- 05 Jun 19
If so, you will have seen something genuinely disheartening. And it came from the lips of the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan...
We are not talking here about Donald Trump swanning around the Queen’s gaff and looking like a complete tool. That loves itself immeasurably.
Nor are we talking about the ‘phenomenal’ trade deal that he promised the UK after the other island – and an addendum on this side of the water – leaves the EU because we know that ‘phenomenal’ actually means ‘humiliating’.
But it does have to do with Donald Trump.
The news item concerned the Gardaí and their determination to rid Ireland of gangland crime. A meeting had been arranged with senior Garda officers in Coolock Garda Station. Four people from the area have been shot dead this year, as part on the ongoing inter-gang feuds that have riven far too many working class communities over the past few years.
It is a context in which you might expect some carefully chosen words of wisdom from one of the country’s most senior politicians – and so we watched as the microphones were stuck in front of the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan (pictured).
Did we get words of wisdom? Did we get anything that might have made the right kind of impression on people involved with gangs?
What we got, instead, was a horrible piece of Trump-lite.
Because the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, parroted a bit of Tremp-ese, branding people who get involved in criminal activities as ‘losers’.
We heard nothing about social conditions. Nothing about early school leavers. Nothing about government investment in the area. Nothing about jobs. Nothing about ways in which those who do land in jail might be re-integrated positively into the community. Nothing in the way of commitment or vision.
Instead what we heard from Charlie Flanagan was a pale copy of Donald Trump’s arrogance. Of his condescension. Of his talking down to people. Of his loose-canon language. His dismissiveness.
And this is what is really disquieting. There is a real social problem here. It is directly affecting people in disadvantaged communities, in working class areas. Kids who might have gone on to have decent, productive lives have been gunned down, because the way the system is set up encourages people to have a go at making a bit of quick money.
Of course, some of those younger fringe dealers might have gone on to become top gangland figures. But the reality is that most starter drug dealers are relatively innocent people, who get sucked into a bigger, deadlier scene. It is an insult to their families, and to their friends, to dismiss them as losers. It is an insult to the communities from which they came, because many people in those communities also know what it is to need money that they have no realistic way of earning.
And it is an insult to the intelligence of Irish people, who in general prefer their politicians to behave with a bit of dignity and sensitivity.
There is a great letter in The Irish Times today, under the heading "Cannabis, medicine and the law". It is signed by over 15 doctors, including Dr. Garrett McGovern of the International Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies organisation. It advocates the decriminalisation of all drug possession for personal use. Charlie Flanagan should read it. He has a reputation for being highly conservative on this issue. He should get over that knee-jerk response, and engage in a genuine way with people who deal with the issue from a perspective of empathy and understanding.
The war on drugs has failed. Abusing individuals as ‘losers’ will not help to change the murderous dynamic on the ground. However, taking control of the drugs trade away from ruthless, vicious gangs just might. Keeping working class kids out of prison just might.
Donald Trump is widely recognised as one of the worst – if not the worst – US President in history. He is deeply unpleasant, racist, misogynistic, hate-mongering bully. To see an Irish politician aping him in his use of language is awful, and yes, genuinely disheartening.
Never again, Charlie Flanagan. You have a job to do, and doing it right does not involve copying Mr. Trunp...