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The Six Counties – A Literal Cold House

17/12/08

Pensioners protesting at StormontAs reported recently, some 250 pensioners were forced to leave the biting cold of their homes to march on Stormont. Taking to the leafy avenues surrounding the building they sought to remind those inside that they ‘Can't Heat or Eat’. Criminal, indeed. A crime that claims the lives of over 3,000 Irish people annually, but one for which no-one in this society has ever been held accountable. Yet, it would seem that the Six Counties is not a literal ‘cold house’ for the elderly alone.

For a recent report commissioned by Save the Children, ‘The Impact of Fuel Poverty on Children’, reveals that in 2004 some 12% percent of families within the Six Counties were ‘living’ in fuel poverty. A figure which, even amongst all of the promised prosperity, had more than doubled by 2006 reaching a high, or should that be low, of 27%.

More remarkable still, is that when subsequent energy price hikes were factored into the 2006 figures the percentage of families with children ‘living’ in fuel poverty reaches an incredible 50%. At 50%, “the fuel poverty rate among families with children here is one of the highest in the developed world”, where the guardians of over 185,000 children are forced to decide whether they are to eat or heat. Decisions that should never have to be made in a lifetime are being made day and daily throughout the Six Counties and beyond.

And while those in Stormont are unable to agree upon a package which may even go some way towards heating the homes of our young and old, as meagre as its likely to be, they have at least sought to warm our hearts through their cross party support of a local contestant on X-Factor – priorities in order as ever – in a cynical attempt at populism. Whether such warmed hearts will prove enough to stave off hypothermia is, however, yet to be seen.

Gas and electricity prices are finally going down, a bitMore encouraging, it has been argued, are the leaked reports that some of the companies currently gouging the people of the Six Counties, such as Phoenix Gas and Northern Ireland Electricity [sic], are due to reduce their prices by up to 10%, due in large part, perhaps, to the investigations of the utility regulator. This means, of course, that people will only be paying 40% more than they were this time last year. Another good news story, then.

What is clear is that statistics, budgets, balance sheets and regulators, are incapable of telling the story or dealing with the issue of poverty and those that exacerbate it. What has been proven, time and time again, is that there is no column for solidarity in budgets nor humanity in balance sheets.

These systems have failed the young and old time and again. It is important that republicans and socialists do not. The campaigns are there to be fought and won, éirígí, through its ‘We Only Want The Earth’ campaign is making a real start on both.

To learn more about ‘We Only Want The Earth’ click here.

 

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