Tuesday 25 October 2016

When hospitals and shopping centres are both overcrowded

Published 23/02/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Pic: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Pic: Tom Burke

I don't write from atop a sandbag in the Shannon but as someone who has experience in our Republic of being: unemployed, well-paid, a student, an orphan, provided for by the State and later taxed as a higher earner, a country dweller and a city slicker, a drinker, an emigrant, a tenant, a landlord, a lapsed Catholic, an investor and an eejit. So I muse sometimes that I have an insight into the public consciousness. On the cusp of a General Election, I consider myself a floating voter with questions on my mind.

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How has Fine Gael not learned the lessons of the past when it comes to talking down to citizens? Irish people are happy to trust and to "sacrifice themselves for the common good", but can quickly rebel when they feel like they are being patronised.

If they are punished for this apparent arrogance, they only have themselves to blame.

How can Enda Kenny - a man who has shown himself at once to be in tandem with the mood of the nation in the case of the Magdalene women - be so naive to the fact that the recovery has not been felt by the majority of people?

While most will see the need for pragmatism in financial affairs, it's hard to stomach hospital wards and Dundrum Town Centre being simultaneously overcrowded.

Didn't a poll (for what they're worth) just tell him that we've had enough of the language of austerity and that Irish people are willing to forego tax breaks in place of looking after the most vulnerable people in our society?

Instead, Fine Gael seemingly tried to push a scare agenda when it should have dealt in the hard facts that got it elected last time out.

Micheál Martin may have seen this coming after he himself misjudged the nation's appetite for the company line during the Lisbon Referendum. He is now the most popular leader simply by being the least annoying. If his 'reward' is to be a junior coalition partner, and the two forces of the Civil War are pushed together in the interests of the State, will the result be one of unbounded energy in pursuit of the good of the country, or the nuclear fallout of a Left-Right divide emerging with Sinn Féin the leader of the Opposition? This a party that seems to have no idea where the figures are buried lest it remember the source of the tweet which made a mockery of the last presidential election.

Has Labour actually done a lot wrong except alienate itself from its own voter base and mis-manage Joan Burton? From a working class background to the upper echelons of Irish public life, she should be projecting herself as an inspirational figure to young women and anyone who has grown up in limited financial circumstances!

So what really are the big issues of the day? Emigration is not forced in the vast majority of cases, just check the beaches of NSW or the bars of Toronto for your answer to that.

I'd be so proud of my country if we developed a world class health service for people who are ill. I'm sure of one thing: the need to vote. If you are on the edge of poverty, know that in this sense at least your voice holds as much value as the wealthiest person in the country.

Padraig Armstrong

Harold's Cross, Dublin


Path to affordable housing

As we approach another election where housing is again an issue, we should pause and remember that all the recent governments have aimed for the same thing: expensive housing. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, the Greens, PDs ... all the same.

Only the Central Bank has belatedly obstructed this shared political aim. But all governments have had the same policy. Governments will subsidise house buying, subsidise house rentals, limit house building, all driving prices up, but not take any path that might lead to affordable housing being generally available.

It's true now and it's been true for decades. Irish governments want housing to be expensive. The Irish people must like it that way. Perhaps it's time to admit it. Or confront it.

Hugh Sheehy

Merrion Road, Dublin


Up the champion whingers

Up Mayo. After years of trying they have been declared supreme whingeing champions by the Taoiseach himself, who then proceeded to give an Olympic class demonstration of the noble art itself. His chosen topic: not being appreciated by an ungrateful electorate.

There was another occurrence yesterday which may give us all cause to whinge. It was the declaration by Boris Johnson, the highly-influential mayor of London, that he will campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. He cites danger of the EU becoming an undemocratic dictatorship as his primary motivation. We have experienced what he talks about - twice we voted in referendums in what we thought was a democratic way and twice our puny democracy was smothered. Greece received similar treatment less than a year ago.

The EU message is simple: do what we tell you or we will allow you to starve. We capitulated; we pay debts that were never ours and cheered as Greeks were condemned to scavenging in dustbins.

Democracy with such a price is not democracy at all.

Padraic Neary

Tubbercurry, Co Sligo


SF 'posturing on economy'

So Gerry Adams tells us in the televised leaders' debates that he believes Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour all rolled over for the Troika.

Even after the collapse of the position of Greek political party Syriza in the face of Troika opposition, Adams - advocating similar policies - maintains the myth that he would have done a better job with the country's finances. He would not have "rolled over", he tells us.

There are echoes in these haughty words of his accusations that - during the Troubles - the SDLP "rolled over" to the unionists and the British before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This was an agreement that was based largely on SDLP policies that Adams signed his party up to.

However, we shouldn't be surprised at Sinn Féin's posturing on the economy. It regarded itself as purist on the North too in times gone by. In fact, the same Sinn Féin tactics were used in the North before the 1998 Agreement of posturing by making demands in absolutist terms like 'Brits out', taking up uncompromising and undeliverable positions and then, ultimately, abandoning its entire policy position and falling compliantly in behind the SDLP. Eat your heart out, Syriza.

There isn't the slightest chance that Sinn Féin would take on the Troika. And Adams knows it.

John O'Connell


Irish Independent

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