There are two types of unpopular decision that Irish (and indeed, non-Irish politicians) make. The first are the unavoidable we-have-no-money ones, decisions that are made when infinite demands and finite resources invariably collide. We have to tolerate these.
But then, there is the second type. These are the avoidable ones, decisions that Irish politicians just can’t seem to stop making, decisions that lower the tone of Irish politics, yet they just can’t resist, from promising that school X or hospital Y will be untouched by cutbacks, promises they know in their hearts that they can’t keep.
In 1992, within weeks of an historic breakthrough in terms of seat numbers, Dick Spring shattered the credibility of the Labour party by entering government with Fianna Fail, having spent the election campaign giving the clear impression that a vote for Labour was a vote to remove Fianna Fail from government. Labour lost half their seats five years later, an electoral outcome of which that decision was certainly a major factor. What was interesting about that decision was that Spring had a choice. He could have joined a Fine Gael/Labour/Democratic Left coalition, but he didn’t, and so paid a price for it. But whatever about his reasons for doing so, and they were of a strategic error basis rather than for personal gain, the same cannot be said for the government’s surreal behaviour over salaries for government advisers.
Could Enda just have told his cabinet that €92,000 was the going rate for a ministerial special advisor, and that was that? Yes he could. Would the parliamentary party have rebelled? Would ministers have resigned? No and no. Would the public have supported him? Of course they would.
Yet he didn’t. When the decision came before him, he bottled out, put political relationships ahead of the national good, and sided with his professional political supporters not just against the public but against his own stated policy. What was he thinking as he sat alone in his office, pondering the decision? Did he know he was creating the first albatross to be hung around the neck of his government?
It’s the same with throwaway gimmick lines that politicians think will pander to voters, and come back and get them. When Enda told us in his state of the nation that the economic crisis was “not our fault” it didn’t help him politically, but actually caused him more problems, as people asked the obvious “then why are WE paying for it?”. The reaction to his recent remarks in Davos (where he accidentally told the truth) showed that five seconds of rhetorical bliss on his lips is turning into increased political weight on his hips. Can they not see this? Why do they shit all over their own government?
Another one for the Sherlock Holmes fans, and great fun too.
Kim Newman has written a series of short stories about the mirror evil twins of Holmes and Watson, Professor Moriarty and his boorish yet amusing sidekick, Colonel Sebastian Moran. The book itself is presented as a recovered manuscript written by Moran, and is written in a politically incorrect and bawdy style which is actually very entertaining. On top of the style, Newman has also packed the stories with subtle references to the Sherlock Holmes stories (told from Moriarty’s side) and other literature of the time, including a clever take on HG Wells’s War of The Worlds.
A must for the Sherlockians. Or Holmesians. Available from Amazon here:
It wasn’t like they had planned it. He was single, out of a messy relationship. She was married with two young kids and a husband who was not by any accounts a bad guy. It just happened. They met at a work related social event, and their eyes, yeah, that corny moment actually happened. When two people look at each other without a word, without even having met each other, and they knew that they wanted each other.
Her boss had introduced them, and they had been careful not to show too much interest in each other, but both knew. When the event had broken up, both had slipped away to another bar in the hotel, and talked, both pretending to be more drunk than they actually were to allow for the excuse of the first kiss.
Her hand had shook in giddy excitement as she had phoned her husband to say that she’d be late, trying to find a little glimmer of anger over his casual acceptance that his wife was giving such a feeble excuse for being late, but she knew the answer. He trusted her, the bastard. In the room, it was like being a teenager again, hungrily wanting and being wanted. When she got home, her husband was snoring his head off and the kids were tucked in.
She had resolved that it had been a one off, a moment of weakness, but it wouldn’t go away. They had met again, her determined to end this before it escalated. He understood, and respected her decision, which made it all the harder, and the reason they ended up in another room again.
How will it end? Will it peter out, the danger finally outweighing the pleasure and the excitement? Possibly, but please, a tiny voice says in the back of her head, don’t let anyone fall in love.
“Resurrection Day” by Brendan Dubois is set in an alternative 1972 where the Cuban Missile Crisis caused a nuclear war which devastated part of the US and all of Russia. JFK is loathed as a war criminal, and a journalist is trying to investigate what really happened.
Was surprised that it wasn’t a bigger hit when it came out in 1999, as it is a really enjoyable book. Slight disclaimer of sorts: I enjoyed the book so much that I wrote to the author, and he sent me back a really nice letter, so a good guy too!
He surprised everybody, including himself, by getting elected first time out. His supporters were ecstatic, and his quirky personality and bolshy beliefs convinced them that they had elected someone who could, if not make a difference, (Who can, in our do-nothing parliament?) at least stand up and say a few things that needed to be said.
Once inside, however, he changed. The money, more than he had ever made before, overwhelmed him, as did the lifestyle. When asked to speak on issues that he had always been sound on before, he started saying things like “It’s complicated”. What was worse was that whilst that was true, he’d actually lost his bottle. He was now a “member of the parliamentary party” and had to “look at the big picture”. The last straw was when he actually voted against an opposition bill in favour of something he’d always supported, saying vaguely that the government would be introducing its own legislation “at some point in the future”. He doesn’t know when. When a member of the same parliamentary party rebels on the same issue, votes in favour of the opposition bill, and gets away with it, and gets plaudits in the media for not being afraid to stand up, it makes Him look like a tool.
As the general election approaches, he’s in full panic mode, trying to scrape his supporters together (whom he has hardly seen since the last election) and talking about the old stuff, but they’re all so busy and the kids are sick and “you know.” He feels bitter and betrayed and let down. Funnily enough, so do they.
He doesn’t get within an ass’s roar of a quota.
Bizarrely, he gets a Taoiseach’s nomination to the Seanad, where he spends his days watching the clock run out whilst he tries to squeeze every penny from expenses that he can, knowing full well that the game’s up and he’ll never darken this place’s door again.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has issued millions of warrants for as yet unnamed non-Irish nationals in connection with the reckless borrowing of money and purchasing of property in Ireland which created the massive collapse in the Irish economy in recent years. A source in the DPP’s office remarked: “It was only after the uproar over the Taoiseach’s remarks in Davos about Irish people being responsible for the state of the Irish economy that we realised how vast the conspiracy was. This is bigger than Roswell, JFK and even Shergar put together. The fact is, millions of people entered Ireland, borrowed huge amounts of money they could not afford to repay, signed up to mortgages and credit card bills they could not afford either, and then fled the country leaving the poor blameless Irish people to carry the can. The bastards.” The DPP also suggested that his office would, later in the week, issue warrants for the arrest of millions of non-Irish nationals who had engaged in massive election fraud in at least three Irish general elections, electing governments that carried out policies in direct contravention of the wishes of the Irish people, who apparently had their votes removed from the ballot boxes and destroyed in a massive and secret operation.
Every party has them. If they weren’t members of the party, they’d almost certainly be members of a cult, parroting out phrases about the need “to ascend to the third echelon of the mystical giraffe” as opposed to supporting “a democratic socialist 32 county republic” or ” to roll back the strangehold of the state which is the single greatest challenge facing the Irish people.”
You can then watch their lips actually dry as they stare unblinkly at you, waiting for your response, any response, to permit them to trot out another memorised slogan. Parties are like that, not too sniffy about who they let in with all the entry requirements of a Bangladesh brothel.
Of course, the saddest thing is that one of these guys is far more useful to you than ten fellas who have memorised every episode of “The West Wing” and want to help you with ”Strategy” and “Spin”. You can send him out, safe in the knowledge that he’ll deliver to 500 houses diligently as long as you buy him a Club Orange and a packet of Tayto in the pub later, and listen to him repeat, word for word, your own sentences back to you. Hey, that’s what wins elections. Just don’t let him talk to any voters, for the love of Jesus. If the mindless prattle doesn’t turn them off you, the snot caught in his eyebrow will.
I am occasionally accused of being biased towards one party or the other, with Fianna Fail being particularly upset that I am agin’ them. Therefore, here’s a list of things about FF that I either admire or feel they deserve thanks for, specifically from their last period in government.
1. The infrastructure. You have to give it to them. From Terminal 2 to the Luas to the motorways to the ITs to the Dublin Port Tunnel. We’re better for it.
2. The minimum wage. Some have valid reason to argue against, but they did it when Labour only talked about it.
3. Civil Partnership. I know, the Greens did this, and never got the credit for it, but in fairness to Fianna Fail, they didn’t play the Rick Santorum card either.
4. Same with immigration, with a few notable exceptions. In short, FF’s anchoring to the centre has done the state some good.
5. The Good Friday Agreement. Admittedly, FF came to the idea of power sharing later than either Garrett or the PDs, but they committed to it.
6. Took us into the Euro, something which we benefitted enormously from.
7. Brought in the Carer’s Allowance, a policy that makes sense.
8. Created the Money Advisory Budgeting Service (MABS).
9. Improved Anglo-Irish relations to their best ever, including creating an environment where the British monarch could visit without going all Dealey Plaza on us.
10. I never thought I would say this, but it isn’t Fianna Fail that finally convinced me of the cynical barefaced self-interested lying nature of most Irish politicians. That would be this government.
Jeff Greenfield is a political reporter for CBS, and his book “Then Everything Changed” paints three What-If scenarios based on real life facts: That JFK was nearly killed in December 1960, before being sworn in as president, that Bobby Kennedy nearly didn’t go through the kitchen in the Ambassador Hotel in 1968, and that Gerald Ford nearly beat Jimmy Carter in 1976. The three stories are not only very informative (Greenfield brings his personal knowledge of US politics and its players to bear) but also quite cheekily written, with asides about what effect these events would have had on other well known individuals.
A great read for the American political junkie. You can get it on the Amazon link here:
It’s very fashionable to defend internet piracy. Technically, by posting some of the stuff I do, I suppose I’m doing it too. Whereas SOPA (That’s the Stop Online Piracy Act) seems draconian, there is another issue which is dismissed to one side, but which Bill Maher raises very legitimately here. Isn’t it stealing? I’m no angel myself, I have watched movies and TV stuff online that were posted illegally, but nearly always after attempting and failing to purchase them legally. I spend a lot of money with Amazon and iTunes buying stuff, and you know why? Because this stuff costs money to produce professionally, and people have to get paid for their efforts, and the funny thing about the vast majority of the “everything should be free” advocates is that they don’t do their jobs for free. That’s why I have started posting Amazon links to any commercial stuff I post, to at least give people an opportunity to buy things legitimately, and yes, for me to earn a few euro to pay for the blog.
I said this to someone recently, and they said that iTunes were “ripping people off”. At 99c a track? Seriously? Since when did wanting access to the fruit of other’s labours for free become a human right? Funnily enough, do you ever notice how the great majority of the “everything should be free” crowd rarely ever produce anything creative, like a song or a movie?