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Column: Fire up the misinformation machine – the cowards have returned from their holidays

Our politicians have returned to the Dáil, so get ready to be told the sky is green and the hills are blue, writes Aaron McKenna.

Aaron McKenna

IN A MOVE that can only negatively affect the mood of the nation, politicians returned from their summer holidays now that autumn is firmly entrenched and commuters have been drenched in their first storms of the season. They’ve had their think-ins, studiously avoiding any pictures of themselves with more than a cup of tea in hand, and are ready to return to the full time rule.

The silly season of the summer was reasonably quiet. It was sunny, we had other things on our minds and seeing as how the country had technically re-entered recession it was a good idea to go silent on the topic. We’ve now crawled out that funk with 0.4 per cent GDP growth, though with minus 0.4 per cent GNP contraction, so politicians can return and tell us how they’ve been managing things well. JobBridge has been quietly extended to allow the unemployed a third spin on the programme, which should help keep the unemployment numbers down for the local and next general elections.

Things are, the PR people tell us, ticking over. The main job of the politicians now returned from their sojourn is to ensure that said impression holds true regardless of mere circumstances or events.

Condescending tripe and misinformation

The most tiresome thing that we’ll have to put up with between now and their lengthy Christmas/New Year break (I’m obligated by obscure law to mention that it’s fewer than 100 days to Christmas, by the way) is the condescending tripe that the political machine will spit at us.

We have, after all, a Seanad referendum and a budget to get through – and that’s just between now and the end of October. The referendum is turning into a classic. Fine Gael is telling us that we’ll save €20 million a year by abolishing the Seanad. They’ve put up posters all around the country saying so. Therefore, in the school of political thought, it must be true.

Unfortunately, the Houses of the Oireachtas themselves have said that it will save less than €10 million a year in reality, given that the staff and so on who service the Seanad will all keep their jobs and you still have to pay pensions and so on and so forth. That may not be a redeeming reason to keep the second house – €10 million saved is still €10 million – but it’s a good example of the school of broadcast in Irish political life.

Politicians in this country simply like to say things and be expected to be taken at face value. Despite it being on the record by the head of the administration of the Oireachtas that it will not, in fact, save €20m a year by abolishing the Seanad, we’re still being told it’s an iron clad truth. Even government ministers, albeit from the other party, are saying that the number is flawed.

A “we got that wrong, but here’s a bunch of other reasons to abolish it” message? Nah. We have our lines and that’s that. So what? We got it wrong – the sky is green and the hills are blue, that’s our damn message and we’re sticking to it.

It’s a cultural mindset thing that ought to worry us about our politicians: they live in a world where reality is to them whatever they think to say.

Everything is hunky-dory

Pat Rabbitte, discussing the new broadcasting charge to hit all households with a universal TV License, tells us that he thinks it’s inconceivable that people don’t consume public service broadcast content. That’s his entire empirical argument for slapping a tax on houses that he reckons will net a tasty additional €30 million for the coffers of the state each year.

Kathleen Lynch has been looking sad lately, talking about mental health in the country. But, given that there’s a budget coming up, she has also been downplaying the need for certain services. A clearer indication that the ringfenced mental health budget will be raided again this year to pay for cost overruns elsewhere I cannot think of. But Kathleen is convinced that things are OK, so that’s that; just the same way that the Taoiseach was convinced that the mental health unit of a hospital was A-OK earlier in the year, despite the fact that it verifiably couldn’t admit a very ill patient earlier that same week.

Enda is the master of Neuro-Linguistic Programming as policy. Just about the only thing he hasn’t said is cool in the country is something as tangible as the situation for Priory Hall residents. It’d be kind of obvious if their plight wasn’t resolved, being a big and identifiable group. But otherwise, everything is hunky dory. Plenty of ambulances, police enough as could catch every criminal if we so desired, ‘I can assure you this’ and ‘I can assure you that’ being a favourite catchphrase of his in the set piece pantomime of the Dáil chamber.

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How hardy are Enda’s negotiation skills?

Of course, he’ll only ever strike forth when he has 50 lads behind him on the benches to roar and shout down his opponents while he talks down the clock with irrelevant or meandering answers to questions he receives. Enda, whose bright idea the whole Seanad abolition was, at much surprise to his colleagues at the time, is refusing to debate the matter anywhere other than in that chamber where he is in control.

I sure hope that when he goes in a room with the Troika mission heads or the leaders of Europe he gets to bring 50 loudmouth TDs to cat call and jibe across the table. Otherwise you’d have to think we could have a weak negotiating team, and wonder and what the implications of that might be for the country.

Settle in folks, it’ll be another three months of this now before the next break. Cuts that won’t be cuts. Service curtailments that will lead to better service. Job losses that are a sign of economic recovery. It’d be nice if we lived in a country where politicians were better vivisected on their blatant eau de merde.

Obfuscation goes so unchallenged in this country

I’m reminded of the fresh wind that blew through the country when the Troika rolled in, as we argued endlessly about the minutia of our troubles so politicians could spin us into thinking it would all be OK. Five minutes after landing, economic reports were somewhere in the region of “they’re screwed.” Days later, we were in a bailout…

But even with that it was refreshing to see clear analysis, and politicians cut to shreds in international media while trying on the obfuscation that goes so unchallenged domestically.

Aaron McKenna is a businessman and a columnist for TheJournal.ie. He is also involved in activism in his local area. You can find out more about him at aaronmckenna.com or follow him on Twitter @aaronmckenna. To read more columns by Aaron click here.

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