SHAUN CONNOLLY: Can the Irish electorate really handle the truth?

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn is trying to make honesty and a refusal to soften his stance on core views into his pitch to be the voice of authenticity

While Irish politicians continue to peddle the currency of deceit, Jeremy Corbyn is trying to stay true to himself — and will probably destroy Britain’s Labour party and its hopes for regaining power in the process, writes Shaun Connolly

DO WE really want politicians to tell us the truth? Could we really handle it, or are far too many of us happy to collude in the co-dependency of deceit?

Are we so used to being lied to that the truth would scare us even more?

We now have a handy international comparison: for while Irish politicians continue to peddle the currency of deceit, the new leader of the British Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, is spending his time trying to stay true to himself — and probably destroying his party and its hopes for regaining power in the process.

But if Enda Kenny or Joan Burton had their RTÉ coffee spiked with a truth serum and suddenly announced the blindingly obvious, saying: “Yep, we made an utter balls of Irish Water. Just about everything we could have got wrong, we did get wrong in one of the most spectacular political disasters of recent times which has seen us somersault from threatening to leave struggling families with just a trickle of water if they could not pay, to handing out €100 tax rebates to people who refuse to pay the tax at all,” then how would we react?

Would we respect their newfound honesty, or would it merely harden the contempt many already have for them?

Instead of the truth we had the usual verbal garbage when the LRC restored the bonus culture at Irish Water. Ms Burton welcomed the move as “motivational” for staff, which is odd as when the bonus circus exploded around a panicking Government last October, she told the Dáil: “I do not anticipate any bonus payment, any enhancement payment or whatever other kind of management speak title is used for the payments, being paid.”

Over on the opposition benches, Gerry “Army Council? What Army Council?” Adams got very sniffy when an RTÉ poll found that 89% of voters believe he is lying when he claims he has never been in the IRA.

According to Mr Adams it is the 89% who disbelieve him who are in the wrong, not him, which is an interesting standpoint for someone who insists he is a democrat. That the overwhelming majority of people believe that Mr Adams is not telling the truth about his involvement with the IRA is hardly surprising, but that 45% of people say that this does not matter — as opposed to 47% who think it does matter — throws up many more questions about the value of truth to the Irish electorate.

And from an Irish republican to a British one as new Labour leader Mr Corbyn tries to make honesty and a refusal to soften his stance on core views into his pitch to be the voice of authenticity.

But, unfortunately for Mr Corbyn, his refusal to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ at a memorial service for those who fought in the Battle of Britain just made him look childish, not principled — like a moody kid who was annoyed at being forced to go to church.

The service was one of many low points in a chaotic first week as the leader of what is officially known as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition — which saw him look scruffy for the service, and (falsely) accused of snatching sandwiches meant for war veterans by a Tory press which cannot believe its luck at the open goals he is providing for them.

With most of the parliamentary Labour party appalled at the reality of him as leader, putting together a shadow cabinet was no easy task— a situation not helped by the fact his inexperienced team did not realise journalists were eavesdropping at his office door as they scrambled to get anyone to accept the sensitive defence post, and were allegedly at one point being heard to offer it to someone whose views on whether to replace the £20bn (€27.4bn) Trident nuclear system they did not even know.

Add to this a bizarre, and excruciatingly long walk to his car when he refused to answer a stream of perfectly polite questions from journalists about his failure to appoint any women to senior posts, and some very tetchy TV interviews and Jeremy is beginning to look jittery.

How this new and unusual approach will wash with British voters remains to be seen, but as Labour cannot afford to go into the next election with a third loser leader in a row, it is likely this will all end in tears.

Our own Labour party had an unconvincing flirtation with would-be Corbynism when an emotional Ruairi Quinn told a late-night gathering at the party’s think-in that the great thing about the party was: “Because we don’t believe in capitalism — we know how to fucking manage it.”

Hmm, I wonder if the Dunnes Stores workers despairing at their minimum hours contract culture, or the young unemployed who saw their dole slashed would agree with Mr Quinn’s benign version of how Labour has managed capitalism’s excesses?

But then truth is relative, for while Mr Adams insists voters have got it wrong about him, he knows they have got it right about Mr Kenny when a clear majority say they believe the Taoiseach did force Garda commissioner Martin Callinan out, despite his protestations to the contrary.

This is the same Mr Kenny who insists “showtime” is over and he has no intention of trying to buy the next election — at exactly the same moment he launches a crude barrage of “I’ll show you the money this time” stream of pre-budget leaks.

Corbyn’s socialist hero Aneurin Bevan, who unlike Jezza managed to combine principles with power, once famously said: “This is my truth, now tell me yours.”

But an Irish politician repeating the same phrase would, no doubt, add the rider: “….but only if I can get a vote out of it.”


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