How NOT To Run A Country – Dedicated to Fianna Fail

I’d like to preface this particular blog entry by making a couple of things obvious, as clearly this is going to be quite harsh. Firstly this is not a criticism of the Irish people in general, just the government. I highly doubt that any of what the current Irish government has done was a part of the manifesto that got them elected, therefore even those who voted for them cannot be held responsible. I find the Irish and living in Ireland to be a great experience, despite initial misgivings, and I don’t doubt for one second (in fact I’d go so far as to say I’m utterly certain) that the current government won’t be re-elected come the New Year. I’d also like to make it clear that I don’t claim to be an expert, and I’d love to hear that any of the below is wrong. Please, correct me, it will give me one less thing to feel aggrieved about. I’ve followed what’s happened over the past couple of years (and yes, I put this government’s problems down as starting well before the current economic issues), and this is very much just a personal take on things.

Fianna Fail, sadly I don’t get a vote in Ireland, so I won’t be part of your impending demise. Instead, I’ve decided to list your (utterly ridiculous) mistakes as I see them. This one, then, is dedicated to the worst political party I’ve ever come across. Here’s how to (nearly) destroy a country:

Defy Democracy – The constitution requires you have an election on whether or not certain EU treaties are accepted. The people reject these treaties. You blame the form of the question, write a slightly different one, and hold another vote (I’m referring, of course, to the ludicrously undemocratic Lisbon and Nice treaty referendums). Anyone willing to bet that the ‘question’ would have been just fine if the ‘right’ result had come out the first time? When it comes to democracy, this is on a par with the American’s ‘election’ of Bush.

Discourage the unemployed from working – I’ve heard a few complaints over the level of social welfare in Ireland, both in terms of it being too high and too low. Let me do a little calculation on this (I realize this is basic, but the social welfare figures I’m giving are at the low end, as other benefits are also offered):

Unemployed person living in Dublin: receives 196 Euro (perhaps a little less as of this week). Pays no tax. Gets free accommodation under the housing allowance. = 196 Euro ‘spending’ money per week.

Minimum wage employee in Dublin: receives 7.65 per hour x 37.5 hours = around 286 Euro. Pays tax and income levy (let’s be generous and guess at just 30 Euro). Pays for their house. Let’s assume the same cost as the Dublin housing allowance – around 90 Euro a week = 166 Euro ‘spending’ money per week.

What utter tosh. Why would anyone go to work all week for 30 Euro less in their pocket? Multiply this up, as well, and the ‘real world’ benefit of going to work for one Euro more than minimum wage per hour is 8 Euro a week. Two Euros more = 45 Euros a week. I’d argue that for a noticeable difference in lifestyle, the Irish government has set an effective minimum wage of 10.65. Why would anyone work for what’s an effective difference of less than two Euro an hour?

Also on the subject of welfare, Irish welfare payments are very nearly triple those in the UK. Ireland is more expensive, but a multiple of three? Don’t make me laugh. I realize there is a need for welfare, and that a lot of people on welfare at the moment are victims of the economic crisis. Equally, though, as a taxpayer, I can confidently say that welfare money is being spent on far more than bare essentials, for the simple reason that people get by on so much less in the UK (London, which is highly expensive, included).

Buy that argument or not, though, the fact remains: you cannot have a system where the minimum wage is less, or even similar to the welfare payment, or people won’t work. It’s as simple as that (this, of course, is why you never see Irish nationals working in Dublin’s fast food restaurants).

Make snap judgment on the entire nation’s lifestyle – yes, sensible of you as a government to come out and tell us all that we’ve been ‘partying’ through the good times and now we have to pay. Nothing to do with the lack of bank regulations, then, or a global recession causing the problems, and yes, we’ve all been rolling in it (facepalm). I’m sure a few around you, Mr. Cowen have been partying, but my parties in Ireland have been strictly budget house parties and working at gigs. You, on the other hand, don’t seem to have stopped even after bringing down the country around you.

Make everyone suffer except yourselves – when it comes to reducing salaries for public sector workers, refuse to look at parliament. After all, those most responsible for this mess shouldn’t have to suffer a salary cut. And while you’re at it make sure those incompetent bankers get a nice big bonus. Don’t reduce TDs salaries, or reduce the massively over-inflated number of representatives that sit in the Dail. After all, Ireland clearly needs to be represented far more than other countries, and you’ve worked so hard for your money…

Lie to everyone’s faces – The IMF aren’t coming. The IMF aren’t coming. The IMF aren’t coming. Oh look, they’re here. How did that happen. How stupid do you think we are?

Repeat your mistakes – Last year: massive snowfall, not enough salt, country stuffed for a week or two. This week: ditto. Last year: dumb householders run their taps all night to avoid freezing. Don’t educate them, and delay the introduction of massively overdue water fees (I can’t think of a single other country that doesn’t charge for water) until after they’ve recreated the problem to the point where water has to be turned off 12 hours a day in a major European capital. That’s foresight, for you.

Interview drunk – In the middle of one of the biggest problems on record, put the country’s leader on national radio in a clearly inebriated state, to answer questions appallingly badly.

Blame everything on the recession – Sure, the recession did a whole lot of damage. What the recession did not do, though, was allow the economy to reach a huge deficit due to poor tax management, over reliance on property bubble fees and social welfare being far too high. Of the 85 billion requested from the IMF, only 30 billion is earmarked for the banks. In my books, that makes the government responsible for the other 55 billion.

Take no personal responsibility – despite every single piece of evidence to contrary, stand in the corner with your fingers in your ears, refusing to answer questions directly, and effectively repeating endlessly ‘it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me’. Yes, we believe you, Mr. Cowen, none of the above is at all you or your party’s fault.

Pay the highest salaries in the world to public employees – The leader of Ireland is paid substantially more than the leader of the USA, the UK, or any other country I’ve yet come across as an official salary. Ireland has the highest average salaries for members of parliament, water board officials, electricity officials and social services, by some distance. Why?

Introduce Laws That Belong in the 18th Century – A blasphemy law? Really? Do we not live in a society that is supposed to accept different points of view without prejudice? Aside from anything else, this means that when Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip sang ‘letter from God‘ on their visit to Ireland, they were technically breaking the law. How ridiculous is that!

Give away the country’s natural resources – I’m reliable informed that the value of the oil taken from Irish waters by Shell over the last few years is more than enough to pay for this recession in its entirity, and more. Yet the government give it away for free. This could quite possibly be first on the list… an easy solution, missed. I’m not entirely sure if this government or a past one is responsible, but wow… just wow.

I’m going to make this clear again before I finish: this is not a critique of the Irish people, but the utter fools that have been elected to govern them. It’s probably unrealistic, but as I don’t have the chance to have my say on these con artists during the election, I would absolutely love it if they somehow got hold of this, and realized just what I (and I dare say most of the country) think of them.

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I expect Ireland’s population to drop by 10% over the next couple of years with emigration. I’m almost certain I will be among them. Those who leave will mostly be employed taxpayers who don’t want to pay through the nose to clear up someone else’s mess. I hope the awful social welfare situation doesn’t prevent others from taking our place, as if it does, the money needed from each individual in Ireland in order to get out of this mess is incredible. Reasonable estimates are apparently 40,000 Euro per person, though of course that’s including all taxes – commercial, VAT etc, not just tax on salaries. Not being Irish, if there’s even a single digit precentage of that creeping into my income I’ll be off. I doubt the locals will stand for too much more. Australia, anyone?

Incompetent beyond belief. I needed to get that off my chest!

J x

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