Though “Rip-off Republic” may not have touched on some of the greatest offending institutions in Ireland today, Eddie Hobbs used the programme effectively to point out some pretty grim facts about Ireland. Eugene Quinn admires Hobbs for raising the question of the nation’s set of values.
In the final program of ‘Rip Off Republic’, Eddie Hobbs concluded that a measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable – the homeless, the sick, the elderly and the poor. He was challenging the notion that Ireland is just an economy where the only important measure of success is economic growth. I believe that he struck a chord with something deeper and more fundamental in people about who we are, how we relate to each other, and what we value.
Eddie Hobbs argues that Ireland is ‘Rip Off Republic’ by demonstrating that we do not have a low tax economy, by illustrating the extent of mismanagement of major public infrastructure projects and highlighting the degree of anti-competitive practices.
Arguably a more fundamental rip off is the assumption that greater economic growth will ultimately lead to greater welfare for all. As a nation although we are materially better off we are working longer hours, commuting ever-greater distances, incurring more debt while spending less time with family and friends, and investing ever less in our communities. As a society we have become increasingly and more visibly unequal.
Of course we must not forget the benefits of our recent economic growth, in particular the significant reduction in consistent poverty that many still with us well remember. But neither should we ignore the costs of the grossly inequitable distribution of the fruits of our economic boom. The quiet acquiescence to the pre-eminence of the needs of Ireland Inc over the needs of its citizens seems to be over. Perhaps the greatest service Eddie Hobbs has provided is to raise the question ‘What is it that we value?’