The Status Quo
When I went to cast my vote on May 17th, I did not vote for the status quo. I wanted something different. Proportional representation allows citizens great latitude in expressing their preferences. I relish the choices available on my ballot.
Voter turnout, which has decreased by more than 10 per cent over the thirty years I have lived here, disappoints me greatly. People who don’t vote have their reasons, but if one of them is the belief that not exercising one’s right to vote equates with a protest vote, they are logically and statistically mistaken. What is registered by non-voters is satisfaction with the present government—therefore the status quo.
As the General Election results trickled in and Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats regained the balance of power, I wondered where the dissatisfaction with health, housing and transport had gone. Healthcare and housing (or lack of same)—two urgent necessities for a prosperous democratic nation—impact gravely upon the quality of life of people with disabilities. In 1992, a poll asked the Irish people how they would use a cash surplus; the majority responded that they would give it to charity. When presented with the same question in 2002, the majority replied that they would spend it on themselves. (That’s fair enough. In a democracy citizens may spend their money as they choose.) In the past ten years, Ireland’s attitude to the common-good has reflected this rapid transformation to an individualistic society. In one of her Irish Times columns, Nuala Ó Faoláin called shopping centres ‘the new citadel’ of the 1990s. Like other American influences such as Dallas-style homes, Sunday shopping, second homes in Ireland, France or Spain, company-logo shoes for kiddies, an enforced interest in wine and fine cuisine, Ireland has succumbed to the seductions of materialism with enthusiasm. As we ‘shop till we drop’ and fly to New York to pick up items we can’t get here, our society is dividing rapidly into haves and have-nots. I know many people with disability and their families who fall into the have-not third of our population, now approaching four million. In three years this new-old coalition of centre-right conservative members could eliminate all waiting lists known to the Department of health, to meet the needs of our special needs citizen? Will they? I don’t think.
The Common Good
I love football! Until the 1974 World Cup, I knew nothing of European football. The ‘beautiful game’ caught my attention as I watched my son Tim play with Leinster Celtic—and then I saw Brazil! The Brazilians are a magnificent mix of European, African and South American genes and when they don those canary shirts, sky-blue shorts, brown-skinned above white socks, the green pitch is transformed into a Manet or Monet—take your pick!
Like most Irish citizens, I eagerly await European and World Cup competitions. June 2002 was no different, except that my second grandchild was due in the first week of June. He arrived on the 7th—about 9.15am, so his dad was able to watch the England-Argentina match, and most of the Sweden-Nigeria match.
But it was a different World Cup, wasn’t it? The boys went off to play football and had a row. I watched Roy Keane’s RTÉ interview and was awed by his control and dominance of the screen. Portrait-like he quietly, and with an eerie calm, put his case of pride and principle to the breathless nation of viewers.
Keane was as convinced of the rightness of his stand as he is that ‘nobody wants to play for Ireland more than me.’ I cold hear the hollow ring of his words in my sitting room, because he had made it quite clear that he didn’t want to play for his country—not in Japan or Korea, anyway.
I don’t know why he didn’t want to be there, and we’ll probably never know the real reason, but I hope it’s a good one. A captain is responsible for leading his team, for inspiring their efforts to achieve the necessary results.
Roy Keane chose to walk, then changed his mind, then lost his temper with his manager (a former captain) and finally was sent home. There’s a pair of them in it, and they both lost. So have we.
The captain of flawed character forgot he wasn’t there for Roy Keane—he was there for us—the common good. We have a right to expect that the Republic of Ireland soccer team will represent us to the best of their ability, regardless of ‘conditions’ and that they will play their socks off in pursuit of a win.
By the time this issue reaches you, Christmas will be only about five months away. I hope Santa gives Roy Keane a gift voucher for an Anger-Management Course; for Mick McCarthy, a Sports Management Diploma, and for Eamon ‘Dumpy’, lessons in humility at a retreat house—and for the sanity of others, let’s hope it has a rule of silence!