The Business case for Cannabis legalisation

The political process in Ireland is as prone to mendacity and falsehoods as anywhere else, but one of our most obvious flaws is the failure to think of new ideas. Every business in the world tries to innovate and to come up with new ideas in order to gain a competitive advantage, but in Ireland, at least from a national perspective, nothing can be done without someone else’s example.

From transport to health to same-sex legislation, the standard questioning in the media revolves around where the idea has been tried before and how that has worked out. If something hasn’t been tried, the standard argument against it is that ‘nobody else has done this’.

This circular argument compels us to take our cues from others, and while it is often a reasonable approach, in other cases it prevents us from acting in this country’s best interests. Continue reading »

Shaming and the modern Pillory

“We’ve given the word ‘mob’ a bad name”, says Dr Hibbert sadly in one of the Simpsons’ episodes. It’s knowing irony, because the type of mob in which he is participating – armed with pitchforks and burning stakes – is a throwback to medieval times and the worst of group-think and public shaming. We don’t have those angry mobs anymore, randomly imposing vigilante justice on their neighbours, and when we do, the police intervene.

But the human tendency for public shaming and victimisation goes on. We do that now – as we do many things – on social media. And when that victimization happens, it can be devastating for the individual involved, and totally out of proportion to their ‘crime’.

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Hostages to pharma fortunes

It would seem that if the moral dilemma between death and life-saving drugs can be made acute and public enough, the government is compelled to pay any price charged – even if it means reducing other health services to other vulnerable people.

After the Health Service Executive agreed this week to provide the Soliris drug to patients suffering from rare blood conditions at a cost of €430,000 per patient per year, the HSE’s chief executive Tony O’Brien called the cost of the drug ‘astronomical’, while the Minister for Health, Leo Varadker, has said that the drug is ‘not cost-effective’ at that price. Continue reading »

Charlatans, crooks and chancers on the Liveline

The radio show ‘Liveline’ is a barometer of the Irish day. Sat snugly in the after-lunch snooze period, it either facilitates that slumber, or raises the eyelid of the nation with indignation or empathy. It has achieved enough fame (or should that be familiarity) for parody, and yet it sticks to the same formula every day. There is no attempt to think of anything new on the ‘Liveline’ – the gameplan is the plain people of Ireland, speaking their minds, on the issues of the day.

And yet. And yet. There is a large and growing constituency of people living in Ireland who would consider themselves to be average and normal, but they are not represented in the national conversation, as it is conducted by the presenter of Liveline,  Joe Duffy. That group can be classified in various ways, but the simplest and crudest would be those people that don’t find Brendan O’Carroll to be particularly funny, or those that don’t spend their days longing for former great days in the poverty-striken tenements of ‘Dubbalin in the rare ould Times‘.

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Why don’t we vet Government Ministers?

When Leo Varadker made his sexual orientation public last week, a brief and transient thought flashed through the minds of his party colleagues, the media and the general public – does the fact that he is gay prevent him in any way from doing or holding his job as Minister for Health?

Thankfully, we now live in an Ireland that doesn’t discriminate politically between people based on the gender of people to whom they are attracted, and we have all moved on. But Mr Varadker’s announcement raised a few more fundamental questions. Continue reading »

Leo is Gay – why it matters

There are probably five or six gay people working as TDs in the Dail, but maybe as many as 15 or 16 – given that it’s hard to estimate and define ‘gayness’ as opposed to bisexuality or once-off encounters. An ERSI survey in Ireland reported that 7.1% of men and 4.7% of women reported having a homosexual experience in their lives, but only 2.7% of men and 1.2% of women self-identified as being gay. Which proves that some people have a problem with that definition.

This is one of the difficulties of defining people by their sexuality. Sexuality is a spectrum for many people and an evolving identity. That is why it is so important that Health Minister Leo Varadker has chosen to ‘come out’ as a gay man. Continue reading »

Learning from Illness (11) – Journalist in the Way

I’ve been a journalist for most of my adult life and, as that implies, I’ve spent time wondering about the nature of media and truth, and whether or not there is any correlation between the two. We journalists don’t set out to distort reality, and some of us do a fine job in exposing truths that many would prefer to keep hidden, but the journalistic process is still something that can tend to obscure. Continue reading »