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

The Curse of High Expectations.

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

Watching the crowds cheering at Francoise Hollande’s election, I could not help wondering how long it would be before large numbers of his supporters (particularly his young ones) would be feeling disappointed and betrayed. Like Sarkozy and Chirac before, he has been elected on a platform of immeasurable unachievable nebulousness. Of course he will disappoint, as has Obama, Cameron and  Clegg.  Getting elected the way they do, they can do no other.

This is a factor that crosses the Western world which should worry us all. Electorates that are incapable or unwilling of understanding subtle, modest or technical political pledges have to be instead won over with emotive buttonpushing that leaves them ultimately unfulfilled, and so leaves an electorate feeling more cynical and bitter after each election, and more open to the heroin-like bigger better hit of left or right extremism, or religious fanaticism.

Ireland is no different. Every now and again, people lament the fact that there is “no one” to vote for. They call for a party that is sincere in its opposition to corruption, that advocates political reforms that put the community first, and that has nothing to do with the dodgy connections between business and politics in Ireland.

Then you tell them that there is such a party. Eyebrows jut up. It’s called the Green Party. Ugh! They say, and dismiss you with a wave of the hand, and there’s the funny thing right there. In the 2011 general election, the Irish electorate wiped out the one party that had been 100% clean on corruption, whose deputies had fought (in Trevor Sargent’s case, actually) in council chambers against corruption, and yet elected 20 Fianna Fail TDs. Go figure.

The Green Party is ready to reengage in the political system, but it needs to address its history and its actual purpose. Most of all, it has to deal with that perennial of Irish politics, The Curse of High Expectations. This is something that affects all Irish political parties when they enter government, and it can be particularly lethal to parties like the Greens and PDs with small core votes that rely on transfers from soft voters to win seats. In government, the Greens achieved certain policy objectives, but they failed to identify and meet the gut objectives that those soft Green voters were looking for to stay with the party. In particular, the party failed to shape, before its entry into government, the expectations of its voters. What would it specifically have to do to keep those voters on board. It’s extraordinary how Irish political parties never seem to give this much thought, especially when one considers how prone the Single Transferable Vote electoral system is to magnifying a drop in transfers into actual seat losses. Just look at how it worked with FF and Labour in 2011. Despite only a 1% vote difference, Labour got nearly twice as many seats as FF because Labour was transfer friendly whereas FF had the political equivalent of Herpes. STV is a fairweather friend voting system, which means that in the coming storm, Labour could be completely capsized.

Labour is heading in this direction, and seems unwilling to do anything about it. Like the Greens and PDs before them, they really need to look at the voting system and ask is this the best system for small ideological parties in a non-ideological country? Labour, like the Greens, needs to decide who it is for, what it must do specifically to keep those people onboard, and what voting system is the best for helping those voters deliver Labour TDs.    


A New Economic Model (Remake)

Posted by Jason O on May 15, 2012 in European Union, Jason's Diary, US Politics

The good people at Dow Jones’s Marketwatch recently read a blog of mine, and asked me to turn it into a article for them, which you can read here. Apparently, according to the comments, I’m both a communist and a tool of international bankers, which is nice. I’m just a bringer of people together. Enjoy. 


An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Thatcherite No Voter.

Posted by Jason O on May 15, 2012 in European Union, Fiscal Treaty Referendum 2012, Irish Politics

How would she vote on May 31st?

How would she vote on May 31st?

You don’t see him much in the media, because it doesn’t really suit. It’s much easier to have on one side the voices of economic orthodoxy, paying our debts, etc, and on the other side the Anti-Austerity Why Can’t Every Thing Be Nice left. Everybody knows where they stand, and to have a Ron Paul style slash big government by proxy type complicating the issue just doesn’t fit. The idea that there are Irish people who actually think that ever growing public spending might be a bad idea just does not compute in a political system that tries to pretend that there is no left or right in Irish politics. In fact, the idea that such an opinion could be voiced in Ireland is so offensive to some that they try to pretend that it is a fabrication of the Yes side.

But ask yourself this: if they could, how would the British Tories vote in this referendum? He is voting No because he is afraid that there could indeed be another bailout, funding the Croke Park Agreement and civil service increments. In his mind, a No vote will starve the public sector of funds from wherever, and throttle it down to size. The fact that he has Mary Lou, Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett to actually help him deliver that goal, well, that’s just delicious.

It’s like when Al Qaeda and Mitt Romney both agree that the gays should not have the same rights as, you know, real people. In politics, the strangest people can find themselves in bed together.


Europe needs the far left to win in Greece.

Posted by Jason O on May 14, 2012 in European Union, Fiscal Treaty Referendum 2012

Hitler: Proved himself to be full of shit.

Hitler: Proved himself to be full of shit.

Imagine if the July 1944 plot had been successful, and Hitler had been killed, and the coup had succeeded. The war could possibly have ended earlier. But imagine Hitler’s reputation today, as the guy who could have won the war for Nazi Germany had he not been stabbed in the back by “traitors”. A similar situation exists in Greece, where the Greek people have pretty much turned their back on conventional centrist politics and voted for the extremes of left and right. Well, you know what? This is good.

We need one country to be run by the pain-free populist priests of anti-austerity, so that we can all clearly see what happens when easy answers are applied. We need to kill the Hitler Martyr Myth, that these guys have the answer if only they’d been given a chance. Let’s see how Greece does under Stavros Higgins and Richard Boyd Theodopolopolos.

And, by the way, the EU (and NATO) needs to make it very clear to the Greek military that on no account will any sort of military action against an elected Greek government, even of the far left, be tolerated. The Greek people must be given the right to confront reality themselves, even if that reality is to flush their own country down the toilet.    


The Spoofer’s Guide to the Fiscal Treaty.

Posted by Jason O on May 11, 2012 in Fiscal Treaty Referendum 2012

The talented Andrea Pappin and I have decided to put together a modest offering explaining or at least stirring questions (we hope) about the Fiscal Treaty, which you can access here.

Is it a Yes document? Well, I’m voting Yes, but, to be honest, I actually don’t know if she is. We’ve put together our thoughts on the treaty, and have tried to ask questions for people to consider rather than do a blatant “Vote Yes or they’ll murder us in our beds!” We did ask someone prominent on the No side to write something, but that person missed our deadline so we’ll just add their contribution in when we get it.

Anyway, have a read.


Sarkozy proves that pandering gets you in the end.

Posted by Jason O on May 7, 2012 in European Union

You actually have to do something.

You actually have to do something.

As Sarko retreats from the stage following his narrow defeat (he was trailing Marine Le Pen in the polls a year ago) it is fair to ponder what lessons can be learnt by politicans. One thing seems clear to me: pandering and posturing, as opposed to actually making decisions gets you nowhere in the end. It’s a common legacy of the Chirac/Sarkozy years, where hard decisions on labour and pension reforms were delayed and ignored for years, leaving a legacy of nothing. Would he have been reelected if he had pursued the radical “rupture” with the past he had proclaimed in 2007? Possibly, if the reforms had actually started to deliver on tackling unemployment. Even if they hadn’t delivered during his time in the Elysee, they would have benefitted France in the long run, and his legacy too. Instead, he leaves office more remembered for his love life and his perceived materialistic shallowness. There’s a lesson here for a generation of politicians who seem to believe in nothing other than getting and staying elected: there are more important things than getting re-elected, and history will not be kind to those who just wanted to be there.


Should the EU consider a continental Basic Income?

Posted by Jason O on May 4, 2012 in European Union, Irish Politics

As Europe awaits results from both the French and Greek elections this weekend, it is probably fair to say that Europe is swinging if not left then towards a counter-austerity sentiment. In short, even people on the conventional centre-right, who accept the need for public spending to be brought under control (with a liontamer’s whip and chair in some cases) are now beginning to also accept that whilst applying a firm grip on spending is a great idea if the country in question is surrounded by economic “normal” countries, but if a whole region attempts to do it together it creates a giant suckhole that could pull everyone down together.

As if that is not problem enough, there are two further issues complicating things: the first is that Germany, which is benefitting greatly from its own reforms on the 1990s but also the European single market and the eurozone, is being asked to basically stump up the cash to resolve the issue of deflation in the Mediterranean.

Secondly, there is the danger that deflation in the PIGS will cause major public unrest and political extremism. What’s to be done?

Is it time to consider some form of European Basic Income or welfare payment, funded by Brussels, to ensure that no one slips totally beneath the waves whilst also injecting money in those economies? Such a scheme would allow for some stability in the PIGS whilst also demonstrating that the EU is not just for the rich. How would we fund such a thing? Well, a mixture of quantative easing by the ECB, direct funding by the Germans and perhaps an EU wide wealth tax of some description, or maybe an EU wide Tobin Tax?

What’s that, you say? O’Mahony proposing a wealth tax? I’m just thinking out loud here, but the key argument against the left raising taxes against the rich in a European country is that the people upon whom the tax is levied can move. But if the tax is levied on the whole EU, that’s a different kettle of fish, because leaving the EU means leaving a single market of 500 million consumers, not just a single state. It would also be hilarious to watch the Irish hard left in particular do political gymnastics as they tried to figure out what approach to take on a federal wealth tax.

Additional comments written later: It also occurs to me that a European Basic Income would address one issue that causes problems in nearly every member state, that of perceived welfare shopping. If every citizen could only receive the income amount that pertained in their home state, unless they had been living in another state for a number of years, would that not encourage non-working EU citizens to stay at home in their own member states, as there would be no benefit to travelling to another member state other than to work? Just a thought.


Is reality hiding under voters’s beds?

Posted by Jason O on May 4, 2012 in Irish Politics

Wil E Coyote being bullied by gravity.

Wil E Coyote being bullied by gravity.

It is no secret that I occasionally recycle blog posts. I do this not out of laziness, but because of the fact that so much of Irish politics is the same repetitive old crap that has been in play since I participated in my first election campaign 21 years ago. Referendums on EU matters are a particularly acute source of political deja vu, with the usual declarations, nearly always by the No side of scaremongering and bullying by the Yes side.

Take this week’s declaration by Michael Noonan that, as finance minister, if he does not have access to more funds from the EU as a result of a No vote, he will not be able to spend as much on public services. He was told that he was bullying the Irish people by stating that.

Just think about it for a minute: Telling people that if we have less money we can buy less things. That is now classed as bullying. It’s like being accused of bullying someone by telling them that if they leap off a cliff, they will plunge to their doom.

But it does reveal an interesting thing about modern politics, how many voters are now averse to not just opposing political positions, but actually being informed of things they don’t like hearing. One of the more worrying aspects to this is that politicians have given up trying to inform or educate voters as to the reality of the relationship between taxes and spending, instead focusing on whatever key message will hold voter trust just long enough to get past polling day.

We now have a generation of leaders who disappoint almost from day one in office as a result, as Sinn Fein are now gearing up to do, because they do not confront voters with realistic expectations before they vote. The argument given is that you can’t win elections by being honest, and certainly recent Irish political history (look at the Green Party) would confirm that view. But what is remarkable is how Irish governments, actually in power, make almost no effort to bring voters around to their way of thinking, especially on public spending issues. No Irish government has ever engaged in a pro-active effort to convince Irish voters that spending cuts are the price of preventing even higher taxes, or that the combined demands of every special interest must be clearly identified in the public mind as higher taxes. What is more puzzling is that they are taking the kicking anyway, so why don’t they start to fight back? What exactly are they afraid of?


Two questions for the No side.

Posted by Jason O on May 2, 2012 in European Union, Fiscal Treaty Referendum 2012, Irish Politics

The issues upon which the Fiscal Treaty referendum will be decided seem to be solidifying around the question of access to future funding of public services. With that in mind, two questions for the No side occur to me:

1. If we accept that Sinn Fein have changed their view of the IMF from being absolute bastards to generous and decent lenders of last resort, does this mean that Sinn Fein will accept and support any new conditions required by the IMF for a post 2013 bailout?

2. Joe Higgins (to his credit) has suggested that the gap in spending be closed through increased taxation. He then, like every Irish politician, puts on his Progressive Democrat hat and pledges that the vast majority will not pay extra taxes, only the very wealthy. Does Joe believe that the very wealthy will sit quietly and pay the extra taxes required indefinitely? In other words, the only reason they are not paying more at present is because they were never asked?

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