Are we really reduced to shooting pigeons for food?

Controversial New York Times article paints alarming picture of post-boom Ireland

A derelict site on Dublin’s Thomas Street.Photograph: Aidan Crawley

A derelict site on Dublin’s Thomas Street.Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Thu, Dec 12, 2013, 18:18

It’s a land where people are reduced to shooting pigeons for food and two thirds of homeowners are behind on their mortgages.

Recognise it? It’s post-boom Ireland. That’s according to an article in the New York Times which is generating a flurry of comment on Twitter.

Under the headline - Hardships linger for a mending Ireland - the article, published yesterday, paints an undeniably grim picture of life in post-bailout Ireland.

To make its case, it zeros in on a man who says he was forced to move into his mother’s small cottage in Shankill in Dublin - which we are told is only 10 minutes from Bono’s house - after his hardware business went belly-up in the crash.

He says he shoots pigeons for food and grills them outdoors to reduce his gas and grocery bills. “I do that just to live,” he says.

The article contrasts the recent positive sentiment around Ireland’s bailout exit with the hardship being faced by people on the ground.

However, it makes some rather spurious claims along the way.

Perhaps, most startling is the assertion that two-thirds of homeowners have not paid their mortgage “on time for the last two years”.

While the mortgage crisis here is bad, even dire, the figure, wrongly attributed to the Central Bank, grossly overstates the problem.

The bank’s most recent arrears figures suggest 18.5 per cent of mortgage holders are in arrears of some sort or other.

They also indicate that 22 per cent of those currently in arrears are behind in their payments for at least two years or more.

Needless to say, the true mortgage arrears figures bear little relation to those in the New York Times article.

A Central Bank spokeswoman told The Irish Times today it had contacted the New York Times, seeking changes to the figures attributed to it in the article.

The article also claims “Prime Minister Enda Kenny” is planning to introduce a further €2.5 billion in spending cuts and new taxes in next year’s budget when no such decision has been taken.

The article concludes with a quote from a hard-pressed hospital worker who says: “We’ve already tried to live five years on nothing. If they push things much more, it’ll kill us.”

It’s a pretty uncompromising portrait, even if the mortgage numbers are a little sexed up.

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