Friday 23 February 2018

Golden rule for politicians: don't embarrass the public

Cowen should relish his chances to speak to the nation, utilising them as a powerful tool, says Olivia O'Leary

Mary Robinson as President was correct almost to the point of prissiness in the way she comported herself, in the way she dressed, behaved in public, in the way she maintained a strict formality of style; asked about it afterwards she said that as the first woman president she didn't want in any way to be accused of damaging the dignity of the office, and secondly she felt that her correctness of style reassured people and gave her leeway to be more adventurous in what she did and said.

She never wore trousers, for instance, because the inevitable debate about it would distract from what she was trying to achieve. People sensed that she would behave herself, that she would not embarrass them in public, lead even the most conservative to accept what they might otherwise have found challenging -- her embracing of the gay community, of women prisoners, her controversial decision to visit the marginalised community in West Belfast before the IRA ceasefire and shake their hands and that of the MP Gerry Adams.

When you hold public office, knowing how to behave in public and maintaining the dignity of the office you hold on behalf of the people is essential if you want them to listen to and accept what you're saying and doing rather than focusing on how you look or sound.

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