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Nobody will miss Boris as much as Ireland’s establishment

In Ireland, rents have risen by 11% this year. That figure slightly exceeds the figure for general inflation, which is at 9.6%. It is less than the inflation in fuel prices, which runs at something close to 100% compared to this time last year. Since April of 2021, according to the Examiner, almost 4,000 Irish families have received eviction notices.

In the health service, several hundred thousand people are on waiting lists which exceed a year for vital and necessary treatments essential to their well-being and quality of life. In the international and immigration space, the country is facing a €3billion bill next year for the care of Ukrainian refugees, and more for the care of refugees from other countries. In Justice, crime is up, sentences are growing ever shorter, and the number of sexual offences is rising. On the climate and energy, the Government is on course to miss its own emissions targets, while, at the same time, spending untold sums of money on taxes and projects at the behest of the Green Party. All the while, the Government’s legislative program features such priorities as hate speech legislation, safe spaces, and so on.

The state of the country is not good. Thank God, then, for Boris Johnson.

To say that the Irish media and political establishment is obsessed with Boris Johnson would be an understatement beyond measure. Indeed, one should really be grateful that there are no internationally prosecutable laws for cross-border political stalking, otherwise several of our leading correspondents might find themselves answering to the plod. One imagines Fintan O’Toole before some bewigged M ’lord: “And how many articles concerning Mr. Johnson has the defendant written in the last year?”

“Thirty-seven, your honour”

Boris Johnson is, if you read RTE, or the Irish Times, or the Examiner, or any other outlet, example number one of how not to run a country. Less openly spoken, but universally understood, is that Boris Johnson is reviled for being on the wrong side of the Brexit debate, and that his crimes in the culture war will always matter much more to his Irish critics than the actual governance of Her Majesty’s United Kingdoms.

But Boris plays another role, too, for our beleaguered establishment. Hating him is a form of therapy.

Hating Boris, after all, is really an expression of relief. It might fairly be summed up as “we’re bad, but thanks be to god, they’re worse”.

You often hear it said, for example, that Micheál Martin is a “decent man”. Say what you like about him, but he’s decent. Not like that bimbo in Downing Street, is the implicit, if unspoken, comparison.

“Decent Man”, though, is damning praise. The country is full, thanks be to goodness, of decent men, and decent women. That Mr. Martin is personally kind, apparently, and a good father and husband, is certainly worthy of praise. It does not make him a good Taoiseach, any more than Margaret Thatcher’s coldness and ruthlessness towards her own children made her an ineffective Prime Minister. The qualities one might wish to have in a friend are not, at the end of the day, the qualities one always needs in the leader of a modern parliamentary democracy.

None of this, by the way, should be read as a defence of Mr. Johnson: The British Prime Minister has, finally, come a cropper for a litany of half truths, untruths, and, most fatally, episodes of mismanagement. It is apparent that for all his skill as a commentator, writer, and campaigner, Boris Johnson was ill-suited to the task of operating the levers of the massive British state. Mrs. Thatcher, or Mr. Blair, workaholics both, he is not.

But one wonders: What would Ireland look like if the Irish media gave even a fraction of the scrutiny it does to Mr. Johnson to the Irish Government, and its record? They toss around words like “disaster” and “farce” regularly to describe the goings-on in Westminster, but last I checked, Irish people are being bussed by desperate Irish TDs to Northern Ireland – a British dominion, for the present – for cataract surgery. British homelessness does not approach Irish levels. You do not find, on the main thoroughfares of London, drug addicts urinating in the street and threatening passers-by.

Which country, then, is the “disaster” and the “farce”?

And what is the job of the Irish media? Is it to report and obsess over standards in British public life, or Irish? Is it to campaign for the reversal of Brexit, or is it to hold Irish leaders to account for their failures in office.

Mr. Martin is a decent man. Not even his defenders, sadly, can say that about Mr. Johnson. But why do we care so much, with so many problems on our own doorstep? Because who knows? Perhaps Mr. Johnson will go, and then what?

The Irish media better hope he is replaced by somebody they can hate just as much, because otherwise, one perishes to think what they might have to talk, and write, about.

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