An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Scandal.

A regular re-post, originally written in 2009…

Given the moral failings of the Irish as a race, it is hardly surprising that there is a clear and tested timeline to every scandal which besets Irish society, whether it is moral, political, social or financial. The timeline is as such:

1. Issue emerges. Country particularly mortified at how the British media cover it.

2. Public gasps at details. Sunday papers revel in particularly gory details. Fintan O’Toole writes a pithy piece which explains the cogent details very succinctly, and then drizzles it in extra-virgin head shaking like a nice salad.

3. Opposition call for unspecified action (“Something must be done! We need action!”) or specific action outside the power of the government. (“Bishops must resign! The effect on water of gravity must be reversed!”)

4. Government shakes heads, and promises that said event (Clerical child abuse/flooding/banking corruption/asteroid crashing into the Earth) must never be permitted to happen again, and calls for commission to investigate report of commission which investigated incident.

5. Media, political establishment, voters, realising that they actually play golf/went to school/are second cousin of individuals named in report, start calling for “due process” to be observed, and instead focus on details of events as if they were some abstract natural disaster.

6. The lawyers get involved. People’s right to “their good name”, passing of time, death of witnesses, gums up process of pursuit of actual criminals, drags investigations, trials, etc, in and out of high court for years.

7. Government takes money off people who did not commit these crimes (Taxes), and gives it to victims. The perpetrators contribution is eaten up in legal fees.

8. Some public officials take early retirement, on full pension. Which is pretty much the equivalent of a modest win in the National Lottery. Nobody goes to jail, except maybe a journalist who reveals how this thing is panning out, and is done for contempt of court.

9. In general election, Irish people vote for same people who allowed scandal to occur, on basis that although he/she failed to act to prevent sexual assault of children/building houses underwater, etc, he/she was always “very good for the area.”

10. In 10 years, another commission reports on poor handling of this scandal. Reset to step 1.

I don’t believe Irish polls.

There’s a poll in today’s Irish Times that says that only a mere 9% of voters want tax cuts, and the vast majority want any government surplus to be spent on public services and infrastructure.
I simply don’t believe that is what Irish voters believe.
I certainly accept that is what they told pollsters, because What Will The Neighbours Say is the core defining ideology in Ireland, and it is simply the done thing in our polite nominally centre left society to say you favour increased public spending over tax reduction.
But do they believe it?
Put it another way: if the Revenue sent out tax rebates cheques to every PAYE worker, with an option to tick a box and return the money back to be spent on public spending, would 91% of cheques come back to the Revenue?
They would in their bollocks.

But what do we REALLY want from government?

One of the issues of modern politics is the question of unfair expectations from voters. Irish politicians are relying more and more on creating a high barrier as to what voters should expect in government, to such a vague and non-metric extent that even if a government delivers on many aspects of service delivery it still leaves a disappointed electorate. Rather than promise “Affordable housing” or “a world-class health service” would it not be better for politicians to promise ultra-specific policy objectives which can be clearly seen to have been delivered or not?

What would those specific measurable promises look like? Here’s a few to ponder.

1. A dole payment of X.
2. A minimum wage of Y.
3. A state pension of Z.
4. Treatment from an A&E doctor, free at point of need, within 90 minutes.
5. A one bedroom apartment between the Dublin canals for a monthly rent not exceeding €800.
6. An appointment with a HSE consultant within eight weeks.
7. A Garda response at your home/business door within 20 minutes.
8. A seniorcare visit once every three days as minimum.

These are off the top of my head, and I’m sure you, dear readers, can come up with more. My point is that all those above are clear identifiable as having being delivered or not by ordinary citizens. Would it be a bad thing if our pols focussed on specific delivery rather than generalised over-emotional guff?

The immigration speech I’d like to hear a Taoiseach give.

The full transcript of Leo Varadkar’s St. Patrick’s Day address to the ...“Good evening.

I’m speaking to you on the subject of immigration tonight because I wish to give you a better understanding as to the government’s thinking on the issue.

Let me start by outlining the key issues the government has to consider.

The reality is that a certain amount of controlled immigration is necessary for a modern industrialised country to provide additional workers and skills. We have a labour shortage in this country and need additional people to help create the national wealth which, through taxation, funds our social welfare system, health services and old age pensions.

It’s also true that many Irish people, myself included, believe that our history obliges us to show as much compassion as we can to others fleeing tyranny, war and other hardship.

Having said that, a country only has a limited amount of resources, in terms of money, housing spaces and other public services and so has to balance these competing needs.

A country also has a sovereign right to decide who enters it and what values they must respect. You do not have a right to go to a foreign country and start demanding that they must put their values second.

The wars in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere have made inward migration a major issue not just for Ireland but the whole of Europe. Indeed, in some cases refugees have been weaponised by countries seeking to weaken the European Union.

It is within that context that the government will seek to pursue the following policies.

First, we will set an annual limit on how many asylum seekers and refugees we will accept every year, with a guarantee that people accepted under limit will receive decent accommodation, care, education and integration in dedicated and purpose-built reception centres.

Those accommodated in these centres will be screened to verify who they are and that they pose no risk to the community at large.

Anyone found to have destroyed documentation prior to seeking asylum will be removed immediately.

Secondly, the centres will also operate as training and education centres to identify and teach skills to permit our new arrivals to work and play their part creating wealth and paying taxes in our country.

Secondly, we must recognise that mass migration is a European-wide problem, and must be addressed at a European level too. Our nearest neighbour, in its attempt to seize control of its own borders outside a European framework, has resulted in it ceding control of its southern border to the French interior minister. I do not propose we join that experiment.

Instead, Ireland will support and contribute towards efforts to create secure EU-run safezones outside the European continent to act as the first point of contact for those seeking to enter Europe.

Such a safezone could also act as a transit point for those individuals who have been removed from member states. I do not propose that these will be mass refugee camps where people will be abandoned, but functioning communities under European control where legal migration into Europe, having passed through a European cultural integration and screening programme may be permitted.

At the heart of such a programme is the core belief that it is Europeans who will decide who comes to live among us.

Finally, let me say that one of the reasons I decided to speak with you directly on this issue is because of the rise, both here and on the mainland, of dangerous far-right elements laced with fascist and neo-nazi tendencies, who see those of different religion, skin colour, ethnic group or other characteristics as not welcome in our society. Indeed, many of these elements are funded or supported by hostile foreign powers.

Let me be clear: I regard such groups as a clear and present danger to our republic and Irish republicanism itself, and will be bringing forth legislation to create a national security intelligence organisation to identify all such threats, foreign and domestic, to our democracy, and with the power and resources to act accordingly in defence of Irish democracy.

I understand that these are controversial proposals which will cause much debate in the country, as they should. I also accept that there are those in the country who will wish to propose alternatives, and that, my fellow Irishmen and women, are what elections are for.

Good night”.


What could an Irish Bill of Right & Obligations look like?

What does it mean to be Irish? It’s hard to use birthplace or bloodlines here because of our 19th century scattering to the winds. That’s also a very old fashioned way of determining nationality. Personally, someone who comes here legally and wishes to subscribe to our broad values can, in my opinion, end up as Irish as I am.
It would certainly help if we had a clear set of duties and entitlements we wish to grant to and expect from our citizens.

With that in mind, I decided to have a first crack at a few clauses of that charter. Feel free to add additions in the comments. 

1. All citizens have the right to freedom of speech, including the right to both offend and be offended. This right does not extend to the deliberate defaming of others through the use of reasonably verified untruths.

2. All citizens have a right to access to healthcare and housing up to a monetary value per individual as decided by the Oireachtas.

3. All citizens have an obligation to seek work commensurate to their needs and capacity, and to pay all taxes levied by the Oireachtas or other bodies authorized by the Oireachtas.

4. All citizens have a right to self defence, and to the use of reasonable force in defence of themselves, others or their property. This article may not be interpreted as granting an individual right to own or bear firearms.

5. The Oireachtas may extend some or all of these rights, or parts thereof, to non-citizens. 



Wrote this about 7 years ago, before the 2011 election. A bit of fun about Irish politics. Best enjoyed sitting down with cup of tea and chocolate digestive. 


The negotiations had taken six months, not including the two months of disbelief from the Irish government side at the initial proposal from the Omni-Ai Corporation of Massachusetts. Ten billion Euro. Not dollars, Euro. Five billion up front, and five billion after two years, on the basis that the Irish state complete its contract.

Initially, the Taoiseach said no. The Attorney General had pointed out the constitutional ramifications, and the fact that a referendum would be required, and he doubted the Irish people could be coaxed into voting yes. Yet  five billion in these times of fiscal hardship was a lot of money, and would solve a lot of problems, and stop a lot of people marching on the streets. And when the Taoiseach read the papers supplied by Omni-Ai, it was hard to say that there wouldn’t be a benefit to Ireland, even aside from the cash. There’d be safeguards, of course, and if anything went wrong the country could keep the money, so…

The leaders of the opposition were indignant with outrage, as only Irish opposition leaders can be, but the Taoiseach and his cabinet still saw the benefits, and so the Taoiseach addressed the nation.

Continue reading

What if…NATO invaded Ireland?

Here’s an awkward reality. Whatever your attitude to neutrality, it’s fair to say that the chances of Russian or Chinese boots on the ground in Ireland is pretty slim. Air incursions yes. Getting bombed? Maybe. Naval meddling with infrastructure in our sovereign seas? Almost certainly happening already.

But actual physical invasion? Very very unlikely. Geography is our greatest weapon in the same way it was the UK’s in May 1940.

Except for NATO forces. The likelihood of NATO forces engaging in an offensive landing here is actually higher.

Consider the following scenario.

The Russians have launched an invasion of Finland and the Baltics. The Third World War has begun, and the United States is mobilising large quantities of personnel and equipment by both air and sea across the Atlantic to bolster its European allies. Ireland declares its neutrality and calls for the United Nations to something something something.

Those reinforcements come under immediate attack from Russian planes and submarines in a new battle of the Atlantic, and NATO commanders announce that the use of the airports of Shannon and Knock are deemed vital to the defence of Europe. The US president speaks directly to the Taoiseach requesting permission to use the airports. It is not the usual fluffy conversation between an Irish leader and an American leader, full of bromides and winks.

The Taoiseach is asked bluntly: will she openly permit, within hours, NATO use of the airports. NATO commits as part of the arrangement to deploy US aircraft to defend Ireland from the definite Russian retaliation.

An emergency vote in the Dail fails.

Within hours, US forces are landing in large numbers in both airports, having been secured by rapidly deployed special forces seizing control of the airport towers. Due to the lack of military radar, the first the Irish government knows of the attack is clips on Twitter and TikTok of US troops on Irish soil.

The Irish army is deployed a day later, with clear instructions not to engage US troops, and leaving a wide zone around both facilities. The US general in command invites his Irish counterpart to a hearty breakfast in Shannon to agree rules of engagement and ensure there are no misunderstandings. The Irish government also agrees that the occupying forces can source food and other products from local suppliers. The US agrees to pay all Shannon and Knock employees to stay at home.

Large numbers of left wing protestors turn up, and are warned by Irish security forces that once they cross into the “control zone” they cannot be protected, and US forces may use deadly force against them. They protest the US invasion, and charge the perimeter, but are repelled by non-lethal microwave weapons which cause great discomfort. Solicitors letters fly towards the US military like HIMARS projectiles.

The Russian government condemns the Irish government for permitting the invasion under the cover of sham neutrality.

“Why did Ireland, one of the richest countries on Earth, not detect the incoming US planes with its military radar and shoot down the planes with its fighter planes? Why are Irish forces not fighting right now to liberate occupied territory from NATO forces? Why are the Irish not defending Irish neutrality? A mere 5000 US troops are occupying a country of 5 million people? Well, Russia will strike in defence of Irish neutrality if the puppet government in Dublin will not.” The Russian ambassador declares.

A number of Russian bombers attack Ireland, with a large number shot down by US and RAF fighters, but with bombs landing in both Shannon and Knock, killing 50 people, both US and Irish.

Two Irish MEPs support the Russian “liberation”.

As hostilities draw to a close in Europe following the Russian defeat and withdrawal, the US announces that NATO forces will withdraw from Ireland shortly, and that the US will fund repairs to both airports.

Local suppliers and politicians call on the Dublin government to lobby Washington to prevent withdrawal, as local businesses have become used to the US military spend.

Continuing the great Irish tradition of elected Irish politicians passionately discussing areas outside their actual area of direct responsibility, Clare County Council passes a motion for Clare to join NATO. Dublin City Council writes to Cuba seeking Cuban forces to intervene.

Holding all the cards: the post-border poll Ireland/UK negotiations

Who Lives at 10 Downing Street? - WorldAtlasThe near future. Three weeks ago, Northern Ireland voted narrowly to join the republic. Today the negotiations begin…

Ireland: I’m sorry?

UK: The Northern Ireland share of the UK national debt. We’ve calculated it at…

Ireland: we’re not paying for that. We didn’t run that up.

UK: But we built roads, schools, the NHS…

Ireland: not our problem.

UK: I see. OK. Well, we were going to give a deduction for plant depreciation, etc, but we’ll just take it, and write it off against the debt.

Ireland: Plant?

UK: Yes. Ambulances, MRI machines, some of those special hospital beds are pricey. PSNI vehicles, fire brigade vehicles, air traffic control systems, computers, obviously the software systems…

Ireland: You’re taking all the equipment?

UK: As you said, it’s our debt. We paid for it all. Fortunately it’s all NHS England compatible. The rest we can sell on the open market. Now, the pension liability. We’re happy to deduct National Insurance contributions…

Ireland: Pensions? That’s your responsibility.

UK: Yes, we’ll deduct all the NI payments UK citizens in Northern Ireland paid in from the overall liability. It’s only fair.

Ireland: No, the UK will have to pay the total existing liability.

UK: No. 

Ireland: I’m sorry, but this is not up for negotiation.

UK: We are not paying Northern Ireland’s total pension liability.

Ireland: We’ll take you to court. 

UK: Sure. But that’ll take years. Your pensioners will want their pensions next week.

Ireland: They’re your pensioners!

UK: As of three weeks ago, they’re your pensioners. And by the way, how are you going to pay them?

Ireland: With the software, of course.

UK: What software?

Ireland: Very clever. You’ll abandon loyalist and unionist pensioners?

UK: No. the rich ones will move to England. The poor ones won’t be able to afford to. You can keep them. I’m sure the Garda Siochana can handle them when they kick off demanding their pensions. On the streets of your East Belfast. Unless you want to reopen the national debt question, of course…



What would an Irish right-wing party manifesto look like?

Supposing we had a party unashamedly to the right of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. Here’s a random selection of what-ifs…

1. The on-site arrest, detaining and charging of those attempting to enter Ireland by destroying their travel documents?

2. The setting of an annual limit of refugees Ireland will take in and shelter to recognised UN standards.

3. Setting an 18 month limit on receipt of Jobseekers Allowance during a period where unemployment is below 5%.

4. The introduction of 8 hour on-street summary detention by Gardai, as issued by two Gardai and recorded on bodycam.

5. The reduction of NGO funding to no more than three organisations per designated sector, with open Oireachtas hearings on each organisation funding application.

6. The right to self-defence to be inserted into the constitution.

7. The right of the Dail to increase a prison sentence by 20% on a two-thirds vote to be inserted into the constitution.

8. A dedicated Garda investigative team and public prosecutor to be appointed to specifically prosecute insurance fraud, with the prosecutor to present a progress report to the Oireachtas annually.

9. A fast-track legal mechanism to allow individuals to take effective possession and renovate abandoned properties, with prescribed compensation and penalties for legal owners if they emerge later.

10. A referendum to insert into the constitution  that no action taken by any paramilitary organisation was taken in the name of the Irish people.

11. A referendum to abolish Seanad Eireann.

What do we mean by Social Conservatism anyway?

How did you vote in the referendum on the death penalty?

Referendum on the death penalty, you ask? We didn’t have any referendum on the death penalty!

Yes, we did. In June 2001 we voted by 62% to insert a ban on capital punishment into the constitution, and the fact that we have collectively forgotten about it tells you how radically Irish society has changed its view on the issue. In the 1983 Magill book of Irish politics the late Niall Andrews TD is described as being on the liberal wing of Fianna Fail because he was against hanging. It’s easy to forget that within our lifetime we have moved as a society from a point where the state having the power to execute Irish citizens was not only legal, but was a mainstream view held by a substantial section of society.

I raise the issue today within the context of what some speculate as a resurgence in social conservatism. It’s a catch-all phrase which is, I think inaccurately, used to label many citizens who have challenged particular viewpoints, and to label that challenge as somehow anti-progressive. It’s also a very unattractive label, in that it attempts to attach huge amounts of baggage to anyone challenging certain positions. We’ve all heard it:

“I believe in X”

“Well, I agree with you on about 75% of that”

“So you want to round up all those X and put them in Nazi death camps, do you?”

The issue of sex education is one which has come to the public fore once again. I’m old enough to remember when teaching kids about basic sex and contraception was controversial, and I was very much on the liberal side of the argument.

The current debate raises two valid points: 1) what age is appropriate to be teaching very sexually explicit information, and 2) should we be doing it at all?

I can see both sides. Parents appalled at what is being shown to their children. But also the reality that in a digitally-connected age we have young children (especially boys) being exposed to a pornified version of sex and relationships which will not help them or society.

This issue needs a rational and calm discussion, and not the heated hysteria of calling each others groomers or 1980s social conservatives. But we also have to be careful of the US model, where small but highly motivated groups of political activists hijack a process and twist the system to suit their own agenda.