Be careful what you wish for with coalition of terrible twins
Published 23/03/2016 | 02:30
The media and many political commentators, displaying serious collective amnesia, are, lemming-like, calling for and demanding a 'stable' grand coalition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
They seem to have taken an extremely forgiving attitude and have forgotten that both these parties wreaked enduring financial and social havoc on the Irish people in recent times.
Fianna Fáil was responsible for the unprecedented devastation and destruction of the economy, which forced the country into a hugely embarrassing bail-out and loss of sovereignty, resulting in the permanent loss of control of our affairs to strangely named foreigners.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael, cushioned with its own world-class salaries and pensions, made the 'hard' decisions and displayed a total lack of empathy when foisting unequal, unjust and unnecessarily brutal austerity on the most vulnerable: the aged, the young, the sick, the disabled and their carers. As is its wont, the party pandered to its support base, big business and the well-off, and despite being festooned with hugely paid advisers and handlers, ensured its inevitable demise in displaying the same incompetence, secrecy and cronyism, layered with the traditional arrogance and innate political naivety.
Both parties, during the election campaign, conveniently managed to air-brush from discussion and debate their greatest political and social crime: the abject capitulation to the bully boys and girls in Europe and their slavish and crass acceptance on our behalf of private bank debts of €64bn to be paid by future generations in perpetuity, as well as their pathetic rush to pay the bond holders in full.
Together they ensured that all of this private gambling debt was shouldered by a totally innocent Irish people to protect the failed euro, the EU itself, bankers and the German and French banking systems.
The combined and direct result today is an Irish society divided and broken, most notably evident in the unprecedented and harrowing levels of our young and not-so-young citizens taking their own lives.
The physically and mentally debilitating effects of extreme debt, negative equity, poverty, forced emigration, broken homes, and homelessness, and now multiple evictions at the hands of vulture funds, is a lasting testimony to both parties rightly rejected outright by the electorate in 2011 and 2016.
Those clamouring for a 'stable' government of the terrible twins should be careful what they wish for. The result would be more of the same, a coalition of undoubted and doubly proven incompetence, arrogance and cronyism, which if they quickly didn't tear each other asunder through infighting and petty jealousy, would have the numbers to drive a right-wing agenda to the ultimate detriment of the ordinary citizen.
Surely given our recent history, we don't need more of the kind of destructive monolithic stability we have all experienced to our cost. There is much precedence here and abroad for successful and fair, long-lasting minority governments, ruling openly by general consensus instead of diktat, with a strong opposition to keep manners on the dominant party.
Rehabilitation in prisons
Once the new government is formed, the most urgent task must surely be to confront, with greater acuity, determination and clarity of purpose, the plague of crime that afflicts our country.
Our present justice system is weakened, if not fatally flawed, as a result of the minimal shared awareness of the end it is intended to serve.
This ambiguity of purpose is particularly evident in our prison system where the cost of incarceration runs at over €70,000 per prisoner; the figure for Portlaoise high security prison is around €155,000. The courts and prisons command a far greater share of available resources than do the various crime-prevention programmes that seem to be providing greater value for money.
Prisons have become academies of crime as inmates are provided with little by way of opportunities or motivation to make a fresh start once sentences are served. Being often locked in their cells for 23 hours a day does little to nurture healthy interests.
What a difference it would make if every offender left prison with just a single lawful enthusiasm!
Politicians are wary about encouraging activities that are therapeutic or educational, fearing the ritual wrath of the tabloid press that caricatures humanitarian gestures as propagating the myth of the criminal as a political rebel - a latter-day Robin Hood, motivated by the gallant quest to redistribute societal resources.
There are numerous possible purposes to be served by the judicial system. Prevention of crime would seem to be the obvious starter. In this respect the impact of deviant subcultures that are nurtured by the social deserts created by the clearance of inner cities to the suburbs needs to be acknowledged.
The criminal justice system in Sweden is an excellent example of thinking beyond conventional wisdom. It is the only country where rehabilitation lies at the heart of the penal system, going against the universal trend to ramp up political emphasis on punishment.
We have turned our backs on the principle that we send convicted offenders to prison as punishment, not for punishment.
Delay forming new government
It is interesting to hear some politicians quoting 'straw polls' at doorsteps and how "people did not want that previous government, that Taoiseach, that party'', etc.
Being a 'lay' voter, I thought an election was meant to elect representatives to form a government. So what's keeping those who were elected from doing just this?
Could it be that the electorate by default is asking politicians, 100 years after 1916, to grow up?
Elected representatives, please respect the democratic wishes of your people (not door-step straw polls) and put a government in place, now.
In view of the lack of urgency by political parties to form a government, I propose that all politicians' pay be reduced by 50pc from May 1.
In addition, all allowances, including the 'leadership' allowance and the 'turning up and hanging around' allowance, should be suspended and only restored when the government is formed - and only to those who made genuine efforts to establish the new coalition.
John P Masterson
Carrickane, Co Cavan