In politics, people like to talk about new governments having a honeymoon, where the glow of victory allows them to introduce radicle changes in their first 100 days. But the coronavirus crisis has seen the Irish Government, still in place after losing the election, radically reconfiguring the state and society in its final 100 days.
“The 20s will (perforce) be Socialist”
Fine Gael is a very conservative party. In fact, that is almost its defining characteristic. It wants things to stay the same, almost without any caring what the definition of ‘things’ is. In internet terms, it proposes to everyone that the This is Fine cartoon is the right approach to life.
So there is a grim irony that the paroxysm of the Coronavirus crisis has happened in the dying days of its stewardship of the nation. Becuase it may be a conservative party, but it is still an Irish conservative party. And that means there was no echo of the UK’s dreams of herd immunity and letting pensioners dying. They have just gone with the science and gradually ratched up the restrictions to supress the transmission of the virus.
But, in order to deal with the consequences of turning off the economy and preparing for a lot of critically ill people needing care, Fine Gael have, so far, announced
- A near basic income payment system (the Pandemic unemployment payment)
- One week later, an increase in that basic income by nearly 30% above the previous dole payment which is suddenly accepted as unsustainably low.
- Free Childcare facilities (though full subsidy of staff wages and costs of private operators)
- Nationalisation of private hospitals. (All staff now HSE staff. All facilities now state controlled)
- A national rent freeze (previously unconstitutional, according to the same Govt now bringing it in)
- A huge increase in state spending to pay for all of the above.
There are still gaps- why are people who where previously getting the dole still expected to live on the €203 while newly unemployed people get €350. Surely a rent and mortgage holiday, rather than a rent freeze is also needed?- but take a look at that list.
And now imagine what Fine Gael would have said about any party that proposed to do any, let alone all, of the above during the recent election.
In a Revolution all the things that were previously impossible become compulsory. And all the rules we presumed were immutable melt like dew.
This isn’t a just a crisis.
This is a Revolution.