Wednesday, February 04, 2015

THERE are times when political correctness is a must, and then there are times when it is just a distraction from what is really important.

Last week, two such incidents occupied the news cycle for a day and then rightly disappeared. In fact, as far as I am concerned, neither should have been highlighted in the first place.

I know that some people believe comments attributed to Tipperary Independent TD Michael Lowry regarding Valerie O’Reilly, a member of the National Transport Authority, about why she should be reappointed were condescending, to say the least. I disagree.

Lest, for some strange reason you don’t know what I am talking about, the Tipperary TD had passed over a note in the Dáil to the taoiseach asking that he consider reappointing Ms O’Reilly to the post.

Mr Lowry described her as ‘bright, intelligent and not bad looking either’. When pressed on the subject, he agreed that perhaps the last part of the sentence was unnecessary, but he didn’t have any regrets. “I have never had a situation where a woman took exception to a compliment,” he added.

What I really liked was his insistence that he didn’t do anything wrong, which I don’t believe he did. But people were up in arms about it, stating that he demeaned women.

When Christine Lagarde was appointed head of the IMF in 2011, commentators continuously referred to her appearance. In fact, as pointed out by Michael Lowry last week, the Irish press continued to do that on her recent visit to Ireland. What’s the big deal? She is obviously qualified to oversee the lMF, which has funds of over $800 billion – some fund – and as Mr Lowry had pointed out in his note, Ms O’Reilly was bright and intelligent – something which we have found in the past were rare on state-appointed boards.

Then there was uproar when Benedict Cumberbatch used the word ‘coloured’ on a US TV talk show and it went viral on the net. OK, there was a time when the use of that word in the US was derogatory. If people want to look back to such a time, good for them, but thankfully, an acting colleague of Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, who just happens to be playing the role of 1960s civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnr in Selma, described the furore as ‘ridiculous’. Again, rightly so.

But back to the Lowry case. What we should really have looked into was the fact that the note in question had fallen out of the taoiseach’s folder and had come into the possession of a Labour TD. This TD then held on to the note for two days before handing it over to a journalist, who naturally saw the news potential and ran with it.

It just goes to show there is no such thing as loyalty in the Dáil. Here we have a member of the coalition partnership passing information to the media, which he or she knew would cause controversy not alone for Mr Lowry but also the taoiseach who, as everyone in political circles knows, could do without another controversy.

Isn’t it about time we all lived in the rear world, pay a compliment to someone if we feel like it, or criticise them without wondering if we will fall foul of the ‘correctness brigade’. Maybe then, we might get meaningful answers to some very serious questions.

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By Michael Godfrey
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