I’m sure we think we are not, but the time has come when we must ask ourselves why do we continue to tolerate, even accept, the behaviour of our politicians and their fellow travellers at the top of the public sector, industry and the professions.
Our Government, elected by the sovereign will of the people to act on behalf of all of the citizens of this country, is not doing what we elected them to do — what they said they would do when they sought our vote just over 12 short months ago. If a week is a long time in politics, 12 months is an eternity.
Week after week, we read of yet more broken commitments. Week after week, we read of our Government’s continuing efforts to supposedly rescue our economy by, in reality, destroying it with its sole focus on imposing unrelenting austerity and increased taxation on the wage earners of the country.
Each week, we read of those who seem to be immune from the impact of these austerity measures, which continue to impact most savagely on those most vulnerable.
Each week we read of other cynical ways that the Government has attacked most cynically the supports for the weakest and the ill.
Therefore, last week it was encouraging to see the report of the Union of Students in Ireland actually questioning the Croke Park Agreement.
Lest you have forgotten, the Croke Park Agreement was entered into almost three years ago by the previous government, ostensibly to minimise industrial unrest but which had the effect of protecting thevery many who enjoy highly-paid public sector salaries and conditions from the full impact of the economic crisis.
This agreement was deemed to be sacrosanct and remains the major elephant in the room.
Well the USI, traditionally a supporter of anything left wing, has broken the silence, and more power to its members for doing so. Some body or organisation which just might be listened to has finally come out and said the emperor is actually wearing no clothes when it called for the renegotiation of the Croke Park Agreement. Sure, they probably did so because of the impact that current Government austerity and general economic policies are having on its student members, but so what?
The students have realised that the Croke Park Agreement is actually worsening an already difficult position. Third-level colleges are being starved of funds while exorbitant salaries are being paid to many of the senior faculty, as well as to many down the food chain, and where restrictive practices abound taking by far the lion’s share of available funds.
They realise our graduates are not quite as marketable as they used to be in a world where competition grows exponentially for the few jobs that do exist.
More importantly, they realise that mediocrity reigns supreme at the top of politics, public sector, professions and industry, where what is important is who you know rather than what you know.
The Moriarty Report, the Mahon Report, et al, all point to a society that accepts low standards in high places. Indeed, they point to a society that associates proudly with those who have contributed to the low standards that appear to be acceptable.
Perhaps it’s just as well that it was the students who came out? After all, these are the folk who will have to repair all of the damage done by the current managers of this economy — that is, of course, assuming that they have not all emigrated in disgust at what our once proud nation has become.