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

DUP to contest Roscommon-South Leitrim in Election 2016

Posted by Jason O on May 31, 2015 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

The Democratic Unionist Party, emboldened by No vote in the constituency in the Marriage Equality referendum, has announced that it is to seek a Dail seat in the forthcoming general election. A spokesperson said: “Given that the Brits are getting brassed off sending us cash, and if the Scots go we’re totally snookered, we thought we’d better start putting out feelers down south to see if there are any good God fearing people. We’re delighted to find that at least half of the constituency aren’t having any truck with, you know, fishers of the Brown Trout.”

The news comes despite protests from the other half of the constituency which objects strenuously to the label Alabama-on-the-Shannon. Local Yes voters pointed out that they had made up just under half the vote, and pointed to local former TD Ming Flanagan as proof of their broadmindness. “Didn’t we elect him twice? admittedly the second time to make him live in Brussels, but it’s the thought that counts!”

The county tourist board has expressed concern at losing the lucrative gay marriage market. “I mean, we’ve lovely counties here. We’re saving up to send someone to Hollywood to get Sarah Jessica Parker over to endorse us with The Gays. Sure they love her, and she seems to be in Donegal every second week and they’re against everything. Now that, that was a real blow, pardon the pun. When Donegal is peering over the top of The Irish Times at you, ye know you’re in trouble.”


Thought I’d repost a Sunday Business Post column I wrote on the Irish attitude to freedom of speech. No reason.

Posted by Jason O on May 29, 2015 in Irish Politics, The Sunday Business Post

Sunday business post logoLet’s vote on the Freedom to Offend

10 May 2015 by Jason O’Mahony

In a few weeks we’ll be voting on the age of presidential candidates, quite possibly the most moronically pointless referendum we’ve ever been asked to vote on.

All the political reform issues we could be voting on, and Fine Gael and Labour give us this thing they found crumpled up in a bin at the Constitutional Convention. Why are we voting on this? Because FG and Labour, having failed to do any political reform, are now trying to find something to point to and call reform. We should be thankful: knowing this crowd, we could just as easily be asked to vote on adding an exclamation mark to the country’s name to make it sound more dynamic. Ireland!

If we’re going to have a referendum for the craic, then let’s have one on an issue that actually matters and will shape Irish society for generations. Let’s vote on freedom of speech.

Don’t we already have that? Actually, we don’t. In fact, you can tell the Irish attitude to freedom of speech in one simple way. Is there a get-out clause? The US constitution says that Congress may not abridge the freedom of speech. That’s it. No ifs or buts.

Our constitution says something similar, except there’s a very Irish “however”, which then gives the state all sorts of excuses to tell people to shut the hell up.

Having sat through the Marriage Equality debate, it’s fair to say that the concept of what freedom of speech means is up for national discussion. The level of intolerance, of people ripping down posters because they don’t like what they say, or demanding that X or Y should not be allowed on telly shows that to many Irish people there isn’t a respect for freedom of speech as much as a respect for my freedom of speech but not yours.

It used to be simple. The Catholic right took a “you can’t see/read that filth!” approach to everything from Playboy to The Life of Brian. Those of us on the liberal side believed that people should make their own minds up about things. Yeah, I did support Section 31 back then, keeping the Shinners off the telly but guess what? I was wrong. But broadly speaking, it was freedom versus censorship.

Yet today, many of the most intolerant people I meet tend to be among my fellow liberals, and they’re hawking around a new concept imported from British and US universities where people seem to be claiming a right not to be exposed to opinions they don’t like.

It’s the Fox Newsification of liberalism, where you only start seeking news and information from sources you agree with.

Where the self-policing of rational thought, by reading what the other side is saying, is now regarded as some sort of dangerous contamination.

That’s why we need a debate on freedom of speech: because it is two sided, not just saying your piece but hearing what the other guy says too. That’s how we keep ourselves honest, and it’s under threat.

It’s a funny thing: as a country, we’ve never been that bothered by freedom of speech. Is it because we’re not a nation given to open public discourse? Is it because whether it’s the Dáil or the AGM of the Feckerstown Tidy Towns committee, the real debate and decision making is done elsewhere?

Would we vote for a US freedom of speech right? I suspect not, because we wouldn’t think “Finally, I can now say whatever I want!” No, we’d vote No in our thousands because we’d be terrified that absolute freedom of speech would allow people to say anything about us.

It’s one of those bizarre areas where the hard-left liberals and the hard-right parish pump conservatives could agree. Both like the concept of the approved public opinion, whether it’s only one acceptable opinion on Marriage Equality or keeping quiet about that county councillor sending his secretary to England for her “special medicine” while he was in Lourdes.

There’s no need for other opinions to be flying around, confusing folk and giving them the wrong ideas.

Think I’m being over-dramatic? Last year in Oxford University a debate on abortion was called off after a protest. The protesters objected to two men debating the issue, which is fair enough. But why not raise that in the actual debate? Instead, the protest group decided that its opinion was superior to the people who wished to hear the arguments, and demanded the thing be shut down.

We’ve been here before. There’s a line in Father Ted about fellas dressed in black going around telling people what to do …


Want to fight corruption? Make it profitable.

Posted by Jason O on May 28, 2015 in Irish Politics

Sunday business post logoPreviously published as a column in The Sunday Business Post.

Is there any phrase that makes the Irish eye roll more than “people with information on corruption should contact the Garda Siochana”? It’s not that we think the Guards will try and cover it up, or worse still, be involved, as much as we just don’t believe that the Guards are that pushed on fighting white collar crime.

Murder, terrorism, big bank jobs, battering Shinners and mates of Paul Murphy named Sebastian, Arabella and St.John off the streets, that’s what the Gardai do. But white collar corruption? Truth is, the Garda record is that if it can’t be beaten with a truncheon, they don’t seem that interested. To them, a spreadsheet is something put under the bag of curried chips to stop the sauce going all over the duty sergeant’s desk.

In fairness to the Guards, it’s not a reflection on their intelligence, but rather how they see themselves in the social arena. There’s no kudos to be had from the Irish people in fighting corruption. The Guards feel, probably rightly, that the Irish people won’t thank them for directing resources towards public corruption and away from stopping some gurrier getting in your bathroom window and stealing your plasma screen.

In the late 1980s a young US Attorney, which is a form of federal DPP, ordered the arrests of various Wall Street bigwigs on charges of insider trading. Eschewing the genteel practice of the time of quietly arresting the suspect with much discretion, the US attorney ordered that they be brought out in front of the media, with handcuffs, the message being that no matter how rich and powerful you were, the law applied to you as much as it did to the little guy. By 1993 that US Attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, had been elected Mayor of New York City, primarily on the reputation of sticking it to the corrupt powerful.

Would that be possible in Ireland? Could a deputy get elected building a name on fighting corruption? The evidence says no. Jim Mitchell was fired by his constituents for spending too much time on the DIRT inquiry, recovering millions in taxes for their public services. Trevor Sargent, who actually got into physical fights over corruption in Dublin County Council, was dismissed by his voters. The truth is, we don’t regard fighting corruption as a vote winner, and if the voters don’t care, why should the Guards?

Yet we have to fight corruption. Primarily because other countries notice if we don’t and start making a holy show of us, putting us on lists with the sort of guys an Apple executive would not like to be seen with. So what do we do?

Supposing we decided we did care. What would be the best way to fight Irish corruption? I’d suggest we create a National Anti-Corruption Agency and tender its functions out to the private sector, with bonuses paid on every conviction achieved. All of a sudden we’d have lawyers and forensic accountants and ex-FBI agents actively going out looking for corrupt politicians and civil servants and semi-state officials because it puts money in their arse pockets. We’d have ropey county councillors wondering every time someone offered them a few quid to get a rezoning through was the guy real or a NACA operative setting him up for a sting. All the cases would have to go through a court same as any Garda case, with the same civil rights protections, the only difference being that they’d actually be happening.

And here’s the beauty of the thing: because it’s private it will have to pay its own way or we can scrap the tender in a few years. Unlike, say, certain public transport companies that seem to see running public transport as a hobby to do in their spare time, NACA will actually have to carry out its task. In fact, as we’ve seen with Aer Lingus and Dublin Bus, a bit of competition tends to do wonders for the focus of the existing crowd. We won’t able to move for Gardai and Corporate Enforcement falling over themselves tapping councillors’ phones trying to out perform that crowd over in NACA.

But surely if its private sector, NACA will be open to corruption, learned counsel will say indignantly. Maybe so, but no more than our current public bodies, and unlike them, we can sack it. When did we ever do that with a public sector body? Sack them? We just give them a new logo.    

Serious about wanting to fight corruption? Then put on the table the one thing Irish people respect more than loyalty towards our dodgy relatives and cronies: not integrity, not honour. Cold hard cash.


Averil Power: The Real Deal.

Posted by Jason O on May 26, 2015 in Irish Politics

Averil-Power.1I first met Averil Power during the Nice Treaty referendum of 2002. I was still a Progressive Democrat, and so had that inbuilt suspicion of Fianna Fail that was hard wired into us. But It didn’t take long for her to change that. Sure, I still told her she was an evil Fianna Failer, but she was also articulate, bright, but most importantly, and a quality that’s rarer than it should be in Irish politics, she was a true believer. She wasn’t campaigning for Europe just because that was the party line, but because she really believed in it.

Now, before this piece turns into a “Mother Averil of Dublin Bay North, let us touch the hem of her cloth and be grateful” bit of schlock, let me say that I’ve had disagreements with her. She’s a bit of an aul leftie, and I’ve told her on occasion that every time I speak to her about policy I feel my wallet lighten. She does have a genuine belief in the power of the state to do good, and I’m a bit sceptical about that.

But you know what? That’s what I like about her. She wants to discuss these things, the big picture and what direction a society should go. So many politicians are interested in getting elected, and then reelected, and all that policy stuff is for the civil servants. She’s ambitious too, she wants to get elected, there’s no denying that, yet Averil knocked on nearly every door of her constituency for a Yes vote, knowing full well that it might just as easily cost her votes. But she did it anyway because she believed, when the safe thing to do was to keep the head down save for a few photocalls in The Irish Times.

I can remember the moment I realised that she was serious about the power of politics, when she convinced me of the benefit for school breakfast clubs for kids coming into school hungry and falling asleep. This wasn’t a “look at my compassion” thing that politicians do on the telly, it was just the two of us talking and she knows she doesn’t have to convince me of her bona fides. Yet she still wanted to lay out the rational argument. As I said, a true believer.

Is she ambitious? Of course. Can she be too cautious for my liking? Definitely. But with a new Dail coming up that might have more Independents with actual power, we will need deputies who stand up both for their constituents but also recognise that we all have to live in a country together and there is such a thing as a national interest. A Dail Eireann with Averil Power in it is more likely to deliver that.

To paraphrase Bruce Wayne in “The Dark Knight”, I believe in Averil Power.


An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The No to Marriage Equality voter.

no posterHe (and it does tend to be he) comes in all sorts of forms:

1. The Religious one. Probably the most honest of No voters, because he is often genuinely conflicted between his sense of compassion and his religious beliefs, including the guidance from his spiritual advisor. Yes, that’s right, the guy with the poster quoting scripture is the honest one.

2. The I Can’t Believe We’re Having This Debate one. The fella who suddenly realises The Gays are everywhere, and not apologising either. He just can’t understand why The Gays insist upon walking around in public everywhere being all gay. He knows he can’t call them “faggots” anymore, which he believes is a restriction of his freedom of speech. Where’s his referendum, he wonders. Most likely to use air quotes when saying “Marriage” and “Equality”. Got very excited when he heard/met a gay who was voting No. This gay fella is now the opening line in every conversation on the subject. Would be very upset if he thought that someone else thought he was gay. Believes that children can be “turned” gay, that gays are flighty and regard children as fashion accessories, that gays are out to “convert”, by force if necessary, and that there is a conspiracy to hide “the proven link” between gays and kiddie fiddlers.

3. The Needs A Technicality one. His gut has decided he’s voting No. Now he’s looking for a respectable reason to attach to it. Something about families, childen, stability, respect for the constitution, yeah, that’ll do. Most likely to start his position with “I’ve nothing against gays…”:

4. The Bastard. A tiny minority, in fairness. The guy who doesn’t actually care about religion, surrogacy, family units, any of that stuff. Knows that he will cause actual pain to other people by voting No, but does it all the same. Other people’s unhappiness? Not my problem.


Guest Post: Our republic is imperfect but it is a work in progress. By Brendan Kiely.

Posted by Jason O on May 22, 2015 in Irish Politics

kielyA week ago, after a day’s canvassing (for a Yes vote, yes, I am biased), I was slightly despondent. I really felt that this referendum was going to be very close and on the balance of probabilities it would fall.

Over the last week my view has shifted and I have come to understand, through canvassing and speaking with friends and colleagues that irrespective of the outcome tomorrow, our Republic has changed… for the better.

A generation has awoken – today 66,000 people will go to the polls who have recently registered for the first time.  It won’t be their last time going to the polls.

A generation stepped up – there are political activists and politicians who refused to bow to the pressure to stand for political expediency as opposed to Equality.  They have proven that you can make a difference.  In years to come I will point to the likes of Tiernan Brady, Seamus Carey, Sen. Averil Power, Anto Kelly, Leo Varadkar, Pat Carey, Cllr. Kate Feeney, Michael Pidgeon, Paul Anthony Ward, Micheal Martin, (dare I say it) Enda Kenny, Jerry Buttimer, Simon Coveney (and many more) and say to my kids, they did that and they helped deliver a better society for you.

A generation stayed silent – the case for broad political reform was made loudly by the deafening silence of back bench politicians and local councillors from all parties as they tried to position themselves on both sides of history.  They demonstrated a breath-taking (yet predictable) unwillingness to show leadership in their communities.  You know who you are, and shame on You.

This has been a “Divisive Debate” – I have heard and seen for the first time in many years a motivation to engage in socio political discourse amongst all sections of society that just has not existed for a long time. When you are talking with random strangers in the queue in Centra about how they are going to vote you know there is change afoot. Yes, it has been divisive, it wouldn’t have been a debate otherwise but we are mature enough to move on and learn from is as a society.

Mary McAleese & “That Speech” – whoever thought that we would live in an Ireland where one woman (albeit a former president) would be at least as influential as the Catholic Church! Check out “That Speech”

“That Teenager” – there has been talk about the teenager who is coming to terms with his or her sexuality sitting at their kitchen table listening to the debate both within their family and the media and the effect this will have on them. This is true however that teenager now knows that a huge proportion of Irish society is supportive of them and they have been able to identify people in their own community from whom they now know that they can turn to about their sexuality and receive support as they embark upon the path of discovering their true selves.

There are many reasons why I voted Yes this morning, for the Ireland I want my kids to grow up in, for my gay friends that they would be as equal as I, but most of all I voted Yes for the following reason; Nearly 20 years ago I stood at the graveside of a young man whose shame of his own sexuality was a contributing factor in his decision to take his own life.

Today I voted Yes mostly for him.

It may be imperfect… But our republic is now stronger.  If you have not voted yet, please get out and VOTE YES.

Brendan Kiely is a co-founder and MD of a Tech Start-Up.  He is a political activist, a former Executive Director of the European Movement Ireland and a former Fianna Fáil candidate.  You can find him on Linked IN, facebook, and @brendankiely on twitter.


Presidential Age vote shows FG/Labour contempt for real political reform, voters.

Posted by Jason O on May 18, 2015 in Irish Politics

I don’t have any problem with a 21 year old seeking to be president of Ireland. I’ve met brilliant 21 years olds, and dopes twice their age. But I still don’t know how to vote on this one, swinging from No to Yes to No on a daily basis.

The problem is why FG/Labour are wasting my money even asking us this question. The Constitutional Convention, much to my cynical surprise, actually came up with some good stuff. Then FG and Labour, two parties who don’t give a damn about the Presidential Age issue (count how many street lamp posters they paid for on the subject) decided to throw this one on the ballot in a feeble attempt to be political reformers. Even Fianna Fail in government didn’t waste our money and time with this nonsense. They just said they were against political reform.

We could be voting on elected mayors, letting non-TDs be ministers, Seanad reform…but Fine Gael and Labour picked this yoke to vote on. This is the issue that FG and Labour backbenchers voted through believing it to be the number one political reform issue facing us.

This thing. You know that scene in “Sherlock” when Charles Augustus Magnussen flicks Dr. Watson in the eye, and dares him to do something about it. That’s what they’re doing right there.


On May 22, you can be a king.

Posted by Jason O on May 15, 2015 in Irish Politics

It’s a good thing I was born straight, because I’d never have had the courage to come out. Despite all my liberal beliefs and belief in Ireland’s progress, personally, I’d be a coward. I’d be one of those middle-aged men who just lived alone, and mumbled something about “being very busy with work” when people make inquiries about one’s love life. One of those fellas who never met the right girl, God love him.

But I’m not, although, as one friend pointed out, I might as well be. I am middle-aged and live alone, but that, I had to point out, is because I’m an arsehole, and being an arsehole, unlike being gay, is a lifestyle choice.

So for me, it’s not a personal thing. But it is for so many. It literally is their life. On Saturday the 23rd, as the votes are counted, for thousands of people in the country it is their actual happiness. The turnout in Dun Laoghaire or Donegal, interesting nuggets to political anoraks like me, will actually decide whether they are in tears on Saturday night. This is their life we’re talking about.

Both Ursula Halligan and Noel Whelan alluded, in pieces this week, to people praying for a Yes. Now, I’ve never prayed for a political result. All those referendums, even when I ran myself, I never prayed for a result, and I do pray in my private life. I pray for loved ones, for help solving problems, but I’ve never prayed for a political reason because it just seemed sordid. Yet I can’t help but be seriously moved by the fact that there are people praying for a Yes not as a theoretical win or political statement but because it will allow happiness into their personal lives. Because it will allow them yes, to marry, but also to know that a majority of their friends, relatives, work colleagues went into a polling booth and said Yes, my friend is as entitled to be happy too.

Of course, there are people praying for a No vote, but they’re praying in an abstract way, against a concept they regard as morally wrong. I doubt many of them are actually praying to actively block the personal happiness of a specific individual. Or, if they are, then the God they are praying to isn’t the same one I pray to. Indeed, if they genuinely believe that their God will smile down with pleasure and satisfaction at the brokenheartedness of actual individual people if there is a No vote, is it possible they’re accidentally praying in the wrong direction? To The Other Fella? But I digress.

It comes down to this. On May 22, you have the power of a king or a governor standing over a death warrant or a pardon. It’s your choice. The box you mark will decide whether, say, an old gay man who hid in the unhappy shadows his whole life can suddenly, for the first time in his life, feel part of us all, or you can tell him to get back in the shadows. You have that power. This referendum will be one of the most selfless things many of us will ever do because it’s in secret and it will cost us nothing. You won’t even have to justify your decision. The power to bestow happiness is in your pencil, and you have to choose to give that happiness, or for some other reason decide that someone else will be denied it and that is your will they be denied it. The happiness or the heartbreak we see on Saturday night will be our decision, our specific personal choice as individual voters. You will put a smile on a face, or tears in an eye. No one else.

This isn’t North Korea or Saudi Arabia. This is Ireland and on May 22 every one of us over 18 is The King with his quill hovering over the parchment. It’s your call.


It’s Labour’s fault the Tories are in power so often.

Posted by Jason O on May 14, 2015 in British Politics

There’s an odd fact to be remembered when one is pondering the outcome of British general elections, a fact that needs not be heeded in almost every other democracy. It is the fact that how the British people actually vote is not the same as what parliament looks like in the end. Thus a clear victory for almost every party in every election since the mid 1970s has inevitably not been reflected in how voters cast their ballots.

The giant electoral brain that is Gerry Lynch recently pointed out that under many PR systems, the Tories and UKIP between them would probably have won a majority anyway. It’s a fair point often ignored by many on the left who just can’t countenance that the British people might actually want a centre-right government.

However, and there is a big however…supposing such an occurrence had happened, and a Cameron/Farage coalition had been formed. It would have implemented a load of hard right social welfare reforms, correct?

Is it? Suddenly, a cluster of UKIP MPs representing former Labour strongholds would happily sit by as their new constituents beat a path to their door to furiously object? Really? I doubt it very much. I think the faultline between the UKIP’s golfclub colonel voters and its former Labour voters would become very clear in the parliamentary party, and Farage would be doing a Nick Clegg with the handbrake to try to keep his new internal party coalition together. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that PR would mean Tory MPs in areas that traditionally don’t elect them under First Past the Post. Tory MPs who again might have constituents who rely more on public services.

It’s all speculation, of course, but my point is this. A voting system that represented all the voters would force any government to have to ensure at least the pacific consent of the majority of voters, something which neither Thatcher nor Blair ever had to worry about.

Labour, the party which bitches about the Tories dividing the nation, has had the opportunity on two occasions, under Wilson and then under Blair, to introduce Proportional Representation. Within Labour there has always been opposition to PR on the basis that it would cost the party seats and thus restrict the party’s ability to implement its agenda without compromising with coalition partners.

Looking at that stance now, it sounds frankly either ludicrous or downright dishonest. There are people in the Labour Party now who, despite rending their garments and wailing at the evils of the Cameron governments, will choose letting the Tories rule with 37% of the vote over having to share power with other parties. Given a choice between inflicting the bedroom tax or welfare cuts or food banks or any of the things they denounce as immoral, and introducing proportional representation, a system which will make those policies much harder to implement, it’s f**k the poor as far as many in Labour are concerned.

So please, spare us the histrionics, Labour. Between 1997 and 2010 you could have changed the electoral system. You didn’t. And now the Tories are going to change the boundaries making it even harder to get them out. Well done.


Govt to appoint Marriage Consummation Inspectors.

Posted by Jason O on May 12, 2015 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

In an attempt to reach out to Irish conservatives, the government has announced that it will legislate to ensure that marriages are sexually “consummated” as per the definition of the Iona Institute and others.

A government spokesperson said: “We’re very aware that elements of the No campaign spend an awful lot of time obsessing expressing concern about the sexual activities of married people, gay or straight. So we’ve decided to address this concern by appointing state inspectors to ensure proper consummation occurs.”

Sources in the No campaign expressed great enthusiasm at the idea: “We congratulate the government for meeting us halfway on this, and can provide a list of suitable people who take a very, very, eh, healthy interest in watching other people engaged in, you know, that sort of thing with the gentleman’s excuse me and a lady’s front bottom and, you know…we also are willing to send inspectors to make sure that the gays, if this thing equality thing passes, are consummating their marriages too. In fact we think there should be two or three inspectors in the room, from this list here, standing in the darkness, silently watching, mouth going dry, rosary shaking in my damp sweating palms…sorry I have to go now…excuse me…Bridget, do you have the central heating on, I’m sweltering here…will you ask that young American chap, no, the slim blonde one in the teeshirt I accidentally shrunk in the wash, to bring a new shirt to my office…No, I didn’t! I’m a man, sure what would I know about washing machines!”

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