Archive for May 17th, 2007

Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Believed Citizens Had Rights

Some recollections, which may need checking against the record:

I watched some of the televised debate between Rabbitte, Sargent, McDowell and Adams last night, and turned off just after Rabbitte had compared McDowell to a ‘menopausal Paris Hilton’, a remark far more minger than zinger.

Although I might be happy to see Michael McDowell be the object of some gratuitous insult and I care little also for Paris Hilton’s feelings, this piece of sexist claptrap was out of order. In an all-male panel, Rabbitte thought he could score points by feminising his opponent. The scene says something about Irish politics and what you need to do to win power.

Up until that point, though, I thought Rabbitte had done quite well. His opening speech was quite good.

Gerry Adams, on the other hand, was leaden, unsure of himself, and surprisingly inarticulate. His apparent popularity may be more a function of the peace process than any enduring aspect of his character. Now that things have been sewn up in the North, there is a danger (for him and his party) that hitherto sympathetic people start to get sick of him. The problem here with his party’s all-Ireland approach to politics is that without a unified state, you are talking about a country that does not really exist. This might work in Northern Ireland, but unfortunately, for really existing elections in the Republic, this seems to entail a sky-based approach to pie.

On pie. Was I just hungry before bedtime, or was there quite a lot of talk of pie and cake? There was one point where I thought I heard Gerry Adams mention the ‘tax cake’, but this was probably the ‘tax take’. I shall give him the benefit of the doubt in this case, but McDowell’s criticisms of his lack of economic knowledge appeared to be generally correct.

Trevor Sargent was the most impressive speaker, and I liked his story about the woman waiting in the car for her train. I found it amusing how Gerry Adams had made a point of making some stumbling remarks in Irish during his speech, whereas Sargent, who seemed to be wearing his fainne, began his with a quick ‘dia daoibh’, and that was it. During the debate he was the most effective critic of McDowell.

I don’t think Michael McDowell appeared on the programme to win votes from Sinn Fein or Labour. Rather, he was there to retain and win over people who are primarily concerned with holding on to the gains they have made in the last 10 years. Part of this entails raising the spectre of ‘left-wing’ politics, hence the pre-debate poster session and the joke about the “the left, the hard left, and the left-overs”, which probably pleased many of his potential voters.

If I have not much to say about the substance of what I saw of the debate, it is probably because I could not discern any substance to it. Besides, it was way past my bedtime.

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May 2007