Tom Kelly’s column in the Irish News is worth a read. Not least because it recognises one of the conditioning factors of public life in the times that lie ahead: not everything can be done for you by getting politicians to pull policy levers inside government. After Reboot Britain there are a few of us now talking about running a Reboot Ireland event this autumn, which will try to focus resolutely on what the country needs to respond to what is shaping up to be a once in a three or four generational crisis. In the Republic, news of the degree of cuts proposed by the McCarthy committee (An Bord Snip Nua) is already sending some into a blind panic. Interestingly in Britain, the Guardian’s ICM poll saw approval emerge for the proposed cuts by the Conservatives. Albeit that none of us quite know what that will mean in practice, the point is that an approval is emerging for spending cuts because there is a general realisation that a massive public spending spree is now over. There is a weirdly keen appetite for austerity, and as Kelly puts it, ‘telling it like it is’.
The same is not yet true of the Republic; whilst in Northern Ireland politicians are reduced to trying to wring what they can of any value from a sinking ship from Captain Brown (who will almost certainly go down along with the sinking vessel)… As Kelly notes:
Sometimes the truth hurts. Very often people dont want the truth, even when they say they do. Take the south of Ireland where very clearly people dont want to hear about the austerity measures that must take effect to rebuild the economy. Brian Cowen is taking a beating in the polls because he is telling it as it is.
In fact it’s just as likely Cowen’s getting hammered because he also represents incumbency. But there’s something else too, and it’s in Kelly apposite example of what Obama seems to be able to do most competently. That’s telling it like is and also telling people what they can do to help themselves:
Speaking to the conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, he literally told African Americans to stop blaming others for their misfortunes.
The US president said: No more excuses. No-one writes your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands and dont forget that. That is why we have to teach our children a new mindset, a new set of attitudes because one of the most durable and destructive legacies is how so many in our community have come to expect so little of ourselves.
Oh, for an Obama at Stormont instead of the liberalising, nanny tosh from people who just wont take responsibility or ask others to do so either.
He goes on to target…
…the nonsense in our education debate over selection which actually diminishes the aspiration and much perspiration needed to succeed.
The least everyone wants are performing schools whether they be vocational, grammar or all-ability schools. But good schools need good, committed teachers and in some cases schools are being let down by teachers who are so not committed.
Under performing schools are also failed by uninterested parents. Parents who dont see the value of education and who wont take responsibility for the quality of lives they bring into this world. Cop out parents, who are let off the hook of responsibility by well-meaning policy wonks.