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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 1, 2010 @ 11:02 am

    Clichés, Dear Boy

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    You can’t turn on a radio or television programme on politics at the moment without hearing a reference to Harold Macmillan’s response to a  query from a journalist who asked what was the greatest threat the Government faced.

    “Events, dear boy, events,” was  his classic response. Now it has become the stock-in-trade of political journalists when they are asked how long the Fianna Fail-Green administration is going to last.

    I think I  may even have used it myself. Sometimes the journo wrongly attributes the quote to someone other than Macmillan (for younger readers, he was a British Tory prime minister in the 1950s and 60s and belonged to the Macmillan family of publishers; one-nation chap, not at all like Thatcher; his dates were: b. 1894-d.1986).

    The Macmillan comment has now become a cliché and I, for one, hereby undertake never to use it again (well,  not for a wee while anyway.) What it really means in the current Irish context is that, the way things are going in government lately, even the gods themselves could not foretell how things will turn out.

    Macmillan had a nice turn of  phrase. Another piquant remark was his description of the role of the British Foreign Secretary – a job he once held himself – as being “forever poised between a cliché and an indiscretion”.

    He also coined the expression that “a wind of change” was blowing across the continent of Africa with the rise of independence movements. And he came up with a very effective election slogan: “You’ve never had it so good.” That’s one we don’t hear these days! 

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Seeing as GUBU has already been used to cover the last period of crony Fianna Fáil government in the early 80s.

      Who will provide the catchphrase to cover this period of crony Fianna Fáil government?

      Also, what time scale are we working to; was it from 2002 that the rot set in or was it before then but we were able to coast along on previous wealth? I would say it stems from 1987 -as it takes a while for damage to appear after the rot sets in years before.

      The rot for the mess we are in now started in 1987. So so far that’s 23 years of corrupt government with a little bit of Rainbow.

      What’s the opposite to a rainbow?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Timmy Dooley attributed it to Churchill last week. Events are, I suppose, the known unknowns of the political world. We know they’re going to happen; we just don’t know exactly what form they will take.

      Desmond, I would offer up that we are living in the aftermath of the GRABBA period of Irish politics, it was Gross, Reckless, Asinine, Building & Budgets with no Accountability.

    • robespierre says:

      The opposite of a rainbow or rather the anti-rainbow is either rain or sunshine as it only arises where the two combine.

      I think you need to separate out the questions Des. Some rot will always be part of the system so you could go back to the Garden of Eden on that one.

      In terms of the present coalition I would say the latter part of 2000 when the spending budgets began in the run-up to the 2002 election. Had the government not reversed the post election cutbacks so recklessly in 2004 we would be in a different place now.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      How about the C.R.A.P years =

      Contemptible
      Risible or Reckless
      Abuse
      (of) Power

      I do like GRABBA though. Someone get Bruce Arnold, the Cruiser’s successor, to incorporate the term into his next missive.

      It’s so depressing, yet predictable, that Lenihan is reverting to type and playing politics by ‘managing expectations’ by leaking the cuts that he claims are needed again – based on what we never seem to find out.

      With the stroke of a pen he could cancel all tax relief on pension investments for at least one year. That alone would save €3b and it gives a chance to impement properly thought out decisions on spending cuts instead of knee jerk panic ones.

      Again, if anyone were in any doubt that party comes first, above all else, with Biffo, he is taking his merry time to decide on a reshuffle – once he has factored out the political implications for the party – not a thought to the needs of the country or the suitability of those he picks when assessed on intelligence and ability for the job. Just how it suits the interests of the party.

      Whether he waits until Easter or not won’t make any difference – the same tired old faces with nothing to offer will just be sitting in different seats.

      What an odious lot – who are kept in power by the Greens. Mary White should enjoy her new position – it’s the pinnacle of her career given she’ll have no seat come the election.

      What was it Burke said: about evil and good men doing nothing. The Greens have not just done nothing they have actively looked the other way.

    • Sex Goddess says:

      Dunno Des… you tell us what did Burke say and in what context? and as a matter of interest to which which Burke do you refer?

    • tyresome says:

      There is a slight difference between the “wind of change” that was blowing in Macmillan’s time and what one might refer to as the “hurricane of cataclysmic upheaval” that the world is experiencing today, given the events of global crisis, which we might sub-divide into economic, ecological, East/West culture clash and worst of all, a kind of all-pervasive nihilism that is spreading throughout the Western world on account of the disconnect with religion, many observers would say. What any government can do in this apocalyptic climate/atmosphere remains to be seen. “Let’s start over”, might be the only slogan — if there is time. For Christians, at any rate, hope springs eternal.

    • PEIG R says:

      Dear Desmond, the rot set in, at 1922, Collins is a prime example. No visionary leader, Dev envisaged girls meeting their men at a Xroad dance. All in cahoots with the church, the clergy despised children of the poor, I’ve seen it. The parties never had the interests of the people at heart. Lenihan said in the 60′s, this country is too small for us all, a population of 3million, & he was looking to U.K. &U.S to feed his countrymen. & of course leave the vacancies for his family. Nothing has changed. All rot.

    • Somewhere over the Rainbow says:

      To find your ‘Rainbow’ all you need to do is put on your ruby slippers click your heels follow the yellow brick Road, with your differently abled companions of course, to the Emerald City…thinking… There’s No Place Like Home…There’s No Place Like Home…There’s No Place Like Home… Problem is, you wake up and come down to earth with a huge BUMP and you realise it was all only a dream…
      Maybe that’s why it’s called a Rainbow because it’s all an illusion, a trick of sunlight and water vapour…All together now….Where troubles melt like lemon drops….

    • Eoin says:

      “Events dear boy events” is a sure way to conserve whatever exists. Sher what can be done? Who is to blame? Events over take us and we shrug.

    • Donana says:

      Dan Sulllivan – it was Tony Killeen who attributed the events commment to Churchill, not Dooley.

    • Des de Moaner says:

      Talking of acronyms how about DROSS:
      Des
      Raves
      On
      Same (old)
      Same (old)…

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Donana, you’re dead right. I find it very easy to mix up those Clare lads.


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