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Parallel universe of power

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

FORMER Minister Dara Calleary had no choice but to resign over #golfgate. He had to go. The fact though that he put his hands up so quickly and had resigned before the baying media mob – both traditional and new – started looking for blood will stand to him in the long run. In fact the sincerity of his apology – unlike others – will undoubtedly afford him a chance to rise out of the ashes of his present political trajectory and quietly make a comeback up through the ranks of Fianna Fáil again.
Deputy Calleary is relatively young still but, more importantly, he appears to be an all-round decent person, by all accounts.
So how does an all-round decent person, who should have a good moral compass, make such a monumental error? How could he attend the Oireacthas Committee golf function after standing up and rapping the nation on the knuckles on radio the previous evening, warning that ‘Covid loves to party’.
Why didn’t somebody close to him, at the very least ask, “Are you sure you should go to this?” Or, moreover, remind him that his Government had just introduced new regulations further restricting indoor gatherings?  

Enda’s cop-on
AND isn’t it telling that former Taoiseach Enda Kenny chose not to go to the dinner even though he joined in the golfing tournament? Enda had nothing to lose comparatively speaking by spending the evening in the Station House Hotel but basically he had the cop-on to go home.
“[Enda] has played ball from day one – and in more ways than one since the lockdown was eased,” a friend of his told the Irish Independent.
“He was invited to this, even again on the day itself, and he was very unhappy with it. There was no way he was going, and he instead went straight home after the golf.”
Of course, the real irony is that Dara Calleary doesn’t even play golf. The mistake of his career was caused by some misguided tribal loyalty that he somehow couldn’t let his fellow Soldiers of Destiny down by pulling out of the dinner and the speech he was due to give honouring the late Fianna Fáil MEP Mark Killilea. Insisting on sitting at a table with no more than six people wasn’t quite what the regulations stipulated. The official guidance on all mass gatherings signed off by the Cabinet, of which Mr Calleary was a member at the time, was for no more than six people could attend an indoor gathering, except in the case of weddings and funerals.
Isn’t it as if those people invested with political power enter a parallel universe underpinned by entitlement and privilege?

Psychology of empathy
AN article on the psychology of power in the Economist explains that ‘this sense of entitlement is crucial to understanding why people misbehave in high office … The sense which some powerful people seem to have that different rules apply to them is not just a convenient smokescreen. They genuinely believe it’.
Apparently numerous studies have revealed how sensitivity to others is affected by power. This is a neurological response, and it sees one’s ability to empathise decrease.     
Professor of Psychology at the University of California Dacher Keltner, for example, has observed that ‘people with power tend to behave like patients who have damaged their brain’s orbito-frontal lobes, a condition that seems to cause overly impulsive and insensitive behaviour. Thus the experience of power might be thought of as having someone open up your skull and take out that part of your brain critical to empathy and socially appropriate behavior’.
Fortunately, not everyone who gains positions of power loses their ability to empathise. But it’s a phenomenon worth noting all the same.