By Jim O'Sullivan
On a sunny October Monday, pretenders stumbled among paladins and could not rise above baffle-gabbing and gawking.
Enda Kenny has something else in common with Joan Burton---he cannot hide his disdain for “ordinary folk” who have the temerity to raise their voice.
Kenny looked gobsmacked as he was told bluntly that he presides over a party and government that indulged in despicable underhanded electioneering---going as far as lying to patients and cancer survivors to garner votes. Kenny was greatly surprised to be confronted by those that 18 months previously he had come amongst to shore up the falsehoods that his underlings were spouting. “Should they not be gone away by now?”, he must have wondered---or wished.
But the women, the backbone of the cancer campaign, are made of stern stuff, some steeled by having experienced for themselves the discriminatory system of treatment which sees no cancer “centre of excellence” above a line from Galway to Dublin. They faced round trips of 350kms, the struggle to organise children and family, arranging transport, finding the additional expense etc., all while fighting a sinister disease and an even more sinister political system unable to empathise---for reasons that are becoming more and more obvious; profit.
They confronted their illness head on and exorcised it---and did the same to a coterie of high powered local politicians who failed to protect services here and will do the same to those who climbed on their backs to gain power and privilege for themselves and who have since scurried off to pre-occupy themselves with sucking as much as they can, while they can, out of dwindling government coffers.
While Kenny was being stopped in his tracks and made to listen to home truths, a trio of “Labour” women, like weird sisters, huddled at a distance waiting to greet and fawn over their leader. Primped, bespoke clad and with nails high polished, all they could do was gawk as their worst nightmare was unfolding before them---the Amazons of the North West had remained true to both the cause and the patients of the region. The fight to have cancer services provided within the region is as strong as ever and consequently their perfidy would rebound. Their fixed stares were outward expressions of the chill realisation that ran through them---they were not only gawking at the legacy of their past mendacity, but what awaits them should they decide to call to the people of the North West and try to steal their votes again. There will be no second term of sucking the fat for them if the voters of the North West can help it.
The reason that members of the illuminati were gracing our presence was to launch a new system, a so called “new initiative”, to help the “unemployed back into employment” Availability of jobs is of course what the unemployed need, however the masters of spin were telling us that employment could be “magiced” into existence if the necessary form filling, interrogations, the signing of a “social contract” and a host of other forced jumping through hoops were undertaken by job seekers.
However as interviews with the media ground on, the spin wore thin and gaffs poked through the veneer of the highly paid for sound bites. It appears that the unemployed have a “responsibility” too we were told, they must be obliged to make every effort to get work. Once again we have a member of a “Labour Party” suggesting that living on the dole is a “career choice” and it is necessary to shuffle people out of their lethargy and force them to look earnestly for work---work that by and large does not exist. We have currently 450,000 signing on and an exodus of our “youngest and finest” draining away the life blood of the community. The latest CSO figures show that the vital age group---between 19 and 24---has decreased by a massive 12% in the past 4 years dramatically pushing up the average age. In light of this all we get is another grand illusion to distract us from the reality---the failure to provide jobs to begin with and/or to share out what jobs, and whatever else we have, a tad more fairly.
But while this activity may be whimsically dismissed as just politicians politicking, it takes on a very sinister undertone when it is realised that while this staged costly show was underway, those supposedly offering hope by creating the illusion that “something was being done”, were harbouring a secret. They knew that Sligo had lost, but yet to be announced, 180 more jobs. And what will these people be offered? A Mickey Mouse bureaucratic system that appears to be designed to place obstacles in the way of their accessing unemployment benefit, a benefit that they have already paid for through the PRSI system all their working lives, or requiring that they accept unpaid work via “Internship” or “Jobridge” or else take a hike. Is all of this not in essence dishonesty?
Mr Kenny showed his discomfort while being interviewed as he proceeded to tell the media present what they should be reporting on---the “good news” about the scheme that he had just assisted Joan Burton to spark into life. Would the scheme produce a single job? Not one...so what is the “good news”?
When asked about the failure to honour the promise to have mammography services returned to Sligo, he initially failed to answer the question and sailed off on a tangent. But he forget once again that he was dealing with people who live at the coalface of high unemployment, poor services and in an amenity that is rapidly taking on a third world aura. Waffling is becoming tiresome.
The question repeated, Kenny slipped seamlessly into Mary Harney’s skirt and told us a story in order to evade the truth by distraction. He baffle-gabbed on about an unnamed constituent who told him that he would never again “complain about centres of excellence” following the treatment his wife had received in one. This is reminiscent of Joan Burton’s repeated attempts to deflect from the disastrous failure to provide work by suggesting that people are making a “career choice” to live on the dole. Kenny attempts to suggest that people are attacking “centres of excellence” when in fact, far from criticising them, they are protesting to have one located in the region---just as both government parties supported and promised to deliver when elected. Has he forgotten the pre-election meetings he attended with campaigners? Is it possible that he does not understand what all the fuss is about? Or is this more dishonesty?
There must be something wrong with our culture when those in government, who made pledges and promises while out of power, just swan back before the people on the receiving end of those undelivered promises and expect that they would be welcomed as if nothing had happened.
It goes against the grain for most people to refer to another as a “liar”—indeed to have to do so is diminishing and bad for the soul. But the events of last week would seem to leave no option but to call things what they are.
We had a troop of senor figures calling on Monday to tell us that 166 jobs had been “saved” in the west of the town while two days later, when they were safely ensconced back in Dublin, it was announced that 180 jobs were to go on the north side. The bearers of the Monday “good news” have not as yet re-appeared to console and personally offer the hand of assistance to those about to lose their jobs. It is hardly credible that they did not know of the impending loss of those jobs while they basked in the temporary warmth of Monday’s “good news” story.
The rolling out of the new system to operate at employment exchanges was portrayed as an effort to help the unemployed back into work. Such a strategy would carry some credence if there were jobs to be filled, but there isn’t. What can therefore be concluded from that fact is that the new system has an ulterior motive and in the absence of jobs that does not bode well for those unfortunate enough to become unemployed at this time---it seems that the victims of the recession are to be regarded as the cause of it and treated accordingly.
The callous cutting of Home Care hours, while at the same time paying huge salaries to Ministers, TDs and Senators, continuing to pay massive pensions to “retired” politicians and department heads and the doling out of ludicrously high “fees” and handouts to party hacks and supporters acting as “advisors” and others sitting on hundreds of inane quangos, flies in the face of the pledge contained in the Programme for Government---“ both our parties (Fine Gael and Labour) are committed to protecting the vulnerable and to burden sharing on an equitable basis.”
The dancing around the cancer issue tells its own story---promises repeatedly and freely given have been reneged on and to compound that injury, the people of the region are fed a constant stream of waffle and verbosity instead of the facts and truth. The impromptu demonstration at the Cranmore event was sparked by the news that broke last week that the most recent promise given, to restore the follow-up mammography service to Sligo General, was also callously reneged on.
Integrity is a core value. When present in governance it offers hope, the promise of security. When absent it propagates disaffection and leads ultimately to despair. Emigration on the scale that we are now seeing confirms that many do not see our current quandary as just a glitch that the current leadership has in hand. It indicates the opposite.
There are many lessons that can be learned from the past decade or so and one of them is that governance that lacks honesty and integrity will lead to disaster. As Kenny et al retreated from the presence of the formidable women of the North West the barrage of truth that they were on the receiving end of ought to provoke some reflection on their part.
Is there a chance that they realise the folly of stealing the clothes of former failed politicians and their ideologies? Is it possible that they may have resolved, from here on in, to deal only in truth?