Author Archives: Eamonn Kelly

From top: Maria Bailey and Josepha Madigan; Eamonn Kelly

In slapstick comedy and cartoons there is a gag of sequential events resulting in an injury to someone.

In one version the result is accidental; a marble rolls off a table, rolls across a wooden floor, collides with something that falls over and triggers something else into motion, and so on through the sequence until finally a mallet or something falls on someone’s head.

In another version, like in the Roadrunner cartoons or Tom and Jerry, the sequence is intentionally triggered and usually goes wrong, rebounding on the “assailant” who set the whole thing in motion, the story delivering a comic lesson in justice.

After the Maria Bailey scandal broke, the Sunday Independent did an opinion feature in the June 2 issue billed as ‘The Shaming of Maria Bailey’.

In their efforts not to join in on the shaming, Brendan O’Connor and another columnist, Liam Collins, wrote that Maria Bailey was a victim of a system they referred to as “compo culture”.

Meaning, she was advised by legal representatives who, as I understand it, make a living out of encouraging clients to sue businesses for “accidents”, knowingly feeding off the business community by helping people to make exaggerated claims for damages and taking a percentage of the award in legal fees. As a profit-generating venture it’s like some form of commercial incest.

The venture even has a snappy name. Compo culture. It’s like a brand. It’s comfortable, almost respectable. It sounds familiar and kind of roguish. You say it and you think you understand it.

Oh, that’s just compo culture. And you can park it then without worrying too much more about it. It’s a fact of life. Like rain and toothaches. What can you do?

And by the use of the word “culture”, it sounds like a cultural feature worth having, and not just for the legal profession. It sounds like a part of who we are. It’s Irish. Like Guinness, hurling and soda-bread. You have to admire it, with a nod and a wink. It’s mischievous. It’s almost…heritage. It’s certainly entertaining. Art! It’s art, of a sort.

Shortly after the Maria Baily “shaming”, it was also reported in the Irish Indo that an arts group, the ISACS, the Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle Network (a satirist couldn’t make this stuff up) had written to the minster for culture, Josepha Madigan, herself implicated as a possible legal advisor in the Baily scandal, making a “plea” with her to do something about the soaring insurance costs that were killing the arts.

Insurance has skyrocketed in response to compo culture and it has made putting on a show practically impossible.

It’s unlikely that ISACS were being ironic in writing to the minister, though it would be great to believe that they were. It’s more likely that the ISACS were genuinely appealing to the office of minister for culture, rather than the person in the seat.

In the same way as Leo Varadkar respects Trump as the current presidential occupant of the white house; the respect for the office superimposed onto the office-holder, regardless of who they might be.

Because the awkward truth of it is, the Irish minister for culture who might right the wrong of soaring insurance costs impacting and strangulating the arts, is also a legal person with a background in compo culture claims, implicated as being the possible legal advisor to Maria Bailey.

This neatly highlights the sequential chain of events that leads from compo culture feeding off businesses, leading to soaring insurance costs and huge profits, arguably giving rise to a monied elite that finds its way into politics until finally the mallet falls on the head of the hapless arts community.

Compo culture has to have a knock-on effect somewhere. And where better than an organization of clowns, literally? It’s likely that Cormac McQuinn, author of the Indo article, was being ironic in writing the piece.

The Minister’s office responded to the plea by regretfully advising the ISACS that the minister “…unfortunately… has no remit in this area and would not be in a position to intervene in this matter.”

Well, that’s okay so. Performance artists can presumably all go and write detective novels instead. No insurance needed there. Not political novels, mind you. That could injure funding potential, and it’s not nice. We’re all in this together, so shush now. Negative thinkers don’t win promotion.

The legal Defence

But in case you’re thinking now that the insurance companies might also be victims of nefarious legal eagles, Charlie Weston, also in the Indo, on June 13, published an article showing profits for the insurance industry are up, and not just up, but way up, like 1,318% up, since 2016.

Car owners are taking the main hit, but everyone is taking a hit.

Michael Kilcoyne, Chairman of the Consumers Association, said the situation was a “rip off” for customers. “It is time they started sharing the profits with the rest of us,” he said. “They have a captive market in motors and they charge what they like.”

While car insurance is lucrative, the insurance industry’s main profits are coming from “investment income where insurers use premium income to buy bonds and property assets….” according to Weston.

Which, as I understand it, means they are now in property, like every other greasy-till muckraker on the landscape, let loose courtesy of the bould Leo, he of caring sanctimony now for the climate, envisioning an Ireland of electric private cars rather than buses and trains.

At the same time, the insurance companies are reluctant to provide liability insurance. This has impacted arts (wouldn’t you know it) with the “Promenade Festival, in Tramore, Co Waterford, and the Ballina Salmon Festival in Co Mayo among those to have been cancelled this year, due mainly to rising insurance costs and the compensation culture,” according to Weston’s article.

This story was championed on Facebook by Anthony Carmody of Carmody Moran Solicitors, who I guess felt that the legal fraternity were getting a raw deal in the aftermath of the Maria Baily case.

That in fact, they were victims too.

Let’s see, how many victims have we now?….There’s Maria, for falling off the swing; there’s Josepha, unfairly implicated in advising Maria to take legal action; there’s Leo and the gang, unfairly suffering poor election results because of the debacle.

There’s the hotel Maria tried to sue; there’s Maria again for being shamed; there’s the insurance companies for having to pay out huge damages forcing them to raise their prices and invest in property instead and offer no liability cover for arts events, the poor things.

And now there’s the legal fraternity who feel that Charlie Weston’s article has at least brought some balance to bear on an increasingly ugly picture of the Irish public being nailed for costs at every turn by the thriving cultural elite, all of them somehow “victims”.

Carmody’s blog rant makes for interesting, angry reading. He accuses the media of being the insurance industry’s PR mouthpiece, and the general tenor of the article is that the legal profession is being smeared to take the rap for what is essentially an insurance rip off.

He writes:

“The insurance companies would like you to believe that there is an endemic (if not systemic) compensation culture in Ireland and that there are overly high compensation payments to people who have been injured in accidents through no fault of their own…”

Which is essentially what Brendan O’Connor and Liam Collins were suggesting in their Indo articles.

Carmody continues:

“If you believe this hype, then every person who takes a personal injury case is on some form of fraudulent mission to take money not only from the insurance companies, but from each and every one of us.”

However, what Carmody seems to be forgetting is that this whole thing began when Maria Baily became snagged on an inconsistency that suggested she was knowingly making a fraudulent insurance claim.

But when she was then cast as a victim of the entire thing, the blame was placed instead on the legal fraternity who are now attempting, it seems, to place it with the insurance companies.

It’s only a matter of time before the cultural elite manage to pin the blame on alleged welfare fraudsters or immigrants. It’s fast becoming that kind of white-collar political bar brawl.

The only way it differs from a classic western saloon free-for-all is that there is a distinct lack of hard-jawed heroes in the melee. Instead, everyone is either running for cover or claiming victimhood.

But the true victims in all this are the public, because clearly, wherever the blame might finally rest, the public have picked up the tab for the bank failure in 2008, are paying over-the odds for car insurance, house rents, house purchasing, and a host of other things, and are receiving under the odds in pay.

All overseen by a government who back employer’s rights to steal employee’s tips, who are busily flogging off public services to the lowest bidder and who have created, either by neglect or design – the results don’t differ – 10,000+ homeless people, who are really the true victims of what appears to be a culture of pass-the-buck political profiteering whose main interests are property and land.

Noam Chomsky, when talking about the tobacco industry’s wilful fudging of science to keep selling a product that kills people, asked, Why is this not considered violence?

Like the slapstick gag of sequential impacts, the initiation: the marketing; and resulting impact: the cancer, are separated by arguably unconnected effects. The tobacco industry made it their business to argue these arguables, creating a playbook that is still used, with relish, by climate deniers.

But everyone can see the lie, they just can’t prove it to the satisfaction of those who don’t want it proved. This strategy is also arguably a violence against science.

Similarly, in light of the recent report led by Dr Mel Nowicki, the homelessness that is having a “destructive impact” on Irish children might also be seen as a violence against them.

They are at the receiving end of a sequential chain of cause and effect. A sequence initiated by a leader who ideological policy is causing those children measurable psychological harm and stunted development.

The connection between policy initiation and the later destructive effect on these children is as clear as day. It might even be construed as a form of abuse, since the initiator can’t plead ignorance of the knock-on effect of the policies pursued. The results have been scientifically measured.

Abuse of children by policy neglect? Any legal people out there who might develop this hypothesis? If you’re not too busy chasing ambulances.

We maybe haven’t changed as much as we like to think from the days of reform homes and Magdalene laundries. Sometimes it seems it’s just a different set of authority figures; more photogenic, smoother in PR, but still damning the sinners while enjoying the perks of power; niftily avoiding accountability when things go wrong.

And still abusing children? Indirectly, maybe, through socially unjust policies, but the results are more or less the same: the kids are damaged, but the profits are healthy and the organisation is sound.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist,

Pic: Twitter

Previously: Eamonn Kelly: Not Far from The Tree


From top: Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell (left) with, Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Councillor John Bailey and his daughter Maria Bailey, a Fine Gael TD, canvassing during the Local Elections on May 16; Eamonn Kelly

The Maria Bailey story has more legs than a bag of creepy crawlies. Though it is in danger of reaching saturation point, it is still delivering all kinds of oddities.

A commentator on Broadsheet directed us to a Wiki page on John Bailey, Ms Bailey’s father, a Dalkey publican and a Fine Gael politician who has an interesting past in terms of false claims and deceitful practises, along with defences of his actions not unlike Maria Bailey’s defence of her actions.

To win votes in the 2007 general election John Bailey apparently circulated a letter mocked up to look like a Fine Gael directive from the top, the deception reinforced by featuring a photograph of Enda Kenny, the letter instructing people to vote Bailey No 1, for party vote management reasons.

The deceit was later described by the Fine Gael director of elections as a “serious breach of party discipline and unity.”

In 2009, when constituents were protesting about building work in Dun Laoghaire golf club, Bailey wrote to the constituents to say he had objected to the planned development. An Bord Pleanala said no such objection was made. Bailey said it must have got lost in the post.

It later emerged in stories from the Sunday Business Post and the Sunday Tribune that both Bailey and his daughter Maria, had received election donations from the builders engaged in work on the golf course.  Bailey denied that these donations had any bearing on his failure to object to the development.

The point here is, that he took time to actually write a letter to constituents deliberately designed to mislead and give a false impression of where his loyalties lay.

In 2009 Bailey again set out to deceive Fine Gael with another letter, this one designed to block a rival’s daughter from involvement in the selection process for candidates for Fine Gael for the Dun Laoghaire constituency.

The selection convention was cancelled at short notice when three sitting Fine Gael candidates, Bailey being one of them, declared their unanimous view that they should be the only three candidates running in the ward.

The FG executive council agreed. The side-lined candidate sought a court injunction against Fine Gael for failing to follow its own procedures. The case was settled out of court.

In 2010 the Irish Times reported that Bailey had received donations from another building developer which he failed to declare to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The Sunday Tribune later reported that he had also received undeclared donations from the developers involved in the Dun Laoghaire golf course development. Bailey pled innocent and characterised himself as a hard worker and straight-up Joe. A misunderstood good egg.

In 2013 Bailey created some fake news by designing a leaflet to look like it stemmed from the local Dun Laoghaire Gazette, endorsing Bailey. The Dublin Gazette group sought an apology. Bailey refused and said he didn’t see what the big deal was about.

The big deal was about breaching a newspaper’s copyright in order to deceive the public by passing off a forgery as an editorial in order to gain political advantage.

Fine Gael said they could not condone or support the attempted deceit. Nevertheless, they did accept it, and no action of any consequence was taken against Bailey.

Bailey was involved in sports administration and similar legends pepper his career in that area too, mainly around his apparent ambition to manage the Dublin football team.

He eventually did get to be appointed team manager of the Dublin Hurling team for a short time, after the manager was removed following a string of dismal performances. Bailey was installed as interim manager but the Dublin hurlers refused to train under him.

Bailey threatened to have them all barred from ever playing for Dublin again should they refuse to accept him as manager.

In other words, the good egg threatened to destroy their sporting careers unless they accepted him in a role that he clearly did not earn on sporting merit, but had politicked himself into. The players refused to accept him anyway and he was subsequently replaced.

What is striking about all this is that such a track record has gone unpunished by the Fine Gael party, self-proclaimed upholders of all that is righteous.

A party who represent the privileged and denigrate the ordinary person at every turn, both in terms of attitude and of policy, creating a society where the privileged get all the breaks, while the ordinary people foot the bills and carry the guilt and the burden for failed policies, on the often intimated charge that they have been “lazy” or “weak”.

Clearly Fine Gael are prepared to put up with the sort of moral example the Baileys provide, simply for political expedience.

Then it turns out that Maria Bailey is a second cousin of Simon Harris, the minister currently taking on the task of wrecking the Irish Health service in the interests of privatisation; and though they are said not to be close, the relationship illustrates the small world of the Irish elite. They are in a sense, our 1%.

Maria Bailey said in the RTÉ interview with Sean O’Rourke that the affidavit claiming she could not run competitively for three months after the swing fall was “a mistake”.

But was it a mistake simply because she was caught in a contradiction?

How does that sit with Leo Varadkar, after all the press he created to convince people that welfare fraud was rife? A charge roundly rejected by a former social welfare officer.

It was claimed in The Journal today that a Fine Gael ‘source’ said that they “did not envisage that she [Bailey] would be expelled from the party, stating that would be an ‘overreaction’…”

Instead, the punishment will be that she will lose the privilege of chairing a committee, on housing, of all things. This amounts to a financial loss too, since the role delivers a $9,000 stipend. Losing the chair is a kind of fine, in a way.

But in Ireland over the last couple of years, 11,000 people per year were taken to court for TV license evasion, surely a lesser offence, and often one committed by poor people as a result of straitened circumstances.

Maria Bailey said that it is a personal “tragedy” for her and her family. A family whose patriarch has himself a record in deliberate deceit.

Which begs the question, is this an isolated case, or does the Bailey saga represent a trend among the privileged?

Are the Baileys just overtly careless about displaying an attitude that may have wider, if more circumspect acceptance, among a certain class of people? Or are they freaks?

Maria Bailey supported Simon Coveney in the leadership election that saw Varadkar take the helm. These people are only a few steps removed from serious political power and influence in Ireland.

That should give everyone, including Fine Gael, pause for thought.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist,

Yesterday: Always looking For Someone’s Manager


From top: Fine Gael Td Maria Bailey; Eamonn Kelly

It is likely that the swinging TD fell backwards off the child’s swing onto the back of her head, since if she had fallen forwards from the swing she would most certainly have fallen on her face.

Attractive and all as this picture may be to some, it is almost certain that she simply fell backwards off the swing, because during the fall she also apparently hurt her back and hip, which indicates a backward fall, most likely occuring within mere moments of having taken her seat.

Representatives for the hotel contend that the swinging TD allegedly had both hands full, meaning, we can only suppose, that she was not in a position to hold onto the swing to keep her balance, and simply believed that she could sit on the swing, hands free without holding on, and trust to her safety on what is essentially a moveable seat dangling from strings. The very epitome of instability. A bit like a Labour seat.

So, with no hands, the Fine Gael TD, proud representative of a party who are sternly against litigation culture, allegedly sat onto the swing, the seat of which presumably moved forward under the weight of her TD seat, causing the TD to flip backwards onto her head as earlier described, unable, it would seem, at the first sense of danger, to grab on to anything, since her hands were otherwise occupied; though it is not clear from reports what exactly was occupying her hands, since to state exactly what she might have been holding could prejudice the case, I guess.

It might well have been a smart phone in one hand, or a handbag, or even an envelope, with something similar or different in the other hand, though what that something else might have been in the TD’s hand on “a night out”, no one is brave enough to conjecture.

Whatever was occupying the TD’s hands, causing her to flip backwards off the swing like a latter-day Nadia Comaneci, seems, in all reports, to be a secondary consideration to the fact that she was able to flip backwards off the swing at all.

That there were no safeguards in place to prevent a TD on a night out from flipping accidentally backwards onto her head.

Surely, in a civilized country that boasts a propensity to generously service landlords while leaving 10,000 people homeless, some form of protection could be provided to ensure that TDs on a night out be minded at all times and in all eventualities.

From this perspective the TD’s legal representatives implied that there should be supervisors posted next to swings to prevent such accidents ever happening, as presumably there should also be supervisors posted around all the coasts of Ireland, especially the cliffs, to prevent people falling off the country, particularly people on nights out, with their hands full.

But whatever about the implications of public service supervisors posted like guardian angels all over Ireland, the upshot of the swing tragedy was that the TD, once sufficiently recovered from her somewhat ungracious backflip, and with her TD wits regained, decided to sue the hotel for…well, for €60,000 actually, or two-thirds of a TD’s salary, or €10,000 more than a TD’s pension, or roughly 5 times the amount of the state old-age pension.

One spokesperson speculated that the negligence claim may have been the result of a fit of pique when the TD caught someone laughing as she lay bundled in a heap on her head in a classic Irish Yoga position. This theory certainly has legs.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist,

Yesterday: Losing Her Seat

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joins an unnamed busker last week while canvassing for the European Elections in Limerick; Eamonn Kelly

Seeing Leo Varadkar singing along with the late Dolores O’Riordan’s “Zombie” filled me with what they used to call, mixed emotions.  But despite the general sicky feeling, it occurred to me that here was proof of the value of the arts.

The taoiseach, for that is his title, deserved or not, thinks it politically beneficial to sing along with a pop song as he stares into the abyss of an unavoidable election.

Because a pop song reaches into the hearts and minds of many people. This is its power, and by extension the power of all arts and culture. A power recognised, when it suits him, by even the most right-wing leader this country has ever produced.

But I was thinking of something else when I witnessed the unholy sight of the singing taoiseach with over 10,000 homeless people to his name. I was thinking about arts and jobs and community employment schemes (CE).

A CE scheme is designed to seem like what is called a “real” job, in order to prepare people who haven’t had a “real” job, to take one up. CE schemes are aimed at those who are “long-term unemployed or otherwise disadvantaged.” Note how long-term unemployment is collapsed into the definition of “disadvantaged”.

But from an arts practitioner’s point of view, unemployment is an advantage, in terms of opportunity costs.

In cost/benefit analysis, opportunity cost refers to the loss from potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

For the artist it means that the forty-hour work week is forty quality hours not making art. For the artist this is the main opportunity cost paid in taking up a “real” job.

This dilemma for artists and creatives is so widely recognised in the arts sector that for many years in Ireland unemployment assistance acted as a kind of unofficial arts grant for those who had the vocation or balls to go for it.

And it’s not at all easy to choose this route in order to open up time for arts practise. The culture is set against it. But for years the political class turned a blind eye, and the economy, particularly via the pubs, benefited from the ensuing widespread arts practise supported by the welfare stipend.

Even so, the mainstream culture mocked and jeered the artist “drawing the dole”, while simultaneously benefiting from the tourism attracted to creative Ireland, a term later appropriated by our present taoiseach for his own PR machine.

Everyone knows the value of the arts. But it was never easy to drop out and devote yourself to art. To the extent that Brian Eno once said that you have to really work hard to avoid getting a “job” if you hope to have an arts career.

Charles Bukowski and many other artists and writers have said similar, because to the artistic sensibility, a “job” can often seem like a soul execution.

Bukowski wrote of “the job”:

“…People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does…What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?”

Creatives are creative because they are more sensitive than most, and when you put them in a restrictive, regimented, authoritarian system, they feel the squeeze more than most. It’s not that they hate working. It’s that they hate slavery.

But even so, employers are often attracted to artistic types. They can’t help but see the skills on offer. But they want to cherry-pick them. They want this bit at their disposal, and this bit tamed, or even eradicated.

The standard job in this respect is totally destructive of the artist. And since CE schemes are designed to shape people into getting a “job”, they themselves, unless they are specifically geared towards arts practise, are also destructive of artists, for all the same reasons.

CE schemes are arguably only of benefit to people with little or no skills. But for people who are highly skilled or highly qualified or highly creative, one must query a system that delivers the skills of such people into the service of organisations, with no cost to those organisations, as the DEASP does in its ongoing mission to create full employment in officially defined “real” jobs.

And the benefits of such schemes may be negligible or even non-existent to artists swept up in the JobPath welfare cheats witch-hunts led and orchestrated by the now singing taoiseach.

Furthermore, the opportunity cost to both the artist and the community in terms of loss of potential cultural gain, must also be factored in to the overall cost to the artists and the community as losses rather than gains.

In this respect, there comes a tipping point when the level of qualification and possession of skills being delivered to CE schemes, features a strong element of structural inequality; since the organisations are benefiting from skills and experience they had no input in creating, and don’t have to pay for; plus the opportunity costs to the artist of unrealised projects that the organisation also absorbs as a benefit, which it then wastes because it has no use for the finer skills of the creative individual.

For instance, using a trained actor to man the switchboard because they sound good on the phone. While for the artist, the opportunity cost in particular is a tangible cost in unrealised arts practise.

From this perspective, the delivery of a creative’s skills to an organisation for no pay, amounts to structural exploitation of a natural human resource – artistic potential – that is by its nature the property of and potentially to the benefit of the wider community; including even the cynical political candidate inclined to invoke some culture to garnish his questionable profile at election time.

The ongoing harassment of the arts community into “real” jobs is a crying waste of human resources on a par with the destruction of food to balance market prices.

But Varadkar thinks it “successful” to turn an artist into a McWorker and call it job creation. It’s more like soul murder. He should consider that the next time he feels inclined to appropriate a cultural artefact to aggrandise his image.

Because his “violence caused such silence, Who are we mistaken?” So sang Dolores O’Riordan in the same song. To appropriate the line, it might mean, in this context, that Varadkar’s privatisation policies have been systematically killing the arts, creating cultural silence for the sake of fake job-creation stats.

For the last few years he has been selling artists out as low-grade employees, ignoring their gifts and costing them as worthless. The other day he borrowed one of their “worthless” products, a song to ride his ego around the place for the cameras, succeeding only in revealing his own hypocrisy.

But despite the official hypocrisy concerning the arts, there is still an opportunity to create the possibility of introducing a universal basic income, not as a payment exclusive to artists – that’s unfair and divisive – but as an opportunity to recognize individuality and creativity as being worth supporting for the benefits that accrue to the greater good.

Then, let those who enjoy the routine of “jobs”, go do that, and there are many people who do like that way of life. And let those who desire to dream and paint, play music or write or dance, do that if they so wish without having to starve to death in the process, or endlessly explain themselves to some comfortably unimaginative civil servant in the DEASP happily wielding a stick handed out by Varadkar to motivate the “lazy”.

In this way it would be possible to call off the attack dogs of the DEASP and JobPath, who labour under the misapprehension that, not only is there a job for everyone, but that everyone should be in what they term a “proper job”.

In other words, that everyone should be of the same uniform weight and value, even artists, like so many human battery hens.

This old-world thinking needs to be faced head on, because the costs to the community of destroying the sensibility of creatives, to fit into such a narrow definition of work, may well have to be paid further down the line in a dearth of original thinking, at a time when original thinking is most needed.

When we reach for people with ideas, all we may find are corporate zombies.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist, His column appears here monthly

The image taken in central Dublin and shared on Facebook today came with the caption ‘Is This the Kind of Ireland We Want?’

Eamonn Kelly writes:

Facebook has arguably become the main public forum for bursts of moral outrage, like the hate sessions in Orwell’s 1984.

The idea from the point of view of the participants is to be seen to publicly express energies in keeping with the herd. From the government’s point of view, it is a controlled outlet for public expressions of anger.

Today’s outrage was the photo of a homeless man in a Dublin street, his head shoved into a drenched sleeping bag and his trousers down around his hips leaving his backside bare to the rain.

The expressions of anger ranged from castigating the government to one that caught my eye in particular saying that the Irish had lost their Irishness.

This is a brilliant encapsulation of the high regard many Irish hold the Irish nation in, coupled with the dawning realisation that we may not be quite as perfect as that high regard has led us to believe. We could even be worse.

I subscribe to the view that we are worse, though not unusually bad in a wider humanitarian scale of human failings.

But in comparison to the perfect picture we prefer of ourselves, the great little nation and the fun-loving happy, generous people and so on; in comparison to that, we’re a bunch of c**s.

The picture of the homeless man that I saw on Facebook came with the caption Is This the Kind of Ireland We Want? Well, clearly it is. If we didn’t want it, we wouldn’t have it.

The truth is, this naked disparity in wealth and social standing is exactly the Ireland that many, if not the majority of Irish people, do want.

The Irish were always fond of getting up by putting others down, and this is the logical conclusion. That sadistic streak instilled by the clergy drives the whole sorry mess of austerity Ireland more effectively than any bunch of Nazis might have done.

You deserve it. You’re a sinner. Look at you. If you had worked hard and got up early and did what you were told and conformed to power and authority the way the rest of us do you wouldn’t be in that state.

You’ve only yourself to blame. You made your bed now lie in it. It’s all your own fault. You needn’t be lookin’ for handouts from me. And so on. We all know the song.

Another commenter said that the situation was outrageous and that he wasn’t going to vote for any of them, which, given the way power is placed in a democracy, is a vote for them.

Abstaining is not a vote against the ruling power, it is simply removing yourself from the count, a count where the ruling party get every voter out to the polls. You can’t win in a democracy by not voting. In fact, you lose.

Votes count and the Irish people voted for the policies of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael which included the policy to use homelessness as a tool to get the economy revved up again and get the banks back in business.

Overall, the method has been approved of by the majority of Irish people

Fine Gael are a couple of points up in the latest polls. The elites are not hurting.It’s the people down the scale who are hurting and the lack of concern for them is an expression of Irish authoritarian heartlessness.

This itself is a legacy of church education; combined with a modern laissez-faire sensibility of corporate Darwinian economics, courtesy of the good old US of A, where corporations, seeking to create markets, have been known to deliberately hook people on opiates in a gesture of fuck-youness that was previously only ever seen in dystopian sci-fi movies or bleak concentration camp dramas.

So, for many Irish people, seeing such abject destitution as represented in today’s outrage photo, makes them feel “successful” on the one hand, in line with the American model; and virtuous on the other hand, in line with the Irish catholic authoritarian model of seeing their “goodness”, in the form of obedience, paying off and keeping them safe.

Safe, that is, from the other Irish who seem relish the sight of people nose-diving into personal disaster. Ye had it comin’. You’ve only yourself to blame. You needn’t come lookin’ for handouts from me…

FF and FG represent the will of the people. And that man in the rain is the will of the people. If you don’t get that, you don’t get Ireland.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist.

From top: President de Valera kissing the ring of Rev. Dr. John Charles McQuaid Archbishop of Dublin, 1968; Eamonn Kelly

US Democrat congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said that many people had a simplistic view of Martin Luther-King, believing that he merely asked for civil rights and got them. Job done.

She was appealing to people to make their own power, aware, no doubt, that she was being put in that isolated position of being the voice for many, and, as so often happens, being the target for so many more. But also recognizing that one voice is not enough, that democracy only moves when the mass of people decide to move it.

For most people, social protest, in the here and now, as opposed to way back in the comfortable romantic past, seems messy and unpleasant and even unreasonable. Which of course it is. That was the point Ocasio-Cortez was making.

But, in reality, Martin Luther King Jr was not only shot dead. Whoever shot him, and that’s still an ongoing debate, shot him in the mouth. Which speaks volumes. If you’ll forgive the grim pun.

Here in Ireland we don’t really do freedom of speech. It seems to be considered impolite, or a bit low. People who do speak out tend to be regarded as trouble-makers, with an unreasonable propensity for “taking issue”.

Though from the perspective of those who do speak out, issue is not taken nearly often enough in Ireland.

To the outspoken, the general Irish public fit perfectly the prejudicial description of “sheeple”; an obedient, malleable flock that the powerful shoo this way and that and patronise with occasional explanatory tit-bits and flatteries, the disrespect barely hidden behind a thin veneer of smiling contempt.

The powerful in Ireland now occupy the place that used to be filled by Archbishop McQuaid, where all are expected to kneel and kiss the holy ring; (“ring” in whatever sense you choose to understand the term.) Everyone competes to occupy this powerful space, in fractals or Russian dolls of the same power struggle from the great to the small.

All the way down the pyramid the perceived “nobodies” at each level are expected to genuflect accordingly to their perceived betters.

Austerity was an amazing phenomenon in this regard. Everyone noticed. We were the talk and wonderment of Europe. The Irish were so, so quiet. So obedient. Is it any wonder that the occasional free-speaker might sound “unreasonable” or annoyingly loud?

Even a whispered No in such a servile environment sounds startlingly loud, and perhaps even insane. There can be no truth only the truth of the elite.

To present a varying narrative is to be “difficult” and un-cooperative. Not a team player. Everyone who speaks out in this vacuum sounds like Bob Geldof at his most belligerent.

“Oh look, it’s your man/woman again, taking issue with something. Boy, does that joker have personal problems.”

In this regard, everyone is complicit in guarding the pyramid. Power is always correct, and the individual is always wrong.

The Authoritarian Irish

Is it fair to generalise and state that the Irish are authoritarian in character? It’s a question you don’t hear bandied around much. But if it were found to be true it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone really, given the twin oppressions of Empire and Church lurking in the psychological background.

If you wanted to make an authoritarian population you couldn’t have picked better ingredients than the combined insanities of the British Empire and the Catholic Church foisted on an unsuspecting peasant people.

But you can be certain that there are many who would absolutely deny this proposition out of hand. While there is often talk about the authoritarian church, there is rarely much discussion about the authoritarian Us.

We just don’t go there, and yet, we’re so quiet under pressure. Fintan O’Toole wrote that the Irish could conceivably hunker down for a thousand years and take all the punishment that authority could fling at them, and simply endure, with barely a peep of protest. Endurance is what we’re about.

And we are so disturbingly quiet when a minority is targeted or is hurting, like the way homeless people have been used by this government as bait to invigorate the property market. We look quietly on, glad it’s not us, until suddenly, it is us, and then we look out of our hotel window and realize no one in Ireland cares what happened to us.

The economy is recovering, that’s the main thing. Most people are “happy”. Not all. But most. The silent majority are happyish. It’s enough. We will endure.

And somehow, we fortunate ones always manage to spin a story to explain away the social casualties as the architects of their own sorry condition. That they brought it on themselves through fecklessness. This harsh judgement itself yet another social injustice piled upon those at the bottom of the obedient, enduring heap.

Adorno has a term to describe a society’s mood or character. He calls it a society’s “phenomenon”. Ireland’s phenomenon seems like a parent/child relationship. You meet this same interactional character at every level.

The nanny state someone once called it. The state is the parent and the citizens are the children and they help the state best by being obedient and by always “complying”; this is the state’s favourite new word.

The children have to strive to be the best children in the world, even if many of them have been denied by mammy state the UN right to shelter. Hush now children don’t you cry…Be quiet and be “good”. Ssh, daddy is on the phone to the vultures.

Permission to Speak

The idea of needing permission to speak is dealt with in detail in Foucault’s analysis of the Greek word parrhesia, which referred to the duty or allowance for a citizen to express criticism or opinion concerning the democracy.

There were parameters as to who could speak and who couldn’t. Slaves, for instance, had no right to speak. (In our time these might be corporate or public service employees, but not taxi-drivers.)

Generally, those who were allowed to express an opinion had letters after their name, as we would understand it, or occupied socially accepted positions allowing them to express an opinion, such as politicians and journalists or, in our world, RTE people.

In our time and place it is recognized that democratic freedom of speech and expression are their own permissions. They come with the democratic bundle. Particularly so in a republic.

A republic without freedom of speech is like a pub with no beer. Nevertheless, it is still generally believed that freedom of speech is restricted to elites and that anyone else indulging in outspokenness or, God forbid, criticism of the great and the good, is simply a trouble-maker or a crazy person.

Restrictions on who and who couldn’t opine began to broaden in the 20th century to include famous people, until we ended up with what Clive James called “common fame” and everyone’s opinion was sought on various topics, most notably pop stars and footballers, proving that most pop stars and footballers don’t know much beyond pop and football.

The internet blew the entire idea of restrictions on opining wide open and suddenly everybody could express an opinion, no matter how crazy or ludicrous.

But what became clear very quickly was that while everyone now had an opportunity to be heard, very few had actually anything worthwhile to say, and soon the internet deteriorated into something like an ongoing slanging match in a kindergarten.

Club-wielding trolls ruled cyberspace with practised insult until eventually, horrifyingly, one of them lurched unimpeded straight into the White House and parked his fat arse in the president’s chair.

So, the game has changed utterly and has created a situation where if you now feel you have something worthwhile to offer, the democracy actually needs your contribution. Which is what Ocasio-Cortez meant when she said build your own power.

All the arts of power-politics and media are currently employed in attempting to sway the crowd to move this way or that, because democracy still depends on the majority vote and politics is ultimately reactive.

In our country, for instance, Fine Gael and Varadkar will only abandon or amend the ideology of privatisation that is causing so much pain to so many Irish people, when they feel pressure from the majority.

If the majority don’t object, even in the face of 10,000 people sacrificed to homelessness to feed the privatisation ideology; that majority silence is as good as a vote of confidence in the privatisation policies being pursued by the Fine Gael party.

Fine Gael are always accusing the left of being driven by “ideology”, while they, presumably are driven by “common-sense”; when it is clear to anyone with even half a brain that privatisation is also an ideology.

This kind of evasion is similar to the type of intellectual con that emanates from Fox News, and is, I suppose, to borrow Adorno’s term, the chief “phenomenon” of neo-liberalism. A kind of huckster/grifter political style, to put it kindly.

Even so, people are wary of causing a fuss by protesting, especially here in Ireland where quiet obedience, instilled by the brothers and the nuns, is still seen as a virtue. Many are fearful that if they do protest, they may inadvertently trigger a revolution, with perfectly good cars left burning in the streets.

This is what psychologists call “catastrophising”. The system however is unlikely to break or unravel from the effect of people’s dissent.

The system will more likely strengthen from the bit of stress as the political class re-align to accommodate people’s stated wishes. Because democracy is ultimately a kind of controlled mob rule.

And neither does dissent have to be some elaborately staged protest with organisers and whatnot and rock bands setting fire to guitars.

An email to local elected representatives expressing disagreement with, for instance, a housing policy that results in mass homelessness, and advising that in the absence of visible action to rectify this insult to decency a vote against the candidate is guaranteed at the earliest opportunity, is bound to get a politician’s attention.

Especially if streams of such reminders came flooding in regularly from all directions on various issues where political complacency was short-changing citizens.

As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has recognised, even a thousand personalised modest objections to government policy by voters would be a louder shout than any argument she alone could make.

Democracy has chores. It’s not all shopping and fucking you know.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist, His column appears here monthly.

Pic: UCD Digital Archive

From top: Master of the High Court Ed Honohan (left) in Brussels with and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan MEP; Bryan Wall

The 2016/17 amendment to section 110, the SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) instrument that serves vulture funds so well, appears to have been written by the same people who would be the leading beneficiaries of the amendment.

Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan, when trying to woo Ming the Merciless (Luke Flanagan MEP) and some guests in Brussels recently, in the hope of getting the EU Commission to investigate anomalies in Ireland’s tax laws on a state aid angle, admitted that the whole thing is a complex mess and spent an hour trying to explain the mess.

I spent two hours trying to understand the mess he was explaining.

One of the problems with trying to understand the mess is that the language used by our representatives seems to be deliberately designed to fog everything, and succeeds admirably.

The mess is either a deliberately designed mess, even a sophisticated mess, or it is an unintentional mess. It is either genius or incompetence. Not even Honohan can be certain.

Honohan contrasts the language of Ireland’s legalese with EU legalese. EU legalese is designed to be simple, working towards clarity, this is its main concern; while Irish legalese seems designed to achieve the exact opposite.

This might well be a strategy to wear everyone down so that they won’t even bother trying to unravel the language knots and won’t discover things like the amendment of section 110 being written by those it favoured, who appear to have created a kind of club where you need €10million to join, and if you join you can be re-classified as a charity, making you tax free on property transactions.

Or the wording of a related amendment to the same instrument that allows the person making tax returns to define what is understood by “normal accounting practises”. Which seems to mean, you tell us what you think you owe us by your criteria and we’ll accept that.

The taoiseach says the amendment to section 110 was a way to get the economy moving via the property market. David McWilliams says that the same end could have been achieved via the credit unions. That there was no need to invite in vulture funds.

The section 110 instrument was once a relatively standardised securitisation instrument, designed to manage taxation in response to 24-hour banking made possible by the internet. It was nothing sinister.

But it went from being an innocent finance tool, to being a kind of rogue SPV as a result of the 2016 amendment. Honohan described the amended SPV as a kind of genetically modified SPV.

Prior to its metamorphosis, the section 110 SPV dealt only with abstract calculations in cyberspace. Now it was suddenly let loose in the real world, making drastic changes in physical reality, resulting in people being dumped from their homes and into hotels, enriching hoteliers, with the hotel bills being underwritten by the tax-payer, among whom no investment corporations exist; while the properties were re-rented or re-sold at enormous profit to investment corporations.

“We remind all States,” said a recent UN report, “that while gold is a commodity, housing is not, it’s a human right.”

The taoiseach – the same man who declared to the Dáil that there is no such thing as a free house and who was recently corrected by the UN who declared that housing is a right – described the new window created in the 110 SPV as a “loophole” and promised to close it next Autumn. It has to wait for the Finance Act time of year to be closed.

It seems a major leakage of public money into the stratosphere is not enough to declare an emergency gathering to close the window. This in the same week that another Fine Gael minister talked about imposing fines for wasting water.

In the meantime, the loophole will continue to be exploited by the investment corporations/vulture funds, and whoever else happens to be in €+10m club, until the government gets it together to close the window..

They have lots to do in the meantime while lost revenue gurgles down the drain. They can be overseeing the Brexit mess with superior attitude; they can think about calling an election; they can take a summer recess; maybe attend a few summer schools; maybe some summer sporting events; maybe a high-profile pop concert for maximum feel-good PR exposure; take their hols…

The window in the 110 SPV isn’t actually a loophole. It was designed. The taoiseach said so, in the same statement in which he described it as a loophole.

It’s a kind of Schrodinger’s Cat of Irish tax law. It’s a loophole, but it isn’t. It’s a tax-break, but it isn’t. You’re a charity, but you’re not. It’s whatever you want. Here, you have €10million, write the legislation yourself! We’re all winners in this fine mess we’ve gotten us into!

The “loophole” was carefully designed to attract foreign investors to make a killing in the Irish property market in order to get the banks and the economy jump-started. It worked, by the simple expedient of allowing the banks to sell off bad mortgages to tax-free vulture funds who kicked out tenants in arrears and Presto! A new property bubble on the rise and Ireland is back in business.

Sure, there was some collateral damage. Like the 10,000 homeless, the hungry private renters, the underpaid, exploited and the new Irish emigrants away into exile with stars in their eyes because they can’t afford to rent a room here.

But hey! you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs and it is clear from the stats that everything is working towards back-to-normal now.

And according to all the privatised carefully rigged surveys, with carefully framed questions to elicit only positive responses, less than 5% of the public (all thought to be cranks) admit to being unhappy with the government’s performance, and will be farmed out to some private entity shortly for psychological fixing for a mere few millions more of tax-payer’s money.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist, His column appears here monthly.

Pic: YouTube


From top: Michael Moore promoting his documentary Farenheit 11/9 and protesting the poisoning of the privatised water supply in Flint, Michigan, USA last September; Eamonn Kelly

Someone I met recently dismissed privatisation as a dull non-issue, regarding it as a fait accompli and something that wasn’t really that serious in the long run.

Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, is a stark reminder of what privatisation actually means as played out in the more “advanced” corporate structures of the United States, which are currently laying waste to all around them.

Privatisation in the United States is like a cancer eating up whole districts.

For instance, the so-called opioid crisis came about when pharmaceutical companies knowingly hooked people on opiate-laden painkillers in order to create a market. Like drug-pushers used to do, giving heroin to kids outside schools to create a “demand”.

With Moore’s documentary, what I imagined would be an attack on Trump is actually far more nuanced than anything so simple, turning out be as much an indictment of the Democratic Party as it is of Trump.

Or, more accurately, an indictment of the political elites of the United States, who are not unlike our own small political elites, characterised as they are by serving business, to the detriment of the people who elect them; while denigrating those who are poor in capital and in political representation.

This new breed of neo-liberal politician not only turns a blind eye to social injustice, but often actively and even knowingly, creates social injustice.

The deliberate lying that took place in the Democratic party to ensure that Hilary Clinton would get the nomination over Bernie Sanders, who actually had more support, was, according to the Moore film, morally sanctioned by the belief that a woman “deserved” to be president at last.

So, they cheated the system to promote Hilary at the expense, not only of Bernie Sanders and all his supporters, but also at the expense of the integrity of the democratic party and the integrity of the democratic process.

This deliberate deception, along with Obama’s visit to Flint, Michigan in early 2016 to address the problem of lead poisoning that came in the wake of the privatisation of the water supply, contributed to an increasing lack of faith among the electorate in the democratic process.

What happened in Flint was that after the water supply was privatised, a contract was then put out to build a new pipeline. A new pipeline wasn’t really needed, except to create a profit opportunity for a private contractor.

What this meant was that the Flint water supply, instead of being drawn from a clean lake, was instead drawn from a polluted river while the new pipeline was being built.

As well as poisoning 10,000 children with ingested lead, the river also, it turned out, was damaging components in the local General Motors car factory. Metal components. General Motors complained and were given access to the clean water supply.

The people of Flint however, were left to drink from the lead-polluted water source. The majority of these people, by the way, are African American.

A distress call was sent to the black president who arrived on Air Force one. Some people wept on seeing him. Everything would be okay now. He would stand with them surely against the Republican governor who had brought all this privatization misery and distress on the town. I was with them. I was a bit of a fan of Obama too and I totally expected some kind of happy ending.

What did Obama do? Standing at the dais to speak to and reassure the people of Flint, he asked for a glass of water. Not a bottle of water. By this time everyone in Flint was drinking bottled water. People yelled from the audience that he should drink bottled.

Obama took a sip from the glass of water brought to him. Not a big swallow, a careful sip. He minimized the issue. He said that he was sure that when he was a “kid” he might have picked at flakes of paint that contained lead, and eaten them.

He said in effect that there was no problem, and he flew away leaving behind an entire town totally disillusioned with politics and democracy and the political elite who appear to, no matter what they might say, serve business interests only and damn the ordinary people with neglect.

Weeks later, for reasons not fully explained by anyone, except one soldier who conjectured that Flint had a lot of empty and derelict buildings, the US army conducted training manoeuvres in Flint, using live ammunition, without having consulted the town of their intention to do so.

Helicopters flew low over the town firing guns. Mortars and rockets exploded into derelict buildings. The impression given was that the US government, even before Trump, was already gone rogue and was now a tool of corporate America, to the exclusion of all other considerations.

These two events, taken together, the side-lining of Bernie Sanders to promote Hilary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, and Obama’s betrayal of the people of Flint over the poisoning of their water supply, conspired to create an environment of political complacency among the electorate, combined with a more generalised anger at the political establishment, that had the effect of catapulting Trump into office, with perhaps some help from Russian hackers.

The documentary implies that Trump would never have been elected if the Democratic party hadn’t been so elitist as to alienate its own electoral base by placing feminist aspirations above democratic integrity. Cheating the democratic process in the name of a perceived good or righteous cause is still cheating.

Moore’s startling conclusion is that the Democratic party were the first to depart from democratic principles which gave rise to Trump.

Obama’s mockery of Trump’s presidential ambitions in the growing climate of political disillusion can’t have helped; while his downplaying of the polluted water supply in Flint would not have gone unnoticed by poor black communities across the country.

What Moore’s documentary showed was that the political establishment is already lost to corporate influence, as it is here and in most democratic countries, as detailed in Joeseph E. Stiglitz’s “The Price of Inequality”. In this case the price was Trump in the White House and all subsequent costs, including deliberate environmental devestation.

What Michael Moore’s disturbing documentary demonstrated was that the corporate overlords really don’t give a damn about the well-being of normal people or the environment. That there is no argument or revelation of injustice that will change their approach.

The chilling conclusion is that they know exactly what they are doing. It’s not a mistake or an oversight. They will kill to have their way. That, ultimately, is what privatisation truly means. It’s not a game. They’ll have our skins for lamp-shades if they believe there’s a market for them.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist, His column appears here monthly.

From top: Noel Edmonds on The Ray D’Arcy Show; Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan on Prime Time; Eamonn Kelly

In 2016, Edmund Honohan, Master of the High Court, offered a solution to the growing homelessness crisis in an open letter to the then environment minister, Alan Kelly, who had called for a debate about property rights as defined in the constitution.

As I understand it, there seemed to be a belief at the time that the question of property rights guarded against the government acting to acquire property in the interests of the constitutional “common good”.

Mr Honohan wrote:

“The Constitution in effect provides that the State may expropriate private property if the Oireachtas decides that to do so is for the ‘common good’. Road widening is a good example… At the moment there are long waiting lists for housing and the private rental market is unable to provide dwellings at affordable rents…Consequently, if the Oireachtas is of the view that the State should itself (or its local authorities) provide public housing ‘in the Common Good’, the State can (and probably, legally, should) decide not to wait the two/three years needed to build social housing but instead to immediately acquire houses now in private hands.”

So that’s that clarified. Honohan anticipated that the response to his suggestion would be to make it a football and kick it back to the supreme court to decide.

But it seemed the supreme court had already decided, in 2000, that “the provision of affordable housing is an objective which is ‘socially just and required by the common good’.”

So, there was no grey area. No humming and hawing, no debate required. It was quite clear. The government had constitutional leeway to provide social housing, and that any failure to do so, according to Honohan, would be a political decision.

As we know, it was decided by government to ignore this solution and to allow the homelessness crisis to fester, in a move seen by many as engineering social neglect to generate profit for certain sectors.

But legally, according to Edmund Honohan, there was no reason why those families should have been left in private hotels in the years of government inaction that have since passed.

Since then Honohan continued to be a vocal opponent on behalf of people adversely affected by the housing and mortgage crises.

The Journal
reported that in recent years, Honohan has become known for his strong views on the treatment by financial institutions of debtors in distress.

He has been particularly vocal in relation to possession cases, often engaging in…

“…heated exchanges with barristers representing lenders…He has also written a bill sponsored by Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, the Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill. The bill includes a number of proposals for tackling the number of households struggling with mortgage arrears…

He also recently wrote to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, reminding him that it is his job in opposition to call out the vulture funds that are buying up distressed home loans…”

In a report from June 2017, writing in a personal capacity, he outlines the significance of the effect of the growing number of repossessions.

These are coming about as a result of the banks managing to sell off accounts in arrears, many of which are the result of the sub-prime mortgage phenomenon that triggered the banking collapse. These accounts are being bought up by private agencies known as “vultures”.

Mr Honohan writes:

The crisis is not that these people are heavily in debt, it is that when they are eventually evicted…there will still be no public housing for them…”

He conjectures that many of the loans taken out during the boom were taken out for two reasons: one, the banks were pressing money on people at that time, to the extent that it was difficult not to take out a loan; and two, there was insufficient social housing for people who may, in wiser times, have gone that route if there had been sufficient social housing.

The real sting in the tail in the report is that the tax-payer will now pick up the tab for the evictions; including policing costs, legal costs, transport costs, and so on.

Again, Honohan offers legal remedies to avoid all this pain, including ways to keep people in their houses despite the debt.

He offers comparisons with other jurisdictions and solutions to similar problems found elsewhere.

It seems though that these suggestions were also ignored, and we know from the taoiseach’s recent admonition about the term “vulture funds”, along with his more general championing of privatisation, that he largely approves of the concept of private companies re-possessing homes and evicting people who will then, in the absence of a social housing programme, be accommodated in private hotels, all paid for by the tax-payer until such time as the market can deliver sufficient housing.

Put simply, the taoiseach’s privatisation programme and reluctance to provide social housing is beginning to seem more like a gamble, not unlike the banking gambles that preceded the 2008 collapse, and, is similarly, being underwritten by the tax-payer.

The taoiseach’s gamble is that the market will deliver housing, and the chips he has set down are the homeless people in the private hotels, making of the gamble something of a neo-liberal social experiment.

Let’s rephrase that again: The taoiseach’s gamble, or neo-liberal social experiment, is to be paid for entirely by the tax-payer, with further contributory costs in the form of stunted childhoods and broken families condemned to live for years in private hotels, along with further costs paid by low-income workers priced out of an increasingly restrictive private rental market, again as the consequence of a lack of social and affordable housing.

This month, Edmund Honohan, a voice for those anonymous debtors being forced from their homes, found himself at the centre of what seemed like some kind of comical trumped-up charge of vandalism.

When his requests for ventilation in the court where he works were seemingly unheard, he broke open some small windows with a hammer to freshen the air. The ventilation he had tired of requesting was then provided.

This might seem like a trivial matter, but shortly after this incident he was relieved of his duties in hearing debt cases.

Maybe it was felt he was too strongly opinionated in his opposition to the banks and the political class to offer unbiased service. Maybe he was punished for breaking windows? Or maybe he was simply politically silenced.

Who knows? No doubt that will be debated too, at length, sometime, somewhere. But David Hall of iCare Housing said that the decision was a bad day for debtors.

He added that Honohan was…

“…one of the few officials who have spoken the truth about banks’ behaviour and has tried to help those crippled with debt”.

Around the same time, in RTE, Noel Edmonds, the UK DJ who lost a fortune to the HBOS, a subsidiary of Lloyds bank, was telling Ray D’Arcy his story.

Mr Edmonds is seeking compensation from Lloyds. His combination of public figure status and his criticism of the bank has made him into a controversial figure.

Mr Edmonds claims that a whistleblower overheard the chief executive of Lloyds say that the bank would have to “crush” Edmonds to deter any other claims for damages.

At the mention of bank trouble, the audience seemed to murmur in approval, but Ray D’Arcy, seemingly keen to control the moment, said that it was different in Ireland. No Ray, it’s different for girls; but banks, like cars and neo-liberals, tend to be the same the world over.

Mr Edmonds pushed ahead and when he talked about jailing a few bankers, the Irish audience burst into loud applause. Mr Edmonds told of how the experience of losing his home, his marriage and 300,000 GBP in savings brought him to the brink of suicide.

When Edmonds mentions being driven to the brink of suicide, D’Arcy seems to murmur doubtfully.

This is quite a common response. I suppose it is assumed that if a person had tried to commit suicide and had done it “properly”, they would have succeeded, in which case sympathy would then be extended. Continue reading

From top: Regina Doherty on ‘The Week in Politics’ last Sunday; from left: presenter Sharon Ni Bheolain, Ms Doherty, Stephen Donnelly and Martin Kenny; Eamonn Kelly

RTÉ television do a show called ‘The Week In Politics‘. I caught some of it by accident last Sunday. Sharon Ní Bheoláin was hosting.

Like many RTÉ journalists, Sharon doesn’t do anything as obvious as engage with the actual issue. Instead she occupies that favoured neutral ground known as “objectivity”, from where she basically just interrupts people as if for the heck of it.

There seems no pattern or point to her interruptions. She seems to take special pleasure in saying, “You have ten seconds!” to respond to a really complicated proposition.

Regina Doherty, sent by Fine Gael, decided to announce on this occasion that the nurses weren’t striking for more money.

This comment threw everyone, but Regina was very sure of her ground.

Stephen Donnelly, Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Health, swung his head repeatedly in astonishment to stare in disbelief at Regina.

Next to him, Martin Kenny, of Sinn Féin, spokesperson for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, had his groundings visibly challenged.

But Regina’s claim that the nurses weren’t going on strike for more money, had at its core, a small basis in logic. In other words it wasn’t entirely insane, it was just deliberately unhelpful.

Here’s how it works. Since the nurses agreed to a pay deal a couple of years back, which will be honoured, Regina concluded that the nurses, by accepting that agreement, were already “happy” with regard to money.

So therefore they can’t be striking for more money, since they are “happy”.

It might be more accurate to say, if someone had thought to say it, that the nurses are striking for more funding, to increase staff and to have a fairer wage for all.

Regina made her absurd claim about the nurses, twice, before Stephen Donnelly politely asked Sharon for permission to speak.

He said: “This is twice Regina has said this and I really have to pull her up on it.” To which Sharon replied, “You have ten seconds”.

Then someone found a clip of Leo Varadkar talking about the nurses and the strike and the money.

We can’t afford to give the nurses more money, said Leo, neatly contradicting his minister for employment affairs and social protection, who peered through her glasses like a bewildered child in a crowded Specsavers.

We have to hold onto that money, said Leo, in case Brexit goes wrong in a few weeks time, and we also need it for housing.

But no one noticed the inconsistency. The initial absurdism was now twisted into a fresh absurdism by Leo’s assertion that the nurse’s strike is morally irresponsible given the need for housing.

Suddenly it was all over. We were right out of time. And nothing was clear. Nothing had been resolved or clarified. If anything, the issue was in worse condition that it had been before Sharon and the panel got their hands on it.

Thank you, goodnight and up yours.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist

RTÉ: The Nurses Are Not Striking For More Money. Up yours (Eamonn Kelly)