George Lee & De Burca Fly Away

In the vast acreage of print devoted to last week’s two political retirees, former parliamentarians George Lee and Deirdre de Burca, there was little recognition of the real lessons which are, that personality politics holds nothing in the way of a solution to either our economic or political problems and secondly that ordinary people should not put any faith in establishment political parties or politicians. For some the spectacle was highly amusing. As the air thickened with recrimination between the pair and their political parties, for some reason the writer Flann O’Brien came strongly to mind. Perhaps it was that I remembered reading that his fractious relationship with his political masters caused him to resign amid, it was said memorably, ‘a cacophony of f**ks.’ Or maybe it was a subconscious association of the departees with the title of one of his famous books, ‘At Swim Two Birds.’

Certainly there was no end of feathers and shrill accusations flying as the two abandoned the party nests. Sailors once believed that a sighting of stormy petrels heralded a severe storm. Last week it was the two petrels themselves who were making heavy waves for their former colleagues.

How differently it all began. Nine months ago George Lee began his political journey, not as petrel but soaring eagle, elevated to dizzy heights by a celebrity crazed media and the updraughts of his own lofty rhetoric about changing the world for the children and grand children of the nation.

His admirers believed that eagle George had an unrivalled perspective on the battered landscape that is the Irish capitalist economy and could transform it into a happy valley where milk and honey flowed again.
Apparently George believed this also and set about educating Fine Gael and leader Enda Kenny. No eagle Enda, however. More the crafty wren from Aesop’s fable who hides in the eagle’s plumage and is raised to dizzying heights never before experienced.

We do not know if Deirdre de Burca ever imagined herself as a soaring eagle in the Green firmament but unfortunately she finished up as barnyard fowl grubbing for some elusive pickings in the EU’s foraging patch.
In a frank admission in an article in The Irish Times,Ms de Burca reveals that it was the failure of Party Leader Gormley to secure a plum job in the cabinet of new EU Commissioner Geoghegan Quinn, that was the catalyst for her resignation and walk out. Apparently this job had been promised by Taoiseach Cowen only for Gormley to inform her that she had subsequently been ‘shafted by Fianna Fail.’

‘This was the point at which I knew that it was time for me to resign from the parliamentary party and from the Government,’ declared Ms de Burca. What an extraordinary revelation of cynical self seeking, indicating just how badly members of the green Party have lost the moral compass they claimed to treasure.

The Green Party in government could vote for fundamental injustices. Like savaging the incomes of low and middle income workers and social welfare recipients. Like mortgaging present and future generations to the banks and the speculator bondholders, the greedy authors of the economic catastrophe. However, it was the failure to land a lucrative job, gifted by the political establishment, far away from the victims of the economic crash and the Fianna Fail/Green Party Government’s harsh medicine that opened the eyes of the departing Senator.

As for George Lee we have to look on his brief political trajectory with equal scepticism. What exactly did he stand for? What was his solution to the economic crisis which is blighting the lives of so many? What was it that he had in mind that Fine Gael would apparently not take on board?

Unfortunately we do not know the answers to these questions because George Lee did not tell us. One would imagine that he would have committed his ideas to paper and published a manifesto. He could have gone to the ranks of his new party and argued for this manifesto to be adopted by them as its General Election policy. Failing that he could have appealed directly to the people.

The reality is that, if clearly outlined, George Lee’s prescriptions for the economic crisis would be largely the same as those of both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and based on the premise that the dictates of the gods of the financial markets at whose altar they all worship, would have to be obeyed. And whether Greece or Ireland, Spain or Portugal, that means savage attacks on the living standards of working people, savage attacks on working conditions and pension entitlements. Because George Lee shares the same assumptions that underpin the dominant economic system. And it is only by fundamentally challenging that system itself that solutions will be found.

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