independent

Monday 25 September 2017

Joy in bastion of freedom France as Ireland mired in Paddy politics

New French President Emmanuel Macron with his wife Brigitte Trogneux
New French President Emmanuel Macron with his wife Brigitte Trogneux

David Looby

France is back baby!

The country of cool has produced a new president who just about trumps Trump on political inexperience. A political neophyte of 39 who married his former drama teacher, a lady 24 years his senior.

Emmanuel Macron swept to victory on a change vote tide on Sunday night over Far Right candidate Marine Le Pen winning power without any mainstream backing and French people can't get enough of him. The youngest leader of France since Napoleon, Macron was the perfect anti candidate. His back story is like something out of an arthouse R rated French movie.

Macron's relationship with Brigitte Trogneux has propelled him to the front pages of newspapers and magazines across France, a country where liaisons are as common as baguettes by all accounts. Trogneux was Macron's drama teacher when he was 15. She left her husband, and the father of her three children, to be with him and the relationship has stood the test of time.

I have been fortunate enough to have visited France a few times, once on an Inter Rail trip with some friends and on two subsequent holidays. To me the country - which is synonymous with 'cool' and sex - has so many associations with freedom going back to the French Revolution, that the victory seems bigger and more significant than previous victories over Far Right parties in Austria and elsewhere.

As the home of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, France has led the way in the arts, food, fashion, film over the years. The subject of numerous terrorist attacks in recent times, the election of Macron is an antidote to the hate spewed by Le Pen (and her father before her) which plays into the hands of terrorist groups like Isil.

There is no doubt that Macron - who takes over the reins of power from the hugely unpopular Francois Hollande this weekend - was a unique candidate. He was audacious, a Europhile, fiery, intelligent and centrist. His election has had the effect of a bomb going off on the staid political landscape of France and beyond. Donald Trump's election in November was similarly impactful, if not in the same positive way.

Imagine a candidate with Macron's love life and lack of political backing working his way to the front seats in the Dáil.

Imagine the coverage in Irish newspapers! The condescending columns would be endless.

There is a staleness and a pathetic streak to Irish political life at the moment. A useless mutually assured dereliction of duty pact seems to have been agreed upon by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Speaking on the radio on Sunday, Fianna Fáil party leader Michael Martin admitted that the government lacked focus and that this impacted upon its decision making processes. The divvying up of power between two or three parties has ended up costing this country dearly, from the Irish Water omnishambles to the latest inevitable infighting and jostling for position.

It remains to be seen how effective Macron - who served as economic minster for Hollande - will be in bringing the improving French economy forward, but it goes without saying that his election has provided a shot in the arm to the European Union with Brexit looming.

After some time in the doldrums and suffering from an identity crisis, the cultural and economic power that is France may soon roar back to life, while we're stuck with kittens looking over each other's shoulders.

Gorey Guardian

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