the way. Then, there’s the cost of oil and petrol.
It’s not a surprise to hear some older people are just going to bed early, to avoid spending money on electricity and heating. I do lots of things to economise. I’ll cook enough in one go to make food for few days worth of meals. I don’t go in the car to shop as much to save on petrol. The Government isn’t helping. They’re propping up the banks and then making us all pay. They think that by knocking bits off entitlements and raising taxes we won’t notice. My health has been deteriorating over the years. I’ve had problems with my shoulder and my arm. My back gives me a lot of trouble, but I’m still on my feet, thank God.
I can’t get a bus – I live in the countryside – so I’m reliant on the car. It’s a 15-year-old. It does about 25 miles to the gallon, so I try to use it as sparingly as possible.
They say unemployment is falling. Of course it is – look at all the young people emigrating. The sad thing is that many leave and they won’t come home. They’ll get married and find jobs over there.
We’re facing into another budget and there’s talk about cutting the pension. If they do, the grey-haired brigade will be out in force – just like we were when they tried to axe the medical card.
I’m a volunteer on the Senior Helpline (1850 440 444) and you become aware of all the kinds of problems out there. You hear about loneliness and suicide. You hear about families trying to borrow money from their parents, who often can’t afford it. This can cause all sorts of problems. At least the weather has been good. It’s lifted our spirits over the summer.
Student social worker, 25
I’m glad to say things are really working out. I finished my master’s in social science at UCD and secured a job as a social worker. It’s a temporary post, but it has the potential of full-time work.
Emigration is the only option for a lot of people my age. A growing number of people in my class or friends have gone abroad to test the waters. It’s a fact of life, these days. It’s worked out for some, not for others.
As for myself, I’d prefer to stay at home. I would like to travel the world some day, but this is home.
Going back to college to do a master’s was tough. It was completely different to being an undergraduate. You’re paying for the course.
There’s transport costs, bills, rent. The list goes on. I found it much more challenging in that sense. On top of that, you’re trying to get some work on evenings, weekends or mid-term.