On Saturday morning last I was driving to Loughrea from Claregalway when, on Ruth Buchanan’s Playback programme, I heard a piece from Thurday’s Liveline.  A guy called John was talking to Damien O’Reilly about being a small time heroin dealer in Dublin.  John’s main defence of his part time occupation was as follows. It is simply impossible to live on the €204  job seekers allowance that he is given by the state every week, so he is forced to supplement his income by selling heroin.

Fast forward to Monday morning and Government chief whip, Pat Carey, is being interviewed by Áine Lawlor on  Morning Ireland.  Carey had come out to defend the fact that, contrary to what was announced in the budget speech by Brian Lenihan, sitting TDs could, after all, continue to receive ministerial pensions.  During the course of the discussion Carey alluded to the recent tribunals and suggested that we did not want to return to those bad old days.  This is a shocking and disgraceful statement from any TD, but from one charged with keeping  back-benchers on side with the government message, it is all the more so.  To suggest that if our esteemed public representatives are not paid enough, or even what they would deem to be sufficient, that they would inevitably resort to corruption and bribery to supplement their incomes is an incredible position for a chief whip to take.

When John the heroin dealer declared that he must turn to law breaking to supplement his €10,608 annual income, another caller to Liveline was moved to call him ‘the scum of the earth.’

When a government TD suggests that TDs and former ministers might do the same if their wages of between €100,000 and €150,000 plus are cut by a few grand it raises barely a whimper.

Does anything tell us more about this government’s contempt for and their detachment from the electorate.  How much longer are we going to allow this powerful, wealthy, detached elite to treat us and our democracy like a private country club.  How long will we continue to be a veritable ATM for these leaches.

This ‘L’Oreal’ cabinet see nothing wrong with a Taoiseach who earns more than the President of The United States.  They see nothing wrong with TDs getting compensatory payments of over €50,000 when they lose their junior ministers’ positions and then having to eke out a living on the basic €100,000 backbencher’s salary.

Why?

Because they’re worth it.

You will not find one among the current 164 TDs and 60 Senators who genuinely does not believe that  they are worth every cent.

Many callers to Liveline today agreed that we need to pay our politicians well if we are to get the best people for the job.  In recent years, as the wages of our elected representatives have soared, this has become accepted wisdom.  If you pay peanuts, we are told, you get monkeys.  I don’t agree with this.  I think that it is just possible that the higher the remuneration the lower the standard of politician you are likely to get.

The skills and the attitude required to run profit driven, private companies and PLCs are quite different to those required to run public institutions.  Every day of every year there are tens of thousands of people, the length and breadth of this country, who engage in volunteerism.  These people selflessly give their time and energy to run GAA clubs, soccer clubs, boxing clubs.  They take care of elderly neighbours and relatives and never ask a cent for their service.  These are decent, civic minded people who give because it helps their communities and probably because it makes them feel good too.

Conversely, the more we pay our politicians the more likely it is that we will get people who are only in it for the money.  These are absolutely the wrong people to run the country.  These are the wrong people to take care of the sick, the elderly and the disadvantaged.  These are the wrong people to be charged with the sharing out of the wealth of the nation.

We, however, are the idiots who keep electing them.

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