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Perspective

Focus anger and energy to promote equality and sustainability

Enda Kenny was not in fact damned by the Fennelly report. It found he did not sack or seek to sack hapless Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Admittedly there are caveats and a “however”, but from the fury of commentators and opposition politicians you would think Kenny was Bertie Ahern. When people need to be fired, and no-one could vouch confidence in the commissioner, it’s impossible for the axe-wielder to look good. The most important thing was to remove the commissioner, in a society where too often incompetents are left in place.
Village is not particularly well disposed to Enda Kenny as a force in politics but that is because of his antipathy to equality and sustainability (and all that winking). Not how he fires people, though clearly he can learn lessons in transparency, and minute-taking.
Certainly there are questions for the Attorney General and the Garda Commissioner (and indeed his successor) and the report published is only a component of an ongoing investigation of Garda station recordings but a sense of proportion is required and anger should be dispensed effectively.
For example, for Village other issues of propriety have more legs. The recommendations of the Moriarty and Mahon Tribunals languish. What happened to the team of 15 officers from CAB who were looking at the £867,000 channelled to Lowry by Denis O’ Brien after Lowry had granted the second mobile-phone licence to O’Brien’s Esat in 1995? What is happening to Ben Dunne who received benefits from Lowry that were “profoundly corrupt to a degree that was nothing short of breathtaking”? Is Bertie Ahern to be prosecuted for his perjury and conspiring to mislead the Mahon tribunal?
The authorised officer’s dossier on Ansbacher purports to establish a wide-ranging establishment conspiracy to ensure well-known holders of illegal bank accounts were never exposed. Why has this never been investigated and why will the media not even report it?
If propriety is the issue, Kenny is not the outstanding problem.
But it is not the principal problem. There are epochal emergencies such as the rise of Isis, failed nations, colossal migration and climate change. Kenny, no visionary, makes little difference to these issues.
Meanwhile, basic iniquities seldom make the news. Poverty, Travellers’ rights, Direct Provision and refugees (until there’s a photogenic death), homelessness, the iniquities of the bank guarantee and Nama, species loss.
For Village the overarching issue is equality. Village believes equality of outcome is an ethical imperative. We are all equal from birth and ethically. Society’s goal is to recognise that by distributing resources to reinforce that equality.
Only equality gives the perspective necessary to deal pre-emptively with each of the problems above, without the need for a crisis, a death or a photo-op.
The debate about equality is very crude, partly because those who benefit from inequality want to keep it that way.
For example, inconveniently, during the Great Recession in Ireland the two income groups worst affected were the very highest earners whose income fell by over 15% and the very lowest earners whose incomes fell by 12%. It is important nevertheless to keep a focus on the fact that absolute poverty and deprivation levels – among those very lowest earners – have been rising consistently since 2009. The level of deprivation has almost doubled since 2008. As Mike Allen notes, for example, in this edition of Village: in July this year, 77 families became homeless, 70 of them for the first time.
Anybody seeking to address the big ethical issue of equality would have only to undertake to reduce absolute poverty and increase equality, measured by the Gini coefficient, across the range of income levels, and to leave office if they did not make progress. That politicians are insincere is evident from their unwillingess to establish simple indicators to gauge their impact on fairness.
And sustainability is a subsidiary of equality for it is transcendently unequal to transmit fewer of the earth’s resources and joys to the next generation than the legacy left to this generation.
In 5, 50 and 500 years they will not remember September 2015 for the Fennelly Report (or for water charges or property taxes). They will note that we allowed inequality to pervade, that we were squandering the earth’s resources and that we failed to avail of the opportunity to tame climate change.
And they may note that the desperate quest for asylum, and its principal driver, an anarchic civilisation-subverting industrial-scale terrorism of daunting ambition, both first became manifest on a vast scale in 2015.
If we think migration on the scales we’ve reluctantly been debating over the last few weeks is dramatic, wait until climate change drives millions from drought, desertification and sea-level rises.
If we want to deal with the problems of our era and for future generations to pay us any respect we must ensure all policy pushes for equality and sustainability. And direct our ire at those who stand in its way. Not get waylaid by an incompetent firing of an inept Garda Commissioner. •