Time to enjoy the election count blood-letting

Tomorrow the election count begins and we can all settle in with a bag of nachos and a slab of our favourite brew to watch the slaughter. Some of us might even make for the count centres with our knitting needles and sit at the front cackling through our toothless flapping lips as the heads roll into the basket, one by wide-eyed, gasping one.

What a shame it would have been to deny the Irish populace their only hope for glee in our drab political timescape. Only a man with no soul could fail to comprehend our attachment to The Count, and that man of course was Bertie Ahern, the visionary who dismissed so casually the old peann luaidhe as he defended his disastrous e-voting machines. Those same machines are now landfill somewhere, having cost us not only a load of money but also our national dignity while the mighty peann luaidhe lives on, as well it should.

Do you remember Nora Owen’s face in 2002 as the returning officer said something along these lines : You, you, you and you are elected. The rest can fuck off.

Or words to that effect.

Not only was Nora Owen shocked at being summarily kicked out, but so was everyone else, apart from the technological visionary Bertie Ahern, the Bill Gates Ireland could have had if only Bertie hadn’t dedicated himself to selfless public service.

How could we enjoy the election if we weren’t able to savour the extended, agonising humiliation of the candidates? It’s the only time in five years we get to see some of these people suffer before they retreat into their cosseted parliamentary bubble and here was Bertie telling us to push the electronic button and go home. Good luck with that, Bertie.

We weren’t having it, and neither were certain technology experts who pointed out the flaws in the machines. Flaws that Bertie the visionary somehow failed to appreciate. Flaws that meant we couldn’t be sure if anyone had tampered with the vote. Trivial, old-fashioned concerns about democracy that would never trouble men such as Bertie the technology expert.

Anyway, as I said, the e-voting gadgets are now history, converted back to the cheap poker machines they started life as and sold to a string of pubs in Belarus where they fit in very well.

Meanwhile in Ireland we’re back to the blood sport we all love so much. The drawn-out tortured count as one election hopeful after another suffers a crushing rejection by the public and some of the star performers are kicked into the gutter while other equally worthless clowns are elevated to our national parliament.

It’s great.

Its also the only time you will ever hear a politician being honest, because there’s nothing to be gained from lying. Only during a count could you hear politicians, down to and including Charlie Haughey, admitting that they weren’t doing well, that they were in trouble, that they’d made mistakes. That in itself was sufficient reason for keeping the pencil and paper and I hope we always stick with the system because it’s plain, it’s direct and it does what it says, unlike Sir Bertie the Technological.

I’ll be watching the count with a bottle of Wild Turkey and a Colt .44 Magnum, sitting in a swing chair on the verandah. Maybe with a pint of ether or a bag of ‘ludes but definitely not naked, given the current weather.

The tyres will be pumped up to 150 psi. The Samoan attorney will be asleep in the bath. Leathery winged creatures will be flapping in the sky.

Every bullet hole in the TV screen will be living testament to the vigour of our democracy.

It’s count time.

Bring it on!


Democracy government

Queenwars. Elizabeth beats Victoria

You have to hand it to QE2. It took a while, but she finally beat VR for the title of longest-reigning queen and fair play to her for that, even if poor old Charles has been wandering around in the background like an unwanted, 66-year-old royal stripogram.

queen victoria

This  I remarked to an elderly acquaintance earlier today.

Now that Elizabeth has beaten Victoria’s record, maybe she’ll abdicate and give Charles the throne.

What? he replied. She’ll have to be pulled out by the leg.

And of course, he was right. It  will take the blow of an axe to remove the old queen from office, something the British royals are no strangers to, even if their aristocratic scruples prevent them from doing so with their own finely-shaped hands.

Meanwhile, Charles fumes, or perhaps not, as he approaches his seventies, the Man Who Might be King, wondering if his mother’s longevity was simply a sustained attack on his personal strength of character, a very public commentary on his unsuitability to be a monarch.

Who wouldn’t wonder that? What potential potentate would not ask himself what exactly was wrong as his mother reached retirement age twenty-five years ago while he was still in his prime at forty?  A youngish vigorous man in the shadow of a powerful matriarch and in thrall to an assortment of fake-medicine charlatans, what was poor Charles to do?

Married to a child bride chosen for him, with his two children, he still had his beloved Camilla but he also had his obligations and in the end, where did it all get him?

Here he is now, a man of 66, immensely wealthy it has to be agreed, but with money he did not earn. A figurehead of nothing in particular, doing no specific job, having no special knowledge of anything, interviewed on TV for nothing other than his family connections.

Meanwhile, there’s the old queen, shaking hands with Martin McGuinness, backslapping with Cork fishmongers, building alliances with the most unlikely old enemies, while the British people, or some of them at least, simmer with rage, wondering why they pay for a privileged family of wasters and drunkards to pose as their heads of state.

Now personally, I can think of no better sinecure than to have the entire United Kingdom pay for my drunkenness and excess, but that’s a pipe-dream granted to few, and every one of those few happens to be a member of the Royal Family. You could understand why so many British tax-payers resent these people, but still, what would happen to Northern loyalists if the royal family should happen to up sticks and quit? What would Sammy and Billy do if no royal family existed? It hardly bears thinking about. They might have to become loyal to the rule of law and order. Heaven forfend.

What’s the Queen’s exit strategy? The old dear is 88 now and probably doesn’t expect to reach the century, so what exactly is she thinking? It surely can’t involve Charles, since her very continuance on the throne for the last decade is an insult to him and a statement to the world that she doesn’t consider him to be good enough. Why he hasn’t charged into the royal boudoir with an axe we will never know, but that’s noblesse oblige for you. Gordonstoun was good for something.

The exit strategy is probably to install one of Charles’s legitimate progeny on the throne, and of those QE2 might prefer William, to ensure a smooth transition to the future monarchs bred impeccably on Kate Middleton by the Buck House stable lads.

How long the monarchy can endure is anyone’s guess, despite the grudging affection earned by the old girl, not only in Britain but also in Ireland. However a monarchy is one thing, while an entire family of unproductive spongers supported by the taxpayer is quite a different matter.

For ourselves, it matters little, apart from the abiding interest in the British monarchy that everyone here seems to hold.


Limerick — A Catholic Council for a Catholic People

Remember Kevin Sheahan, the Limerick county councillor who got himself into hot water last year with his remarks on immigrants?  Kevin, in true FF style with an eye to securing the votes of the very thickest in his West Limerick constituency, came up with a headline-grabbing statement about immigrants receiving priority over Irish people in housing lists.

No foreigners need apply.

kevin sheahan


Kevin’s Ballymagash-style bluster was praised by members of the racist, white-supremacist Stormfront website, but such minor considerations never deterred backwoods councillors.  He got his column-inches, he got his soundbites and that was that.  Job done.  Like all well-honed parochial political hacks, Kevin understands that people only remember the row, never the rational responses to the nonsense they dream up.

That was then and this is now, but Kevin’s dream goes on forever.  With the amalgamation of Limerick city and county, Sheahan somehow managed to grab the role of Chairman, and he came up with a new plan that excludes not only foreigners but quite a number of Irish citizens as well.  In Kevin Sheahan’s view, this is what he calls a Christian country, and that’s why he has commissioned a crucifix — a specifically Catholic emblem — to be installed in the Council chamber.

I have great devotion to the Cross, said Kevin.  This Christian symbol in a Christian country will be erected there, that’s my intention.

No Irish need apply, it seems, unless they come within the definition of what it is to be a valid citizen, as laid down by Blessed Kevin of the Cross.

I personally don’t qualify, for instance, even though I was born and bred in this country, as were all of my antecedents as far back as I can trace.  Neither does any other atheist or agnostic.   Protestants don’t qualify as Irish citizens under Kevin’s criterion.  Neither do Jews, nor Muslims, nor Hindus, but we still don’t know what position Blessed Kevin takes on yoga.

Still,  that’s quite a significant number of people Kevin Sheahan doesn’t think deserve to be represented by the local council they recently voted for.  You’d have to wonder where this is going.  Will people be asked about their religious beliefs before being considered for inclusion in the council’s housing list?  Going on Kevin’s previous utterances, that would seem to be the logical next step.

How about emergency medical treatment?  Do I deserve that, even though I don’t follow the one true cross like Blessed Kevin?

Where have we heard this sort of talk before?  Let me think now …



Democracy Technology

E-Voting Machines To Be Scrapped

Is there anything that shows up the stupidity of the Ahern years better than the e-voting debacle?

Back in 2002, they paid €50 million for 7,000 e-voting machines, which works out at about €7,200 each, and for what?  Well, in technical terms, they’d be known as a heap of shit.  Nine or ten years ago, you’d pay the equivalent of about €1,500  for a pretty good Pentium machine with a reasonable screen, a good amount of memory and a fairly decent-sized hard drive by the standards of the time.

What did Bertie’s e-gobshites buy for €7,000?  A machine with a tiny LED screen that didn’t work properly, minimal RAM, no hard drive and a processor, the Motorola MC68000, that was so old Moses had one in his chariot.  These days, they’re used in pocket calculators and poker machines.

The government paid fifty million to buy seven thousand personal Space Invader consoles.  A Sinclair ZX would be more powerful.

This is what da Bert considered cutting-edge technology, da fool.  He was prepared to pay many times the current rate for a machine powered by 20-year-old technology.   Jesus Christ, he even had the cheek to call people like Joe McCarthy luddites because they saw what a load of bullshit the system was.  McCarthy, you might recall, is the IT consultant who first pointed out that the system was untrustworthy and who had the cheek to demand answers to his questions by using the freedom-of-information mechanism.

McCarthy pointed out that the program had not been tested using the Irish voting rules, that there was no way of knowing if it recorded a person’s vote correctly and that it could easily be tampered with.  He wanted answers, but answers there were none.  The Dutch company behind the thing, Nedap, refused outright to disclose the details of their coding, even to the people who were paying for it —  the Irish government — so there was no way of finding out for sure if it did what it was supposed to do.  Undeterred, Bertie’s geniuses went ahead and paid for it anyway.

As McCarthy described it, using Bertie’s poker machine was like shouting your voting choices to a man sitting behind a curtain and hoping he’d write them down properly.  It was absolute nonsense.  If you bought a bread roll in a supermarket, their electronic till would not only be more powerful than the e-voting machine, but would also issue you with proof of your transaction in the form of a paper receipt.  With the Nedap system, you got nothing.   Not a sausage.  You had no assurance at all that the vote had even been registered.

Press this button and fuck off.

Bertie, a man with no education, saw fit to lecture IT  professionals who understood these matters thoroughly, in a classic instance of ignorance thinking it knows best.

It was a joke and it embodied all that was wrong with Ahern’s grossly incompetent style of government.  The know-nothing clod was so blinded by glitter and sharp sales talk that he went for what he considered modernity at the expense of democracy.  And it’s not just  in e-voting that he took this approach, but in every single thing he touched, which is why we and future generations will have to live with the legacy of his gobshitery.

But of course, Ahern wasn’t alone in his arrogance, ignorance and stupidity.  Let us not forget his colleague Noel Dempsey, and his equally bumbling glove-puppet Martin Cullen, both of whom had a hand in this embarrassing but revealing episode.

Meanwhile, in a final insult to Nedap,  its own country decided to scrap the whole thing because of unreliability.  The Dutch decided to use that most detested of instruments from now on: Bertie’s hated peann luaidhe.  I didn’t notice him telling the citizens of the Netherlands that they were living in the past, though.

Are there any winners?  Of course there are, not least the Fianna Fáil cronies all over the country who rented out lucrative storage space for the poker machines, but of course, the big winners are Nedap, who managed to pawn off a huge heap of junk on gullible Paddies were prepared to pay for something with no guarantee that it worked.



More about e-voting on Bock.

Nedap functional specification.