Ireland: A nation of begrudgers? I think that there is more than begrudgery behind the increasing public anger towards many politicians and senior bankers. Frustration and despair are better words to describe the mood of the people who sense that those who govern us and those who have impoverished us by their reckless fiscal practices are not occupying the same physical or moral world as the rest of us.
This frustration and despair is finding voice in the only way it can; through the media who are then unjustly blamed for stirring up mob rule and witch hunts. Just because this new Puritanism is ugly and at times very personalised does not mean that it is unjustified. People in every sector of society are hurting. Whether public or private, none have escaped considerable pain and all are facing the prospect of further cuts in their income and standard of living. How long will it be before ½ million people are on the dole and how many more people in all sectors of society will loose their homes as wages fall and interest rates rise? We are in uncharted territory. Nobody really knows when this recession will end. People are scared.
This is a time for strong leadership, but what we have is a reactionary Taoiseach who at times is invisible and seems increasingly incapable of the brave and proactive decisions that are needed to head off further crises.
Currently the issue is ministerial pensions and instead of taking a stand on the issue he hid behind the law and the Attorney General, citing his powerlessness to force any TD to relinquish his lawful entitlement. This approach was then exploited by among others Deputy Jim McDaid who acknowledged that the payment of pension while still in office was ‘wrong’ but would not relinquish it because it was his ‘entitlement’.
There are many people in today’s Ireland who are not getting what they are entitled to; many who have lost their jobs because of the irresponsible behaviour of others; many hard working people whose wage has been so diminished that they cannot see how they will support their families; many who see no future and in desperation are driven to take their own lives!
There is a void in leadership in this country and the consequences are dire. The ongoing work to rule in the HSE will cost lives if it has not already. Our Garda force is we are told on the brink of mutiny. As we approach the vital state exams there are increasingly militant noises coming from our teachers unions. In the private sector the refusal of the banks to supply credit and the failure of the government to exercise control over the same banks which they now effectively own spells disaster for enterprise.
If this is to be turned around we need proper leadership. If people are to be asked to make huge and unfair sacrifices in their income and lifestyle then their leaders need to identify with them. If the government expects workers to give up or suspend their entitlements then they must lead by example. Even after recent cuts our Taoiseach earns a similar income to the President of the United States. That is neither defensible nor sustainable. Nor is it credible that those who benefited most on the back of the Celtic Tiger should be immune from pain and sanction. We know now that much of that boom was built on lies and deceit. Those who benefited from this deception should now pay their fair share.
We all know that the country is in dire straits. I have had to eat my words when I witness those who I would previously have considered blinkered and militant union leaders acknowledging that the Croke Park deal was the best that could be achieved in the current fiscal climate but I equally despair when I hear government TDs defending their right to receive a pension while in receipt of an income at least 3 times the average industrial wage. This to me is symptomatic of a government without a vision and with no apology I quote from Proverbs 29:18: Without a vision the people perish!