Categories
Politics

General election 2016 hardly an earthquake in Irish politics, but perhaps a small upheaval

General Election 2016

We don’t do general elections in Ireland the way they do general elections in the rest of Europe, but then again, do we do anything here in Ireland like the rest of Europe?

Vive la différence, you might say — or not, depending on how averse you are to pretentious use of foreign phrases in a country that can’t speak its own language. But for myself, I love the spectacular blood sport that is our election process. It’s the only true festival we have, if you disregard the meaningless lip service we pay to church-imposed rituals like Easter and commerce-driven feasts like Christmas.

We love  St Patrick’s Day so much we decided it should take place during the most miserable weather Ireland has to suffer in the entire year so that we can endure a brief but intense sado-masochistic experience as we sulk on rain-soaked street corners watching bad brass  bands play worse music to the ill-educated leathery spouses of whiskey-soaked councillors all huddled against the downpour on temporary viewing stands of rough scaffold-board and rusting steel tube, secretly wishing they could already be eating the free dinner.

So much for Irish festivals, but that’s why we love the election so much. It doesn’t involve misery for anyone except those who cravenly beg your vote, once every five years or so.

Yes, it’s true that after they get into power they’ll walk on us but at least we enjoy the illusion every now and again of having a say in matters. And it’s true that regardless of how grounded they claim to be, everyone is corruptible, even if corruption means nothing more than a gradual acclimatisation to the perks.

Face it: this happens. Ask Martin and Gerry if you don’t believe me. Everyone likes a bit of cossetting. I do and so do you.

Of course, here in Ireland, we have a slightly different way of looking at our members of parliament compared to, for instance, the Brits. Or maybe not. Maybe we just have more access to our parliamentarians than the Brits do, given our vastly smaller population. And besides, we have no evidence that the vision of our parliamentarians is any more parochial than theirs.

But leaving our closest neighbours to one side for a moment, it’s probably fair to say that our other neighbours, the ones on the mainland, tend to elect their parliament in a different way, based on a national vision rather than a parochial one but Voila! Spot the difference. Throughout mainland Europe, they have a thing known as strong local government. Right across the continent, they have municipalities that can make decisions for themselves, unlike Ireland where the administration is more centralised than it ever was in the Soviet Union.

Zut alors!

Could this be why our people persist in electing members of parliament using the same criteria they’d apply if they were voting for a county councillor?

Could this be why a ward-heeling fixer like Willie O’Dea could top the poll in Limerick and why two stroke-pulling brothers in Kerry could between them attract 30,000 votes? Is this why Tipperary has elected not only Michael Lowry but also Mattie McGrath to our national parliament? Is this why Enda Kenny topped the poll in Mayo?

Is that it?

Is it because successive governments, right from the foundation of the State, didn’t trust the people to run their own affairs locally and instead set up a system of local administration controlled directly from Dublin, by the Minister personally?

I think we might be on to something here.

If this is the case, then what option do people have but to elect glorified county councillors to our parliament? And what other consequence can we expect apart from a debasement of the democratic process, since the bulk of people elected will inevitably be focused on doing local favours or at least creating the illusion that they have the power to do so. Many of our most prominent national politicians devote their entire day to fostering that illusion, like so many fairground conjurers and we elect them to do it.

With all these magicians, should we be surprised to have a parliament of clowns?

Does it come as any shock that most of those we send to Dáíl Éireann wouldn’t know an international crisis from a free bus pass?

You’d nearly be inclined to give up, wouldn’t you? Many times, I’ve been tempted to give up but then along comes another general election and even if I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

Look at them, scrambling for power, the FG and the FF, the AAA and the PBP, the WTF and the OMG. Alphabet soup of the soul, driving us all to despondency and yet, in the middle of it all, there sounds a tiny clarion of hope. For the first time, almost but not quite ever,  the two Tweedledum parties are agreeing that there is no difference between them apart from ancient tribal hatreds.

I say not quite ever because Alan Dukes once acknowledged this fact in his politically suicidal Tallaght strategy, but Dukes was one of those politicians we didn’t deserve. Nevertheless, he committed Fine Gael to support Fianna Fáil’s painful economic measures and he duly paid the political price for having a national vision. Such is life in Ireland.

However, there’s a minute but detectable tide on the rise. After the first 2016 general election, we find ourselves in a position where Fianna Fáíl and Fine Gael will have to play footsie whether they like it or not. They’ll have to explore an arrangement, whether they call it a coalition or an agreement or an alliance. They might even revert to gag-inducing tokenism and call it a Comhaontas, but let’s hope they don’t.

Let’s hope instead that they decide to cooperate and form a joint government.

Why? Because thus begins the consolidation of the centre-right parties into one single entity as it should be. There’s no rational reason why two identical parties should coexist, offering voters a spurious, tribalistic choice. After a while, like two neutron stars orbiting each other, they’ll merge with a bang causing ripples in political space-time, but setting free their uncomfortable satellites to find new orbits

Meanwhile, on the Left, there will be a ferment for a while. There will be a gavotte of madmen and idiots dancing to the tune of an insane devil until it all settles down and we find ourselves with a modern, mature European democracy.

It might not happen this time or the next, but it seems to me that the tendency is there and we might finally be about to free ourselves from the emotional manacles of the civil war.

How appropriate that the seeds should have been sown a century after 1916.

 

 

 

 

Categories
Politics

Use your vote in the general election 2016

Vote.

Get out there and vote in the 2016 general election.

If you don’t vote on the composition of our parliament, you have no right to comment on the next government. It’s as simple as that.

If you don’t bother to vote, your opinion is irrelevant.

It doesn’t matter if you happen to be a supporter of the Ultra-Cool-Atheist-People-Who-Agree-With-Me Party or the Evil-Oppression-Loving-Right-Wing-Religious-Fanatic Party. I don’t care. Just get out there and vote.

Vote.

Do it.

Vote according to your conscience, whatever direction that might take you.

Do this and you earn the right to have an opinion about our democracy for the next five years.

Fail to do it, and your opinion counts for less than a snap of my fingers.

You live in a democracy, which is a rare thing in this dystopian world. Value it. Cherish it, however limited your democracy might be, because this is the only democracy you have.

Get out there and vote. You are one of the few people on the face of this planet who has that privilege.

 

 

Categories
Politics

Boris Johnson backs Brexit

You don’t have to Google Boris Johnson today. Just search for Boris and the results will pop up like Whack-A-Moles at a funfair.

Boris Johnson says UK is better off outside …

Boris Johnson to campaign for Brexit in EU referendum …

Boris Johnson backs EU exit: London mayor confirms …

And so on and so forth. You only need to Google his first name because Boris has something Call-Me-Dave never did: charisma. Boris is not only clever and erudite, but also witty, engaging, often self-deprecating and very, very funny. He’s the sort of chap you’d want to be with on a night out, no matter what your political complexion, because he is hilarious, and that’s a very dangerous thing in a politician if he happens to be on the opposite side from you.

He might be wrong, but he’ll make them laugh and as everyone knows, successful seduction is 99% laughter.

Oddly, not only are Boris and Call-Me-Dave both posh public schoolboys, but also contemporaries and members of Oxford’s ludicrous Bullingdon Club. And yet, looking at this picture from 1987, you notice two things about them. While Call-Me-Dave isn’t reacting well to his rejection letter from Wham! Boris is already mentally perfecting his Roy Batty for Blade Runner 2.  Dave might have seen a pig’s head from an angle not normally associated with shoulder of pork, but Boris has seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

david cameron boris johnson bullingdon club

Call-Me-Dave must be wishing today that he’d given Boris the cold shoulder all those years ago as his friend stepped forward, following a wrenching struggle with his own heartache and put the good of the country before his own personal ambition. Boris, in his inimitable, hand-on-breast bumbling way explained to the assembled journos that of course he never wanted to go against Dave, that Dave had done such a wonderful job in the short time available to him, but that really, Dave’s negotiations with the EU didn’t amount to a bottle of smoke.

Boris is an honourable man, though naturally he glided gently over the fact that British objections to membership of the EU amounted to nothing more than a bottle of smoke in the first place, so it was hardly a surprise that Call-Me-Dave returned with a receptacle containing some products of combustion and little else.

However, Boris is an honourable man and never mind the fact that if he defeats Call-Me-Dave in this, he’ll be well positioned to go for the leadership of the Tory party and therefore well-positioned to become Prime Minister.

Perish the thought, for Boris is an honourable man. It never for a single second crossed Boris’s mind and shame on me for even hinting at it, however obliquely. Just like Jim Hacker before him, all Boris wants to do is serve the common people, the fervent wish of all ex-Etonians since time began.

Is there any substance to the Outers’ case, apart from some Little England xenophobia? On the face of it, the answer has to be No. Challenged recently to produce figures on the relative costs of immigrants, the UK government had to concede that they had no statistics, which seemed rather odd, considering that their Prime Minister was in Brussels ostensibly negotiating on that very issue. Interestingly, though, there was no mention of the two million British living in other EU countries and no thought given to the consequences for them in the event of a British exit. And that would include the million British emigrants in Spain, as well as the 330 thousand each in France and Ireland. As to the nett cost to the UK of membership, the outlay up front is one pound in every 200 expended by the exchequer, in return for unlimited access to the biggest trading bloc in the world.

brexit

Child benefit annoyed everyone when it came in. We all agreed that it made no sense to be paying full benefit to children living in low-wage economies, and on that issue, David Cameron was pushing an unlocked gate, but at the same time he came back with pretty much everything he wanted, even if his demands were always going to be insubstantial, since the opposition to membership has nothing going for it apart from suspicion of foreigners.

Call-Me-Dave has backed himself into a corner on Brexit simply by pandering to the UKIP tendency in the first place. He isn’t a fool and he must have realised that when he lay down with these dogs, he’d get up with their fleas. What’s more, he probably didn’t need them to get elected but now here he is, having returned from Brussels with a deal that everyone agrees has no substance and he doesn’t know what to do. Supporters of EU membership always thought it had no substance because the original objections were vague, nebulous and based on xenophobia, while opponents think he didn’t come back with enough.

Dave can’t win. Call-Me-Dave has been found out in the public forum and now here comes Boris the scholar of ancient Greek and Latin, pulling a knife from beneath his toga and plunging it into the breast of his fellow Bullingdonian.

But Boris is an honourable man.

 

______________

Boris Johnson says UK is better off outside the EU

Boris Johnson to campaign for Brexit in EU referendum

Boris backs Brexit: London mayor defies Cameron warning over EU vote

Everything about you is phoney

 

 

 

Categories
Politics

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáíl must eventually combine

It’s hard to escape the feeling that the game is up and that the Irish electorate have grown tired of the artificial distinction between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáíl. For that matter, if you were to press die-hard supporters of either faction, you would probably fail to get a clear explanation of the difference between them, for the very good reason that there is none.

Both are right-of-centre ideology-free ad-hoc parties, with a focus on the next election and no discernible core principles to tell them apart from the next right-of-centre grouping that might happen along. Both are Middle Ireland and both have been trading for generations on a failed narrative of what this country is and what it should become.

Fianna Fáíl and Fine Gael are both failed expressions of an outdated understanding of Ireland and it’s about time they did the decent thing by combining into a single party, but of course that’s the last thing either of them want to do, because if they ever acknowledge the fact that they are identical, they’ll lose a huge amount of support.

Why?

Because right now, their support is based on irrational tribalism. Right now, each party commands a certain amount of support based solely on its name, and if that artificial distinction ever falls, as it surely will, the two factions will end up competing for the same voters.

When that finally happens, Ireland will mature into a modern European democracy, not divided along artificial tribal lines like the United States, but along social distinctions. Call it Left-Right if you want. Call it Conservative-Progressive if you prefer. It doesn’t matter. Ireland will finally throw off the silly Civil War distinctions between political factions, distinctions that mean nothing in the modern world, and begin to create a form of politics with some meaning.

That will be revolutionary for this country. A form of politics based on conviction instead of tradition. When that happens, it will sweep away not only the drab, tired old parties like FF and FG, but also the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, all of which have been peddling the same tired old messages rooted in the past.

I don’t know when that will happen. I don’t even know if it will happen soon, but the signs are that people are getting tired of sad old platitudes.  People are no longer willing to be fooled by empty rhetoric from either end of the shockingly limited Irish political spectrum. The time is coming when Irish voters will demand evidence of a meaningful vision from those who seek their support, and that time is coming very close.

The first sign of change will have to be a combination of Fianna Fáíl and Fine Gael, and not before time for two entities that should never have sold themselves as different things in the first place. Let’s be done with that nonsense and then let us examine very closely those who claim to be of the Left.  Let us be done with demagogues of the Left and of the Right, and let us adopt a body politic that has our interests at heart.

It can be done, and eventually it will be done. Not this time, perhaps, nor the next, but sooner or later, that change will occur.

I hope I’m still here to see it happen.

_________________

Fianna Fál or Fine Gael – what’s the difference?

Categories
Politics

Willie O’Dea does battle with Satan

Renowned local political exorcist, Willie O’Dea, took up the cause of a woman who was concerned about the PPS number containing the digits 666 which was issued to her new baby.

It was satanic, according to the mother, and Willie is famous for his opposition to Satan. Willie, in fact, is as hard on Satan as he is on Blueshirts and so, like the fearless parliamentarian he is, he took the matter to the Department of Social Protection.

Twice.

And twice, the Department told him to begone. A curse on your moustache, they said.

Undeterred, Willie the Exorcist decided there was nothing for it but to confront the Devil in his lair and so, deeming it to be a matter of national importance, he brought the question up in our national parliament. Could the Department please change the child’s PPS number because a woman in Limerick didn’t like to see 666 in it?

Eh, no, he was told. They don’t create designer numbers for neurotic nutflakes.

Defeated, Willie was forced to tell the distraught mother that her child would forever be marked with the digits of evil. Check his scalp, he advised.

The Forces of Darkness may have prevailed this time, but Willie will soon be back with a Baby Powers bottle full of holy water, a bag of crumbled communion hosts and an unshakeable belief that our national parliament is nothing more than a circus for clowns to cavort in.

How fortunate we are to have such a statesman representing us. As our country struggles through the worst depression in our history, we have Willie O’Dea to argue the case for a mother who doesn’t like a pattern of numbers.

And what’s wrong with that?

________________________

Previously

Willie O’Dea takes on the Satanists

O’Dea backs humanist wedding ceremonies, draws line at Satanism

Categories
Politics

General Election 2016. Time for National Interview.

Oh God. Here we go again. Three weeks of unspeakable bullshit from people, most of whom know absolutely nothing about anything. Three weeks of empty-headed slogans from fiscal space-cadets.

Three weeks of General Election candidates calling to my door and being torn to pieces by the Hound of Satan.

This year, I’m going to do the National Interview. I have a list of questions for them and when the knock comes I’ll be out with the old smart phone. Right, I’ll tell them. I’ll be videoing this conversation, and I’m putting your answers up on Facebook. Is that ok?

I expect that most of the videos will just show their backs as they retreat, but maybe one or two of them will actually speak up for themselves. Let’s wait and see. One way or the other, I’ll put up the videos, even if they only show someone scurrying away into the darkness.

After all, if we can’t have fun at the expense of politicians, what’s the point in living?

I don’t know what my list of questions will be yet, but I’ve been toying with ideas. I won’t tell the candidate what I think. I’ll just record their replies and let people judge for themselves.

 

What are you qualified to do?

Were you ever unemployed?

Did you ever wake up in a strange flat?

Did you put up election posters before you were legally entitled to?

What was your greatest achievement so far?

Why are Aston Villa so shit?

Were you ever homeless?

Who invented the Spinning Jenny?

What’s your position on repealing the 8th Amendment?

Where is Ulan Bator?

What jobs have you had?

Who killed Cock Robin?

Do you think we should pay Scandinavian levels of tax for Scandinavian levels of service?

Did you ever smoke weed?

If not, why not?

What’s your position on school patronage?

What is your favourite band? The Eagles? I thought it might be. Get off my property now before I set the dog on you.

Why don’t we have a proper health service?

Why isn’t Munster winning any more?

Should Ireland accept more refugees?

Do you support closing the Direct Provision centres?

What’s your favourite novel?

Why does Ireland get no royalties from Corrib gas?

Did you ever streak while out of your face on Jack Daniel’s?

Should the 1916 Rising be celebrated according to a religious calendar?

What is a marimba?

I suppose I’ll think of more as time goes on, and I’ll just stick them in here. If you have any other questions for the General Election, let me know.

 

____________

The National Interview

Questions for candidates

 

 

 

 

Categories
war

ISIS hit by cutbacks

Daesh islamic state isis Islamic State / ISIS / Daesh has been forced to cut salaries in half, following a collapse in revenues, thus proving that there’s only one ruler in this world. The Iron Bank.

It can’t be easy for the men who control Daesh to admit that they have no money for their  fighters, their administrators, their priests, their police or their street-cleaners. After all, they promised the poor fools that God would provide, but there you have it.  They’ll brazen it out because these are men who have known humiliation in the past and who have overcome it.

These men, remember, are Saddam Hussein’s senior commanders, kicked out of a job during Paul Bremer’s insane purge of the Iraqi Baath Party and they’ll tell their demented religious puppets whatever lies they consider necessary to keep them fighting and getting killed. Besides, it’s not as if they planned to keep the same fools alive once they carved a new state for themselves out of the ruins of Iraq and Syria.

But isn’t it hilarious that Daesh are collapsing under money worries, just like the rest of us? Not only has their oil production been curtailed by bombing raids on refineries but now they have to deal with the collapse in world petroleum prices, just like the Saudis and the Canadian shale-sand polluters.

Did the men who control Daesh ever think they were part of a globalised economy? Of course they did. These men are all educated in Western universities and trained in Western military academies. They have tasted the finest of Irish and Scotch whiskeys, the best of French cognacs. The purest that Colombia could supply them. The keenest racehorses. The best cuisine. The sweetest invitations that money can buy. Delights undreamed-of by a Daesh foot-soldier from the sink estates of Birmingham, the alleyways of Marseille or the crushing poverty of a Tunis slum.

Imagine what would happen if these ignorant, homicidal, fanatical youths came to realise how well their masters are living. Would Saddam’s fat former generals find themselves swinging from lamp-posts? Actually, probably not, since these Republican Guard ex-officers are professionals and this has already been war-gamed by them. Unlike any US president in history, these boys have an exit strategy. They had it from the start, long before they began to create the fantasy that they called Islamic State — a cruel mockery dreamed up by people who were part of Saddam’s distinctly unIslamic vision.

When Daesh implodes, as it inevitably will, the men in the shadows will be long gone, but meanwhile it will be hilarious watching their HR department trying to cope with wage demands, go-slows, working to rule and outright strikes.

How  will they handle that? Will they behead everyone who refuses to operate the water treatment plants? And if they do, who will do the job instead? Allah?

Will the cuts affect the beheaders? Will there be cuts in beheading? Will output be reduced?

Will there be redundancies?

In many ways, ISIS has a lot in common with David Cameron, our own Enda Kenny or for that matter Donald Trump.  Slashing the salaries of public servants is something these politicians have dreamed of for years, but not one of them had the guts to cut wages in half.

Don’t be surprised if our government hires them.

 

 

 

Categories
Politics

Meeting PJ Mara

I once said Hello to PJ Mara.

It was in the men’s toilet in a pub in Ballyvaughan. Monk’s to be precise.

Scrap Saturday was lampooning him viciously at the time, though by all accounts Mara didn’t mind and he certainly didn’t show it in the men’s toilet of Monk’s in Ballyvaughan when we found ourselves standing side by side at the hand driers.

Hello, I said, to break the ice.

Hello, he replied.

He didn’t offer to tell me a scurrilous story about Haughey, but that was probably because I wasn’t a political correspondent, and therefore I was of no use to him or to his boss.

pj mara

I wouldn’t have known he was PJ Mara except that one of the people at our table knew him from work. She worked for a dodgy builder and Mara was a regular face in their office even though you might not expect a government press secretary to be a frequent visitor to a builder, since that isn’t what government press secretaries did most of the time, unless they worked for Haughey.

Hello Margaret, Mara said as he left Monk’s and wandered out into the balmy West Clare night.

Hello PJ, said my friend.

That was PJ Mara, said Margaret.

Really? we replied.

Mara, Mara, Mara, I growled in a bad imitation of Dermot Morgan’s bad imitation of Haughey and we all laughed, even though it wasn’t especially funny. Perhaps we were simply impressed at being in the vicinity of a man who wielded power, even if that power was in a pathetic little backwater of a country that nobody cared about.

They say he was a very nice guy and I have no reason to doubt it.

 

Categories
Politics

Averil Power calendar farce shows greed of Irish politicians

Averil Power, a Fianna Fail senator, attempted to print seventy-three thousand calendars this Christmas. Seventy-three thousand calendars, all printed at the expense of the public purse, otherwise known as you and me.

Seventy-three thousand calendars, and every one of them with Averil’s face on them, even though Averil, as a senator, was elected  by nobody at all, so go conjure that.

How are we to make sense of this?

How are we to understand the fact that those who find themselves in our national parliament suddenly find themselves overtaken with the delusion that they have a constituency?

Averil, after all, was elected to the Senate as part of the Industrial and Commercial Panel, one of the five outdated groupings that appoint members to what we laughingly call our Upper House.

It’s not exactly an august institution, as we see when we examine the sort of goose-milkers and heron-stranglers currently holding office. It wouldn’t impress anyone on the world stage to observe the country ‘n’ western upper house we maintain in Ireland at great public expense.

Sad to say, our Upper House is in fact a refuge for the lower reaches of political life in Ireland. A dumping ground for the inept and the incompetent.

I was one of those who voted to retain the Senate, but I did so in the hope that we would have a true Upper House, a place that would be populated by truly committed people who would maintain a proper oversight of the scoundrels in the Lower House.

How wrong I was. In reality the Senate has continued as ever before, populated by cynics and by people like Averil Power who seem to believe they’re living in a rest-home before contesting the next general election. Senators like Averil who don’t seem to grasp the fact that their constituency is nationwide.

A rest-home with free printing facilities.

Not that Averil would be in any way unique, lest you think I’m being party political. It wasn’t all that long ago that a Sinn Féin member used up fifty thousand printer cartridges and promised to pay back the money and never did. No decommissioned cartridges were ever produced.

All of them, no matter how squeaky clean, have the right to print constituency nonsense and just as a pig will grunt, so will they grab their entitlement.

But this has nothing to do with party politics. This is all about personal greed and let me tell you that none of them are above it.

 

Categories
Politics

John Perry, God’s grocer, claims divine support in Fine Gael dispute

God heard the embattled nations sing and shout
“Gott strafe England” and “God save the King!”
God this, God that, and God the other thing –
“Good God!” said God, “I’ve got my work cut out!”

john perryI would like to thank God for this day, said John Perry as Fine Gael restored his name to the election ticket. This day is a day for justice.

God, it’s safe to say, must be relaxing with a nice port and maybe a good cigar after his exertions on behalf of the Ballymote Bruiser. Jesus, God must be saying, I’m shagged after that.

The all-powerful deity, you see, took time out of his multi-galactic responsibilities to intervene in a Fine Gael dispute involving the disgruntled shopkeeper-politician visionary, John Perry. (God rest him merry).

John Perry, it’s also safe to say, is not famous for his humility, as one might expect from a grocer who spent much of his career flogging baked beans on the radio when he wasn’t introducing himself to strangers at funerals. It’s hard selling cornflakes and representing the people at the same time. Hard. So hard that sometimes, as a junior minister, you have to drive 4,417 claimable miles on official business in a month when you only have two official engagements. God, it’s hard.

John has a strong belief in God, up to and including God stepping in to sort out his dispute with Fine Gael, but who knew God was on the anti-Kenny wing of the party? It must be all that gay equality and Enda’s denouncing of the Vatican that finally swung the Creator in favour of the Ballymote Baked-Bean Burgomeister.

And what precisely was it that made the all-powerful deity come out in favour of God’s Grocer?

Simple.

It was mass cards, bouquets and candles. These are the things, apparently, that catch the attention of an infinitely-powerful god with dominion over the entire universe. But since John Perry has the power to summon up this immensely-powerful djinn simply by getting supporters to light candles, you’d have to wonder why he bothered going to the High Court at all.