Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Christmas Treats For Someone: Damages

Posted by Jason O on Dec 17, 2010 in Movies/TV/DVDs

Damages: Worth a look.

Damages: Worth a look.

In this age of US cable channels and DVD boxsets, it’s very possible to completely miss shows that 10 or 15 years ago would be regarded as must-see TV. Damages is one of those shows. It stars the original bunny boiler, Glenn Close, as Manhattan litigator Patty Hewes, and Ted Danson as her nemesis and target, billionaire Arthur Frobisher, and tells the story of a titanic legal struggle between the two. The show is also peppered with “flash forwards” about a murder which occurs later in the plot. Close is excellent, but the real revelation is Ted Danson, whose performance goes to prove the old adage about how it is easier for comedy actors to play straight roles than vice versa. The title is interesting, because the show boasts almost no sympathetic characters, but instead people “damaged” and morally compromised by their pursuit of wealth and success. Good, solid stuff. Keep an eye out for Zeljko Ivanek, an American-Slovenian actor who plays Frobisher’s lawyer Ray Fisk, and is rapidly becoming one of those “Hey! That’s that guy from that thing!” who is in everything.



Could the Lib Dems save Julian Assange?

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

Apparently, the US to applying to have Julian Assange extradited, a decision which will have a political implication because of the Home  Secretary’s input. Could it be an opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to signal to their left wing that they matter by demanding it be blocked?

There are good reasons for blocking Assange’s extradition to the US, in that his personal safety has been threatened by senior political figures including the former Republican nominee for Vice President.

This could be fun.


The Lib Dems get bitchslapped by reality.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 17, 2010 in British Politics, Irish Politics

Nick Clegg must be wondering where he went wrong, as he looks at polls that have dropped from 24% to 9%. At that sort of rating, AV or no AV, the annihilation of his parliamentary party is a distinct possibility. Of course, the tuition fees pledge has been flung at him, but it’s not just the pledge that is the cause of the Lib Dem slump. See, this thing was probably inevitable: When you take a party that, as long as living memory permits, was always as the harmless nice party, and put them into a decision-making role of course it is going to suffer a slump. The fact is, there were Lib Dem voters and members who were never going to make the leap from Tinky-Winky Land to Hard Choices Street. When the PDs went into coalition with Haughey the bitterness lasted for years, and people continued to quit the party over its relationship with Fianna Fail for years afterwards.

But the party also recovered. It attracted more serious, pragmatic voters and members, and built a new identity for itself in the 1992 and 2002 general elections as the emergency brake on Fianna Fail. The Lib Dems have that option, as the antidote to Tory extremism.

Having said that, they do have a fundamental problem. We had proportional representation, which meant that at least the votes of people who voted for us were counted. 9% for a liberal party in Europe is not bad under a PR system, but under First Past The Post it could be an Electorally Injected Death Sentence. Which means ironically, that the survival of the Lib Dems could end up being in the hands of David Cameron, which opens all sorts of problems for him. Could he deliver PR for an upper house? Could he deliver an electoral pact? Would the Tory party, or indeed Tory voters, vote for Lib Dem candidates if asked? It’s a big if. Would he want to ask? One interesting point (to me, at least) is that the combined poll figure of the coalition parties continues to outstrip Labour. How grating would it be to David Cameron to lose an election to Labour despite the fact that the significantly greater majority of people voted for the governing parties? 

One thing about coalition politics that the British media are only beginning to grasp: It does make things much more interesting.


Noel Dempsey.

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

The retirement decision of Noel Dempsey reminded me of a conversation I had once with an ambitious candidate about the pointlessness, at times, of Irish politics. He was full of passion for change, and I pointed out to him that Noel Dempsey, who had advocated radical political reforms in the past, had even managed to reach the cabinet and yet still had been unable to actually do anything. It’s a depressing thought.


The pride in doing nothing.

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

From today’s Irish Times. Can you think of any other issue where parties would take such pride in doing nothing? Can you imagine Labour basically giving up the ghost so openly on, say, public sector pay?

” During the 1997 (I presume this date is wrong. Why would the Irish Catholic ask Enda Kenny that question given that in the 1997 general election, John Bruton was Taoiseach?)  general election campaign, Mr Kenny gave a commitment to the Irish Catholic newspaper that if he became taoiseach, he would not legislate for the 1992 X case, which found that abortion was legal where the life, as opposed to the health, of a mother was at risk.

A Labour spokesman said it would place legislation on the issue “on the table” in negotiations for any future government but would not insist on it as a “deal breaker”. He pointed out that as far back as 1992, the programme for government of the Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition contained a commitment, not fulfilled, for legislation on the X case.”

Said thing is, they reflect the majority view in the country.



Our geographical obsessions are poisoning politics.

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

A friend of mine recently made a point to me about how depressing it is listening to analysis of the upcoming election. He was listening to a piece of RTE Radio where a constituency-by-constituency picture was being drawn. It was apparently full of the usual “X is based in Mullingar, and so should be able to benefit from transfers from Y, despite the fact they’re from different parties” and he pointed out that listening to the report, you would have no idea that the country was going through the biggest economic crisis in its history.

I know exactly what he meant. In Ireland, it feels like the politics of ideas and the crisis and what sort of society do we want is on a completely seperate track from the politics of elections. You meet people who are livid about the situation and yet will happily vote for government TDs and then return to demanding that something be done about the state of the country.

The thing is, it’s very easy to complain about our clientelist culture, except for the fact that we have all benefitted from it. I have asked TDs to intervene on issues for me, and they have, and as a result I feel a certain loyalty towards them even if I don’t agree with them. It’s simple decency. The only problem is that it is completely stunting our political development.

There is nothing wrong with having an elected representative to act as your champion with the state. It is, after all, an idea taht can be traced all the way back to the Tribunes of Rome. Our problem is that we have mixed-up that role with the role of setting the values our society shall be run by. On top of that, we have the problem that our geographically-based system means that local will nearly always trump national. That’s why the Healy-Raes and the Lowrys are returned whilst the Higgins and Springs and McDowells, men of ideas and values, more often than not have no place in parliament. And don’t even try to elect someone like Colm O’Gorman to champion an issue that most Irish people rate as being of national importance.  

We’d be better off electing a local ombudsman in every constituency, barring TDs by law from actually handling individual queries, and electing them in large regional constituencies that will allow for values voters to pool their votes and at least have some chance of electing a few TDs, and reflect the reality of how we actually see politics.

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