Phil Hogan and his cabinet colleagues are guilty of the same stroke politics as their predecessors
I recoiled when I read a recent Kilkenny People editorial which lavished praise on ‘their’ Minister, Phil Hogan. Sure isn’t he great fella altogether, making sure Saint Luke’s Hospital gets looked after and all that jazz. Big Phil. Some man for one man.
No doubt, the Wexford newspapers will beat a similar drum this week when it comes to Brendan Howlin, who had a word in the Health Minister’s ear about Wexford General.
Sure isn’t Brendan a great fella altogether too, the denizens of Slaneyside will surely proffer about ‘their’ Minister. Sure he never forgets his own.
The ‘new politics’ which Fine Gael promised before the last election now rings as empty as the infamous clarion call of “Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way”.
For all the blather about local government reform, the most urgent reform Irish politics requires lies within the Houses of the Oireachtas.
More pointedly, reform is desperately required within cabinet given that several senior ministers are, all too often, acting purely in their constituency’s interest. Their own interest.
‘To hell with the bigger picture, I’ve got to cover my rear end ahead of the next election.’
Such a motto has, regardless of who has been in office for the better part of four decades, been the modus operandi for cabinet ministers. And all guilty of such an offence should hang their heads in shame.
Even those in Waterford who wouldn’t vote for Fianna Fáil in a fit are probably having second thoughts about Martin Cullen’s political legacy in terms of what he delivered for Waterford.
Without Mr Cullen, the M9 works would not have begun at the Deise end of the route, the Viking Triangle development would never have materialised and Waterford Airport might actually be closed by now. Maybe Mr Cullen wasn’t the bad egg which ‘them in Dublin’ portrayed him as. Of course he wasn’t, but he was no Abraham Lincoln either.
Having watched Daniel Day-Lewis’s spellbinding turn as the 16th US President on Friday last, and being currently engrossed by ‘Team of Rivals’, the book which inspired Stephen Spielberg’s compelling movie, thoughts turned to the state of our politics. And I despaired.
The idea of taking on a seemingly insurmountable obstacle – such as the debt which 1.2 million workers have been unjustly saddled with – appears to be one which Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore have no appetite to wholeheartedly tackle.
Instead, being the Eurozone’s economic poster boy appears to be their primary objective. It’s as they feel the bigger picture is just too big for them to be truly bothered by it.
Had Lincoln, as many in his cabinet advised him to do, dispensed with the ambition of abolishing slavery, to exclusively focus on ending the Civil War, as opposed to taking on both issues head on, his legacy would not be nearly so great. Nor would he remain the most revered of all American Presidents.
Putting his public denunciation of the Vatican in the Dáil to one side, when it comes to inspiring the people he leads, it’s difficult to recall anything else Enda Kenny has said as Taoiseach.
As I left the cinema on Friday last, genuinely moved by the character of Lincoln as portrayed by Wicklow’s most famous adopted son, I felt inspired by the essence of a man who died almost 150 years ago. And when I look at politics in Ireland 2013, I feel jaded, let down and more than a little disgusted.
That we still have Ministers feathering their own nests, at the expense of the bigger, national picture, therefore ignoring where bigger and more urgent issues need to be addressed in areas where they cannot gain a vote, is appalling. It is indefensible. It is inexcusable. It’s stroke politics.
And in case anyone is looking towards the opposition benches for inspiration, consider this.
The relatively new leader of Fianna Fáil, who made all the right noises on RTE during his Ard Fheis address, has not compelled former FF ministers, including Bertie Ahern, to take a permanent cut in their utterly scandalous pensions.
This, after expelling Mr Ahern from the party, should have been the first thing Mícheál Martin did as leader. To prove that he was different. He’s not, even, if like Enda Kenny, he’s a decent and amiable individual.
When Sinn Féin still features members of its leadership unwilling to completely come clean about their past, then their morality as people, let alone their integrity as politicians, must be called into question.
There are small pockets of hope within our national political system, with Wicklow TD Stephen Donnnelly’s articulate noising on the economy proving decidedly rare given the clarity and consistency of his message.
Mattie McGrath’s public solidarity with citizens who cannot vote for him makes him a rarity in national politics. Why? Because they’re the actions of a truly national politician.
I don’t want a Waterford TD or Senator to be ‘my’ Minister. I don’t want him to prioritise my city or county at the expense of others, if doing so is wrong, unjust and conducted in a less than transparent manner.
I want him or her to put Ireland first. I don’t want them to have a word in a fellow Minister’s ear to get things sorted to ensure the retention of a Dáil seat.
I want whoever that politician to do what’s right for the greatest possible number of people who can benefit from their influence. Now that really would be new politics.