Not long ago a headline in an Irish daily newspaper proclaiming deadbeat dads under fire caught my attention. I was worried. Was it about dads who don’t pull their weight, or perhaps, dads who don’t play enough with their children? Or dads who drink too much and beat up on their partners?Or simply dads who haven’t grown up?Or all of the above?

Even the British Prime Minister, David Cameron is on the record giving deadbeat dads a serve for their sloth and casual parenting. Cameron went on to reprise the virtues of his late father’s longstanding work ethic.

With these questions swirling around in my mind, I read on with some mounting trepidation. After all, no-one likes to cop criticism and I’m no exception.

Being a fiftysomething, I haven’t got as much in the tank as I once had. I’m carrying a few kilos and at least I don’t have a mullet but that might be due to the fact that my hair has stopped growing. I’ve also stopped wearing tee shirts depicting 1980s rock bands which can only be good. And maybe I should lay off listening to Coldplay for a while and give Bruce Springsteen a rest. Perhaps I should make that long overdue appointment with my GP.

Like a lot of blokes, I guess I could do more around the house. And, my darling daughter, a Simpsons fan, has on occasion seen fit to unkindly dub me Homer. She reckons she’s found some similarities. But her judgements, like a lot of young kids, can at times be rash and ill-advised.

Anyhow, my fears were unfounded. Turns out the article in the Irish Independent was about an epidemic of Irish dads who are fathering multiple kids (no figures are available) and then, apparently, abandoning them to the mercy of that country’s already overburdened social welfare system. Welfare payments in Ireland are reported to have doubled over the past five years. This spotlight on so called deadbeat dads has arisen because of the recession in the Emerald Isle. While we’ve had a financial crisis of sorts in this country, Ireland has suffered and is continuing to suffer an economic tsunami. Alas there is no mining boom or minerals to be extracted from beneath the peat to save the day.

Make no mistake things are crook. My brother’s modest two bedroom apartment in Dublin is now worth less than half what he paid for it seven years ago.Every time he watches yet another panel of experts discussing country’s economic woes, his blood pressure goes up a few notches. And to add insult to injury, interest rates are on the rise again.
Naturally the blame game has started and culprits are being sought. Top of the list are the banks for their reckless lending practices. Since late 2008 the government has chosen to bail out the country’s four leading banks to the tune of an astonishing €55billion – the bill to be paid by the taxpayer. The now former chair of the Anglo Irish bank, a Sean Fitzpatrick, borrowed €155 million in secret loans. He was subsequently forced to resign, declared bankrupt and he may yet face charges of financial impropriety but in the meantime he continues to get by on his annual €4 million pension.

As with recent rhetoric in this country to get tough on welfare reform, so too is the Irish government planning to sink the boot into those on the bottom rung of the social ladder. One politician has cut to the chase, calling for children’s allowance payments to be capped at two offspring. She isn’t saying how subsequent children should be fed, clothed or educated.

Blaming welfare recipients for Ireland or any other country’s economic woes is a furphy. Whichever way you look at it,15% unemployment – the harsh reality of a recession – translates into simply not enough work for everyone.

Here in Australia the term dole bludger, although somewhat benign, is enshrined in our national vocabulary. As yet, I haven’t yet come across the term deadbeat dad.Somehow I can’t see it getting legs here – or could it?