Pat Kenny’s coddled millennials comments miss the point

Radio review: The Newstalk presenter reveals a novel view on property problems

In one of the week's less-shocking revelations, Tuesday's edition of The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays) informs listeners that accommodation may be a problem for young people in Ireland today. But lest anyone think that Kenny has fallen victim to groupthink – that insidious condition so detested by pundits decrying the evils of political correctness and other such threats to civilisation – the presenter looks at the issue from a novel angle. The problem, it turns out, isn't that there are too many young people searching for homes. Rather, there aren't enough.

In the context of the catastrophic property situation it's akin to arguing over light fittings as the house goes up in flames

This is the gist of Kenny's conversation with financial advisor Eoin McGee on the subject of young people who live with their parents. With a quarter of people between 25 and 35 years old apparently still residing at the family home, McGee is worried that parents are enabling this trend. McGee, who features on an RTÉ TV show on the topic, is aware that his ideas are, to put it mildly, counterintuitive. "I'll be popular this morning," he says ruefully, before ploughing on.

His chief issue is that by allowing their children to stay on, parents don’t help them take responsibility. “My concern is that the people living at home are not learning the lessons that they need to get out of home,” he says. It’s a valid point, though in the context of the catastrophic property situation it’s akin to arguing over light fittings as the house goes up in flames.

But it’s a theme that Kenny warms to, as he worries about parents encouraging the presumption that they are “guardian angels”. He accompanies this concern with stock assumptions about the coddling of millennials, suggesting young people will not accept secondhand furniture or appliances. “No, no, no, they want it all brand new,” he splutters in exasperation, even though it’s only his assertion.


‘Liberal parents’

Even weirder is Kenny’s irritation with “liberal parents” who allow their adult children’s partners to stay over.

If I'm not getting it in this house, nobody's getting it in this house

It prompts one of his trademark diversions, as he recalls an interview he once conducted with a widow. “Her simple rule was, ‘If I’m not getting it in this house, nobody’s getting it in this house,’” he says, gleefully.

It's not as if Kenny doesn't know where the real problem lies. He follows this item with a reasonably thorough interrogation of junior housing Minister Damien English, at one point likening government policies to "moving deckchairs around the Titanic". But he sounds more exercised at the indulgences supposedly afforded the young today. They may be priced out of an overcrowded market, but they need to buck up and move out. Okay, we get it.

Matt Cooper, on the other hand, is tired of blaming the "snowflake" generation for their woes. On Wednesday's The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays) Cooper hears how it was easier for young people to buy property in the 1980s than today. Rising prices and property shortages exclude them from the market, not their choice of foodstuffs, as some would have it. "All this nonsense about not having toasted avocado [sic] is nonsense," Cooper says. "I think young people are being screwed."

It's a familiar portrait of despair, all the more depressing for the forensic nature with which the facts are laid out.

The evidence is there for all to hear. On Tuesday, Cooper discusses the vicious circle of high property prices, higher rental rates and sparse housing supply with his guests, with financial adviser Michael Dowling suggesting there’s now a generation who may never be able to afford their own homes. Waterford estate agent Regina Mangan notes that she gets 200 calls a week from prospective tenants, but there are only 43 apartments for rent in her home city. She highlights another factor: the problem of short-term job contracts when it comes to securing mortgages. It’s a familiar portrait of despair, all the more depressing for the forensic nature with which the facts are laid out.

‘Bad behaviour’

Given this, the appalling spike in homelessness seems inevitable. But, going by the comments of Eileen Gleeson of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive at a Dublin City Council committee meeting, people are on the streets because of "bad behaviour". Moreover, volunteer organisations that give food to homeless people aren't helping them. Faced with a fierce backlash, Gleeson talks to Ciara Kelly on Lunchtime Live (Newstalk, weekdays), where she clarifies her remarks and offers an apology. Sort of.

Most homeless people feel unwanted, so if someone offers tea and talk, it's worth its weight in gold

Gleeson concedes that she “probably” could have used better language. But she is adamant that the efforts of “well-intentioned” volunteers “aren’t necessarily getting people to the outcome that’s needed”. For her part, Kelly insists that she doesn’t wish to ambush her guest, but still wonders what the harm is to offer food or clothing on a freezing night. “We have a strategy in place to deal with extreme weather conditions,” Gleeson replies firmly, adding that some rough sleepers won’t engage with official services. If that’s the welcoming attitude, whyever not?

Gleeson concludes that the reasons for homelessness are complex. Well, yes. As a solution, providing food to rough sleepers might be simplistic. But in discounting it, Gleeson doesn't dispel the image of the heartless bureaucrat, however unwarranted she feels it to be. For, as homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry tells Cooper on The Last Word, "Most homeless people feel unwanted, so if someone offers tea and talk, it's worth its weight in gold."

For good measure, McVerry adds that addicts now form the minority of homeless people, so acute is the housing crisis. No wonder people are afraid to leave their homes.

Radio Moment of the Week: Keane for Kenny’s tea

In a week when Irish soccer has little to smile about, former international Kenny Cunningham raises a chuckle when interviewed by Audrey Carville on Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) before the Republic's defeat by Denmark. Highlighting assistant manager Roy Keane's remark that he makes tea for the Irish team, Carville asks if the fearsome former midfielder ever made tea for Cunningham during their playing days. The question prompts a gale of laughter. "No," Cunningham eventually replies, "we had to take it in turns to go to Roy's room and make him tea." It's a pity that Roy wasn't still around.