Sunday 20 October 2019

Gene Kerrigan: 'We're being governed by D'Unbelievables'

A billion inadvertently spent, no accountability, but our overlords know who needs punishing, writes Gene Kerrigan

So, that's it, then? A bit of heckling in the Dail last week, then it's back to business as usual?

Remember the good old days, when all we had to worry about was Bertie Ahern literally signing blank cheques?

As a party official, Bertie would give the book of signed cheques to Charlie Haughey, to meet the legitimate expenses of the party.

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Charlie smiled. He used party funds to pay off a £15,000 bill at the Coq Hardi.

We had a tribunal to look into that kind of thing.

Today, we are handing blank cheques to builders.

"Gimme an oul' hospital, there, in your own time, lads, right? What would you say to four hundred million? Six hundred million? Well, I'm sure you'll do a grand job."

And the builder lads come back with a bill that's reached €1.7bn, and counting. It seems the Government accidentally spent an extra billion.

Blank cheque politics.

And no one was in charge.

We're smothered in heaps of Ministers and mini-Ministers and Chairmen of the Oireachtas Committee on This and That, all of them on insane wages and pensions.

Armies of quietly-spoken Departmental dignitaries glide around the corridors of power.

Countless "advisers" and "consultants" clog the payrolls.

Yet no one was responsible for managing the hospital project. The buck stopped nowhere.

Never in the history of the State has such a major failure of public policy been greeted with as mighty a shrug of the shoulders.

"Well, shucks, that didn't go so well, let's move on."

A failure so massive should bring down a government. The only consequence was Simon Harris being forced to apologise - not for the horrendous and unplanned cost, but for a delay in telling the Dail about it.

"Commercial sensitivities," it seems, kept Simon quiet. It's this Government's version of "the dog ate my homework".

If we go on building the children's hospital, it might cost €2bn, but no one can say for certain it won't be €3bn.

We could write off the €1.7bn, and just scrap the notion of a children's hospital. In which case, maybe we ought to give up on the whole independent Ireland project.

Hospital waiting lists are growing again. We have almost as many homeless as we have experts making excuses for the persistent failure to deal with the problem.

Instead of launching the major social building programme the country needs, we continue to pump millions into the private sector, which couldn't solve the problem even if it had a mind to.

And the Taoiseach's people pay millions to professional propaganda experts to tell us how successful his Government has been.

Government by D'Unbelievables.

People who have no regard for the public sector are in charge of vast amounts of public money. And rivers of it flow out into private pockets.

The buck stops with Varadkar, Harris and Donohoe. They should already be in the same dustbin of history in which we put Renua, the Progressive Democrats and Brian Cowen.

But, in reality, we are today governed by a cartel, the old firm of FG/FF.

The people kicked hell out of FF in 2011; then kicked hell out of FG in 2016. Neither has the support to govern alone, neither could coax enough hangers-on to make a government.

So, they did a deal. What mattered most was that the old double act survive - so they can continue taking turns at implementing the same policies. This led to the "confidence and supply" manoeuvre.

FF gets to co-govern. Deals are agreed in private, with no public oversight. At the same time, no other official opposition is allowed to emerge.

And, as their little joke on the rest of us, they get to call this "the new politics".

And the media obligingly uses the label.

Now, after a failure so massive that it should have ended careers, FF has ensured the survival of the cartel.

Just for lols, they made Simon Harris go into the Dail and apologise.

Then, when they needed it, the cartel got a break.

A small group of bloody eejits decided that the way to fight back against the cruel policies of FG/FF was to picket Simon Harris's baby. So they stood outside the baby's house with their placards.

Just in case anyone doubted these were bloody eejits, they had a banner announcing themselves to be the "Fingal Battalion".

They didn't say which army they were a battalion of, but the claim certainly emphasised their eejitry.

It crossed my mind that they might have been hired by Leo's Spin Unit, but no, they were legit eejits. At a moment of dread for the cartel, they gave the old firm an easy win.

A paroxysm of pearl-clutching ensued. The bloody eejits were denounced as a sinister threat to all we hold dear.

Among the condemnations came one from Simon Coveney, who said the antics of the eejits was a "new low in Irish politics".

Oh, no, Simon, I think the new low in Irish politics is closer to home.

Last week, The Irish Times presented a scoop. But, you wouldn't think so - which is maybe why there was little response.

The headline said Simon's government will "tighten rules" on social housing. Not a headline to attract attention.

Good thing, tightening rules. We can do without loose rules. Here's what it means, though.

At present, those shut out of the housing market, because prices have been pushed too high by gamblers, depend on renting a house from the social housing list.

They're allowed to turn down one offer.

If they turn down a second - because the location is far from a school, from family, or in the midst of a drug storm - they are punished. And taken off the list for a year.

This punishment is to be increased to five years.

And after five years, you go to the end of the queue, as though you've just become homeless.

This is to force people to accept the most dreadful and remote accommodation.

Every last hellhole is to be filled. Kids will leave their beds at 6am to get to a distant school, or change school yet again. In circumstances where social instability ensures they risk being sucked into a drug culture.

And the Varadkar government will eventually be able to announce a big drop in the housing list.

At one level, no accountability for spending a billion.

At another, thuggish treatment for protecting your child.

Who, exactly, is "gaming the system"?

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