December 2011        

Enda’s big speech

I heard that when Enda Kenny, on becoming Taoiseach, went to Europe to lay down his marker to Merkel and Sarkozy he was promptly told to “sit down in the corner and be quiet, you gobshite.”
     The story came back to my mind as Enda was allowed a big night out by his imperial masters of the EU and IMF to deliver their “state of the nation” address. Little Enda was turned out nice and shiny to deliver the script prepared by his minders. It is possible that in his tiny little mind he thought it was his own script he was delivering.
     He began with a watery smile. “Good evening.” We were living in exceptional times, and he was going to tell the truth. And he was into the script.
     We were all in this together. He told us how bad things were for the ordinary citizen. Really?
     He dropped the shocker when he told us: “You are not responsible for this crisis.” I jumped for joy. Even the cats looked pleased.
     “We were not responsible.” I repeated it aloud. My wife raised an eye and asked, “Then why are we paying for it?”
     He continued about making decisions, cutting deficits and bridging gaps. Ourselves alone could do this by working together, cutting public spending and raising taxes. Much has been done: 20,000 jobs (when? where? what kind?) and training places (stacking shelves in Tesco?) have been created.
     The budget will be tough. We should have a lower deficit by 2015. And then things will get even better. There will be jobs. Work gives focus, hope, independence. He didn’t quite say, “Work sets you free.”
     What was unsaid was that this would be Blueshirt work: work or starve. Take what you get and consider yourself lucky. And no unions here.
     Income tax (which might hit the rich) will be untouched. Instead €1.6 billion will be got from indirect taxes (which will hit the poor).
     He mentioned decisions that we already knew about, like the Children’s Hospital, but no reprieves on ward or hospital closures or reductions in front-line staff. There was only the certainty of more cut-backs. No hope for the poor, the elderly, the sick. No reprieve for special-needs kids.
     He said that the indirect taxes will be hard for many people. The shadow of Patrick McGilligan crossed the screen.
     It’s all part of a four-year plan. And this is just the first instalment.
     Out in the well-heated, plush golf clubs, ranchers’ lounges and exclusive hotels there was no doubt many a sigh of satisfaction. Things will go on as normal.
     In ordinary homes, stressed-out citizens—young and old—will worry more about what the future holds, worry over education, work, children, health, heat, light, fuel, and bills. Ahead lies the promise of no comfort or dignity in old age.
     This is Enda’s and Pat’s country. No country for the poor, the old, the young, the disabled, or low-wage workers. A country with nothing on offer except bluster and betrayal.
     At this stage the cats were back asleep, and I felt stupid for looking for decency and hope from a Blueshirt lackey. There was more blather as he finished . . .
     And I thought, What a pity he wasn’t left in his owners’ corner.

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