Having reading the report from the Economic and Social Research Institute/Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Monitoring Adequate Housing in Ireland, I think I know how the cat felt having finished To Kill a Mockingbird.
There is nothing in this about providing adequate housing in Ireland.
Rather, there’s plenty of tendentious social science dogma which seeks to use appropriately tailored statistics and “reports” of discrimination in order to bolster yet another dissertation on inequality. These reports are always written by and sponsored by people who have no personal experience of inequality – otherwise they would not be getting paid to write about it.
The foreword by Sinead Gibney of the IHREC sets the tone when she refers to “cultural adequacy” as one of the six dimensions which require monitoring. The intersectional thrust of it all is captured in the reference to “racial and ethnic minorities including Travellers, women, lone parents, younger and older persons, and migrants.” Everyone really, other than, by process of elimination, middle aged married white lads.
Which begs the question, do all of the Chosen share a commonality of interests, and do they face a common oppressor who is dissing them by denying them adequate housing? The trouble with intersectionality of course is that while it spuriously purports to provide an intellectual foundation for such a commons of “equality groups”, that its very essence is the minute division and categorisation of people into very specifically defined and often-competing sub groups.
The constant refrain throughout the report is that there is a need for ever more data to be collected that proves how all the different groups, like Tolstoy’s unhappy family, are all unequal in their own way. Even where they note that “less than 5 per cent” of those surveyed “stated they are ‘likely’ to have to move for affordability reasons,” they cite this as proof of the “need for a new data collection,” one that hopefully would reveal a greater level of misery.
They specifically lament the fact that: “We lack sufficient recent data to analyse housing discrimination across equality groups” (p39.) Equality groups which they have chosen, and evidence regarding discrimination against whom is largely based on other reports including the subjective accounts of individuals identified as members of one of the “equality groups” who “were all significantly more likely to report that they had been discriminated against while looking for housing” (p40.)
The dimensions which the report uses were themselves selected by a “stakeholder consultation” – which largely comprised of individuals from NGOs such as Age Action, the European Anti-Poverty Network, Pavee Point, Simon’ and the Refugee Council. All these groups depend on the maintenance of a paradigm in which the undoubted problems which are identified can mostly be resolved by said groups with their massive budgets and staff.
Indeed, the authors make that part of the exercise patently clear when they describe the point of the report having been to “provide information that is useful for IHREC and civil society actors to inform their submissions to the monitoring process, especially on outcomes” (p6.) They have been engaged in this liaison, of course, since the state astutely co-opted the “non governmental” sector into the state maw through control of funding.
The authors also refer to “inequality of outcomes” as a signifier of “unequal opportunities” (p7.) That, however, is an ideological position. There is no evidence to suggest that equal opportunity under the law does not exist, and especially not that the nebulous concept of social justice has anything at all to do with the pursuit of equality of outcomes. History would suggest that it does not.
The tacit objective of the report must therefore be taken to be to influence the state, through the NGOs, to pursue such an ideologically-driven agenda. The question is how would it set about that? The only practical thing that any state can do in relation to housing supply is to build more houses.
The report does not suggest how that might be accomplished. Therefore, we must assume that all of the inequalities identified can only be solved by implementing a “rights based” approach. Which logically, given the income dimension, might only be provided by making sure that everyone has the same income. The report concludes with the hope that they have helped to “capture inequalities” and that this will in some unexplained way help to provide “adequate housing” for all.
Some of their laments about statistical lacunae on discrimination are risible. As for example where they state that “Ethnicity remains rarely measured in Ireland” (xiii.)
For no one is quite as obsessed with the categorisation of humans into categories, preferably racial ones, as the liberal left. They are akin to a demented band of Victorian entomologists chasing around after beetles. Not to admire them in their diversity beetling about but to chloroform them and stick pins and names on them in glass display cases.
The other problem with the approach favoured by most social scientists is that where there is a gap in the statistical evidence, they compensate for this by resorting to subjective accounts. While this report is largely based on data gleaned chiefly from the CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions, the authors have selected a quite narrow set of dimensions upon which to examine how official housing statistics and respondents replies to questions related to housing can be analysed.
Some of the findings and conclusions are no more than truisms. For example, it is observed that a lower % of 25-44 year olds own their own homes, than those aged over 45 (p49.) This is no more than a function of people moving away from their parental home. There is certainly a pressing issue with regard to how much more difficult it is for young families to buy their own home, but that is nowhere addressed in the report. Partly, because this is not a cohort that can be comfortably placed within one of their “equality groups.”
Likewise, the high proportion of single parent households (19%) experiencing housing difficulties, the main finding focused on by most media, is obviously a function of higher unemployment and welfare dependency and, dareonesayit, broader societal factors such as family dysfunction.
Similarly, the fact that migrants are more likely to be in private rental accommodation is surely only a reflection of the fact that migrants are recent arrivals, and many may even be transitory residents. There is also a distinction between migrants who work and those who do not, and may indeed have been attracted by welfare considerations.
The report refers to statistics such as that 22% of those on the housing list are non Irish (p61); that 33% of those in receipt of rent supplement in 2019 were non Irish (Table 4.2) and that over 37% of those receiving the Housing Assistance Payment were non Irish (Table 4.3) No doubt this is regarded as evidence of inequality. Might it not also be regarded as evidence of people coming here in order to receive public benefits, and who in significant numbers are technically “unemployable”?
A number of statistics are also presented on those in Direct Provision which, of course, is now to be abolished. It is probably pretty much pointless to refer again to the fact that the vast majority of those who enter DP as persons seeking residency in the state are found out eventually to have made bogus claims. That no longer matters it seems.
What should matter, but clearly does not to the authors of the report or those who commissioned it in the IHREC or any of the NGOs who will use it to bolster their own agenda, is that no serious society grants random arrivals all of the “rights” that accrue to citizens and legitimate migrants who have legitimate claims on the protection of the state where it is required.
This state spends vast amounts of money on Direct Provision. Most of that could have been saved had the process for assessing applicants for residency been more efficient. Now it seems it will be abolished and current and former residents and future arrivals will be housed at the expense of the taxpayer in publicly-funded housing.
In 2020, the bill for Direct Provision was over €175,000,000. There were somewhere over 7,400 people in DP in 2020, so that amounts to an average spend per resident of over €23,000. By contrast the local authority budget for traveller accommodation in 2020 was €14,500,000. That equated to around €1,300 for each traveller family in the state.
Travellers of course have now been adopted by the intersectionalists and randomly placed alongside the Roma, something which Pavee Point has gone along with for some reason. Well, perhaps they might consider that they are losing out a bit in contrast to more favoured members of the intersectionality caravan.
While some of the statistics in this report are useful, even within the paradigm under which they have been selected, its objective is ideological and by definition designed to influence state policy. The authors and the IHREC do not conceal that. It is on that level others need to engage with it.