independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

It's curtains, the folk have seen enough of the PAC

The public have seen too much, and the Responsible People aren't at all happy, writes Declan Lynch

Illustration: Jim Cogan

'Terminate with extreme prejudice' – it is a military line that many of us associate with the film Apocalypse Now. It is the order given in relation to Colonel Kurtz played by Marlon Brando, who is "out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the Pale of any acceptable human conduct".

The Public Accounts Committee, and in particular Shane Ross, has been terminated with extreme prejudice. The Responsible People have had enough of this madness.

In their eyes Ross and his wild-eyed disciples had strayed too far upriver, where they were engaging in strange heathen practices such as... eh... such as asking questions of important people and trying to find out things and so forth.

And they were doing it on television, perhaps the ultimate desecration of all that is decent and restrained and acceptable, perhaps the most blood-curdling aspect of the whole terrible episode for the Responsible People, indeed for any responsible person .

Yes, they were doing it on television.

They were doing it on the main evening news where the folks could actually see them, and their helpless sacrificial victims, lost in this primitive dance.

And the folks, so vulnerable to every form of vulgarity that is put in front of them, seemed to be falling for it. Like the tribespeople who elevated Colonel Kurtz to a position of eminence, they were blind to the horror that was unfolding, the horror of... eh... asking questions of important people and trying to find out things and so forth.

So the Responsible People had to put them right about a few things. Unable to tolerate the abominations which they were seeing, at last they were obliged to move against this weird uprising, to restore some sense of propriety. Their voices came together to form a fine consensus.

They started to use words like "grandstanding", to explain to the folks that Ross and some of his associates were more interested in their own personal popularity than in the great questions which they were throwing around in such a crude and reckless manner.

After all, it is largely unknown for anyone in politics, at any level, to seek to advance their own popularity in any way. They eschew personal publicity as if it were a horrible disease. They will go to almost any lengths to keep their name out of the papers. They hate, above all else, to be seen on television.

And now here was this committee going against all those ancient instincts of the Irish politician, and "looking for a headline". They say that one of the Responsible People approached a member of the committee about a certain turn of events in their enquiry and in the most withering fashion uttered the damning words, "that'll make the front page tomorrow".

Then there was a knowing mumble about the silver-tongued Ross "confusing his roles as journalist and politician". The journalist, after all, is mainly concerned with our old friend, asking questions of serious people and trying to find out things and so forth. And the politician... well, he does something else. Something better than that.

What he does is... eh... OK, let's park that there for a moment. Whatever it is, that he does, he does it better than whatever the journalist does. He does it in a more, shall we say, responsible manner.

And above all, he understands that the moment it starts to get in any way interesting, that's when it has to stop. That's when the curtain comes down. The folks have seen enough.

And not only were these PAC hearings starting to get interesting, they were even starting to become quite uplifting for the masses, who were seeing PAC members saying things that they themselves were thinking, which is always a sign that things have gone too far.

Folks were sitting there having their tea, watching powerful people performing in ways that were less than entirely impressive, being asked to function without the constant assistance of special advisers, PR professionals, and assorted spin-monkeys. And that was wrong, deeply wrong.

It was the lowest of all the low things that we have witnessed in the course of this grotesque episode. It was Trial by Television.

There are many indecent, unrestrained, and unacceptable aspects of Trial by Television, but the truly inexplicable part of it is that we in Ireland have devised so many better ways of dealing with any controversies that may arise in the public domain.

In societies which are somewhat less mature than our own, such as the UK and the USA, they mysteriously persist with the old Trial by Television, that barbaric practice of allowing serious people to be questioned at length by elected representatives, with punters looking at it on TV.

In Ireland we have the Responsible People to look after us in this regard. And in the course of that lofty pursuit, if they end up looking after themselves too, so be it.

So we remove these issues from the dismal gaze of the general public, if we possibly can. We bring in great multitudes of lawyers who, unlike journalists or grandstanding politicians, will never be seen trying to attract attention to themselves or generally poncing around in the search for cheap sensation and manifest untruth.

In Ireland we are above Trial by Television. We take the Television out of it.

And we actually go one better – we take the Trial out of it too.

Irish Independent

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