FINE Gael and Labour are dingers at apologies, even if the contrite heart that beats within their eminent chests has more in common with that of a political plonker than a reformed sinner.
You see, our politicos never accept responsibility for their misdeeds and absolutely never promise restitution for the damage they’ve done – which is not what sincere repentance is all about. Instead, our transgressing leaders throw the blame on other people! The recent ‘apology’ by Labour mini-minister Aodhán O Ríordáin is a case in point.
In a burst of bizarre handwringing, he prominently displayed on his trendy cloth cap the moral anguish he felt at mistakes the government had made. And then, amazingly, he apologised on behalf of Fine Gael, but not for anything his lot had done!
Claiming the Blueshirts had let down its side of the Coalition agreement, he made clear that no Labour minister could be held responsible for government ineptitude – which, for monstrous exaggeration, had the country in stitches.
Another public representative, Fine Gael’s chief whip, Paul Kehoe, coyly admitted the government had made a string of ‘stupid mistakes in 2014’ – one of which was its handling of Irish Water. He then tried to pin the blame on Irish Water management.
Taoiseach Kenny, of course, is the penitential sinner par excellence and regularly pretends to seek absolution for his government’s political imperfections, while making sure no blame falls on his head. He’s a dab hand at insinuating the entire Fine Gael party is responsible.
In relation to the controversies that have terminally damaged his government – the Irish Water debacle and the medical cards issue – he suggests rather cunningly that his ministers ought to have engaged more with people ‘on the ground’. His latest instruction is for Fine Gael to be more of an ‘open party’ whose priority should be ‘the concerns and anxieties of people’.
A hair-splitting piece of Jesuitical casuistry, indeed, considering that a few weeks ago over 70,000 people marched to his place of work to tell him of their worries, only to be met by indifference, contempt, snarling dogs and edgy riot police!
His butty, Brian Hayes, MEP, waved away all the horrors of FG-Labour misgovernment with the trite, encompassing explanation that 2014 was the Coalition’s ‘annus horribilis,’ a definition that wasn’t even his own work. At least, when the Queen of England coined the phrase, it made sense and helped illustrate the tribulations that marked the 40th anniversary of her accession to the throne.
The question is, do those guys really think their drivel cuts ice with the punters? After all, the country elected FG and Labour to govern in an intelligent manner, not to make ‘stupid mistakes’ that range from Irish Water, to the whistleblower affair, the GSOC bugging incident, Shatter, medical cards, property tax, and the Cronygate controversy surrounding the nomination of FG’s John McNulty to the Senate.
Worst crisis ever
If apologising for putting their foot in things is all the Coalition can do, then they should get off the pot, irrespective of their gonzo-like declarations of penitence.
But, perhaps, the politico to take the biscuit for empty apologies is the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Health Department (‘they seek him here, they seek him there’), Vrad the Impaler.
All last week Varadkar profusely apologised to the Irish nation for the worst overcrowding crisis in hospital emergency departments since the foundation of the State. What’s more, he even cut short his winter hols in Miami to tell patients and their families how enormously sorry he was and how much he wanted to apologise for the unprecedented events: 601 patients dumped on trolleys in Accident and Emergency corridors, all unable to get beds and prompt medical treatment.
Upbeat and refreshed after his pleasurable stint on the beach, Vrad cheerily announced that it was time for ‘all hands on deck to tackle the problem’ and that the crisis was nothing more than ‘an acute exacerbation of a chronic issue’ – certainly not a national emergency and nothing really to be worried about, now that he was back and dealing with the problem.
At the same time, he rather nonchalantly admitted it was ‘definitely unsafe’ to be stretched out on a trolley for more than nine hours, but heck, he was doing his best.
Sinn Féin rightly accused him of abandoning his responsibilities and of exhibiting an appalling lack of leadership. They told him that doctors warned months ago that by early January hospitals wouldn’t be able to cope with huge numbers of sick people stashed in corridors.
Dave Hughes, deputy general secretary of the Irish Nurse and Midwives Organisation, reminded Varadkar that excessive overcrowding was inevitable after five years of cutbacks. Congestion had been happening throughout the summer and, he said, hospitals this winter were under pressure even before the cold spell began.
He argued that the closure of around 2,000 hospital beds was the point at issue. The crisis was aggravated by the Coalition decision to shut down smaller hospitals, a move that in turn put general hospitals under great pressure, particularly when elderly patients did not require a high level of medical intervention but rather alternative nursing home care.
In other words, patients were being sent to accident and emergency departments when they could be dealt with elsewhere, and that a harassed medical staff had to deal with a majority of cases that were not emergencies.
To make matters worse, underfunding of the Fair Deal scheme contributed to the chaos. The Fair Deal scheme enables the HSE to collect money from the patient’s estate after their death, thus taking the pressure off those unable to pay upfront.
However, bureaucracy, a lengthy and complicated application process and government bungling had mangled any speedy implementation of the scheme.
Consequently elderly persons remained unnecessarily in acute general hospital beds despite the fact that more than 1,200 empty beds nationwide were available in private and voluntary nursing homes.
Like a headless chicken
Needless to say, Varadkar accepted no blame (or shame) for the entirely predictable mess, preferring to offer hypocritical apologies for the worsening situation in the A&E departments.
The impression he gave was that of a headless chicken, running around in circles with seemingly no aim or purpose, unsure of what to do, ineffective and desperately relying on a ‘taskforce’ that was beset with controversy even before commencing its deliberations.
Curiously no one has a clue as to who actually sits on the taskforce, or what are its terms of reference. Interesting too, that last week Dr Tony O’Connell, the chairman of the mysterious body, packed up and went home to Australia.
But, have no doubt that profuse apologies inevitably will come down the line for that particular debacle! Apologies, it seems, are part and parcel of this incompetent government’s DNA!