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Sunday 21 September 2014

John Drennan: It's time for our teenage TDs to wise up

In our lamentable state, only colonial occupation forces us to act in a morally responsible way, says John Drennan

Published 12/02/2012 | 05:00

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It is possible sometimes to feel some sympathy for our Troika 'friends'.

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They must, when that buffoon Mattie McGrath is making a fool of himself, brandishing a collection basket on the floor of the Dail, be filled with the sort of pessimism about the incorrigible Irish our former British masters experienced. And let us be thankful no one sent the image of Mattie to Jay Leno who previously compared an image of our former Taoiseach Brian Cowen with a drunken barman

The Troika's temper is unlikely to be improved by the 'student prince' hysterics of the eternally adolescent Richard 'Posh Boy' Barrett, the theatrics of Michael Healy-Rae, who increasingly resembles a caricature from the 19th Century periodical Punch, or that ghost from the farthest reaches of The Muppet Show, Mick, the nearly bankrupt builder, Wallace.

But while this collective of Independent political adolescents may look, sound and dress like the cast of The Young Ones, they are, courtesy of the rural revolt against septic tank inspections, and much of the rest of the modern world, acquiring a serious level of political clout within and without Leinster House.

Given the realities this State has determinedly refused to confront, the war of the septic tanks is the most high-profile example of how a veil of madness appears to have fallen over Irish politics.

This development appears to have sparked a new concept which we shall from now on call the erraticisms of Enda.

If you are wondering, an erraticism is like a witticism, except that unlike the latter which is a structured joke, the disbelieving laughter Mr Kenny's Davos-style erraticisms inspire is entirely unplanned.

Last week, when it came to The World According to Garp-style prophecies of Enda, the Taoiseach was in flying form as he responded to the septic tank issue with dark mutterings about citizens "spluttering into their pints".

However, Enda's erraticism which unnervingly resembles Bertie Ahern's malapropisms, could not disguise the damage done to his strongman Phil Hogan by that less than cute 'oul registration fee U-turn.

One would have thought Mr Hogan and some of the Cabinet at least, would know that asking farmers to put their hands in their pockets and contribute to the common good has always been seen as representing an attack on their human rights under the Geneva Convention of tax evasion.

The most astonishing feature of the septic tank controversy is the claim that registering and compelling citizens to operate an efficient system represents some form of 'attack' on rural Ireland.

In fact the 'attack' took place some time ago when gombeen Fianna Fail and Fine Gael politicians decided that the entire purpose of independence was to facilitate the desire of an ignorant, non-patriotic, uncivic farming class to treat the countryside like some squat in London.

As a furore, the war of the septic tanks is so asinine we are almost starting to believe we were too harsh in damning Mr Cowen over his Peter Pan-style status as the Taoiseach who never grew up.

The current furies over the household charge, septic tanks and a plethora of other issues actually suggest when it comes to our Never-Neverland of a state, trapped in a permanent aspic of political adolescence, Mr Cowen was our 'portrait in the attic'.

Like Dorian Grey, we can put on a fine face to the world to the extent we may even sometimes fool the hard-headed moneymen of the Troika.

But our real selves consist of the irresponsible, self-centred, permanent sulking child, which if not corrected leads to the gross excesses of a Cowen.

It is not just a feature of country living either, for one of the most corrosive features of what is evolving into a dangerously cowardly Government, is that each piece of bad news (and others might call the bad news reform) is prefaced by an apologetic twisting of imaginary caps and a whine of "the Troika, your honour, made me do it".

It is a measure of the utter moral bankruptcy of our political elite, and the electorate that chooses and then curses them, that apparently only colonial occupation, by either the Black and Tans or the Troika, forces us to act in a morally responsible fashion.

In contrast whenever we get a run at it we treat the country like a kip and then wonder, like the farmer who sleeps in bed when he should be watering his crops, why we reap such bitter fruit.

It is irresponsibility beyond sanity that in an era when the future economic sustainability of the State depends on a healthy agricultural sector and tourism that the former appears to be seen as having some obscure right to vandalise the State.

The irresponsibility does not end there either, for we also appear to believe that uniquely among civilised economies, we should pay our teachers enough to buy villas in Croatia and that, as part of this strange natural law, we are also entitled to evade property taxes, water charges and septic tank checks while receiving free third-level education.

It would, of course, have been so much better if such charges had been imposed during the boom for we would then have had some knowledge of the outgoings we faced when the bubble burst.

Instead we have a scenario where we must defy the simple economic logic, and half-a-million unemployed citizens, that tell us each new tax further depresses the economy at a point where we need to stimulate demand.

But, when our Troika 'partners' gaze at their solvent countries and look at us with our hand out to Hans for a few bob, who can blame our German 'friends' for thinking this Mediterranean state lost in Northern waters is going to have to learn the hard way that it now has to live like everyone else.

Amid these harsh realities the Government, with its rows about the Vatican and the septic tanks, is engaged in a dangerous wobble that may do it real harm.

Increasingly this squabbling reeks of the same self-indulgent, self-centred obsessions the last government had about greyhounds, hares and fat men in red coats chasing stags while the country collapsed around them.

As thousands of householders fall into mortgage arrears every week the voters are certainly entitled to wonder about the Coalition's obsession with ambassadors, prelates and septic tanks.

The only explanation we can come up with for these teenage tantrums is that our elite are so powerless in dealing with the economic abyss, all they are fit to do is turn away and engage in mad conflicts and Enda's eccentricities to pass the time, while we wait for the world to rescue us.

This lethargy may yet reap a mildewed harvest. When it comes to the political equivalent of 'where there's shite there's brass' (necks) our idiot savant Independents may be grabbing all of the headlines.

But, as they lurk like a clever old pike, the smart use that party formerly known as Sinn Fein/IRA are making of these issues means they are perfectly poised to wreak havoc amongst the sleepy FF and increasingly skittish FG and Labour political fry.

SF's hungry plans to evolve into a Fianna Fail Nua, with Gerry, God help us, playing the role of De Valera, do not represent good news for more than historic reasons.

Robbing Fianna Fail's patented tactics of collaborating with the vandalising of the country in order to gain votes, allied to SF/FF Nua's tactic of using any rise in their popular support as a stick to beat Europe with (watch out Angela, Gerry's behind you!) is as cunning a plan as we have seen for some time.

But if the most revolutionary option the Sinn Fein/FF Nua wolves dressed in accountants' suits can offer us is a variant of the same dusty corked FF wine in new bottles, our future will be one of permanent petrified political adolescence. And that is a nihilism no self-respecting independent state deserves.

Sunday Independent

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