Tuesday 10 December 2019

Drummed into us that this is a land where no one takes responsibility

As the country falls apart at the seams it's clear that no one thinks that they may share some of the blame, says Carol Hunt

LAST Sunday, the car being out of action, myself and the other half availed of public transport. "Return or single to Blackrock?" asked the man at the counter, kindly interrupting his chat on the phone to serve us. "Single," we answered, taking our tickets and trooping up the stairs to the platform. Glancing at the sign which informs passengers of the next train's arrival time and destination, we were astonished to see that no trains that day would take us to Blackrock as they all terminated at Lansdowne Road.

Perhaps it wasn't in his job description, but did the guy "working" the desk not think there was something amiss in selling people tickets to places that trains weren't going to?

A couple of days later, and I have to get through the city to collect the kids. I can't. A large group of taxi drivers and their cars are preventing public use of the city centre. It's mayhem. Tourists are bewildered and locals are furious. And no, this isn't a "strike", seemingly it's just a "protest".

"Can I get a cab, please? It's urgent."

"Not a chance, love," one driver shrugs, then adds, "Not my responsibility."

I hear the news about the 57,921 X-rays in Tallaght hospital which were not reviewed by a consultant radiologist and that a cancer patient who received a delayed diagnosis because of this catastrophe has since died.

Last July Michael Lyons, the then chief executive of the hospital, said that only 4,000 X-rays had not been reviewed and that they were mainly dental or repeat X-rays. He conveniently retired in December 2009, whereupon the real, colossal number of unexamined X-rays was revealed. But that's the new professor's problem, because Mr Lyons, of course, is not responsible.

And the Minister for Health may as well have been in New Zealand for the past year or so, because according to her she only heard the news at the same time as the rest of us. So she's not taking any responsibility either. Hell, she isn't even cutting short her 15-day junket.

Then I hear that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has plans to cause "severe disruption" to schools and health services; the fire and ambulance services are calling for "all-out strikes with no emergency cover"; the Civil Public & Services Union is planning "selective strikes" from Monday week; and the Frontline Alliance is supporting the "escalation of indus-trial action".

I then look at the long list of countries near and far that our public representatives have jetted off to for a bit of St Patrick's Day craic in the midst of this meltdown, and I open a bottle of 12.5 per cent proof wine, pour a very large glass for myself and laugh until I am truly hysterical.

What else can you do when you're living in La La Land?

The entire country seems to have lost its reason. Take, for example, the news that ex-Anglo-Irish boss David Drumm -- the man who concealed loans for eight years to his buddy Sean FitzPatrick, and who transferred the deeds of his luxury home in Dublin to his wife in May last year -- is suing his former bank, which you and I now own -- because the poor man is "distressed" and "harassed". He's also suing the bank for €2.6m over the fact that he lost his job and subsequent bonuses. The fact that the country is now being forced to pour billions into this failed bank is, of course, not his responsibility.

How distressed are members of the public going to feel if they arrive at hospitals and are told that their surgery has been cancelled?

How harassed are parents going to be if they (provided they still have jobs) arrive at the school gates and are told, "Sorry, we're closed today"?

How distressed are the thousands of people anxiously awaiting the results of X-rays and wondering if they will die as a result of a misdiagnosis? Is anyone responsible for any of these fiascos?

Give me a break. Actually, no, in my dreams I would prefer an AK-47 --which, as Samuel L Jackson so eloquently put it in Jackie Brown, is what you get when you "absolutely positively have to kill every motherf**ker in the room". I now know how he felt. Almost.

As one frustrated and angry friend said, "If I woke up tomorrow and heard that someone had headed down to Leinster House with a machine gun, I wouldn't bat an eyelid."

Not that any of us are advocating violent revolt, but what does one do when certain sections of the country seem to be living on another planet?

A planet stuck in a time warp where there's loads of lolly for pay rises and million-euro bonuses; for junkets with the hubby to faraway, sunkissed countries; for State cars and first-class travel; for long lunches and "privilege days"; for trips to the races, and rented hats; for astronomical pension packages and unreceipted expense accounts; for "work to rule" while the rest of the country isn't working at all; for ... yes, I could go on and on, but it won't be a large glass of vino I'll need to keep me calm, it'll be a general anaesthetic.

And, talking of anaesthetics, is it because we're all so numb at this stage that there hasn't been a collective uprising? Today I spoke with a young man who has two degrees, 10 years of professional experience, a wife, two kids, a large mortgage and no job. He's gone beyond protesting. He trudges the streets and hangs his head, afraid that his mates will ask what he's up to. Then he goes home to his wife and tries to work out how on earth they're going to pay the mortgage this month and eat at the same time. Should they get rid of the car? Sell the kids? Is anyone responsible for giving this man even a barest hope of ever getting another job?

The desolation of finding oneself unemployed: the anxiety, the depression, the guilt and hopelessness, is rendering hundreds of thousands of our citizens impotent.

Meanwhile, the ones who have jobs -- permanent ones that they're in no danger of losing -- are planning on delivering the final solution to those who are just managing to stay above water.

On Friday, they agreed to speak with the Government (or whoever is left in the country) on the condition that "pay, pensions, job security, as well as a timeframe for recovering money lost due to recent pay cuts" were up for discussion so that they could, as David Begg said, within a reasonable timeframe, "get back to where we were". What's a "reasonable timeframe" in a country which seems to have lost all reason? Why not sue us all for "distress and harassment" while they're at it? It would be cheaper.

Meanwhile, we put the country on hold and celebrate how much the rest of the world loves the Irish.

As we drunkenly congratulate ourselves on being a nation of feckless but charming squanderers, we can chant what has now become our national slogan, the reason the entire country is falling apart at the seams: "No one is responsible."

Sunday Independent

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