The failures of An Taoiseach

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business, calling on the Taoiseach to come to the Seanad to discuss the long-overdue political reform of the Seanad, in light of the McNulty affair.]

For people of my generation – those who thankfully grew up at a physical distance of 100 miles from but still very much politically in the shadow of the Northern Ireland conflict – those folks who espoused reconciliation and compromise are unsung heroes who were the true peacemakers. They were the people who were actually advocating peace without ever having advocated war in the first place. One of the leaders of that movement was the late Dr. Garret FitzGerald. For many people of my generation who were not politically involved but just looking at it from the outside, he was a person who embodied many of the best impulses we should see in Irish politics and somebody who tried to move past his own incredibly heavy familial Civil War burden to try to take a more all-encompassing view of what we needed to do to fix our country. Where others were preaching internecine warfare, he preached reconciliation. Where others were preaching one or other version of the sectarian head count they thought should determine the shape of the political structures on or in different parts of the island of Ireland, he tried to work out ways of getting compromises between those who saw those.

Here we are four leaders later. The occupant of the same position Dr. FitzGerald held is our Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny. I mean no offence to any of my colleagues in any other party because I think all of the parties have moved on enormously in the past several years but it is a subject of profound sadness to me to think that his party is locked in a head-and-neck poll with people led by those who were preaching a very different vision ten, 20, 30 and 40 years ago. The Taoiseach bears a very particular responsibility for the credibility of Irish constitutional politics and I must say that he has let it down over the past several weeks by his failure to deal with several critical issues relating to the political reform he promised. It still sticks completely in my craw that we have visit after visit after visit to this House by Ministers who when asked a direct question either do not answer or are economical with the truth. It is very hard for us to criticise others for dishonesty about their history when we cannot look our own Taoiseach in the eye and ask him to be honest about more recent history. For that reason and in the context of the failure to deliver Seanad reform and meaningful political reform, I second Senator Mullen’s amendment.

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