Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green indeed

So it's St Patrick's Day in Ireland. What does our national day mean for our country in these oh-so-troubled times? As we continue to dutifully swallow our super-sized portion of the global financial crisis, served with a side of home-grown banking crisis drowning in a jobless sauce, when the leadership choices are all devoid of flavour and public services have been sliced, diced and then minced beyond recognition, Paddy's Day means that the vast majority of Our Glorious Leaders TM are off serving up a taste of Ireland in exotic overseas locales, at the taxpayers' expense, usually while tucking into gala dinners. Said leaders are celebrating all things green and leprechauny in Berlin, Boston and Belgium, not to mention other locations well-known for their Irish connections, such as Dubai, Japan, Korea, Australia and Russia.

The Dáil in Dublin on St Patrick's Day 2010 - can't you tell it's empty?

Mary Harney, our ironically-obese minister for health, is undertaking a 15 day trip to New Zealand, the longest of any Minister. Maybe she could while away some time on those long flights looking at some of about 58,000 x-rays that were never examined by a radiologist or reading the unopened referral letters from Tallaght Hospital. You know, just some light reading material to keep her entertained on what's happening back home.

Conor Lenihan, now modelling at least his third recent junior ministerial hat, Science and Technology, has managed to wangle a trip to Vietnam out of his department. Unfortunately (for him? Us? Texas?) Government Chief Whip Pat Carey missed his flight to Houston on Wednesday 9th March as he had to stay in the Dáil that day dealing with what The Irish Times called “procedural wrangles” about the Finance Bill. As it appears that he simply missed his flight, presumably that means no refund for him, or the taxpayers – so we've actually paid for a trip that didn't even happen. Now that's sham-rocking.

Minister for Communications and Green Party TD Eamon Ryan is going to India and Singapore, and junior minister for the Environment Michael Finneran is going to China. At least another 38 local county councillors or council officials are also abroad for the festivities, most though not all paid for by their councils.

As a side note, the issue of airmiles will likely only be raised, if at all, in relation to Eamon's trip to India and Singapore. In a sane country with a passing concern about the humanity-threatening impending catastrophe that is climate change, would this amount of air travel by Government representatives for a single day ever be considered be acceptable? And wouldn't carbon-offsetting for all these flights be done automatically, as a small, even if flawed, nod towards mitigating their climate change effects. I wonder what the total carbon emissions are for our national day celebrating all things green – back of an envelope calculations welcome.

So meanwhile, back home, almost the entire government is out of the country at the same time on this not-too-rainy 17th March. As Unkie Dave puts it far better than I, this leaves only Brian Lenihan and John Gormley in situ, ostensibly running the country. Though Cheltenham races are on at the moment, so admittedly Ireland can't hope for their undivided attention. Popularity with the government is not at an all time low – Fianna Fail has risen in popularity since last year to a current uninspiring 27% and the Green Party is at 2% - but it's still rightly dismal. The citizenry want change, most people are depressed though strangely not angry, the economy has fallen apart (or more accurately been dismembered), we have no military forces to speak of, and the reigning leaders are all out of the country simultaneously.

What do these conditions logically suggest as a fun family activity now the Paddy's Day parade is over? Why, a coup of course. A bit of energy and enthusiasm, a few folks with a passing familiarity with “leadership” and “vision” or maybe just some green-themed costumes, perhaps a catchy Proclamation, a handful of fit former construction workers taking up positions around immigration in Dublin Airport, a few up-and-coming media hopefuls converging on Montrose to take over the national broadcaster, and a couple of unemployed accountants liberating the NAMA cash over at the Department of Finance, that should do it. Sure we'd have the country under new management and still have plenty of time for an actually-not-green-we're-Irish pint to celebrate before the day was done. Would certainly give a whole new and catchy angle to 17th March as Ireland's national day. Hopefully it's clear that this post is in the tradition of pub plots and bar room revolutions that have been talked about at least since a Welsh shepherd banished the snakes from our emerald isle. It only remains to toast the idea of a Paddy's Day (or Paddies' Day?) that could actually be worth the hangover. Sláinte.


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