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Sauce for Goose, sauce for Gander… Bertie Ahern and the trouble with numbers. June 17, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Election 2007, Irish Politics, media, Media and Journalism.

This may surprise some of you, but despite being of – or on – the left, I’m not a fan of big government. I’m much more taken by distributed power and representation, particularly at local level. Perhaps that is a function of dealing in the community area after leaving Democratic Left in the mid-1990s, going into residents and community groups, working on campaigns. And curiously, that leaves me closer in some respects to Chekov than it does to Rabbitte, to coin a phrase.

So I thought this week demonstrated some remarkable aspects of politic, real and otherwise. And two instance spring to mind.

Firstly let us think about, and thanks to Wednesday for noting this, the short shrift given to Caoimhin O Caoghlain when he sought to shore up speaking rights for Sinn Féin. SF, on four TDs, is now denied speaking rights in the Dáil and is dependent upon the largesse of other formations (unlikely) or a number of set piece occasions which have little or no impact. Yet it was Aherns response to this which was most notable. I was talking to an unaffiliated observer who made the point that Ahern appeared to be giving SF a good kicking on the way down. Certainly the mask, should there be a mask, slipped for more than a moment when Ahern pugnaciously intoned that SF ‘don’t have the numbers’.

One could of course consider what platonic absolute, other than the self-serving procedures determined by larger political formations, makes 7 TDs the necessary threshold for speaking rights.

One might also consider where the Green Party and Finian McGrath, the latter having opined in the Irish Times the previous day that SF and Tony Gregory would not be ‘forgotten’ as regards speaking rights, were during the vote.

But of course one would know the answer. They sat on their hands throughout this process – despite reformation of speaking rights being an explicit plank of Green Party policy since at least 2002.

One might also consider, and I have this on very good authority, that an approach by SF to FG on this matter was rebuffed. With that sort of an attitude I suspect we might see something of a renaissance of SF at the partial expense of at least one other component of the ‘opposition’ over the next five years.

Secondly this very day it is reported in the Sunday Independent that Fianna Fáil in order to quell the despair amongst its long-suffering and long-awaiting back benchers is to create three new Junion Ministers. “And all shall have prizes” springs to mind in this demonstration of largesse. And what platonic absolute is being distorted here, one might reasonably ask?

Coming back to my original point I’d ask do we need 3 extra Ministers? This state is hardly undergoverned and this sort of top loading smacks of political expediency at the expense of any serious strategy.

But really, can we see anything other than two entirely typical examples of business as usual? Realpolitic practised in all its dubious glory by those who have had power for the last ten years and by those who have had it thrust upon them over the last three weeks.


Meanwhile, back in the Sunday Independent has there ever been such a remarkable article as that penned by Eoghan Harris today? Having sought a Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition, and seen that horse bolt, he now argues that the Greens have displayed ‘moral adulthood’ by going into power (One might argue that that at least one interlocuter who springs to mind has never seen a principle or bandwagon that he hasn’t felt the need to appropriate or jump, and then later lambaste others for taking the precise same path as himself – but that’s another days work).

Moral adulthood he argues is “not a moral innocent like a child, cannot insist that everybody else give him exactly what he wants”. That this schema breaks down with the most minor consideration, since it entirely ignores relative power between different actors is typical of the frenzied arm waving that passes for serious philosophical discourse down at the Sindo.

Still, in his enthusiasm to declare his latest love de jour suitable what a contrast he points up between those ‘moral adults’ and…

their [political pundits – in this case Vincent Browne] failure to understand that a person who sticks to republicanism or socialism in face of the facts of history is simply a wilful moral child. By contrast, a moral adult is someone who, in a complex situation, comes up with a practical solution whichsits somewhere between his own beliefs and the needs of society.

Note that in the broad spectrum of socio-political thought only two strains are worthy of such contempt…but this self-serving screed continues….

By that standard, the Greens have acted like moral adults. And like many people, I have a higher regard for the party since it did the dealwith Fianna Fail than I did before. For me, and I suspect for the general public, a good Green party is not a party which sticks to its principles, but a party which sticks to its compromises.

And I do mean stick. With the PD precedent, in mind the Greens should never wag the forefinger unless they mean to pull the trigger. And if they were smart, they would stick that finger in their pocket for the next five years. Because they have much to learn. The biggest lesson is that the secret of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael’s success lies in them being forgiving parties. Like Aristotle, the Irish people have little time for moral innocents – or moral prigs.

Moral prigs? Eh…after twenty odd years of this stuff, all I can say is healer, heal thyself…


1. AdamMaguire.com - Blog » Archives » Eoghan Harris calls himself and his ‘paper childish - June 17, 2007

[…] tip to Cedar Lounge for bringing Harris’ piece to my attention) Posted in Politics/ Current Affairs, Irish […]


2. Idris of Dungiven - June 19, 2007

My auld pair knew Harris (in a vague way) in UCC in the 1960s (man). He was an eejit even then, apparently.


3. WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2007

Years ago in the 1990s I was doing some academic research and had to talk to Harris. It took a while to get in contact, I’m talking months, but was worth it in that he gave some interesting info on a particular period of Irish political history. Still, his personality came through loud and clear, that’s for sure…


4. Niall - June 19, 2007

You know, I’ve always thought that somebody should create an Eoghan Harris essay generator for the Sindo, so they could get the ejit of their payroll and into the CMH.

All it would take would be a a few tweaks to the code of the postmodern essay generator. Instead of Intertextual, Derrida, Surrealism, Discourse, Sartre and Capitalism, you just insert Republicanism, Plato, Left-wing, Gerry Adams, Vincent Browne and Evil.


5. WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2007

And not necessarily in that order Niall…


6. ejh - June 19, 2007

a practical solution which sits somewhere between his own beliefs and the needs of society.

Conceivably this will be a practical solution which sees the financial needs of Mr Harris and those like him very well looked after? No doubt this makes it much easier for those political compromises to be made. (And no doubt I am a wilful moral child for making the observation. )


7. WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2007

How could you even think such a thing and worse again say it, ejh? 🙂


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