News Ian O'Doherty

Thursday 18 September 2014

A story for the voters? Or Simon Cowell?

Published 28/04/2014 | 02:30

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Nicky and Gabrielle McFadden
Ground zero after 9/11 attack

They say you get the politicians you deserve, but if that's the case the Irish people must have done some terrible things in the past.

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Or, perhaps we have yet to fully understand the difference between the national and the parish pump.

After all, we need only cast our mind back to those joyous scenes in 2008 when Brian Cowen was appointed Taoiseach and the subsequent braying of the yahoos from his constituency that this was "a great day for Offaly".

Well, it might have been a great day for Offaly, but it wasn't a particularly good day for Ireland. And, come to think of it, probably not the best day Offaly has ever had either.

Maybe it's the nature of a small country, or maybe it's just the national admiration for the person who can get things done in their own back yard while ignoring more important, national issues. But the uncomfortable truth is that politics in Ireland is as facile a popularity contest as The X Factor, and, just like that show, it helps if you have had a family member who was a previous contestant.

Even better, if you have a sob story about that family member, then you're guaranteed to pluck at the credulous, gullible heart strings of the voters.

It should come as no surprise that yet another Lenihan has decided to put themselves forward for consideration, even though some elements of the grass roots of the party are against it – presumably on the not unreasonable grounds that the name 'Lenihan' on a ballot sheet hardly guarantees an outpouring of voter goodwill.

Anita Lenihan is Brian and Conor's sister. A qualified barrister, she has announced that she wants to stand in the by-election and reassures us that "I have a strong sense of public service, which you get in a political family like ours".

Now, nobody will deny that the late Brian Lenihan handled his terminal illness with courage and dignity and his fortitude impressed even his detractors. But he was still the man at the tiller during the bailout and we all know how that worked out – sorry, is still working out, because we're still suffering its results, as we shall be for years to come.

But taking that X Factor tendency towards the mawkish to a new level is surely Gabrielle McFadden, who is now the favourite to take the seat opened in Athlone by the death, from motor neurone disease, of her sister, Nicky.

Like Lenihan, Nicky McFadden impressed many in the way she dealt with her illness, and her family, colleagues and constituents were understandably devastated when she died.

But according to Gabrielle, she is running because "I promised her I would, among other promises we made as a family, all of which we kept. And this is the last promise I made to her and I want to keep it...It was never my intention to do this.

"My intention was always to be there for Nicky. The only thing I can do to keep that promise to her is to put my name forward for contention and that is what I think I should do."

Now, keeping a promise made to a dying person is one of the most sacred oaths anyone can take.

But are we really so soft witted, so fundamentally enslaved to emotion and feelings at the price of logic that standing for election now seems to employ tactics normally used to gain the support of the mob on a talent show?

McFadden says she has something to say about jobs, housing and tourism in the Midlands and they are issues which will be of direct importance to the electorate.

So why doesn't she campaign on these issues rather than employ this simplistic and unseemly attempt to gain the sympathy vote when, quite frankly, we need our politicians to have more going for them than just fulfilling a promise to a dying woman?

What is it to be – the Dail of Ireland or The Voice of Ireland, where talent is secondary to a tragic backstory?

SHHHH. DON'T MENTION THE WAR

So, having faced the ire of some easily queasy American atheists who claimed that the sight of a cross made from girders at Ground Zero made them physically sick to the stomach, the 9/11 museum now finds itself in an even more farcical spat.

Visitors to the museum are due to see a seven-minute film, which gives a quick history of al-Qaeda and the lead-up to the events of 9/11. But an inter-faith group says that using phrases like 'jihad' and 'Islamist' was liable to "greatly offend our local Muslim believers as well as any foreign Muslim visitor to the museum. Unsophisticated visitors who do not understand the difference between al-Qaeda and Muslims may come away with a prejudiced view of Islam".

Perish the thought that hordes of 'unsophisticated' rubes may visit the site of the greatest terrorist atrocity of our lifetime and get the wrong impression of the hijackers.

But we might as well be consistent – let's drop all mention of Catholicism from the Inquisition, and as for World War II?

Well, constantly bringing the word 'Germans' into the debate is obviously stigmatising the millions of peaceful Germans who wanted nothing to do with it.

And then everyone will be happy but history will be the loser.

A DOPEY THING TO DO...

Arizona woman Catarina Clouser was sentenced to 16 years' probation last week when she was found guilty of smoking weed and then driving away with her baby still in the baby seat – on the roof of her car.

She admitted that she had visited a friend to smoke some joints, and was baked when she forgot about her child who was discovered, unharmed, after the seat slid off the roof and was found in the middle of the road.

Some prohibitionists have pointed to this as another reason why people shouldn't be allowed to smoke dope. But they're missing the point.

Because surely it would be more accurate to say that some people shouldn't be allowed to become parents?

Irish Independent

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