Saturday 25 October 2014

Gene Kerrigan: The selfish poor are ruining this country

Published 02/12/2012 | 05:00

Pensioners whine on about hypothermia – but who is standing up for our bankers? asks Gene Kerrigan

YOU see what Enda's up against? You think people like Annie Crean are easy to deal with? Why is this woman allowed to stand in the way of national recovery? How long more can we tolerate the appalling selfishness shown by pensioners, schoolkids, the disabled, the unemployed and such like?

Don't they care about the deficit? Is the stability of the euro not uppermost in their thoughts? Are the bankers of Europe to be left to pay their own debts? Are bondholders not people too?

They cruelly tug on our heartstrings, the Annie Creans of this world. Not a thought in their heads for the success of the Great War Against Ourselves.

Enda Kenny, thank God, stands firm against the Annie Creans and their ilk. And we shall stand firm with Enda, exposing the ruthless me-me-me mindset of too many amongst us who fail to see the necessity to demonstrate our national passivity. How else can we curry favour from our betters?

In recent days, we members of the Austerity Advisory Council have witnessed unprecedented revolt against the patriotic sacrifices required of our people. As another austerity Budget approaches, thousands of protesters (or dozens, if you accept the estimates of your friendly local chief superintendent) have made their unpatriotic failings apparent.

Pensioners and students, carers and the disabled trumpet their selfishness. They thoughtlessly fling around inconsiderate, self-absorbed slogans – such as 'You swore there would be no fee increases', 'We already paid for these benefits you're cutting', and 'I'd rather not freeze to death, if you don't mind'.

Let us consider more closely the case of the aforesaid Annie Crean. We shall use the woman's own words to expose the thinking behind these frivolous protests.

Ms Crean is 80. In her Ballymun home, she spoke to Rosita Boland of the Irish Times. "My house is 40 years old," she said, "and it's paid off."

There, you see? As Brian Hayes, Minister for Slagging Off Pensioners, reminds us, many of the elderly are "well off". It's what the Irish Times itself has called "massive intergenerational inequity", in which we are "punishing the young for the sins of their elders".

Ms Crean condemns herself out of her own mouth. Although she criticises us for cutting her fuel allowance by six weeks, she freely admits that she is able to heat her living room and bedroom for part of the day, during part of the winter. The rest of the day, she goes to places where she can get warm – buses, trains and the like, using her free travel pass.

She is perfectly aware that she could make extra savings – and so allow us to make even greater gains through austerity.

"It would be more efficient to move my bed downstairs and sleep in the living room", she says, stubbornly: "But I am not prepared to do that."

There it is, the voice of selfishness. On reading this, Enda suggested that after the Budget we might send a few Young Fine Gaelers around to her home and carry the bed down to the living room. If she doesn't like it – well, she can shift it back up herself.

This is an era when our country demands tough decisions of its leaders. There will be time in the future for compassion. There will be time for decency, fairness and economic growth.

What is needed now – and thank God we have it – is the unwavering patriotism of the single-minded sociopaths who run our country.

Elsewhere, a third of our heroic citizens have put off necessary dental work because of the cost. Dentists have noted a huge increase in those arriving in pain, and a 93 per cent increase in extractions. This, as the rotted teeth of our citizens litter the pavements of our nation, is patriotism in action.

Nurses point out that the average 25-bed surgical ward in the Republic has six fewer nurses than the equivalent in the UK – which just goes to show the toughness of the Irish in comparison to the pampered Brits.

Forty-six per cent of primary schools are in deficit due to underfunding. Classrooms are cold, necessary repairs are put off, shivering kids are sent home – but let's be realistic. By the time those kids grow up, their damaged education won't be our problem, it will be Australia's.

There have been complaints from cystic fibrosis patients that the authorities have cut the isolation-ward spaces available to treat CF, throwing such patients back into the general areas where they can easily pick up fatal infections.

Now, let me be the first to say that I share your pain – if not your condition. And no one will be more upset than myself and Enda should our Christmas be ruined by news of one or more unnecessary deaths due to pressure on hospital resources.

A tragedy, yes. But our detractors never bother to point out our expected economic growth rate of 0.3 per cent. A lot smaller than we hoped, but surely worthy of congratulations.

Why no pat on the back for meeting our targets – by assuming billions more in debt? Granted, we haven't met our targets for employment, health or education – but then, we don't have any, other than to cut wherever possible.

In the same edition of the Irish Times in which Ms Crean was allowed grumble, a Dr John McLachlan of Donegal had a letter. He reminded us that we have "37 bankers paid more than €500,000 per annum. This is over €130,000 more than the heads of the Bank of England, the IMF, the European Central Bank and the World Bank, and €340,000 more than the chairman of the US Federal Reserve."

I will go further, Sir. Enda is paid €28,000 more than Mr Cameron. Mr Noonan earns €19,000 more than his US equivalent, Tim Geithner. And the Governor of the Central Bank (who took a substantial wage cut) is paid €119,000 more than his US equivalent, Ben Bernanke.

Is this not a cause for hope? For pride? Does it not show that we not only have world-class talent in place, but we're confident and capable enough to pay that talent an appropriate premium rate? Will this not demonstrate Ireland's belief in itself? Will it not encourage the world to put us on the cover of many other current-affairs magazines?

"I love my country", says Annie Crean, "but I'm beginning to hate it – because I'm ashamed of the way we're being treated."

She notes the unemployed man brought before the courts for stealing food for his children. She remarks on the soup kitchens. She concludes: "We want to live and die with dignity."

Fair enough. Trouble is, if it's your dignity versus the stability of the euro, or confidence in our banks, or the little bonuses that make our elites feel loved – it's no contest, baby.

And can I say to Annie Crean, as she shivers in her unheated house, when her money and fuel allowance have run out, when she can't seek heat on a bus after the Budget takes away her travel pass – for God's sake, woman, pull on the green jersey.

Because that warm glow of real patriotism will heat you more deeply than any coal fire.

Sunday Independent

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