Sligo Today Editorial

By Jim O'Sullivan

Government spin that the past year was an 'annus mirabilas' beggared belief: truth to tell, in its wake, no citizen will be so easily fooled again.

A year that started like any other in recent times, the grabbers continued to grab and the needy continued to need. But the austerity chickens came home to roost with a vengeance.

It was a brutal year for many things---hope, human dignity, self-respect and much more besides. Greed remained the main driver of everything legislators get up to, citizens regarded as a herd to be shunted about the place to serve a chosen few. We had voted for change, hoped for change, some even prayed for it---but averitia grips hard and tight still.

The remnants of the by now tattered pledge given by Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore to revolutionise how politics is done here was finaly laid to rest with the McNulty affair. While crony apppointments to quangos continued where the last government left off, the Taoiseach himself got up to his armpits in this murky old style Fianna Failesque affair that some close to the scene saw as ineptitude rather than corruption---but the general public, wilting under 5 years of scratching to make ends meet were less forgiving, they saw it as a bit of both. All the austerity was being endured for not much it seemed.

Indeed the money-grubbing ideology brought to life under Bettie Ahearn’s leadership by wise-cracking Charlie McCreevy found an even more enthusiastic devotee in Michael Noonan---another wise-cracking shyster who had not the good grace to leave the stage long ago after any one of a number of cock-ups and mishaps. He hung around like Banquo’s ghost ready for any opportunity to bring misery and suffering---but unlike Banquo, Noonan directed his malice at the most vulnerable leaving those guilty of near treason to continue enjoying the spoils of their looting.

At the end of 2014, keeping a roof over ones head now requires an extraordinary effort and for many that proved unachievable and as could be foreseen by many observers whose warnings fell on barren ground, among all the suffering we began to see fellow citizens die as a direct consequence of having no shelter.

The homeless crisis is an outrage, yet the political “class” sauntered past it daily clinching their noses to block out the stench. Is it any wonder that 2014 saw another 40,000 souls emigrate in search of place where they will be valued.

As in other periods of mass emigration the great concern is that we may be losing the very foundations necessary to rebuild---nobody in the Ivory Tower seems in the slightest bothered. But if the best are going what of those that are left?

A story publicised on Christmas Eve in the Irish Independent shone some light into that corner and what it illuminated was far from pretty. The story itself was extraordinary. It told of a mother and her 4 children who had become homeless and were being accommodated in a single room in a Dublin hotel. Its extraordinariness was twofold; that in a modern society a family that consisted of 4 children under the age of 6---one just a few months old---could find themselves so exposed and the mother of the children was all of 22 years old. Many would consider that she was no more than a child herself.

In a well adjusted, confident and civilised place, citizens would instantly and universally reach out a hand of support and then look deeply into prevailing norms to search out the flaws that need to be fixed to prevent a recurrence

But what happened in this case was truly shocking and must awaken the most complacent mandarin. Beneath the story the paper carried near 400 comments from their readership most of which consisted of abusive and venomous language pouring scorn and blame on the young mother’s head---the ill-will was palpable and clearly deep-seated and most probably a legacy of government spin-doctors who early in the fiscal collapse used the ploy of setting citizens at each other throats---public v. private workers, those with jobs v. those without, the young v. the  elderly  etc--- in order to deflect attention away from the cosseted rump sitting at the top of the heap.. If the comments are in any way representative of what remains we are in much deeper faecal matter than we had thought.

In the midst of all of this mayhem, Enda Kenny spoke only of a need to cut the top rate of income tax---while his officials are busy planning to cut the State pension---and “gender balance”. The latter an obvious attempt to halt party support meltdown, but we have had the experience of women in high places this past while and they did what most people in high places in Ireland do----look after number one.

The idea that women will bring compassion and empathy to the Cabinet table and other decision making places was surely drawn into doubt by the antics of women already there.

Cruella De Vil plundered people’s meagre pay packets, pensions and welfare to gather in a grossly unfair levy, the Property Tax. Not only that, but at every opportunity she defended the tax and claimed for it a progressivity that flew in the face of the simple fact that a wealthy person and a poor person living in houses of similar value had to pay the same tax---and that applies even if the poorer person is living on the minimum wage, welfare or the basic State pension. Cruella thought that this was good and fair taxation---a tax that had no “ability-to-pay” protection.

Despite the fact that there are 400,000 other citizens either unemployed or under-employed--- many with top notch qualifications---following her “retirement” from Revenue she has seamlessly slipped into another government appointed role as head of the Police Authority, a subject about which she knows diddlysquat. And this at a time when crime is soaring. Latest reports show a 50% increase in burglaries in some urban areas and sickening violence is becoming normal.

And then we have had Joan Burton who attacked lone parents---and anyone else that she could isolate---with a ruthlessness that made Margaret Thatcher’s one time hard man Keith Joseph look like an Assisian monk.  The latest betrayal of mothers and children arrived just before Christmas. The promised extra free play-school year---which was supposed to help off-set one of the many cuts to child allowance---has been deferred.

What women in this government have shown us is that it matters not a jot whether a person is wearing pants or skirts, it is their ability, principles and values that matter. Women are every bit as good at money-grubbing as men. It’s not what you look at that matters, but what you see and men and women in the political establishment in Ireland today see the same thing.  

For the parents, grandparents and siblings who have spent these recent days waving goodbye again to the young of their families at our airports---the images from Dublin airport were harrowing---2015 holds out little promise of any change, As with the rest of us, probably the best that can be hoped for is a general election that might rid us once and for all of this broken and failed ideology and replace it with one that puts people at its core. Enda and Eamon’s revolution that never arrived is in fact desperately needed---further fiddling will just prolong Róisín’s agony.

No matter what aspect of governance we look back on in 2014, we find incompetence, misinformation, spin, waffle and downright lies. But the year also saw the beginnings of the people seeing through all the guff, standing up and saying “No” This is sufficient to lift the heart and instil some hope again----but we will have to be true to ourselves and steadfast. The government is now as near to an enemy as makes no difference, truth to tell they declared war on the Irish people the moment they stepped into Leinster House.

2015 will be the year that determines how our country is to be run for decades to come. Given a choice, people will surely reject en masse the idea that we can do no better than what has gone before this past 6 years, that we cannot share what we have more fairly, that we cannot better protect the vulnerable, that we cannot ensure that every child has access to the means to develop to their fullest potential and that Ireland can truly become a place where our elders can grow old with dignity and in peace.

Cheers for 2015---do the best you can with it, restoring hope and aspiration is in our own hands.

Posted on 02/01/15 : 07:55:17