It used to be the case that an Irish politician would no more resign than chew his own leg off. Now they can’t seem to stop. Six ministers last week, the leader of Fianna Fáil on Saturday, and Gerry Adams from his Westminster seat today.
On another epic day of politics though, perhaps the most important breaking story has its roots back in 2002. First on twitter, then online and shortly I feel through the political establishment and the electorate, the tale of Enda Kenny’s racist joshing with party members and media nearly nine years ago will run and run.
It was a retelling of a joke about a cocktail barman and the murdered prime minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba. Hardly the raw material of ribald humour but Kenny retold it using the ‘N’ word.
There are many already who dismiss it as ancient history and apologise that he was not being racist in any way. These are similar responses to the parallel story of SKY Sports presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys who have been relieved of their duties for sexist comments that were made ‘off mic’ and leaked to the media.
Those in positions of power and responsibility, whether in media or politics are judged by a higher standard. They set the tone and if it is acceptable for them to use casual sexist or racist remarks it makes their use by others more acceptable.
There is a latent racism in Ireland. It is at a low level and may not be judged terribly offensive by most but it is there. It is less prevalent in younger generations, in much the same way as drink driving, but there is no point in denying it does exist among Enda’s generation. He and they would rail against the idea that they judged people differently according to gender, race or any other facet of their being. That is not the point though.
If the next leader of the country saw fit to use language that was never acceptable, even if it was nine years ago, then by his own words may he be judged.
Will it be an acceptable defence for bullies, racists or louts that the Taoiseach used this language?
Will they look further and see that a government minister who may have run for leadership of his own party used another derogatory phrase about Turkish workers and paid no price?
Is this an acceptable standard for those who represent us?
There is every chance that this ‘joke’ will not go away. And Enda may find that the laughter generated on the night will haunt his quieter moments in years to come.
But surely a Fine Gael front bencher would not ask questions of his judgement, would they?