Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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The Housing Czar: a political fantasy.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 28, 2019 in Irish Politics

It is 2029, and the morning news bulletin reports that the Chief Executive of the State Housing Agency, known in the media as “the Housing Czar”, is finishing her ten year term at 12 noon today. Already a crowd of protestors has augmented the usual crowd demonstrating outside her modest home in south Dublin. The dozen Gardai usually stationed there, some suspected to be armed given the not infrequent death threats, have also been reinforced by members of the Public Order Squad parked discreetly around the corner.  The czar, a divorced 55 year old mother of two, architect, engineer and professor in urban planning before her appointment steps out of her front door to the usual cat cries and abuse, a significant amount of it sexually orientated. 

No one throws anything this time, and her Garda driver and bodyguard secure her in the vehicle before inching out of the driveway. Protestors hammer the roof of the car despite the best efforts of the Garda to keep them back. 

She avoids eye contact with the protestors, studying her tablet. She genuinely doesn’t notice them that much, so used to this behaviour for at least eight years of her term. Her children will be brought to school later by the au pair, as they have found that they receive less abuse when she is not present. 

The last time a protestor screamed abuse at one of her children, a ten year old, one of the Garda broke the protestors’ nose.

An even bigger crowd will be at her office on St Stephen’s Green. Opinion polls give her a satisfaction rating of nearly just under 30%. They don’t seem to poll many of the people who now live in the 100,000 affordable rented units across the country built and operated by the agency under her leadership. From the 30 storey towers overlooking the mouth of the Liffey to the integrated new towns linked by speedy electric light rail outside Galway, Cork and Limerick. Everybody remembers the huge public demonstrations against the towers as she used her powers and budget to overrule legal objections to “go high”. 

The same politicians who had demanded a national housing emergency and immediate action on housing stood with the mob booing as the diggers and cement trucks inched their way past. She smiles at the memory of columnists and talking heads on the radio who swore blind that no Irish person would ever live in towers as high, that they’d be white elephants, left empty. 

Some even talked of a public inquiry into the waste of taxpayers money. There was the usual talk that she was obviously in someone’s pocket, as there always is in Ireland. 

Then when the first tower was completed, and the media revealed the spacious high ceilinged apartments, with their floor to ceiling windows looking out over the coast on one side and the city on the other, and their moderate controlled rent, the same politicians backflipped.

One sanctimonious member of the Oireachtas notorious for playing both sides of the housing issue was the first on the airwaves demanding that his constituents be given preference, having stood against the building a mere six months previously. 

As she arrives at the agency’s offices a small phalanx of Gardai force a channel through for her, as all sorts of jibes and allegations are flung at her. That she is a fascist for forcing through the building of units against local objections. That she is an elitist for insisting that every tenant sign a social contract allowing for prompt removal under the agency’s “three strikes” policy. 

That had been a controversial decision, but one she regarded as vital for making sure that every sector of Irish society bought into the idea of the state as the primary provider of affordable housing to all. No more public housing being for “those sort of people”, and as part of that she focussed on ending the stigma (often myth) that somehow public housing wasn’t safe. 

The agency had its own live-in supervisors in all its developments, all with the power to call in an anti-social behaviour (ASB) unit . Tenants didn’t have to put up neighbours playing music at all hours or dumping rubbish in the hallways. A phone call to the supervisor and the ASB were at the door in 30 minutes guaranteed, normally four big Eastern European ex-military. Three warnings and they’d assist you in moving out, on the spot, whether you liked it or not. 

It was probably her most popular policy, at least as far as the neighbours were concerned.

Of course, Ireland being Ireland, there was always some party willing to stand on the side of the anti-social, declaring that they themselves are the victims and are being oppressed. 

Columnists in leafy suburbs or private well-to-do apartments wrote savage pieces accusing the czar of being a right-wing authoritarian, attempting to impose her social values upon the creatively challenged who don’t wish to “get up early in the morning.”

As was the case with the man from the International Monetary Fund and the chief state pathologist, she gets a public profile far out of what would be expected for an appointed public official. 

Irish people just can’t help but personalise everything, even her policies. 

Her counterparts in other EU countries and internationally find it surreal that she is so well known, to a degree that newspapers actually run opinion polls as to the public’s attitude to her performance. 

It’s not just her building policy that shapes the country. Early on in her term a shortage in available builders with skills, brickies, electricians, plasterers, carpenters, leads to her setting up a state construction sub-agency with its own apprentice scheme. Politicians attack her as the school fills with Eastern and Central Europeans, but within three years she has her own capacity to supplement the private builders she is issuing contracts to.

As she packs the boxes in her office, taking the last of her private belongings, she looks at the far wall facing her desk. Hundreds of small single pictures of her or one of her officials presenting the keys to a new home to a smiling family. She remembers the tears, the people who never thought they’d afford a decent home. The excited children marvelling at their new rooms or the playgrounds at the heart of every development. 

She also remembers how almost every single development was met with local opposition, the housed coming up with excuses as to why they sympathised with the need to build new housing, but here was not the appropriate place. 

Who did she think she was? Coming into our neighbourhood, our town, our parish, issuing her diktats?

She was the first housing czar. She’d built 100,000 affordable high quality homes for rent, as her mandate had been when she had been appointed by the minister.

She would also be the last, her position to be abolished as part of a coalition deal with a promise to find a “more appropriate structure.” Populist politicians talked about selling the homes she had built to their tenants, with the promise to build more, but without a housing czar “bullying local communities and riding roughshod over local feelings.” 

She looked at the mob outside. They’d demanded a national housing emergency be declared.

Then a terrible thing happened: the politicians had given them one.  

 
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Irish Independent: Time for an EU refugee safezone in North Africa.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 5, 2019 in Irish Politics

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/jason-omahony-eu-should-create-a-new-frontier-of-compassion-by-opening-a-safe-zone-for-refugees-in-north-africa-38558268.html

 
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What if…Nixon had been shot in Dallas in 1963?

Posted by Jason O on Oct 4, 2019 in Fiction, US Politics

President Nixon: Tragically Slain in Dallas, 1963.

President Nixon: Tragically Slain in Dallas, 1963.

PRESIDENT NIXON DEAD. SHOT IN DALLAS. VICE PRESIDENT CABOT LODGE SWORN IN AS PRESIDENT.

The murder of Richard M. Nixon on the 22nd November 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald brought a meteoric political career to a cruelly abrupt end. The man who had risen from entering Congress in 1946 to defeating Senator John F. Kennedy in the razor thin election of 1960 was almost certain to be re-elected in 1964, given his adroit handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, tough line on Vietnam (remembering Truman’s “losing China”) and his hard-line on civil rights solidifying black votes into the Republican column. The death of the young, cheerful and endearingly awkward war hero president stunned America.

Vice President Henry Cabot Lodge easily defeated Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, running on a thinly veiled racist (against his own better judgement, he admitted years later) states rights campaign the following year. As history now shows, the Republican landslide of 1964 was the last good thing to happen to the former Massachusetts senator. Read more…

 
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Irish Independent: Time to take on the litter louts.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 8, 2019 in Irish Politics

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/jason-omahony-reesmoggs-plummy-tones-might-be-the-answer-we-need-to-shame-our-litter-louts-38465176.html

 
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Irish Independent: Ireland is a world leader in democracy.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 23, 2019 in Irish Politics

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/jason-omahony-we-might-have-issues-but-were-a-world-leader-in-democracy-38329433.html

 
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Irish Independent: We need to talk about a United Ireland.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 21, 2019 in Irish Politics

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/jason-omahony-we-need-to-talk-about-a-united-ireland-tds-wont-38308180.html

 
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Great TV you’re missing: Archer.

Posted by Jason O on Jun 30, 2019 in Cult TV, Movies/TV/DVDs

archerIf you like spy shows, politically incorrect humour and sexual vulgarity, Fox’s cartoon show “Archer” is for you.

It’s based around brilliant but incredibly self-centred and over-sexed agent Sterling Archer, operative of ISIS (Yeah, they’ve since changed that. Ahem.), and his battles against the KGB, terrorists, his domineering nymphomaniac mother/boss (played by the brilliant Jessica Walter of “Arrested Development” fame), his fellow agent/ex-lover Lana Kane, his dysfunctional/sociopathic/perverted co-workers and people who stole his Black Turtleneck Is Cool look.

Try it. But be warned. This is not one for the kiddies or the faint hearted. Think “The Man from UNCLE” but with a lot of dick jokes.

 
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Cult TV: Bergerac.

Posted by Jason O on Jun 29, 2019 in Cult TV, Movies/TV/DVDs

bergeracFrom 1981 to 1991 mention the island of Jersey to anyone watching British television and they’ll almost certainly mention “Bergerac”. The detective show, set on the island, starred John Nettles as recovering alcoholic detective sergeant Jim Bergerac of the Bureau des Etrangers of the Jersey police, a special unit that dealt with tourists but more often with the many very wealthy foreigners who lived on the island.

By today’s standards, the Jersey of the 1980s all looks a bit naff, but at the time the wealth of the island, its sunny location and the French connection made it all seem very exotic and even glamorous indeed, and for ten years it was a Saturday teatime favourite.

As with many successful shows, Bergerac had a breakout character, Charlie Hungerford, played by veteran character actor Terence Alexander, who was a north of England bovver boy made good, a sort of Arthur Daley who had done very well for himself, thank you very much. One of the running jokes of the show was that Hungerford seemed to know absolutely everybody on the island, or at least was connected, often without his own knowledge, to every criminal enterprise on Jersey.

The show was a huge hit, and was responsible for boosting tourism to Jersey, with Nettles himself heading up the campaign.

Nettles went on to achieve a rare success for an actor in having played a household name for a decade as Jim Bergerac then went on to do it again for over a decade as Chief Inspector Barnaby in “Midsomer Murders”.

 
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Coming soon to HBO*: “Threadneedle Street”

bank-england-logoWhen the governor of the Bank of England dies suddenly, and his obvious successor Sir Guy Acheson (Rowan Atkinson, in a surprising straight role) is ruled out because of a shares scandal, brilliant but maverick economist Steve Darblay (Episodes’ Stephen Mangan) finds himself appointed Governor of the Bank of England, in the middle of a currency crisis, by the ruthlessly ambitious Chancellor of the Exchequer Tom Parrish (Hugh Laurie.)

For Darblay, his appointment not only places him in the driving seat in dealing with everything from interest rates to the future of the euro to who goes on the new £5 note, but also a target for Acheson who feels bitterly wronged but also that the new governor is not exactly from the right side of the tracks.

With his former Cambridge tutor Bill Burke (Roger Allam-The Thick of It) and even more brilliant economist (and former girlfriend) Yves Cassidy (Lenora Crichlow-Sugar Rush) at his side, Darblay gets ready to take his seat at the most elite of the world’s councils.

Guest starring Delaney Williams (The Wire) as US Fed Chairman Matt O’Malley and Sidse Babette Knudsen (Borgen) as ECB President Martina Delacroix.

Special appearance by Stephen Fry as the Prime Minister.

*I wrote this as a joke, but as I wrote it I thought “Jesus, I’d watch this!”

 
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Why Peggy Carter is the greatest Marvel TV/Movie universe hero.

Posted by Jason O on Jun 27, 2019 in Cult TV, Movies/TV/DVDs, Not quite serious.

Agent-Carter-poster-570x760Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen “Captain America: Civil war” then read no further. You have been warned.

******

There’s a scene in the movie where Steve Rogers is informed that the love of his life, SHIELD agent Peggy Carter, has died, probably aged around 100 years old. She gets a military funeral, and watching the scene I found it surprisingly touching, especially as the image of her used on the coffin is a current image of Hayley Atwell in character from the TV series “Agent Carter” set in 1946.

What struck me was that, watching her funeral, we realise that she is one of the few characters we have seen in her entirety, starting out as a much disparaged (by men) WWII intelligence officer who grows to become, as one of the key leaders of SHIELD, one of the most powerful people in the world.

But what really warrants her status as their greatest hero is the fact that she isn’t a superhero. She doesn’t have a super-serum coursing through her veins, or incredible intelligence matched to huge inherited wealth.

She’s just an ordinary woman, and a woman growing up in an age where for most of her life her looks count against her and discrimination based on her sex is the norm and in many cases the law. Then, as if that isn’t enough, she loses the love of her life, believing him to be dead well into her 90s.

And yet, despite all that, through a mixture of intelligence, hard work and competence, by the 1980s she is one of the leaders of the most powerful organisations in the world, and one of the most effective intelligence operatives ever.

Peggy Carter is the character every little girl can aspire to be, and that’s why she’s the greatest.

Copyright © 2019 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.