Firstly, there's nothing wrong with Brian Cowen and Sean FitzPatrick having a game of golf. That's what business leaders do. Talking while exercising is better than talking over a table.
Nonetheless, the two men probably deserve to be disbelieved in their declarations of innocence, for each embodies in his own way the toxic traditions of the conspiratorial inner sanctum that have done so much damage to this country. The underlying psychology, and the resulting methodology, of the Sanctum are not merely incompatible with democracy: they spell ruin for the country that exalts conspiracy as the Only Way.
What follows in this column is a well-beaten track, which arouses boredom and anger in equal measure. Which is fine. Neither reduces the essential accuracy of my oft-stated thoughts on the matter.
The only way available to democrats is an open democracy. There is no third way. Accountable, answerable democracy -- for all its many flaws -- is the single path which democrats must follow. Departure from openness, and the celebration of the clandestine and the hidden, leads to the deprivation of someone's rights, someone's fortunes, someone's freedom, and sooner or later, of the corruption of the State itself.
A conspiracy within a free society is an abomination: which is why the Catholic Church always and rightly deplored secret societies.
Fianna Fail is the great Conspiracy Party. It lauds conspiracy, and because it has created the official narrative of independent Ireland, its various doomed conspiracies, which have brought ruin on the Irish State and the Irish people, remain central to that narrative.
The Foundation Conspiracy (and the Foundation Failure) was of course the 1916 Rising, in which very few "insurgents" actually knew what was planned by a handful of IRB conspirators. Only idiocy, or an addiction to failure, or a simple blood-lust, could want to continue the celebrations of this terrible event. For hundreds of civilians died then, and thousands more were to die in the hideous wars of 1919-23. One-third of the Protestant population of southern Ireland fled, many thousands of them driven out by the sectarian violence that the IRA campaign unleashed. The result was not a republic, not a socialist paradise, not a Gaelic Elysium, but a divided, embittered and ruined island.
In other words, almost complete failure -- one that Fianna Fail is determined once again to celebrate, with a dreary and fact-free pomp.
Fine Gael is, of course, little better, with its annual assaults on our intelligence with the grisly homage to Michael Collins, who mastered the fine arts of conspiracy and murder: the very antithesis to the openness that any democratic society needs. These two parties provide the intellectual template to our political thought, both revering men of violence who planned murder within a democracy, and brought ruin on the society they purported to set free.
At least the Fine Gael methodology has not subsequently replicated the conspiracy of 1916 or of Collins's Squad. But Fianna Fail is drawn to conspiracy like bluebottles to dung. Look at the first great FF deed: De Valera's embezzlement of the funds raised in the US.
Look at Fianna Fail's antics within the desert it created after 1932; a jobs-for-the-boys mafia that semi-protected the governing caste from the consequences of its own disastrous economic policies.
Even after the Whittaker reforms changed Ireland, the Fianna Fail cabal remained at its capers, fixing and mixing, wheeling and dealing. Every Fianna Fail cumann was an act of conspiracy against the rest of society. It was there that you would find the local estate agent, the local planning officer, the local solicitor: the land of the wink, the realm of the nod.
In the most demented expression of this culture of conspiracy, 40 years ago a Fianna Fail government funded the formation of the Provisional IRA, a folly to match the foundation madness of 1916. No wonder that subsequent Fianna Fail governments were never able to summon up the will to crush the Provisionals, once the latter's campaign had become wholly counter-productive.
After all, the Provos were FF's prodigal sons, merely enacting the agenda that FF had laid out for them. But of course, the IRA had taken FF at its word, which of course no intelligent person must ever do -- for as we all know, behind almost every Fianna Fail promise resides some dishonesty, some moral fudge, some careful categorical imprecision that will justify the party's subsequent reneging on any deal.
Three years ago, despite living in the most prosperous state in Europe, while patients slept on gurneys in hospital corridors, we still had no proper state provision for autistic children, or for the deaf or the blind or the disabled. We had no out-of-hours social system, nor any proper funding for at-home carers. We still had wretched public transport, chronic educational failure and widespread illiteracy.
HOWEVER! We still had the tent at the Galway Races, the great canvas cumann that was an unashamed celebration of the conspiracy.
So, is it any wonder that almost no one believes in Seanie and Brian's innocent game of golf? Though, personally, I do.