Here’s an extract from the Green Party policy document on Human Rights & Mental Health (the full text is on the Green Party web site here).
We regard this Government’s plans to re-locate the Central Mental Hospital to a site alongside the planned Thornton Prison as being totally unacceptable. Such a move will accentuate the stigma and isolation/social exclusion of the mentally ill.
There’s much to admire in that document, including sensible warnings about a crass and improperly thought out policy of unsupported “care in the community” as well as the genuine concerns regarding the stigmatisation and marginilisation of those with serious mental health problems as in the example above.
It’s just words but words are important, particularly in this area. The casual use of the word “lunatic”, for example, seems to express not just the opinion that the thoughts and actions of another do not emanate from a healthy mind, but that this renders the object of the label a lesser being and one deserving of being marginalised and confined in an “asylum”. To save themselves and to save us from their feral unpredicatble ways.
How far then from these laudible right-thinking tenets has John Gormley come when, as reported in today’s Irish Times, he stands up in the Dáil and surrenders to the flailing arms of this metaphor:
Speaking during the debate on the deal agreed with the IMF and the EU institutions, Mr Gormley said the Opposition claimed they were being “placed in a straitjacket. And I think that is a very apt analogy . . . Because when you are entering government you are entering an asylum, believe you me”.
It seems to me an unforgivably sloppy appropriation of pejorative language used in connection to people requiring the understanding and assistance of a government concerned genuinely with human rights. You could understand it to an extent if Gormely were fighting for his political life, but he and his parliamentary party are dead men walking in a zombie government, resigned to obliteration in a forthcoming election.
Or are they? Because here comes Paul Gogarty on Pat Kenny Today on RTE Radio 1 this morning to clarify the situation. Discussing Gormley’s unseemly self-pitying implosion in the Dáil he went immediately to the Little Shop Of Horrible Similes to assure us of the indefinite future survival of the Greens. In this he was admittedly enabled by Pat himself who offered up the analogy of Hitler in his bunker at the end of World War 2 to provide us with understanding (cough) of Gormley’s and the Greens’ predicament. But that doesn’t excuse him grabbing the ball and haring up to the end zone with it when he assured listeners that unlike the Third Reich, the Green Reich will continue because it is part of an international movement.
The Greens have a unique and hideous blend of self-pity and self-righteousness which has frustrated, offended and angered many thousands of us for some time now. The impression one has if one criticises them is that one just isn’t smart enough or born-again enough to appreciate the onerous duty of Right placed upon our higher caste Green brothers and sisters.
The mental health situation in the country is not, I would suggest being helped by the current crisis, by the isolated leaders who don’t seem to see us let alone understand us, or by silly people saying silly things and causing general horror because they are “in charge”.
To be invited to pity the Green Party leader because he has become as unfortunate as a mere “lunatic” in an “asylum” adds insult to ignominy.