Our delegation to Pyongyang - TDs’ flight of fancy almost defies satire

Independent Alliance ministers John Halligan, Shane Ross and Finian McGrath.

The meek are promised that they shall inherit the earth. That distracting, deferred consolation, though of ever more questionable value, may transpire. 

However, it is unlikely that any of those fairly described as meek might have a successful career in politics while they wait for that particular glory train to arrive. Like many human endeavours, the profession of politics requires a robustness of self-esteem that very few can summon or sustain. Or tolerate.

Thankfully, there are politicians of conviction but there also those whose vanity is a dominant, unshakeable trait. Every now and then one of these Icarus figures renews the relevance of that laughably puffed-up warning: “It (The Skibbereen Eagle) will still keep its eye on the Emperor of Russia and all such despotic enemies — whether at home or abroad.” It is coincidental that the Emperor of Russia and his family met their grim fate at Ipatiev House a decade after that shot across his bows left West Cork. Any suggestion the paper, for all its charms, influenced seismic events century ago seems an over-reach on a par with the suggestion that three minor Irish politicians, each virtually unknown outside their constituency bubble, might travel to North Korea on what has been described as a “peace mission”.

It has been proposed that Independent Alliance ministers John Halligan, Shane Ross and Finian McGrath travel to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong-un to try to dissuade him from continuing nuclear tests. Even if the hereditary dictator deigned to meet our three wise men, realising such a noble objective would require spectacular skills in diplomacy. It is stating the obvious but necessary to point out that commuters — meek and patient as ever — would like to see Transport Minister Shane Ross use those skills, if he has them, to resolve the impasse that has stopped the glory trains they depend on. Similar accusations could be levelled at deputies McGrath and Halligan and apparently, they have. The wise men’s independent colleagues are suitably enraged and government cohesion must suffer.

The suggestion that the mission was hatched without seeking cabinet approval must provoke a comparison with the fate of tobacco lobbyist turned Tory minister Priti Patel. Ms Patel had to resign this week amid a controversy over unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials. A direct comparison might suggest a similar fate awaits our three Independents but Dáil arithmetic intervenes. Taoiseach Varadkar’s Government relies on their support, without the endorsement of the Pyongyang delegation an election looms.

European democracy struggles with the obligations of coalition so maybe its time to wonder if coalitions are just an easy ride for inept establishment parties? After all, junior partners, as the Greens, Labour and the PDs will confirm, are ready-made whipping boys and always bear the brunt of disenchanted rage. How much better it would be for democracy if establishment parties performed to a level that prevented fragmentation and made inviable coalitions redundant. Sadly, that prospect seems as remote as the grand inheritance promised to the meek.


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