A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.
I don’t know if Senator Everett Dirksen actually said that, but I hope he did, because it fits so well with the predicament we now find ourselves in.
How does the government of a small country not notice that its finances are heading for disaster, go on to prepare a budget and then realise a month later that things were actually worse by two billion euros?
How does that happen?
Let me offer my suggestion. Perhaps it’s because the members of this government were so mesmerised by their phony economic success that they went money-blind.
After all, this government was capable of giving away our energy resources to a huge multinational company for nothing. Nothing at all. Not a penny! What’s a billion or two between oil companies and their bought politicians? A brown envelope here, a brown envelope there.
And this government was capable of providing, at huge cost, a permanent policing presence to crush all protests while the oil company developed its terminal to take away our natural gas. Our money, yours and mine, but only a million here and there.
And this government was capable of doing a secret deal with the Catholic church, providing â€1.2 billion to compensate claimants of the Residential Institutions Redress Board for clerical sexual and physical abuse. A billion here, a billion there.
And this government was capable of doing a deal with Bertie Ahern’s former employers, against the best interests of Irish children, to locate a children’s hospital in the worst possible place, at enormous cost. A hospital here, a hospital there.
And this government was capable of trying to force an e-voting system on us that wasn’t secure, but which its leader, Ahern, thought was the dog’s bollocks. When we objected, Europe’s most illiterate prime minister accused his citizens of being Luddites. And when eventually it was shown to be thoroughly flawed, the â€50 million cost was written off and the machines, instead of being crushed, were put into storage to rot, at a continuing annual cost of millions. Fifty million here, fifty million there.
And this government was capable of abolishing the regional health Boards and replacing them with a centralised monolith, but without losing a single administrator. Instead, it promoted them all to managers, resulting in the most expensive, over-administered health executive in Europe, with the worst value for money and the poorest service.
And this government was capable of commissioning a payroll and personnel system for the new health service executive that didn’t work, yet cost â€200 million. A hundred million here, a hundred million there.
And this government was capable of providing gigantic tax-breaks to the wealthiest among us: those in the horse breeding industry, who pay no tax at all. And it was capable, thanks to its bookie-loving finance minister, of paying all the horseracing prizes in the country from tax-payers’ money. Ten million here, ten million there.
And this government was capable of building a vanity project in Dublin: two disconnected tramlines, at ten times what it would cost to build in any other country, serving only a tiny proportion of the country’s population, yet continuing to lose money, and paid for by all of us. Eight hundred million here, eight hundred million there.
And this government was capable of selling — at a loss — our national telecoms company, including its cable network, to an asset stripper, who sold it to even worse asset strippers who have no interest in investing. In other words, this government gave a vital national asset away for nothing to people who have no interest in the welfare of this country, with the result that our national broadband penetration is among the worst in the world. A billion here, a billion there.
I’m not finished, but I’m going to stop anyway. The picture is clear enough: a bunch of empty-headed gobshites with too much executive power and not enough brain power, drunk on their own propaganda and too stupid to understand what running a country really means.
Is it any wonder they didn’t notice the economy running over a cliff?