In the United States cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Northern France, the bodies of over 9000 US servicemen rest. Over 9000 Americans who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy and elsewhere to free Europe from the shackles of Nazism. It is not an exaggeration to say that without their sacrifice, Western Europe would not know the 71 years of freedom it has enjoyed since the war.
The United States is not our enemy, nor should it ever be. The common values and the common history of the Atlantic, of Europe and America, mean too much.
But the election of the current President of the United States puts unique challenges in the path of Europe. From the defence of our Eastern most nations, to the securing of our southern borders, to our relations with Islam, to the defence of free trade and the prosperity it generates, these challenges throw a gauntlet down before this generation of Europeans and our leaders.
We are not some feeble minor nation. We are 450 million of the richest people on Earth, with some of the most powerful industries on the planet. We own one of the greatest common markets in human history. We build ships and cars and planes and aircraft carriers and yes, even nuclear weapons. We grow the finest foods on the planet, in vast quantities. We have the most beautiful cities in the world.
We are, in terms of spending, the second great military power on the planet if but we choose to recognize it.
And we are the greatest home on the planet to freedom, to tolerance, to diversity. We do not recognize torture. We do not execute our people. We do not boast of how many of our people we jail. We believe healthcare is a human right, not a privilege.
We are not perfect. Among us are extremists, both religious and political, including those who seek to deny the hateful crimes of the past against the Jewish people and others. But there is a majority across our continent which stands fast against those demons of both our past and our present, ready to fight, at the polling booth, on the streets.
Those demons, they shall not pass.
There are those who say there is no such thing as a European demos. That you can not build a united Europe because Europeans do not share a common history or common values.
The current incumbents of the Kremlin and the White House have disproved that. Europeans of the right and left have looked on in recent times and agreed that there is an alternative to a nationalism built on suspicion and fear. That love of one’s homeland does not automatically indicate fear of another.
Look at the response of Europeans to the attacks in Paris and Brussels and Madrid and Berlin. We did not treat those attacks as outrages in strange distant lands. They were attacks on us all, on our ways.
That is what unites Europeans. That I can walk the beautiful streets of Barcelona or Paris or Milano and know that an attack on them is an attack on my values too.
This is not a call for an identikit single nation called Europe. We are sovereign proud nations, proud of our flags and our history.
History has thought us that the defence of that sovereignty will come from the sharing of tasks and resources to magnify the power of all.
It’s time for us to recognize that the great nation to our east only respects strength, and that the great nation to our west is in a time of great insular strain. Given those realities, Europe must act decisively to secure its own interest and speak with strength in defence of our values.
We must build a European Defence Force, made up of volunteers, with the clear objective of pooling enough existing resources to get the increased capability we need to secure our borders east and south.
We must establish, in Northern Africa or elsewhere, an EU run refugee safezone to provide shelter for anyone fleeing oppression, and allowing us to restore full control of our continental borders. No more can we let our despotic neighbours use refugees as a boot with which to press on our throat.
We, as one of the three great economic powers, should enter immediate negotiations to create an Atlantic free trade area. Unlike others, we can negotiate with the United States as an economic equal, because we are. We should do so, but only as an equal.
These great projects are as much an act of self interest of the nations of free Europe as a pursuit of noble ideals. But both roads lead to the same destination. A strong Europe as the tool of its sovereign nations, putting our values at the table of nations.
In the words of that great European, Winston Churchill: Let Europe arise.
Sources in the White House have confirmed that President Trump will soon meet the congressional leadership to discuss the ongoing impact on his personal wealth following the terrorist attacks on four of his hotels across the world.
Following attacks on the Trump Hotels in Brazil, Panama and Hawaii, with a combined death toll of 643 people, and the foiled bomb attack in Vancouver, the organisation has seen a sharp drop in bookings and revenue as the businesses have become seen as proxy targets against the president and his policies.
In addition, the business has struggled to secure insurance in recent months, and is engaged in an expensive legal battle with its current insurers to maintain policies. The current insurer has been required to make nearly $250 million in payments so far as a result of the attacks. Another $1 billion is expected to be paid out.
A spokesperson for the Trump family has suggested that as the attacks on the United States and the Trump family are “de facto the same thing”, the US taxpayer should compensate the family for its financial losses as a result of their willingness to serve as first family.
In addition, the president has ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans to deploy US troops to protect the various assets. He has also insisted that the State department demand those forces be permitted to be deployed in those countries to protect the properties. Both the British and Irish governments have already agreed.
A number of terrorist groups have declared Trump businesses to be legitimate targets across the world, given the president’s close involvement.
A source in the CIA has stated that “they see these attacks as a means of reducing the president’s wealth, which, as we all know, is a subject he is very sensitive about. They know it’s a way of getting under his skin. The fact that he rants about it on Twitter after every attack doesn’t help.”
Previously published in The Times Ireland Edition on 18th July 2016.
Writing on social media last week about the Nice attack, the conservative commentator John McGuirk remarked that “at some point soon, people are going to say “you know, we tried the nice way. We tried tolerance. We tried being understanding. Maybe it’s time to give the crazy guy a shot at it.”
It’s hard to dispute the logic of his argument, given the rollercoaster of the last 12 months. From Trump to Brexit, we are witnessing what some are calling “post-truth” politics but what I prefer to term The Right To One’s Own Facts. The most disturbing aspect of the Brexit debate for me was the willingness of voters particularly but not exclusively on the leave side to casually dismiss facts which did not fit with their worldview.
But what should really alarm us is that there now seems to be substantial numbers of voters who choose to vote recklessly on the basis that “sure, it can’t get any worse, can it?” There are literally millions of people voting for Trumps, Farages and Erdogans. It can always get worse.
In 1979 the trades unions brought down Jim Callaghan’s Labour government because they thought he was too right-wing. Think they were still applauding themselves for that act after ten years of Mrs Thatcher? Reckless voters keep thinking that they can’t break the system, even when they pretend they want to.
But they do want to break it, some say. Why shouldn’t they? They’re disengaged. Except they’re not. They are completely engaged by other taxpayers through the state. It often provides their dole, their healthcare, their housing, their kids’ education, all funded by the taxes of voters whom they themselves seem to hold in contempt for being “an elite”.
The welfare state isn’t some form of natural fiscal phenomenon. It’s a decision by voters collectively to provide what is, in many instances, a form of nationalised charity. Sure, get insulted all you want at that definition, and talk about entitlements and rights, but bear in mind that whilst all of us, in every class, cannot avoid paying some tax, even if it is just VAT, some pay far more into the pot than they draw out, and others vice versa. You know where the poor are disengaged properly? Venezuela. When you can’t even find toilet paper on the supermarket shelves. Disengagement? That’s abandonment by the state, and it isn’t happening here.
The other awkward reality about reckless voters is their contribution to the rise of the hard anti-immigrant right in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. What do these countries all have in common? How about, in one study after another, they collectively have the highest standards of living as nations in the world, which actually means in human history. So what’s their gripe? How disengaged are they? Is their broadband speed letting them down? Not getting enough time to play Pokemon?
What unifies Trump voters, Brexit voters, far right and far left voters? For some it is simple racism. We seem to believe that racism is no longer possible, but is merely a symptom of some other underlying cause. But guess what? Some people just don’t like people who are a different colour or creed. It doesn’t matter why, we just have to ignore them because their opinions are irrational and listening to them about the direction of society is like listening to Jimmy Saville about child protection protocols.
But I would suggest that the racists are a minority, and the real motivating factor for many of these voters is the speed of change, and that’s a big problem. Yes, immigration transforms societies, but so does technology. The speed of transport has sped up immigration, but it has also sped up shipping times from the cheaper labour less employment rights factories of China and thus made off-shoring jobs much more viable. How do you stop that?
The Trumps and the Le Pens can stop immigration, and erect walls, both physically and tariff. But they can only alter the speed of change by actually withdrawing their respective countries from the globalized economy, which has all sorts of consequences from labour shortages to the price of food in the shops.
For me, the greatest reason why we should ignore reckless voters is their belief that complexity can be removed. That “take back control” or “just send them all home” is an actual solution. This is using a match to see if there is any petrol left in the drum stuff, and it must be opposed.
Of course, all that assumes that a majority of voters will vote in a non-reckless way, and that, in the age of Trump, is a hell of an assumption to make. Just look at the Erdogan of Turkey.
In 1932, in Germany, 52% of voters voted for either the Nazi party or the Communist party. Many of those same voters would have to wait for 17 years for another free election, and only after their country lay literally in ruins and under occupation.
It is very possible for voters in a democracy to vote to abolish themselves. Reckless voters have a right to be heard. But they don’t have a right to grab control of the wheel of the bus and take us all down with them. Nor are we obliged to let them.
The FBI agents didn’t arrive until the media, tipped off by Rudy Giuliani’s Department of Justice, were in place. Secretary Clinton opened the door herself, and invited the flak jacketed agents into her hallway. She looked refreshed and prepared, in a purple pantsuit.
The first mistake happened there. The new FBI director had handpicked agents with a clear disposition against her, and when one agent grabbed her wrist roughly and spun her to cuff her, one of President Clinton’s Secret Service detail stepped forward and pulled the FBI’s hand off her.
“She is cooperating. Show her some respect.” The Secret Service man said, squaring up to him.
The FBI agent went for his gun, but the Secret Service, trained for the sudden appearance of weapons had their guns our faster.
All on live TV, after the FBI in their zealotry hadn’t closed the door behind them and dozens of zoom lenses and microphones recorded the incident.
Giuliani, who had been watching in his office with his staff of young men, shouted down the frat boy whooping that had accompanied the initial entry into the Clinton home in upstate New York.
He, an old master of the live TV perp walk from his days as a US Attorney, had given instructions for her to be brought out in cuffs. But this was getting out of hand.
On TV, President Clinton stepped through his secret service detail and stood in front of the FBI.
“There’s no need for this. Hillary is cooperating.”
Secretary Clinton put her hand on the Secret Service man’s shoulder.
“Stand down, Tom. Let’s let these guys do their jobs.”
The agent in charge, suddenly realising that the door was open and that they were probably live on TV, had the sense to calm the situation.
“Thank you, madam secretary,” he said, and put the cuffs on her wrists, clicking them loosely.
“Are those really necessary?” President Clinton said.
“Who ordered you to put handcuffs on a 69 year old women with no history of violence?”
“Vince Foster would disagree…” one of the agents quipped, before realising.
President Clinton, spun on his heel and looked at the agent.
“That’s the way it is, it is?”
In his office, Giuliani, listening to the entire conversation broadcast live on TV, was screaming at the screen.
“Close the fucking door! Close the fucking door!”
Secretary Clinton tapped her husband on the arm.
“Don’t worry about it, Bill. Rudy Giuliani obviously thinks I’m very dangerous. Will you bring my reading glasses, honey.”
As she was led out of the house, America had stopped what it was doing to watch the spectacle. A growing crowd was gathering outside the house, and started chanting “Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry!” as she was put into one of the 10 FBI jeeps outside the house. She smiled, and held up her her hands in the air, the cuffs very clear to be seen.
It was an image that would become iconic.
Media helicopters and drones buzzed over the scene, following the FBI convoy as they took her to Manhattan to be charged. By the time she arrived at FBI headquarters, thousands of people were present. Some were shouting “Jail her!” but most were supporting her.
When she was led in, accompanied by her husband, there was a wall of noise as the crowd now covered the entire street. The NYPD were desperately trying to redirect traffic.
After an hour, President Clinton exited the building with with some aides and his Secret Service detail. Half way down the steps, surrounded by the media, someone (on advice from James Carville who was in apoplexy watching from Louisiana) handed the former president a loudhailer and a hand mike. He slung the loudhailer over his shoulder, looking like a superannuated student activist.
“My wife Hillary,” he said in that familiar southern drawl, “is a political prisoner.”
“This is the sort of thing you see in Zimbabwe or North Korea. A new president turning the power of the state on his political opponents. You did not see Reagan jail Mondale, or Bush jail Dukakis, or George W jail Al Gore. This, this is disgusting!”
In the DOJ, Giuliani was fielding a call from the President, who did not like what he was seeing. Then something caught his eye on the screen.
The crowd, now maybe 100,000 strong, seemed to ripple as someone moved across the steps of the building. Then the cheering started as people recognised former President Obama and Michelle Obama pushing through. Clinton saw them, and opened his arms to give both a huge embrace. The crowd started cheering, a chant “Let her out!” started, during into a deafening roar.
Giuliani was smart enough to see this was getting out of hand.
“Yes sir….no, I don’t think we should send in the national guard…we’ve a helicopter…yes sir.”
President Obama took the microphone live on camera.
“Michelle and I were downtown when we heard the news…I could not believe what I heard…is this the America we’re living in, where one party has its opponents picked up off the streets? Hell no!”
The crowds chanted back a “Hell no!” at him.
“What happens next? Is Rudy Giuliani going to have her spirited away to some prison in the middle of nowhere, some gulag?”
Giuliani looked at his advisers. That was exactly the plan.
A helicopter took off from the roof of the FBI building, as someone whispered in Clinton’s ear. Clinton gestured to Obama, who handed over the microphone.
“I’ve just been told that Hillary is on that helicopter, and that they’re taking her somewhere. I don’t know where. But my friends, I’ll tell you this. This is a political arrest, and will only be resolved in one place: Washington DC.”
They could hear the chants in the Oval Office. “Let her go!” from just shy of two million people was very loud.
The president was not happy. Despite many questioning his intellect during the campaign, he’d proven himself to have a shrewd political gut, and this sat uneasily. The polls were showing that whilst a solid 40% of the country supported prosecuting her, 50% saw it as purely an act of political revenge.
In the week since her incarceration in a federal prison awaiting trial, in North Dakota, the Democrats had been galvanized. Millions were marching on the streets, and her name was now being compared to Nelson Mandela and Alfred Dreyfus. Foreign leaders hadn’t been helpful, although Putin and the Chinese endorsed his action in the “fight against corruption”. President Le Pen supported him too. That prick Trudeau had led a march to the US embassy in Ottawa to hand in a letter of protest. It wasn’t helped either by the fact that his coarsest supporters were having a field day on the web making remarks about her being sexually assaulted in jail. The First Lady had walked out of a meeting where such remarks had been made.
The visit to the prison by Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter and Barbara Bush had looked awful for the administration on TV.
His advisers had all advised that this was to be expected, and it didn’t matter.
“All this proves is that the people who hate you still hate you,” Chris Christie said.
“Let’s get through the trial, put her away, and let her rot!”
The meeting broke up with out a decision, the room clearing save for Ivanka Trump. The others knew not to question her remaining.
“This is a huge problem honey!” The president said, slumping in his seat. He was not enjoying being president. He still spent a lot of time in his home in New York, and was beginning to hate having to return to the White House. The constant protest outside Trump Tower annoyed him too. It also grated with him to be booed in his home city, where once people had cheered him on the streets. He’d tried to have them moved on, but both the mayor and governor had refused to deploy heavy forces.
His mood hadn’t been helped by the fact that every business with a Trump in the title was now being permanently picketed by the Let Her Go crowd. Ivanka and the boys had openly talked about rebranding and separating his presidency from his brand in an attempt to save revenues.
“They’re wrong,” she said.
“If Hillary stays in prison she will become the focal point of your presidency. The next election will be a referendum on freeing her. Is that what we want?”
“What’s the alternative?”
“Pardon her. Say that a trial will be divisive and that you want to bring the country together.”
“My supporters will go nuts!”
“You said you’d put her in jail. She’s in jail. Now the country has to move on. I’ve put some words together.”
She handed him a buff folder, which he opened and leaned back in his seat. He smiled.
“Is this legal?”
“I have half a dozen lawyers who say it isn’t illegal.”
Newsflash: The White House has announced that the president will issue a pardon of Secretary Hillary Clinton for all crimes and misdemeanors committed by her. Unusually, for the pardon to take affect, Secretary Clinton is required to sign that she is accepting the pardon.
Some legal scholars suggest that in doing so she would be admitting to having committed the crimes in the first place.
A spokesperson for the president said that the pardon is on its way to North Dakota by fighter jet, and that Mrs Clinton can be home with her family by tonight if she wishes.
The attorney general, Rudy Giuliani, has resigned. He will be replaced by his deputy, Gov. Chris Christie.
See this guy to the right here? Many of today’s political anoraks won’t have a clue who he is. But for a period from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, every “Men who will one day be President” list (and it was all men) included the name Hubert Horatio Humphrey.
Starting as a barnstorming anti-segregationist Minnesota mayor in 1948 (when the Democratic Party still had KKK members) through the US Senate through Vice President under LBJ and a tantalisingly close election defeat to Nixon in 1968, Humphrey was the flag bearer of the party’s liberal wing and one of the biggest beasts in the party. Yet he never became president.
I can’t help wondering is Hillary Clinton falling into that mould, as the candidate that everybody knows who seems to have been around forever and is certain to be “the next President” and yet…
Is it possible that the window has already closed, and we just don’t know it, that she is still a woman with deep reservoirs of support yet doesn’t have that widespread appeal to put her over the top?
Whenever I look at Hillary and particularly her supporters, I can’t help thinking that they seem to be people who regard their liberalism as being of the “my butler has an excellent health insurance package” variety. Not bad people, just people living in a different world, who support Obamacare and go to LGBT fundraisers (and know what LGBT means) and then have their driver bring their car around. People who don’t know anybody who doesn’t know an openly gay person. People who regard upstate New York as the epitome of rural.
This is a candidate, don’t forget, who has been pretty much chauffeur-driven for a quarter of a century. When, would you say, was the last time Hillary Clinton was in a Walmart? Now, maybe that doesn’t matter. After all, FDR, the great liberal reformer, was an aristocrat. Ted Kennedy, who passed more legislation to protect working people than any other legislator, came from one of the wealthiest families in America. But people need a certain degree of authenticity. Does this person know what my life is like? That’s a question about HRC that is a hard one to answer.
Humphrey was loved by the big unions, and that was when the unions were the voice of the ordinary American worker, not just the public sector. Can HRC convince that she is the candidate of working people, and not just a collection of liberal elites?
Repost from 2012: The following post is an idea for a short story I had about Governor Romney and President Obama being locked in a room together. It’s a very long post. You have been warned!
The governor waved once more to the crowd in the Lynn University auditorium, and walked off the stage, Ann’s hand held firmly in his. In the wings, his campaign manager beamed his reaction to the governor’s performance in the final presidential debate with an enthusiastic two thumbs up.
“Governor, that was marvellous!” he said, with a wide grin. The governor raised an eyebrow. It had been the theme inside the campaign, his alleged 1950s style stiffness becoming a source of light ribbing from his campaign team. He actually found it quite funny, especially as his sons were very much the ringleaders.
The debate had been the hardest of the three, with the president holding his own and the governor having to tread very carefully, especially on Iran. His pollsters had been very clear: Defend Israel Yes, lead America into another Republican war, a big fat No. He felt he had kept the balance.
His sons were giving him firm handshakes and slapping his back when he noticed the head of his Secret Service detail speaking to another man he didn’t recognise. The agent walked over.
“Governor, the president has asked that you join him. A traditional matter, I’m told.”
The governor stiffened. It was not commonly known, and he had certainly not known until he had been informed on winning his party’s nomination, that a communications line between the sitting president and his likely opponent was agreed early in the campaign. If the candidate was informed of the phrase “a traditional matter” it meant that there was a national security issue he needed to be briefed on, off the record and not for campaign exploitation. It was a matter of pride to all in the know that the system had never been abused since it was set up by President Ford in the 1970s. Read more…
President Michelle Obama of the United States of America and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada have expressed disappointment at President Ted Cruz of the Constitutional States of America’s decision to quit talks between the CSA and the North American Union. The summit in Montreal had hoped to finally resolve the cross-border trade, taxation and customs disputes following the amicable breakup of the United States in 2026, with the North East, Great Lakes and West Coast states remaining in the USA as the remainder left to form the CSA.
Since the formation of the CSA, two very distinct cultures have developed, with the USA returning to the moderate religious and economic values of the 1950s coupled with social tolerance for religious and lifestyle differences, whilst the CSA has seen the rampant dismantling of former federal laws and agencies in its territories and the effective adoption of Judeo-Christianity as a de facto state religion in a loose confederation of mutually cooperating states with a weak central government.
Under the terms of the Paul Act of 2022, US citizens had been given 36 months to decide which state they wished to become a citizen of, which led to mass migration as minority groups moved to the USA, and social and religious conservatives moved to the CSA.
Although taxes were markedly higher in the USA to fund its universal healthcare programme and infrastructure programme, the CSA found itself in serious fiscal difficulties as CSA senior citizens demanded that social security and medicare entitlements be carried over from the USA, farmers and agribusiness demanded subsidies be continued, and states insisted on funds no longer flowing from Washington for local projects be replaced.
The attempt by President Paul to create the CSA as a tax haven for the world’s rich ran into huge difficulties when the USA and European Union agreed a common tax treaty which taxed profits and earnings shipped out of their joint jurisdiction. That, coupled with his plan to build a vast manned wall between the CSA and the United Mexican States, resulting in a National Security Tax, led to his impeachment.
Paul’s successor, former Texas US Senator Ted Cruz, had hoped to conclude a joint defence pact with the US to allow for savings in defence spending, but President Obama had vetoed the deal “as long as gay and non-Christians cannot serve their country in the CSA defence forces.” The president had been reacting to comments from the US Joint Chiefs of Staff about US soldiers being uncomfortable about serving alongside “segregated” forces.
The Bishop of Houston has announced that he shall be endorsing former Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his choice for nominee of the American Party to succeed President Cruz. The endorsement is seen as vital for Palin’s hopes in the primaries.
Governor Palin welcomed the news whilst attending the first school in Texas to implement the “Kidz Rights!” law requiring all children over the age of seven to be armed in case of a terrorist attack on their school.
In the Congress of the CSA, meeting in Tallahassee, a bill requiring non-Judeo-Christians to register with local law enforcement agencies has passed the Senate, and will now go to the House of Representatives. A bill barring non-Judeo-Christians from holding public office passed the Congress and is now before President Cruz. A spokesperson has said that the bill will be given serious consideration. The board of Mercedes Benz has said that if either bill becomes law in the CSA, the company will have to reconsider its investments in Alabama. President Cruz recently vetoed a bill to strip women of the right to vote, the so-called “Clinton-Obama law”, which had passed the CSA Congress. His veto is expected to be challenged.
Other news: the English Prime Minister, Mr Farage, admitted that the his party could not assemble a majority in the House of Commons to agree a common market with the CSA because of the CSA refusal to grant travel visas to English citizens of the Muslim faith. He looked forward, however, to negotiating only a modest fee increase with European Union President Sturgeon for English access to the European Economic Area.
The former presidential candidate Donald J. Trump continues to fight the court order stripping him of US citizenship, and has argued that being forced to live in one of the states that voted for him in 2016 as “cruel and unusual”.
Politicians across North America have been united in wishing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani well with his condition.
Previously published in The Times Ireland Edition on 13th December 2015.
Last week, Preet Bharara, The US Attorney (Director of Public Prosecutions) for the southern district of New York sent out a tweet welcoming the conviction of a man named Dean Skelos. Skelos was New York State’s senate majority leader, and had been known as one of the “three men in a room” along with state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and governor Andrew Cuomo who actually ran the state of New York. Skelos was convicted of bribery and extortion charges, accused of trying to enrich his son. In November, state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on corruption charges too. Both men look like getting about 130 years each.
These were important men. For many years, in New York state politics, these were The Men. Between them, they controlled the New York state legislature and a state budget of $150 billion dollars, nearly three times the national budget of Ireland. What was interesting was that the US attorney saw fit to publicise widely his role in putting these men behind bars. Political showboating? Almost certainly. The office of New York’s US Attorney has already proven to be a political launching pad for one Rudolph W. Giuliani, who’s jailing of dodgy Wall Street types won him a lot of votes with ordinary working people who wanted to see that the law applied to the mucky-mucks as well.
Does Attorney Bharara have ambitions for elected office? Who knows. But if he does, it’s not unreasonable for him to think that going after corrupt politicians might win him votes.
It’s a good job he’s not running in Ireland.
Watching the RTE Investigates report into our home-grown breed, you see the differences. First of all, it’s not the Garda or Department of Justice hunting these guys down. It’s a television station. If you google “FBI public corruption”, you get the page of the FBI that deals specifically with it, and lists out all the recent public officials convicted in recent months of corruption. In the US, if you’re a councilman or a state senator, there’s always the chance when some guy offers you a brown envelope that he’s actually an FBI agent wearing a wire.
Think Irish councillors have ever worried that the Gardai were out to get them? Put “public corruption” into the search engine on the Garda website. You get the following “You Searched for ‘corruption’ filtered by ‘all’ Pages returned ’0′ results.”
The truth is that there is no one in the Irish state, unlike in the US, who gets up in the morning and says “today I’m going to nail some corrupt so-and-so to a cross.” As with so many things in Ireland, it’s nobody’s job. Why not?
Why doesn’t Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan announce that she is setting up a dedicated unit to pursue and actively attempt to bribe Irish public officials, as the FBI (and RTE) do? Who’ll stop her? The minister? The Taoiseach? As it happens, they probably don’t have the power to stop her. But more importantly, they wouldn’t have the stones. Yeah, all across the country county councillors would be up in arms, talking about their “good names” being dragged into disrepute by the mere existence of such a unit, but so what? Would it be the worst thing in the world if every grasping sticky-fingered “what’s in it for me?” councillor had just the lightest film of sweat on their brow every time he sat down with a developer? Or when he picked up his phone?
By the way, on that note, why haven’t RTE named the councillors who refused to meet them because they felt it was inappropriate? The fact that there are councillors who actually aren’t on the make is as big a story as those who are.
Of course, it’s unlikely the Garda will take such dramatic action. The organisation is notoriously reactive. After all, according to last week’s Garda Inspectorate report they seem to be only getting around to the fact that there’s a thing called “the internet”. The one thing that would make the Garda take corruption seriously is the one thing that made the late Telecom Eireann and Dublin Bus up their game: competition. If the government outsourced the pursuit of corruption to, say, a private security company or legal firm which got paid by the number of its privately investigated cases the DPP felt able to bring to trial, then suddenly the Garda might sit up. Now there’s an idea as to how to spend Atlantic Philanthropies money.
That’s the unwritten truth we all avoid: the Garda don’t take corruption seriously because the Irish people don’t, and they work for them. Voters, as a general rule, don’t see dismissing corrupt politicians as being their job. In fact, it’s even worse. A politician who spends his time trying to clean up politics is almost seen as a time waster not doing proper local graft work. There’s also the reality, which the commissioner will be well aware of, that the Irish people are far more likely to dismiss a politician who fights corruption than one actually being corrupt. Just ask Pat O’Malley (remember him?), Joe Higgins, Jim Mitchell or Dick Spring.
Fighting corruption in Ireland is going to be like bringing in divorce, equality for women or decriminalising gay rights. One of those issues where the majority of people either have no interest or are mildly opposed to it, but is pushed by a tiny well-organised, dedicated group. Then one day you reach a tipping point and it becomes the cultural norm, and everybody wonders why we didn’t always do it this way? It’s be the tiny Social Democrats or Renua or a plucky independent who forces the big parties to finally take action. That’s the Irish way.
The 7th May 2017 is the final date in a 12 month perfect storm of political events that threaten western stability and indeed democracy like none since the 1970s. Between now and that date, the second round of the French presidential election, we will face three major events that have the potential to upend key stability factors in our society.
The first is Brexit. As it happens, British withdrawal from the European Union itself can be managed. The European Community existed before the UK joined, and can function without it. The big fear, however, is that Brexit might trigger a domino effect of populist forces declaring exit from the EU as the Deux Ex Machina that solves all modern anxieties. Even then, it can be contained, provided that Italy, France or Germany don’t leave, with smaller countries leaving just becoming de facto non-voting satellite states of the EU.
The second is a Trump victory. As it happens, such a result would almost certainly result in the Republican party rushing to be forgiven by him in the hope of sharing in the patronage and spoils. But is it impossible for a man with an ego like Trump to decide that he is in fact above party politics and to appoint some popular Democrats to office too? That coupled with the very real difficulties of implementing the more extreme of his policies could trigger a sharp backlash in his hard-core base. Or mass rioting amongst Hispanics if he tries to implement them. Don’t forget, Hispanic-American citizens have the right to bear arms too. The sheer unpredictability of a Trump presidency, never a good thing when the control of nuclear weapons is involved, is a serious worry for us all.
The third and final is the possibility of Marine Le Pen becoming President of France. As with The Donald, “right thinking” people keep saying that it can’t or won’t happen. But we live in dangerous times, and the Le Pen plan, based on withdrawal from the euro and protectionism for French business, as well as mass deportation, would almost certainly destroy the European Union. There can be no EU with France and Germany in step.