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

Fintan O’Toole: When reality hits idealism.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 31, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

Could Ireland's Polly Toynbee have been elected?

Could Ireland's Polly Toynbee have been elected?

Fintan O’Toole’s “Thanks but no thanks” piece in the Irish Times here, on top of David McWilliams decision not to run, isn’t that surprising. When one has been a candidate, one knows those moments, from sitting in pubs with people telling you “You should run!” to that moment of dawning realisation, when you start looking at what it takes to run a credible campaign (Something which I, by the way, didn’t) in terms of money, time, effort and above all, bodies.

The truth is, Irish elections and Irish political ideas run on seperate tracks, and often never meet. Fintan and David both had to ask themselves did they have not only the resources outlined above, but also the sheer physical stamina to knock on doors and encounter hundreds of people who could not give a damn about the bank bailout but want to know why you won’t buy €50 worth of raffle tickets for their son’s soccer team, and why you are an absolute bastard if you don’t.

Having said that, there is a big question: We keep saying that people can’t get elected solely on national issues, but has anyone ever tried? The smart money has to be against it, but it sure would have been fascinating to watch how they would have gotten on. Shane Ross, given where he’s running (where The Irish Times is the local paper) is in a unique constituency anyway, but just imagine what it would have said for the country if Fintan had been elected in Dublin North West? Imagine the signal that would have sent about speaking down to the voters.

Alas, we’ll never know now.   


An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The surprisingly cold candidate.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 30, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Icy icy baby!

Icy icy baby!

On paper, she’s electoral gold. She’s pretty, young and well-educated. She looks great on a poster and even better in real life, bringing that X factor to politics. Except she doesn’t. When you meet her, she smiles at you and shakes your hand and affects to listen to you, yet you can’t help notice that the smile has all the warmth of an open fridge full of fish fingers. In fact, you can’t help feeling that the smile is like that of some sort of alien doppelganger, like someone who has only learnt how to smile late in life and is trying to copy someone else a little too hard.

Her earnest look is betrayed by that flicker as you talk to her, that millisecond when she looks over your shoulder to identify her next port of call. Yet the smile remains rigid, even though you know she’s not listening. And there’s the test right there: If you were to suddenly say to her “My mickey is unusually heavy. Would you like to see?” She’d keep smiling, her brain miles away, whereas a really good and forthright candidate would at least ask: “Fair enough. Will it increase the chance of me getting a number one?”


Never mind Angela: Why aren’t we debating the idea of a debt brake here?

Posted by Jason O on Jan 30, 2011 in Election 2011, European Union, Irish Politics

Mammy lays down the law. Again.

Mammy lays down the law. Again.

The latest story doing the rounds is the idea of us amending our constitution to restrict borrowing as a quid pro quo for getting a reduction in our IMF rate. All well and good. But why aren’t we discussing this idea for ourselves, as a good way of running our country regardless of how Brussels or Berlin think?

Surely one of the key ingredients of our economic downfall has been the Spending Junkies that are our politicians, men and women who just can’t help themselves when it comes to spending other people’s money. Imagine the effect of a constitutional amendment that not only restricted borrowing, but actually limited the size of the budget, and forced politicians who wanted to spend to go and find the funding from existing resources. Sure, the social partners and the politicians wouldn’t like it. But the people who pay tax might.

And before some people go off on a bender condemning this as another “typical right wing” proposal, ask yourself who pays for all this stuff. The rich pay some of it, but ordinary workers pick up most of the tab, reducing the amount of money they have to put food in front of their kids. Politicians perceived as right wing (Step forward FF and the PDs) have been just as guilty of blowing other people’s cash as the left. Just look at benchmarking. Or PPARS. Or eVoting. All money pissed away by a nominally centre-right government. This isn’t ideolgy. This is how a reasonable family manages its budget. 


Fine Gael’s bizarre approach to TV debates.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 29, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

This is what Alan Shatter is quoted as saying in today’s Irish Times:  

” Meanwhile, Fine Gael justice spokesman Alan Shatter said yesterday he expected the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to step in and stop any broadcaster from going ahead with a leaders’ debate without Enda Kenny. Mr Shatter accused TV3 of being “delusional” if they believed they could dictate the format of an electoral debate. He warned that any attempt to go without Mr Kenny would be in breach of the Broadcasting Act which mandates broadcasters to be fair and impartial.”

What if FF, Labour and TV3 decide to go to court, and make the argument that Fine Gael do not have the right to prevent other people to debate if they are offered an equal place themselves? The Broadcasting Act requires fairness. But it doesn’t give a veto. Yet that’s how Fine Gael want to spend the first week of the campaign? Seriously? Highlighting their fears about their leader’s inability to perform on the night? Is there anyone who really believes that Fine Gael are worried about John Gormley and Gerry Adams not getting a fair shake of the stick?

Fine Gael can’t stop FF and Labour hosting their own web debate. Journalists will turn up, many people people will watch online (not as many as on TV, admittedly), and Fine Gael ends up looking bizarre, especially if an empty podium with a Fine Gael logo is left on the set. That is not the way to start an election campaign. 


An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Presumptive Fine Gaeler.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 28, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

He'll put manners on those Fianna Fail riff-raff.

He'll put manners on those Fianna Fail riff-raff.

He’s already started referring to his boss, the deputy, as “the minister-elect”, and sneers at Fianna Fail parliamentary assistants. One TD’s secretary, 35 years his senior, has been told that she “had better buck up her ideas”.  Already he has plotted out a path which involves him taking a seat in the 2014 local elections, and a Taoiseach’s nomination to the Seanad when the coalition is “obviously” re-elected in 2016 (assuming this abolition thing is just for the proles) , or “Phase Two” as he calls it. Eyes roll at his over familiarity with people he’s never met before in One Pico, which isn’t helped when he hints that he’s “not a person you want to make an enemy of.”
In Doheny’s, on his fourth Martini, he boorishly jabs a finger at a Labour PA and tells her that her “crowd want to watch their mouth, as we’re only bringing you in to make up the numbers.”
On election day, his deputy loses his seat to the Labour candidate, the PA he jabbed in Doheny’s. In the toilets at the RDS, he starts crying big chunky snots onto the sleeve of his Marks and Sparks suit at the thought of working in his Dad’s Mace again.


Be honest: We’d be mortified if the Brits saw who we vote for.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 28, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

Before we wrecked the economy, there was a brief golden moment of ten years where we didn’t give a f**k what the Brits thought about us. But that was an anomaly, and now we’re back to twitching over our shoulders every time the word “Ireland” is mentioned on British telly.

With that in mind, the idea that Adam Boulton wants to host a party leaders debate (And possibly show it in the UK) during the election makes an ice cold claw wrap around my heart.  Aside from the fact that the most famous person on it (to Brits) will be Gerry Adams, just think of the chamber of horrors that’ll emerge. I’m not talking about Joe Higgins, who should be allowed participate if only because at least he can make a grown-up point, and will be left wing to a point no longer actually seen on British telly anymore. In fact, it may actually win him more votes in the UK than Ireland. I can even be happy that Gilmore and Martin will be solid. I’m not even worried about the fact that the debate will set back the case for Proportional Representation by years in the UK, because a British audience will struggle to understand who is who and what they stand for (Especially as we don’t know either, and we live here). I can even look forward to Boulton not holding back with a bunch of politicians he doesn’t need to kow-tow to.

No, you all know what I’m afraid of. This debate will be about who leads our nation out of its greatest crisis ever, and the Brits will see to whom we are most likely to turn. I don’t have to say anything else. 


Welcome to www.Election2011.ie

Posted by Jason O on Jan 27, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

Today, Andrea Pappin and I are launching http://election2011.ie/ The idea behind the site is to provide an irreverent look at the election and the issues that interest us, in particular, the novel idea that a national general election should be about national issues. It’s also about how to vote using the Single Transferable Vote, an issue particularly relevent in this election. 

As you know, I was a Progressive Democrat, and Andrea is a member of Labour. Are we biased? Yes. Certainly. But not censorious. If people we disagree with have a valid point to make, then they get to make it. What we’re not going to put up with, however, is boring guff, because every party website is going to be chockablock with that. So if you are a candidate or activist from any party or independent who has something interesting to say, get in touch with us on the site.


Michael Martin: The Matt Talbot of Irish politics?

Posted by Jason O on Jan 27, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

Two words hold the key to Fianna Fail avoiding complete catastrophe, and Michael Martin voiced them within minutes of becoming party leader: “I’m Sorry”. It can’t be overestimated, the power of being seen to genuinely express that feeling, and not in that Brian Cowen “I’m now going to qualify my apology and completely suck the goodness out of it” way. 

Michael Martin must be willing to spend the next four weeks in chains and sackcloth letting people vent their fury at him and his party, and taking it, and not lashing back. That’s a big ask for Fianna Fail, whose gut instinct is to retaliate with a ferocious kick in the goolies, but the reality is that Fianna Fail cannot progress without forgiveness, and forgiveness only comes when one owns up to one’s failings. Why do we think Bill Clinton was so personally popular in Ireland? Because he was flawed and admitted it, and that is something the Irish people respect. We all carry more baggage, as a people, than Samsonite. Martin would do well to remember that. 


Will Fianna Fail suffer “Force depletion”?

Posted by Jason O on Jan 26, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

Going purely, I’ll admit, on hearsay, I’m beginning to wonder whether the Fianna Fail canvassing operation will actually disintegrate during the campaign? Already I’ve heard of one non-Dublin TD being forced to rapidly exit a driveway on threat on a firearm being produced, and I wonder just how much abuse will canvassers take before throwing in the towel? That’s even assuming that they canvass at all, as the fear of how tough the going will be has, by many accounts, scared off potential canvassers already.

Having said all that, today’s leadership election in Fianna Fail could begin to put traction on the Fianna Fail recovery. The Cowen issue has been dealt with,  and if Michael Martin (I’m assuming) were to build a campaign around what would basically be a humble “national apology” tour, you could see Fianna Fail stabilise around a seat figure in the 30s, which would be livable with in the current circumstances. It’s noticable, for example, that Sinn Fein’s strong performance in the polls is beginning to make sections of the country sit up and pay attention, and look around for a bulwark against them. That nice man from Cork could be the solution: After all, didn’t the last nice man from Cork stand up to them?

P.s. Fianna Fail aren’t the only people having problems. Am also hearing that a rising young star in FG is having difficulty in getting canvassers due to an apparently rude and taking-for-granted attitude towards them during the locals. Tut-tut. As any old hand will tell you, one reliable canvasser is worth ten “advisors”, and the smart candidates nurture their canvassers.



Questions a candidate for Taoiseach should be able to answer.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 25, 2011 in Irish Politics

In the words of Aaron Sorkin, these are serious times, and we need serious people, and in particular we need a Taoiseach who is clear in his or her mind as to what their objectives are and how they are going to get there. One of the great problems with our national leadership has been that we have had so many men who just wanted to be Taoiseach with no idea why. It was only in office that they started to ponder what they were actually there for.

It is very possible that there will be a debate between the three primary candidates for Taoiseach. I believe it is important that they be able to answer specific questions, and I’d like to suggest some of the questions I would like answered by the candidates. In fact, I wonder would it be such a bad idea if RTE let viewers choose the questions to be put to the candidates?

1. You say you are in favour of protecting the vulnerable, and that logically means that others must carry the burden of greater cutbacks and higher taxes in order to shield the vulnerable. In your mind, at what income level do you believe someone is vulnerable, and so believe that those above should carry the extra burden?

2. As a country, we permitted our public expenditure to exceed our tax revenue to a very substantial extent, which has forced us to sharply cut spending in a recession, something economists have traditionally warned against. If tax revenues were to begin to raise during your term of office, would you prioritise building up a reserve to prevent such sharp cuts in future, or would you immediately begin restoring cuts in public spending?

3. What specific economic statistic would you regard as being the test of success or failure in your first term, be it GDP, GNP or the unemployment rate? For example, at what rate would unemployment have to drop below for you to regard yourself as having a sucessful first term?

4. There has been a lot of talk of political reform, changing the voting system, etc. At the end of your first term, what powers will ordinary voters have to effect political change that they don’t have now? How will it be easier for non-traditional candidates to be elected?

5. Will you rule out any concessions or secret negotiations with Sinn Fein during your term even if they vote for you for Taoiseach without your consent?

6. Do you believe taxpayers should continue to pay for the pension of politicians and public servants who earn, on average, far more than they do? Why should those individuals not fund their own private pensions?

7. Obviously, getting unemployment down will be your priority in office. What will be the second priority, you will hope to have achieved by the end of your first term, and how will it specifically be judged as a success?

Copyright © 2021 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.