50 is the new 40? Not if you’re out of work

By Barry Lord

What hope is there for someone trying to rebuild their life in a post-Celtic Tiger Ireland when your age can present another barrier to finding work?

The notion of 60 being the new 50 may still be prevalent in our society, but in the Irish job market, 50 may well be the new 70.

This alarming scenario was addressed on Thursday’s edition of Liveline, when a Dublin woman phoned Joe Duffy to discuss her own personal struggles in recession hit Ireland.

‘Catherine’ and her husband ran a business in the early part of the 21st century and endured an energy sapping slog to clear their mortgage, which they managed to do, but having emerged from a long dark tunnel, they found the country they knew had changed dramatically.

“It’s an ageist society we’re living in,” said Catherine.

When you’re over fifty, you’re dead. In America, 50 is 20, here 50 is more like 70. You’re warned not to put your date of birth on a CV if you’re over the age of 50 and looking for work in Ireland. It’s ludicrous because employers will deduce from the years of work experience you have how old you are and when you went to school.

Catherine had sufficient strength of character to see herself and her family through these difficult circumstances. The same, sadly, cannot be said for some of her close friends.

For Catherine, much responsibility lies at the doorstep of mortgage lenders and those that sit at the head of so-called Vulture Funds.

“We knew people that didn’t come out the other side of it,” explained Catherine. “And you’re dealing with people in these organisations, some of who haven’t a shred of humanity, no sympathy for other people’s circumstances. It’s all about greed.”

“We had dark times ourselves, but thankfully we had a good family behind us that helped us through. People out there don’t understand the hardship until they’re in it.”

Catherine listened to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s glib definition of what a Vulture Fund was – drawing the once favourable comparison to a creature that cleared the dead carcasses of dead animals from the land.

“We are the dead animals,” said Catherine.

“They pick the flesh off your bones. Anybody who would have been involved in business 2008-10, or lost their business during the recession and still carry debt, are living with these struggles.

“Debt is part and parcel of life in Ireland and the government haven’t a clue.

“Most of them have never run a business; they’ve come from a teaching background.

“They’ve never experienced life on the ground and anything they do see, they turn a blind eye.

“That’s why we’ve haemorrhaged our young people in this country. They’ve all left, or are leaving, because there’s nothing for them here, no prospects.”

Despite this, Catherine continues to draw on inner reserves of strength and resilience.

“You just survive for your kids,” said Catherine.

“Do you want your grandchildren to read a certificate that says “Death by misadventure” because you killed yourself? It’s not something I would ever wish for them to see.”

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