Friday 23 August 2019

Romantic Ireland's dead and gone it's with Yeats in the grave

David Looby
David Looby
Former Uruguayan President Jose 'Pepe' Mujica showing how 'common people' travel.

By david looby

AN old, battered Soundings poetry book in a bockety book shelf at my father's house stirred memories of school going days.

Having returned home last week for a friend's mother's funeral, I was reminded of those days in the CBS, the rain pouring down outside, the searing hot radiator in the pre-fab and the duster and the blackboard simplicity of life.

William Butler Yeats' September 1913 was one poem which stood out. Garishly highlighted, its dense language was pregnant with so much meaning and so much passion for a country which was in deep crisis.

Jump forward a century and our ministers and leaders gathered at Lissadell House in Sligo for a pre election summit on Wednesday. Much was made of the fact that they travelled by coach and not in a fleet of Mercs and BMW's. It's true the old Fianna Fáil days of excess and largesse and lager in Galway tents is behind us. One wonders if the 'feck everyone else, we're worth it' attitude has also been so quick to dissolve from Irish political life.

The ministers will no doubt be clamouring for their pre-Budget slice of the cake. Fresh from announcing a 50 cent rise for the minimum wage masses, the ministers, some of whom racked up €100,000 in expenses since taking office in 2011 and are still living the high life, will feel the time is right to continue the free for all.

Don't get me wrong, as someone who worked in numerous jobs earning a minimum wage in Ireland and America, I agree that it needs to finally go up. The danger remains, however, that all the zeros being spent in the run up to the election to placate hard hit voters, may end up dumping the country into a new financial quagmire. Personally, I think the government has done an admirable job on many fronts and the jobs are slowly coming. Mental health, social housing, childcare costs and more funding for policing need to be top of the list of government priorities coming into the next election, and where there is doubt, they should hold back and save some money for a rainy day, as with the country's growing ageing population and increasing Social Welfare spend, that rainy day is just around the corner.

In March the man described as the 'world's most humble president' stepped down from office in Uruguay. Our ministers could learn a lot from Jose 'Pepe' Mujica, who put his people before himself. Pepe donated 90 per cent of his salary to charity, earning roughly €600 a month.

In a 2012 interview with the BBC, he explained: 'I'm called "the poorest president", but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more.'

He drove a 1987 beat-up Beetle, legalised marijuana (one way to keep the electorate happy), took the bus to work and sat in the A&E and waited to be seen just like everyone else. Having been shot six times and put in jail for 14 years for opposing the country's former dictatorship, he knew what was important in life to his people. He did not come from a toxic, greedy political background and today Uruguay and its people are thriving.

'As soon as politicians start climbing up the ladder, they suddenly become kings. I don't know how it works, but what I do know is that republics came to the world to make sure that no one is more than anyone else. You need a palace, red carpet, a lot of people behind you saying "Yes, sir", I think all of that is awful.'

While our leaders dined and shared war stories from recent roastings in the press, local libraries in Sligo remained shut as the council tries to make cutbacks due to its €100m plus debt. This, on the 150th anniversary of the birth of our most celebrated poet. Romantic Ireland dead and gone in the home of W.B. Yeats. For this did he write all that melodiously beautiful poetry?

Wexford People