Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Why the political dramas of the last fortnight don’t really matter a damn

My name is Jim and I’m a political junkie. This is not new news to OTR readers, of course, who’ve seen this blog follow the twists and turns of a remarkable 16 days in Irish politics. Those of us who …

Wed, Feb 24, 2010, 11:11


My name is Jim and I’m a political junkie. This is not new news to OTR readers, of course, who’ve seen this blog follow the twists and turns of a remarkable 16 days in Irish politics. Those of us who treat political jigs and reels as a form of blood sport haven’t had so much fun in years. Your man from RTE throwing his toys out of the pram, Deirdre de Burca’s icy daggers, Willie O’Dea’s wibbly-wobbly fall from grace and, now, the Minister for Parsnips and Turnips Trevor Sargent standing down in bizarre circumstances: it has been one hell of a month for the Irish political system.

Let’s be clear about one thing, though. As we watch personalities, characters and chancers on Kildare Street huff and puff on and off the plinth, the big issues remain unresolved, untouched and unmentioned. These haven’t gone away just because polticians are preening and falling on their swords and carrots. The lack of jobs, the numbers on the dole queues, the state of the banks, the inertia in the economy and the general national mood of helplessness are still present and correct.

No-one in power is doing anything constructive or innovative about these issues. Oh sure, they’ll issue a few press releases about “hundreds of green jobs” and get caught up in ridiculous chararades with airline bosses, but this is just shadowboxing and window dressing. Those allegedly in charge of this little country has no solutions for the problems we face and show little sign of changing that state of affairs. We know this and, worse, they know it too. A stalemate has developed and neither side has a rashers about the next move to make.

Instead, we, the people who elected the current shower on both sides of the divide on Kildare Street, whinge. We moan and grumble and give out. We turn to those temples of gloom, Liveline on the radio and The Frontline on the telly, to bellyache. In other countries, they take their protests to the streets; here, we talk to Joe. If it’s not the old wans giving out to Joe Duffy, it’s various reps from the so-called lost generation grumbling about their sense of entitlement to Pat Kenny.

Leaving aside how quickly Kenny and his team have allowed The Frontline to become Liveline-TV, it was illustrative to see Monday’s night “youth” show (good to see The Frontline are getting their ideas from the Gay Byrne era of The Late, Late Show, eh?) descend into a predictable national moan. We have covered the complaints of the lost generation before and I really don’t want to go back over old ground. Thousands are sailing again, but the whinge generation that are leaving this time are doing so with an awful lot of negative baggage. Word up: you’re entitled to absolutely nothing just because you have a degree under your oxter. It’s those who’re choosing to stay behind to try to sort out the mess that really should be getting the attention.

One issue which has come up again and again and again as the Celtic Tiger and the good times have exited stage left is a disengagement between the political system and the people. We think we know what the system should be doing, but it doesn’t appear to be doing that. You could hear tones of this in GLXTD’s parting shots and it’s present whenever two or more gather to moan. The “all those bleedin’ politicians are the same” line sums this one up as we contemplate a political system still dominated by the Civil War politics which was bequeathed to us by our grandparents and great-grandparents. There have been many attempts to change this picture via new political parties and movements – including, I understand, one in the last six months which never left the planning stages despite the best intentions of all concerned – but nothing has happened. We continue to re-elect different sides of the same coin.

The problem is that you need to be in the system in order to change it. Those on the outside clamouring for change and calling for a second republic and advocating new ways of doing things unfortunately don’t have the power to do anything. Those on the inside, those who have played the system and won, have no desire or need to change the status quo. Even though the numbers might say something else, we’re stuck with the system we have and, like an omnibus episode of Eastenders, we’re going to continue to encounter the same characters, the same drama queens and the same plotlines for some time to come. Meanwhile, the bigger issues continue to fester….