The Impact of Covid 19 on North Clondalkin
North Clondalkin has not recovered from the economic crash of 2008 – nor did it experience the full benefit of the mystical Celtic Tiger. Yet the people who reside there and in other similar communities continue to pay the economic, social, cultural, educational, and political price for the Great Recession of 2008.
Due to the uneven distribution of poverty women and children experience poverty disproportionately. When austerity dominates the landscape the area is fertilised for the abuse, exploitation, and violent treatment of children. Much research and anecdotal evidence informs us that women are heavily burdened by poverty and often in their role as parents they have to choose whether to feed the children or heat the home, pay the rent and sometimes having to decide to go without meals themselves.The bill for Covid-19 will be astronomical, of that there is no doubt, nor will there be any ambiguity with regards to who will pay. It will be the very same people who are still paying for the bank bailout and all the other costs of the financial crash of 2008.
With the dismantling and destruction of the Community Development Programme and the community sector in 2010, the impact of this state imposed economic violence still permeates through the community. Withdrawal and reductions in funding for youth services, drugs services, community development support, and much more has left this community with a huge deficit in resources to meet the needs and requirements of those most affected by policies of a neo liberal government and civil service. These policies have and will inflict harm and suffering as they are designed to ensure the continuance of structural poverty and inequality. The fear among community workers and activists is how long will it be before the state comes to remove the last of the community infrastructures such as Task Forces, drug services, youth services, community safety fora structures and the miniscule funding which these structures/services are in receipt of.
When the lockdown commenced resulting in the closure of schools, crèches, drug services, youth services etc, these closures resulted in a cohort of young people being left rudderless in terms of structure and stability in their daily lives. While the lockdown was absolutely essential in preventing the spread of the virus, there was also a downside to it for the many young people who struggled to cope with the restrictions of social distancing and then were very often vilified for being careless or thoughtless.This cohort of people was bereft of any kind of leadership or supports to help them deal with the circumstances that were alien to them, and for some children staying at home all day was not an option for them, due to violence, substance use and other issues. Home schooling for these children did not happen mainly because their parents, through no fault of their own, were unable to carry out such an arduous task. The circumstances/rigid regulations of lock down will undoubtedly have major legacy issues not just for children immediately affected but for future generations.
The pandemic amplified the existing of poverty, lack of services, community infrastructure, facilities and amenities in North Clondalkin. The vista of food parcel deliveries to homes may be considered an admirable response by community organisations, however it was also instrumental in highlighting to others who the poor families are in the community. The impact of such exposure will undoubtedly result in long term shame and humiliation of their poverty status, reinforcing their oppression and self-blaming for their poverty.
Another decision by government to issue social welfare payments every two weeks may have met Covid-19 regulations for public/civil servants, however people who rely on these payments on a weekly basis and who live a hand to mouth existence have been thrown into turmoil trying to survive on an insufficient payment. More and more families will end up in deep financial debt as they borrow from unscrupulous lenders at extortionate interest rates. This reality could be prevented or circumvented by returning to the original practice of weekly payments and increase this payment in line with the Covid payment. The provision of the Covid payment proved that people need that amount and more to live on to prevent them sinking deeper into poverty or below poverty existence.
Who will benefit from the emergency is most obvious regarding ideologies and there is certainly concern among community sector workers that the neoliberal ideologists will use the emergency to further their agenda of social destruction which has already caused major damage to our public services, thus resulting in the health service being less prepared and poorly equipped to cope with the pandemic. As mentioned at the beginning, people are still paying for the economic crash of 2008, therefore it is a fair assumption to say people are fully conditioned to accepting austerity, and the imposition of the Covid bill on the nation, in particular the poor of the nation, will most likely go ahead with little resistance. Can a second round of economic violence perpetrated against the people be prevented and what would need to happen immediately to prevent that?
If ever there was an absolute need for an analysis of the class system it most certainly is now, if we desire a society in which people can flourish and lead decent and proper lives. We also need to keep in mind that what we were consistently told was impossible is now possible, such as a rent freeze, no evictions, increase in social welfare payments, lifting the embargo on employment of nurses and other medical staff. The right wing government of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail who favoured supporting financial institutions and landlords have demonstrated through changes in some policies what is essential and what is not essential when it comes to managing a national crisis. There is a requirement now on government, civil servants, community organisations and activists to work together to bring about the much needed progressive structural change which can lead to the desirable and longed for egalitarian society.
Many communities have demonstrated their resilience during the lock down by organising community events such as bingo, street discos and more and through good community relations all Covid guidelines were adhered to. We need to capitalise on this community cohesion which enabled these events and build on what were generally informal structures but were clearly effective in a time of crisis.
Written by Noreen Byrne. Noreen is a Community Development worker and activist. She lives and works in North Clondalkin and has worked in many projects across Dublin with a long and extensive back ground in community activism. She is also an active board member (Vice Chair ) of the Local Drugs task Force and Chairperson of St.Michaels Family Resource Centre, Inchicore.