Jim Carroll

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The men in the pinstripe suits

We don’t get the government we deserve; we get the government we collectively vote for. Look at them. Go on, take a good hard look at the last lot we voted for and sigh. Then take a look at what …

Wed, Jan 19, 2011, 10:05


We don’t get the government we deserve; we get the government we collectively vote for. Look at them. Go on, take a good hard look at the last lot we voted for and sigh. Then take a look at what these men and women who we elected to represent us actually spend their time fretting over. And despair.

Case in point: the amount of time spent over the last week discussing, debating and disecting the internal machinations of the fourth most popular party in the country. As Fianna Fail’s men in the pin-stripe suits (and assorted Marys – I’d welcome a gender quota if it meant we’d never see such geniuses as Hanafin, Coughlan and O’Rourke again, but I fear we’d just get more of ‘em) argue about whether Bert or Ernie should lead them into the promised land of opposition, the country continues to slump in the economic emergency ward which can’t even afford a stretcher.

There’s a real job of work to be done, but Fianna Fail and their friends in the Green Party continue to shirk this at every opportunity. Over the next few weeks, we will see those two parties putting their heads together to try to get as many acts of cronyism done before they have to call an election. This will mean putting forward legislation which will do nothing to get us out of the economic emergency ward and everything to do with vested interests (do we really need a directly elected mayor for Dublin?) and putting as many FF and Green arses on State bodies and bodies as is feasibly possible.

That’s politics in Ireland 2011. Never mind the hundreds of thousands who are unemployed who no fault of their own or the thousands of people who gave just given up on this place and are heading for foreign shores. Never mind the number of community bodies around the country which are gagging to do some good in their local area, but haven’t been given any funds, encouragement or infrastructural aid to do so. And, just to show that OTR leans right as well as left, let’s also have a shout out for those small and medium-sized businesses which are closing down every day of the week which might -just might – have survived if there was a more pro-active approach to dealing with their troubles at a governmental level.

But no, when it comes to jobs, this government are only interested in foreign multinationals and retail jobs. Better to issue a press release about a couple of hundred new part-time jobs at a new Tesco than work at a grassroots’ level with new, emerging enterprises or community bodies. The former can be done by a handler with a handle on the language of snakeskin oil salesmanship, but the latter takes commitment, intelligence and imagination, qualities which many of our elected reps shake off as soon as they put on their pinstripe suits. It could be argued that they never had those qualities to begin with.

Good news: they’ll be asking for your vote in a matter of weeks and you’ll have the chance to have your say. Already, you’ve these institutionised men in the pinstripe suits talking about “their” seats. Cork North-Central TD Noel O’Flynn was on last night about “the O’Flynn seat” as if it’s a well-upholstered armchair with a Cork accent which has been in the O’Flynn family for generations. Limerick East’s Willie O’Dea (the TD, as opposed to the Rubberbandits’ DJ) was on Morning Ireland this morning talking about his seat. Funny, I thought they were elected to represent us, not keep a grip on a piece of furniture.

Of course, the same slings and arrows may well be directed in time at the opposition parties who are seeking to usurp them. For all the talk of political reform, it’s going to be the same gameplan in the next session. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

But political reform is absolutely no use whatsoever if you’re simply replacing one set of men in pinstripe suits with a younger set of men in pinstripe suits (or the female equivalent) with the same outlook, attitudes, values and ambitions. Active politics is attractive to a certain constituency and the ones who get elected are the ones who have mastered that game. For all our talk, blogs (like this one) and tweets about the failings of our political masters, we keep electing the same shower. They might have different names and different tribal allegiances, but they’re the same caste at heart. And then we complain about it until the time comes to elect another shower.

It will be fascinating, then, to see if the next election will bring any change to this. Elaine Byrne wrote an interesting column a few weeks ago about the possibility of this election showing a generational shift in Irish politics. As we know, a lot of old warhorses in pinstripe suits are getting out while they can still get the pension. We’re going to see a whole new set of faces in the next Dail so we’ll see if younger, fresher faces will really bring a different perspective to our parliament. And remember, we get to cast that Dail when we cast our votes. Maybe for once, we’ll elect some politicans who are not the men in pinstripe suits. See, I can be optimistic when I want to be.