National embarrassments are hard to come by. We complain about our politicians, but there are rarely moments which cause true embarrassment. When I watched Enda Kenny address Ireland on the state of the nation’s finances, I felt it for the first time. My eyes flickered to the faces of my parents who dejectedly turned away from the screen. My parents already knew that the jig was up: the economy was not going to recover any time soon.
The shame of the bailout-after-bailout split open every wound that had scabbed over. Words simply cannot describe how low the national mood was following the crash. It was as though we watched Ireland get spanked on the proverbial behind, and we could do nothing but watch on in horror, knowing that it was all in the alleged “national interest.”
This phrase is an interesting one because you know that it will be used, but the fun is in guessing who will say it first. Sworn enemies will sacrifice it all on the altar of the national interest: policy, history, voters’ preferences, politicians’ preferences, and other pesky notions corollary to “honesty” and “consistency.” Politicians use the phrase to dodge uncomfortable lines of questioning about pre-election promises and statements. Micheál Martin probably still shudders at the words “confidence” and “supply.”
The government has now landed its first national embarrassment: the nursing home debacle. Illegal charges levied against those in private nursing care is nothing new, apparently, as the government (or at least sections of it) has been rigorously fighting on the behalf of the Irish taxpayer to defend public money from this for over 20 years.
They are, of course, defending the coffers of the state from vulnerable elderly people with limited ability to travel and/or take a case against the state. Not exactly ambulance-chasers, one might notice.
So, where is the logic behind multi-million-euro legal cases that the government is bound to lose? No, seriously. The state coffers are so valuable that admitting wrong-doing and paying settlements from said coffers would be intolerable, but engaging in multi-million-euro legal cases defending said wrongdoing in court is perfectly fine. Could this be because most people do not have the time, energy, and resources to combat government legal teams with bottomless pockets? Almost definitely.
Recent advice published by the attorney general has obviously defended the strategy, citing the “public interest” as a reason to defend cases against the state so viciously, despite the interests of those suing being trampled on so publicly.
Termed: “litigation reduction”, the government is playing a game of financial chicken with people who have no other choice but to fight in court for what they are owed, and many will not face down the enormity of the state.
This is abusive and wrong, regardless of the intention behind it. While the government may fear paying out for the failures of the private sector, the aggressive and abusive tactic of litigation before mediation show that the government is more than willing to abuse the vulnerable to save money.
The state is more than willing to throw public money at bailouts, potentially illegal tax breaks for Apple, and huge legal fees, but they close the purse on people who were robbed blind on the state’s watch. Something is rotten in the state of Éire, it seems.
The deeper you push a ball under water, the harder it will fly up from the murky depths. Perhaps the government can see the truth rising and is now desperately avoiding the impending splash.