No-one knows how many people there are in this country.
The Census gives a figure, but it is no more than those who have been registered at a particular address on a particular evening. The Census returns understate the numbers in some communities, leading to there being tens of thousands of invisible people.
Had the enumerator been calling at a council house in one particularly bleak Dublin estate in April past, rather than April 2006, would the occupier have given information about the illegal sub-letting of a room? Would he have disclosed that three students from the Far East were sharing the one room in an ordinary-sized council house?
Had one of those students not appeared in a colleague’s church, I would never have heard the story. Had the colleague not known someone who could provide alternative accommodation in pleasant surroundings at a modest cost, the student would have continued to pay an exploitative rent.
And what does one do about the exploiter?
Telephone the council and say that he is ripping off Far Eastern students and so leave the remaining two tenants with nowhere to live?
Disclosing the truth is a right, but is it the right thing to do?
Who cares about such communities anyway?
Apart from the corner shops and the odd restaurant, few people ever encounter anyone from the Far East, yet estimates in 2006 suggested that that the community from China alone, which had been officially recorded in the Census as 16,000, was actually between 60,000 and 100,000. Hardly a voice is raised on behalf of people who are hard working and who are entitled to nothing in terms of welfare.
How many more students are there living three (or more) to a room in poor conditions? How many are working long hours for rip off wages?
Had the young student not happened to go to my colleague’s church one Sunday, no-one would have known the situation.
Were this happening to other groups, there would be a national scandal, are some people more equal than others?