Four Cheers for Conor Skehan

On Wednesday, Conor Skehan, outgoing head of the Government’s Housing Agency, was grilled by the Oireachtas Housing Committee for the mortal sin of noticing things and speaking honestly about them. Mr. Skehan claimed that some individuals in Ireland were gaming the public housing system, in order to become eligible for public housing ahead of others. Members of the Committee, devout in their observance of the Holy Laws of political correctness,  castigated Mr. Skehan for his public remarks and the evidence he presented to justify them. They noted that it is not possible that a housing-eligible person could game the system – as PC dogma clearly states, lower income individuals are gifted with Immaculate Conception (born without sin) and can do no wrong. So the evidence that Mr. Skehan presented had to be false, and his presentation of it before the committee was proof of his fall from a PC state of grace.

On the plus side, there was at least one honest person in the Oireachtas on Wednesday.

13 replies on “Four Cheers for Conor Skehan”

People do this in other areas when attempting to access state services so it should not be a surprise in the area of housing. Mrs E works in the area of special needs education for primary school children. On the day of a visit by the Special Education Needs Officer (SENO) teachers will sometimes deliberately do the things that annoy a child waiting an assessment in fear that the child will have a good day (in terms of behaviour) on the day of the visit and may not then be granted resources. Brendan O’Connor of the Sunday Independent has written about parents who will keep their child up all night before the day of an assessment with a psychologist, speech and language therapist, or other also to ensure that resources will be granted. This is the indignity that people are reduced to.

Conor Skehan may be completely right. Alternatively his opponents may be completely right. Or indeed the truth may be somewhere in between.

We are however not really in a Popperian place. Skehan is not really making claims that can be falsified by evidence, nor are his opponents.

There is just a lot of signalling going on.

“Some individuals” are undoubtedly gaming the system. The question is whether that’s a significant issue or not. If he has some data that it goes beyond “some individuals” then surely he could present it. Otherwise the way his claim has been presented seems to be him making excuses for the housing and homelessness crises.

Shock! Horror! Senior official belives some people desperately seeking housing services behave entirely rationally when confronted by an artficial scarcity that has engineered with the consent, either explicit or implicit, of the majority of home owners.

Bit of a weird post. As far as I can tell he’s not ‘noticing things’. He’s (in his own words):

‘I’m careful with my words. I was extremely careful not to say that it was happening, just that it may be happening and that it should be investigated further’

Whatever you call it, whether you call it noticing, or stating the obvious, or speaking carefully, the committee members were vitriolic in their condemnation that he dared to do so.

” [the] committee members were vitriolic in their condemnation that he dared to do so.”

But they would behave in that way, wouldn’t they! Perhaps we should recall the ‘shock and horror’ when that Green Party chappie waved that cheque during a Dublin City Council meeting. Or the abuse heaped upon a TD who mentioned dishonest dealings associated with our meat processing plants. And didn’t an Taoiseach recommend that some discontented folk might like to consider the option of suicide rather than continuing living. Vitriolic comment has not gone away.

The initial accusations are either factually accurate, or they are not. In these situations, one small, single inadvertent misstatement by the ‘whistle blower’ will be immediately noticed, pounced upon and strongly asserted as evidence that their entire story shall be classified as false. Hence, the messenger is being vindictive, or is just a sore-loser (or some such ad hom rubbish).

The onus is firmly upon the detractors and deniers to produce verifiable factual evidence that it is sufficient to demonstrate that the whistle blower’s accusations are not credible. Shouting that he is wrong just does not reach that standard. But shouting is so easy.

Intuitively, most sentient folk know that any administrative process can be ‘gamed’ in some fashion by individuals with sufficient determination, resources (and the personal contacts) to do so. It goes with the territory, as they say.

Yes I agree the abuse is probably “par for the course” in these Oireachtas committee settings — but a shame to heap abuse on someone for speaking carefully and honestly about difficult issues. A shame that all the committee members could not treat him more fairly given that he was speaking honestly with courage and without malice.

What is your evidence for the claim that he was “speaking honestly with courage and without malice”? Maybe he was, or maybe he was just defending his own performance of his role which, he could argue, was made more difficult by the alleged gamers of the system. There is no way to empirically support your claim anyway. Nor is the claim that he was “stating the obvious” backed up by any evidence – by him or by you (other than some anecdotes on his part). The non sequitir that “there was at least one honest person in the Oireachtas on Wednesday” can be translated as “there was one person in the Oireachtas whose views I agreed with”, but it has nothing to do with social scientific reasoning. By the way Mr Skehan has been reappointed to his lucrative sinecure so his courageous challenging of supposedly sacred PC cows has done him no harm at all. Funny how most of those who claim to be persecuted by a stifling PC consensus seem to do very well for themselves.

@ Andy Storey: re. reappointment to his “lucrative sinecure”. Is this sort of ad hominem remark now what passes for argument in UCD?

John Sheehan takes issue with my statement of fact and terms it an ad hominem remark. Vast numbers of what are in fact specious claims and comments by Gregory Connor pass unremarked by him. Tells you all you need to know.

@Andy Storey: my reference to ad hominem remarks was prompted by your description of Conor Skehan’s “lucrative sinecure”. I thought that someone from a University (especially UCD!) should know how to conduct an argument.
If you want evidence-based argument then learn how to conduct one without dissing either myself of Greg Connor.

Fine. Then engage in an argument. I haven’t seen one yet, at least not one based on anything remotely resembling evidence. But perhaps you think ad hominem attacks on the poor (a la Connor and Skehan) are fine, but challenges to the privileged are, by definition, illegitimate. I am sorry you are such a snowflake that you feel “dissed” by having your opinions questioned.

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