Fintan O’Toole: Brexit makes the Irish State look better than it is

Why do politicians seem so competent on international stage, and so incompetent at home?

European chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier with  Simon Coveney:  The aura of competence that surrounds the Irish State when it is facing outwards evaporates when it is turned towards its own internal problems. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

European chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier with Simon Coveney: The aura of competence that surrounds the Irish State when it is facing outwards evaporates when it is turned towards its own internal problems. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

We talk of “the Government” but it often seems these days that we have two governments. One is external, the other internal. And it is hard to make sense of the contrast between them.

The external government – by which I mean the State’s management of its relationship with other states – is looking quite impressive. It is competent, skilful and effective. The internal government – the State’s responses to the needs of its own citizens – is as bad as it has ever been. It is incompetent, unskilful and ineffective. Why should this be? These two governments, after all, draw on the same pools of political talent and bureaucratic proficiency. Yet they seem to operate in different universes of ability.

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.