Terry Prone: Sometimes showing a bit of mercy is the correct course of action

Terry Prone’s taxi driver was relieved when a garda told him the penalty for running a traffic light and then used his discretion not to impose it. 

6th May 2024
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Unexpectedly, the taxi driver asked me once I had the seatbelt on, how my day had gone to that point.

Fantastic, I honestly told him. He seemed delighted for me, as I started to go through emails and texts. And experience the random data-bombing that happens when you turn your phone on.

For 90% of the time, that bombing equates, electronically, to the faecal incontinence of the average seagull, but now and again, something interesting hits. In this case, it was the case of the health minister touring an urgent care clinic. Not in Ireland. In Australia.

The Victoria health minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, must have ended up with a pretty positive view of the service being provided. Partly because the patients weren’t really patients.

Well, some of them were, but at least 10 of the ones with inverted commas around them were, in fact, local health staff, impersonating the sick and injured.

That wasn’t all that went on. An ambulance came shrieking up “containing an individual who posed as a patient” even though they weren’t sick, injured or in any other way requiring a bit of medical attention.

Even trolleys came into play, with one area health worker who let on to have an injury occupying a trolley in a corridor.

Now, it would be cool if we could report that Mary-Anne saw through this collective simulation and identified that maybe the “patients’” cheeks were a little more rosy than you’d expect, but no. “I didn’t notice anything in particular,” she later reported. “I had no reason to think that anything was untoward.”

Happy out, the minister buzzed off back to her office, the pretend patients had their records scrubbed from the system and buzzed off back to their genuine day jobs.

It was unclear how the whole thing unravelled, but it gave me fury to imagine anything along those lines happening in Ireland, or Stephen Donnelly not spotting the healthy glow on the supposedly ailing.

Glancing up, I realised we’d come up toward Ely Place, Government Buildings on our right, and were turning left after the Merrion Hotel.

Straight into the path of a garda, as it turned out. This garda showed my driver the palm of his hand to stop onward progress and then indicated he should pull in to the side of the road, which he did.

But while he did it, he whimpered. Literally whimpered aloud, going “No, no, no no.”

He rolled his window down and put his forehead against the steering wheel, as the garda advanced, folded his arms across his neon yellow gilet, and asked one of those leading questions specialised in by what we used to call the boys in blue (before they, and the girls in blue, went for the neon yellow.) “So what colour was the traffic light as you and the bus in front of you turned left?” he asked.

“I think maybe yellow?” came the answer.

“When you turned left, it was five seconds into red,” the guard told him, before suggesting, in deference to his passenger — me — he might turn off his meter. He did. I was deadly impressed by the garda’s precision about how long the red light had been in action.

He didn’t say anything about the bus, and the mad thought struck that he was picking on people his own size by letting the bus sail off westward without sanction.

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