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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 30, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

    A tale of two Tipperarys…

    Mary Minihan

    Can there be two more unlikely constituency colleagues than Mattie McGrath and Martin Mansergh, both of Fianna Fail, in Tipperary South?

    Let’s look at their entries in Nealon’s Guide to the 30th Dail, where Mansergh is described as Oxford-educated; a special advisor to three Taoisigh; responsible for the dialogue leading to the IRA ceasefire; a coalition negotiator and member of the Council of State.

    McGrath was the 1974 all-Ireland set dancer. He is a plant-hire owner and formerly an agricultural salesman, with a diploma in communications skills from UCC, and he was also a county councillor.

    Mansergh told me once, I’m sure he won’t mind me saying, that he was somewhat taken aback when a constituent once greeted him with a cheerful “hello Mattie!” The idea of mistaking one for the other seems so incongruous it always makes me smile to think of it.

    Last week, when seven Fianna Fail backbenchers lined up to denounce the legislation to ban stag hunting in the Dail chamber, in what seemed like an ambush of Green leader and Environment Minister John Gormley (if Gormley’s face was anything to go by), Mansergh was the only FF representative to speak in favour of the Bill. The Bill passed last night despite McGrath siding with the Opposition.

    In the midst of a typically erudite and ever-so-slightly rambling contribution, referencing the Bourbons and Burke and sprinkled with Latin phraseology, Mansergh used a phrase – “probably to my future cost” – that stuck in my head.

    “Passage of the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010 for the purpose of placing a ban on stag hunting is part of the revised programme for Government and pacta sunt servanda – agreements between parties – should be honoured.”

    He continued: “Probably to my future cost, I hold a Burkean view of the duties of a Deputy, in that he or she owes constituents not just his or her industry, but his or her judgment. The Deputy is in Parliament to support his or her opinion of the public good and does not form an opinion to get into or continue in Parliament. I hope we are not spineless lackeys of the last opinion poll or the last angry person or lobby group to get in touch with us.”

    Fine Gael’s Shane McEntee accused Mansergh of “waffling” but I thought he was actually making a realistic and prescient political point. While many of us working inside Leinster House had written McGrath off as a ‘boy who cried wolf’-type who would never follow through on his threat to vote against the Government (I am certainly guilty of this!), perhaps Mansergh saw the writing on the wall.

    Depending on how you see it, McGrath was either acting to save his own skin in the constituency or else he had the courage of his convictions and defied the Government on a point of principle following representations from constituents.

    (If you are interested you can read Mansergh’s intervention in full here: http://debates.oireachtas.ie/DDebate.aspx?F=DAL20100624.xml&Node=1308#N1308)

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      What a choice the people of Tipperary have – the self importance of the Anglo Irish, the gombeenism of the rural Irish small farmer holder or the glitz and glamour of the wide boy former Minister businessman.

      Until you realise they are a perfect reflection of the sort of people who elect them in the first place – they weren’t imposed on Tipperary – they came from within Tipperary and ditto for all the other constituencies who throw up this type of people.

      Exactly what part of the ban can a normal person disagree with? It banned stag hunting but doesn’t ban the whole galloping acorss the fields and all of the connected social activity – it just bans the targeting of a living creature to be hunted to then end up being brutally and painfully murdered or do the people who condone such an end result not think the animal is petrified and suffers?

      What sort of person in 2010 thinks it is normal for a person to get their kicks out of murdering an animal. Why not set up a seal hunting season and then all those who think you have to inflict a violent death on an animal can prove their manhood at those events too when they literally beat a seal to death.

      The idea that in 2010 there are people in Ireland who think it is normal to hunt, chase, attack and then murder an animal be it stag, hare, badger, dog fighting etc is disgusting.

      Seems you don’t have to dig too deep to find the old backward inbreed gombeen Ireland still fighting back.

    • mary says:

      Desmond, I was just chatting with some colleagues on the Dáil press gallery about, as you say, TDs being “a perfect reflection of the sort of people who elect them in the first place”. I did an interview recently with Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and he would certainly agree with you! He described the Dáil as a microcosm of Irish society, with TDs having the “same blemishes” as everyone else in the country. (He also said he would not like to see economists and academics coming into the Oireachtas under a list system.)

    • kynos says:

      Was THAT supposed to be a DEBATE???? All that “Oi’m fram MayOOO/ Mayth/ Ballgobackwards bejaze I can muck it with de besht o dem Oi can” and “I do be knowin’ all dese huntsmen all Irishmen an thrue na a dhrapa hEnglish blood in anny o dim!!!” begod that unedited Dail report’s revealing surprised it didn’t come with George Cruikshank type pen an ink drawings of great slobberin fellas in bockety stovepipe hats an shillelaghs and brickbats in mid air flyin all about the place while villainous looking lawyers and scabrous cutpurses sneak about the edges like rats looking for a bit of the leavings of the dogs is this why we pay them 46 million a year?? Do any of them listen to anything only their own voices????

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Mary, I was just discussing something similar with my father and he pointed out those who think all we need to do is change some of the paperwork or procedures of goverance don’t understand that the problem is the mindset of the people who carry out the governance and that mindset goes way back, long before CJH and even before Dev.

      It goes back as far as Gaelic Ireland and that whole system which was based on patronage – look at the experience of one of the latter Earls of Desmond – who went from owning the largest land holding there has ever been in Ireland to being hunted down in a bog – as his supporters turned traitor because he lost his power of patronage.

      Then add in English misrule, Irish treachery against each other, the famine, the church, Dev and all he unleashed because his ego could not accept he lost an argument and we end up where we are.

      Does human nature ever really change or do we just suppress it? Will the Irish always be corrupt like most countries in Eastern Europe and is it only the EU that stopped us being even worse than we are – are some nations simply not fit to run their own affairs?


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