Candidates, Clowns and Ambition — What Really Motivates Peter Casey?

In a fit of whimsy tonight, I fell to pondering on the origins of terms like ambition and candidate, two words that are very much to the front of our minds in recent years.

Naturally, of course, we can’t help thinking about the current clown show that we in Ireland laughingly refer to as a presidential contest, but let’s not forget the procession of dangerous buffoons cavorting in the Big Top of the world’s circus these days. Compared to these mountebanks, our own transitory pretenders might seem like nothing but shabby court jesters, fit for little but to free a blackbird from a pie or to wring a grudging scowl from some trouser-patched monarch of piss-stinking back alley, some lord of mangy scrapyard hounds, some king of half-wit drunkards.

Forget them, you might snort, and it would be hard not to disagree with you.

After all, we have genuinely evil clowns to fear and with good reason, but I don’t need to tell anyone that. Even without the orange buffoon in Washington and his collection of fawning sycophants, there’s plenty left to go around, from Boris the Tousled to Viktor Orbán in Hungary,  the sort of clown who files his teeth and lurks in rainwater gulleys under streets. We have AfD in Germany, we had actual Nazis in Sweden running for government and we have another real-life Nazi as Austria’s prime minister. Besides that, let us not forget Kaczynski’s puppet government in Poland. The Law and Justice party  — a bunch of populists who have completely forgotten the lessons of history, or perhaps learned them too well.

They’re everywhere and they’re all trading on a seductive cocktail of fear, lies and populism. Everywhere except here, isn’t that right? Everywhere except the sainted isle of Ireland.

Sainted? Didn’t we legalise same-sex marriage in the face of bigotry from the likes of the Iona Institute?

We did indeed, fair play to us.

And didn’t we get rid of that pernicious constitutional ban on abortion, foisted on us thirty-five years ago by a sanctimonious bunch of statue-nibblers?

We sure did, to the great surprise of many, including myself. I thought we’d be another half century defeating these god-botherers.

What’s more, aren’t we about to eliminate the crime of blasphemy, thereby exorcising the malevolent ghosts of John Charles McQuaid and his satanic master, Paul Cullen?

Correct. It’s true. We are, and just before Hallowe’en at that. McQuaid’s chains must be rattling in whatever foul cave his shade inhabits.

Why then the word sainted?

Well, you see, it seems to me that in ridding ourselves of the old shackles, we’re in danger of clamping new ones on our wrists and ankles. Indeed, it seems to me that we’re busy introducing the New Blasphemy, a prohibition on thought and expression that will be policed just as ardently by our tolerant, liberal, well-meaning friends and colleagues as the old blasphemy ever was by angry young thugs in clerical cassocks or by grumpy old Civil War fossils in the Dáil. And yes, I know nobody has been prosecuted for the Old Blasphemy, but it’s also true that Ireland has only recently emerged from a cultural blockade as severe as anything Hoxha imposed on Albania. And it’s true that anyone who failed to conform to the old authoritarian Ireland was ground down and silenced.

It’s inevitable that the pendulum will swing the other way, but we need to be on our guard unless we inadvertently open the door to demagogues, hate-mongers and right-wing opportunists waiting for a toe-hold in this country, just as they have done everywhere else. Let’s not clap ourselves on the back just yet. Instead, take a look at what has happened to reasonable, tolerant Denmark before telling ourselves it couldn’t happen here.

We have made a mistake by rendering some issues taboo and in doing so we have left the door off the latch for those who lurk in the bushes.

It was plain stupidity to call Peter Casey a racist for articulating what a lot of perplexed people in Ireland were asking: is a stable for your horses really a human right? Casey should never have been given the space to present himself as a victim, but that’s what the New Blasphemy achieved, by shutting down reasonable voices who were reluctant to draw condemnation on themselves or risk being branded racists. That’s what happens when a subject is off-limits: the field is left open to fear-mongers who care nothing about being branded as bigots.

This has always been the modus operandi of extreme intolerance. Begin with a proposition that many people are in tune with to some extent and escalate from that point to the outrageous in gradual, incremental steps, each time pushing the limits of outrage until decent people become accustomed to something they would have found abhorrent not so long ago.

That’s what Trump is doing right now and who can say where he’ll finish?

I mentioned at the start that I was thinking about the origins of terms like ambition and candidate.

In ancient Rome, ambitus, from which we get the word ambition, was a crime. It meant trying to influence the results of an election, either through plain bribery or by other means, and was severely frowned upon. It was his ambition that led to Julius Caesar’s murder by Brutus and his co-conspirators if my hazy memory of the great play is correct. In truth, it meant nothing more than ward-heeling, clientelism and cute-hoorism. If Caesar was in Irish politics today, he’d be having a quiet word with the Council about your over-sized extension, promising to get that bathroom for your uncle and tipping you off about the new by-pass in case you were planning to sell that parcel of land too soon.

Who would that remind you of?

Of course, on a larger scale, it meant Gallic wars, Rhine-crossing, invasions of Britain and eventually, Rubicon-crossing. Not to mention becoming dictator for life. Who does that remind you of?

Now, a candidate was an ambitious fellow who went around his ambit, perambulating, so to speak while wearing a candida, or white robe, signifying purity. Somebody with nothing to hide. A perfectly candid candidate who wouldn’t dream of lying or manipulating anyone.

Not much changes over the centuries, and so, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, we arrive back at Peter Casey.

Peter is not a fool, whatever else you might think of him and therefore the first word that jumps to mind is Why?

Why does a man who has only 2% approval in the polls insist that he will win the Presidency?

Why would he agonise about pulling out of the race over the hurtful accusations of racism thrown at him but then relent, having consulted  his advisers (whoever they might be)?

Why would someone who claims to be a man of action, a doer, a decision-maker, wish to occupy a role that is largely ceremonial, with no executive power and little enough hard responsibility?

I can think of no logical answer unless Peter Casey’s ambition exceeds his candour. Unless he is simply testing the political temperature of Ireland, calibrating the right-wing gauge by seeing how much bounce he can achieve in the approval ratings as a result of mud-slinging and fear-mongering.

It’s hard to see what purpose this ludicrous campaign could serve other than to act as a feeler for the sinister authoritarian movements currently flexing their muscles all over Europe.

Why would Ireland be any different?



Presidential Campaign

Miggledy is going to win.

Let’s get that out of the way before we say anything else.

Miggledy has this wrapped up and the clown show that’s opposing him can do nothing about it, so what’s left to talk about?

Well, I suppose we could talk about the assorted no-hopers who somehow persuaded themselves and various county councillors that anyone would care what they had to say. We could talk about what drives people like Sean Gallagher, Peter Casey and Gavin Duffy.

Is it cynicism? Is it as tawdry as wanting this on their CVs next time they go hustling for business in the USA? Presidential candidate.

Or is it something else? Something that might be called ambition but should probably be called crass stupidity.

It’s hard to know which of the three male candidates is most irritating.

Sean Gallagher seems to have a natural gift for looking annoying, like some overgrown chest-burster who’s just gnawed his way through a crew-member’s ribcage in a spray of blood and offal, screeching empty platitudes at anyone foolish enough to stray too close to those razor teeth. Will he grow into a nine-foot killing machine with molecular acid for blood? Only time will tell.

Sean hand-delivered a letter of complaint to Miggledy in the Phoenix Park the other night, dripping saliva in the bushes outside the Áras as Miggledy paced his study floor, reciting stanzas from his favourite Inuit poet in an impressive assortment of accents. A candelabra cast his heroic flickering shadow on the blinds while Sean chewed on a small furry mammal, grunting foul imprecations as he hefted the half brick his letter was wrapped around.

What a shame nobody told him about this thing called a postal service. But Sean believes his own bullshit.

michael d higgins

Gavin Duffy, on the other hand, doesn’t quite carry such an air of tight-sprung menace. He looks more like that genial guy you used to know in school. That lad whose father put up the money to buy him a pair of record decks because books weren’t really his thing and it was either that or get a real job. The next time you met him, he was fronting a night-club for some rich alcoholic, leasing a second-hand BMW Z4 and sporting a brand-new accent that he caught in a tanning parlour. Nowadays he does some sort of property consultancy and he mixes with the social elite, or what passes for a social elite in your town: auctioneers and fast-buck money advisers. They all have the sunbed accent too.

Gavin would remind you a bit of that guy. The grin, the patter and most of all, the fact that he believes his own bullshit.

Peter Casey is harder to figure. He seems to be a genuine businessman and he seems to have made actual money for himself, which isn’t an indicator of anything in particular, I realise, except some primitive instinct to make money. But on the other hand, he seems to be as ill-informed about the nature of the Presidency as his two fellow Dragons, and equally prone to mouthing aspirational nonsense about what he would do if elected.

Casey, apparently, doesn’t believe in feminism. He spent a long time in America and thinks we have somebody called the First Lady. He says that when he’s in the Áras he’ll put his wife in charge of women’s things while he gets on with the important man-things, presumably things like jump-starting the presidential limo and whipping the flunkeys for failing to polish the silver.

Peter doesn’t like being challenged. He’s quick to tell interviewers how insulted he feels at their impertinent questions, which would lead you to give thanks for two things. First, our President has no power to have anyone lined up against a wall and shot, but second, and more important, Peter hasn’t a snowball’s chance of getting elected, which at least gives him something in common with the other two bozos.

And just like the other lads, Peter believes his own bullshit.

I don’t know what drives Joan Freeman. She founded Pietà House and seems like a well-meaning soul, although it is a bit strange that she can’t remember ever having had anything to do with the Iona Institute, despite the fact that half her family seem to be members, two of them prominent campaigners for a No vote during the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign. Joan believes she was once miraculously cured of eczema at the Knock shrine. Joan also seems to believe that the Presidency should be about supporting mental health, thereby showing the same level of understanding as the three lads, though at least she does believe in something, unlike them.

Worryingly, Joan is Mattie McGrath’s preferred candidate and yes, I realise this is very shallow of me, but if Mattie McGrath was in favour of apple pie, I’d be ordering the rat salad.

At least Liadh Ní Riada of Sinn Féin has a coherent political agenda, even if it isn’t one that unites all of us.  Liadh says she’d wear a poppy, for the common good, even if some of her fellow party members don’t approve, which is very decent of her, though one uncharitable thought did cross my mind. Isn’t it a pity those Sinn Féin members who hold seats in Westminster didn’t take a similar view on the common good and use their votes to sink Brexit?

Without that economic and political calamity hanging over us, maybe we’d have more patience for the seven-year shit show that the presidential election cycle has turned into.

As we speak, the also-rans are at each other’s throats over some empty-headed tosh Casey uttered about Travellers and there are of course the predictable calls for him to drop out of the race, which would be a shame. After all, they’re diluting each other’s votes nicely here, although Casey’s 2% will hardly make much difference one way or the other when he’s ignominiously kicked out on the first count. He can go back to his millionairing, Gallagher can go back to eating people’s rib-cages, Duffy can go back to selling tickets for debs’ balls, Joan Freeman can go back to Iona and Liadh can go back to pretending we still have Articles 2 and 3 and wishing she’d never heard of the HPV vaccine.

Miggledy can go back to the Áras he never left and we can go back to pretending this didn’t happen.



[Seven years ago, this was the official Bock view on presidential elections.]


State Visit to Britain Hints at Deeper Political Change

Cui bono has served us well over the generations.  Who benefits?  Follow the money.  But sometimes, the better test is to ask who’ll be most annoyed by something, and as far as I can see, the Presidential visit has enraged all the right people.

Queen Elizabeth Michael D Higgins Ireland State Visit Britain

The Famine-loving 800-years-of-oppression sub-sect of the Irish-American diaspora are hopping mad.  They simply cannot bring themselves to accept that maybe there’s a better way to solve the age-old problems between Britain and Ireland, but more tellingly, the mask has slipped.  They can’t accept that the indigenous Irish people have spoken, and I suppose that’s for obvious reasons.  If they’re not centre-stage-Irishmen, then who exactly are they?

What is their relevance to the daily lives of people on this island?

It raises an interesting question  —  why is it good to be Irish-American, but deeply wrong to be Irish-British?

And if it’s good to kick the Brits out of our ancestral lands, what are these patriotic Americans going to do about the occupation of, for instance, the Sioux lands?  After all, this dispossession was carried out little more than a century ago, while the Ulster Protestants have been there for almost 400 years.

It’s not so long since General Philip Sheridan, a son of Cavan immigrants to New York, conducted a mass slaughter of the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche and Sioux.

Are we talking double standards?  Surely not, among such principled, right-thinking people as the Irish-American lobby.  What are we to do with all the Ulster Protestants — kill them?  Force them into a republic they don’t wish to be part of?  Send them back where they came from, as the Croats did to the Krajina Serbs in 1995, in a huge act of ethnic cleansing?  Or will we face up to the reality that, much though we might consider the deeds of the 17th century despicable, this is the 21st century and we need 21st century solutions?

I don’t like the posturing of Ulster loyalists any more than the next person, but in many ways, they are the ones now hanging out to dry.  It’s true that their behaviour has veered between laughable and despicable.  It’s true that they have been triumphalist, sometimes murderous, arrogant, overbearing, aggressive and horribly self-righteous.

But it’s also true, now that Professor Higgins has taught his Eliza to speak proper Erse, that Realpolitik is the order of the day.  Forget all this guff about warmth and friendship.  Countries do not have friends, though it is  certainly true that the Irish and the British are far closer to each other culturally than they are to anyone else.

Even more than the Irish-Americans, the Presidential visit will have driven the Ulster Loyalist faction — as opposed to Unionist — to distraction.  After all, if the monarch to whom you proclaim your loyalty is supping with the Devil and using an exceedingly short spoon, what are you to think, if you think at all?  If you have any brain in your head, you’ll be asking yourself what you can achieve by prancing around the streets with flute and drum, playing the Sloop John B outside Catholic churches.

If you don’t have such a brain, you’ll be breaking out the guns, but this time, you won’t find yourself facilitated by a sectarian, politically-motivated police force.  You won’t be dealing with Special Branch handlers handing over bags of money and drugs.  You’ll be dealing with the full force of a state determined to grind you underfoot, and because you come from a community that has traditionally placed little value on education, you will be smashed, ruthlessly.

David Irvine realised years ago that the Ulster loyalists had been the dupes of the establishment, and he did his best to wake them up to that reality, as did Gusty Spence and Billy Hutchinson, not to mention John McMichael, but the reality is that working-class loyalism is now doomed.  These people, raised by the aristocracy to serve as cannon-fodder in imperial wars and as slaves in the shipbuilding industry are now surplus to requirements and therefore disposable.

Their soul-brothers throughout Britain, on the Clyde and the Tyne, in the coalfields and the ironworks, were cut loose decades ago and when they protested, Thatcher’s mounted policemen rode them down and crushed them.

The only thing that made the loyalists different was the so-called national question, and now, finally, that issue is no longer on the agenda of the UK government.

This State visit is being widely misread, in my opinion, as an attempt to recalibrate relationships between Dublin and London.  In reality, I think it’s sending out a completely different signal:  the deal is done.  It’s over.  The charade of British support for loyalism is being abandoned in favour of a 21st century analysis of both countries’ priorities.  In the long term, I think the plan is to bring about a united Ireland by virtue of planned obsolescence.

It won’t happen overnight, but a loyalism with nothing to be loyal to can have no future.  When the Queen turns her back on you, who exactly are you?

What I’d very much like to know is what the quid pro quo was.  What has the government promised in return for such a warm, wholehearted display of pageantry and such a firm rejection of the backwoodsmen?




Michael D Michael D Up On His Bikel D

There will be no political rant today.  Instead I’ll simply offer best wishes to our new president, Michael D Higgins, probably the only candidate suitable for the job, all things considered.  One thing you can say for sure about Michael D: he won’t be an anonymous president and he might even manage to make life uncomfortable for this government and the next, in that powerless presidential, ceremonial way that the two Marys managed to perfect.

What about a bit of a song?  And I do mean a bit, since this is cropped from the end of an old Saw Doctors song.  I hope they won’t mind too much, but they seem like decent enough lads and anyway it’s all a celebration of the new man in the Big House.






Here we go. Michael D Michael D Up On His Bikel D.



President Higgins, I Presume?

Michael D Higgins now seems certain to become the ninth president of Ireland after his closest rival, Seán Gallagher, conceded defeat.  In the end, he turned out to be the only candidate of the seven with sufficient credibility, but it was a close-run thing.  This time last week, we had a glib and insubstantial Fianna Fáil hack at the top of the polls, and it was only because he allowed his mask to slip on two talk shows that the electorate realised what a mistake they were about to make in voting for him.

Michael D Higgins is not the best president we could have elected, but he was the least worrying on the list.

Poor old David Norris descended into farce as he traversed the country with a fixed grimace, screaming about James Joyce.  Pity. I still gave him a vote though he hadn’t a prayer and he probably knew it, after the hatchet job done on him by certain journalists, not helped by his own posturing.

Mary Whatsit lost the election by demonstrating a complete lack of understanding about the role of president, at times straying into territory so touchy-feely ludicrous it was laughable, such as the idea of co-opting people with mental disabilities onto the Council of State.  Best of luck with that, Mary.  Good job you’re not in charge of our rugby team.

The country seems to hate Gay Mitchell.  Everybody took a dislike to him which I thought was unfair.  After all, he can’t help his shifty, rat-like appearance or his unpleasant, aggressive manner.

Martin McGuinness?  Well, he never stood a realistic hope of winning, but I suspect he’ll regard this as mission accomplished.  Another step towards improving the image of Sinn Féin.  We all knew that when people like Anne McCabe started issuing public statements, Martin’s goose would be cooked and he knew it too.

And then there was Dana, the Grassy Knoll candidate who stunned the nation by calling in the police after getting a puncture.

All in all, we’ve had a lucky escape.  Michael D won’t disgrace us, and that’s really all we could ask from this bunch.