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

12 predictions for 2012.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 20, 2011 in Irish Politics

Let us peer into the future.

Let us peer into the future.

1. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein will be level pegging in polls for top place by the end of the year.
2. Enda will become a convert to Seanad Reform.
3. Ireland will vote Yes to the Fiscal Compact after a deal is agreed which lowers the rate and stretches the repayment terms on the banking debt into the future.
4. Labour will break into internal turmoil when the Croke Park Agreement is opened up for “review” and Labour starts to get single digit poll numbers. A number of Labour councillors will defect to Sinn Fein.
5. The veil will slip even more with regard to politicians commenting on immigration. Especially Fine Gael people.
6. If the Children’s Rights referendum turns into a parental rights issue, like a de facto ban on smacking, it will be defeated.
7. Unemployment will pass 16%.
8. The euro will still exist in 12 months time. The British eurosceptic media will continue predicting the immediate end of the world.
9. The Sarkozy Presidency will not.
10. Nor the Obama Presidency.
11. Despite much talk, no serious new party will emerge on the free market right.
12. However, Michael McDowell will re-enter the political fray as a eurosceptic.


World’s first Zombie Monarchist Communist government continues.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 19, 2011 in Jason's Diary

And it's good night from him.

And it's good night from him.

So, the nasty little bastard is dead.

Hopefully, he won’t be “ronery” in Hell. Yeah, I know, one is not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but this guy reduced his own people to eating tree bark. The world is one person lighter, and one person better off. Interestingly, his father, although pushing up daisies since 1994, is still president of North Korea, making him the world’s first zombie national leader. Then his son inherited the country, and now it looks like his son, Kim Jong Un, will be bequeathed an entire country. Ah. Communist nutters. Bless.  


My naked self interest.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 19, 2011 in Jason's Diary

Go on, spoil yourself.

Go on, spoil yourself.

Can I draw readers attentions to two things, please, both of which involve my financial well being.

1. Don’t be afraid, whenever you visit, to click on a few ads (to your right, and scrolling down) when you’re visiting, as it provides a (very) modest revenue stream which helps pay for the upkeep of the blog.

2. If any of you are amongst the millions of people buying Kindles and other ereaders for Christmas, don’t forget you can treat yourself to my very competively priced political “dramedy” eNovel, The Ministry of Love, on Amazon. Details here. Every copy come with a free Lib Dem prime minister in it!

Uggh. I feel so dirty. I’ll be hawking 1982 Ford Capris next.

Thank you for your attention. Normal service resumes. 


Margaret Thatcher accidentally invented Vajazzling (or at least, put it on the telly).

Posted by Jason O on Dec 17, 2011 in British Politics

You vajazzle if you want to, the lady's not for vajazzling.

You vajazzle if you want to, the lady's not for vajazzling.

With the release on “The Iron Lady”, there has been much discussion of Mrs Thatcher’s legacy. One of the things that tends to get missed is the old adage that politics is full of unintended consequences, something which can certainly be applied to her decisions in office. When Mrs Thatcher took power, she seemed to have in her mind a vision of a country of individuals and families taking responsibility for their lives, living within their means, and going about their daily lives with a moderately conservative social outlook. The values were of reward for hard work, personal responsibility, thrift, law and order, and respect for other people and their property. It was an updated Victorianism.
She did a lot. She removed red tape and bureaucracy from banking and lending institutions. She broke up the television monopolies, making profit more important than quality in the 1990 Broadcasting Act. She increased competition everywhere, from supermarkets to transport to telecommunications. She did these things, it seems, because she believed that when you freed all these things up, people would be sensible. They wouldn’t borrow more than they could sensibly afford. They wouldn’t drink more than before because booze was cheaper. The TV channels would not go ultra-downstream showing women decorating their genitals on television in
pursuit of higher ad revenue. But they did.
The great irony is that many of the ugliest aspects of modern British society can be traced back to the unintended consequences of her actions. The huge personal debts. The drunken thugs and half dressed women fighting on the streets, out of their heads on cheap booze paid for by easy credit. The transmission of all of this into a self replicating circle of reality programmes legitimizing the sort of behaviour that would horrify Mrs Thatcher.

Truth is, she didn’t mean to do it, but the coarsening vulgarity of British society is primarily the fault of a woman who would be appalled by it. 


Who will be the next Taoiseach?

Posted by Jason O on Dec 16, 2011 in Irish Politics

Madam Taoiseach?

Madam Taoiseach?

One of the curiousities of the current government is that many of its members are very much from the Garrett years, and of a certain, shall we say, vintage.

As a result of that, and assuming that it is not unreasonable to think that the govt could win a second term, the question of Enda’s replacement is a valid one. Enda, whilst not being an intellectual powerhouse, isn’t a dope either. The savvy move would be to lead his party to an historic second term (something they have never achieved) and then to head off to the Aras when Michael D’s term is up, walking off into the sunset as FG’s most successful leader ever, and first ever FG president. As for his successor?

We all know the names. Hayes, Varadkar, Coveney, but if I had to put money on one longshot, I’d put money on Lucinda Creighton. She’s a savvy constituency operator, good communicator, and most importantly, seems to have a vision as to what FG should be for. Varadkar has all that too, but is in serious danger of being this govt’s Michael McDowell, assuming Alan Shatter doesn’t beat him there first.

Creighton, on the other hand, has got that Thatcher thing going, and to people who tell you that Ireland will never elect a Margaret Thatcher, just wait until the Irish people have had five years of tax rises, and we’ll see about that. I’m not a fan of her social conservatism, but on Europe she has shown an absolutely excellent control of her brief, and the means to communicate it. To be honest, I feel a bit safer that she’s with Enda.

Creighton has got a political gut instinct, and if she plays her cards right, she’ll be the first woman to visit President Kenny to announce her new cabinet.


Put the Left in charge of stuff, like the Household Charge!

Posted by Jason O on Dec 15, 2011 in Irish Politics

This Household Charge rise has been brought to you by Mayor Daly!

This Household Charge rise has been brought to you by Mayor Daly!

Phil Hogan’s €100 Household Charge is a classic example of an Irish political issue, in that it causes a row and yet completely lacks any imagination. Why is central government levying it at all? Why aren’t local councillors deciding on wghat it should be, or cutting their own budgets by the amount it would levy, or a mixture of the two? Of course, there is one reason why Big Phil doesn’t want to do that. Fine Gael councillors, who run most of the councils, would be horrified at having to actually make decisions and choices as opposing to bitching about/at the county manager. But even FG is missing the point. The county councils will probably be in the hands of loads of opposition parties by the time of the next general election: It’ll be Fianna Fail, the Shinners and the United Left who will have to make those decisions then!

But it does highlight one of the great failures of Irish politics, which has been the ability of people on the hard left to build and maintain an entire political career on making empty promises that never have to be kept. Whether it’s the bank bailouts or cuts in public services or local taxation, a pantheon of hard left exclamation pointers (No bailout! Smash the govt! Down with stuff!) have gotten themselves elected as a permanent chorus of the cranky. Whose fault is this? I blame, primarily because they have been in government the longest, Fianna Fail. By centralising any power worth having in the country into the hands of either the cabinet, county managers or quangos rather than individually accountable elected officials, Fianna Fail set themselves up as the ultimate source of blame for when things went wrong. Of course everything is Fianna Fail’s fault. Who else had any power?

Fine Gael, with their distinct lack of enthusiasm for radical reform of local government, are showing that they don’t get it either, which is sad, because now is a great time politically for sharing the blame. Do FG and Labour not get that they could give FF, SF and the ULA an almighty kick in the political goolies by bringing in elected mayors with tax raising powers? All of a sudden Mayor Clare Daly of Dublin Fingal is having to explain why she is not creating a socialist paradise in Swords? Yes, they’ll still blame the government, but if they are the ones whose names appear on the property or household charge forms when they arrive (Which a sneaky government would require them by law to do, as the controlling officer of the authority) that’ll soften their cough.

The problem, of course, is that Fine Gael is just as much governed by do-nothing inertia as Fianna Fail, and haven’t got the straegic vision to see that ceding some power will help them in the long run. As I’ve written previously, elected mayors could be banned from running for the Dail, which would cause major difficulties for the opposition parties in terms of Dail candidates. Not that that should be a deciding factor, but it is a factor nevertheless. 


Thoughts on an Irish referendum.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 12, 2011 in European Union, Irish Politics

The cause of, and solution to, most of modern Ireland's problems.
The cause of, and solution to, most of modern Ireland’s problems.

So, it’s looking likely that Ireland may once again have to take to the hustings over another EU treaty. We only have a vague idea as to what will be in the treaty, but there are a couple of things that occur to me, in no particular order.

1. This referendum will be decided by which of the two Irish psyches turns up on the day. If it’s the angry “f**k-you all and your banks” version, we will vote No out of sheer bloodymindedness. However, if it is the pragmatic what-works-for-us version, we will vote Yes.

2. The question of debt relief will be key to the debate. Germany sees a country that let its banks go hogwild and needed to be bailed out. Ireland sees that, but also sees German banks that went hogwild in Ireland too, and sees Irish taxpayers carrying the whole security of the European banking system on their back. That gap needs to be bridged, and Enda and Lucinda know it too.

3. The question of Sterling will be an issue. There is probably a substantial number of people in Ireland who could live with Ireland rejoining the Sterling zone, and some support in the UK for it, although of the here’s-a-sixpence-and-a-pat-on-the-head-me-lad tone about it (see here). However, the euro is still the overwhelming choice of national currency, and the carping and crowing from the Tory right and our unionist brethren up North would almost certainly turn the issue very sour. It would also put Sinn Fein in a spot: vote No so that we can have the British queen on our currency, because that’s what we are talking about. If we lock one-to-one to Sterling, it will become the de facto day-to-day currency even if we restore the punt. Shops will accept it and people will keep it in tin boxes “just in case”. Watch as the shinners struggle to deal with pro-Europeans who are pro-European because they are nationalists.  

4. The ususal No campaign will be less effective than before, because this debate will essntially be about money, and we put money ahead of everything else. Dead Irish conscripts, aborted foetuses, the lot. We dive for the greasy till everytime. If the Brits had offered us hard cash and a referendum in 1916, we’d still be in the UK today.

5. Will there be a second chance? There will be the usual Bird O’Donnell crowd who will try to have it both ways, thinking that we can blackmail the rest of Europe by voting No in return for more dosh and a second vote. However, as this treaty looks like it is to be designed outside the existing European treaty, that means that it can still go ahead without Irish ratification. If the cost of saving the euro was Ireland’s default on its debts, and an end to the bailout, would the rest of Europe accept it? Quite possibly. Germany would have to bail out her banks. Who would bail out Ireland?

6. The world will be watching. It is possible that we could either be the only country to vote, or the last country to vote. Either way, the international narrative will be along the lines of “Will Ireland save/destroy Europe?”. We will be under huge pressure from the rest of the world. Don’t be surprised if President Obama makes remarks in the last week or two of the campaign, hoping that the Irish people will do “the right thing”, putting paid to the “sure the Yanks will have us” if we vote No argument.


The Rise of the Euro-Middle.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 11, 2011 in European Union

I have been discussing the European Union with various groups of friends this week, and what’s remarkable is the common position that is emerging. Nearly all have regular interaction with the EU in one form or another, although none are what I would call “inside the bubble” of BrusselsSpeak, you know, where people get outraged that the ordinaries are actually asked to vote on stuff, and vote the wrong way.

The talk of a new treaty is met with a mixture of frustration, shoulder shrugging and in one case, anger. All were on the Yes side in every one of the last treaties. All believe that European integration is, on balance, a good thing. All regard the phrase eurosceptic as an insult, and some (me) don’t particularly regard the word federalist as being all that terrible. Yet all are embarrassed when they have to defend the EU, because whereas the idea is very noble, the practice is getting downright grubby.

The fact is, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes, the eurosceptics have some valid points. The way some opponents of the EU are treated for raising very modest questions about the EU, particularly in the European Parliament, is nothing short of a disgrace and an affront to the values we purport to be building this union on. Not every eurosceptic is an extremist. The problem is that there seems to be no accepted middle-space between the “Destroy the EU now!” crowd and the “Brussels is always right” fanatics, yet that is where the majority of Europeans are. As one of my friends said: ” You can’t criticise the EU because you get automatically associated with people you don’t want to be seen with.”

Despite what many eurosceptics claim, the EU is not hated by most Europeans. But it has almost no popular consent either. The idea, for example, that the European Parliament speaks for the people of Europe is laughable. A bomb in Westminster, wiping out the House of Commons, would have an emotional effect in Britain. The same cannot be said for the EP. Well, not a negative emotional effect, anyway.

The EU is, at best, tolerated, and so needs to build not love, which is just not possible, but a popular acceptance that it is a necessity. It needs to be like a water authority. It doesn’t excite, but people know what it’s for and why they need it. Criticising the water authority does not mean that you are against clean drinking water, and that same value needs to be permitted in our debates about the EU. It’s time for a Euro-Middle.

P.s. Hugo Brady of the CER, one of those shockingly clever chaps who will end up secretly running the world, has an interesting (if depressing) take on the direction of the EU here which he wrote last year. His point is very valid: The biggest challenge to Europe could well be a generation who think that shrugging their shoulders and going “Meh” to problems is a legitimate response.


The British Eurosceptic as maligned victim.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 10, 2011 in British Politics, European Union

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls...

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls...

Listening to British Eurosceptics you can’t help being struck by the sense of victimhood they espouse. In short, the EU is an evil conspiracy that has tricked and manipulated them, and if only they had a proper Eurosceptic leader who could do the honourable thing and take Britain out. It’s a nice narrative, with goodies and baddies and a nice simple EU DeathStar to be blown up by valiant Eurosceptic rebels, freeing Britain at last from the evil empire.

Except it’s not true. Consider, for example, the theory that Britain has never had a proper Eurosceptic prime minister. Cameron has brought them closer to exit than ever before, Brown just glowered at the rest of the EU (remember his surreal refusal to attend the signing of the Lisbon treaty with every other leader, arriving later and walking through a banquet hall filled with half eaten food?), Blair talked the talk but did remarkably little on the EU, choosing instead to use up his brownie points on Iraq, of all things. Major kept Britain out of stuff, as did the blessed Margaret. Callaghan wasn’t there long enough to do anything, and Wilson gave the British people the chance to vote themselves out. You actually have to go all the way back to Ted Heath to find an unashamed pro-European.

On top of all that, there’s the simple fact that Eurosceptics in the Tory party have always chosen to put political ambition ahead of the alleged euroscepticism. Take the famous 81 rebels who voted against Cameron recently. If they really believe that Europe is the huge issue they claim it is amongst the British people, why don’t they, to a man and woman, cross the floor and form a genuine right-wing Eurosceptic party? They can negotiate as a separate party with the remaining Tory party to look for a referendum, after all, this is a hung parliament. Won’t the British people reward them for their courage, and flock to them in droves? They don’t do it, because they are afraid that the British people don’t care as much as they think, and secondly, because the moronic British electoral system would actually go haywire if another significant political party suddenly emerged on the right, splitting the Eurosceptic vote and ironically costing both Tories and rebels their seats.

Whatever way you look at it, you have to recognise that British unhappiness with the EU is primarily a failure of the British political system. After all, the British people voted recently to keep an electoral system which ensures that the country with the largest Eurosceptic population in Europe does not actually have a genuinely Eurosceptic national party in parliament. That is not Brussels’s fault.


Physicist unveils “Harbinger’s Moose with a Grenade” theory to rival “Schrodinger’s Cat”

Posted by Jason O on Dec 9, 2011 in Not quite serious.

Harbinger's Moose: If only he'd shut the f**k up.

Harbinger's Moose: If only he'd shut the f**k up.

Harvard physicist Edward Harbinger has unveiled a new theory to challenge the famous “Schrodinger’s Cat” hypothesis, by placing a moose with a grenade into a sealed steel box, and questioning whether the moose was both alive and dead at the same time. The inital test of the theory was marred by a constant inane running commentary by the moose pointing out, amongst other things,  that “it’s very dark in here”,  “I’ve dropped the grenade, wait, no, here it is.” and “What’s that smell? It smells like someone is cooking soap. Wait, I think I’ve gotten some dust in my eye. No, it’s ok. Where’s my jacket? Have you got my jacket out there? Did I leave it at home?” 

Harbinger has pledged to repeat the experiment with a less mouthy moose.

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