A political activist once criticised me for claiming that I didn’t watch any of Ireland’s current affairs programmes, or at least very little of them. He said that if I didn’t watch them, how could I claim to be informed? It was a fair question until you actually watch those programmes, and see what passes for political discourse in Ireland.
Compare, for example, one of those shows to an earlier version broadcast before the 2011 general election. In the pre-election show, you would have seen the government representative defending cuts in social spending as painful but necessary, and he would wax lyrical about how the government was trying to protect that never-defined mass, “the vulnerable”. The opposition would then put on the Anne Hathaway of tear jerking pleas for compassion and scowls of “have you no shame” for these “reprehensible” cuts?
Two years later, it’s the same show, only the people on one side of the studio have moved to the other side of the studio. The actual scripts remain in place, and here’s a prediction: after the 2016 general election, the script will be the same, only the players will have moved. How can I claim to be informed, eh? Informed? I can even predict the future!
But that’s not the worst of it. Here’s the worst: there was a debate recently in the Seanad where a motion of no confidence in the minister for justice was proposed. Not only was it never going to pass, but even if it had passed, the Seanad does not have the power to sack ministers, so the whole exercise was just a load of grandstand posing. Oh sure, those involved will claim that they were “raising issues” and “contributing the the national debate” but would we have actually missed it if it did not happen? Where else in life, short of modelling, does standing around striking poses count as working? Imagine a guy stacking shelves in M&S (hat tip to my generous sponsors!) not actually stacking shelves but calling for shelves to be stacked, or urging that shelves be stacked. In other jobs, people actually have to do stuff. Only politicians regard this nonsense as work.
Now, Ireland isn’t unique in this. Across the world, more and more time is wasted by politicians doing things to fill time, making speeches that don’t matter, proposing motions that do not actually do anything, writing reports that don’t change anything. In fairness to Irish politicians, they do genuine work in their constituencies, but the only reason their constituents actually need help in the constituencies is because the politicians don’t fix the national systems so that citizens can interact with the state without a political chaperone. Which, in a form of Political Munchausen syndrome by proxy, politicans don’t want to fix because they want to be needed by their constituents, like demented parents deliberately makng their children sick so that they can be validated by caring for them.
But it does beg the question. Do we actually need all these full-time politicians? Aside from the front benches, is there not an argument for making (and paying) backbenchers as a part-time job? Would we honestly miss them?
Cue political hacks, people on the taxpayer’s teat and wannabe parliamentary wasters jump up and down and defend the important work done by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on bleh bleh bleh…