Joe The non-Plumber

It’s one of those memes that’s crept into public discourse in the last year or two.

It’s not enough for a politician to say how tough it is for a typical married couple, they have to give a concrete example, something the electorate can relate to.

Take James Reilly, Fine Gael health spokesman: ‘The guard married to the nurse will not be covered by this medical card, the nurse married to the teacher may not qualify for the medical card.’

Reilly borrowed the idea from Michael McDowell, who was fond of reflecting on how ‘the teacher married to the nurse’ couldn’t afford a mortgage.

And the teacher married to the nurse isn’t an exclusively Irish couple. They popped up in a February 2002 debate in the House of Commons.

Two years earlier, it was the ‘policeman married to a teacher’ and ‘nurse married to a social worker’ during a BBC debate on London housing.

In Washington, it was ‘the cop who is married to the fireman or the cop married to the teacher or the nurse married to the small business owner.’

What I can’t help wondering is, why are all but the business owner employed in the public sector?

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.