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Snug in their Dail Bar lifejackets as rest of us drown

FOR my birthday this weekend, my present husband and partner for the past 18 years gave me a DVD. It was a sale item.

I think he was trying to prove that he had bought wisely, but it didn't work. At the sight of what we now call "unnecessary purchases", I automatically experienced heart palpitations, chronic indigestion and the beginnings of a headache that I suspect will eventually require decapitation to quell.

And that blasted -- so good they're giving it two days -- Budget hasn't even been read out yet, let alone passed.

All week, the memory of Caesar's comment about cowards dying many times before their deaths has reinforced my belief that the current government parties -- you really couldn't call them a coalition -- are the biggest yellow bellies yet to grace Leinster House.

It's been terror by a thousand kites as the ministers compete to outdo each other with threats of cuts in unemployment benefit, jobseekers' allowance and child benefit, a VAT rise, a massive hike in car tax, petrol and diesel costs, higher college fees, a new property tax, increases to health insurance and prescription costs, and whatever you're having (or more likely, not having) yourself.

And then, when we really think we can take no more of this torture, when we desperately try to explain to 'those in power' (I use the term advisedly) that there are real people who are currently in total despair, who analyse every budget 'leak' and try to calculate if they can still survive if it is actually implemented, what do these masters of sensitivity do?

They let Lovely Leo, aka Marie Antoinette, out to tell us that, hey, it's not all bad, guys -- incomes won't be touched, sure we'll all be able to afford a holiday this year.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the saints, what planet is this man -- and his colleagues -- living on?

Yes, I know that there are some people -- like Leo and Brendan and Michael et al -- who won't feel but a pinch of mild irritation at the latest austerity measures. And I know that there are still people in the country who have safe jobs and pensions and savings and think the rest of us are being a little melodramatic when we say that what the government parties are up to is criminal and dangerous -- not just to our pockets, but to our mental and physical health.

There are lucky people who don't have siblings or children or partners who have been forced to seek work elsewhere because there is no living for them in this country.

And there are people who don't have to wait with hungry children for the child benefit or single parent allowance to arrive in order to go grocery shopping.

And yes, sadly there are people who have absolutely no concept of the pain, the misery, the stress, the depression and the potential loss of life that their neighbours are attempting to cope with at present, some better than others.

I don't know many of these people, but I see them all the time -- usually on the Six One News or Prime Time as they pontificate about austerity and hard decisions and how we must all band together to deal with this crisis.

Meanwhile, back at Leinster House, they bicker and dither, retire to the Dail bar, and demonstrate about as much leadership and bravery as J Bruce Ismay did in his lifeboat as he turned his gaze away from the sinking Titanic.

And because they're snug in their lifejackets, they are studiously refusing to acknowledge that the rest of us are drowning. It's not good enough.

Sunday Independent