Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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An American’s Guide to the European Union.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 28, 2011 in European Union

The EU: Not yet a state but more than a mere international organisation.

The EU: Not yet a state but more than a mere international organisation.

During the October 2009 Irish referendum to ratify the Lisbon treaty (basically a vote to amend Europe’s “constitution”), many visitors, particularly American ones, could not fathom one issue. How was it that a country like Ireland, that took such pride in achieving its freedom from the British Empire, could be so comfortable with ceding sovereignty to a European Court, Council of Ministers and Parliament on so many issues?

How can the Irish take a handful of Euro out of their pockets, and amidst the Irish harps, see German Eagles, Dutch queens and Spanish kings and feel perfectly comfortable and no less Irish than the day before?

Ireland has been a member of what is now the European Union since 1973, the year I was born. For my generation, European integration is a way of life. It’s perfectly normal for our ministers to sit down on a weekly basis with the other 26 member states and debate and pass laws governing Europe. It’s a run of the mill thing for Irish or French or German people to appeal the decisions of their national courts to the European Court of Justice.

One reason Americans have such difficulty understanding the EU is because they keep trying to compare it to something that already exists. It’s not the UN, because it has actual power in the lives of people. Yet it’s not the Soviet Union either (As the more psychotic and/or drunk eurosceptics allege) because power is held by democratically elected national leaders. Consider it, instead, this way: Supposing Canada, the US and Mexico were economically comparable, and had been to war with each other three times in seventy years, and US troops had goose stepped through Ottawa, or Mexican troops had occupied half of New York City. Then you might get it. France borders seven countries. Germany borders nine. And there are 500 million of us. Culturally, the US is like a load of Old Wild West homesteaders, all wanting to do their own under the sweat of their own brow. The EU, on the other hand, is like 27 people sharing a tightly packed apartment block: If we don’t cooperate on a daily basis, it would be hell, to the extent that if you attempt to burn down your disagreeable neighbour’s apartment, you may well burn down your own and everybody else’s in the process. 

Now, it isn’t all happy-clappy: Europeans get irritated about the EU in the same way many Americans get irritated about the federal government, and we have a Brussels (the capital of the EU) mentality in the same way Americans complain about the Washington beltway bubble. But there’s nothing new or particularly European about bureaucracy. After all, I’ll bet that when the first caveman carefully caressed the first spark off a flint onto a nest of dry leaves, and gently blew that smoking fragment into a flame, you can be sure that just behind him, another caveman stepped forward, looked sternly at him, and asked: “Have you got a permit for that?” 

 
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Enda the Cabinet Maker.

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

And now, the fun bit.

And now, the fun bit.

From Andrea Pappin and myself:

As the final counts take place and until Dick Roche realises he has actually lost his seat, there’s one thing that will be on everyone’s minds in political circles: government negotiations. Fine Gael are in the driving seat and have said they will be announcing their negotiating team and making calls to ‘potential Government partners’ in the morning. And while they may posture and start calling some Independents to try and make up the numbers, everyone knows that trying to control ten or eleven Independent TDs would be like trying to put cats in a bag. So, the real show in town is talks with the Labour Party. 

There are two parts to the negotiations – 1. policy and 2. places at the Cabinet table. Policy is harder to ascertain now apart from the fact that regardless of how well the Programme for Goverment negotations go, Labour will get hammered harder for ‘acquiescing’ on their manifesto than Fine Gael will. But what is the real interesting show is who is going to tog out for the FG/Labour cabinet team.

The Irish Constitution is pretty broad on the Cabinet – all is really says is that it has to be between 7 and 15 people and that the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Minister for Finance have to all be from the Dail. After that, it’s pretty much fair game for the leading party. In reality, when building an Irish cabinet you’ve got to balance three areas, known in the business as the 3Gs – gender, geography and generation. So with that in mind, here are the votes from the www.election2011.ie jury on what our new Cabinet is going to look like:

Labour (5 cabinet seats)

Have got to balance experience with age which is the long-term perception of the party (though the raft of TDs are very much going to cock two fingers at people who keep harping on about that). The cabinet choices however will have to bring people with skills without looking like they need to make standard issue knee rugs for Cabinet meetings. Further to this there is still the remnants of an internal split, not seen outside of the party, between ‘old Labour’ and ‘Democratic Left’ which will no doubt get a bit of airtime when Labour are deciding their top five for the coveted posts.

  1. Eamon GILMORE (Dun Laoghaire): Well, duh.

  2. Joan BURTON (Dublin West): Couldn’t not. Sure what would Vincent do without her? Won’t be a big economic portfolio as much as she would like it to be.

  3. Pat RABBITTE (Dublin South West): Solid media performer, with previous Cabinet experience as a Super Junior Minister in the 90s Government. Would be surprised if he was also not on the Government negotiating team too.

  4. Jan O’SULLIVAN (Limerick City): Interesting thing about women in politics. While there are few to get elected, once you’re there, your chances of getting a Cabinet post are much higher. Jan is a safe pair of hands and also brings a non-Dublin geography to the Labour team.

  5. Ciaran LYNCH (Cork South Central) or Sean SHERLOCK (Cork East): Both returning to the House after first being elected in 2007, either one of these TDs will help keeping the age profile lower while also balancing the regional element of the team.

The team put out for the government negotiations will give a good inkling on Labour’s five choices. And further to this, don’t rule out a ‘Super Junior’ Ministry or two for Labour. Ruairi QUINN has been overlooked in this line up but with only three years until the European Commissioner post is available and many Committee Chairs that will need good hands, Ruairi will know that benefit of having one of the Cork TDs on the team.

Fine Gael (10 cabinet seats)

Fine Gael have fewer women in their parliamentary party than they would like to admit, which puts some of the well known female faces well positions to take a seat. For them there will need to balance geography with the ‘Irregulars’ – that is those people who were not so keen on the person who now is handing out the portfolios. But keep your friends close and all that, so one or two will get the call.

  1. Enda KENNY (Mayo): He’s got a five-point plan. To get Ireland working.

  2. Richard BRUTON (Dublin North Central): Smart man. Well, Oxford thought so as they gave him a degree there.

  3. Lucinda CREIGHTON (Dublin South East): Brought in a second TD in her constituency while also topping the poll. Recognised face which will be too busy as a Minister. Don’t think she’ll be getting ‘equality’ or accepting any invite to The George’s Sunday Night Bingo.

  4. Leo VARADKAR (Dublin West): Known media performer. And young. Will be used as the bulldog on a chain by Enda to help get things done in the coalition.

  5. Simon COVENEY (Cork South Central): Brings the geography. Brings the youth thing. Brings the tea.

  6. Michael NOONAN (Limerick City): The Winston Churchill of Fine Gael. Being given a second run and people realise that actually he’s not too bad.

  7. James REILLY (Dublin North) The Bearded One shall be anointed. And then appointed…to Health?

  8. Frances FITZGERALD (Dublin Mid West): It’s a choice really between Frances and Olivia Mitchell for the ‘sensible older lady whose got experience’ seat. Think Frances wants the Minister post more, and will get it.

  9. Charlie FLANAGAN (Laois Offaly): Geography, geography, geography.

  10. Denis NAUGHTEN (Roscommon South Leitrim): Sensible guy. Who will get one of those mid-level sensible portfolios to match.

After that, the patronage extends to jobs like Junior Ministries and Parliamentary Committee Chairs and other choice jobs like Ceann Comhairle (Olivia MITCHELL maybe?). And before you ask Phil HOGAN will get a nod… as Chief Whip which allows him to be in Taoiseach’s Department (as a Junior Minister) while also being able to knock some heads together as Enda’s Heavy, which he seems to be happy to do. Another interesting one to watch out for is Attorney General, could Eugene REGAN get the nod or will he be beaten to it by another from the Law Library?

Additional comment by Jason: Will Enda start his new politics agenda by bringing in Pat COX either through the Seanad or by changing the law to allow him be appointed as a minister of state for Europe, to which one could be appointed to without being a TD with a referendum? That’ll be a test as to how serious FG are about changing the way politics works.

 
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Election 2011: Wow.

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

The Peaceful Revolution

The Peaceful Revolution

We all knew from the polls that it was coming, but still, to witness it on the day, to see household names, political big beasts, not just lose their seats but go down in flames, getting beaten on first preferences by people you have never heard of…extraordinary. Oh, and by the way, our neighbours can go and stick First Past The Post where the sun doesn’t shine. THIS is an election, not the lucky dip tombola that passes for a British general election.

A few observations:

Fianna Fail: It’s a good job that Fianna Fail never succeeded in getting in First Past The Post, as they topped the poll in just two constituencies. If you extrapolate from 43 constituencies to 166, under FPTP Fianna Fail would have had a Canadian night, returning maybe six seats? It was absolutely extraordinary to watch voters use the Single Transferable Vote to gut Fianna Fail. As BBC analyst Gerry Lynch pointed out, centre-right voters were transferring from Maoists to Satan to keep Fianna Fail candidates out. Hosni Mubarak would have won a seat if he was running against Fianna Fail. The fact that so many young Fianna Fail TDs were defeated must be very worrying. If Michael Martin doesn’t get surgical with the Seanad seats Fianna Fail will still win (12, according to one informed Fianna Fail source) and pack them with young solid performers like Averil Power and Barry Andrews, Fianna Fail will have a big problem in the future.

Fine Gael: Extraordinary night for Fine Gael, and for Enda. You just have to give it to them, and to him. I haven’t been a (political) fan of Enda’s (Met him once, nice bloke personally) but he’s done it. He’s proven us all wrong, and now deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Labour: When the smoke clears, Labour need to have a long hard think about themselves. They have had a good result, there’s no question of that, but not the night they expected to have. They got a result comparable to the Spring Tide of 1992, but is that really good enough? After all, Fianna Fail had an appalling night, and Labour still failed to attract much more than what it got in 1992? Why is that? Or put it another way. In 2016, with Fianna Fail decontaminated, leading the opposition to FG/Labour’s cutbacks and with Labour getting hammered from the left by the combined forces of the United Left and Sinn Fein, Does anyone really believe that it is impossible for Labour to end up with a 1997 result, losing half their seats and being back to being a small party again? If Labour go in with Fine Gael, you can kiss Labour’s dream of becoming the dominant party in Irish politics good bye. Yet the pressure will be enormous, because so many of the, eh, chronologically challenged Labour front bench have never been cabinet ministers, and this could be their only chance.

Sinn Fein: This is the other big story of the night, not just how well Sinn Fein did, but how many seeds they planted for the future. When you look at Eoin O’Broin in Dublin West, for example. The result turns up its own challenges for Sinn Fein: Will it become a conventional party of the left, willing to compromise, or will it become an Irish version of the Front National or the Vlaamsblok, with a permanent cordon sanitaire around it? Bear in mind that nearly every radical party that enters government, like the Freedom Party in Austria, suffered at the following election.

The Greens: They did not deserve this. This was an act of petty vengeance against a party that, more than most, has tried to do the right thing. It’ll take them a decade to recover, if at all.

The ULA: Very strong and solid performance, and an interesting base. Both the shinners and Labour will have to watch their backs because Joe now provides a healthy refuge for the “sellout!” brigade.

The Independents. Ming, Wallace, Ross…this is going to be fun. Hats off in particular to Stephen Donnelly, who is still in the running in Wicklow, and seemed to have caught the imagination.

Finally: There could be more ex-Progressive Democrats in this Dail than the last one: Peter Mathews, Noel Grealish, Ciaran Cannon, Mae Sexton, Mary Mitchell O’Connor..

 
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Count Day Musings.

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

8:00am: Finally! FG will be disappointed with 36%. Not as good as Garrett’s 39% in Nov 1982. But with 15% for FF and Inds, that’s a lot of transfers knocking around, and with that sort of first preference, FG can wait around to hoover them up. Are we going to see a Super Seat Bounce? Won’t be posting too much today. Intend to savour this one!

6:55am: David Cochrane tweets that SF will not do as well in poll as predicted.

6:30am: Up at some god awful hour with all the other nutters, waiting for the Exit Poll from RTE.

 
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I wonder how many Irish voters will cry with joy today?

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

 
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As the Fianna Fail regime crumbles, I’m curiously reminded of this.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 25, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

 

 
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Eoghan Murphy statement.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 25, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

Eoghan Murphy

Eoghan Murphy

Eoghan Murphy, who is running for Fine Gael in Dublin South East, issued a statement yesterday that is a model of clarity for other politicians to follow. It was a one line statement saying, quite simply: “Homosexuals should be allowed to marry.”

Same-sex marriage is not the most important issue in this election. But it goes to the heart of what sort of people we aspire to be. Apparently, our Dail will meet for much longer hours from now on, so we will have time to deal with job creation  AND the banks AND same-sex marriage, AND political reform and a lot more besides.

Eoghan Murphy has done his bit. It’s now time for liberal voters in Dublin South East to support our people on the ballot paper. You know what you have to do.

And don’t forget, if you can’t give a particular liberal candidate your first preference, you can help him by making sure to give him a higher preference then you do his party running mate. Whomever that may be. Transfers are going to be VERY important tomorrow.

 
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Final notes before we all vote.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 24, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

A few final observations.

No Mubaraks or Gaddaffis here, just citizens.

No Mubaraks or Gaddaffis here, just citizens.

Andrea Pappin and I have been really surprised at the response to our site www.election2011.ie with a lot of people asking us very detailed questions. Have lost count the number of times people have asked me how STV works and how to fill in their ballot paper to deliver a specific outcome. If people generally are paying as much attention as the people talking to me, Fianna Fail are about to be not as much transfer toxic as suffer a transfer allergy akin to Osama Bin Laden at a Texas hoedown.

I really like how engaged we have all been with this, and hope it doesn’t fade away.

It’s hard to believe how many people, even in these cynical times, take political promises at face value. I keep meeting people who are voting Sinn Fein who when I ask do they really believe that the solutions are that easy admit that it’s probably too good to be true. I think they just want to vote for something hopeful.

Unless they confound the polls, Labour will surely have to confront the fact that 80% of the Irish people are just not buying what they are selling, and if they want to be the dominant party of Irish politics, core values have to be re-evaluated. The fact is that Labour are just not believed on the unions or taxes, despite their protests. Labour needs its clause four moment.

If I had to put money on the outcome, I’d say an FG/Green coalition. And Trevor Sargent to return as leader of the Greens. Also reckon that there will be a public backlash against the new government if they do a traditional Jackie Healy-Rae style deal with an independent. Enda may just have to dare the independents to vote him down and trigger a general election. One thing about Enda: No one has ever accused him of being weak. I can’t see Labour doing a deal with Fine Gael if they don’t really have the power to bring down the government. Or perhaps Enda will just wait until Fianna Fail decontaminates itself?

Heard a rumour that the Gardai are assigning extra guards to Fianna Fail headquarters in case there’s a Stasi/Baath party moment of exuberance from the newly liberated citizenry. 

Things to look forward to at the count: The two “F**king Hell!” moments, when someone we don’t expect to be elected is (Harry McGee is tipping Mick Wallace. Wexford man in work just did the same thing) and when someone we expect isn’t (I’d put money on a senior Labour figure accidentally losing their seat to their running mate on the “Sure, so-and-so is safe” basis)

Finally, as we watch the streets of Tripoli and Cairo, we do have something special here, naff and all as that sounds. For all their many, many flaws, Fianna Fail will leave office peacefully if they lose. Probably.

 
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Wiping out the Greens would be a completely irrational act.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 24, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

An honest man: Let's kick the shit out of him!

An honest man: Let's kick the shit out of him!

If only we had a new party! The cry goes out. If only we had a party that was made up of people who had an honest reputation, and weren’t funded by the sort of people who turn up at tribunals and tents. If only we had a party that could honestly say it opposed the planning madness of the last ten years. If only we had a party that was serious about fighting corruption and long term strategy and rational planning and reforming politics and devolving local power to local communities. A party like that would clean up!

Turns out we do. And turns out we are squaring up to do to them what Henry Ford did to the village blacksmith. Just think about the logic for a minute: Fianna Fail, the most corrupt party in the country, the party that took us to where we are today, will win at least 10 seats, and probably far more. Even at its low ebb, it will win more seats than the Green party have won in their entire history. And the Green Party? They face total annihilation. Why? Because they went into government? Because they made decisions that every other party would have been forced to make? Or is it because they tried to clean up the political and planning system that got us where we were today. The bastards! Of the five main parties, the Greens were warning about bad planning way ahead of everyone else. So we take them outside and put a political bullet in them? What?  

Don’t get me wrong. I was livid when they supported that ludicrous blasphemy thing. My jaw hit the ground as they buckled on Tara and Shannon, two issues where I didn’t really care too much about anyway but which mattered to a lot of their voters. And don’t get me started on neutrality or nuclear power. But they got real on Europe, and delivered on civil partnership and nearly got corporate donations and the elected mayors through after years of other parties yakking about it. And most of all, as I watched John Gormley debate, I couldn’t help thinking that this guy is serious in a time when (to paraphrase President Shepherd) we need serious people. They’re not bought, and they have pursued policies which were unpopular but were right, and that is what we always say we want in our leaders. I campaigned against John Gormley in three general elections, and whilst I disagreed with him on some things, I can tell you one thing: John Gormley is a patriot.

I want a Fine Gael government, but I want it free from Labour’s economic policies (now with an extra dash of Jack O’Connor). I want their economic policies and their pro-Europeanism. But I also want someone serious about the need to change politics and to keep a socially liberal flag at the cabinet to keep an eye on Leo and Lucinda. If the Greens hold a couple of seats, and Enda is close to a majority, there’s a serious chance, if only for the fact that it will cost him less cabinet seats than Labour. 

That would, I believe, on balance, be a good thing.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Nationalist Nutjob.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 24, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

He says his middle name is Pearse, after you-know-who. It's actually Nigel.

He says his middle name is Pearse, after you-know-who. It's actually Nigel.

Everything, everything, is an imperialist conspiracy. God love him, but it would break his heart if he learnt the truth: That the Brits probably regret ever getting mixed up with Ireland, and would pull out in a heartbeat if they could figure out a face-saving way of doing it. Everything is “Cromwell this, Kevin Barry that” to the extent that if he gets a bad kebab at 2am on Dame Street, he proclaims “Is this what the men of 1916 died for?” He will never be happy. If the Queen was guillotined on College Green to a huge crowd, he’d slam the Brits “and their Queen” for causing traffic congestion.

Everyone is a sellout, from Fianna Fail to Sinn Fein, and he uses his own vocabulary that makes him sound like a 19th century pickpocket. The Gardai are “the Peelers” or “the Free State constabulary”. The Provos are ” the Army”. He only buys Irish clothes, which means that he dresses like an extra from “The Field” and drinks whiskey neat, where he then launches into tirades about 800 years during which he chides all around him for having “John Bull’s hand around your bollocks!” He can be seen in various Dublin pubs, with vomit down the front of his hairy jumper,  demanding that Lily Allen be replaced by “the tones.” and that the bartender is obviously “in the pay of the crown”.   

To his mortal shame, his dad is English, and his grandfather died at the Somme. And not fighting for the Germans, either.

Copyright © 2014 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.