Have they gone ‘star’ staring bonkers?
Deaglán de Bréadún
The silly season normally waits until the dog-days of August but it has come early this year. Incredibly, the main government party was planning a self-congratulatory event today in Merrion Square Park, close to Leinster House, to mark 12 months in government.
It was to take the form of a photocall, and a press release issued last night said: “Fine Gael Deputies and Senators will hold coloured stars detailing significant Fine Gael achievements in Government.”
Coloured stars! Aurora Borealis? Oh Enda, don’t let’s ask for the moon,we have the stars. Who cares if we’re in the gutter, when we can look at the Jameses, Bannon and Reilly, waving stars. (Apologies to Bette Davis and Oscar Wilde.)
Now, one could make an argument that the party does indeed have a number of achievements to its credit. The main one, frankly, is Taoiseach Kenny’s demeanour. I’m quite serious: he always looks cheerful and upbeat, in contrast with the gloomy and despairing body-language of the previous administration. If our leader can put on a brave front, then maybe things ain’t that bad.
But the idea of a government party “flaunting it” and “strutting their stuff” in the current situation, when masses of people are queuing up in tears to get jobs in faraway lands, was grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented (remember good old “gubu”?)
Enter Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte of Labour to stick the rapier into their midriff, which he did with his usual style and efficiency on the Morning Ireland radio show.
Rabbitte, who had only just heard about the photocall, said the whole thing was “a bit silly” and expressed the hope “that they get over their excitement quickly”.
The programme wasn’t even over when the FG press office issued an email to say that the self-backscratching gig (they didn’t call it that) was cancelled:
“It was presumed that the Labour Party would be planning an event, similar to the one scheduled by Fine Gael, to mark the Party’s first year in Government. When it was discovered that this was not the case, it was deemed inappropriate to proceed. Fine Gael and Labour are working hard in Government to get the country back on track.”
Someone in the upper reaches of the party clearly had a rush of blood to the head in the first place but was rapidly overruled by a panicky breakfast phone-call today.
The relationship and interaction between politics and PR (as in Public Relations, not Proportional Representation) would make a good MA thesis. PR people need to realise that selling soap is not the same as selling “soft-soap”.
Anyway, the FG ardfheis is coming up at the end of this month and what are such events about, if not self-congratulation, except for the Fianna Fail one last weekend which was an exercise in self-abnegation.
A litte cri de coeur here: would party organisers at these events please ask their delegates to refrain from the practice of monotonous and predictable bursts of applause during the leader’s speech? It comes across as moronic, except when there is a proper point to be made as was the case with Micheál Martin’s apology for past mistakes got a standing ovation.
Amusingly, at the last Sinn Fein ardfheis in Belfast, Gerry Adams appealed to the crowd in Irish to hold off on the clapping as it was cutting into the party’s precious allocation of airtime. His request was ignored, for the simple reason that many of the delegates clearly didn’t have enough of the teanga (language) even to understand Gerry’s Gaeilge bhriste (broken Irish).
You have to admire, despite regular painful winces, Adams’s attempts to speak the First Official Language in the Dail. Gearóid really should take a crash-course from Pearse Doherty or Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. Mind you, the holding of proceedings through Irish yesterday worked surprisingly well. It was good to hear the likes of Mattie McGrath speaking the cúpla focal (few words).