Posted by Jason O on Dec 11, 2015 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 who would presumably have taken their seats in the Dail, and so would have passed the treaty by an overwhelming majority.
Dateline: Helena, Montana, 2099
Tommy T. Thompson-Guiterrez (Libertarian), Governor of Montana, signed the Driverless Cars Act banning all non-automated cars from operating on the main roads and highways of the state in the state capitol this morning, making Montana the final state in the union to do so. The law itself is primarily symbolic, the governor said, given that 98.7% of all vehicles in the state are driverless anyway.
The bill was rushed through the state senate on Tuesday following an accident where a 103 year old pensioner driving a 2047 Buick caused a pile up on the interstate when he missed his turn, and killed four people. The State Road Agency has pointed out that all vehicle accidents reported in the last 22 years have been caused by human drivers.
The act will allow driver required cars to be driven on private property, after intensive lobbying by the Vintage Automobile Association of America. A second amendment, sponsored by Hot Tubs On Wheels billionaire J. Stevenson, which would have permitted the provision of hot tubs and related “adult services” in commercial driverless vehicles was rejected. Stevenson pointed out that such a provision in Nevada provides employment for a large number of high school leavers and provides relaxation for tired consumers on their long drives home. The state police have reminded occupants that whilst legal sexual activity in driverless cars is legal, occupants are obliged to close blinds on their vehicles, following last year’s case between Montana Vs. Montana Bondage and S&M Community Annual Roadtrip Ltd.
McDonalds have confirmed that they will be expanding their short-haul “Big Mac Taxi” service to the state, allowing customers to order a McDonalds meal and eat it as they are driven to their destination. Over 45% of all McDonalds meals in the US are now consumed in Big Mac Taxis.
Dateline: Austin, Texas, 2099.
Lobbyists for the National Rifle & American Values Association last night successfully defeated an attempt by the minority Democratic group in the Texas state legislature to end the right of passengers to bring assault rifles onto an aircraft with their hand luggage.
Unlike the states of the north-east and west coast, Texas remains with those states that support the so-called 9/11 law, inspired by gun lobbyists who suggest that if passengers had been armed the infamous terrorist attack of a near century ago would not have occurred. In Texas, the right is so vigorously defended that even Texas Airlines cabin crew wear sidearms as a point of principle.
As it happens, since the Second Amendment was devolved to state level, Texas has had the greatest number of IFIs (In-flight Firearms Incidents) of any state. A small number of planes have been brought down through explosive decompression.
In 2095 two men on a Texas Airlines flight from Houston to Nashville got into a drunken row, and in the gun battle that followed the flight crew were all killed by armour piercing bullets through the door of the flight-deck. The Attorney General of Texas attempted to sue Boeing-Airbus for not supplying an aircraft capable of landing automatically and instead crashing into a mountain.
The company pointed out that the plane did indeed have automatic landing capacity, but its flight controls were not designed to survive a burst of armour piercing machine gun fire. The Texas AG regarded that as an admission of liability, and wanted to know why the entire plane wasn’t armoured. Boeing-Airbus pointed out that it would then be a tank. The case is continuing.
The north-east states, Illinois and the west coast refuse to recognise the law, with flights from “Right to Carry Onboard” (RCO) states not permitted to fly into non-RCO states with armed passengers.
Guns continue to be very much a defining issue in the late 21st Century United States. Those essentially “blue” states have become less tolerant of the casual, if anything hysterical attitude to guns in the south and mid-west. With the Second Amendment now devolved, the borders of the states that take gun control seriously have heavily armed checkpoints of state police and National Guard to prevent Right-to-Carry (RTC) hardliners entering whilst armed, and it gets heated.
Last year, 32 Virginia law enforcement officials were killed in gun battles on the border with North Carolina, both states representing the frontline. On the Illinois/Indiana border in the same year a group of drunks decided to load up their pick-ups and taunt the Illinois State Police, who responded with an anti-vehicle missile fired from a drone.
Kennedy Airport, despite being in the heart of a gun control state, still has to take a tough line with the flights coming in from RTC states. Often, the security at those airports is deliberately scant, sometimes as a political point, and so when the flights land in NY they have to be met by state police with heavily armed combat drones to provide support if the situation gets out of hand.
Last month a newly-elected US Senator from Montana, C. James Dickerson III, found his flight directed by bad weather away from Dulles airport in DC, which as the federal capital turns a blind eye to RTC. Instead he arrived in New York, where his automatic pistol was detected by a SecuriDrone(R) and he was requested to surrender his weapon. Still giddy from his election, and possibly taken in by his own rhetoric, he refused to surrender his weapon, finally drawing it against the drone, which machine gunned him to death.
The US Senate protested vigorously, but the Governor of New York defended the actions of the drone.
Posted by Jason O on Oct 20, 2015 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.
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 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 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…