Irish food queues grow, Celtic Tiger loses growl

Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:42am EDT
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By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters Life!) - Terry, an unemployed painter and decorator, is a regular in the queue for free food parcels from a religious center in central Dublin.

His wife is too ashamed to join him.

"There were arguments when I started coming. 'You're scrounging', she'd say. Since then though, she knows it's either this or somebody goes short. There are bills to be paid," said the 56-year-old father of two.

The large parcel, packed with milk, cereal, bread, butter tinned and frozen food, will last Terry's family for three days. He also grabs breakfast and lunch.

The Depression-style queues outside the Capuchin Day Center have been drifting further down Dublin's Bow Street, formerly home to the old Jameson whiskey distillery, since the loss of tens of thousands of jobs tipped the unemployment rate to an estimated 11 percent in March, the highest in over 12 years.

Last week around 850 people, many of them foreigners who came to Ireland during the boom years, received a free food parcel and the centre's staff race to serve daily breakfast and a three-course lunch to over 600 people.

"Two years ago it would have been about 300 but when the Celtic Tiger started to fizzle out around October, the numbers started to grow," says Teresa Dolan, an assistant at the center.

"The demographics are changing too," she says. "We've a lot more young people and would have about 60 percent non-nationals to 40 percent Irish."   Continued...