Too many politicians are chasing headlines and celebrity - Harris
Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30
Politicians are increasingly acting like "side-show performers" who want to be celebrities, according to Health Minister Simon Harris.
The youngest member of Cabinet will make a speech tomorrow in which he puts up a staunch defence of 'political correctness'.
He will argue that contemporary political discourse is "less respectful, reflective, inclusive and aspirational" than in previous generations.
And while he doesn't cite any TDs or international politicians as being the ones he believes are chasing headlines, he does criticise the campaign of US presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Mr Harris, pictured below, will tell the Parnell Summer School in his native Wicklow that a "new pattern" of debate sees politicians "competing like side-show performers for tomorrow's headline, to create tomorrow's controversy, to be tomorrow's trending celeb".
"I'm not sure politicians should be celebs, gaining their public credibility by personal attacks on others," he will say.
"Attacking wrong ideas is fine. Attacking people who genuinely hold those ideas is questionable but constant.
"Of course, anybody who goes into politics now had better be prepared for that, because it's a reality that's not going away any time soon. But let us all be clear. It is not without dire consequences for public trust and public behaviour."
And in an extract of the speech seen by the Irish Independent, he adds: "We have seen, across the Atlantic, the emergence of a discourse based on 'Us and Stereotyped Them'. Based on building walls to exclude and billing the excluded for the building.
"It's a discourse that waves facts away and is contemptuous of expert opinion. It is a discourse where rivals are characterised as devils.
"When I say this approach isn't without dire consequences for public trust and public behaviour, the supportive evidence is pretty clear. The 'New York Times' this week put on their website recordings taken by their reporters at Republican rallies. Recordings, not of the speaker, but of the crowd."
The minister goes on to describe the recordings as "vile", adding that the comments were "racist, violent, abusive, terrifying".
The theme for this year's summer school is 'Embers of Easter' and speakers have been asked to concentrate on the legacy of the 1916 Rising.
In his contribution, Mr Harris will note that the communications were "thoughtful and slow" 100 years ago.
"Slow sometimes brought its own problems, but today we have the other extreme - instantaneous reaction, response and comment.
"Where is the time spent thinking, reflecting, researching to respond in a respectful, inclusive way?" he asks.
"The development of communications technology has been brilliant and convenient and liberating, in many ways.
"But it cannot take the place of thoughtful, rational debate. We need to have a more respectful, informed political and public discourse here in Ireland - and, I'd dare say, many other places too."
He says "incessant yammering" pushes "reasonable curiosity and legitimate standards to the margins".
Mr Harris aruges that an attitude of 'Down with political correctness' is wrong.
"Whenever you hear the question 'Has political correctness gone too far?' be afraid," he says, adding that underpinning the rejection of political correctness is "a sewer of squalid assumptions, like that it's OK to use filthy terms to describe women, black people, Travelling people, disabled people or - at its simplest - politically opposed people".