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Column: Stunt politics and shenanigans in the Seanad

With some in the Seanad behaving like they at auditions for the Muppet Show, before the public gets to vote on its future, senators did little to encourage us to save their bacon, writes Paul Allen.

Paul Allen

IT WAS LIKE a scene from the Muppet Show.

Playing his role as the dutiful Kermit the Frog, Senator John Crown tried to make a valid point as Minister of State Brian Hayes did his very own Statler and Waldorf routine and heckled with aplomb.

“You lick yourself every night before you go to bed,” remarked Deputy Hayes, throwing a well-timed sucker punch.

“Will the Minister of State make that remark more loudly?” asked Senator David Norris, who has recently been acting like a cross between Fozzie Bear and the tantrum-throwing Miss Piggy.

As chaos ensued the Cathaoirleach called for calm, like some sort of ineffectual Beaker, but few bothered to take much notice.

Farce took centre stage

And so it was that another political stunt saw genuine debate sidelined and farce take centre stage.

Indeed, the abolition of the Senate, the abortion debate, property tax and so on have all been muddied with lies, damn lies and political stunts.

Politicians, no doubt, will be politicians, embracing such shenanigans at every opportunity if they can get away with it.

Hence, Michael Lowry will call foul when the Revenue searches his house, while proudly proclaiming they found nothing. Of course, he will avoid an honest and open debate as to why they felt the need to take that action in the first place.

The Health Minister will waffle on about banning cigarette smoking here, there and everywhere, kickstarting a storm of protest intended to take our eye off the ball when it comes to the dire straits our nation is facing.

All this while Enda Kenny uses the “cutbacks” argument in an attempt to sound the death knell for the Senate, rather than talk about genuine political reform of the upper house.

However, the true travesty is the role of the media in all of this deception.

Media laps up these sideshows

They frequently lap up these sideshows and are sometimes even involved in a little hocus-pocus of their own making.

During the last Presidential election campaign, Charlie Bird asked the candidates during a radio debate at DCU to explain to listeners, if elected, what they would do for the people on trolleys in emergency wards around the country.

This is despite the fact Charlie is only too aware that once elected into office the President can do diddlysquat about such matters.

Worse still, even though the candidates also knew this they elaborated with great passion about what great social and political campaigners they would be if elected into office.

The only one with the gumption and honesty to tell Charlie he was talking codswallop was Michael D Higgins.

Charlie Bird was not alone in this subterfuge, however. If you examine the questions put to the candidates regarding the economy, unemployed and evictions, you will see that a large proportion of the debate centred on elements the President of Ireland can do or say absolutely nothing about.

Such smokescreens, like the recent lapgate incident in the Dail, provide great moments of outrage and anger, but have little to do with solving the critical questions we face as a country.

Chaotic ranting

The political reform of the Seanad rather than its abolition would be worthwhile step in helping to improve political debate. However, the chaotic ranting of certain Senators in recent weeks has likely done little to convince members of the public of the need for a political chamber where such hot air is blown.

Indeed, watching the carry-on in the Seanad over the past few weeks brought a closing scene from the Muppet Show to mind.

Waldorf: “Just when you think this show is terrible something wonderful happens.”

Statler: “What?”

Waldorf: “It ends.”

Hopefully if the Seanad does manage to cheat death and return, it will do so with a little more political vigour. God knows, in the age of the political stunt, we need it.

Paul Allen is Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR at prireland.com

Brian Hayes on why he told John Crown: ‘You lick yourself every night’>

Seanad members’ expenses cost €2.5m every year, on top of salaries worth €4.2m>

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Paul Allen

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