High office is a dangerously unreliable vantage point from which to observe the political landscape. Perception at lofty altitude can be distorted by optical illusions. Just ask Pat Rabbitte, the communications minister who proudly claims that the Coalition is the only game in town, trouncing the opposition in terms of ideas as well as numbers.
“There is no alternative in Leinster House,” he proclaims.
In fairness, Rabbitte is not entirely hallucinating. His assessment of the Government’s Dáil opponents is bang on.
“Fianna Fáil has no credibility on the economy,” he says. “The technical group are really for theatre and fun, rather than solutions, and Sinn Féin is entirely opportunist.”
All true, and growing truer by the day. However, the minister is grievously mistaken if he believes this is good news for democracy. Parliament should reflect public opinion, in all its diversity.
Outside Leinster House, there is plenty of reasoned, informed and cogent opposition to the Coalition’s austerity policies. But, for many, the Dáil has become irrelevant, a state of affairs that should be cause for concern rather than celebration among the political class.
Nevertheless, Rabbitte isn’t the only minister who confuses what’s good for the Government with what’s good for the country. The cabinet abounds with cock-a-hoop poseurs who treat praise from the IMF or Angela Merkel as though it were evidence of their exemplary stewardship when, more often than not, it’s proof of the opposite.
The condescension with which ministers seek to defend the indefensible on the basis of their “Dáil mandate” is especially nauseating given the abandon with which they have reneged on the promises that won them the election.
Ultimately, of course, every fish rots from the head. The Government’s delusionally arrogant tone is set by Enda Kenny, a leader who has performed an about-face on so many issues so often that he must endure constant dizziness. Examples of his U-turns are so commonplace that it would be hot news to discover an instance where he has actually stood by his word.
Comments in this column a fortnight ago about the unsightliness, noise and inefficiency of wind turbines have prompted a hefty response from readers. Much of the correspondence emanated from Donegal where the proposed erection of wind farms is the subject of gale-force controversy.
Kenny attended the 2010 MacGill Summer School at Glenties, as Taoiseach-in-waiting, and impressed locals with his passion for the unspoilt beauty and untapped potential of the region. “Donegal’s tourism business will prosper under any government of mine,” he pledged.
Today, the very landscape and tourism trade that Kenny professed to admire are threatened by plans to impose a slew of wind farm developments, including one about 1.5km outside Glenties. Opposition among tourist amenity operators is mounting.
When the topic was raised at this year’s MacGill Summer School, however, Kenny had changed his tune. His erstwhile devotion to Donegal’s scenic splendour was replaced by bullish platitudes about green energy.
In this as in many other areas, the Government gazes down upon the holders of alternative viewpoints with lordly disdain. However, the high and mighty should beware: there’s a big difference between winning the vote and winning the argument.
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