Bryan Wall: ‘Oddballs’ And Inequality

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From top: Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty,  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Buisness, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphries TD  after a special cabinet meeting in The Academy in Dublin last Friday; Bryan Wall

Inequality in Ireland has become so commonplace that any reporting of it is accepted and then quickly forgotten about. We have a health service on the verge of collapse, a housing and homelessness crisis, and an elite indifferent to the needs of the many.

This is the status quo of many societies in the West. It’s no different here. It also explains the attraction that many have for the far right and its various elements. Mainstream politics has noticeably failed to bring about equality and justice.

The far right offers — or at least claims to offer — a different way of doing things; one which will bring greater justice and equality to society.

These individuals and groups are ascendant but they do not pose the threat that the mainstream political right do, at least not yet. The latter hold the economic reins. It is to them that we are beholden and to whom we all have to answer in some manner.

But do not think for a second that the reverse is also true. Political elites claim to answer to the people but this is far from accurate. In many cases they have to be forced to listen. Often this involves the use of mass movements. And on more than a few occasions it involves outright aggression.

What will it take for elites in Ireland to listen?

Will threats to their political popularity prick up their ears? Or would a mobile guillotine on a nationwide tour be more effective? The anger is palpable here, let’s not be mistaken about this.

There are literally thousands of people without a home. And there are many more who will never have a chance to own a home of their own. Insane house prices and a government with no interest in providing housing have left them without a chance of ever being able to afford one

There are even more people on hospital waiting lists. We have unemployed people being sanctioned for daring to be unemployed. Their future is being determined by a privatised welfare system intent on making profit over having any kind of humanistic ethos.

Decency be damned, a profit must be made. This is the society that the political class has created in Ireland. They operate in it as efficiently as a fish in water.

So when a report is released about lone parents and high rates of poverty it can be cast aside. The figures are clearly inaccurate; the report is missing vital context; the economy is doing well; unemployment is down. Take your pick. These lines are trotted out again and again to explain away inequality.

The report in question found that one in five lone parents was living in poverty. Leo Varadkar was quick to resort to a reliable response:

“I do not believe the report that was issued today tells the full picture.”

Varadkar can go on to claim that poverty rates have fallen not caring that a report recently issued by TASC found otherwise.

As mentioned before, it’s not that he’s a bumbling politician. He knows the facts. It’s just that they don’t matter compared to the need for business as usual. Reform, cut, privatise; that’s what really matters. Society is nothing to be concerned about.

In a Thatcherite Ireland only the individual matters to the extent that they can either make a profit or provide one for somebody else. And it’s the latter position that most of us find ourselves in.

The simple harsh reality is that successive governments have overseen a transfer of wealth to the top 1% in Ireland. TASC found that between 1975 and 2009 the top 1% of earners “almost doubled its share of national income”.

Part of this time period, they noted, “coincides with the advent of neo-liberalism, [and] the rightward shift in economic policy.”

In total, TASC found that:

“The bottom 40 percent receives about 22% of national income, while the top ten percent receives almost a quarter.”

Yet, the rate of poverty among lone parents is to be disputed. Reality only extends as far as its usefulness to an elite who are happy to oversee economic inequality. Meanwhile people have to march on the streets in order to try and force the government to do something about the homelessness and housing crisis.

Thus far marching has done nothing. And the longer that peaceful protest fails to deliver the more likely it is that someone will decide that direct action is next logical step. The logic isn’t flawed.

When a white powder was sent to Health Minister Simon Harris’s department no mention could be made of the above context. Nothing about the cervical cancer deaths, the striking nurses and midwives, the failing health service, or Harris’s general role in a right-wing government.  Of course Varadkar calling the sender or senders of the white powder “oddballs” was reported.

Actions like this, as abhorrent as they may be to a lot of people, do not take place in a vacuum. But this is what you’d think if you read the mainstream media’s reporting of the incident.

For now we find ourselves under the foot of an unjust economic system. This same system is implemented by politicians who feel perfectly content knowing that the policies in question cause mass inequality and injustice.

The future holds either more of the same or an explosion of some kind. What that explosion will be is anybody’s guess. But it is unlikely to be a revolution at the ballot box.

We are living in an era where economic stagnation is the best we will soon be able to hope for. Climate change will pound the world and much of humanity into submission. Elites will leave us to drown in the fetid waters that their very policies created. From their sanctuaries they will continue to oversee a world in which profit comes at the expense of basic decency.

Ireland is in no way immune from any of this. We have leaders here who would happily sacrifice us all if it meant even just a bit more power and a bit more profit. For them the ballot box is a valve that releases the pressure that builds up in society. They rely on it to counter any moves for real change.

Some people already realise this or soon will. There are hints of this in Ireland. Only one thing is certain: When a mass of people come to the same conclusion, all bets are off.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Rollingnews

26 thoughts on “Bryan Wall: ‘Oddballs’ And Inequality

  1. Oily Cromwell

    “Thatcherite Ireland” — Is this guy even old enough to remember Mrs T as PM? Please make him stop this nonsense.

    1. Dr.Fart MD

      cromwell; do you think people can only know about things they’ve lived through? If so, bad news for historians, unless some of them are literally centuries old.

    1. Rob_G

      Being asked to print off a few emails to demonstrate that you’ve been applying for jobs is one of the worst injustices of our time, kellma.

  2. Emily Dickinson

    I want to give BW a fair shake ‘cos at least he’s putting himself out there. But all this stuff about the ‘ascendant’ far right and the need for mobile guillotines seems a little bit counter-factual, to put it politely.

    As a suggestion for future columns, perhaps take an issue like health, and highlight a country doing a better job than us, or offer viable ways we could improve things. At least then we could have a discussion.

  3. Paulus

    Regina does a great Admiring Look:
    Bet she wishes she was operating in the 80s when shoulder-pads and platforms were “in style”

  4. Dr.Fart MD

    the usual heads who response to articles such as this, with their usual vague critques not addressing what was said at all, just dismissing it all as ‘nonsense’ with no reasoning behind it. These are the people who cannot begin to entertain the idea that the firm pillars of authority they’ve been reared to trust could be fallible.

    1. Emily Dickinson

      If you want a specific response to his thesis, the far right is not ‘ascendant’ in Ireland. Ben Gilroy, whom he’s name-checked in the past as being a leader of that movement, got 600 or 700 votes at the last election. There are some socially conservative, mostly rural Catholic-type voices in Irish politics, but there is no economic right. Even his ‘Thatcherite’ Fine Gael bows to the public sector unions and adheres to the McCreevy doctrine of spending every cent they can get their paws on regardless of where we sit in the economic cycle. Anyone who looks at Irish politics and sees a far right bogeyman is looking through a very peculiar lens.

      1. Dr.Fart MD

        he’s not warning of a far-right rise at all. he simply says that current conditions have created situations not seen before, such as the baking powder package to harris, and that it’s what happens when a government rules consistently against the people of a society. he’s not sayin “here comes the far right now”, he’s saying some of the reactions lately are a result of the govs. policies.

        1. Rob_G

          Alan Shatter had a suspect package sent to his house a few years ago. The IRA managed to rent the apartment across the road from where Des O’Malley was staying in Dublin; a rifle and a telescopic sight were later discovered there by Gardaí. Billy Fox was less lucky, unfortunately.

          Democracy in Ireland has faced down much worse threats than the saddos who caused the workers in Harris’s office to fear for their lives. And I’m sure Ireland’s politicians, from every party, will continue to persevere, regardless of these thugs, or the losers like Bryan Wall who make mealy-mouthed excuses for their actions.

          1. johnny

            UFF claimed responsibility for x TD Fox’s (he’d lost his seat) death in eh 1974 !

            -there was also that incident in 1927 Rob…………

          2. Rob_G

            Well, I made no mention of his elected office, but does murdering a Senator rather than a TD make is somewhat less heinous(?)

            And I made no reference to who claimed they murdered him, or who was convicted of his murder, but reassuring to know that you are on-hand to defend the actions of the IRA on even the off-chance that someone might be criticising them.

          3. johnny

            -posts crossed ended up in wrong place-you conflated the IRA and Fox’s murder, while well aware it was claimed by the UFF back in the early 1970’s……..

          4. Rob_G

            I’m sure you will be aware that all of the murderers convicted of this crime were also convicted IRA membership.

            None of which actually changes the substantive point – democracy in Ireland has faced all sorts of existential threats from various quarters.

            You know johnny, for a vegan, you have a truly remarkable amount of flexibility when it comes to the killing of human beings – provided it is the IRA doing the killing.

        2. johnny

          Jesus Rob try stick with the facts can you, your constantly making things up-do you have any links to support another wild theory that it was the IRA when O’Malley himself says ‘northern’ accent !
          Any arrests, investigations,photo of ‘rifle’ and the truly amazing ‘telescopic’ scope then from the raid in what now the early 70’s again…..

          “The IRA managed to rent the apartment across the road from where Des O’Malley was staying in Dublin; a rifle and a telescopic sight were later discovered there by Gardaí.”

          “At one stage the IRA tried to kill him, he says. On Garda advice he never stayed longer than a week at the same Dublin address, and one of those was a friend’s flat on Waterloo Road – until a rifle and telescopic sight were discovered in a flat directly across from them. The flat had been rented a few weeks previously under a false name by someone who “appeared to have been from the North”.

          https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/des-o-malley-i-didn-t-have-a-thick-enough-skin-1.1975943

  5. A Person

    Okay I’ll take you up on this nonsensical article.:

    “Mainstream politics has noticeably failed to bring about equality and justice.”
    So we should have non democratically elected govts like the Soviets to decide equality and justice – that worked so well in USSR, East Germany and Romania – to name a few.

    The far right: “These individuals and groups are ascendant but they do not pose the threat that the mainstream political right do, at least not yet. The latter hold the economic reins. It is to them that we are beholden and to whom we all have to answer in some manner.”
    Who is the latter and who is the far right in this country? Possibly GOH who the author supported previously.

    “We have unemployed people being sanctioned for daring to be unemployed. Their future is being determined by a privatised welfare system intent on making profit over having any kind of humanistic ethos.”
    What sanctions are there? When did the welfare system become privatised? Surely they all work for the civil service?

    “When a white powder was sent to Health Minister Simon Harris’s department no mention could be made of the above context. ”
    Yep its okay to send a potentially deadly substance to someone in a building employing lots of people, even though (shock horror) the minster does not open his post. Lets just endanger all the workers.

    And that is just some of the poo in this article. You Dr Fart (“with the laughable “pillars of authority” line) ‘ Bryan are deluded at best.

  6. johnny

    Jesus Rob try stick with the facts can you, your constantly making things up-do you have any links to support another wild theory that it was the IRA when O’Malley himself says ‘northern’ accent !
    Any arrests, investigations,photo of ‘rifle’ and the truly amazing ‘telescopic’ scope then from the raid in what now the early 70’s again…..

    “The IRA managed to rent the apartment across the road from where Des O’Malley was staying in Dublin; a rifle and a telescopic sight were later discovered there by Gardaí.”

    “At one stage the IRA tried to kill him, he says. On Garda advice he never stayed longer than a week at the same Dublin address, and one of those was a friend’s flat on Waterloo Road – until a rifle and telescopic sight were discovered in a flat directly across from them. The flat had been rented a few weeks previously under a false name by someone who “appeared to have been from the North”.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/des-o-malley-i-didn-t-have-a-thick-enough-skin-1.1975943

  7. johnny

    Rob-your not seriously asking me to comment on something that happened in the early 70’s are you ?
    Given the credibility issues in 2019 with the Guards-the RUC had be disbanded over collusion, i’d prefer not comment on that case (miscarriage of justice).
    -vegan is the way to go-i wasn’t exactly a cannibal so a little lost on how’s its related-i abhor all killings by all sides,lets hope the treacherous Brits honor the GFA tonight!

    1. Rob_G

      … early 70’s… Given the credibility issues in 2019 with the Guards-the RUC had be disbanded over collusion”…

      – and you’re asking me to ‘stick to the facts’ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      g’luck…

      1. Johnny

        No idea what your “symbols” mean yeah Rob can you believe it the RUC was disbanded / renamed / reorganized over collusion – go figure !

        Rob-you can’t handle the facts,just watch the Brits try fook the majority of NI that voted stay in EU,while also attempting to ride roughshod over a international treaty (GFA).

        “The murder of prominent human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson in a car bomb in Lurgan in 1999 brought renewed allegations of RUC collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

        Ms Nelson had complained of threats by the RUC. For many, it was all too reminiscent of the murder of another lawyer, Pat Finucane who was murdered in 1989 where there were allegations of security force collusion.

        That murder and the alleged collusion of security forces in its commiting remains under investigation by the commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, John Stevens.“

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/uk/2000/ruc_reform/780311.stm

        1. Rob_G

          You must be tired from all the carrying around of those goalposts, Johnny – why are you bringing the RUC into a discussion (the one you started) about a murder that occurred in Ireland, and where the murderers were convicted by the Irish courts?

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