GOVERNANCE of this state has moved from Dail Eireann to RTE, where the real Taoiseach David Begg announced that certain public service allowances could go -- this, just a few days after the poor hapless minister Brendan Howlin had concluded that only one of these 1,100 perks could be scrapped.
The Begg initiative is shrewd tactics, because a review of the allowances (he says) would take years. Simplest, then, to absorb the allowances into pay: thus obduracy masquerades as reason.
Brilliant -- and confirmation that whereas all governments live beyond their means, governments controlled by public-service unions live beyond their grandchildren's. We are riding for a terrible fall, and only the anti-gravitational delusions created by this bizarre cult of tomorrowism could have blinded government ministers and their trade union bosses to this certainty.
Power without responsibility was the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages, declared Kipling. Now I wouldn't go so far as to call our beloved public service unions harlots, not least because the ladies of the night are seldom bearded and usually discreet, whereas our hirsute union bosses feel free to issue policy directives on air, leaving obedient government ministers to implement their will later.
So deranged are they by the culture of entitlement that they cannot see that this transfer of €1.5bn a year from the public exchequer for "allowances" is both clinically insane and economically unsustainable. Every penny is borrowed: and how our grandchildren will thank us when they see the bill, magnified beyond belief by the ineluctable horrors of compound interest.
The abject failure of the Howlin initiative to cut public service allowances came at the end of a brutal week in which Saigon seemed to fall every day, while departing helicopters rained despairing bodies across the private sector. The Central Statistics Office recorded the largest ever quarterly fall in public consumption of goods and service, and the largest ever fall in imports. Both showed that the private sector market is collapsing, even as we learnt that the public service got to keep their perks. Hallelujah!
There is a melancholy truth behind all these appalling revelations, and the infamous Croke Park anvil that brought them about: it is that nothing succeeds like power. Neither argument, nor decency, nor logic, nor common sense, nor advocacy, quite matches the conclusive authority of the hand on the switch. Unelected public service unions were effectively given a monopoly over that switch -- the last political deed of a dying man in a wretched and despicable government.
And ruin has accordingly followed, as we knew it must. For the energy that that switch unleashes is largely created by the private sector: yet the light that is shed falls mostly on the protected public sector, as across the land, shopfronts are boarded up, restaurants close, dole queues grow and ragwort and docks prosper in ghost housing-estates.
The government that ruined Ireland has been succeeded by a hideously inept coalition, whose failings are splendidly symbolised by the Howlin debacle. Almost as bad, we have a querulous opposition that will do or say anything to appease the only coherent bloc of voters that exists: yes, the union-controlled public sector yet again. In other words, the first officer on the bridge of the Titanic is there representing the iceberg.
Then consider the other revelations last week about the HSE, which is less Saigon than Port-au-Prince: these told us that just five hospitals have already managed an overspend of €65m.
The star was Louth Hospital which distinguished itself in a number of areas: 20pc of its support staff, and 10pc of its nursing staff are absent every single day, leading to an overall absenteeism rate of 7.53pc. The same magnificent hospital has also achieved the largest proportionate cost overrun of 67pc. The good people of Louth also elected Gerry Adams as their TD, with twice the quota: I daresay, not a coincidence. If you can ignore the fate of Jean McConville and the shattered bodies of Bloody Friday when you go to the polls, not turning up to do your paid job of minding the sick is probably a doddle.
Lovely Louth aside, the HSE clearly stands for Health Sewage Everywhere. By July, the waiting-list for consultancy-appointments was some 340,000 people, ie, the population of New Orleans. Unbelievably, 16,667 patients have been waiting for MORE THAN FOUR YEARS for an appointment: which is rather like a soldier who was injured in the opening skirmishes of the First World War still not having been seen by a doctor by Armistice Day.
And if you want to know what abysmally low expectations we have towards our health service, consider the utter silence which greeted the promise by the Minister of Health James Reilly that by the end of 2013 nobody will have to wait for more than a year for an appointment.
Yes: more than a year. Jesus Christ Almighty. They're sick. They need treatment. And one of the reasons they're not getting it is a missing workforce, who belong to, and are protected by, unions. And how much power have their union leaders? See opening paragraph.