Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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A Thumbnail Guide to Election 2020: The See-Nothing Party Man.

Envelope? What envelope?

Envelope? What envelope?

He’s not personally corrupt. Oh, he’s sat down with developers and followed up their queries with planners, but he does that for ordinary punters too. Nothing wrong with asking a legitimate question for a constituent, as long as you don’t try to get the planner to do anything wrong, and he doesn’t.

Elected to the council after the carry-on of the 1980s and 1990s, he doesn’t get approached for “favours”. He’s the new breed of the party’s councillor who wrinkles his nose at reading about yet another former party elected rep being done for corruption.

Yet don’t ask him to fight corruption. Don’t ask him to report anything he thinks is dodgy, and he sees enough of it, to the Guards or anyone else, because that’s just not done. He’s been known to turn on his heel walking into a toilet at the the council, when he sees a colleague receiving “papers” from a developer just before a vote.

In fact, that’s the thing. He actually spends time trying to avoid learning about corruption, because he can’t report what he doesn’t know.

“Trains to where, judge? Auschwitz? I just set the timetables. Couldn’t tell you what was in them. Was it strange that they were coming back empty? Do you know, I never thought to ask.”

 
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A Thumbnail Guide to Election 2020: A guide to Irish parties for non-Irish readers.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 27, 2020 in Irish Politics

Every now and then, especially around Irish general elections, I’m asked to explain the Irish party system to those from outside the country. Despite my own political bias, I’ll try and do a fair description of each.

Fine Gael: The governing party, led by Leo Varadkar. A slightly more socially liberal version of Angela Merkel’s CDU. Broadly centre-right (but not ideological), pro-business, pro-European and with a wide urban middle-class and rural large farmer base.

Fianna Fail: the traditional party of government. Centrist, very pragmatic, moving from left to right as needed but reluctant to make major change and has both conservative and liberal wings. Has support from most classes on an equal basis. Comparable to the old French Gaullist party or the old Chicago Democratic Party. Nationalist but not exclusionary about it.

Sinn Fein: the political wing of the Provisional IRA. A party in flux, on a journey from supporting armed insurrection to democracy. Pretends to be more left wing than it is. Has both socially conservative and liberal wings, and strong rural and urban working class base. Attracts many voters that would vote populist right on the continent but is firmly anti-racist.

Labour/Social Democrats: Social democrats responsible for most of the great liberal reforms of the last quarter century yet rarely rewarded by the voters. Struggling to stay relevant as parties on left and right cannibalize its votes. Comparable to Labour under Ed Miliband. the Social Democrats are a tiny offshoot of the Labour party also struggling to define themselves, especially from Labour.

Green Party: You know yourself. Comparable to the Lib Dems in the UK in that they became the receptacle for every angry voter with a grievance who then became livid when the party actually entered government in 2007 and was subsequently annihilated the following election.

The “Alphabet Left”: a collection of various Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party (Former Militant) deputies forever falling out and reforming. Unwilling to join a government unless it is a government of the pure left. Corbynistas but with much more contempt for each other. Currently called Solidarity/Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit/RISE.

Independents: Ireland has a rich tradition of Independent deputies elected from both left and right or because they were loyal members of a party right up to when it refused to give them a nomination. They tend to be bought off with deals for local spending in return for their parliamentary support.

 
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A Thumbnail Guide to Election 2020: The Unlistenable Politician.

pol books2Repost: Every time you see or hear him about to speak, you give him a chance. He’s an important senior politician, a leader in our country. His opinion matters.

Forty five seconds in, you’re flicking over to something else. Anything else. It’s not that you disagree with him or what he’s saying, after all, there’s some pleasure to be had screaming “You’re a f**king eejit!” at the telly or the radio. That would mean he’s actually said something.

No, it’s worse than that.

Every single time he says nothing. Every single time. He talks and talks and you can hear the cogs in the brain lining up the next trite offend-nobody vague platitude into the breech to be fired at us.

He’s like a football pundit who doesn’t really have any interest in football.

It’s not lies. It’s not offensive. It’s just nothing. It’s all a bit of a chore, one of those offshore gas drilling platforms that has to burn off the excess gas every while, only with him it’s words, all safe and harmless and meaningless.

We’d actually be better served if he just read out funny words he came across in the dictionary, or told us about an episode of  “Elementary” he watched recently, or rolled up a shirt sleeve and showed us a rash and asked us what caused that, do we think?

 
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A Thumbnail Guide to Election 2020: The Curse of the Shoo-In Candidate.

pol books2It’s a uniquely Irish concept. In other countries, parties brag about how well their candidate is doing. Not in Ireland. In Ireland, candidates, especially ones defending a seat, play up how desperate things are, how bad the campaign is going, how “the seat is gone”. There is nothing a candidate hates more than people saying she’s a dead cert, because in Ireland that’s political death. More people have gone into an election as the dead cert and come out with less votes than Gary Glitter at a National Association of Creches AGM.

It’s all to do with the second guessing poker nature of the Single Transferable Vote system. STV is a logical, rational and fair voting system which gives voters a wider choice than almost any voting system in the world. It asks voters to select their candidates in order of preference. As a result, there’s little chance of wasting one’s vote on an unelectable candidate.

But it never expected that it would have to deal with the Irish psyche, and voters who don’t just consider who they’d like to elect, but who they think other people are going to elect too, and so discount their own vote and transfer their vote to their second choice in the hope of getting a second bite of the cherry. It’s hardly surprising, as this is exactly the same way Irish people choose their third level educational future through the Central Applications Office. They’re asked to pick what course they really want, and instead enter what course they think they’ll get, and are then disappointed when they miss the course they actually wanted in the first place. They then vote the same way.

As a result, you have party voters who decide that Party X’s candidate A is a definite, and so instead gives their first preference to candidate A’s running mate, to give her a chance at taking a second seat for the party. The problem is that large numbers of candidate A’s loyal voters are all thinking the same thing, and so the running mate gets elected and candidate A is surprisingly defeated to the shock of all, with voters looking blankly at each other with a “Jaysus, if I’d only known. Sure everybody I know said they wanted him in!”

How do you prevent it? Vote for your favourite candidate first. It really is that simple. Really.

 
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A Thumbnail Guide to Election 2020: The Reckless Voter.

dynamiteYes, of course he’s entitled to his opinion, and yes, to his vote. But he’s not entitled to our respect. But let’s be clear who he actually is: he’s not The Voter Who Voted For Someone You Disagree With. That’s healthy, that’s democracy.

No, this guy is worse. This is the guy who listens to Trump, and knows what he’s saying doesn’t make sense, but it makes him feel good and so he votes for him anyway. Who hears a presidential candidate call on supporters to beat up opponents and thinks “Well, he didn’t tell them to beat up me, so it’s OK.”

Or she, on seeing Bernie getting defeated by Hillary, vows not to vote in a tantrum to “teach Hillary a lesson”. Because Trump will defend the rights that Bernie wasn’t able to?

Or votes to sabotage an EU-Ukraine trade deal not because they care about Ukraine one way or the other but because they just want to lash out.

These are the people who let the darkness in. The political plate spinners who look at all the broken crockery around them and always have someone else to blame. The people democratic theory fails, because it assumes that people will always vote in their own best interest.

They who voted for HIM because he was really tough on the Communists, and when Jewish friends asked them have they not heard what he says about Jews they go: “Meh: he’ll get rid of the Commies. Then we’ll worry about it.”

These are the people who go back to the firework after the fuse goes out, because it “hardly ever goes off”.

Copyright © 2020 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.