Posted by Jason O on Jul 15, 2015 in Fiction
, Irish Politics
, Not quite serious.
Supposing Bertie had tried to do the right thing…
REPOST FROM 2012
COWEN, BLAMING AHERN, CONCEDES DEFEAT AS KENNY OPENS NEGOTIATIONS WITH RABBITTE.
The Taoiseach, Brian Cowen TD, has conceded defeat after tallymen said that FF senator Cyprian Brady would narrowly fail to be elected to the last seat in Dublin Central. This result confirmed that Fianna Fail’s loss of five seats in the general election meant that it was now impossible for the party to attempt to cobble together a majority with the remaining PDs and independents.
Cowen launched a blistering attack on his predecessor, Bertie Ahern TD, for his decision, following the 2002 general election, to restrict mortgage lending and tax breaks. He identified Ahern’s attempts to dampen down the property market as the key reason for Fianna Fail’s defeat in the general election. The decision to restrict lending was very badly received by first time buyers, who accused the government of treating them like children and not letting them borrow as much as they wished.
Ahern’s January 2003 RTE Prime Time interview, where he suggested that the banks and mortgage holders were piling debts upon themselves based on massively overvalued assets caused the Taoiseach to be savaged by the media, who attacked him (and not just in their weighty property supplements) of being alarmist and talking down the market. Ahern’s refusal to back down led to a gradual slow down and modest dip in property values, and following heated rows in heated tents in Galway with party supporters, finance minister Charlie McCreevy announced his resignation, accusing Ahern of lacking courage.
The policy led to a substantial drop in employment in the construction industry, with unemployment leaping from 3.1% to 5.1%, and demands for the Taoiseach’s resignation by some FF backbenchers. Fianna Fail suffered heavy losses in middle class areas in the 2004 local and European elections, with Fine Gael trouncing FF with a clear call to reverse Ahern’s restrictions. Polls showed clearly that Ahern’s interference in the property market was deeply unpopular with middle class and aspiring middle class voters, and in June 2006, following a sustained campaign in the media, Charlie McCreevey announced that he was challenging Bertie Ahern for the party leadership. Although he defeated Ahern in the vote, McCreevy was beaten in the subsequent leadership election by Brian Cowen, his successor as finance minister, who pointed out that he believed in the “traditional idea that the leader of Fianna Failer should be, you know, a member of Fianna Fail.” The new cabinet announced it was reversing Ahern’s restricting on lending and restoring the tax breaks to the building industry.
The incoming Fine Gael/Labour coalition has said that it does not believe the fact that the country is building over 80,000 housing units when Sweden, with double the population, is only building 12,000, to be a cause for concern.
In other news, the family of Capt. Edward Smith, the “mad” captain of the RMS Titanic who rammed an iceberg in 1912 and caused over a £100,000 worth of damage to his own ship, have petitioned the British Government to clear the captain’s name. Smith, who died disgraced in 1950, always maintained that if he attempted to turn the ship away from the iceberg it could have been badly damaged along its hull in such a way as to sink the ship, a theory that modern engineers have recently begun to suggest has merit. For years, the phrase “To Smith Oneself” was a derogatory naval slogan to describe a foolish action taken by a person who claimed that they were attempting to avoid a greater catastrophe.
The former luxury liner continues to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in London, where it is moored.
Posted by Jason O on Jul 3, 2015 in Fiction
, US Politics
The weapon, later identified as a 10 mega-ton former Soviet warhead, detonated just as the new Knesset began proceedings. In a flash, Israel’s administrative capital, political leadership and just under three quarters of a million Israelis died, along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.
The news was greeted in different ways. In the US, the president was rushed to the emergency national airborne command post, whilst the vice president and others were sent to the alternate national command centre in Mount Weather. US forces were ordered to def con 2.
In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Riyadh, spontaneous crowds gathered in grotesque displays of euphoria.
Posted by Jason O on Mar 29, 2015 in British Politics
, Irish Politics
A long post: you might want a cup of tea with this one.
When the Taoiseach was told the news by the British Prime Minister, they say that his heart actually tightened and he was short of breath. He could have been forgiven if it had been true. England, the PM announced, was pulling out of the United Kingdom. After Scotland’s withdrawal the previous year a wave of introspection had swept south of the border, and suddenly English taxpayers were asking why they were paying billions to a bunch of ungrateful paddies. Enough was enough.
The truth, the PM said, is that we would have pulled out decades ago if it hadn’t been for the IRA. There’s nothing in Ulster for us, but we just couldn’t be seen to give in to the Provos. You know, spirit of the Blitz and all that. But now most English people don’t give a toss. It’ll be like Hong Kong: flag lowered, soldiers in big hats saluting, and that’ll be that. You’ll be the man who united Ireland, the PM said. You can thank me later.
The Taoiseach actually vomited when he was alone. His first reaction had been to beg the Brits not to leave. Where the hell was he going to find €10 billion a year extra to fund the north? Increase USC by two and a half times? But he couldn’t beg, because he knew that both MI5 and the dark shades brigade in Harcourt Street were both recording the conversation, and a leak of the prime minister of Ireland begging the Brits not to leave would get him killed. In Boston, quite literally.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 25, 2014 in Fiction
, Not quite serious.
In late 1988 the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a woman named Winifred Ann Bartowski, who worked in the Pentagon as a personal assistant to the Secretary of the Navy.
Bartowski had the second highest civilian security clearance available, and was arrested after a Soviet defector had revealed that the KGB had an extraordinarily well-placed source in the Navy Department. After months of surveillance, federal agents had determined that Bartowski had in fact been removing classified documents from her office and leaving them at a drop for Soviet agents.
Upon arrest, agents had been surprised to find that not only was Bartowski not upset at her arrest, but was in fact annoyed at the fact that the federal agents did not seem aware that she was operating under FBI instruction. She was even able to present a document purporting to be issued by the Justice Department authorizing her to break her security clearance and provide the secret information.
This was a common tactic of the KGB at the time, to convince ordinary patriotic Americans that they were not working for the Soviet Union but another branch of the US government which was itself testing the security of their department or organisation, or hunting another alleged spy.
Bartowski agreed to be polygraphed, and during her questioning not only convinced agents that she believed she had been working for her own government, but that she had visited a fully functioning FBI office operating in plain sight in Washington DC, where she had been given her mission and even spoken by phone with Vice President Bush who had assured her about spying on her cabinet officer boss and thanked her for her efforts.
This detail greatly alarmed the agents, because a number of them had recently worked on another counter-intelligence case where a suspect in the Department of Energy had given the exact same details. He too claimed that he had been taken to an FBI facility and tasked by federal agents.
On hearing of this, the Deputy Director of the FBI, Charles Farnsworth III, had requested that a special unit be set up to confirm the existence of this fake FBI operation (designated Red Office)and deal with it. Absolute secrecy was paramount, with the bureau being well aware that if the existence of Red Office became known in Washington circles, other agencies would immediately cease cooperation with the bureau on its investigations. Among the agents assigned to Red Office were Richard Anderson and James “Digger” Farroe, two counter-intelligence specialists. Farroe was the most junior agent assigned, straight out of Qunatico, and had been eager to make his mark. As the investigation begun, agents pored over the details given by Bartowski and Thomas Mellor, the Department of Energy employee who had told a similar story, trying to pinpoint from their evidence a possible location. Both had been blindfolded, and both said that they had driven for at least forty five minutes before entering through an underground car park. Both recalled seeing the Capitol from an office window. Agents spent hours poring over aerial shots of the city and searching buildings within line of sight of the Capitol without luck.
Late one night, Farroe decided to try a different track, and worked with Anderson to identify comedians and impressionists in the DC area who did impressions of the Vice President. Both men compiled a list, and proceeded, over the following days, to visit the list in the slim chance of finding the man who had spoken to Bartowski. On the second day, Anderson discovered a struggling part-time comedian named Johnny Seary who included the Vice President in his radio impressions, and who had died the previous day from a hit and run.
A search of Seary’s apartment revealed $4000 in cash hidden, with no clear identity as to its source.
The investigation had run out of ground when a second Department of Energy employee, Steven Parker, contacted the FBI. He produced a document similar to Bartowski’s and reported that he had, by chance, heard a radio station that had hosted Seary replay an old sketch in honour of his passing. Parker immediately recognised the voice, and suddenly had doubts about his secret FBI recruitment. Speaking to Farroe, his story was almost identical to the first too, save for one detail. On his blindfolded trip to the Red Office, he recalled the vehicle stopping and the loud cutting of an electric saw into wood. He also remembered flashing lights so bright that they penetrated his mask.
Farroe wondered as to whether this had indicated a tree that had fallen on a main road and was being removed by emergency services, and using the date given by Parker, proceeded to question both the DC Police and the Virginia State Police. The VSP came back quickly, confirming that a number of trees had been brought down on a road leading from Washington DC to Harrisonburg.
Farroe, not willing to wait for his partner, proceeded to visit the road, coming across a facility protected by unidentified security officers. On identifying himself as a federal agent, the security guards detained Farroe at gunpoint.
When Anderson, searching for his partner, visited the facility, he was shocked to find a large warehouse with an underground car park that housed a de facto movie set of an FBI office with false windows and lighting. Farroe was unconscious but unharmed, which the FBI later attributed to an unwritten rule that neither the US nor USSR kill each other’s operatives.
The FBI were never able to determine how long the Red Office operation had been active, nor how many agents it had recruited. The facility had been forensically cleaned, denying the FBI even the fingerprints of possible visitors.
Three weeks later, White House FBI liaison Paul Harris, who had been briefed by Farnsworth, resigned quietly, after he realised, studying photos of the facility, that he himself had been a Red Office operative, and had inadvertently tipped off the KGB to both the search for the Bush impressionist and Special Agent Farroe’s search of Virginia. Harris only revealed this fact on his death bed in 1994.
He also revealed that he had been ordered to direct the FBI towards a CIA operative named Brian Kelley who was believed to be a KGB spy but was in fact totally innocent. It later emerged that the Kelley operation had been created as a deliberate distraction to protect the KGB asset in the FBI Robert Hanssen, who was uncovered in 2001.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 2, 2014 in Fiction
, Irish Politics
DEV: PROBABLY STILL END UP RUNNING THE PLACE.
This is one of those counterfactuals that doesn’t hinge on a simple what-if-X-hadn’t-died. The truth is, it’s almost impossible to imagine Ireland not being partitioned without A) the British turning a blind eye (and that includes elements of the British Army which might have mutinied) and B) a civil war between, effectively, Catholic and Protestant that would have been far more vicious than the actual Irish Civil War of 1921-23. It would probably have ended with a mass exodus by thousands of Protestants from the north, pretty high loss of life (especially amongst areas with one group living amongst a predominantly larger one, such as Catholic areas in Belfast) and an historical legacy that we would be thoroughly ashamed of today.
Putting that aside, the question I ask is what sort of Ireland would have developed if the country had not been partitioned, nor fought a bloody and sectarian civil war?
Would we have still had the civil war we had? Given that the treaty did not bring about a republic in name and still required an oath of loyalty to the British monarch, it’s quite possible. But what if the unionist majority in the north (those who decided to stay) regarded the treaty as the best of a bad lot, and decided to fight to defend it given its recognition of their religious freedoms? We forget that the same elections that elected the second Dail in 1921 also elected 40 unionists would could presumably have taken their seats in the Dail, and so would have passed the treaty by an overwhelming majority.
Posted by Jason O on Oct 1, 2014 in Fiction
, Irish Politics
Last year I wrote “Sovereignty”, a radio play about a female Irish Taoiseach. You can read it here.
Posted by Jason O on Aug 16, 2014 in Fiction
, Irish Politics
But for Deputy Martin Faraday, it could all have been so different. The Irish government, pressurised by a politically active Pro Life Campaign (PLC), would still have held a referendum in 1983 to insert an anti-abortion clause into Ireland’s constitution. The 8th amendment to the constitution would still have overwhelmingly passed, declaring that the state would vindicate and defend the right to life of the unborn. Then Ireland would have continued on its “Do as I say, not as I do” way, turning a blind eye to its women leaving the jurisdiction to seek abortions in the UK. The PLC would celebrate their surreal victory as the one pro-life organisation in the world which celebrates not what happens to a foetus, but where it happens. An Irish solution, as it were, to an Irish problem.
The problem, however, was that Martin Faraday was that rare beast in Irish politics, a politician who actually believed what he said. A devout Catholic, the young deputy from Kilkenny was tall, handsome, charismatic, and had led his native county to victory in the GAA hurling championship in 1979. Although socially conservative, Faraday nevertheless had respect on the liberal left for his consistency, speaking out just as strongly on issues of poverty and on opposition to the death penalty. Many spoke of him as a future cabinet minister, perhaps even party leader.
The problem, political correspondents muttered to each other over a pint in the Dail bar, was that Faraday wouldn’t play ball. He wouldn’t keep quiet when it was wise to do so. He had been a key player in forcing the government to hold the referendum, and now he was going to take the outcome of the referendum to its logical conclusion.
The Protection of Life (Border Controls) bill of 1984, prepared by Faraday with a group of pro-life barristers, was placed before the Dail formally by him in a private capacity. The purpose, he told the house, was to implement the imperative in article 40.3 of the constitution. The state was committed to “defending and vindicating the right to life of the unborn, as far as practicable”.
This bill is, he declared, the practicable means of doing so. To the horror of both his own party and the opposition parties, all nominally pro-life and supporting the new amendment in its intent, the young deputy outlined a proposed system of border controls for pregnant women. All doctors would be required to place newly pregnant women on a national register, allowing the state to track each pregnancy to its completion. Any pregnant woman would require a special exit visa from the state, and would be examined upon her return to the jurisdiction to ensure that an abortion had not been procured. Aborting a foetus whilst abroad would result in a criminal conviction and a life imprisonment for both the woman and any individual who knowingly assisted her.
“If you oppose this bill,” he summed up, “you are not pro-life. By opposing abortion in Ireland but supporting the right to seek abortion abroad, you are just slightly less pro-choice. But you are not pro-life.”
The bill received major international media coverage, with many speculating that it would never pass. Both government and opposition spokespeople, speaking off the record, dismissed it as totally impracticable. But they hadn’t counted on Faraday, who mobilised the PLC once again, bringing to bear even greater pressure than had been brought on individual TDs and senators to enact the original amendment. First, politicians were publicly lobbied, harassed and cajoled into supporting “the Faraday bill” at least being put to a vote in both houses. What could be more reasonable, the PLC asked, than at least having parliament debate the deputy’s proposals?
Once that hurdle had been passed, and the bill was allowed be put to the floor, the campaign really started. The PLC publicly identified who was voting for and against. Parish priests singled out local politicians who failed to commit. TDs’ houses and family members were picketed, and the Catholic hierarchy, deeply wary of the bill, nevertheless came out in favour after threats from the laity.
Charles J. Haughey, who found the bill to be deeply objectionable, did what he usually did, and threw his support fully behind it on the basis that it was causing chaos for the Taoiseach, Garrett Fitzgerald, within his own party, and that was grounds enough. A number of Fianna Fail TDs refused to support the bill and were expelled for “conduct unbecoming a member of Fianna Fail”.
With the governing coalition, pro-lifers in Fine Gael and Labour held the majority, and demanded support. Fitzgerald kept his cards close, until the day of the vote, when he stood and announced that such a law went completely against the republican principles to which he subscribed, and he would therefore “stand by the republic” and vote against the bill, announcing a free vote and his resignation as Taoiseach.
The bill passed the Dail with a clear majority. The minority of deputies from across the political spectrum who had voted against the bill emerged from Leinster House to a large crowd of pro-life demonstrators. A small, unrepresentative number proceeded to rush the deputies, and there was a prolonged fight in the car park until baton wielding Gardaí managed to rescue them.
The new Taoiseach immediately appointed Martin Faraday as minister for justice with a clear responsibility for implementing his bill.
In the weeks that followed, abortion clinics in the UK reported a large upturn in Irish women seeking abortion. International TV crews gathered in Irish ports and airports to watch crowds of pro-life vigilantes carry out impromptu “inspections” of women leaving the country whom the suspected of being with child. BBC TV news ran footage, which was repeated worldwide, of a pregnant woman being called a “whore” by a group of self-appointed sash-wearing “Unborn Protection Officer” middle-aged men in Dublin airport, before being hit with a bottle. She later died that evening. The child was not saved. Faraday, to the surprise of many, publicly condemned the attack and the vigilantism, and demanded the prosecution of the individuals concerned.
The bill came into law within weeks, and soon large numbers of women were being denied exit permission on the grounds of suspicion that they may be seeking to terminate their pregnancies. The PLC celebrated (with non-alcoholic sparkling wine and orange juice) a sharp fall, in the first six months of the bill’s operation, in the number of Irish women registering for terminations in the UK. Faraday applauded the result as proof of the will of the Irish people, as expressed in the amendment, being carried out.
In the north of Ireland, the unionist parties, both strongly pro-life, attacked the law anyway, as proof of Rome Rule, in that wonderfully first principle gymnastic way at which Northern Irish politicians excel.
Then Marie-Louise Dufour, a young French 21 year old woman living as an au-pair for a middle class family in north Dublin, got pregnant by the family’s 19 year old son.
Dufour, on visiting a doctor and discovering her predicament, had decided to return to France and seek a termination. Oblivious of the Faraday law, she was stunned to find herself arrested at Dublin Airport and charged under the Faraday act.
Within half a day, the French foreign minister was on the phone to his colleague, demanding her release. The story was the lead item on French television news.
The Attorney General advised the cabinet that the Faraday act was correctly applied. The 8th amendment did not distinguish between the nationality of the mother or the unborn child, even if the foetus was half Irish.
The cabinet decided to instruct the AG to approach the Director of Public Prosecutions to see if the case could be dropped. The DPP, who had opposed the Faraday law, nevertheless was committed to enforcing the law, and this, he told the AG, was a clear cut case.
The Taoiseach received a phone call from President Mitterand. It was not a pleasant conversation. The French President left the Taoiseach in no doubt that France would not permit one of its citizens to be treated this way.
On returning to the cabinet, the AG suggested a last ditch appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the act. At this point, Faraday resigned, questioning his fellow cabinet members’ commitment to the unborn, including that “beautiful creature inside Marie-Louise Dufour. That is whom we are fighting for.” Faraday was met by a huge crowd from the PLC who hung on his every word.
That afternoon, to massive media coverage, the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau, accompanied by support ships, became visible off Dublin Bay. The boom of patrolling Super Etendard fighters could be heard in the city. The Irish Naval Service ship LE Aoife was despatched to “escort” the French ships, but proceeded to have an engine failure and had to be towed back to port by one of the French escorts.
The Taoiseach quickly contacted President Reagan, asking for assistance and perhaps even US protection. Reagan, although sympathetic, pointed out that the US had been alarmed at Mitterand’s election in 1981 and was treading very carefully to keep France in NATO, and so didn’t really want to cause waves. He also pointed out that the story was getting awful coverage in the US.
President Mitterand then called the Taoiseach again, and suggested that as it seemed a legal resolution was impossible, France had a suggestion. Initially appalled, the Taoiseach consented.
Marie-Louise Dufour was moved to Garda headquarters, and at 3am on Sunday morning a helicopter carrying French commandos from the Clemenceau carried out a lightening raid. Gardaí on duty had been warned 10 minutes previously by the commissioner that they were not to offer resistance, and the French commandos, as agreed with the Taoiseach, were carrying unloaded machine guns. Nominally under duress (but after offering tea and coffee, which was politely refused, although a few chocolate digestives were received gratefully), the duty officer led the commandos to Dufour’s cell, where she was handed over to the French soldiers, and they departed.
The government protested formally, and a large PLC demonstration had to be beaten back by a large Garda force at the French embassy.
The cabinet then discussed repealing the Faraday act to prevent a future occurrence. The AG grimaced. It won’t make a difference, he said. The act, by its operation, has proven that it is actually practicable to detain pregnant women. It has actually reduced the number of Irish women seeking abortions. Even without a law, the state still has an onus to act to defend the unborn. It’s arguably illegal to dismantle the Faraday system. There is only one real option.
A week later, the Taoiseach went on TV to announce that the 8th amendment as currently structured was causing the country serious harm. He announced a referendum to repeal it.
The PLC, led by Faraday, mobilised a massive campaign of opposition. Polls showed overwhelming opposition to repeal.
Three weeks later, 62% of voters voted to repeal. In the exit poll conducted on the same day, 62% of people actually speaking to pollsters said they were against repeal, and had voted against.
Posted by Jason O on Jul 24, 2014 in eNovels & Writing
*A warning to readers: this is a long, speculative short story. Cup of tea and a chocolate digestive recommended.
Lars Wentworth III was a right wing Tea Party supporting billionaire who thought that President Obama was a communist. Throughout his life, most of which was spent as America’s ninth richest man, he had funded right wing candidates who held such extreme positions that many of them would have been arrested had they opened their big yaps in Europe, or Canada or any of those countries where not letting poor people die from illness was not regarded as proof of Marxism.
However, acute observers of Wentworth would have noticed one surprising factor about the candidates that the billionaire generously funded. They all kept quiet on gay issues. Read more…
Posted by Jason O on Jun 10, 2014 in Fiction
, US Politics
President Nixon: Tragically Slain in Dallas, 1963.
PRESIDENT NIXON DEAD. SHOT IN DALLAS. VICE PRESIDENT CABOT LODGE SWORN IN AS PRESIDENT.
The murder of Richard M. Nixon on the 22nd November 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald brought a meteoric political career to a cruelly abrupt end. The man who had risen from entering Congress in 1946 to defeating Senator John F. Kennedy in the razor thin election of 1960 was almost certain to be re-elected in 1964, given his adroit handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, tough line on Vietnam (remembering Truman’s “losing China”) and his hard-line on civil rights solidifying black votes into the Republican column. The death of the young, cheerful and endearingly awkward war hero president stunned America.
Vice President Henry Cabot Lodge easily defeated Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, running on a thinly veiled racist (against his own better judgement, he admitted years later) states rights campaign the following year. As history now shows, the Republican landslide of 1964 was the last good thing to happen to the former Massachusetts senator. Read more…
Posted by Jason O on Mar 14, 2014 in Fiction
, Ireland 2020
, Irish Politics
Action Party Leader Suzanne Smith
The newly formed Action Party continues to lead in the recent Red C poll in the Sunday Business Post. Excluding don’t knows, the poll puts the AP on 38%, FF on 24%, FG on 18%, Labour on 6%, Sinn Fein on 13% and others on 1%. Sources in the FG/Labour coalition said that “the only poll the government is interested in will be on polling day.”
Political pundits have called the continued strong performance of the Action Party extraordinary, considering that it is only a year old and has no TDs or senators. Suzanne Smith, the well-known businesswoman and party leader, continues to lead in the polls as preferred choice for Taoiseach. Tom Haskey of the Irish Times: “What’s interesting is the level of enthusiasm for the party. People either love it or hate it, and let’s be honest, the National Guard is the source of much of that strong feeling.”