To the audible sigh of half the country, Trinity College’s LawSoc has engendered a certain degree of online criticism for its announcement to award former Health-turned-Higher Education Minister Simon Harris the (supposedly) coveted Praeses Elit award for his work as Health honcho.
The act of
blatant brown nosing recognition for Harris’s time as Health Minister comes as the Wicklow TD enters upon a new role as Minister for Higher Education in command of some very useful pursestrings, a fact that one hopes played no part in the society’s reasoning.
In a statement which received a high degree of coverage from the Fine Gael aligned Independent, Harris was lauded for his “admirable work” in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the issue over excess deaths in nursing homes and the simple fact that the crisis is ongoing, thus too soon to judge his influence properly.
While not a lawyer, personally it should stand to reason that awarding the prize for his work amid the coronavirus crisis is premature considering the pandemic is still alive and well, nevermind Harris’s malperformance with regards the National Children’s Hospital budgeting blunder or the CervicalCheck disaster both of which he presided over.
Conferred to individuals who have added to the public discourse and acted as inspiration for others, the Praeses Elit award has found itself on the lapel of many liberal bigwigs from Bob Geldof to Mary Robinson. Also in attendance with Minister Harris is to be Labour Senator, and disgraced former TCDSU President Ivana Bacik, a campus regular, also noted for her favourable liberal credentialism on abortion advocacy.
In the campus biosphere, TCD LawSoc is rather a basic building block of campus life geared towards lawyers, and where future legal eagles press the flesh and fill out their CVs for climbing the professional greasy pole.To gauge the political allegiances of the society, one needs only to look of the platforming of anti-Brexit campaigner and corporate highflyer Gina Miller earlier in the month.
Perhaps also of note is the fact that alongside Ivana Bacik, Harris is expected to launch the society’s ‘Access to Law’ Programme, aiming among other things to promote the ability of minority students to overcome alleged structural barriers.
For those fortunate to avoid Trinity campus life, these awards are generally two a penny, prior to lockdown there were times a Burkean writer could scarcely throw a bone from TCD’s Campanile without hitting some functionary receiving a gold star. That being said, with his blemished track record arguably contributing to the premature deaths of women through the CervicalCheck scandal, LawSoc has severely had a lapse in judgement giving Harris any sort of cheap accolade.
While Nigel Farage and even the lukewarm and liberal minded Richard Dawkins find themselves on the business end of deplatforming efforts, Harris in all probability will be given a free pass despite past controversy. As a political animal he has built up a baffling amount of street cred through a manicured social media appearance and being on the alleged right side of history with the Repeal vote, despite of course originally identifying as pro-life when it suited him electorally.
In addition to his mishandling of the CervicalCheck scandal and the perennial issue of trolleys at hospitals, Harris was at the helm of Health during the National Children’s Hospital omnishambles, for which he played a direct role. Last year Harris even had his political bacon saved by 5 votes during a contested Dáil vote of no confidence owing to his ineptitude shown during his bottling of the National Children’s Hospital budget process.
A year and a health crisis is a long time in politics particularly to TCD LawSoc it appears. While the Department of Health is a perpetual charnel house for political careers and a tough nut to crack for even the best of ministers, Harris distinguished himself only by his inadequacy for the job.
When in May 2018 pro-aboriton campaigners chanted the words ‘Simon, Simon’ over and over again they lauded a man who presided over the inadvertent deaths of scores of women in his reign as Health Minister. Harris in any sane universe should have had his career terminated right there and then when the scandal broke in April 2018 save for the media brownie points accumulated through his senior role in the Repeal campaign. It is this same liberal tendency to look away from Harris’s failures that LawSoc find themselves guilty of with their recent announcement, made worse by the plausible chance they are merely currying favour with Harris now he’s installed as Minister for Higher Education.
As of the time of writing, the award ceremony has been put on ice in light of ongoing Cabinet lockdown discussions. Perhaps the hiatus should give the future pettifoggers at LawSoc time to reconsider their decision. Regardless of political prejudices, Harris as a political personality should have been put to pasture years ago, the fact he is seen as even a potential Taoiseach in waiting an indictment to our Republic. LawSoc cannot affect ballots but can at least prevent this malperformer and political snake being honoured.
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