I had a conversation with a man of my generation during the week in which we discussed the social contract.
When we were growing up we were told that if we worked hard we’d eventually get a good job that was permanent and pensionable, allowing us to get a mortgage and buy a house.
This unwritten agreement with the state is sometimes referred to as the social contract.
For the most part, the social contract worked for our generation.
That’s not the case for our children and our grandchildren. They are the first generations that are going to end up worse off than the generation gone before them.
No matter how hard they work, generation rent will move from one insecure contract to another, will never be able to save for a mortgage and will have to work beyond the age of retirement to keep a rented roof over their heads.
We reminisced about our days in the classroom, he was a maths teacher, I taught history.
I told him that I used to always tell my students that history teaches us that revolutions are triggered by people who have nothing left to lose.
By a strange coincidence, there’s a superb opinion piece in today’s Sunday Independent by Eilis O’Hanlon in line with what we had been talking about on Friday.
O’Hanlon writes: “The economic and political fractures which triggered the crash in 2008 have yet to be fixed, but no one in power seems willing to admit that the system itself may be broken.”
She says that “a backlash is inevitable when the social contract goes unfulfilled.”
She states the obvious: “Once you have a stake in stability, revolution holds no appeal.”
She goes on to explain how the social contract has broken down for young people and they have nothing left to lose by triggering a revolution.
“Young people have nothing to lose by tearing it all down — or at least they think they don’t,” she says.
She says in times of uncertainty people will look in the most unlikely places for their heroes and that includes the likes of Gerry Hutch.
For older generations she says the “guilt of knowing that your children and grandchildren are doing worse than you did when starting out is what turns many older voters to more radical alternatives, too.”
O’Hanlon concludes by saying: “In such a climate, seeking regime change is not primarily a political act. It’s a necessary form of self-care when under attack by chronic stress.”
Now that we have established that the social contract is broken and is likely to trigger some kind of revolution, let’s look at how the pillars of state are collapsing.
I spoke to another man during the week about how the legal fraternity and the judiciary appears to be blocking efforts to take a High Court case against the state over VAT fraud known to the revenue commissioners that has deprived the state of millions of euros in lost revenue.
As far back as 2016 Marion Harkin when she was an MEP raised questions at EU level about possible VAT avoidance schemes in the Irish poultry sector.
Senator Rónán Mullen raised the issue in the Seanad in November 2016 saying: “This appears to have been confirmed by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, before the European Parliament. If it is true, it is certainly embarrassing to have our dirty linen laundered at European level, but we should be grateful that it is being laundered.”
The apparent attempt to block a High Court case against the state on this issue is the tip of the iceberg whereby citizens have no access to justice in the courts. Seamus Maye from Sligo, Chair, International Small Business Alliance is entering his 27th year trying to use the court system to hold a corporation to account for ant-competitive practices that has put small businesses out of business. In 2020 building giant CRH settled an anti-competitive claim in the US for $100million. At present, there is very little hope that the Irish courts will allow a similar verdict in this jurisdiction.
Deputy Bernard Durkin has called for a public inquiry into the treatment of women and children in the secret, hidden family law courts. So far, that call has been ignored by the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and the Minister for Justice.
Access 2 Justice, a private group set up a few weeks ago to discuss the making of a film has now grown into a few hundred people discussing how the legal system has failed them.
I believe that there is plenty of evidence to show that the judiciary, one of the state pillars is in terminal decline, if not already broken.
Let’s move on now to examine another pillar of state, the Gardaí.
John Lee reports in the Mail on Sunday that the Government is coming under political pressure to launch a full inquiry into alleged gangland collusion involving members of the force.
Former superintendent, John Murphy convicted on drugs charges who is currently in prison is facing an investigation into his connections with the Hutch gang.
There’s three serving gardaí currently suspended and under investigation in connection with this former garda.
Another garda was arrested and his house searched and similar claims made about his involvement with criminals.
Lastly for the moment, there’s revelations about the GSOC member who was forced into retirement when details entered the public domain that he is living in a house belonging to a member of the Hutch family and was at the party Monday night following Gerry Hutch’s acquittal.
“There is too much going on here for the gardai to be expected to investigate and the GSOC claims totally complicate matters. We expect an outside agency to be appointed to look at this sometime soon,” a senior security source, told the MoS.
Simeon Burke has written to the Garda commissioner, Drew Harris claiming that he has evidence to prove Gardai committed perjury last Monday during his trial on a charge of a breach of the peace on 7 March after the hearing involving his brother Enoch.
Simeon, a King’s Inns barrister at law student, remained in prison custody on remand until last Monday’s hearing when he was convicted and fined €300.
Rather than joining the social media mob brandishing him a nutjob, it’s worthwhile to afford him the dignity of listening to his side of the story which mainstream media has failed to publish https://twitter.com/voteforsimeon/status/1649728763964411905?s=46&t=5m6Cqo32ActR4h5f8xhHPw
Simeon’s allegation appears credible given Garda performance during the recent trial of Gerry Hutch.
The “accidental” shredding of vital evidence ahead of the trial and the deal done with a convicted criminal to reduce his charge from murder to manslaughter in exchange for testimony against Hutch is worrisome to say the least.
During the trial Brendan Grehan SC argued that there was a “total absence” in the case of “any kind of clarity” as to how the DPP’s “change of heart” came about in relation to dropping Dowdall’s murder charge. He said the DPP wouldn’t consider a nolle prosequi on September 2 but within two weeks “all had changed” and that the office accepted a plea from Dowdall to facilitating the murder.
Confidence in the Gardai to uphold law and order is now eroded by the many questions hanging over their performance. Should we be surprised that this crumbling pillar of state is having difficulties getting new recruits?
Finally, let’s look at the evidence from this week that points to another pillar of state crumbling.
The Sunday papers have a great deal of commentary about Robert Watt giving the two fingers to the government when he appeared before the Finance Committee on Wednesday to explain how he signed off on a €20 million deal for the secondment of Holohan to Trinity without government approval.
The Chair of the Finance Committee, John McGuinness, in summing up the proceedings at the end of the hearing said that Watt’s behaviour sends out wrong signals to the secretary generals of other departments and to those aspiring to that position.
Wednesday’s performance left those watching in no doubt that it’s unelected officials that are running the country and not the TD’s elected to carry out the will of the people.
On Thursday during Leader’s Questions in the Dáil, the leader of the Social Democrats put 3 questions to the Tanaiste: “Is it appropriate for Mr. Watt to reject the findings of this report? How can Mr. Watt’s position be tenable? Does the Tánaiste or the Government intend to take any action to make Mr. Watt accountable?”
In reply, Micheál Martin said: “I believe it is important that the Secretary General of the Department of Health continues to work on the bigger issues facing health.”
Leo Varadker and Stephen Donnelly also publicly stated their confidence in Watt.
Worryingly, David Cullinane tipped to be the next health minister in a Sinn Féin led government didn’t call for Watts’s resignation. Instead, he used it as an opportunity to attack Stephen Donnelly, saying that it wouldn’t have happened on his watch.
In an opinion piece in the Sunday Independent, Hugh O’Connell says: “Despite his long-held belief that it should be easier to get rid of civil servants, there is virtually no chance he will be removed from his role.
There is no political appetite for this, not even on the opposition benches. For now, anyway.”
A symptom of another crumbling pillar of state? Definitely!
I could go on ad nauseam pointing out more evidence of decay. I’m surprised that you have stuck with me so long in this discussion.
I will conclude on a very positive note.
The collapse of the pillars of state provides us with the opportunity to create something new.
There is mounting evidence that this is already happening.
The launch of the Farmers’ Alliance in Athlone last Sunday is one of several grassroots initiatives around the country that are imagining an entirely new way of living that offers a decent standard of living for everyone from the cradle to the coffin.
Plans are underway to unite and grow these groups into a movement that will be able to counter the nefarious forces that will rush to fill the void when the last pillar of state left standing crashes to the ground. Watch this space!
Anna Kavanagh is a retired teacher and co-founder of M-Compass Media