28 August 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard


It seems superfluous to add more words of heat to the furnace of outrage stoked by the fallout from what the media with unimaginative but inevitable bleak wit has branded Golfgate. but it does seem necessary to reflect upon the mood in the country that the unfortunate episode and the reaction to it seems to disclose. at a crucial time in the nation’s combat with Covid-19, when many but not all important sections of the economy are finding a way to function again in the midst of the pandemic restrictions, and when our country’s schools are attempting to return to functioning, we seem to be more divided than united. and our new Government seems in great danger of disintegrating just when its firm leadership and positive direction is urgently needed.

We have come too far and endured too much to falter now. The days ahead are make-or-break ones for Taoiseach Micheál Martin Td and the Grand Coalition he leads. The Government must be seen to be in command of itself before it can effectively command the country, and it will need to be at its sharpest and most decisive as the schools reopen and the practical problems to the delivery of education to our young people in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis start to become clearly manifest. Mr Martin has had a horrible start to his tenure, let down badly by senior figures from his party whose sense of judgement completely deserted them and having to fight fires when he should be building bridges. he seems an unlucky general, and they are not the ones who prosper on the battlefield. as much as he has repair work to do in his own party ranks, the Taoiseach also badly needs to demonstrate that he has a genuine rapport with his partners in government.

There has been little evidence of this so far and much media spin to the contrary – and the somewhat strained nature of the joint statements that the leaders of the tripartite alliance have been putting out in recent days in censure of Commissioner hogan has only added to the sense of uneasy bedfellows rather than diluted it. although it has certainly had an accelerant supplied to it by sections of the media and the ranks of the Opposition, the public anger at the ambivalent attitude adopted to the Covid-19 protocols by some prominent public figures is real and justified. We were all supposed to be in this together, after all.

While senior people answerable to the Government have dutifully fallen on their rapiers and reached for the sackcloth and ashes, eU Commissioner Phil hogan is continuing to be begrudging in his penance. The sight and sound of a figure of such political experience and renowned savvy squirming on the hook is becoming deeply embarrassing – for someone of Mr hogan’s stature to have so profoundly misunderstood the prevailing health guidelines, or to have so blithely decided that they simply weren’t for him, is not merely a matter for national distaste. it is what used to be termed an international incident, and it will surely be responded to with due gravity by the european Commission.

Mr hogan’s fate must be expediently and decisively determined by the european masters he is answerable to. and Mr Martin and the Government must show themselves worthy of the continued mastery of the national interest they have assigned to themselves by putting this week of humiliation rapidly behind them and demonstrating, in their response to the unfolding challenges that the reopening of our schools will present in the week ahead, that they are fit to lead the country through what continue to be very challenging times. as for the rest of us, maybe we should start to put our anger and outrage aside and renew our commitment to minding ourselves and those around us as well as we can in the Covid-clouded climate we will have to live in for some time to come.

We should of course hold our politicians and public figures to account when they lapse from the standards we expect of them. We live in an unforgiving world where those who aspire to public prominence are subjected to an unblinking scrutiny by the argus eyes of both the mainstream and the social media which has reached an unprecedented intensity. The effect on the observed is, when they err, an opprobrium that lingers long.

The effect on the observer can be one of sanctimonious outrage that can also be long-lasting, and insidious in the way in which it influences our attitudes and behaviours. We should apply the lash of disapproval where and when it is needed, but we should also know when enough is enough, and we should be very careful lest we find ourselves enjoying the infliction of the punishment over much.

When the furnace heat of Golfgate finally subsides, we should realise that we are in fact still all in this together. if we stand united, we can and will emerge from the bitter waters of the Covid-19 period with our economy functioning more leanly perhaps but perhaps also more effectively, and, more importantly, with our compassion and humanity still intact. but if we become divided, we will surely fall. The Government must urgently realise this, but it is something we all have to keep in mind.

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