Jude Collins

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Judges, money and Michael D

You do know that on October 27, besides the presidential vote, people in the twenty-six counties will be voting in a referendum? It's to see if the people want to reduce the pay of nurses....Relax, relax - only kidding.The referendum is about maybe reducing the pay of judges. What they want to do, apparently, is get that fine balance where the judges won't be overpaid but will be well enough paid that "they're not open to corruption".  I first heard that phrase used of judges' pay in the early 1960s, by a History professor in UCD, and it's taken me all these years to see how absurd it is. Supposing a judge was earning, oh, €250,000. And supposing a case came up and the accused arranged for someone to quietly give the judge a nudge and offer to slip him oh, €5,000,000. You don't think it'd be tempting? Of course, you could instead pay the judge €5,000,000 a year; but then what if he were offered a bribe of, say, €20,000,000? There are people with that kind of money around. The fire-proofed-against-corruption thing is endless. The fact is, we pay judges, who basically decide whether to fine people or send them to prison, 'way above nurses who basically help people stay alive. And it 's going to stay that way. Says something about our values, eh?

But you don't want to be bothered thinking about nurses and their pay - they don't matter. Think instead about Labour. No, the other Labour - the Labour Party. Say the Labour Party in England. When I was young and innocent, I used to wonder how was it that a party with the name 'Labour' was always led by and represented by people who, frankly, looked and sounded as though they'd escaped from a P G Wodehouse novel and labouring was the last thing on their mind, let alone actually something they might do or once have done. Can you see Tony Blair labouring? Or  the brothers Milliband? Or, to come closer to home, Fergus Finlay? Or Eamon Gilmore ( where IS he these days, anyway? He's gone remarkably quiet)? Or  - no, stop laughing - Michael D Higgins?

Now, hold on a minute. Part of me likes Higgins. I'd probably enjoy a dry sherry with him. I'd even enjoy discussing poetry with him. But I don't see him as a man who has a lot in common with labour,  not even skilled labour. So maybe it's that labouring or working-class people are too stupid to send one of their own to speak for them in the British parliament or the Dail? Either that or people like Michael D and the rest, including little Eamon, are performing a stunning con-trick on the working class, have been for years and year and years.

Though, to be fair, there's more to being close to the working class than how you talk or look. There's money. Ah yes, the judge's friend - money. At last count,  Tony Blair, the ex-leader of the Labour Party, the working man and woman's representative for years and years, was worth £20 million. Now let's go nearer home. How much does Labour man Michael D get? (Yes I know, calm down Michael D, easy, boy - we all know you stopped being a Labour TD oh, way way back. You've mentioned that. All of nearly six months now.)

Since ex-Labouring man Michael D hasn't published his bank account, I'm relying on my memory, which as you know is subject to deception. But I seem to remember Michael D telling a journalist that he got a pension from here and of course there was that other little pension, so really he wasn't in receipt, don't you know, of very much at all at all, that was the thing of it. While he was speaking and while I was being distracted by the Paul Daniels resemblance, I did a quick calculation. And do you know - remember, I'm useless at sums - it seemed to me Michael D was presenting himself as a poetry-writing, soft-spoken, inoffensive man in receipt of something over €100,000 a year.  For doing nothing. Which if I've got it right, is a long way from the average industrial wage, even if  below what judges get. God Almighty, the man could be open to corruption, having to struggle by on a mere €100,000.

Though as I say I'm working from my faulty memory here. Correct me if I'm wrong. Either way, I think they    should have a  referendum on Presidential pay as well. And at the same time Labour could have its own internal referendum about whether they should call themselves by another, more accurate name. The Soft Hands Party? The Non-Stickie-Hands Party?  But sure isn't it a mercy Michael D won't be involved in any such decision because you see the thing of it is, he left the Labour Party earlier this year and as  you are aware he's running as an Independent, oh yes, indeed, that's precisely the case and you might as well perish the thought of anything else or any other instance being remotely accurate or truthful. Don't you know.

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