independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Gene Kerrigan: Nonsense we could do without in 2013

From politicians telling us porkies to 'pro-life' claims, it has been a difficult year,

IS IT possible, do you think, that in the coming year we might escape some of the nonsense inflicted on us in 2012? Below are six examples of the kind of thing we would be better off without in 2013.



1: People in public office who tell us things that are downright untrue.

2: The Taoiseach using victims of the Northern atrocities as political cover.

3: The anti-abortion lobby boasting of its allegedly "pro-life" record.

4: The Ceann Comhairle and his views on clothes.

5: Dail Eireann's aversion to democracy.

6: The media's casual attitude to credibility.

Let's take them one by one.

1: Things that are Downright Untrue.

Ministers swagger around, telling us they "didn't pay" the €3.06bn due on a promissory note last March. And they aren't "of a mind" to pay the one due next March. This is good news, given that these are not our debts, but debts forced on us by politicians protecting bankers and bondholders.

But here's the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, speaking of the Irish Government last April: "We take note", he said, of the "redemption of the promissory notes." State documents noted the "repayment of principal". Some economists wondered if government ministers had gone mad, claiming not to have paid, when clearly they had.

What they did was pay the €3.06bn, using a bond, routed from Nama, through the Bank of Ireland, to IBRC ( Anglo Irish Bank). Bank of Ireland made about €39m profit on this dodge, to allow ministers pretend the money hadn't been paid. IBRC paid the money on to the Central Bank.

That's OK, then, as the money stays with our Central Bank, right? Eh, no. The Central Bank destroyed the money, as ordered by the ECB. This is the madness they've locked us into.

2: The Taoiseach and Jean McConville.

Every now and then, someone from Sinn Fein corners Enda Kenny. Persistent questioning on the economy upsets the Taoiseach. At which point, he drags in the IRA.

Now, there's a school of thought that says the Provo record is so bloody that they have no place in parliamentary politics. It is open to the Taoiseach to take such a position. He does not. Some people persistently probe Gerry Adams's IRA record – a valid activity, given his implausible answers. The Taoiseach does not do so.

But, when he is cornered, it is his habit to figuratively hold up the corpse of such victims as Jean McConville, and behave as though this is a trump card that invalidates all Sinn Fein questioning on the economy.

The murder of Jean McConville remains a live issue. It is legitimate to pressure Adams or anyone else to speak on the matter. To hide behind Jean McConville, when questioned on the economy, is simply wrong. The Taoiseach – a man who runs from debate – should be stopped from using this victim in this manner.

3: What's 'Pro-life' about Supporting the Current Constitution?

In 1992, liberals and conservatives backed two referenda to give Constitutional protection to the abortion trail to the UK. Liberals did so because thousands of Irish women in troubled circumstances use that trail. Conservatives did so to copper-fasten the UK abortion outlet, to undermine any demand for abortion in Ireland.

Anyone (politician, bishop, whatever) claiming to be pro-life should explain where they stood on that matter in 1992 – if they were around. And whether they now want to close the abortion trail to the UK. And if not, why not?

4: The Ceann Comhairle's Clothes.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett has sought to introduce rules that would force all male TDs to dress in a certain manner. Many take this to be aimed at the 2011 intake – the likes of Richard Boyd Barrett, Ming Flanagan and Mick Wallace.

Some of us don't give a toss who wears what. Some see variety of dress as more representative of the people. Others wonder why a man who habitually wears a colourful robe would seek to ensure that others dress like bankers. (The people who destroyed the country were impeccably dressed.)

It's not a trivial matter. This is the old politics, bizarrely seeking to reassert itself, using clothing as a battleground.

We, who dress conservatively, say only this. To be in a position of some power and to use that position to question the dress of another – well, it's hardly the act of a gentleman, is it?

5: Democracy Might Be Worth a Try.

In theory, the members of the Oireachtas discuss, consider and legislate, and the Cabinet carries out the wishes of the Oireachtas. In fact, the Seanad is a home for has-beens and would-bes; the Dail is all about getting and holding onto The Seat. The Cabinet dominates the process, party TDs are instructed on how to vote. Of late, the Cabinet itself has been sidelined.

The Economic Management Council takes decisions. It meets weekly – comprising Kenny, Noonan, Howlin and Gilmore – with unelected officials and political advisers. All other ministers work to its direction.

The extent to which power is now concentrated in so few hands (most of them unelected) emerged a couple of weeks ago. Minister Pat Rabbitte had publicly expressed a view on the promissory note issue. It was revealed in this newspaper that Michael Noonan and the Taoiseach rounded on Rabbitte in private – and that Noonan told him it was "none of your business".

That is – an issue that will weigh heavily on the economy at least until 2025, and probably far, far longer, is not alone beyond the scrutiny of the Dail, it is none of the business of a Cabinet minister.

If the people at the centre of all this were geniuses, it would still undermine the very notion of democracy. Weighty decisions taken without democratic endorsement are time bombs. And the people at the centre of all this are, to put it mildly, not geniuses.

6: The Media and Credibility.

Just before the Budget, a Red C poll in The Sunday Business Post revealed that 88 per cent of citizens wanted higher taxes on those on over €100,000 a year, rather than cuts in spending on services. You will have seen little mention of this. No big headlines in any newspaper. Had the poll said the opposite, I suspect, it would have been trumpeted as public support for austerity.

It was a relevant story, coming days before a slashing Budget, and it was buried. I don't believe it was an act of suppression – it was worse than that. The media tends to not even notice evidence that doesn't support the groupthink view.

In a world where things change fast and new forms of journalism emerge, one of the unique selling points the old media has is whatever credibility it has sustained. Credibility can't be bought, it's earned over time, and it has to be re-earned on a weekly basis.

On another day, we could come up with a different list of irritations. What these six seem to have in common is the instinct to make the world seem other than it is. A dangerous urge, for politicians or journalists.

Sunday Independent

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