A couple of events in Irish politics recently made me wish I lived in a country where political integrity and courage existed much.
With honorable exceptions, they don’t.
On one hand we recently had Lucinda Creighton announcing the formation of a new political party. That’s all fine, but she’s still a sitting TD in a seat that she won as a Fine Gael candidate. And thus was supported by Fine Gael money, Fine Gael voters, and Fine Gael party workers. Worse, she was even supported by my money which Fine Gael gets from the taxpayer as a big party. And there’s absolutely no pressure within politics or from the Irish media for her to resign the seat and re-win it (or not) as either an independent or as a leader of a new party. Meantime she has the pay and public visibility of a sitting TD and the uncritical attention of much of the Irish media. And when challenged on the topic Ms Creighton makes it clear that she feels no obligation to go back to the electorate. None. Regards it as a stupid question.
So in her mind it’s OK to be elected with money, votes and effort from one set of people, leave those people behind and continue to sit in her seat as a TD. Let’s say I think that’s lacking political integrity. In the UK even Tories defecting to the much-maligned UKIP have all stood for re-election. But not in Ireland.
Especially since the new party she’s founding is supposed to represent a rebooting of politics in Ireland, this image is close to representative of how I think she’s behaving (you get the idea, even understanding why it’s not the right image)
Meantime, on the other hand, a member of the cabinet recently announced to the country that he’s gay. And many in the media regarded this as a great act of political courage. I guess it might have been, 25 years ago. But a lot has changed since then. The Irish ban on homosexual activity was declared illegal under the European convention of human rights in 1988. It was removed from Irish law in 1993. Since then we’ve had two women presidents and a (gay) presidential candidate in Ireland who were all supporters of the abolition of the ban. And none of whom suffered political consequences from being women, or gay, or supporters of gay rights.
And now a gay member of cabinet comes out and gets praise for his courage. It’s all so disappointing. He’d have been brave in 1987. Or maybe even 1992. But not in 2015. And meantime the fight for gay legal rights (still quite real in Ireland) has gone on without the visible support of a gay member of cabinet. Until now, of course, when it’s apparent that the remnants of anti-gay prejudice in Ireland are being driven into the margins and all the fights are about to be won.
Like most people in Ireland I don’t particularly care whether he likes boys or girls or both (i prefer girls myself), but I do care that he’s spent decades in politics and has never been brave enough to say anything in public about a rather fundamental feature of his being. A feature that’s politically relevant even if it’s not been a political handicap for a long time.
Not bravery in my book I’m afraid.
So, while a mini-series of the life of Charlie Haughey continues on our national broadcaster, mini-me’s of Ireland’s lack of political integrity and courage still swan around. And the Irish media not only let’s them get away with it, but practically encourages it.