Last month, President Michael D. Higgins described the housing crisis as a disaster. I believe that he gave voice to the hard realities faced by those desperately struggling to put an affordable roof over their heads because when people cannot afford a home, it does not just stop there; it has wide-reaching and deep consequences for our society.
Today we read that schools in Dublin report that teachers are leaving and seeking employment in other parts of the country due to extortionate rents and soaring house prices. Schools are finding it very difficult to recruit replacements. One school in Stillorgan, it is reported, recently wrote to parents advising them that six of its teachers were relocating outside Dublin. The teachers' unions are alarmed. They say that difficulties with teacher supply are made worse by the fact that teachers cannot set up home in this city. They say that teachers who commute to Dublin are now considering working elsewhere because of the soaring cost of fuel. The teachers' unions are worried because schools are struggling to get teachers in important subjects like maths and science. Many schools are forced to consider asking teachers who have Gaeilge but who do not have a degree in Irish to teach the subject. The situation has become so bad that some schools may have to consider dropping optional subjects. We now face, therefore, the prospect of another serious problem rooted in the housing crisis. If left unchecked, it will have major knock-on effects. Being unable to afford a home impacts the quality of life of teachers, which then affects the ability of schools to deliver and, in turn, impacts the education of our children. It ripples through everything.
We should not be surprised that this problem is emerging. The average rent in Dublin is now more than €2,000. Average house prices range up to €600,000, which is truly off the wall. How could anyone build a life when facing those costs? By the time a teacher pays the rent or the mortgage repayment, a huge chunk of his or her wage is gone. Add in the spiralling cost of living, the relentless hikes in electricity and gas prices, childcare fees and the sharp increases in the price of food and life in the city has become literally unaffordable. We can see that teachers are left in an impossible situation, and why they are now voting with their feet. Tá múinteoirí ag fágáil Bhaile Átha Cliath mar gheall ar phraghsanna tithe atá ag ardú as cuimse agus ar chíosanna ríchostasacha. Tá scoileanna ag streachailt le múinteoirí eile a fháil. Ní mór don Rialtas gníomhú anois chun deireadh a chur leis an ngéarchéim atá mar thubaiste anois. Those caught up in the housing crisis, including teachers, are crying out for change. The Government cannot allow this problem to escalate and to become, in itself, another crisis.
What is the Government's assessment of this situation?
Does the Taoiseach share the teacher unions' alarm over the situation? What does his Government propose to do by way of response? Does he plan to meet the teachers' unions on this matter?