Monday, October 19, 2009

Desperate Times Require Desperate Measures



I seldom write any political comments in these posts because I believe that there is a surfeit of such out there in the print and broadcast media, and also these days in the virtual world. Too often such commentary is negative, and justifiably so, given the woeful state in which the world now finds itself. Of late I have to turn off the RTE 1 station on the car radio because I end up becoming angry and depressed because all I hear is "gloom, doom and dyspepsia" - a real diet for depression, angst and ulceration of the duodenum. I need music more and more to escape the tide of negativity that reigns in the media.

One thing that gets most decent people is the sheer absence of good leadership in the Dáil, in the Banks, in Trade Unions, and in the Industrial sectors. Over a year ago when the economic crisis first hit we heard how Brian Lenihan had said that those Dáil TDs who were also drawing ministerial pensions for former positions they had held together with their salary as members of parliament should relinquish the former. Now, that was shot out of the water pretty quickly. It seems the government, and indeed members of the opposition parties who are also in receipt of such monies, are themselves reluctant to give up their "added extras." Then, needless to say, there is the question of all those unvouched and excessive expenses which a lot of TDs, not just those in Fianna Fáil, have both claimed and received. If Hamlet said that there was something "rotten in the state of Denmark" we can be equally as perspicacious in saying that truly there is something rotten in the state of Ireland. And indeed, it stinks to high heaven. I also cringe in disbelief as people in the high echelons of society, political and otherwise, show themselves as totally morally bankrupt by being totally unaware that they have done wrong at all in the first place. This, for me, is a cringe factor par excellence. At least in Britain they are named and shamed and may even face the rigours of the law, but in Ireland we have no standards at all. Ah sure everyone is doing it; that's the way it's done; you play the system after all.

It is also inspiring, and obviously I'm being sarcastic here, to see that 50% of our judges see themselves as being "above all laws of economics" by refusing to pay their 2% levy. It would seem that what's alright for the man or woman sweeping the streets or for the teller behind the bank counter or for the post person delivering the mail, is not right for our bewigged judiciary. Nor have I noticed any Doctors proclaiming a reduction in fees. My Doctor still charges 55€ for a visit and an extra €5 for the flu jab which I get on an annual basis. Only recently I learned that such was provided free by the Health Board in the first place. Indeed, there is a dearth of leadership in this country in Law, in Health, in Politics, in the Trade Unions, in Education. No one sector has a monopoly on morality.

Some months back, one of my favourite politicians, Mr Pat Cox, spoke about the tsunami of greed that had gripped Ireland under the Celtic Tiger, a tsunami that had swept all reason and all ethics before it, leaving only the flotsam and jetsam of its disregard and indifference for the poor and for the environment in its devastated wake.

I find myself relishing the insights of David MacWilliams, one of the few economists to tell the truth as to what the real economic situation was in Ireland even at the crest of the tide of the mythical Celtic Tiger. He was prescient, direct and ever so clear in his predictions of anything but a "soft landing." What economist came up with that sad euphemistic term? He or she must have been paid millions of euros for its coinage. MacWilliams has an interesting, provocative and soul-searching new programme called Addicted to Money on RTE 1 and 2 these Autumn evenings - it's well worth viewing as is his website which you will find HERE

Let me return to the title of my post, i.e., Desperate Times Require Desperate Measures. Today, Mr Enda Kenny, TD, leader of Fine Gael proposed the abolition of the Senate and reducing Dáil numbers by 20 members. I laud his proposal as it makes good leadership sense. You have to lead from the top. Our politicians, our judiciary, our medical profession and all others entrusted with leadership roles, should, in virtue of their office, ex officio, lead by example. Nothing less can ever be acceptable.

It is ever so sad to behold that greed reigns in the hearts of those who should know and do so much better. They should hang their heads in shame.