We need politicians who are open and trustworthy

Jessica talks about the legacy of John Hume, and why we need to change politics in Ireland

Written by Jessica Harte


With the passing of John Hume, the people of Ireland knew we had lost one of our greats. The upset it caused did not stop at our shores, it touched people around the globe. Hume was undoubtedly an icon of peace, but more than that he was a relatable and responsible politician, who understood the importance of listening and bringing the people along with you. These key components of his political style ought to be at the forefront of politics today; during this fearful global pandemic yes, but into the future too.

Ireland is yet again crippled with fear in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit is looming and a recession may be setting in once again. Tensions are running deep within our society. Hume dealt with national fear gracefully. He carried the nation with him, offering assurance along the way. Our politicians for the most part fail to deliver this in my opinion. Instead scandal after scandal undermine the Government, deepening the ever growing sense of fear. From Golfgate and the fallout that followed to the string of Ministers for Agriculture we have seen there is a clear air of entitlement encircling Irish politics. There seems to be this notion that they are somehow untouchable. 

Strong leaders we can believe and trust in

In a time of crisis we need strong leaders, who we can trust and believe in. Hume was that. We need for our Government to understand the sanctity of that trust and to earn it. Hume wanted “an Ireland of partnership”, that is exactly what we must strive for today. An Ireland where we have our goals aligned and we work together towards them. Not an Ireland where members of the Government appear to work against the common good. This pandemic has left us isolated in so many ways but in this one achievable way we can be together.

Life after COVID-19 seems unfathomable at the moment but it must come or at least some level of normality must return, and when that does eventually happen John Hume and his political methods must not be forgotten. For me, as an outsider looking in, it seems the level of communication between politicians is limited. With three parties holding up a coalition communication is key. Night after night we are hearing one thing from NPHET and another from the Government. This needs to be fixed. Efforts must be joint or the fear that has grasped the people of Ireland will only intensify. If Hume did anything he proved the power of political communication, he changed the landscape of Irish politics and yet a mere thirty years later it seems we have forgotten its importance. 

The Government needs to listen to people

Nationally, it seems political communication has crumbled. The opposition talking time debacle is an example of this, during which the Government tried to limit the amount of time the opposition parties had to speak in the Dáil. As we move forward there will be countless problems caused by the pandemic that the Government is going to have to deal with. There will be even more indirect problems though, from the poverty that it will cause, the mental and physical health problems, the housing crisis is going to worsen and I fear to think what else will come of it. To deal with these issues we need a united Government going forward, a Government that listens to the people of Ireland and each other. We need a Government we can trust. We need a John Hume inspired Government. 

Moving beyond our differences 

Globally, how many political stalemates are there? Brexit – it seems the inability the two sides have to properly communicate with each other has ruined all prospect of a deal. The Russians, Chinese and Americans seem incapable of communicating with each other. Instead we have seen trade war after trade war. No improvement is going to come it seems, yet we cannot act as a responsible society without communication between countries. Our time is ticking if we continue on the path we are on. The climate emergency is a very real threat that needs a global solution. We must get over our differences. “(It) is of the essence of humanity” much like Hume implored the people of Ireland and the United Kingdom to do, and we must start an open line of communication, without this we really have no chance. 

Both at home and abroad, political communication has never been more key. We need to reinvest our trust in the political system but to do this we need openness and trustworthiness, which just trickle through the whole system. Without this, god only knows what lies ahead. 

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