SHAUN CONNOLLY: The Government is asleep but the nightmare is ours

AFTER giving God just two weeks’ notice that he was quitting his job, Pope Benedict then had the nerve to blame the ‘Big G’ for everything that went wrong during his papacy.

That’s gratitude for you.

Saying that “the Lord seemed to sleep” at times of crisis over the past eight years struck a very odd note from a man leading a Church that is meant to believe God’s divine hand is everywhere, at all times.

But, then, its been that kind of week. Take Pat Rabbitte, for example. While he is hardly in the same league as the Pope — although both believe themselves to be infallible — the Cabinet member also raised eyebrows with an unusual observation.

Showing a distinct lack of communication skills for a minister for communication, Mr Rabbitte used a book launch to make a rather off-key joke on the day the Croke Park 2 details emerged, details that will, once again, lash into the low-paid, while those at the top get a much easier ride.

“Another busy day diminishing the living standards of our people,” Mr Rabbitte mused to a rather mixed reception.

Mr Rabbitte clearly did not get as much laughter as he expected, which put him at odds with Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, who provoked hoots of derision across the Dáil chamber when he expressed outrage that a politician may have misled a tribunal of inquiry.

Oh, Mr Martin, pass the smelling salts! Could such a shocking thing ever really happen in dear old Ireland? And, thank heavens you are there as the moral backbone of the Dáil!

Mr Martin was referring to claims that disgraced deputy, Michael Lowry, may not have been as open as he could have been with Justice Moriarty’s probe.

Mr Martin revealed he had “a very, very uneasy feeling” about the whole thing and called on Enda Kenny to re-open the tribunal.

This would be the same Mr Martin who provoked a very, very queasy feeling in many people when he joined his then Cabinet buddies in fanning out across radio and TV studios, like sheep, to bleat their belief in whatever incredible — as in ‘just not credible’ — stream of consciousness Bertie Ahern had verbally vomited at the Mahon corruption probe that day.

Ahern was an unbelievable Taoiseach — as proved when the tribunal judges refused to believe his evidence.

Now exposed as a liar, Ahern has since gone to ground, unable to comprehend how the judges, whom he once branded “low-lifes”, could not believe his “explanations” for the dollar and sterling lodgements sloshing about the ‘23’ bank accounts he operated while minister for finance in the early 1990s.

Oh, you remember them, Mr Martin: ‘I won it on the gee gees’; ‘These men I didn’t really know made me take it in Manchester’; ‘It was from two spontaneous digouts a year, from two separate sets of friends who had no knowledge of each other, but wanted to give the finance minister enough for a deposit on a house.’

Bertie has yet to reveal where the money really did come from. What can he have to hide?

And, given all that, wouldn’t Mr Martin make better use of his time concentrating on the man he defended so slavishly for so long, before commenting on Lowry?

Mr Kenny had no intention of getting back into the Lowry affair — the deputy is, after all, a former Fine Gael minister who then traded his support for Mr Martin’s last FF government in a still-secret deal. Lowry’s seen a lot of things go down in his time. They all know that.

And, anyway, the Taoiseach was far too busy doing what his Coalition does best — terrorising the disabled.

Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results — and this Government’s treatment of the disabled would seem to bear that out.

The beginning of the Dáil term was marked by disabled people sleeping rough outside Government Buildings in protest at a nasty, needless attack on their quality of life, which saved the Exchequer very little in relative terms, but ripped a massive hole in the lives of those affected.

Health Minister and stroke specialist, Dr James Reilly, said he had learned his lesson and would treat disabled people with more respect and humanity, in future, but, instead, has treated them with contempt, yet again, over the incredibly cack-handed withdrawal of the mobility allowance.

There is no replacement scheme ready to go when the funds are cut off in June, as health, once again, proves itself to be the dysfunctional department of government, whose ‘experts’ cannot work out an alternative themselves and will farm the project out, while ministers insist they cannot even assure the people affected that they will be entitled to the same transport provisions when their payment stops in four months’ time.

The allowance only goes to 4,700 people, with the full grant standing at a hardly extravagant €208.50 per month.

The Government has known, since it came to power two years ago promising a “new people-centred politics”, that its age cut-off limit broke equality laws, yet, despite all the warning, they just ripped it away in what looked like a chaotic lash of financial vandalism.

Ministers even had the nerve to claim they “agonised” before plunging the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the State into uncertainly and fear.

The mother of teenage disability campaigner, Joanne O’Riordan, who was born with no limbs, put it into context.

“Agonise? We’re on call with the car for Joanne 24/7. I don’t go outside the door. I haven’t been outside the door since Joanne was born. I’m there for Joanne 24/7. I’m not complaining. I’d do it all over again, but don’t talk to me about agonising,” said Ann O’Riordan.

It was a rare expression of sanity in a week of nonsensical and offensive statements from the people in charge.

Mr Kenny and Dr Reilly should reflect that God is not the only one guilty of falling asleep at the wheel.


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