BEN SCALLAN: It’s Time To Put Ireland First

As Irish politicians scramble to help every group and organisation on earth other than its own citizens, you’d be forgiven for wondering who they actually represent.

Simon Coveney, Fine Gael Minister for Foreign Affairs, courted controversy on Thursday when he announced that Ireland would be quadrupling its contribution to the World Health Organisation.


The decision came at a time when the WHO is being blasted by media outlet after media outlet for its shameful alleged cooperation (one might say collusion) with the Chinese Communist Party in covering up the coronavirus. The United States has announced that they will be suspending all funding to the WHO, which has put the organisation under intense scrutiny. Yet Minister Coveney, almost as if to spite America (and common sense), wants to quadruple the funding they receive from Irish taxpayers.

The WHO’s sketchiness aside, everyone agrees that we have a certain responsibility to our international neighbours and the world. But generosity is for when you have surplus, not when you’re experiencing a crisis yourself. Nobody would think it rational for a family that is struggling to pay bills or support their children to be giving large charitable donations away. It is reasonable to focus on getting ones’ own house in order before looking to help others. On the macro scale, a country is no different. If Ireland has spare millions in people’s tax euros to give away to glorified NGOs like the World Health Organisation, it stands to reason that they’d be better spent at home on healthcare resources amid this unprecedented pandemic.

At the same time, as if on cue, the Dublin fruit company Keelings came under fire for flying in 189 strawberry pickers from Bulgaria this week, which the government apparently allowed to take place.

Now, of course nobody would blame the Bulgarian workers for this. They’re just taking a business opportunity that was presented to them. But at a time when 25% of Irish citizens are projected to be unemployed by the summer, this large business has the permission of the government to import laborours from abroad rather than employing Irish people in need. Not only that, but all of those foreign workers inevitably broke the 2km limit on travel due to coronavirus. While Irish citizens are not even free to attend funerals for their friends and relatives, the government is allowing Eastern European workers to zip in and out of the country with impunity. 

But Fine Gael has long made logically-backwards decisions like this. It was just a few months ago that they announced that taxpayers would be doubling our foreign-aid expenses to over €2bn by 2030, while at the same time our health service and housing markets disintegrated before their eyes. They were so concerned with budgeting for the rest of the world’s needs that they forgot there are people at home who need help too. And more importantly, it’s the people at home who pay the government’s bills.

Politicians are called public servants for a reason – their job is to attend to the needs of citizens first and foremost. Now, more than ever, we need a government that is loyal to the people and the country. If our own government won’t put Ireland first, who will?

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