Wallace affair exposes shallow nature of Opposition
INSIDE POLITICS:The frivolous, populist posturing of much of what passes for Dáil Opposition gives Fianna Fáil an opportunity
THE VACUOUS nature of so much of what passes for Opposition politics in Ireland was illustrated by the reaction of the technical group to the Mick Wallace affair.
The very people who generate so much sound and fury in the Dáil day in and day out about the ills that beset Irish society were left speechless when one of their own members found himself with some serious questions to answer.
Luke Ming Flanagan was honest enough to admit that his reaction would have been very different if a member of Fianna Fáil had been in the firing line. “I suppose I am being a bit of a hypocrite. There’s no point denying it. It is that bit more difficult when you do know the person and I feel I know him quite well and I get on very well with him,” he told Seán Moncrieff on Newstalk.
While it is a natural human reaction to have sympathy for a friend in trouble, the fact that the normally righteous members of the technical group could not see the bigger picture about standards in public life doesn’t say much for their judgment.
It is consistent, though, with a frivolous approach to politics that allows people who regard themselves as socialists to oppose a property tax, encourage people to break the law and lead by example in breaking it themselves.
At a deeper level it exposes the shallowness of much of what passes for Opposition in the Dáil. A lot of it is simply populist posturing designed to encourage opposition to whatever the Government of the day proposes, taking no account of the prevailing economic circumstances.
The behaviour of Sinn Féin and most of the technical group of TDs during the recent referendum debate typified this approach to politics but it certainly didn’t begin with them.
In the last couple of years before the watershed election of 2011, Fine Gael and the Labour Party regularly behaved in a similar manner and conveyed the impression that there was some easy way out of the appalling economic crisis facing the country.
Much of the current disillusionment with the Coalition can be traced to the way the public was encouraged to believe that bondholders could be burned, mortgage arrears forgiven and our EU partners told where to get off.
One of the reasons why Labour is now suffering a much greater loss of support than Fine Gael is that its Opposition rhetoric was the more aggressive and its promises more unrealistic. Those voters ill-informed enough to believe that it would be Labour’s way rather than Frankfurt’s way are the ones now most likely to be swayed by Sinn Féin’s encouragement to follow the Greek road of defiance rather than facing the reality of living within the relatively benign bailout terms.