Huddled in a doorway, a family are told to leave their emergency accommodation. Nearby, another young person is shooting-up by the Quayside. Hidden away, others are killing themselves in droves. Yet there are more people, desperate and hungry, desperate and hungry- who want to get into this lovely European project of ours.
Austerity has dragged Europe down a dark path, where fairness and equality are just ‘notions’ and are kept away from the mantra of ‘let’s keep the recovery going’.
My small village in Co. Wexford is not feeling in any way, shape or form that it can cling on to keeping the recovery going much longer.
Wexford has the highest suicide rate in the country, per capita, and this has gotten worse since the recession. There are no outreach programs any longer, no drug prevention and no mental health services left. Austerity has taken them all.
Way of Life
Overlooking the bay of Kilmore Quay you can see the images of boats reflected on the waves and the sunny south-east sun setting.
This once proud fishing village, now sits by the quayside full of mostly foreign ships and trawlers. Traditional fisherman do not have the quotas to go out and fish every day and many have given up on the idea of fishing at altogether.
In a pub not too far from the beach, my Uncles knock back their pints and reminisce of days when their livelihoods were not threatened. Stories are told of how one of my uncles lost the end of his thumb hauling the catch out of the water, another talks of the time they battled a monster of a fish. Their children ask when they will go on similar adventures and they exchange worrisome glances.
I run outside for fresh air, I see a half-starved face and a hood comes down. I remember the features of that face from school but in that moment I do not want to know if they have become an amphetamine, heroin or cocaine addict. I escape back to the warmth inside.
Wexford also has one of the highest numbers of drug abusers in the country as well and one of the lowest levels of employment.
Currently the rule is that TACs or fishing quotas are shared between EU countries in the form of national quotas and can be traded across countries. This has led to some positive developments and recently before Christmas a new deal was launched to secure better quotas for Ireland.
However, then the storms came and the fisherman could not go out. They were hedged in desperate to reclaim the waves and the second they were let out and brought home a catch they were told to dump it over the side. How would you feel if you were told to throw away half of your paycheque?
It is also too late for the many families who have abandoned their historical profession.
The EU should not mean to me that the only livelihood of my friends, family and neighbours will not be jeopardised because no one has compassion for the Irish weather. Storms come and go but when they stop we should be allowed to make up the shortfall.
A New Horizon
Europe was not just envisioned as a place of rules and calculation but a project that would allow us to create a free and fair society.
All over Europe we have seen the shadow of austerity and we have seen it create far-right parties and divisions as it did all those years ago.
In 1943 Jean Monet, political economist and so called architect of European Unity, declared
The countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The European states must constitute themselves into a federation…
From its nascent creation, Europe was not envisioned as a cold economic pact between states but a community to allow for the peoples of Europe to share and prosper. This dream was and is still shared by many.
The commission knows this and has launched plans for ‘a deeper and fairer Economic and Monetary Union’. It says it is committed to making social rights part of its agenda but why I am still so worried about the future?
I keep thinking, will we be able to turn the clock back? Have we lost an entire generation? And will it be too late for my country, my county, my community and my family?
- Charlotte McLaughlin