herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Pat Rabbitte: Fury and despair of a people moving nearer to the brink

This is my eighth General Election and, weatherwise, the worst since November 1982.

It's not only the weather that is rough. People are angry or, worse, despondent.

They are also better informed on economic issues and more engaged than I can ever remember. They are furious with the Government and despairing of the political system.

For our society, this disaffection from the political system is worrying.

Fianna Fail have had a measure of success in distracting attention from their own calamitous mistakes and portraying the mess as a failure of the entire political system.

This mood invites people to vote for the most extreme option on offer -- although they know there are no solutions coming from that quarter.

For the Opposition parties, it is hard to stomach getting some of the blame for Fianna Fail's mismanagement of the economy.

Going door to door one meets some heartrending cases. I won't easily forget the woman earning €95 per week from "a bit of cleaning three days a week" who is liable for the new Universal Social Charge. Or another young woman who can't get the services needed by her autistic child.

Or the young couple, both public servants, whose pay has been cut three times and who are "sick and tired" of the relentless abuse of public servants.

Dublin South-West is little different from other constituencies.

Some young people had grown accustomed to travelling the world for "a gap year". Now those same young people are being forced to emigrate. One of my young canvassers can point to five of his contemporaries in Greenhills having emigrated to Sydney. The other country of choice for educated or skilled young constituents is Canada. The Institute of Technology in Tallaght has done wonders for participation rates in third-level education in the region.

Embittered

On the doors those young people quiz the politicians about what their realistic employment prospects are. They leave behind often embittered parents who are bewildered as to how this country could have fallen so far, so fast.

I don't envy canvassers for Fianna Fail, and it is unsurprising that they are not thick on the ground.

The effusions of the new born-again leader of Fianna fail, Micheal Martin, are driving some people apoplectic. "Who was that young fella on the telly with you the other night" one man demanded last night. I told him it was Darragh O'Brien, Fianna Fail TD for Dublin north.

"Why are they sending out young fellas; where are the (expletive deleted) who headed off with their obscene pensions?" he wanted to know.

The collapse of the building industry has hit Dublin South-West especially badly. Building workers out of work are scattered everywhere throughout the constituency.

Some believe that they will never work again; younger apprentices who have "come out of their time" are wasting no time in getting out. Some are going to London, building for the Olympics. Others are leaving for Australia.

Anger may not be a policy, but getting it off your chest can have a cathartic effect. And, by God, they are getting it off their chests!

When Fianna Fail put on the poor mouth about how the party is suffering because they "have taken the tough decisions," it drives people into a rage. Ordinary citizens are the victims of "the tough decisions."

People believe that there is a tipping point -- how much more are they likely to be asked to bear?

In advance of the last Budget, Brian Lenihan mused that his European counterparts were puzzled that he could get away with such cuts without people being on the streets.

That's why the Sinn Fein's simplistic nonsense about walking away from the IMF/EU deal, "burning" bondholders and simply closing down banks is so dangerously attractive.

Such actions would surely unilaterally pauperise us, but in the minds of some isn't that what Fianna Fail has done to us already?

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