From top: Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien English TD; Tony Groves
I’ve been feeling very Russian this week; not in the Tolstoy verbose way, or in the cool Constantin Gurdgiev way. I’ve been feeling like a Babushka Doll. You know the ones, the Russian nesting dolls that you open up to reveal a smaller identical doll inside of it, and so on.
I feel like a tiny little Babushka Doll.
A recent Research Report on Leadership of Corporate Culture, conducted by one of the largest professional services firms in the world, delivered what the most unsurprising results of all time..
The report covered 450 CEO’s, CFO’s, board chairs, executive and non-executive directors, company secretaries, risk officers (shoutout to Jonathan Sugarman) and investment managers. The respondents represented both private and publicly listed companies and were drawn from the UK and across Europe.
It’s a very detailed report, but it really just put in writing what many of us already know. Tone, cultural tone, is set at the top of organisations.
This is important in an Irish context. No, it’s not only important, it’s a matter of life and death. As the Director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, Eileen Gleeson tried to walk-back her comments on homeless people on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show, she made another telling Babushka Doll moment.
When asked by Sean to respond to the criticisms of Fr Peter McVerry she replied that she would not be getting into a slagging match with the “service providers”. I listened agog.
Fr Peter McVerry was clearly seen as a service provider and not as a humanitarian, or a altruistic man, or any other way you might describe a man of such generosity. Nope, in the eyes of the state he is a service provider.
Tone from the top. Almost a month ago the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar referred to homelessness as normal at a Fine Gael dinner.
Since then he’s repeated these claims. Even when presented with the statistics that show our “normal” level of homelessness is in the range of 1,500 to 1,650 he still persists with the normalising of the abnormal.
Then yesterday the junior housing minister Damien English, launched an impassioned plea for us all to stop (as Bertie might have said) cribbing and moaning about what is a normal phenomenon.
“Some of this narrative has seeped into international coverage of our housing system and is damaging to Ireland’s international reputation, that our social response to this issue is being portrayed as dysfunctional.”
The system that created the situation that finds 3,124 children homeless isn’t dysfunctional. That’s normal according to Damien. No, what is dysfunctional is people thinking it’s abnormal.
The junior housing minister also said something very interesting. Something that nobody has picked him up on.
When he said “assertions have been made that homelessness in Ireland is at such crisis levels that we should be excused from the requirements of EU in responding to the issue”, he meant that the government have accepted a level of homelessness is acceptable.
He is saying that, despite EU law allowing for individual states to act to protect their citizens, that this Government will do no such thing.
It was a startling admission that this government values our international reputation more than the well-being of our citizens.
The 8,200 people who are already homeless need to accept this at the new normal. The tens of thousands of families currently at risk of homelessness should accept their plight as the new normal. People barely clinging on need to accept this as the new normal.
Those of us lucky enough to be secure can’t be seen to be talking down the country. Sure isn’t it the new normal.
Tone from the top. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has made the immoral moral and the abnormal normal. And when you open him up Damien English pops out, and when you open him up Eileen Gleeson pops out. That’s normal these days.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld.
Earlier: “Years Of Bad Behaviour”