Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Ireland: Land of the Blind

Just when you think it really can't get any worse.

It's bad enough that we pushed the national debt towards €200m, or roughly four times what it costs to run the country every year.  Furthermore, we've destroyed the construction industry, crippled the property market, and plunged anyone who bought a house in the last ten years into negative equity.  We're cutting our way to growth, which seems insane, insisting on paying all of our debts - notwithstanding the systemic flaws in the Euro structure that have been at the heart of Ireland's inability to recover.  We have acceded to the decimation of our population and its future through youth emigration, of a type that we have never seen before - it's not financial, and these ones don't intend on coming back.  This is no mere release valve for unemployment with some of them going because they're young, free, and up for a bit of an adventure.  It's not a lifestyle choice, it's a life choice.

In the midst of all this, the HSE is criticised for the third time in a week in three separate cases for deliberately inflicting additional pain on its victims after its negligence and abject failure has caused death or catastrophic injury. This is not because they think they're innocent - they know they're not.  It is because they have a strategy to deflect litigation by oppressing litigants - who are invariably vulnerable state after their trauma.  How many cases never made it this far, because litigants gave up?  And let's not entirely blame the HSE - how does the legal profession promote and sustain an infrastructure that creates that behaviour?

The majority of public health institutions run by charitable foundations or trusts - substantially Church based organisations - are paying their senior management wages that exceed government guidelines, in many cases much more than the Taoiseach or the Minister for Health himself. The local councilors, the politicians, the board members and the establishment defend this. That somehow someone else was aware of it means it's ok; it is expected, it is deserved, and - gosh - if we chop this one down, could I be next?  There are legal and contractual problems; commercial considerations; competitive issues.

The surprise that greeted Colm Keaveney's decision to join Fianna Fáil was a little overdone. In a constituency where Keaveney had no chance of being re-elected as an independent, and probably not even as a Labour candidate had he realigned with them, Fianna Fáil's sole representative had seen his support base move into Roscommon South-Leitrim, and would be 65 at the time of the next election.  Sinn Féin wouldn't tolerate his conservative views on abortion, and Fine Gael didn't need him.  Essentially, the only way he could hang on to his job was to join with the party who tolerated widespread corruption, in his own words. So why then the surprise?

The current administration has presided over a consolidation of the power base of the establishment, and a marginalisation of the lower paid, less enabled, and disenfranchised.  They have succeeded in damaging politics further than seemed possible, they have demoralised every institution of state from the health service to the Gardai to the education sector, and impoverished the middle class.  Those who remain in the country remain in spite of the government, and not because of it.

There are no options in politics any more, and the emperor has no clothes.  There is a culture that has grown of elitist entitlement, of privilege and class, that the Victorian British could have aspired towards.  The idea of a Republic is long shattered; 2016 'celebrations' will be a farce. That idea went with George Redmond to the Isle of Man, with Tom Gilmartin to his grave, and with Gerry Adams to that eye clinic in America.  It disappeared as Eamon Gilmore's wife got her fortune on a land-deal in Loughrea; as James Reilly's nursing home did very well; and as Phil Hogan's holidays in Portugal  have taken the edge off.  Aengus O'Snodaigh's printer still hasn't run out of toner, and Ivor Callely can't pay back a €6,000 mileage overpayment "due to the need to devote his energy to other proceedings."

So here we are then. The radio talk shows are full of members of the hundred grand club, defending the rich, while the hospitals are full of people on trolleys waiting to be negligently killed.  The ads on TV are dominated by what the industry would call house ads, or ads for yourself. The politicians are squabbling over seats and expenses, while young families make a loaf of bread stretch two days, and each teabag makes two cups. And what's the vision for the country? "The best small country in the world to do business" It probably is, or will be.  I wouldn't want to live there.

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