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27th Aug 2020

When will ‘cancel culture’ and ‘mob justice’ end?

Rob O'Hanrahan

Phil Hogan

Hopefully not for a while.

The cries of ‘cancel culture’, ‘snowflake’ and ‘a good man’ have been pretty prevalent across social media, opinion pieces and WhatsApp groups in recent days. “The mob get their man,” one former Fine Gael councillor said on Twitter. Maybe it is strange to see an Irish politician be held account for their actions, but that’s not mob justice. That’s people in high positions feeling the consequences of their actions. Long may it continue.

Phil Hogan resigned from his position as EU Trade Commissioner last night. His initial lack of apology, his subsequent clarifications and his cross-country escapades coming out in the media day after day like a tap turned down to a trickle all served to do nothing more than dial up the anger in the Irish public.

It seems to have brought an end to a near-40 year career in Irish politics. There were many long-form lookbacks on his time as Kilkenny Councillor right up to one of the most powerful political positions on the continent. In amongst these was a repeated sentiment of ‘where does this all end?’.

The GolfGate dinner penetrated the Irish populace in a way that few political stories ever have. It “touched a nerve” for the Irish people, as Hogan himself said, nerves already shredded raw with the bombardment of the last few months. Party whips were removed from politicians. The Leas-Cathaoirleach of the Seanad resigned. The Minister for Agriculture stepped aside. There was something all too rare in Irish, and even world, politics – consequences.

This was no lengthy tribunal with nothing to show at the end but a long bill and everyone walking away scot-free. This was no garden press conference turned Specsavers ad. This was no Guinness-influenced interview on morning radio after a night spent in an infamous tent.

This was a very simple statement from the Irish people, and a recognition by its government, that there is a clear expectation of higher standards from those we elect to office. This seems to have been a definitive moment where the Irish people will no longer accept one rule for them and one rule for those who make them.

So if “the mob got their man”, who was the mob? Was it the two journalists who broke the story in the first place? Was it the other journalists who broke all of the other stories in the following days? Was it the people who turned Liveline last Friday into a time capsule of Irish fury, heartbreak and betrayal? Was it the countless Irish citizens who missed births, funerals and hugging their parents for months on end to protect our most vulnerable?

This is not cancel culture or mob justice, it’s a culture of justice for wrong actions. It’s a demand for better.

Long may it continue.

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