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

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The salary scandal.

A bank employee counts Euro notes at Kasikornbank in Bangkok1. An individual in a public/NGO organisation is discovered to be on a Lotto style pay package.

2. Organisation initially tries to deem this a “private matter”. Is shouted down by public, stampeding backbench TDs and grassroots members.

3. Organisation admits truth. Suggests that no one in organisation can explain how salary came about. Suggestion that it was made by someone conveniently dead is a popular favourite.

4. Basic investigative techniques like inquiring from the bank who authorised the payments, and working backwards, are deemed “inappropriate”, which is one of the great Irish words.

5. The public get cranky over the idea that anyone can earn over €100k, on the basis that “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys rule” obviously does not apply in Ireland. (See Irish financial regulation, 1997-2011)

6. The story goes around and round in circles with the actual answer, who authorised this, never emerging. Public hearings seem to involve more windy grandstanding than actual specific questions.

7. Someone resigns on a Lotto style severance package.

8. The phrase “for legal reasons” (the other great Irish phrase) is bandied about to blur the situation. In a shock outcome, Learned Colleagues make a nice little earner on whole affair.

9. The organisation promises a new “robust” structure for salary/remuneration.

10. Rinse and repeat.


An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Scandal.

Posted by Jason O on Nov 9, 2015 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.
Our elite legal system swings into action!

Our elite legal system swings into action!

A regular repost.

Given the moral failings of the Irish as a race, it is hardly surprising that there is a clear and tested timeline to every scandal which besets Irish society, whether it is moral, political, social or financial. The timeline is as such:

1. Issue emerges. Country particularly mortified at how the British media cover it.

2. Public gasps at details. Sunday papers revel in particularly gory details. Fintan O’Toole writes a pithy piece which explains the cogent details very succinctly, and then drizzles it in extra-virgin head shaking like a nice salad.

3. Opposition call for unspecified action (“Something must be done! We need action!”) or specific action outside the power of the government. (“Bishops must resign! The effect on water of gravity must be reversed!”)

4. Government shakes heads, and promises that said event (Clerical child abuse/flooding/banking corruption/asteroid crashing into the Earth) must never be permitted to happen again, and calls for commission to investigate report of commission which investigated incident.

5. Media, political establishment, voters, realising that they actually play golf/went to school/are second cousin of individuals named in report, start calling for “due process” to be observed, and instead focus on details of events as if they were some abstract natural disaster.

6. The lawyers get involved. People’s right to “their good name”, passing of time, death of witnesses, gums up process of pursuit of actual criminals, drags investigations, trials, etc, in and out of high court for years.

7. Government takes money off people who did not commit these crimes (Taxes), and gives it to victims. The perpetrators contribution is eaten up in legal fees.

8. Some public officials take early retirement, on full pension. Which is pretty much the equivalent of a modest win in the National Lottery. Nobody goes to jail, except maybe a journalist who reveals how this thing is panning out, and is done for contempt of court.

9. In general election, Irish people vote for same people who allowed scandal to occur, on basis that although he/she failed to act to prevent sexual assault of children/building houses underwater, etc, he/she was always “very good for the area.”

10. In 10 years, another commission reports on poor handling of this scandal. Reset to step 1.


The contradictions of Euroscepticism.

Posted by Jason O on Nov 9, 2015 in British Politics, European Union, Irish Politics

Jason CorbynI was recently at a Halloween party (dressed, incidentally, as that figure of terror to all right-thinking middle classes, Jeremy Corbyn) when a very robust debate broke out over the future of the EU. My gracious host and others not uncomfortable on the libertarian right (he was dressed as Dracula, by the way. Insert left-wing metaphor as appropriate) raised a very valid point about the rise of euroscepticism. In short, they claimed that the obvious and very visible rise of euroscepticism across the EU is pretty much a rejection of what we refer to as The European Project.

It’s a fair point, and one made by eurosceptics across Europe. It’s also fair to say that it is not broadly incorrect. If there is one thing that unites eurosceptics, it is that the finger points squarely at Brussels and at those of us elsewhere who continue to advocate European integration.

My host then laid down a challenge at the feet of pro-integrationists. Call a referendum across the union and ask the ordinary peoples of Europe do they want a United States of Europe? He predicted, correctly, I suspect, that such a proposition would be rejected by the great majority of European voters. In short, he said, there is no mandate for further integration.

It’s a powerful argument, and led to heated but good natured exchanges, and I left with plenty to think about.

As with so much to do with Europe, it’s the details that do you in. Is euroscepticism on the rise across Europe. Undoubtedly. But is it the same euroscepticism across the continent? Do eurosceptics want the same thing? Does the word even mean the same thing?

That’s where the wheels come off, because unlike centre-right, centrist or centre-left pro-Europeans, who can compromise, the problem with eurosceptics is that they are often diametrically opposed to what defines euroscepticism.

Poland, for example, has recently elected a Law and Justice party nominally eurosceptic government. Cue cheers in Tory gentlemen’s clubs across London and much despatching of Mr.Carsons to break out the good brandy. “Three cheers for the Poles who will now support us in, eh, banning Poles working in the UK, or, eh, getting welfare even if they live and pay taxes in Britain, or, um, getting rid of the Common Agricultural Policy…”

See the problem? Think all Irish eurosceptics agree with Tory free-marketeers that the CAP is too generous and needs to be cut back, if not abolished? Think French eurosceptics agree with the same Tories that the EU gives too many rights to workers? Think those Tories agree with French eurosceptics on CAP or that the single market is too open to cross-border competition? Think Greek or Italian eurosceptics think that dealing with the Mediterranean refugee crisis is purely an internal national sovereignty matter and not any other countries’ problems?

The truth is, there is as much unity on the hard detail between eurosceptics as there is amongst the Irish Alphabet Left. This is People’s Front of Judea stuff.

Even the wording of the issue gets you into trouble. Take the aforementioned United States of Europe referendum. What would be the wording? “Do you want a United States of Europe?” Grand. So if we don’t call it the USofE we can carry on? Or “Do you want any more European integration?” Fine. So does further co-operation on, say, child trafficking count as further integration? Is it now illegal? How about “Should federalism be banned in Europe?” Again, a lovely day out. How do you define federalism? The centralising of all power to a non-directly elected body with weak to non-existent lower authorities? Great. You’ve just abolished Ireland. This thing could run and run.

Oh, it’s true that the EU is now the irritating political itch of the day, the piñata to be waved about and clobbered by every politician desperately trying to distract attention from their over-promising and under-delivery.

May be it might even work. Maybe a common consensus might be arrived at that a majority of Europeans can’t agree on why they hate the EU but just do, and if that’s the case, it’s farewell EU.

But it still remains a false solution, because the problems will still be there, and the interdependence that a globalised society and economy creates will still be there the day after the “For Rent” sign is put up in the window of the Berlaymont. Products manufactured in Poland will still have to meet Portuguese and Finnish standards. Irish paedophiles who assault a Greek child and then flee to Slovakia will still have to be tracked, arrested and tried. China will still have to be negotiated with. Syrians will still wash up in Italy and try to get to Calais or Stockholm.

And then the victorious eurosceptics, sitting in their national ministries, will order their officials to solve X. And their officials will tell them that they’ll need the cooperation of countries Z and Y to do that. But countries Z and Y are looking for something else, and so negotiations on some form of European cooperation will probably be needed…

Still, you can’t beat watching JR Ewing, Jeremy Corbyn, Dracula and a Roman Centurion debate the future of Europe. That’s a sitcom right there, surely?



Posted by Jason O on Nov 3, 2015 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Wrote this about 5 years ago, before last election. A bit of fun about Irish politics. Best enjoyed sitting down with cup of tea and chocolate digestive. 

“ Auto-Taoiseach”.

The negotiations had taken six months, not including the two months of disbelief from the Irish government side at the initial proposal from the Omni-Ai Corporation of Massachusetts. Ten billion Euro. Not dollars, Euro. Five billion up front, and five billion after two years, on the basis that the Irish state complete its contract.

Initially, the Taoiseach said no. The Attorney General had pointed out the constitutional ramifications, and the fact that a referendum would be required, and he doubted the Irish people could be coaxed into voting yes. Yet  five billion in these times of fiscal hardship was a lot of money, and would solve a lot of problems, and stop a lot of people marching on the streets. And when the Taoiseach read the papers supplied by Omni-Ai, it was hard to say that there wouldn’t be a benefit to Ireland, even aside from the cash. There’d be safeguards, of course, and if anything went wrong the country could keep the money, so…

The leaders of the opposition were indignant with outrage, as only Irish opposition leaders can be, but the Taoiseach and his cabinet still saw the benefits, and so the Taoiseach addressed the nation.

Read more…


The Pro-Life Amendment of 1983: an alternative history.

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.

Read more…


The blue line holds.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 16, 2015 in Irish Politics

17253603411_08e7fa2fb2_cI have been very critical of the Garda Siochana in the past. It is a force about which there is a lot to criticise. But as we as a nation laid Garda Tony Golden to rest, even a critic like me must always make one observation about the Gardai as a force and as individual police officers:

Courage has never been in short supply.

Every year, we hear stories of unarmed Gardai facing down armed criminals or diving into rivers to rescue people. They don’t carry out health and safety assessments. They do the job, and people live as a result.

When we set up the Garda Siochana the decision to have an unarmed police force was exceptionally risky in a country littered with weapons from a civil war. Many officers paid the ultimate penalty. But it worked. When you look at some US police forces, they seem to be de facto occupying armies. Our police force, despite scandals of recent years, is still a force of, for the most part unarmed civilians, fellow citizens we have given special powers to maintain order not by force as much as by moral authority. The decision to have an unarmed police force worked, and still works.

Watching the despair and heartbreak on the faces of Garda Golden’s family conveys the reality that few of us can comprehend the pain they must be going through. The Golden family has paid a huge price so that the rest of us can live in a safe and peaceful country.

This is a country where the murder of a single police officer is a national event, an event so appalling that the whole nation grieves, from the President down.

The fact that it is such a rare event is testament itself to the courage and dedication of Gardai like Tony Golden.


View – The Arts And Politics Weekend in Temple Bar 19-22 November

Posted by Jason O on Oct 13, 2015 in Irish Politics

Some interesting news from The Temple Bar Company who are organising “View – The Arts And Politics Weekend in Temple Bar” on the weekend of 19-22 November.

” The festival will be in celebration of the 25 year anniversary of the redevelopment of Temple Bar and will celebrate the arts and politics in the area. There will be art exhibitions, tours, workshops and more, as well as political seminars and debates in various venues in and around Temple Bar. The subjects of the debates and seminars are relevant to today’s affairs, such as the gender quota and the future of the city.

 If you want to see more of the festival, please visit our website (www.viewtemplebar.com)”


How to reform Irish politics? Storm the Dail. It worked in 1916.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 8, 2015 in Irish Politics

I was listening to a podcast about political reform recently (I know, I know) and what struck was how utterly depressing it was. It had the standard format: a load of non-politicians had one of those summer school discussions about electoral reform et al. It then finished with the reality: our political class of whatever party just don’t want to change it or themselves.

The truth is, political reform in a meaningful sense is never going to happen through conventional politics. There are literally too many vested interests within the system.

So what’s an ordinary citizen to do?

There is one power left, that politicians haven’t control over.

The power to not vote.

The what, says you?

When you are faced with a political system that is incapable of offering real change, the next logical step is to remove its legitimacy. At the moment, the Dail, as a body, can say with genuine conviction that it is the forum of the Irish people, and that the laws it passes are legitimate. It would be right, because in 2011 70% of registered voters cast their ballots for it. Likewise, it can legitimately claim that even unpopular water policies are legitimate, as are the Gardai enforcing those policies as the public order wing of the Irish people.

But what happens if less than 50% of registered voters vote?

Then you’re in a different ball game. Then the Dail is no longer the moral voice of the Irish people, just another vested interest, albeit one with the power to actually take money from your pocket and with an army of uniform enforcers at its disposal.

Suddenly, a demonstration of 100,000 marching on the Dail is no longer a challenge to “the country” because a Dail elected on a turnout under 50% doesn’t speak for the country. Suddenly, the Gardai are no longer fellow citizens we have given special powers to, but just the organised heavy mob of a section of the country. Legitimacy matters.

That’s outrageous, says you. The Dail would still have legal authority, regardless if what percentage of the Irish people vote.

That’s true. That was also the argument the British used in 1916. But Dublin Castle and the Royal Irish Constabulary went from being the legitimate legal order in the country to a force ordinary people were willing to shoot dead in the streets because they lacked legitimacy. Suddenly a crowd breaking through the gates of Leinster House and beating up Gardai or dragging the Ceann Comhairle or cabinet from the chamber are not a mob. If a Dail gets less than 50% turnout, that mob becomes just another vested interest competing with the vested interest Dail.

When you make the point about turnout to people in the political class they sneer and say it doesn’t matter what the turnout is. That’s what the British thought. That’s what Ceausescu thought. That’s what the Stasi thought right up to the moment a Stasi card went from being a tool of power and privilege to a piece of evidence. But when a crowd believes it has moral legitimacy it also believes that the prevailing order doesn’t, and suddenly a Garda uniform means much less.

Does this amount to a hill of beans? Probably not. A majority of the Irish electorate will vote legitimacy in the Dail at the election, and therefore it is legitimate.

But that tool always remains available to us all, the power to withhold legitimacy.


Fianna Fail to ask male candidates to “self identify” as female to meet gender quota.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 27, 2015 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Sources in Fianna Fail have revealed that party leader Micheal Martin TD has decided that in the event of the party failing to meet the 30% gender quota and putting at risk key state funding, some Fianna Fail TDs will legally change their self-identifying status to female.

Lawyers for the party have pointed out that legally registering as female would not require the candidate in question to change his name or “dress up in women’s frocks”  as some candidates feared. This issue had to be addressed after some candidates were seen browsing through Marks & Spencer’s summer collection for women, and the benefits of the kitten heel over the flat. Some candidates seemed slightly disappointed at the news, as they had been willing to “do anything” for the party. Willie O’Dea has been reassured that he can keep his moustache.

Another source in party headquarters is quoted as saying that the matter is not a big deal, given that “the parliamentary party is full of f**king aul wans anyway. Sure look, when Mary Hanafin gets back in and challenges Micheal for the leadership we’ll know all about who has the biggest balls in the PP. Better we fill in a few legal documents than actually have, you know, women around the place. At the moment we all hold our summer PP meetings in our underpants if it’s very warm: why should we cut that out for political correctness?”


Welcome to Bertieland.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 15, 2015 in European Union, Irish Politics, Not quite serious., Politics

Bertie AhernBertie Ahern had sat down with a mug of tea and a small plate of chocolate digestives, just as “Murder, she wrote” was starting, when his mobile rang. It was lashing down outside, real cats and dogs with extra dogs weather.

He frowned at the number. He didn’t recognise it, and had problems in the past with smart alecs getting his number and giving him abuse over the phone. The gas thing was that every one of them thought he was the first fella to do it. Bertie rarely hung up, just put the phone in the breadbin in the kitchen and went about his business, letting them tire themselves out. He’d occasionally pick up the phone to see if they were still there, catch a “Galway tent” or the like, and just carry on. They’d normally hang up in frustration, although one got quite distressed at the fact that Bertie had neither replied not hung up, and started asking was he OK. The former Taoiseach had ended up talking to that one, and they spent twenty minutes talking about the upcoming Premiership season. Your man hung up with a cheerful goodbye, having completely forgotten why he’d rung in the first place.

Bertie answered the phone.

“Mr Ahern? This is the Federal Chancellor’s office: can you take a call from Chancellor Merkel?”

Half of his chocolate digestive fell into his tea with the shock. He hadn’t spoken to her in a few years.

“Oh, eh, yeah. Of course.” His brain was racing. Could this be some smartarse radio DJ?

When the voice came on it sure sounded like her. Her English was better than people thought, but she didn’t really feel at ease using it. She always struggled to sound happy to be talking to someone, even when she was.

Read more…

Copyright © 2015 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.