The Flying Column – Leaders Debate Special


By Connor Kelly


Richard Boyd Barrett of the PBP-AAA won the Leaders’ Debate last night, hands down. But it couldn’t have been all that difficult for him, given that he was the only one among them that appeared demonstrably human. Ok, ok, Gerry Adams did come across as one of the Homo genus – perhaps – but one in the late stages of Troubles induced dementia. The others? Well, next to Adams, we had Micheal Martin, a character that looks like he’s been lifted directly from a John B Keane play. Enda Kenny was on top animatronic form, having been practicing with his Taoiseach by Numbers mindfulness book all week. Joan Burton, taking her lead from the Stanislavski school, totally embodied her new role as the Emperor from Star Wars, insisting with gusto that the dark-side isn’t all that bad once you get to know it. The other two “leaders” were so utterly devoid of character that they appeared as mere coagulations of clichés grouped together in a shape that was vaguely human. The most interesting thing about the leader of the social-democrats was that he resembled a large talking egg. The debate was chaired by Clair Byrne, an idiot.

BYRNE: Question.

RBB: They are all bastards. They lie. Working class people are suffering because of the gambling debts of the rich. Bondholders must burn. People-Power is the answer.

ADAMS: Rah Rah Rah, a chairde. Rah Rah Rah, 1916. Rah Rah Rah, the 3 amigos.

MARTIN: Rural Ireland is green. I am rural. I am green. Remember Haughey? Begod! Begorrah!

ENDA: 011000010011011111001001102 ERROR 32:;++= REDO FROM START

BURTON: Alderaan will fall.

TALKING EGG AND CLICHÉ DISPENSER: At the end of the day, what we need is change. Savage cuts. Civil War Politics.

You see, the thing I noticed most about the Leader’s Debate was how thoroughly dull it was. One would think that in a country in economic devastation, on the 100th anniversary of the revolution that brought about its independence, in a global society that is verging on total collapse, that they might have gotten a little more animated. But no. Through feats of super-human repression, all of them, accept RBB and Adams (and even Adams’ outrage seemed contrived) managed to appear totally passive in the face of ruin. They reminded me of the string-quartet from James Cameron’s Titanic who stoically continue to the end, playing “Nearer My God to Thee” ad nauseum, just to make your passing from this world in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic that little bit more meaningless.

One of the largely ignored but fundamentally important reasons that the youth of today are becoming widely “politicized” or “radicalized” is because of how utterly banal mainstream establishment politics has become. The “extreme centre” as Tariq Ali calls it, is not only bringing society to the edge of oblivion, it is doing so with such nonchalant matter-of-factness that we – the youth – might be induced to commit suicide out of boredom prior to the event. When we are offered no prospect of a survivable future -apart from pseudo-fascist iterations of the present – when the idea of job security is non-existent, when we are completely disenfranchised from the political discourse, it is hardly surprising that we will be attracted to people who actually seem to believe that human life has meaning and value.


The most important moment in the debate came at the end, when each of the candidates gave their little 45 second speech directly to the camera. Here, torrents of vomit were seen cascading through the streets of Irish cities as the populace went into neurotic fits at the sight and sound of such poorly orchestrated pantomimicry. You’d have seen better acting on Fair City. The Taoiseach looked like a cross between a dodgy used car salesman and a small town Mayo priest – you are totally repulsed by him but compelled by an unknown force of perversion to gaze upon his robotic face. I half expected him to wink into the camera at the end, and a magical glint and “ping’ to sound off one of his teeth. Burton sounded like someone who has finally accepted the diagnosis and is coming to terms with having only weeks to live. She instilled in me such joie de vivre that I had an extra bottle of wine and a full box of valium to celebrate. But of course, amidst all of this harmonious gobshitery, the dischordant Richard Boyd Barrett shone – because of that amazing left-wing innovation of “actually meaning what you say.” It was unrehearsed sincerity – and it made sense. But surely it is a dire state of affairs when something like sincerity appears as an insane and radical break from the norm.

What the Irish people are being offered is a choice of what shade of green to paint their new cells. Adams recommends the commemorative H-Block Green, Burton recommends necrotic puss-green with streaks of pink, and Enda recommends Pro-Treaty green while Martin goes for Greener than thou Green. Which shade will you pick? Will you even survive long enough to find out? Or will you bludgeon your head off the wall in efforts to induce coma? Or perhaps, we could try something a little different – just this once. Why not paint it red? Or even better, start a damn prison riot.