08 June 2009

Where did it all go?

From my first hand – and first time – experience of the Women’s Mini Marathon a week ago, I have been mulling over an impression I got on the day. I remarked on it to Cathal’s Mammy as we were making our way through the crowds, passing some, being passed over by others. And it is this: baring two exceptions, all the women I saw on the day were wearing T-shirts of organisations that provide support and care for what I would describe as “vulnerable” people. And all these are based in Ireland.

I did see two women walking for Amnesty International, and two others walking for an African aid organisation. But every other woman I saw was walking, jogging or running for:
either anyone of the three main paediatric hospitals in Dublin,
- or a specialised ward in a regional hospital (usually cancer),
- or Cancer research,
- or Breast Cancer – or a number of other organisations associated with this
- or their local hospice,
- or Heart Children
- or the Irish Heart Foundation
- or various Alzheimer foundations
- or Down Syndrome (DS Ireland and the Dublin branch seemed to be well represented),
- or special schools for Autism (Saplings and ABA in particular),
- or schools for other special needs
- or…

Do you get the picture? Basic needs, such as health, such as education, where the state should be providing in full. Basic needs that are in fact provided to the bare minimum, and for which ordinary people feel they have to take the matter into their own hands and ensure everyone gets the level of service they are entitled to. It is worth looking at the event website, and in particular at the list of charities that have used the marathon in previous years to raise funds. The numbers are staggering.

I was watching a programme on Setanta Sport last week, all about this mini-marathon (in fact I did not get to watch it all, but most of it at least) and my unease was confirmed when one of the event organisers said that they estimated over € 14 m was raised last year by charities through this one afternoon alone. Personally, I think I could be more. Quick maths: 40,374 women completed the race this year. If everyone of them raises an average of € 500 each (it’s do-able, I am pleased to say that I am well over this figure by now) this bring us to over € 20 m ! ! !

But my unease is heightened by the fact that women felt the need to raise € 14m LAST YEAR, when the going was good, when the economy had only barely starting to slip, when we were still enjoying the roar of our Celtic Tiger. And they also did it throughout the previous years, when the money was flowing around, when for several years the tax intake far exceeded the state spending needs, giving our nation a budgetary surplus for the first time in its history.

For god sake’s, for two years running, Grafton Street in Dublin had the privilege of boasting the highest retail rent rates IN THE WORD, after 5th Avenue, New York! Is this being rich, or is this being “rich”? Ireland was no longer the poor relation at the edge of Europe.

Where did the money go? Where did this surplus end up? Like the huge downpour of a thunderstorm, has it been sucked away into the bowels of the earth? Or into the sewers of our insolvent banking system?

And now that the Tiger is only tiny little kittie, what is going to happen? How will all these organisations that CARE for the less healthy, the less able, the less strong, find their funding? In fact, why do these organisations exist? Should not the surplus share of tax euros over the last few years have been used to eliminate the need for them, and enable the state to do its job and CARE?

Ireland as a nation is well used to survive hardship. The Great Famine and its long felt consequences made sure of that. The Irish have the reputation of being the most generous people in the world, contributing more per capita to charitable organisations than any other nation. But are we being taken for granted, simply because this is what we do?

And the irony is that women will walk, jog and run for charities again next year, and I already know I want to be with them.

I do love this country, I have been here for over 30 years, by choice, I have made my nest here. I have adopted it and I think it has adopted me. But sometimes, things just don’t make sense.

Having said all this, you too can contribute to a local charity, all to do with Autism, if you need to change your phone and are in the market for a “smart” one. Check out Autism Action: for the month of June only € 10 of your purchase could help make a difference. Mean corporations giving money away…? Yes, it’s true!

          Update on this post:

          I had not meant for this post to be “party” political. And our local and European Elections last weekend had no influence on it. However, it is political, of course!

          In a weird coincidence, a few minutes after reading Lisa’s comment, I heard a song on the radio, one I particularly like. But today it just seemed so appropriate! Replace Lily Allen by the Irish Nation, and “her man” by the current government, and what do you get?

          “ It’s not fair, I think you’re really mean, I think you’re really mean…

          Oh it’s not fair, it’s really not ok, it’s really not ok, it’s really not ok…
          Oh you’re suppose to care, but all you do is take, yea all you do is take…”



          Lisa said...

          he he he, I will ignore the "mean corporations" jibe nan. Because you do make a fantastic point. Yes it is weird that we have to fundraise for even the most basic services but it is a cultural phenomenon in Ireland. People are HUGELY generous. Not all as generous as your sponsors; you will find that after the first year or two, your friends and collegues will start to avoid you around marathon time (sorry) but HuGEly generous. And they have to be because "god help ye" if you cannot afford to go private on most services.

          And God help ye is the other part of the culture. Aswell as knowing what it is like to do without (somewhere in recent and ancient memory) the irish are programed to put money in the collection plate. Money that was sometimes misused as we saw in the recent report on abuses in the church, but plenty of money.

          You are a nation of givers, it has to be said. Unfortunately you elected a shower of takers for the last 10 years (I was on my holidays each time so I take no responsibility for the last 2 Dail elections) and those takers knew that they could go to the Beacon for an MRI or colonoscopy on demand. Or pay for private tutors or with a nod and a wink and smoothing planning permission, feather their own retirement nest.

          So we are left once again with the compassion of strangers to support us.
          Thanks again for the plug!

          Jeffrey Goble said...

          The other thing that strikes me when I attend these events is how we are largely invisible, the rest of the time. We, for oh so many reasons, meld back into the woodwork, for the most part. I am as guilty of this as anyone else, but these events make me feel like a mole in the whack-a-mole game.
          Just performing my curmudgeonly duty.
          I think what you describe is universal, dear heart, not exclusive to your adoptive home.

          jazzygal said...

          Well done Nan p. A brilliant point brilliantly made. As usual (u fb star you!!)

          It is so true, all basic needs....for vulnerable people. Apart from the Special Needs Schools our local mainstream school even had a team in! That's the 1st time they've done it. things are really bad when we have to go to such lengths... especially (as you point out) when things were good.

          You know, I remember having similar thoughts about the Lotto when it first started. Lotto funds were used to support charities, education and sport. Picking up the shortfall that the Government wouldn't provide. And that, I think was towards the end of the last recession. Continued through the Celtic Tiger and here we are again.

          Lotto funds and MinI-Marathons really get the Government out of a hole. That they've REPEATEDLY dug.

          Where did the money go, indeed. Definitely into the hands of bankers and Developers. The Grafton Street Rental Greediness (that's EXACTLY what that is) proves it. xx J

          PS... Oh, I heard that song this morning too...but I heard it on GiftGrub! Very apt...and funny!