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On the dole



Breda Dermody, infamous butcher at the community-welfare office

Kilkenny Ireland, early 21st century —

I'm quite certain that the reason that my file went from Community Welfare ("no you can't have rent allowance but you can appeal the decision") to the Social Welfare office was because my new apartment was in the purview of the Breda Dermody. Breda Dermody is legendary. She's infamous. I don't think I ever mentioned her name without getting a visceral negative response.

But, in any case, Social Welfare, who had just prior declared me habitually resident, realized that I'm not Irish. I'm being clever when I say that. Any Irish person can twig the American accent.

On the 11th of April, I got a call from Social Welfare. I'd had a strange intuition that morning. I felt ill, nauseated as if I'd had too much to drink, which I had not. I was lying on the couch, feeling better, when the phone rang. A fella named Brian asked me if I have a "Stamp 4" or an Irish passport. Stamp 4 is like a green card, the immigration office's permission to stay. I said no. Brian told me that they'd have to stop my social-welfare payments.

He said he'd send me this information in the post and that I'd have a chance to answer the matter officially. That letter arrived the next day. They didn't wait for my response. The next day I picked up my last payment. The following week it was all over.

A few days later my internet service ended. I'd stopped paying, had stopped worrying about the exhorbitant fees they charge for using more than the meagre bandwidth allotment, and was getting ready to walk away from another provider. I'd known it was all ending soon. Letting things fall apart a little bit was, I think, a part of a difficult decision-making sequence. America was calling.


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