Photo credit: Houses of the Oireachtas

Senator Craughwell: I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more

Many people will have heard the phrase in the headline, but few enough of us of my vintage and younger may know its provenance. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” comes from the 1976 movie “Network”, where it is uttered by disillusioned news anchor Howard Beale, memorably played by Peter Finch, who won an Oscar for his efforts:

The basic gist of Beale’s rant is as true today as it was forty-seven years ago, when it aired. It is not, after all, a commentary on any particular period in history so much as it is a comment on the human condition and our tendency towards complacency and acceptance at an individual level: I’m alright, Jack. Beale laments that whilst society – to his eyes – is falling apart around our ears, most people are content to sit at home in front of the television and keep their heads down so long as the troubles of the day do not affect them. Not good enough, he says: Get mad.

That, this weekend, is precisely what Senator Gerard Craughwell did:

There are many more tweets from the good Senator along that basic theme: The Gender Recognition Act, he says, is madness, and it must go.

The significant things here are twofold: First, that the Senator voted for the very act that he now wishes to repeal. Second, that his newfound opposition to it is so sudden, and deep felt, and has the feeling of a man at long last – a la Howard Beale – saying what he really thinks.

The first part – the Senator’s vote in favour of the Gender Recognition Act (which for those who still do not know, allows any person in the state to switch their gender legally to male or female by filling out a form, and become legally as much a woman or a man as a person born that way) is significant because of what it says about how and why that act was passed.

“I voted for it”, the Senator says, “because I believed it was a compassionate thing to support”. That, in essence, is the nub of why this particular piece of legislation is on the Irish statute book. Senator Craughwell, it is fair to say, is by no means the only legislator to have cast a vote for it on the basis of a very vague understanding of the consequences, motivated by a vague sense of “it’s progressive, therefore it must be compassionate”. We must remember that at the time of its passage, the GRA was supported by all of those who might be termed the very good people in Irish society: The people who call themselves human rights campaigners and such. It was opposed by the very bad people: The likes of Ronan Mullen, and others who might occasionally be spotted in suspicious proximity to a church.

For about a decade now, in this jurisdiction, if not longer, the basic maxim “if the Bishops are against it it must be good” has been sufficient to win passage for most ideas argued on that basis. Add in some guff about Ireland becoming a more tolerant and compassionate country, and even relatively straight-laced fellows like Senator Craughwell are easily convinced to go along for the ride.

All of which makes the second observation more salient: Craughwell does not just sound, these days, like a fellow whose vote is one he has come to regret in the fullness of time now that the facts are known. He’s actively angry about it. He feels hoodwinked. He has, in the language of our time, woken up.

And he feels, patently, deceived and betrayed.

That is significant because politics is nothing if not emotional. One of the reasons that progressivism has had such a thunderously effective decade in Ireland is because of precisely that emotion, directed at the church. People felt deceived and betrayed by the Priest and the Bishops, and wanted to punish them. That meant that when progressives came forward with laws like the GRA and the religious in society objected, their objections actually became an argument for passing the law. Catharsis through owning the Catholics, for want of a better term.

Progressives have never been on the other side of that equation. They have never faced raw anger from people, or that kind of sense of betrayal.

That’s why Craughwell’s intervention might feel, in a few years, like a turning point: He’s the child watching the naked Emperor who says what the adults will not. He’s Howard Beale, urging people to get angry. Less charitably, he’s the fellow on the internet shouting “wake up, sheeple”.

But it is impossible to argue that he is not a convert, or someone who feels deceived by what he was told to be compassion and tolerance. Progressives would want to hope he’s almost alone in feeling that way, or they could be in for a rough few decades themselves.

I suspect, for the record, that he is not alone.


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