Eilis O'Hanlon: Austerity is a one-way street for Sinn Fein
The party calls for cuts while a member claims up to €90,000 in fall compensation
Published 25/11/2012 | 05:00
The new year fast approaches, when Ireland gets to take over the EU Presidency. Huge honour. Great responsibility. Blah, blah, blah. More urgently, it's time to fix those stairs and mend them banisters and grout all loose paving stones back into place.
The last thing we need is for an accident to befall one of our continental masters when they come to call. It might make them less inclined to support Irish prayers for an easing of the terms of our slavery. And besides, we can't afford to foot the bill for compo.
Sadly, it's too late to do anything about Michelle Gildernew. The Sinn Fein Member of Parliament has already lodged a claim after tumbling down the stairs at Leinster House during a visit south to meet the Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement committee. The footage hasn't yet appeared on You've Been Framed so details remain sketchy, but apparently it had something to do with a pair of knee-high boots and a metal grate. Suffice to say the ensuing brush with the force of gravity resulted in a trip to A&E, some plaster and crutches, and now a potentially lucrative appointment with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board to assess her claim for physical and psychological harm.
The maximum amount that Gildernew could receive for the most serious lower limb leg injury is €87,300, which apparently equates to no less than 8,000 home help hours, of a kind which the Government has recently cut in an effort to save money, this being the age of austerity and all. Though austerity is probably the least of your worries when you have a chance to pocket up to ninety grand. You can buy a lot of knee-high boots for that kind of moolah. As for the Brits, they're probably just breathing a huge sigh of relief that the Shinners don't actually take their seats in Westminster, or they might have fallen off them and immediately sent an invoice for the bruises to Her Majesty.
At least Sinn Fein is consistent. It always said it was an All-Ireland party, and the Northern contingent is now proving it with the same raids on the public purse as their counterparts down here. Taxpayers still await an adequate explanation from Aengus O Snodaigh for that €50,000 worth of ink cartridges – while diverting TDs' travel expenses into the pockets of activists, thereby getting around the rules on party funding, remains a practice regarded as shifty at best by voters, even if it doesn't formally break the rules.
Add that to the million quid in expenses that Gerry Adams claimed in his last job – despite never attending a single sitting of the House of Commons – and it's nice work if you can get it. Especially if you don't actually do anything once you've got it.
There's just one thing that puzzles me. When Pearse Doherty stepped up to present Sinn Fein's "alternative Budget" on Tonight With Vincent Browne last week, were those billions chalked up on the screen behind him meant to represent the money that the party intends raising in tax hikes, or was it just a rough estimation of the amount Sinn Fein plans on fleecing from the system in the coming fiscal year? In which case, why shouldn't Michelle Gildernew get her arm in too? Or her leg, at any rate.
Of course, Sinn Fein says her dealings with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board are a private matter, and anyone who has been hurt by someone else's negligence has every right to seek redress. But just because you're "entitled" to something doesn't mean that you should claim for it. Former ministers are legally within their rights to receive pension payments over a lifetime larger than many lotto jackpots, but that doesn't stop people being infuriated by it. Consultants are entitled to be paid more than Liberace doing a season at Caesar's Palace, but they could always say no.
It's about setting an example. In a week when Sinn Fein was calling for a cut in the pay and expenses of other politicians, and demanding that the "wealthy" pay more for the economic recovery, it was hardly appropriate for one of their own to be seen to be in line for the sort of payout that most the people have to be picking up bonus balls to have any hope of ever receiving. But then that's Sinn Fein all over. It's their world and the rest of us are only allowed to live in it as long as we do what we're told. And foot the bill. Let's not forget that part.