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

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Attention Starved Backbencher

Posted by Jason O on Jan 27, 2016 in Not quite serious., Occasional Guide to Irish Politics

Repost: Faux indignation is his trump card. He’s constantly “not apologising to anyone” for having the courage to bring up the need to protect puppies from being put in blenders, or children from being fed gravel laced with arsenic. HE.WON’T.APOLOGISE. Oh no.

Sitting on the government backbenches, where he can’t attack people on real issues because he keeps voting for them, he’s desperate to get media attention. So desperate that he doesn’t mind coming across as Arthur Daley sincere or just a brain damaged moron. Every issue he and the oily urchin wannabe who’s his parliamentary assistant consider running with has to pass one test: will it get me in the papers/on the telly? That’s all that matters. It could be creating a National Bosco Museum or providing a box of After Eights to every pensioner, it doesn’t matter. The entire process hinges on “Look at me!”

The gas thing is that he has no interest in politics whatsoever. He’s only in this party because someone asked him first. Fascist? Communist? Conservative? Liberal? These are just words. If launching a passionate defence of Lebensraum will get him onto the Marian panel, he’ll be polishing his boots faster than you can say “Jawohl, mein fuhrer!”


Meanwhile, behind a bin in Brussels post-Brexit…

The scene: The Irish EU commissioner is strolling down the Rue Archimedes to work one crisp Tuesday morning, two years after Brexit.

Voice from behind bin:   Psst!

Paddy stops, strolls over to the bin. A man in a long coat and hat, with an enormous false moustache is hiding.

Charles: Paddy! It’s me! Charles! (lifts hat)

Paddy: Charles? What the f**k are you doing? Is that a real moustache?

Charles: No, I had to go in disguise. If the euroskeps knew I was here I’d be done for treason!

Paddy: Oh yeah, I suppose. Eh, what can I do for you?

Charles: Is there any chance you could stop having meetings about things that affect us?

Paddy: Sorry?

Charles: It’s just that you keep discussing things that affect us, and we’re not in the meeting, and it’s very awkward. See this? Stuff like this. (removes a sheaf of paper he had shoved down the back of his trousers)

Paddy: Where have you been keeping this Charles? Look at the state of it.

Charles: Yes, sorry, Cameron and I have to be very careful that the Taliban don’t see us reading draft EU directives. It’s kind of heresy now. The official line is that nothing the EU does affects us. So we have to read them in the jacks in Downing Street. They’ve people everywhere.

Paddy: What’s this anyway?

Charles: It’s the draft proposal on pension funds, putting a tax on funds leaving the EU. That’ll hurt the City.

Paddy: So? This is an internal EU matter.

Charles: Yes, but it affects us! There’s a load of countries in a room talking about stuff that affects us and we’re not there!

Paddy: Yeah, I can see that. Alright, I’ll see if I can put in a word.

Charles: Thanks Paddy, we really appreciate it. Have to go: I’m meeting the Dutch behind that skip on Square Ambiorix.

Paddy: Sure. Take care, foreign secretary.


Some things I have learnt about Irish Politics (repost).

Posted by Jason O on Jan 27, 2016 in An Occasional Guide to EU Politics, Election 2016, Irish Politics
I knew your father/mother/social welfare officer well!

I knew your father/mother/social welfare officer well!

The first election campaign I was ever directly involved in was the 1991 local elections, where I canvassed for Jeananne Crowley in the Pembroke Ward, a seat I’d contest myself in the 1999 elections. After that, I campaigned in local, general, European and by-elections, and in a number of referendums. And that’s not counting the internal party elections I campaigned in. Between 1991 and 2005, when I resigned from the Progressive Democrats, I experienced a fair bit of Irish politics, and came across what I would regard as fairly solid general rules of Irish politics. They are general, there are always exceptions, but broadly speaking I believe they’re true:

1. With the possible exception of Sinn Fein and the Alphabet Left, and maybe in by-elections, there is no longer such a thing as party machines in the traditional sense. Successful candidates have to effectively build their own teams of, for the most part, personal loyalists. Many if not most of the party members who turned up to vote at the convention will not end up knocking on doors.

2. Irish people vote for people over ideas nearly always. People are far more likely to vote for a person they like but disagree with politically over a person they agree with but dislike.

3. It is possible to be interested in the politics of ideas, or the politics of winning elections, and never have anything to do with the other. Indeed it is getting more and more likely.

4.  The one characteristic a successful candidate absolutely must have over everything else is physical stamina, and a willingness to keep knocking on doors and talking to people over and over again. It is possible for a stupid candidate to be elected again and again. A lazy candidate will probably only be elected once, and only because he/she is related to someone.

5.  The lack of knowledge displayed by voters, and their pride in that lack of knowledge, about how the political system works, and how decisions are made, will never cease to amaze you.

6. By international standards, it is relatively easy for a small group to change things in Ireland if it has determination, courage and organisation. The failure to bring change has usually been because of a lack of one of those three factors. The Provisional IRA and the Progressive Democrats proved that.

7. Irish people take a masochistic comfort in believing that an uncontrollable force, be it the Brits, the IMF, or potatoes, is responsible for their woes, and are comfortable with people knowingly lying to them.

8. “The Rich” are people who earn €15k more than you per annum. “The Ordinary People” are your friends and family.

9. The fact that we ask candidates the same questions in both local and national elections explains a lot about why Ireland is the way it is today.


An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Party Loyalist.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 26, 2016 in Election 2011, Irish Politics

Repost: You can hear him in a quiet room, mouth hanging open, air rushing in and out as his dull eyes stare blankly into an imaginary distance. Occasionally, the waft of stale urine will emanate from him. For him, the party is everything, and the affixation or removal of party membership decides his opinion on a person. A party man can do no wrong, and a non-party man can do no right.

The truth is that the party, with its open-to-all-with-a-pulse policy, has provided a social structure to him that exists nowhere else in his life. A two line notice of a cumann meeting is carefully scrutinised a dozen times and then placed on the carefully dusted mantelpiece over the fire where his mother knows not to touch it. Everyday, he takes it down to read again, to just make sure that he has the date and time and location correct, even though all three are the same every month.

He will be at the meeting at least 45 minutes early, with a Club Orange in front of him bought with the €10 his mother gave him, and will twist in the seat every time the door opens to see if a party member is coming in. Read more…


We’ll miss Angela when she’s gone.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 17, 2016 in European Union

angelaEvery now and then you hear the fairly accurate accusation that there is one rule for big EU countries like Germany, and another rule for smaller EU countries. It’s true in many instances, but what is striking about the remark is that people feel that they need to say it, as if it is a new piece of information. Is there anyone who believes that some wag in Prague in the 1930s, or Belgium or Serbia in 1914 said it and other people around him said “You know, you’re damn right! I’ve never thought of it like that before!”

There’s nothing new about big countries having more power than small countries. Yet we say it like it’s a new occurrence in the EU, and that’s because historically the EU has been an incredibly effective means of magnifying small nation power whilst restraining big ones. Now, let’s be honest: the EU and its predecessors have always been more influenced by the larger countries, but also funded more by them. That was the deal. But as an arrangement it has been a success to varying degrees for all its participants.

The system hinges on big countries restraining themselves, and that may be about to change. Angela Merkel is in big political trouble in Germany, possibly the first democratic leader to be removed from office for showing too much kindness. She may well be ousted from office, and there’ll be many both in and outside Germany who will be delighted at her removal.

But you know what? We’ll live to regret it, because Merkel is a European German,  and possibly the last German chancellor who thinks of German and European interests as being intertwined. Her successor, whomever that will be, could well not be of the post World War II guilt complex generation.

He or she will regard putting Germany first as being as perfectly normal as the Taoiseach regards putting Ireland first, or the French President putting France first. The difference being that Germany is the most powerful nation in Europe, and  a Germany that feels no obligation towards other European countries is a very different Germany from the one we have now.

There are plenty of people who disagree with that. Some of them talk about the Fourth Reich and all the rest, but you know what? They’re fucking morons.

In the words of the historian Timothy Garton Ash this is the best Germany we’ve ever had. Generous, cooperative, part of a European family.

The Germany of Kohl and, yes, Merkel. Only when we have lost it, like so many things, will we realise how valuable it was.


10 things I have learnt from RTE’s “Rebellion” (so far)

Posted by Jason O on Jan 11, 2016 in Cult TV, Irish Politics

rebellion1. There was a lot more sex when the Brits were here. I think we banned it after independence, until Gay Byrne discovered it again. For telly that is, not personally.

2. Is it possible that the Holy Joe Rebels and the Workers Republic Rebels never had a conversation as to what sort of Ireland they wanted after the Rising?

3. Seriously, would it have killed them to let one woman sign the Proclamation? Don’t give me the aul “different times” argument. This was supposed to be the new way.

4. A question: what happened to all the southern Catholic unionists? All join Fine Gael?

5. Many of the same Irish soldiers fighting the same Irish rebels would do it all again, much more viciously, in the civil war.

6. If the women of “Rebellion” had been in charge we’d have a republic by the Tuesday. But it would have been a pretty dour country run by a Mary Hanafin type scolding us in a big foldy hat. And shootin’ people for looting.

7. The Brits f**ked up and effectively created the Shinner mystique, wrongly blaming them for the rebellion. Oh, the irony.

8. Surely on the day The Proclamation was just a proclamation before it became The Proclamation.

9. Dublin taxi-drivers haven’t changed: “Sorry love, I’m not going that way. Sure there’s a load of urban guerilla activity up there, and the match is on tonight.”

10. We now know why the Brits stayed so long and why we put up with them: they got to keep their beautiful but icy wives, and we got a good seeing to by someone who doesn’t regard the phrase “Brace yourself Bridget*!” as foreplay.


*Note: I cannot claim to have come up with the phrase “Brace yourself, Bridget!” I so wish I could. It’s a wonderfully evocative phrase. Hats off to whomever did.


Great TV: Deutschland ’83 and Spin

Posted by Jason O on Jan 9, 2016 in Cult TV

Deutschland 83Two shows worth a watch for the political thriller junkie:

The first is the German thriller “Deutschland ’83” (RTE and Channel 4) which is about an East German spy in the mid-1980s placed into the West German army as an aide to a senior NATO general. The East German perspective, where the KGB/Stasi are absolutely terrified that Ronald Reagan means what he says and is planning a secret first strike with Pershing II missiles on the Warsaw Pact is fascinating. With the benefit of hindsight, the idea is ridiculous, but one could see how they actually believed it at the time. The plot neatly ties in with actual events of the time, the cast is great, and the soundtrack of 1980s hits really adds to the authenticity of it. Unlike similar concept show “The Americans” this has a hint of humour.

Spin Tv series“Spin” (More4) is a French political thriller following two spin doctors, the old master and his protégé, battling it out over a snap French presidential election caused by the murder of the President of France. Made in 2011 (why did it take so long to get over to us?) it’s stylish, and has that look that comes from actually being filmed in France, the world’s most photogenic country. You might recognise Gregory Fitoussi from the French cop show “Spiral”.


State of the parties.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 4, 2016 in Election 2016, Irish Politics

So: eight weeks out, what’s the political landscape looking like?

Fine Gael: the blues are in solid form, with a clear identity, a clear pitch, and a clear electorate. Stability, stability, stability, and keep other people’s hands out of your arse pocket. Won David Cameron an election, that did.

Fianna Fail: in better shape than the media think. If you stop comparing FF to the old days, a party on 17% is doing well in a modern European multiparty democracy. Yeah, there’s a hint of the 1977 manifesto about their pitch, but guess what? There’s votes in that. Don’t forget the FF organisation hasn’t forgotten how to pander on the doorsteps. They’ll do better on the day than people think.

Sinn Fein: If you take the long term view, and they seem to, election 2016 will be another solid step in their Slowly Slowly Catchy Monkey strategy. Put it another way: if Labour had been this patient five years ago, we really would be talking about Gilmore for Taoiseach.

Labour: still not sure what their pitch is or towards whom? Labour feel like the old Irish Home Rule party refusing to believe that things have changed. Pity: they haven’t been that bad in government, but they promised so so much. Don’t forget, this happened to them in 1997, and that was when the country actually had money. Labour thinks so much about getting into government they never seem to imagine there will be a moment when they have to go back to the voters.

Renua/Social Democrats: the sushi parties. An acquired taste that some people are mad about but others wouldn’t touch. Both have a fair pitch, almost a mirror pitch. But will they have enough votes to be more than just what-label-are-they-wearing-today? candidates? Would do well in a list system.

Alphabet Left: will do grand giving it loads, up the revolution and all the rest. And refuse to actually play a role in any decision making after the election. The Madonna’s “Vogue” parties. Go on, think about it.

The Independents: the entertainment. I’ll wager that some of these guys by the next election will be some of the most hated politicians in the country, by their own constituents. Mostly for not being psychic about every single on of their voters’ intimate wishes, running away from unpopular decisions, or bringing down the Dail.

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