Garret Fitzgerald: “Civic Morality Reborn through Blaming Others.”

In a recent article for the Irish Times, former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald gave hope to the nation by demonstrating how Irish civic morality could be strengthened by accepting that responsibility for one’s failures lay with others.

In the article, entitled “Apocalypse may yet spark the rebirth of civic morality” (Oct. 16, 2010), Dr. Fitzgerald squarely asked the Irish people to take collective responsibility for the current crisis, and then delegate that responsibility to a number of traditional scapegoats. “A factor common to this whole range of failures seems to me to have been a striking absence of any sense of civic responsibility throughout our society,” said Dr. Fitzgerald, thereby lessening the blame any one person, for example a former Taoiseach who led the nation for six years in the 1980s, might have to shoulder.

Dr. Fitzgerald blames the Catholic Church for the financial crisis.

Dr. Fitzgerald blames the Catholic Church for the financial crisis.

Not content with merely lessening the blame, however, Fitzgerald was quick to pass the little bit of blame left to the only organisation that can vie with Dáil Éireann for unpopularity: the Catholic Church. Dr. Fitzgerald identified the root of the problem as “a society whose education has been almost exclusively in the hands of the Catholic Church was left with virtually no training in civic morality or civic responsibility.” Having attacked the church for something it did have a hand in, Dr. Fitzgerald then felt emboldened to go the whole hog and attack it for stuff it had nothing to do with – abuses in the financial industry. “This has been particularly noticeable in the failure of the church to preach about the evils of tax evasion for the additional taxes that have to be imposed to offset this shortfall.”

Admirers of Dr. Fitzgerald have been quick to acknowledge his stroke of genius. Patrick Mulcahy (52), a respected barrister said that he was “in awe” at the manner in which Fitzgerald had pointed the crooked finger of blame for the financial crisis at the Catholic Church. “Really, this is just a masterclass in passing the buck,” said Mulcahy, with the air of a connoisseur appreciating the work of a maestro. “I mean, it’s not just how he blames the Catholic Church for something they had a hand in and then uses that as a springboard to connect them to something they had nothing to do with. It’s also about what he doesn’t say; not once in an article about collective responsibility and civic morality does Fitzgerald offer up a single example of a mistake he made or something he personally could have done better, say, when he was the leader of the country from 1981-1987.”

“He likes to create mobs, and then lead them from the back.”

Taoiseach 1981-1987, when nothing to do with Ireland's current problems happened.

Taoiseach 1981-1987, when nothing to do with Ireland's current problems happened.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s skills were again in evidence in the second half of the article, when he asserted that once the revolutionary generation – with its commitment to integrity in public life –passed from the scene in the 1960s and 1970s, it was replaced by a new generation devoid (thanks to the Church) of any sense of civic morality. “This was the moment when I thought he’d lost it,” said Mulcahy. “There’s no way he can avoid the fact that he was one of the leaders of this post-revolutionary generation. He was the Taoiseach, for God’s sake! How can he possibly push the blame for what happened next onto someone else? But again,” said Mulcahy, pausing to smack his lips like a gourmet consuming a sumptuous Merlot, “Garret outdid himself.”

Without even mentioning the fact that he was Taoiseach during this era, Dr. Fitzgerald heroically singled out his political enemies as the ones whose civic morality failed. Wrote Fitzgerald shamelessly, “In the 1970s, the surviving Fianna Fáil ex-ministers were horrified at the prospect of the emergence of a very different kind of Fianna Fáil. It was only with great difficulty that Frank Aiken, because of his concerns for the party and the country, was persuaded to stand again for election in 1973. Later, President de Valera confided his deep fears for the country to a minister in whose integrity he had confidence. And when he was dying, Seán MacEntee asked to see me to confide his deep concern for the future of the State because of what had happened to his party, Fianna Fáil.”

“Sheer genius,” said Mulcahy.

Irish people everywhere expressed gratitude to Dr. Fitzgerald for showing them a way forward. Jimmy O’Doherty (36) of Ennis said, “I thought that this time we’d just have to face up to the problems our nation has and finally try and deal with them,” he said. “But Garret has shown that there’s still a way we can put off the day of reckoning, even after the apocalypse, and even pretend to keep the moral high ground. It’s thanks to leadership like that that Ireland is the country it is today.”

Dr. Fitzgerald refused to reveal exactly what MacEntee said to him on his deathbed, but a confidant privately revealed the truth. “Seán said that he feared what would happen to Fianna Fáil now that men like Charlie Haughey were leading it, and he feared what would happen to the country if the only alternative to Charlie Haughey was a gobshite like Garret.”

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