Dan Boyle: An Apology For Politics


Dan Boyle

Politics to me has never been about getting one over, or doing down, perceived opponents. I accept that for many people, maybe even most people, it tends to be. The worst motivation is always assumed. The worst possible construction is placed on any issue. Our politics are ill served by being almost entirely reactive and rarely proactive.

Movement, even in an agreed direction, is invariably criticised as being too late and/or too slow. Sequencing is particularly viewed poorly. Do it all and do it now, is the expectation that never be met. Part of that expectation is that legislation should be delivered in a ready to go fashion, as if there should be no role in a parliamentary process that scruitinises and amends.

The sclerosis that reactive politics creates is a culture where nothing clear gets stated, lest the words get misconstrued with the actual context lost.  Analysis and real accountability disappear when we rely on memes and tropes, repeated endlessly, to establish narratives that help explain nothing.

To govern is to fail. To seek to do things differently is an admission of failure. This helps create a politics that is not only risk adverse but is also change repellent.

Because of this change happens far more slowly than it needs to. Despite all this change does manage to occur, even if we often fail to acknowledge such change.

How we measure change exacerbates this problem. Gains are there to be won not shared. Wins need to be gained in order to create certain losers so that they appear real. Battle lines have to be absolute. There is government and there is opposition. The idea of shifting coalitions that are issue dependent is seen to be heretical.

Considering government as an amorphous whole is a particular conceit. Shared government means just that, an ability to achieve but only partially. It doesn’t mean absorption. It shouldn’t mean loss of identity. The lines of attack seem to indicate otherwise.

In a mature political society it should be possible to pursue agreed approaches while stressing distinctiveness. These are unnatural divides that exist within political parties and within government as much as they exist within politics itself. While acknowledging these divides we don’t have accept them as being the only way we operate.

We need to stop behaving as if the holding of political beliefs are akin to being part of a religious cult. We can and should be able to disagree without having to reduce to invective. Views can and should change. Being persuaded by others’ arguments is not a weakness.

Since coming back to local government I’ve tried to turn my back on the point scoring, name calling, character assassinating aspects of Irish politics. I can’t see the point of it. I’ve certainly come to believe that it achieves little. I’ve learned that it’s best to concentrate on trying to achieve things. So much energy is wasted on the circus element of politics.

The most pointless aspect of our politics is that of the kneejerk response. Because it has been determined that adversarial politics are the only type we can practise, we are similarly expected to have pre-determined responses to any given situation.

Proof of this is how I expect many will respond to what I am saying here. I am expecting some pejorative comments about me and my party attributing many of the ills of the World to our existence. I’m expecting some amount of whataboutery, where unconnected or very tenuous facts will be presented to undermine the context I seek to make with these observations.

Once I would have reacted and would have done so badly. Now I have to interpret what is real and what is contrived. Because so much of our politics has been reduced to background noise, perhaps we have to learn to listen less in order to be able to listen better.

Then, perhaps, we can learn to respond better instead of trying to react more.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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22 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: An Apology For Politics

  1. Mr .T

    The electorate (not all of them mind) are quite proactive in their requests and demands – but it is the officeholders & the civil servants who opt instead for reactive solutions.

    1. ReproBertie

      What do you mean ” there is no certification in Michigan”? Michigan’s largest county, Wayne county, certified their results yesterday after the Republicans backed down.

      So much winning.

        1. ReproBertie

          They attempted to rescind their certification which is not the same thing. The results have been certified.

          1. ReproBertie

            Twigged that when I saw their “objective of decarbonising the atmosphere” garbage below. No doubt they’ll be sharing their love of kittens soon.

  2. Charger Salmons

    You must be delighted at Boris’ big green initiative launched yesterday.
    Britain was the first major country to lead the way with a net zero carbon emissions by 2050 pledge.
    Now he’s gone much further with his proposed ban on petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
    Inevitably he’s been criticised – there’s always some gasbag chuntering on – but Boris has always been an environmentalist at heart.
    I like the new byline picture by the way Dan.The old one wasn’t very flattering.

      1. Joe

        The Greenwash Party have neither the engineering nous or understanding of how pathetic and environmentally damaging wind turbines are for consistent energy generation ( fossil fuel companies love them as they must be backed up by LNG or filthy coal power stations watt by watt) but as much as I despise Boris Johnson thank heavens the British will be building small nuclear reactors to supply energy as part of their green initiative. At least Boris and co have some scientific sense in securing a low co2 future

    1. Otis Blue

      A pledge by Boris? Wonder how that’ll work out?

      Meanwhile in the 27…

      The European Parliament endorsed the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions objective in March 2019 and again in the European Green Deal in January 2020. Added to this, the European Council endorsed in December 2019 the objective of making the EU climate-neutral by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement. The EU also submitted its long-term strategy to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change back in March 2020.

      Anyhow, let’s agree that an objective is one thing, outcomes and impacts are quite another.

  3. Joe

    So tell me Dan your own party has totally engaged in a scripted knee jerk response on multiple issues …here’s a few recent political scandals that the GP party supported for what? A few bicycle lanes and ministerial pensions …
    1 Roderic O’Gorman’s vile responses and refusals to engage with any amendments to sealing the adoption records.
    2 The sleazy corrupt sharing of confidential records by Leo Varadkar
    3 The disgusting response, an attack on democracy, by Catherine Martin defending Helen McEntee’s refusal to be questioned in the Dail

    All of the reactions by the various GP party was demonstrably pre determined to follow the FG party line with such of a consistent response that the words they used must have been scripted by FG party handlers.

    Nobody does hypocrisy better than the Green party, you should have a word with your colleagues Dan but I reckon they will have to get a knee jerk scripted response from their FG party handlers before replying to you

    1. GiggidyGoo

      Interesting choice of photo for Dan. The greens recruited quite a lot of, ahem, green, students types at that particular college during 2019. Most of which have since left the party. Disillusioned, mad and the rest. No wonder that he’s alone in the photo.

  4. GiggidyGoo

    The Green Party website will be worth a look when Ryan and Co. are gone. Their current website contains no history of the party. No doubt the next version will delete any reference to 2020.

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