Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Safe European Home

Fintan O'Toole, the man many people think of when someone shouts "bleeding heart liberal", takes a right pop at our fair isle in today's Irish Times. Basically he thinks that we (by which I presume he means the Irish and British economic experts who have spent years slating the French and German economic models as being inferior to our own, dynamic systems) are being too smug in the wake of France's Non to the EU treaty. Well, how dare we criticise the French (it's not like they lost every war they ever fought or anything... but then so did we... although we never tried to invade Russia... I digress). Just because 10% of them are unemployed and their economic stagnation has led to a pensions time bomb, the rise of fascism and racial tensions doesn't mean we have anything to crow about, obviously.

Some choice quotes...
  • We have one of the worst male mortality rates in the EU, and the worst male life expectancy. Our perinatal mortality rate is the worst among the old EU 15. Our death rate from respiratory diseases is the worst in Europe for both men and women. On the European continent only Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have more deaths from lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than ourselves and the UK.
  • We are also the worst offender in Europe for controlling the emissions that affect climate change. Ireland's drinking water standard is among the worst in Europe. We have the worst record on standards of domestic energy conservation in Europe, with less than 40 per cent of Irish homes having insulation.
  • Our adult illiteracy rates are among the highest, not just in Europe but in the developed world. Political illiteracy is also well advanced: voter turnout among young Irish people is now the worst in Europe. Only 40 per cent of first-time voters cast their ballots in Irish elections compared to 97 per cent in Belgium.
  • In terms of social standards, only Italy among the European nations can match our record on child poverty: nearly 16 per cent of our children live in poverty. The percentage of Irish people in general who live in poverty after State transfers have been taken into account is the worst in the EU.
  • Dublin has achieved the worst traffic in Europe, and indeed on a worldwide basis second only to Calcutta in the length of time it takes to make a simple business trip.

Fintan finishes by saying "These are all achievements that place us at the leading edge of failure. If the lazy French and the apathetic Germans, with their inability to generate true dynamism, want an example of what can be achieved with a determined national strategy of public incompetence, they need look no further." Well, that's told us then.

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