Sunday 23 October 2016

Editorial: Women do not forget, Enda

Published 20/07/2014 | 02:30

Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and the Cabinet
Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and the Cabinet

One would think an expert in women's issues such as our Taoiseach would be aware of the old saying that 'a stitch in time saves nine'. Whatever about the art of darning, Mr Kenny certainly knows now that the failure to stitch a single female deputy into his selection of nine junior ministers, has created some very sloppy political embroidery.

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If the Cabinet reshuffle was the starting gun for election 2016, the absence of any room in the political inn for new women, meant the Taoiseach managed to shoot himself in both feet before he even reached the start line.

It is often argued that tokenism is not an adequate policy for enhancing the role of women in society and politics. When it comes to Enda and women, however, whatever the political disconnect is, this administration is struggling to even reach the lowlands of tokenism.

We do understand ageing white males often have difficulties loosening the apron strings sufficiently to admit the 'ladies' into the outer sanctum of power.

But, 25 years after Mary Robinson famously invited Ireland to 'come dance with me', it is surely not too much to hope, that at some distant future date, our political system will evolve sufficiently to reflect the not inconsiderable fact that women do constitute half the population. Whilst we patiently wait for such a glorious day, it should also be noted Mr Kenny's botched reshuffle represented an apt denouement to what has been the most gruelling of political years since the close of the Brian Cowen era.

The Coalition might argue this is an unfair comparison. Unfortunately, in far too many ways, the Cowen cap fits all too well. As with the era of Mr Cowen there was no shortage of drama to be gleaned out of the political chaos. But, whilst the vaulting ambition of Alan Shatter being shot down in flames may have provided us with a fine public spectacle, once the last feathers of our lost political Icarus were swept into the bin, all that was left was a vast sense of futility.

The local and EU elections may have reduced a Coalition elected with the largest majority in the history of the state to the political status of the living dead. But, whilst the elections were a thing of much sound and fury and drama too, whether any purpose was served remains to be determined.

The current mood of national lassitude is all the more unfortunate for it was possible after the departure of the Troika, to hope Ireland was on a similar cusp to that of 1959.

Instead of following the Lemass precedent, our government of mostly old men continued to follow old ways for a lost six months. This may appear to be quite a short little lacuna when you reside within the comfort zone of Leinster House.

And it may appear even shorter if, cushioned by a vast though diminishing majority, you expect to be in government for a decade. But, it is an eternity if you are one of the unwilling unemployed or the mortgage arrears generation.

A chastened government is now claiming that it is listening to the citizens. However, the ongoing Irish Water debacle offers little evidence it is actually taking the far more critical step of heeding the burgeoning disillusioned numbers of the working poor.

Our politicians are gone now anyway and no one is missing them.

Convention may require that we complain about political holidays, but politics needs its own private space to plan a better way of doing things. In a scenario where election 2016 has already begun, they will need to move swiftly.

Evidence, alas, is scant that they understand Ireland needs a new form of politics. Sinn Fein has embraced a recidivist form of Haughey-style populism whilst Fianna Fail and Labour are struggling to be anything more than a permanent apology.

As for Fine Gael; Mr Kenny would do well to recognise that, rather like that perennially underrated beast of burden the elephant, women never forget.

Sunday Independent

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