Spring cleaning

Last Saturday we canvassed some of the estates that nestle at the foothills of the Dublin mountains. It’s a backdrop that creates a very special sense of place in this part of the city. On Saturday you could actually feel spring in the air. The sun struggled to break through the clouds. People pottered about their gardens, readying the ground for planting or washing cars. We came across one young man out batterin’ a large rug into submission.

This election is about doing some long overdue spring cleaning. Think political version of “How clean is your house”. To get our political house in order we need to sort out what is worth keeping and what needs to be turfed out. We need to identify strategies for making the house work better. We need to work systematically, cleaning, repairing and renewing, room by room. Only then will the house begin to function properly again.

One woman with whom we spoke on Saturday provided an astute and incisive critique of what is wrong with the system. A public service worker herself she observed that “if I ran my home the way the HSE is run, I would be homeless years ago.” She feels strongly that bureaucratic layers absorb resources that should be targeted directly at service delivery. “Why should seriously ill people have to go through A & E in order to access hospital services when they require them?” she asked. Why indeed. It is a serious dysfunction in our system that the route to accessing quality health care is often experienced by users as a veritable minefield.

The same woman has also had experience of accessing services for children with disabilities and her encounters with Department of Education officials over the years did everything but inspire confidence. Through persistent advocacy she managed to improve the situation for her own child, but she remains outraged that so many of our educational services continue to fall short of optimal standards of professionalism.

This woman and her like are the backbone of our country, the unsung heroes who through their work, home-making, advocacy and volunteering immeasurably improve the quality of life of others. If she was in politics- if she was your public representative or mine- I have no doubt that this country would be a much, much better place.