Monday 11 November 2019

Gene Kerrigan: 'Recent unsavoury events have shown us there are worse things than cute hoors'

The tattier aspects of politics have been on view lately, but the fish stinks from the head

Cartoon by Tom Halliday
Cartoon by Tom Halliday
Gene Kerrigan

Gene Kerrigan

So, could we perhaps sum up the essence of what recent events have taught us about the Irish system of government?

We, the People, vote for those we believe will most wisely create the laws by which we are governed.

Those TDs who are elected come together in a Dail where they discuss and vote into law those measures they consider to be in the best interests of the people.

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Leinster House in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
Leinster House in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Except... well, that's not true.

None of it.

READ MORE: Michael Healy-Rae logged into Dáil on day he was in Kerry for a funeral

We now know from the evidence of our own eyes that the official voting record of our politicians is only remotely connected to reality.

Someone else might have pressed their voting button. TDs might not have been in the Dail chamber on the day when any number of votes were recorded as having been cast by them.

They might be back in their Leinster House office, picking their noses.

When their vote is recorded, they might not even have been in Leinster House.

In fact, although officially recorded as having voted, the TD might not have set foot in Dublin that day.

And this is what we learned just in recent days...

But, before putting this in the context of what else we know, let us jump ahead to the consequences we all live with, as a result of our endlessly amusing system of government.

Last week, photos emerged of people sleeping on the floor of a Waterford psychiatric unit. It has room for 44 patients, there were 54 in need of help.

READ MORE: Psychiatric patients forced to sleep on hospital floor while waiting for bed

This is what is accepted as normal, throughout the public health system.

Each night, hundreds of people are accepted as being in need of medical treatment but are left to linger on a trolley, as the system simply can't deal with them.

Why?

Beds. Beds. Beds.

A patient sleeping behind a panel in the hospital
A patient sleeping behind a panel in the hospital

Once we had sufficient beds. However, widespread tax evasion among the rich, and austerity imposed on public resources following the bankers' crash, left us beggars when in need of medical treatment.

Thankfully, a new children's hospital is on the way, so at least the littlest, most vulnerable amongst us will not...

Well...

It'll be a hospital some day, probably. But, right now, it's a gigantic beast, comatose and helpless, as legions of the professional classes swarm all over it, filling their pockets, their briefcases and the boots of their very large cars with as much treasure as they can shift.

READ MORE: Colm McCarthy: 'We must make sure what the Government builds is proved to be worth public money'

There was a time when our politicians knew how to control costs - but not these days.

There was a time when politicians were genuinely ashamed when homeless figures grew into thousands, but not these days.

Now, they rig the figures to slim them down. And when even the rigged figures keep growing they hire expensive liars to concoct wordplay designed to mislead and confuse.

When Fine Gael voted against the interests of desperate migrants, at the European Parliament, they were taken aback by the reaction. In a flash, their professional explainers had fashioned excuses - threadbare to most of us, but enough for the party faithful to cling to.

Migrants and refugees on a boat from Zuwarah in Libya travelling to Italy (Migrant Voice UK/PA)
Migrants and refugees on a boat from Zuwarah in Libya travelling to Italy (Migrant Voice UK/PA)

READ MORE: 'I had to catch a flight' - FF's Billy Kelleher defends missing migrant search-and-rescue vote

Irish politics has always had more than its share of cute hoors, but there was an obvious amateurism to it. These days we're awash with professional gobs**tes who will run you up a semi-plausible excuse in jig-time.

Massive, seemingly unassailable social problems - mostly to do with housing and health - are abandoned to the private sector "solutions" that have failed again and again and again.

Direct actions that have worked in the past - again and again and again - are ideologically unacceptable to today's geniuses.

Dreadful human damage is being done as a consequence.

And politicians spend fortunes - of our money - to allow them cloak their failures in the wordplay of their hired liars.

Further down the political food chain, TDs game their own supporters, setting local interests against those of the enemy above in Dublin.

READ MORE: 'People are no longer shocked by plight of homeless' - McVerry

Where there should be solidarity between people of the same income levels and basic interests, in Dublin and around the country, the smartass politicians promote competition.

In circumstances where deception is seen not as a flaw but as a tool it's inevitable that some TDs - how shall we put this? - maximise their earning power.

Yes, there are honest, decent politicians in the Dail - and many of them - but today, from the top down, the leaders demonstrate that deception is the acceptable standard.

We've always had the one-for-you-two-for-me merchants, but these days some of them have become extraordinarily creative.

This is not just "pulling a fast one", this is more than the traditional "stroke politics".

Things have been reported that are clearly a matter for the gardai to deal with.

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey
Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey

Let's leave it at that.

Experienced political journalists have said that they've never seen Fine Gael members more angry than they are at Maria Bailey, of swing-gate fame. Last week, they voted to have her kicked her off the Dun Laoghaire election ticket.

READ MORE: Donal Lynch: 'Why voters, not Fine Gael, should decide on under-fire Maria Bailey's political fate'

Children traumatised by living in B&Bs, while vultures benefit from the housing crisis - that hasn't made them as angry.

Patients sleeping on hospital floors, people dying because of over-stretched hospitals - that hasn't left them distraught.

Desperate migrants left to drown - ho, hum.

Maria Bailey, though - she gets them fuming.

Yes, it appears that Bailey's punishment exceeds any wrongdoing of which she might be accused. But, frankly, my sympathy is pretty much used up on those trying to keep their children sane and stable in B&B emergency accommodation.

And on those worrying on disgracefully-long waiting lists, and those lingering on trolleys.

And my sympathies are pretty busy with the worries we all share, that we or someone we love could at any time be dependent for health, or for life itself, on a system with a record of ensuring misery and fear envelops us at our most vulnerable moments.

Truth to tell - it doesn't matter whose name is on the ticket. The context within which most TDs work is that decisions are made by a small number of the party elite.

TDs are told how to vote, and if they exercise their own judgement they will be driven out of politics.

It doesn't matter whose finger is on whose button.

The Dail seldom discusses anything - TDs mostly make speeches which boost their own parties and belittle their rivals.

The background to the housing crisis - the ideological commitment to the whims of investors - is seldom mentioned.

Likewise the background to the medical crisis, the historic under-investment and the commitment to a two-tier system of treatment - a lucrative result for the favoured few.

All the while, an unseen army of lobbyists is working away, employed by the rich to manipulate the political agenda.

The system will probably manage to clean up its tattier aspects - the TDs careless enough to leave a paper trail.

The day of the cute hoor has moved on, today the professionals rule. And they are pretty good at creating a patina of confidence, cloaking incompetence under a practised wordplay.

But the tattier aspects are simply taking their lead from those who control the parties. They see how their betters have thrived on deceit, and they follow suit.

The fish stinks from the head. And we'll continue to experience the system's inherent corruption through the stream of misery it leaves in its wake.

READ MORE: Kevin Doyle: 'A can of worms has been opened and it's up to TDs to try to close it'

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