Money: it would drive you mad if you let it. Can’t live without it, can’t live er um, well actually most of us figure we could live quite nicely thank you with it. Last weekend, Edwina Currie was on Stephen Nolan’s BBC Radio Five Live show expressing her serious, serious doubt that anyone in Britain had so little money, they went hungry. But then her idol was one M Thatcher, so she would say that, wouldn’t she?
Back in the real world, money is an increasing worry for more and more people. Here in the north, at least 55,000 people are out of work. Each day brings fresh news of lay-offs and threatened closures. In the south – well, in the south at last count, nearly 450,000 people were jobless.
Now. The President of Ireland, as we’re told time and time again, can’t do as a politician does and draft legislation that might create jobs. But s/he can set an example. Say you had a president who boozed a lot: not good. Or who smoked like a train or looked a bit odd or had no neck : not good again. We like to think of our president as someone who won’t look or sound embarrassing.
Above all, there should be a connection between the president and the people. S/he doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the people – Mary Robinson wasn’t - but they should live lives that let them know how ordinary people live.
So how does that pan out in the Áras stakes? Well, there’s probably nothing much the people in the south can do about the presidential residence. The Áras is far bigger than any human being needs, although some will tell you it ‘lends dignity to the office’. Mmm. I’d say dignity comes from within, not from where you call home.
But back to money. Let’s assume the presidential race is now a two-horse affair (actually I think it’s still a three-horse). If it is a two-horse, how closely in terms of income do the two front-runners resemble the suffering southern population? Can the south’s populace, as they’re being hammered into the ground, look up at the president and murmur “At least we’re all in this together”?
Take the twinkly little man from Galway with the gammy leg - how does his income compare with that of the ordinary Sean Citizen? Well, Higgins receives three pensions – one from his teaching career, another as a former Minister in the Dail, and another for being a TD. Put those together and you get around €130,000 every year. Add to that the President’s salary if he gets elected and Higgins will be pulling in something between €400,000 and €5000,000 per annum. A bit beyond the realm of the average punter, wouldn't you say?
Or supposing - no, stop laughing - supposing the next president is Gallagher, the Dragon’s Den man. I’ve never seen the TV programme but I’m told it involves people who’ve a money-making scheme presenting their ideas to a panel of People With Money. And since Gallagher is one of the people on the panel, it’s reasonable to assume Gallagher is a rich man. Outside the Dragon’s Den, Gallagher ran a company called Smarthomes (guess what they did) which had a turnover of €10,000,000 a year. Yep, that's millions all right. He’s alleged to have lost several million in the recession, like a lot of other property big boys, but like a lot of other property big boys, even though he's coy about saying how much, he's probably got several millions stashed away. So will he take his salary of over €200,000 a year if elected? Does a bear evacuate its bowels in the deep dark forest?
So there you have it. The Irish people of the south are losing their jobs, thanks to Fianna Fail corruption and property developer greed. So the polls show a lifelong Fianna Fail activist with a property bent most likely to be elected. Following him in the polls is a poetry-writing academic who’s been a life-long Labour Party representative- that's Labour which is cutting to the bone in every sector, in a kind of neo-liberal frenzy and in direct contradiction of their pre-election pledges. Which means that, if the polls are correct, you don't know whether to laugh or cry or both.
First, though, let us all stand and sing the first three verses of “God Save Ireland’.