Thursday 17 January 2019

Decommissioning the pork barrel - now that the fair is over

'Enda expelled the Troika and it was forgotten within days. So maybe we will forget the cuts, if the cuts are reversed. Our guess is that Enda will hold on for a while in the hope that a possible economic upturn will lead to a corresponding boost in the polls' Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
'Enda expelled the Troika and it was forgotten within days. So maybe we will forget the cuts, if the cuts are reversed. Our guess is that Enda will hold on for a while in the hope that a possible economic upturn will lead to a corresponding boost in the polls' Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The fairest way is to give the new administration a fair chance. The Government was matched up in Lisdoonvarna. Now the plain people and the populist commentators are giving out about how long it took to agree the dowry. It was as if all Micheál, Enda and the Endies had to do was sit down at the breakfast and decide who will feed the cat.

It took years of negotiating to merge Aer Lingus into British Airways. The Luas deal still isn't sorted. Couples spend years agonising over whether or not they will get married. And we crib because it takes a few months to agree a deal that will shape our country for many years to come. The politicians were right to take their time. But who will pay for the pork barrel?

The pork barrel is like 'fiscal space' used to be a few months back. Everyone uses it to make themselves sound deadly smart. According to the Oxford dictionary, pork barrel is "used in reference to the utilisation of government funds for projects designed to please voters or legislators and win votes, [eg] 'the lesson that power is based on the pork barrel and purchased with patronage'." I wouldn't trust the internet to tell me the day of the week, but the definition seems sound enough.

The pork barrel was used to store salted pork in times when there were no fridges or ice boxes. I mention ice boxes as our politicians love using American phrases like "bang for your buck" and "red-line issues" because it makes them seem like smokey-room, big-time deal-makers.

Back when Irish people ate bacon 365, there were big lumps of what was known as 'yallah bacon' hanging like bats from the ceiling. By the way, 'yallah' means yellow, and that was the colour of the bacon. It was left there for months and the salty meat was as hard and tough as rhino crackling.

We used to visit a relative and he owned two pairs of long johns, like the ones you see the cowboys wearing in the bunkhouse in the movies. The partly decomposed and decommissioned pair was hanging off a nail in the ceiling for drying. When the front door was open and the wind blew from the east, the blown-up long johns were wrapped around the yallah bacon. It was as if the invisible man was making love to his ethereal missus.

So we never had a pork barrel in Ireland. Would it not be a good idea for us to call the making of mad promises 'yallah bacon politics'?

I was a butcher's boy for a good few years, and my boss Eric kept a pickle barrel. Eric asked me to bring him an ox tongue from its depths - this is the sweetest meat you could ever eat.

I nearly went in head first. I asked Eric what would happen if I fell in, and he said "we'd boil you with a head of cabbage".

The Taoiseach is in a right pickle and he will be boiled alive no matter what he does from here on in. There is no honeymoon.

Enda expelled the Troika and it was forgotten within days. So maybe we will forget the cuts, if the cuts are reversed.

Our guess is that Enda will hold on for a while in the hope that a possible economic upturn will lead to a corresponding boost in the polls.

But at what cost?

Each and every Endie has his or her plan as to how the country should be run. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The people did vote for a mixum-gatherum.

Maybe we could call it parochial patriotism. The system needs a shake-up every now and then.

We need Independents to keep an eye on the State. And yes, there are parts of our country that have been badly neglected. But now all of our politicians need to give up some of their independence if the new Government is going to work. Just like marriage. Because that's what we have now. For better or worse.

But now it's time to end the killing of political pigs. And who is going to pay for the yallah bacon? The middle class are the new poor. Public servants have suffered from the cuts, but we seem to have forgotten who it was caused the problem, just five years ago. The Fianna Fáil government of back then spent too much.

I know they didn't see the recession coming. Very few did, but now we have had a recent reminder from history, there is no excuse. We have to mind the money from here on out.

Men and women who worked hard and only ever dabbled in offshore commerce when they bought a round in a pub on the Aran Islands are now being threatened with a success tax by the left.

"Oh, we will tax the rich and it will pay for everything" - as if the being rich was something to be ashamed of. The implication is that the good rich were exploiting workers in sweatshops and walloping them with whips.

These are the people who create jobs. So it is, then - this is the very first column in the history of Irish journalism to stick up for the (good) rich.

And what about the middle classes who are subsiding people with a higher disposable income from 'odd jobs' but who still draw State aid? There's no problem with genuine cases. I'm all for backing them up, but the system-milkers have all of us on the hind tit.

So here's my yallah bacon demand. It's time populism became unpopular. The dealing is done now. The Fair of Leinster House is over.

Keep the spending down and try to help those who were cut to pieces, but with an eye on what we can afford.

Remember back to when you asked your mother for money to go the cinema and she said, "Hold on a minute, let me see what I have in my purse." The principles of macroeconomics are the very same as kitchen budgeting.

It's time now to put Ireland first and switch to political vegetarianism.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss