Wednesday 18 July 2018

Public contempt for politics risks our democracy

What the whizz kids failed to grasp is that politics is a rough trade, says Ronan Fanning

A bad week not just for Fine Gael but for Irish politics, proclaimed pundits and politicians alike in response to George Lee's sudden flight from the rough-and-tumble of the Dail back to the cosseted comfort of RTE. Both assertions, for reasons to which I shall return, are arguably wrong. But his resignation did expose a depth of popular contempt for Irish political structures that, if left unchecked, could ultimately pose a threat to Irish democracy.

Unsurprisingly, contempt and disillusion were most apparent in the nation's best-loved emotional vomitorium: Joe Duffy's Liveline programme, when 83 per cent of the 16,000 respondents to an instant telephone poll backed Lee. That bald statistic, however, is less significant than the anti-democratic and authoritarian language of some of his supporters. The most alarming contributions came from two women, both, coincidentally, identified only as Bernadette.

Bernadette One began by asking Duffy to "stop trying to crucify this man. He's an honest man. He's principled, he's full of integrity, he's the best economist Ireland has" -- a claim so extravagantly ludicrous that one suspects even the self-regarding and listening Lee may have blushed with embarrassment. But there was worse, much worse, to come.

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