Ireland is officially in recession. The CSO announced that GDP fell by just over six per cent in April, May, and June, the largest quarter on quarter fall ever recorded. This is also the second quarter in a row in which the Irish economy contracted which means we are now in a recession as a result of Covid-19.
It is imperative we learn from the last recession only a decade ago.
Society - look after the collective
It is vital that the most marginalised groups, those at risk of or living in poverty are prioritised in every policy written. We cannot go backwards. We must support the working people of this country.
One important lesson the Government should learn from their previous experience during recession is do not punch down. A decade ago, working people paid the brunt of the recovery while bankers and those at the top seemed to escape justice. While nobody is to blame for Covid-19, we have already seen an unwillingness to go after sectors responsible for Covid clusters like meat plant factories or direct provision centres. At the same time small businesses seem to be placed under ever complicating measures when they are the ones supporting society and the economy to return. That mentality cannot continue.
Stimulus not austerity
I am hopeful that a new consensus has emerged on the failures of austerity and that it will not be repeated. Stimulus is what our economy needs. From our GPs, to schools, to small businesses, to the community sector, there is too much needed just to survive to see austerity return. The July stimulus package is a promising start by the Government but whether that was a once off reactionary measure or a sign of a progressive, investment based approach to the restarting of our economy will be shown in the coming budgets.
However, Ireland is yet to apply for the EU's €80 billion Covid measures fund which is being used across Europe to recoup costs such as the pandemic unemployment payment.
We must tackle Covid-19, while rebuilding society and revitalising our economy. We cannot do just one thing at a time. The current crisis has only served to further emphasise the domestic issues we face in our healthcare system, housing, and climate. We cannot proactively provide the necessary bold solutions these present, on top of Covid-19, when also facing reductions in critical staff and services on a local and national level.
Galway must be ambitious
Galway is uniquely challenged under the current circumstances but is well placed to adapt. Galway city is particularly vulnerable to the effects of the current recession as we have built an economy largely based on tourism, accommodation, culture, and retail. All of which has been massively shaken.
It is clear now our ambition for Galway must be for a sustainable community, with services that supply a growing population of mixed-income families and workers. This is a time for taking more risks not less. Galway is just the right size that we have resources and capacity we need to come up with bold ideas, while small enough to be working much more collaboratively than we have before.
We are better placed than the likes of Dublin which has almost become hostile to urban dwellers who dare compete with tourists or suburban commuters and is not seeing the consequences. But we have to build our city for people to live in it, not just exist. Wider footpaths, cycling lanes, mixed use density, community centres, accessible, and affordable apartments and homes are not just talking points. They are the building blocks of genuine urban living that will unlock the ambitions of Galway as the city we all know it can be.
I and many others have been harping on about these issues for a long time and not nearly enough change has followed. But like it or not we are in a crisis and with it a point of change. Will Galway lead on that? Using its local heritage, cultural primacy, academic knowledge, and untapped potential to create a new vision for urban living. Or will more time pass by until the next crisis and we must repeat these questions all over again?