For many peo­ple pol­i­tics is an ad­dic­tion, even for those of us who merely ob­serve it. To stand for a gen­eral elec­tion usu­ally means there is a healthy ego at play.

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Ali­son O’Con­nor

B“It can bore the pants off many but for a con­sid­er­able num­ber of peo­ple pol­i­tics is an ad­dic­tion

RIAN Hayes MEP has done an un­usual thing in de­cid­ing to say good­bye to the vot­ers be­fore they get the chance to say good­bye to him. The an­nounce­ment by the Dublin MEP that he in­tends to leave pol­i­tics caught many, my­self in­cluded, by sur­prise.

Brian is a good politi­cian — one of the best I’ve come across. He’s bright. He’s thought­ful. He’s an ex­cel­lent com­mu­ni­ca­tor. He’d toe the party line, but if the what­ever it was that he was sent out to de­fend was ut­terly daft, he would man­age to find a way to com­mu­ni­cate that with­out let­ting his own side down — no easy trick that.

I was on ra­dio with him once or twice lately where he seemed re­mark­ably re­laxed in his ap­proach and I did find my­self won­der­ing at that. On one oc­ca­sion re­cently, if I re­mem­ber cor­rectly, he was asked about the Fine Gael gen­eral sec­re­tary Tom Cur­ran is­su­ing an edict to party coun­cil­lors say­ing that since FG was back­ing Michael D Higgins in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, they were not to sup­port any other can­di­date at­tempt­ing the coun­cil route of get­ting a nom­i­na­tion. Brian snorted and said some­thing along the lines of that ap­proach be­ing poor psy­chol­ogy and there were two chances of it be­ing suc­cess­ful — slim and nil. It was hardly high trea­son, but in hind­sight it in­di­cated a man with his eye on the door.

Once he was elected to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in 2014 the Hayes fam­ily moved en masse to Brus­sels. Brian would re­turn to Dublin each week and man­aged to main­tain a higher me­dia pro­file in that space of time than many of his Le­in­ster House-based col­leagues. He also seemed en­tirely well versed on what was go­ing on do­mes­ti­cally, not just in pol­icy terms, but also be­hind the scenes. In other words he is a po­lit­i­cal an­i­mal. This sum­mer though, af­ter four years there, the fam­ily moved back to Dublin.

Fol­low­ing the 2011 gen­eral elec­tion, with Fine Gael and Labour in coali­tion, dur­ing the dark days of aus­ter­ity, he was of­ten the pub­lic face of the gov­ern­ment, as the ju­nior min­is­ter for fi­nance (un­der­study to Michael Noo­nan). That was an ut­terly un­en­vi­able task, but one that Brian didn’t just do well but with gusto.

In fact he did it so well I couldn’t un­der­stand at the time how the party, and then taoiseach Enda Kenny, felt he would be bet­ter off in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment than at home do­ing a fine job of mak­ing the gov­ern­ment look good, de­spite the slash­ing and burn­ing that was on­go­ing.

Who knows, maybe there was a vi­tal les­son in that for Brian. He had backed the wrong horse when it came to the Fine Gael 2010 lead­er­ship heave and was one of those point­edly made to suf­fer by Enda Kenny by never be­ing put in a se­nior min­istry. It’s in­ter­est­ing to spec­u­late why, for in­stance, Leo Varad­kar or Si­mon Coveney were not pun­ished to the same ex­tent as Brian. If Enda ever writes a book us po­lit­i­cal anoraks may just find out the an­swer to that ques­tion.

Ac­tu­ally Enda is a good pointer as to the great sur­prise sur­round­ing Brian’s an­nounce­ment that he is leav­ing pol­i­tics al­to­gether. Af­ter all, as I un­der­stand it, Enda is ap­par­ently still not re­cov­ered from be­ing re­placed over a year ago as taoiseach by Leo Varad­kar.

If that’s true, and my source is a re­li­able one, it’s a pity to think of a man who gave his coun­try some great ser­vice con­tin­u­ing to feel bit­ter about be­ing ousted. His time had come, but he did not wish to ac­cept that fact. That is the at­ti­tude we are more fa­mil­iar with from politi­cians though, and not the one of Brian Hayes, or in­deed for­mer min­is­ter Ivan Yates, be­fore him. But what is com­mon to both of those was the idea that there was still po­ten­tial there, still a chance to rise fur­ther through the ranks. If Brian Hayes had a euro for ev­ery time a jour­nal­ist asked him over the past few years if he was go­ing to re­turn to do­mes­tic pol­i­tics he’d prob­a­bly be able to re­tire right now. He was seen as some­one whose ca­reer def­i­nitely had more po­ten­tial but now he has de­cided to ful­fil his po­ten­tial as chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Ir­ish Bank­ing and Pay­ments Fed­er­a­tion. He’s had enough of pol­i­tics.

It can bore the pants off many but for a con­sid­er­able num­ber of peo­ple pol­i­tics is an ad­dic­tion, even for those of us who merely ob­serve it. To put your­self for­ward for a gen­eral elec­tion in the first place usu­ally means there is a healthy ego at play. To ac­tu­ally get elected in­volves hav­ing posters with your face and name stuck all over your con­stituency, star­ing down from wooden poles, and you telling peo­ple re­peat­edly how fab­u­lously suit­able you are to be their pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tive. If suc­cess­ful you be­come a TD, you get to hang around in Le­in­ster House (as a coun­try TD you also get to hang around in Dublin and leave your fam­ily be­hind for three days a week) and if your party is in Gov­ern­ment there is al­ways the prospect of a big­ger job. Add in the con­stant in­se­cu­rity of an elec­tion be­ing sud­denly called and the vot­ers de­cid­ing that they don’t like you the way they thought they did. It’s rather a heady mix.

It’s not for ev­ery­one, but a very high num­ber of those who opt for it and are elected, can be­come quite ad­dicted to it. But no more than the changes else­where in the work­force, where fewer and fewer jobs are seen as be­ing for life, we will likely see more politi­cians tak­ing a sim­i­lar path to that of Brian Hayes.

The av­er­age salary of a TD is €93,600 and that of an MEP over €100,000, nei­ther sum to be sneezed at, not to men­tion the gen­er­ous ex­penses. But a politi­cian of, for in­stances, Brian Hayes’ ex­pe­ri­ence and pro­file, might stand to earn con­sid­er­ably more in the pri­vate sec­tor. It’s also the idea for a TD that un­less you get pro­moted to a min­is­te­rial po­si­tion there is no ca­reer path as such, and a per­son elected the first time around will get the same ba­sic salary as you even if you’re in Le­in­ster House 20 years.

But even get­ting peo­ple in­ter­ested in a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer is prov­ing harder than it used to be. Speak­ing to a se­nior party source about Hayes’ de­ci­sion to turn his back on pol­i­tics it was in­ter­est­ing to hear how, hav­ing iden­ti­fied re­ally good can­di­dates for next year’s lo­cal elec­tions, it is prov­ing ex­cep­tion­ally dif­fi­cult to get them to stand be­cause they see the abuse politi­cians get on so­cial me­dia and feel that a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer just isn’t worth that.

It would have been a huge sur­prise if Brian Hayes had not been re-elected as an MEP next year, should he have cho­sen to stand. But there are no guar­an­tees in pol­i­tics. He is one of the few to de­cide to leave pol­i­tics be­fore it pos­si­bly left him.

Pic­ture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Brian Hayes: The MEP’s an­nounce­ment this week that he is leav­ing pol­i­tics caught many peo­ple by sur­prise.

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