AT present, Ireland is an extremely frustrating country to live in. It’s not dangerous and it’s not heart wrenching, but Christ on a bike it’s frustrating (That’s probably blasphemy btw, see below for more info) We can be thankful that we’re not living in Syria, but we still have every right to complain about the backwards way in which our country is being run.
Take our education system for instance. Last year, a principal of a Waterford school sent an email giving reasons why a child could not attend his school – number one on that list was because his “family was not Roman Catholic”. In this day and age, with the huge diversity that we have in Ireland, a child of good, tax-paying parents was told that he couldn’t attend a school for reasons that have nothing to do with him. That same school has a policy of every pupil must attend Catholic Religious Studies. That means that if a non-Catholic is lucky enough to slip through the cracks and get into this school, then he must buy the books and take part in daily religious ritual that contravenes his own family’s beliefs. I don’t particularly want to blame the principal for enforcing this “policy of inclusion of non-Catholic pupils” – he tells me that the school is still governed by what the Bishop says. This is the part where I must remind you that this is 2014.
Now, not every school in Waterford is as blatant as to write the words, “In line with our School Admissions Policy, a copy of which has been forwarded to XXXX’s mother, we are not in a position to offer XXXX a place in XXXX on the following grounds: The family are not Roman Catholic” – however, somewhere in the admission policy of every Catholic school in this country is a preference for Catholic children. It may not be priority number one, like the above school, but it’s definitely in the top three. This is ridiculous and needs to be addressed right away. Ireland is supposed to be a free, all-inclusive country, and surely that should begin at school.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of ways in which this country is stuck in the past and I don’t have enough column inches to write them all. But here’s another…
If you are unemployed and actively seeking work you will be means tested in order to receive Job Seeker’s Allowance. If you are living with someone who is earning over €400 per week, then you are not entitled to a penny. In the eyes of the government, the person earning that €400+ per week should be looking after you…paying your bills and putting food in your mouth. Let me expand on this further.
It doesn’t matter what relationship this person is to you, but let’s say, for arguments sake, that it’s your boyfriend/girlfriend. Now, if you bought a house at the end of the last decade, there’s a good chance that you’re now paying a mortgage close to €1000 per month. Take that, and other normal bills into consideration and you can see why so many people are struggling to cope. However, when you apply for Job Seekers Allowance to ease the burden until you get back into employment, they don’t care about your bills. They don’t care about your mortgage and they don’t care about your kids. All they care about is the fact that there is one person in the house who is earning more than €400, and that’s enough in 2014 to cover everything. It doesn’t make a difference what your relationship is. You could be friends, lovers or ex-partners staying in the same house for the sake of an un-sellable house and a small child. The government doesn’t care about such details.
Ironically enough, if you want to benefit from your partner’s tax credits then you can only do so if you’re married. It’s so wrong that it’s almost laughable. The cost of living has shot up since the 1970s, but so many rules and regulations have stayed the same.
I keep harping back to another one that annoys me. This is 2014, and yet the government still tell us when we can and cannot buy alcohol. This has baffled me for years and I just can’t seem to be able to shake it. You can walk into an off license and buy 20 bottles of vodka at 9:59pm and that’s fine but try and buy a bottle of beer at 10:01pm and suddenly you’re breaking the law. Say that out loud – go on. It’s like a story your father might tell you from the dark days of the Catholic Church run 60s and 70s. I have yet to hear one person give me an acceptable reason for this crap. In 1979 Ireland banned the film The Life of Brian. We can look back on that now and shake our head in disbelief so why can’t we look back on the alcohol laws with the same disillusionment.
I have one more for you – The Blasphemy Law. In Ireland right now there is an offence entitled “The publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.” The offence consists of uttering material “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion”, when the intent and result is “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.” The offence carries a maximum fine of €25k. Let me put that in some perspective. In Ireland in 2014, it is legal to be a racist, a xenophobe or a homophobe, but illegal to say something mean about something that we don’t even know exists. I just don’t get it.