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Global Recession: Liam (46), Ireland

 INSP 26 July 2019

The economic downturn has blighted the lives of many across Ireland, but one man has suffered more than most as the recession left him jobless, penniless and without a wife. (853 Words) - By Samantha Bailie

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The economic downturn has blighted the lives of many across Ireland, but one man has suffered more than most as the recession left him jobless, penniless and without a wife.  Photo: Samantha Bailie

Liam O'Connor* speaks to me on a wet, grey afternoon, and despite his upbeat, south Dublin salutation of "how're ye?" it is instantly noticeable that this man's true mood matches the weather. To have experienced the roar of the Celtic Tiger must make Liam's current situation all the more upsetting, but his problems go much deeper than a job loss or financial problems. "Is everything alright?" I ask tentatively. "Not really," he replies. "You've kind of got me at the worst time." "Shall we reschedule?" I ask. "No... no, I don't think so, I think it's important that people know that the recession doesn't only take your job…. it takes your whole life." "How so?" I enquire. "Me wife..." he begins, inhaling sharply. "She's just walked out on me... she couldn't take any more... I... I don't blame her if I'm honest... it was too much."

"I went out to Boston in the United States several years back and got a job as a manager in a printing firm. We printed all sorts, and were doing very well until we could no longer compete against our chief competitor in New York, and an asset stripping company eventually bought us out. If that wasn't bad enough, I just got the news that I had been robbed back in Ireland by a man I trusted to cash my cheques. Not only did he take my money, but he used my identity to open up credit card accounts. I flew back to Ireland without two coins to rub together. I have some friends in the entertainment industry and I went on tour with them for three months just to get my head back together. When I got back I got a job in printing again in Dublin. We were thriving as we had the contracts for election posters and everything, and it seemed that things were settled. How wrong could I be? As the recession took its toll we lost the contracts for the elections posters as well as other printing jobs we had, mainly to firms in Eastern Europe. My boss called us all in one day and said we would be starting a three day week. I think a lot of us considered ourselves lucky, as by this stage we were hearing of people completely losing their jobs altogether. Thing was though, I wasn't entitled to any dole because to be eligible for the dole it would have had to be random days every week but because each week I knew the days I'd be working, I wasn't eligible which was unfair. Anyway, my boss called us in about nine months later and said that he could let us work the five day week, but we'd need to take a thirty per cent pay cut. I was happy right away with that deal, anything to be out of the house and doing something constructive. I also felt I was helping to keep a company alive in some small way, as strange as that may seem. My optimism wasn't to last too long as a few months later we were all called in and told the company was closing. This came at the worst possible time as Sineád [a girl he met in the States] was coming to Ireland and we were about to get married. Not the best start to married life, but me and her headed up to the dole office because obviously I needed something to live on. Now, here's where being honest got me... because Sineád gets a military pension they sliced my dole in half. To top all that off Sineád still had no luck finding a job in Ireland and had to take a job caring for the elderly which she really didn't like. I spent my days filling in job applications in-between taking care of the house, and every application I filled in was unsuccessful. I mean I couldn't even get a job in Tesco or Spar. It got to the stage where Sineád was sick of it, even in her sleep she was agitated and restless and, well... she literally just said, 'I can't take it anymore... I can't live like this, worrying where the next pay cheque will come from and having a husband out of work'."

"Unless you can tell me that the recession ends tomorrow and there'll be jobs for us all, and we won't have financial worries, I don't think things will work out. Everything gets to you when you are down. When you've no money, everything that can go wrong will. We even lost the place we were living sure, because the landlord didn't want any social payments. I think he liked things under the radar if you get my meaning. It's just a hopeless situation. I really don't know anymore, I really don't."

* Name changed to protect identity.

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