I haven’t been talking much about politics lately have I? Used to be a mainstay here as long term readers will know, but not so much in the last while.
Like so many others, I have become apathetic towards the political process in this country. The typical reason for most people it seems is dissatisfaction with the quality of TDs that the Dail contains, and unhappiness with the way that the Dail does business. People get interested for elections, and lose that interest when promises aren’t made good on. Younger people who got swept up in the politicking of February 2011 may never engage seriously with the process again.
I’ll admit that this is part of the reason. I don’t especially like most of the things that the government is doing nowadays and could write reams of complaints if I didn’t think that would crush my soul and bore readers. Fine Gael are simply Fianna Fail-lite at this point, and Labour has taken on the guise of a meek back-up soldier to their blue coloured masters, breaking every promise and turning their back on every base. When I hear Labour members bleat “we have to be in government or Fine Gael would be even worse” all I can do is roll my eyes and block my ears and pray they realise just how much of an electoral drubbing they are walking into.
Another reason is simple lack of enthusiasm for engaging with the political process in this format given the way things are now. We are living in an elected tyranny of FG/Lab, with a majority so big as to make any opposition look small fry. As long as those two parties agree, there is nothing they can’t get passed. To that end, the “opposition” are just tiny voices whose words mean next to nothing in terms of political debate. The real debate in this Dail is not in the chamber, it is between Fine Gael and Labour members trying to hash things out between them, and such a situation bores me. We are on a countdown to a split between the two parties that is probably inevitable, but a still a ways off.
With the situation the way it is, political news in this country has turned to mud. Every week there is some new “scandal”, some needless expense, some tax dodging, some conflict of interest, from all and sundry. The political discourse in Ireland has become dominated by these stories. I have been tempted to comment on them sometimes, but I ultimately lack the energy to form political opinions on flowerpots.
Yes, flower pots. The amount of column inches, forum posts and tweets dedicated to the Taoiseach tripping over a flower pot was what initially inspired this post, as I wondered what I might have said about it if it had happened two years ago. Probably worth a post or two. Now I can only view such a story as another in a long chain of non-stories. Enda Kenny having trouble with his balance got more attention than his views on same-sex marriage.
What else is there? “Inkgate” and all of the insanity that brought? Yes it was amusing to see Sinn Fein squirm and it was an atrocious use of expenses, but it didn’t really affect the political picture. ULA TD’s claiming expenses when they shouldn’t have been? Again, amusing, but again, meaningless. Alan Shatter getting called up for use of the word “Londonderry”? If there was a level beneath “unimportant”, it would be there. The whole thing with Mick Wallace? That made me legitimately furious, and I didn’t feel the need to add to the outrage. The somewhat similar issue with James Reilly? Seems to overshadow the problems with the health service, which is actually important. A Fine Gael Senator fined for not having a train ticket? Yeesh.
It was the last one that finally had me writing these words. Senator Fidelma Healy Eames is accused by some anonymous poster on politics.ie of being haughty and all “Do you know who I am?” when caught without a train ticket. Outrage ensues. Entitlement, crony culture, greed, etc, etc.
Then it turns out that she has bought tickets on the train before and the only witness with a name, face and proof he was on the same train refutes the things anonymous forum poster says. Oh, and said forum poster has deleted his original accusations. Did somebody tell a fib? Anything for outrage. If you don’t have the evidence for the real kind, make up enough to manufacture some.
That whole story enraged me, because instead of criticising the Senator for her upper chamber record, her politics, her party, the story was about a train ticket and a minor fine she has chosen to appeal. A mud-slinging attack, which would not be amiss in the drudgery of American politics.
I see it everywhere now. The Fianna Failers on Twitter coining the term “Shinnerbot” to describe the supporters of that party who dare to increase comments during showings of Vincent Browne. Those same people insisting Fianna Fail representatives shouldn’t even be allowed on “#vinb”. Labour members criticising Fine Gael whenever they can, and never addressing why they can’t just walk away. ULA members refraining from criticising someone as morally bankrupt as Mick Wallace, then cheating on expenses. Was 18 months all it took for election values, so strongly held then, to be abandoned? I am not one to believe that all TDs are corrupted eventually, but it is hard not to think so when you see the kind of headlines the far left of the Dail now generates.
The other thing making me glum about politics is the rise of Sinn Fein, a party I don’t really like. Much like Labour a few years ago, Sinn Fein are the go to party for those who are dissatisfied with the government, haven’t had enough time to forgive Fianna Fail, and don’t know enough, or have no chance to vote for the ULA or a legitimate Independent. Sinn Fein just have to sit in the chamber and oppose everything, continue to lay out their fantasy land economics as they did during the Fiscal Treaty referendum campaign, and soak up the approval from an unhappy electorate. I hate seeing any party in politics get an easy ride. Sinn Fein’s seat numbers will likely explode, Labour-like, in the next election, and it isn’t down to what Sinn Fein has done, but what FG/Lab has done and the vocal objections Gerry Adams and company make at every turn. If that propels Sinn Fein into a government position (though I’m not sure how, bar a Lab/SF coalition) they’ll suffer the same fall that Labour is currently experiencing. And around and around we go until the financial position improves.
That being said, it might be better to let someone else have a go who might bring a semblance of a new approach in. Fianna Fail and the Greens failed, Fine Gael and Labour are failing and I predict Sinn Fein and the ULA will fail.
So, that’s why the political commentary has been slim lately. I find my political interest heightens when there is something very specific to base it around, like a referendum. Plenty of them seem to be upcoming, like one on court reform, children’s rights, and the Seanad battle on the horizon so I will have political thoughts to offer. Aside from that, if there is an interest (measured largely through hits and comments) I will try and write at least one politically themes post every two weeks or so, more if I can manage it (and if personal circumstances allow). Next week I’ll have something on the issue of gender quotas as they reach a crucial stage in the Dail and I plan on doing something related to my previous “Micro-Party” series at some point, a “Where are they now?” type job.
With that, I would like to close off on this post with a simple plea, in regard to some of the issues raised about mud-slinging. When faced with such a story:
- Hold off on immediate outrage or condemnation.
- Check the source.
- Find both sides of the story from different places.
- Find out what the actual rules relating to the issue are yourself so you can determine if it is an individual or an institution that is at fault (What can expenses be claimed for? Can you buy train tickets on a train?).
- If the thing still holds water in your eyes, go nuts.
- If not, ignore it.
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