He touts himself as a straight talker, man of the people and enemy of the establishment. Except when he’s working for RTE or the biggest media groups in the country. On the radio, he’s scathing of public figures until they appear on the show, where the sound of him performing fellatio upon them can be quite stomach churning. And don’t let him talk to anyone vaguely famous from across the water: He’ll pull that “You and I have been long enough in this game…” lark in a nauseous attempt to put himself on an equal standing with people who have no idea who he is.
In short, his slogan should be quite simply: I say the establishment disgusts me, but I have my price. Which is probably a good thing, given the amount of Columbian marching powder he vacuums up on a weekly basis. His anti-establishment credentials are best summed up by the theme of an ad that once appeared in a newspaper for a phone sex line: “I’m not gay, but I think the guy sucking my cock might be.”
Posted by Jason O on Mar 10, 2011 in Election 2011
, Irish Politics
I’m not going to bother talking too much about Enda’s new cabinet, as I don’t have much interest in the Irish “Who is up, who is down” thing. He’s gone for experience over youth, which is fair enough. He’s appointed fewer women ministers than under the “conservative” FF/PD coalitions, which must be slightly awkward for Labour, but it’s not a huge deal. He also missed an opportunity for a symbolic “New Politics” appointment of an outside technocrat through the Seanad, but maybe he’ll do something with the junior ministers. But at the moment it looks a bit stale as a government, like a really exciting 1987 cabinet.
Shane Ross, Joe Higgins and Ming suggest that they might be worth keeping in the House. Richard Boyd Barrett and Clare Daly could learn a lot from Joe, in terms of humour (His “There’s two of us in it, Taoiseach” remark to Bertie about Bertie’s socialism counts as one of the all time greats) but also, in RBB’s case, in sartorial style. Joe dresses smartly without being flash, whereas RBB looked like he was about to address a Kazakh tractor factory. His humourless hectoring and Single Transferable Speech will wear us all out soon enough. Ross has “Parliamentarian” stamped all over him and is almost certainly going to be a pain in the arse to the government front bench, which is exactly what he’s there for, and Ming has a refreshing honesty about him. I suspect Mick Wallace, from his lacklustre performance today, could burn out very quickly indeed.
Gerry Adams seems determined to kick off early as de facto leader of the opposition, forcing Micheal to parry him. That’ll be fun.
I was thrown by Michael Healy-Rae’s combover, as it’s been so long since I’ve seen one. Is it a branding thing? Or has he never heard of Jean-Luc Picard or Grant Mitchell?
Finally, Enda looked the part, and his steely responses to Micheal shows that, just maybe, the office maketh the man.
Posted by Jason O on Mar 9, 2011 in Election 2011
, Irish Politics
There is nothing the Irish like more than a good betrayal. As a people, the idea of being screwed over by someone else, whether it is the British, the banks, the IMF or our own potatoes, delivers in us a masochistic pleasure, allowing us to believe ourselves to not be masters of our own destiny, but instead, the pitiful plaything of other greater forces. Many an Irishman gets no greater pleasure than, as the jackboot of the oppressor pushes his face into the cold wet soil, he gives the oppressor the dirtiest scowl he has ever received! Let him go back to his big house and better living standards knowing that we have scrabbled in our own filth and shook our fist in his direction (when he wasn’t looking, of course)!
Already, yesterday, before the new government has even been sworn in, I encountered someone who is “disappointed” with the new government. Before they are even the new government! Yet even as I dismissed the criticism, I know in my own heart that I’m just waiting to be disappointed by Enda and Co. Not by their inability to transform the country’s economic situation, which is something over which they will only have limited control, but that shadow over the face moment when they become the establishment and step quietly away from the stuff they spoke with passion about in opposition. I’m waiting for that moment when they start to actively sabotage political reform, or at worst defang it so that it becomes meaningless. Watch as local government reform gradually gets watered down, or as the constitutional convention gets packed with people who are all for putting symbolic stuff into the constitution, but don’t change the voting system or the balance between voters and the state. Watch as the Dail remains answerable to the Government, not the other way around.
Maybe I’m a cynic. They are entitled to the benefit of the doubt, and maybe they will surprise us by, for example, nominating people from outside the Dail (like Pat Cox) as ministers. If they do, they deserve credit for it, and get it (from me) they shall.
I’ve only managed a very cursory read of the programme for government, because of deadlines, and I do intend to post something more substantial about it later this week, but my initial feelings are mixed. There is some good stuff in it on political reform, but there seems an awful lot of “reviews” and open-ended stuff that makes me think that if the coalition think that they can get away with avoiding any serious action on it, they will.
Andrea, my partner-in-crime over at www.election2011.ie thinks it is a good document, but then she holds politicians in much higher regard than I do. I don’t think they’re inherently evil, I just think that they regularly need to be shown the whip to keep them in line. Political reform is, I suspect, going to be one of those areas where the crop will need to be kept close to hand.
On the positive side, you have to be impressed with the clockwork mechanism we have now developed for assembling governments after elections. I remember watching, wth other pol hacks, the sheer terror on the faces of British political journalists last May when they realised no one had won an overall majority. It was really very funny as they talked about the pound collapsing, etc, and I remember thinking: “Either British politicians seriously overestimate their own importance, or Britain as a country is far more unstable than Ireland. Or Belgium, for that matter. Or Italy, even.”
Of course, it all turned out to be balls. But then, Britain wouldn’t be the first country to have politicians who overestimate their indispensability.
Additional note: I don’t hold out much hope for serious political reform when I hear RTE describe replacing Garda ministerial drivers with civilians as “political reform”.
Posted by Jason O on Mar 6, 2011 in Election 2011
, Irish Politics
Into the Valley of Death rode the 37.
It’s time it was said: Labour had a mediocre election. I’ll pause here for a moment to let the indignation rise. Best number of seats ever, etc. Yes, I know. But seriously: Fianna Fail was like Himmler at a Bar Mitzvah and Labour beat them by a mere 2%? Labour are 2% more popular than the party that destroyed the country? Seriously?
80% of Irish voters, looking at the Labour candidates on the ballot paper, decided to give their first preference elsewhere. Yes, many of them came back to Labour eventually in lower preferences, but at that stage it was probably as much an anti-Fianna Fail thing as it was pro-Labour. Which begs the question: Is this proof that Labour has finally broken through into second party status, or is this just, like 1992, a flash-in-the-pan skin deep result? Will election 2016 be where a leaner, fitter Fianna Fail punches Labour to the ground and takes second place? Is there anyone who really believes that Labour will come out of election 2016 will more seats than they had going in? Yes, I know, five years away, ridiculous to speculate, etc. But in your gut?
Today (Sunday) Labour will vote to enter government, and I don’t envy them their choice: They have to vote Yes, because to not do so will be to betray the voters whom they never seriously hinted at that they would stay in opposition. Yet they know in their hearts that going in will give Fianna Fail the prominence and the space to recover, and give Sinn Fein and the United Left a clear target to assault from the left. Labour in opposition, leading it, would be the great transformational moment in Irish politics, Left Vs. Right, and probably dooming Fianna Fail.
But, to their credit, going into government is in the national interest. Yes, there will be those who sneer about careerists and ambition, but there is nothing wrong with ambition. People go into politics to get things done (unless of course you’re Joe Higgins or Richard Boyd Barrett) and Labour are going to take one for the team, and for that we should be grateful. To those about to lose their political lives, we salute you.
Posted by Jason O on Mar 4, 2011 in Election 2011
, Irish Politics
An Taoiseach and minister for Up Mayo!: Inda.
Minister for Testicular Manipulation: Phil Hogan.
Minister for Renaming The HSE The Health Operations Logistical Executive (HOLE): James Reilly
Minister for Really Hard Sums That Have Greek Letters In Them And Need Log Tables: Richard Bruton
Minister for Containing Gayness: Lucinda Creighton
Minister for Voldemort Affairs: Leo Varadkar
Minister for Nice Suits: Simon Coveney
Minister for Shouting And Up Mayo More!: Michael Ring
Minister for Speaking In A Low Voice That Sounds Calm: Michael Noonan
Minister for This is Very Serious: Eamon Gilmore
Minister for Haranguing: Go on, guess!
Minister for Fianna Fail Reminders: Pat Rabbitte
Minister for Talking To People Who Own Things Without Scaring The Shite Out Of Them: Ruairi Quinn
Minister for Talking To Foreigners And Pronouncing Guy In A French Way Without Sniggering: Pat Cox.
Posted by Jason O on Mar 3, 2011 in Election 2011
, Irish Politics
Call me a cynic (Oh go on!) but I’m just waiting for that moment. You know it: That moment where a new government does something that goes against the tone they ran on in the election. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about a cutback or a tax, that’s par for the course in these times. I’m talking about the political U-turns, the ones they make not because they have to, but because they want to. Like Labour abandoning abortion reform or same-sex marriage, or Fine Gael abandoning Seanad abolition. Things they abandon because it suits the dynamic of the coalition. Of course, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they’ll surprise me. We’ll get an idea on Friday.
Posted by Jason O on Mar 1, 2011 in Election 2011
, Irish Politics
Suddenly, a ghostly Dick appeared...
Let me be clear about what I’m not saying. I understand why Labour want to go into government. Yes, there’s a ego “Hey, look at me, I’m a cabinet minister and you bastards said I’d never amount to anything!” thing, but that’s not unique to Labour. There’s also the simple decent idea that one can do some good in government. But that is very hard when you’re trying to run the country on Tesco coupons clipped from the newspaper. Doing good costs money, and we ain’t got any. I understand why Labour wants to go into government, I really do. To their credit, it’s probably even in the national interest.
But it is not in Labour’s long-term interest. Just look at the figures: Labour got exactly 2% more in first preference votes than Fianna Fail, yet double their seats? What does that tell you? It tells me that Labour were very transfer friendly, the way Fianna Fail and the Greens were before 2007. But not much more popular than Fianna Fail. Now picture Labour 5 years from now, having gone through 5 years of cut backs and even if the recovery is in full swing, Labour will not have been able to live up to the tone it set for itself, of pain-free cutbacks and no income tax rises. Both Labour and Fine Gael will go into Election 2016 against a reinvigorated Fianna Fail (who, if the other opposition parties don’t combine against, will lead the opposition). The result: Fine Gael will take a hit, but remain the largest party. They have so many young TDs bedding in now that they have that chance. But Labour will have put up with 5 years of the United Left and the Shinners hammering them from the left, and being well organised in their constituencies to do something about it. It’s Dick Spring and 1997 all over again, the false dawn of spectacular Labour gains being wiped out faster than you can say “Master Anakin, you’re in a funny mood”
The truth is, If Labour wants to secure itself as the major or at least second party of Irish politics, it needs to lead the opposition and destroy its enemies to its left, and it cannot do that as part of a tax and cut government. But more importantly, it needs to destroy Fianna Fail, which it could do by becoming the obvious alternative to Fine Gael, and siphoning away Fianna Fail’s working class voters as Fine Gael takes their centre-right voters. But by giving Fianna Fail a lifeline, in effect shoring up the battered, tottering pillar of Civil war politics, Labour has sealed its own fate.
A few quid on Fianna Fail to be the second largest party in the state after the next election, methinks?
Posted by Jason O on Feb 28, 2011 in Election 2011
, Irish Politics
And now, the fun bit.
From Andrea Pappin and myself:
As the final counts take place and until Dick Roche realises he has actually lost his seat, there’s one thing that will be on everyone’s minds in political circles: government negotiations. Fine Gael are in the driving seat and have said they will be announcing their negotiating team and making calls to ‘potential Government partners’ in the morning. And while they may posture and start calling some Independents to try and make up the numbers, everyone knows that trying to control ten or eleven Independent TDs would be like trying to put cats in a bag. So, the real show in town is talks with the Labour Party.
There are two parts to the negotiations – 1. policy and 2. places at the Cabinet table. Policy is harder to ascertain now apart from the fact that regardless of how well the Programme for Goverment negotations go, Labour will get hammered harder for ‘acquiescing’ on their manifesto than Fine Gael will. But what is the real interesting show is who is going to tog out for the FG/Labour cabinet team.
The Irish Constitution is pretty broad on the Cabinet – all is really says is that it has to be between 7 and 15 people and that the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Minister for Finance have to all be from the Dail. After that, it’s pretty much fair game for the leading party. In reality, when building an Irish cabinet you’ve got to balance three areas, known in the business as the 3Gs – gender, geography and generation. So with that in mind, here are the votes from the www.election2011.ie jury on what our new Cabinet is going to look like:
Labour (5 cabinet seats)
Have got to balance experience with age which is the long-term perception of the party (though the raft of TDs are very much going to cock two fingers at people who keep harping on about that). The cabinet choices however will have to bring people with skills without looking like they need to make standard issue knee rugs for Cabinet meetings. Further to this there is still the remnants of an internal split, not seen outside of the party, between ‘old Labour’ and ‘Democratic Left’ which will no doubt get a bit of airtime when Labour are deciding their top five for the coveted posts.
Eamon GILMORE (Dun Laoghaire): Well, duh.
Joan BURTON (Dublin West): Couldn’t not. Sure what would Vincent do without her? Won’t be a big economic portfolio as much as she would like it to be.
Pat RABBITTE (Dublin South West): Solid media performer, with previous Cabinet experience as a Super Junior Minister in the 90s Government. Would be surprised if he was also not on the Government negotiating team too.
Jan O’SULLIVAN (Limerick City): Interesting thing about women in politics. While there are few to get elected, once you’re there, your chances of getting a Cabinet post are much higher. Jan is a safe pair of hands and also brings a non-Dublin geography to the Labour team.
Ciaran LYNCH (Cork South Central) or Sean SHERLOCK (Cork East): Both returning to the House after first being elected in 2007, either one of these TDs will help keeping the age profile lower while also balancing the regional element of the team.
The team put out for the government negotiations will give a good inkling on Labour’s five choices. And further to this, don’t rule out a ‘Super Junior’ Ministry or two for Labour. Ruairi QUINN has been overlooked in this line up but with only three years until the European Commissioner post is available and many Committee Chairs that will need good hands, Ruairi will know that benefit of having one of the Cork TDs on the team.
Fine Gael (10 cabinet seats)
Fine Gael have fewer women in their parliamentary party than they would like to admit, which puts some of the well known female faces well positions to take a seat. For them there will need to balance geography with the ‘Irregulars’ – that is those people who were not so keen on the person who now is handing out the portfolios. But keep your friends close and all that, so one or two will get the call.
Enda KENNY (Mayo): He’s got a five-point plan. To get Ireland working.
Richard BRUTON (Dublin North Central): Smart man. Well, Oxford thought so as they gave him a degree there.
Lucinda CREIGHTON (Dublin South East): Brought in a second TD in her constituency while also topping the poll. Recognised face which will be too busy as a Minister. Don’t think she’ll be getting ‘equality’ or accepting any invite to The George’s Sunday Night Bingo.
Leo VARADKAR (Dublin West): Known media performer. And young. Will be used as the bulldog on a chain by Enda to help get things done in the coalition.
Simon COVENEY (Cork South Central): Brings the geography. Brings the youth thing. Brings the tea.
Michael NOONAN (Limerick City): The Winston Churchill of Fine Gael. Being given a second run and people realise that actually he’s not too bad.
James REILLY (Dublin North) The Bearded One shall be anointed. And then appointed…to Health?
Frances FITZGERALD (Dublin Mid West): It’s a choice really between Frances and Olivia Mitchell for the ‘sensible older lady whose got experience’ seat. Think Frances wants the Minister post more, and will get it.
Charlie FLANAGAN (Laois Offaly): Geography, geography, geography.
Denis NAUGHTEN (Roscommon South Leitrim): Sensible guy. Who will get one of those mid-level sensible portfolios to match.
After that, the patronage extends to jobs like Junior Ministries and Parliamentary Committee Chairs and other choice jobs like Ceann Comhairle (Olivia MITCHELL maybe?). And before you ask Phil HOGAN will get a nod… as Chief Whip which allows him to be in Taoiseach’s Department (as a Junior Minister) while also being able to knock some heads together as Enda’s Heavy, which he seems to be happy to do. Another interesting one to watch out for is Attorney General, could Eugene REGAN get the nod or will he be beaten to it by another from the Law Library?
Additional comment by Jason: Will Enda start his new politics agenda by bringing in Pat COX either through the Seanad or by changing the law to allow him be appointed as a minister of state for Europe, to which one could be appointed to without being a TD with a referendum? That’ll be a test as to how serious FG are about changing the way politics works.
Posted by Jason O on Feb 27, 2011 in Election 2011
, Irish Politics
The Peaceful Revolution
We all knew from the polls that it was coming, but still, to witness it on the day, to see household names, political big beasts, not just lose their seats but go down in flames, getting beaten on first preferences by people you have never heard of…extraordinary. Oh, and by the way, our neighbours can go and stick First Past The Post where the sun doesn’t shine. THIS is an election, not the lucky dip tombola that passes for a British general election.
A few observations:
Fianna Fail: It’s a good job that Fianna Fail never succeeded in getting in First Past The Post, as they topped the poll in just two constituencies. If you extrapolate from 43 constituencies to 166, under FPTP Fianna Fail would have had a Canadian night, returning maybe six seats? It was absolutely extraordinary to watch voters use the Single Transferable Vote to gut Fianna Fail. As BBC analyst Gerry Lynch pointed out, centre-right voters were transferring from Maoists to Satan to keep Fianna Fail candidates out. Hosni Mubarak would have won a seat if he was running against Fianna Fail. The fact that so many young Fianna Fail TDs were defeated must be very worrying. If Michael Martin doesn’t get surgical with the Seanad seats Fianna Fail will still win (12, according to one informed Fianna Fail source) and pack them with young solid performers like Averil Power and Barry Andrews, Fianna Fail will have a big problem in the future.
Fine Gael: Extraordinary night for Fine Gael, and for Enda. You just have to give it to them, and to him. I haven’t been a (political) fan of Enda’s (Met him once, nice bloke personally) but he’s done it. He’s proven us all wrong, and now deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Labour: When the smoke clears, Labour need to have a long hard think about themselves. They have had a good result, there’s no question of that, but not the night they expected to have. They got a result comparable to the Spring Tide of 1992, but is that really good enough? After all, Fianna Fail had an appalling night, and Labour still failed to attract much more than what it got in 1992? Why is that? Or put it another way. In 2016, with Fianna Fail decontaminated, leading the opposition to FG/Labour’s cutbacks and with Labour getting hammered from the left by the combined forces of the United Left and Sinn Fein, Does anyone really believe that it is impossible for Labour to end up with a 1997 result, losing half their seats and being back to being a small party again? If Labour go in with Fine Gael, you can kiss Labour’s dream of becoming the dominant party in Irish politics good bye. Yet the pressure will be enormous, because so many of the, eh, chronologically challenged Labour front bench have never been cabinet ministers, and this could be their only chance.
Sinn Fein: This is the other big story of the night, not just how well Sinn Fein did, but how many seeds they planted for the future. When you look at Eoin O’Broin in Dublin West, for example. The result turns up its own challenges for Sinn Fein: Will it become a conventional party of the left, willing to compromise, or will it become an Irish version of the Front National or the Vlaamsblok, with a permanent cordon sanitaire around it? Bear in mind that nearly every radical party that enters government, like the Freedom Party in Austria, suffered at the following election.
The Greens: They did not deserve this. This was an act of petty vengeance against a party that, more than most, has tried to do the right thing. It’ll take them a decade to recover, if at all.
The ULA: Very strong and solid performance, and an interesting base. Both the shinners and Labour will have to watch their backs because Joe now provides a healthy refuge for the “sellout!” brigade.
The Independents. Ming, Wallace, Ross…this is going to be fun. Hats off in particular to Stephen Donnelly, who is still in the running in Wicklow, and seemed to have caught the imagination.
Finally: There could be more ex-Progressive Democrats in this Dail than the last one: Peter Mathews, Noel Grealish, Ciaran Cannon, Mae Sexton, Mary Mitchell O’Connor..