24th March, 2013
Dear Ms. Bowles,
I hope this finds you well.
I don’t know where to start so I’m just going to start from this particular moment in time; tonight, in the silence of my home, I will try to convey to you the feeling of anguish which is now a permanent feeling in my chest.
I sit here at my kitchen table, my three children asleep in bed. My husband has wearily climbed the stairs but I know he is not asleep. I hear him turning and know that tonight, like every night for the last number of years, he will face another night of anguish, despair and very little rest.
I have often lain awake, pretending to be asleep, to watch him stand in the dark looking out our bedroom window. I know why he is there. I know that even though we are a team and discuss how to keep our heads above water, he wakes at night desperate to try and figure out a way to protect our family from the financial strain we are starting to find ourselves in. Seeing the silhouette of this strong man against the night sky, burdened under this worry and torment, is crushing. I wait until he returns to bed, turn over and place my arm around him. This at least is some comfort to us both.
Ms. Bowles, my husband is self employed. He has always worked very hard. We have always paid our way, never once asking for help. We never wanted to be millionaires. Our goal was always simple; to provide for our kids, rear them to respect themselves and others. We have been very lucky as they are three very good, kind and fair-minded children, well-liked and respected by their peers and adults alike.
When our kids were still babies, we built our own modest three-bedroom house in the village where I was born and reared. We have never lived beyond our means – we never wanted to! Spending time with our kids, spending as much time as we could outdoors, playing traditional music and being together, was enough. We lived very simple but happy lives, happy in the knowledge that our kids loved their home, loved and had the love and support of their extended family that lived close by. They loved their country and had the ease that comes with a sense of place. They thrived in the security of being loved and of us being a unit. However, this is being destroyed.
My children are not stupid. They are fully aware of the strain that we are now finding ourselves in. They see that their father is travelling further and further in search of work, they see us staying up until the late hours pricing jobs, more often than not to no avail. They know that for the self-employed, if you don’t work you don’t eat. We are currently just making the mortgage. They know that we will not be able to pay the home-tax introduced or the water-charges that are currently being discussed. You can feel the unspoken fear that their Dad may possibly have to emigrate to find work, of the possibility of us losing our home and having to leave everything and everyone we know and love behind. The family unit in which they always felt so safe is being ripped apart by emigration. The heartbreak they felt as they had to say goodbye to their cousins, as their aunt and uncle had no choice but to leave for America, never to return. This totals three uncles and kids gone. Their three older cousins – all educated – are gone, with another to go shortly. They live with the fear that they are next.
The austerity measures that have been introduced are not only crippling and stagnating us financially, it is the sinister way that without permission, it has invaded our home and is destroying our very souls. We have always been a productive and positive family. We have always taught our kids to do the right thing. It is becoming difficult to justify to the children today why it is important to do the right thing. All they have seen is that those who have done the right thing are being forced into debt, while those who driven by greed and power have walked away, free to continue with the same policies of ‘too big to fail’. They are seeing that people are no longer a priority to those who were trusted to govern.
Ms. Bowles, I could delve a lot deeper into the profound effect that austerity is having on my family and families like ours all over Ireland and Europe. Sometimes when looking at a massive task, the human consequences of decisions are far removed. I will finish this letter and after I climb the stairs to bed and close my eyes, I will once again agonise over what the future holds for my children.