Loud clamour for change is falling on deaf ears


HEART BEAT:Leaders seem incapable of grasping what people are saying

“We only know the last sad squires ride slowly to the sea,

And a new people takes the land;

and still it is not we”

WRITING THIS in The Secret People, GK Chesterton could have been writing about our current predicament. Those who govern and possibly those who oppose them in the Dáil have lost contact and understanding of “we” the ordinary people.

Our sad squires, having spread doom and devastation all around, are hopefully on their way out. Their reluctant passing leaves major problems for the rest of us and time is not on our side. There is no easy formula to restore the fantasies of yesteryear. Horace wrote, “ Mitte sectari rosa quo locorum sera moretur” or “Stop looking backward for a late lingering rose”. Ahead of us now is a garden of weeds.

There are no easy solutions. The next 10 years are going to be very hard. We can get through if we address our problems with goodwill, honesty and integrity. The huge problems we face will not be solved by those who caused them. Nor will they be remedied by simply varying the pieces on the board. We need clear solutions and firm resolve; we need national inclusiveness.

In all my years I have never known such anger, frustration and even despair in the country, and yet the Government in their tattered shreds of authority seem incapable of grasping what the people are saying. At a time when we need leadership, intelligence and innovation, all we are offered is a spectrum of inertia, inability and incompetence.

The Ancient Regime of golden circles, power and privilege came to an end in France when the minor nobility, the professional classes, the merchants, the farmers and workers all simultaneously suffered a catastrophic fall in living standards. There was little appreciation of their anger by those in power and there wasn’t enough cake for them all to eat. Golden circles of power and privilege are inconsistent with a caring democracy and the catalyst for awakening is almost invariably over-taxation of the ordinary people to preserve the status quo of the privileged. This is not imagination. It is the sober lesson of history.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern took umbrage with hard and heated words from the rank-and-file gardaí. I can understand his point. Can he understand theirs? A recent survey in this newspaper indicates that far more people in this country trust the guards than the Government. Would it not be better to engage in meaningful discussion and explanation with them rather than adopt a position of affronted dignity?

His colleague, the Wrecking Ball of the health service, takes a hard line with the lowly paid workers of the Impact trade union. Nobody is to be paid, she avers, for not doing their work. Very commendable indeed, Minister, but where would that leave you and many in that useless leviathan of yours, the HSE? I say this again as I have repeatedly said before that we have only four million people and we have a service that is grossly overmanned and hidebound by administration, while the frontline is repeatedly reduced to levels that positively endangers patients (us).

You claim to be the only Minister for Health in the world to get blamed when doctors make mistakes. You still don’t get it, do you? The service for which you are responsible is grossly dysfunctional. There are not enough community services and primary care teams; there are not enough long-term care facilities. The childcare functions of the HSE have been shown to be unco-ordinated and failing, unto death, vulnerable children. The legacy of your tenure, the countless patients suffering on trolleys in AE departments and corridors, will haunt this service for years to come.

There are not enough beds. This is a fact and the root cause of the problems in the hospital system. Everybody concerned in delivering medical care knows this, except yourself and Prof Drumm. Your response has been further closures of wards, units and hospitals. You do not replace frontline nursing staff and we are told further cuts are on the way.

Now you talk of reviewing eligibility. Does that mean the removal of the fig leaf of “free” hospital service for all?