Posted by Jason O on May 27, 2014 in Irish Politics
I found this excellent link on new Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne’s (Dublin City Council-Pembroke/South Dock) website. It’s the best display of STV in action I’ve ever seen.
Well done Claire! (And well done on the election too.)
Posted by Jason O on May 25, 2014 in Irish Politics
A few observations (or even questions) from the results yesterday:
1. Did the increase in the number of seats per Local Electoral Area (minimum of six seats) save Labour from an even greater wipeout? Seems to be a fair few Lab councillors taking 5th, 6th or 7th seats. Could there be a lesson here for the general election, especially as the Constitutional Convention specifically suggested that all constituencies should be a minimum of 5 seats?
2. Let’s not lose the run of ourselves: Although counting is still continuing, the parties that supported the Troika won about 56% of the vote, which would be a landslide in most other countries.
3. Sinn Fein’s continued rise means that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have to start answering the coalition question, especially if the large number of Independents narrows the coalition choice. It’s hard to see FG voters tolerating an FG/SF coalition (or SF members/voters, for that matter) which means that the key question of Election 2016 is going to be: is a vote or preference for Fianna Fail a de facto proxy vote to put Sinn Fein into government? Fianna Fail can’t try to dismiss this question as an issue for post-vote closed door negotiations. The voters have a right to know the answer before we vote.
4. Micheal Martin seems to be in office in FF but not in power. First his senators ignored him, then his TDs told him what his policy on abortion was, and now Mary Hanafin is about to tell him who can and can’t be members of Fianna Fail. It raises a question: if he can’t stand up to Mary Hanafin, how could he possibly stand up to Sinn Fein?
5. The rise of the Independents is both fascinating and dangerous, especially as many voters seem to be projecting their own ideas of what Independents stand for onto Independent candidates who already have their own possibly different values. For example, how many pro-choice Independent voters don’t know that they voted yesterday for a pro-life candidate endorsed by the Life Institute? In a Dail with 25-30 Independents, things could go a bit loopy. It’s easy enough to buy off 3-4 with a few constituency sweeties, but not 10-15 with party TDs wondering what’s the point being in a party in the first place? More to the point, could we even see Independents demand places at cabinet in return for support? It’s happened before.
6. Are we about to see Labour rise up against its coalition partners? No, not those ones! Democratic Left!
The next two years won’t be boring, that’s for sure. Buckle up!
Additional: it’s a disgrace that we don’t have a proper electoral commission that publishes up-to-date election full count results online. And why are these counts taking so f**king long!
Posted by Jason O on May 22, 2014 in Irish Politics
A submission from one of my readers, “Martina Carroll” (I use inverted commas because my email reply bounced back, so I can’t verify if this is his/her actual name).
“His failed political views are reviled by the country and his political aspirations went nowhere. He reposts his old blog posts endlessly, because for him new thoughts and ideas are difficult at this point in his life. The posts are characterised by a curious absence of comments. Standalone bathroom stall echo chambers.
The world bewilders him. He pines for a time in history when he might have been respected, but no such time ever existed. He wanted to be a successful author and make regular appearances slobbering and lisping on radio programmes to spread his simple views. But none of that was even close to getting off of the ground.
His primeval ways are summarised by his ridiculous little beard, which he grows to remind him of his youth when he had sexual vitality, when he was in the game. It explains his ape-like hatred of all people under 35. His wife might tug it affectionately and it makes him feel like a man.
His isolated corner on the web is safe from public interaction and criticism. Sure better things are written for the local paper, so why should anybody care?
What’s so missing from his life? Why is he shifting his own failures on to others? A lost soul with no chance for a different future for himself, his decisions in life now irreversible with what little time he has left. A man with no warmth or compassion. Ah, but don’t blame him bitterness. It’s all he has left.”
MARTIN SCHULZ: EUROPE’S FIRST PRIME MINISTER?
Repost from November, with updates: It’s funny how things happen in Europe. Rarely with big bangs, but instead incrementally, bit by bit, tiny step by cautious tiny step. Next year, another step may be about to occur, an action which has potentially huge consequences for the future of the EU. Yet nobody seems to be noticing.
The Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament has nominated Martin Schulz MEP, the German President of the European Parliament, as the “common candidate” of the group for the European Elections in May of next year. This decision was ratified in March at a S&D party congress. What does that all mean? It means that the S&D group, the second largest group in the parliament, has a designated candidate for President of the European Commission. The centre-right European People’s Party, the largest group, nominated Jean Claude Juncker their own candidate in Dublin in March, as did the liberal ALDE group (former Belgian PM Guy “Tintin” Verhofstadt). The Greens nominated two candidates, Ska Keller and Jose Bove.
Of course, the European media for the most part ignored this whole dimension, and focussed on the usual local bunfights that are European Elections. However, the real fun will happen after the elections, when the member states move to nominate a new European Commission. What happens when they encounter a bolshy parliament which has, in its own mind, fought a European wide general election style campaign and has winners and losers, and designated candidates for the highest office in the EU?
But no one has heard of these people, the member states will shout, and they’ll be right. Ah, but we have, and we’ve just all been elected in a free and fair election, the parliament will reply, and they will, curiously, be right too.
But surely, the media across Europe will ask, surely the parliament is just a talking shop that can be ignored by the member states? But that’s just the point. Both the national media and indeed the national governments seem to have not quite grasped how much power they have given the European Parliament in every EU treaty, to the extent that the EP can actually block the member states’ nominee for president.
So what happens then? Well, if the member states, through the European Council, do accept the nominee of parliament, that changes everything, because once parliament gets to pick the Commission President once it will hold onto that power for ever more. That means that parliament gets to choose the Commission President into the future, and that means that we now would have an executive both chosen and dismissible by the parliament, albeit held in check by the Council acting as a powerful senate.
And that, my friends, means that Europe has now become a parliamentary democracy with a de facto prime minister answerable not to the member states but parliament. After all, the council can’t dismiss an incumbent President of the Commission, only the parliament can. And if that president is Martin Schulz, the outgoing President of the European Parliament and a man with more ties to the parliament than the national capitals…
Yet say this to the national media, and they look blankly at you.
Posted by Jason O on May 21, 2014 in Not quite serious.
By all accounts, he’s a lovely fella. He’s good looking, slim, tall, well spoken, intelligent. On paper he should be a huge success. Except…what is it? He just doesn’t have it. In short, he’s the Mitt Romney of Irish television. His shows boast “chat”, and “familiar faces” and “much, much more” and are very well produced professionally, and he really works hard at being the cheeky chappy. His gurus are Conan O’Brien and the young David Letterman and maybe Jonathan Ross, and he spends hours watching DVDs of them, trying to find his eureka moment, and distill what they have into something useful, but God love him, it just isn’t happening. When he attempts to develop a “nice to see you…” style catchphrase, it bombs painfully: “I’m good tonight, how are you?” hoping for a “good tonight!” roarback, instead he gets silence and a mutter that sounds like “clucking mildo”.
For a laugh, he went with a few mates to a tarot card reader. She ran from the tent wailing, seeing him in twenty years time putting a revolver in his mouth during a Late Late tribute to B*witched special, and splashing his brains all over the iPad 7 that now presents the show. Everyone in the audience gets a toaster as compensation.
Posted by Jason O on May 20, 2014 in Irish Politics
On Friday, a major event will happen in the lives of nearly ten people I know. Some are friends, some I know just to say hello to. But on polling day, some will see a career launch which may lead all the way to the cabinet. Some will see a lifelong ambition crumble. Some will see their council seat cruelly taken from them by the people. Whatever happens, these are good people who have worked very hard to get to Friday, and who did it yes, out of ambition, but also out of a belief that maybe they can make some sort of difference. I’ve no doubt that it is a genuinely held belief.
The thing is, I don’t believe it. I’ve watched the depoliticisation of Irish politics continue, where winning elections becomes more important than what happens the day after, and a political system which is constructed to prevent significant change, and to paralyse those who attempt to change it.
I have no doubt that some of those ten people will arrive in the council next week, with fresh ideas, and encounter a system which will grind them down, and funnel them into the old way of doing things to get anything done.
I do not believe that these elections will effect my life in any way. My Local Property Tax will continue to not be set locally. I still will have no say over the County Manager, who actually decides things. The mayor will continue to be a political transition year doss to be passed around amongst councillors, a chain, a nice picture in County Hall, your name on a few plaques and the odd rock and a few quid. Run the county? What, in 12 months? Leave that to the grown ups.
If there was a chance that maybe Joe Higgins or the People’s Front of Killiney were about to seize control of a council, maybe that would be different. Perhaps so many independents will be elected that the councils will be radicalised. Perhaps. But I doubt it.
I’ll vote on Friday because some good people I know are running, and they need my vote. They are good people and it’ll be a wonderfully joyous day for some of them when they hear that magic phrase that they are “deemed to be elected”, and who doesn’t want to see their friends happy?
Posted by Jason O on May 19, 2014 in Not quite serious.
They can be both women and men, and you see them at big family events or social gatherings like christenings or communions, and they stand out. Yes, the parents with young kids do make an effort, but it can only be that, with the huge time-devouring monster that is raising children eating up what used to be gym time or getting one’s hair done. But the overly interested, being single, don’t have that pressure. They’re in the gym everyday, and still wear designer labels that are always dry cleaned and look immaculate and most of all don’t have patches of dried baby sick on any of their clothes, or those double rings under the eyes that only a sick child up all night can endow.
Curiously, they’re not really drawn to each other, but to other people’s husbands or wives. Maybe it’s the position of strength they enjoy, a handsome and well turned out man giving a tired and feeling under appreciated young mother that flirtatious look that her husband hasn’t given her in years. Or the attractive, elegant but age appropriate woman with the playful hand on someone else’s husband’s arm, laughing at his jokes, or wearing those health and safety defying heels that his wife gave up after the arrival of their eldest.
They circle the room, like sharks looking for the faintest hint of blood in the water, ready to move in on the former rugby star who still charms but groans at the jowly reflection staring back at him in the mirror, or the previous shiny haired Alex Girl who takes out the former Little Black Dress of choice to look at when she wants to feel really bad about herself.
You can almost hear the Jaws theme in the background.
The first time you encounter his racist or sexist or generally offensive tweets you think you have his measure. He’s an arsehole, and you’re tempted to take him on, tweet for tweet. But as you read down his timeline, you realise that it isn’t that simple, because, for want of a better word, he is.
His timeline is one of threats and insults to celebrities and politicians, just barely structured in something vaguely resembling English. Such is his challenged mental faculty that he has rows with his public utilities not through customer service or by email, but by Twitter, revealing to all of us his struggle to deal with day to day life.
Your offence and anger at his obnoxious comments dissipates as you realise that Twitter is all he has, his excited just barely fingertip touch at people he sees on the telly, the only thing that resembles anything close to equality with all those people around him everyday with their newspapers and big words.
Were it not for Twitter, he’d be the village idiot in some small town, the young man “known to Gardai” not as a bad one but as a source of head shaking and sympathy for his poor parents, who are such good people. Were it not for Twitter, he could be dead in a ditch, frozen to death having been incapacitated by alcoholic poisoning, or hanging by his own belt from a door, trousers around his ankles after reading about sexual misadventure on the internet.
So cut him some slack. Twitter is all he has.
Posted by Jason O on May 17, 2014 in Occasional Guide to Irish Politics
Ireland uses a voting system called the Single Transferable Vote (STV). It’s very simple to use, yet has had a number of myths built up about it, so I thought I’d do a simple guide.
1. Put a number 1 beside the person you definitely want to win, a number 2 beside your second choice, and continue all down in order of your choice. Don’t worry if you think they haven’t got a chance, because the system takes care of that. It’s asking you “If your favourite isn’t strong enough to be elected, who is your second choice? And if they’re not strong enough?” and so on.
2. Don’t try to second guess how other people will vote. VOTE FOR WHO YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO WIN!
3. STV is almost unique as a voting system in letting you actively vote AGAINST someone. If there is a candidate in, say, the Blackrock ward in Dun Laoghaire, for argument’s sake, that you definitely DON’T want to win, you should give a preference to EVERY single other candidate. This is important. By doing so, you are making your vote available to the strongest candidate availble to beat your hated candidate. If you don’t want to give preferences to other candidates, that’s fair enough, but imagine how you will feel if your candidate is narrowly elected because your vote didn’t transfer to the person who almost beat them?
4. The big myth: your preferences (2,3,4, etc) have absolutely NO EFFECT on the previous preference. That means that if you are, say, a Fine Gael voter, and you vote 1,2,3 for the FG candidates, and then give your 4th preference to a Fianna Fail candidate, that will not harm the chances of the three FG candidates in ANY WAY.
5. Unlike the actual voting, the system of counting votes can be a bit technical, and for someone like me who did “sums” in the Leaving, I’ll leave it to others to explain. Suffice to say, if there are five seats, if you get just over one-sixth of the vote you’ll be elected, and sometimes with less. It’s a pretty fair system.
Posted by Jason O on May 13, 2014 in Irish Politics
A few observations on the Irish local and European election campaigns. As an aside, a reader recently asked why I constantly use the prefix “Irish” when talking about elections and events in Ireland. Surely we all know what country we’re living in, he said. I had to point out that a significant section of my readers are elsewhere, particularly in the UK, US and a certain city in Belgium. But as Peter Griffin says, I digest:
1. The posters. It’ll be very interesting to see, given the large number of seats in wards, whether the joint candidate poster campaign by FG works. I hear that a third of all FG posters have to be joint candidate. To be honest, I wonder why parties don’t just demand that all posters are joint candidate ones. The candidates will give out yards, of course, but there’s nothing to say you couldn’t switch the order of candidates on the poster either for each area.
2. Airbrushing of posters is getting out of hand, and is actually becoming detrimental to candidates because it is jarring when you meet them, and you wonder about their vanity or integrity. Same with using obviously old pictures.
3. The vague nonsense on canvass cards has reached a level of “Say Nothingness” which must be unparalleled. With the exception of the Left parties, who are promising better weather, chocolate that makes you lose weight the more of it you eat, and for George Clooney to call off his engagement (if that’s your thing), nearly every FF/FG/Lab leaflet is interchangeable. We’re getting to a stage when a giant picture of the candidate and a name would be more dignified than some of the guff being put out. Community, passionate about, a local man, a new voice, from the area, a fresh voice. Bleggh! My favourite was from John Kennedy, who is running in Stillorgan for FG as “A dynamic new voice”. I was disappointed he wasn’t wearing a mask and cape.
4. I’ve never seen candidates look as tired, despite the fact that many candidates seem to to have started later than usual. Also note that campaign teams seem much smaller than usual which combined with physically larger wards explains a lot. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from a number of different parties (not SF or the Greens, funnily enough) that there is considerable bitterness from candidates about people wanting to be begged for their votes for the convention, then vanishing when needed on the doors. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but the onus on candidates to create a campaign machine from scratch, often with family, friends, and party colleagues from other constituencies, seems to be growing. It’s something the public never realise: that running for election is physically arduous, and that you have to effectively create and fund your own campaign. Non-political people just refuse to believe.
5. Best posters I’ve seen so far: Vincent Jackson’s (Ballyfermot) bright yellow, Mannix Flynn’s (Inner City) shocking pink, and Patrick Costello’s (Pembroke) clever use of multicolour posters.
6. Finally: better no slogan than a trying too hard slogan: “The difference is…I care”. Seriously? Or “For the people”. Yikes.