Think or Swim?
Whoever dreamt up the term ‘think-in’ to describe the two-day gathering of the various Irish political tribes needs to be issued with a blindfold, a brick wall, and a lit cigarette.
Think-in makes the assumption that nothing else but thinking goes on. Now unless you spell the first two letters of the word with ‘dr’ not ‘th’ - just about everything else but thinking goes on.
What they really amount to is seminars where guest speakers come in and share their ideas and insights with TDs and Senators. Which is good.It’s always great to hear new ideas and approaches and different view even though there’s not a chance in hell the parties are ever going to take them on board or act upon them.
So why all the hullaballo. It’s to do with mutual desperation. The summer is almost as empty and arid and going-nowhere for political journalists as Dublin football is period. And politicians have spent the whole summer ruminating in Tuscany and have a need to up their profile, remind us that they are worth their six-figure salaries.
And so we get a perfect match of two desperate desires (one for publicity; the other for stories).
Backroom people in the parties work hard to come up with a new direction or announcement or ‘eye-catching intiative’ (begorrah, we love those) to give us happy page one headlines the following day. It’s the first swim of the political year, a bit of toe-tipping, a slow immersion, and a couple of fancy strokes. There’s no big splash. There’s certainly no bellyflop. The neatly coordinated think-in meetings (each party is careful not to overlap with another) will fill out our September, giving each ot them its slice of profile in the run-up to the Dáil.
And we are also culpable. If you could see me now, you would see that I’m doing the physiologically impossible feat of typing with my hands held aloft in the air.
Sinn Fein kick-start the process today. It will come to an end with the big two. Just to squash everything I’ve written until now (some of it was being facetious) a couple of important things will emerge. Sinn Fein look like they are in the process of fundamentally changing direction and strategy in the south. In reinvention terms, they may yet become the Madonna of Irish politics.
The Government handlers have been telling me for weeks that my ‘Cowen will make State of the Nation’ address is a ball of smoke. It won’t pan out into a Charlie Haughey 1980 style address on TV – that’s for sure. But you can bet your bottom dollar that when he addresses the party faithful in Galway later this month, the speech will be pure 100% SOTN – and it won’t make for prety listening.