What the dogs in the street already know about this government

Question: Who knew that Katharine Zappone was a shoo-in to get the job of Special Envoy for Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

Answer: They knew, we knew, everyone and his mother and the dogs in the street and their mothers too knew. Piglet, Pooh (more on them later) and the animals in Dublin Zoo knew.

Recap for those of us who have no idea what’s going on: Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney got themselves in more trouble than they thought they deserved after it was revealed Coveney brazenly bypassed normal procedures to appoint his chosen candidate Katharine Zappone to the aforementioned special envoy job. Not content with leaving the cronyism at that, Zappone had a posh outdoor soiree for 50 chums at the Merrion Hotel (where a room could set us back a month’s rent for one lousy night) and invited Leo, Simon and lots of others. Meanwhile, the Taoiseach allegedly didn’t know about her new job until it was raised at cabinet which is fishy because don’t you think Coveney would have briefed him beforehand – even though he is from a different party? (N.B: party is not the same as soiree, though both can get you in trouble if you’re not au fait with the right ones…) Leo alleged that he didn’t know about Zappone’s job either but he has form when it comes to fibs and lots of people on Twitter who don’t like him called for his resignation. To add yet another layer to this sad, sorry tale of cronyism, didn’t the Attorney General get involved to tell us all that, actually, Simon, Katharine et. al were not in the wrong and we should just forget about it all and here’s an idea: now we can have up to 200 people at outdoor events so aren’t we all fair and square again now?

How stupid do all these party people think the likes of us are??? Answers on the back of a monogrammed napkin, please. They are clearly making it up as they fuck it up. It is not a joy to behold.

The Covid rules didn’t apply to them, and not just because they are so too-faced it wouldn’t matter whether they wore a mask or not. This was about entitlement and cute hoorism. As usual, the party poopers from the opposition benches started yelling about how great they were that they didn’t go, probably because they weren’t even invited. Would they have gone if they were invited though? Was there an open bar? What kind of person would refuse an open bar on principal? A Sinn Féin TD? Like the rest of us, politician and plebeian alike, they’d take a free drink from the Taliban itself if it was offering, like.

But to go back to the initial question, the one that was finally, definitively, without reasonable doubt answered for us today: who knew about this.

Short answer: everyone.

Leo Varadkar maintained all along that he did not know about Coveney appointing Zappone, and today he posted the pics to prove it. Yes, an actual government minister put out screenshots of a text message conversation he had with Zappone about the party. All they proved, however, is that he is one of these people who (a) doesn’t use emojis and (b) texts sentence by sentence instead of just getting it all out in a nice paragraph. In other words, his texts are rather leaky…

At least Katharine texts in full, coherent paragraphs. Had she not been sort of forced to refuse the special envoy job in the end she would have made a fine example to all those bad people who text like Leo. That should be something the next envoy of freedom of opinion and expression bans outright. If you’re going to text it, get it out in one go or forever hold your piece.

I wonder if Leo asked Katharine if she minded him posting those screenshots of their conversation in an effort to save his bacon, because, at first glance it looked as if she referred to herself as “Piglet.” In a bizarre, but easily explainable twist, Zappone greeted Leo with a text that read “Hi, Leo from the Piglet!” She meant the Dublin restaurant, but the Great Unwasheds’ minds went straight to Pooh, as they do. Who was Tigger, Eeyore etc in this scenario, they wondered, eager to lean into the ridiculousness of it all.

Whatever about Zappone as Piglet, Leo as Pooh and sad-eyed Micheal as Eeyore, Simon Coveney is definitely Tigger. Silly ol’ Tigger, you couldn’t trust him as far as you’d throw him. He said the other day before some government committee or other that he didn’t tell anyone in cabinet about Zappone. She didn’t lobby him for the role either, and everything was above board and everyone should just let him away with a spring in his… spring, like the beloved cartoon tiger.

Unfortunately for politicians, they tend to be held accountable for more things than goofy talking tigers are so Simon couldn’t spring his way out of this one quite as easily as he might have liked. Earlier today, he told reporters that he had deleted all of his correspondences with Zappone so they couldn’t see if he was telling porkies about her or not.

Unwisely he said he deleted his texts because his phone was hacked and deleting texts is apparently something he does the whole time in case hackers get to them. Yeah. Sell us another sausage. This was starting to look less Winnie the Pooh and more Animal Farm. Not a peep from the Attorney General btw. And that, comrades, is when Varadkar decided to wade in to the pigpen and prove how pure he was by publishing his texts, thereby stabbing his fellow party member in the back. What a godawful mess.

I don’t know about you, but I do know this: everyone now knows, thanks to Varadkar, that everyone in government – except possible poor ol’ Eeyore Martin himself – that Zappone’s appointment was a fix. And here’s another thing I know: this government has got to go. The Irish people don’t deserve its horseshit.

To lighten the mood somewhat and to leave you feeling less like Eeyore and more happy and wonderful like Tigger, I’ve taken the liberty of rewriting Orwell’s seven Animal Farm commandments for the #MerrionGate era.

“The Seven Commandments After #MerrionGate:
Whatever goes upon two legs, wears a Blueshirt and publishes your private text messages to save his skin is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs in a scramble to recover your legitimacy is a friend/ Attorney General.
No Merrion attendee shall face consequences.
No politician shall sleep with a free conscience.
No TD shall drink alcohol without first performing thorough damage limitations.
No Minister shall kill a story because it makes them look like a hypocrite.
All animals are equal, some are less equal depending on what they know or don’t know.”

Did that work? Any issues just complain to the relevant envoy. They’ll probably be inventing that any day now.

That’s politics baby: politicians are human too.

Stop the presses. It may come as a surprise, but our elected representatives are only human. They mightn’t always show it, but every single one of our politicians – whether liked or loathed – has a soul, a family, feelings, and a reputation.

And politics is a profession that can seriously hurt all these. When Oscar Wilde said “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about,” he was not thinking of an Irish politician.

The first rule of Irish Backbenchers Club is you’re in deep doo-doo if your name is all over the news. Even the Taoiseach is probably happiest when ignored – although Micheál Martin does seem like an exceptionally sociable chap.

No, Irish politics, no matter what level you’re at, is a difficult system to work through. No matter how cynical one may be, we have all seen talented public representatives at work; they are usually in it to try and make the country a better place. Theirs is often a thankless job, and yet they persist.

They persist even as they see their fellow politicians, who may only be in it for the money, the glory (hah!), the prestige, progress on through party ranks to ascend right to the top. That’s not to say, however, that all senior politicians are money-grabbing envelope pushers. It depends on the person.

Some are in it for the power and the salary and some aren’t. I would hazard a guess that 50% are in it because they genuinely want to represent their chosen cohort of the Irish population – whether that’s anti-vaxxers or pro-higher-taxes, every voter’s interests need representing.

Not every politician’s policies are going to appeal to everybody. There are so many politicians I would never vote for because their positions on important issues are completely different from the stances I’d take. For instance, Jack Chambers, Fianna Fáil’s Chief Whip and Minister for Sport and the Gaeltacht. I’m mystified as to why a young man his age would be so vocally anti-choice; he campaigned against the repeal of the 8th amendment and he got quite an amount of hate online for doing so.

Well, he’s in government now and seems to be popular among conservative FF backbenchers – who are arguably a little suspicious of more liberal Micheál Martin, so people like myself who wouldn’t vote for him just have to suck it up. That’s how democracy works.

From other quarters, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill were criticised heavily over their attendance at IRA member Bobby Storey’s funeral. On one level, they shouldn’t have been there because of the pandemic travel restrictions; on the other, they made people feel uncomfortable because they attended a terrorist’s funeral.

Mary Lou McDonald said she would have attended even if she was Taoiseach, which was a rare piece of honesty from a Shinner if you ask me. I see no problem in her attending Storey’s funeral; the two were good friends and it is normal to go to a friend’s funeral. (Whether it is normal to be friends with a terrorist is a question for another day and one which Sinn Féin seems intent on evading… not that most young people care, which is a bit worrying.)

Bobby Storey might have been a criminal to me and those who think as I do, but he was a person and a friend, and his death was sad for his family and friends. They deserve to mourn his loss with dignity.

Speaking of dignity, let us move not so swiftly, but definitely soberly, on to the case of Barry Cowen. Taoiseach Micheál Martin was shocked to discover his newly appointed Minister for Agriculture was banned for drink-driving a few years ago. Cowen, understandably eager to keep his job, was a bit slow to furnish the Taoiseach with the full details so, Martin sacked him.

Political journalists were having a field day on Twitter at Cowen’s expense to the extent that I kind of felt bad for him. I mean, I relate to a man who had a few pints but never bothered to get his proper drivers licence far more than I relate to some of the holier-than-thou Greens who like lecturing us about compost heaps and eating beef.

I mean, feck off!

There are some relatable Greens though, not least, Éamon Ryan, the party leader who is hanging on to that title by a hair. Rather hilariously, Ryan fell asleep during a voting call on a bill proposed by the Soc Dems on increasing the living wage.

A piece of video footage, which was like something written by the writers of The Thick of It, showed Éamon being called by Jack Chambers several times, before he eventually woke with a big sheepish grin on him.

Ryan, like Cowen, was widely condemned by everyone. It seems no voter in this country has ever made a mistake, and poor Éamon must be wrecked what with the new ministerial portfolio and his leadership of the Greens being contested by Catherine Martin – who was wide awake by the way.

The thing is Ryan voted against the motion to increase the living wage, which was ironic because he was asleep on the job himself. Irate tweeters were quick to point out the hypocrisy of him earning €100,000 while the workers he was supposed to be representing might be lucky to earn a quarter of that.

The lesson there for Éamon is if you’re going to have an accidental nap, at least have the decency to vote for a wage increase, man.

The lesson for Jack Chambers is to let sleeping Éamons lie for jaysus’s sake.

In the scheme of things, dodgy friends, bad driving, and sleeping on the job are sins a lot of people are guilty of. Is it right that we hold our politicians to such impossibly high standards? They can’t maintain them as we have learned time and time again. It isn’t doing anybody any good getting outraged every time one of them fucks up so why don’t we give them a break?

Yes, holding our elected representatives to account is important, but why can’t we do that on polling day instead of bitching about it after the fact? Politicians themselves are also the biggest mud-slingers of us all; the lefties hate the centrists and the Shinners hate the Blueshirts and on and on it goes.

Perhaps it’s futile for me to wonder why we can’t all just agree to disagree. It’s just not in our nature. As Dwight Schrute from the US Office said: “That’s politics, baby!”