Could you spare any money?
Arabella, who comes from a housing estate about about four miles away, was at the door. She was offering to wash the car, or weed the garden, or do any work I would offer in return for some money. She had nothing with which to buy food for herself and her four children.
This is not the first time and it won’t be the last.
“Did you get the Easter eggs I left for the children last month?” I asked.
“No”, she said. “Where did you leave them?”
“You weren’t at home, I hung them on the front door. They were in a big orange and white bag”.
“Some ****** took them”, she said, then apologized for her language.
“Why have you no money?”
“He has his benefit book. He spends it all on himself. He drinks. He has cirrhosis of the liver. I get €286 and I have to try to pay everything out of that. I can do it most times”.
She was right. I hadn’t seen her since February, or maybe before. Most times the money she received was enough to feed the family on the burgers and bread and tinned food that they survive on. Her electricity is on a prepay system. Her gas comes in bottles. At one time she was paying €20 a week to hire a television, which was the only furniture in the living room.
I got some cash together, enough to buy food through to benefit day and she thanked me profusely and promised to pray for me.
There was a sinking feeling as she left. I have been here nine years and maybe three or times a year, she has arrived with a plea for help. Early on, I drove to her estate to check things out. Her house was devoid even of furniture, her husband having sold everything to have cash to go to the bar.
In the most prosperous times in the history of the state, Arabella has lived in abject poverty, not because social security payments were too low, but because no-one has ever empowered her to lift herself out of poverty. I wrote to the Irish Times once pointing out that it was not more benefits that people needed but the power to change their own lives, they did not print the letter.
What does Arabella need?
How about state agencies that have the power to actively intervene? How about a barring order against the husband who thumps her; childcare to allow her to get some education; and creche facilities to allow her to work. All of which are expensive, but not nearly as expensive as having her, her children, and her children’s children living on social welfare.
Of course, that would mean the state interfering in a family in defiance of our Constitution, and saying we are not going to throw billion after billion into the benefits black hole, in defiance of our liberals.
Will anything happen? Of course not.
Someone like Arabella calls at my sister’s house in Dublin every Saturday and she leaves with cash in her pocket. Years ago she called at every house, now it is only the ones where she is sure of money.
Personally I am not happy with handing over money, I would prefer to teach them a skill to lift them off the ground, or give food.