Indulge my political navel gazing. As voters we reap what we sow, we choose to believe who tells us the best untruths when it comes to deciding whom makes collective decisions on our behalf. I use the word untruths because as is nearly always the case the reality of Government is much harsher than being in opposition.
The Independent perfectly legitimately elected ilk of Michael Healy Rae and Michael Lowry, while distasteful to many outside those constituencies is a constant harsh reminder of how the parish pump of local politics is a TD’s bread and butter and not legislating in our national parliament. The debasement of The Houses of the Oireachtas for parish pump politics is nothing short of a National disgrace. When the people of Tipperary North and Kerry South who voted for these miscreants are asked they’re reasoning for voting for them the usual answer is “Ah they get things done around here”. By that, they mean getting the potholes fixed, a bit of road done, getting someone a house or a bit of planning permission. A glorified County Councillor with all the manners of a baboon in heat.
The Healy Rae’s and their politically minded ilk are a cancer in Irish Politics. Michael Healy Rae’s father Jackie held the previous Government hostage on numerous occasions holding out support for the Government unless he got a Hospital, a bypass, a zoo and a national stadium. His son a chip of the auld block , Michael Healy-Rae took part in the Celebrities Go Wild charity television show on RTE and emerged as the winner having received the largest number of votes from the public. Last June, it was revealed that he won because of 3,636 votes made from a phone in Leinster House at a cost of €2,600 to the Irish taxpayer. Thankfully this Government is not held hostage to his ilk and this type of ransom making politician. Lets not go there about Michael Lowry and Denis O’Brien I am not keen on getting sued for what meagre possessions I own. Odious is about the only word to describe Lowry without getting sued.
The funeral crashers, Almost every TD has to show up at the funeral of someone of local importance or note. In Willie “the coffin chaser” O’Dea’s case, he seems to just gate crash random funerals in Limerick. It has been said that he has been to so many funerals that he actually knows more dead people than are living. One wonders is his mustache the greatest political accessory of all time. Former junior minister for mental health, publican, and undertaker, John Moloney would finish his day in The Dáil and dash back to the midlands so he could drive the hearse with the coffin of the recently deceased. We have only ourselves to blame. People are slighted if the local TD cannot make the funeral and because the deceased has 40 people in his extended family, every vote counts to said TD, 40 people could be the difference between keeping your seat or not.
Parish pump politics is practiced to varying degrees by all sitting TD’s around the country from all parties. This form of clientism politics is detriment to the greater good of the country and wastes the time of TD’s. There is a misconception out there that TD’s have all these “holidays” the reality is they have to tend to constituency matters i.e the parish pump. It suits the print media generate faux outrage at these holidays. The vast majority of local clientism could be preformed competently by local councillors. People have it in their heads that their local TD will “speed things up” and get the job done without fuss and sometimes that is the case, the reality being though, the civil service in local authorities or governmental departments are only accountable to their manager and no one else and will work at their own pace.
Like mountaineers that ignore the dead and dying on their way to the summit of Mount Everest , successive governments have consistently ignored the monumental deficiencies in the Permanent Government of Mandarins. If An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny arrived down to Ballymagash, balls naked with bells hanging from his ears they’d still take little notice of Enda’s presence. The unaccountability of civil service mandarins is the elephant in the room. That unaccountability has caused more than headaches for numerous previous Governments. Do you think PPARS or the E-voting fiasco was solely the fault of Fianna Fáil ? Nope, faceless mandarins had their part to play too. Yes, the buck stops with said minister, But it is about time we face up to the intellectual deficit at senior levels in Government departments that influence policy. Where are the T.K Whitaker’s or the Timothy Smiddy’s ??
As for what amounts to broadcast political debate, it is like a scantily clad woman sunbathing on the beaches of Sligo in the middle of January, mildly amusing to look to at but a cold cold place. The Vincent Browne show as was said to me recently, it is the same 20 or so people sitting around talking shop. I go further and say the show has no direction, goes off on wild tangents and ultimately leaves the viewer feeling depressed or frustrated, like bad sex. Xanax and prozac are lining up sponsorship… Probably the best political debate show The Saturday View on RTE Radio 1 has been axed to sate Charlie Bird’s porn star like ego.
Think tanks , yes there are a few in Ireland Tasc , IIEA , ESRI and the Iona institute as described by the narrowest definition available. A grand total of 4. The two that seem to get the most publicity the ESRI which it is claimed by Richard Tol to be a place of nepotism and ignorance. The IONA institute is a religious conservative think thank only relevant to religious people of a particular generation. These think tanks regularly publish papers but are usually given no more than a couple of by lines on RTE or under Cat shags Dog headline in the Sunday Independent and are instantly forgotten about and ignored by politicians. So not much thought or debate going on publicly with political policy there.
Last but not least the political debate between parties. It usually amounts to Government says black opposition say white, vagina-penis, left-right , up-down etc and on and on. One of the most awful sights to behold is watching an empty Dáil in session with some junior minister answering questions, facing the deadly wrath of some back bencher that wanting to know how long would Biddy Murphy be waiting for her swimming pool size pothole to be fixed. These are meant to be our legislators the people we choose to elect and govern on our behalf. Optics is everything especially since the Dáil is broadcast live. A main criticism of the last government was nobody bothered showing up apart from leaders questions. It seems this coalition has not learned the lesson that an empty Dáil makes people wonder what the Hell are they are doing. Probably manning the phones on behalf of the parish pump. All the same it looks bad when you tune in and all you see is Joe Higgins in full banshee mode with only a bemused visitors gallery watching on.
The creatures of the Seanad are a far more interesting breed of animal , usually given to above average oratory by Dáil standards. This is mostly because they are undemocratically elected and feel the need to improve our democracy by demonstrating a talent for talking. Some of the finest speeches in the Houses of the Oireachtas have been given in the Seanad one that springs to mind is W.B Yeats speech on the right to divorce . Even today it is spine tingling and relevant. Sadly The Seanad is neither relevant or meaningful to the vast majority of the electorate.
In the aftermath of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffiths deaths our country was robbed towering political muscle and intellect , The executive council was reduced to living eating and sleeping in Dublin Castle for fear of assassination . When they finally moved out of Dublin Castle they reimbursed the state for their cost of living there. Maybe its about time we engaged in some old-fashioned patriotism.