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

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

Posted by Jason O on Sep 15, 2013 in Irish Politics, Seanad Referendum
s a No vote an invitation for professional politicians to stab you in the back?

Is a No vote an invitation for professional politicians to stab you in the back?

She voted NO in the Seanad referendum because she wanted a reformed Seanad. That’s what the No side said her vote meant. Earnest senators were on the telly and radio every night, describing in detail how the Zappone/Quinn reforms would transform the Seanad into a model upper house, and so she made her way to the polling station and did her duty. She was delighted when the government’s proposal was rejected.

Now, finally, we’ll see some serious reform!

But then funny things started to happen. Nearly all those enthused senators arguing passionately for reform seemed to go quiet, and Seanad reform just evaporated off the political table. Fine Gael and Labour people, who had quietly campaigned against abolition, suddenly started using phrases like “the people have spoken” and “the matter is settled”.

Some senators even started saying that the people were quite happy with the Seanad, sure hadn’t they voted to keep it as it was?

She was livid. She hadn’t voted to keep it as it was, a house for failed Dail candidates and political wannabes. She voted for the Zappone/Quinn reforms, that’s what they’d promised her!

In the general election, a tiny paragraph in the Fianna Fail manifesto didn’t pledge Zappone/Quinn, but yet another Oireachtas Committee to “review the issue”, as the last 12 previous reviews had, and look at maybe turning the Seanad into a replica mini Dail with 40 Super TDs in large constituencies. No mention of Zappone/Quinn anywhere.

Then there was another Seanad election, and she watched a bunch of young party hacks and failed old boys get another 5 years in the best gentleman’s club in town. All taxpayer funded, of course.

And there wasn’t a thing she could do about it, because when she had the power on polling day, she’d voted to give it back to those same senators.


25 things I have learnt as I’ve gotten older.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 13, 2013 in Jason's Diary, Not quite serious.

1. If you have a hole in your sock, throw out the pair. It’ll cause you less frustration in the future. No two black socks are the same black. NASA said so. Probably.

2. It is almost impossible to fall in love with someone who does not make you laugh. If you do, it is highly improbable that it will last.

3. It is, however, possible to fall in love with someone because of their vocabulary.

4. You start to appreciate really simple things, like a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut and a good book.

5. Incredibly, time does actually speed up as you get older, and time management becomes very important. Use your alarm to prevent the day running away from you.

6. Set a single personal objective every day. It could be 30 minutes of a workout or 500 words of a novel. You will feel better once its done.

7. Don’t watch TV in bed. Read.

8. Don’t do “a big shop” for food, as it will spoil faster than you can eat it. Buy as you need it.

9. Set aside time for vegging, which is a pleasure in itself, like, say, watching “NCIS”, and do something productive until that time.

10. Simple foods can be reinvented. Lea and Perrins sauce in baked beans, anyone?

11. Salads can be both filling and tasty, with a bit of imagination.

12. Reducing the number of takeaways you eat actually makes them nicer.

13. Better to have just one proper fry a month, than four “healthy” ones.

14. Going to the cinema in the afternoon is much more enjoyable.

15. You dread people who don’t know you buying you presents, and filling your home with crap you don’t want.

16. You realise that money is a perfectly good wedding present, and the groom/bride will be perfectly happy even if they won’t admit it in public.

17. You stop being intimidated by policemen.

18. There actually are situations in your life where the phrase “if you love someone, set them free” applies.

19. Married people with children are not happier than you, just a different kind of happy.

20. Audiobooks are cool.

21. Much to the horror of your younger self, it is possible to like both old and new movies, music and TV shows.

22. You become more shocked at the deaths of celebrities as they get closer to your age group.

23. Older women are not actually in competition with younger women. They have a completely different type of sex appeal. I refer you to Birgitte Nyborg in “Borgen”.

24. You suddenly realise that you are actually in the middle of your life, and if there’s something you really want to do, you’d better get a move on. You are no longer waiting for life to start. It’s started.

25. Many of the people you watched on the TV as a kid, and were major stars to you, are not only dead, but forgotten.


Is “Vote No for Seanad Reform” the new “Frankfurt’s way or Labour’s way”?

Posted by Jason O on Sep 12, 2013 in Irish Politics, Seanad Referendum

I have a lot of admiration for my opponents in the Seanad referendum campaign. They’re running a very slick, professional campaign (hardly surprising, given the Fianna Fail background of most of them) but mostly, you have to admire their courage.

Here are people, many of whom will seek public office in the next five years or so, who are putting their own personal integrity and judgement on the line by pledging that a No vote will definitely lead to the implementation of the Zappone/Quinn reforms.

Pledges that, like Eamonn Gilmore’s declaration of 2011, will follow them throughout their political careers.

They’re effectively saying:

 “Yes, a No vote will definitely lead to the implementation of Zappone/Quinn within a relatively short period of time, and certainly before the 2021 elections at the latest. I’m staking my personal reputation on that.”

You have to admire that.


10 Reasons to Vote No to Seanad Abolition.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 9, 2013 in Irish Politics, Seanad Referendum

1. It is right that better educated people like David Norris get two votes compared to the lesser educated classes, who should really know their place.

2. Politicians deserve to have a well-paid special club that they can appoint each other to if the people refuse to elect them to Dail Eireann. Why do you think Seanad elections are held AFTER Dail elections, and not on the same day?

3. The Taoiseach needs somewhere to appoint people like Eoghan Harris.

4. A NO vote will lead to the political system committing to Seanad reform with the same gusto it has shown for a United Ireland, restoring Irish, maintaining neutrality and draining the Shannon.

5. The rumours that the NO campaign is effectively a Fianna Fail front, and that a NO vote will be used by Fianna Fail as an endorsement are a disgrace. Why, just count the number of online campaigners who aren’t members of Fianna Fáil. There must be dozens   quite a few.

6. A NO vote is a vote of trust in Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour to reform the Seanad. You can trust them. You know you can.

7. Or a NO vote is a vote of thanks to the hardworking senators and a message to the government to leave the Seanad exactly the way it is.

8. The fact that despite the reality that we have elected 100s of senators we can only all name the same 10 is neither here nor there. Same with all those senators who were appointed to the cabinet.

9. The fact that Seanad reform only became a major issue AFTER abolition became a realistic prospect is pure coincidence, and only a bearded cynic would suggest otherwise.

10. It’s an outrage to suggest that the great majority of Seanad Reformers quite fancy being senators. An outrage!


Seanad: The No side have a dream. The Yes side have an objective.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 6, 2013 in Irish Politics, Seanad Referendum

One thing that has struck me during the Seanad debate is the fact that both sides seem to be operating in different but parallel political environments.

The No side tend to speak to a very idealistic vision, talking about the Seanad as it could and indeed should be, what it could look like, and what it could do when it got there, noble public servants passionately debating the People’s business and the common good.

The Yes side live in the same political environment as Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour.

The No side (perhaps because there are far more politicians openly campaigning on the No side, as many FG/Lab office holders seem to secretly agree with the No side) see many politicians as noble, diligent reformers. The Yes side, especially the non-political people, have a much lower faith in politicians.

The No side seems to be much more patient, and happy to wait for reform, whenever it may occur. They almost rub their hands with glee at the prospects of year after year of summer school debate on vocational panels and closed lists. The Yes side want the clean definite result of abolition decided on October 4th.

The No side believe that the parties can be shamed into accepting the need for Seanad Reform. The Yes side have met our parties. Watching them carve up, for example, the European constituencies for party benefit, as opposed to having a single constituency which offers the widest choice to all voters. These are the people the No side believes will do the right thing.

The Yes side is, shall we say, sceptical.


Rosalyn “Rosie” Hackett TD, 1950-1992.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 3, 2013 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.
Rosie Hackett TD

Rosie Hackett TD

Rosie (as everyone knew her) Hackett, after whom Dublin City Council named a bridge this week, served a short term (1987-1989) as a Progressive Democrat TD for Dublin West, elected in the famous PD breakthrough of 1987.

A native of Galway, Rosie had spent most of her life in the UK, first as one of the few women in Lloyds in the late 1970s, and then as a lecturer in the London School of Economics, before returning to Ireland in the mid 1980s.

Although largely forgotten now, Rosie, along with Michael McDowell, was regarded as the economic ideological driving force behind the party. A convinced free marketeer and low tax advocate, ironically she had been a member of the Labour splinter SDP when in Britain. She single-handedly wrote the first draft of the first PD manifesto, “A Nation That Works”.

What Rosie was most known for, however, was her sense of fun. she famously got into a passionate debate with Leas Ceann Comhairle Jim Tunney, who objected to her short skirts, as to what constituted too short and as to whether she was having a detrimental effect on him. She was also quite likely the first person in Oireachtas history to ever suggest that same sex marriage might one day be possible (a remark which caused hilarity in the chamber).

She narrowly lost her seat in 1989, and despite turning down a Seanad nomination (the seat went instead to future FF minister Martin Cullen) she had hoped to contest the Dail election in 1992. Sadly, she was diagnosed with cancer in early 1991 and passed away in December 1992.

Personal note: I only met Rosie twice, at the 1991 and 1992 party conferences, but she was well known for her enthusiasm for the party’s youth section, the Young Democrats. It should be noted, of course, that she was a very attractive woman (she’d modelled in the US in her youth) and the joke was that pretty much every male YD had a crush on her. That was pretty much true, not that anyone had a chance. Rosie, who never married, was always highly amused at the rumours of exotic trysts, including with a Kennedy and one of the stars of the 1970s TV show “The Professionals”.

There were plenty of stories of her taking YDs on epic pub and nightclub crawls (she was fond of a glass of Black Bush) followed by a slap up early morning feed in Jury’s Coffee Dock and a debate on the pros and cons of Aer Lingus privatisation or Seanad abolition.  The YDs used to raffle, as a fundraiser, a lift with Rosie to the party conference in her Fiat convertible, this when any sort of convertible was regarded as the height of glamour.

The second time I met her, in 1992, she was in a wheelchair and everyone knew the diagnosis wasn’t good. Yet she stayed up with us all night, excitedly telling us of a new TV show she’d recently discovered called “The Simpsons” and pretty much acting it out scene by scene, and explaining to us the concept of a Tobin Tax. She was warm, funny, generous (she’d never let a young member pay for anything in her presence) and Irish politics is poorer for her passing.

A bridge is the least we can do for Rosie.



When I was a kid in the 1970s, US cops didn’t draw their guns. They did have a very funky soundtrack though.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 3, 2013 in Movies/TV/DVDs


11 reasons to vote YES to Seanad abolition.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 2, 2013 in Irish Politics, Seanad Referendum

1. The current Seanad is undemocratic. it’s made up of professional politicians elected mostly by other professional politicians. It is a club for failed or aspiring professional politicians. Why do you think Seanad elections are scheduled to be held AFTER Dail elections, as opposed to on the same day? To allow them two bites of the cherry. Do we really need to provide politicians with a safety net of a spare job? Do you have one?

2. A NO vote is not a vote for reform. The NO campaign cannot tell you which parties will definitely reform the Seanad. In power, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour, who all have members claiming to support reform, have BLOCKED reform when they were in power. Fine Gael and Labour BLOCKED Seanad reform only earlier this year. The NO campaign is full of ex cabinet ministers who never even attempted to reform the Seanad when they had the power to.

3. The Seanad does not hold the government to account. Don’t believe me, just ask yourself this question: Does Enda fear the Seanad the way Chancellor Merkel fears her senate, or President Obama the US Senate? Or does he even give a toss?

4. Many Seanad reformers showed little interest in Seanad reform until the abolition of the Seanad became a serious possibility. I wonder why?

5. The NO campaign talk about the Seanad in theoretical terms, about what a ideal Seanad should be doing. The YES campaign ask people just to look at the Seanad as it actually is, whether it is graphically describing the Taoiseach’s toilet habits, Facebook “fraping”, Hitler, or fannies.

6. If the Seanad is as important as the NO campaign believe, if we vote YES to abolish, it’ll force the professional politicians to come back to us at the next election with serious proposals for a new reformed Seanad. We’ve done this before, when De Valera abolished the Seanad, and replaced it with a new Seanad in the 1930s.

7. Ask Seanad reformers why, if they are so sure that a NO vote will  automatically lead to Seanad Reform, why they won’t, on principle, rule out serving in an unreformed future Seanad. You’ll get a lot of “That’s not the issue!” guff.

8. You as an ordinary voter have the power to abolish this corrupt, undemocratic Seanad on your ballot paper. That’s why the professional politicians are promising all sorts of reform. If you vote to keep the Seanad, you give them back their power.

9. Voting NO will not harm the government. When was the last time you voted for a party based on the result of a referendum held years before?

10. The Seanad is so full of party hacks that they didn’t even have the guts to vote against their own abolition. So much for standing up to the government.

11. A NO vote will be hijacked by the professional politicians as a vote of confidence in the Seanad as it currently stands, and will be used to oppose reform. They will claim that the Irish people have voted against change, and to keep the Seanad as it is.


Jason’s Diary

Posted by Jason O on Sep 1, 2013 in Jason's Diary

Just finished Alfred Coppel’s “The Hastings Conspiracy”, about a Soviet plan to trick a left wing British Government into thinking the US planned to invade Britain. 1970s hokum, but enjoyable enough. I’m now in that wonderful position of perusing that mocking edifice that is my “To Be Read” pile for my next book. It’s looking like Tim Weiner’s “Enemies: A history of the FBI”.

I’m also currently interchanging between seasons 3 of “Breaking Bad” and “Dexter” on Netflix. Have to say, I’m enjoying Dexter more, as it is (ironically) a bit lighter, and just a tad more fun. Breaking Bad, I’ve found, has been a bit of a slog. I enjoy it, true, and can see what all the hoohah is about, but the reality is that I limit my TV viewing everyday, and prefer to allocate it to Dexter.

Just finished a first draft (20,000 words) of a new short story, Dr Iceweather, about a capitalist terrorist. Not sure if it’s any good yet, but starting the polishing process. The plan is to bundle it with two new short stories I’ve plotted but not written yet as a collection for Amazon. One of them has the working title of  “Adolf Hitler Street, Tel Aviv.”

And then there’s the Seanad referendum. Have been asked to speak in a debate (possibly 2) in late Sept (details to follow) and I’m working on my online contribution to the Yes side. My gut instinct tells me that turnout will be low, that pro-Seanad middle class voters are more likely to vote, and that the No side is ahead, despite what the polls say. But that just makes it all the more exciting.

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