It can be either stupidity or heartlessness to kick a person while they are already down. In some cases it is a shocking mixture of both. Yet this week our government did exactly just that. In passing a bill that cut the job seekers allowance for young people , in some cases down to a paltry sum of 100 euro a week, the members of the Dail have told the youth of today they are not important to Irish society. Indeed, by singling out people under 26 for different and lower dole money, they have in fact created a new realm of economic discrimination. Not only has the recession, a product in large part the creation of policies by many of these deluded few residing in Leinster House destroyed the prospects of a generation, they have now taken away any chance of living a respected and dignified life. It is in essence a slow push out the door on the path to emigration.
For a long time Ireland was considered a country brimming with youthful vigour. On IDA pamphlets given out at trade fairs over the world for the last thirty years, one of the biggest boasts was of a country full of young, educated people, ready and waiting for you to hire them. Demographically we are a young country, with a sizeable proportion of our nation under thirty. Yet this is no country for the young. It never was. For decades we exported our young and today that social disease of emigration infects the country all over, destroying communities and tearing apart families. For all the talk of the good times in the late 90s and early part of the last decade, it was a shoddy façade, held together by cheap credit that when the banks almost collapsed in 2008, the superficiality of our wealth could be seen in harsh black and white.
For all the cautious optimism of the past few weeks about growth picking up for the first time in over half a decade and the return of our keys of economic sovereignty we shamefully lost three years ago, we are a nation dying. It is not because of the burdensome debt; we had been there before in the 80s. It is a sense of necrosis which has been festering for decades that results in us haemorraging our greatest asset, our youth. For all the talk of people leaving Ireland out of economic necessity, there is very little said about the sizeable minority who has left this country since the recession started that did so out of choice. They left perfectly good jobs in Ireland to live elsewhere and this has always been the case. It is not because the grass is always greener. It is because this is a nation that has consistently failed to create an environment to nurture our youth.
The blame for that stands squarely on our politicians. When you look at Dail Eireann there is barely anyone under thirty in the House. We have two parties with virtually no ideological differences and in the minds of many the only difference is one is less corrupt than the other. We have parties of self-preservation, whose main ideology is to maintain the status quo, disregarding everyone else. That they have done so for ninety years is frightening. We have a political establishment based on a twisted sense of nepotism. It is quite shocking when you consider that most of the major players in our politics got their seats when their father died – Enda Kenny, Brian Cowen, Brian Lenihan to name but a few. Only this year, the second youngest TD in the Dail, Helen McEntee was voted in to take the seat of her deceased father. Many, many more examples are to be found in Leinster House. One can argue the merits of these individuals but you can never get over the sense that what we have is the creation of a political caste that stifles the desire for young people to enter in to politics. Why waste your time when the party machine will vouch for the child of a sitting TD?
With this selfish, self-preserving little bubble of entitlement you get the most egregious cases of stupidity and selfishness. We had a Seanad referendum based on the political opportunism of one man, Enda Kenny. Completely refusing to consider reforming the upper house saying it was abolition or the status quo no matter how dysfunctional it was, you had someone ignoring the will of the people just so he could have something to pin on his chest. Adding in a ruthless party whip system whose only goal is to turn TDs in to mindless complicit vote-punching minions and all you have is an establishment with no care for anyone but themselves.
There is a real lack of vision in this country. Our good times in the past were not built on the ideas of people and entrepreneurs. It was a convenient mix of demography and canny taxation. It seems the only thing this government and previous governments have had keeping this country afloat is by maintaining a few dozen multinationals on board by clever accounting. Let us be clear, these corporations have no love for us other than allowing them to park billions away from the taxman in their home countries and when the time comes that some other country beats us in the tax game or Europe says we need to grow up, they will leave. Yet all the time our youth are ignored or worse, harassed and constrained. While we let Apple and Google away with accounting murder, we slap our students with thousands in college fees then dump them on the streets with no hope other than 100 euro in job seeking allowance for jobs that are not even there. For the lucky few who have jobs and want to start a family, they are financially robbed by shocking childcare costs and guilt-tripped in to handing supposedly discretionary money to underfunded schools. These are the people by birth and upbringing that have strong, natural bonds to this country who in these bad times shed tears of sadness when forced out of Ireland to find work, who will do anything to stay and make a better life for themselves and the country here. These are the people who could create our own version of Google and Apple but the government do not listen.
All the time our politicians do nothing. They just mumble about fixing the finances as if that is the only thing they can do. There is no thinking out of the box or considering other options to fix the economy other than balancing the books. It’s like being locked out of your house and just standing at the door thinking “Oh I just gotta stay here until someone brings a key” without even trying a window or other means to get in. It is pure laziness bred by entitlement and a gene pool disintegrating under nepotism. Our country is slowly dying because a privileged few deny or worse, harass our greatest resource. They ignore their input and destroy the social ecosystem needed for them to grow. For all the talk of a tentative economic recovery, it is only a short remission for a disease created in Leinster House.
This is no country for young men.