Ireland is no place for the struggling – on any wage

Editorial note: The author’s identity is with the editor. In view of the personal issues outlined in this piece, he has requested, and been granted, anonymity:


I’m a middle-aged, straight, white male who earns more than double the national average wage in Ireland. According to basically every one of our political and media class, including all the chatterati my life is a breeze. I have it great! I’m privileged, literally everyone else but me suffers while I laugh and smoke cigars.

I wish that were true, but it is not.

My earnings vary because I work in sales and get paid commission, so rather than not have to worry about what my next pay check will be (like our politicians) I can’t really plan things because I get paid commission quarterly, therefore as we approach mid-November I have no clue what my salary will be at the end of January, the way things are going everyone might stop buying stuff until the end of the year and then I am left with my basic salary.

But anyway, say I earn the maximum that my contract allows me, and I get about €75,000 per year. Wow! You may think, he really is privileged, I wish I earned that. Well, I’m not going to sit here and deny it’s not good – in fact it’s a great salary. If I lived in any other country but Ireland and didn’t have the horrendous bad luck I have here I would be laughing. But I don’t, I live in Ireland, and I have health issues. So, here we go…

From that 75k about €27,000 of it I never see. It’s taken before I have a chance to even gaze wistfully at it, from USC to Income Tax to whatever else there is these days I am left with about €48,000.

Still, that’s great isn’t it. Four grand a month, I hear you shout – if only you had that much eh, life would be sweet. I get it, and I understand, because as hard as things are for me, they’re doubtless harder for people less well off.

But let’s continue. From 48k we need to subtract 2.5 for health insurance. I mean I don’t really need health insurance do I, there’s always the “free” health service in Ireland. Anyone who thinks this is a moron. Health Insurance here has saved my life, if I didn’t have it, I would honestly be dead by now.

It allowed me to avail of mental health services when I really needed them, had I to wait on the public sector I’d be gone. So, it’s a must, I cannot do without it, especially as I have loads of other health issues which it covers.

So, we are down to 45.5k, but at least I’ve no health bills to worry about, right? Unfortunately, I do.

Before we even reach December I have also paid out this year so far €4000 on various consultant fees, eye tests (for glaucoma) and prescriptions. Yes, I avail of the monthly prescription service which means you only pay a maximum but that’s already taken into account. There’s also loads of drugs which are not covered in that scheme, for some reason a lot of pain medication isn’t, so I’ve paid extra for it and the pain clinic I visit cannot even charge some of its services to my insurance as it’s not covered.

Yep, as ridiculous as it may seem but chronic pain sufferers have to pay for a lot of the treatment because it isn’t counted as real suffering or something. And yes I’ve taken into account the fact I can claim 20% of all of this back on my end of year tax return.

41.5k then. But wait, there’s more medical stuff. Unfortunately I didn’t have the greatest childhood, and suffered a lot of trauma. To that end I need psychotherapy (I have done for a long time now). If I was to try to avail of the public offerings on this I’d be dead a long time ago, they are so ridiculous it’s not even worth discussing. And yes you guessed it, this isn’t covered by your insurance either. So twice a month I trot off to my therapist and pay €250 for the privilege, that’s another 3,000 off the total, and just like that we only have €38,500 left.

Still, that’s a lot, right? Maybe somewhere else, certainly not in Dublin. I am, sadly, about to finalise a divorce.

Divorce is never pleasant, and divorce is expensive. In my case, the choice ultimately was either pay thousands of Euros which I didn’t have and fight a horrible court battle, or give up everything and keep a roof over myself and my son’s head, when I have access to him. It’s another privilege of men that after divorce we usually only end up seeing our kids for a fraction of the time our ex-wives do. I will miss him terribly, and I am not sure how I will cope.

So the divorce somehow left me with a €20,000 debt which I had to get a loan for, so that’s another €385 per month from the pot. We’re down to €33,880 now. Still roundabout the average wage though, loads isn’t it.

But remember, I said I live in Dublin. I’m nearly 50, with a 20k debt so the only way a mortgage lender would interact with me is to give themselves a good laugh. Therefore I have to pay rent. In Dublin. But I’m lucky, I get a good deal on a cheap 2 bed apartment, so that’s only another €1850 per month. Down to €11680 now.

Gas and electric next, and who the hell knows how much they cost these days, but let’s be conservative, say €150 per month. Below 10k now, €9880 left.

I still have to pay half of everything for my son (all his child allowance goes into a savings account for his education, has done since he was born), let’s average that out over the year to include all his clothes, school needs etc and conservatively estimate it at €1000. Very conservatively. All the 8s, €8880 left.

What about a car? Yep I need that, I have hospital visits to attend. Thankfully I don’t have to pay off a loan for my 6 year-old one but I do pay fuel, tax, and insurance. We’ll be conservative again, shall we. Say €2000 per year, €6880 left now.

Food next. How much does that cost, it’s difficult to buy stuff when you’re alone, but again we’ll err on the side of caution with the figures, let’s go with €2500 per year even though we all know that’s nonsense. €4380 left. I haven’t bought myself any clothes yet. Or paid my phone bill, or TV, or thought about a holiday. But hey, I have about €100 per week left, that’s definitely enough to cover all those isn’t it? Oh wait, I had to pay €250 for tyres the other day. And €450 because I put a massive dent in the side of the car leaving the eye doctor, ironically after I’d been told my eye was improving. Now we’ve less than €100 a week.

I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I rarely go out. The only thing I do for myself is play golf. Well at least I did, until my back pain became so unbearable that I’m not able to at the minute. But if the pain clinic manages to fix that I’ll look forward to being able to play again next year, my membership is due in January, it’s only €2700 for the year. I’m sure the less than €100 per week I have left will cover it, after I’ve paid my phone bill. And whatever else I’ve forgotten. You see I can forget stuff, it doesn’t matter, because I’m so privileged.

I guarantee loads of people will read this and not give a flying fiddlestick. Some simply won’t care, some will go “to hell with him, look how much he earns” or something similar. Go ahead, that’s your prerogative. I will try to figure out what prerogative means tonight when I’m lying in bed worrying that my latest headache will kill me, or trying to sleep despite the horrendous pain in my back, knowing deep down that the stress of trying to live in Ireland with health problems is slowly killing me, even though I’m a privileged rich person. Maybe next year I won’t have to pay €4000 in extra medical bills and I’ll have some breathing space. Or maybe I’ll have to pay more, and I’ll finally break.

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