Sometimes the sublime and the ridiculous come together to put Ireland’s place in the world in fairly stark relief.
This past weekend in the German state of Baden Wurtemburg, the ruling Christian Democratic Union has been ousted from power after 58 years of government. This is the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the election result may yet conspire to damage her national and indeed European leadership authority. They are likely to be replaced by the Green Party who benefitted from the two main policy issues that dominated the election.
The first of these was the attitude towards nuclear power following the Japanese tsunami and the subsequent and ongoing problems at the Fukushima power plant. Germany is heavily reliant on nuclear power and a hasty decision to shut down local plants cast their safety into question.
The second was the decision at national level to abstain from the United Nations decision on miltary involvement in Libya. This proved a very sensitive issue for the german electorate who felt that their government was not strong enough in supporting the popular uprising while others did nail their colours and their arsenals to the mast.
Neither of these major global issues was of more than passing interest to our body politic. We have instead been wrapped up in ever tighter knots over the repercussions of a 14 year investigation into alleged wrongdoing in the granting of a government contract, albeit a large one in our terms.
Today the debate has raged over whether TD Michael Lowry should have 20, 30 or 50 minutes to defend himself from allegations in the Moriarty Report. As a speechwriter I appreciate this difference means a lot to someone whose lifetime of public service has been questioned as wholly corrupt. The logic of an argument needs time to be developed and what pain is their really in allowing the additional time requested? There is also the sense of a gallows being erected around his career and if only for the sport of seeing who he might tarnish on his way down, the public interest is surely best served by allowing as much time as is needed. After all we have waited a long time.
We are a nation that prides itself on the influence and reach of our diaspora and our culture. We feel that we are an important part of the global community. Perhaps it is that inflated sense of our national self that makes the difference between what Germans vote on in a state election and what we devote the time of our national parliament point to us as being somewhat irrelevant and perhaps just a little tawdry.