On being a frustrated woolly liberal

Mar 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Ireland

Mark Steyn would despise me as a woolly liberal, (though I did buy his book “America Alone” in Chapters Bookshop in Vancouver last summer).  Steyn is a Right-wing polemicist who calls things as he sees them and even if I disagree with much of what he says, I admire his integrity.

There are times when I wonder what someone like Mark Steyn would write if he were on this side of the Atlantic.  In defence of the blue collar, hardworking, taxpaying family man, what groups in Ireland would a Right-wing writer identify for criticism?

Maybe he would start with a Government that has squandered billions, reducing Ireland from a point where it ranked among the richest in the world to a point where questions have been raised about the country’s ability to pay its bills.

Then there would be the politicians who have thrived on clientelism, ‘I’ll do this for you if you do that for me’.  Cutting deals for the benefit of friends; drawing salaries large than those paid to the leaders of major nations;  (how the leader of a country of four million draws a bigger salary than the President of the United States defies logical explanation); what those on Steyn’s side of the sea call ‘pork barrel’ politics.

The bankers would stand in the firing line for the wholly reckless fuelling of a massive property bubble.  What was it one European politician referred to the Irish economy as? The Wild West”?

The developers who built bland houses in soulless estates on the edge of the towns in the middle of nowhere and were able to sell them for hundreds of thousands because of the rigging of the market would be worth criticising, were it not for the fact that they are now not worth very much. With fifteen of them owing at least €500 million each, targeting them would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

The tax authorities might be worth a shot.  It’s amazing how they have time to chase working people for every last euro, while rock stars who lecture the rest of the world can move their tax affairs offshore.

The religious orders who did a deal with the government to limit their overall liability for child abuse damages to a hundred million would be criticised, particularly when they have the gall to say that working people should pay more taxes to give money to people who never took jobs even when there were tens of thousands of them.

The churches would get a swipe.  It seems odd in a state where the Constitution allows no established religion that taxpayers’ money goes to paying for schools that the churches control.  If the churches want to teach religion, why don’t they use their own money?

The welfare system would be subject to a major critique.  What justice is there in a man leaving his home at 6.30 in the morning to go to his work and getting home at 7.30 at night, his wife working similar hours, and their children attending a creche, when on a Friday evening he is worse off than someone who has spent the week in a council house, paid by social welfare with every entitlement it brings, venturing no further than the bookmaker or the pub?

Were there a Steyn-like politician in this country, he (or she) would probably soon discover an Irish equivalent of Essex man; the blue collar workers who brought Margaret Thatcher to power in Britain in 1979.

Ireland has no Right-wing, (nor has it a Left-wing worth the calling), and it certainly has no Mark Steyn.  Perhaps that’s why things have become as they are; woolly liberals are good at wringing their hands and saying worthy words, but we don’t actually do anything.

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  1. I don’t know if Mark Steyn would be the answer. Anyone who needs to feed rational thought through an ideological filter is not trustworthy. I think you give him too much credit in praising his integrity.

  2. You’re right, Bock, it’s just that anything with substance looks better than what passes as political discourse in Leinster House. Richard O’Connor told me about the interview with the Minister for Older People last Thursday and I found it on YouTube. It is galling to think politicians of that quality are being paid six figure sums while hard working people here are losing their jobs.

    Our Select Vestry (church council) has sixteen members, of whom nine were in paid employment at the start of the year ( the other seven being retired or working at home). Two of that nine have been made redundant in the past month. It causes intense anger to see good, hard working people hurt by cute hoors, cronyism and incompetence.

  3. I don’t disagree with you there. This country needs a very searching light to shine into its dark corners, but right-wing mouthpieces like Mark Steyn are not the answer.

  4. The right wing don’t look after the workers! You talk to some right wing Americans, they hate the idea of subsidised health and social security when thousands need it. 25,000 Americans a day since December are now out of work thanks to the total lack of regulation and cavallier government of the Bush Administration. . .Ireland’s in the pits, as is Britain who are resorting to printing money for goodness sakes. We just have to get on with it, Woolly or not, I prefer the liberal doctrine! (Sorry I’ve never read Steyn so can’t comment on his stance.)

  5. But the problem is, Baino, is that there is no doctrine, no philosophy. We simply have politicians whose only object is to remain in power. I grew up with the legacy of Rab Butler (Conservative and architect of the 1944 Education Act) and William Beveridge (Liberal and architect of the Welfare State). No-one now has a vision beyond the next election.

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