They started appearing through letterboxes about a year ago, and the clever ones boast all the tricks of the trade. Firstly, those from the three main parties will hardly mention politics at all. They’ll be from “Local area representatives”, which is basically a makey up title parties now use for people who haven’t been selected yet. But regardless of the party, keep an eye out for the common features:
1. You can play bingo with them. Look out for “Community”, “Working with”, “Local services”, “Committed to”, “Passionate about”, “Delivering solutions”, “Delighted”, “Resource”, “A strong voice”, “A fresh voice”, “A new voice for…”. They will also tell you how opposed they are to things they have no control over, but will avoid committing to anything over which they have any power.
2. The leaflet will have a slight air of “what the f**k can I put on this leaflet to fill space without offending absolutely anybody about anything?”. Truth is, if they could just post a giant picture of themselves through your letter box without coming across as an awful prick, they would.
3. They’ll talk an awful lot about spending other people’s money, whilst assuring you that it isn’t your money they’re spending.
4. The size of the party logo will depend on how long they’ve been in power. Some Labour people seem to have run out of red ink.
5. The date on the leaflet will be vague, or non-existent, to allow the candidates to use if for months. Yet it’ll be written in a style to give an impression that it’s put out regularly, with phrases like Community Noticeboard or Keeping You Informed or Update on it.
6. It’ll have details on something bizarre that you have never considered, which will make the candidate sound like he/she has got some form of political OCD: “I’m very excited at the news that Fecker Road is to get a new solar powered stop sign. I’ve had to loosen my trousers since I heard the news.”
7. Don’t forget the standard candidate pic: smart casual in front of a local landmark, to remind you that he’s actually been in a place you might recognise. Folded arms are meant to convey business, as if to say “See that sky? I made that.” A pose in front of something bad, like potholes or graffiti will be accompanied by a grimace or frown, to show he’s unhappy, and does not approve of bad things. If he really cared he’d fling his own body into the pothole so that people could step on his back as they pass. If he really cared.
8. He’ll namecheck local areas in a way that makes him sound like Rain Man: “I think what the people of Blackrock, Stillorgan, Deansgrange, Foxrock and Lower Earth Orbit are really concerned about is…”.
9. Just once, you’d love to see the phrase “I’m running for the council because I quite fancy being a TD, and this is the first hoop I have to jump through. If I’m lucky, I’ll be out of the council faster than Jimmy Saville at a Daily Mail readers convention.”
10. Candidates will very rarely mention other candidates’ records. Unlike in the US, where your record in office is examined, in Ireland we actually have people running against crooks condemned by tribunals who will refuse to mention it. Primarily because there’s an unwritten gentleman’s agreement amongst the parties to play nice. Sure we’re all trying to just get elected, aren’t we?
11. See on the leaflet the other party candidates? “The Local Team”? Normally at the bottom of the leaflet in smaller writing than anything else? That’s who they’re actually running against.
By the way, if you happen to come across one that actually tells you what the candidate will do with the Local Property Tax powers THEY ACTUALLY HAVE, frame it! Councillors have the power to reduce the LPT rate, but keep it quiet because it involves making spending choices. Most candidates prefer banging will on about stuff they can’t control, like abolishing the LPT. Stuff they have as much control over as your cat/dog/SkyPlus remote.
Hmmm. How to work SkyPlus? Now there’s something useful for a leaflet.
TMITP: Well, it should be for the ordinary people, for a start. You know, the Guards, farmers, young people, old people, unemployed, businesspeople, doctors, nurses, people with disabilities. That sort of thing?
ME: So, everybody except property developers and people associated with banks?
TMITP: Absolutely. Except for Sean Quinn, of course. Or my brother in law, obviously. And yer man who built the clubhouse for the hurlin’ in the parish, he’s a lovely fella. NAMA are giving him a shockin’ hard time, I hear.
ME: And what should the new party stand for?
TMITP: Well, it should be against all these taxes, for a start! and all these cutbacks too! Now, I’ve a sister in law who’s a nurse and she has taken a cut of……
ME: Sorry to cut across you, but you want a new party that supports cutting taxes and increasing public spending?
TMITP: That’s right.
ME: Wasn’t that basically the policy of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the PDs that got us into this mess?
TMITP: Eh…yeah…but they forgot about the ordinary people. A new crowd could, like, do it better.
TMITP: By listening to the ordinary people.
ME: Like say the bus drivers, maybe?
TMITP: That crowd! They should be put up against the wall! And don’t get me started on the teachers!
ME: So, teachers aren’t ordinary people, in your opinion?
TMITP: They’re like royalty. Ah, here’s Tom!
ME: Hello Tom. Yer man here was saying teachers are like royalty!
TOM: Are you joking! My youngest is a teacher! The teachers are carryin’ the country! Carryin’ it! If there’s anyone on the pig’s back, it’s the nurses!
TMITP: Now steady on there! The nurses…
ME: Sorry to interrupt Tom, a quick question: do you think we need a new party?
IN IRELAND, AS IN EVERYWHERE ELSE, 1+1 MUST EQUAL 2.
A repost in honour of our exit from the Troika programme:
Every political culture has its own lexicon. In Chile under Pinochet, people feared the DINA, a secret police so lacking in subtlety that its official symbol actually was an iron fist. In Ireland, when one wants to speak of an all powerful entity, we speak of The Troika. Curiously, opinion is divided on the fiscally fastidious, neatly attired men and women from the wonderfully acronymned EUIMFECB.
The usual suspects, that section of Irish people forever bent on one knee in permanent victim status, equate them with the Gestapo or some form of evil occupying force, which would be accurate if the Gestapo had been invited into a country with vast amounts of money to spend on maintaining public services. Then there are some who say they are vampires, which is half right if someone takes into account that in ancient legend a vampire could only enter a homestead if he was invited.
There’s the problem right there, the awkward fact that grates with their opponents and negates a thousand exclamation marked People’s Front of Judea posters. The Troika didn’t arrive following massive air strikes on Merrion Square or via Tom Hanks style landings on Dollymount Strand. The Imperial March is not played when they step off their plane. They came because we couldn’t solve our own problems. We asked them to come because the people we elect were afraid to tell us the truth about what we would have to do. We needed someone else to say what we were afraid to say to ourselves. In short, we needed grown-ups.
That’s what really troubles us when he sits down with his laptop and opens his spreadsheet. He asks us questions that we don’t like asking ourselves. You want to fund that item of social spending? Sure. Just tell him who specifically is going to pay the extra tax to pay for it? It’s not an unreasonable question, but in Irish politics, where cramming the words “social justice” onto a spreadsheet is actually regarded as a mathematical answer, that is just bad manners. Hasn’t sone one told him that Irish maths is different from that maths they use in other countries?
Oh sure, there are some reading this who will be livid, but it is all faux anger. In Greece the arrival of the Troika nearly elected a communist government. In Ireland who is the most popular opposition party? The people who invited the Troika in the first place.
But what of the ugliest truth? That when we eventually exit the bailout and the Troika bid farewell, it will be their greatest opponents who will silently mourn their exit? Why? Because when Ajai & Co. have gone, we’ll be faced with an even more powerful entity that sends gut wrenching fear up and down the spine of every elected Irish leader: a body far more terrifying that the Troika because unlike them we can’t tell it to leave.
It is, in short, responsibility for our actions, and since independence, through corruption scandals and church child molestation, it has been the creature that hid in the shadows and frightened us the most. And now, when the Troika leave, and we have to survive by our own effort, it will lunge from the shadows at us, because we will be The Man from The Troika then.
The truth is, if he spoke with footnotes we’d all be better off. “The EU,” he declares, normally a few glasses of Port on board and holding court down the golf club “is obsessed with interfering in our lives. Telling us who we can employ (Women), unsound chaps (homosexuals), fellas who don’t get the culture (Muslims or non-whites) and on top of all that, then ties us up in Health and Safety nonsense (Not poisoning employees) and telling us how to run our businesses (not putting rat droppings in tins of baked beans) It’s a bloody outrage!”
The truth is, and he doesn’t even know it himself, his gripe isn’t with Europe. Europe has become the bête noire, the evil incarnation of all that he dreads, but the reality is that all those things would have come anyway.
He’s not allowed come back from a liquid lunch on a Friday afternoon, and grope the 19 year old office intern. He can’t write “No Darkies, Poofters or Paddies” on job advertisements either. And yes, he does have to treat women equally, and not sexually assault them at the Christmas party, letting them know that if they aren’t a bit friendlier they can clear their desks on Monday.
EU or no EU, no modern western country tolerates that, and whereas the EU may be ensuring that standard is the same across Europe, those standards aren’t just from Europe, they’re from modern society, and he hates that.
His problem is that he’s bought into some fantasy that it can all be reversed, that if those bastards in Brussels are sent packing he and his balding, sweating middle aged pals can all revert back to some sort of 1970s sitcom where they get to do a Benny Hill around the office and cheat their customers.
He genuinely believes that Britain outside the EU will be on an equal footing with the US, China, Brazil, and the remainder of the EU. Why? Because “we won the Battle of Britain and the 1966 World Cup, that’s why!” He’ll even throw a nuclear submarine into the mix, as if that matters. It certainly didn’t in Libya.
But you know what the strangest thing is? In France, he has a counterpart. She’s a hard left socialist who despises the EU for nearly the exact opposite reasons he does. Because it is based around a single market (Market begins with an M, as does Men!), and free trade, and yes, letting people make profit (Profit!) across borders, and lets heterosexual white men (or rapist aspirants, as she titles them) hold jobs at all. In short, she hates the EU because it recognises globalisation, and stops protectionism, and lets people travel and work and make money, and doesn’t demand the immediate nationalisation of, well, everything.
They’ll never meet each other, of course, and more’s the pity. Be fun locking them up in a lift together for a few hours, all the same.
The four main parties have announced plans to ensure that none of the lessons of the economic crisis will in any way affect their plans to inflict yet more damage on the country. A spokesman for the parties said: “It’s very clear, with the Troika about to leave next month and the property market in Dublin recovering, that the potential to get back to our usual short term nonsense is there. This opportunity for Irish politicians must be seized!”
Sources in both the government and opposition are agreed that the following measures should be pursued by the political parties.
1. Political reform. The government is particularly proud of the fact that after nearly three years in office, and plenty of shape throwing about “the New Politics” and that, not only has the government blocked almost all devolution of power, it has actually managed to centralise power even more, to such a degree that now even most of the cabinet are just as uninvolved in decision making as say, your average voter on the 46A, or an Irish bank regulator.
2. Economic Planning. The opposition has contributed towards the plan by telling voters that whilst property taxes are in principle a good idea, it is never a good time to introduce them. The opposition parties have also done their bit to keep alive the “Yes, you can keep your low tax cake and eat a high public spending cake at the same time” ethos of the Ahern years alive. A particular nod at opposition politicians who say that government should not be focussing on water charges but making our water system work, deliberately ignoring the fact that we don’t charge for water being the key reason our water system is malfunctioning.
Ireland’s economic competitors have applauded the stalwart efforts of Ireland’s political class to wreck the country once again. A leading member of the Lithuanian government remarked: “We’d like to thank the people of Ireland for this wonderful spectacle as to how to make an absolute balls of a really good situation with a gutless, intellectually vapid political class. A whole generation of young Lithuanian children now go to bed in fear of “The Irishman under the bed who will wreck our current budget surplus” if they are naughty!”
The Minister for Death, Michael Noonan, has suggested that grieving families may be permitted to use the new LUAS excavations and other roadworks throughout the state as a means of disposing of unwanted cadavers.
“It’s a question of logic, really,” the minister said, easing back into his seat and resting his feet on a grateful Fine Gael backbencher.
“We’re spending a fortune on aggregates, filling in foundations for the LUAS and new roads, and yet we have to put all these bodies somewhere, especially now as we had to abolish the funeral grant. Of course, we’ll have to regulate it. We can’t have people just turning up and chucking granny into a hole, I mean there’s health and safety implications. And then there’s the whole Love/Hate thing too. The Guards’ll want to know who is going in too, in fairness. But the basic idea works, and Leo’s got his department looking at it. Actually, now I come to think about it, I think Leo started looking at this idea before I ever suggested abolishing the grant.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs has proposed that as part of the Irish Heritage Certificate programme, members of the Diaspora could pay to be buried under a piece of Irish infrastructure of their choice.
“We’ve been missing a trick with this, to be honest,” an official said yesterday. “After all, Italian-Americans have been burying each other under roads and buildings for decades.”
Brosnan: Will cut a dash at European Council meetings.
The Irish Tourist Board has proposed that the membership of the lower house of the Irish Parliament, Dail Eireann, be replaced by well known Irish actors.
A source in the state agency said: “The thinking is that, as proven by opposition deputies reading Michael Noonan’s speeches back to him, it doesn’t really matter who wins elections in Ireland. The country’s too small to actually control its own direction, so we might as well make politics a bit more interesting for the tourists. How about Pierce Brosnan as Taoiseach, maybe Gabriel Byrne as leader of the opposition? We reckon we could get Martin Sheen to do a few cameos as minister for foreign affairs, and maybe Sharon Corr as health minister, I mean, she looks healthy!
We were thinking of Claire Tully as Science minister, but it turns out that not only is she a model, but she actually has a honours degree from Trinity in Science, so the department vetoed it on the grounds that they’re not going to set a precedent of having a minister who actually knows more about something than they do. Liam Neeson is looking good as Justice minister, by the way. Farrell has asked can he be minister for love?”
The decision of the Minister for Children to order all parents, not just Roma parents, to submit to DNA tests to verify that their children are in fact their own has met with a “mixed response”. Sources close to the minister, explaining the policy, suggested that “given that many people in the non-Roma community supported the Garda action this week, we thought, in the interests of Better Safe Than Sorry, to check to make sure that everybody’s kids were who the parents say they were.”
A large number of solicitors letters originating in South Dublin have already arrived in the Department, and a number of barristers have announced that they will be challenging the policy in the High Court. One leading barrister stressed that they were doing so “purely to test the constitutional principle of the policy, and for absolutely no other reason, and if you run a picture of Prince Harry anywhere near my statement I’ll see you in the High Court too.”
Dublin Airport denied that the large increase in young Baltic au pairs leaving the country with young infants has anything to do with the minister’s announcement.
The National Milkman, Polish Handyman and Tennis Professional Coach Union has expressed its vehement opposition to the new policy announcement in a statement today.
If one were to ask a scientist to come up with a device to measure false outrage in Irish politics, you would expect the needle to at least reach 50% most of the time. It’s hardly surprising, of course, in a system as centrally dictatorial as ours. When most elected officeholders either have no power or do not want to use it (something you don’t hear as much about) they resort to spewing out vast quantities of emotion-load guff about “dignity” and ”esteem” of one group of vested interests or another.
Take almost any issue to do with old people. You can play bingo with the avalanche of grovelling pander that comes out of politicians when anyone suggests that senior citizens carry their fair share. “They have worked all their lives!” is a favourite. Some of them have. About the same proportion of non-senior citizens who have also worked their whole lives.
Then you get the “the measure of a civilised society is how it treats its old people.” Again, this is true. But if you squeeze “financially comfortable with mortgage paid off” into the gap between “old” and “people”, it doesn’t quite sound the same.
But let’s call the truth here. Dignity me eye. We all know why politicians are terrified of old people. They vote. And fair play to them, because at least old people are smart enough to scare the shite out of politicians and use the system to get what they want. For that they deserve admiration.
But please: spare us the puffed out political chests and the “look at my inflated social conscience as I parade it down the street” from politicians who start to believe their own speeches.
Because in this age of media accessibility, it’ll come back to haunt you. This is what happens:
Sure, this isn’t fair at all. Didn’t he do his bit in three county finals and two All-Irelands, and now here he is in Dail Eireann and fellas are asking him about abortion and laws and the like? What’s it got to do with him?
He was sent by the good people of the parish to get St. Handout’s grounds better drained, an extension for the Old Folk’s Home in Ballygrasping, and to get them fancy Dublin lads off the backs of the ordinary people going on about feces in the drinking water and other high falutin’ notions.
Now they’re asking him about laws about what now? Ladies private parts and what goes on it them? Sure what business is that of his, he said on the local radio, until Father Jude rang him up and told him that it is very much the state’s business what goes on in there and had he been reading dirty foreign muck like The Irish Times and Supreme Court judgements? So, you want me to vote for legislation, then, he asks, and your man in the collar goes ballistic telling him on no account should he darken the door of Our Lady of Perpetual Curtain Twitching if he does.
He’s completely confused. There should be some sort of special body set up to look at legislation, debate and vote on it, and stop troubling ordinary Dail Deputies like himself. Sure hasn’t he enough to be doing? There’s that poor woman in Feckerstown whose son keeps getting harassed by the guards just because they keep finding him, by pure coincidence, in the driving seat of stolen cars. Or that man in Goonyaboya who the county council are discriminating against because he keeps putting dead cattle out with the bins for collection. He’s more important things to be worrying about.