St George seeks to slay FF Dragon
Deaglán de Bréadún
Print journalists are wallflowers in the dancehall of life. We subsist in the shadow of our colleagues in television who have access to people’s livingrooms night after night and may be even more real to the public than members of their own family.
Now and then they sprinkle a little of their stardust in our direction. And when one of them decides to enter politics there is a whole boatload of excess glamour for us mere scriveners to reach out and grasp with our inkstained little fingers.
So it has been in the last two days with the news that George Lee, economics guru to the nation, has thrown his hat in the ring for Fine Gael in the Dublin South by-election on June 5th.
Televisionland won’t be the same without Lee’s nightly injection of hardnosed realism to jolt us from our transient and evanescent dreams of prosperity. We are like the tramp who thought he’d found a winning Lotto ticket only to be disabused by the soberfaced keepers of the gold.
Only once in my life did I feel I had won something. There was a draw at the summer carnival in Courtown when I was a wee nipper. I looked at my ticket and saw the winning-number: Six. It glowed at me like a starburst, but when I stepped forward to collect my winnings, the cruel reality was revealed. My six turned out to be a nine. Hendrix later made a song out of it: at least say you wrote it for me, Jimi.
It was the very same with the Celtic Tiger. George Lee was the man who told us: your so-called winning bet is a beaten docket pal. But there is one final act in the drama and how appropriate that St George should now be offering himself in the role of slayer of the Fianna Fáil dragon.
FF were the pied pipers of the boom who danced the nation to the edge of the cliff from whose ledge it now clings so plaintively. But before that tuft of grass the people are clutching finally gives way and they plunge into the abyss, they can still use their free hand to exact what an Irish patriot famously called “Vingeance, Bejasus” on the soothsayers who are seen to have conned them into believing they could be as good as anyone else – or even better.
Whatever one may think of his political choices and affiliations, Lee’s bravery has to be admired. Giving up one of the best jobs in journalism to take his chances on what Bertie once called “the hustlings” shows a rare faith in providence.
Even if he wins, he still has to hold his seat in the general election and there are already two strong FG incumbents in Dublin South in the persons of Olivia Mitchell and Alan Shatter. If he loses, RTE can hardly give him such a politically-sensitive post again. And while FF don’t seem to have a great chance in ’South, don’t count them out nationally just yet. That “dragon” has more than one head.