Picking over the ruins of long dead civilisations, archaeologists often ask themselves "What went wrong?" A similar question is on the lips of the Irish these days, as we wonder how we managed to blow our economic boom so completely that we are now spending €18 billion a year more than we are taking in. It's not unsual to be feckless with money, it's just unusual to be that feckin' feckless.
Many will point to the banks, understandaby, while others will point the finger at giveaway budgets. Any suggestion that Ireland's public spending is a wee bit out of control inevitably ends in a row, however, amid hilarious bouts of name-calling. On the one hand, Thatcherite puppy-killers (i.e. me) begin claiming that ALL public servants are lazy, and they should ALL be fired, and "I knew someone once whose sister worked in a hospital, and her only job was to count pens, and she was able to phone in sick to work for 10 years, and she was given a bonus. Also, she got free biscuits with her tea."
On the other hand, we have the smugly self-righteous socialists (who love assonance, apparently) claiming that they know a teacher who is working 20 hour days, every day, for 5 years, and whose pay has been cut by 90%, and who is paying a breathing levy imposed by the government, and is having to use her own blood as ink in the classroom, while her classmates (who, gasp, didn't even go to college!) are working for a bank now, and drive a gold Ferrari powered by €500 notes and caviar.
Enjoyable though contests of hyperbole are, they distract from the fact that we are wasteful with public money, and that there is a massive need to trim the fat. And my God, what fat! Before we go anywhere near the exhausted teachers, knife-dodging guards, or even possibly-surplus administrative staff, why don't we examine the necessity of this little service:
That's right - an ad, starring children, telling us that we need to exercise and eat nice foods if we want to be healthy. Breaking news indeed. Pity that, as well as having a blindingly self-obvious message, the ads themselves are so incredibly ineffective.
Now, maybe they thought that by having children act as snooty, Green Party-voting, philosophy graduates who have part time jobs in Art Galleries as they try to break through into the burgeoning haiku-writing scene, that the whole irritating pantomime would be cute or funny. It is not. It is merely irritating and annoying.
Perhaps the two (yes two!) quangoes involved in producing this ad thought that, by using kids, they could convince young people to "be cool and eat right!". Only problem, children at the stage of those in the ad eat what they are given by their parents. Children older than those in the ads are going to think any message supplied by younger kids is inherently wrong and uncool. So a big fail there then, as well.
I don't know how much this cost, but if the wastage in FAS is anything to go by, we may be picking up the tab for a cool half mill. €500 k for something that tells me I'm fat, and I need to eat healthy. I'm married, I don't need this ad. So next time someone says we need to trim the budget, don't look at the guards, don't look at the teachers, don't look at the nurses. Start looking at the bleedin' obvious - or at least advertising budgets aimed at promoting the same.