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

The Seanad: Some interesting ideas.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 29, 2012 in Irish Politics

Some interesting ideas on Seanad Reform from a group of our more thoughtful politicos here. Don’t agree with everything, especially not keeping seats for county councillors, which is just a legalised form of corruption, and I’m not too hot on university seats either, but the idea of just opening up the vocational panels to all voters is an option well worth considering. You can read it here. Not a million miles from this.  


An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The wronged Fianna Failer who is not going to take it anymore.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 29, 2012 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Brass Neck: To be issued to all members of the FF party. The Hebrew word for it is chutzpah, but to the Irish it’s simply “neck”. She’s Fianna Fail, and she’s put up with enough shit about being Fianna Fail for the last three years. Enough is enough! As far as she is concerned, the past is the past, we are where we are, and Fianna Fail should not have to answer anymore for any perceived sins of the past.

It is the Fine Gael/Labour coalition that is responsible now for all the problems of the country, and she has a right to stand on her two hind legs and point this out, even if it means attacking them for the sort of thing Fianna Fail were doing when they were in government. She’s no time either for those within the party who think that Fianna Fail should tread carefully. Show a little humility for having led the country to the point where we had to surrender our economic sovereignty? Why? Sure that was ages ago!

The sad thing is that there is an opportunity here for a new, chastened Fianna Fail, willing to attack cutbacks whilst giving costed rational alternatives. But that would mean not promising and pandering and agreeing with every gripe, and that is just not FF. Go back to the old values instead, they say. The values that said “Put us back in and everything will be better and don’t worry your pretty little head about the details”.

Chutzpah means nothing to her. It’s just one of those phrases foreigners use. You know, like honour. And shame. Country before party, that kind of thing.


A Tory/UKIP pact?

Posted by Jason O on Sep 28, 2012 in British Politics, European Union

Thanks to rising poll ratings for UKIP matched to the moronic inability of the Tories to grasp that the Alternative Vote could actually have worked for them, David Cameron now finds himself in an odd predicament. If the polls are right to any degree, Tory voters defecting to UKIP will cause the worst of all results, leaking Tory votes costing seats but not enough to elect potential coalition partner UKIP MPs.

What to do? The talk is apparently of a pact between both parties, with UKIP agreeing to stand down in tight Tory marginals. But for what price? If I were Nigel Farage I would be demanding a dozen safe Tory seats for UKIP candidates to have a clear run in WITH Tory endorsement. That will be hard for Cameron to deliver, but not impossible, provided enough retiring Tory MPs can be found.

Of course, this is a high risk strategy for the prime minister. Tory constituency workers in those seats might decide to help out the UKIP candidates, and might develop a taste for the undiluted new beverage. Some Tories are suggesting that UKIP should be happy with a Tory committment to an EU referendum. Screw that. UKIP would be fools to accept that. Seats in parliament are the coin of the political realm, and if the Tories don’t deliver on that their word on a referendum doesn’t count for anything. After all, the only reason the Tories will consider a pact is to save actual seats, so what’s good for the goose, etc.

On top of that, once UKIP are in the Commons the party looks far more credible. And don’t forget history, where the mighty Liberal party gave the tiny Labour party a free run in a few seats. How’d that work out, then?


William Hague orders British embassies to deal with queries in French, right?

Posted by Jason O on Sep 26, 2012 in British Politics, European Union

God love them, but you can’t help but always feeling yourself reddening slightly when you see what British eurosceptics regard as a great victory. Apparently (reported here) British foreign secretary William Hague has suggested to Canada that Britain and Canada, where possible, could share embassy facilities. As a pragmatic use of limited finanaces, Hague is to be applauded for the idea. Of course, that’s not how eurosceptics see it, instead as a f**k you to Brussels and the External Action Service.

Presumably Canada will require that all her citizens, both French and English speaking, be able to use the UK facilities, so Hague will have to ensure that every British embassy covered by the deal will have to be able to deal with queries from French-Canadians, right? In fairness to the FCO, there probably is no shortage of French speakers, but I can imagine the knuckle-draggers on the Tory right getting a little upset at the requirement for British diplomats to be able to conduct their duties in French.

Having said that, perhaps this embassy sharing lark could have wings. I could easily see President Hollande invite First Minister Salmond to Paris to discuss Scotland perhaps appointing formal representatives to some key French embassies, say in Washington, Tokyo, etc. Probably not in Paris’s actual competitive interest to do so, but I’m sure the sight of Alex Salmond being met with full imperial pomp in Paris would be just enough to irritate the Tory right, which is always fun in itself.

The Tory right are “claiming” the former Commonwealth countries as natural partners for such a project, but I think Ireland should get in on this. Ireland and a like-minded country like, say, New Zealand, should consider sharing embassies. We’re not in direct competition that much, and both countries have similar “small nation” views of the world. They get us a base in the Pacific, and we get them a look-in with the Eurozone, in a way the Brits can’t. And we can offer the Kiwis something else the Brits can’t: we’ll treat them as equals. 


Another pointless week of faux politics in Ireland.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 24, 2012 in Irish Politics

The Labour Party activist Michael McLoughlin once described most Irish politics as “all theatre now”, and it was a phrase which stuck in my head, especially watching the last week.

Take the whole James Reilly thing. Firstly, the primary care centres “scandal” is a load of nonsense. You won’t find a single TD willing to say that he or she will not try to get their constituency the services they “deserve”, that is, everything they can grab.

The truth is that this is the usual play the man bunfight, where a minister is bullied into resigning, and his successor carries on with the exact same policy. I’m not a Reilly fan, because I remember him trying all this crap with Mary Harney, but it’s all nonsense and FA to do with health policy.

Fianna Fail are continuing to retreat to their worst populist instincts, doing a John Hurt “Bird Flanagan” to the Irish people’s Bull McCabe, bowing and scraping and nodding in agreement at every slight and grievance. There is nothing wrong with FF opposing cuts. What’s wrong is their point blank refusal to use the 20 parliamentary researchers funded by lifting money from my pocket to offer alternative cuts. Like Shakespeare’s witches, even having one spine to pass around its TDs would be an improvement.


An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Shameless Panderer.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 23, 2012 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

He would be an absolute pain in the arse to have as friend. Always agreeing with you, nervously listening to what you say is your favourite film so that he can agree. He will go to pub you want to go to, support the team you support, always agreeing, desperately wanting to be liked by you. Ten minutes later he’s talking to someone else, agreeing with them.

As a politician, he’s unbearable, agreeing with every pressure group and gripe, opposing every unpopular policy even if he agreed with it when he was in government. You can almost hear the slither as he oozes into a room on a trail of sickly slime, hands gripped together in a supplicant gesture.

The irony is that many people will vote for him, even though he is engaged in the same forelock tugging shuffling begging that the current crowd engaged in to win the last election. They’re the same morons who get surprised at being disappointed after every election.

He’s like that at home too. Which probably explains why his wife is banging the gardener. Even she can only take so much of his wet pitying eyes peering over his shoulder during sex.


Economic regeneration is happening. Sort of.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 21, 2012 in Irish Politics

It would be silly of me to say that recovery is underway. The unemployment figures prove that. Having said that, economic activity, regeneration, is occurring. Take the Stillorgan shopping centre near my house. In the last 18 months, three new business have opened. A Poundland, Kilkenny Design and Donnybrook Fair, an upmarket convenience store. A brand new Lidl has opened across the way, and the local cinema has been seriously upgraded by UCI. Starbucks are opening a branch here soon. Of course, this is south Dublin, this is where you would expect any recovery to start. And let’s be honest, these are modestly paying jobs. But there is activity, new businesses are starting, and Position Vacant signs are appearing in windows.


The speech I’d like to see Nick Clegg give.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 21, 2012 in British Politics
I agree with Nick?

I agree with Nick?

I wrote this in March 2012. Thought it might deserve a little repost. I still think his Sorry speech was worth doing. Most of the people bitching about it will never vote for him anyway.

Hello, my name is Nick Clegg, and if some in the media are to be believed, I’m the most hated politician in Britain. I don’t actually know if that is true, but it is certainly fair to say that I’m a lot less popular than I was before the general election. Now, there are many reasons for that. Many people will say that “tuition fees” is the biggest reason, and there’s an element of truth in it, so let’s talk about tuition fees. Before the last general election, I made a promise on tuition fees, and I got a lot of votes from young people and students on the basis of that promise. When I became Deputy Prime Minister I didn’t keep that promise. I could give you loads of reasons why, and argue about the technicalities of college financing, but the reality is that I gave a promise I didn’t keep, and it pissed off a lot of people who trusted me to keep that promise, and many of them will never vote for me or my party again. I can understand why, because they see in me just another politician.

The truth is that I was stupid in making that promise in the first place, and that stupidity, giving in to the desire to make a popular statement in public, could well be the most costly political mistake I will ever make in my political career, and could cost me and many of my colleagues our seats. That will be for you to decide. All I can say is that I am sorry, sorry for making the promise in the first place, and as a result, sorry for disappointing so many of you, and if you choose to punish us at the election, I won’t like it, but I will understand it.

The issue of actually being in coalition with the Conservatives is another issue which has caused many Liberal Democrat supporters to leave the party. I’m sorry they chose to do that, but I do not apologise for taking this party into government. It is easy to remain in noble opposition, agreeing with the grievances of everybody who is opposed to the government of the day, and never be on the unpopular side of having to actually make a policy work. It is probably true that having not being in government since 1945 meant that many of  those attracted to the Lib Dem banner were those with a specific issue or anger towards the government, and many of those now find it difficult to reconcile those grievances with the day to day reality of government. I’m sorry for that too, but I don’t apologise for it. Government is about the power to affect people’s lives for the better, and if you are unwilling to grasp those levers of power because you are afraid that you might not get everything you want, or become unpopular because of that, then you should not be in politics. Today, because of the Liberal Democrats in government, people on lower incomes are paying less tax. Civil liberties taken from us by the Labour regime have been restored. Those on higher incomes are paying a fairer share of tax, and for those who think that we have sold out by entering coalition with David Cameron, let them realise that the alternative is not a pure Lib Dem government, but a Tory majority government that will not give those things the priority we demanded they be given.

As for those who look wistfully at the Labour party, and would prefer to see us out of power and Ed Miliband in Downing Street, I have two things to say to you. One, you know where the door is, and two, if you think that Ed Milliband is going to give you what you want, just remember that Ed Miliband never resigned from anything when Labour invaded Iraq with George Bush or stripped civil liberties or gave Rupert Murdoch a de facto seat at the cabinet. Ed and Balls and brother David and all the rest of them were right there in the middle of it, and I guarantee you that this shiny new Citizen Ed will vanish as soon as the door of Number Ten closes.

Let me say something about David Cameron. I get on with him, in fact, I like him. There are things we agree on, and things we disagree on, and he comes to the table fighting his corner, and so do I. Occasionally, someone throws an elbow. Vince will even, every now and then, put in the odd knee to the goolies. You know what? That’s good. That’s healthy. That’s called political discourse. You will hear of Tory MPs complaining that we are being rude about them, attacking them about policies they want to pursue. Well, to them I say get used to it. We are in government to answer to the country and our voters, not Tory MPs, and if that means the occasional rough bit of play, the odd shouldering-off-the-ball, so be it. Get used to it.

There are many who attack coalition government as some sort of weird perversion of the people’s will. Let me remind you that the British people have not elected a government with a majority of their votes since the 1930s. This government today, when you take the combined poll ratings of the two parties, often gets a higher level of actual voter support than most single party governments won in elections from the 1970s on. But more importantly, a coalition recognises the complex realities of modern life. People negotiate and compromise in their marriages, relationships and in business every single day of the life. Those who believe in the single party our-way-or-no-way government, the “Hyacinth Bucket” approach to marriage, do not recognise that life is just more complex than that. In short, coalition politics is what life looks like.

Finally, let me say this: If you think we are not doing enough, you have a choice. You can stay with us, work with us, and give us the leverage to argue and fight and make the Tories compromise. Or you can help the Tories get an overall majority. Or you can put the former Gordon Brown cabinet back into power, doing the things you voted them out for in the first place.

They’re not easy options, but as I have learnt to my political cost, the days of me offering you easy, popular solutions are over. Good night.


Supposing we chose Senators by random lot?

Posted by Jason O on Sep 18, 2012 in Irish Politics

The current debate in Britain on the future of the House of Lords casts an interesting light on the debate about Seanad Eireann. In particular, it raises the question of what an upper house is for. Many of the proposals made about the Seanad, almost all by late to the table “reformers”, involve electing the Seanad in some form of geographical constituency. But what exactly is the point of creating a mirror image to the Dail? Does a small country really need another 60 odd parish pump panderers wandering around denouncing the pretend ignoring of their county? Really? If we are to keep the Seanad, it must be because it brings something different to the debate. The Seanad is only worth keeping if it does not look like the Dail.
So what are the options? One option suggested to me recently was a simple open list system electing a single national constituency. Its advocate admitted that the election would be flooded with local champions, but also pointed out that many interest groups like the IFA, IBEC and the unions would also run interest candidates too, which would probably be a good thing. It’s certainly an idea worth looking at.
Another option is that we just utilise the actual Seanad model as it was designed (although curiously perverted by its own creator, De Valera) and elect a genuinely vocational Seanad. We could elect the existing vocational panels by citizens registering to the panel of their choice, and would allow us to elect a Seanad made up of senators speaking on behalf of declared interest bodies. In fact, the big fear in taking such a step would be that such a senate would almost certainly
begin to eclipse the Dail in terms of serious debate, confirming the Dail as a collection of county councillors on steroids.
Of course, there is another option. Given that no one is advocating that the Seanad should be given equal powers to the Dail, we could afford to be a little risky. We could always appoint a senate, or a proportion thereof, by random lot, choosing registered tax compliant electors from the electoral register. Supposing we did, picking, say, 30 senators based on those criteria plus gender and geographic balance, maybe for a single year term. Outrageous, you say? Sure we could get all sorts then. That’s true. We’d get racists and sexists and bigots but randomly we’d also get liberals and transvestites and immigrants. We would get people who normally would never get a chance to sit in parliament and express their opinion, and so if every eligible citizen every January thinks they might get the call, would that bring politics closer or further away from the people? What would be the effect on our political system of a fresh influx of people every January? I would have thought it would be a good thing. How many of those people, having never dreamed they would ever get a chance, will at the end of their term maybe consider running for election, finding in themselves something they never thought they had? For that reason alone it might be worth giving a go.


New Party Nonsense. With apologies to Flann O’Brian.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 17, 2012 in Irish Politics

The Fella: “We need a new party, for the ordinary people!”

Me: “I see. What will this party stand for?”

The Fella: “It’ll be against the cuts. You know, social justice, that class of a thing.”

Me: “Like Sinn Fein. And Fianna Fail. And the Socialist Party. And the Socialist Workers Party?”

The Fella: “No, it’ll be different!”

Me: “How so?”

The Fella: “It’ll be for the ordinary man on the 46A. For dignity and respect and a world class health service and proper treatment for the old folks and the disabled and the like.”

Me: “Right. How will it pay for these things, then. Dignity isn’t cheap, you know.”

The Fella: “We’ll tax the big boys at the top. Make them pay their fair share.”

Me: “And when they leave, who will you tax to keep the services going?”

The Fella: “There’s all them fish been stolen off us by buckos named Jose, and then there’s all that gas just waiting to be brought ashore and sold. Sure, we’re in clover!”

Me: “Are you off?”

The Fella: “I am. Doing a nixer for a head-the-ball up our way. Cash in the hand.”

Me: “So you won’t be declaring it to the taxman? You know, to pay for public services?”

The Fella: “Will I be what? The taxman? So he can give it to the teachers and nurses and that crowd? I’ll be keeping it in the arsepocket of poor old mise here, if you don’t mind. Taxman!”

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