Opinion

Jack Russell: All aboard the unstoppable ‘Convergence Express’

What is it about the subject of convergence and colourful comparisons?

While he was rather curiously converging on his point, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan drew an analogy between MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework) and soup.

The idea being – we assume – that money is dissolved into an overall budget the way that potatoes are dissolved into a soup. At the point at which he took a ‘drink’ (sic) of his soup, Ming pointed out it is impossible to separate the potatoes.

It is an interesting idea, but at the risk of getting all Neven Maguire-ish about this, Jack would like to point out that it is entirely possible to make a soup out of potatoes in which the delicious spuds – our national food, remember – keep their shape and consistency and are not dissolved into a background liquid.

If Ming would only ramble across the European Parliament to one of his Italian colleagues, they would surely share their recipes for the famous Mingestrone – sorry, Minestrone soup – in which seasonal vegetables are made into a soup without being reduced to an oozy pulp like they are in Roscommon (apparently).

‘Dangerous things’

Not to be outdone by Ming’s less-than-souper analogy, Minister Creed compared convergence to “an unstoppable train”, no less.

“I’ve always said that this is, in a way, an unstoppable train, and it’s a question of how quickly we get there, how quickly we can bring up those who have below-average levels of payments,” he was quoted as saying.

Minister Creed might be more correct than he knows. Unstoppable trains are dangerous things. You’d like to think that all trains come to a stop at some point – the station platform, for instance.

The alternative is the staple plot of many a disaster movie, where the train enters the station at full tilt and ploughs through the buffers, the platform, the station concourse and the front doors before heading off down the street, taking all before it like that great Meath football fullback line of 1988.

It’s not the kind of thing that Jack would like to hear crackling over the public address: “The train coming into Platform Two is unstoppable.”

Convergence Express

Here’s the thing, somebody had better switch the tracks because the Convergence Express is hurtling down the rails to a very unfair conclusion.

Ultimately, the only real measure of direct payment that matters is the overall one. Who gets what total and why?

It cannot be reasonable to take money from recipients of average-sized payments farming average-sized holdings that is then diverted to raise the already higher payments of individuals with larger-sized holdings.

It doesn’t matter whether you try and justify that on the basis of correcting a perceived historical ‘per hectare’ bias or anything else. There are no circumstances in which it is right to deduct from those who might already be receiving less to further increase payments to those who might already be getting more.

Any policy that even permits that possibility is going to be problematic and is going to be bitterly opposed by the farmers who’ll be ‘converged’ downwards.

If Minister Creed minded to climb on board this particular train then Jack Russell’s advice is to sit nice and handy to the Emergency Stop Cord.

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