Taking a detached attitude to coming home for Christmas
With O’Mahony fondly recalling being “besotted” with Margaret, it was up to Dunne to move the story into more emotive territory. “So you were living the life, with four beautiful children. When did dark days arrive?”
As he recounted how he had to give up work after his wife was struck down with postpolio syndrome, O’Mahony refused to sound a bleak note beyond noting that being with someone 24 hours a day “can cause friction”.
Even when the conversation inevitably turned to the €325 reduction in the homecare respite allowance, O’Mahony did not sound bitter, though his understated observations served as an indictment of the measure. The allowance was not spent on taking a rejuvenating break from his duties – carers, he noted, “don’t look after themselves” – but rather helped with the “balancing act” of paying utility bills.
“It’s frustrating to hear a Government Minister say that it’s a modest cut,” O’Mahony said. “It may be loose change for someone with his pay and benefits, but not to someone on the income we’re on, through no fault of our own.”
The real effect of his story was to highlight how mean-spirited the cut was, targeting people who are in no position to fight back.
This point was also articulated by Tom Clonan on Monday’s Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). Clonan was talking to Joe Duffy about his appearance on the previous weekend’s Documentary on One: Superdog (RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday), which chronicled how a helper dog transformed the life of his 10-year-old son, Eoghan, who is confined to wheelchair by a rare neuro-muscular disease.
The documentary had been an uplifting if unsentimental affair, narrated by Eoghan’s sparky eight-year-old sister, but the tone on Liveline was less optimistic. Asked about the homecare cut, Clonan was firm in his response: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence they’re targeting people who are the most vulnerable in society. They know it’s difficult for us to protest. It’s difficult to get organised – we’re so busy chasing services.”
Clonan never raised his voice, but he was palpably angry at a cut that was antithetical to the Ireland he and his son experienced every day. “Irish people are so good,” he said. “They embarrass you with what they want to give you.”
Not a complaint many have about the current Government.
Moment of the week ’Tisn’t the season
Valerie Cox’s report for Today With Pat Kenny (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) on the work of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Cork was a bracing reminder of the challenges that too many people face at Christmas. One woman’s cri de coeur caught the ear. “How could it be a Christmas,” she asked in a suitably robust Leeside lilt, “with the Budget?”