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Friday, June 15, 2007

A story that needs to be told

It's not often that Irish daytime radio does anything impressive.

In a country where people like Roisin Ingle or Joe Duffy are allowed on air, it's obvious that the powers that be want you to work, goddammit, during daytime hours, and broadcasters facilitate this by having the most abysmal radio on Earth clog the airwaves while it's light outside.

There have been exceptions, rare exceptions. Dunphy's 'Last Word' was one. 'The Right Hook' is occasionally another. I'm about to make a case for Brenda Power as another.

Brenda's first and foremost a journalist. A real, actual journalist. Not a former rugby player or some refugee from Radio Kerry or a student agitator or any of the other strange pastimes that seem to permit one access to the airwaves in Ireland. She's actually a journalist who worked for the Press, when there was a Press, and she knows what a story is.

And she zoned in on a great story this morning. A sad story. A story that has been told before, but has been ignored by the populace at large. A story that needs to be told.

The story of elder abuse.

In this era of preposterous house prices, a lot of older people are sitting in goldmines. Never mind that these goldmines are their homes, have been their homes often for decades.

And their greedy, evil, ungrateful offspring all too often are ushering their parents out of their homes and into institutions solely in order to get their greedy mitts on the goldmines left behind.

Old people are often vulnerable. Their children are often their only lifeline. Like abused children, they feel conflicted loyalties to the very people abusing them. Abuse of elders is sometimes physical, but more often it's emotional neglect coupled with financial exploitation.

That's why elder abuse so rarely is reported. But in order to get away with these daylight robberies, the scum who abuse their elderly relatives require the assistance of professionals like bankers and solicitors, who all too often know exactly what is going on, but are happy to be complicit in order to pocket their own fees.

This morning, Brenda Power highlighted a number of cases of elder abuse, where older people have been effectively incarcerated in institutions while their homes have been sold against their will, or are occupied by their children against their will. In one sad case, an elderly woman was described as being stuck in a nursing home while her own children rented out her house for profit.

Due to their age and frailty, even those elderly people who fight to gain access to their homes or funds stolen or exploited out of their accounts will often die before correcting the injustices done to them by their own flesh and blood in their twilight years.

Anyone listening to Brenda's show today can only have been angered by the descriptions of what some amoral people are prepared to do for money in this country. Congratulations to Ms Power for highlighting another Irish scandal that has the capacity to be as nationally shaming as the institutional child abuse issue was.

It's high time that legislation was introduced to enforce solicitors, banks and financial advisors to report suspected cases of elder abuse just as medics and nurses are already required to do.

And they should also be held partially responsible for cases when elder abuse is discovered and proven, and they have been complicit in it.

It's a sad day when we need sharks like solicitors and bankers to police how people look after their own elderly relatives. But that's Celtic Tiger Ireland for you.

Well done, Brenda.

The information line number for Elder Abuse is lo-call 1850 24 1850.

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