Sympathy for politicians is a scarce commodity. Even when voters harbor some of it privately, they rarely give it the form of words. Insult would surely follow.
Here are exceptions. Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskyy is currently a global icon, but mainly because he operates outside the orthodox political sphere and takes on the mantle of commander-in-chief.
It takes remarkable courage, but there is a certain simplicity to it. Hopefully sooner rather than later, he will be back on his feet again when the normal back-and-forth of domestic politics resumes. At this point, his critics will resurface.
Politics is about compromise and fudge, often betraying a smaller principle to stay true to a larger one. In a world of scarce resources and limitless expectations, politicians always let someone down.
Almost all political careers end in failure, with only a very privileged elite leaving on their own terms.
Most of the time, they prepare for failure by striving for something they can rarely deliver. Voters, of course, do not forgive when the inevitable happens. Justice is swift, and reputational damage is generally eternal.
Which is why people roll their eyes when politicians’ names are thrown into a discussion. Someone who has nothing more insightful to offer will invariably conclude that they are all the same. To a nod of agreement.
But they are not all the same. Some even cross the barbed wire of political division and earn grudging respect from all sides. Some deserve gratitude not necessarily for the work they do, but for how they support themselves.
In short, for her apparent decency and factual honesty. Which in turn reflects well on the rest of us.
Michael Martin is one of them. Therefore, when Omicron decided, without a little malice, that he would not deliver this famous bowl to US President Joe Biden, there was a palpable outpouring of sympathy.
Since becoming the Taoiseach, he has faced the two greatest global trials of this century. In both the pandemic and Ukraine, he was generally sure-footed, invariably finding the right words and tone when a stumble would have been all too easy.
Not that Micheál is a Boy Scout. You can’t run Fianna Fáil by simply helping old loved ones cross the street. After all, he was a senior cabinet minister during the Galway Tent years when his peers bet on our solvency.
But he’s grown on us and is showing particular maturity in the North, where he’s moved beyond knee-jerk nationalism and into something altogether more thoughtful.
He’s also a sure antidote to the kind of brand-savvy cleaning that was a hallmark of Leo Varadkar’s tenure and will no doubt be again.
If Martin’s political career ends in an all-too-famous failure, he will at least have comfort in the knowledge that we saw him for the decent man he was. Not a bad epitaph.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/politicians-are-not-all-the-same-and-micheal-martin-has-shown-us-that-41472833.html Politicians are not “all the same” – Micheál Martin showed us that