The country is in climatic and economic chaos. Homes and businesses are being destroyed by floodwaters and an avalanche of failing enterprises & consequent unemployment, both accelerating at an unprecedented rate.
Meanwhile in a parallel universe somewhere between Oz and Tir na Nog, public sector workers who have secure jobs, income and pension are withdrawing service because they feel they have endured more than their share.
They are not alone in that! I feel that too as one whose job description hovers somewhere between the private and public sectors. Private sector workers and employers feel it too. We are all justly indignant at economic mismanagement and corruption on a national and global scale and we all resent having to dig deeper to bale out those who showed us little generosity in better times. It offends our sense of justice and fair play in the same way as we were incensed by the ‘Hand of Henry’ incident in the World cup qualifier.
Though it will not raise enough money to avoid further widespread economic pain there needs to be some more tangible and extensive sacrifice by those in positions of power and influence such as Government and banking if we are going to ask people on lower wages and even social welfare to accept cuts in their income. There is no credibility in a Taoiseach earning more than the American president lecturing people earning less than a tenth of his income on the necessity to accept further cutbacks. It just doesn’t ring true! We are a small island economy on the verge of bankruptcy and we cannot afford the illusion of being a major player on the world stage. If the citizens are to cut their cloth according to their measure then so must those who would lead and perhaps even inspire us.
There is a danger however that the anger that we all feel, public and private sector alike, blinds us to a few home truths. This government that oversaw the spectacular demise of our economy did not drop out of space. We elected them. They came from our ranks. They were shaped by our demands of them. And what were those demands? We treated them like fixers, local councillors writ large. The dual mandate may have gone but that didn’t change anything; we still expected them to look after our right of way, our sons’ or daughters’ planning permission, and our passport applications. We expected them to spend their days chasing rural funerals and to attend every public event across often scattered communities. And on top of that we expected them to be efficient and expert legislators fully aware of the minutiae of what was going on in their respective departments and committees. No matter how much money we threw at them that was always going to be an impossible ask. Oh and not content with the impossible we also expected them to somehow perpetuate a system where personal wealth grew exponentially and taxation fell in equal proportion. Are we honestly saying we had no part in this? Did we really believe in this Neverland Economics or did we hope that it would last long enough to see us through?
Well now we know the answer and sadly there is no hidden pot of gold for us to fall back on. It seems that the once wealthy bankers and property developers were smoking what they were selling. There is no solution to this economic crisis that does not and will not inflict universal pain.
In looking for the silver lining in our economic meltdown there are those who said that this would bring us closer together; that in shared adversity we would pull together. That it seems was a vain hope! In good times we looked after number one and so it is today.
We are reaping the rewards of parish pump style government that became trapped by narrow sectional interest and now the unions are leading us down a similar blind alley that will only further divide and polarize a society that needs more than ever before to discover a shared responsibility for a shared crisis.