Saying Nothing At All

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From top: media question NBRU General Secretary Dermot O’Leary on his way to Bus Eireann talks; Dan Boyle

It is not sufficiently understood  the difference between someone who holds cards close to their chest and someone who slips cards into their pocket.

Dan Boyle writes:

Ten years ago I was being interviewed during the prime slot on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland – a twelve minute segment. Later that day Green Party members would be deciding on whether the party should be participating in government.

I was happy to talk about the process involved in making a decision, but I didn’t think I was in a position to reveal any content. I suspect it didn’t make for riveting radio. I felt my duty of care was to first inform those who would be making the decision.

On finishing the interview a party member rang me immediately, to tell me how pleased he was that I had said nothing. I had said something, it was that I had chosen not to reveal anything, but I knew what he meant.

The distinction I would make is the difference between concealing something and choosing the how and when of when something should be revealed. The Peace Process on this island could only exist because of such discipline (that of others not mine!).

Last year I was in a more uncomfortable position. A possible voting pact in Wales was being discussed, although only on the basis that if it were made public it would be denied. I had to make a report to the National Council of the Wales Green Party, my employers. Without breaching confidences I went on to talk about the talks without saying who was being talked to, or what was being talked about.

I didn’t inspire faith in the project, even though it was necessary to progress talks to the next level. This got to a meeting of party leaders before one of the parties got cold feet. I would still justify this approach. While I continue to believe that truth is absolute, openness isn’t necessarily.

There is no process that can be advanced through starting, then continuing, with the assertion of absolute positions. Seclusion, silence and shadow are often needed to identify nuance.

Why do I make this distinction? It’s certainly a personal bugbear. I don’t feel it is sufficiently understood the difference between someone who holds cards close to their chest, and someone who slips cards into their pocket.

Not saying something, especially when not feeling able to say anything, is often thought as much a crime against the truth as seeking to distort truth itself. The subtle distinction between avoidance and evasion is rarely understood.

Friends of mine (I do have some) tell me that in most areas in my life I am far too open; that I reveal far too much; that often I am emotionally incontinent. All this is probably true. Despite these obvious flaws in my character, I have always realised the importance of when to stay schtum.

When I do it is not to avoid being self incriminated. I do so to allow others the space to think differently and decide accordingly. We all could benefit from such space.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Rollingnews

12 thoughts on “Saying Nothing At All

  1. bisted

    …whatever you say, say nothing…eh Dan. Where will you be voting this election Dan…Wales…sounds like you’ve been found out there and they won’t be paying for your priceless contribution this time…Belfast? You and Derek Mooney would make some duo…like the old days…an FFer/green pact…

    Reply
    1. Dan Boyle

      I wouldn’t be on Derek’s Christmas card list, but given your tendency to think in glib generalisations, I can see where you’re coming from.
      I’m not saying never say nothing (triple negative). I’m saying there are circumstances when nothing should, or often can, be said.

      Reply
      1. nellyb

        “I’m saying there are circumstances when nothing should, or often can, be said.” – yes, it’s called ‘sleep’

        Reply
  2. ollie

    Dan, Is the reader to infer that you believe that the NBRU talks did or didn’t reveal too much or too little or is that a randomly chosen photo?

    I did notice that RTE ignored the fact that CIE have had their funding cut by 42% while they plan to sell state owned land to pay their higher than high salaries and keep the steaks rolling out of the heavily subsidised canteen.
    I also noticed that INM also ignored the funding cut imposed on CIE while they benefited from a €100 million debt write-down paid for by the Irish taxpayer.
    Would these 2 omissions be an example of cards in pocket or close to chest, or just plain wrong.

    Reply
        1. Bodger

          Ollie, it was used to convey a situation where someone is appearing to be open yet keeping his cards close to his chest for strategic reasons.

          Reply
  3. realPolithicks

    “While I continue to believe that truth is absolute, openness isn’t necessarily.”
    “The subtle distinction between avoidance and evasion is rarely understood.”

    Interesting statements, are you a politician by any chance?

    Reply

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