Friday, February 23, 2024

Editorial: Politicians of all hues should remember that people in glasshouses cannot throw stones

Maybe President John F. Kennedy was right when he said that while mothers all want their sons to be president, they don’t want them to be politicians.

Similarly, perhaps Henry Kissinger, the celebrated American politician and diplomat, was correct when he suggested that 90% of politicians give the other 10% a bad name.

It’s certainly a difficult time to be a politician on the national stage just now. Any error one makes is lit upon by others, in other parties, to make the biggest thing out of it – even if most rational people aren’t that upset by the ‘error’.

Over the past few years, Sinn Féin has gained a lot of support, making it the most popular party in the State (according to the opinion polls). The party is never backward about coming forward and slating another politician because of something they did or did not do or should not do or could not do.

The latest politician to earn the ire of Sinn Féin is Minister Paschal Donohoe; his problem was in not filing a declaration concerning election posters, and who paid for them to be put up, to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

Now, in our earnest experience, Pashcal is a fairly benign politician. He has been seen to have been a decent Finance Minister, and earned a reputation for being a straight if gentle talker before that. Still, when his ‘error’ became clear, he was lambasted in the Dáil from the opposition benches.

The subtext was that he knew about the ‘error’ all along and just didn’t bother filling in his declaration form correctly. There’s no proof of that of course; still, for those who believe, no proof is necessary and for those who don’t believe, no proof is possible. Criticism of the Minister, bordering on abuse, was rampant with Sinn Féin to the fore in pointing the finger.

However, no sooner had that party done all it could to corner Minister Donohoe than it emerged that they, too, had made an ‘error’. Five separate expenses worth €2,016, which should have been included in the party’s 2016 declaration to SIPO, were omitted. Sinn Féin is now resubmitting its return for the 2016 General Election.

Closer to home, last year we all witnessed the criticism of Deputy Robert Troy over property declarations, and we’ve read about the abuse received by local councillors over hare coursing (and pretty much every other issue too).

People with an interest in British politics know how quickly the Labour party, as the Opposition, is to jump all over members of the Tory party when they are seen to transgress, even if Labour’s history and dealings are not exactly pure.

‘Criticism of Minster Donohoe, bordering on abuse, was ramptant with Sinn Féin to the fore…’

Criticism is one thing, but abuse is another; free speech is valuable in terms of fair comment, but when it becomes abusive or when it takes an ‘error’ out of context, it must be seen as wrong by any fair-minded individual.

What if Paschal Donohoe did, as he says, just make a mistake? Is it really such a big deal? And what if Sinn Féin did simply make an oversight in terms of its 2016 General Election declaration, as it says it did? Aren’t there bigger issues to worry about, and is it really impossible for parties in government and those in opposition to get together to come up with solutions?

Mistakes are a fact of life. It’s the response to mistakes that counts, and that really shouldn’t be led by political parties in opposition which have a clear agenda of their own.

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