We have known it for years, and it is still the case, that politicians think that members of the public are fools. They think that when they are asked awkward questions they can say anything that comes into their heads to get them out of a difficult corner. At one time the Government promised 2,000 extra Guards on the streets to give Dublin the safest streets in Europe. I distinctly remember the Taoiseach promising the country a Rolls Royce Health Service. We never got the extra 2,000 Guards and not only have we not got a Rolls Royce Health Service, whatever kind of jalopy we have it’s continually breaking down. This kind of little weakness of politicians is not confined to any one party. They all do it to some extent, but some individuals are afflicted with the habit more than others.
Recently I turned on the radio in the middle of a Pat Kenny interview about waste disposal with Martin Cullen, the Minister for the Environment. I missed the context and detail, but the minister was talking about people bringing some part of their waste to depots. Pat said that was all very well, but what about old age pensioners who hadn’t got cars. The minister replied that he was at one of these depots recently on a Saturday morning and met grandparents with their grandchildren enjoying a Saturday morning outing to dispose of waste.
Please Mr Cullen, you are patently not stupid so how could you think that this was an answer to Pat’s question? You were outrageously offensive to the nation’s old age pensioners, with or without cars, to suggest that a trip to a waste disposal depot, with or without grandchildren, was a pleasurable way to spend a Saturday morning. If you are going to evade an awkward question please do so without offending people’s intelligence and please try to and avoid stupid and offensive answers.
The interview could have been worse. It might have gone something like this:
Pat Kenny: What about old age pensioners and others who haven’t got cars? How are they to get to these depots.
Mr Cullen; Well, as you know, Pat, (politicians use ‘as you know’ and the interviewer’s name as a not-so-subtle device to flatter, when they’re in a tight corner), there are 134,000 families (politicians have the statistics of the nation at their fingertips), in this country, (not in Germany, not in Kenya or anywhere else, but in this country) with two or more cars. The civil servants in my department (it is not your department, minister, you are appointed temporarily to run it. It is our department; it belongs to the people of Ireland, [this country]) are preparing the heads of a bill, (government departments must be littered with heads of bills that never get to their feet), requiring two-car or more, families to share their surplus cars with car-less (not careless, Pat, ha, ha. [another diversionary tactic]), families on Saturday mornings to drive their waste to disposal depots.
At least an interview like this might have been more honest; incredible maybe, but less offensive to old age pensioners. It would, however, have been a tiny bit worrying for two or more car families, whose votes the minister won’t want to lose either. To spare us political guff and evasion the Government should issue to every household in this country, (Ireland), like the iodine tablets and euro converters, a numbered list of answers and when ministers are interviewed they would simply have to respond, 14, 37, 6, 89. Political interviews in the media would be shorter and we would have increased time on air for more important matters.