Simon Harris: Politicians competing to be next trending celebs

Politicians are now “less respectful, reflective, inclusive, and aspirational” than in the past and now crave publicity, Health Minister Simon Harris has said.

Speaking at the Parnell Summer School, he compared current-day politics to the leaders of 1916 who he said were “dreamers and poets in uniform”.

He praised all those involved in the Rising commemorations this year.

“One of the great things about this country is how surprised we are sometimes when we get something right. Ireland’s 2016 commemorations fell outside that habit of cynical resignation. They went beautifully.”

Turning to the leaders of the Rising, he said they were “rainbow chasers” who sometimes were filled with “irrational generous hope”.

But he added that this was in contrast to today where politicians “are competing like sideshow performers for tomorrow’s headline, to create tomorrow’s controversy, to be tomorrow’s trending celeb”.

Mr Harris added: “I’m not sure politicians should be celebs, gaining their public credibility by personal attacks on others.”

He TD said politicians should aim to seek the best and disregard the worst in their political career. “It’s the only way to survive modern politics, in my view. It’s the only way to deliver the dreams and hopes owned by each and every citizen in this great country. The development of communications technology has been brilliant and convenient and liberating, in many ways. But it cannot take the place of thoughtful, rational debate. We need to have a more respectful, informed political and public discourse.”

Also speaking at the event Fianna Fáil’s James Lawless said the Government of today has a “responsibility” to follow the lead of those who led the Easter Rising

The North Kildare TD said those involved in the 1916 Rising and those that followed “planned meticulously and acted decisively”.

Pointing out the inclusive vision of the signatories of the Proclamation, he said: “Governments today have a responsibility to follow that lead. Real plans are required to confront the actual challenges, rather than obfuscating behind smokescreens of past imagined glories.

“Scapegoating minorities or creating divisions for the sake of mass market electoral support are no substitute for pragmatic, principled political planning.

“The leaders of 1916 and the revolutionary era which followed it were a broad church with a radical and egalitarian agenda into which all were invited.”


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