1. I’ll be shocked if the No vote is less than 40%.
2. Don’t discount the ability of Irish people to tell pollsters what they think they want to hear. I really hope there is an exit poll.
3. Nobody does mental reservation like we do. It’s quite possible that the phrase “I’m not racist, I just hate blacks” was first uttered by an Irishman.
4. The vile and downright evil (not a word I use lightly) slur that there is a link between paedophilia and homosexuality is having a bigger effect than we like to admit.
5. Both sides have extremist wings. The No extremists want the same thing as the No moderates. The Yes extremists can’t make up their mind whether they want a Yes vote more than a crack at humiliating David Quinn et al.
6. If you think that all the No side are extremists then you’re part of the problem.
7. Some people involved in the campaign are not the gold-plated asset others think they are.
8. The social media campaign seems to be primarily made up of people agreeing with each other, or else having arguments with people who are actively opposed. It seems like there is little converting going on.
9. Yes campaigners who are out knocking on doors will play a disproportionate role in winning this.
10. A Yes pass with a low turnout will have its legitimacy questioned.
11. A No vote will not be a source of international humiliation. California voted No. California.
12. People are more likely to stay silent than admit they’re voting No.
13. Finally, even a No vote will have a positive effect, as people in rural nominally conservative constituencies discover that thousands of their neighbours voted Yes. This is an idea whose time has come. It’s no longer a question of if, but when.
There are three purposes to the average Ard Fheis (that’s national party conference to my non-Irish readers). The first, and this tends to apply to the smaller parties, is to be a democratic/administrative forum for the party. The larger parties pretend that it is, but it isn’t. The whole thing is fiddled. The second purpose is as a social gathering for the party faithful, and an opportunity for the young bucks to contest a few show internal elections. This is by far the most interesting purpose, especially if you are into drinking (Fianna Fail), tugging the forelock at your betters (Fine Gael), rigidly obeying instructions from “the committee” (Sinn Fein) or feeling hard done by (Labour).
What’s noticeable about nearly all of them is how bloody awful they look on telly. RTE give each party time, and they fill it with aspiring TDs struggling to deliver speeches that sounded clever in 1978. It’s Awful Speech Bingo time, where they vomit out warmed up stuff about community and local services and our old friend the hard working family. You’re just itching for a sniper to loose off a volley of rounds at the stage to break the tedium. Why are Irish politicians so shockingly amateurish at delivering speeches anyway? Is it to do with our inherent unwillingness to express our real opinions in public as a people? What’s worse is that the standard is now so low that any speech that doesn’t go badly, that is, the speaker doesn’t mix up his or her words or accidentally say “fanny” is now regarded as well delivered. What’s even worse is that a speech where someone says something serious about children or 1916 without f**king up is now regarded as “powerful”. Please.
If the concept is so the councillor’s granny can see him on the telly on Saturday morning, that’s fair enough. But do you ever get the impression that each Ard Fheis is based on what they did the previous year. In fact, I’d lay money that you could give Micheal Martin Enda’s pre-govt speech from 2011 and he could use 85% of it. Because This Is The Way We’ve Always Done Things.
You can’t help thinking that no one has actually given much thought to what are the values or concepts they’d like communicated to the viewers watching.
There’s a weirdness to internal party elections, caused by the fact that it is wannabe politicians canvassing other wannabe politicians. That and the odd mix between inoffensive “I have to write something on the canvass card” blandness mixed with surreal claims of worthiness.
“I am passionately committed to this party (really?) and to serving the best interests of the party members. And my great grandfather shot an Englishman in 1919.”
The sheer terror of saying anything that might offend anyone who might not give you a 15th preference is palpable. If the canvass cards were scratch n’ sniff (remember them) it would be the odour of pure sweaty fear. It’s either stand by your cronies or your man is from the same county. Unless of course he’s contesting the same ward as you. Then he’s got “stories going around about him. You know. One of those fellas.” For the women it’s worse, trying to look attractive but not too attractive, putting up with the too-close talkers with porter on their breath and busy hands.
The younger candidates, desperately trying to look mature, turn up in suits and and constantly trying to get pictures of themselves with party luminaries to show they are moving in serious circles and are therefore serious themselves.
Unlike in other countries, where different factions fight it out based on their viewpoint of where they want society to go, this isn’t about direction of the party. This is about winning elections because they’re elections. The day after the election? Never you mind, that’s none of your business.
Let’s stop beating around the bush here: there are two massive forces at work with regard to Mediterranean immigration into the European Union. The first is that Europe offers a perceived better life than the poverty and chaos going on to our south and east. The second is that the average European does not want thousands of refugees becoming our problem, and is voting for parties advocating a hardline. Awkward? Yes. Racist? Possibly. But that’s the reality facing Europe’s leaders, and managing it means that we must confront that reality.
Europeans don’t want refugees dying in their thousands off our coasts. Nor do we want our navies opening fire on them to discourage them, even if such a thing were legal. But what is the option? Where do we put them? We can’t just let them drown. This is Europe, for Christ’s sake.
Many years ago, Tony Blair suggested the idea of paying a North African country to act as our control zone, where refugees could be landed, provided for, and processed. It would at least provide a safe zone, ideally run directly by the EU, probably with European troops and support staff, for refugees to be sent and receive shelter and care. Secondly, it would allow Europe breathing space, to work out how to manage the inflow without just dumping thousands on the Italians, French and Spanish.
There’d be huge resistance to such an idea. It wouldn’t be long before the phrase “concentration camp” or colony would be bandied about, and it would be a costly operation, and that assumes we can find a location.
There’s also the reality that such a place would almost certainly not be a temporary location, but would become a society in its own right, with its own tensions and conflicts and our soldiers and police in the middle of it. But, if it were run well enough, with some integration into the European single market, many may choose to live there as a home, especially if entering the continental EU illegally will result in immediate deportation back to “the zone”. As well as all that, there’s no doubt that such a place will be come a magnet for immigrants in its own right.
It’s not an ideal solution, but seeing the death rate in the Mediterranean, it must surely now be considered.
He found one of those apps that tells you how much time you spend doing things, and it gave him a fright. Apparently he spends two-thirds of his day on Twitter trying to pick fights with people back home. What’s worse is that they’ve got the measure of him now, and just ignore him. He doesn’t get mentioned on the news, or in papers. He’s just gone. Like he’s dead.
He was going to show this crowd out here in Brussels, boy was he! But of course they’re well used to him and others like him coming out and shouting. Even Paisley tried it back in the day. Know what happened? Nothing. They ignored him. Anti-Christ this and Anti-Christ that and they just ignored him and went for lunch, and this guy ain’t no Big Ian.
He finds that he’s getting up later in the day, and watching a lot of boxsets in his apartment. The other MEPs from his country, the men and women from the parties he was going to make a holy show of when he got out, now just treat him like one of those fellas you buy a Club Orange and a pack of Tayto for down the pub on a Sunday afternoon. They don’t even argue with him now, just give him that “ah, bless, the poor creature” look. The women ask him is he OK? One even offered to sew a button that had fallen off his good jacket back on. He spent a whole day walking around not knowing that he was trailing a long piece of toilet paper on his shoe and nobody’d said anything. One of the Dutch MEPs thought he’d been trying to make some sort of avant-garde protest about waste.
He’s afraid to spend too long on the phone back home because he knows some bastard will FOI it, and he can’t even go home because it’ll effect his voting record, the one thing the public (or at least the media) seem to get stroppy about at election time.
Towns and cities across Ireland were brought to a halt yesterday as spontaneous crowds blocked roads cheering the release of the Working Group on Seanad Reform’s report. One woman, openly sobbing, told our cameras: “This is truly a great nation, and I’m so proud to be Irish. You can keep your Nobel prizes and your Olympic gold medals: who else in the world can generate so many reports on legislative upper house reform? Who? This is what the men and women of 1916 died for!”
Tee-shirt manufacturers reported a sharp increase in tee-shirts bearing Seanad reform slogans. “Indirect election by local authority members! That’s the big one! I can’t keep them on the shelves. That and Reserved Seats for Parliamentary Nominated Candidates! Jaysus they’re flying off the shelves! Flyin’!”
The 1916 Commemoration Committee has confirmed that as part of the celebration next year Galway based arts group Macnas have been commissioned to create giant papier mache versions of each of the 15 Seanad reports for the parade. The committee has also confirmed that toy and card versions of the reports will be available, so that schoolchildren can collect their favourites or play swapsies. “I can’t wait to get my hands on the O’Rourke report!” one excited ten year old said.
The Taoiseach was cheered as he took his morning stroll to Government Buildings on Merrion Square. Speaking to the media at the entrance, he said: “I’m very proud to be contributing to the long tradition in this country of endlessly guffing on about reforming things and then doing nothing. And can I just say this: I believe in the Irish people, and Irish democracy, and I believe that by working together, through a process of endless presentations and our old friend “consultation”, I am confident that we may see a 16th report on Seanad reform yet!”
Because of her political history, where she was once very active with one particular party, she wrongly gets called biased. It’s not true. If anything, it’s worse than that. She’s no longer loyal to the party she was once a member of, but is, in fact, now a member of The Establishment Party, and a fiercely protective member of it.
She’ll happily speak in defence of any member of the establishment parties. TD salaries? Hours worked? Expenses? She’ll happily go on Prime Time and The Right Hook and Morning Ireland to defend TDs when they’re terrified of their shite to do so themselves. She never has to put her hand in her handbag when she’s in the Dail bar.
She’ll oppose any real political reform which is unpopular with the parties, although will always be careful to publicly support the concept of reform once “consensus” can be found. She’s popular across all establishment parties because she defends “politics”, that is, the status quo where they get paid for doing stuff, going on RTE panels to defend politics as a noble pursuit to the solemn nod of actual officeholders. Summer schools? Sure it’s practically the law that she either chairs or speaks on every panel.
What really irritates her are the outsiders. If you’re not a newspaper columnist with a national newspaper, a pol corr, an elected official or a party officer you’ve no real right speaking about her political system? Blogger? Twitter? Who are these people?
The dream used to be a seat in cabinet, but she knows that’s no longer on the agenda. But a seat on the RTE Authority? Or the Council of State? Or maybe the holy grail of a Taoiseach’s nominee to the Seanad. She’s a big fan of senators keeping the title after they leave office. Especially on their passports for holidays in the US later.
That’s all still to play for, and the main party leaders know whose side she’s on.
When I was a member of the Young Progressive Democrats many, many moons ago, I used to attend conferences of our sister party the Liberal Democrats. I found them to be very camp (I was just coming out of my homophobic phrase) and also exceptionally left wing. Yet I still felt very comfortable with them, and knew that if I were British I would have been a Lib Dem.
Why? Because I felt that they had a streak of decency in them. But also because they were not an ideologically straitjacketed party. Whereas the Tories were hounding out Heathite liberals and Labour were still working their way through their leftwing Don Quixote moment, the Lib Dems were the middle party. The party of reason.
It is, of course, easier to be like that when you don’t have to be in government. Contact with government for the Lib Dems was not much different from the Irish Greens entry into government: a form of political anaphylactic shock. The Libs Dems, like the Irish Greens a party built on being nice and pure and offering a berth to pretty much anyone with a grievance about the bigger parties, took a hammering. The reality of budgets and choices in office chased away almost all the purists and the fantasists. The grand promises of opposition, like tuition fees, suddenly turn from a banner into a lump hammer to be beaten with.
We now see the real Liberal Democrats, all 7-10% of them. We see a party that has been hardened by government, hopefully more cautious about what it promises, but above all a party that has had a positive impact.
Lower paid workers keep more of their pay-packets. Overseas aid was protected. ID cards were scrapped.
Yes, there have been compromises. Tuition fees. The Bedroom Tax. Political reform. But isn’t that the reality of modern politics? Cameron gets it in the ear from his right about Lib Dem vetoes. Ed Miliband served under Blair, a man despised by the party’s left. But you know what? If you support Proportional Representation then you have to recognise that politics is about compromise. Too many Lib Dems seems to think that PR will magically turn the whole country into nice happy liberals.
The politics of compromise is here to stay, and with Nick Clegg you get a centre party that speaks for the middle and simple liberal values. British politics without the Lib Dems is not better politics, but a politics of the Tories pandering to UKIP and Labour pandering to the SNP and the Greens. Britain needs a middle party, a party that admits that some solutions come from the right and some from the left. Britain needs the Lib Dems to survive.
Am I disappointed by Nick? Of course. But one party has to stand up, in particular, for Europe and the idea of Europe. I watched him debate Farage on the EU, and Farage clearly won, firing out one witty pub-friendly quip after another. Nick was all facts and boring statistics and the truth. It was boring and not funny. But it was the truth, and someone in British politics has got to stand up to The Daily Mail and The Daily Express and say yes, Europe is worth saving.
Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 novel “The Day of the Jackal” has already secured its place in novel history. The concept, about right-wing French fanatics hiring a professional assassin to murder President de Gaulle in 1963 is daring for two reasons. The first is that it reads pretty much as a cold heavily detailed step by step almost journalistic expose of the plot rather than a thriller. The second is that we all know the outcome: President de Gaulle survived a number of assassination attempts, but died peacefully in an armchair in his home. In short, not as much a Who-Did-It as How-They-Did-It.
It shouldn’t work, yet it does, and brilliantly. So brilliantly in fact, that one finds oneself reading it again despite knowing the outcome and pretty much every twist in the story. Forsyth’s great success is his ability (honed as a foreign correspondent) to communicate great detail in a absolutely readable and enjoyable manner. For years later many believed it was a true story.
The book (and even more Fred Zinnemann’s 1973 masterpiece movie) also conveys nicely the Europe and France of its day. The shadow of the war still there, yet a continent on the verge of huge integration.
The movie is a stylish joy to watch. Cold and methodical, with minimal use of music, Edward Fox as the Jackal and Michel Lonsdale as the French police chief pursuing him steal the movie. A wealth of British TV stars of the 1970s fill the background.
Both the book and the movie are an absolute treat.