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Ireland is a bitterly divided country

June 8th, 2011

The rich get richer and the poor get – laid off, according to the Depression-era song ‘Ain’t We Got Fun’.

And in modern-Depression-era Ireland, the same thing seems to be happening. As shops close, businesses fail and dole queues lengthen (CSO figures), news comes of a €200 million pay-out to Anglo-Irish Bank bondholders. And not for the first time.

What about all that electioneering rhetoric about burning the bond-holders, renegotiating the interest rate on Ireland’s bailout debt, and giving a fairer deal for all the people?

Sean Fleming, of the discredited Fianna Fail party, said it straight on RTE television today: “that was an election lie”.

Someone still has money. Someone is spending €2 million a week at Ikea, or Brown Thomas. Maybe they are the judges who earn around €170,000 a year, or are on a similar pension. Their pay, we are told, can’t be changed because milords have constitutional protection, and it would need a referendum. This ‘proposed’ referendum which Fine Gael once advocated seems to have floated off into the ether to allow for more urgent measures like cutting the Sunday pay of bar workers and cleaners.

On a lower level, animosity between public and civil servants and their countrymen in the private sector simmers. Increments continue to be paid, often to workers whose main achievement is continuing to present in the office every day. The heads of semi-states such as the ESB and Dublin Airports Authority continue to enjoy enormous salaries, by European and world standards. The government can’t do anything about that, it seems, apart from occasionally the sight of Enda Kenny sticking out his noble chin and going ‘”Grrrr”.

Now that we have hit the mid-point of 2011, it has become feasible, among our leaders, to bat the problems of crushing debt and bankruptcy onto 2013. Sure we are funded for a year or so. We can still eke out pay for nurses and gards and other essential services, including all those bold ministers and TDs on their still very comfortable compensation.

The haves will wave their hands around and look serious. The have-nots will see their homes repossessed, their children leave the country (maybe they’ll go too professionals’ survey), will buy less food.

Meanwhile, as people give out to likeminded associates in a plethora of meetings and new organizations, there is nothing like the large-scale demonstration of public fury in Spain, and earlier in Greece.

While people on the receiving end of the Irish Financial Disaster play the low profile, the government will just continue on with business as usual, even as the country splits around it.

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