Don’t let Love Island fill the void after Repeal the Eighth

My twitter feed has been loaded with repeal the Eighth tweets over the past few months. Then there was a dramatic change, Love Island began to take its place.

A big trade down in my opinion.

Look, I don’t understand Love Island. The idea of navigating your way through eliminations to get to a €50,000 prize by using emotions to couple up with other contestants on national television is a figurative hell to me. I lack the emotional intelligence, maturity, and trust in people to make it 20 minutes in that sort of environment. My stomach curdles anytime I have to convey genuine emotion. Honestly, the people competing on that show have a courage that is beyond my comprehension. And then for it to be televised on national scale… to volunteer for that is insane.

As a viewer I sort of get it. It’s about the buzz you get after hearing some juicy rumours about work colleagues getting off with each other. It is a strange type of fun gossiping.

How and ever, that is not what this is about. Repeal the Eighth was a glorious victory for the women of Ireland by the women Ireland. Our country is a better place now but by no means a perfect place. There are countless scandals to engage with and causes to get behind, but people seem to be more concerned with a summer reality show nowadays.

Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar did what they should have been doing all along when they came out in support of the of repeal side. Under their socially liberal and fiscally conservative regime, it makes sense. The cost of an abortion will consist of that ideology.

Harris is the Minister for Health during a time when the HSE is going from crisis to crisis. Surely these major issues with our health service are more important than Love Islands’ Dr. Alex’s relationship problems? Crises like a record number of people (9,091 last May) on trolleys and the cervical cancer scandal that has affected over 200 women, 17 of which have since died. In fairness to Harris though he did call off his St. Patrick’s day visit to Belgium and the Netherlands in an attempt to win good PR, or because he cares, or both depending on your political persuasion.

Another national scandal which isn’t going away is the homelessness crisis. Last March there were 9,652 homeless people in Ireland. Up 2,180 from the same time last year.

The housing crisis is in the same boat with fresh reports saying 96% of people in the private rental sector reporting difficulty finding accommodation which everybody already knew. The student rental market will get worse in the future if regulations are not introduced for purpose-built student complexes. Under the current regulations, students living in purpose-built private accommodation do not have the same rights as normal tenants, rights like having to be notified before being evicted and restrictions on rent increases.

The private companies who own purpose-built student complexes have the right to increase the rents in their complexes by as much as they want. In the standard private rental market, there is a 4% limit on how much the rent can be increased from year to year. Students living in purpose-built student complexes do not have these rights.

The students in the Shanowen Student residence will fall victim to this in September when their rent will go from €7,000 an academic year to €9,000. The students protested the almost 30% increase and gained support from Sinn Fein but it looks like nothing will get done before September.

There are numerous student residencies under construction and in the planning process in Dublin at the moment. They are not being built in an effort to alleviate the housing crisis. Private companies are building them because they know they can exploit students through the lack of rights.

In some of the newer purpose-built student residences, a week’s rent in a single room typically costs €270. While on Erasmus in Munich I paid €340 a month. An academic year in a new student residence in Dublin costs about €10,000. In Munich it costs €2,720. The private rental market in Munich is not dissimilar to Dublin’s. Rent has inflated massively in most major European cities. So, one cannot equate the difference in cost to the rental markets.

This is only the beginning. The future students of Dublin will be paying insane rents for minimal facilities and even fewer rights.

Another issue that we don’t seem to be facing up to is that the Irish Media cannot be trusted to deliver the truth. Ireland fell two places in the latest world index of free press last year. Concentration of media ownership by INM, the weak efforts of semi-state institution RTE and the Garda act of 2005 were cited as direct reasons for the fall. In a global climate of failing media, this fall is exponential.

Concentration of media ownership or INM is one of the bigger issues facing Irish journalism. INM own the Irish Independent, the Evening Herald, The Sunday Independent, The Sunday World and 50% of the Irish Daily Star, as well as six regional titles. The issue of a concentrated media is that it’s controlled by a concentration of people, who may or may not have an agenda.

Gemma O’Doherty’s treatment by INM after doing her job too well is the perfect synopsis of the situation in the media. Gemma was an investigative journalist for the Irish Independent. After Gemma allegedly door stepped (going to an address to confirm who lives there in this case) the Garda Chief Martin Callinan’s wife, Gemma was asked to take a voluntary redundancy. After refusing, INM sacked her on the grounds of performing a door step. A totally normal journalistic practice when exercised on ordinary people.

Gemma then sued INM on the grounds of unfair dismissal. She won her case and was awarded an undisclosed sum. Gemma is now using the money to fund her investigative journalism and is someone everyone in Ireland should be invested in. She has a website and a Twitter.

Ireland has an endless supply of scandals and political failings to follow. Now we have a bit of pride in our country, don’t be afraid to engage with them. Maybe after you catch the latest episode of Love Island.


Photo credit: ITV2 James Hilder