Yep, I’ve had a dose of it, which I’m bravely working through, sacrificing myself for the greater common weal. (in other words, I’m feeling really sorry for myself).
I wrote a story about Paul Gogarty’s interview with Hot Press this morning with all his colourful musings about the universe and meaning of life etc.
Gogarty is a curious guy. He is brutally honest but tends to be non-selective in the subjects he tackles. But that can tend to make him look silly or eccentric at times. The ‘playing dead’ scenario at a public meeting only brings one character to mind – and that’s Kevin the Teenager as played by Harry Enfield.
In fact, Leinster House is a bit like a boarding school for grown-ups. It has the full gamut of characters and personalities. You have the star pupils; the earnest ones; the sly and tricky; the clowns and the drongoes; the jokers, the head boys and head girls; and a couple of oddballs and outcasts. It doesn’t take too long to figure out who is who.
Besides my own personal misery, the other thing preoccupying me all week has been the €240,000 per annum deal pushed through for consultants. Martin Wall had the story for us yesterday. The consultants will work extra hours (up to 39 hours a week) and be available for call at weekends (on a rota so two to three hourse of actual consultant presence is provided on Saturday and Sundays) in return for pay rises of between €50,000 to €60,000 in some cases. There will also be more restrictions on private work (they will have to see four public patients for every private patient seen in a public hospital).
The devil, as Martin Wall explained to me today, will be in the detail. The HSE say there will be more robust mechanisms to police the new arrangements.
The political difficulty will be in its context. It comes at a time when health budgets are being slashed and other health personnel are having huge lumps taken out of their incomes. Other unions will see this for what it is. It’s a pay rise. Are the extra duties worth 50 or 60 grand? And why should one of the most-cosseted groups in Irish society get another slice of the cake while everbody else is on rations of thin gruel?
Eamon Gilmore raised the issue during Leaders Questions this morning but as part of a much wider question. Brian Cowen, in his response, did not reply to the specific point made.
I’m surprised that this issue has not had more traction. Does it mean that everybody is okay with it?