Yes, it'd be great if we didn't need any politicians but - unfortunately - we do
Published 30/03/2016 | 02:30
In the Dublin of 1916, the air was filled with the whiff of cordite and the smell of smouldering rubble. In the Dublin of 2016, the air is rank with the fetid stench of political atrophy.
If the commemorations of the last few days were hailed for ushering in a genuine hope for a new Ireland, that memo has yet to reach our politicians who continue to dither and bicker over forming a government.
It's glib but accurate to point out that Belgium recently went nearly 16 months without a government. As the 'Washington Post' noted: "The world record for a democracy going without an elected government is held by Belgium, which went 589 days in 2010-11 because the opposing Flemish and Walloons were unable to agree on policy issues and form a governing coalition following national elections."
We have a similar situation here, once you replace 'Flemish' and 'Walloon' with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. But while political anoraks have been quick to point out that business continued as normal - minus a national budget - in Belgium during that interregnum, the events of last week in Brussels have ensured that few people will ever cite that country as an example of anything other than rank mismanagement and incompetence.
The combination of St Patrick's Day and a particularly loaded Easter weekend which marked the centenary of the Rising has given our very reluctant politicians a bit of breathing space in their ongoing failure to form a government. But public patience had understandably run dry.
If we are to apply the old adage that the people get the government they deserve, then there is an argument that the Irish voters got exactly what they deserved - by atomising the vote and electing so many independents, they ensured that we got no government at all.
Ultimately, however, the voters did their job and it is up to the professional politicians to do theirs - they are paid to govern and if our current representatives have any hope of proving that they don't belong in the Jurassic era of Irish politics, where settling scores and maintaining the primacy of their party over their country was the order of the day, they need to start earning their generous salaries and doing what's best for this nation that they all profess to love so much.
The 32nd Dáil convenes next Wednesday and it will have been five weeks since the 158 TDs secured their seats - ample time, one would have thought, for a new government to have been formed. That will still fall short of the Irish record of 48 days without a government, back in '92/'93, but that unenviable benchmark is not as untouchable as once thought.
The people may have contributed to this current impasse but they're not stupid.
With the exception of those strange political beasts who deliberately campaigned on a policy of not entering power - which makes as much sense as the Republic of Ireland qualifying for the Euros and then promising not to play once they get there - the people want a government, if only because we will then have a chance of voting them out again.
That might not make sense to the outsider, but few things Irish ever do, not least our political system, which has enshrined a collective confusion over the difference between a national parliamentarian working for the country and a local activist, whose job seems to mainly consist of scraping deep into the political pork barrel and securing unearned, undeserved treats for their local constituents.
Using the word 'statesman' in relation to Irish politics is always an exercise in certifiable naivety. But we need, more than ever, senior deal-makers to behave in the best interests of the State rather than the vested, parochial interests of their respective parties.
That hope may well be a forlorn one, but each day that arrives with no new development is another day which moves the eventual government further and further away from the wishes of the people.
If we have one consolation, it might lie in the fact that at least we're not in America. Where once idealists looked to American politics as if it was a version of 'The West Wing', the current race is more akin to 'Scandal' or, on a good day, 'Veep'.
Donald Trump seems to have become completely unhinged and now spends his time coining unfortunate nicknames for those who displease him ('Crazy Megyn', 'Lyin Ted', etc) like a schoolyard bully who wallows in the misery he inflicts on his classmates.
Ted Cruz finds himself cast in the role of a most unlikely Lothario - he has strongly denied claims that he has bedded at least five women who aren't his wife.
Meanwhile, Hillary is under investigation by a team of 147 FBI agents endeavouring to find out just what the hell happened to those mysterious emails, Bernie Sanders looks as stunned as anyone else that he is still in the race, and Obama has so obviously checked out that he may as well be wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan 'Gone Fishin'.
When examining both situations, it would be tempting to suggest that we'd be better served without any politicians at all.
Unfortunately for us, however, the longer this continues, the worse it will be for the country.
Can someone please make sure our leaders get the memo?