WHAT a marvellous little country we have and, gosh, how remarkable are our politicians, particularly those of the Blueshirt persuasion who possess such cool indifference, nonchalance and unconcern when it comes to spending our money.
Rapidly becoming the prodigal sons of modern Ireland, Vlad and his government have been so extravagantly ‘flaithiúil’ regarding the construction of Dublin Children’s Hospital that they are unable to tell us what the final cost will be, even though expenditure has soared from €938m to more than €1.4 billion. In fact it has been estimated that the closing bill will come in at something between €1.7bn and €2 billion.
No one knows with certainty the final price. And, it seems, Vlad’s government couldn’t care less, least of all his Minister for Health, Mr Harris.
So far, Harris has been remarkably successful in deflecting criticism of his incompetence. Indeed, he dismisses the financial debacle with all the disinterestedness of a Saudi oil prince. Perhaps he was influenced by the Arab saying that ‘money kept longer than three days stinks’?
Of course, the nightmarish overrun is small beer compared to Fianna Fail’s infamous 2008 banking bailout. That amounted to €64 billion, for which our children and our children’s children will be paying for decades to come.
Curiously, recent history also tells us that the hospital’s costs and the banking collapse of some years ago have something in common. It’s this: as far as our recklessly extravagant politicos and their cronies in the private sector are concerned, words such as extravagant, lavish, wasteful and profligate have no conventionally-accepted meaning. Absolutely none! They’re merely nonsense words.
Nor do expressions, such as ‘private sector incompetence’ and ‘the collapse of confidence in a useless government’ cut much ice with the business elite which, not surprisingly, is very happy with the current government.
Indeed the most astonishing aspect of the controversy is the government’s determination that no one should be blamed for the National Children’s Hospital cost-debacle. According to Vlad, the bruahaha fell into the category of ‘bad press controversies’ that always erupted whenever state infrastructural projects were launched.
And Vlad’s suggestion in the Indo-Sindo is not without significance. He said that the hospital would be an asset to Dublin for the next 200 years – an argument so charmingly convincing that even Venezuela’s much-maligned President Maduro would be impressed!
Kelly a spoilsport?
But then, as is typical in this country, a spoilsport surfaced in the person of Alan Kelly, the ‘bolshie’ Labour backbencher. Perceived as a one-man-band whose socialist criticism puts to shame the handful of garrulous proletarians still haunting Dáil Eireann, on this occasion he tore into Fine Gael for its bungling in relation to the hospital.
A member of both the Oireachtas Health Committee and the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Kelly made use of his experience on the two bodies to get across the point that in regard to the new hospital the government was out of its depth in matters of cost management and future cost increases.
‘One way or another, there has to be a political consequence for Health Minister Harris,’ Kelly warned. ‘The cost escalation did not come out of the blue and the Minister and his officials were either grossly incompetent or they hid the information for some reason.’ He wanted explanations, as do the plain people of Ireland.
In a properly-functioning democracy, his onslaught on Fine Gael’s failure to come clean would have brought down a government. But, in Kelly’s case, he was ploughing a lonely furrow, particularly since support from his fellow Labour comrades was non-existent. The result was that his criticism ran like water off a duck’s back.
Distressing too was the fact that the official opposition (Mickey Martin’s gang) remained primly dumb and loftily indifferent to government stupidity. Indeed so switched-off were the F&Fers that the impression was created that the party was quite happy to allow Varadkar and Harris slither off the hook.
Turned blind eye
And then there was Sinn Féin. That party also turned a blind eye to the opportunity of, metaphorically, roasting Vlad, Harris and chums. Instead, the fashionable revolutionaries went ‘all responsible’ and, in a manner that owed something to the orator, Edmund Burke, limited their outrage to a carefully balanced sentence that amounted to nothing more than ‘answers must be given and responsibility determined.’
It prompted the inevitable contemptuous snort around the country: ‘For Gawd’s sake.’ the punters cried, ‘will ye lay off the big speech stuff and get Gerry back. He’d know how to deal with the bloody Blueshirts.’
Then came the Vlad announcement that blame for the extravagant cost of the hospital would not be apportioned to anybody – a position he quickly recanted when the proverbial doo-dahs hit the fan. Last weekend, a red-faced Vlad admitted that any future inquiry into costs now would have the power to blame individuals.
Again, it was left to Kelly to pick up the baton. He said a review of what had happened was ‘pointless.’ And, he demanded that top officials involved in the hospital project should step down with immediate effect. Kelly, it seems, has become the conscience of the nation!
And now for something different: The country is awash with money to judge by the spondulicks that Vlad is sinking into efforts to secure a seat for Ireland on the UN Security Council. In what’s being dubbed Vlad’s Vanity Project, more than half a million euros has been spent on travel expenses, promotional materials and an ultra-expensive campaign launch in New York. It included a trifling one hundred thousand smackers for a five-minute promo video featuring U2 warbler, Bone-0 .
In a message to mankind, Bono supported the Irish government on the basis that the UN Security Council needed storytellers! Words matter, he said, particularly the word ‘compromise.’ The Irish, he told us, were great storytellers.
Ambassadors, diplomats and high-profile UN bigshots nodded in bewilderment as they tried to figure out the Bono message – not to mention Vlad’s campaign slogan of ‘Empathy, Partnership and Independence.’
Because nowhere was the word ‘neutrality’ mentioned. Yet, Ireland’s non-participation in war, as peace activist Ed Horgan pointed out, was the key factor in its success as an honest broker in UN peacekeeping strategy. Our neutrality policy enhanced Ireland’s reputation within the international community, he said.
Ironically, at the very moment Bone-O was doing his bit for cuddly love and peace, a US Air Force Hercules C130, on its way to belligerent American armies in the Middle East, was being refuelled at Shannon Airport!