When chips are down politicians deliver

When chips are down politicians deliver

If you want an insight into the prevailing political culture in this country, where better to look than at allocation of sports grants.

Clubs and associations around the country rely on the capital sports grants annually allocated by the government.

The money supplements the time donated by thousands of volunteers, who contribute to enhancing their communities.

For politicians, the grants are an opportunity to present themselves as“delivering”. And it’s not about actually delivering anything, but giving the impression of doing so.

Juno McEnroe’s report in this newspaper on Thursday contained jaw-dropping facts around the politics of the capital sports grants.

But jaws remain firmly in place because we have come to expect nothing better from those who are elected to serve.

Sport Minister Shane Ross, posted a selfie on Twitter of himself buying a bag of chips at the Aviva during the Ireland-Denmark match. Crucial evidence he can get down and break bread with the proletariat as well as the next minister.
Sport Minister Shane Ross, posted a selfie on Twitter of himself buying a bag of chips at the Aviva during the Ireland-Denmark match. Crucial evidence he can get down and break bread with the proletariat as well as the next minister.

Eight days ago, the details were released of the allocation of €37m to 994 clubs in 37 sports across the country.Delivering this news to a local club is considered a coup.

He or she who is first to bear the good tidings tends to get the kudos. It doesn’t matter that the local TD — we’ll call him Johnny Cash — had nothing to do with the allocation.

All that matters is the perception. Have you heard? We got the grant. Johnny Cash was onto me. Spread the word.

As the word takes flight, it is inevitable that Johnny Cash’s name becomes associated with the grant. Does this translate into votes at the next election?

In all likelihood yes, but it is impossible to quantify. The nature of politics is such that it is inevitable that the real significance of being the harbinger of good news is entirely inflated among the political class.

For them, this is bread and butter stuff.

McEnroe reported that Fine Gael sources said junior minister Patrick O’Donovan went “ballistic” when he discovered that his constituency and party colleague Tom Neville had already informed clubs in Limerick about their good news.

Sources in government claim that the Sports Minister Shane Ross contacted Neville with the details ahead of the public announcement. Mr Neville told Juno McEnroe he could “not remember” who contacted him.

Get that. Mr Neville received details that were hugely advantageous to him, giving him a jump on his colleague who is actually a minister, and he can’t remember who delivered this manna.

By coincidence, Mr Ross was deeply unhappy with Patrick Donovan releasing details a few months ago about the Adare bypass before it was officially sanctioned. McEnroe quoted one Fine Gael figure.

“Ross was f...ing livid with him. This is Ross getting his own back.”

Well, sure what else would he be doing but settling scores with the dissemination of information he possesses under the auspices of his ministerial brief.

These people are adults. Some of them possess above-average intelligence.

They are elected to serve. And this is what they spend a share of their time obsessing on.

Another constituency squabble concerned Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton, who was reportedly very put out that Independent Noel Grealish was given a jump on delivering the good news in the Galway West constituency.

Mr Grealish has recently been in the headlines over his mission to find Nigerian fraudsters and immigrant spongers under every bed in the country.

He made derogatory remarks about immigrants, blowing not so much a dog whistle as a sonorous fog horn.

The Taoiseach and other senior government figures disassociated themselves from his comments. Yet because Grealish lends his support to the Government, he gets special access to announce the delivery of goodies.

Protecting vulnerable minorities and maintaining standards of basic decency are all very well, but Mr Grealish must be kept happy.

On Wednesday, The Irish Times reported that there were ructions within the Independent Alliance, which includes Mr Ross, over the allocation of the grants.

Junior minister John Halligan was apparently hopping that his Waterford constituency got “f-all”. Again, there is history here. The newspaper reported:

It is the latest spat to erupt in the Alliance and comes just weeks after previous tensions over the budget, when members accused each other of taking credit for policies pursued by their colleagues.

Here it should be pointed out that even the members of the Independent Alliance are adults. Some among them have above average intelligence. They are elected to serve.

Back among the responsible Blueshirts, the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty expressed her displeasure to Juno McEnroe over the criteria used to award the grants.

Ms Doherty felt her Meath East constituency was hard done by. Consequently, she questioned the consideration of social disadvantage as one criteria in determining where the money should go.

“You don’t exclude people who pay taxes as there is a need to look after the disadvantaged,” she said. Excuse me? The minister for social protection appears to be inferring that ‘the disadvantaged’ are not taxpayers.

Surely we have had enough insults hurled in recent weeks at those who exist at the furthest reaches from the centres of power.

Ms Doherty may, like her colleague Tom Neville, have a poor memory when it comes to sports grants, but just last year disadvantage was the central theme of the biggest controversy about the grants.

Way back then, Mr Ross took to Twitter with the proud announcement that he was “delighted to confirm that @wesleycollege has been granted €150,000 as part of the Sports Capital Programme”.

A storm erupted that an application by a private fee-paying school, which already had excellent sporting facilities, got a grant ahead of 30 public schools, some of which had facilities in a decrepit condition.

It subsequently turned out that Wesley had threatened legal action after initially failing in its application. Would it that disadvantaged areas had such access to friendly barristers in order to the wave the law around like a threat.

It has always been thus. But Mr Ross brings his own unique political style to these matters, disseminating privileged information as he sees fit to allegedly settle scores and expressing himself delighted that his government is doing what it can to increase inequality.

However, anybody who suggests that Mr Ross is viewing the world from an Ivory Tower should be forced to eat their words. Just last Monday, the minister posted a selfie on Twitter of himself buying a bag of chips at the Aviva Stadium during the Ireland-Denmark march.

This was crucial evidence that he can get down and break bread with the proletariat as well as the next minister.

The virulent form of populism that is sweeping across the world at the moment is driven by a variety of factors.

One is a deep well of cynicism about politics-as-usual, the perception that they’re all in it for themselves, that they are increasingly removed from the lives of so-called ordinary people.

Obviously some of our politicians don’t pay any attention to that global stuff. They know how to butter their bread. They know what matters. They know how to fool most of the people most of the time. They know how to deliver.

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