The Dail has unanimously passed a motion of censure in Michael Lowry TD, calling on him to resign. What a wonderfully Irish thing to do. The elected parliament of the land, the people who actually run the country, are asking the man whose actions they disapprove of to come up with a solution. It astounds me as to how Irish politicians (and their voters, it has to be said) accept shoulder-shrugging as an official act of the state, how powerlessness is built into the Irish psyche. In other countries, a prime minister or president would be mocked if he/she just gave up and said they could not do anything about it. In Ireland, has 800 years of being someone else’s bitch built a masochistic streak into us? Are we, as a people, at our happiest dressed up in leather and getting our arses whipped by someone else, whether it’s Naughty Angela from Berlin or a strapping big man of the soil from North Tipperary?
You have to ask at times what is the point having the Dail? We could directly elect the government of 15 ministers, and elect 15 runners up as an opposition, and we’d be no worse of then we are today. Aside from the Dirt Inquiry, you’d be hard pressed to think of anything tangible the Dail as a legislature has done in the last 20 years. The government of the day actually writes the laws, and Dail reports are written for the sake of being written. Would we miss it? Or put it another way: Is there any other comparable western country that would look to us and say “Let’s copy their parliament”? In some parts of Africa maybe, on the basis that moving to a nominal parliamentary assembly is admittedly a step-up from eating the tribe who live next door, but by western standards, the answer has to be no. In fact, one could even make the argument that we’d be better served in outsourcing our parliamentary duties to another country. Close the Dail, take half the budget and ask the Finns or the Danes to devote a few days a month to scrutinising the Irish government and holding it to account. Would they really do a worse job?
If Fianna Fail have any balls, they’ll bring a private members bill proposing a referendum to allow the Oireachtas to remove disgraced members. Then watch as Fine Gael and Labour have to actually make a decision on this. Assuming Inda doesn’t have a new voting option added to Dail votes: Ta, Nil, and “Ah Jaysus, isn’t that carry-on shockin! Sure, someone should do something about that.” The man from Mayo needs to watch himself on this. If he can’t deliver a satisfactory outcome, he’ll be labelled with that label leaders struggle to shake off once affixed: Weak.
Someone told me recently that an anti-war group staged a demonstration against both NATO AND Colonel Gadaffi. I never quite understand the logic of the position they put forward on this. They support the uprising, yet oppose air support for the rebels (let’s call a spade a spade), so how do they propose the rebels defeat Gadaffi’s superior military machine? They seem to believe that through some type of political osmosis, Gadaffi’s military will turn on him. Yet surely that is far more likely if Gaddaffi’s actions have left the Libyan military getting the tar kicked out of them by NATO? This is a messy business, in that we don’t really know who the rebels are, and if Libya were to go in an Iranian direction post-Gaddaffi NATO might have to bomb them again, but the reality is that we’d be one dictator down, which is always a good day’s work. The far-left always seem to want an absolutely pure result, which humanity has never, ever delivered. But then, neither has the far left. Name one model nation run by far left principles. Oh, go on.
There’s a guy I know who has a friend on Facebook who is quite pretty. So pretty, in fact, that in nearly every photo she is in she turns her head to face the camera from an angle, showing what I assume she believes is her “good” side. The funny thing is, everytime I see a picture of her now I start giggling at the idea that she walks around like that, talking to people like she has a permanent crick in her neck. Then it occurred to me: maybe she does! I made discreet inquiries, because I realised that I could have been disgracefully mocking someone with a terrible affliction. Turns out she doesn’t. She just walks around at an angle.
Browsing through my obscene DVD collection (I mean in size, not in content) I was reminded of the fact recently that if I never bought another DVD again I would not be too troubled. I was also reminded that I have some treasures that I have not watched in ages that are such a treat. Granada Television’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” is one such gem. It’s available on DVD, and stars the late Jeremy Brett as Holmes and David Burke and Edward Hardwicke respectively as Watson.
Two words: Pure Quality. The period details are great, including an entire life size Baker Street set. It’s true to the original Conan Doyle stories, but the real meat is in the performances of Brett and his two co-stars. Brett, who suffered terrible psychological illnesses, is just stunning as Holmes, creating an eccentric, captivating character around the framework created by Conan Doyle. Every scene with him leaves you unable to take your eyes off him, with every twitch and flamboyant hand gesture and flinging of himself onto the floor of grand country houses looking for clues adding to the character’s depth. Both Burke and Hardwicke could easily have been blown off the screen given Brett’s performance, but both instead create a calming, grounding and very human foil to Brett, leaving the viewer with a very clear understanding that Holmes could not be Holmes without Watson, who although is not his intellectual equal, brings to the table human skills that Holmes does not possess, in particular Watson’s skills with women, a fearless willingness to get physical if necessary, and simple human decency.
The series was made over a ten year period beginning in 1984.
Was in “The Frontline” audience last night watching Andrea on the panel with Michael Healy-Rae. I have to say, I’m liking MHR the more I see of him, because I like his brutal honesty, and his point about the expectations of his voters is a fair one. I don’t know if it came across on the television, but when he made a point about “you can always sort it out” when asked about limited resources (hospital beds) it got a very negative reaction from the audience, and he got booed. I wonder, are we beginning to realise, as a country, that if you use pull to get your sick relative a hospital bed, you’re accepting that someone else with more pull can get your sick relative bumped DOWN the list in favour of THEIR sick relative?
I don’t like “The Frontline”. Not the show, or the staff, who are always friendly and professional, or Pat, who is really good in this format. I just don’t like the 30 second soundbite type debate nature of it. It’s not a format I’m any good in, because I don’t have time to “warm up” or think or expand on points. Assuming you can even get in, that is.
Had an interesting chat with a chap from the United Left sitting beside me. Very nice guy, and we ended up discussing the challenges of creating a leftwing mentality in a country “contaminated” by 800 years of centre-right British values. He also explained to me the differences between the SWP and the SP (which seems to hinge on interpretation of Trotskyite writings, which I loved. The only writing FFers ever fall out over tend to be on cheques). He had the grace to see the humour in it, which can be so lacking at times in the far left. Having said that, I took the piss out of the PDs. Which is never hard.
Before traipsing out to RTE I attended a talk arranged by Kevin Rafter and Eoin O’Malley of DCU with Chris Mullin, the former Labour MP. He was very self-deprecating and gave some great snapshots of life as an MP and minister under Blair, and was very revealing about Gordon Brown and his temperamental unsuitability to be PM. Tantalisingly, he hinted at a television remake of “A Very British Coup”, possibly about a moderate Tory PM being undermined by the far-right. Sounds like fun.
Two asides: His diaries are an excellent read, up there with Alan Clark in terms of fun (minus the overactive libido). Also, I’m currently reading Kevin Rafter’s “Fine Gael” book, and it’s well worth buying. It’s effectively the first biography of Enda, and I would not be surprised if it’s recovered and reissued with a few new updated chapters. Like Rafter’s “The Clann”, a fascinating history of Clann na Poblachta, you’ll read it in a weekend. Which I would, if I only had time. And, admittedly, wasn’t also reading a collection of new Sherlock Holmes short stories at the same time. Guilty pleasures, alas, as I’m indulging myself with a rewatching of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series. But that warrants a post all of its own.
I’m old enough to remember when flying had a faintly glamorous air about it. Going to the airport was a novelty, primarily because you could spend so much time browsing around, taking in the whole slightly surreal “international zone” air of the place. As Billy Connolly once pointed out, there was a time when people actually dressed up to fly.
Flying to and from Stanstead last week was not glamorous. Ryanair do what they say they do: They’re normally cheap and they get you there, but it is an unpleasant experience. For the right to actually book your seat, and not get into a fight over trying to get your bag into the locker, I’m willing to pay extra, which I do with Aer Lingus normally. It saves me the hassle of queuing forever so that I don’t get a middle seat, which I hate.
This flight was particularly awful, although not Ryanair’s fault, in fairness. I ended up behind a group of surly teenagers (20 odd in number) who were so self-obsessed that they kept forgetting that they were in a queue, and stood talking to each other as the queue moved on very significantly. After the third incident, I just walked around them, much to their disbelief. One of the benefits of having a beard, I find, is that it, accompanied with a cold glare, tends to intimidate people. Which is handy in situations like this. When we reach the security check, I watched as they got savaged by security staff for a) taking pictures of the security area, b) not being actually ready (they don’t have their liquids and stuff in bags) and c) getting teenage surly with the staff, which is the airport equivlent of picking a fight with the bouncers. Always a loser.
I get to the gate, just in time to see the woman in the queue behind me get into an argument with the flight attendent as to why she has to show her boarding pass to get on the plane (?) and also to watch a group of people with enormous bags argue with the staff as to why they should pay for them whilst one of their number (I’m not making this up) physically beats his bag (with his fist) into the metal frame thing they use to determine bag sizes, and then gets into what can best be described as a fight with the frame to get his bag out of it again, having wedged it in. All as the Ryanair hostess calmly tells him that he has to pay for the bag. The group, by the way, insist on standing around him watching, blocking access to the plane for everyone else until the Ryanair people order them out of the way.
Just saw “Battle: Los Angeles” with the brother, and enjoyed it. Tells the story of an alien invasion and a US Marine platoon led by Aaron Eckhart (In character. They’re not letting celebrities lead combat missions. Yet. Although as an idea: A patrol in Helmand province featuring Charlie Sheen? I’d watch that!) fighting the aliens in Los Angeles. What’s good about it is that, for once, it’s not the usual “Aliens have super shields it’s all so pointless!” plot. The aliens are more advanced, but not that much more, and the marines quickly adapt to being able to fight and kill them. As an aside: I’d love to see an alien invasion movie done from the alien side, as they deal with the resourcefulness of the human race. But that’s me.
It drags a bit in the middle, but just when you think it is over it picks up again and turns into a crowd pleaser (and room for a sequel). The usual American “Marines! Yeah!” stuff grates, as it always does to Europeans, but overall it’s a bit of fun, and far far superior to that other alien invasion movie “Skyline” which most boast the most surreal ending of any mainstream movie made in the last five years.
2. The more democratic an international organisation, the more wrong it will be. Thus NATO and the European Union, made up entirely of democracies, are always wrong. The United Nations is right half the time (when the democracies are outvoted), and the Arab League is always right except when it is killing homosexuals or beating women to death, which, whilst regrettable, is an internal matter, and certainly not worth demonstrating against.
3. The United States is always wrong.
4. Westerners voting for candidates to destroy Al Quaeda are imperialists who deserve to be attacked. Palestinians voting for candidates to destroy Israel are entitled to express their view, and are entitled to money from westerner taxpayers.
5. The United States is always wrong.
6. Oil is evil, except when used to get one to demos, manufacture one’s computer to post anti-western stuff on the web, make smart phones, or generate wealth in an economy to fund social spending. That oil is not evil but is made by indigenous pixies who are paid a fair wage and never get put on short-time.
7. The United States is always wrong.
8. The “Whatabout” Rule only applies to the West: If the West tries to intervene in Libya, then it must intervene in Tibet, Russia, etc.
9. Getting accidentally bombed by a Western democracy is always morally worse than getting deliberately killed by a dictator of your own religion or colour. Just ask anyone it has happened to.
10. Did we mention that the United States is always wrong?
11. Oppressed people rising up against a well-armed brutal dictator should be willing to sacrifice their lives in the thousands as a symbol to other oppressed people rather than get any military help from the hated West*. (*note: This rule does not apply inside western democracies)
12. A referendum that goes in your favour is the voice of the people. A referendum that goes against you is a result of fear and ignorance* (*This rule can, in fairness, be used across the political spectrum)
A friend of mine, watching “Prime Time” last night, summed it up perfectly. She said that she had to turn it off because of the effect it was having on her blood pressure. Aside from Sarah Carey’s extraordinary “jaw clunking off floor” performance defending Denis O’Brien, it raised the issue of how we as a society deal with this stuff. We have spent €150 million on this report. One of the possible horrific side-effects of the Moriarty Report could be multi-million Euro lawsuits brought against the Irish taxpayer by the other contenders for the mobile phone licence. Where’s the upside? Will anyone go to jail? Does anyone ever go to jail in Ireland for this stuff?
The other question is about Deputy Lowry himself: We have to ask ourselves as to whether 14,000 people in a constituency have the right to contaminate our national parliament with a man now condemned by the report? Do they have that right? Even if those 14,000 voters are morally equivalent to him, and share his values, are, in effect, like him, which is a reasonable assumption, do the rest of us have to put up with that?
Enda has talked about a new politics. So be it. Perhaps the people should be asked in a referendum to give the power to the Dail to remove, by a three quarters majority, a member deemed to be unsuitable?
Two thirds of voters in North Tipp did not vote for Michael Lowry. But 14,000 people did, having a pretty good idea as to what they were voting for. Do they have the right to drag us down to their level?
The fact that we’re in the middle on an invisible general election for the upper house of our national parliament really says it all about the Seanad. A previous resident of my house is still receiving Seanad election literature, as happened during previous elections, yet not once has a set of ballot papers ever arrived, which makes me wonder as to what register is being used to send out the literature.
The other striking thing is the varied quality of the literature. Some candidates are very in-depth in terms of their political positions. Others are bizarrely vague to the point of making one assume they are either imbeciles or else complete charlatans who believe that blurting out buzzwords is enough to win over an electorate. I’ve received one litir from an NUI candidate who calls for “Legislation-Reform needed in key areas including: Education, and Health” and “Economic and Social Reform to stimulate the economy” What does that mean, do you suppose? The compulsory abortion of surplus population? Building a Tunnel to Cardiff? Who knows. If he does, he ain’t telling anyone.
By the way, given that this will be Fine Gael’s greatest Seanad result ever, does anyone really believe that these new senators will vote to abolish themselves? Why do I have a suspicion that Seanad abolition will be replaced by some form of half-arsed Seanad reform, letting us elect 20 senators or somesuch as a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Card for Enda? Somewhere in Government Buildings is a young Blue desperately clipping and pasting old Seanad reform reports together like billio. Bless.
We will not go into the night: This is our Endapendence Day!
A spokesperson for the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM) has condemned the combined NATO counterattack on the Martian War Fleet that attacked major cities worldwide last week. “This is just typical of the racist imperialist western war machine. A few million immigrants arrive on Earth in their walking battle pods with their own custom of eating humans, and the west immediately starts bombing them. Typical!” Speaking from their bunker under the ruins of central Dublin, a joint meeting of the IAWM and the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) called immediately from President Obama to be put on trial in front of a Martian War Crimes Tribunal, on the basis that “The Americans started this war by sending the Viking probe to Mars in the 1970s, and plotting to steal Mars resources, such as their sand and, eh, Mars bars” The Irish government has said that it asserts Ireland’s neutrality during the conflict, and will be objecting “in the strongest possible terms” to the building by the Martians of a breeding facility in Mullingar to use Irish women as vassals for Martian warriors. “On a positive note,”a government spokesperson said from the Irish Government bunker in the Alps, “At least the aliens are not permitting abortions. Nor have they made any move to interfere with our 12.5% corporate tax rate. So it’s not all bad news”
Army intelligence, recently decoding Martian transmissions, have suggested that given that the NATO/Russian/Chinese/Japanese counter-attack seems to be on the verge of defeating the invaders, the Martian High Command have requested that the Irish Government “bail out” the invasion costs, as the Martians cannot now afford to get their highly toxic weaponry off the planet. They have proposed a National Agency for Martian Aid (NAMA). The Taoiseach, Mr. Kenny, just back from flying another fighter sortie against the Martians, said that he would consider it, stating that “The Martians have obviously recognised the Irish propensity for funding all sort of crazy shit. Of course, they will have to take Seanie Fitz and Fingers with them, that’ll be my red line”
Michael Martin has called for an end to “Punch and Judy” politics. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is quoted as saying “There was no Martian invasion when I was Taoiseach”.