Going on the march for a few extra bob

Going on the march for a few extra bob

I’VE heard it all now! The government side in the garda pay talks this week suggested - among other titbits - giving the gardai an ‘on parade’ payment for a 15 minute period before they start their shifts.

If that ever became a reality, the whole force would be exhausted before they could even get down to work.

I’m not even sure if this parade duty, which I’m told is purely historical, is to entail a Buckingham Palace style spectacle of changing the guard twice a day in whatever garda stations still remain open in the country, or if it’s just another Lansdowne Road loophole. If it’s the former, then maybe we could turn it into a tourist attraction. The world loves nothing more than a bit of ceremonial and the dafter it is the better. On second thoughts, how could it compete with the Wild Atlantic Way?

If, on the other hand, it is ‘purely historical’, what will it do for law and order? How will we even measure its productivity?

I can’t understand for the life of me why everything has to be so complicated now. Why can’t we call a spade a spade, stop referring to workers as ‘human resources’ and pay people for their work instead of making them pretend they’re parading for 15 minutes beforehand. But if we want to be truly historical, why can’t we just pay them ‘under the counter’. That way we could indulge our yen for subterfuge, and the people who signed up to Lansdowne wouldn’t even know that the guards had secured a wage increase.

Oh, don’t mind me. I don’t like under the counter payments at all. I believe in openness and transparency. Under the counter payments belong to my undesirable past when I got a couple of quid extra a week for writing a women’s column in another newspaper. That was all very well until galloping inflation swamped us all in the 1970s and my miserable stipend got swallowed up in collective bargaining because it wasn’t index linked, and I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about it. That was nothing until the taxman caught up with me and wiped it out altogether. It’s a good job I’m not running for the White House!

But whatever about subterfuge, I’m not keen on parading either. It’s a bit too militaristic for my liking and even a St Patrick’s Day parade can sometimes freak me out, especially when they start waging war on the snakes and trying to upset the balance of nature. And not for the life of me have I ever been able to understand why James Connolly and Countess Markievicz had to march the Citizen Army down the quays and up O’Connell Street before starting the 1916 rebellion. I don’t even know why hurlers have to march around Croke Park behind the Artane Band before getting down to the real business.

But I digress. The point I want to make is this. If the gardai are to get a special payment for being on parade for 15 minutes before the shift starts, why can’t we all go marching for a few extra bob - even us old age pensioners who could step it out with the best of them. I may not like the idea myself, but I wouldn’t be averse to being on parade if I got a special allowance.

It’s all the pretence however, that is really getting my goat. Teachers, for instance, are paid for ‘Croke Park’ hours and some of them don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing during those hours.

Not parading anyway! Hurling is out too, by all accounts. Teaching is also out and there is only so much talking and planning you can do in 33 hours. But mindfulness is highly recommended. I know several teachers who have taken courses in mindfulness to satisfy Croke Park hours, in the interests of well-being, presumably, because they are certainly not being paid for it.

There would be no need for the mindfulness, however, if the Department of Education lifted some of the pressures and stresses imposed on the profession in recent years, and restored a bit of status to the job.

All of which brings me to what I really wanted to write about this week – before I got waylaid by a report of the suggested garda parade money. And that is the increasing volume of red tape that is tying us all up in knots these days and the flood of doublespeak that goes with it. I’m surprised that more of you haven’t noticed by now that most of your time is given over to following rules and regulations and - if you’re my age - to remembering your multifarious pin numbers without having to use your date of birth for everything or write the numbers on the back of your hand every time you go out.

We can hardly breathe now without risking suffocation from bureaucracy. You’d think we weren’t to be trusted, so restricted and regulated have our lives become. But can you imagine the amount of bureaucracy that would be involved if we were all to get our marching orders? Some of us would need a medical cert to prove our fitness and some of us, prone to being shirkers all our lives, might even have to be fitted with a pedometer. But even if the gardai alone are to benefit financially from being on parade, there will be an awful lot of officialdom involved, counting the steps.

What happens when there’s an emergency or a crisis during a parade is not negotiable – hopefully.