Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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The Diary of Arthur Henchy TD Part 7.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 18, 2014 in Not quite serious., The Diary of Arthur Henchy TD

So, after much political peacockery, thrust-out chests and indignation in the chamber over GSOC, do we actually know if GSOC was bugged or not? Do we in our shite. We might as well all have been playing the banjo in the chamber. Sad thing is that I look at the special advisors and media handlers and they all think this play-acting is all achieving something. Now onto another bunfight about Frank Flannery. Of course, we used to do the same to people “close to FF” when we were in opposition. All a load of nonsense.

*****

Looking at some of the people being selected for the European Parliament, I can’t help thinking that Colm McCarthy’s observation is pretty much correct, that the Irish people think that there’s some Yoda fella in a back room making all the real decisions, and so we can elect clowns because it doesn’t really matter. I often suspect that if we had to directly elect people with real jobs, like air traffic controllers or brain surgeons, the voters would carefully scrutinise their CVs to see did they run Heathrow Control for ten years, or act as head of surgery in Cedar-Sinai or the Mayo Clinic? Yet ask Irish people to elect someone to run a €150 billion euro economy, and we ask was he any good at the hurling?

*****

My best pal in this place is Tom Lavelle, who is FF TD for Mayo North West, or as he says, seven cows, three sheep, 4000 gas workers, 3000 Guards, and 500 Dutch and German ecowarriors.

Tom and I both came in 1981, although he did better than me, spending a few years as minister of state for something involving paperwork, and three months in the cabinet as minister for defence in the chaos of 81/82. Tom always reckons Haughey named him to the cabinet by accident because he got his name wrong, as Tom had not been what was called a Haughey man. Funnily enough, he always maintains that he and Haughey got on well personally, which didn’t surprise me. Unlike me, Tom went to university, studied abroad a bit, and takes an interest in global politics, and Haughey always enjoyed a discussion about The Big Picture. “Ask any of these fuckers about The Big Picture,” he told Tom once, pointing at his cabinet ministers, “and they’d wonder were you talking about screen one in the Savoy.”

Once a week, we get away from the bubble and nip out for lunch. I was asking him how things were going in the DeValera Party. He rolls his eyes. “Micheal, God love him, is doing his best. But some of them think now that 2011 was just a statistical hiccup, and we’ll be back in 2016. There’s a gang of young bucks who’ve started saying that the Irish people owe us an apology. An apology!There’s murmurings about the need for a new leader. The name doing the rounds is Niall Collins.”

“Niall Collins?” I ask, holding me club sandwich in mid-bite. “Sure, when did he start lighting up the place?”

Tom shrugs his shoulders.

“I haven’t a notion. They keep using the word “shrewd” to describe him. I’ve no idea what they’re talking about. Someone saw him reading a book, and they got all excited. You know what they’re like. Do you know that half the last parliamentary party never said a word to Martin Mansergh? Half of them thought he spoke a different language, and the other half were afraid they’d catch it. There’s one of them who blushes every time Averil Power speaks to him and runs out of the room.”

*****

Masterful stroke by Big Phil on the Dublin Mayor thing. He knows councillors don’t want it, but wants to be seen as a man doing things, so he actually transferred the power to stop a referendum on it to the councillors, who will now claim that they’re in favour of reform, just not this reform. Hey presto, the referendum gets blocked, Phil says it was not his choice, nobody gets blamed, and all parties get to say they’re in favour of an elected Dublin Mayor. If Machiavelli were alive today he’d be taking notes and asking people how to spell “Kilkenny”.

Arthur Henchy TD was elected first for Kildare East in 1981. Some of the statistics he studies don’t have horses names beside them.

 
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News from Ireland 2020: Surprise Yes vote on Nuclear Plant.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 18, 2014 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.
Coming soon to Carnsore.

Coming soon to Carnsore.

Wexford 2020: Despite a series of opinion polls predicting defeat by a 10 point margin, Wexford County today voted by 57.1% in favour of the ESB proposal to build a nuclear power plant at Carnsore Point. Leaders of the NO campaign were quick to condemn the result, pointing out that the voters had been bribed by the Community Gain package that had been promised by the government if the proposal was ratified by the voters of the county.

Under the package, every existing home will be entitled to a a tax free lump sum of €5000 each year, as a recognition of the county’s willingness to “bear the burden” of hosting the nation’s sole nuclear power plant. It is hoped that the scheme, which will last for 20 years, and cost the ESB approximately €28 million per annum, will protect property prices in the county.

The leader of the NO campaign, Sebastian Wilcox-Smyth, speaking from his home in Dalkey, said that the people of Wexford had no right to impose nuclear power on the “ordinary people”, and would be taking the matter to the High Court. Wilcox-Smyth was involved in a controversy during the campaign when it emerged that his group, People Before Everything, had previously campaigned against the building of wind farms near anywhere “where human beings dwell.” The YES campaign suggested building them on Mars.

 
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What about a Netflix for newspapers?

Posted by Jason O on Mar 18, 2014 in Jason's Diary, Just stuff, Politics

As newspapers and magazines vanish behind paywalls, I find myself in a conundrum. See, I understand the economics, and it’s one of the few areas I agree with Rupert Murdoch. Quality journalism can’t be free: someone has to pay for the journalists to go places and ask questions and to professionally report on that news. Everything can’t be free.

But here’s the problem: I’ve been spoilt. I want to read more than one newspaper and I don’t want to pay €20 subscriptions for a single one. I want to read The Economist, and New York magazine, and The Daily Telegraph and The Times and the New York Times and The Washington Post and The Guardian and The Independent and Der Spiegel.

So, what am I willing to pay for? Consider the Netflix option. I effectively pay €84 a year for that, but look at the choice. I feel like I’m getting value, and importantly, I’m paying-as-I-go, so I don’t take the hit of a large subscription.

So why not offer me a monthly subscription, but let me pick and swap, say, 10 of the wide selection of periodicals.

That I’ll pay for.

 
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The Irish Psyche.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 17, 2014 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.
The Sum Of Our Parts

The Sum Of Our Parts

It seems to me that there are certain attributes that make up the Irish psyche:

1. A deep suspicion of ideas. We’ve never been great on the abstract concept or ideology. An Irishman would think little of going from being a Communist to a Capitalist, as long as there was something in it for him. And the English were in the other camp. Even nationalism, the most powerful political concept in Ireland, has more to do with hating another country than thinking through what it means to be Irish. Yet in our core we are deeply conservative, electing the same centre-right minimum change possible duopoly at EVERY election since 1921.

2. Grouphate. Whereas we don’t do ideas well, we’re Olympic class at hating a designated group. It’s almost impossible in Ireland to separate passionate nationalism from Anglophobia. Just count how many union jacks you have seen in a single week flying in Ireland, before Elizabeth II’s visit. Or have a detailed discussion about what a united Ireland would look like with its most passionate advocates. Once you get past “the effin’ Brits this” or “the bastard Brits that” they’re out of ideas. You’ll get a few slogans at best.

3. Masochism is a national sport in Ireland. Only the Irish would come up with a phrase like “If I had your money, I’d burn me own”. A boot to the throat and a face in the cold wet mud reveals a mind that’s thinking “As soon as this bastard gets off me and walks back to the big house, I’m going to give him the glaring of his life!” Whether it’s the Brits, the IMF, the EU or our own potatoes, someone is always plottin’ agin’ us, and winning too. Curiously, we kinda like the sense of helplessness, and the idea that nothing is really in our power.

4. Hypocrisy is a form of cleverness. Waving your fist at the departing British monarch, before turning to give your son a belt for not getting down on his hands and knees in the dirt as the archbishop passes in his finery, that’s us. Whether it’s abortion, the Irish language, child abuse, neutrality or nuclear power, saying one thing and doing the other is regarded as perfectly normal to the Irish. Only an Irish emigrant can return home to Ireland and start complaining about foreigners taking Irish jobs, and be regarded as being perfectly reasonable. The saddest part is that we approach these issues like a dog with his head under the bed: because he can’t see anyone, he assumes he’s being clever, and no one can see what he’s up to. The problem is that the whole world can see the Irish arse sticking out from under the bed.

5. We are genuinely shocked when other countries act the way we do. We go to Brussels to defend our national interest (read: Money). Yet when the French or Germans do the same thing to us we are stunned, and regard them as bastards for, well, being like us.

6. Loyalty is the trait we rate above everything else, the source of our strength and most of our problems. If one of our friends told us they’d murdered someone, our gut instinct is to find out why, listening carefully for a moral nugget to latch onto to preserve the friendship. It is a noble trait which has kept our communities strong. It’s also why we hardly ever jail anyone for corruption.

7. We assume that rules are a good idea. For other people. Only in Ireland can someone shake their heads in sadness at news of “the carnage on our roads”, shake their fist at the government for “doing nothing”, and then flash their lights at other drivers to warn them not that they are speeding, but that there is a Garda car or a GATSO van parked up ahead trying to catch people breaking the speed limit. Why else would most Irish be happy to choose Catholicism as a religion, other than we have the absolution of the confessional, the “a la carte menu” of religions?

8. We will accept things in other countries that we’d never accept in Ireland. People who sniff at the minimum wage in Ireland will wait tables in Boston, London, Berlin or Melbourne. Go figure.

9. We take greater pleasure in the failure of others more sucessful than us than we do in our own success. Better us all be living in the shit than some of us break out.

10. Yet we can be pragmatic and clever (defeated the British), creative (U2, our comedians), intolerant of total nutters (A democracy since 1921, deposed the Catholic Church eventually) and this is not, in the grand scheme of things, a bad country to live in. Go figure.

Note: A variation of this post was put up in 2011.

 
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News from Ireland 2020: Uproar in Mayo as govt spending in Mayo linked to taxes collected in Mayo.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 17, 2014 in Ireland 2020, Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Mayo 2020: Large protests led by local county councillors and TDs have marched in Castlebar and Westport after it emerged that the County Council may have to raise a local council tax to fund local services. The row emerged after the directly elected Mayor of Mayo pointed out that under the 2017 Local Government Act, which devolved block grants to the County Council for health, education, policing and housing amongst others, if the the people of Mayo want to spend more on public services than the grants allow, then they have to be willing to fund it themselves.

“This is not rocket science.” The mayor said. “Mayo gets the same block grant per head of population as Dublin, and we decide how it is spent in Mayo. It’s true we have wider areas to cover, but we also have lower costs than Dublin. A nurse in Dublin gets paid more than a nurse in Mayo because his living costs are higher. If we want more services than other counties, we have to pay for them ourselves. We have spent years complaining about being told what to do by Dublin. Now, we are masters of our own destiny, something that some councillors seem to want to run a mile from. They’re into my office every day looking for additional spending on this GAA club or that road, but when I ask them to discuss how we pay for all this, they’re on the streets protesting against the county council that they are elected members of. Well, this isn’t the old days of the county manager. We run this county, the council and me, and it’s time they grew a pair.”

Councillor Olly Slipper (FG) condemned the mayor for “not standing up for Mayo”. “It’s a disgrace that the people of Mayo are expected to pay taxes for the services in Mayo. A disgrace! It is obvious that Mayo is a special case and should get extra funding from taxpayers in other counties, something that I think they’d be delighted to do. The mayor should be up in Dublin lobbying for other counties to pay a special Mayo tax to fund extra services in Mayo. We have a right to fairness!”

 
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News from Ireland 2020: Michael O’Leary led for-profit trades union declares results.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 15, 2014 in Ireland 2020, Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

WorkRights, the private for-profit trades union founded by former Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has posted a post-tax profit of €1.2m after its first year of operation. O’Leary, addressing the company’s first AGM, welcomed the profit result as vindication of his belief that old fashioned trades unions were failing their members, and that an AA style operation would better serve modern employees.

“How is it that in a single year we have signed up 42,000 workers at a membership fee of €150 per annum? I’ll tell you how. Because WorkRights stands up for all its members, not just the ones who work in the public sector. And I’ll tell you another thing. WorkRights executives don’t have anywhere near the feathernested packages of ICTU and SIPTU big cheese! We put our membership fees into providing services for our members.”

Since opening business in 2019, WorkRights has provided employment law advice to or represented over 12,000 non-unionised workers at the Labour Court, Rights Commissioners and Labour Relations Commission, as well as negotiated special pension, health insurance and other benefits for its members. O’Leary famously received a salary of €1 for his time as CEO, having promised that he could represent ordinary Irish workers better than “that crowd of hairy Hoxhas in Liberty Hall.”

SIPTU and ICTU delegates could not be reached for comment.

 
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News from Ireland 2020: Action Party continues to lead FF/FG in polls.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 14, 2014 in Fiction, Ireland 2020, Irish Politics
Action Party Leader Suzanne Smith

Action Party Leader Suzanne Smith

The newly formed Action Party continues to lead in the recent Red C poll in the Sunday Business Post. Excluding don’t knows, the poll puts the AP on 38%, FF on 24%, FG on 18%, Labour on 6%, Sinn Fein on 13% and others on 1%. Sources in the FG/Labour coalition said that “the only poll the government is interested in will be on polling day.”
Political pundits have called the continued strong performance of the Action Party extraordinary, considering that it is only a year old and has no TDs or senators. Suzanne Smith, the well-known businesswoman and party leader, continues to lead in the polls as preferred choice for Taoiseach. Tom Haskey of the Irish Times: “What’s interesting is the level of enthusiasm for the party. People either love it or hate it, and let’s be honest, the National Guard is the source of much of that strong feeling.”

Read more…

 
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News from Ireland 2020: Gardai protest growth of Private Police.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 13, 2014 in Ireland 2020, Irish Politics, Not quite serious.
NPSI officers on patrol in Galway yesterday.

NPSI officers on patrol in Galway yesterday.

I posted this four years ago:

Galway 2020: Garda unions have lodged a formal protest with the Mayor of Galway following the decision of the City Council to outsource public order duties to National Police Service of Ireland Ltd. Under the decision of the council, the Garda Siochana will no longer be responsible for non-national security policy in the boundaries of Galway city. This has followed a three-year trial period where the NPSI policed the city alongside the Gardai, as they were entitled to do under the 2014 Private Security Act.

Addressing a press conference, the mayor stoutly defended his policy: “The reality is that, after three years patrolling public areas, dealing with tourist crime, public order and safety issues, our polling has shown that the people of Galway overwhelmingly preferred dealing with the NPSI over the Gardai. They found them more responsive, more courteous, more professional, and the fact is, they are better at solving crimes than the Gardai.” The Garda unions complained that NPSI have more resources than the Gardai, a claim disputed by the mayor. “Since the government devolved policing budgets to the county councils, we found that the cost of putting a single Garda on patrol, when you weigh in salary costs, pension and early retirement, is the same as two and a half PSNI officers. NPSI officers tend to be younger, fitter, better trained and have more modern equipment than the Gardai, because their budget is not overwhelmingly spent on pay. Galway just cannot afford the Gardai anymore.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions was criticised by Garda unions earlier in the year when an email from within her office admitted that NPSI’s in-house  unit of barristers supervising investigations had meant that NPSI files tended to be far better prepared and generally stronger cases than those submitted by Gardai. Garda unions demanded more resources. The email stated: “It should be noted that NPSI cases tend to be founded on presentation of forensic evidence, CCTV footage and corroborative statements to a much greater degree than Garda files, which rely overwhelmingly on confessions by an alleged guilty individual. There are also far more cases submitted, per head of population, by the NPSI than by the Gardai. It would seem that the NPSI seem to “see” more crimes committed than the Gardai. Having said that, the Gardai continue to lead the NPSI on road traffic violation charges, particularly during good weather.”

The decision follows six years of legal battles, where Garda unions attempted to force the DPP not to accept files prepared by the NPSI, claiming that as a private organisation it could be corrupted. Previously, the court had ruled that the DPP had to consider properly prepared documents indicating that a crime had been committed, regardless of their source. The case memorably collapsed in the High Court last year when former FBI agents, brought in as consultants by NPSI, conclusively proved that not only were investigation standards in the NPSI higher than the Gardai, but that anti-corruption measures within the NPSI were far stronger than in the Gardai. A further embarrassment was caused when the Garda Ombudsman, charged with regulating the NPSI, admitted that the NPSI cooperated with her office to a far greater degree than the Garda authorities did. Garda unions demanded more resources.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Two-Faced Councillor.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 12, 2014 in Irish Politics, Occasional Guide to Irish Politics

She’s all in favour of an elected mayor of Dublin, and will talk about Boris Johnson and Rudy Giuliani all night long. She’s been in favour since it was first suggested by Noel Dempsey and Bobby Molloy in 1999. Yeah, she’s been talking about it for 15 years. During which London has held a referendum, created a mayor, and held four mayoral elections. She’s all in favour.

Until she actually has to vote to let the people of Dublin decide in a referendum as to whether THEY want an elected mayor for THEIR city. Then the mask slips: the proposals aren’t radical enough, the mayor won’t have enough powers, there’s no consensus, any aul nonsense to prevent the little people from voting, because what’s it’s got to do with them? They’re not members of Dublin City Council, or South Dublin, or Dublin Fingal! They’re just the rabble who pay the Local Property Tax and councillors expenses. What’s it go to do with THEM? They should mind their own business, the nosy bastards.

The truth is, she doesn’t really want an elected mayor because she wants the one year rotating taxpayer funded jolly that is the current mayor of Dublin, and if there’s an elected Super Mayor people will start asking questions. But she can’t say that in public, so instead she’s try the “not radical enough” guff. So she can vote to block the riff-raff voting on it until her and the political elite can spend another 15 years discussing it. Funnily enough, she was in favour of keeping the Seanad and reforming that yoke too.

How’s that “Vote No for Reform” working out for you , by the way?

 
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Enda is a good Taoiseach. He could be a great one.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 10, 2014 in Irish Politics

To quite grasp what sort of Taoiseach Enda Kenny is, cast your mind back to the last chaotic weeks of the last Fianna Fail government. Remember cabinet ministers not actually knowing if the country was about to surrender its economic sovereignty. Remember members of the parliamentary party actually hiding in toilets or turning off their phones to avoid being appointed to the cabinet weeks before polling day. Remember the questions about drink in the middle of the greatest economic crisis we had ever faced?

Then we got Enda, and calmness, and a bit of dignity restored, and, it has to be said, a sense that the new crowd at least had a plan. That the bailout and the budget deficit would be rationally worked through, and that employment would be the number one priority.

And it was, and is, and slowly there’s a sense that things are picking up and the dust is clearing.

If Enda stepped down tomorrow, he’d step down as the most successful leader of Fine Gael ever (Enda!) and a Taoiseach who quietly surprised us all in steering us through the worst of the storm.

And yet he could be so much more.

Remember when political reform was bandied around in 2011? The New Politics, all that? Say that to people inside the bubble and you get the sneer. “Political reform? Yeah, that’s all they talk about on the canvass in Ringsend or Athenry.” It’s true, they don’t. Nobody talks about getting serious about electoral reform or separating the executive from the legislature on the doorstep. But here’s the thing. In 2007 I’ll bet they didn’t talk about banking regulation either, and the same class of fella in the bubble did nothing about that either, and crippled our country as a result. They may not be talking about political reform in the pubs across the country. They’re not talking about medical device safety standards either, or air traffic control, or the proper control on the sale of pharmaceuticals. But let a pacemaker fail because of shoddy standards and you’ll discover that the public assumed that the minister for health was doing his job. Just because it’s not being talked about on Joe Duffy doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

He’s giving the economic issues plenty of attention, and they have to be his priority. These are people lives, and they are the things he’ll be measured on, and rightly so. But the big picture, the political infrastructure that makes it all work, or in the case of the last government, takes us to the brink? All that stuff matters, yet it seems to have nothing to do with him, as if someone else will think the big thoughts. Well, there is no one else. There’s Enda, and this is the difference between a legacy as that nice fella from Mayo who tidied up after that crowd, and the Taoiseach who actually grasped the big picture and the importance of not just fixing the problems, but making sure they don’t happen again.

We’re looking for the next Lemass, and people sometimes forget that Lemass is revered today not for his day to day, but for the two big ideas that radically changed the status quo: industrialisation and Europe. It’s time for Enda to think big.

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