Opinion

Paul McNamee: The will of the people? Not to live in poverty

Let’s send a message to our leaders who are tying themselves in knots trying to show they understand the will of the people over Brexit

There is a fantastic, but little-known Irish film called Silence. In it, a man travels back home from Europe to rural Donegal in an attempt to record silence. His works as an audio recordist, so this is not as bizarre as it appears. He is constantly thwarted as he tries to find some part of increasingly remote countryside that isn’t impacted by some manmade sound.

Given that the film is Irish, it is really a rumination on identity, land, progress and death. It’s very slow. You should watch it.

You’re ahead of me here…

I was thinking about it this week as our national Brexit psychosis gripped further. Just how far would you have to escape to be beyond any mention or echo of Brexit? Top of Snowdon? An oilrig in the North Sea? Deep into Gaping Gill cave?

The more we hear, the less we understand. And even despite that lack of clarity, entrenched positions become more entrenched. Article 50 can be rescinded. Or maybe it can’t. And there are parliamentary amendments flying around like garden trampolines in a storm.

I asked a very wise political commentator if he could make sense of it and, in a few sentences, tell me what would happen. He laughed, right in my face.

Through this confusion, life goes on. Reports pile on reports detailing increasing havoc that is being wrought across the nation.

A report by the charity Shelter said more than 130,000 children will be homeless in Britain this Christmas. That’s the equivalent of Watford. That many children will be in hostels and B&Bs and other temporary accommodation this Christmas morning. 130,000. Shame on us all.

Want another? The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that 4.1 million children live in poverty, up 500,000 in five years.

They say that in-work poverty is rising faster than employment, a lot of this down to the poor nature of many of these jobs. People are trying their best to work hard to provide for their families, to make sure they don’t become another homeless statistic, but increasingly it’s not enough.

Through this confusion, life goes on. Reports pile on reports detailing increasing havoc that is being wrought across the nation

You could get into an argument about bands of poverty, and what’s classified as poverty and how it’s relative.

Or you could say, damn it all, enough! People are struggling. This week we report on the sort of people who are being forced to go to foodbanks in Britain in order to stay alive. The results might surprise you, because it covers a lot of the waterfront.

Let’s send a message to our leaders who are tying themselves in knots trying to show they understand the will of the people over Brexit. Tell them the will of the people is not to live in poverty, not to have to worry about whether they can feed their children, it’s about job security, not knife-edge fear.

Let’s tell them to keep their bombast and their self-preserving party allegiances and to look out and beyond. Tell them to start doing something.

We will stand proudly and loudly beside you and will do the same.

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