What if…Ireland became a fascist state?

The shots which rang out had been expected. The sound of the execution of the leaders of Sinn Fein, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party echoed out across the courtyard of Dublin Castle, as a confirmation that the National Order government was serious.

The firing squad had been made up of members of the Celtic Guard, the party’s uniformed paramilitary wing, as they had not trusted the remnants of the Garda and the Defence Forces to carry out what was a political act.

Ireland had not been the only country that descended into extremism after the great economic collapse of 2030, triggered by the electromagnetic pulse terrorist attacks in New York, London, Frankfurt, Paris and Hong Kong which had crippled the global economy and brought such chaos. The Second American Civil War was in its third stalemated year. Great England’s Lord Protector ruled over that nation and its dominions with an iron fist. The communist regimes in France and Italy squared up against the AfD government in Germany. China continued to struggle after Taiwan’s surprise nuclear attack just when it looked like the invasion of Taiwan was about to succeed after months of fighting.

As with so many other places, it had been a well-resourced and charismatic figure, Sean Connolly, who had led the far right to victory. The collapse of the global trade system had overnight turned the Irish economy into a pale shadow of itself, with the establishment parties rotating in a series of elections leading to rapid collapse as each new government failed to confront the reality that the Ireland of the early 21st century was gone.

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What if….the United States left NATO?

(Posted 2022)

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s a common trope of the political thriller was a devious plot by the KGB to break up the western alliance, normally through the dismantling of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). In Alfred Coppel’s “The Hastings Conspiracy”, for example, a plot involved the KGB revealing to the leftwing British government that there existed a secret US plan to invade the UK (landing at Hastings, in case you’re interested), Colin Forbes’ “The Stone Leopard” involved a group of French, British and German agents racing to stop Moscow putting a Soviet agent into the Elysee Palace and pulling French forces out of Germany ahead of a Soviet invasion through the Fulda Gap. Chris Mullin’s “A Very British Coup” hinged on a plot by the CIA to stop Jeremy Corbyn Harry Perkins pulling Britain out of NATO. Both “The Fourth Protocol” and, eh, “Octopussy” had key plot points hinging on something very similar.

There were some books that speculated at a US withdrawal back into isolation, but relatively few: it was taken as read that the US was the anchor of western defence both out of value belief and in its own naked self-interest.

Then Donald Trump was elected President, and the party of Ronald Reagan and Eisenhower became the party of Lindbergh. Under Trump it was mostly mouth, a man who was too chaotic to pursue a policy of withdrawal even if he really believed it, which probably depended as much as what day it was as any intellectual conviction. But Trump aside, isolationism, fueled by Fox News charlatans who see any sort of engagement with liberal elements abroad as grounds to whip up hysteria have seriously undermined American commitment to NATO, and the idea of the US withdrawal, whilst still unlikely, is no longer ludicrous. What if it happened…

The near future. The new administration had moved much faster than anyone had expected, given the relative closeness of the election result. This was primarily at the hands of a bevy of new National Security Council appointees who would never had seen the inside of the building under the Bush, Reagan or indeed any previous post-war administration. These were young men who had been born in the 80s and 90s and even later and were more familiar with The Turner Diaries and Ayn Rand and sarcastic put downs on cable news shows than strategic thinking. Withdrawal from NATO was more, to them, about sticking it to foreigners, effete socialist Europeans who had lived off the backs of hard working Joe Sixpack for decades. America didn’t need alliances. America was strong. And any way: China was the enemy that needed to be faced down and Europe was of little or any use in that regard.

In Europe, as ever, surprise was the first call of the day. Yes, the new president had been very clear about his intentions, but no one is capable of self-delusion as Europeans are. Even watching the president announce that, whilst Congress debated withdrawal, he was signing an executive order to pull out US forces over six months and disavow any US commitment to defend any NATO country. He signed the document live on air and held it up to the camera, his massive signature covering half the page. He liked signing pieces of paper on camera.

The news that the US was leaving NATO triggered the European response to everything: a summit in Brussels, attended by the remainder of NATO. To say it was chaotic was an understatement. The Canadians earnestly stated their commitment to NATO which was received with the grateful eyes of a mortgage defaulting parent being offered a child’s piggy-bank. The Turks glowered at everyone. The French and the Germans immediately flew to Moscow. The British looked pained and paralyzed and announced a defence pact with New Zealand. The Hungarians wrote down everything everybody said. In Russian.

The Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians had their own meeting, with the Finns and Swedes quietly sitting in. The Poles revealed a secret, to gasps.

The moment the last US plane lifted off, that very moment, Russian troops ploughed across the border and annexed another chunk of Ukraine. The Ukrainians, with limited support from the British, Poles and Baltic states, put up a noble, robust and doomed defence, surrendering after three weeks of vicious fighting. The EU made a very robust speech at the UN.

A new summit attempted to confront the reality: that for the first time in over 75 years, European nations were now solely responsible for their own defence. There was no Deus Ex America to save them from the Russians.

As with so many challenges facing Europe, the problem was not finding the right or even credible solution. A small group of nations proposed the creation of a Combined European Defence Force, putting into physical existence the reality that Europe was both big enough and wealthy enough to defend itself from almost any threat, if it had the will.

As ever, it was the will that was the problem for Europe. The new Le Pen government in France was only remaining in NATO, critics said, to wreck NATO from the inside, and was openly hostile to contributing to the defence of the Baltic states. Germany’s political system was dominated by Russian penetration and overly optimistic free traders concerned only really with German exports. The British were divided between a pro-Russian left and an anti-European right that couldn’t really believe the US had left, and openly discussed some sort of merger with the US and Canada to guffaws from even their ideological allies in the new administration in Washington.

Having said that, neither France nor Germany was dumb enough not to recognise that US withdrawal also presented a huge commercial opportunity. A European Army in whatever form it took would need to purchase fighters, drones, tanks and all the high tech infrastructure needed to operate them effectively. The problem was that those nations genuinely concerned for their safety, within striking distance of the Russian border, were out of patience. As they looked at the tent cities holding refugees from Ukraine dotted throughout their countries, they saw the threat for real, and decided that their foot-dragging neighbours, whilst free to join, would not be permitted to hold them back.

The Treaty of Warsaw, creating a European Defence Community, was signed by Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Norway, Finland and Sweden. A request by Hungary to join was humiliatingly rejected as long as FIDESZ remained in office, and a robust method to expel rogue members was put in place. Unlike previous aspirational political compacts, the treaty clearly outlined what forces from each nation would be transferred to a combined Continental European Defence Command (CEDC) under a Supreme Commander, European Forces (SCEUR). The treaty dealt with wavering nations by formally transferring command of the assigned units for a fixed two year period with a 12 month period required for a nation to regain command early. A respected Polish general was appointed on the same day, with a Finnish deputy. The treaty also committed CEDC to purchasing specific numbers of fighters, tanks and other equipment and to raising a volunteer force in addition to existing transferred national troops by specific dates. Members that failed to reach their targets would be suspended from voting and possibly expelled. Finally, CEDC agreed to raise a €100 billion bond to fund the new force, with the money earmarked to be spend primarily in the member nations unless the equipment was unavailable. This particular clause caused ructions in the United States, where the new administration discovered that, having stepped away from Europe, it had far less leverage on getting its share of European defence procurement. Anti-NATO Republicans were shocked to see the big defence firms suddenly develop an interest in Democratic congressional candidates.

The response in Berlin and Paris was different. Le Pen flew into a rage on discovering, a week later, that the wily Swedish prime minister had secured British membership of the organisation by agreeing to English being the official working language, a proposal that had few objectors. He also agreed that the next supreme commander of the CEDC would be British. In return, the British contributed both physically and financially.  The French president found herself being lambasted in the National Assembly for allowing France be outmanouvered, especially given that huge defence contracts were about to be issued and France, having refused to join, was not eligible to seek them. In the Bundestag, a different state of affairs reigned, where those in the German parliament who had always supported a European army were now demanding of the government why Germany was not joining it? Again, German arms manufacturers were asking the same questions their French counterparts were: why was Germany not in line for its share?

The French government had to settle for an association with the CEDC where France could bid for contracts in return for a financial contribution to the organisation, as the Baltic states vetoed France joining as long as Le Pen was president because “we believe her” about not defending them. It was humiliating, so much so that her two-term centrist predecessor returned from his honeymoon to announce that he had changed his mind and would seek a third term on the pledge of France committing to the CEDC fully from day one. Looking fit and tanned in a crisp white open-necked shirt as he strolled through Charles De Gaulle holding hands with his beautiful new wife, he told the gathered media that it was obscene that Le Pen had created a situation where “Les Rosbifs” were taking a greater role in Europe’s defence than the republic. “An attack on Finland, an attack on Estonia is an attack on France!” he declared.

The German government agreed to the terms quietly and it went through the Bundestag with only the extremes of left and right objecting. The German Constitution was amended to permit the transfer of command of a section of the Bundesweher and Luftwaffe to SCEUR. Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands quickly joined. The Italian parliament erupted into a blazing row nominally over the European Defence Community treaty but in reality over a string of political corruption prosecutions. The Italian president and former ECB president rang the young Polish President to reassure her that despite the political drama, if Russia invades, “Italy will not be found wanting.” Ireland called for the United Nations to do something.

In Moscow, the aging Putin, seeing the lay of the land, decided to mobilize quickly, ordering a build up on the Estonian border before the CEDC could be organised. When his generals revealed that the actual ability of European forces was now that they could inflict serious damage on Russia’s forces, probably not enough to stop them but enough to turn the war into a long-running conflict that Russia could not afford, Putin let it be known that Russia would consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons if European forces did not capitulate quickly. He had never really believed in the concept of the NATO nuclear umbrella for one simple reason: the nations that needed it most had no nuclear weapons of their own, and Paris, London and Washington were simply not going to invite retaliation on their own soil despite all the bluster.

That night, the Polish president, accompanied by the Baltic and Finnish presidents put out an address in English. She announced that, on hearing the Russian threat to detonate tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the five countries had been working on a Polish-led nuclear weapons programme, and that they had the ability to respond with short-range weapons in response to any Russian first use.

“We cannot destroy Russia,” she declared. “But we can respond in Kaliningrad, Belarus, and even in a city President Putin holds dear, so let the president understand us very clearly. We will never use nuclear weapons first. But we will respond in kind. We will, after this broadcast, communicate to you the size and yield of these weapons, and you will realise they can be carried by a single fighter, a drone, a fishing boat, a team of special forces with huskies over a border or even on the back of a truck sitting in St. Petersburg traffic. If we, the leaders of our respective countries die in a first strike, the protocol is in place to retaliate. Do not test us on this, Mr President.”

What if…a nuclear attack on Israel?


Repost: originally written in 2015.

The weapon, later identified as a 10 mega-ton former Soviet warhead, detonated just as the new Knesset began proceedings. In a flash, Israel’s administrative capital, political leadership and just under three quarters of a million Israelis died, along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.

The news was greeted in different ways. In the US, the president was rushed to the emergency national airborne command post, whilst the vice president and others were sent to the alternate national command centre in Mount Weather. US forces were ordered to def con 2.

In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Riyadh, spontaneous crowds gathered in grotesque displays of euphoria.

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10 things Irish politicians will never admit.

1. Pensioners are the single most financially comfortable group in Irish society.

2. Short of a suspension of democracy and the press ganging of unemployed workers into construction it is now impossible for Ireland to build enough housing to meet the level of housing we require.

3. Foreign workers make a far more significant contribution to the tax revenue that funds our public services than a large segment of the indigenous population who disproportionately benefit from them.

4. The modest drop in income tax revenue during the Covid lockdown confirmed that a minority of taxpayers carry the majority of the country’s tax burden.

5. The appetite for public spending is endless: there’s hardly a single group of Irish public service users who believe THEIR services are adequately funded.

6. There is relatively little political corruption in Ireland because most Irish politicians are simply not worth bribing because they have no direct power. Most corruption in Ireland is carried out by unelected officials in the public and state funded NGO sector and much of it is not actually legally defined as corruption not by intent but by political inertia.

7. There are no votes in long term planning. In fact, it may cost you votes.

8. Likewise, there are no votes in questioning how well current expenditure is spent. Again, it may cost you votes asking too many questions.

9. It is possible to have a very well-remunerated career in Irish politics without ever having to make an unpopular decision.

10. The “real Ireland” no longer lives in rural areas but overwhelmingly in urban areas in the big towns and cities.


What if…terrorists targeted the mega wealthy?

The assassination of The Richest Man In The World™ (TRM) was the biggest story in the world. The clip of a bullet passing through his skull, caught on a bystander’s phone as he exited a building in San Francisco, instantly became one of the defining images of the 21st century. He was dead before he hit the ground. Interestingly, it was not even to be the most startling event of the day.

That came exactly two hours later, when a handsome AI generated man in a video took credit for the murder. He informed the rapidly increasing number of viewers that an email containing information about the murder had been sent directly to the FBI and would confirm his claim to be the voice of the assassins.

He then introduced himself as George, after “another great revolutionary” and said that he spoke for The 99, an organization dedicated to addressing the wealth imbalance between the mega wealthy and everyone else. He stressed that he was neither on the far right or far left, and that this was not an ideological matter. This was a simple matter of wealth transfer. The murder of TRM, he said, was a statement of intent, a proof of concept as to their seriousness. But no one else need die.

He then published a list of the world’s 200 richest individuals, and offered a deal. If they transferred 10% of their wealth to a stated list of popular banks and micro finance charities across the world, and ordered that the money be distributed equally among every account holder with less than $1000 in their account, they would be safe for one year. As would their families.

George finished by saying that they would act again soon if the individuals did not respond within 72 hours.

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America through a cop show.

I have recently been watching the TV show “The Rookie” on Now TV. Now entering its sixth season, the show is about officer John Nolan (Nathan Fillion), a 45 year old construction contractor from Pennsylvania who becomes the oldest rookie in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department. 

It’s a very entertaining police procedural with a light sprinkling of humour, and also, as one binge watches, an interesting insight into how America sees itself on TV.

One of the constant themes of the show is the need for people to be “held accountable”, or the attribution of blame, a theme which the show is very self aware about.

Episode after episode is about working people who end up breaking laws which they simply do not have the financial capacity to obey. Whether it is affording motor tax, or leaving an elderly relative unattended so that you can attend the job interview that will help pay for her care, the show often focusses on how Americans set themselves levels of rigidity and personal responsibility that their social and economic model conspires to prevent them reaching.

Another constant theme which will strike an Irish viewer is the lack of pragmatic approaches by the police officers in the show to problems compared to say, how an Irish Garda would approach it.

One episode sees a single father who has recently lost his wife commit an opportunistic crime (he steals money from bank robbers) to help alleviate his son’s situation. The episode ends with the father being arrested, and the son handed over to social services, an outcome which satisfies no one and results in huge taxpayer cost and the breakup of a struggling family with the social costs that will entail. Yet the officers have no choice: everything is measured by arrest and conviction, with a sprinkling of puritan judgementalism.

I’m aware, in writing this, that I’m an advocate of more robust policing in Ireland. But I still support the need for police officers, as members of society, to be able to exercise judgement and pursue the path of least harm, a policy that the characters of “The Rookie” often yearn for in their daily policing.

The other striking aspect, and I’ve no idea how realistic this is, or whether it is just Hollywood hype, is how nearly every episode has a normalised gun battle on public streets involving the use of military grade fully automatic weapons, with civilians fleeing streets as thousands of rounds of ammunition are expended.  

Have a look: it’s a good show.  



Secret Hitler: Boardgame Review

“Secret Hitler” sounds like boardgame you’d see in an episode of “Family Guy” or “South Park”, calculated to cause offense. It’s not unreasonable to suspect its creators, one of whom created the equally offensive (and entertaining) “Cards Against Humanity” set out with the title to wind-up the easily offended.

Having said that, it is a very enjoyable boardgame. It’s a social deduction game, which means that it’s most about lying. Set in the Weimar Republic in the early 1930s, no knowledge of German politics is needed. Indeed, the game could easily be retooled as “Secret Voldemort” or “Secret Trump”.

One player becomes (secretly) Hitler, and with another (secret) fascist henchman/woman, both with the objective of getting Hitler into the position of chancellor. The other players, who make up the majority of players (you need a five player minimum), are all liberals battling to keep Hitler out.

Each player takes a turn as the rotating president of the republic, selecting which laws (liberal or fascist) to pass and appointing a chancellor at each turn, whilst trying to deduce which player is not really a declared liberal but actually a secret fascist.

It sounds complicated, but once up and running it’s actually quite straightforward. As it progresses players get access to more tools to identify members of the fascist party (or definitely rule non-fascists out), and even attempt to assassinate Hitler before he gets to power (or accidentally kill a fellow liberal). The real devilment is when the fascists, if they’re smart, start making false accusations about others, or even riskily voting for liberal policies to throw others off the scent. I was assassinated by a fascist who pretended I was a fascist. I wasn’t.

Playing it, I was reminded of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and then it dawned on me. It was like the John Le Carré thriller “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, an investigation gradually building up the evidence but still having to make a guess based on probability as to who the baddy is. Once you’re familiar with the gameplay, it becomes possible to spot the clues and determine to a certain degree who the filthy Austrian corporal bastard is.

The packaging, board and game pieces are also very tastefully put together.

I heartily recommend it.

When even I am considering not paying my TV licence, RTE should realise they are in big big trouble.

€1280 worth of licence fees. That’s about 91 in flip flops.

Take a look at that picture. That’s all my recent licences, with one recent one missing for some reason but which I paid. But the point is that I pay my licence fee. Although I’m not a socialist, I do my socialist duty when it is required. I paid the water tax. I pay my Local Property Tax. And yes, I paid my TV licence because I genuinely believe in the Public Service Broadcasting model.

But I’m not so sure I’ll pay this year for the simple reason that if I do, I think people in RTE might laugh at me, and think I’m that classic thing in Ireland.

The gullible mug. The dope who obeys the rules. The fella who seperates his cardboard and general waste, and pays the bin tax, and obeys the law, and sees lads tipping bags of rubbish into ditches or gurriers with 150 previous convictions walking out of court because a judge on a salary and pension package equivalent to a lotto win thinks he deserves yet another chance.

Unlike so much stuff which leaves the Diligent Obeyer of Prosecutions and Edicts (DOPE) in Ireland frustrated, this is one way I can make my feelings heard.

I can deny RTE my €160 (That’s just over 11 pairs of flip flops, to put it in RTE speak). If I and others like me don’t pay in our thousands, we could cripple RTE. We have actual power.

As I said, I’m pro-RTE. I don’t want to live in a Fox News/MSNBC poisoned society where commercial interests realise (as Rupert did) that there’s money to be made in making half the country hate the other half. I want a broadcaster we all watch to some degree and bitch about equally. I like John Drennan and Cheap Irish Homes and election night.

But I also want RTE to prove to me that €5k in flip flops can’t be ordered when the spotlight is off RTE. No Kevin Bakhurst, it’s not enough to talk about new personnel and new structures. They can become infected by the same culture over time.

Transparency is the solution. Announce that from January 1 2024, RTE will publish online every single invoice it pays within 30 days of paying it, for the public to see and scrutinise. The time line will allow you to drop suppliers who refuse, and name and shame them in an Oireachtas committee if they threaten to sue. No minister will try to stop you, even if they’re appalled at the idea, for fear you tell the public they tried to stop you. You can set a beacon for the whole public service and every taxpayer-funded NGO, challenging them to follow RTE’s lead of spending the taxpayer’s money behind a pane of very clear glass.

Do that, and I’ll happily pay my €160.

RTE is not the problem. The attitude to public money is the problem.

We’ve been here before. Remember FAS and the trips to Florida? Remember the FAI and the birthday party and the board flying business class with the players in economy? There is one thing that unites all these shenanigans, and it is that it is A) people casually spending

taxpayers money, and B) assuming no one will ever see the details.

We know it’s going on now in some taxpayer funded agency or NGO that isn’t on the radar, and we all know we’ll be back here again in the future unless we confront the fact that it is not bad personalities that make this happen, but a culture of imperviousness, and the idea that no one will ever be held personally accountable. Look at the faces of some of those RTE staff in front of the Oireachtas committee: it’s a look of disbelief that they have to explain this stuff in broad daylight to ordinary people on ordinary wages. And I don’t mean that in a bad way: I’m not saying they are bad or arrogant people. I’m saying it is the culture in the tax-funded sector, what seems attractive and normal behind closed doors suddenly looks awful, even to them, in the glare of daylight.

What to do? Stop being obsessed with the personalities, and focus on systems.

For a start, every future invoice paid by a taxpayer funded organisation should be posted to a central publicly viewable website with the signature of the individual who authorised it. I suspect the cursor may yet waiver over a purchase order for €5000 in flipflops when you know it automatically will appear in front of the online voluntary PAC hordes, with your name attached. Hundreds of taxpayers will go through the invoices everyday looking for waste. And no, don’t give me GDPR or “commercial confidentiality”. We can legislate on them, and any way, no one is forced is do business with the taxpayer if they do not wish.

Secondly, it’s time to get a Comptroller & Auditor General who is asking these questions, and doing so publicly as they used to in the past. It is literally a constitutional office tasked with ensuring the sensible spending of public money. Would it really be that outrageous if the C&AG had asked RTE to prove that RTE on-air talent was in danger of being poached? By whom? The C&AG should be the new Dr John Harbison or Marie Cassidy: they should be a household name.

Perhaps it should even be a directly elected office…

The Government actually want you to vote against their Dublin Mayor proposals for the most cynical reasons possible.

Remember Vote No to Get Seanad Reform?

10 years ago, a very unusual alliance was assembled across the parties in Irish politics. The purpose of the alliance was to pretend they were passionately in favour of reforming Seanad Eireann to make it more democratic.

They issued leaflets, launched online campaigns, discussing ideas for reform at summer schools and debated people earnestly about the need for reform. What was most interesting about them was that up to the moment the Oireachtas passed Enda Kenny’s Seanad abolition bill many of them had spent decades, yes decades, opposing even minor reforms.

They opposed reform for very clear reasons. It was in their own own best interest to preserve the upper house in its current form, as an ejector seat for people who failed to be elected to Dail Eireann, or as a nursery for those aspiring to. But they also knew that  advocating for the status quo would simply not be popular. So overnight they became “reformers”. Sure enough when the referendum came about the proposal to abolish the Seanad was narrowly defeated and many reasonable people would say that it was probably on the basis that the majority of voters believed that they would rather retain the house but in a reformed way.

That was 10 years ago, and you have to ask yourself what happened to all those earnest reformers who promised that a No vote was a vote for reform? Some just laughed and went back to politics as usual. Some keep up the pretence, that reform is needed but there is no “consensus”, a rule which is never applied to Oireachtas salaries, funnily enough.

It was possibly the most cynical election campaign ever in Irish politics, where people who blatantly oppose something shouted for reform in public, despite the fact that they had absolutely no intention ever following through the reforms they advocated.

Until now, with the government’s proposal for a referendum to have an elected mayor for Dublin. Because there are two groups in particular who want to see the proposal defeated: opponents of Fianna Fail/Fine Gael, and…Fianna Fail/Fine Gael.

That’s the awkward reality: most of the people advocating an elected mayor IN PUBLIC are actually against it in private. Like the fake Seanad reformers, they are perfectly happy with the status quo, where councillors get €45k and a year in the spotlight without being held responsible for anything.

But they don’t want to admit it in public, and so spend years debating what would be the perfect form of elected mayor, and bouncing it between citizen assemblies and Oireachtas committees all with the intention of never genuinely pushing it.

Don’t believe me? Look at the half-assed campaigns FF/FG ran for the mayoral campaigns in Limerick, Cork and Waterford. Why did they even pick just those counties? Why not hold a vote in every county on the same day? Because that would have created a national debate, and we would have ended up with a dozen or so countries voting for elected mayors and it would then be a reality. Instead, the three county referendum was neither here nor there, a fig leaf to wave to see how committed they were to reform but not on a national scale.

But the greatest most cynical ploy of the proposed referendum will be that the people who oppose everything FF/FG do will be thinking they’re sticking it to the two parties by voting no, when they are actually voting for the status quo FF/FG and others want. They vote no thinking “fuck the politicians” and in reality voting to preserve the status quo the politicians really want.

Don’t believe me? Look how quickly Seanad reform was abandoned as soon as Seanad abolition was off the table.