I came across a thread on the Drogheda Leader Facebook page about a soup kitchen due to be opened in Drogheda. This is the link to the thread, which is still open. If you can still access it, you’ll see that the local Socialist Party councillor Ciarán McKenna asks why it is that Ireland, one of the richest countries in the world, should be witnessing the emergence of soup kitchens. He says: “soup kitchens are a symptom of something deeply wrong with our society”, and expresses his preference for everyone “to be provided with enough resources to live their lives as they see fit.”
The discussion then takes a familiar turn: Ciarán McKenna’s point that soup kitchens are a fundamentally political problem is treated as an expression of a party political will to power. Then the person responsible for the page intervenes, as you can see below:
Yesterday I was taken aback by the degree of attention given on news programmes and social media to the decision of former Labour Party chairman Colm Keaveney to join Fianna Fáil. I turned on Liveline, and it was the topic for discussion there too. Some months back I decided to start calling Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party ‘the Troika Party’, since not only were all of them content to implement policies that coincided with the political and economic outlook of the Troika, but in their public pronouncements were more than happy to treat all Troika prescriptions -with the occasional chest-puffing gesture of faked rebellion- as the quintessence of good sense.
Seen in terms of the political priorities of the three main parties, which are indistinguishable on the whole, Keaveney’s move from one political party to another is simply insignificant in terms of the everyday concerns of ordinary people. It will change nothing and it means nothing. But yet again Ireland’s media apparatus, including the space occupied by the ‘political junkies’ – those enthralled by the spectacle of representative politics regardless of the substance- treated Keaveney’s move as an event of earthshattering dimensions.
I’m getting sick of going on about it here: the mediated spectacle of representation serves to depoliticise, to create the idea in the public mind of politics as the professional activity of a self-seeking caste, and not as the common concern of those who mobilise to be recognised and treated as equals.
It’s the spectacle of representation, and the commonplace conviction that ‘they’re all the same’ that gives right-wing anti-political movements such as Direct Democracy Ireland their appeal. Colm Keaveney and Ben Gilroy are two sides of the same coin. This creates an atmosphere in which to say something ‘political’ carries a stigma. Let’s be clear, this opposition to saying ‘political’ things emerges from a desire to keep things just as they are. In this light, two quotes spring to mind. The first is from Archbishop Hélder Câmara: “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.”. The second is from fascist dictator Francisco Franco: “Do as I do, and don’t get involved in politics”.