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Sgt Mattie.

The Late Late Show

MAURICE HICKEY WEEKLY

Pat is proud to support
Power 4 Good Ireland
2nd April 2011

May they be free from perpetual bureaucracy.

If there isn't a rule, regulation or directive about something these days there's sure to be an official somewhere ready to invent it. It appears that even the dead can't rest in peace without the pen pushers givin' them the last prod before they enter eternity

The first instinct of officialdom and bureaucracy is to say 'no.' In recent decades the big excuse for the official refusal was insurance; no matter what event you wanted to run in a parish, from a duck race to a jumble sale you were sure to hit a stumblin' block when someone behind a desk asked; "are ye covered for that?"

Nowadays the men in suits have come up with a far more formidable roadblock in the shape of health and safety. You can't as much as scratch yourself these days without producing a health and safety statement. It's feckin ridiculous and while county councils are among the worst offenders they are not the only ones.

A few weeks ago I had a first-hand experience of the lunacy that is modern bureaucracy. The Mother had me pestered to tidy up a hedge at the back of our garden and cut up a tree that had fallen over durin' the last gust of wind. One fine Saturday mornin' she got me out of the scratcher at sparrowfart and drove me into Clonmel to hire a chainsaw. I went into the hire shop and asked how much it would cost to rent such an implement. The fella behind the counter raised one eyebrow and asked,

"Have you a Coillte certificate for chainsaw handling?"

"No," says I, "I'm only goin to cut up a tree that fell of its own accord; I don't intend to carve out a new career for myself as a tree surgeon."

"Well," he said, "if you don't have a Coillte certificate and if you don't have the required safety equipment that includes protective clothing, a visor, ear defenders, a hard hat, reinforced gloves, knee pads and shin guards I can't hire you a chainsaw"

"For God's sake," says I, "I only want to cut a tree not land on Mars. How long will that kind of a course take and how much will it cost?"

"Well," says he, "the course takes about six days and costs the bones of €700.00. The safety equipment will set you back about €400.00.

"That's eleven hundred euros," says I, "for the privilege of cuttin' up my own tree."

"Accordin' to health and safety I can't hire you a chainsaw without the certificate and the equipment," says he, "however, I can sell you one."

"Oh," says I, "you can sell me a chainsaw but you can't hire me one; is that right?"

"That's right, sir. I have a lovely little chainsaw here, brand new for €195.00, twill suit your needs perfectly," says he.

"And I don't need a chainsaw certificate or the suit of armour?" I asked.

"No sir."

"Well doesn't that bate Banagher; a fella is not permitted to hire a chainsaw without spendin' €1,100 but he can buy one for €195 and it doesn't matter what kind of damage he might inflict on himself or anyone else."

"You can behead yourself if you want to," says my friendly salesman, "as long as you pay me first."

That's sheer madness. I bought the chainsaw, cut up my tree and didn't as much as put a scratch on meself or the Mother.

The chainsaw is only the thin end of the wedge. Long established rural traditions are among the latest targets of the health and safety brigade, particularly the customs and practices surroundin' the burial of the dead. While cities have always had their professional gravediggers, in rural communities grave diggin' is a voluntary affair dictated by family and community traditions. For instance, the Quirkes always dug the Hickey graves here in Killdicken. There are similar customs around the layin' out of the body, carryin' the coffin and lowerin' it into its final restin' place.

From now on it appears that grave-diggers will have to have qualifications and training that include first-aid and risk-assessment. Our local undertaker, Tinky Ryan is like a divil over it.

"First aid and risk assessment; first aid for who?" he asked, "Sure tis too late for the poor misfortune in the box. Next they'll want mourners to do a manual handlin' course before they lift a coffin. In the name of jaysus the world is gone mad. Are they tryin to tell me that when a family gets bad news the first thing I have to do is heap them into the car and take them to the council for a safe-pass programme before they can bury their dead? Well the council can feck off for themselves."

"If they bring in these regulations," says he, "I'll do what your man with the cement lorry did outside the Dáil; I'll drive my hearse into the council chamber and we'll see how the nit pickers will handle that?"

I've never seen Tinky as excited. If he isn't careful he'll put his health and safety at risk and end up a back seat passenger in his own hearse.