Let us reject the apologia that corrupt behaviour is in some way less corrupt if it is ‘of its time’, writes Terry Prone

A bank holiday Monday is not a good day for a funeral, but I have a body that needs burying. It urgently needs burying, because the festering and putrefaction are underway.

I wanted to bury this body as soon as it was born, but infanticide is never popular, and so many people were hanging around, wanting to wet the infant’s head, that suggesting a quick strangulation wouldn’t have gone down well at the time. The name of the baby was New Politics, and the minute I heard of it, I knew I was never going to get into the fostering business. It was bilge from the outset

It is important to give new ideas space in which to grow, develop, and prove their definitive idiocy, and, anyway, it was a bit like criticising social media.

It is possible to tell the truth about social media: That it’s full of twisted loopers you wouldn’t permit through your front door; that it delivers news with great speed and no reliable fact-checking; that it creates self-perpetuating ghettoes of the self-righteous, who believe their wrong view is shared by every right-thinking human; that newspaper groups that put all their eggs in the electronic basket make no money from it; and that it is a cross between the old half-door (vicious gossip representing the 21st century version of The Valley with the Squinting Windows) and the door in a gent’s loo, covered in grotty graffiti. It is possible to tell that truth, but, if you do, you are tsunamied into silence by trolls portraying you as a Neanderthal clog-throwing troglodyte. OK, perhaps Neanderthals might be a bit challenged on the clog front, but that’s the reality of the predictable abuse evoked by any criticism of social media.

Ditto with New Politics. New Politics seems to be predicated on a number of assumptions, starting with the belief that all politicians up to this enlightened point were venal, venomous, and out for themselves, whereas the New Politicians are pure, pious, socially motivated idealists, clean in word and deed. Having worked with politicians continuously these 40 years, I have met a fair number of the venal, venomous, and self-aggrandising.

Plus the guy who, having spent a little time on the continent, insisted on kissing any arriving woman on both sides of her face, way too sloppily, while embracing her for way too long.

Plus the politician with — in my view — undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, who drove everybody nuts by never listening to anything, nor reading any background document. But he never let his pig-ignorance inhibit his loud expression of definitive opinions on any passing issue.

I happily concede that politics harbours the crooked, the mean-minded, the sanctimonious, the incompetent, and the just plain evil. This is only right and proper. Democracy is built on public representation of the totality of the population.

The totality of any population has crooks, knaves, and fruit bats. Where would we be without them? We’d have a whole load of under-employed Pharisees, with nothing to look down on or to sanctimoniously sneer at.

But — and it’s a big but — the majority of the politicians with whom I have had concourse have been honourable, decent, committed (in the energetic sense), kind, open, and warm. Go on. Laugh. See if I care.

Another assumption is that Old Politics is about money. Wicked Old Politicians getting money for themselves by every available means, starting with brown paper bags, and moving on to outrageous expenses.

You can name the brown-paper bag lads, and so can I. Let’s link arms and condemn them, the crooked, corrupt shower. Let us further reject the apologia that corrupt behaviour is in some way less corrupt if it is ‘of its time’, because of the peer pressure of the other greedy gits.

Let’s get real, while we’re at it. The notion that all politicians, particularly all ministers, should do the job for nothing, out of the goodness of their hearts, is flawed in the same way as the notion that the CEOs of major charities should do likewise.

What nonsense. CEOs of charities have to manage all the issues that the CEOs of commercial, profit-making entities manage, with a few extra moral and compliance issues thrown in. It is crazy to expect them to be paid half nothing. Ditto TDs and ministers.

The generalised belief that politicians are overpaid doesn’t have the other side to it, which is odd. When Enda Kenny initiated the reduction of his own salary, back in the day, nobody slapped a palm to their forehead and said: “You gotta hand it to that man, he has cut his own salary and deserves credit for it.” Instead, the response was that he was overpaid anyway and to hell with him.

The illusion is that all these New Politicians are motivated solely by idealism, and that money means nothing to them. Then, along comes Paul Murphy, who falls foul of the long arm of the law and ends up in court.

Next thing we hear, he’s seeking free legal aid. He’s paid in excess of €85,000 a year and he’s too poor to pay a lawyer to represent him in court? He has to be kidding.

Except that Paul Murphy is never kidding. Elected members of the Anti-Austerity Alliance, like elected members of Sinn Fein, give up a huge chunk of their salary to their organisations in order to further the objectives of those organisations.

Giving up this chunk of salary might leave Paul a bit short of the readies when it comes to being represented in court. The same would be true of any high-minded person who yielded lots of their post-tax money to the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army, or the nearest donkey asylum. They would be a bit short of cash to pay lawyers, because lawyers don’t come cheap.

This would not entitle them to claim free legal aid. The answer to any such claim would be: “Sunshine, what you do with your money is your business. We just look at your salary, and, you know something? You don’t qualify.”

More significantly, the very fact that free legal aid was sought by someone who demonstrably has money to burn indicates that New Politics is the same as the worst of Old Politics.

Ah, no, I hear you say. Old Politics was all about guys getting special deals for their constituencies. Right. Now explain to me how independents fighting for upgrades to their local hospitals constitutes anything ‘new’? And, before you say Old Politics was jobs for the boys, don’t get me started on how many of the Independents’ support for the formation of a new government depends upon their getting their posterior in a ministerial seat.

If you’re too busy to attend the obsequies, that makes sense. New Politics doesn’t merit a big send-off, anyway.


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