The media was poised for the ‘gotcha’ moment. This week they got it. Amanda Cassidy on why our political witchhunts are so distorted.
It’s not called a dirty game for nothing. And Maria Bailey doesn’t strike me as the faint-hearted type. But when it comes to getting her comeuppance, does the punishment, in this case, really fit the crime?
If Irish political misdemeanours was a sliding scale between one and say… a brown envelope, embellishing and pursuing a personal injury case doesn’t strike me as top of the most-wanted list.
Without condoning, nor dragging the story back over the media hot coals, can we for one second ask ourselves why we’ve chosen Bailey as the burning effigy of Irish political messes over say, those who were in charge when women weren’t told they had cancer and then died?
Or the people who preside over a country where children’s backs twist in agony as they wait and wait and wait for operations that just won’t come.
What about the genius who was in charge when they started anonymising records in the mother and baby homes so loved ones can never be reunited. Or our shameful homeless crisis. Or the disgraceful morgues, or the human waste threatening our water system, or pretty much most of the scandals over the last few years in our country. Why aren’t we more outraged by that?
Instead we seem to obsessively focus on one woman and her attempt to get compensation from a roof-top bar when she fell off a swing on a night out.
This week Fine Gael solved the problem of Maria.
She was deselected from the Fine Gael election ticket in Dun Laoghaire. Back in July, an internal review of the so-called ‘swing-gate’ by Fine Gael concluded that while it was not fraudulent, Bailey had made a number of serious “errors of judgement”.
All over social media, people were waiting to pounce, to roll eyes and scoff.
Nobody is saying that Maria Bailey didn’t get what she deserves, but can’t we focus our outrage on something a little less Daily Mail?
The reason Bailey got such a response is because she played the victim. Her ill-advised interview with RTÉ Radio 1 wrangled many who felt she should drop the defensive act and repent instead of justifying her behaviour.
Even now, with her statement being ridiculed for using Comic Sans typing script, there is still an air of victimhood that doesn’t play well with the public and the media. The narrative is still there. And it irks.
Over yonder, another self-proclaimed victim has been hounded by the press. Some would argue that Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, did herself no favours by wondering where the empathy was for her struggle in the spotlight during a documentary released last month. “Thank you for asking, not many do,” she says to the interviewee with a beatific head-tilt to camera, implying that it is the world against Meghan Markle.
Of course, it is less easy to feel sympathy for someone in the public eye who is going through something that is perceived to be of their own making. It is also possible to feel sorry for them and simultaneously annoyed by an attitude that is seen as entitled and out of touch.
But the level of venom directed at such an eye-roll gaffe by Maria Bailey seems disproportionate when it comes to some of the shameful practices overseen by our leaders.
And while it might suit them to distill some of that over toward Bailey’s direction, let’s try not to forget a family — the children and husband of tragic Emma Mhic Mhathúna, who received incorrect smear test results before she was diagnosed with cancer.
Last month they laid a wreath on their mother’s grave, on the one year anniversary of her death. She was just 37 and five children are now motherless.
Let’s get some perspective on where we channel our outrage, and not just focus on the easy meme-able target.
Image via Newstalk
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