Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Government of Ireland

I take pride in the fact that I’ve never had any political allegiances. It goes back to a time when I was probably six or seven and a General Election was underway. You had to be one of two things: pro-Fianna Fail or pro-Fine Gael. Anyone who knows anything about politics in this fair country knows that your political convictions are inherited rather than inspired and much of this goes back to the Civil War.

One of the neighbours’ kids was rabidly praising one of these parties and threatening to punch anyone who disagreed. It was the closest thing to realising what the Hitler Youth may have behaved like in the 1930s. I was disgusted.

I actually have no faith in Irish politicians, at least some of the ones I have seen in action. Half of them can barely speak coherently, need a good tailor and should steer clear of golf clubs and tents full of builders.

As I grew older I was proud to exercise my democratic right to vote and based by decisions on who I thought would be the right people to do the job, reasoning their policies rather than a bloodline of allegiance.

I think this week I was proven right. People should only vote on who they consider will be good at the job. The next time a General Election is called this method of reasoning and judgement will be applied and hopefully incompetent politicians will be replaced by people with insight, judgement and reason.

On its first perusal Budget 2009 seemed prudent and a ‘not so bad’ mood swept the office where I worked. The next morning though anger, outrage and disgust had filtered through. Some people gave out about things like a tax on parking spaces, but the real hurt – genuine hurt – was felt by fair-minded people over the betrayal inflicted on our country’s senior citizens by introducing means-testing for medical cards.

I can’t agree that wealthy people like retired judges or politicians should be entitled to an automatic medical card but having witnessed on many occasions the incompetence of our civil servants, schemes like means-testing confuse, exasperate and delay. No good will come of this.

Elderly people who have worked all their life, paid their taxes and find the medical dimension of their lives an ever increasing reality have enough to worry about. The incompetence of the HSE is well documented. The cost of visiting a doctor is already prohibitively expensive and I thank God for my good health that I don’t have to visit an Irish hospital any time soon.

In one fell-swoop the current Government of Ireland has abandoned its senior citizens.

Also, it has not only cut funding of computers in Irish schools but has increased pupil-to-teacher ratios. This latter move reinforces in my mind the fact that the Irish Government has never appreciated nor understood the gift of the ICT industry on their shores, a sector that will be watching this decision with interest. It employs 85,000 people and wants to do more. Pay attention teachers, parents and politicians, there are good well-paying jobs for people with talent. Hopefully, there always will be.

In today’s Irish Independent James Downey wrote with insight on Middle Ireland’s reaction to the Budget: “It expected hardship. It got it. What it did not get was coherence.”

I could qualify this: it expected hardship. It did not expect to be heart-broken.

The Government may or not do a U-turn on the medical card issue. But whatever it does do not forget what happened. The next time a General Election is called base your voting decisions on reasoning the right people for the job. Don’t be blinded by blood allegiances. Do not forget this fiasco.