Saturday, 2 July 2011
Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Michael Healy-Rea - a rare pair
Think about Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Grey-haired, handsome, wealthy, sophisticated. The head of the IMF, hotly tipped to win the French presidency from Nicolas Sarkozy. Then suddenly he came crashing to earth in spectacular style, as he was taken off a plane at JFK and charged with raping a hotel chambermaid. The network cameras captured him in shame, doing the ‘perp walk’ - between burly cops, surrounded by press, dishevelled, on his way to a cell. French presidency? Forget it. Head of IMF? Forget it. All gone, gone utterly. Apparently.
Think about Michael Healy-Rea. I’m not sure what colour his hair is because he always wears a cap, just as his father Jackie Healy-Rea did. He’s moon-faced more than handsome, he doesn’t look wealthy and he’s certainly not sophisticated. He’s an independent TD, tipped to squeeze maybe a few concessions out of the Irish government for Kerry. You couldn’t say he came crashing to earth because he never flew too high; but he finds himself a figure of contempt, paying back approximately £2,000 on phone-calls made from Leinster House . These calls were made by a person or persons unknown, and they helped Healy-Rea win some TV celebrity reality show or other. Healy-Rea swears he didn’t make them and he doesn’t know who did. But he’s going to pay for them because he says, if he doesn’t, people will never shut up about it and assume it was him. As it is they keep making jokes about the Ring of Kerry.
What have the two men got in common? Not a lot. DSK is famous in France for his womanizing – one of the great seducers, apparently. And you can see how that might be – he looks more like a movie star than a finance man or a politician. Strain though I will, I can’t see MHR doing a lot of seducing, although when Kerry charm is involved all things are possible.
Why have I linked the two men, then? Because both were accused of a crime – DSK of rape, MHR of rigging the results of a reality show at the tax-payers’ expense. In the case of DSK, the charge appeared to have totally destroyed his public career. But now the case against him is collapsing – the prosecutor has effectively rejected the credibility of their own chief witness. Was it all a set-up in the first place? Who knows. But for MHR, no deus ex machina, at least not so far. The assumption is that he done it and that’s why he’s paying for it.
Which runs completely counter to justice. The fact that DSK headed an organisation that has brought Ireland to its financial knees and is busy kicking it in the financial teeth shouldn’t divert us from the central point: he’s innocent of all charges until they’re proven. The same applies to Healy-Rea: the fact that he’s half-embarrassment, half-Kerry joke in the eyes of many people shouldn’t let us to forget that so far, nobody has come forward with evidence that he was guilty of anything. Beyond wearing a daft cap, talking in a deeply Kerry accent and participating in a TV reality show.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is innocent, Michael Healy-Rea is innocent. If we disagree, then we’re saying we choose trial-by-TV and mob prejudice over rational judgement. Don’t feel bad about it if that's where you stand. You’ve got lots of company.