This weekend, the Irish people were treated to an extraordinary tale of woe, courtesy of Kitty Holland in the Irish Times. Steady yourselves before reading this one. As they say on the news, this report contains details that some readers might find…. upsetting:

Social tenants in a luxury apartment complex in Dublin say they are being “discriminated” against as they are not allowed to use the property’s gym, meeting rooms or roof terrace, keep pets or attend residents’ meetings.

Finished in 2017, Marianella’s 210 apartments on the site of a former monastery on Orwell Road, were priced in the region of €700,000 to €950,000.

The developer sold 19 units to Dublin City Council, fulfilling its obligations under part five of the 2000 Housing Act to offer 10 per cent of units in developments of 10 or more homes, for social housing.

One resident, Tenia Karim, says soon after he moved into his one-bedroom apartment in January 2019 he left his gym in nearby Dartry to join the gym on his doorstep. However Mr Karim was told he could not join because he lives in Orwell Grove.

A spokeswoman for Fold Housing, which made unsuccessful representations on his behalf, explained that as it has paid reduced management fees its tenants could not access the gym. “But this does not explain why we are not even allowed pay to join,” argues Mr Karim.

There’s a lot to unpack, here, obviously.

But first, to the simple question as to why the social housing residents cannot access the gym: It’s answered in the bold part above. Most apartment complexes in Dublin have a management company, and residents pay an annual fee which covers the cost of maintaining the communal spaces, fixing the elevators, and, well, keeping the gym going. As to Mr. Karim’s question about why he can’t just pay a fee, it’s very simple: It’s not a public gym. And he already benefits, presumably, by using the elevators and the common spaces, and all the other things the management fee covers. Since the City Council doesn’t pay the full fees, the residents don’t get the full benefits.

Now, it is, undoubtedly, upsetting for Mr. Karim that he cannot join the private gym in his apartment block, and has to join a private gym somewhere else instead. But is it really a matter of national concern?

The Irish state has, after all, provided him with social housing accommodation in a one-bedroom apartment valued, according to the Irish Times, at about €700,000. Because it’s social housing, it’s fair to assume that he is not paying the rent that a private tenant might expect to pay for a €700,000 one-bed apartment in Rathgar.

According to the Journal.ie, in this report from January, the very most that any social tenant pays for rent in Dublin City Council’s housing stock is…. €265.87 a week. Assuming (though it is unlikely) that Mr. Karim is paying that maximum rate, then we know for a fact that his monthly rent comes to – at the very, very, most – just over a thousand per month. Looking on Daft.ie for one bedroom apartments in Rathgar, we can see that the average rent for a decent place is…. Five or six hundred euros more than that.

So even if Mr. Karim is paying the very highest rent presently charged by the City Council, the Irish taxpayer is subsidising his accommodation, in all likelihood, to the tune of five or six hundred euros a month. And he wants us to pay for a private gym membership too?

If you’re thinking “that’s a bit much now, Mr. Karim”, well, you’re not alone.

But wait – there’s more. Who is Tenia Karim?

Could it be this fellow, who was, apparently, employed by Calgary Airport in Canada in recent years, and who left that job due to, apparently, rampant racism?

Well, there’s always the chance it’s a different fellow. But when somebody asked him about this, his response wasn’t what you’d expect from someone living in Canada:

You’d think if it was a different Tenia Karim, he’d say something obvious, like “what apartment? What are you talking about?”. But he didn’t, did he? He seemed to know exactly what his correspondent was talking about. In addition, this Mr. Karim listed his location, until yesterday, as “Dublin”. In other words, the same fellow who was sacked in Canada is now in Dublin, and called Tenia Karim, and not behaving like somebody who’s particularly surprised to be named in an article about receiving an apartment. Indeed, as soon as he was asked about it, he immediately moved to conceal his location. Unless there’s some extraordinary coincidence, it’s the same bloke.

Which raises an interesting and very important question: How does somebody lose a job in Canada, and show up in Dublin, and receive a luxury apartment in Rathgar at the taxpayer’s expense in January 2019?

It’s not exactly a short process, usually. He’d have had to establish eligibility, for one thing, and proof of a lack of sufficient income, and all the rest of it. How long was he in the country before getting this apartment? The Irish Times, naturally, doesn’t ask.

We don’t know when Mr. Karim entered Ireland and when he first applied for social housing. We know that he was in Canada on a two year work visa and that he worked for a time in Calgary International Airport. On September the 14th of 2015 Karim wrote to the Airport regarding an incidence of alleged racial discrimination. Assuming that he had reached out to the airport shortly after the incidence, which we know took place on the first day he went to work at Calgary Airport, his visa would have run out some time around the winter of 2017. Mr. Karim eventually lost his job in the airport, he says because of racial discrimination, but it is unclear if he then came immediately to Ireland or if he continued to stay in Canada for a period.

In 2019, the year Mr. Karim received his apartment, there were 5,643 ‘qualified households’ in Dublin city who had been on the housing list for more than seven years. Another 3,663 had been on the waiting list for 4-7 years. Those are households, not people, so you’re looking at thousands more people waiting for homes than those numbers suggest.

Rathgar, where Mr. Karim now lives, is under the remit of South Dublin County Council (SDCC). In 2018 SDCC said that the average waiting times for social housing were: 9 years for a 1 bedroom home; 7 years for a 2 bedroom home; 8 years for a 3 bedroom home; and 10 years for a 4 bedroom home.

What’s going on there? According to our friends at the Dublin Enquirer, some people have been on the waiting list for social housing in Dublin since the mid-2000s. That’s more than a decade waiting for a list. Mr. Karim, it seems, wasn’t waiting anything like that long before getting one of the best social houses Dublin has to offer.

Isn’t all of that absolutely intriguing? We’ll keep asking questions about it. The Irish Times, naturally enough, will not, but we’re confident they’ll keep trying to get him his gym membership.

With additional reporting by Gary Kavanagh