The suggestion that we were, at last, to benefit from a grown-up idea called “new politics” must be filed in that ever-expanding category — fake news. The row, and despite last evening’s apparent deal who knows how it might end, over how to better manage the rental sector in the short term shows how little has changed. The visceral, inherited divisions — and the shameless opportunism — so all-pervasive in our body politic roar as loudly as ever.
Is it any wonder stasis prevails? Is it any wonder the status quo is unassailable? Is it any wonder that most people with even the wit of a dim flea would keep the proverbial barge pole between themselves and the suggestion that they might become involved in politics? The fact that the Dáil, already in full turkey-and-ham mode, will close shop today until some faraway date in January confirms that despite all of the new-found collegiality the old order remains unshaken.
Though there are but paper-thin differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael any opportunity offered to one to score points off the other cannot be resisted. This sadness stands even if reviving that Punch-and-Judy farce, as it does in this case, makes the resolution of a pressing social issue more difficult. This sad reality stands even if vulnerable people are left exposed to the tender mercies of the housing market. But don’t fret, the integrity of our political system, the sense of purpose that should animate our democracy can wait while this age-old pantomime is given yet another airing.
Of course, politicians cannot be entirely blamed. The most cynical just sing whatever song they think we want to hear.
In the most recent opinion poll Fianna Fáil was deemed the most popular party at 30% — Fine Gael hit 28%. Micheál Martin’s resurgent party achieved this honour despite exercising olympian ideological flexibility — or, if you prefer, the complete absence of any principles — on water charges. Almost a fifth — 17% — of those surveyed said they would support Sinn Féin despite credibility issues that, in comparison, make Donald Trump’s behaviour seem saintly.
The measures proposed by Housing Minister Simon Coveney are not perfect — how could they be? He is faced with an imperfect, distorted, money-driven social crisis, riddled by sectional interests and something pretty close to unmanageable avarice. People trying to rent a place to live are faced with, in some instances, over-stretched, indebted landlords — and they are the lucky ones. Others find the place they regard as home has been bought by some vulture fund availing of this State’s tax structures — these are not tax haven opportunities, insists Finance Minister Michael Noonan — in a way beyond the imagination of most of us. That is why Mr Coveneny suggested a temporary, limited programme to try to quickly offer some comfort to those so cruelly caught in this market failure better described as a social crisis.
Despite that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin gave Pavolvian responses — as Fine Gael would if the situation were reversed. How pathetic, what childish foolishness. And what a tragedy for those citizens who are made vulnerable pawns by this imploding burlesque. Is it any wonder Trump was elected?