The once-great, or at least that’s how they were imagined, cornerstones of society have squandered their moral authority as their self-serving instincts and corruption were revealed to a population no longer prepared to be deferential or patronised. We once respected a sovereign government and a powerful political class, we once respected an unchallengeable church, all-powerful banks and public sector unions but how things have changed.
Just this week the Roscommon Abuse Report exposed an unacceptable litany of official failure. It showed how children were abandoned to decades of torture because those employed by the State to protect them did not do their job. What makes this worse is that we all know there will be no real consequences for anyone other than the abused children and their parents.
It highlighted again the need for profound and urgent reform of our public sector structures and culture. There was another indication of this pressing need this week when frighteningly high dropout rates from third level courses were reported.
This society-defining reform was first paid for a decade ago and now the project has been shunted under the umbrella of the Croke Park deal. As negotiations – no pay cuts or forced redundancies mind – proceed the Civil Public and Services Union have declared that they oppose moves to end arrangements whereby their members were given half an hour a week to cash pay cheques. The CPSU oppose this reform because, they say secretary generals and assistant secretaries general had not volunteered to give up privilege days and because there is no proposal under Croke Park to address the extraordinary growth of management grades in the civil service over the past decade.
These arrangements will probably be dealt with in due course but are we to accept that nothing can be agreed on Croke Park until everything is agreed? That delay cannot be afforded.
If this CPSU response is the kind of insanity we can expect to relatively minor change then there is really little hope for this country.
This kind of obstructionism, this absolute denial of our reality, is offensive to anyone who has lost their job or is struggling to hold on to one. No amount of blather about protecting low-paid workers will disguise this poisonous showboating for the lunacy it is.
This has nothing to do with trade unionism or workers’ rights to protect their interests. This is about recognising the changes we must all make to save this country. The CPSU must get real and quickly. Ireland cannot afford this kind of insanity anymore.