From top: Simon Coveney (left) and Leo Varadkar (right) during The Fine Gael leadership debate at the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin last week; Tony Groves

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

When the Taoiseach-in-waiting Leo Varadkar quoted Robert Kennedy last week, rather than feel inspired, I felt the chill of fear run down my spine. I remembered another quote, that of T.E Lawrence:

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”

Lawrence knew it was men who imagined themselves visionaries who were the biggest threat to their fellow man. Leo is desperate to put on the shoes of the dreamers of the day. And he will try act out his dreams, much to the peril of the poor and underprivileged.

Much of the offensive things he says have a kernel of truth and the ring of modern common sense. But, I’d argue, there is nothing more dangerous to progress than modern common sense. We are in an age where things that only 10 years ago would have been deemed racist are now common sense.

The “logic” of Trump, Brexit and both the Far Right and Regressive Left has crystallised around beliefs that are, at their core, divisive. All the soundbites, that previously would have been morally inappropriate, are now deemed fine as long as passed off under the “appealing to their base” category.

Leo, I’ll be the first to admit, is far from the worst purveyor of the Us vs Them narrative. I saw a PBP/AAA poster recently calling for ‘Repeal, Resist & Revolt’. As an alliteration it’s fine, as a campaign slogan it’s dipping its toes into incitement. Hardly a message that refutes the claims of those who call AAA/PBP/Solidarity the “hard left”.

Common sense says “Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All‘. Common sense says we should all support equality of opportunity. Common sense says we need to limit the number of immigrants into the country. Common sense says issues are complex.

The reality is that only 11 gardaí worked with the ODCE on the Seán Fitzpatrick trial, but an estimated 30 gardaí worked on Operation Mizen into Irish Water protesters.

The reality is that the only system offering equality of opportunity is that of the Lotto; yiz buy yer ticket, yiz takes yer chances.

The reality says immigration is a net benefit to the host country. Reality says complex issues often have simple solutions.

When Galileo was tried as a heretic for claiming the Earth rotated around the Sun, he was given a choice; abjure, curse and detest his opinions, or death. So he did what any sane person would do. He publicly recanted his beliefs. The story goes that upon finishing his proclamation he mumbled under his breath the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves”.

Modern common sense is rooted in bias, in fear and in greed. It is a poison that has taken root in political and economic discourse. It gives licence to extreme elements on both sides to abjure, curse and detest the other side.

It’s the reason false lines like ‘those who pay for nothing‘ have near permanent residency in mainstream op-eds. It’s the reason those on the opposite side of the argument see conspiracy in every element of government, instead of opportunity.

Galileo knew common sense was nonsense. Much of what passes off today as common sense, playing to the base and political discourse is rooted in old beliefs and disproven nonsense.

The extreme elements on both sides must be dragged out into the light. The dangerous rhetoric and grandstanding must be called out for what it is and not explained away.

The so called centrists who think common sense means “the centre must hold” must be reminded of Galileo’s codicil “and yet it moves”.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Pic: Rollingnews

34 thoughts on “A Bad Dream

  1. Willie Banjo

    The so called centrists who think common sense means “the centre must hold” must be reminded of Galileo’s codicil “and yet it moves”……nicely put Tony.

  2. MKG985


    Yes, we have problems with us vs them. But on the flip side we need to be able to have a conversation about culture and how some progress doesn’t fit within our understanding of it.

  3. Pat Harding

    First of all Varadkar was wrong, the quote is originally from George Bernard Shaw, and it was JFK and not RFK who used it first when he addressed the Houses of the Oireachtas on his state visit to Ireland.

    Neither of these chaps: Coveney and Varadkar have a vision for Ireland in the 21st Century. They strike me both as cardboard cut outs, tailor made for dull Irish conservatives who have yet to learn to think for themselves.

    Coveney who is supported by the likes of James O’Reilly (which says everything you need to know) is a wax dummy with the intelligence of a gnat and lives in fear of being found out. Veradkar is a light-weight, living in a parallel universe which is detached from understanding the complexity of the society he hopes to lead. Neither have worked in the real world for any period of time.

    Coveney purports to have a social conscience (which in truth is of the superficial type) and really is the pawn of his brother who has the brains in that family. The other Varadkar has something of the night about him….. Vampires don’t usually get-up early to work, they’re usually up all night to get lucky! ……Given power he might be sucking the life blood out of us yet?

    1. Rob_G

      “Neither have worked in the real world for any period of time.” – Leo Varadkar is a doctor; I’m not sure if there are any jobs more ‘real-world’ than working a 24-hour shift in a hospital.

          1. Rob_G

            To the best of my knowledge, neither Coveney or Varadkar have ever been teachers, so not sure what the relevance of the quote in this circumstance…

        1. bisted

          …me and Boj were referring to the glorious leader Enda…another loss to the teaching profession when he had to sacrifice a stellar career to inherit the family seat…and the GBS quote to give double relevance…

          1. Rob_G

            Enda Kenny worked as a teacher for 4 years; he then worked as a politician for forty years. Referencing a job a that he worked at for a few years in his early twenties seems odd to me, but there you go.

            (Also, I don’t think that ‘he worked as a teacher!’ works well as an insult, but maybe that’s just me).

          2. bisted

            …Enda’s 4 years teaching will give him 100k lump sum and 30k per year pension…in fairness, he has deferred the lump sum until he p̶a̶s̶s̶e̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶s̶e̶a̶t̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶d̶a̶u̶ghter gives up politics but he held on to the teaching post for over 30 years, depriving someone of a permanent post…

          3. Rob_G

            – on not giving up the teaching post, I actually agree with you.

            I just think that, if Enda Kenny was such a poor leader, you should be able to come up with better insults than ‘he used to be a teacher, and everyone knows teachers are useless, amirite?’

          4. bisted

            …sadly, it wasn’t me that said it…it was George Bernard Shaw’s opinion of teachers…I’m sure he would have something much more caustic to say about Taoisigh…

        1. Rob_G

          He was elected to the Dáil in 2007; I expect he kept the day job when he was a councillor(?)

          The first few years working as a doctor are particularly brutal; anyway, I’m more taking issue with the fact that Pat thinks that either Varadkar or Coveney are somehow lacking in work ethic. Whatever other things TDs can be accused of, laziness isn’t one of them.

          1. Tony Groves

            Yes, but he was elected to Fingal Co Co in 2004. His work ethic as a career politician is not lacking. That just raises the question whether we think “politician” should be a career, or would we be better served by fixed terms and a therefore more engaged public.
            Thought for another day…

  4. Frenchfarmer

    Even the lottery isn’t equal because if you are well off you can buy lots of numbers on the one ticket and seriously reduce the odds.
    Though if 2,000 people do the same and get the numbers at once you might not win as much.
    Viz ticket sales in the City of London.

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