The Fine Art of Whinging



From top: Enda Kenny yesterday at Fine Gael’s last press conference before Friday’s poll; Dan Boyle

The whingers among us have been indulged by a political class willing to say or do anything to get and to stay elected.

Dan Boyle writes:

It could yet be the Enda Kenny’s finest contribution to Irish politics to have brought about a much needed public debate on the art of whinging.

Of course, in the context of general election, he was wrong to say it. It was seen, justifiably, as an attempt to shut down criticism.

Any criticism. If criticism can’t be voiced during an election campaign, in the face of a failed political system and a self congratulatory government, when can it be?

In a less contentious environment the role played by whinging and those who whinge should be subject to a more critical evaluation.

There are a number of things that whinging isn’t. It isn’t a cry of righteous indignation nor is it a plea for social justice. What makes whinging different from other, more legitimate, forms of protest, is that it is inherently self centred and antithetical to the common good.

Our politics have really suffered from the belief that those with the loudest voices, or with particular bargaining power, should be dealt with first. The converse is more likely to be true – those who are least likely to be heard suffer most.

Why do we allow whingers to set political agendas when there are so many more important things to be angry about? Homelessness, income inequality, the lack of social mobility and yes damn it climate change.

Some of these issues haven’t been mentioned at all in the election campaign, others have just been peripherally. Issues such as the quality of our collective approach to mental health, or the prevalence of suicide in our society, have been marginally more mentioned but have hardly been mainstream.

The classic whinger will reduce all of our society’s woes into one particular issue. An issue that affects them and largely them. Alone. There is no wider picture. There is no long term thinking. Here we are now entertain us politics has reached its zenith.

This isn’t necessarily the fault of the electorate. The whingers among us have been indulged by a political class willing to say or do anything to get and to stay elected.

So how do we break this cycle? How do we find a better place on the spectrum between those polar opposites of traditional expectation and fashionable disregard? We could challenge our own shibboleths by not necessarily supporting those who tell us what we want to hear most. Those we find more annoying at least have the capacity of surprising us least.

Capacity, competence, the ability to go against the grain; the certain vote losers of the past should be the qualities we identify with more. There won’t be a revolution but we may be inching towards a type of politics where values, ideas and policies hold greater currency.

The plutocracy of those who were meant to offer political choice in this country, that unholy trinity of Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael (certainly spawned from the one zygote) and the Labour Party (now wholly lacking in spirit); who collectively once won 98% support of the electorate but together now struggle to pass 50%, no longer hold sway.

We seem, at last, to be evolving into a philosophically based, policy driven system found in most mature democracies.

Of itself this new dispensation won’t necessarily be better. It won’t offer any guarantees that our path to Nirvana has to divert, once more, through Hades. At best it should stop us whinging that we’re any better or worse than anywhere else.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD. His column Follow Dan on Twitter; @sendboyle

18 thoughts on “The Fine Art of Whinging

  1. Soundmigration

    If this phenomenon of whinging has reached a zenith, it might have been illustrative of the article meaning if an example or two might have been given.

    Any chance Dan?

    1. Harry Molloy

      I think water is a good example of momentous political works bring simplified to a single issue for these so called whingers.

      No to water has been trouncing any other debate, indeed lack of debate as the more vocal care only for this single issue.

        1. Harry Molloy

          ok, am unsure of what i meant to say but that most certainly is auto-correct… i often post while walking, sorry

          the jist should have been complex political considerations being simplified to one question

  2. Robby Cook

    while all he writes maybe true, theres a of bang of kayne ‘love my own work’ west of this composition
    was he up l8 last night penning this?

  3. Ronan

    We are a nation of whingers and whiners – it’s true.

    For me we need to:
    1) separate the executive from the legislative; put persons of competency into ministries, answerable to cross-party panels but ultimately there to effect government policy. Remove the need for a minister to protect his/her own seat and do the populist/local thing7
    2) Create a list system for at least some of the seats in the Dáil. Constituency-less candidates could be much more willing to do the unpopular thing, knowing they’ll remain on the list and not be locally punished for supporting the unpopular but necessary.

    A list system would also provide seats for parties with 3% of the popular vote nationwide but no representation. Constituency driven elections both create pork barrel politicians, and disenfranchise voters of small parties via local quotas.

    1. Steve


      Plato’s rule by philosophers kings.

      Would turn the cabinet into a US president type non – elected grouping. I’d be generally fine with that except a lot of power goes into the Taoiseach then. I could see us needing to get rid of the role of our president to facilitate such change.

  4. Panty Christ

    Just a general observation, most of the old brigade in FG FF and Lab have been elected reps for over 20 years. 20 years of earning €80k+ a year. In good times and bad. They have no idea what it’s like not to be able to feed or cloth their children. Pay for their schooling and recreation. Worry about rent or mortgage. They are completely detached to suffering so everything they hear back is like a whinge.

    1. Harry Molloy

      That’s a hooped point but, I think, these whingers are the people who refuse to see the good in any situation and who look at politics like they do football so will never be happy unless their team wins

    2. ollie

      “20 years of earning €80k+ a year”. My friend, the average TD can earn this in 6 months through unvouched tax free expenses, additional payments for sitting on committees and salary.
      Dan, am I correct?

  5. Disasta

    Some of my mates love election time for the entertainment value of the politicians clamoring to advocate their continued seat filling on every available communication platform.
    I for one think it’s sad that they know the choice is an illusion. Now a reality show on multiple communication platforms for their enjoyment. Name calling, bickering etc etc.

    Politicians have no business being involved in the running of a country.
    People want change and once in their seat that is the one thing politicians will fight tooth and nail to avoid.

  6. Eoin

    The word ‘whinging’ means complaining about something when there is no real cause to complain. Most people here have real complaints.

    1. classter

      That is not what ‘whinge’ means.

      There are certainly causes for complaint but there is a world of difference between positive criticism and negative whinging.

      Unfortunately there is an awful lot of the latter in our public discourse & I think it hinders our efforts to deal with those causes of complaint.

  7. anne

    My ‘whinge’ is that Dan Boyle should stay at home and not interfer in Welsh politics he knows nothing about to support a bunch of armchair green Tories. He’d be the first to complain/laugh if some busy body ignoramous from Wales went to Ireland to be campaign manager for his green party.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Seeing as you hate the Wales Green Party so much Anne, wouldn’t it be logical to have its campaign run by someone who ‘knows nothing about Welsh politics’?

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