President makes clear contribution to debate
Published 17/09/2016 | 02:30
The singer and social activist Pete Seeger - an ardent advocate of the uncomplicated - used to say: "Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple."
That's why the refreshingly clear and honest views on society, the economy, and the need not to allow ourselves go on auto-pilot under the hegemony of Brussels, as expressed by President Higgins, are welcome.
As is his wont, Mr Higgins is adding his own dimension to the Presidency, which has been evolving dramatically since first Mary Robinson and then Mary McAleese began pushing out the boundaries.
President Higgins may not be thanked for setting a course that would seem to diverge considerably from the so-called "Noonan doctrine" with a fixed focus on fiscal discipline. Yet his arguments for a loosening of the purse strings and a softening of the harder edges of budgetary policy are compellingly populist.
His case for availing of cheap money to relieve severe pressures on public services - especially on housing and health - are also convincing, but only up to a point.
The scope of the President's vision has much to commend it but at the same it has to be acknowledged that the President is not burdened with balancing the books.
Meanwhile, the searing memory of the catastrophic cost of availing of cheap money is all too immediate to be embraced again over-enthusiastically.
But there can be no denying that the social services, and by extension the public, are suffering unduly from a chronic lack of investment.
President Robinson famously kept a light on in the áras for the diaspora. President Higgins is endeavouring to shine his own light on issues a bit closer to home. Not having all the answers should stimulate, not stifle debate.
Minister Ross badly needs to get a move on
IT is unlikely that Aristotle was thinking of Transport Minister Shane Ross when he posited his theory of the ‘unmoved mover’.
Aristotle wrestled with the concept of time before time, and the prospect of measuring motion. Mr Ross also seems impervious to the impact of time and motion, and appears to be thoroughly unmoved by the hardship which the Dublin Bus standoff is causing.
As the row descends further into chaos; with 400,000 commuters stranded in the capital and traffic gridlock heaping frustration on top of the massive financial cost of the breakdown in industrial relations; with services hit for a fourth day; Mr Ross remained adamant that it would be “wrong and counter-productive” to make a “high-profile intervention”.
In full ‘unmoved mover’ mode, he merely urged unions and management to get together as quickly as possible, while he himself would be “watching by the hour”.
As pointed out elsewhere in these pages by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, every minister is given power in the expectation that it be used. Doing nothing is never a good bet in a rapidly deteriorating situation. Mr Ross has to take responsibility one way or the other. The public will not put up with a protracted period of inertia, as they are left on the side of the road, late for work. Using the State chequebook is not the sole solution. Talks must happen.
But calling in the Army might be the only way to introduce a degree of sense and restore some momentum in the deadlock.