Like most civilised countries, providing a welfare cushion in hardship or old age is central to social justice.
Indeed, our social protection budget is bigger than health or education. The majority goes to pensioners, continually rising, without complaint from the taxpayer, despite over-65s being the least likely demographic to be 'in poverty', according to the ESRI. A chunk of money supports those without jobs. This shot up lately due to Covid-19 and we have a curious narrative starting over what value system we expect of those out of work. The Government's decision to hammer the 'stay at home' message to potential holidaymakers is, it appears, hitting those on benefits disproportionately. Whereas someone 'earning' their own money can go abroad (with two weeks' self-isolation their only punishment), welfare recipients will have their income stopped. This includes those whose businesses were effectively shuttered by Government, preventing them 'actively seeking work'.
The world over, there's a peculiar moral judgment about poor people having nice things. It's why, for instance, in America, Republicans favour food stamps over cold, hard cash. Because people may make the 'wrong' decisions about how to spend money they didn't earn. Stamps make sure they'll buy groceries, not spend it in the bookies, or on whiskey. But why should we care? If the intention is to provide a financial cushion, then is it any of the taxpayers' business how that cushion is sat upon? If someone on a €350-a-week pandemic payment wants to blow it on cheap flights and 200 duty free cigarettes as opposed to Aldi's Super 6 fruit and veg, so what?
Leo Varadkar says 'the airports' will inform on them (they won't actually, as a passenger's only documents are a locator form and passport and neither reveal income source or PPS). But what's the point of the exercise? Being out of work creates huge stress. Covid aside, aren't they entitled to spend their money however they like?
We've reached the bit of the disaster movie where President Morgan Freeman is being told by emergency chiefs that there's one way to save humanity, with just 30 minutes before the closing credits. He must decide who gets saved… women and children first, or rescue the top brass and to hell with everyone else?
News that a Covid-19 vaccine may come soon is welcome, but with seven billion arms outstretched, there won't be nearly enough doses. Naturally healthcare workers and the elderly should benefit first along with essential personnel. Younger, healthy people will have to wait in line.
Fair enough, but what are the chances a line of ministers will duck into the 'essential personnel' bunker? After all, emergency legislation passed in a nanosecond ensured a rake of special advisers and super junior ministers got paid inflated salaries lest they jump ship and be lost to the realms of public service, while the rest of us, stuck in a permanent 'pay disparity', have to make do.
Standards are important, even in the netherworld of demons and dragons. Mindful of the dangerous practices of reading Harry Potter books or burning voodoo dolls, the Vatican has issued a new handbook for its exorcists. It says 'rogue operators' have forced its hand, and from here on in, only 'authorised' exorcists can "command demons in the name of God to recede".
Yoga practitioners can stand down, apparently. Don't say you weren't warned.