From top: The planned €22m white water rafting facility at George’s Dock, North quays, Dublin 1; Sinn Féin front bench members launch the party’s General Election 2020 manifesto last month; Eamonn Kelly
The various snide remarks about “Venezuela” coming from people in the two former main parties, reminds us, among other things, that there are two Venezuelas.
The one the Right conjure up to frighten people as a means of keeping themselves in power, and the other one that facilitates international finance to the detriment of ordinary people.
On Wednesday’s Morning Ireland, Dr Gavin Jennings, with Aidan Regan, who writes for the Business post, lent some clarifying light to the often-heard Fine Gael claim that Ireland is the fastest growing economy in Europe.
What emerged from the interview is that this wealth and growth is concentrated mainly in the ICTC sector, and most of the workers on the high salaries are not Irish, but are nevertheless having an impact on living standards in Ireland, particularly in Dublin.
For those workers there is no austerity, and never was. The wealth of Ireland’s economic growth, as with so much in Varadkar’s Ireland, is unequally distributed, and ordinary people simply can’t afford to live in the same rarefied economic air that the high-salaried workers in big tech can afford.
Most everyone smelled a rat recently when a white-water rafting leisure facility was proposed, to be located, surprise surprise, in the very district where all these big tech workers enjoy superior economic lifestyles.
Since the price of admittance to the facility was so prohibitive at €50, the thing was clearly not for the ordinary people of Dublin.
And since white water rafting is a quintessentially American leisure activity, and since the thing was planned for the heart of the high-tech district, you didn’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure out who the facility was for.
This is the constituency that Leo Varadkar in particular is serving, the one he rushed to reassure after his disastrous election. Despite the fact that less than 25% of those workers in high tech, according to Aidan Regan, even have a vote here.
This idea of using public money to build structures and facilities that benefit private enterprises is quite common in South America. As is the habit of appropriating people’s water supplies and selling it back to them. As are compliant governments who are happy to issue mining licenses to private interests to tear up a country’s national parks.
Even the language that came from the establishment this past week has been abusive and denigrating in tone, with ordinary voters being castigated by various right-wing party representatives and their media champions as being “stupid” and “reckless”.
It’s the type of language that says; please me, give me my way and we’ll be happy. Thwart me and there’ll be trouble.
But the Irish people, as Fintan O’Toole remarked recently, are quite politically conservative. In this election a preference was made for a fair crack of the whip in matters economic. To which the establishment has responded with barely concealed contempt.
Those of us old enough will vividly remember that this was the attitude of many Church authority figures towards ordinary people. And before that, no doubt, the same attitude prevailed among the colonial rulers. They were the all wise and we were the stupid. That was the deal, with Heaven as the goal. Balancing the books being the new Heaven.
Under Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, many Irish people have been living in “Venezuela” for a long time now, serving a contemptuous elite and taking their insult as their due, in an arrangement designed by the privileged for the privileged.
Leo Varadkar was always merely taoiseach by business arrangement. When he finally went to the electorate seeking a mandate, he was seen to be sweating through several counts in the count centre, in real danger of losing his seat.
The answer Varadkar received to his question, Will you trust me to continue with the work I’ve been doing? Was a resounding, No thanks, close the door on your way out!
Varadkar insisted that the onus was now on Sinn Fein to form a government of the left as he rushed away to reassure investors that Ireland was still safe for business.
Determined now to cause a scare as if the armies of Castro were gathering at the gates of the city, he addressed a conference of business leaders and investors and informed them that Fine Gael had created the Republic, wildly placing a stamp of personal ownership on a democratic republic that had all but shown him the door a couple of days earlier.
He told the forum:
“…we were the ones that founded the State. We’re the ones that founded the institutions. We’re the ones that made this country a republic. We stand by the State and republic and if we’re needed in order to give the country political stability with governance then we’re willing to talk to other parties about that.”
Realising, by the simple act of counting, that the Left didn’t have enough seats to form a Left government, he advised Sinn Féin to form a socialist republic government, laughing up his sleeve as he did so, and apparently sent out a directive to all his minions to always, from here on in, pair the Words “Sinn Féin” with the word “Fail”.
He told the audience of investors, financiers and businessmen that Sinn Féin had achieved their historic vote by “making a lot of promises to a lot of people in this country”. Everyone present was appalled to hear of such behaviour from a political party during an election campaign.
“So the responsibility now falls on them,” said Varadkar…
“….to build a coalition, to negotiate a republican, socialist programme for government that keeps their promises and to seek a Dáil majority for it.”
No doubt he was mindful of the aptly named “money message” lever in this regard, which would allow either himself or Micheál to veto progressive bills on a whim, as Fine Gael have been doing for a few years now.
It was a brilliantly impossible task. A sure-fire failure waiting to happen. But because Varadkar owned the Republic he felt entitled to dish out advice on how to establish a losing left socialist government.
And just to drive the point home he told the conference that if Sinn Féin “fail” to form a left socialist government…” (as they surely will if they don’t have the numbers.) “…we’ll consider the matter then. Anything is possible including a second election.”
In other words, Varadkar owned the football and he didn’t want to play anymore and he was going home, taking the ball with him.
Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton was dispatched to Prime Time expressly to place the word “fail” next to the words “Sinn Féin”. But she made a clumsy job of it and everyone saw the workings of the trick.
Louise O’Reilly of Sinn Féin said on Prime Time that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael appeared to be rigging a situation of returning to government in a realignment of confidence and supply.
FF and FG are both mindful of the electorates’ demand for change, but rather than modifying their own policies, Fine Gael in particular are trying to be cute by saying that it’s Sinn Féin’s responsibility to deliver the more people-conscious policy changes demanded by the electorate, knowing full well that everything they might do in a minority Left will be easily blocked, ensuring “failure”.
However, if Fianna Fáil return to government, with Fine Gael in the supporting role in a modified confidence and supply arrangement, it will be both their responsibilities to deliver the policy changes that the electorate has demanded.
Otherwise it may seem that both have cynically conspired to use “doubts” about Sinn Féin’s past, in order to hold on to power and deny the will of the electorate.
When you couple this with the ongoing “money message” system that allows a taoiseach to effectively veto bills passed by Dáil majority, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the established parties and their media champions already suffer from an advanced form of elitist contempt for their own electorate, typical of elites that flourish in dysfunctional South American countries.
Welcome to “Venezuela”.
Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.
Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet