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13.22 4 Mar 2016


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Of all the intriguing possibilities we the electorate have created as a result of our “strategic” voting last week, Shane Ross - the arch iconoclast, fervent populist and sometime journalist - as cabinet minister must be close to the top.

Intriguing, because the former stockbroker is obviously very bright, numerate and articulate and is clearly ambitious for a spell at the levers of power, before presumably retiring to grass in leafy North Wicklow.

Intriguing too, because the same individual has spent most of the last twenty-five years throwing stones and other projectiles at the political and business establishment, and climbing like a jockey on every populist bandwagon in the parade ring.

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Oh, and along the way, actually breaking some really strong stories and doing the nation some good, before trying his luck as a first-time Dáil Deputy and continuing in the same vein.

Intriguing mostly however, because he’s intelligent and experienced enough to know that if the political arithmetic does present him with the opportunity of either a senior or junior ministry, that role will require qualities such as compromise and concession; qualities he may have to re-learn pretty quickly.

It will also attract incoming missiles, the same, if not more explosive, than those he has been so adept at launching.

And what a missile launch platform he has inhabited for the past two decades and more?

As a Senator representing the Pocket Borough of Trinity College Dublin (a constituency whose votes, to be fair nurtured very assiduously) he had access as a political insider to the debating time, Oireachtas Committee meetings, legislative pipeline and media profile that fuels the political system.

As a high-profile columnist and with the Sunday Independent, the country’s largest-selling and frequently most salacious broadsheet newspaper, he had a unique opportunity to package the information gleaned from the corridors of power and other sources, and to project it into the public domain.

Sometimes, these projectiles rightly raised the nation’s hackles and forced significant change, such as his work revealing the prevailing culture of management entitlement within FÁS, and the various transgressions of the country’s banks and some of its senior bankers.

Sometimes though, in this writer’s opinion, his finely-crafted but incredibly one-sided polemics served principally to fan the flames of ill-informed prejudice, particularly in relation to the business community, and to bolster his own profile.

Again, to be fair, Shane has rarely disguised one of the key objectives underlying his journalistic and, perhaps, latterly his political endeavours... 

He once told a corporate communications manager of my close acquaintance, who had met him to discuss Shane’s latest highly one-sided broadside against his employer, that as a columnist, he inhabited the world of entertainment more so than journalism, and as such, didn’t necessarily feel as constrained by requirements of objectivity and balance.

Strangely, his vituperative writing skills were rarely brought to bear against his employers, Independent Newspapers, during the long-running ownership of Tony O’ Reilly.

Anyway, that’s all in the past and perhaps, just perhaps, we are about to witness his latest career twist, taking charge of a government department.

I hope so; because apart from the entertainment value of watching Shane on the other side of the spotlight and trying to explain decisions that will inevitably upset half the population, I think the talented Mr Ross has lots to offer, and at this stage of his career, little enough to lose.


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