Talk is cheap as power rests in hands of voters
Published 25/02/2016 | 02:30
In 1975, two great heavyweights went for glory as Muhammad Ali took on Joe Frazier in the 'Thriller in Manila'. This week, our four main political contenders went at it in a debate which might be dubbed a 'Chiller in Vanilla'. It lacked substance, energy and colour.
Those expecting an intensive engagement revealing depth and character in the contestants were disappointed.
It was a tepid, small-minded squabble that once more left voters begging for less. Questions were parried away as all leaders preferred to shimmy, duck and dive rather than come out fighting.
This may have been one of the shortest campaigns ever, yet it has dragged. Despite the many recent cheap shots, and playing to the spotlight, politics is neither sport nor show-business, it is a lot more serious than that. Tomorrow, voters have the privilege of choosing a government. In this, the centenary of the 1916 Rising, we would do well to remember the sacrifice and courage of all those who gave their lives so that we could have the right to govern ourselves.
While it is reasonable to criticise and castigate our political leaders for self-serving agendas and a lack of vision - all of which failed to generate a momentum with the public - we should still remember that only a few short years ago, we surrendered our sovereignty when the Troika took over.
Hundreds of thousands of our people left as our economy went over a cliff. We are beginning to turn a corner thanks to a Herculean effort by a workforce that endured some of the most severe austerity measures ever visited on a nation in the Western world. The reasons for the crash have been well-rehearsed: Reckless banking, over-reliance on the construction industry, light-touch regulation, a huge blow-out in expenditure and key critical policy failures, all combined to bring this country to its knees.
But Ireland is getting back on its feet. Foreign direct investment has flowed inwards, attracted by a climate of stability and an able, and highly-skilled, workforce. We have the potential to move to a more secure and stable future by building on a foundation that has been set in place, at such cost, and to the tremendous credit of the Irish people.
Who should manage that future is what is at stake tomorrow. And that is why it is so crucial to exercise your franchise. It has been rightly said that voter apathy is a civic abdication. In one of the more telling moments of Tuesday night's debate, all our leaders found themselves on the ropes on the issue of cronyism. Cronyism is the second cousin of gombeenism, and has no place in good governance.
They all also struggled to varying degrees on how precisely they would manage the national purse. All found failures in our public services, especially on health and housing, which have fed into feelings of exclusion and alienation. So there is still clearly a prodigious amount of work to be done which will demand solidity, leadership and direction. The resilience of the economy is not a given, it requires social cohesion, trust and fairness.
Speaking at the Green Party's final press conference before the poll, Eamon Ryan said his "biggest fear is that the Irish people will not be inspired to go out and vote" after the campaign. "If there is one message I have today it is 'don't give up on politics'. It's our best way of deciding how we set our future for this country," he said. And so it is.
The American entrepreneur Seth Godin said that: "Leaders lead when they take positions, when they connect with their tribes, and when they help the tribe connect to itself."
The last few years have seen a breakdown in connections with our traditional tribes and their leaders. Some feel it matters little who is in charge so long as someone is. But one ought not take such things for granted. In the conduct of public affairs, experience has shown that if you have a chance to have a say, you should surely seize it.