13 March 2010

Home Alone

An Taoiseach Brian Cowen, accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, is making the customary pilgrimage to Washington this week, bowl of shamrocks in hand, like the tribal chieftain of a conquered vassal state paying annual tribute to Caesar.

Mary Harney, who remains in government solely on the basis that nobody else wants her job, is in New Zealand on a fifteen day holiday/good-will visit, well timed given both our current economic crises and the recent scandals at Tallaght hospital.

But they are not alone. In fact according to The Irish Times twenty-three Ministers and government officials are away this week, flying the tattered flag for the shattered remnants of our once proud nation:
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan will travel to Germany for engagements in Munich, Berlin and Dusseldorf.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Brendan Smith will visit Rome and Milan where he will be promoting Irish food exports.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern will visit Paris while Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey will travel to Atlanta in the US to meet companies which have major investments in Ireland.

Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan will travel to India while Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe will visit Japan and Korea.

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív will visit Poland and Austria.

Minister for Health Mary Harney will travel to New Zealand, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin will go to the US, to speak at a lunch hosted by the Irish American Business Chamber and Network in Philadelphia, while Government Chief Whip Pat Carey will visit Houston and Dallas.

The other junior ministers travelling abroad are Minister for Children Barry Andrews, who will speak at an event in New York, while John Curran, the Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, will visit London and Birmingham, and junior health minister John Moloney will travel to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Junior minister for the environment Michael Finneran will visit China while the Minister for Trade and Commerce, Billy Kelleher, will travel to Australia.

Junior enterprise minister Dara Calleary will be in Canada and Boston while Europe Minister Dick Roche will visit Russia.

Áine Brady, junior minister responsible for the elderly, will visit Norway, Sweden and Denmark while OPW Minister Martin Mansergh will travel to Holland and Belgium.

Overseas aid Minister Peter Power will be in South Africa and Lesotho.

Science and Technology Minister Conor Lenihan will travel to Vietnam while the Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, will speak at a function in Dubai.
So, with the loss of Ministers Willie O'Dea, Trevor Sergeant and Martin Cullen in the last four weeks this seems to leave the country in the charge of Minister for the Environment John Gormley and Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan.

Lets work this one through. Brian Lenihan has stated that there is nothing really for him to do between now and the budget so his current illness is no impediment to his job and John Gormley by all accounts can't make up his mind if he is supposed to be a Minister at the moment or not.

These are the folks left in charge of the shop while everyone else has nipped out for a quick bag of chips and a sneaky pint?

Now I'm not explicitly or implicitly suggesting any course of action here, but, you know, if we were a nation with a slightly more equatorial location there would be folks seizing the airport and tv stations right about now, martial music would be playing on the radio and the nice men in the fancy uniforms would be telling us that everything is under control and democracy would be restored in due corse, while wild-eyed unshaven cigar-chomping youths would be dancing on top of overturned buses with fiery women shimmying in floral print dresses and a knowing look in their eyes, swigging from long bottles of purloined rum and consumed with an egalitarian camaraderie and the certainty of their own immortality, and the cries of "¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!" would rise above the rooftops of a city drunk on the possibilities of the future.

But alas we as a nation are cursed by geography, climate, and a hops-fueled apathy towards seizing control of our own destiny and making our world anew. Our silence grants our oligarchs permission to act with impunity, our inaction grants them free will to act with immorality. 70% pay rises for the board of NAMA, 23 state-funded holidays abroad for Government members and there's not enough money in the kitty to pay the teachers. "Tough decisions had to be taken on the economy" said An Taoiseach Brian Cowen at a gala dinner in Chicago to mark the start of his US trip. "Omnomnom" go our political masters.

In other Banana Republics the ruling elite sneak away only for emergency medical treatments to prolong their wizened grasp on the reins of power, fearful that the downtrodden masses will rise up at the slightest sign of weakness or the merest glimpse of an opportunity to act against years of corruption and oppression.

We, however, get postcards from Auckland Starship Hospital saying "food's great, off to the beach now. Wish you were here!"

"Omnomnom" go our political masters.

Hasta manana, compañeras y compañeros!

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