Monday 27 May 2019

Shane Ross reminds us that the working classes don't matter

All in the title: Ross's job is not Minister for bits of Transport, the exciting parts of Sport and the nice trips which come with Tourism
All in the title: Ross's job is not Minister for bits of Transport, the exciting parts of Sport and the nice trips which come with Tourism
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

There are many ways in which ordinarily smart people can appear to completely lose their marbles.

Falling in love is probably the most obvious one, and we have all seen friends or loved ones completely change their personality and even beliefs when they get hit by what the Sicilians in The Godfather called the 'thunderbolt.'

And then, of course, there are those people who enter politics.

Forget the old adage which states that those the gods would destroy they first make mad. The modern equivalent is simply the gods suggesting that they enter the political word, where it's becoming increasingly clear that the line between the average Irish politician and a certifiable lunatic has become a distinction without a difference.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why Shane Ross even bothered running for election.

Take the recent industrial problems involving Irish Rail and the bus and Luas workers. His laissez-faire attitude on that vexed issue may be excused as the actions of a politician who believes that the interested parties should be able to sort such issues between themselves like adults.

But that's a position of such hopeless naivety it's almost beyond comprehension.

Whatever arguments about principles that Ross's supporters may invoke, he simply came across as aloof and lacking an interest in the most crucial part of his brief.

His job description, after all, is not Minister for bits of Transport, the exciting parts of Sport and the nice trips which come with Tourism.

He has spent the last few months with the woebegone expression of a man who applied for a job and was shocked to discover that it's not nearly as much fun as he thought it would be.

It seems to be an approach which could probably be best described as don't just do something, stand there blankly instead.

But maybe that's for the best, because when he does decide to involve himself, he seems to simply make matters worse.

The ongoing row over the baffling decision to hand €150,000 to the private, fee-paying Wesley College so it could update its hockey pitch is like something from a bad political satire.

Ross has said he did not interfere in the process of the grant being awarded.

But the fact that he initially posted a tweet about the decision, before swiftly backtracking when the static became too much, has become a bit of a trend with this Government.

But if Varadkar's sudden case of foot-in-mouth disease in Washington was more cause for mockery and laughter, Ross's involvement in the Wesley hockey debacle has been the source of genuine, and justified, anger.

We may not have quite the rigid system that used to blight the UK, but class is just as important in this country as it is elsewhere. The decision to hand over 150,000 smackeroos to a school which already boasts - take a deep breath - four rugby pitches, two astroturf pitches, two astroturf hockey pitches, two cricket pitches, two outdoor basketball courts, one soccer pitch, a gymnasium and a sports hall is a crass insult,

Only one measly sports hall? Oh, the humanity! The deprivation! How do these poor souls even live like that? My God, they should have been given even more money!

Meanwhile, St Dominic's in Ballyfermot has 14 leaks in the roof of its gym and the floor is dangerously rotten. Meanwhile, Tallaght Community School has once again failed to get funding for a single all-weather pitch. Meanwhile, there are dozens of schools in this country where the kids' idea of a PE class is putting on their jacket and running around the schoolyard a few times.

Ross was a popular appointment as minister because he had long been a thorn in the side of successive governments in this country. There was hope, even outside his own constituency - oh, did I mention that Wesley just happens to be in his own electoral backyard? - that he would continue to be a thorn in the side of the regime of which he is now a member.

Instead, he has opened up himself up to accusations of exactly the same kind of stroke politics he used to rail against. He has been a hopelessly disappointing minister in general, but Wes-gate, as nobody but me seems to be calling it, is even worse because it speaks to a kind of arrogance which permeates the upper orders in this country.

There was nothing sneaky or underhand or dodgy in the decision. It's the spectacular lack of nous which grates, and provides yet another reminder that when it comes to politics, even the supposedly smart guys are prone to making stupid decisions.

We often imbue politicians with a power they simply don't have, which is why the sporadic outbursts of fury towards them tend to be rather pointless. But in this instance, Little Lord FauntleRoss has opened himself to the perception that he is looking after his own while giving a two-fingered salute to those working-class schools and clubs which applied, and failed to receive, grant funding.

He didn't do this because he hates the working class, as some of the more hysterical reactions have claimed. He did it because they never crossed his mind. And, somehow, that seems even worse.

You don't have to be a professional working-class hero to see that this decision is the latest example of the blithe disregard the members of our country's gilded elite have for the rest of us. Roll on the election...

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