There’s been another debate ? …You don’t say? Was it the same as the first one?
It’s all perception. I can’t pretend to know all the intricacies of political life or the back-stories of all the politicians involved in the Republic of Ireland.Are they really so interesting that I’d want to do that?
There was a “Leaders Debate” on television recently but I only heard reports of it. I had to download it from Youtube a few days later and watch it for myself, before I felt able to comment or contribute my own tuppence worth.I was prepared to judge each performer as dispassionately and without any bias as though it were a political boxing match . Sure…of course , you might have a favourite , but who actually performed best in the moment. That sort of reasoning was on my mind.
Depending on whether or not you are the kind of political addict who will sit up all night waiting for election results or simply a casual browser of political events, these kinds of things might bore the pants off you or have you gripping your seat in excitement. I am of the former persuasion.I have an in-built inclination to distrust every politician I encounter. The other thing is that it is usually so po-faced and lacking in the cut and thrust of humour or wit that it exposes the contenders as lacking in any humanity at all. Grey…too serious…and boring as hell. Not the kind of company anyone might seek out.What is left is whether or not they might be any good at doing a little job such as running the country while the rest of us get on with our lives. It’s not a job I’d want …but it is very obviously a job that they clamour for.
These things usually begin in a civilised sort of way but gradually degenerate into a cacophany of slanging insult and a melee of thunderous noise ….and so it eventually came to pass ,as foretold , until the viewer couldn’t hear anything that was being discussed. With two attractive and televisual ringmasters …a chairman and an able chair-woman in situ such as Pat Kenny and Colette Fitzpatrick , I was left wishing that at least one of them had in his or her possession one of those air-horn klaxons to remind the combatants that this was supposed to be a civilised debate. An occasional loud screech or honk of degenerate noise across the raucous bows, mid-battle, might have reminded them all that both airtime and the listeners time was a precious commodity and nobody could hear a damned thing with all that noise they were collectively making.
So how did they fare ? Getting past my already well bedded -in mistrust of everyone in politics and anyone who wishes to convince me that they are in politics for anything other than to get their hands into my pockets or make my life impossible, I tried to remain objective.This is a debate in a state a few mere miles away, which operates politically disconnected from us in Norneverland , in many ways , because of past political shenanigans . I know little about any of the southern politicians in real terms , other than how they behave on camera or how they are reported about in the press, but it has to be said that Gerry Adams has been around longer than any of them and has a much longer political history.He has risen to prominance through historical times and specific conditions which none of the other contenders can compare to. It was not their story and they were distanced from it .There is that almost fifty year story on camera to contend with which ended with a degree of notoriety .Much is talked about Adams but nothing specific seems to be known.He still stands when the smoke and curses have cleared, seemingly with no real hard evidence of any wrong-doing evident. Maybe his opponents know more than I do , though, because they appear to have some inside knowledge which allows them to insult him at every opportunity. Ha dI such intimate knowledge , I may have a different opinion of him too but I can only go by what happens in front of my eyes.
In the past the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has been accused of being economically illiterate and of being aggressive in interview, but on this showing he was actually the one of the four , appearing more benign, relaxed and most in control of his available material and his emotions. There was him , the only northener, on his own , facing across at three southern party leaders who as well as appearing to have made a mess of their tenures in power and really had no viable explanations to offer, but had all- but -forgotten their nationalist neighbours in the north. A few attempts were made to dig up some scandal from Adams’ supposed “Troubles”past ,but essentially it was the same old stuff and seemed to be no more than water running off a duck’s back. The Troubles were long gone and most southern voters would have had little experience of them in any case. They’d have been as relevant as the Civil War was to some young family in Dublin or Cork. It had all been said before. There were the sly allegations which may or may not have been real or not and there never seemed to be any concrete evidence produced to back any of it up.
It all left Adams’s looking statesmanlike and calm mostly. If the south could come out of conflict and produce politicians , why couldn’t the turmoil that ended UpNorth twenty years ago , do so as well?
Was there actually someone ready to discuss real issues when all the dogs stopped their infernal barking?
Gerry Adams appeared to stand apart , calmly observing the scrap from the side-lines, barely interjecting and waiting patiently for that klaxon to blast for silence.This made him look like a patient grandfather with a roomfull of squabbling children.
It wasn’t all in his favour. There was a certain awkwardness now and again and Gerry’s large white, shining teeth seemed to be a focus of attention, sometimes appearing to dominate his beard, but those little tics were nothing in comparison to the sly twitches of Taoiseach Enda Kenny or the hectoring roar of Labour leader Joan Burton, who could take a feather out of Mrs Thatcher’s cap and modulate and mellow her tone somewhat , so as not to frighten the horses…or the motormouth- a -minute utterings of Micheál Martin. What each of them was offering seemed to be much more of the same behaviour that had put the country into its now invidious economic position. Adams , by contrast was offering a broad brush “Fresh Start” it seemed. He may or may not have known what he was talking about but he looked like the kind of guy who would deliver and might not allow himself to renege on a promise.This did seem a novel approach for any politician …anywhere. Could he possibly be serious…and better still could he pull it off? If he and Sinn fein did it really would be something of a novelty.
Money, health , housing and crime were all bitched about endlessly as though it was a school playground at breaktime.The noise and hullabaloo was fearsome , usually with everyone but Adams talking at the same time, so about fifty per cent of everything said was lost in the ether. What might have leavened it would have been a few well-chosen curses , profanities or dirty epithets to waken us all up , but sadly , it was never to get so interesting .It was relentlessly po-faced except for the odd toothy smile from Gerry. Is Gerry going all -American with those tombstone caps or is that my imagination working and the receding gums of age?)
Maybe it was just as well that nobody could hear anything most of the time , because really what this was all about was body-language. This kind of thing is so unnatural, what with each politician standing at an isolated podium selling their own brand of horseshi….er goods.It means, that like the Kennedy/Nixon television debate, every little human weakness is exposed. Ever little facial tic is amplified and exaggerated . Little things like Gerry patting the top of his head to smooth his hair or pointing his fingers, or Enda looking looking constipated and crooking his head to one side with that little tight pout on his lips.
There was much financial gobbledeegook talked next , which I’m sure few potential voters other than financial wizards would have been interested in and many would have zoned -out as everyone except Adams wriggled about in thrall to their past imfamies.Then there was the talk of the Eighth Amendment which concerned termination of pregnancies. This really exposed the political ditherers. Enda Kenny didn’t even want to hear the question or even answer it and looked more and more like some shifty tortoise attempting to hide inside his own shell and avoid answering the question in any form. He attempted several times to answer several other questions rather than the one he had been asked ….but then again…that’s what being a politician is all about , isn’t it?
Was he for reform or not? …Uur…uuum…I’m not sure how I should answer that one because anything I say might be written down and incriminate me with someone , sometime in the future .You wouldn’t want me making promises I’m never going to keep …now would you?
Again ,Adams , to give him his due , straightforwardly gave his answer without prevarication. It came off as an honest response compared to the dithering others.Adams constantly grouped them all as a sort of witches coven of failures….. and himself as the only one with clean hands in the whole affair….at least in the arena of southern politics.Whether or not the southern voters trust his honesty in all things may be at question …but then again honesty has never been a requisite for being a politician ….has it?
You might even say it is a hindrance .