Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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An Interesting Audiobook: Tony Blair, A Journey

Posted by Jason O on Mar 16, 2011 in Books, British Politics

Blair. In his own words. Literally.
Blair. In his own words. Literally.

I’m currently listening to Tony Blair narrate his autobiography “A Journey“. It’s interesting, all the more because I recently finished Robert Harris’s “The Ghost”, which tells the fictional account of a man ghost-writing the autobiography of  controversial former British Prime Minister. It hasn’t reached Iraq yet, but already I’m fascinated by how he describes how he came to hold the political values that he holds, and it got me thinking about how I don’t ever recall an Irish politician putting such an effort into explaining how he arrived at his or her values. Sure, there have been Irish political autobiographies, but they tend to arrive at a cookie cutter “which is why I believe that every child should have an opportunity”  stance that is so inoffensive as to be meaningless.

That’s always been the interesting thing to me about Blair, the fact that people forget. He not only chose a policy that was unpopular, but he knew it was unpopular, yet stuck with it. Other leaders, like Chirac and Schroeder, decided to oppose the policy from the beginning, and their countries did not really suffer from it as a result, in terms of their relationship with the United States. Blair could easily have said to Bush that Britain would not participate in Iraq for logistical reasons (which were quite valid) and instead focussed on Afganistan. But he didn’t, because he believed, wrongly as it turned out, that it was the right policy. Blair did what we always say we want politicians to do: lead from conviction. The sad part is when they get it so wrong.

Listening to him tell his story in his own words is quite insightful, in its own way, in that you are reminded what a good communicator he was, probably the greatest British political communicator of the late 20th Century, even more than Thatcher. People forget: There was a time when many people actually liked Tony Blair, whereas they respected Thatcher but few actually liked her.

Having said that, I think quite a few people still like Blair. Only these days we keep it to ourselves, posting it on obscure political blogs, etc. 

 
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Odds and Ends.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 15, 2011 in British Politics, European Union, Irish Politics

A few things that caught my eye about the place. The things. Not my eye:

Right wing historian Niall Ferguson paints a troubling but all too plausible picture of the world in ten years time in a video on The Daily Telegraph website here.

Michael McLoughlin relaunches his excellent Foreignpolicy.ie as a blog here.

The dark and mysterious shadow war that is the Seanad elections is throwing up some interesting candidates, including that thoughtful blogger Dan Sullivan, who is running on the NUI panel. You can read his platform here. As a fellow beardist, I do like his direct pitch for the Charles Stewart Parnell vote.

Australian electoral expert (Their version of Peter Snow or Sean Donnelly) Antony Green on some of the ludicrous nonsense put forward by the No-to-AV people. Here.   

 
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“Entitled”: The Dirtiest Word in Irish Society?

Posted by Jason O on Mar 14, 2011 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Every now and again an Irish newspaper runs a story like this.  Now, this’ll surprise a lot of people, but I actually don’t believe the core message of these stories. Yeah, there are some people who are taking the piss with our welfare system, but I reckon that most people are struggling to get by on it. I know I couldn’t do it on €200 a week. But it does, however, raise another issue for me.

I once worked with an individual who paid no income tax (legally), got subsidised housing, a medical card for himself and his two kids, and children’s allowance and a childcare grant for both. Yet he regarded the then Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat government as being one of the most right-wing and uncaring administrations ever inflicted upon the Irish people. But when I asked him what more the government could give him, he blanked. What was really interesting was his defence, when I pointed out that he received more from the government than I did.

“But I’m entitled!” He declared.

Read more…

 
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Post Electoral Regret Syndrome

Posted by Jason O on Mar 13, 2011 in Irish Politics

For most of my teens and early twenties I desperately wanted to be a TD. I worked in the party, got elected to positions, and eventually got selected as a candidate for the local elections, which I crashed spectacularly out of. When I was running, I remember thinking how disappointed I’d be if I lost, that I’d be a failure, and that my plans to enter the Dail would be catastrophically disrupted.

Yet, here was the funny thing: When I lost, it didn’t bother me, because although it had taken me years to get the nomination, I had raised enough doubts in my head about whether I really wanted to be involved in politics (as a candidate) at all. I was not convinced anymore.

Since the day of the general election count, I’ve been speaking to a lot of political people who didn’t run, but on watching the count and the first day of the new Dail have begun to regret it. They watched people who were “behind” them in the party structure now getting elected as TDs and have been thinking “I could have done that”.

I had those feelings myself, although I’m not convinced that I could have done it. Getting elected is really hard work physically. But it also needs you to be able to seal a part of your brain where you listen to people at doors say absolute nonsense, and if not agree with them, then leave them with the impression that you do. I couldn’t do that, the same way I could not do the “Yes, we need cutbacks, but not for this school” thing. 

By the way, it’s not an aversion to constituency work. Whereas it is a pain in the arse, and a lot of it is doing things for people that they could do themselves, I can see how a TD, with the time and resources to actually do constituency work (And not have mad ones ringing you in work, in your real job, to complain that she does not like the way the neighbours keep their garden) can get some satisfaction out of it.

But do I miss listening to people whinging to me on a doorstep on a wet Tuesday night, having already spent eight hours in work, about why other taxpayers should give them money? No, not really.

By the way, heard a great story at the weekend about people ringing the office of a defeated Fianna Fail TD, irate at the fact that he will no longer be doing constituency work now that he has retired from politics!

 
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Oh Jaysus, there’s a fella wanting to give me a kiss!

Posted by Jason O on Mar 13, 2011 in European Union, Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Pic: Reuters

I just love Enda’s “Don’t look uncomfortable Don’t look uncomfortable! I hope Noonan doesn’t tell the lads about this!” Look.

 
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AV: The arguments of the No side.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 12, 2011 in AV Referendum May 5 2011, British Politics

I thought I’d post this again as I watch the No campaign run the most disingenuous angle I’ve seen since some of the crazy stuff run by some of the No campaign during the Lisbon referendum. What I find extraordinary is that the No side seem to have completely abandoned defending First Past the Post (which does have some good features) in favour of this crap. Anyway, the following are the main five points being made against the Alternative Vote by the No to AV campaign. My comments are in italics (you know, all slanty, like). 

1. AV is UNFAIR. Supporters of fringe parties can end up casting more votes than those who voted for mainstream parties. THE MOST LUDICROUSLY MISLEADING POINT BEING MADE BY THE NO SIDE. IF YOU APPLIED THIS DEFINITION TO THE X FACTOR, IT WOULD MEAN THAT ANYONE WHO VOTED FOR A CONTESTANT WHO WAS VOTED OFF SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED VOTE AGAIN NEXT WEEK. UNDER AV, EVERY VOTER IS TREATED THE SAME, AND THEIR VOTE IS WORTH THE SAME.

2. AV is OBSCURE. It is only used currently in Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea; Fiji are about to scrap it and 6 out of 10 Australians want to scrap it. AV IS OBSCURE? SO IS MARMITE TO THE PEOPLE OF FINLAND. SO WHAT? AV IS USED IN IRELAND  TO ELECT THE PRESIDENT, MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT IN BYELECTIONS, THE AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT, AND A VERSION OF IT WAS USED TO ELECT DAVID CAMERON LEADER OF THE TORY PARTY, BECAUSE THE TORIES THOUGHT FIRST PAST THE POST WOULD BE TOO UNFAIR! AND IT IS NOT AN ELITE THING EITHER: IN TWO REFERENDA, THE IRISH PEOPLE VOTED TO KEEP THE CURRENT SYSTEM RATHER THAN ADOPT FIRST PAST THE POST.  

3. AV is COMPLICATED, which can lead to extra expense. Counting can take longer and taxpayers will foot the bill for extra costs. IT DOES INVOLVE PEOPLE BEING ABLE TO COUNT TO TEN, AND RETURNING OFFICERS BEING ABLE TO TELL WHETHER SOMEONE HAS OVER HALF THE VOTES OR NOT. IS THAT COMPLICATED? THE NO CAMPAIGN ARE SAYING THAT MILLIONS MUST BE SPENT ON MACHINES TO COUNT THE VOTES. IN THE IRISH ELECTION TWO WEEKS AGO, WHICH USES A FORM OF AV, ALL THE VOTES WERE COUNTED BY HAND. 

4. AV is NOT PROPORTIONAL. In fact, the Jenkins study showed that it was less proportional than the current system. Supporters of PR should not support AV. THIS POINT IS TRUE: THE CONCLUSION DRAWN FROM IT IS A CON. ASK YOURSELF THIS, WILL A NO VOTE IN THE REFERENDUM BE SEEN AS A VOTE FOR PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION, OR A VOTE FOR FIRST PAST THE POST? WILL THOSE SAME NO CAMPAIGNERS VOTE FOR A REFERENDUM ON PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION? OF COURSE NOT.   

5. AV isn’t even supported by the ‘YES’ CAMPAIGNERS. Before the general election, Nick Clegg called it a “miserable little compromise” and Chris Huhne said “it does not give voters real power”. IT’S TRUE, NICK CLEGG AND CHRIS HUHNE WOULD MUCH PREFER A REFERENDUM ON PR. BUT THE SAME PEOPLE MAKING THIS POINT ARE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO BLOCKED ASKING THE BRITISH PEOPLE DO THEY WANT PR IN THE FIRST PLACE! AV GIVES VOTERS MORE POWER THAN FIRST PAST THE POST, SIMPLE AS THAT. THAT’S WHY THE PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS DON’T WANT IT.

AV is not perfect, but it is better than First Past the Post and professional politicians don’t like it being used by voters (they insist upon using it in their own internal elections) because it gives voters too much power. For that reason alone, vote Yes on May 5.

 
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Did Leo diss Lucinda?

Posted by Jason O on Mar 11, 2011 in Irish Politics

“If there are only three women in cabinet it is because we don’t have enough women in politics.” Leo Varadkar is quoted as saying, yesterday. But that’s not true. Lucinda Creighton is in politics, in the Dail, and not in cabinet. So she was available, which means that what? That in Leo’s opinion she isn’t up to the job? You all know where I stand on Lucinda: I think she’s wrong on same-sex marriage, but she is capable and solid (and interested, which matters) on Europe, so good luck to her as minister for Europe. Who knows, she might even surprise our EU partners by not sending a civil servant in her place.

By the way: There has been a moronic suggestion on politics.ie that her wedding be picketed by same-sex marriage campaigners. Yes, I know, she is actively working to keep some Irish citizens less equal than others, and to deny them the right she is about to exercise, but seriously? You really think this is the best way to get Middle Ireland on board? Pictures of Lucinda in her white dress in tears on her special day? How dumb are these guys?

Having said that, she has set herslf some hurdle: She’s quoted as saying she believed that marriage was “primarily about children, main purpose being to propagate & create environment for children to grow up”. Which surely means that for every day she’s not pregnant after the happy day she’s open to charges of hypocrisy. Does she not have a right to privacy, you say? Surely her family planning arrangements are her own business, you say? Normally, I’d agree. Except that it was Lucinda, in stating what she believed public policy on marriage should be, who put propagation on the table. No one forced her to make that statement. But as she is an elected public official the public now has a right to see whether she practices what she expects others to do, as she has said publicly. No pressure then, Paul.

 
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The No-Fly Problem.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 10, 2011 in Latest News

Former USAF Chief of Staff and 6000 hour fighter pilot General Merrill McPeak on the problems of a Libyan No-Fly Zone, as quoted in The New York Times:

“I can’t imagine an easier military problem. If we can’t impose a no-fly zone over a not even third-rate military power like Libya, then we ought to take a hell of a lot of our military budget and spend it on something usable. Just flying a few jets across the top of the friendlies would probably be enough to ground the Libyan Air Force, which is the objective.”

 
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The New Dail.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 10, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

I’m not going to bother talking too much about Enda’s new cabinet, as I don’t have much interest in the Irish “Who is up, who is down” thing. He’s gone for experience over youth, which is fair enough. He’s appointed fewer women ministers than under the “conservative” FF/PD coalitions, which must be slightly awkward for Labour, but it’s not a huge deal. He also missed an opportunity for a symbolic “New Politics” appointment of an outside technocrat through the Seanad, but maybe he’ll do something with the junior ministers. But at the moment it looks a bit stale as a government, like a really exciting 1987 cabinet.

Shane Ross, Joe Higgins and Ming suggest that they might be worth keeping in the House. Richard Boyd Barrett and Clare Daly could learn a lot from Joe, in terms of humour (His “There’s two of us in it, Taoiseach” remark to Bertie about Bertie’s socialism counts as one of the all time greats) but also, in RBB’s case, in sartorial style. Joe dresses smartly without being flash, whereas RBB looked like he was about to address a Kazakh tractor factory. His humourless hectoring and Single Transferable Speech will wear us all out soon enough. Ross has “Parliamentarian” stamped all over him and is almost certainly going to be a pain in the arse to the government front bench, which is exactly what he’s there for, and Ming has a refreshing honesty about him. I suspect Mick Wallace, from his lacklustre performance today, could burn out very quickly indeed.

Gerry Adams seems determined to kick off early as de facto leader of the opposition, forcing Micheal to parry him. That’ll be fun.

I was thrown by Michael Healy-Rae’s combover, as it’s been so long since I’ve seen one. Is it a branding thing? Or has he never heard of Jean-Luc Picard or Grant Mitchell?

Finally, Enda looked the part, and his steely responses to Micheal shows that, just maybe, the office maketh the man.

 
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Waiting for disappointment.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 9, 2011 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

There is nothing the Irish like more than a good betrayal. As a people, the idea of being screwed over by someone else, whether it is the British, the banks, the IMF or our own potatoes, delivers in us a masochistic pleasure, allowing us to  believe ourselves to not be masters of our own destiny, but instead, the pitiful plaything of other greater forces. Many an Irishman gets no greater pleasure than, as the jackboot of the oppressor pushes his face into the cold wet soil, he gives the oppressor the dirtiest scowl he has ever received! Let him go back to his big house and better living standards knowing that we have scrabbled in our own filth and shook our fist in his direction (when he wasn’t looking, of course)!

Already, yesterday, before the new government has even been sworn in, I encountered someone who is “disappointed” with the new government. Before they are even the new government! Yet even as I dismissed the criticism, I know in my own heart that I’m just waiting to be disappointed by Enda and Co. Not by their inability to transform the country’s economic situation, which is something over which they will only have limited control, but that shadow over the face moment when they become the establishment and step quietly away from the stuff they spoke with passion about in opposition. I’m waiting for that moment when they start to actively sabotage political reform, or at worst defang it so that it becomes meaningless. Watch as local government reform gradually gets watered down, or as the constitutional convention gets packed with people who are all for putting symbolic stuff into the constitution, but don’t change the voting system or the balance between voters and the state. Watch as the Dail remains answerable to the Government, not the other way around.

Maybe I’m a cynic. They are entitled to the benefit of the doubt, and maybe they will surprise us by, for example, nominating people from outside the Dail (like Pat Cox) as ministers. If they do, they deserve credit for it, and get it (from me) they shall.

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