Jobs for the boys and girls: Ireland’s NGO racket

My colleague David Mullins revealed this morning that the National Women’s Council of Ireland received more from a state scheme to support groups that helped the disadvantaged than any other group did – despite the fact that the NWCI provides no services to the public.

This should not be a surprise. The entire NGO sector in Ireland is a racket. Here’s how it works:

5 billion of your taxes go to NGO groups who lobby the government. This money is effectively the common agricultural policy for Dublin 4. It keeps a whole class of people in jobs. Here’s how it works:

You, for example, fund the HSE. This money – €18billion of it this year alone – is supposed to provide for healthcare in Ireland. But the HSE uses some of this money to give a grant to alcohol action ireland, which is set up to lobby the HSE for healthier drinking laws. Yes, you read that right – the HSE funds an organisation for the specific purpose of lobbying the HSE.

This is excellent for many reasons, not least because it means the drinks industry needs representation of its own.

Alcohol Action Ireland will require effective communicators to lobby the Government, and will spend some of its money from the HSE to hire some advisors. And, who better but some former government or political advisors, or perhaps a former political correspondent, to provide access to the media and to politicians and civil servants?

Naturally the beverage industry will require its side of the story to be told, so you are getting two jobs for the price of one. Quite the investment. At least one Dublin 4 PR firm will be hired, maybe two.

The journalists and advisors being briefed are generally not as well paid, and somewhat envious of these glamourous people working in Ireland’s version of the west wing. It pays in the long run to be helpful if one wants a job like that oneself. So, journalists are incentivised to provide favourable, and prominent coverage, so that when the time comes to look for a job with an NGO themselves, they will be considered “sound” or “really interested in the issue”.

The more of these organisations you have, the more wonderful endorsements your campaign you can get. “Our campaign”, you can say, of your campaign to get more money from the taxpayer, “is endorsed by over FORTY human rights organisations”. Of course it is!

So the system grows, because it works.

But it also helps politically. Let’s say you have a particularly vocal bunch of critics in academia or politics? What those guys need is a dedicated representative organisation funded by grants from government. Which, of course, they won’t want to lose. So suddenly, they stop criticising Government, and start praising Government schemes, and criticising someone else. Usually the public – “you’re eating too much meat!”; “you’re building chippers too close to schools!” – you get the picture.

You have a whole career path for the young and the politically ambitious. What’s more, you have great jobs for people who didn’t quite make it in politics. And a whole industry to reward friendly journalists, and your former advisor’s PR firm. It’s brilliant!

What’s more – you get a never-ending stream of *content* for the media and politics. Because these orgs must justify their existence, one of them must always be complaining about something. One of them must always be praising something. They come to dominate the agenda.

The problem is, the beast never stops growing. Because how can you fund *that* cause without also funding *this* one. And then you get to the point where we spend five thousand million euros a year on it. And there’s no room for the regular citizen’s concerns in politics.

it’s a cancer at the heart of the country. It should be done away with. State funded lobbying of the state excludes the citizen by design and creates a powerful class of super-citizens. Which the media have taken to calling “civil society”. And it’s bollox.