Tuesday 22 January 2019

Shane Ross: All voters are seething at hugepayoutsforministers

All voters are seething at huge payouts for ministers

Ministerial payoffs top the list of abuses mentioned on the doorsteps. The outrageous sums received by ex-ministers of all parties are the targets of the greatest fury.

The anger at party politicians feathering their own nests spreads through the entire electorate. The nation is bewildered.

Those on social welfare greet my army of volunteers with hardened expressions of utter despair. The premature worry lines creasing the faces of the prosperous middle classes betray their fears. The young couples look visibly stressed as they peer out on the porches, even in the darkness of canvassing time. They are worried witless about their children, often peeping out behind them, curious at the appearance of the canvassing team.

The nation's indignation at ministerial largesse to themselves is the first in a litany of woes. It is followed by the more personal misery of emigration, unemployment and negative equity. The voters are making the connection.

The residents of Dublin South are not slamming the door in my face because I am an independent candidate. They are offering a warm welcome, but they are puzzled. How did it come to this?And what can I do?

First, they want me to show them the route to the promised land, then they urge me to rattle the cages of all political parties. The second is easier than the first. The search for a solution is mixed with the understandable desire for revenge.

They are also a bit embarrassed. In two weeks I have not met a single voter who admits they will be voting for Fianna Fail, but several whisper in my ear confessing a sense of shame, having done so in 2007.

Nor have I detected any enthusiasm for the Opposition. Deep scepticism has spread about all parties. Fianna Fail is worse, mainly because they have had more opportunities to abuse their position.


FF cronyism rears its ugly head at many doors. Yet few trust the great white hopes of Labour and Fine Gael to reform the system. At door after door, the householders express cynicism about a change.

They know that Enda and Eamon are as likely to stuff the quangos with their pals tomorrow as Brian and Micheal did.

Resident after resident condemned the sudden commitment of all the parties to political reform.

A deathbed repentance in the case of Fianna Fail and an unconvincing cry from others who were equally kind to their cronies when they were last in office. Hardly a door opens without a legitimate query surfacing.

After they have bellyached about the parties, many ask why I decided to run for the Dail after a long spell in the relative comfort of the Seanad. I reply that it is time for those of us who abhor tribal politics, the failure of legislators to legislate and the bankers' behaviour, to roll up our sleeves. I had written two books about the wrongs of the Irish oligarchy and had long been commenting from the sidelines. It is time for the hurler to come off the ditch.

The response to me in Sandyford -- where I was born and reared -- and Dundrum, where I was first educated, has been invigorating. Some of it is distinctly embarrassing. An old postman recalls my days in nappies and remembers my mother's dog daily biting at his heels, but promises a Number 1 for old times sake. Suddenly on a corner in the wind and the rain, I bump into a garda with whom I had an altercation in my youth nearly 30 years ago. He remembers. We shake hands and he promises to give me the vote.

The warm welcome is combined with a common question. Am I going to do another George Lee -- arrive and be gone in six months. I am adamant that the parallel is not valid. Unlike George, I turned down the overtures of Fine Gael and I have been a happy outsider in Leinster House for more than two decades.

Secondly they query what an independent can do on his own?

I reply that independents are running at around 13pc in the polls, that there is plenty of reason for believing that there will be a block of centrist independents, possibly in position to insist that the new government embraces a policy platform that rejects civil-war, tribal politics.

There has never been a better opportunity to end the all-party conspiracy that has allowed politicians to abuse their positions.

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