Grassroots

An inside look at local politics – from the pens of the politicians themselves

Happy New Year Grassroots readers, here’s to a lively year of elections, referendums, recessions, and at least two by-elections for good measure. I hope our politicians enjoyed the Christmas rest in advance of all the above.

A new year but the same old stories. Beverley Flynn is in the thick of it and once again for all the wrong reasons. Is she living in the world that most of us are in 2009? How can she justify taking an extra €41,000 on top of her already very generous package? Yes it’s legal but that doesn’t mean it’s justified. The upshot of the whole things is that politician’s expenses have to be reviewed and moved to a vouched system. I appreciate that there are huge expenses involved in the job - but if you can vouch for them then you can justify them. At least Brian Lenihan seems to be aware of this and his proposals on the issue give some hope.

Meanwhile Fine Gael come in to the new year in great fettle, riding high in the polls and looking forward to those contests ahead. However, Grassroots is getting pretty annoyed at the failure of Fine Gael TDs to stand up and defend the leadership of Enda Kenny. Every 2009 preview doubted his ability to lead in spite of what he has achieved since 2002. In fact they were virtually all dismissive of him. Yet, the only one to defend his leadership was the man himself! So my new year’s advice to Fine Gael TDs (in Mayo as well as across the country ) is to get off your well paid backsides and get out and defend and promote your leader. That will answer the critics, however, if you fail to do that, the assumption will be that those negative views about Kenny are held within Fine Gael as well as outside it.

Against the background of these stories and the collapse in the economy it’s no surprise that there’s such cynicism about politics and our politicians. However our politicians are generally a hard working lot, trying to do their best and it’s unfair to tar them all with the same brush. We love kicking them but how many of us have the courage to put our own heads on the line? This point is particularly relevant in this month, when the 90th anniversary of the first Dáil will be commemorated.

That 90 years has seen enormous progress in the fortunes of Ireland Inc. In that short time we have gone from a War of Independence via a bitter Civil War to a stable democracy. We might whinge about our politicians but we can vote them out as well as in - many of our near ancestors never had that chance. Those 90 years were often tortuous; our country was blighted by the troubles in the North, economic stagnation across the island, and resulting emigration endangered our survival as a nation. Eventually however we came to have an island that is at peace, with a much stronger economy than before and with a high standing across the world. Many other countries on the same journeys have had far less progress, have seen death and destruction and regular abuses of the civil rights that we take for granted.

Politics and politicians have delivered to Ireland over that 90 years and it’s important to remember and reflect on that, especially in this month. But readers, don’t assume that we’ll be giving them an easy ride in the weeks ahead. An election year will be full of guff and promises and it’s our job to separate the guff from the real stuff and to question those promises. With that in mind Grassroots’ normal service will resume with a vengeance next week.

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