We Get What We Deserve


Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 12.35.02

Last Friday night, Brendan O’Connor spoke to Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show about the level of services for children with a disability in Ireland.

He explained that, under Irish law, every child is supposed to have an assessment of needs within six months but that only a third of children in Ireland are actually getting that assessment within the statutory timeframe.

He also said, at the end of 2015, 15,000 people were waiting for an assessment of needs – up 20% from the year before. He said some have to wait two years.

Further to this…

Diarmaid Twomey writes:

Last Friday night’s appearance by Brendan O’Connor on The Late Late Show has got huge media attention in recent days. During the course of his interview, Brendan, who has a daughter living with Down Syndrome, was at pains to point out the plight of children living with disabilities in Ireland, and the lack of services available to them and their families.

While the portion of the interview dedicated to his experience and insight was extremely powerful, and no doubt resonated with families the length and breadth of Ireland, I couldn’t help feeling that an opportunity had been lost after watching it.

Too often in Ireland, when we are confronted with injustice and inequality, we are content to simply pay lip service to the particular issue, pontificating briefly, before ultimately moving on, without ever trying to understand how we can make changes in order to alleviate the issue.

Unfortunately, Friday night was no different, in my opinion.

Ireland is unique in so many great ways, however, one of the unique aspects of our collective character that has consistently frustrated me is the hypocrisy of our attitude to politics, and our perceived inability to recognise how our interactions with politics affects vulnerable people.

We are experts at decrying the lack of availability of quality services, however, what we rarely seem to highlight is that it is us, the Irish people, that put in place the politicians that preside over the provision of these services.

If we are truly serious about creating a fair society where the children with disabilities that Brendan spoke so passionately about are not left wanting and waiting for services, we need to recognise that it is not the politicians that are the problem, it is us.

We need to embrace our responsibility as citizens of our democracy, and develop a more intellectual response to such negligence.

Twenty minutes exposure to such an issue on primetime television is all well and good, but ultimately it changes nothing. Governments shape policy. Are we voting for policies or personalities at the ballot box?

While the latest general election showed some shift in voting patterns, the resounding victory for the ‘independent’ politicians of Ireland is unlikely to make any difference. The idea of an ‘independent’ politician sounds great in principle, but the reality is quite different.

Disability services in Dublin don’t get votes in Kerry or North Tipperary. After all, it’s no coincidence that drink driving laws for the back roads of Kerry, Casino proposals for Tipperary, and God’s influence on the weather, garnered infinitely more impassioned posturing among our rurally based ‘independent’ TD’s, than the plights of disabled children throughout Ireland.

The shovel of tarmac reigns supreme in the land of the ‘independent’ politician.

Of course, it would be unfair to single out and castigate the people of Kerry and Tipperary in isolation. Ireland re-elected Fine Gael, and in doing so, we have placed Ireland’s childrens’ well-being in the hands of a party that ideologically values tax cuts over investment in public services.

At one point during Friday’s interview, Brendan asked the audience to get behind the new government, ironically omitting the fact that if Brendan, or you, or I, support Fine Gael, then by default we support the idea of lower taxes over increased and adequate supports for disabled children.

That’s not Opposition speak, that is reality, a reality I was surprised was lost on Brendan.

We get the politicians and society we deserve. Unfortunately for vulnerable children and those without a voice, they too live with the consequences of our decisions and ideologies.

But this goes beyond politics. One thing that has always struck me when debates around the need for increased services take hold is the contradictory nature of our aversion to tax rate increases.

During these debates, we often hear comparisons being made with more developed social and health systems in other nations, predominantly the Scandinavian ones. However, we rarely hear about the level of tax they pay to fund their progressive societies.

Since the establishment of our state, elections have been won off the back of promised goodies.

These goodies almost always take the form of tax cuts, and every single time the allure of the extra few bob seems too good to resist. We don’t want the USC tax, so its offered up in exchange for votes.

We decried the increase in VAT, so it’s tinkered with to “boost business”. We marched on the streets against water charges, and the newly elected government capitulate.

Anyone who dares to mention the need for corporations to contribute a bit more, or even just pay the actual rate of 12.5%, is labelled a lunatic and silenced. We seem removed from the reality of the need for substantial taxes in order to have high quality services.

No one likes paying tax, and very few of us seem to trust our politicians with the tax we do pay. But the reality is we are electing the politicians we blame for putting vulnerable children in such dire circumstances and we control the tightening public purse strings.

We are the ones who take to the streets in opposition to the introduction of new taxes, yet feel we show solidarity with vulnerable children by tuning into the Late Late and experiencing anger for twenty minutes.

We can’t have it every which way.

As well intentioned and genuine as the anger is following Brendan’s appearance on The Late Late Show, anger just isn’t enough. Action is what is required. Improved services need more resources to deliver. Increased resources demand larger contributions by all of us.

Sadly, until Ireland develops a social conscience at the ballot box, and accepts the need for higher taxes to care for all of her children, I believe that history is destined to repeat itself.

In years to come, the pages of our history will be littered with the scribbles of impassioned cries for help. Brendan himself eluded to this. Many cries will be noted. Our actions will decide if they are heeded.

Watch Late Late in full here

58 thoughts on “We Get What We Deserve

  1. Anne

    “or you, or I, support Fine Gael, then by default we support the idea of lower taxes over increased and adequate supports for disabled children.”

    Specifically lower taxes for the wealthy..

    Here’s more of it – http://notesonthefront.typepad.com/politicaleconomy/2016/05/bleak-business.html

    The Government proposes to increase the tax-free threshold from the current €280,000 to €500,000. The regressive impact can be seen from this simple example. I inherit €500,000. Currently, I would pay 33 percent on the amount exceeding the threshold; that is €220,000. My tax bill would be €72,600. That is an effective tax rate of 14.5 percent. That’s not a bad deal (and arguably already too generous): I inherit half-a-million Euros and keep 85 percent of it after tax.

    Under the new proposals, I would pay nothing.

    There are many arguments for cutting inheritance tax but the most unimpressive is that it would somehow benefit low and middle income earners. The fact is that most people don’t have even the current threshold to give away in an inheritance.

    The median net wealth (wealth after debts) for those aged over 64 years is €202,300.

      1. Steve

        So what are your thoughts on RBB supporting the inheritance tax threshold increase??

        1. Anne

          I dunno.. maybe he’s fallen for the spin about it, about who it’ll benefit..
          Why don’t you contact him and ask for clarification, giving him the figures..?

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      That’s the whole point of the state. What, you reckon it’s just there to provide careers to failed accountants and solicitors?

    2. jack johnson

      Like providing care for the most vulnerable ? You really should change your username

    3. ahjayzis

      Because no one wants their granny to go hungry or their kids to be illiterate or their broken leg to turn gangrenous, and really, Starbucks and Apple aren’t that bothered with helping.

  2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

    Yes to all of that. Glad someone is saying it but not sure what good will come of it.

  3. Shayna

    Great piece Diarmaid. Armchair outrage achieves nothing, but we feel better in ourselves for mustering the energy.

  4. Sheik Yahbouti

    Brendan, sadly, blows both hot and cold – no doubt a function of his pressing need to remain ‘on the inside ‘ for understandable financial reasons. I am not condemning him for acting out of self interest, (why should he be any different from everyone else?) once we realise it and judge accordingly. Having said that, the Author’s basic argument is true and we should thoughtfully consider it. I was a PAYE protester in the 1970’s (not that we got a lot of benefit from it) but ceased thereafter owing to the demands of family life and inertia, frankly. The attempt to privatise our water supply re-energised me and I will march and campaign until our water and supporting infrastructure are cemented in public ownership. Citizen activism IS the answer (and I’m not talking about frivolous or impractical campaigns). The hackneyed phrase “all that is required for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing” is as real and as relevant today as it ever was. We cannot rely on the supposed “watchdogs and guardians” we must supervise this ‘democracy’ ourselves. It’s a pain in the arse and unconvenient, but very, very necessary.

      1. Sheik Yahbouti

        I’m old, what do you want from me, Clampers? The original phrase was “men” – I’m not in the business of rewriting history.

        1. Sheik Yahbouti

          To the very death, badat. These things are actually important. The Sheik is resolved to die on his feet, rather than live on his knees. All that is required is for the Oligarchs to yield some small measure of freedom and equity to us drones. I would advise them to do so, otherwise EAT THE RICH..:-D

    1. DubLoony

      “The attempt to privatise our water supply ”
      No one was trying to privatize it. A public utility was set up so that would be co-ordination of effort, and people pay a small sum based on usage, after free allowance.

      1. ahjayzis

        People pay a small sum based on usage… that is put toward a massive capital project.

        I prefer to fund capital projects like schools, pipe networks and hospitals through progressive taxation. A pensioner and an oligarch contributing the same amount rubbed me up the wrong way.
        Though I’m a social democrat, so i guess I’m not Labour’s target audience.

    1. Mourinho

      I guess that’s the most linked article on their site which is why Brendan hasn’t convinced them to remove it yet.

  5. Jake38

    There is one huge flaw in this argument. It is the assumption that higher taxes will produce better services.

    I beg to suggest that they will not. I suggest that the only thing that will produce better public services is the firing of incompetents.

      1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

        Its money AND having the right number of effective managers and staff.

        1. Gorev Mahagut

          What I try to tell you? This country, you gotta get the money first. Then when you get the money, you get accountability. Then when you get the accountability, then you get the services.
          – Scarface

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Jake 38. Right behind you, bud. Unpleasant but realistic decisions are part of what I was advocating above. There can be no room for the preservation of those who are actually deleterious to the proper running of essential services. If they can’t cut it, let them find employment elsewhere.

    2. The Real Jane

      Which suggests that you have some insight into the levels of incompetence or corruption in the public services. Given the scale and diversity of roles in that service, it seems a bold claim. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the public and civil servants are actually as competent as all the other workers in this economy and you’ve not much but ignorant cynicism to back up your claim that they’re all stupid, corrupt and incapable.

      It’s true that funding the services we expect adequately might not work, but why not try it before we dismiss it out of hand? This state has never yet paid sufficient for the scope and level of services the public expect – the services that are delivered are not the least one might expect from our grandiose munificence but are actually wrung from over worked, over stressed front line staff who are routinely abused and forced to do less than they would wish by circumstances.

  6. kellma

    Good piece. I don’t agree with the removal of the USC. Given the state of our health-system, it doesn’t make sense to put less into it… I also don’t agree with the suspension of water charges. Sure the set-up of IW was a fiasco and a waste of money but it doesn’t change the fact that the money is missing (and now even more after the IW debacle…) if we want to do something about our wholly inadequate water infrastructure. Yes, the state is far far far, from an efficiently oiled machine. They waste loads of money but a. it’s our state and b. you only get out what you put in…

    1. jambon

      You are naive if you think IW was anything other than a massive fraud against the Irish people. And you are equally naive if you think IW is anything other than the wrapping up and selling of our infrastructure to private interests. Yeah, that sounds a bit ‘wake up sheeple’, but it doesn’t make it untrue.

        1. jambon

          Indeed, and I’m sure you’ll agree that if the money that has thus far been wasted on the whole IW fiasco had been invested in repairing the system, we would be in an upgraded position now.

          1. Clampers Outside!

            Sorry what…… no, we would not be “in an upgraded position now.”

            A possibility of mildly better for a couple of small pockets, maybe. But no, not in an “in an upgraded position now.”.

          2. DubLoony

            Full system upgrade needs €25 billion.
            No where near that has been spent so far.

          3. ahjayzis

            Remember aaaaaaaages ago when we the state had a savings account that had about 25bn in it for a rainy day?

      1. kellma

        Jambon you obviously feel v strongly about this and that is fine. But be careful not to impute someone saying something they didn’t especially if you are going to then insult them – call me naive…
        But I will take the tack that I didn’t explain myself properly rather than assume you have inadequate comprehension skills or that you are just looking for an argument.
        So…. to be clear. I am not (and I don’t believe I said that above either) defending IW. IW is a disgrace from start to finish. What I do agree with is the payment of water charges to our state. Our water infrastructure is severely sub-standard and underfunded and we need to put our hands in our pockets to address this. That is my point. Not that IW is the person I want putting their hands in my pockets, so as to speak.

      2. some old queen

        IW is about selling the provision of water if Bord Gáis Energy was the template. The infrastructure would remain within state ownership because the money is in water not pipes.

  7. Eoin

    The bottom line to any money discussions regarding this country is that we are paying billions to bond holders that we should be burning. It’s like arguing over how to spend our pocket change while our bank accounts get emptied.

    1. ahjayzis


      Most people have zero problem with the odd charge if it’s for an actual good cause.

      Just don’t pop the bill through the same letterbox the payslip comes in – the one that shows how much of ones salary is diverted to foreign banks and hedge funds for debts incurred by private companies that are currently paying their bosses bonuses, y’know? Time and a place.

  8. Andy McGowan

    Considering O’Connor is a cheer leader for government cuts and austerity he has some neck whinging about his personal circumstances.

    1. BobbyJ

      Agreed, dude spent the recession calling for massive cuts to the public sector and society wide austerity. The push for greater disability services only emerged when his personal circumstances dictated it. He’d make a great “Independent” FF TD

  9. Richard

    Unfortunately Diarmaid Twomey’s critique of Brendan O’Connor’s appearance and wider attitudes towards disability do not go far enough. When he says ‘politics’, what he really means is voting.

    He is right to say that people vote for a particular class of politician, and that they often do so without any consideration of the wider consequences for society at large. He is right to say that people who vote for parties whose policies entail cutting tax consequently vital public services, are doing damage to people who need those services the most.

    However, he is off the mark when he emphasises that ‘Governments shape policy’: they do, but it is not Governments per se. Rather, it is the array of social forces bearing down on governments that really shape policy.

    He is off the mark too when he says that ‘Ireland re-elected Fine Gael’. In fact, only a minority voted for Fine Gael in the elections. True enough, according to Ireland’s political system, that is enough for them to be the main party in government. In this case, it would be truer to say that people in Ireland maintain a political system that allows right-wing politicians who act on behalf of the upper tiers of society -the likes of IBEC, the American Chamber of Commerce, landlords, property speculators- to rule the country despite lacking a majority of votes. In reality, the people who determine how the country is run do not run for election.

    As such, simple logic dictates that people in Ireland have to change the political system. But it also requires that people have to change their attitudes and activities more generally. It is really a dereliction of the kind of citizenship Diarmaid Twomey seems to advocate -one where you actually care what happens to other people, especially those whose rights are systematically denied- to limit one’s imagination to how you are going to vote next time round.

    If you believe a government ought to change its priorities, because you think society’s priorities should be different, you have to organise and fight for that change. Diarmaid mentions Scandinavia in passing: the main reason those societies are generally more equitable than Ireland is because there were long and militant struggles on the part of working class people in those societies to institute change. The idea that these are problems solved by the ballot box first and foremost is an illusion that is harmful to people who need proper care and solidarity (and doesn’t everyone?) but quite beneficial to people who want to keep things the way they are.

  10. fmong

    Tubs and O’Connor earn about 650,000 euro a year from state broadcaster RTE

    You want more funding for services? Well here’s an idea…

  11. Gary

    Cosy couch interviews with a touch of moral superiority from pro establishment grossly overpaid stiffs.No thanks.

Comments are closed.