Sunday 26 January 2020

Stepping back from the point of no return

Young gardaí are expected to put their lives on the line for €23,000 a year. We have now arrived at a situation where a force of just over 13,000 will strike on four days next month (Stock picture)
Young gardaí are expected to put their lives on the line for €23,000 a year. We have now arrived at a situation where a force of just over 13,000 will strike on four days next month (Stock picture)

A society knows it is in trouble when threats becomes respectable. The Government is facing an unprecedented crisis with the decision of the AGSI to back their colleagues in the GRA and walk off the job.

Considering the pressures and threats that the force has endured in an exemplary history, without recourse to such drastic action, such a breakdown in trust is an indictment of all sides. But the Government had been warned many times that patience was exhausted.

Young gardaí are expected to put their lives on the line for €23,000 a year. We have now arrived at a situation where a force of just over 13,000 will strike on four days next month. Meanwhile, schools face being closed for seven days. All of this speaks to a failure to manage, and a deep sense of alienation. With soaring house costs and record rents, too many are finding it impossible to get by.

They may be euphemistically classed as the "squeezed middle" but in truth they are the backbone of this country and feel they are being left behind. If such hard-working people cannot keep a roof over their families' heads after all those years of austerity and sacrifice, then we have a very serious problem as a society. Yet gardaí should not be walking off the street. They are the forces of law and order, and law and order cannot go AWOL because times are hard.

But they must be able to air their grievances and they must be heard, and not stonewalled for years as this Government has done to them. As a nation, we pride ourselves on a reputation for fairness and inclusiveness. If this is the case, how come swathes feel marginalised?

We must step back from the point of no return. We simply cannot run the country on the basis of who blinks first. It is essential that we maintain basic standards of decency and reliability in both private and public sectors.

Values built up over several generations should not be cheaply sold. Yesterday, President Higgins warned that people are being treated like "numerical units".

He also said as a nation we are failing to "display the necessary spirit of democracy". That is a searing charge in this, the centenary of 1916, and one we should take to heart.

Vital step in beating Isil – but cost will be high

Two years after overrunning Iraqi forces, Isil is now seeing the tables being turned in Mosul. The second largest city in Iraq is the last major stronghold of Isil in that country. Mosul’s capture became a symbol of the terrorist group’s rise as a major force. It was the location of Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s proclamation of a “caliphate” in parts of Iraq and neighbouring Syria. A lengthy operation to recapture the city is now under way, involving Kurdish peshmerga, Iraqi government and western allied forces.

The retaking of Mosul is likely to take months, starting with the setting up of a logistical base, followed by an advance on the city, which is expected to stretch into November and December, if not beyond.

The liberation of this city is a vital step in defeating Isil and freeing the local people from the tyrannical regime.

However, the United Nations has expressed “extreme concern” for the safety of up to 1.5 million people living in this area. The UN’s humanitarian and relief chief Stephen O’Brien has asked for civilians to be protected and be given access to assistance “they are entitled to and deserve”.

Before the Isil invasion, the city was one of Iraq’s most diverse, comprising ethnic Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians and Turkmens, as well as a variety of religious minorities. Many of these minorities fled Isil. Now the local population faces further suffering in the coming months.

Irish Independent

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