Tuesday 24 October 2017

What we are doing is cutting out our heart

People now feel they have less and less of a stake in the fate of this country, writes Brendan O'Connor

You will have noticed that there is a new mantra in Government. It used to be that when a politician was in trouble, he blamed the last government, or he might even blame the current government, while kind of acting as if he was nothing to do with that government. Remember that? When ministers would come on Questions and Answers, as it was in those innocent times, and they would get indignant about something, and say something should certainly be done about it, and they would often have to be reminded that they were the government. Indeed sometimes they might even have been the minister relevant to that issue. But still they would fulminate as if they were an irate and powerless member of the public, a victim of the establishment.

Of course, now the Government has a whole new way of having power without responsibility. Like guys in a courtroom pleading the fifth, they just sit there and stare at the wall ahead of them and parrot that "the country has lost its sovereignty and this is in the terms of the IMF/EU bailout". It's a great old fallback position. You can imagine them drumming it into them all at media bootcamp; the way Fr Ted trained Fr Jack to say "that would be an ecumenical matter". So any time they're in trouble -- like when Ruairi Quinn was visibly rattled on Prime Time the other night -- they just intone the mantra. This is why Pat Rabbitte is suddenly in favour of selling off the ESB. It is also why Alan Shatter is shutting down garda stations. It is ultimately the excuse for every government action these days, government actions these days being mainly cuts.

On Prime Time, having sat through what must have been an uncomfortable film about how the Government's policy on education for children with special needs was playing out in reality, a clearly nonplussed Quinn began and ended his contributions by playing the trump card: We have lost our sovereignty. This is in the terms of the EU/IMF bailout. While acknowledging that he would be going away to look at the situation given what he had seen and heard, Quinn essentially then shut down any debate by implying -- It doesn't matter what we say here. It doesn't matter whether I'm right or wrong here. It's not my fault. It's nothing to do with me anyway. You could possibly blame the last government. But anyway, it doesn't matter.

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