The “new politics” redux… September 29, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
A slow start one might think…
Why is it that former Greek minister for finance Yanis Varoufakis, who was such an abject failure in office, is lionised by the Irish media while his counterparts here who managed to save this country from a fate similar to Greece are generally treated with disdain?
The question was raised during the week by one of Ireland’s leading academics, Bridget Laffan, in the course of a stimulating lecture which looked at the response of the Irish State to the financial crisis.
But it picks up:
While the erosion of faith in the political system was prompted by the failures of political leadership that led to the crisis, it is hard to argue with the view that the media’s coverage of the state’s response has generally left a lot to be desired.
Laffan examined the response of the Fianna Fáil/Green government and the Fine Gael/Labour coalition to the enormous problems posed by the crash, and she gave them both considerable credit for taking the tough decisions required to stave off disaster.
By contrast [with Varoufakis], successive Irish ministers, central bankers and officials opted for persistent but quiet diplomacy that gradually restored the country’s reputation and fortunes. Yet the Irish media never gave Brian Lenihan, Michael Noonan or Brendan Howlin anything like the fawning treatment reserved for Varoufakis.
And here’s a special special paragraph:
If anything the Irish ministers who steered the country back on track were given a consistently hard time and their policies often misrepresented as the imposition of wilful hardship on a long-suffering electorate for no apparent reason.
Is he saying that there was hardship imposed on a long suffering electorate? Why yes. But it wasn’t wilful or for no apparent reason. Though he seems to ignore, for example, the point that the balance between expenditure cuts and taxation increases was a political issue rather than an economic one.
Now it is the media’s role to question political leaders and hold them accountable for the impact of their policies on the citizens of the state, but a diet of unremitting and often ill-informed criticism has helped to promote a corrosive cynicism that has serious implications for our democracy.
From this side of the Irish Sea we can recognise the baleful influence of so much of the British media in creating the atmosphere in which a majority of people there voted to leave the European Union and do so much damage to their country’s future prospects.
But the point is made. And in Laffan he appears to have found a soul mate. She said:
“The treatment of these issues in the media does not help us address them. Political commentary more often than not portrays politics as a game; who is in or out; who will be the next taoiseach, will John Halligan survive and so on. The John Halligan story mattered of course for the future of the Government but the big issue at stake was and is the allocation of very scarce public resources to the Irish health system.”
Well scarce is as state taxes. And while I agree that the treatment of the issues is problematic that extends to those like Collins who have strenuously argued that there is no alternative to the orthodoxy, whether inside the system as presently constituted or outside it. Many will find that unconvincing.