You Can’t Be Serious - ‘The good life…’
You Can’t Be Serious – ‘The good life…’

I have a massive interest in politics. It draws me in just like every other contest that I take a liking to. Even foreign election results coming in on TV – where I wouldn’t know the candidates or the constituencies; and if I turn on my TV at bedtime; chances are that I will stay up watching the unfolding drama until the early hours of the morning.

I ran for Westmeath County Council in the local elections of 2009. I didn’t get elected (stop it, Lads) but I am so pleased I did it that once and it was one of the most invigorating experiences of my life. 890 voters gave me their first preference and that was the big consolation for me; the fact that 890 people believed I was the best man to do the job. I also accepted the fact that a better man got in – as he has since proved himself to be.

I have gotten up close to a lot of politicians since I went out helping with my first canvass in the mid-1970s. There is one thing I want to tell you and it is something beyond all doubt: Politicians are not ‘all the same.’ In fact, I would rate it as one of the greatest insults you can offer an elected representative is to dismiss him or her with ‘yiz are all the same.’ Politicians are just like you and me and the people around us. They are a mixture of the good, the shapers and a minority of bad. But mostly they are good – and some that I know, not too far from here are spectacularly great.

Most people who allow their name to go on the ballot paper are idealistic and they set out with noble aspirations of making the world a better place. Sometimes they become somewhat frustrated or disillusioned with the slowness of trying to change things, but many of them beaver away, serving not only the voters who elected them, but their entire community. Yes, they are well paid for representing their people; but most people have no idea as to the hours a politician puts in ‘on the job’. It isn’t just during office hours, but there is hardly a night that your TD or councillor isn’t off at some meeting or function. And don’t forget the price that the politician’s family pays on your behalf.

Ordinary people putting themselves forward for election (or, as in my case, being ‘talked into it’) is the mainstay of our democratic system. If, for any reason, the best people don’t go forward, we are all in trouble. Democracy, with all its warts, is still by far the greatest form of government. You only have to look at Russia or Iran to see what the alternative might be.

But all is not well with democracy. We hear that some of our TDs are not going forward in the next election, due to the personal abuse they are being subjected to. Women especially have to endure all sorts of online abuse from faceless cowards. Yahoos protesting and chanting outside politician’s homes is a new and disgustingly low form of abuse – where children are being terrified. There is also an increased risk of physical attack on the street or at public meetings.

Since shortly after the Civil War in this country, our elected representatives have been able to move around freely and unhindered at funerals, sporting events and simply chatting the people on the street. This is how it’s done in Ireland. What a terrible tragedy it will be if politicians become ‘confined to barracks’ for their own safety and are therefore not as accessible to their people.

We read of cases where politicians have been subjected to unbelievable harassment – and of course those well publicised outrageous attacks on Anne Rabbitte and Ciaran Cannon.

Some politicians I know are so talented that they could make more money in business or in their profession than they do as TDs. We therefore have to believe that a majority of elected representatives are there out of a genuine commitment to public service.

Anybody can yell abuse and it doesn’t take much courage to put an anonymous lie up on social media. That we have people excusing this behaviour with, ‘that’s what politicians sign up to’, is the start of the slippery slope if we are not careful. We see how the far right has orchestrated a foothold in America and Brazil.

So, it couldn’t happen here …? Wrong! Today it’s a ‘protest’ throwing eggs and breaking windows. Tomorrow it’s petrol bombs … and the day after …?

We need to respect all of our elected politicians whatever their hue; and no, ‘they are not all the same!’


Don’t Forget


Our politicians have thought of just about everything to help the farmer, except to leave him alone so he can operate his own business.