Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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A great movie: The Lives of Others.

Posted by Jason O on May 13, 2014 in Movies/TV/DVDs

“The Lives of Others” is a 2006 German film about the Stasi secret police in East Germany, and it is excellent. The star of it, the late Ulrich Muhe, had actually been an East German border guard before becoming an actor and opponent of the regime in the DDR.

When I first heard about it, I thought it would be a dour and depressing movie, but it is actually fascinating in its portrayal of life in a police state, especially one that pretends that it isn’t. It is a curious aspect of Communism that even its highest officials knew it wasn’t working, yet the system deemed the first person to criticise it a traitor, making it a self perpetuating failure. Curiously, the language used by the Communist officials in the film about loyalty is not a million miles from that used by Fox News. When watching it, if you replace the word “socialism” with “freedom” you’ll see what I mean. These bastards wear jackets in all sorts of colours.

The movie centres around an idealistic but lonely Stasi agent who becomes engrossed in the lives of a playwright and his actress girlfriend. It is also about how people try to live a normal life, indeed to get on, under the paranoid eyes of a monstrous regime. I won’t ruin the ending other than to say it delivers for the viewer, and is one of the more thoughtful yet accessible movies I have ever seen that seriously examines what it means to be free.

We in Ireland, as one of the few European countries to have never known fascism or communism, need to remember how lucky we are.

 
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A great movie: Syriana.

Posted by Jason O on May 12, 2014 in Irish Politics
Clooney can act.

Clooney can act.

When “Syriana” was first released in 2005, it got a lot of attention because George Clooney had put on weight and grown a scraggly beard to play a worn-down CIA operative, and looked very much not like an international superstar actor. As a result, it did not get as much attention as it deserved, and believe me, it does deserve it.

The plot is about oil, and the maneuvering between oil companies, governments, refugees and terrorists and how all are connected and affected by the West’s thirst for the stuff. It’s not a straight moralistic goodies/baddies story, and if anything, the convoluted plot is almost impossible to follow, but that is almost the appeal. It’s like “Three Days of the Condor” or another of those 1970s political thrillers that tries to say something big whilst it entertains. Very much an “impressionist” type of movie in that it only works if you look at the whole from a distance rather than focus on the different plot strands. What is “Syriana” trying to say? Maybe that the West’s reliance on oil is poisoning everyone, including the West itself?

And don’t get me started on the masterclass cast: Clooney, Matt Damon, Christopher Plummer, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, Alexander Siddig, Robert Foxworth, Mark Strong, many in tiny roles that show how a great actor works with what he has. The one flaw in the movie is the lack of a really meaty female role, but then, given that it is set in the Middle East, perhaps that was unavoidable. There is also a wealth of Arabic speaking actors giving as good as they get.

A wonderful example of how politics can be done justice in a dramatic way. It’s slow, and leaves you with questions and thoughts, but don’t miss it.

 
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Love this.

Posted by Jason O on May 11, 2014 in Just stuff

 
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Mary Hanafin has had her turn.

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

Mary Hanafin was a competent minister in the last Fianna Fail government. She was always on top of her brief, and was one of the government’s better communicators. Her canvass card, which I received recently, alludes to her time in office, and talks about integrity and honesty.

That’s the point. Reading the card, one is left with the impression that Mary Hanafin believes that there is nothing wrong with having been a member of the last Fianna Fail government.

You can, in fact, go one further. The official Fianna Fail candidate in this ward, like many of the members of “New Fianna Fail”, recognise that errors were made, and that FF has to change.

Reading Mary Hanafin’s card, it’s reasonable to assume that if she re-enters political office she will carry on with the same mindset she had during the last FF government. In short, a vote for Mary Hanafin is a vote for the old Cowen Fianna Fail way of doing things, as if 2011 never happened.

It’s a vote for the sort of politician who thought it was perfectly normal to insist upon keeping a spare teaching job open for herself if she lost her seat, as if that were open to everybody else. The sort of politician who took a €60,000 pension, an €88,000 severance package, kept her €400,000 teachers pension fund and yet now wants another bite of the cherry?

Mary Hanafin has had her turn. It’s time for new candidates who not only have new ideas about the future, but also don’t regard the past as a place worth returning to.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Wolf in Independent Clothing.

Posted by Jason O on May 9, 2014 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

We’ve all met them, and if the polls are to be believed, there are, potentially, quite a few of them out there. When it reaches them, when it’s their turn, they square up, and stick their jaws out, and announce: “Well, I’m voting for an independent!”. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some pretty good independent candidates out there, and parties don’t hold a monopoly on good ideas or commitment to the country. The good independents tend to balance local concerns with national issues, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, they seem to be the minority. I’m talking about the yahoos such as those who were party members five minutes ago, and supported party policies five minutes ago, now seemingly cleansed by the activation of the political Romulan cloaking device. I’m talking about candidates who look blankly at you if you raise senior bond holders or property market management or separation of the executive and parliament, like a dog being shown a card trick (Hat tip: PJ O’Rourke). The buckos who use phrases like “for the ordinary people”, whatever that means.

What is even more depressing is to ask just who are the Irish voters who have witnessed our economic devastation by  a failure of national policy, and decided that the source of our problems is that we did not have enough Jackie Healy-Raes in the Dail? Our big problems, unemployment and emigration, are caused by a failure of national policy, and it is there that they will be resolved. Electing Sean WellGot because he’s from the right parish isn’t the solution.

Are they thick, or is it that they’re so angry with the status quo that voting independent is the equivalent of voting None Of The Above?

 
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A Few Random Candidates…

Posted by Jason O on May 3, 2014 in Irish Politics

 A few candidates who have caught my eye for various reasons…

Malcolm Byrne, FF, Gorey: from the liberal book reading wing of the party. Thoughtful.

Kate Feeney, FF, Blackrock: Dangerously prone to having an opinion, and seriously disliked by the conservative “what are all dem gays doing here?” wing of Ogra FF. She’s basically running against Mary Hanafin.

Dermot Lacey, Lab, Pembroke: Former Mayor of Dublin, faced down his own party over a tough city budget, and that rare creature: someone in local government who actually wants to be there.

Barry Saul, FG, Stillorgan: Ex-PD, and famous for getting into an altercation with another councillor who accused him of “blackening his name”. Barry’s crime? Giving voters a list of how their councillors actually voted.

Rebecca Moynihan, Crumlin-Kimmage, Lab: Gutsy for criticising some of her own constituents for dumping rubbish on their own streets. A self confessed vintage clothing hound, and probably the most stylish member of DCC.

Victor Boyhan, Ind, Blackrock. Ex-PD, decent, and notorious for irritating other councillors by demanding how they vote be recorded, which, amazingly, isn’t standard practice.

Paul McAuliffe, FF, Finglas. Another Ex-PD. Again, puts a bit of thought into issues.

Paul Anthony Ward, FF, Cabra: From the conservative wing of FF, but open to debate and discussion.

James Lawless, FF, Naas: Another conservative, but again, one of the few FFers who is willing to openly discuss (and blog) on his issues.

Dr. Keith Redmond, FG, Howth: Firmly on the economic right side of the political spectrum, if that’s your cup of tea, and not a fan of the EU either.

Nadine Meissonave, FG, Pembroke: Estonian mother of two living in Dublin for 8 years, operates her own business, and making a genuine attempt to mobilise non-Irish votes. Will be interesting to see how she does.

James McCann, FF, Dun Laoghaire: That rarity, a candidate who actually wrote a policy document about what he’d like to do if elected. He should be stuffed and mounted in County Hall.

 

 
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Gardai seek FBI help in fighting shape-shifting Seanad reformer aliens.

Posted by Jason O on May 2, 2014 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

An Garda Siochana have issued a public appeal to locate a large number of people who seemed to have gone missing since October 2013.

A spokesperson in Garda Headquarters said: “We started receiving queries from general members of the public from late October. The missing people had been very high profile, speaking in public, all making the same remark: that a No vote in the Seanad referendum would definitely lead to Seanad reform. Then, as soon as the vote was held, they vanished! We have found some, meeting in backrooms of hotels endlessly discussing the perfect upper house, when they’re not on their way to yet another summer school to engage in various acts of political self-pleasuring. “

However, the affair took a dark turn. “In our investigations, we started discovering strange things. People who in October were adamant that Seanad reform would occur were now suddenly denying they even supported it, or thought it was important at all. Some were saying that they were perfectly happy with the Seanad as is, even though we have footage of them arguing passionately for Seanad reform. The FBI had warned us about this. Shapeshifting aliens who replace the original person, and are an exact physical copy.”

“They even sent an agent to assist us. He did a study of the entire Dail, studying what they TDs said three years ago and what they say now, and told us that the entire Irish political system is occupied by shapeshifter aliens.”

“The only other explanation,” the FBI agent said, “is that your entire political system is made of people who believe in absolutely nothing other than saying whatever is necessary to get into power. And that’s impossible, because the voters would have noticed, and wouldn’t put up with that. Voters are smarter than that.”

 
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Could a Young People’s Party succeed in Ireland?

Posted by Jason O on May 1, 2014 in Irish Politics

I tend to get quite irritated at talk of new parties, which, given my political pedigree, is a subject people raise with me on a regular basis. I get annoyed because the pitch is always the same: “We need a new party! To do what? To speak for the ordinary people! On what policies? Cut taxes and reverse the cutbacks! Isn’t that the policy of Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, People Before Profit, Socialist Party, most Independents, the non-Democratic Left wing of the Labour Party, and those people who follow Lucinda the Khaleesi around every time an RTE camera appears, staring blankly into the camera in the hope that someone in Kilbarrack might see them?

See where I’m going here? There’s never any substance. Having said that, I wonder if there is a market for a party that openly and unashamedly targets young under 35s over everyone else? An openly biased party. After all, young voters are the ones most likely to get their welfare cut, emigrate, or in the case of new teachers or doctors (most public sector workers?), get royally screwed by their own unions to protect their older betters who have paid off their mortgages and have a tasty pension coming. Governments treat younger people in a way that they’d be afraid to treat pensioners, and we know why. Pensioners vote.

It wouldn’t be an easy proposition. Dylan Haskins, the Yoof candidate in Dublin South East, ran a campaign which, whilst not humiliating himself, did only end up with 4% and more Facebook friends than votes. Youth voters are notoriously difficult to mobilise. But the proposition is sound: a ready, regenerating group of voters, many clustered geographically around colleges, with a clear concept. We want stuff, and old people should pay for it. Sure, Richard Boyd Barrett and the People’s Front of Killiney will claim to speak for those people, but their pitch isn’t sound. People In Top Hats With Butlers And Twirly Moustaches Will Pay For Everything just doesn’t wash. But your uncle should take the same cut in his pension that you take in your dole? After all, doesn’t he have an actual house? That’s actually credible.

 
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The Fall of the European Union.

Posted by Jason O on May 1, 2014 in European Union

The funny thing about the disintegration of the European Union was that it was only missed after it had gone. It was only in the months that followed that people, who had enthusiastically applauded “those bastards in Brussels” getting their comeuppance, started noticing the little things.

It had started, not surprisingly, with the British withdrawal. It hadn’t been the catastrophe predicted by the Yes side in the referendum, indeed quite the opposite. The perception of freedom that swept the British media, of “proper” border controls and Polish workers being “sent home”, and the Chancellor announcing a modest but significant Withdrawal Windfall were all seen across the continent, and received in different ways.

The Dutch, the Swedes, the Danes and the Czechs all narrowly voted to renegotiate, although the Finns narrowly voted the other way, possibly influenced by the almost daily boom of Russian fighters accidentally on purpose crossing into Finnish airspace. But the real nail in the coffin was the election of President Le Pen, who had met with her German counterpart and presented a proposal for a New Europe. The Germans were quick to point out that it was essentially a France with sealed borders, a tariff wall, and a cheque from German taxpayers to French farmers. When Berlin said no, Le Pen announced it unilaterally anyway, starting with a six month countdown to the restoration of the Franc.

German voters threw up their hands, announced that they had done their best, and elected a new Chancellor who secured a smaller union with Poland, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland and the Baltic states. Spain, Italy, and Portugal, all unwilling to remain in the Eurozone if France could competitively devalue, announced their withdrawal from the common currency. Ireland, watching the chaos, quietly scheduled a referendum to restore the Punt, assuming it would be pegged to Sterling.

The French and British barriers to free movement began to be replicated across the rest of the former EU, but it was the French tariff which triggered the major responses. Spain and Germany both put tariffs on French exports in retaliation, including exit taxes on tourists crossing the border. Bizarrely, the new National Front government seemed not to have considered that other countries would retaliate (“But we are France!” the new prime minister was alleged to have blurted out on hearing the news, before muttering about a conspiracy of “international financiers”. He also announced that in his opinion Alfred Dreyfus had been guilty.) and so acted to punish Spain and Germany with higher tariffs and actual bans on agricultural and motor products.

Within months, the European single market was effectively dead. Cross border trade continued, but pretty much every national parliament was inundated with special interest groups demanding special protections, import controls and preferential treatment for their products. Trade fell as trucks queued at once open border checkpoints, angry drivers waving this stamp and that certificate. Occasionally, fistfights would break out at border checkpoints as frontier police attempted to enforce some new trade barrier dressed up as a health and safety inspection.

Irish, French, Polish and Spanish farmers, used to the regular arrival of CAP payments, demanded that their national governments replace the now defunct CAP, which, because of the massive budget deficits, were unable to comply without putting a Farmer Solidarity Tax on food. That, coupled with their new devalued currencies, meant that the cost of living rose sharply for imported food, consumer goods and of course anyone who relied on imported oil, gas or electricity. Before long, governments were receiving demands for foodstuffs to be subsidised for low income families.

Across the continent, either through desire or in retaliation, former EU citizens were being informed that  they had to leave, seek work permits, or were no longer entitled to various social welfare benefits they had been receiving. The British chancellor discovered that his Withdrawal Windfall was eaten up by elderly UK ex-pats returning to Britain for healthcare as Spain started to charge them a much higher health charge than they had paid as EU citizens.

The new German-led European Common Market Area (ECMA) quickly agreed a new tariff free zone, with its member states effectively turning German commercial regulations into national law for pure convenience sake. The ECMA began to suck in investment, as German politicians realised that Germany, through sheer economic gravity, was able to exert influence without having to pay billions into the EU budget.

France’s economy continued to shrink, with farmers rioting over the withdrawal of CAP payments and the New Franc plummeting as Le Pen promised more and more spending and subsidies, and giving serious consideration to the forced expulsion of various classes of refugees to “create employment by vacating jobs for the real French”. When asked by a journalist how, given the high rate of unemployment amongst immigrants, such a policy would free up non-existent jobs,  the employment minister asked if “someone in your synagogue” had requested he ask that question.

In the airports, everybody now queued together, refugees and former EU citizens, with their visas and work permits and had their duty free taxed or confiscated. The media revealed occasional stories of Eurosceptic politicians who had kept secret accounts in Berlin to protect their savings from their new home currency devaluations. Across Europe, economic activity was slowly choked off by tariffs, border controls and national subsidies and preferences.

Of course, it wasn’t the end of the world, but it was the end of Europe’s place there.

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