With Government scandals coming left, right, and centre, Michael Tuohy asks why the Irish people and media haven’t taken the government to task
While the world has been enduring a global pandemic, the need for systemic change internationally has finally come to a head. From the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in the USA and UK, to Hong-Kongers protesting the tightening grip of China, to recent protests against the Monarchy in Thailand, this call for ‘better’ has rung out around the world, protesting injustice and demanding a fairer society.
The Covid-19 pandemic has allowed us to take a step back and take a good look at the establishments that run our country. It allowed us to see what they’re doing right, and what they’re doing wrong, and the establishment in this country has been absolutely horrific as of late. In the 2 months since the Programme for Government was passed by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Green Party, hardly a day has passed where a horrible decision wasn’t made or the government hasn’t shown disdain for the Irish public at large. They have been absolutely tone-deaf. And yet, while they continue to make misstep after misstep, the Irish public refuse to swell with outrage like the residents of other countries would.
We have seen Fianna Fáil TDs like Dara Calleary crying to the media about not being offered a ministry, as if the thousands of people out of work were to feel pity for them on their nearly €100,000 yearly salaries. We saw the sacking of Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen because he had been convicted of drink-driving, while also driving alone on a Provisional License. Having been initially supported by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, he was eventually sacked and replaced by the aforementioned Dara Calleary. Congratulations to the deputy for his successful public whinging. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, a man whose fellow party members and the Irish people placed so much faith in to force the other two coalition parties into making some positive decisions for the future of our nation, decided a nap was the more important than workers’ rights, having been spotted snoozing while the Dáil was debating a living wage.
The government pushed through an extra €16,000 in allowances for Junior Ministers, that were already receiving a salary of €124,000 a year in their role as Ministers of State. This, during a pandemic in which nearly 600,000 workers were out of work and receiving a miserly €350 a week to subsist on. They also decided to weaken the position of every smaller party in the Dáil, forcing them further down the speaking order and making it even harder for them to be heard under the established parties.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar espoused the woes of every middle - class white man in Ireland, as Sinn Féin dared challenge the notion that white middle-class men might have it much easier than minorities when accessing the courts' system in Ireland. After horrible news of a massive rise in cases, the Midlands has been locked down, nobody allowed in or out. There have been massive spikes in Direct Provision centres and meat factories across the country, and the government choose to blame young people and house parties. This doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the government was told that this was going to happen when there were outbreaks in Nursing Homes months ago. It also refuses to acknowledge that meat factories are known to be dirty and dangerous, with a long history of health and safety violations. They continue to do absolutely nothing to address the issues there, instead they keep blaming people for house parties and lock up the Over-70’s again.
Finally we arrive at this week. One rule for them, another for the rest. That’s the lesson to take here, as the head of Fáilte Ireland - who are so brilliantly promoting the ‘staycation’ - decided it would be a great idea to jet off on holiday to Italy just a week after the Midlands was locked down. This resulted in immediate resignation once found out. Well that’s slightly positive. At least nobody in government would so idiotically break the rules, put in place to keep the population safe, like that. Certainly not our old friend Dara Calleary, who mere weeks after crying over not getting a ministry, and then benefitting from the stupidity of Barry Cowen to become Minister for Agriculture, decided it would be great for him and a few other members of the Oireachtas to go and have a big, illegal meeting for the Oireachtas Golf Society. Seriously? What a slap in the face to the Irish people.
Calleary, however, may be rewarded for distracting public attention from the hapless Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Education Norma Foley, who is noticeably absent and has been for a while. At a time when this country needs leadership, reassurance and most of all information, our new leadership is nowhere to be seen. Minister Donnelly is on the news spouting unhelpful information about Driving and Trampolining being more dangerous than a contagious, deadly virus that we can take preventative measures against. While we've gotten so much right in our response to this virus, we have also gotten a lot wrong, mostly due to poor communication from both this government and its predecessor. The loudest we’ve heard the government in recent weeks was after a 20-second clip of a wild brunch in a Dublin city centre pub went viral. The actions of everyone in that video were wrong, and an insult to all the sacrifices made by the Irish populace in recent months, but they are just being used as a scapegoat to draw attention away from the real issues in Direct Provision Centres and meat factories across the country.
All of this happened in the last month and a half, and instead of a swell of outrage from the people, we’re presented with journalists shilling out and defending the government in the hope they might get a special advisory role with one of the top ministers. Figures that actually want to bring the establishment to task are largely being kept out of the media so that their questions can’t take any hold on the Irish populace outside of Twitter. and with the media instead towing the government line and pushing any blame for any mistakes the government has made away from them.
We still have no actual plans for sending children back to school. We’ve had no comment from Minister Simon Harris on why and how students are still expected to pay the full price for attending their colleges this year when they will barely be on campus. The government have made no mention of shutting down poorly managed factories and Direct Provision centres which have minimal Coronavirus measures in place and therefore are becoming a breeding ground for the virus. Instead, they focus their blame on house parties and those under the age of 30 seem to be having. Why are the Irish people not more outraged? Why have the quiet rumblings of political revolution in this country from the elections in February smouldered instead of burning bright and hot? It’s time for the Irish people to stand up to the constant lies and deceit, and the clear disdain that our government holds for our society. “So much for an Ireland of Equals”.