Wednesday 13 November 2019

Review: Without Power or Glory: The Greens In Government by Dan Boyle

New Island, €16.99


If the Greens were a country, they would resemble those plucky Poles who in World War II took on the German Panzer tanks with cavalry before being betrayed, chopped up and partitioned by both their enemies and their supposed allies.

Coalition with Fianna Fail may not have been quite as bad as that, but, as the sombre title of Dan Boyle's Without Power or Glory: The Greens in Government indicates, it was a close-run thing.

It is a measure of the asinine nature of modern politics that Boyle, who is a relatively thoughtful though occasionally exotic political creature, was chiefly famous for his role as a Green fifth columnist on Twitter and a brief unfortunate appearance on an RTE celebrity musical show.

Without Power or Glory starts at a cracking pace courtesy of a description by Boyle of a row between himself and Brian Lenihan which ends with the Finance Minister telling an understandably puzzled Boyle that the Greens were "responsible for everything wrong in this country''.

As a text, the book is also of interest since it is the first 'insider' account from that government, and given the traumatised state that most of its members and the country continue to be in, it is unlikely there will be many more. The problem is that what follows the Lenihan entree, though not entirely prosaic, is bland to the extent that the reader feels a little like the diner who, having started with cordon bleu, is disappointed when the remaining courses are pub lunch.

The book undoubtedly suffers from having been scooped by Irish Times journalist Mary Minihan's definitive account of the Green experience in government. Boyle's relatively humble status as a Senator means he also simply does not have the sort of insider knowledge that separates the really serious political biopic from the field. Instead, Boyle has put together a text that could have been penned by a senior political journalist.

However, lest we are unfairly dismissive, Boyle's occasionally wry and often wintry style -- such as a description of how the very suspicious Greens were wined and dined by Brian Goggin and the Bank of Ireland top brass -- means it is an eminently readable account of the honourable role a decent party played in a Coalition of Lunatics.

Without Power or Glory would have been served well by some more ruthless editing. Devoting two or three pages of text to Dan's Seanad speeches, worthy as they were, are simply a waste of typescript and the reader's time.

A more gossipy style would have helped, too; while up-market publishers may sneer at gossip, it can be the first draft of history and a backdoor to truth and character.

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