What was it Churchill said about democracy – the worst imaginable system of government apart from all the others. Or words to that effect. A quick check of a number of Irish politicians, north and south, makes you wonder if Churchill wasn’t being too complimentary. And a look at the Ten Greatest Irish People list compiled by RTE’s Ryan Tubridy show would make you wonder if the general public isn’t so much incompetent as totally crazed.
I mean – did you know that Phil Lynnott of Thin Lizzie is on the list? His version of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ is great, but isn’t it a bit of a step-up from that to listing him as one of the top ten Irish people ever? And Adi Roche? You remember Adi – she ran for the Irish presidency and got nowhere. She was and probably still is a campaigner for the children of Chernobyl – she’s even been referred to in some quarters as The Angel of Chernobyl – and I am full of admiration for people who show such commitment and concern. But one of the ten top Irish people EVER? Come ON… James Connolly and Michael Collins feature in the top ten – makes some kind of sense -but not Padraig Pearse. Where’s the logic in that? And did I say John Hume was among the number? It’d be a mean-spirited person who wouldn’t admire John Hume, as an individual and as a politician, but above, say, de Valera? Or Daniel O’Connell? Or Parnell? John Hume worked fearlessly and tirelessly for civil rights, and he was an effective leader of the SDLP while they were a serious political force, and he helped bring about an end to the war between the IRA and the British forces in the north. Rather more than singing ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ but not really the sort of thing that puts him right at the top of the Greatest Ever tree. Put it like this: was John Hume a greater politician than W B Yeats was a poet?