It is a fact all but universally acknowledged that the government of Ireland is morally and intellectually bankrupt, and has been for some time.
It is beyond obvious that the future of the citizens of this country is being mortgaged to the interests of a restricted political class which comprises bankers, developers, and politicians. The present fiscal policy of this country is deflationary and irresponsible, designed to reduce necessary services, increase unemployment, and preserve or exacerbate the present set of social inequalities.
I'd rather not attribute to malice what can be laid at the feet of incompetence. Incompetence
is the word for what happened during the boom years, when successive Fianna Fáil governments under the soi-disant leadership of Bertie Ahern squandered record surpluses and dragged their feet instead of putting in place much-needed improvements to transport, education, health and community services. This? This is being done with malice aforethought. Alan Dukes
is now in charge of Anglo-Irish Bank, for fuck's sake. Richie Boucher
is in charge of Bank of Ireland. Brian Cowen, the former Finance Minister who presided over much of the squandering, the Taoiseach who has never lead his party in a general election, is in charge of the country.
This is not democracy. And it's not responsible government, either.
I'd hate to suggest this is all Fianna Fáil's fault. It's not. It's their responsibility - or it would be, if there was any indication that they understood the meaning of the word - but they have been aided by a series of spineless coalition partners; first the Progressive Democrats of unmourned memory, and lately the Greens - who, despite their high-minded talk, seem just as easily swayed as anyone else by the promise of a government car and a ministerial pension. The parties of the opposition, Fine Gael and Labour, are equally devoid of imagination or responsibility. They do not stand for
anything. They do not, even, when it matters, stand against
. It would be trivially easy to oppose the current Fianna Fáil policies on their merits. To propose a plan of investment in the citizens
of this country, rather than the albatrosses around our necks.
Yet the opposition is not alone in failing to oppose. The comfortable echo-chamber of the state broadcaster, RTÉ, has fallen down on its mandate to educate and inform. The airwaves are full of talking heads, but how many of them have the guts to treat the public as though we're capable of understanding what's been done?
We've been sold. Like cattle: our only purpose is to profit in the pockets of our political masters. This is why, instead of investing in our citizenry when the bubble burst, Cowen and Lenihan rushed to shore up the banks and their cosy relationship with the developers, with the money class. This is why, instead of measures to counter unemployment, instead of preservation of the services we so badly need, we have the National Asset Management Agency and billions upon billions of euro pumped into the unsustainable system that brought us here in the first place
I will allow that banks are necessary. To a degree. But preserving them at any cost? That's folly. Worse, it's the kind of folly that could ruin us for years to come.
For all the talk of the profits of the boom years, many of us - most of us - were just getting by. Sure, maybe we had a new(ish) car and maybe a holiday a year that we'd never been able to afford before, maybe we had a nice house (and a nasty mortgage), but the people keeping a family on 40-60K year weren't making out like bandits. And the people keeping a family on less than that certainly weren't.
In 2008, the average starting salary for a university graduate in Ireland was 27K. I don't have data for the median back then, but today, looking at the jobs advertised on my university's careers website, the range is more like 22-26K. The handful that are located in Ireland and mention salaries, that is. In 2006, the average annual wage or salary for employees in a small business was €32,453. The average salary in larger enterprises was €44,794 per annum. Cite
. Of course, in 2006, unemployment was half what it is today. And in real terms, wages haven't increased. With levies and all the rest of the shit that's gone on, they've - at best, for the working and middle class - remained static. In general, they've decreased.
If they haven't, for those who've lost their employment, gone away entirely.
At the same time, mst people's major asset, their house, has depreciated significantly. In some cases they're left with a mortgage worth twice or more what their property is, and with no way short of defaulting out of their present state of negative equity.
In short, if you weren't comfortable wealthy before things went arse over head - sucks to be you. Enjoy your financial insecurity, suckers. And if you were living right on the edge of your moderate means - you're fucked. No, seriously. You're fucked.
For the foreseeable future, things aren't going to get better. The direction the government has taken us in is going to make things worse for us ordinary citizens. And worse
could get very bad indeed for the significant proportion of this country - on the order of a sixth of the population - living at or below the poverty line.
This is not the time to blame immigration. This is not the time to turn on our neighbours and our friends. This is not the time to blame the EU, or the international markets. No. This started at home. This started in a culture of political cronyism and corruption that goes all the way back to Jack Lynch and Charlie Haughey, if not further. And I am done
I'm graduating this year - always providing I don't fuck it up at the last minute - from a university than consistently places in the top 200 for research in the world. I'll come out with a good degree and no place to use it. At the same time, the company that employs the parent is attempting to increase its (still very healthy) profit margins by forcing through 'reforms'. In the course of this, there's a significant possibility that the parent will be done out of her job. A necessary job which entails excruciating shiftwork, and which barely covers our overhead as a household.
I love this country. But there's no place in it for me, or for many of my graduating cohort. Those of us who can't scrape together the means to enter a postgrad programme in the hopes that things will look better from the perspective of a higher degree are already making plans to (and I quote) "collect enough unemployment benefit to pay for flights out of the country." Because if we stay, our options are so very, very limited.
I love this country. But there's no place in it for people who believe in justice, transparency, or equality. There is no place in it for people who believe bishops should keep their noses out of legislation, and politicians should keep their hands out of the till. (Saith TD Jim McDaid: "Cutting TDs' salaries will open them up to corruption." Indeed, Jim. For sure, you're all paragons who'd never dream of taking an envelope under the table right now
I've been following politics since before I came of age to vote. At least, as much as I could stand to follow. Time and again I've been told how little I - or anyone like me - matter to the people who run our country. Time and again they lie with straight faces, and they don't even bother with plausible lies. The dog ate my homework
is not an excuse.
When the political classes so clearly fail to respect the people who elected them, whose interests they are at least supposed to pretend
to care about, it becomes very hard - impossible - to respect the political process. This is what political apathy is made of. This, right here. This is what the flip side to apathy, violent protest, is made of. Right here. Because if we cannot change things with our voices, if things continue to deteriorate, there might be a day when people try to speak with more than voice and voting booth.
I really, really hope things get better before that point. But there are already a lot of people in this country with very little to lose. And most of us will leave, if we can. Because there's nothing here for us, and no real hope that there will be.
I don't know how to change the system. But I know it has to be changed. Because if it doesn't change -
If it doesn't change, then tell me. Why did our great-grandparents spend so much blood and passion and godforsaken effort
to achieve the right to self-government? Why the fuck
do we bother to remember them, if we're content to be governed by bloated parasites who care only for themselves?
Answer me that, if you can.
And if you can't, I'll see you in Sweden in a few years' time. Or Denmark, or Canada. Somewhere that isn't here.