Blunt and hard-hitting, Cathal McCarthy’s weekly view of the big talking points
NOBODY’S ever able to actually nail down the exact date or name of the London publication that ran the legendary headline ‘Fog On Channel, Continent Cut Off’ and it is so suspiciously droll that we’re entitled to conclude that it is apocryphal.
But it captures perfectly that point where national pride glides smoothly into comic self- delusion, where national ego becomes nationalist eejit.
Here’s another headline for you. This one is definitely real. It’s from a national daily paper and concerns Wednesday’s statement by the IMF on the need for Ireland to move more
decisively to bridge the still shocking deficit between what we raise and what we disburse.
‘Cut dole, medical cards and child benefit — IMF’
In case you hadn’t got your knickers in a sufficient twist, the sub-headline gave the elastic this unmerciful twang: ‘Paymasters set sights on young, sick and elderly’
No drunk in the Phoenix Park was as loaded as that headline. Take, for instance, the notion of the paymasters setting their sights on ‘the young’. Detached from the fevered indignation of the subbie, what the IMF actually suggested was that child benefit might be redesigned away from its present universal application to one that — brace yourself, Biddy — actually pays the benefit to those who need it. If that’s a little too abstract for you then let’s personalise what the IMF lads were saying.
They’re asking why the Irish state is paying somebody like Michael O’Leary, or any other multi-millionaire, 600 or 700 per month to lodge into an account as a ‘little something’ for the kids to be given for their gap year, round- the-world trip, in between leaving Clongowes and starting Trinity?
Do you know, I wouldn’t mind an answer to that one myself? And when it’s put that way it doesn’t look much like cruel bankers ‘setting their sights’ on disadvantaged kiddies any more. It looks what it is: a sensible question that asks a completely rational question about the wisdom of paying a multi-millionaire the same subsidy for successful procreation as a bloke who drives a bus with a wife and four young kids at home and a 300,000 mortgage for a semi-detached house in Ballincollig.
Why do we pay them the same? For that matter, why do we pay rich people child benefit at all? Move along quickly now to the sacrosanct status of the universal free medical cards for all pensioners. Take — and you’re every welcome to him — one of our higher civil servants who happily signed off on every idiotic excess of Bertie. Let’s make him 71. Let’s say his wife was a teacher in a nice school in Dublin and she’s retired now and the same age as him. They live in Sandymount or Mount Merrion. kids raised. Mortgage paid. And two state pensions coming into the house totalling 85,000 euro per annum.
Why is the Irish state paying for their visits to the doctor? More specifically, why is it paying for them when our friend in Ballincollig with the single wage, ruinous mortgage and four small children is being told to stump up 65 every time one of the kids gets a sore throat? Shouldn’t that be the other way round? The IMF seems to think it should be.
I think they’re right.
Finally, move on — if you can bear it — to the IMF’s comments about the wisdom of open- ended dole payments, or in bureaucrat-speak, the lack of labour-activation measures.
We’ve touched on this before and I’m not going to repeat myself on the grounds that I might have to go to the doctor for blood pressure. And I’m one of the poor suckers that has to pay for myself.
All I’ll say is this. Whenever a person is found guilty of a crime such as robbery, how many times has that person been on welfare since the first minute they were eligible, and never paid a cent in income tax?
I bet you that a large proportion of them have never been seriously asked to work and they’ve never seriously considered so doing. Why would they?
The IMF asks why we’re borrowing the money to pay the dole that subsidises the illegal activities of this class of criminal freeloader.
Our answer to them can be summarised as: shut up with the advice and give us another loan. Because they couldn’t be right, could they? Shure what do they know?
Fog On Channel, Continent Cut Off.