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Eoghan Harris: Moby Dick prefers those Celtic Tories to Celtic Trots


Last Tuesday, La Feile Bride, St Brigid's Day. The day a decent politician like Brian Cowen bowed out. The day decent local politicians, who had done no wrong, braced themselves for three weeks of abuse. The day Eamon Dunphy and the spoofers of Democracy Now were found out.

As I have done in every General Election since 1989, I am going to vote for the Old Guard. For the best candidates I can find in the two centrist parties of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. After that -- and because I think any Taoiseach takes on a heavy burden -- I will give critical support to Enda Kenny in his coming battle with the recession, just as I did to John Bruton and Bertie Ahern in their battle for peace.

In sum, I am going to support the status quo. That is not because I am a fat cat. Until my short stint in the Seanad, I never earned in excess of €50,000 per annum after tax. Like most in the private sector I do not have a plum pension. I will have to go on working until I drop.

But like most of my Sixties generation, I never wanted to be wealthy. All I wanted was to change the world. So I signed up for socialism. Like all Platonic projects for a perfect society, it ended in tears. Today, I am still wary of those who want to change the world.

All the horrors of the past hundred years, two World Wars and the Holocaust, were caused by men who wanted to change the world. Those who just wanted to cultivate their gardens gave little grief. But they still paid the price for the political fantasies of fascists and communists.

True, I want a little more from society than gardening or golf. But I do not believe I will get it from Eamon Gilmore. The Irish Labour Party is largely a party of middle-class luvvies in protected employment. It is not likely to look after the million workers of the private sector whose labours can alone lift us to the light.

Although I would make an exception for Ruairi Quinn and Sean Sherlock, I believe the Labour Party lacks the true grit to act with good authority. I believe it cannot be relied on as a part of a stable Rainbow. I believe it will cut and run when the second phase of austerity arrives and it is required to act with good authority.

The Labour Party is no longer led by political giants like Frank Cluskey, Michael O'Leary or Conor Cruise O'Brien. It is led by luvvies who failed to act with good authority during the crisis in socialism in the Eighties. And I speak from experience.

Back in 1988 I wrote a pamphlet called the Necessity of Social Democracy, which correctly predicted the permanent demise of soviet style socialism. The Workers Party suppressed it for a year. When Eamon Smullen finally published the pamphlet he was forced out of the party, by those I called the Student Princes, who are now prominent in the Labour Party.

This episode opened my eyes to the essential flaw in socialism. A refusal to act with good authority by telling your supporters their sacred cow is just bull. This moral flabbiness is marked by middle-class socialists who subscribe to the soft-option stream in socialism called Trotskyism.

Trotskyites refuse responsibility. This trait goes back to Leon Trotsky and the early days of the Bolshevik struggle. In 1918, the infant Bolshevik Republic badly needed breathing space. Lenin sent Trotsky to Brest-Litovsk to sign a peace treaty with the Germans, trading territory for time.

Rather than act with good authority, Trotsky returned to Moscow with a new slogan which made him madly popular: "Neither Peace Nor War." Lenin coldly pointed out he wanted a peace, not a slogan, and sent him back to sign the Treaty of Brest Litovsk on March 3, 1918.

That slogan, "neither peace nor war", sums up the Trotskyite legacy of trying to have it both ways. It lurks in the left of every Labour party. But as the Northern peace process proves, you can only serve the common good by slaying the sacred cows of your own supporters. As in amending Articles 2 and 3.

Last Tuesday when Gilmore trotted (sorry) out the charge of "Celtic Toryism" I felt a dull weariness numb my bones. Given a choice between Celtic Tories and Celtic Trots I will choose the Blueshirts without a blink. That's the great blessing of no longer being a liberal leftie. I don't have to subscribe to shibboleths of any sort.

So I did not share the studenty delusion that well-paid pontificators like Fintan O'Toole and Eamon Dunphy were likely to give up their cushy numbers (more than €300,000 in Dunphy's case) and take the dogs abuse that is the daily lot of decent politicians who bear no responsibility for this recession, and who canvass with cold courage.

People who pontificate about what's wrong, but fade away when asked to fix it, are a pain in the ass. Or in my terms, there is a touch of the Trot in them. This was particularly true of Fintan O'Toole and Eamon Dunphy's stillborn Spoofers Party, aka Democracy Now, aka Gone Baby Gone.

Last weekend, Fintan O'Toole, who increasingly has followers rather than readers, told his Irish Times flock why he was reluctantly refusing the poisoned chalice of politics. The almost innocent vanity, and not so innocent social signalling, of his apologia is caught perfectly by the opening paragraph.

"Just after New Year, I was sitting outside the dressing room in Marks & Spencer in Dublin while my son was trying on some clothes from the sale. It is not a conspicuous spot, yet, over the course of a few minutes, three different people -- nice, sensible people at that -- approached me, asked me to run for the Dail, and promised me their support."

Like you, I noted Fintan letting us note he buys clothes "from the sale". Like you I was struck by the symmetry of him being accosted by three people, not two or four. He was lucky he didn't encounter Eamon Dunphy in his three disguises: careless driver, careful coker, sublime spoofer.

Dr Elaine Byrne called Dunphy and O'Toole to account on The Eleventh Hour. In passing I noted that Keelin Shanley, its sharp and attractive presenter, would be a perfect moderator for the general election debates in two years' time. That's after Labour has cut and run and Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are forced to do a deal for the sake of the country.

Take my advice. Put No 1 firmly beside the names of those who enlisted under Enda Kenny, and who showed true grit. Give a second preference to the brave politicians of Micheal Martin's Fianna Fail. They may not be able to spoof like Dunphy and O'Toole, but at least, as Johnny Cash says, they walk the line.

Sunday Independent