OH DEAR! Our excellent Mini-Minister for Health, local man Jim Daly, certainly set the cat among the pigeons when he and sidekick, Junior Minister Damien English, announced that the government had an ingenious plan to ‘encourage’ the elderly to ‘downsize’ to smaller houses.
The news took the Plain People of Ireland by surprise. Also gobsmacked were the top echelons of Fine Gael, Taoiseach Vlad and the real Minister for Housing, Eoghan ‘Posh Boy’ Murphy, who thought they should have been the ones to launch a major scheme for housing old crocks.
Worse still, the optics gave the impression that ‘Our Jim’ and his mate were cocking a snoot at their dashing young leader (Vlad) by getting in first with the details on an important government policy statement entitled ‘Housing Options for Our Ageing Population.’
A rather cheeky move and, from comments on the grapevine, something that rightly got up Vlad’s nostrils. Some say the man blew a gasket!
As for the Blueshirt enforcers. who ensure the harmonious operation of party strategy, well, they weren’t over the moon either! According to the Sunday Business Post, they accused Our Jim of doing a solo run in regards to the new, government policy. Stories circulated of the Drinagh native being told to ‘shut his mouth … to get back in his box … and to stop flying kites.’
Smelling a rat
Nasty, like, and a very hurtful criticism from the powers-that-be, especially in view of the pluckiness that ‘Our Jim’ showed two years ago by supporting Varadkar’s scheming machinations against then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. On that occasion, Jim stuck his neck out, when it was neither profitable nor popular to do so, which reinforces the truth of the old adage that eaten bread is soon forgotten!
Of course, any new government policy relating to our senior citizens has to be taken seriously and this one, with its 40 ‘action points,’ was intended to contribute in a major way to Fine Gael’s re-election hopes. It also was designed as the cornerstone of a radical plan of action on the housing crisis.
But it’s now mired in controversy because of the way it was leaked to the public. What’s more, it alarmed elderly house-owners. They smelled a rat in the extraordinarily complex gobbledegook that referred to ‘incentivising’ OAPs to ‘right-size’ to appropriately-sized units in ‘age-friendly’ neighbourhoods. ‘Exploring options’ would start at the end of June.
Under the scheme, the government would pay the old codgers to ‘downsize’ and then to ‘right-size’. Those living in social housing would be offered financial inducements before the end of the year. After that, the scheme would be extended to private homeowners.
For utter vagueness, it bate Banagher, as did the proposal that the old and decrepit would be offered a choice of ‘adapting’ a home or benefitting from a new housing model that would involve home care or full-time nursing home care.
Then, as Alice would say, things got curiouser and curiouser with the published comments of a former senior civil servant who wants a debate on the rights of people who were lucky enough to own houses in areas that had seen house values rise due to ‘government investment.’
Net result? Grist to the mill for an Opposition eager to denounce a housing plan that was ‘half-baked’: What’s next?’ asked Fianna Fáil. ‘Euthanasia for our old-age pensioners’? All of which contributed to a perception among the geriatrics that their homes would be seized under one ploy or another.
As matters stand, Mickey’s FF outfit sees no merit in the prematurely-revealed housing plan and, certainly, it is not going to give Daly a congratulatory pat on the back. Instead, the Soldiers of Destiny are bellyaching about ‘the rush to turn an undeveloped policy idea into a glitzy press launch,’ which serves only ‘to terrify and undermine older and more vulnerable people who already felt under siege.’
Daly indignantly rejected such an accusation, claiming it was ‘nonsense’ to say that the government wanted to force people out of their homes. Fine Gael was not trying to impose solutions on anyone, he said.
But despite the protestations, the damage was done. Fine Gael’s Grand Housing Strategy had become lodged in the minds of easily-influenced pensioners as something concocted by Big Brother and Adolf Hitler. The plan went down in flames even before the ink was dry!
The Rainy Day Fund is a government fund that’s designed to assist Ireland should it be affected by another economic crisis. A brainchild of Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath in 2015, the idea is that the fund would ‘cushion the effects of any future shock to the economy.’
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced last October that one billion euros were to go into the fund and that it would be supplemented with an annual contribution of €500 million, starting in 2019.
But, and here’s a good one, West Cork’s only Independent TD, Michael Collins (great name), wants to know how the Rainy Day Fund will be allocated and administered. And he wants West Cork to benefit – immediately!
He points to the fodder crisis that affected farming families from Goleen to Clonakilty, and that his pleadings for financial relief ‘fell on deaf ears.’
Nor did the FG government listen when he sought an aid package to help fishermen whose lobster pots and fishing gear were destroyed ‘in massive storms.’ And, he asked: ‘will the Rainy Day Fund be used to alleviate the housing crisis?’
In fact the Independent deputy is somewhat sceptical of the Fund’s good intentions, convinced that it is nothing more than a ‘slush fund for Ministers for rich parts of Dublin’ and that when it comes to the Cabinet table, ‘rural Ireland will be forgotten.’
He wants a cross-party committee from rural and urban constituencies to administer the fund. Good point!
And now for something arty: The fact that the Office of Public Works forked out €16,277 to repair a sculpture in the lower yard of Dublin Castle that was damaged by skateboarders contrasts with Kinsale’s desecration of Eilish O’Connell’s 1988 sculpture, ‘The Great Wall of Kinsale’.
Located on the town’s seafront, the alterations that the County Council made to the sculpture are testimony to an almost incredible act of official vandalism.
Nor did the town burghers and lower orders ever like the work, loathing the three tent-like arches that were linked together by a low winding wall. After children tried to ride up it on bicycles, the Council (fearful of compo claims) installed ground level pools of water, metal barriers, bins, potted plants and a memorial bust to God-knows-who.
The world-renowned Irish artist wrote some time ago that she is still angry at what was done to her sculpture and that she gets physically ill passing it.