Wednesday 29 January 2020

A round of political cliches on the house

We don't usually hear about the quaffing and the blathering in which our politicians indulge, writes Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

THERE was a great article by Jody Corcoran in this paper recently, in which he described a night in the Dail Bar. In essence, it was quite a simple piece, just Jody describing the sort of scenes which you might encounter in any busy lounge bar in the centre of Dublin, with the slight difference that in this case, most of the clientele, be they politicians or journalists, just happened to be running the country as they quaffed and blathered and conspired.

And two things in particular emerged from that piece, demanding the full attention of any thinking person. The first thing is related to the second thing, and together they offer us a certain insight into why Ireland is the way it is.

The first thing is just a line about how Wednesday night is Brian Cowen's night out. Since Mr Cowen also has the usual programme of weekend social engagements which any Irishman would claim as his birthright, his enemies might say that in this time of dire emergency, our prime minister might be able to find something else to be doing on a Wednesday night apart from enjoying himself.

Can he not be putting the few extra hours into his masterplan for the "smart economy"?

Evidently not.

Now you can look at this a few ways. You can say that

it is an admirable thing really, for a man in Cowen's position to be "doing his bit for the economy", as he puts it himself, refusing to surrender to the darkness,

going out there eating and drinking. In no particular order.

You could say that we need our leader to be carrying on with his time-honoured tradition, to reassure us that the light of civilisation has not yet entirely been extinguished by the forces of depression.

No doubt there will be some who will say, "sure no one would begrudge the Taoiseach his few pints", or "the man is entitled to his night off", or some such upbeat assessment -- the sort of upbeat assessment indeed that you might make after the first couple of pints on a Wednesday night.

But there is also a downbeat assessment, which goes something like this -- if you were running a company which owed so much money you couldn't even count it any more, would you be able to adopt a business-as-usual and full-steam-ahead attitude to your leisure time?

As the boss of any organisation which is in a world of trouble, would you not like to give the impression that you are simply unable to ring-fence the middle section of it each week? Would you not stop and think: I wonder if Barack Obama is out there now, having the few pints?

On a personal note, Tuesday used to be my night for doing my bit for the economy. And if memory serves, I would do it so well, it would often take care of Wednesday's contribution too.

But we are all different, in the way we strike that work-life balance. Gordon Brown, for example, is quite different to the Taoiseach in this area, and last week it may have saved him.

When those strange allegations of bullying were made against Brown, there was controversy over an apparent breach in confidentiality by an anti-bullying organisation, and this ostensibly got him out of jail.

But on a broader level, when the country is going down the toilet, perhaps the people like to think that a Gordon Brown or even a Brian Cowen is exercised enough by the crisis to be shouting and roaring and throwing large biographies of Disraeli around the office. It seems somehow more reassuring than to think of him out there on a Wednesday night, having fun.

Anyway, the media in general is not really in any position to be giving out about bullying. An estate which has produced some of the most notorious monsters of our time can hardly be making a stand against the occasional wobbly in the workplace.

Nor have we any entitlement to observe the leisure habits of others with anything but the deepest compassion.

Most leaders, indeed, could justifiably claim that a few drinks here or there is not going to make any difference to the global economy.

Now, more than ever, such men on their night out might be tempted to say, "I'll crack on" or just "to hell with it". Which carries its own dangers.

Not that the Irish media in general is concerning itself with such dangers, which is the second thing to note about Jody's piece -- how utterly unlike the usual political reportage it was, describing all this stuff which is routinely kept from us by "responsible" reporters.

Instead of telling us what actually happens in Leinster House, the quaffing and the blathering and the conspiring, the "responsible" ones have been on a different sort of a binge. The Willie O'Dea and Trevor Sargent stories have seen them gorging on the comfort food of political cliche -- some call it bread and circuses, I would call it political comfort food, all these old, old lines that they love so well.

Pressure mounting on the minister . . . serious error of judgement . . . statement expected . . . political reality . . . clearly position untenable . . . and lest we forget, a week is a long time in politics.

Even if you're not counting Wednesday.

Sunday Independent

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