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Eamon Ryan says: Ask the Dole office for help if you can’t buy diesel

God, I love Eamon Ryan. Or, as I call him, “the postman”. If you’re a struggling blogger worrying about content for the next day, he always delivers.

I’m wondering here though about what, exactly, the dole office can do for you if in fact you do show up at their doors asking for the money for a tank of unleaded or diesel? The Additional Needs Payment, presumably, though the fund for that will run out, fairly lively, if we all show up at once. I think we should all go, though. Troop down to the dole office with your receipts, and say “Eamon Ryan said I should come”:

This one, really, is the classic Eamon Ryan gaffe. It is destined, like all his best ones – watercress sandwiches, ten cars to a village, and so on – to go mega viral and to leave people not knowing whether to laugh at him, or to curse him, or some mixture of the two.

On the one hand, it’s well meaning: He presumably does want to help the struggling, and, being a man of the left, has boundless faith in the ability of Government to make a difference. His solution to most economic problems involves, after all, the superheroes of the public sector stepping in to improve the life of the hapless citizen. And no doubt, he sincerely believes that people working in social welfare offices up and down the land would extend the hand of friendship and aid to a middle-class fellow who’s had to resort to sticking 20 quid at a time in the Audi.

On the other hand, it’s wonderfully out of touch with reality. And not just the reality that the social welfare office is not going to sub families the cost of their petrol every week. It’s also out of touch with the reality that for most people, going to the social welfare office for any reason to ask for help is a shaming and embarrassing experience. It’s one thing going in to pick up the pension, or the children’s allowance, or something else that you are entitled to, and have worked for and paid taxes towards. It’s another thing entirely to troop in and ask for help because you can’t make ends meet. Eamon Ryan perhaps wouldn’t be embarrassed, or feel small, doing that. Many of us would.

Then there’s the political unawareness: This is the kind of thing that people remember. They remember that when they voted for Greens, the result was they were told to go to the dole office for help because diesel was so expensive. That might not be all the Green’s fault, but it speaks, yet again, to the attitude: There’s no sympathy in them; no real comprehension of how ordinary people live. If a problem can’t be solved by increasing bicycle subsidies, then they have no clue.

This is, and has been, for some time, Ryan’s biggest problem: He’s the Marie Antoinette of Irish politics. 250 odd years after she said “Let them Eat Cake”, or was alleged to have said it, we still remember it. That’s how it goes with Ryan: A big section of the population will never forget “bring back wolves” or “go to the dole office for your diesel”. It doesn’t just say he’s out of touch, it suggests that his experiences bear no relationship of any kind with those of the people over whom he reigns. More than any other Minister, he makes himself an advert for revolution. Nobody, remember, thought that Marie Antoinette was truly evil – just so detached from the realities of the people that she put herself beyond sympathy.

And all of this, of course, ignores the fact that there are other solutions: Government in Ireland can reduce the cost of fuels any time they want. They’ve already done so, earlier this year, in fact, and it cost them basically nothing because the fuel price continued to rise, meaning that even their smaller percentage tax is now delivering the same revenue. They could probably come close to halving the duty on fuel, and still take in about what they were taking in two years ago.

Anyway, there’s a more sinister explanation here. Perhaps he wants us to walk. After all, the wolves will need food, when he brings them back, and watercress sandwiches won’t cut it.

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