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Latest twist in State soap opera

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

SO Sergeant Maurice McCabe and a couple of commissioners have been despatched off to the dungeons of Dublin Castle where lawyers can grow fat, eat foie gras for lunch, and whisper to lascivious hacks who lurk in shadowy corridors. Have a sense of déjà vu? Just think Mahon and Moriarty. Think about how Michael Lowry can still top the poll in Tipperary North. Think about how billionaire Denis O’Brien can have so many interests in the national media.
It has been another of those weeks in the colosseum of Dáil Éireann. As the Garda whistleblower exited stage left, a girl called Grace was wheeled in to be picked over and used as fodder in the blood-sport of politics. She was was abandoned by the State in a foster home for 20 years where she was sexually abused despite repeated allegations about the home’s unsuitability. The health officials involved in the Grace case will be protected by the State though, which is only fair until they receive due process. They will be allowed to remain working in the HSE and Tusla until the proposed new formal investigation into the case is finished. Shame the profoundly disabled young girl was not offered the same courtesy. Isn’t it a bit late in the day for the the HSE to apologise for missing four chances over a decade to remove Grace, including the travesty of sending her back to the foster home after she was hospitalised with bruising on her breasts and thighs? Given the protracted timeline during which this scandal was allowed to fester, isn’t the wringing of hands in the Dáil chamber a little hypocritical in light of other promises after other reports of State and Church abuse came into the public domain?  

Daily drama
WHO needs to go to the Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar or the Town Hall Theatre in Westport, when we have the soap-opera in the Dáil to watch? Even when the narrative is dripping with tragedy it can be used as a political football  If the issues were not so serious, it would be hilarious. The daily drama is regularly more slapstick comedy than a constructive debate about the affairs of our country. If it isn’t that, it is party-political faux-outrage. It would make more sense to be watching Oliver Callan or Mario Rosenstock.    
Meanwhile, in the real world, a new report has confirmed that Ireland has 5,000 new millionaires. Indeed, the Wealth Report 2017 by estate agents Knight Frank reveals there will be 24,900 more Irish millionaires by 2026. Interestingly, it also reveals that the number of multi-millionaires (worth over $10 million) increased by 160 to 2,760 while 890 Irish people are now categorised as being in the ‘ultra-high net worth’.

Chasmic inequality
OVER on the other side of the block, however, official figures show that the number of homeless people in Ireland (availing of emergency accommodation at Christmas) was some 7,148, with 2,500 of these children.  
This stark contrast in the chasmic inequality in our society is further highlighted by the fact that citizens should feel grateful for a €5 increase in their social welfare payments in March. Ah! Yes, that will definitely help towards the mortgage for a home.
It is over seven months now since Minister Simon Coveney launched the ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ action plan. At the time he said there would be some 14,000 houses completed in 2016; that was 9,000 less than the ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) recommended.
To be fair to Coveney he does seem to have worked very hard on his housing brief and has promised 21,000 social housing units in 2017, with Government funding increasing from €800 million to €1.2 billion this year.
The minister has also conceded that Ireland was now ‘a more socially divided place’ than he could ever remember.
In a progressive commitment, he said this social division could be somewhat resolved through ‘the creation of mixed-tenure communities that included private, social and affordable housing’. Bring it on Simon, and please do not get distracted by the lure of hollow promises peddled out during party-political campaigns. We are  all sick and tired of the shoddy soap-opera.

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