Scientists in the CERN facility in Switzerland have confirmed that a time-loop has emerged within the political system in Ireland, causing its politicians to repeat the same referendum campaign over again and again. “It’s quite extraordinary. Whereas other countries have new political issues to debate every few years, as culture and technology progress, Ireland’s elected representatives seem doomed to fight the same campaign every time. Just watch as Ireland’s pro-EU people talk about treaty X being vital for jobs and “sending signals” to people outside Ireland. Meanwhile, the No campaign will bang on about Ireland being bullied and four million Irish people not being treated the same as eighty two million Germans. Then the voters will refuse to read anything, and then complain that they haven’t been properly informed. They don’t seem to know it, but they have fought this same campaign six times since 1992!”
A time trvelling adventurer travelling in a blue box-shaped space craft, well known to Earth authorities has refused to intervene. “You must be joking. Last time I intervened in Ireland, some guy named Boyd Barrett accused me of being a Tory because of the colour of my ship, and some big fella from Carlow menaced me for a €100 for some bloody charge or other. Screw that. I’ll take the Daleks, at least they don’t try to pretend they’re doing you a favour.”
Furious debate has broken out in caveman society over whether creationists will exist in the future. Uggh, of the cave near the water told us: ” Uggh say Yes. Have no doubt. Look at banana. God put handle on it for convenience. Obviously never tried to peel a mango or eat ripe pear, but maybe God not want us to eat mango or pear. Creationists have answer to these questions. God obvioulsy not fruit salad fan. It in holy book. When book invented, obviously.”
Other cavemen disagree. Clunk, of the cave near the water but not as near as Uggh’s, disagreed profoundly: “I not share Uggh’s hypothesis. Evolution make sense, especially when looking at hairy bastard like Uggh. Him proof of monkey lineage. Not surprised that he say no. He worship anything. Clunk see him worship dead weasel. Before that, he worship rock. He be Church of Ireland next. He a joiner.”
On taxes, Newt could agree with most of the United Left Alliance principles.
Let's call a spade a spade here. Next year, when some form of property tax does emerge, based on the value of a home or the site, Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett will not rush out and tell everyone to pay it, even if people with more expensive homes are taxed more. Why not? For the same reason they will not support a water tax, and that is that Joe and RBB may talk left, but they are actually Tea Party style anti-tax populists. Don't forget, these are the same "leftists" who took to the street to defend the rights of wealthy middle-class families not to have to pay college fees, taking money from the budget to fund middle class and upper kids whilst poorer kids could not get higher maintenance grants.
The kernel at the heart of left wing philosophy is the common good through common sacrifice. But not the Irish Left, who advocate a spineless smoke and mirrors common good funded by magical baddies picking up the tab. They argue that we should not be paying the debts of reckless bankers. It's a fair point, but it still does not recognise that even if that had not happened we would have a huge budget deficit. Sure, we could have gone to the bond markets to fund the gap, but it was so huge that surely the bond markets would have thought that we were going Greek (to coin a phrase) and started putting up our interest rates. Either way, it always come sto the same thing. Sustainable public services must be funded by the sustainable taxing of the common majority, and on that concept, Richard Boyd Barrett might as well be Newt Gingrich.
Tom Selleck’s Magnum PI moustache, which starred with him in the hit 1980s TV series ”Magnum P.I.” died today in a gun battle with a Los Angeles SWAT team. It had been on a 72 hour drink and drug fuelled binge, and had been threatening police with a revolver after it emerged from a liqour store.
Close friends felt that the moustache never recovered from the strain of starring in a top TV show and then slipping from the public eye. Lee Horsley’s moustache, who had starred in the 1980s TV series “Matt Houston”, about a millionaire private investigatior and his moustache, and was a close friend of the deceased, remarked that “He just couldn’t take it. Tom decided to go without a moustache for a few years, and when he decided to go back to a moustache it was with a younger, bushier model. That was a slap in the face, I can tell you.”
The moustache found that work dried up after “Magnum PI”, and eventually ended up as playing the moustache of deliverymen and repairmen in porn movies.
Witnesses say that the moustache was hysterical, shouting at policemen that they didn’t know who it was, and that back in the day he and the guy who used to play ”Higgins” on the TV series used to go “tomcatting” around Hawaii, and could get “any tail they wanted.” The moustache is survived by some bumfluff.
Ireland has the worst electoral system ever conceived and abolishing it must be a priority in any discussion of political reform. My own preference is for single seat constituencies with first past the post, or AV. Let me explain why.
PRSTV uniquely produces incoherent outcomes. Our electoral system is the only one that I can think of that actively tells voters that they don’t really have to make a choice on policy matters. If you live in Dublin West, you can vote for Leo Varadkar AND Joe Higgins, 1 and 2. In one election you can vote for more spending and lower taxes and the local hospital and better roads and for a pro-life candidate all on the same ballot paper, and feel aggrieved when you don’t get all of what you want. Give voters one vote and they have to think about what matters most. Give them four or five and you get to reward big spending and tax cuts at the same time. Sound familiar?
PRSTV rewards the nutcase brigade Proponents of PRSTV tell us that a) coalitions are good, b) consensus is good, and c) that PRSTV includes the widest variety of views. That’s nonsense. What it does do is take natural political coalitions and split them into their most extreme components, and then set them at each other’s throats. Look at the US Democratic Party – is it not a coalition? Is the Australian Labor Party not a coalition? Greens and Trade Unionists and social liberals all working together in a permanent coalition to win power and to compromise with each other. Over here, we have one party for the Irish Times reading social liberals, another for the militant trade unionists, another for the Greens, and about twenty for the various marxist-leninists – and all of them more extreme, more radical, and more likely to hold Governments to ransom and produce policy outcomes that alienate the broad centre of the electorate than a broad coalition party of the left would. Don’t believe me? Check the record of the Greens on the left and the PDs on the right.
PRSTV encourages bad policy for electoral gain When everyone has one vote, you know who you can win over and who you cannot. When everyone has two or three votes, suddenly you can win transfers from voters who would never consider you for a number one vote – so you are rewarded for pandering in a way that is much more blatant than in other electoral systems. You cut taxes to please your own base. You negotiate pay rises for the public sector to keep the Trades Union people cheerful and likely to transfer to you. You do something on childcare. You go halfway on the environment. Every group has to get a present for you to win office and keep those marginal seats in the later counts. Your coherence is lost – this is what happened to Fianna Fail, and this is what will happen to FG and Labour. It’s the system. Safe seats are not a bad thing The biggest argument I hear against a change in the system to single seats is that if we look at the UK, our nearest neighbour, the Tories and Labour have had seats so safe that they’ve held them easily for 100 years, and that as a result huge numbers of voters are disenfranchised. First, that in itself is guff – democracy is about the right to register your voice and have a say in the process, and it’s also about having to accept the will of your fellow citizens. If the people of Sunderland South want to vote Labour every single time, that’s their right. Critically though, safe seats do two things – they reward bold thinkers and new ideas, and they allow truly national politicians to focus on truly national issues. In Ireland, the constant need for transfers makes playing it safe an essential element of political discourse if you’re in a Governing party, and there is not a politician in the last thirty years who could focus on doing a national job and not just on the constituency.
PRSTV rewards cute hoor, bring home the bacon, hyper-local politics. A Two party system does not. The new REDC poll suggests that there is something of a realignment underway in Irish politics. There is at the least a chance that Sinn Fein may emerge as the main opposition party – a party of the left – and stand in opposition to Fine Gael on the right, with Labour and Fianna Fail taking up supporting roles. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, is there not an argument for creating a political system that encourages the emergence of two broad, competing power blocks made up of these four parties? A political system that gives people like Jason and I (who agree on so much, yet end up on different sides so often) an incentive to pick a side, work out our differences, and agree a political programme before we enter Government, and not after? We have a fragmented political system that rewards division on the small, irrelevant issues, and inaction on the large issues. It’s a political system that lets voters completely off the hook when it comes to making decisions. If we want good Government and mature political coalitions, let’s choose an electoral system that forces the voters and the politicians to make it happen.
John McGuirk is a PR consultant and former Libertas Communications Director.
I met Bertie Ahern once. I was introduced to him by a friend in Fianna Fail during the 2002 general election, and you know what? I liked him. He was friendly, charming, and when I introduced him to my German friend who was with me, he started talking to her about Chancellor Schroeder. She was very impressed with him, primarily because she had never met any German politician, and was amazed how at ease he was with not just one of his own voters, but a foreigner. I’m telling you all this because in the current climate it is very easy to forget just how popular Bertie was for the great majority of his time as Taoiseach. What’s more, he was popular not because he was some sort of trickster, but because he was giving the majority of voters exactly what they wanted, low taxes and high spending. In 1997 and 2002 I gave FF my second and third preferences, something I’d never ever done before (or since) because I wanted him as Taoiseach, as did hundreds of thousands others. Hundreds of thousands! Why was that? Because Bertie was able to appeal to me by being seen to be economically competent AND socially moderate. We forget that under Bertie, for the first time voting FF was not automatically voting for whatever the Catholic Hierarchy decreed, opposing them during the Divorce referendum when he was in opposition, the first FF leader to ever really do so.
Does that excuse all that Mahon has condemned him with? Of course not. Nor should it be forgotten that the seeds of economic disaster were sewn during the wilful Don’t Ask Don’t Tell approach of his towards the property bubble and reckless lending. He claims that nobody told him of the problems. I’m sorry, but a head of government paid more than the President of the United States should have asked. We all knew there was something funny with the soaring lending and building numbers, but only one of us was paid a King’s Ransom to worry about it every day, and he didn’t.
It is true that taking the necessary action to carefully deflate the property and lending bubble after 2002 would have been unpopular, but that’s the thing. That’s where he really let us down. See, his weird finances, whatever the truth really is about them, do not effect the day to day lives of many of us. But his unwillingness in office to be unpopular, to scrap the section 23 tax breaks for building and to order the banks to up their liquidity ratios and stop giving 100% mortgages, that’s what is killing us all now, and that’s what we will struggle to forgive him for.
1. We are pretty much incapable of organising anything complex in this country without spending vast sums of money that would not need to be spent in other countries for the same result.
2. We have probably spent more investigating corruption than the actual cost to society of those same specific incidents of corruption.
3. There is nothing revealed about Bertie Ahern that we did not know about him in 2007 when we re-elected him Taoiseach for the third time. In short, we do not see corruption as a big issue.
4. We will be stunned if anyone goes to jail for this.
5. The political parties will not implement, nor will the great mass of the public demand, any serious effort to prevent corruption like this occurring again.
6. Five years from now, it will be hard to point to any good reason as to why the tribunal was worth holding in the first place.
7. A small number of people in the legal profession will be dead earlier than expected, due to the extravagant lifestyle funded by the tribunal. There will be a small increase in the occurrence of gout in Irish society.
8. No one will ask the obvious question: why do we not have a group of dedicated men and women, a national “police force”, if you will, that could investigate crimes, you know, like corruption?
9. Is there anyone who does not believe that we will be looking at a similar scandal within the next twenty years?
10. Finally, when one looks at every institution that failed to prevent this, from the Garda to party leaders and ministers, one can’t help thinking that the one thing that united them all was not party or political belief or family, but our culture. If one person holding one of those positions had not been from this country, and believed in actually putting the duties of their position first, things would have been quite different.
Never mind the politicians, let's make the voters accountable.
I would be hard pressed to find a topic that I am less interested in than the current debate over “Tweetgate” on The Frontline, Ireland’s premier current affairs discussion programme. There seems to be a lot of people quite upset at the idea that some people working for the public service broadcaster might have political opinions, and some of those might be, by Irish standards, left wing. Big deal. In a country as inter-related and small as this, everyone is connected by two or three degrees to everyone else.
No, what bothers me about The Frontline is that I, as someone with a passing interest in politics, do not actually watch it. Why not? Because it is the same format every time. Pat Kenny gives a summary of an issue (and is quite well briefed on it, to his credit), the panel throws in a few trite remarks, especially if it is made up of the standard Irish autopilot politicians, and then the bit that makes my teeth hurt: the audience, who basically air their personal grievances and demand that the policy of 4.2 million people be changed to suit their personal situation. The whole thing is pointless, and never comes to any conclusion other than “other people should pay for the stuff my group/family/parish want”.
But let it not be said that I do not offer a solution. To me, the biggest cause of where Ireland is today is that the Irish voter is constantly pandered to, and told that they are never wrong, like one of those little spoilt bastards on “Supernanny” before that English woman comes in and gives out to the child’s parents for letting the little brats go wild in the first place. Want to make The Frontline a better programme? Appoint an awkward squad, a panel of (say) ex-college debaters, who can study a subject and debate well, and let them attack and criticise the audience. Don’t bother inviting politicians on, they’re useless anyway and they will rarely disagree with the audience. But a show where people demanding more money or higher taxes on other people get openly challenged? Overnight, it turns from being a programme about political personalities in government and opposition, and into debates about ideas. I’d watch that.
Eamon Gilmore told us more about the government’s attitude to political reform than he meant to recently. He suggested that the Constitutional Convention should consider extending the franchise to elect the president to part of the overseas Irish community. It’s an interesting idea, but consider it in a broader context of political reform as the government sees it. So far, the government has suggested that two political reform issues should be given priority.
1. Abolishing the Seanad. As an act of revenge against our incompetent political class, I’m all in favour. But will it make the country better run? Almost certainly not. Having said that, keeping it won’t either. Best case scenario, it saves us a small amount of money. And makes some politicians cry.
2. Reducing the presidential term. Who on Earth thought this was a vital issue? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Now Eamon has waded in with another one. Here’s my question. Supposing all three were adopted. In fact, supposing we had adopted all three ten years ago. Would it have helped the country be better run? Would the president having a shorter term have ensured better banking regulation?
There is a litmus test to prove whether a political reform is worth doing, and it is, quite simply, fear. If a reform makes a politician more afraid of a person or an institution, it is an effective (if not always correct) reform. Nearly every reform being championed by the government is an empty symbolic “we’d better do something” proposal, which does not change the fact that the Dail is answerable to the government, and that our national legislators are punished for doing too much national work (by their voters) and powerless to actually exercise action (as opposed to bitching at the parliamentary party meeting). If you want to see the government’s attitude to reform, just look at the hoo-ha over Peter Mathew’s disagreeing with his colleagues in an Oireachtas committee. Look at the outrage, with Mathew’s being summoned before the Taoiseach for having the audacity to act like a member of a proper parliament, the cheeky bastard. You’re not in Congress or an episode of “Borgen” here, mate!
In short, if Enda is not more afraid of the other parts of the political system at the end of the reform process, it will have been a waste of time. If the reforms ended up withn Peter Mathew’s style upsets in the Dail every week, we’d be a better country for it. We’d also, incidentally, pay more attention to the Dail.
Am I hopeful? Not in the slightest, because many of our political representatives want the money and position but do not want the responsibility of office. Think I’m being cynical? Look at our county manager system. All three main parties have been in power, and all three refused to change it. Fianna Fail bent over backwards to delay and water down John Gormley’s elected mayor proposals for many reasons, one being that their own councillors did not want to be held responsible for decisions. Only in Ireland do politicians chant “What do we want? Less power! When do we not want it? Now!”