Opinion

2019 in review: “A tough year for workers and their families”

As 2019 draws to a close, LookLeft Magazine‘s Eoghan Gardiner reviews the year gone by.

2019, like all years, has had its ups and downs, but truthfully, it was a tough year for workers and their families.

Fine Gael’s hopeless housing policy

According to the Department of Housing, 9,987 people started the year off as homeless. The latest figures show an increase to 10,514, over 3,000 of whom are children. Focus Ireland reported that more than 140 children were born into homelessness this year in Dublin alone.

The sale of public land continued well into 2019, with the agreed sale of O’Devaney Gardens to a private developer by Dublin City Council perhaps the best example. Those opposed to deal argue that the site would be better put to use if it were used to build public housing. Only three years ago, then-councillor Éilis Ryan (Workers’ Party) had a motion passed that, if honoured, would have secured just that.

On South Dublin County Council, the ruling group voted to increase the price of rent on council tenants for 2020. This action, taken in the midst of a housing crisis, was described as “completely irresponsible” and targeting “the most vulnerable in our society who are already struggling to make ends meet”.

System change or climate change?

2019 gave rise to a generation of eco-minded young people.

Tens of thousands took to the streets as part of a global movement to highlight climate change. Most of them were students. If the goal of this movement was to bring an issue to the attention of the public, it very much succeeded. However, little progress has been made in actually tackling that issue, and so those behind it are getting geared up to get back out on the streets next year.

This has given political parties no choice but to respond with their solutions to the environmental crisis. Some have attempted to burden ordinary working people with the blame for climate change by promoting individual lifestyle change as a solution, while others have accepted it as a systemic problem, acknowledging that it can only be dealt with by examining the root of the problem; the capitalist system.

Those concerned with the environment will have to choose which solution to emphasise in the coming year.

Left-wing losses at the local elections 

May’s local elections proved a tough outing for left-wing parties, while strengthening Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and their housing crisis.

Both of the main two parties increased their share of the seats nationwide, by 20 and 12 respectively, the green wave, likely spurred on by young voters engaged by the climate strikes, secured 49 seats.

Labour and the Social Democrats made modest gains of 6 and 19 each, while Sinn Féin lost almost half of their seats. Solidarity-PBP failed to retain 17 of their councillors’ seats, while the Workers’ Party lost one of its two.

Newfound support for the Greens is a message from the electorate that they want to see action taken on the climate crisis. Labour and Social Democrats gains compared to other left-wing loses are perhaps a sign of how well-resourced and recognised both parties are. Regardless, a new picture will be painted come next year’s election. How different it will be remains to be seen.

Conclusion

2019 proved a year to forget for the working class in this country and indeed others. Those of us who are interested in ensuring this does not remain the case must the case double down on our work in the new year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from LookLeft Magazine.

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Eoghan Gardiner

Eoghan Gardiner