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Sixth Year Runner Up: Gareth Jones of St. Peter's College, Wexford

The responsibility of relieving the homelessness crisis in Ireland falls solely on the shoulders of private charity. It is not enough to say that it falls on the responsibility of charity alone, as many charities in Ireland receive funding from the government. The government should have no role to play in relieving this crisis, and the reason is quite simple: it was government intervention in the lives of private citizens and the economy that caused this crisis in the first place. A huge number of regulations brought in have now culminated to the point where people now cannot afford to house themselves and their loved ones. This government intervention has to stop as soon as possible, starting with them staying out of this crisis.

Contrary to what many people may think, the rent supplement does not help anyone, except those landlords who want to keep their prices as high as possible. The introduction of such supplements means one thing and one thing only, a minimum price set on rents. This is an inherently bad system for any economy, as it sets a base price which is not affected by demand. The lowest price should be the cost of production of a product or service, not an artificial floor created through the introduction of social welfare schemes. Also, the introduction of the new Central Bank regulations has made buying a home for first time buyers even more difficult, which in turn means that more and more are turning to renting, driving up demand, and hence driving up an already artificially inflated price. It is bad economics, bad government policy, and most importantly, it’s detrimental to the efforts of those looking for affordable housing, effectively pricing many people out of the market. It’s quite easy to see how even seemingly positive government intervention has led to an exponential level of negative consequences for its citizens. To put it very simply, government intervention causes more harm than good.

So who does the responsibility fall to if not the government? As I mentioned earlier, it quite clearly falls to charity, and crucially, charity that is funded purely through private donations and initiatives, not through government funding. It is the essence of private charity, of those willing working towards a goal, that will end this crisis, not the begrudging donation of those who don’t want to be involved.

It is a fact that some causes mean more than others to other people. Based on this, through what reasoning can we say that it is anyone’s responsibility to tackle this crisis? Simply put, we can’t. That is why the essence of private charity is so important when discussing this topic. It is only those who truly wish to help that should.

The word responsibility is thrown around a lot, and I too am guilty of misusing the word here. Perhaps the question we should be asking is not “Whose responsibility is it?”, but “Is it anyone’s responsibility?” And while this may seem cold-hearted and unfeeling, my answer to that question would have to be “no”. It is not anyone’s responsibility to tackle the homelessness crisis because it is not their fault; they are not to blame for it. To say that the resolution of this crisis is the responsibility of anyone is to firmly put the blame on their shoulders, and it is not the fault of any one person that families are being priced out of the market by inept government regulations and supplements. By what moral imperative can we mandate that those who have earned give it up for those who can’t? We can very quickly see that the responsibility for relieving this crisis falls on no-one. Only those who want to invest their time and money into what they feel is a morally worthwhile cause should do it. The issue raised by Sr. Kennedy is not simply one of a short-term housing crisis, but also challenges us to think about our own roles as well as the role of the government in our lives. It would be quite simple to move from crisis to crisis, sticking a plaster on it and announcing it fixed as another wound previously thought healed begins to bleed again, but that is unsustainable and simply the wrong way to do things.  Do we treat the symptoms or the disease? It raises the question of the role of government, the right of individuals to their own lives, and a question of morality. And like any question of morality, it is highly subjective, almost impossible to get a consensus on, and should not be forced on anyone.

This is not simply one crisis currently plaguing Ireland. It raises an issue that pursues any form of government intervention or compulsion: is it right to force our morals on others? Ireland overwhelmingly answered “no” to this question when it came to marriage, so why is this issue any different? As much as we may like to delude ourselves, the answer is that it isn’t. There is no difference in this context when it comes to an adult making a choice about whether or not to help alleviate this crisis. How many times have you walked past a homeless person? How many times have you invited them into your home? Given them food, shelter, money? And, yet, you still feel that it’s okay to spend other people’s money on fixing this crisis through government intervention, when you won’t even make the most basic provisions to help? We’ve moved into an age of inaction, where if we see something wrong we refuse to get involved because someone else will. The homelessness crisis is a culmination of that attitude, that “someone else will fix it.”

 It is time to take back our own morals and act for what we believe is right, not as a group, or a nation, but as individuals, with different priorities and different causes at heart.

Combating this crisis is no-one’s responsibility; the role belongs to those who believe that it’s right.