Repost: This post I wrote 18 months ago has suddenly started gaining hits. Recent poll, maybe? Thought I’d post it again. And yes, I know it upsets some in FF. Your objections are noted. As ever, the offer to write a reply stands. And no, you can’t reply anonymously so stop asking! I’ll happily post your criticisms but you have to make them in public.
There is probably no activity as entertaining in Irish politics as watching a member of Fianna Fail and one of Fine Gael debating the differences between their parties in front of a non-partisan audience. Curiously, it is a rare enough event.
Stage 1. Both sides nod solemnly in agreement that there is a huge difference between their parties.
Stage 2. When asked about what values separate the parties, the Fianna Failer is first in with “republicanism”. A request for definition is met with a vague candyfloss enunciation, normally with the phrase “social justice” thrown into the mix. The Fine Gaeler claims the declaration as an accurate description of FG values. FF immediately launches an attack along the lines of “well then why did you cut X?” followed by FG saying “sure, what about when you cut Y in government?”
Both sides are broken up and returned to corners.
Stage 3. A second attempt is made at values. A commitment to a United Ireland is mentioned by FF as being “deeper” in FF. FG lists out everything from the declaration of the Republic to the Anglo Irish Agreement. Another fracas ensues with pointed references to personalities in other parties.
Stage 4. A foriegn member of the audience asks for a comparison to conventional parties in continental Europe and elsewhere. Both sides unite to point out that Irish politics has no comparison to any other political system in Human history. “That’s for fucking sure” a voice from the audience remarks loudly.
Stage 5. Economic values are questioned. Both parties immediately descend into a nit-picking “you did this in government” row. FF claims to be a party of the working class and small farmer. FG claims it has support amongst both classes. Both parties dispute being pro-business compared to other parties. An audience member points out that both parties received most of their funding from business. The audience member is personally attacked for having “an agenda”. The actual question about who funds the two parties is deliberately ignored.
Stage 6. Both parties are asked to cease referencing past events and address the future, with a simple declaration of the values that will shape the parties in the future. Both make statements about the future which mention dignity, employment, social justice and prosperity. They are pretty much the same statement. When challenged on this, each points out that the character of the other party means that the other party does not mean what he says. Both then launch into a point-by-point historic nit-picking contest.
Stage 7. Both particpiants take to Twitter and Facebook to attack the event as biased against one party and obviously run for the benefit of the other, accusing the moderator of “bashing” their party. Both are quick to stress that no one cares about this stuff except people “obsessed” with historical events and this has nothing to do with “real” politics.
Envelope? What envelope?
He’s not personally corrupt. Oh, he’s sat down with developers and followed up their queries with planners, but he does that for ordinary punters too. Nothing wrong with asking a legitimate question for a constituent, as long as you don’t try to get the planner to do anything wrong, and he doesn’t.
Elected to the council after the carry-on of the 1980s and 1990s, he doesn’t get approached for “favours”. He’s the new breed of the party’s councillor who wrinkles his nose at reading about yet another former party elected rep being done for corruption.
Yet don’t ask him to fight corruption. Don’t ask him to report anything he thinks is dodgy, and he sees enough of it, to the Guards or anyone else, because that’s just not done. He’s been known to turn on his heel walking into a toilet at the the council, when he sees a colleague receiving “papers” from a developer just before a vote.
In fact, that’s the thing. He actually spends time trying to avoid learning about corruption, because he can’t report what he doesn’t know.
“Trains to where, judge? Auschwitz? I just set the timetables. Couldn’t tell you what was in them. Was it strange that they were coming back empty? Do you know, I never thought to ask.”
It’s a hard wired genetic response, whether it is to exploiting natural resources offshore or fracking or even postcodes. A section of the country just can’t help itself, and comes out in opposition to everything. There is even a standard pattern:
1. A proposal is made by a company or body. The benefits in terms of revenue or employment tend to be so over-hyped as to trigger scepticism everywhere, even amongst people in favour of the project. Why do we have to oversell everything?
2. In the area concerned, muttering starts, normally led by a local nut who votes No in every referendum and disconcertingly mentions the Bilderberg Group and fluoride in every conversation. But he’s retired with time on his hands and is a wiz with mail merge, having the database from previous local campaigns such as “Stop Dublin stealing our clouds!” and “No to WiFi near St. Enda’s. There are children there for God’s sake!”
3. The usual malcontents, Sebastian from South Dublin, furious with Daddy for running away with Olga from Olgastan and making Mummy cry and tell them that “they have to be the man of the house now” after a bottle of Tia Maria during Murder She Wrote, arrive to “smash capitalism” (Daddy was a capitalist) and stand up for the “ordinary people” in the area.
4. The local opposition TDs and councillors start calling for an independent public inquiry because that’s what they always call for, and it’s not like they have to fund it out of their expenses, is it?
5. The planning process gets bogged down in court injunctions and walkouts and demands for a tribunal into the planning process. Vague allegations of corruption are applauded by the usual paranoid mob. The integrity of the process hinges entirely on whether it agrees with the No side.
6. Planning permission is granted. It is appealed to An Bord Plenala. They approve it. It is appealed to the High Court, then the Supreme Court, then the European Court. Judicial corruption is alleged every step of the way. Huge legal bills are run up by the protesters who then complain of being economically ruined by huge legal bills they ran up travelling through a legal system they “knew” to be corrupt in the first place.
7. The opposition wins the general election, and sets up a public inquiry because it has nothing better to do. The opponents of the project do not contest the election declaring the political process corrupt and “exclusionary to ordinary people”. You know, like voters. On polling day a group of young protesters meet to beam positive energy at the ballot boxes as they are carried out by the Guards.
8. The public inquiry approves the project. The protesters accuse it of being corrupt, and announce a campaign of civil disobedience, which seems to involve a lot of interpretive dance and giant Macnas style heads. One protester sprains his wrist when a giant Che Guevara head falls on him. He sues the state for not banning giant heads of South American communists.
9. The project starts with much civil disobedience, delaying the project’s completion by years. When it is completed, and starts providing tax revenue to the state much later than planned because of the delays, the people who delayed it are first in the queue with demands as to how the money should be spent.
10. 20 years later, when the project is no longer viable, the people who originally opposed it demand it be subsidised by the state as a vital contribution to the local economy.
Faux indignation is his trump card. He’s constantly “not apologising to anyone” for having the courage to bring up the need to protect puppies from being put in blenders, or children from being fed gravel laced with arsenic. HE.WON’T.APOLOGISE. Oh no.
Sitting on the government backbenches, where he can’t attack people on real issues because he keeps voting for them, he’s desperate to get media attention. So desperate that he doesn’t mind coming across as Arthur Daley sincere or just a brain damaged moron. Every issue he and the oily urchin wannabe county councillor who’s his parliamentary assistant consider running with has to pass one test: will it get me in the papers/on the telly? That’s all that matters. It could be creating a National Bosco Museum or providing a box of After Eights to every pensioner, it doesn’t matter. The entire process hinges on “Look at me!”
The gas thing is that he has no interest in politics whatsoever. He’s only in this party because someone asked him first. Fascist? Communist? Conservative? Liberal? These are just words. If launching a passionate defence of Lebensraum will get him onto the Marian panel, he’ll be polishing his boots faster than you can say “Jawohl, mein fuhrer!”
The first time you encounter his racist or sexist or generally offensive tweets you think you have his measure. He’s an arsehole, and you’re tempted to take him on, tweet for tweet. But as you read down his timeline, you realise that it isn’t that simple, because, for want of a better word, he is.
His timeline is one of threats and insults to celebrities and politicians, just barely structured in something vaguely resembling English. Such is his challenged mental faculty that he has rows with his public utilities not through customer service or by email, but by Twitter, revealing to all of us his struggle to deal with day to day life.
Your offence and anger at his obnoxious comments dissipates as you realise that Twitter is all he has, his excited just barely fingertip touch at people he sees on the telly, the only thing that resembles anything close to equality with all those people around him everyday with their newspapers and big words.
Were it not for Twitter, he’d be the village idiot in some small town, the young man “known to Gardai” not as a bad one but as a source of head shaking and sympathy for his poor parents, who are such good people. Were it not for Twitter, he could be dead in a ditch, frozen to death having been incapacitated by alcoholic poisoning, or hanging by his own belt from a door, trousers around his ankles after reading about sexual misadventure on the internet.
So cut him some slack. Twitter is all he has.
Posted by Jason O on May 17, 2014 in Occasional Guide to Irish Politics
Ireland uses a voting system called the Single Transferable Vote (STV). It’s very simple to use, yet has had a number of myths built up about it, so I thought I’d do a simple guide.
1. Put a number 1 beside the person you definitely want to win, a number 2 beside your second choice, and continue all down in order of your choice. Don’t worry if you think they haven’t got a chance, because the system takes care of that. It’s asking you “If your favourite isn’t strong enough to be elected, who is your second choice? And if they’re not strong enough?” and so on.
2. Don’t try to second guess how other people will vote. VOTE FOR WHO YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO WIN!
3. STV is almost unique as a voting system in letting you actively vote AGAINST someone. If there is a candidate in, say, the Blackrock ward in Dun Laoghaire, for argument’s sake, that you definitely DON’T want to win, you should give a preference to EVERY single other candidate. This is important. By doing so, you are making your vote available to the strongest candidate availble to beat your hated candidate. If you don’t want to give preferences to other candidates, that’s fair enough, but imagine how you will feel if your candidate is narrowly elected because your vote didn’t transfer to the person who almost beat them?
4. The big myth: your preferences (2,3,4, etc) have absolutely NO EFFECT on the previous preference. That means that if you are, say, a Fine Gael voter, and you vote 1,2,3 for the FG candidates, and then give your 4th preference to a Fianna Fail candidate, that will not harm the chances of the three FG candidates in ANY WAY.
5. Unlike the actual voting, the system of counting votes can be a bit technical, and for someone like me who did “sums” in the Leaving, I’ll leave it to others to explain. Suffice to say, if there are five seats, if you get just over one-sixth of the vote you’ll be elected, and sometimes with less. It’s a pretty fair system.
It’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.
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. When FF were in power, their logo resembled a high speed daddy long legs impact.
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…”. He’ll do the same in his Ard Fheis speech, claiming ownership of his potential people like King Joffrey.
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.
She’s all in favour of an elected mayor of Dublin, and will talk about Boris Johnson and Rudy Giuliani all night long. She’s been in favour since it was first suggested by Noel Dempsey and Bobby Molloy in 1999. Yeah, she’s been talking about it for 15 years. During which London has held a referendum, created a mayor, and held four mayoral elections. She’s all in favour.
Until she actually has to vote to let the people of Dublin decide in a referendum as to whether THEY want an elected mayor for THEIR city. Then the mask slips: the proposals aren’t radical enough, the mayor won’t have enough powers, there’s no consensus, any aul nonsense to prevent the little people from voting, because what’s it’s got to do with them? They’re not members of Dublin City Council, or South Dublin, or Dublin Fingal! They’re just the rabble who pay the Local Property Tax and councillors expenses. What’s it go to do with THEM? They should mind their own business, the nosy bastards.
The truth is, she doesn’t really want an elected mayor because she wants the one year rotating taxpayer funded jolly that is the current mayor of Dublin, and if there’s an elected Super Mayor people will start asking questions. But she can’t say that in public, so instead she’s try the “not radical enough” guff. So she can vote to block the riff-raff voting on it until her and the political elite can spend another 15 years discussing it. Funnily enough, she was in favour of keeping the Seanad and reforming that yoke too.
How’s that “Vote No for Reform” working out for you , by the way?
“Good riddance to them and their greedy Thatcherite ways!” she declared over a gin and tonic, when the Progressive Democrats closed up shop. Her leftie credentials are solid, as you can tell from her attendance at the Ivana Bacik fundraiser and the “Remember Savita” sticker placed elegantly on the back of her 5 series coupe.
The language rolls easily of the tongue, about “social justice”, “investment in communities”, “Social capital”, in fact almost anything with the word “social” in it. She’s secretary of the Labour Women’s Group in Dublin South East. The West Wing Box set holds pride of place on her DVD shelf, and The Guardian is always placed face up on the coffee table, under a box of fairtrade organic cookies. She is left wing and proud.
Not that her accountant would know, of course. Remember those filthy PDs and their tax cuts? They were quickly trousered, and a “little getaway place for Gavin and I” in Southern Portugal emerged. When the PDs and Fianna Fail cut Capital Gains Tax, her socialist conscience seemed to play second fiddle to the opportunity to flip those investment properties in Lucan and Ballymun.
For some reason, she seems unaware of the fact that the Revenue Commissioners will happily accept back any undesired taxcuts gratefully. Even filthy PD ones. Watch her reaction to funding social spending by taxing unearned profits on private residential properties: it’s like watching Newt Gingrich in high heels.