Philip Gourevitch surely called it right with his observation that “an election campaign is largely an affair of competitive storytelling.” Their offers of a higher grade of snake oil than the next grifter, meant to stupefy us into feeling that this time, this one might just be different.
It won’t be. Vincent Browne was not far off the mark in writing that this election will change nothing of consequence:
Over one million people will continue to live in deprivation; nearly one in five of everyone in employment will continue to be paid pittances; thousands of poorer people will die prematurely (this was estimated a decade ago to be around 5,000 annually); us – rich people – will crash the queues for preferential healthcare, others will be left on trollies and waiting lists; schools will make no significant difference to the life chances of children and young adults; only the few will exert any influence on public policy; our democracy will remain hollow.
Having listened to the four austerity amigos on Prime Time the other evening, I am tempted to wager Browne’s prescience in the bookies. As I visit bookmakers even less than I do polling booths that remains fantasy. Much like the chances of Gerry Adams becoming Taoiseach I imagine. When the perennial president pushed the line a few months ago that he lacked any ambition to be Taoiseach, I stole a march on his own advice given out in front of the GPO today: “not to listen to the bullshit.”
Of course he wanted to be Taoiseach and reach the pinnacle of a political career. His long term calculation has been that to get there he had to displace not the Labour Party but Fianna Fail. To achieve that he has moulded his own party as Provisional Fianna Fail rather than the Socialist Labour Party. Something even Goldman Sachs could be reassured by.
Arguably, his hope for this election was to come through the middle ahead of Fianna Fail, even marginally, and that would have given him a shout at attempting to form a government by exploiting a power hunger in Fianna Fail that would cast Micheal Martin to the side if he was what stood in the way of Fianna Fail serving as junior partner in a Sinn Fein-led coalition. It now looks increasingly unlikely.
Is Adams fit for Taoiseach? I guess if Ronald Reagan was fit for the presidency of a nation as large and societally complex as the US, then Adams could wing it in the Taoiseach’s office. Reagan wasn’t exactly on top of the affairs of state. The country ran on the autopilot system provided by the bureaucracy of government. It would be much the same in Ireland. Ultimately the electorate decide who is picked but not necessarily who is fit. Haughey and Berlusconi-type characters give fitness an Orwellian inflection.
The Pudsy Ryan style economics of Gerry Adams has long been an enduring trait of his leadership. Michael McDowell told him in 2007.
Gerry, you know absolutely no basic figures or basic facts about [FINANCE]. Every time Mark [Little, the presenter] has asked you a question you’ve changed the subject to the peace process or the health service, because you just don’t know”.
Other than a baleful stare there was no response. That deficiency however would prove more of an obstacle to securing office rather than retaining it once in. In a rare moment of candour Adams acknowledged his fiscal frailty. “Pearse will be better talking about economic things and other things like that.”
Pearse does indeed talk about other things although cautiously steers clear of his own leadership aspirations. Speaking about the party he points out that:
It’s not about being hungry for power .... It’s not about individuals. It’s not about personalities ...
Which is precisely what many people think it is about for Adams. Cleverly and concisely, and in plausibly deniable fashion, Pearse lined up the Adams rubber duckies into a row: he hasn't yet shouted roll up roll up for the circus of change. Mary Lou might have to sing first before the curtain is drawn on a long political career.
Tomorrow, at some point during the day, I will cast No I the way of Anthony Connor of Direct Democracy. I am not a supporter, just abiding by the principle of giving to the needy not the greedy. After that I’ll have a nosy down the line. Ruled out without a second thought will be Kenny's blue shirts, Adams' green shirts and Burton's hair shirts.
And that's not being shirty.