| 7.2°C Dublin

Beware loin girding . . . scary inequalities await

STATELY plump Peter Sutherland, non-executive director of troubled Goldman Sachs and former EU Commissioner, told us all on This Week that we'd been "remarkably successful in differentiating ourselves from the Greeks".

The economy, he was talking about, not the foundations of European culture.

We ("we", he says!) will have to keep cutting to "reduce the budget deficit to levels acceptable to the market".

Quiet there at the back, you.

"This is really a time when we have to gird our loins to take tough decisions and see it through -- I know it's easy for me to say it -- but I really believe that this is where we show our mettle."

Peter's right; it is easier for him and other wealthy people to talk about girding loins, tightening belts and cutting budgets.

The scariest thing about the crash that we're all suffering -- rich and poor -- is that it's gradually dividing Ireland. Increasingly, there's a division, with one group doing awfully well, and another scrambling to put off the dreadful day when survival is moot.

Epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett made a famous study of international statistics on how corrupt various countries are, how rich they are, and how this relates to their figures on crime, health, etc.

They got a shock. Countries with high teenage births, infant mortality, imprisonment rates, short life expectancy and bad educational performance aren't necessarily poor.

What they are, the docs found, is unequal. Everywhere in the world -- in rich and poor countries -- unequal societies struggled with crime, illness and misery.

And Ireland is becoming more unequal by the day -- a fact made only worse by the budgets which are cutting at the bottom and helping at the top.

Joe Duffy's Liveline callers revealed the strange world of the clampers. Hospitals seem particularly popular haunts. A caller told of bringing his 15-month-old to Temple Street with a terrifyingly swollen face, and coming out to a clamped car -- despite his partner putting a ticket in it. The ticket was for the wrong car park, he found.

Another clamping company -- a caller claimed -- is "hovering around" the VHI's emergency clinic, and people who hobble in injured, limp back out to find their cars clamped.

Joe tried to get a comment from one clamping firm. They told him their lawyers were listening.

Caller Frank Gannon said he'd worked for a clamping company, where his success was measured on the number of cars he clamped.

"Who can police this, Frank?" asked Joe.

"It's just how we want to have our society," said Frank. "It's legal, but it's not right."

Moncrieff's texters were raging about hated cliches. One fumed about women who complain over the ads for breasts. (Oh, it's for crisps?) Why do women complain about there being so few women in the Dail, he continued. If women voted for women there'd be more women in the Dail. It's women's fault. End of.

You could practically hear Moncrieff's teeth grinding. "End of," he said. "Now that's a phrase that gives me the roaring abdabs. In fact, in future if anyone sends in a text with 'end of', I'm not even going to read it out."

This Week, RTE Radio 1, Sunday Liveline, RTE Radio 1, weekdays Moncrieff, Newstalk, weekdays