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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Gene Kerrigan: Dana cut through all the psychobabble

Gene Kerrigan won't be voting for her, but at least she speaks out about what is being done to Ireland

Published 09/10/2011 | 05:00

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YOU'D be here all day if I told you everything I don't like about Dana's politics and the reasons I won't vote for her for President. But you've probably got your own reasons for not voting for her. So here's the thing I like about Dana.

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Dana Rosemary Scallon isn't playing the game. From the beginning, while others struggled to impress us with pompous, meaningless phrases, Dana said what she believes. Like it or lump it (and most of us lump it).

There's a frankness to the campaign of the mouldy old pop singer with the antiquated Christian gloss. Numbed by the hollow pieties of the other six candidates, I found myself taken aback by her bluntness.

There was a time when the President was a meeter and greeter, someone for foreign visitors to shake hands with, to keep them from bothering the Taoiseach. Then Mary Robinson got the job -- and she wasn't satisfied with shaking hands for a living.

Robinson's election said we'd matured enough to agree that the Presidency wasn't exclusively for elderly males on the downside of life, with nothing more useful to do with their time.

She occasionally suggested that Ireland wasn't solely a nation of twinkle-eyed literary geniuses, sliding down rainbows, with the lilt of Irish laughter on their lips.

She hinted at the inequality that bolsters so many great fortunes. She did so with tactful phrases about inclusion.

Fair enough, up to a point. But, when she talked about how her Presidency "empowered" the excluded, she was talking through her -- ah, well, perhaps we've already had too many Aras jokes.

To justify the existence of a powerless and expensive figurehead, Robinson invented the notion of a President who, in some spooky way, is supposed to embody the national psyche. Mary McAleese continued the airy-fairy stuff, although McAleese has been far more political.

What's that you say? The Presidency is "above politics"? Yeah? Robinson was slightly left of centre, a protector of human rights. It took about 10 minutes for her to say tactfully all she had to say about the disempowerment of so many.

She repeated herself for a while, then -- as soon as a real job came along -- she sensibly jacked in the Presidency and did a runner to the UN.

Enter Mary McAleese, former Fianna Fail Dail candidate (eliminated on the 11th count). Cheerleader, full of old guff about the alleged Celtic Tiger. Then she found herself President of a country taken over by outside forces.

She had nothing useful to say about the asset-stripping of the economy, the loading of private debt on to the shoulders of the citizens whose interests she supposedly embodies.

Instead, she joined in the pretence that the economic collapse was due to some kind of failure of the national imagination. If only we could pull ourselves together, put on our thinking caps and come up with some Great Ideas. Hey Presto!

We've been treated to a succession of such 'positivity' initiatives, each essentially calling for passivity. They tell us the trouble is our failure to come up with bright ideas -- not what's being done by forces with economic interests and iron will.

Remember 'Your Country, Your Call', the 2009 jamboree on which McAleese bet her credibility? Unlimited funds were available to come up with ideas that would "transform" the economy. There were 9,000 entrants, oceans of hullaballoo -- and last week, the Examiner revealed that two years later the two winning projects have created a total of. . . one paid job. A 'digital consultant', if you don't mind.

We now have seven presidential candidates looking to be elected to the position of national figurehead at a time when the country is being subjected to an extreme economic experiment. But,

we're told they can't talk about such matters -- because the presidency is "above politics". They have to say something -- so the air is alive with pointless psychobabble.

Mary Davis says she's a "leader" who believes in "change". Sean Gallagher

says he's "fresh" and "relevant". Gay Mitchell assures us he's against suicide. Michael D Higgins says he has an independent mind. The reason David Norris and Martin McGuinness haven't been quite so bland is that they've been constantly on the defensive. McGuinness wants to be the loveable grandpa, but his enemies insist on digging up bodies. Can't blame either side for taking those routes.

David Norris has been hopeless. In very dark, reactionary times, he displayed exemplary courage on gay rights, human rights. There are people who hate him for that. They know he's not a paedophile, so they smear. Again and again I've reacted -- dear God, I thought, that sounds serious. Again and again, under examination, it was a ball of smoke.

Norris is spectacularly inept, determined to be inoffensive, urging us to "move on". Asked by Vincent Browne to name the lawyers who advised that he couldn't publish the letters he wrote, he evaded the question. It made me wonder what he was hiding.

Next morning, he named the lawyers -- presumably

having got permission in the meantime. David, your courage in the old days, the tone of the forces ranged against you -- I'll probably still give you the number one. But you're a crap candidate.

Only Dana alluded, with crude anti-EU verbiage, to the circumstances in which this election is being held. Ryan Tubridy wielded a stock question, designed to allow the candidates express their passivity. Would you, he wanted to know, refuse to sign a Bill that you opposed?

The standard answer was, "Oh, no, poor little me, I'd just be a rubber stamp." Dana raised an eyebrow. If it impugned the Constitution, she said: "You bet your boots I would."

That would mean a constitutional crisis and devil the bit of harm that would do. At least it would get us talking about what is being done to us in the name of protecting the German and French banks and shoring up the euro.

Next Tuesday, unsecured bondholders will be paid another €69,837,833. In November they'll get about three-quarters of a billion. For Christmas, they'll find €89,665,296 in their stockings. And all this mounting debt has to be paid for by us.

And today, down in the small Cork village of Ballyhea, those honourable, courageous people will hold their 32nd dignified protest march against this lunacy.

Needless to say, there's another exercise in passivity under way, even as the candidates psychobabble on. Down at Dublin Castle there's another 'forum' for the generation of Hey Presto! ideas.

There you can find the ex-chairman of AIB, the ex-director of Royal Bank of Scotland and the current chairman of Goldman Sachs (this blessed trinity of banking is embodied in the single form of Peter Sutherland). And he's sitting by the left hand of the Taoiseach. Telling him that we haven't had nearly enough austerity.

Sunday Independent

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