They’re at it again. Pesky politicians.
Politicians across the very narrow spectrum of Irish politics are incredibly predictable. We’ll go through them, and you’ll see what I mean.
Fianna Fáil. They’re lying low. Brian Cowen was off in the States recently proclaiming our economic recovery, and fair dues to him. He’s more likely to get a friendly reception almost anywhere than in Ireland these days. In fairness to him, it’s important for the economy that we’re seen to engage with the international markets… It’s just an unfortunate coincidence that Moody’s downgraded our credit rating the day after his Wall Street visit.
The rest of them, despite great posturing over different issues such as, variously, dog breeding (hello, Christy O’Sullivan and Denis O’Donovan), stag hunting, and civil partnership, have disappeared since the Oireachtas went on holidays. Everyone needs a holiday, of course, and I’ve no doubt they will be busy in their constituencies once they’ve done their two weeks’ penance somewhere. Speaking of holiday homes, another, er, Cork Fianna Fáiler who’s been in the news lately is Ivor Callely. His reasons for being newsworthy? Living in Cork – apparently – and claiming outrageous and dubious expenses. So, more of the same from Fianna Fáil. Is it me or is there a stench of the 1980s off all of this?
And now to Fine Gael. Let’s see. A botched leadership challenge, an ideological/geographical/generational divide, a social event where the opposing groups lined up at either side like an old fashioned dance, allegedly, and now a young TD criticising the ‘cute hoor’ culture of Irish politics, not just within the Government party, which would be ok, but within her own. So far, so 1980s. The Fine Gael curse has struck again, despite the valiant efforts of, among others, our own Jerry Buttimer to convince the outside world that everything is fine.
Labour. Eamon Gilmore says, like Pat Rabbitte and Dick Spring said before him, that there is no chance of him joining Fianna Fáil in Government after the next election. Rumours that a Fianna Fáil rep in South West Cork is about to jump ship to the new ‘populist’ party, and talk about a ‘Gilmore Tide’. Now we’re up to 1992!
While the Greens were but an embryo at that time, it’s pretty clear that history is repeating itself in Irish politics, and their parliamentary party has something of the endangered species about it; think of the Workers’ Party, the Democratic Socialist Party, etc. Parties with genuine policy positions and ambitions of real change rarely get very far in this country.
More of the same and plus ca change; is it any wonder we’re bored?
There’s a lot of rhetoric about ‘change’ going around, and the MacGill summer school in Donegal was full of it. But we’re well known for rhetoric – blarney, waffle, and spin are all readily identified with the Irish – and rhetoric isn’t going to get us out of this trough.
One of the most depressing radio items I’ve ever heard was a panel discussion on Radio 1 on Saturday in which four young politicians discussed their reasons for getting into politics and joining the parties they’d joined. While they were all very pleasant and articulate, they were all careful not to alienate anyone, careful not to offend each other, and careful to kowtow to their party lines.
And so, the cycle continues.