Brian Cowen, Political Culture & Loyalty v Respect

So is John McGuinness telling it like it is?  Uncomfortable as it may be for some,  his arguments expose  the ‘groupthink’  mentality that exists in most organisations.    Brian Cowen may be unlucky,  he may be stubborn,  he may even be incompetent – I don’t know – but to accuse him of being tribal is to accuse him of being human, being Irish even.

In most organisations throughout the country,  CEOs, football managers, political leaders pick their teams and while talent should be top of the agenda – loyalty to the captain and hard work will more than not be rewarded over the talented outspoken one.   In fact, the one who tells it like it is rarely gets rewarded.  Eventually they may do so,  but it is usually based on pacification and the ‘squeeky wheel always gets oiled’  approach rather than any real desire for  a change of strategy or outlook.

The culture of the political system in Ireland is a star culture – one where TDs are independent republics and where the crucial rules of survival are ‘win thy seat’ and ‘defend  thy seat’ at any cost.  It has also become a highly paid job with lavish expenses with considerable administrative and research back-up.  Added to this is the ‘Bertie Ahern legacy’ of five year Dáil terms,  the culture of keeping the team on message through appointments to Junior Ministries,  Chair of Dáil Committees,  the overall jobs for the boys culture and you can see how rapidly politicians across the political divide have lost touch with their electorate.   Once elected to office, Ministers set about building their teams,  often hiring  party members and family to lucrative positions while appointing political party members and supporters to State Boards and authorities.  All of this is done behind closed doors,  there is no transparency despite repeated calls from outside the walls of Leinster House for reform.    It also imbues a culture of fear – be loyal at all costs or you forfeit your right to reward and a promising career.

Becoming a TD is a lucrative business these days.  You can forget all that guff about TDs giving up the chance to earn lucrative salaries in the private sector – the majority wouldn’t pass the test.    This is a political system of power, of entering politics for monetary gain.  It is not a political system based on achievement and legacy.

As Professor Ray Kinsella pointed out in the Irish Times recently,   “Political institutions and the system of governance are semi-detached from the pulse-beat of individuals who have lost their jobs, businesses teetering on the brink of failure, and families that are crushed by the circumstances in which they have suddenly found themselves.”

He goes on:  “They are still dominated by an apprenticeship system, which favours those who have served their time over those who can contribute most to addressing the problems now confronting the country.”

No doubt Brian Cowen, Mary Coughlan, Government spin doctors and the ‘loyal’ band of backbenchers eager to please (for now)  will be busily engaged in briefing columnists and a select band of embedded journalists to spread doubt about John McGuinness and what they will insist is really just his very public ‘throwing of his toys out of the pram’.

Brian Cowen has made it abundently clear that he values loyalty over talent and yet John McGuinness has challenged  our whole perception of the culture of groupthink and of loyalty.  His premise is that the overused tag of loyalty needs to be replaced with respect.  Of course, respect infers equity and balance.    Respect means that a true friend will tell you if you have got it wrong or made a mistake rather than pledge blind allegiance to a sinking ship.

And finally this is what economist Dan O’Brien observed in the Irish Times on 20 March 2009:  “To set out the inadequacies of Mary Coughlan as Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment would be inappropriate and unhelpful. It suffices to say that at a time of national emergency, the patently and grossly unable, by their mere presence, should not be allowed to obstruct efforts to prevent outright meltdown.” 

OUCH!

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1 Response to “Brian Cowen, Political Culture & Loyalty v Respect”



  1. 1 Brian Cowen, Political Culture & Loyalty v Respect Trackback on May 4, 2009 at 9:31 am

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