Visitors here come along about as regularly as trains in Co Donegal, so it was a surprise to get a visit yesterday morning from Dustin the Turkey promoting his bid to become Taoiseach. Responding to a post on people’s motivations for voting for Dustin for Eurovision, there was a comment:
Now that Bertie’s gone, Dustin’s chance has come. Tiochfaidh ar Turkey! http://www.dustinfortaoiseach.com
“Our turkey will come”, generally has more to do with lunch at Christmas than with the parodying of the Irish political system (and most other things!) by a television puppet.
Dustin has already won his place at the Eurovision Song Contest, which is perhaps worthy of all the parodying it gets (and I admit to voting for him), but maybe we should draw a line when it comes to government?
Satire has been part of the political process for some time. 19th Century English politics saw frequent viciously satirical publications and since the 1960s political satire has become a regular part of popular entertainment. The 1980s British television series Spitting Image had a sharpness that would probably not be acceptable in an atmosphere of political correctness.
Political satire in Ireland chiefly takes the form of the magazine Phoenix, but the smallness of Ireland gives a limited range of subjects, and there is a sense of a gentler and more benign approach than there might be in a larger and more impersonal society.
But there is a difference between satirical treatment of people within the political process and ridiculing the whole process, and I think what is being done in the name of Dustin is ridiculing the process.
There is precedent for such intervention, albeit at a local government level. In 2001 H’Angus the Monkey was elected as mayor of Hartlepool in the north-east of England. H’Angus was mascot of the local soccer team, his name coming from the legend of being the people who hanged the monkey. As soon as he was elected, the man playing H’Angus reverted to being himself remaining mayor for four years and being re-elected in 2005.
The connection between Dustin and his website is unclear, but the firm behind the website believe that Dustin should be our next Taoiseach because:
1. He is good looking (compared to other politicians)
2. He is an excellent liar
3. He is a chancer (see: Eurovision)
4. If he is made Taoiseach, we expect that he will promise everyone in the country a free ham next Christmas (disclaimer: see point 2)
All of which might be funny in a student rag magazine sort of way, but politics is about serious stuff; about people having a decent quality of life, about families being secure, about safety on our streets, about hospitals for our sick, about care for our elderly, about dozens of important things.
Dustin is great fun, but following the election of Brian Cowen as the new Taoiseach, maybe the turkey should bow graciously out of the political process and focus his ridicule on more pompous and less important targets – perhaps the clergy!