Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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A Thumbnail Guide to Election 2020: The Curse of the Shoo-In Candidate.

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

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

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

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

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

 
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A Thumbnail Guide to Election 2020: The Reckless Voter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Irish Independent: Let’s make election debates actually worthwhile.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 17, 2019 in Irish Politics
Length matters…

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/jason-omahony-whoever-wants-to-be-taoiseach-has-to-pass-test-of-kept-promises-38761945.html

 
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Farewell to “A President for Europe”

Posted by Jason O on Dec 7, 2019 in Irish Politics

Alas, but it seems that my European presidential election boardgame “A President for Europe” just doesn’t have the appeal to make it viable to produce. Thanks to those of you who did pledge to the IndiGoGo, it was genuinely much appreciated.

I’m not devastated, I’ll be honest. My desire at the beginning of all this was to create a boardgame that I would enjoy playing, and we succeeded in that. Certainly, at the various testing sessions the game was enjoyed, and I also want to thank the ridiculously talented (and great fun) Karen Pappin who turned my childlike paint and half potato renderings into really fabulous game materials. She also did all the heavy lifting in terms of dealing with printers, suppliers etc.

IndieGoGo was basically a dipping of the toe in the marketplace, and the water was just too chilly to proceed. Could I revisit it in the future? Quite possibly. There’s a trend in tabletop games (Yes, that’s what they’re called now) towards card-based games that don’t need a board at all, and that certainly would make the game cheaper to produce, although it would involve some redesign. I also think that the format could easily be changed from EU politics to national (Taoiseach!The boardgame) to even intergalactic (A President for the Federation! Will Vulcan swing the election?). Any games manufacturers looking for ideas drop me an email.

 
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The Housing Czar: a political fantasy.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 28, 2019 in Irish Politics

It is 2029, and the morning news bulletin reports that the Chief Executive of the State Housing Agency, known in the media as “the Housing Czar”, is finishing her ten year term at 12 noon today. Already a crowd of protestors has augmented the usual crowd demonstrating outside her modest home in south Dublin. The dozen Gardai usually stationed there, some suspected to be armed given the not infrequent death threats, have also been reinforced by members of the Public Order Squad parked discreetly around the corner.  The czar, a divorced 55 year old mother of two, architect, engineer and professor in urban planning before her appointment steps out of her front door to the usual cat cries and abuse, a significant amount of it sexually orientated. 

No one throws anything this time, and her Garda driver and bodyguard secure her in the vehicle before inching out of the driveway. Protestors hammer the roof of the car despite the best efforts of the Garda to keep them back. 

She avoids eye contact with the protestors, studying her tablet. She genuinely doesn’t notice them that much, so used to this behaviour for at least eight years of her term. Her children will be brought to school later by the au pair, as they have found that they receive less abuse when she is not present. 

The last time a protestor screamed abuse at one of her children, a ten year old, one of the Garda broke the protestors’ nose.

An even bigger crowd will be at her office on St Stephen’s Green. Opinion polls give her a satisfaction rating of nearly just under 30%. They don’t seem to poll many of the people who now live in the 100,000 affordable rented units across the country built and operated by the agency under her leadership. From the 30 storey towers overlooking the mouth of the Liffey to the integrated new towns linked by speedy electric light rail outside Galway, Cork and Limerick. Everybody remembers the huge public demonstrations against the towers as she used her powers and budget to overrule legal objections to “go high”. 

The same politicians who had demanded a national housing emergency and immediate action on housing stood with the mob booing as the diggers and cement trucks inched their way past. She smiles at the memory of columnists and talking heads on the radio who swore blind that no Irish person would ever live in towers as high, that they’d be white elephants, left empty. 

Some even talked of a public inquiry into the waste of taxpayers money. There was the usual talk that she was obviously in someone’s pocket, as there always is in Ireland. 

Then when the first tower was completed, and the media revealed the spacious high ceilinged apartments, with their floor to ceiling windows looking out over the coast on one side and the city on the other, and their moderate controlled rent, the same politicians backflipped.

One sanctimonious member of the Oireachtas notorious for playing both sides of the housing issue was the first on the airwaves demanding that his constituents be given preference, having stood against the building a mere six months previously. 

As she arrives at the agency’s offices a small phalanx of Gardai force a channel through for her, as all sorts of jibes and allegations are flung at her. That she is a fascist for forcing through the building of units against local objections. That she is an elitist for insisting that every tenant sign a social contract allowing for prompt removal under the agency’s “three strikes” policy. 

That had been a controversial decision, but one she regarded as vital for making sure that every sector of Irish society bought into the idea of the state as the primary provider of affordable housing to all. No more public housing being for “those sort of people”, and as part of that she focussed on ending the stigma (often myth) that somehow public housing wasn’t safe. 

The agency had its own live-in supervisors in all its developments, all with the power to call in an anti-social behaviour (ASB) unit . Tenants didn’t have to put up neighbours playing music at all hours or dumping rubbish in the hallways. A phone call to the supervisor and the ASB were at the door in 30 minutes guaranteed, normally four big Eastern European ex-military. Three warnings and they’d assist you in moving out, on the spot, whether you liked it or not. 

It was probably her most popular policy, at least as far as the neighbours were concerned.

Of course, Ireland being Ireland, there was always some party willing to stand on the side of the anti-social, declaring that they themselves are the victims and are being oppressed. 

Columnists in leafy suburbs or private well-to-do apartments wrote savage pieces accusing the czar of being a right-wing authoritarian, attempting to impose her social values upon the creatively challenged who don’t wish to “get up early in the morning.”

As was the case with the man from the International Monetary Fund and the chief state pathologist, she gets a public profile far out of what would be expected for an appointed public official. 

Irish people just can’t help but personalise everything, even her policies. 

Her counterparts in other EU countries and internationally find it surreal that she is so well known, to a degree that newspapers actually run opinion polls as to the public’s attitude to her performance. 

It’s not just her building policy that shapes the country. Early on in her term a shortage in available builders with skills, brickies, electricians, plasterers, carpenters, leads to her setting up a state construction sub-agency with its own apprentice scheme. Politicians attack her as the school fills with Eastern and Central Europeans, but within three years she has her own capacity to supplement the private builders she is issuing contracts to.

As she packs the boxes in her office, taking the last of her private belongings, she looks at the far wall facing her desk. Hundreds of small single pictures of her or one of her officials presenting the keys to a new home to a smiling family. She remembers the tears, the people who never thought they’d afford a decent home. The excited children marvelling at their new rooms or the playgrounds at the heart of every development. 

She also remembers how almost every single development was met with local opposition, the housed coming up with excuses as to why they sympathised with the need to build new housing, but here was not the appropriate place. 

Who did she think she was? Coming into our neighbourhood, our town, our parish, issuing her diktats?

She was the first housing czar. She’d built 100,000 affordable high quality homes for rent, as her mandate had been when she had been appointed by the minister.

She would also be the last, her position to be abolished as part of a coalition deal with a promise to find a “more appropriate structure.” Populist politicians talked about selling the homes she had built to their tenants, with the promise to build more, but without a housing czar “bullying local communities and riding roughshod over local feelings.” 

She looked at the mob outside. They’d demanded a national housing emergency be declared.

Then a terrible thing happened: the politicians had given them one.  

 
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Irish Independent: Time for an EU refugee safezone in North Africa.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 5, 2019 in Irish Politics

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/jason-omahony-eu-should-create-a-new-frontier-of-compassion-by-opening-a-safe-zone-for-refugees-in-north-africa-38558268.html

 
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Irish Independent: Time to take on the litter louts.

Posted by Jason O on Sep 8, 2019 in Irish Politics

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/jason-omahony-reesmoggs-plummy-tones-might-be-the-answer-we-need-to-shame-our-litter-louts-38465176.html

 
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Irish Independent: Ireland is a world leader in democracy.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 23, 2019 in Irish Politics

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/jason-omahony-we-might-have-issues-but-were-a-world-leader-in-democracy-38329433.html

 
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Irish Independent: We need to talk about a United Ireland.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 21, 2019 in Irish Politics

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/jason-omahony-we-need-to-talk-about-a-united-ireland-tds-wont-38308180.html

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Unlistenable Politician.

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

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

No, it’s worse than that.

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

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

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

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

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