David Quinn writes in the Irish Independent today in support of Health Minister James Reilly, a mansion-dwelling millionaire and major property owner, as well as an investor in private health services (though to be fair, that is the status of many general practitioners in Ireland since they run their surgeries as profit-making businesses) who sends his children to private school (though to be fair, he is the only member of the cabinet -of whom 40% went to private school by comparison with 7% of the population- prepared to say so).
The piece, from the prominent right-wing Catholic commentator, is an attack on public sector unions and the Croke Park Agreement, and is part and parcel of a broader ideological assault on the public sector in the run-up to the budget. There is nothing surprising about any of this: right-wing Irish Catholics have always hated the idea that the State should provide health services in line with citizen rights; indeed, they have identified such provision as incipient totalitarianism. Thus the Mother and Child Scheme, a potential precursor to something along the lines of a national health service, was torpedoed by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid.McQuaid declared: ‘The powers taken by the State in the proposed Mother and Child Health Service are in direct opposition to the rights of the family and of the individual and are liable to very great abuse. Their character is such that no assurance that they would be used in moderation could justify their enactment. If enacted they would constitute a ready-made instrument for future totalitarian aggression.’ Thus there is a long-standing ideological commitment on the part of the right-wing in Ireland, Catholic and secular, to the wholesale privatisation of health services. Beyond religious fervour, it is not hard to see why: fat profits can be made from health services, since everyone needs them and demand for them is unlikely to ever go down. Hence James Reilly’s private nursing home ventures, the appointment of the owner -Frank Dolphin-, of an outsourcing company that provides health services, to chairmanship of the HSE, and so on. Quinn, the Catholic moralist of choice for Ireland’s mainstream media (he is a very regular guest on TV and radio shows where religious matters are up for discussion, as if he were The Only Catholic In Ireland) accepts the cuts to the health service as a matter of self-evident necessity, and, writing in a newspaper controlled by Denis O’Brien, presents the public sector unions as replacing the Church as ‘the power in the land’, who stand to deliver the modern equivalent of the ”belt of the crozier’ in the form of a strike. Now none of this, so far, is especially remarkable, I’ll admit: right-wing media employs people to demonise public sector unions in order to mobilise public opinion against protection of pay and conditions and weaken the power of organised labour through a privatising and flexibilising discourse intended to attack the livelihood of workers and undermine social gains won by the labour movement. Happens everywhere, all the time, especially nowadays.
What gets me here, though, is the sheer fucking gall of these people, the sneering arrogance of their attempts at wresting control over what little there is by way of public services and social entitlements in Ireland, and how little challenge there is to this wholescale robbery. I can’t be bothered rehearsing the reasons behind this now. No doubt it has to do with public sector unions that have become part of the machinery of the State and whose leadership pins its hopes on a Labour party apparatus that gets an erotic enjoyment out of the privatising and flexibilising discourse that is the condition of possibility for their political power.I will just finish with this graph, which I think illustrates well how much Quinn and the rest of the right-wing ideological shock troops are lying through their assholes on behalf of finance capital -which never got the belt of the crozier in Ireland- when it comes to their malign fairy tales about public sector workers and the self-evident necessity of policy decisions.