This review of Ken Foxe's book on the culture of entitlement is a bonecruncher.
The third serious issue wrapped up in this lavishness is what it tells us about the way our political leaders came to identify themselves – or at least whom they identified with. This was a period of naked adoration of the super-rich. The trappings of wealth were also taken to be the trappings of social usefulness.
A small price to pay?
Yes, it's O'Toole, so the targets will read no further but he hits the bullseye with his three darts:
The first is a feckless attitude to public money. We have developed very thick hides, but some of the figures Foxe retails still have the power to shock. You don’t have to be a pious Catholic to find something blasphemous in the carry-on of our betters who flocked to Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. In all the President, Mary McAleese, and her husband, plus Bertie Ahern, Mary Harney, Enda Kenny and half a dozen advisers managed to clock up a bill of almost €20,000 for a single night’s stay at Grand Hotel de la Minerve, in Rome. It is hard to know which is harder to stomach: the insult to Christian spirituality or the insult to the Irish people. The complete absence of any sense of responsibility for the use of public resources is breathtaking.
The second thing that the expenses extravaganza reveals is a deep contempt for that same Irish people. Those in power imagined themselves to be above the rest of us – often literally. Chauffeur-driven ministerial cars were no longer good enough; after all, the wheels still had to touch the ground. The mania for helicopters and jets (either private jets or first-class seats) grew out of a sense that ministers could not be expected to share the same space as the plebs.
A sense of entitlement oozed from every pore of the system.