Are you as baffled as I am by all this stuff about who knew what and when, who first called and what letters went to what ministers?
Normally, when I find myself completely stumped, there’s a good reason and yes, I know what you’re going to say: that could be because I’m completely stupid. It could indeed, or it could be because the whole thing is bullshit.
Why does it matter what Callinan told Shatter or what Kenny kept to himself? What difference does it make when Máire Whelan knew about the taping of prisoners’ phone conversations in police stations? How does it help if Shatter resigns?
Our national police force, An Garda Síochána, is shown to be utterly dysfunctional, yet people are still arguing about personalities, as if that made the slightest difference. In the 21st century, we struggle with a policing structure that owes its origins to the early 19th century, a rigid, authoritarian edifice in which dissent is discouraged and original thinking considered subversive.
Is it any wonder that rigid, authoritarian people would rise to the top of such an organisation?
And yet, An Garda Síochána is only a microcosm of Ireland as a whole, a product of our educational system, our social structures and our national inability to admit we might ever be mistaken. When the latest OECD international survey shows that Irish teenagers are no better than average at problem-solving, we need to start asking ourselves what has gone wrong, not only with our national police force, but with the entire country.
Unless we can teach our children critical thinking at a very early age, we’re doomed to repeat the cycles of incompetent disaster that have characterised our new nation. The days of accepting rigid beliefs and repeating them by rote are over. The days when we think there’s some shame in being wrong are over.
Successful people rejoice in being wrong because it makes them stronger the next time, but here in Ireland, we have a fear drummed into us, the fear of originality. The fear of admitting we made a mistake.
The ability to acknowledge mistakes without recrimination is what has made some countries and some corporations extremely powerful. It means that individuals aren’t afraid of taking a chance, because nobody will blame them if they were wrong.
Unless we learn this sort of thinking, we have no hope. Unless we rebuild institutions like An Garda Síochána from the ground up, we’re condemned to repeat forever Flann O’Brien’s recurring, prophetic nightmare of The Third Policeman.