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.
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?”
Bertie 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.
Posted by Jason O on Sep 12, 2015 in Irish Politics
, Not quite serious.
Celtic Tiger? Around here? The only tiger around here sells Frosties.
Celtic Tiger? Maybe up in Dublin Four, but not around here, he announces. No, we went from the recession in the 1980s to now, and nothing has changed around here. Nothing! You point at the new motorways sweeping past him and off into the horizon. Sure that would have happened anyway! He declares, believing that motorways are some sort of natural phenomenon like turf or dandelions sprouting in a field. What about your state pension? €200 a week. Sure it’s only £59 in the UK. Exactly! He shouts. Only €200! How am I supposed to afford SkyPlus on that sort of money? And look at the car I’m driving! That’s over four years old! It’s like living in the dark hole of Calcutta! No one around here got anything off the government or the so-called Celtic Tiger. And the health service? I know a fella who did his back in picking up his cheque from the Department of Aghriculture. Bet he gets no compensation for that. No, the rich get richer and the poor working man struggles for a bare crust. Now, have to go and pick up me rent from them students I rented me section 23 flat to. Be seeing you!
It has to be done. It is next to impossible to get elected to anything in Ireland unless the voters get a look at you like a prize nag at a mart, or at least get asked for a vote by one of your team. Personally. Having said that, there’s still a fair chance you’ll get the following on the doorstep:
1. I’m watching the rugby/hurling/soccer!
2. Not interested! *Door slams revealing pig ignorance of person in house*
3. I’m putting the child to bed!
4. Comes out of house two doors after missing you, and tries to make a big show of tearing up your leaflet and putting it in the recycling bin. The sharp canvasser his turns back before tearing starts, pretending not to see, turning back just as bin lid closes and issues a cheery “Hello!” to the grumpy amateur dramatist.
5. Says they won’t be voting for you, but is polite about it. You’d almost vote for them. One of the great mysteries to non-politicians: meeting a person who politely disagrees with you is not a bad thing.
6. Appoints themselves spokesperson for the entire street/estate and informs you that there are no votes for you here. Tell them that you’ve gotten a great response so far, and that maybe it’s “your fella” who should be worried, as they’re invariably a hack for the Shinners or the Alphabet Left who are great men altogether for the self-appointing.
7. The aul fella who is delighted to be talking to anyone. Spend the time. There’s only a single vote in it, but if you think talking to a lonely man for a few minutes is a bad use of your time you’ve no business being in politics.
8. The householder who is obviously so wealthy that they should be kind of embarrassed complaining to you about anything.
9. And, for 1000 points, the voter who complains that they never see any politicians, as you’re standing on their door.
Posted by Jason O on Aug 19, 2015 in Irish Politics
, Not quite serious.
“Of course,” They blurt out, like a verbal innoculation, “I’m not racist. I don’t care whether someone is red, yellow, black, brown or blue. But we need to look after our own first!” They then expand on their deep, deep concern about the homeless, poverty, and how, of course, we must help the Third World, but only after we have solved ALL our own problems first. Poverty, disease, cellulite, the length of time it takes to get a sandwich in O’Briens, once we have fixed all those problems, then we can worry about the rest. Curiously, the compassionate racist doesn’t have any time to actually donate to charities helping “our own.”
In fact, he, or more recently, she, tends to have had no problem stepping over the homeless until there were different coloured faces appearing on the streets, and now she’s concerned. She goes to mass, of course, and is a good Catholic, although not happy with rumours about the new parish priest being black. She’s no problem with that, just that she doesn’t think it would be “appropriate” for the area. If she’d ever met Jesus she’d almost certainly be onto the Garda National Immigration Bureau to report a scruffy looking Palestinian Jew who is certainly up to no good. I mean, look at all that bread and fishes he’s giving out? Who’s paying for that, hmm?
Posted by Jason O on Jul 29, 2015 in Irish Politics
If you enjoyed Colin Murphy’s excellent “Guaranteed!” which told the tale of the bank guarantee, then, like me, you’ll be looking forward to “Bailed Out!”, the story of Ireland and the Troika.
Based on official accounts and off the record interviews, Murphy sets out to tell the story of the crisis that nearly crippled the country. If it’s half as good as “Guaranteed!” we’re in for a treat.
Coming to the Pavilion Theatre from September 23rd.
Posted by Jason O on Jul 24, 2015 in Irish Politics
Posted by Jason O on Jul 18, 2015 in European Union
, Irish Politics
I’m always encouraged to see more online political debate about Irish politics, especially if it is of the rational debate of ideas as opposed to the hysterical name calling of TheJournal.ie comment section. Here’s two links worth a look at:
The first is www.politicalpeopleblog.com, which covers both Irish and international politics, and the second is The Arena, a weekly podcast with John O’Donovan, John McGuirk and Jonny Fallon under the need-no-introduction Slugger O’Toole label.
Have a goo.
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.