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Burton’s interview

So Joan Burton gave a very good account of herself with Charlie Bird the other day. was dignified, articulate, passionate and there is little doubt but that she will be a great minister. So good was she that it – almost – made one feel better about her sidelining.

But not quite.

Although I don’t quite agree with Marian McKeone that affirmative action is not needed in Irish politics – I think at this point the blunt instrument of quotas is going to be necessary in order to crack this impenetrable nut – I do agree with her when she says that Joan Burton was clearly the best person for one of the two jobs in Finance.

It may not have suited – who, Fine Gael? – to have her there, but believe me, it would have suited the country. The fact that she didn’t get the job does a disservice, not only to Burton herself, but to us, the people. As a married woman with a child who is – almost but not quite – in her 40s, I am deeply concerned that few, if any of my interests (which are similar to the interests of many women my age) will not be represented by this new government. Burton in Finance would have been a good start.

Just a final point. The Finnish prime minister had a quick word with RTE news the other night. The prime minister was young, articulate – and a woman.

How long more until this becomes the norm here?

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Bad start

And now Ruairi Quinn is at it too.

“This is one of those questions you can’t win either way, women know more about children than men because they spend more time with children.”

Yesterday, in the library, I met a dad with his little girl. After they finished reading their stories, they were heading off to do the shopping. Then the dad was going to work. Earlier this week, my own little girl’s dad took her up to an open night for her new school. I couldn’t go, because I had to work.

I have the height of respect for Ruairi Quinn as a politician, but his comments are just insulting – to men as well as women.

Yes, more women than men still do spend time with children (I’m sure the stats would bear this out), but more and more fathers are doing day shifts, night shifts, any kind of shifts with their kids, as Irish families change and evolve. I love to see my daughter heading off with her dad to go to ballet, or to do the shopping, or just to hang out. Do I know more than him about her? Probably. Does this mean, when he is put to it, he won’t do as well as me at the open day for the new school? Unlikely.

This is a bad start lads. Pigeonholing women – and men too – is a bad start. Bad start Eamonn Gilmore. Bad start Labour. Bad start Government.

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On Joan Burton

Agree with both maman poulet and Olivia O’Leary that Joan Burton deserved a senior economic ministry.

Why was she sidelined? She is articulate, informed, frank, courageous, honest and consistent. She will, as Maman Poulet says, no doubt make a great minister for Social Protection. But she deserved, given her record in opposition, to be at the heart of the situation. And we, the women – and the people – of Ireland deserved it too.

Don’t just take my word for it. This is what our friend Michael Lewis, of Vanity Fair fame, had to say about her last year.

“And in an hour of chatting about this and that, she strikes me as straight, bright, and basically good news.”

Of course, he also said this: “But her role in the Irish drama is as clear as Morgan Kelly’s: she’s the shrill mother no one listened to. She speaks in exclamation points with a whiny voice that gets on the nerves of every Irishman—to the point where her voice is parodied on national radio.”

Dear God – could we care less about her voice? Bertie spoke in riddles, yet he got to be Taoiseach. Cowen spoke in jargon, yet he was still elevated to the highest position. If Burton was a man, would she have been offered an economic portfolio?

Just asking boys…..

Here’s the Michael Lewis article. Read it and weep.

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Losing the Greens

“Former Green Party ministers Eamon Ryan and John Gormley have said they will give their payments to charity or to the party.

Other TDs who did not get re-elected are entitled to a lump sum of up to 75,000. Government ministers are entitled to a further 90,000.”

Once again, all at the bequest of the cheerful taxpayer.

For all that Greens stayed in government too long, and to my mind, should never have allowed the IMF/EU deal to bed down, the Green ministers did achieve something tangible and were arguably the best-performing ministers in that sorry administration. The fact that they are willing to give their severance payments to charity indicates a level of idealism that is hard to imagine anywhere else in Irish politics. (Will Dermot, Noel, and particularly Bertie ‘the architect’ Ahern be following in their footsteps? Not likely.)

No Greens in the Dail is a loss to Irish politics, and the party did not merit its recent wipeout. We, the electorate, need to be very careful of turning the smaller party in government into the whipping boy. To do so is largely to miss the point.