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We have plenty to get angry about

Irish Post

THE COVERAGE of the Passport Office industrial dispute here in Ireland was nothing short of a summary of our times.

Of course other disputes that are integral to the workings of this Republic of ours are not deemed worthy of coverage.

So the dispute in Mayo over the Shell pipeline is given cursory coverage in the general media and salacious, biasladen coverage by certain journalists whose motivation seems to be strangely in line with that of the multi-nationals.

Likewise, the Coca-Cola bottling dispute was given minimal coverage by all arms of the media.We just want to drink the sweet, fizzy drink of the universe here in Ireland, we don’t want to know about the people lugging the crates around.

The passport dispute though proved that the Irish media are in fact interested in industrial disputes and not only that but that they are interested in a very shared way.

Without exception, the Irish press, television and radio approached this from exactly the same angle.

There was no discussion about the particularities of the dispute.

There was no discussion about the severe cuts in public sector pay that were in essence at the core of the dispute.

There was not even a debate about whether these pay cuts were right or wrong, fair or unjustified. There was not even a rehashing of the public sector versus private sector angle that the entire media had loved just a few short months ago.

No, without exception this dispute was examined from the one, same viewpoint — that of the unfortunates in the passport queues who were being most directly affected by the go-slow and the work to rule.

Now, I say all of this as a person who is far from being organised.

I would say my approach to most of the daily, necessary activities, is at best lackadaisical. Others might say incapable.

So, I could readily sympathise with the man who spoke of needing a passport because his brother was getting married in another country at the end of the week.

Yes, I thought, that would be me. I would be there with all the victims of last-minute planning.

All of the other stories too, even though I was amazed that so many people needed a passport at such short notice, all of those other stories I felt I could have been part of.

So, of course, I could sympathise, who wouldn’t?

But I couldn’t help feeling my sympathy drying up as I listened to story after story of ‘my passport hell’ and I couldn’t help feeling that there might be other things that were far more important than somebody’s travel plans being disrupted.

What it said though, what it said very loudly, was something about the new nature of this little Republic of ours.

Through our media we were all encouraged to believe that there was only one way of looking at this and that this was most reflected by those in the queues.

In essence we were asked to look at this dispute and ask in true Celtic Tiger fashion, how does this affect me? Hence the individual tales of woe. Nothing about the dispute itself, the case for the workers, the case for the Government. That was irrelevant.

We were asked to look at this as being about how it affected us, the consumer, the individual. Don’t get me wrong, if I’d been in that queue I’d have been mightily fed up, even genuinely upset if I was travelling for very important, personal reasons. But I would hardly expect a national dispute to be understood in terms of my own discomfort.

I would not expect my own situation to be the way of looking at a dispute about pay and conditions in the workplace.

I would not have thought, as I had another microphone thrust in my face, that the rights and wrongs of an industrial conflict were about how much it discommoded me. Clearly though that is how the media want us to think.

They do not wish for us to think in any collective way.

They do not wish for us to think that, hang on a minute, I’m a worker in this Republic too and maybe what goes on here will impact on how I am treated at work too.

They do not wish for us to assess any of the rights and wrongs. They just think we are all Me-Feiners now.

And, you know, by the umpteenth report, listening to yet more selffocused outrage, I didn’t care a great deal about the people in the queues anymore.

Rotten politics, corrupt businessmen, nearly half-a-million out of work, pinstriped executives telling us to emigrate, decrepit hospitals and porta cabin schoolrooms.

Where is your outrage then?