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

Many arguments against Seanad abolition are just plain guff.

Posted by Jason O on May 10, 2013 in Irish Politics

As we head towards Seanad abolition (possibly 20 weeks and counting?), a number of arguments are being raised as to why THIS unreformed Seanad should be retained.

1. “Yes, the Seanad should be reformed, but let’s save it first”. This argument would be believable, save for the fact that so many people who make it have opposed reform when they had the power to do it. Some Seanad reformers are credible and sincere. Many are not.

2. “This will give the Govt too much power”. Name all the times in its 76 year history that the Seanad has forced the govt to back down.  Where was the Seanad on the night of the bank guarantee?

3. “If we let the Seanad be abolished, the Irish people will not agree to a new reformed Seanad later.” So? It’s their Seanad.

4. “The Dail is not capable of holding the government to account”. Surely that’s an argument for abolishing the Dail, not keeping the Seanad?

5. “The Seanad has provided a vital platform for different voices”. So would an Irish Times column, and be cheaper too. We should keep an entire House of Parliament for six people? This term’s Taoiseach’s nominees are so noticeable because they are so rare, and normally just hacks. As they will be again if the current Seanad is retained. Vincent Browne and Fintan O’Toole aren’t senators. Neither are David Quinn or Breda O’Brien.

6. “We need more time for reform”. No we don’t. The last in-depth report on Seanad reform was in 2006, where it was then let gather dust by many of those who now claim to be passionate reformers. Why did they not push reform then? Because they don’t believe in it.

7. “This is a power grab by the government”. What power? The govvernment already have all the power, a situation Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour all seem quite happy with when in government

The fact is, most of the arguments for keeping the Seanad are theoretical, whereas the reasons for supporting abolition are based on its 76 year history.

I’d also be more convinced about Seanad reform if it were made by people who don’t have a vested interest in it. Many, like Gemma Hussey and Michael McDowell don’t, to their credit, but…

Finally, I’m all in favour of a reformed Seanad. I just don’t believe in future promises of reform from Irish politicians, who, as a general rule, have a difficulty with the truth. Of course, if they vote through reform before the referendum I’ll vote to retain. Maybe they’ll surprise us, but I doubt it.


Want to restore faith in fair taxes? Publish everyone’s.

Posted by Jason O on May 9, 2013 in Irish Politics

There’s an old saying that the two most interesting things in the world are your own money, and other people’s sex lives. Irish people have an add-on to that. They are fascinated by other people’s money, and equally obsessed with keeping their own secret, so what I’m suggesting here will never fly in Ireland.

But just supposing if tomorrow the Revenue Commissioners publish a spreadsheet of everybody’s declared income and amount they actually paid in tax. What would be the outcome? Well, aside from the outrage and at least a thousand people haring it down to the High Court for an injunction, what else would happen?

For a start, we’d learn the truth about income taxes. People would see the huge amounts of actual income tax that the wealthy pay. We’d all immediately look up Michael O’Leary and Bono et al, and discover the truth. Or perhaps we’d discover that they didn’t pay that much after all, through some deft but legal accounting. But either  way, we’d all know, and at least the debate would start from an honest base.

As to what would really be the result? I suspect that some very wealthy people would be revealed to be paying very large amounts in tax, and some wouldn’t. And the Revenue would immediately be on the spot to explain why, which would be a very useful exercise in itself.

But of course, it’s never going to happen, and not because of any  conspiracy. If we put such a proposal to the people in a referendum, it would be overwhelming rejected, not just by the very wealthy but by farmers and publicans and middle ranking civil servants, because, as with everything in Ireland, the majority would have more to lose from change, and those who would gain probably wouldn’t vote anyway.


The curious affair of the box of death.

Posted by Jason O on May 6, 2013 in Jason's Diary

In late October 1979, an ambulance was called to the Kensington home of General Sir Richard Terry, then deputy Chief of Staff of the British Army. General Terry was pronounced dead on the scene from cyanide poisoning, with a short note in his own hand, which was verified by his wife, Lady Susan.

Because of his military rank, and the presence of poison, chief inspector Charles Hayes of the Metropolitan Police was assigned to the case to ensure it was “properly” (read discreetly) handled.

An inspection by Hays of General Terry’s medical history revealed that he had in fact recently been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour which was deemed inoperable, and his life expectancy was measured in a few short and painful months. Further inspection of the records by other specialists at Hays request confirmed this diagnosis.

Hays concluded that there were sufficient grounds for concluding that the  general had indeed taken his own life.

Read more…


The welcome rise of UKIP.

Posted by Jason O on May 5, 2013 in British Politics

This week’s breakthrough for UKIP should be welcomed by anybody who supports a healthy, vibrant democracy. The fact that a country as eurosceptic as Britain does not have a major national “out” party in parliament is an outrage, and if anything underlines the failings of the British political system.

One of the spin-offs for political reformers in Britain (even pro-Europeans) must be that the potential rise of a viable fourth party will show just how ridiculously unsuitable First Past The Post is as an electoral system in a modern multi-choice age. It’s not too fantastic to suggest that a strong performance by UKIP in a general election could result in the Tories winning the most votes but not the most seats. Could it make the Tories wake up (as their Australian counterparts did) to the fact that FPTP may not be the great voting system they think it is?

The other point which should be made is a warning about assumptions by the Tories that UKIP is somehow their errant gene pool, who can be coaxed back into the Tory fold. This may no longer be the case, because UKIP voters would seem to be exercised by issues wider than just the EU, including immigration and cuts to public  services. Working class UKIP voters, for example, seem to believe that they are being undercut by workers from central Europe. Given that the Tories are not opposed to free movement within the EU, the only solution to that is tougher enforcement of employment regulations, something which the Tories would presumably be against. As well as that, talk of deals with the Tories is becoming much less attractive to UKIP as it develops a respectable tally in opinion polls as the “F**k you all” two fingered option to the political  establishment.

Finally, UKIP’s rise should be welcomed because it has underlined the media obsessed paralysis of the three main UKIP parties. Every  time Nigel Farage says something mildly off the political track, he gets  accused of being a bigot or a racist, and guess what: it doesn’t hurt him politically at all, because he speaks in the language that non-political man down the pub speaks, and when you call him a bigot you’re calling Pub Man a bigot too, and he knows he’s not. Farage is by far the most entertaining player on the political stage since Boris, primarily because he doesn’t cage everything in get out clauses and political speak. In short, he sounds authentic, and politics could do with a bit more of that.

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