I have had three conversations with people recently, all former political activists (with three different Irish parties) and the sort of high calibre people we purport to want to see in public life. What struck me about all of them was how they have completely lost interest in Irish politics. They just don’t care anymore. They accept that politics affects their lives, they just don’t believe that whomever wins or loses at the next general election (discounting Richard Boyd Barrett or the Shinners) will actually have any major effect one way or the other. The funny thing is that they are still interested in politics in a broad sense, and all followed the British election. They just see Irish politics being about people wanting to be elected without even knowing why they want to hold those elected offices.
I understand exactly where they are coming from. Can you imagine FF or FG negotiating a coalition with David Cameron? Aside from delivering loot (yes, loot!) to their constituencies, and cabinet jobs and pensions for themselves, would there really be any other issues with which they would have problems? I’ve been writing a lot about UK politics in recent weeks, and I have to say: It is far more interesting than our own Politics-Lite, because British politicians actually have political opinions that revolve around issues. Most Irish politicians take pride in either speaking in a vague general sense “I believe in a world class heath service” or else not having any opinions at all. I got a leaflet from Barry Andrews recently, which listed out the copious amounts of taxpayers money his party is spending in the constituency. It could easily have come from the Communist Abortion Party such was its blandness.
I once spoke to a young political activist from one of our two main parties, who confided in me that he wanted to be Taoiseach. I asked him why? What would he like to do as Taoiseach? This stumped him, for a bit, then he answered. He said that he thought that the government should help people make their houses look nicer.
He’ll go far, and no, I’m not being sarcastic. I mean it.