It is not ‘self-hatred’ to point out that our Constitution is not being respected
Opinion: McDowell’s criticisms verge on the creepily authoritarian
Michael McDowell with Bertie Ahern. His self-love seems to have survived his membership of the worst government in the history of the State and his leading of his party to oblivion. Photograph: PA
You’re driving along in the old jalopy when the wheels fall off. You call the garage and along comes Michael McDowell. He takes out the owner’s manual for the car. The manual is perfectly fine, he says. You need to get back in the car and get over your middle-class self-hatred and then you can drive off. Believe in the manual. Obey the manual. Be loyal to the manual.
I wrote a column here recently pointing out what I take to be obvious: that each of the three pillars of the State – the executive, the parliament and the justice system – has suffered chronic and systemic failure. For this I have been widely rebuked. Stephen Collins, in The Irish Times, condemned “the unremitting denigration of every single institution of State” and argued that “Far from being a failed State we are a highly successful modern country”. The Sunday Business Post, in an editorial, warned that the implication that “the country is a complete, unrescuable mess which somehow needs to be taken apart and put back together again in some kind of ‘new republic’ is a step too far.”
And, at the Parnell Summer School, Michael McDowell (in comments endorsed by the Business Post) accused me of “wallowing in what I have termed as a middle-class self hatred or negativity”. As well as being neurotic I am also being unpatriotic: he said loyalty to the State and the Constitution demanded loyalty to the institutions of government which “by and large have served the citizens well”. He also said the Constitution had not failed the people and the three pillars of government – legislature, the executive and the judiciary – were not failed institutions “in concept”.
Being accused of self-hatred is a new one – I am usually, and with rather more justice, accused of the opposite. Self-hatred is certainly a fault Michael could never himself be charged with. His self-love has indeed proved to be more impregnable than Fort Knox. It has survived his membership of the worst government in the history of the State; his complete failure as minister for justice to make the criminal justice system fit for the purpose of prosecuting white-collar criminals; leading his party to extinction; his obnoxious trumpeting of inequality as “an inevitable part of the society of incentives that Ireland has, thankfully, become”; and the disastrous consequences of the ideology of low taxes and light regulation that he championed. It has even survived the outrageous folly of paying €30 million of public money for the site of Thornton Hall – which the Comptroller and Auditor General found to be twice the market price. Michael is not perhaps the world’s greatest authority on self-hatred.