Saturday, November 17, 2007

Profiles in Greed

CAN you remember the last time a politician in this country did something courageous?
As a rule, our politicians are opportunistic, selfish and small-minded.
They are guided entirely by political expediency, not by any moral imperative.
They build schools and hospitals and roads in places that will provide the greatest return electorally. Those with any kind of power pour money into their own constituencies to the detriment of other areas.
Our leaders - an inappropriate word if ever there was one - make deals, expedient and opportunistic deals, with people, regardless of who they are or what they have done or what they stand for. The likes of Beverley Flynn and Michael Lowry may be rehabilitated in Bertie Ahern’s mind. But that just goes to show what a nasty place that is.

When was the last time an Irish minister resigned, voluntarily, for doing or saying something wrong, for causing offence, for wasting money or just because he or she felt morally obliged to make a principled stand? (On that score, if Bertie had been in just about any other democracy in the world, he would have quit over his over signing blank cheques for Charlie Haughey when the dogs in the street were barking about his corruption. He would have walked once his dodgy dig-outs became public, he would have submitted his resignation over his mysterious ‘money in the mattress’ during his separation. But he wouldn’t have been there at all if he had had the manners to quit after suggesting that those who moaned about the economy should go off and commit suicide.)
Every move an Irish politician makes is inspired only by self-interest.
Since going into government (in the mistaken belief that the 500 or so in the Mansion House, who endorsed the decision to go into government represented the 86,000 voters who voted Green) John Gormley has been busy telling us what he cannot do rather than having the courage to actually do something.
He recently managed to outfudge his Fianna Fail colleagues when it came to explaining how he was spending tax payers’ money on his office and constituency workers. Power corrupts etc.
Our politicians have built roads and railways where they believe such schemes will win them votes. For years, little bits of dual carriageway littered the country, each one built to satisfy local political needs. One utterly bizarre stretch in Mayo, was even nicknamed the “Pee Flynn bypass.”
Wood Quay was destroyed because politicians feared the wrath of unions representing local authority workers, just as the M3 is now being built on a route recommended only by those who will benefit financially from its construction. Not one of the area’s elected representatives had or has the courage to put heritage ahead of self interest.
Some years ago, representatives of Irish politicians were given the “Profile in Courage Award,’ an accolade named after the book written by John F Kennedy, for their work on the peace process.
It has, before and since, been given to politicians who have made enormous sacrifices, who have lost their jobs - who have lost just about everything - because they put right before self-interest.
I cannot imagine it, ever again, being awarded to an Irish politician.
Sure, I can think of exceptions. I can think of Joe Higgins, I can think of Richard Boyd Barrett and a few others who, even if I don’t agree with everything they say and do, stick to their principles despite knowing that by doing so their are lessening their chances of getting elected. The Labour Party too, refused to prostitute itself after the general election which was the honourable, if not profitable, course.
I used to think to he Greens in the same way, but no more.
We now live in a country where Dail seats are passed on to brothers and sisters, widows and children as if they were a favourite old armchair or a wad of cash left in a will.
We live in a country where politicians are becoming less and less accountable, where the Freedom of Information Act has been watered down simply because it allowed people the freedom to get information.
We live in a country where politicians, presumably to compensate themselves for no longer being able to accept bribes and handouts, give themselves pay rise after pay rise.
We live in a country where new laws are brought in in jig-time to allow for the abolition of the very tribunals which are exposing Bertie Ahern’s duplicity and dishonesty.
It is a country where the prime minister believes a pay rise of more than the average industrial wage is not only justified, but merely a ‘token amount.’
So, just think about these words:
“In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage
Those words mean nothing to politicians in this country.
Instead, our politicians are greedy, grubby people.
And, yes, that is a moan.
And no, Taoiseach, I won’t go off and kill myself.

1 comment:

Mark said...

well said Paddy. thanks for putting this out there. you are a rarity to have the liathroidi to tell it like it is.