Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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Declan Ganley is almost the only Irish political figure offering a long term vision for Europe.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 17, 2012 in European Union, Irish Politics

Ganley: Like him or not, he is one of the few to talk ideas.

Ganley: Like him or not, he is one of the few to talk ideas.

I have been a critic of Declan Ganley in the past, and disagree with him on other issues. But he has to be given credit for the fact that he, with the exception maybe of John Bruton, is one of the few active political figures in Ireland who openly outlines a clear vision of what he wants Europe to look like. Neither Eamon Gilmore, Enda Kenny, Gerry Adams or Micheal Martin share their visions of a future Europe in any detail, other than to rely on trite and empty statements about Ireland’s national interests. Listening to both him and Lucinda Creighton discussing the future of Europe recently on Newstalk, he was talking about the treaty AFTER this one, something our full time political leaders give the impression they have not even begun to consider, despite the fact that the German Foreign minister has. Having said that, Lucinda should be given some leeway, as she does seem to be considering these issues too, but is restrained by her position. Her bosses should start considering them as well, and talking about them in public. You can’t say nothing about the possibility of a federal Europe until its sudden arrival, and then expect to pass it in a referendum.

 
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The Road We’ve Traveled: Full Obama movie.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 16, 2012 in US Politics

A partisan but very nicely put togther 16min movie from Obama-Biden 2012, narrated by Tom Hanks. Watching it, I was struck that Fianna Fail could do something like this explaining the banking crisis, except that FF want to distance themselves from their time in government, and even if they did, would be so overly cautious that it would turn into 15 minutes of guff. FF more than any party desperately need to be deprogrammed from that weirdly old fashioned “my position is well known” media training they cling to. 

 
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10 reasons why running for public office in Ireland is a waste of time.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 13, 2012 in Irish Politics

1. You will find that it is the fastest way of making complete strangers hate you for no logical reason.

2. You will work hours similar to a junior doctor, but without the respect, spending hours reading bills that the media never report. They will report that you got a “executive” taxi in London once, putting the words “executive” and “luxury” in front of things to make them sound expensive. 

3. You will be able to hold the government to account no more or less effectively than a well-organised journalist. Ministers will not fear you. If you are a govt backbencher, you will fear them.

4. You will not be able to help individuals any more than a well-organised NGO can.

5. You will see far less of your family and friends than you will like.

6. You will spend a lot of time saying things that make your skin crawl, defending things that you don’t believe in, and attacking perfectly reasonable things.

7. You will become paranoid about what strangers in your local area say about you, and start pandering to morons. You will nod patiently at idiots. Sadly, this is a universal trait of global politics.

8. Even when you become a minister, you will realise that your colleagues will never let you do anything truly remarkable (See Noel Dempsey, 1997-2010)

9. One day you will look in the mirror and wonder who that person is looking back at you. You will spend thousands on full colour leaflets that don’t actually say anything.  

10. You will spend years doing this before wondering what you could have achieved if you had put all that effort into something else. 

 
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This looks good.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 11, 2012 in Movies/TV/DVDs

 
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Modern socialists are unwilling to make the sacrifices needed for socialism.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 10, 2012 in Irish Politics

The People's Flag will, eh, be paid for by that guy over there.

The People's Flag will, eh, be paid for by that guy over there.

I don’t subscribe to the standard American analysis that socialism is inherently evil. It’s not. It’s an economic model with pros and cons, and has been espoused by some of the most noble and decent leaders in human history. The problem for socialism today, and in my context, Irish socialism, is that most Irish socialists haven’t actually got the stones to follow through. It’s a noble theory to argue about as they sit in (capitalist) pubs drinking (capitalist) beer and texting and tweeting on their (capitalist) smartphones. But that’s all they do: argue. There’s your problem right there.

Socialism can probably eliminate the worst forms of poverty, and ensure housing and enough to eat for all and basic healthcare and education. But not the consumer lifestyle that so many of us want. Now, it’s true: much of that consumer society is a complete waste of resources. Do we actually need as much celebrity news as we have now? Do we need our lovely new iPads? Or our Breitling watches? Or our Mercedes Benzes? Or even every family owning a car as a right, as opposed to need? Could we not redirect the resources those things cost to reduce class sizes, or provide cheap childcare. The answer is yes, we can. Except…

Except that it involves socialists going door to door telling people that. Consider that Irish socialists haven’t even got the guts to tax property, never mind tell people that they can’t take their kids to Disneyworld because the local hospital needs a new MRI scanner. Will Joe Higgins as Taoiseach tell middle ranking public servants that they will have to take pay cuts or retire later in order to fund payrises for lower paid public servants? Will he what. Joe can’t even tell them that binmen have to be paid.

The standard stock response in that the rich will pay for everything, except there is not a country in the world where the rich pay high taxes, everybody else pays low taxes and we get a Scandanavian welfare system. If you want socialism, everybody pays. That’s a pretty noble idea, and people nod their heads in agreement, until they see their payslip and realise that dining out is now a luxury. That you can afford groceries, but not Marks and Spencer, and that a new car is now a fantasy. Richard Boyd Barrett will never tell you that, because he can’t get elected on it.

Instead, he’ll tell you that if the state controls the means of production, like Corrib gas, well, that will fund everything. But think about that. The private sector has been in charge of that up to now, and has not made a cent from it. Why would we believe that the ESB or Bord na Mona would have turned it into a cashcow by now? Sure, we’d have thousands of extra ESB employees on ESB wundersalaries, but would we have the profits of gas, or a Gas Exploration Levy on our ESB bills and a promise that it was for “investment”, that is, ESB workers retiring early on gold-plated pensions? What do you think? Is it possible we would have exploration drills proven to be worthless but kept open because of the local employment, like we do with small hospitals and army barracks? Again, what do you think?

Originally, socialism was about common sacrifice for the common good. Now it’s a redistribution of wealth, about politicians telling one group of people that they are entitled to the sweat of someone else’s brow. We used to have a word for such people, only we didn’t call them socialists. We used to call them aristocrats. 

 
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Game. On.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 9, 2012 in US Politics

 
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Why do we hate politicians so much?

Posted by Jason O on Mar 8, 2012 in Irish Politics

Time for a real say?

Time for a real say?

When I got involved in my first election campaign in 1991, there was still a certain level of respect attached to being a TD or senator. It was a big deal, and it is certainly the area where I witnessed one of the biggest changes I saw in my time involved in politics. By the time I ran myself in the 1999 local elections, being a candidate was an open invitation to rudeness from a large minority. People would say things to you they’d never say to any other stranger, or just close a door in your face. I know, from talking to people who have canvassed and run for other parties, that this is now a common occurrence.

You say this to people not involved in politics and you get a “well, duh!” response. Politicians are held in slightly higher esteem than criminals. Why is that?

If you ask the non-political, they will give you the “They’re all liars/crooks” position, but that’s lazy, and when you question people about it, they don’t really believe it themselves. Even in these cynical times, nearly everyone can name a politican they admire. So what causes the contempt?

There are, to my mind, two factors at play:

1. The change from political positions to brand positioning. The idea in most democracies is that parties each offer a different vision, and the public choose the vision.  But since the 1960s and the entry of Don Draper types into political organisation, parties have gone from being political platforms to marketing/pandering to voters. Ths is fine if you are selling Coke, because people can make a final call by sampling the product, and deciding whether they actually like the taste or not. But government is different. It’s like a can of Coke that changes flavours and size and cost according to the prevailing resources available at the time. Parties know this, and so instead go for the big sell, constantly over-promising or making the voter feel that they have been offered something (a return to more nostalgic times, for example) which is impossible to deliver. Is it any wonder voters get disenchanted?

2. A new permanent political class. It was bad enough having political dynasties dominating the political system. What’s worse is that we have now expanded that political class to people who aspire to the same thing that the dynasties want: a permanent career in politics. Despite the fact that we had the biggest shake-up in parliamentary membership in living memory in the 2011 election, isn’t it frightening how quickly this Dail has started resembling the old one? Most of our TDs are powerless, and seem quite happy about it. Why? Because they want to not actually pass specific pieces of legislation, but remain TDs, and the public know it too.

I don’t know what the solution is, and so much of this stuff is tied into our culture as a people. But I would suggest that if, say, 20% of the Dail was made up of randomly selected voters who served for a single year, it would introduce an element of wild card into our political establishment. Would it cause chaos? Probably not, because all the other parties would be forced to combine to stop the crazier stuff proposed. So what? It would introduce real people into the Leinster Hothouse, and it would cause trouble. The government would find it harder to get legislation through. Some of them would be embarrassing. Some would be crooks. Some would be thoughtful.

But it would achieve two things: The first would be that over a period of years ordinary citizens would suddenly find themselves or people they knew called up to participate in a meaningful way. Secondly, every January would be a fascinating time for politics as the new batch came in, and that would not be a bad thing in itself. Is it a mad idea? Possibly. But I’ll bet that the great majority of people who call it mad are aspiring members of the permanent political class themselves.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The political hack who just walked away.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 7, 2012 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Watching Inspector Barnaby let his witnesses get murdered becomes far more interesting.

Watching Inspector Barnaby let his witnesses get murdered becomes far more interesting.

Sometimes it’s a single issue, or at least, that’s what she tells herself. More often than not it’s a gradual build-up of disappointment and tiredness that triggers it. She decides not to go to the next cumann meeting, and stays in and gets a pizza and watches Midsomer Murders instead. And guess what: She doesn’t miss the cumann meeting. She doesn’t go to the next one either, or the one after. When she gets a phonecall to help with a leaflet drop she’s busy.

Then she stops zooming in on headlines with the party’s name in it. Soon it happens: An opinion poll comes out, and she doesn’t care how the party is doing. She surprises even herself with her lack of interest.

Sitting out the election feels weird, as she’ll have received phone calls from party officers who have finally noticed that she’s not turning up, and she’ll feel embarrassed, and will almost promise to turn up at the next meeting, but resists, and says “she’ll see what she can do”. They both know that means she’s gone. The party official will wonder why the sane people always leave whilst the mouth-breathers and the one-issue obsessives “how will the banking crisis affect the ramps on the bottom of Lea Road, which is a major issue in the area?” never do. 

She misses the energy of the election, but not hugely, seeing it for the first time the way non-political people see it, as important, but not the most important thing in her life.  On the door, she is polite to the canvassers, having been that soldier, and resists the urge to demonstrate that she actually knows more about their policies than they do.

She still watches the election count all day on the telly, and enjoys it, but other things fill her life. Family, work, and whilst she still maintains an interest in politics it tends to be at a higher level, with more interest in other countries or history. She finds herself shutting out day-to-day politics, developing an interest in running or cycling or painting or learning the piano. And here’s the scary thing: She doesn’t regret her time spent in politics, because she met some great people. But as she finishes her first painting, or finishes her first novel, or passes her first piano exam, she can’t help thinking that she could’ve put her time to much more rewarding use.

 
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Europe. Where we live.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 6, 2012 in European Union

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish politics: The hard working but essentially pointless TD.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 6, 2012 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Ask the Irish to believe in an omnipotent being watching over them, and you’ll have no problem. Ask them to believe that a fella sitting in Rome has a direct line to God and they’ll say sure, that’s grand. But ask them to believe that their TDs actually work hard, and they’ll demand physical proof. There is a fallacy about Irish politicians, normally held by people who don’t know them, and it is that they are lazy. The actual truth, on the other hand, is that they are quite possibly the most hard working politicians in the western world. What’s more striking, however, is how completely pointless most of the work is.

Every now and then, a lazy tabloid journalist, when he’s fnished trying to get a young “intern” drunk so that he can grope her, and has used up that month’s quota of sex predator stories, will reach for the stock item: The photo of an empty Dail, and then vent his sexual frustrations by pontificating on how lazy Irish elected officials are.

Yet anyone who has known a TD of any party will recognise a different picture: Answering phone calls at two in the morning from parents whose hoodlum kids have been arrested for drug dealing, and are demanding “what are you going to do about it?”, or the woman who comes to your clinic demanding you get her children a Playstation 3 (Actually happened), or the absolutely mad race around the constituency in the evening, trying to get to as many residents association meetings as possible where, after practically giving yourself a hernia to get there, some smart alec at the meeting declares that you are never seen “in the area”. Or the distribution of thousands of leaflets telling people stuff they could happily find out for themselves on the web, just so that you can put your mug on the front in a desperate plea to prove that you actually physically exist.

Here’s the sad part: Actually do your job, scrutinise legislation to make it better, hold the government to account, and you will almost certainly lose your seat. The late Jim Mitchell chaired the DIRT inquiry which recovered hundreds of millions for the taxpayer. He then got turfed out by his voters for spending too much time in the Dail.

As a woman once shouted at Mary Harney at a public meeting in Tallaght, when Harney announced that she had to get to Leinster House for a vote: “Here! We didn’t elect you to be off votin’ in Dail Eireann!”  

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