Kathy Sheridan: Fine Gael not the only ones to engage in inept political heaves

‘Perhaps the mere talk of generational change has the handy side-effect of deleting the past’

Bertie Ahern jokes with Brian Cowen before announcing that he will resign as taoiseach in 2008. File photograph: Frank Miller

Bertie Ahern jokes with Brian Cowen before announcing that he will resign as taoiseach in 2008. File photograph: Frank Miller

 

Seamus Heaney hardly had Leinster House on his mind when he wrote, “All throwing shapes, every one of them/Convinced he’s in the right, all of them glad/To repeat themselves and their every last mistake”. It sounds like Leinster House though.

On one side, all that bullish ambition; on the other, all that faux-savage indignation. All pretending to believe that one man is the fulcrum of all that is wrong and that after the ritual rutting and locking of horns, some other man will put everything right. And like a bunch of 17-year-olds smashed on Buckfast, they can hardly remember what started it.

“It’s what’s up is the problem, not WhatsApp”, quipped one Fianna Fáiler, to approving guffaws. “This is the longest running and most inept heave in the history of political heaves,” lamented another. Oh Lord.

The simple act of driving through the gates of Leinster House has the effect of erasing entire memory banks, it seems, especially the males’. For a breed capable of remembering enough to sustain a political grudge over four generations, this is an enduring mystery. Perhaps the mere talk of generational change has the handy side-effect of deleting the past.

Is there anyone in Fianna Fáil old enough to recall the run-up to the 2007 general election when their leader, Bertie Ahern, was under scrutiny for taking cash gifts from developers and ilk? Anyone?

Tribunal module

Greens

Or the embarrassing circumstances of Bertie’s resignation a full year later? Or that quick and discreet farewell when he put the country first and – ah sorry, blazed a farewell trail across various prestigious parliaments in the company of Seán Dunne et al, taking over a month to do it while the country was drowning in property debt and plummeting towards a catastrophic crash? And the Oscar for the longest, most inept, most damaging heave, goes to...?

This is not just a pop at Fianna Fáil. Every politician who heaps juvenile insults on the other side while wilfully ignoring the mote in his own eye should be subjected to a regular, stinging eye exam and the mindful nudge of a cattle prod.

After all, isn’t everyone flawed, as Stephen Donnelly – one of Fianna Fáil’s harshest erstwhile critics and newest recruit – has pointed out? Memory is important, and not just as a political weapon. It keeps people humble, honest and focused on the job for which we pay them.

Most citizens outside the lads’ club loathe what passes for political wit, not because they lack a sense of humour but because they discern a lack of seriousness. We are living in frightening times. Donnelly’s stated reason for parachuting into Fianna Fáil – under whose beneficence the current fiasco of a government survives – is that we are facing into challenges that could make the crash look like a picnic and he wants to serve.

What lies ahead requires a unity of purpose, a sense that our national legislators have moved beyond politicking for local consumption. That means something more than one party gaining a vaguely working majority. It means enough of the silliness, the cute hoorism and the heckling.

Endless compromise

Over the next while, Enda Kenny will have to get used to reading that line about all politics ending in failure. What Enoch Powell actually said was: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs”.

Because that is the nature of it . . . In the early hours, this is the thought that drives all politicians, whether motivated by altruism, ego, a hard neck or a grand, dependable pension fund.

If it was easy, everyone would do it. Who now remembers 2011 and all those doughty souls bent on forming new parties and going forward for election – but having peered over the cliff, suddenly found urgent business elsewhere? Anyone who doubts their wisdom should take a look at Labour.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the vanishingly slow recovery in rural towns is behind the re-making of Fianna Fáil, as Kevin Cunningham wrote here on Tuesday. Suddenly it looks easy again. Up Fianna Fáil! Fancy a go yourself?

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