Once Bitten Twice Shy



Residents’ cars block a Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council digger from entering a site earmarked for victims of the Carrickmines halting site fire last Monday; Dan Boyle

Why do our leaders reflect rather than lead public opinion?

How do you cope with extreme views on the doorstep?

Dan Boyle writes:

I paid one of my increasingly infrequent visits to Leinster House recently. I was working close to there, and it was a convenient and useful place to break between appointments.

I had a coffee at the dock at LH2000. A number of people passed, from varying shades of what passes for political opinion in this country, to share how do’s.

The longest chat was with a member of the fourth estate, one of the better of that fraternity. I mentioned I was surprised that the Taoiseach had seemed to have gotten away with his comment that members of the ‘general’ public should be consulted with before members of the travelling community are moved to their area. This led to an interchange on whether politicians were meant to reflect or lead public opinion.

He said it still shocked him that when he did pieces, accompanying politicians on canvass, how widespread racist and ethnically challenged views were spoken at the doors. The response of the politicians, of all hues, was always an embarrassing silence, lest the person who produced such bile be ‘offended’.

Of course none of these encounters or the empty responses were ever reported. I can understand why, but it is shameful that the etiquette continues to be practiced. I too have bitten my tongue too many times when I should have challenged. These are attitudes that sadly remain all too prevalent. They exist through ignorance and can only be banished as and when the political system, and the media, tackle their existence head on, showing the holding of these views to be virulently anti social.

I tried to compensate in my last general election campaign. I knew then that being elected was the slightest of possibilities. At the doors I told whoever came up with such hatred what I thought of what they thought.

My canvassers weren’t comfortable with this approach, but I didn’t think it was possible to dig any deeper political holes for myself or The Greens in 2011.

The traditional maxim of most Irish political leaders – these are my people I must follow them – needs to be well and truly buried. With it should be the axiomatic fear in Ireland that practicing ‘leadership’ can and does result in a lack of support, that further brings about a failure to achieve political power.

Some might argue that only when in power can such views be challenged, hopefully to be changed. This is another of the conceits of Irish politics. The same fear that exists when seeking power remains inculcated when attempting to maintain power.

The practice of political correctness is a myth. It exists only in a general sense, rarely in relation to one on one face to face conversations. Until it can do ignorance will continue to predominate.

A running joke in TV series ‘Yes Minister’ was when civil servants told government ministers their proposed actions would be ‘courageous’, meaning precisely the opposite. The term ‘leadership’ has developed similar oxymoronic connotations in our modern political lexicon.

Dan Boyle is former Green Party TD. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Top pic: RollingNews.ie

129 thoughts on “Once Bitten Twice Shy

  1. galwaytt

    ..and now Dan you have another reason why you weren’t elected: you openly state you disagreed with those (many) of whom you were soliciting to elect you – yet think your moral high ground is ‘correct’ and that all others are wrong. And wonder why you’re not in Leinster House.
    Ever consider it’s you that’s out of touch, not the electorate ? Mind you, isn’t that the history of the Green’s anyway.

    1. ReproBertie

      I’m a little confused. Since you challenge Dan on assuming that the people espousing racist and ethnically challenged views were wrong are you saying they were actually correct?

      1. galwaytt

        @ReproBertie – no, that’s not what I said. What I said was that Dan’s position is that he needs electoral approval, to get elected. But when he comes across adverse opinion to his, from the very people he’s soliticing, he takes umbrage ? It’s not a statement by me one way or another that (any) the subject of that issue is right/wrong, or good/bad/ugly. It’s the mere fact he’s putting himself up and shocked when the electorate don’t agree with him…………not exactly vote-winning strategy that, is it ?

        1. Mikeyfex

          You would hope that most rational people would tend to be in agreement with ahjayzis* on this particular matter.

          *see below comment

          1. Dan Boyle

            So? I share values with a group of like minded principles. Isn’t that how the committee to make Shane Ross a Minister operates?

          2. Dom Smith

            When standing for election the candidate is asking to be allowed to represent the views and wishes of the people. Dan is wanting to represent Green policies for the community. If someone wants him to push a racist agenda, or allow open cast mining in Glendalough, he is quite right to say please do not vote for me because I cannot support your views.

    2. MoyestWithExcitement

      Right, yeah and all those anti racism American politicians in the 60s were wrong as well.

    3. ahjayzis

      A politician that miraculously doesn’t disagree with me on ANYTHING is someone I wouldn’t dream of voting for. You know he’ll go to the next house, hear the exact opposite of my opinions and fail to disagree with any of them either. Empty vessels are what we’ve had for too long.

    4. Andrew

      Yep, God forbid that any of our politicians should try to set a moral standard rather than pandering to the worst of their constituants.

  2. Woof

    Got a point, though. I’m astonished by how Ireland, once a decent place where people were nice to their neighbours, has become so enthusiastically cruel towards non-Irish people, non-employed people, women and other groups in the last 20 years.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          Sure we don’t have any left wing parties, like. At least no serious ones. I’d put that down to lack of demand.

      1. Illuminati16

        What bull. Dublin is conservative and narrow minded. Look at the attitude to non dubs, change, immigrants. Socially liberal my arse – explain carrickmines, resistance to social housing, d4 mentality – how is any of that liberal ?

    1. DubLoony

      Definitely a nasty streak there alright. I’d say it was always there, just hidden under the veil of respectability that’s fallen away,

    2. ahjayzis

      Hang on, when was Ireland a decent place? It was only ever a skin-deep facade for a deeply indecent country.

      The Ireland you’re talking about allowed the stealing and selling of babies, imprisoned women indefinitely for having sex, drove gays underground and had endemic levels of child rape. I mean I’m sure it seemed decent for people who fit the narrow, narrow, NARROW definition of an acceptable person, but for the rest of the population the place was a horror-show.

      If anything we’re becoming a far more decent place as time goes by, let’s not be so hard on ourselves.

      1. john

        Agreed – there is a myth of the Ireland of the past where everyone kept their doors unlocked and everyone looked out for each other. Less than a century ago there were 12-year-old girls forced to work as prostitutes in the north inner city, there was far more crime, disease and poverty than there is now. There may have been less visible racism but there were virtually no other races living in Ireland at that time.

        1. Andrew

          Some of both really though. We have become more liberal and open to change, but there is a flip side to everyone being more mobile and less embedded in their small local community. There were SOME benefits to people knowing that their actions would be known by everyone in the locality and they would have to deal with the consequences of that. If someone became known as a thief then they would be shunned. People really did trust their neighbours because if you were caught being a bad neignbour that would never be forgotten.

          The positives from modern life heavily outweigh the negatives – principally because in real terms we are all much wealthier than previous generations – but nothing is for free.

      2. salmon else

        totally agree with this

        this lad talks a lot of sense!

        when has this place ever been anything other a priest-ridden hellhole?

        in recent years banksters have taken over from the old priest caste, otherwise no difference

  3. RockyRoader

    @Moyest: Much of Dublin is socially liberal, much is not.
    Rather than “these are my people”, Irish FG, FF and Labour politicians especially have always – ALWAYS- seen it as “These are my ticket to power, I must not offend”.

  4. Banned Aid Doyle

    galwaytt – while I don’t agree with racist / classist opinions as described in his ‘article’, you are bang on about how he disagreed with those he courted to elect him. This is a common trait in GP politics.

    The Green Party of 2000 to present are like a niche variant of Coca-Cola espousing some bullpoo health benefit. They are simply FF/FG lite, a holding pen for those too “fruity” for mainstream politics, but useful in the event of a minority coalition partner being needed.

    One need only look at Eamon “I own a bike shop so everyone should ride bikes” Ryan to see that they’re just mé-feiners of a slightly greener tinge. Whack up the motor tax, make the bikes chape and force everyone out onto crap roads.

    1. donkey_kong

      you know I voted Green many times, and I agree with you.
      they had good policies that were dragged back by their dogma..
      over the years I realised from brief flirtation with the party that they’d kill their first born for their precious dogma and lower carbon

  5. Joe Malone

    If the electorate are tired of immigrants then people seeking election should try to represent the views of the people. Those who believe themselves to be above the will of the people find themselves kicked to the kerb – a bit like Danny boy – keep telling us what we’re doing wrong Dan, and continue to be unelectable

      1. Banned Aid Doyle

        Being anti-immigrant is racist now? What if the immigrants you don’t want coming in taking yer jerbs are white? And you yourself are white?

        I just need some clarification so I know what hashtags to use.

          1. Banned Aid Doyle

            Can’t answer the question I see.


            rac – ism

            1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
            2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

            Where in that definition does it say being “anti-immigrant” is racist? What if the people who want to immigrate to Ireland are white, like the majority of Irish. Are people racist for not wanting them to come in and use our overstretched services?

            Just because you think a word means something does not mean it actually does mean that.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Can’t answer the question I see.”

            I don’t think there’s much point to rational discourse with someone like yourself.

            “Just because you think a word means something does not mean it actually does mean that.”

            Absolutely. I mean, you actually think being, literally, “anti immigrant” *isn’t* racist. Incredible.

          3. Banned Aid Doyle

            Moyest – no where did I state my opinion on immigration policy or racism. You just assumed I have anti immigration or ‘racist’ views. My questions were what grown-ups describe as rhetorical. l merely asked you to explain how, in the face of dictionary definitions, you state the contrary. Rational discourse is only possible if we agree on the definitions of words in our language, and if you don’t agree with me, then you’re a racist. Can you see how that works now? See how I changed the definition of a word to suit my weak argument?

          4. Banned Aid Doyle

            Where did I state that? Not couched in a rhetorical question. Where did I declare it? I suppose it’s my mistake for assuming a minimum of reading comprehension from commenters. Is there any chance you can provide a definition of “anti immigrant” being equivalent to “racist”. You can ask an adult to help you.

          5. human

            MoyestWithExcitement is a part of a group that think there should be No Borders and No Nations ….. I mean the level of juvenile intellect your dealing with ….

    1. ReproBertie

      Áine Ní Chonaill stood for election in Cork in 1997 on an immigration control platform and received 293 votes. She then stood in Dublin South-Central in 2002 and received 926 votes (2.1%).

    1. scottser

      no he doesn’t. he considers a view from a prospective voter to be racist. he then tells them what he thinks of ttheir opinion. not using reason or debate or challenging myths or engaging with that person over real and quantifiable concerns. oh no, he just tells them what he thinks of their opinion.

      They exist through ignorance and can only be banished as and when the political system, and the media, tackle their existence head on, showing the holding of these views to be virulently anti social.

      yeah, that’s one way. but when you deal with people face-to-face you get nowhere by making an issue a personal one. people, as the say are calm, rational and reasoned and like to be engaged in a certain way. ‘the people’ are lazy, paranoid and stupid. dan just needs to learn which is which.

      1. Dan Boyle

        No I don’t. Never having accompanied me you have no idea of the context that exists or the tone used.

        1. scottser

          well, you didn’t provide that context here. you just stated that you told them what you thought of their opinion, and i can only imagine that it didn’t go down well with them.

      2. Dan Boyle

        I only ever deal in reason and debate. Being elected for the sake of being elected has never been who I am….

        1. scottser

          umm, that’s not really true is it? there’s been quite a few snarky, insults from you here towards people who don’t agree or don’t like you.
          ‘being elected for the sake of being elected’? what does that even mean?
          dan, it just sounds like being a politician wasn’t for you. grand – move on and do something else. unless of course you have a stash of pictures of well-known politicians up to shenanigans, in which case please share..

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            “here’s been quite a few snarky, insults from you here towards people who don’t agree or don’t like you.”

            How dare he insult anonymous avatars on the internet who insult him!

            “‘being elected for the sake of being elected’? what does that even mean?”

            It means he’s not interested in being a politician for financial gain or societal status or perks, he wants to be a politician because he wants to affect social change. Very simple stuff.

          2. scottser

            good man moyest – thanks for explaining what dan means when he’s clearly not able to explain what his own terms actually are.

        2. ollie

          “Being elected for the sake of being elected has never been who I am”
          Yet Dan you were happy to become a Senator which is the definition of being elected for the sake of being elected, except it’s not even an election.

          1. Dan Boyle

            Except it is an election. A constitutional position. I’ve been directly elected on several occasions.

      3. Ban Doyle

        in fairness to Dan it’s not his job to educate racists

        I gather the article was some big moan about not taking personal responsibility but good grief when this lot were in power you wish they had stayed in the back of the class and shut up (which when it came to the bank guarantee etc they did actually do)

  6. Deluded

    Another day, another mindless circular argument about who has the last word.

    Dan raised some interesting points about challenging…. misconceptions about strangers.

        1. Caroline

          You keep telling yourself that. You laughably provide a reference from a site known for being agenda-driven, with a clear anti-me bias. Tells a lot about where you get your facts on this issue. And no I didn’t read it, because nobody ever does. Not once have you put forward any facts to support your position, and I’m talking about real facts that I already agree with, not just facts you find somewhere else and try and trick me into admitting.

          I will no longer be responding to these posts except if I get real annoyed.

  7. donkey_kong

    If you don’t like people’s racist opinions instead of shouting “racists” at them try and see their viewpoint and debate with them to change their ways.
    one common compliant is that foreign people are benefiting from the welfare system at the expense of irish people , some of these “racist” could have family members on house lists (for example) yet see Nigerian families being housed.
    Answer the questions politely and with proper facts and see peoples opinions change.
    Standing there shouting “racialist, racialist” like some gombeen Paul Murphy or (worse) social justice warrior with a trinity degree in social science ensconced in their middle class professional existence won’t change a thing.
    I think people like Dan and who he represents like the smug superiority rather than actually wanting to change opinions and perceptions

      1. donkey_kong

        so we are to suffer people like Dan Boyle and his smug “i’m better than you” attitude.
        it would make you racist

        1. Caroline

          Oh no, it seems my fact didn’t bring you over to my side of the argument, who could have predicted this

          1. donkey_kong

            you fact was bogus.
            the type of fact written (i’d imagine) by a SJ internet warrior who likes foamy coffee from a well known branded coffee house.
            Sitting in citibank (or similar) on a decent salary banging on about social justice issues having experiences absolutely none of said issues. ever.

            sound right…?

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            “by a SJ internet warrior who likes foamy coffee”
            “Sitting in citibank (or similar) on a decent salary”

            Yeah, racists often have inferiority complexes.

          3. donkey_kong

            Moyeswithexcitement , if I am a racist….that is – but let’s assume you are right…(how I wonder…)

            I’d have a really low opinion of myself if I was jealous of a job in citibank .
            I’ll admit I have one inferiority complex and that’s toward Ron Jeremy but that’s about it…

            Otherwise I’m comfortable in my own skin….in my non-citibank job…

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            See, nobody brought up ‘citibank jobs’. That was just you. That’s you imagining that everyone who disagrees with you must have a ‘decent salary’ and drink ‘foamy coffee’. You painted that picture all on your own, buddy.

          5. donkey_kong

            indeed I did
            but you were the one impling I can an inferiorty complex toward them
            which I don’t.

            oh Dόn Pídgéόní….
            you wound me deep :(

          6. MoyestWithExcitement

            The fact you think anyone who disagrees with your views must be coffee drinking financial workers on ‘decent salaries’ shows you really do have an inferiority complex.

          7. donkey_kong

            MoyestWithExcitement – that is a leap of faith worthy of a moving statue.
            you are clutching at straws here, slippery ones at that.

            I’ve no way to convince you without boasting about my greatness which I’ll refrain from cos its a stupid thing to do on the net .

            trust me, I’m secure in my own skin unless i was in the nip next to ron jeremy (as mentioned)

            My reference to Citi (or similar) was due to my experience of the pontificators of social justice (their brand of SJ as SJ itself is a good thing ) rarely have experience in the area they are waffling about. Secure in IFSC (type jobs) they don’t have a clue and they just type their “racist, racist racist” at people without trying to remedy anything.
            Dan Boyle is doing similar.

            It was fun though….

          8. scundered

            I’ve got a big pile of handbags, why don’t you all take one and sort this out at dawn, and save my thumb the bother of scrolling?

        2. MoyestWithExcitement

          “Secure in IFSC (type jobs)”

          “Secure”. Telling word that. So all these ‘financial types’ with their “secure” jobs, “don’t have any experience” in what I’m guessing you’d call the “real world”, but you *don’t* have an inferiority complex. Ok. Whatever you say.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      “If you don’t like people’s racist opinions instead of shouting “racists” at them try and see their viewpoint and debate with them to change their ways.”

      Different contexts call for different responses. In a face to face situation with someone who shows genuine confusion over the issues and empathy, yeah, that’s the way to go. On an internet message board with people spewing ignorant, racist one liners, then derision and ridicule is the way to go, as far as I’m concerned. The world is about balance. There is a place for the friendly approach and there is a place for the confrontational approach. I subscribe to the latter when it comes to internet message boards.

      1. donkey_kong

        oddly I’ve seen more of that from the leftie “we are one people” group.

        “you are racist”…well ok so…

  8. Supercrazyprices

    The notion that Travellers are a different race is ridiculous. It only gives some people an excuse to distance them from the rest of the population. I think it’s actually a huge disservice to Travellers.

    They are same race as the rest of Irish whose ancestry goes back several hundred years (basically white mostly northern European mix of early post ice age settlers followed by some Norman, British, Danish, Norwegian and some Iberian). They are only traveling people since around the 18th century when half the population was mobile, looking for casual labour.

    1. Dόn Pídgéόní

      Not considering them a distinct group does them an even greater disservice. For one, people can say, well I’m not racist, they aren’t a race, which is the dumbest thing anyone can say. The definition of race moved on from phenotypic appearance to sociological definitions quite a while ago. Secondly, it means the government is under no obligation to address the clear disadvantage that travelers as a group have in a range of social and health outcomes which they would have to address if they were considered a distinct group. Very convenient isn’t it?

      1. Anne

        They might have a different lifestyle, they might be disadvantaged – like a lot of people in poorer settled communities, but they still the same race.

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          It has nothing to do with race or genetics. That “lifestyle” is in effect a different culture that sets them apart from “Irish” people who have different social or cultural experiences. That is ethnicity. The fact that they are disadvantaged is due to the fact they belong to that ethnicity. Poor people in settled communities belong culturally to “Irish” society. Travelers have a different lifestyle that specifically makes them culturally different, even if they straddle the two, traveler culture is their predominate culture and ethnic group. That is ethnic disadvantage and something that should be addressed in all policy by a progressive government. However, if your government thinks that it’s all down to race, which is isn’t at all, then they don’t have to do squat because hey, they are just like us but lazy and dumb and that’s why they all die much much younger than us.

          1. Anne

            What about settled travellers then?
            Does their ethnicity switch to being Irish once they settle?

            I’m all for people from any disadvantaged area or group getting increased funds and resources, but they’re still the same ethnic group to me.
            Agree with the rest of what you’re saying.

          2. Dόn Pídgéόní

            For one, you could ask them. People can identify as different ethnicities despite their background – see I don’t know, 2nd generation Bangladeshis in London.

            That;’s great. But no offence, you don’t know what ethnicity means.

          3. Ban Doyle

            Where does personal responsibility begin and public responsibility end.

            I think that your characterisation, while it has grains of truth, it is a slippery slope towards a nanny state.

          4. Don Pidgeoni

            When we eradicate systematic disadvantage let’s talk about that. Until then, bring in state intervention.

      2. salmon eile

        Not really Don, it’s not quite that easy. The problems with travellers could also be tackled while NOT labelling them as “other” eg like illegal right turns

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          I never said it would be easy. But the systematic differences this group face will never ever be tackled by ignoring the differences.

  9. Joan Burton

    Does anyone else, like me, find the term ‘Settled Community’ highly offensive ?

    Like they’re implying that the 99% if us got it wrong.

  10. ollie

    I seen a law abiding traveller on the back of a dodo last week in CLondalkin.
    Actually, what I saw was a traveller towing a trailer with about 40 expensive looking bikes in it. Draw your own conclusions.

    1. Dόn Pídgéόní

      Based on this and every other comment you have made about travelers, I draw the conclusion that you are an a**hat of the highest order.

  11. realPolithicks

    “I tried to compensate in my last general election campaign. I knew then that being elected was the slightest of possibilities. At the doors I told whoever came up with such hatred what I thought of what they thought.”

    So once you knew you wouldn’t be reelected you felt free to speak your mind. If politicians would speak their mind and perhaps stand on a principle or two our society would probably be in a much better place.

  12. Coco

    “Courageous” in Yes Minister didn’t mean the opposite. It meant something like “so potentially unpopular you will lose your deposit”. Interesting stuff otherwise.

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