Friday 21 October 2016

Psychologically interesting but dangerous...

...The Government's tendency to say what it believes will work, whether or not it's true

Published 06/04/2014 | 02:30

Alan Shatter wasn't the only one who got hate mail last week. Yep, Soapbox too. The Fine Gael troops are getting upset. Alan's hater sent a letter with swastikas on it, a sure sign of a mind that's not just disintegrating but was never very together in the first place.

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Alan not alone had to put up with the attentions of some lonely chap with nothing but hate to keep him going, he also had to endure a Dail motion of 'no confidence' from Fianna Fail. It was worse for me – I had to watch it.

Truly, there are few things more abrasive to the soul than listening to a speech from Niall Collins, otherwise known as Mogadon on legs.

Alan's hater not alone sent swastikas, he sent some white powder, which led to a middle-ranking security alert in Ballinteer. Army Rangers rappelled down from helicopters above Alan's house, to hoover up the white powder and whisk it off to a secret lab in a bunker beneath the Wicklow mountains. There, scientists specially trained by the FBI (with assistance from Mary Berry) identified the suspect substance as baking powder.

My hater wasn't so kind, but if he wishes to send me some white powder I promise I won't call in the Rangers, I'll toss it into the mix next time I'm baking my scrumptious Lemon Drizzle Cake.

You can always tell immediately which political party is abusing you. The swastikas from Alan's hater were a bad move, PR-wise. Maybe next time tone it down slightly – go with the French National Front, the Tea Party or UKIP.

Fianna Fail haters are immediately identifiable by their gross, undisguised contempt. Back in the Haughey and the Ahern days they had talented writers who in the first line would launch furious diatribes about my drinking habits and sexual proclivities, which are, I always had to agree, pretty awful.

The Labour Party? Well, its members haven't the heart to send hate mail any more – one betrayal after another has left them deflated. The penny's dropped that they're now members of the Ministers Padding Out Their Pensions Party, and all they can hope is that when the current leadership buggers off there'll be enough left of the party on which to rebuild. (Hint: there won't be. Fag-end of a once-proud tradition, I'm afraid.)

Fine Gael hate letters are immediately identifiable because the first paragraph always – always – contains a denunciation of media "negativity". Thus it was last week. Well, the media is awash with chirpy folk. They're always ready with positive tidings of instant and permanent recovery from the economic collapse brought about by their unrelenting positivity about the previous debt bubble.

Critical comment on political degeneracy never cost anyone a dime. Without the cheery positivity of the media during the Celtic Bubble the politicians mightn't have felt so invincible. Positivity has cost us a lot.

Besides, someone's got to point out that the current Government bought political credibility ("We've exited the bailout!") by lumbering us with tens of billions of euro of other people's gambling debts.

My Fine Gael hater announced that "Mr Kenny is the best Prime Minister we have had for at least 20 years". Which neatly consigns Cowen, Ahern and Bruton to the dustbin and suggests this Blueshirt's other hero is Albert Reynolds. Now, Albert wouldn't be my bowl of dog food, but you have to admit, he knew how to reel in Gerry Adams and Co. And you wouldn't have bet on a cessation of killing if John "I'm sick of answering questions about the fucking peace process" Bruton was in office.

So, my hater and I are in agreement on Albert. We slightly diverge on his claim that, "I saw you once at a journalist meeting, you are a very odd gent". I would dispute the word "very". And substitute "somewhat".

"If I was Prime Minister I'd put you into jail." Ah, that upraised right arm snapping to attention. The letter ended with a flourished signature, "F. Off Kerrigan". It rather disturbed me to discover that a member of my family is a Blueshirt.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, I awoke with a start, my popcorn spilling on to the carpet. I'd nodded off as Niall Collins whined pitifully. Seems the Government dismissed his 'no confidence' motion as "a pointless exercise and a waste of parliamentary time". He disputed this view by droning on with his pointless exercise and waste of parliamentary time.

As I woke up he was saying: "The public is appalled at the public shafting of the Garda Commissioner." Really? I doubt that.

This Government should be easy meat for the opposition. At no stage in the past 20 years – and this includes the foul Ahern regime – has there been a government with such a lack of principle. Fianna Fail seemed utterly bereft of energy as they dawdled through the motions, taking half-hearted swipes at Alan Shatter.

The trademark of the Kenny/Gilmore Government is, in any given circumstance, to say whatever they believe will work – whether or not they believe in what they're saying, whether or not it's true, whether or not it makes sense.

The classic example of this was Enda Kenny telling Roscommon voters what they wanted to hear about their local hospital. Then, in office, doing the opposite. And when challenged, he simply denied he'd ever made the promises they claimed. And when someone produced a recording of Enda making those promises, he simply moved on – and the positivity people helped him do it.

There were some who claimed he lied – I disagree. Mr Kenny's self-belief is such that in office he knew with all his heart that he wouldn't, as a candidate, have made the promises they claimed he made.

Some weeks ago, during the GSOC crisis, he began quoting from legislation that didn't exist, in great detail.

He wasn't lying. I still don't know how a person can quote something that doesn't exist, giving chapter and verse, and do so with utter sincerity, but that's what Mr Kenny did.

And it went on all through the day, and through the next day, with his trusting ministers loyally quoting the same non-existent legislation, long after they should have known he'd been rumbled.

Some time back, when startled by reporters coming suddenly towards him, Mr Kenny fell back over some flower arrangement. His people immediately stated that he was "attacked" by a named journalist, to the total bafflement of witnesses.

Such a government is psychologically interesting, though dangerous. In a period of uncertainty for the police force the Government played by the same old rules of cronyism and short-termism, as though the bugging of GSOC truly didn't matter, nor the shafting of the whistleblowers, the penalty point fiddles, the long-term policing dysfunctions. When the secret recordings emerged they panicked and sent the heavies to see Callinan.

There's no urge to solve problems, just an urgency about finding the form of words that will anaesthetise public disquiet. This is seriously bad government. In the face of the gravity of the problems, it's unhinged government.

"I do not wish," said Willie O'Dea, "to travel over ground which has been comprehensively covered by my colleagues." And, as he began to crawl slowly over ground which had been comprehensively covered by his colleagues, I reached for the plug. Silence never felt so good.

Sunday Independent

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