Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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One good reason to vote for Fianna Fail.

Posted by Jason O on May 21, 2010 in Irish Politics

No, I’m not endorsing the soldiers. I’m just making a point, and it is this. For all their many, many flaws, and they have many, the one thing you can be certain of with a vote for Fianna Fail is that you know what you are getting, and probably won’t be disappointed. Fianna Fail stands for pain  and cuts and higher taxes.

But here’s the thing: I have no idea what the FG/Labour alternative is, because they won’t tell us.  I know, to use a Clinton phrase, that they “feel our pain”, but to claim that there will be less pain under them is not really that credible. Cuts are caused by spending exceeding revenue, and they are vague about how they’ll deal with that, other than magical “efficiency savings” and closing “loopholes”.

So here’s the truth: If your purpose, as you look at your ballot paper, is to give Fianna Fail an eye-watering, stomach-nauseating kick in the knackers for mismanaging the economy, then by all means vote FG/Labour. But if you are voting FG/Labour because they say they will somehow lessen the pain, you’re deluding yourself. Pain is all that is on the menu, and in that context, Fianna Fail are actually the most honest party. And no, by the way. I can’t believe I’m putting the words “Fianna Fail” and “most honest” in the same sentence either, but these are the times we live in.  

 
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Some “Right to work” Protestors designated terrorist organisations by US govt.

Posted by Jason O on May 19, 2010 in Irish Politics

Amongst the many groups taking part in the Right to Work protests are the 32 County Sovereignty Movement. This is what the US State Department say about them here.

So the 32CSM, who have, shall we say, less conventional views than most about the Omagh bombers are going to give us lectures on morality?

 
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Eurosceptics will regret getting what they wished for.

Posted by Jason O on May 18, 2010 in European Union

Germany: The one country that the EU needs more than it needs the EU.

Germany: The one country that the EU needs more than it needs the EU.

Eurosceptics in Ireland and the UK seem to be delighting in the fact that Germany (as mentioned in the WSJ here) may be rapidly losing patience with the Euro and the EU generally. There is talk of a return to the Deutschmark, and if the Euro goes, surely the EU as a project will find itself beached.

But what fascinates me is this: Eurosceptics have always alluded to the idea of a united Europe dominated by France and Germnay and an EU elite. So, supposing that the European project does fail, and the EU disintegrates. Supposing Germany decides to cast off the shackles of the EU and stand as a free, totally independent nation once again. Should we be afraid? Not in a Dad’s Army type way. Modern Germany is a solid democratic nation which does not have imperial designs. But it is also the economic superpower of the region, and so a Chancellor in Berlin is the effective boss of Europe in the same way that the President of the United States is the de facto leader of the Americas. A German chancellor, free from the constraints of the EU consultation process, can just make decisions which, by sheer economic heft, most other European countries will have to accept. If Germany, the biggest market in Europe, decides that all widgets are to be 28mm, then we are all in the 28mm widget business whether we like it or not. At least in the EU we get asked. Is that what we really want? We can have a European Germany which consults, or else live in a German Europe. That’s the choice.         

 
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The boredom of Irish Politics.

Posted by Jason O on May 18, 2010 in Irish Politics

I have had three conversations with people recently, all former political activists (with three different Irish parties) and the sort of high calibre people we purport to want to see in public life. What struck me about all of them was how they have completely lost interest in Irish politics. They just don’t care anymore. They accept that politics affects their lives, they just don’t believe that whomever wins or loses at the next general election (discounting Richard Boyd Barrett or the Shinners) will actually have any major effect one way or the other. The funny thing is that they are still interested in politics in a broad sense, and all followed the British election. They just see Irish politics being about people wanting to be elected without even knowing why they want to hold those elected offices.

I understand exactly where they are coming from. Can you imagine FF or FG negotiating a coalition with David Cameron? Aside from delivering loot (yes, loot!) to their constituencies, and cabinet jobs and pensions for themselves, would there really be any other issues with which they would have problems? I’ve been writing a lot about UK politics in recent weeks, and I have to say: It is far more interesting than our own Politics-Lite, because British politicians actually have political opinions that revolve around issues. Most Irish politicians take pride in either speaking in a vague general sense “I believe in a world class heath service” or else not having any opinions at all. I got a leaflet from Barry Andrews recently, which listed out the copious amounts of taxpayers money his party is spending in the constituency. It could easily have come from the Communist Abortion Party such was its blandness. 

I once spoke to a young political activist from one of our two main parties, who confided in me that he wanted to be Taoiseach. I asked him why? What would he like to do as Taoiseach? This stumped him, for a bit, then he answered. He said that he thought that the government should help people make their houses look nicer.

He’ll go far, and no, I’m not being sarcastic. I mean it.  

 
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On The Frontline.

Posted by Jason O on May 18, 2010 in Irish Politics

pat-kenny-frontlineWas asked by the lovely people of RTE to do “The Frontline” as one of the audience “pundits” last night. Don’t know why I do it, as I always feel when I have to be very short that I end up looking and sounding like a rabbit caught in headlights saying trite things: ” Eh. The EU. It’s good, like, eh.” I could see the RTE researcher looking at me and probably thinking “Jesus, we give him a chance and this is the best he could do? We might as well have  got someone to read the back off a box of cornflakes.”

Still, my good pal Andrea Pappin (she of the red shoes) did very well, and showed that she really has the television thing down. I predict big things for her.

As I’ve said before, I was never a fan of Pat Kenny on The Late Late, but he continues to impress in this format, and has realised that cutting through the political guff to specifics is good television, and something he does well. 

 
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Just why DO people always do the open-book-as-if-actually-reading-it thing at launches?

Posted by Jason O on May 17, 2010 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

 <p><a href=

 <p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/ograpix/">ografiannafail</a> posted a photo:</p> <p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ograpix/4397505615/" title="Ógra meets Minister Mary Hanafin T.D."><img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2722/4397505615_8978491aaf_m.jpg" width="240" height="160" alt="Ógra meets Minister Mary Hanafin T.D." /></a></p> <p>Ógra members John Regan, Declan Harmon, Joseph O'Neill and Mark Curley meet with Mary Hanafin T.D., Minister for Social and Family Affairs to discuss Ógra's proposals on combating youth unemployment.</p>

 
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The cheek of them!

Posted by Jason O on May 17, 2010 in Irish Politics

I’ve recently become aware of a well known (in Dublin) candidate for the Dail contacting political activists to work on his campaign. What was interesting was that two of the activists apparently had the audacity, on listening to his invitation, to inquire of him as to what where his political objectives. Not what seat was he hoping to win, but what issues did he feel strongly about? Apparently this threw him, and he never bothered them again. One of the activists is a real grafter who has worn out his shoe leather knocking on doors and delivering leaflets for candidates in the past, and should have been bent over backwards to accomodate. He (the grafter) wondered was he being cheeky asking the question? I don’t think so. It’s perfectly reasonable for someone who has a valuable political commodity (their time and effort) and wants to get a good return on it by investing in a candidate that shares their values. The fact that this candidate regarded someone asking these questions with trepidation says a lot about what sort of TD they’d make. 

 
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The first electoral test for Cameron and Clegg: 27th May.

Posted by Jason O on May 17, 2010 in British Politics

Challenge for the Coalition.

Challenge for the Coalition.

On 27th May 2010 the Thirsk and Malton deferred general election will be held, electing an MP to this new nominally Tory seat with a Lib Dem runner up. One would assume the Tories will carry it easily, but it does raise questions about future byelections.

For example:

What happens if the Coalition parties win a majority of the vote but Labour wins the seat? How is that interpreted? Might it make Tories take a different view of the Alternative Vote? Could we see AV brought in, assuming a win in the referendum, for byelections?

Or: Can the Lib Dems now win ANY byelections if the Tories are standing, if people see a byelection as a mini-referendum, as they often do, on the government? Will the Lib Dem vote collapse by going to support either the Tories or Labour?

Thirdly: Would it be interesting if the pollsters were to start polling Lib Dem and Tory voters as to where their second preferences might go? Would that allow the Tories and Lib Dems to then ponder the possibility of standing down candidates in byelections against each other?

Finally, what happens if Lib Dem voters turn out to be (as I suspect many will) far more Tory friendly then Lib Dem activists? What sort of pressure does that put on Clegg?

Interesting stuff.    

 
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Fine Gael’s own goal.

Posted by Jason O on May 15, 2010 in Irish Politics

I get contacted a fair bit by people in different parties who want to almost use me as a confessional, presumably because I’m discreet. I only ever quote people with their permission, or if they are responding to a formal query in their role as an elected representative. As a result, I sometimes end up in a kind of agony aunt role for disgruntled activists, which is a role I don’t actually mind, as it gives me a bit of a look-in into the thinking inside various parties.

I can tell you one thing: This Fine Gael attack on the Commission proposal has seriously pissed off many FG activists, and people well disposed towards FG. It’s seen as childish and self-destructive and has brought into question the suitability of FG to be a mature, rational party of government. Scoring points off FF may win plaudits in the FG Press Office, but back here on planet Earth it looks cheap and not the act of a party that takes its role seriously.  

 
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Things I don’t like about the EU.

Posted by Jason O on May 14, 2010 in European Union

The EU: Flawed but vital.

The EU: Flawed but vital.

I feel about the EU the same way that British monarchists feel about the Royal Family. It’s a gut instinct thing, informed by my reading of history but also by the fact that it just makes sense to me. The way that some of my fellow Irish citizens feel about a united Ireland. Yet I can’t help feeling that such is the adolescent approach to political debate in this country, it’s almost impossible to criticise aspects of the EU without getting called a eurosceptic, which I’m obviously not. There are, nevertheless, things about the EU I don’t like.

1. The prickly approach to criticism. It is not anti-EU to criticise the EU, yet I have been savaged by pro-Europeans for daring to admit that some things don’t work. To say, as some pro-Europeans say, that opposing european integration makes one a nazi/communist/warmonger is just plain silly. There are many reasonable people opposed to further integration who are barely represented on the political spectrum.

2. The European Parliament. It is patently ridiculous to claim the EP is the voice of the people of Europe. Yes, it is elected, but so were Jedward.  Americans, who bitch about Congress, nevertheless accept they need it. Would we miss the EP? The European Parliament, despite the fact that it scrutinises the Commission to a better extent than any national parliament, speaks primarily for itself. It could be replaced by a oversight panel made up of appointed people, for much less money and the same standing in Europe. It is hard to find the EP defended by anyone who is not an MEP or would quite fancy being one. 

3. The European Arrest Warrant. Crime is international. So should crime fighting. But does anyone really believe that human rights in Finland and Bulgaria are respected to the same degree? Until it is, we should not be extraditing people to less human rights secure states.

4. The Commission seems to have no better ideas other than letting nations that are not ready into the union. I’m sorry, but Bulgaria and Romania were not ready. 

5. The people of Europe do not want Turkey. The EU leadership does. The fact that there is any question at all as to whose opinion will prevail is quite scandalous. And I say this as someone who can see many of the good arguments for letting the Turks in.

6. Sleaze. There is a lot of sleaze and feather nesting in the EU institutions. When you mix 27 political cultures, all with their own variants of corruption or misuse of funds (The Brits buy duck houses and get their moats cleaned. We let dodgy bankers get away with stuff.) this is hardly surprising.

7. The back scratching. Can there be any more insidious example of buying people into the European Project that the European Economic and Social Committee, the greatest quango of them all.  The Borg used to say “resistance is futile.” The EU tends to say  “Resistance is a lot of hassle. Another glass of bubbly?”

8. The Democratic Disconnect. We are absolutely taking the piss when the Dutch and the French vote No,and we just ignore it. True, it’s up to the people in those countries to decide themselves how to run their internal politics, but it stinks. The eurosceptics aren’t much better, as their airbrushing of the Spanish and Luxembourg results show, but we are supposed to be better than this. The fact is, EU democracy is not as much non-existant (there are so many chacks and balances as to make the system move deathly slow) as being so opaque and malleable as to be grubby looking. Don’t tell me that the way that Baroness Ashton and President Von Rompuy, two good people by many accounts, were appointed wasn’t just plain dodgy. The fact that Europeans cannot, through their ballots, elect the people at the very top of the EU is a factor which is causing rot within the project itself. Could President Von Rompuy have won a union-wide election? I don’t know. But I do know that after the process we’d A) know who he was, B) have more respect for a man with 150 million votes in his back pocket, and C) call the bluff on the eurosceptics.

Don’t get me wrong. I was in Dublin Castle when the flags were raised and the new member states joined, and to see Europe reunited was a dry throat and eyes well up moment for me. This union is the most extraordinary political construct of the 20th century, and millions live in a Europe more free and prosperous than any time in human history, and the EU has played THE lead role in that. That’s why it is important for those of us who believe in it to point out the flaws.  

Copyright © 2018 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.