Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Internal Party Election.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 23, 2015 in Not quite serious., Occasional Guide to Irish Politics

There’s a weirdness to internal party elections, caused by the fact that it is wannabe politicians canvassing other wannabe politicians. That and the odd mix between inoffensive “I have to write something on the canvass card” blandness mixed with surreal claims of worthiness.

“I am passionately committed to this party (really?) and to serving the best interests of the party members. And my great grandfather shot an Englishman in 1919.”

The sheer terror of saying anything that might offend anyone who might not give you a 15th preference is palpable. If the canvass cards were scratch n’ sniff (remember them) it would be the odour of pure sweaty fear. It’s either stand by your cronies or your man is from the same county. Unless of course he’s contesting the same ward as you. Then he’s got “stories going around about him. You know. One of those fellas.” For the women it’s worse, trying to look attractive but not too attractive, putting up with the too-close talkers with porter on their breath and busy hands.

The younger candidates, desperately trying to look mature, turn up in suits and and constantly trying to get pictures of themselves with party luminaries to show they are moving in serious circles and are therefore serious themselves.

Unlike in other countries, where different factions fight it out based on their viewpoint of where they want society to go, this isn’t about direction of the party. This is about winning elections because they’re elections. The day after the election? Never you mind, that’s none of your business.

 
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An Occasional Guide to EU politics: The Lonely MEP.

Twitter-phoneHe found one of those apps that tells you how much time you spend doing things, and it gave him a fright. Apparently he spends two-thirds of his day on Twitter trying to pick fights with people back home. What’s worse is that they’ve got the measure of him now, and just ignore him. He doesn’t get mentioned on the news, or in papers. He’s just gone. Like he’s dead.

He was going to show this crowd out here in Brussels, boy was he! But of course they’re well used to him and others like him coming out and shouting. Even Paisley tried it back in the day. Know what happened? Nothing. They ignored him. Anti-Christ this and Anti-Christ that and they just ignored him and went for lunch, and this guy ain’t no Big Ian.

He finds that he’s getting up later in the day, and watching a lot of boxsets in his apartment. The other MEPs from his country, the men and women from the parties he was going to make a holy show of when he got out, now just treat him like one of those fellas you buy a Club Orange and a pack of Tayto for down the pub on a Sunday afternoon. They don’t even argue with him now, just give him that “ah, bless, the poor creature” look. The women ask him is he OK? One even offered to sew a button that had fallen off his good jacket back on. He spent a whole day walking around not knowing that he was trailing a long piece of toilet paper on his shoe and nobody’d said anything. One of the Dutch MEPs thought he’d been trying to make some sort of avant-garde protest about waste.

He’s afraid to spend too long on the phone back home because he knows some bastard will FOI it, and he can’t even go home because it’ll effect his voting record, the one thing the public (or at least the media) seem to get stroppy about at election time.

What on Earth was he thinking coming out here?

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Political Elitist.

Because of her political history, where she was once very active with one particular party, she wrongly gets called biased. It’s not true. If anything, it’s worse than that. She’s no longer loyal to the party she was once a member of, but is, in fact, now a member of The Establishment Party, and a fiercely protective member of it.

She’ll happily speak in defence of any member of the establishment parties. TD salaries? Hours worked? Expenses? She’ll happily go on Prime Time and The Right Hook and Morning Ireland to defend TDs when they’re terrified of their shite to do so themselves. She never has to put her hand in her handbag when she’s in the Dail bar.

She’ll oppose any real political reform which is unpopular with the parties,  although will always be careful to publicly support the concept of reform once “consensus” can be found. She’s popular across all establishment parties because she defends “politics”, that is, the status quo where they get paid for doing stuff, going on RTE panels to defend politics as a noble pursuit to the solemn nod of actual officeholders. Summer schools? Sure it’s practically the law that she either chairs or speaks on every panel.

What really irritates her are the outsiders. If you’re not a newspaper columnist with a national newspaper, a pol corr, an elected official or a party officer you’ve no real right speaking about her political system? Blogger? Twitter? Who are these people?

The dream used to be a seat in cabinet, but she knows that’s no longer on the agenda. But a seat on the RTE Authority? Or the Council of State? Or maybe the holy grail of a Taoiseach’s nominee to the Seanad. She’s a big fan of senators keeping the title after they leave office. Especially on their passports for holidays in the US later.

That’s all still to play for, and the main party leaders know whose side she’s on.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Secret Rational Voter.

She doesn’t like paying higher taxes any more than anyone else, or having her public services cut. But she’s rational, and calm, and irritated by the emotional hysteria that seems to pass for debate in modern politics. She hates the masochistic delight that some wallow in over The Banks, like the Vikings and the Brits and the potatoes before them, something out of our control to point a finger at and wail and scream at and blame for our shortcomings.

She knows that every extra euro somebody wants spent on Special Needs Assistants or A&E has to come from somebody else’s pocket, and that’s not right wing or Thatcherite, that’s just sums. As it happens, she is quite left wing on social spending, and that’s why she quietly fills in her standing order to various charities, but that costs money too. But she makes that sacrifice because she knows that things cost money and how strongly you feel about something doesn’t change the basic maths.

That’s why, if she could, she’d vote for the Troika. For calm rational technocrats who look at spreadsheets and tell you what you can afford and can’t. Sure, if you want to increase education spending by X, then you have to increase taxes by Y.

She can’t watch politicians anymore, with their time-eating pre-packaged inoffensive “hard working families” and “investment” and “resources” and basic refusal to tell voters that no, you can’t have your cake and eat someone else’s cake too. Don’t get her started on the angry hateful faces “in the audience”, the witchcraft denouncers of the modern age, wrapping their consumer fuelled frustrations with their own lives into a tight ball of bile and directing it at the cowering, stuttering spineless half-men of Irish politics who just sit and take it like scolded dogs. She watches the cyclical nature of Irish politics getting shorter, with opposition parties making promises that have to be broken sooner and sooner in office.

She thinks she’s alone in her anger, and she’s not. The problem is that there’s a groupthink, where 30% of big-mouths get to tell the rest of us that this is a terrible country (it isn’t) and nothing works (it does)and the health service is Third World (no, it isn’t) and all politicians are corrupt (no, they’re not) and we go along with their image of the country. She knows this is a country with problems but also a country with great strengths.

Is it so unreasonable for her to look for a candidate that doesn’t dress up what they want to do, that gives a cold credible analysis of what they will do in office? Who doesn’t build a campaign on subliminal promises that are so nebulous that they’ll never be met because we can’t measure them. Is it really that unreasonable to look for that?

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

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.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Mouth Breathing Tweeter.

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.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: How to Vote.

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.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Local Election Candidate’s Leaflet

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.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Two-Faced Councillor.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 12, 2014 in Irish Politics, Occasional Guide to Irish Politics

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?

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Secretly Right-Wing Leftie

“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.

Copyright © 2018 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.