Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Thinking (Oneself) Outside The Box

And now, a mildly-comic political cock-up that would not bear mentioning had it not happened in my home village in the west of Ireland. The local TD (a sense of embarrassed pity of the sort you get watching David Brent on The Office prevents me from naming him though the more intrepid can easily find out if bothered), a bit of a dynamo for culturally-minded PR stunts, delivered on his promise of getting a big-name New York politician to unveil a monument to local man Brigadier General Michael Corcoran, commander of the 69th Infantry Regiment in the American Civil War. The man who was eventually due to pull the curtain was Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man with no discernible links to Ireland.

What was at play was the intersection of the political interests of a small player (show one's clout in New York to win votes at home) and those of a very big one (the wish to win vital votes from New York Irish-American community, not always too disposed to do Jewish politicians a favour). As it turned out though, a 10-day power cut in Staten Island prevented Bloomberg from leaving the city, and the monument arrived in the post. Bloomberg offered to send a deputy but the Irish public representative, seeing a shrinking in prestige, declined and the monument remained in its box, obviously not in itself enough to interest the dejected lawmaker. Unfortunately a large delegation of the regiment's veterans made their way to the venue and were disappointed to find that they would not be of much use for a colour parade or some such thing. The locals were also miffed and even the usually compliant local media have put the boot into the now-laying-low TD, who claimed that Bloomberg would yet come, to local scorn. The Mayor's office chipped in by saying that he would dearly love to attend but that his future presence would be contingent on events in New York, which is a 'volatile place.' Which put the Deppity in his.

I have no great love for either of the principals in this affair. The Irishman is a harmless fellow, a colourless product of the clientelist Irish political system (and the smallness of the country too), and I could not bring myself to give him a vote even were I induced into a state of extreme rapture. Bloomberg, for all his liberal credentials has yet to permit an anti-war march in the city he governs; he is also one of the world's richest men, making most of his money from media outlets. The Irishman has come off the worst, being found to be out of his depth, without a viable back-up plan. The bizarre thing is that this little fiasco is likely to cost him more than any more politically substantial ones might have.