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Give Up Yer Oul’ Pension!

Today, Jim McDaid resolutely declared that he would not be giving up his ministerial pension of €22,487. Just to be clear, we’re not expecting him to spend his golden years in dire penury. McDaid will still receive his other Dail pension. Perish the thought that he would have to live on the measly €225 that his government expects ‘regular’ pensioners in this country to live on. No, no, banish that thought outright as well!

McDaid was quoted today as saying that he would not like to see a situation where ‘only the wealthy could enter politics’.  What Ireland is he living in? In the Ireland where I live, only the wealthy can enter the supermarket, for God’s sake!

Dr Jim is clear that he’s keeping his pensions not because of the money – of course not, it’s never about the money, is it? – but on a point of principle. Well now, if it’s not about the money, and it’s merely a matter of principle why doesn’t he take the money and give it to charity? Or to his local hospital?

The principle that Dr McDaid is sitting so loftily on is the principle of not being ‘whipped’ by the media in a ‘media driven witch hunt’. He is very cross with the media for mentioning that he is keeping both his pensions. Surely, however, this is the very job of the media – to bring subjects of interest to the attention of the public. The Fourth Estate is duty-bound to inform, offer opinions and present alternative points of view.

McDaid’s outrage would be funny if it weren’t so serious. His point of view is that because it is legal for him to hang onto both his pensions, he’s jolly well going to. It’s not very admirable, is it: To find a loophole in the law and wriggle through it to claim asylum? Shrugging and saying ‘But it’s perfectly legal’ doesn’t mean that something is perfectly moral.

We elect people to lead us. We expect them to lead by example. I don’t think the example of Dr James McDaid is one worth following.

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Mythbuster #4 – Parenting Alone is the Hardest Gig Ever

If there was a club for lone parents and I was a member of that club, this post would have the chairperson asking me to return my membership card and unceremoniously kicking my ass to the curb outside the clubhouse.

Thankfully, there is no such club and, therefore, I am not a member, so what I’m about to say will not result in a bruised derriere.

I’ve been parenting alone for about 8 years. My eldest was born in India and I stayed there with her until she was 9 months  old, while the ex was in Singapore. We lived together as a family only for 3 months or so. When my (then) husband was around, he was not particularly interested in the child. So, in reality, I was a lone parent with my eldest daughter. I was on my own with my second daughter from the day after I found out I was pregnant with her.

So, for six years now I have been on my own with two daughters. I have made all the decisions. Everything – from what country we will live in, to what they will wear, to what they will have for dinner – is my decision. Choosing schools, houses, cars and holidays all comes down to me. Making decisions regarding medical care and vaccinations is my duty and mine alone.  Some people would balk at this responsibility. I revel in it. There are no arguments with anyone else about my decisions. Things are the way I say they are. Yes, the buck stops with me – but I have never shied away from responsibility.

I enjoy my autonomy. I am the sheriff and there is no deputy. I am quite convinced that the fact that I am a lone parent has been responsible for honing my children’s negotiation skills. If I refuse a request, for example, they need to live with it, convince me otherwise or broker a workable compromise. They can’t go running to Daddy and try to play us off one against the other.

At the drop of a hat, I can decide that my children and I are going off for the day – or the week, or the summer. There are no lengthy discussions with ‘the other half’. It’s just done.

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like a partner – but I’ve already been married twice and I know that’s not all it’s cracked up to be, either.  Being in a relationship doesn’t automatically mean that there is someone around to share the chores with; it doesn’t mean that you have regular sex; it doesn’t guarantee adult conversation and it doesn’t mean you’ll have someone around to offer to make the dinner or a cup of tea.

Being on your own means you know where you stand. In order to give that up, I’d be looking – not for a partner, but the right partner. In the absence of that elusive male, I’d rather be on my own with my children.

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Art?

I was with a group of artistic people recently. I don’t merely mean creative people, I hang out with them all the time.  These people were visual artists of. I know about as much about paintings  as I do about wine. Which, technically, isn’t much. But I can tell you what I like and I can tell you why. Maybe I can’t tell you why in the jargon of the professionals, but I know that doesn’t make my preferences or opinions any less valid.

The conversation drifted to the Tates in London and everybody else expressed a preference for the Tate Modern. One or two people positively gushed in appreciation of the works of genius housed there. I wrinkled my nose.

‘Can’t stand it,’ I said. ‘It irritates me.’

Raised eyebrows all round.

‘Seriously. It’s full of pretentious rubbish. So much more of what passes for ‘art’ does not display any talent. None of any artistic merit, anyway.’

There were audible gasps. I am old enough now not to care if I don’t appear sophisticated. I am secure enough in my opinions to proffer them fearlessly. In fact, I was a little amused. It did occur to me that these artistic people seemed to think that in order to appear sophisticated and knowledgeable about Art, they felt that they must profess appreciation of the most outlandish offerings labeled ‘Art’.

‘The beauty of modern art is that it can be whatever you want it to be,’ one of the Artists told me. ‘You need to be able to look at it and see beyond what’s on the canvas or in the frame.’

I smiled, remembering how, on a visit to the Tate Modern my eldest daughter – then aged just five – pronounced how she could have ‘done something like that’. I was in no position to disagree with her.

‘Can we leave now and go and look at some real paintings?’ she had asked me. She didn’t have to ask a second time, I can assure you.

To be perfectly honest, Modern Art smacks to me of  ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. The thinking seems to be that only those who are rather old, very conservative,  incredibly gauche or terribly unsophisticated would admit that they don’t ‘get’ it.

In conversation with these Artists, however, it suddenly occurred to me why I don’t like modern art; why I like Art to look like what it’s supposed to look like. I like pictures of people and flowers and mountains and sunsets.   My entire life has been spent in chaos. I am a past-master at making sense of madness. I have skills in that arena that – if I could teach them – would make me enough money to retire on by my next birthday!

Taking a big, awkward mess and trying to make it – inside the shell of my skull at least – into something that is ordered is something I can do with ease.

Organising chaos is first nature to me because in order to stay alive – literally – it was something I had to learn to do as a young child. So, the idea of choosing to do the same thing as a pleasurable pursuit is laughable! I don’t want to have to work at turning a load of paint splattered in a corner of a canvas into something coherent.

So I make no apology for my apparent lack of sophistication. I do not regret that I have no interest in looking at pictures that require ‘work’ to understand them. I’d much rather look at pictures that represent objects that are what they seem to be – pictures without agendas, if you will.

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Third World Healthcare? Yes Please!

Hours waiting to be seen in A&E. Days – sometimes weeks – on trollies in hospital corridors. Up to two years waiting time to see certain consultants. Unopened mail. Unanswered emails.Appointments postponed by months or even cancelled for no apparent reason. Mis-diagnoses. Missed diagnoses. People dying because they can’t afford private healthcare. X-rays not read by a qualified person. Unnecessary procedures performed without even a cursory nod in the general direction of  evidence-based medicine. Necessary procedures unperformed because of lack of properly trained personnel. Dirty hospitals. Stained bed-sheets.

Sounds like some God-forsaken Asian backwater, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s here.  Here, in  puffed-up little Ireland where we like to think we’re some sort of sophisticated first-rate, First World nation.  The truth – though few will admit it – is that Ireland  is really a Third World country with her best frock on. During the Celtic Tiger years, she was a third world country with her best frock and some-one else’s borrowed jewels on.

I am always aware of how poor healthcare is in Ireland – not least because I lived outside of Ireland for most of my adult life and I know what superb healthcare looks like. I’m acutely aware of how atrocious Irish healthcare – more specifically the Irish hospital system is – since I received a letter from a children’s hospital this morning.

For years, my daughter has had a physical problem that I simply could not get diagnosed in Ireland. My GP was clueless – but refused to admit he was (he’s not my GP anymore, by the way).  Eventually, I found a consultant I thought could help and rang his secretary. Going private did away with the need for a referral letter and more than halved the waiting time.

Still, nearly €500 later, my daughter did not have a diagnosis. The consultant – who was an eminent professor in his area of specialisation – could do nothing better than hazard a guess.

The following year, we were back in India. I consulted a paediatrician there.  At 11am on a Wednesday morning, she ordered a full-body MRI. My daughter had her scan at 6pm that same evening. The hospital where this took place was spotless. The equipment was brand-spanking new Siemens and the cost was €90. How long would I wait and how much would it cost for a similar procedure in Dublin? I shudder to think.

Anyway, I was unconvinced by this doctor’s diagnosis. So I sought out another doctor. This man was a specialist in the area.  Within 5 minutes – literally – this doctor was able to accurately diagnose my daughter’s condition and he put her on medication. The consultation and six months’ supply of medication cost me less than €20.

My daughter is still on this medication. I took the prescription back to Ireland from India, explained to my new GP what the Indian doctor had said and she was happy enough to accept his diagnosis and write a prescription for the same drug.

Three years later, my daughter is still on the tablets – although the dosage has been more than doubled. She has not, however, seen a consultant in all that time. Last October, my GP suggested it would be prudent to get my child reviewed by a consultant. We were given an appointment for this month. This morning, a letter arrived to let me know that the appointment has been moved from April until August. What kind of nonsense is this?

I will admit that my daughter’s condition is not currently life-threatening, but she does need monitoring. She does need her health to be reviewed by someone competent enough to do so. She needs further tests – as was acknowledged in the letter from the consultant’s office – and she may need different medication or a different dosage of the same medicine. At the very least, I need to speak with someone who is qualified to discuss this area of her health with me.

It seems, however, that I’ll need to go to a Third World country to access that kind of healthcare.

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Forget his Resignation – Arrest Sean Brady

What has amazed and infuriated me most about the ‘should he/should he not resign’ debate in the media  regarding Sean Brady is that it stops there. It stops with many clamouring for his resignation and many braying to leave him alone, that he’s ‘a good man’.

Whether or not he resigns or is sacked – what I want to know is why no one has called for the man’s arrest? Indeed, regardless of whether or not it has been called for, why have the Gardai not appeared at his door and effected an arrest?

This man is surely guilty of perverting the course of justice (swearing children to secrecy in 1975); concealing a felony (which is a crime – and the sexual abuse of these children was a felony); gross intimidation (intimidating children with the threat of eternal damnation resulting from the excommunication which was threatened in the event that they disclosed they had been abused by clergy). Anyone with a legal qualification could probably count a few more crimes of which Sean Brady is guilty. Yet this man is still free to walk our streets.

What does this say about how we treat sexual abuse in Ireland? In my opinion, it speaks volumes. The national psyche has made obvious strides away from viewing the church as completely untouchable. It has also made strides away from from viewing child abuse as something we ignore, at best, and condone at worst. That’s not enough, though. We need to realise that every child in the nation has a right to be safe and protected inside and outside of their homes. We need to actively protect those rights and bring to justice every person who violates them. Without exception.

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