A cross-party betrayal of innocence

De Facto

ON THEIR WATCH  Governing politicians have been complicit in deceiving and defrauding vulnerable people in nursing homes and people with disabilities.

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

It is deeply troubling that successive governments have been involved in deception. There is no other word for it. Politicians from all the major parties in government have been complicit in deceiving and defrauding vulnerable people in nursing homes and people with disabilities.
Why would the State deliberately deny refunds to people who were illegally charged nursing home fees? And people on disability payments were also targeted. Conor Ryan from RTÉ Investigates: “The State denied up to 12,000 vulnerable people their disability allowance payments… And if those vulnerable citizens sued the State for the payments, the legal advice was that their cases were likely to succeed.
“A secret memo prepared for the Cabinet in 2009 [when Brian Cowen was taoiseach of a  coalition government made up of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats] reveals that the State was told it could be facing up to €700 million in claims for maintenance payments from people with disabilities. The memo … also advised the State against conducting a trawl of HSE records to determine how many people were affected.
“It said that such an exercise would likely garner media attention and ‘could generate further claims which otherwise would not have been made’.
“Regulations were introduced in the 1980s to stop the payment of maintenance allowances to those in residential care.”
This cover-up involves the great and the good over many years. Watch how the story unravels… the dumbing down, the gentle denials, the dragging out so that it loses its power and (hopefully) will fade out or be kicked down the road so that it loses all lustre.
And they want the Attorney General to investigate the nursing homes fiasco. He’s part of government! Why would a body investigate itself? How is that acceptable?
There are two serious issues here. Firstly, the betrayal of people to whom the State has a duty of care. This is a serious breach of trust and responsibility. Secondly, that successive cross-party governments would try to keep secret the details of this cover-up.
It beggars belief that those in positions of power, elected to serve the people, could be so cold and calculating in their dealings with the most vulnerable people in our society. What is it that gets into politicians that they lose sight of where they came from, who elected them and why they were elected? It is as if they enter a twilight zone of entitlement.
They overpay themselves with taxpayers’ money, have surreal expenses (with unvouched expenses higher than social welfare payments) and even get paid to turn up to work. The betrayal list includes: taxpayer-funded bank bailout; an ‘immoral house stealth tax’ (said Fine Gael in opposition yet introduced by them in government); pension-qualifying payments raised from ten to 40 years (but not for politicians!); the dissolution of local councils, (reducing local democracy); attempts to introduce a water tax (we got the Irish Water quango).
The political ethics watchdog, Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), cannot launch its own investigation or sanction people who breach legislation. And it’s the Government that appoints people to SIPO! It’s more of this ‘investigating yourself’ syndrome.
Peter Tyndall, former SIPO member (2013-2021), told RTÉ that there is no political will to bring in stronger ethics legislation. ‘Completely dysfunctional’ and ‘designed to be cumbersome’ is how he described SIPO – adding that it needs to be replaced as a matter of urgency. “Any ethics body or individual should be separate from the government which it has to hold to account.”
Why is it that the good work that’s done (Ukrainian refugees) often appears to be motivated by a government more intent on ingratiating itself to Brussels or the US rather than just doing what is the right thing? Kowtowing to the EU seems to be an art form among many Irish politicians. Why not do things for the right reason, which includes resolving anomalies affecting Irish people?        
The straight talkers in each political party, like Michael Ring, Dara Calleary and Éamon Ó Cuív, need to be heard. Respective leaders need to hear the sense of outrage over continuing political betrayals.
Is it any wonder cross-party politics has been so ‘successful’ in this country? Back scratching at its best, betrayal of the people at its worst. And all the while preventing Sinn Féin from finding out if (or when) in government.