Politics is a dangerous word to kick-off a column with. Very dangerous.
Let’s face it: you’re either someone who’d gladly queue for a seat in the Mahon Tribunal’s public gallery or apply for a travel visa to flee from it.
In the past week, John Halligan’s resignation from the Workers’ Party led to something that local politics rarely creates: a ripple.
By Thursday afternoon last, Councillor Halligan’s name no longer adorned a window of the party’s Mall office. How quickly the wheel doth move, eh?
Davy Walsh now stands alone as the party’s only elected representative in the country, a far cry from the days when it had seven Dáil seats.
In politics, today’s bubbly champagne could be flatter than a Dutch ski slope tomorrow. That’s the nature of the game.
Why would anyone want to be a politician? The notion of wanting to serve is a most noble one and it’s important to give Councillors, TDs and Senators who speak in such tones a chance to live up to that.
But describing politics in mere vocational terms carries about as much gravity as a newspaper columnist stating he’d gladly do the gig without the dough. The fingers pounding out these thoughts do, after all, have bills to pay. Ditto to those who do the State some service.
For all the black tie events, foreign trips and nixers that come with being a high-ranking political figure, it’s all got to become a little tiresome after a while.
Now, I’m no apologist for elected officials, but having seen my fair share of hotel rooms over the years, it doesn’t take long before they begin to blend into a single beige slick.
And given that political careers usually produce an end product reading ‘tarnished legacy’ or ‘relative failure’, there’s little doubt that it takes a particular type of person to commit to it.
This Friday is ‘Work Life Balance Day’, a day whose title I’ve always found mightily peculiar since one’s life is surely more important than one’s work.
But there’s no escaping the link that exists between a happy office and a happy home. Let’s face it: you’re far less likely to talk at length about work at home when things are going well between 9 and 5. That one impacts on the other is undisputed.
What inspired some prattling on the topic this week were comments made by Health Minister Mary Harney about the impact that politics has had on her personal life.
Interviewed by former MEP and Presidential candidate Mary Banotti in a book titled ‘There’s Something About Mary’, Minister Harney offered a remarkably frank assessment on her work life balance – or lack thereof.
“Because politics intervened at that point (when she was still a student) I made huge sacrifices family-wise,” says the Minister, in a book profiling 14 Irish politicians named Mary.
“When my friends were going to discos or dances or whatever I was going to cumann meetings or residents meetings.
“I sacrificed a lot in those years for my career; they were the years when you tend to meet people, get married and settle down.”
Now no-one held a gun to Mary Harney’s head to go into politics. She could have said no when the then Taoiseach Jack Lynch appointed her to the Seanad over 30 years ago. But who among us would have refused such an opportunity if it came our way?
There are days in all our lives when big decisions have to be made, days which we know could well change the course of all the days that come thereafter.
And that’s what happened to Mary Harney, whose destiny was considerably altered by accepting that Seanad nomination.
That decision surely tilted her work life balance in a negative sense, long before the notion was created in a PR lab somewhere.
Politics involves an inordinately high level of sacrifice to make it a viable career option for most of us.
Those who light up the switchboards of talk radio programmes would argue that politicians’ wage packets more than compensate for the negative elements of the job. I would argue otherwise.
To have every single public utterance forensically examined because of your job description would be enough to send a good deal of us seeking a one way ticket off the island.
But that’s what goes with the political territory, and that’s what makes them a breed apart.
And to those who claim they’re only all in it for the money, consider this: a train that runs on gravy will eventually stop when the gravy gets too thick.
Love them or loathe them, politicians will always be with us. Why anyone would choose to be one is a question that only a politician can answer.