Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Say it Again Terence

The hapless Terence Flanagan has been exposed as a serial borrower of other people's speeches. This time round, when confronted with the 'evidence' by a Sunday newspaper journalist, he 'fessed up. As a rookie TD, it had been a 'steep learning curve'. From now on, he was going to talk 'on the hoof'.

I have seen Terence in action in the Dáil chamber and Edmund Burke, or Denis Skinner, or Joe Higgins... he is not. Even with a script his delivery is halting and his tone is as unchanging as a heart monitor attached to a rock. I also lived with him (vicariously of course) through the agonising listening experience of Terence Flanagan attempting to speak Irish (it was not pretty - though fair play to him for giving it a go).

The young Dublin North East TD should do what Fianna Fail backbenchers do - get the party's researchers to write the bulk of their stuff. Or maybe borrow some magic dust of Charlie O'Connor. No matter what subject or legislation or controversy is being debated in the Dáil Charlie sprinkles some magic dust on it and it turns into a speech about Tallaght. Maybe Terence could try a similar wheeze by getting Kilbarrack or Raheny to take their places among the nations o the earth.

And we journalists shouldn't scoff (yep, that's exactly what I was doing in the previous few pars). What do they say about journalist? Oh yes, it's the first page of tomorrow's fish and chip writing (you got a two-for-one bargain there in the metaphor department!) Journalists steal line, or borrow as we euphemise it, all the time. From other journalists. From other newspapers. Sometimes when two journalists are discussing the copy of a rival, they will dismiss the article as a 'clippings job' (the article is a mosaic that has culled the writing and wisdom of older articles on the internet).

But perhaps Terence is the symptom of the 30th Dail. Since the General Election a sense of listlessness and inertia has been evident. Sure there has been the odd conflagration (autism; the cancer misdiagnosis scandal) and of course the endless plot twists of the Bertie, Celia and the Drumcondra mafia soap opera has kept us all entertained. But beyond that, when it comes to the real business of the legislature and the executive you just feel that everything is in a kind of vast and endless holding pattern.

There has been a dearth of legislation. Even now, the new Bills are only trickling through. Talk of Dail and Seanad reform is as vague and vacant as it always has been - we will see herds of camels crossing the Polar tundra before meaningful reform of parliament takes place. And the Greens have come up with a couple of neat and worthy policies and promises. But we still await what we expect from the Greens - something vervy, something edgy, something radical, something that grabs you by the pin of your collar and shakes you out of any complacency or lethargy you might have. As for the rest of the Cabinet, none (especially Brian Cowen) seem inclined to step outside the comfort zone. They comport themselves like some kind of super executives or manager (some even use the excruciatingly ugly phrase 'Ireland plc) and just let everything tick along nicely.

There are exceptions. Noel Dempsey has lots of ideas - and most of them are surprisingly good. Then there was Micheál and the smoking ban. Will that become for him what 'Yesterday' became for Paul McCartney - John Lennon mocked his former writing partner for having composed only one memorable song. And Brian Cowen? He makes Ken Baldwin from Coronation Street look like a thrilling daredevil.

Well if Twink is packing them in up at the Tivoli with Menopause the Musical then the Anorak is equally capable of drawing a crowd at Dublin Castle with Man Opposing the Tribunal (sorry, sorry, sorry - it's brutal I know). The awful thought struck me yesterday. If Bertie goes as quickly as we all predict he will, we will have nothing to write about. They're all so bored with it (and boring as a result) that it's not only Terence who's repeating himself over and over again with borrowed words and ideas.


Dan Sullivan said...

We don't have a government we have an administration and oddly enough it would appear the Irish electorate seem to prefer it that way. We much prefer to wait for some other country to come up with some solution and when they do we're clamoring for it to be introduced here within weeks.

Sadly with the days of the speechifying on the back of a truck after mass gone it would seem forever, the dearth of an actual local press in Dublin, and the lack of capacity for the national media to look at all the candidates that there is next to no scrutiny of candidates.

The Americans often talk about how the primary process (which exists at the local level too) is about scrutinising and testing the candidates to ensure they are up to the task ahead. Here you just get a critical mass of people to go about saying you're a great lad or lassie, and pretty soon not alone do you believe it but the electorate do too. I would love to have heard about the interesting ideas that the individual candidates had at the time of the general election but other than repeating a party line put out by HQ I don't recall many of them having any at all. SF repeated the word equality so often you would think that saying it would make it so. They weren't the only offenders. We've become so goal orientated as a society that everyone seems to have forgotten about what goes into working out how those goals will be achieved, or is that just the engineer in me talking again? Ideas are for the consultants to work out, for the civil service to recommend and for the minister to approve.

Anonymous said...

Given that you're exposing plagiarism, and the Terence Flanagan story was widely plagiarised by other media, it might be no harm to mention that it was The Sunday Times that broke this story last weekend.

Harry McGee said...

Thanks for comments Dan. Perceptive as always. Am going to do a short post respnding to it. To anonymous, I should have mentioned the Sunday Times but I couldn't remember which paper had done it when writing the blog. I also think the journalist was Mark Tighe, to give credit where it is due.