It has been said about us Irish … in fact, we say it about ourselves; that we are not good at obeying rules. This is yet another one where we could blame the British; having being under her rules for 800 years. Either way, the citizenry of this country are currently being weighed down by an ever-increasing load ‘of do’s and don’ts’

Rules are meant to be in place for the common good. I suppose we are all in agreement with the need for rules, but human nature being what it is, very often each one of us feels we should be an exception to the rule we don’t like!

There are so many new rules coming at us all the time that it is difficult to keep abreast of the torrent. Whether it be in farming, the hospitality industry, entertainment venues, education, or even the home – it is hard to keep up. And of course ignorance of the rules is never an acceptable excuse.

‘Health & Safety’ sounds like the most comforting two words in the English language, but for anyone trying to either bake or build, they have come to signify terror and despair. ‘Health and Safety’ can stop you from doing just about anything positive in business or recreation these days.

Yes, yes, of course we need set standards in the interests of ‘the common good’ and nobody would condone builders, music promoters, or property owners playing loose with anybody’s safety or welfare.. But what about individual rights and individual responsibilities?

If two or more adults can agree on an accommodation that suits both parties, should they not be entitled to the freedom to exercise such agreement? And if there is some slight risk involved, should not mature individuals have the right to weigh up that small risk against the massive benefits?

There is a housing crisis whilst thousands of unoccupied potential living apartments lie idle because they don’t ‘comply’. We are not talking about ‘Fire-Traps’, but accommodation where somebody previously lived. Should not the person who would be better off sleeping there have the final say?

Would not Ukrainian refugees settle into living accommodation over a pub in preference to living in a bunker with Russian missiles raining down on top of them and no food?

‘EU Rules’, is another chestnut regularly wheeled out to restrict common sense in this country. Not so, when I compare my experience of doing business in another EU country. In most other countries fair play, compromise and ‘plan B’, will be allowed into the equation.

Adequate exits and fire escapes, smoke alarms and fire-extinguishers are standard requirements in all public buildings or where paid accommodation is provided – and then that is the end of it! Spaniards are not burning to death in their beds – nor is there any word of mass food-poisoning due to less over-zealous food inspectors calling on restaurants and cafes.

Irish HSE food inspectors have done a really good job over the years in raising the standards in our hospitality industry. They implement the rules as laid down – as is their role: But does it make sense to the common man, that a shop cannot sell a whipped ice-cream cone before putting in a second wash-hand basin and providing a separate staff toilet? You see, in Ireland, an ice-cream cone is food!

Communities are blocked from holding a dance in the hall where they danced for generations because the building doesn’t comply with a litany of the latest fire regulations. Insurance costs, driven by the ‘compo culture’ have so curtailed outdoor sporting activities for both adults and children.

The legal profession and the insurance companies like it this way: They make a lot of money out of it, whilst the ordinary man in the street pays for it all. It’s all a bit like the hangman putting the rope around the condemned man’s neck, whist consoling him with, ‘it’s for your own good!

‘Health and Safety’ you would imagine to be something which will turn us into a super- healthy generation of people down the road. No so, my friends. Figures, according to the WHO, show that Ireland is set to become the most overweight population by 2030.

Our children are not getting enough exercise. Prohibitions on outdoor sports areas, children’s sports days regulated out of existence, teachers afraid to allow children have hurleys in the playground and overall ‘mollycoddling’, are all compounding the problem of obesity.

Children’s natural instinct is to run, climb, wrestle on the ground and generally adopt a spirit of competition with each other. Yes, there will be scratches and cuts, skinned knees and maybe even a broken arm sometime – but the next generation will be healthier for it. Only for our GAA, rugby, soccer, and athletic clubs, the problem would be much worse.

Don’t Forget

Nothing intoxicates some people like a sip of authority.

Bernie Comaskey Books