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Opinion Leo Varadkar's Lidl-inspired cost-of-living leaflet is tone-deaf and out of touch

Mum Margaret Lynch says parents don’t need to be told how expensive back-to school costs are.

AS A PARENT who has spent just over €700 in the last week on schoolbooks and a uniform (not including school shoes, runners, bags or stationery) for one child who is starting secondary next week, it was so frustrating to see Leo Varadkar’s leaflet being distributed to West Dublin homes.

Just how out of touch can one Taoiseach be? How anyone in government could be giving themselves a pat on the back at this moment in time, is entirely beyond comprehension.

The only way we have been ‘helped to spend less’ is by being crippled with tax, sky high rents and a cost-of-living crisis that has left almost one-third of parents skipping meals in order to feed their children. So, thank you, I guess?

Prior to the current period of rampant inflation, Ireland was already the most expensive country in Europe for household goods.

It feels like every day now that we see new articles about how deeply people are suffering, about how parents are cutting back on electricity, heating, food, medical care and medicine, in order to cope with the cost of living crisis. 

While I am sure the Free Primary School books initiative has been welcomed by many families, it doesn’t do anything for us. Neither does the Back to School Allowance, which we have never qualified for.

There wasn’t any mention of secondary school books, which is ridiculous as they triple in price at this level. On the other hand, the Free GP care is great, just as long as your child is under 8, and your doctor accepts the free GP card, and also if you can get an appointment this side of Christmas.

The childcare supports will also really benefit parents. As long as you can wait until 2025 for a place, that is.

And the scrapped hospital charges are definitely a great initiative, we can bring the kids to visit one of the world’s most expensive buildings, when it’s finally finished.

Banks

In a week where we have Irish banks reporting record profits, and people reporting the devastating impact that interest rates are having on them, to also have the Taoiseach pat himself on the back is just absolute madness.

How can banks means test people before giving a mortgage, decide a number and refuse to give a cent more, and then in 2 years time hike the interest rate and financially cripple a family?

And if those same financial institutions can provide exact figures on how much people can realistically commit to spending on a mortgage, how is then able to double or triple this figure with no limits? How much pressure can we keep putting on hard working people?

It’s also important to note that the measures on the leaflet are not any kind of bonus. They have been brought in as a bare minimum to help people cope through the most dire of circumstances. The amount of homeless people continues to hit record highs and this still doesn’t count the staggering amount of people who have moved back in with their parents or other family members to get by.

Although we are lucky to have found a property to rent, we have no security for the future. So many families have lost their homes due to evictions or landlords selling, they are sleeping in hotel rooms or on the streets. Mortgages are being sold to vulture funds and most families are worried about how they will heat the houses this winter. But look, weren’t we given €100 extra per child in June?

Basic and urgent

While it would be great to see the school lunches rolled out to all schools, and books provided for primary and secondary level, what we need from the government is far more basic and urgent.

We need security for the roof over our head, and the ability to buy a house. Rent needs to be reasonable, and in line with current wages. Supply has to meet demand. We need creche and school places, and we need to know our elderly neighbours aren’t going to freeze this winter.

Free school books are little use to a child who is homeless. Reduced college fees are no use to a student who can’t find accommodation, and free GP care isn’t much use to a family who can’t afford heating.

It is so tone deaf of any political party to issue a disposable leaflet listing out ways they are helping, while refusing to listen to the ways we need help. And what an utter waste of resources as we fall short in all environmental targets

I do have to admit though, that I thoroughly enjoy the thought process that I imagine behind the Lidl catalogue of offers. I really like that as Leo attempted to relate to the people, as he wondered what the masses like, that the best way to catch our attention was via a Lidl catalogue.

This is the attempted means of communication from our leader. And it certainly was eye catching. I am sure many people did give it a quick scan before adding it to the other junk mail that we will use in winter to heat homes.

The government shouldn’t have to tell us how well they are doing, it should be evident and observable. If a procedure or system is working well, you don’t notice it.

But you can choose any statistic or area to see what a dreadful state the country is in and a couple of quick fix plasters printed on a colourful leaflet aren’t going to address any of the real issues. It’s just a typical middle aisle offer, while it looks very exciting, there isn’t ever anything of any real substance. And definitely nothing you actually need.

Margaret is a busy mum, working and living in Kildare.

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