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Straight Talking

Straight Talking (21)

Don’t opt for the cop-out – get out and vote on Friday

 

 

 

It’s so easy to be very cynical about politics. I have often slipped into that mode myself in over thirty years of covering it. However, this week I would be urging people to go out and vote on Friday.

  Anyone could give you a thousand reasons why people should not bother to go to the ballot box. Throwing your hands in the air and declaring “sure they are all the same” or saying “I have no interest” is a cop-out. The reason that we have elections is that people have their say every so often – and I am of the belief that people should go out and exercise their franchise. It’s not like it’s a big deal, or hard to do.

  There is not much point in sitting up at the bar counter giving about politicians of all parties and none if you pass up the chance to go out and vote. In fact I would completely dismiss the opinion of anyone who could easily have gone out and voted and who just didn’t bother, yet still feels they have a right to complain.

  I listened to an RTE Radio report on Monday evening that listed the jaw-dropping amounts of money that MEPs earn and the expenses that they are entitled to, and it would make your blood boil. But the system we have is working reasonably well, and whether we like it or not, Europe is where it’s at. With Brexit coming down the line, we may as well have a say in what’s going on.

  On the local scene, people know most of the candidates who are standing in their area. County councillors don’t have much power but they can have some influence on what services are available in their own local area and throughout the county.

  There are many big issues to be considered, such as the farming scene, rural Ireland, climate change, housing, homelessness, education, emigration and crime. If ordinary people do not go out and have their say, standards among those whom we elect will slip even further – and God only knows it’s poor enough as it stands. So go out and vote on Friday, regardless of whom of what you decide to vote for.

  This Saturday there will, as usual, be huge interest in the election count, and particularly at local election level. The fact that the GAA have fixed the Roscommon v Mayo Connacht semi-final match for Castlebar on Saturday evening at 7 pm means that I will be missing my first election count in 30 years.

  Some of the most exciting (and longest) days and nights of my career were spent in places like the stage in the Dr. Hyde Centre, The Mall in Longford and the Travellers Friend Hotel in Castlebar. You can complain about the length of time that it takes to complete these counts, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It adds to the tension and the excitement, and all human life is there.

  There is excitement and cheers, bitter disappointment, recriminations and tears. There are opinions, rows, speculation, tallies, agreements, speeches, surprises, transfers, recounts, endless cups of coffee – and exhaustion at the end of it all.

  To be honest, I will be sad to miss it all, but if Roscommon could ever win in MacHale Park, it will make it all worthwhile! Good luck to all concerned this weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

Next week’s elections will be first major verdict on Leo’s administration

 

 

 

On Friday week (24th of May) the people will go to the polls in the European and local elections in what will be the first major test of the Government since they took office. 

  On the 14th of June 2017, Leo Varadkar was elected Taoiseach. It will be very interesting to see what the verdict of the public will be. The European elections will give a reasonable idea of how the public are feeling after two years of this current Government.

  There are mixed signals in the Irish economy. On one hand there is plenty of employment, and wages are growing at a modest rate. However, there are a number of huge problems, not least the chronic housing situation, homelessness, unaffordable rents and the fact that in the larger urban areas, young couples simply cannot afford to get on the property ladder.

  Fine Gael’s traditional strong support among the farming community is also under the spotlight as many farmers are disillusioned at poor prices and dwindling incomes. The massive overruns in spending on major infrastructural projects like the Children’s Hospital and The National Broadband Plan have led to accusations of financial recklessness.

  But despite all those problems, and the fact that Leo Varadkar is prone to shooting his mouth off from time to time – something that gets him into bother – it looks like Fine Gael will probably hold on to their national vote of about 30%.

  Fianna Fáil are in a very difficult position. They can claim that they are ‘acting in the national interest’ by propping up the current Government, and while they have been very critical of some Government policy, the bottom line is that they are keeping them in power. They are caught talking out of the two sides of their mouth all the time.

  They have some strong candidates running in the Euro elections and will be in with a chance of taking the final seat in this Euro constituency, that’s assuming that Mairead McGuinness, ‘Ming’ and Matt Carthy will hold on to their seats. Micheál Martin will probably hold on as leader but it would be very unusual for the main ‘opposition’ party not to have gains in a mid-term election – but that’s what’s likely to happen. Not a great sign for the future if we have a general election within the next 12 months.

  Having said that, it is almost inconceivable that the party would not win a seat in this constituency, with Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte in the field. It would be a very poor result indeed if one or other were not to take the seat made vacant by Marian Harkin.

  Sinn Féin have three high profile outgoing candidates in the Euro poll and Matt Carthy, Lynn Boylan and Liadh Ní Riada should all be re-elected. The dramatic rise in support for Sinn Féin has stalled and they seem to have reached a plateau somewhere short of 20% nationally.

  Labour are struggling badly. There was a time when the party would do well in Dublin in particular, but those days are over. They may have an outside chance in the Capital with Alex White, but that’s about it.

  The Independent sector is well-populated. There are a number of interesting candidates this time around. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan looks like he will retain his seat in this constituency but it will be interesting to see how Clare Daly and Mick Wallace do in Dublin and Ireland South respectively. Peter Casey may have a chance in this area but I have a feeling that Ming has cornered the ‘protest’ vote.

  Despite the fact that Brexit has dominated the news headlines over the past 12 months and the fact that many of our farmers are in receipt of payments from the EU (in terms of grants), I am of the firm opinion that there is very little or no interest in these European elections. The fact that they are being held on the same day as the local elections will ensure a decent turnout, but I shudder to think of how low the turnout would be if they were held on their own.

  However, it won’t lessen the intensity, as this election will be hard-fought. The prize for the winners is massive…a huge salary and generous expenses, which is guaranteed for five years!

  In this constituency I am predicting seats for Mairead McGuinness, Matt Carthy, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Brendan Smith.

 

 

Eugene McGee…the ultimate straight talker and one of the finest men I have ever met

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never was a column called ‘Straight Talking’ so aptly named, given this week’s subject, which is on the late Eugene McGee. Like so many people, I was shocked and saddened to hear of his passing as the news spread on Sunday morning last.

  In the days since the news broke it is amazing how many people have expressed such fond memories of the great man from Colmcille. I am certainly no different. He touched so many people’s lives in a positive way.

  Of course he will be primarily remembered as the man who steered Offaly to probably the most famous All-Ireland senior football final win of all time, in 1982. But he had so many more strings to his bow.

  I first met Eugene in the late 1970s when he was in charge of a famous and very successful UCD team that included our own Tony McManus. Tony often regaled us of fantastic stories of his coaching methods and no-nonsense approach, and how when you first met Eugene he appeared off-hand and gruff but once you got to know him he was anything but that.

  He was a man who was way ahead of his time in terms of his attitude and thinking. When local radio started in 1989, there were many people in the local newspaper industry who viewed this new form of media as a possible threat. However, Eugene was one who embraced the idea and was of the opinion that it would be a big addition to local communities. And of course he was proven right.

  As the Shannonside GAA commentator and reporter in those early days, I sought advice from Eugene many times. He was always so helpful and supportive. He was very quick to point out anything that he disagreed with too!

   But Eugene McGee was far more than a GAA coach and newspaper columnist. As the Editor of the Longford Leader (and for a period, the Cavan Leader) he was a tireless advocate for people in rural Ireland. He used his high profile to highlight many issues in terms of unemployment, emigration, health services, transport and infrastructure. He spared no-one in power if he thought they were selling rural Ireland short.

  He had a brilliant mind, whether it was to do with the GAA or other issues, but his dour demeanour meant that some people thought he was off-hand and gruff. But when you got to know Eugene you realised that the exact opposite was the case. He loved seeking out people’s views. In recent years we would chat on the telephone and it was clear that his passion on rural issues and his love affair with Gaelic football had never waned.

   In recent years, because he had some health issues, he was not as frequent a visitor to Croke Park as in former times. The last time I met Eugene was in Croke Park at the Roscommon v Dublin Super 8s match last year. He was in good form. We had a long chat about different issues, including blanket defences, club matches, Offaly football, Roscommon football, and whether Dublin would win the All-Ireland again. As we parted that day he said: “You know, it’s nice to be back here again”. He loved the big day – and especially the big day in Croke Park.

  He was a fearless GAA columnist and regularly lashed the GAA when he saw fit. In fact I remember at one stage there was talk about banning Eugene McGee from the Press Box in Croke Park because of the nature of some of his journalistic output. Thankfully sense prevailed. The criticism was coming from one of their own, a man who loved the GAA and who knew its positive impact on communities around the country.

  There are so many stories that I could tell about Eugene over the years, reflecting his blunt, straight talking way of going on.

  I recall one of the first Sundays since Shannonside had begun broadcasting, and on air was a presenter who didn’t really have a clue about sport. At one stage he read out the following: “And the latest score from Ballybofey is ‘Finn Harps 0, Longford Town one point’”.

  The phone rang immediately. It was Eugene McGee. He told the woman who answered in studio: “Would ya tell that bloody eejit that there’s no points in soccer?” – and immediately put the phone down.

   Another story much quoted in recent says is of Eugene’s comment on the morning of the All-Ireland final between Offaly and Kerry in 1982 when a journalist asked him how badly did the Offaly players want to win the match.

  He snapped back: “There are men in that dressing room who haven’t had a pint since last Wednesday night”.

  So many more of those stories about Eugene will be shared this week by those of us who were privileged to have known him.

  This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will do the ‘Darkness Into Light’ charity walk. Eugene McGee brought light and hope to many people throughout the country over the years.

  He was one of the finest men that I have met in my lifetime. An innovator, a deep thinker, a very intelligent, witty and caring man who spoke straight out as he saw it, and who never suffered fools in any walk of life. We won’t see the likes of him again. To Marian, Linda and Conor, I extend my deepest sympathy.

 

 

 

NOT CONNECTING: Broadband crisis is biggest issue facing rural Ireland

 

 

Several issues will rightly be highlighted in the run-up to this month’s local and European elections. One question looms large: what is the Government going to do about the rural broadband crisis? This will be the biggest indication in many decades as to what level of priority Central Government attaches to rural Ireland. Many people will be watching this one very closely.

  This issue has caused no little controversy over the past two or three years. Last year, the then Minister Denis Naughten lost his job in the middle of the whole controversy. Now, with only one bidder left in the race to supply the service, it’s reported that it could cost in excess of €3 billion to provide the scheme.

  This challenge will test the Government – it’s a serious dilemma for Minister Paschal Donohoe and An Taoiseach. There are a small minority of people who don’t need (or want) broadband in rural Ireland, but the vast majority of our citizens now regard a good reliable broadband service as essential; comparable to running water and electricity. In fact it is probably more important to have the service in rural areas than it is to have it in the bigger urban areas.

  There is the age-old argument that bigger companies will not set up in areas with a poor broadband service, but the biggest drawback in rural areas is that people do not have the option of working at home and that small businesses and farmers are precluded from doing their everyday work online. It’s like trying to go to Dublin on a donkey and cart while there is a train of bus service available on the same route. Remember that EU grants for farmers must now be applied for online. It’s only one small aspect of life in 2019, but it’s a very important one.

  A reliable broadband service in rural areas would give options to people. It would help small businesses to survive, and the survival of SMEs can often mean the difference between a small local community surviving or dying. The alternative is to allow the complete depopulation of a lot of rural areas to continue, as has been the trend over the past decade.

  There are so many more positives (in addition to helping small businesses) that a reliable broadband service can bring to rural Ireland in terms of, for example, education, health services, post office facilities – and so many more aspects of life that are taken for granted in the bigger urban areas.

  There is no doubt that there are issues with the price of this scheme – and those should be looked at, for sure. But all you have to do is look at the National Children’s Hospital and several other major infrastructural projects that we have undertaken here in this country over the years that have run over budget. Now, when it relates to rural Ireland, there are question marks being raised about value for money!

  No-one is suggesting that provision of quality broadband will cure all the ills of rural Ireland, but it would give a fighting chance to businesses and communities in their bid to survive and compete. Communities in many rural areas are dying with every passing year as young people leave to seek a living where they can get jobs and make a decent life for themselves. Then we have Dublin, a city that is so overcrowded that any day now it could tip into the Irish Sea. It’s a city of traffic chaos, crime, homelessness, rents that no-one can afford, house prices beyond the reach of any ordinary person, and problems with access to health and many other facilities.

  In the national media last weekend, former Minister Naughten said that broadband was “a necessity of life” – and that’s basically what we are talking about here. It’s about treating citizens equally and it’s about giving rural Ireland a chance. It will be interesting to see what the Government does on this vital matter. It’s the most important issue that we have had in rural Ireland for many decades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it too late to save the Earth?

 

 

 

Last Thursday night I watched the David Attenborough documentary ‘Climate Change – The Facts’ and then later on BBC Four a docu-report on BBC called ‘The Age Of Stupid’. They made for very sobering and at times very distressing and depressing viewing.

  The climate change argument is now long over. Those who deny it’s a fact are either deluded or have a vested interest and don’t want to acknowledge the facts. We are destroying our planet simple as that, and at a frightening rate too!

  Is it good enough that this destruction will probably not happen in our generation’s lifetime and does that mean we can ignore what’s happening?

  As far as I can see there is very little we can do to stop the inevitable happening. The level of emissions now escaping into the atmosphere means that unless we address it now it will be too late in 10 or 20 years’ time. Our children and especially our grandchildren will be living in a world that will be unsustainable on several levels.

  But people have to live, and the way our lives are structured means that we are all guilty. I am no different. I have to travel to work in Tullamore from Roscommon town four days a week. The only way I can get there is by car. There is no suitable public transport to get me there early in the morning. I recently changed my car and sought advice from several people on what to buy. When I told them that I was doing a lot of mileage every single one of them advised me to buy a diesel car. That’s also allowing for an inevitable sharp rise in diesel prices as carbon taxes kick in later in the year. There are hundreds of thousands of people like me here in Ireland never mind in other countries.

  Then we have our farming industry which is the backbone of rural Ireland. Climate change activists want people to cut down on red meat and dairy products. What would these people advise farmers to do if they are not working the land?  Everyone has to work in order to feed their families.

  But the dilemma a lot of us face here in Ireland pales into insignificance with the situation in the three biggest economies in the world. The US economy is built on the use of oil and Donald Trump has pulled his country out of the Paris Accord on climate change. In India the levels of pollution there now are four times what they were ten years ago. In China they are building one new power plant every week to deal with growing energy needs. Just think about that for a minute.

  There are very laudable efforts being made here in Ireland with regard to recycling and the use of plastics, and plans to introduce carbon taxes to help with the situation but when the likes of the USA and China are ignoring this crisis the planet is doomed, and that’s not an exaggeration.

  If the BBC programmes last Thursday night were even 50% accurate then it is only a matter of decades before the situation spirals out of control. 

  So what will stop this kamikaze race to the bottom? According to both documentaries the only thing that will work are massive public protests all over the world. It is the only thing that that politicians take any notice of.

  Have I got any solutions? I don’t, is the simple answer. I’ll be dead and gone before the real trouble starts. When every country in the world is suffering from extensive flooding, when storms are killing hundreds of thousands of people every year and when society breaks down because wars are being fought over access to clean drinking water. That’s when climate change will affect everyone.

  This will be the first generation in the history of time that we will be handing over a world that is a much poorer and more damaged than the generation before. It’s hardly a great legacy to hand on to our children.

  At the end of the docu-report ‘The Age Of Stupid’ the narrator Pete Postlethwaite said: “With all our intelligence and sophistication, the incredible thing is that we are committing suicide and we are doing it knowingly too”.

Is it too late to save the Earth?

 

 

 

Last Thursday night I watched the David Attenborough documentary ‘Climate Change – The Facts’ and then later on BBC Four a docu-report on BBC called ‘The Age Of Stupid’. They made for very sobering and at times very distressing and depressing viewing.

  The climate change argument is now long over. Those who deny it’s a fact are either deluded or have a vested interest and don’t want to acknowledge the facts. We are destroying our planet simple as that, and at a frightening rate too!

  Is it good enough that this destruction will probably not happen in our generation’s lifetime and does that mean we can ignore what’s happening?

  As far as I can see there is very little we can do to stop the inevitable happening. The level of emissions now escaping into the atmosphere means that unless we address it now it will be too late in 10 or 20 years’ time. Our children and especially our grandchildren will be living in a world that will be unsustainable on several levels.

  But people have to live, and the way our lives are structured means that we are all guilty. I am no different. I have to travel to work in Tullamore from Roscommon town four days a week. The only way I can get there is by car. There is no suitable public transport to get me there early in the morning. I recently changed my car and sought advice from several people on what to buy. When I told them that I was doing a lot of mileage every single one of them advised me to buy a diesel car. That’s also allowing for an inevitable sharp rise in diesel prices as carbon taxes kick in later in the year. There are hundreds of thousands of people like me here in Ireland never mind in other countries.

  Then we have our farming industry which is the backbone of rural Ireland. Climate change activists want people to cut down on red meat and dairy products. What would these people advise farmers to do if they are not working the land?  Everyone has to work in order to feed their families.

  But the dilemma a lot of us face here in Ireland pales into insignificance with the situation in the three biggest economies in the world. The US economy is built on the use of oil and Donald Trump has pulled his country out of the Paris Accord on climate change. In India the levels of pollution there now are four times what they were ten years ago. In China they are building one new power plant every week to deal with growing energy needs. Just think about that for a minute.

  There are very laudable efforts being made here in Ireland with regard to recycling and the use of plastics, and plans to introduce carbon taxes to help with the situation but when the likes of the USA and China are ignoring this crisis the planet is doomed, and that’s not an exaggeration.

  If the BBC programmes last Thursday night were even 50% accurate then it is only a matter of decades before the situation spirals out of control. 

  So what will stop this kamikaze race to the bottom? According to both documentaries the only thing that will work are massive public protests all over the world. It is the only thing that that politicians take any notice of.

  Have I got any solutions? I don’t, is the simple answer. I’ll be dead and gone before the real trouble starts. When every country in the world is suffering from extensive flooding, when storms are killing hundreds of thousands of people every year and when society breaks down because wars are being fought over access to clean drinking water. That’s when climate change will affect everyone.

  This will be the first generation in the history of time that we will be handing over a world that is a much poorer and more damaged than the generation before. It’s hardly a great legacy to hand on to our children.

  At the end of the docu-report ‘The Age Of Stupid’ the narrator Pete Postlethwaite said: “With all our intelligence and sophistication, the incredible thing is that we are committing suicide and we are doing it knowingly too”.

Rosalie closure: Our local Oireachtas members should let THEIR votes do the talking 

 

 

 

The planned closure of the Rosalie Unit in Castlerea, which currently caters for 12 residents, will certainly not knock Brexit, the troubles at the FAI, or the housing crisis off the front pages, but to the people involved, this is a major story. To the people of Roscommon it is a symbol of what the powers that be think they can get away with in rural areas, particularly areas where there is no Government TD to represent the people.

  That latter situation came about because of the exact same kind of neglect of the issues affecting the people – but that’s a story for another day.

  I cannot understand why the HSE is so determined to close this unit as this saga is going on for a number of years now. There has been a constant public outcry, yet the HSE and the Government have not passed the slightest bit of heed on those protests. What a lot of the so-called experts do not realise is that this unit is home in a very real sense for most of these people and they should be allowed to live out their lives in familiar surroundings.

  In the next number of weeks we are having local and European elections and this issue should be front and centre here in County Roscommon. Unfortunately, we have no Government TD to hold to account, but we have a TD from Fianna Fáil, a party which is propping up the Government. Why not vote against the Government to highlight this issue and show the level of anger felt by the public? 

  We also have two Fine Gael Senators who should register their opposition by voting against the Government in order to highlight this serious matter.

  There have been several public meetings held to highlight this issue and a petition with thousands of signatures has been sent to the Government in protest at this planned closure. But it would seem that it’s all falling on deaf ears.

  The people will have politicians calling to their doors over the next month or so, seeking votes. The fate of the Rosalie facility is an issue that should be raised with representatives of all parties and none. We have heard many fine political speeches complaining about this decision, but what the people want to see is action. There is not much point in making statements such as ‘I am standing with the people’ if they are not prepared to back it up with decisive action.

  It is significant to note that a professional body like the PNA have come out to condemn the HSE decision. Minister Jim Daly says that there will be new services available at the Rosalie Unit in the future. People know full well that if this unit closes then that’s it. Nothing will replace it.

  I know there are pressing issues affecting every community in the county which need to be addressed, but when the politicians come to your door over the next few weeks, remind them that the Government is planning to close this unit against the will of the people. It is a symbol of how rural Ireland is viewed by the powers that be. It will be interesting to see how this pans out in the end. If this unit closes, it’s another nail in the coffin of services in rural areas and in County Roscommon in particular. Will they get away with it again? Time will tell.

Insurance rip-offs are a serious threat to small businesses – and festivals

 

 

 

 

Some years ago Eddie Hobbs presented a TV programme called ‘Rip Off Ireland’ in which he highlighted the soaring prices for various goods and services in the Irish economy. That programme came into my mind in recent weeks as I listened to the debate about the cost of insurance in general – and the cost of public liability insurance in particular.

  Anyone who is brave enough to run any kind of activity centre where members of the public, and particularly children, use the facilities will know what I am talking about. One lady who is running an activity centre in Navan told last week of how when she opened her business in 2013 public liability insurance cost her €2,500 for the year. Last year she paid €16,500, and this year her quote is €26,000. By the way, this lady has never had even one claim on her policy.

  The sad thing about all this is the forecast that all these activity and play centres could be closed very shortly as a result of this madness. How could you blame them? No-one could afford to stay open and pay that kind of insurance bill. So who is to blame? I heard at least three debates on this subject on the radio in recent weeks. The insurance companies are blaming the legal system, and, surprise, surprise, the legal system is blaming the insurance companies!

  There is no doubt that we are a very claim-conscious nation and the awards in courts here are way higher than elsewhere. With such a culture prevailing, there is a temptation for a some people to claim even for the slightest reason. However, it is clear that some insurance companies are ripping people off because they know that the market is limited. Some within the legal system are also putting the boot in as hard as they can. Anyone with car insurance will know what I mean. In recent years most car policies have gone up by between 60% and 100%.

  But this situation has even wider implications. Local voluntary organisations that hold events – both indoor and outdoor – like festivals, concerts and anything that might attract a crowd, cannot do so without having public liability insurance.

  I am aware of at least three festivals in the Roscommon area which have been stopped or severely restricted because of problems with insurance and some crazy health and safety regulations. This is a crying shame.

  This is in contrast to when you go on holidays to the continent where you will encounter festivals in just about every town and village, not to mention markets selling everything under the sun, including every kind of food (hot and cold!). You would never see that here in rural Ireland now. It’s amazing that the same laws cover the continental countries as we have here.

  I realise that this is a sticky one for the Government, but as with everything else,  political will is needed to sort it out. Many of the awards in our courts are too high, some of the insurance companies and some ‘legal eagles’ are ripping people off, and it will take a brave initiative to sort it all out.

  Already a lot of the regular festivals are gone by the wayside. Now the children’s play activity centre business is under severe threat because of this scandal, which is so sad. What’s next? No-one allowed into a pub because there might be a bit of dancing going on? No-one allowed to go to football matches because of the crowds?     

  It’s all part of the politically correct madness that seems to get worse and worse with every passing day. I pity those people who are trying to make ends meet and who are depending on the insurance companies.

 

Not what the doctor ordered: Crisis looming in primary care

 

 

 

 

I wrote a few weeks ago in this column that many of the very serious problems that we are facing in this country are being sidelined because of the Brexit chaos. As the newspapers, radio and TV are dominated by the shambles in the UK, things are getting worse here in terms of the housing crisis and our beleaguered health service.

  Last week it was revealed that there are over 10,200 people now officially recorded as being homeless, with over 3,200 children in that tally. I remember Simon Coveney saying at one stage that there would be no-one in emergency accommodation by the end of the summer of 2017. Eoghan Murphy has made many fine statements and speeches since he was appointed Housing Minister – yet the situation is getting worse. The Government’s policy on the homelessness situation has been an abject failure.

  Not only that, but the general housing situation is a farce, with young people unable to afford a mortgage for a modest house in any major urban area – despite the fact that they are working in good jobs. It is clear that the policy being pursued by the Government is not working in this sector either and that new ideas are now needed.

  However, even worse is the situation in our health service where there are chronic gaps that are going to get even worse. Nurses have recently highlighted their issue with staffing and the failure to be able to stop the mass emigration of qualified nurses to better-paid and less stressful work abroad. The problems with waiting lists, the shortage of consultants and the massive delays at A&E units across the country are well documented, but there is also a crisis developing at Primary Care level over the past ten years that the Government will simply have to address.

  The number of available GPs is reducing all the time and those who are in the system are in many cases overworked to the point of exhaustion.

  It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if the vast majority of people who are ill could be treated by a GP, it would save the system a fortune. Minimising the numbers of people who are clogging up A&E units will benefit everyone, not least the people who are really ill and in need of hospital treatment. Yet the money being spent on the Primary Care sector is not nearly enough. It is very short-sighted thinking.

  If people think we have problems in our health service now, a far bigger crisis is coming down the tracks in the next 10 to 20 years when our elderly population levels will explode, given that the number of people living longer is growing all the time. That will put huge additional pressure on the already creaking service.

  Every year more and more resources are thrown at the health service, yet the problems seem to grow and grow all the time. The facts are that Ireland will need more hospital beds, more doctors and nurses to staff them, and a properly funded Primary Care system, or the type of problems that we have at the moment are going to be far worse in the future.

  Going forward, new ideas are certainly needed in our health service. We seem to be stuck in a time warp where the waiting list figures, the shortage of nurses and doctors, and the number of people on trolleys and those awaiting treatment and operations gets worse and worse. The people who are actually in the health service are doing a great job but they are under increasing pressure and our population demographic will put even greater pressure on the system going forward. Whether there is a deal or a no deal Brexit, our health system is facing very serious challenges into the future. Those challenges will have to be met head on by either Simon Harris or whatever Government is in place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Border blues: My biggest fear is threat of violence, not the economy

 

 

 

This Friday, the 29th of March, is the date on which the UK should have left the EU. Now we don’t know whether it will be April the 12th or May the 22nd – or maybe in two years’ time. Theresa May and the parliament in Westminster don’t know either.

   The economic consequences of a crash-out Brexit – with no deal – have been laid out in black and white this week. Anyone who wants to know where the next recession is going to come from will have their answer very soon if the UK and EU do not come to some agreement in the next couple of weeks.

  Those in the know say a no-deal scenario is closer than ever this week. My biggest fear is not an economic downturn, but the possibility that violence will return to this country in border areas and further afield. Any sort of border checks (inevitable if there is a crash-out) will be music to the ears of many of the paramilitaries on both sides of the political divide, people who would only relish the chance to re-ignite the hatred and misery.

  We have a generation of young people who have grown up in an atmosphere of relative peace on this island. The Good Friday Agreement, for all its flaws, has delivered peace, and if that were to stop or be undermined, it would be a far bigger price to pay than any economic downturn.

  The politicians north of the border have much to answer for over the past couple of years. The DUP and Sinn Fein cannot agree to sit down and work together, and as a result there has been no Government in Northern Ireland for the past few years. There is no-one to represent the people as the biggest challenge that they have ever faced is unfolding in London. Public representatives on all sides in Northern Ireland should be ashamed of themselves. Apart from the fact that Sinn Fein refuses to take their seats at Westminster – despite the fact that the could have helped to engineer a deal on Brexit – there is a real prospect of a return to the bad old days on the border and on the island of Ireland as a whole.

  I have watched a number of documentaries about the 1980s in this country in recent weeks. It would be deeply depressing to return to those days of hatred, bitterness and cruelty. If the situation were to worsen again (in terms of violence) it would take decades to stop it again, if indeed it were to be successfully stopped.

  The British Government have shown that they are unable to deal with Brexit, but the consequences here on this island could be far greater that anywhere else. Price rises and job losses will only be minor considerations if the violence of old resumes. Frightening and depressing times. Can we all pray that a deal is done – even at this late stage?

 

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