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Populism… shallow or otherwise. Charlie McCreevy speaks… June 27, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, as the saying goes, but many years ago I happened to be in Kildare House across the road from Leinster House at a DL meeting. Coincidentally a certain Charlie McCreevy was speaking during some debate or another. One of our number, and I hesitate to categories but let’s just say it was someone from a middle class background (and hey, who am I to speak?), was – I thought and still do – incredibly dismissive of him parodying his Kildare accent and making out that that somehow reflected on the mans intellect.

Now, I’ve never had much time for McCreevy then or now, but I didn’t much like the response which struck me as not merely prejudiced, not particularly funny and also – and this is a cardinal error – massively underestimating a political opponent on the basis of the most wrong-headed and cosmetic appraisal.

There was little joy to discover that the latter fear wasn’t entirely misplaced as McCreevy went from the Minister for Social Welfare (sigh) to Minister for Finance (slaps forehead) and then onto European Commissioner (*!!@???!***).

Anyhow, my main gripe about McCreevy has been his populist stance (and splintered sunrise has had some, in my opinion, sensible things to say about populism when it isn’t particularly popular which might have a certain relevance in this instance). And what better exemplar of same than his comments reported today that…

When Irish people rejected the Lisbon Treaty a year ago, the initial reaction ranged from shock to horror to temper to vexation. That would be the view of a lot of the people who live in the Brussels beltway.

“On the other hand, all of the [political leaders] know quite well that if the similar question was put to their electorate by a referendum the answer in 95 per cent of the countries would probably have been No as well . . .

“I have always divided the reaction between those two forces: those within the beltway, the ‘fonctionnaires’, those who gasp with horror [on the one hand] and the heads of state, who are far more realistic. They are glad they didn’t have to put the question themselves to their people.”

You might think that that indicated some profound sense on his part that there was a problem with Lisbon. You might think wrong.

He also said the second referendum would be intensely debated, but expressed his hope that the Yes side would win.

I entirely respect anyone who has a view on Lisbon, and indeed the EU project, whatever their stance as long as it is at least slightly coherent. But this running with the fox and hunting with the hounds stuff drives me mad. It’s typical having your cake and eat it. Here is a man, part of a most select crew let us be clear, who simultaneously argues that…

Irish people had now had a period of time to reflect about Lisbon. Many would consider being members of the euro zone had been a great benefit to Ireland during the economic crisis

And yet also suggests that:

Asked after the event by Today FM had he read the treaty since admitting during last year’s campaign that he had not read it from cover to cover, he replied: “I am going to stay up every night during every day of the summer reading chapters.

“I will put questions to every journalist I meet asking them what different subsections mean. A lot of that is political nonsense.”

Terrible terrible stuff. So let’s not bother being informed. Let’s avoid engaging with this, because… who’d bother? Whatever about the European elites, whoever they may be, we don’t have to wander too far to see a very individual form of arrogance at work.


1. Hugh Green - June 27, 2009

McCreevy’s bluff Kildare accent tends to conceal the fact that he was educated at fee-paying Gormanston College. I have no idea if this sort of thing is common in Ireland, but in certain parts of England it is not uncommon to hear ex-public schoolboys speaking with sort-of cockney accents, apparently to conceal their privileged background.


2. Mark P - June 27, 2009

The only shocking thing about McCreevy’s statement is that he mentioned one of the great unmentionables in Irish establishment circles – the certainly that many other countries would reject Lisbon if the people of those countries were allowed to vote on the issue.


3. WorldbyStorm - June 27, 2009

I didn’t think his statement was shocking but I did think it was typically self-serving on his part. Are their parts of the media/commentariat saying it was shocking?

Didn’t know that Hugh. I know people who’ve been at dinners with him in Brussels who say he sounds precisely the same in the flesh as on the tv. I guess it could be.


4. Crocodile - June 27, 2009

He went to Gormanston not Eton.


5. Mark P - June 27, 2009

Yes it was certainly self serving. It was also true.


6. Hugh Green - June 27, 2009

Sure, Gormanston isn’t Eton, but my point was accents can be misleading about background, not that he really speaks like Henry Mount Charles.


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