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Compromise is key - no political marriage is ever made in heaven

Michael Kelly


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Time in power: John Gormley and his Green Party colleagues were reassured at the height of the financial crisis that the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition.

Time in power: John Gormley and his Green Party colleagues were reassured at the height of the financial crisis that the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition.

Time in power: John Gormley and his Green Party colleagues were reassured at the height of the financial crisis that the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition.

A friend of mine who is a therapist says that decades in practice have convinced him that people's greatest weaknesses are really their strengths pushed too far. A very generous person may end up giving away too much. A supremely honest person may alienate people with too much truth. Someone who is extremely understanding may end up getting taken advantage of. You get the picture.

It makes sense that even good qualities or good intentions need to be moderated with a healthy sense of realism and practicality. That's as true in politics as it is in life, for politics is the art of the possible. Don't get me wrong - politics needs idealism, and many great leaders started their political careers with their heads firmly in the clouds before the gritty reality of compromise and deal-making dawned on them.

An old schoolteacher of mine used to love to quote the phrase that if you're not a communist at the age of 20, you haven't got a heart - but if you're still a communist at the age of 30, you haven't got a brain. It's crude and simplistic, but points to the truth that to make a difference in politics, one must be willing to change.