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Fergus Finlay: Billions wasted on broken banks while our most vulnerable suffer because of broken promises

DAY after day, the headlines highlight the mess we're in -- and the daft choices we've made.

This morning alone, we discover a huge blockage in the number of operations the HSE can carry out each year in the country's hospitals.

More than 17,000 operations were cancelled last year as hospitals struggled to deal with the gridlock in overcrowded emergency units.

And that figure for cancelled operations is actually a rising one. According to the HSE 14,903 operations were cancelled in 2007, 16,177 in 2008 and 17,761 in 2009.


Instead of getting better at managing these things, we appear to be getting worse.

And it's only part of the story. We also discovered this morning that emergency welfare payments have shot up to €100m for the first six months of this year, as more people than ever look for extra help to survive.

The cost of the payments in the whole of 2007 was €150m, with just 27,379 recipients. This increased to 35,546 people at the end of 2008, costing €184m for the year.

But nearly 42,000 people are seeking the payments this year.

And that news comes on top of the ESB confirming that it's cutting off an average of 900 people a month because they can't pay their ESB bills.

We're in the middle of a major crisis in Ireland caused entirely by greed.

Greed -- greed for capital, greed for profit, greed for votes -- is to a considerable extent to blame for the crisis we've had to deal with in the banks over the last two years.

Despite that, we've been expected, every one of us, to put our shoulders to the wheel to bail out the banks.

Whatever it costs, we're told, the health of the banking system is critical to the health of the nation.

Well, we've had a crisis in Ireland for all the years of the Celtic Tiger -- and it has affected only poor people.

Even in the midst of our prosperity, the incidence of consistent poverty among children has actually got worse.

We've had a crisis in health care for several years now -- and it has led to death and suffering. It's a crisis caused by political neglect and poor structures. We've had a crisis in services for elderly people and people with disabilities. That crisis has been caused by broken promise after broken promise.

We could have fixed every one of these crises during the years of our prosperity. As a rich country, we still can.

If the banks are in trouble, we must act, and act now. We must set aside our differences and take whatever risks are necessary. The interests of the wider economy and ultimately of society demand that.


But why, oh why, is that never the case when we talk about poverty? Could it be that when all is said and done, the poor, the old and the handicapped don't matter as much as the banks and their richer customers do?

Oh, and by the way. One other news story this morning. Government jets are being used to collect and drop ministers at locations convenient to their homes -- at additional cost to the taxpayer.

The short detours to airports such as Knock, Cork, Shannon and Derry are boosting the bill by as much as €2,000 each time.

But they're worth it, right?