Like charity, accountability begins at home

Seldom does a day go by in Irish media without another horror story about how the state has failed yet another citizen.

Today’s offering is the Irish Times story of the two children of a 30-year-old mother in emergency accommodation, who spent the night with her corpse after she died of a drug overdose. She had spent 11 years on the housing list, waiting for a home.

This comes after recent revelations that a parliamentarian from Cork has been cashing in and claiming expenses for time spent in the Dáil when he was off working somewhere else, and ahead of a vote of no confidence in the current housing minister, Eoghan Murphy, a man who has not only failed to solve Ireland’s housing crisis, but who has exacerbated it with every ill-advised, profit driven move he has made.

In all three instances, the cry goes up for more accountability, as if it is someone else’s job; but in truth, those whose duty it is to hold our politicians to account are the voters, and they abdicated that responsibility a long time ago.

As a republic, Ireland is a failure. Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, the two parties that have ruled it since the foundation of the state cannot provide the most basic of services and protections for its citizens.

Every time these stories come out, the people cluck their tongues and call the talk shows to say how it’s a disgrace Joe, before pulling the curtain of the polling booth closed behind them and voting for exactly the people who are responsible for whatever it is that has gone to shit on that particular day.

On this very day five years ago I wrote that we all killed Johnny Corrie, the homeless man found dead in a doorway not too far form Leinster House.

Sad as it is to admit, Johnny’s death changed nothing, and more have died since. Thousands more, many of them children, have become homeless.

Back then, his death caused headlines; those that followed him to the grave are treated as mere statistics.

The outcry on social media would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so serious – pillars of society blaming politicians, but not for one second recognising their own role in putting them there, and thus their responsibility for their actions.

But it is not only there that accountability fails; we fail to hold each other to account every single day. And accountability, like charity, begins at home.

We turn a deaf ear to the anti-Traveller racism of our our friends. We ignore our co-workers when they tell us in the lunch room that “the blacks” are lazy and only here for what they can get out of us.

We cringe when a family member talks about sluts using abortion as contraception and how transgenderism is a fallacy gone too far, but we would never, ever call them out.

And when we go into those polling booths we close our hearts and open our wallets and ask who will look after our interests best, before marking the paper accordingly and betraying our fellow citizens again.

They might be ridiculed or given limited time on the airwaves, but there are radical alternatives out there, as the “Green Wave” in the local and by-elections has illustrated despite the shamefully low turnout for the latter.

But a populace shoe-horned into passivity for so long and told “nothing can be done” eventually starts to believe its captors, leaving them free to feast at the trough, year after year.

The idea that “someone” needs to do “something” about the situation needs to be turned on its head.

That someone is you.

That something is whatever you decide it to be.

It might be holding yourself and those around you to account.

It might be getting involved in politics and holding those in power to account.

But what it is not is whingeing while doing nothing.

The time for doing that has past.