Our politicians still play catch-and-kick

I am a bogman, and that’s a fact.

I can walk dry shod to this day across Erneside bogs that would swallow up a man or woman born in the Golden Vale, inside five steps.

I can pick my path, because I know the different colours and textures of the mosses and heathers and lichens; those that will bear my weight, and those atop swamps.

I have to confess to being less sure-footed when I venture, as now, into the political bog lands being agitated by the troops heading out on another general election campaign.

All of them say they are concentrating on the grass roots of Ireland.

That is a bit ironic at a time when so much of the acreage of grass roots is under water and more closely resembles my native boglands.

I tiptoe in a totally non-partisan way into the political swamp today because, as the debate begins hotly even before the election date is announced, I am aware (in an anecdotal fashion so far) of a high level of dissatisfaction across the alleged grass roots with just about all our politicians and their parties. There is a lot of cynicism about our politicians today behind many of the doorsteps they are already calling to in numbers with their literature and promises. That, for sure, is the pure truth.

Somebody expressed a view to me the other evening which dovetails neatly enough with my personal opinion. This voter, a keen football follower, said strongly that a county could win Sam Maguire up to a couple of decades ago by playing strongly elemental catch-and-kick football.

One team grabbed the ball and walloped it down towards the opposition square with a will. Good defenders caught it high, knocked down an incoming attacker or two, and drove it back downfield with interest.

My friend suggested that our politicians in Dáil Éireann are still playing catch-and-kick politics, long after that style of both football and politics is out of date and does not work well any more. And won’t win a vote from Sam Maguire this spring. He could have a strong point there.

Winning teams in Croke Park nowadays, as we all know, are near as dammit professional athletes, only kicking and catching after a whole series of robotic hand-passes at high speed.

They are all as fit as fiddles, work in total harmony from beginning to end of the game, and are totally controlled on and off the field of play by their managers.

That is the modern winning formula, and I doubt if any of the political parties today, playing the old game the old way, come anywhere close.

And in the same way as football followers are now infinitely more sophisticated and informed about the nuances of the games they are viewing, I reckon the modern Irish electorate is infinitely more sophisticated than it ever was before. Gone forever are the days when party workers for any party could enter a parish and accurately predict that this house was Fine Gael, that one Fianna Fáil, and Johnny would promise all callers a “stroke” but almost certainly would not bother going out to vote at all on the day.

Here is a bogman’s question about the developing campaign.

Is it necessary for a candidate’s success in the battle for him or her to rubbish and criticise absolutely all the works, deeds and policies of every other candidate and/or party?

Is the other side to blame for all the negatives of our history? Is there no worthwhile politician or policy or suggestion outside the candidate’s own fold?

Is it an act of political suicide to utter any kind of praise for an opponent on the other side of the century-old political divide?

I did hear something unusual on a TV debate last week. I could not believe it when I heard Sinn Féin’s O’Snodaigh actually praising Minister Kelly for being brave enough to propose legal injection centres in cities for drug addicts.

We will not hear much more along that frequency of respect and recognition during the next few weeks of elemental catch-and-kick politics, and more’s the pity.

It could lead to a more wholesome national debate, that might reduce the level of cynicism amongst many voters. And increase the turnout too.

I will sidestep out of the bog now before I sink...


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