Pandemics, politics and big pants

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

PANDEMICS, politics and pettiness should not be comfortable bedfellows. Doesn’t that old adage ‘doctors differ and patients die’ appear to be more applicable to certain politicians in the ongoing standoff in the US?   
Indeed, back here on home turf there has been plenty of valuable time wasted on party political point-scoring in the corridors of power when, instead, our elected representatives should be focusing on watertight policies to protect and support its citizenry from the fallout of Covid-19. That does not mean short-term solutions. Neither does it mean pandering to the usual suspects.     
Village magazine’s recent revelations show that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was caught red-handed in an act of cronyism by giving the heads-up via a confidential document to his pal Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, who was President of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) whilst Government was engaged in sensitive negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).
As the lead Opposition party it was Sinn Féin’s job to challenge this and so it took the action of tabling a no confidence motion in Varadkar earlier this month. Of course, they knew they wouldn’t win it, and anyway Fine Gael out-manoeuvred them with a counter vote of confidence in the Tánaiste, which was easily won since the Blueshirts, supported by Government partners, Fianna Fáil and the Greens, as well as nine Independents, were set to vote against it.
All par for the course.
Ironically, the debacle over Supreme Court Judge Seamus Woulfe’s #golfgate attendance and Donald Trump’s continued tantrum in the White House totally overshadowed the Varadkar debacle on the day of the motion. You have to laugh.

Parliaments or pantomimes
TRULY, we all need distractions from second waves and Level 5 restrictions and whether our loved ones will be home for Christmas, but do we deserve our parliamentary theatres to become increasingly more like the sets for pantomimes?
In an excellent column in The Irish Times last week, Una Mullally explored Fine Gael’s no-holds-barred attacks on Sinn Féin during the confidence debate in the Dáil. She argued that the tenets of these attacks, in fact, focused a mirror on Fine Gael’s own identity – its reliance  and pursuit of wealth, its vested interests and people pulling strings in the background, its divisive discourse, and its stoking of a culture of trolling.       
Mullally wrote: “They attack Sinn Féin on populism, while utilising the aesthetic of both influencer culture and almost Trumpian attack ad videos. They attack Sinn Féin for increasing the temperature in public discourse, yet light fires all of their own. They criticise Sinn Féin for a lack of in-party dissent, yet embark upon a sycophantic Dear Leader-style endorsement of Varadkar not seen in the Dáil since Gerry Adams was present.”
Of course, she also acknowledged the realities in the ‘content of such criticisms’ but essentially concluded that it was effectively the kettle calling the pot black arse.
Which brings me to one line of Leo’s impassioned defence: “[Sinn Féin] will defend the indefensible when it involves themselves. But they will not forgive an error of judgement when it involves anyone else. The truth is that for them politics is a just game, every flash of outrage, every passionate speech, every tear choked back is a tactical move. Their spokespeople are articulate, confident and totally insincere.”
Ah now.
Is this the same Leo Varadkar who, when addressing the Fine Gael Ard Fheis of 2016, as Health Minister, opined: “Whenever I need some guidance about what to do in health I just look back through the files and read what Micheál Martin did when he was minister and the country had lots of money. And then I do the exact opposite.”
Oh dear.
As the Irish-American Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney said recently about The Donald: “I think what the President needs to do is frankly put his big pants on.”
He is not the only one.