Irish politics is ‘the outraged versus those who want to govern’

Stephen Collins critical of negativity as he speaks at commemoration in Glasnevin

Stephen Collins delivering the oration at the grave of Michael Collins at Glasnevin cemetery. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Stephen Collins delivering the oration at the grave of Michael Collins at Glasnevin cemetery. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


Irish politics is divided between those who want to govern and those who believe expressing outrage is their only responsibility, according to journalist and historian Stephen Collins.

The Irish Times columnist was speaking at the annual commemoration of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith in Glasnevin cemetery on Sunday.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty and Fine Gael Senator Paul Coghlan laid wreaths at the graves of the two men.

Stephen Collins gave the oration at the event, which was last year addressed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Collins criticised the “peddlers of outrage” who have nothing to offer but a dangerous road where emotion rather than facts dictate political choices.

Citing the British decision to exit the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, he said fake news had overwhelmed rational debate.

“One of the problems is that there is a tendency, encouraged to excess by the socalled social media, to wallow in negative emotions often with little attention to underlying facts, never mind positive news.”

Barrage of negativity

The former Irish Times political editor claimed there is a barrage of negativity in national media which ensures robust debate give way to corrosive cynicism.

He pointed to the lionising of former Greek minister for finance Yanis Varoufakis, who he described as an abject failure in office, as an example.

Mr Collins said Irish politicians were generally treated with scorn despite rescuing the country from economic oblivion.

While he stressed the need for open and honest debate about the difficulties facing Irish society, an absence of context and lack of proportion is apparent in most debates.

Collins added: “A former Labour Party Government adviser remarked recently that he had come to the conclusion that the left/right divide in politics is now meaningless. The real divide is between parties and politicians prepared to take responsibility for governing and those who believe politics is about expressing outrage and never taking responsibility for the difficult choices that holding power entails.

“That is why the achievements of Griffith and Collins can never be under estimated. In a situation far more fraught and dangerous than anything our current generation of politicians has had to face they had the courage to take responsibility for putting rhetoric aside and the acting in the best interests of the Irish people. Their courage is the reason we enjoy the freedom we have today.”