Posts Tagged ‘irish politics


Lee and Kenny, an affair to forget

There’s a meme that lately has been infesting several message and image boards across the interwebs. It’s called trollface, and for those unfamiliar it’s an image used to signify a commenter who deliberately posts something erroneous and off-message to provoke a reaction.

There is a reason why I bring this up. I was reading about the resignation of Boy George yesterday, and I happened upon a picture in the IT of George and Enda in happier times.

via The Irish Times

I can’t be the only one who sees a resemblance. There seems to be a general perception that Lee was impatient. He was new to a career in politics. Did he really expect a frontbench position immediately? While there is a certain amount of validity to this argument, I can’t help but feel some sympathy for Lee. He may have been a beginner, but that’s not how Fine Gael sold him. He was an expert in finances who was going to further cement the party’s ability to fix the economy that Fianna Fáil broke. Lee is obviously a very intelligent man, and must have been very disheartening to realise he was just hired as a pretty face.

However, while this might have been a fair reason to leave Fine Gael, it doesn’t excuse his resignation from the Dáil. For better or worse, he was elected to the seat, and it’s downright rude of him to turn his back on those who voted for him just because he wasn’t getting his way. Seriously, what did he except?

In other news, Halifax is closing their Irish retail operations with the lost of 750 jobs, and retail sales are still dropping. I suspect Fianna Fáil are grateful to Lee for his timing.


We should all be “examing our position”

I’ve been following the publication of the Dublin Archdiocese report from Asia. This may sound insensitive, but I find it somewhat refreshing the Irish media is discussing actual news (Christ, I was glad to be out of the country for the Thierry Henry affair).

As for the report itself, it’s of course horrifying. Much has been said about it by men and women more learned than I, so I’m not going to pretend I have some insight to the affair. However, I would like to express my alarm at my own reaction. The most shocking aspect for me is how unshocked I remain. It’s not that I don’t find the details revealed by the report disgusting, because I do, but I find that I’m as disgusted this week as I was last week, or last year, or the first time I heard the phrase “a few bad apples”.

I wasn’t even shocked when I read this on Twenty’s blog, and after thinking about it for a while I realised my indifference is informed by the same idiocy that lead 98FM to use that picture. Whereas the church’s omnipotence was once a constant presence in the back of the minds of Irish people, it has now simply been replaced by the abuses perpetrated by that church. We know it without acknowledging it. We tut to ourselves while reading our papers, thinking how awful the whole thing was. We moan that bishops should resign, but that’s not going to atone for our own complicities.

There’s a silver lining to 98FM’s horrifying insensitivity, in that highlights a general absence of the one response to the report that’s needed the most, a recognition that real people were affected and remain affected by this abuse. This is not an attack against anyone. As I say, I’m as guilty of this as anyone. The horror we think we feel today is largely just a self-serving excuse we dreamt up to tell ourselves it can never happen again, but is this really true? Have we really learned anything? As much as I hate hypothetical comparisons, I think this one is apt. Imagine if a private company with access to children were guilty of the cover-ups that the church is charged with. Would we be satisfied with weedy calls for CEOs to resign? The fuck we would. These people, these guardians of moral authority, are directly complicit in possibly the most heinous crime that can be visited on children. I normally wouldn’t support Twenty’s tabloid proclamations, but he’s right on this one. These people should be prosecuted. Resignation isn’t good enough.

Then again, prosecution isn’t good enough either. That’s not going to sooth our own conscience.


Mary’s problems

There was a story on the RTE News lunchtime bulletin regarding Mary Harney’s pride in the rollout of the swine flu vaccination. Will Goodbody reported it, and I’m sure the 6:01 bulletin with carry the piece again.

It’s worth seeing, if only because it betrays this government’s attitude to their unpopularity and the country’s current woes. Reporters took the opportunity to quiz her on a number of issues with the HSE, including Brendan Drumm’s 2007 bonus and more especially the report today that a Letterkenny consultant is claiming healthcare cutbacks are leaving him with nothing to do. On the bonus she simply said the matter is dealt with and she’s not discussing it any further. Regarding idle consultants she suggested people should be finding solutions rather than “identifying problems”.

It’s a familiar theme. We’ve been regularly told by Ministers and government TDs that for the good of the country we should focusing on the positive rather than complaining about the negatives. It’s a global phenomenon for incumbent parties in bad times to confuse the good of the country with the good of the government. Still, Mary’s comments are particularly inane. How exactly do we find solutions to anything without identifying the problems first?


The poor farmer

I spent the day with protesting farmers. It’s a habit of mine. Whenever I hear of a protest happening someplace I always go down for the craic. You might think this the attitude of a bandwagon revolutionist, and you might be right. In this case, however, the label doesn’t hold, as I find it very hard to muster much sympathy for the farmers’ plight.

Ok, the whole 20 cent per litre of milk, or whatever it is that Glanbia gives them, is hardly fair. But it’s difficult to believe they’re so hard up when they’re parading brand new tractors through half the country. As one guy said to me today, “if they sold all the tractors they could clear the national debt.”

And the IFA are seemingly aware of this contradiction. One of today’s protesters is a friend of my brother. He told me the farmers were instructed to take their oldest, dodgiest tractors to the protest, only some didn’t pick up the message. Incidentally, my brother’s friend is not a farmer. He just works for one occasionally. He was working today. He was actually being paid an hourly rate to attend the protest (and I very much doubt that was declared and taxed accordingly). I ask you, how badly can they really be doing if they can pay people to protest on their behalf?

I ran into John Deasy during my adventure, and he expressed his absolute support for the farmers. “It was farmers who kept this town alive during the 80s,” he told me. Bullshit, of course. This particular town was kept alive by two pharmaceutical plants and a Waterford Crystal factory, but he did get me wondering about certain politicians who are champion the farmers’ cause. I saw placards today stating: “Rural TDs defend farmers,” which I misread as, “Rural TDs depend on farmers,” which few would doubt is true. I can’t help but suspect this is an issue for political reasons rather than unjust milk prices.


Bertie’s conscience

I have recently developed a recurring nightmare. I’m sitting in Fagen’s having a chat with Aer Thaoiseach. For some reason I’m trying to elicit from him some personal or scandalous info on Celia, but he suddenly cuts me off, informing me how his conscience is %100 clear regarding the recession and how stoney broke he is these days.

My patience breaks and I cry, “Conscience? Broke? This is madness!

To this Bertie calmly responds, “Madness?” before exploding, “THIS IS DRUMCONDRA!”

He then kicks me in the chest, and I fall backwards into that little snug near the small bar, or something.

This is what I’m on about. Via Simon at Irish Election.


Thank heavens for Joe Higgins

As arguments for a No vote go, this is surely the feeblest. There are placards dotted around Cork stating the EU will impose carbon taxes us. “On your business. On your farms. On your families,” is the claim. The thing is, we have to pay taxes anyway, on our businesses, farms and even (if indirectly) our families. And if the Greens are to have any effectiveness in government, we’re all going to be paying carbon taxes soon, regardless of anything that happens in the EU. To many, if not most, paying carbon tax is a good thing.

It is this level of argumentation that I think is giving the Yes camp the edge in the polls. People are sick of the irrelevance and downright deceitfulness of the No side’s arguments. I am aware this is happening on both sides of the fence, but it seems to me the Nos have been dominant in this regard. It is for this reason that I’m genuinely delighted by the presence of Joe Higgins. It is only because of Joe that we’re having a proper debate at all. I’ve remarked before how Joe Higgins has usurped Declan Ganley as the No side’s mascot in this referendum, and this has proven to be a good thing. Unlike Ganley, there’s no ambiguity about why he wants us to vote no. There’s no questioning his motives. He’s a socialist in comment and deed, and regardless of how you rate his opinions there’s no denying he’s stands up for what he believes in. Bertie once described Higgins as a failed politician (actually, what he said was failed person, but let us suppose that was said in the heat of the moment and what he meant was failed politician). Well, at least Joe’s failures didn’t take the rest of us down with him.

As boring is this campaign has been, at least we’re having a debate. Last year we were preoccupied with microchipped babies, enforced abortions and super-army conscriptions. Many on the No side have made much of the fact that we’re voting again on the same treaty, cheerily ignoring that the second referendum is largely their fault. If we had rejected the treaty on its own merits last year, rather than get distracted by Cóir’s bullshit and Ganley’s questionable vested interests, then the EU wouldn’t have been able to pass it off with legal guarantees. This time it’s the affect Lisbon will have on workers that’s the focus of debate, and for that we have Joe Higgins to thank.

I’ve spoken here previously about Higgins in a manner that was perhaps more sarcastic and mocking that was warranted, but I for one am glad he’s campaigning. I’m not convinced by his argument. I’m still voting yes, but I’m grateful there’s someone of Joe’s integrity asking me to consider voting no. I’ve been reading Nick McGinley’s 100 Reason to Vote Yes to Lisbon II, an reasonable yet hardly definitive call for a yes vote. Reason 97 is “Joe Higgins will have to engage constructively with the EU institutions”. I’m sure he finds it repulsive that he has been personally tagged as a reason to vote yes, but I’m sure we can agree that we’re better off having an MEP like Joe working on the inside for us.


Irish Election Literature

I received an email from AJ of Irish Election Literature asking me to promote the blog. I’m happy to do it as it’s an incredible resource. There’s something here for casual and hardcore political anoraks alike.


Lisbon and nutjobs

It seems Fianna Fáil’s Lisbon II campaign has begun in earnest. This I can tell as the FF press office has been cramming my inbox with spam since 7:00 yesterday evening. I suppose I should find this annoying, but in all honesty it’s kinda flattering that they apparently give a fuck about me. I even got an invite to this morning’s press conference launch with Cowen. I didn’t go. It wasn’t worth the trip, but it was nice to be asked.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this John Burke lad. He’s the cattleman (sounds like a rejected concept for a west Irish superhero) who’s suing the Taoiseach and the state as he claims a second referendum is unconstitutional. I can understand why Mr Burke might feel peeved, having (presumably) voted no only to be told he must have another go. Nonetheless, it’s ridiculous that this has reached the High Court. None of the articles I’ve read on this said if Burke has hired a solicitor or if he’s presenting the case himself, but he must have gotten some legal advice. Surely somebody in the know must have said this is a bad idea.

Now I’m no lawyer and my reading of the constitution has been brief at best, but surely there nothing in it that states a rejected constitutional reform cannot be tested again at a later date. The Constitution aside, precedent allows for a second vote.

There are hundreds of gobshites like John Burke out there infuriated by some perceived injustice. Aren’t there some mechanisms in place to prevent these guys from wasting the state’s resources?


Green shoots are not jobs

It has always amused me how certain words and phrases can become part of a general vocabulary, simply because they’re part of some event that’s a major news story at the time. For instance, I lived in Galway when the water supply was contaminated with Cryptosporidium. Do you think anybody in the city, apart from the scientific types, had even heard the word “Cryptosporidium” before this? Yet suddenly we were all experts on it. It even earned its own nickname: Crypto. It sounds like a type of chocolate bar.

At the moment it’s the recession. It seems to me that it permeates every conversation uttered by any person in the land. Even discussions the rugby last night placed the match within the context of a recession. Apparently the win is just the boost to the national spirits we need. This is, of course, bullshit. If there is anything to cheer up people losing their homes and life-savings it’s not a bunch of Blackrock cityboys winning a rugby match.

Prior to this recession, few even considered such a concept. I’m not convinced the majority of people even knew what the word meant. Back then, it was carbon footprints and such that bothered us all. Now the subject gets barely a mention, which leads me to conclude that global warming was fixed and this event has somehow slipped me by.

The next phrase to land of everyone’s lips seems to be “green shoots”. We’re all on the lookout for these green shoots. A somewhat sustained rise in house-sales in Britain: green shoots. American banks paying back some of the bailout money: green shoots. A couple of green shoots appearing in Dad’s vegetable patch: green shoots (ok, those are actual green shoots. It’s gardening season in the Foley household).

I had to laugh during the week when Cowen had the nerve to mention the green shoots in a wildly optimistic speech to the party-fold in Slane. There’s a detailed critique of the speech here. The problem with green shoots of course is that they’re not likely to survive an administration preoccupied with tax-increases and spending cuts. In year’s time when we’re still in the same hole, this speech will be another marker of a government that doesn’t know what it’s doing. But then, this was not a speech for next year’s benefit. It was a desperate attempt to generate some good news to dilute the humiliation FF is going to face next month.

By the way, what happened with Swine Flu? Is that over now?


Vote for me, I’m not Fahey

I got a tremendous shock upon a trip to Galway on the weekend. As I stared out the rain-soaked bus window I noticed a campaign poster that seemed to be for Frank Fahey. “What the hey!” I though. “He’s a TD. Why is he campaigning now?” This shock was made much worse when I saw the same poster a few yards later and noticed it had the Fina Gael logo on it. I’ve had a few dealings with Fahey in the past, and I’m sure anyone who knows him will agree he’s possibly the purest example of a Fianna Fáil true believer. Even when he lost his job as Junior Minister in the Justice Department, he could be found repeating the party lines and pontificating on the brilliance of Bertie.

As it turns out, the Frank in question was not the Frank. Rather, he’s Frank Fahy, a true-blue Fine Gael man who’s running in the Galway local elections. He just happens to have a similar name and comes from the same area as the FF scourge of Irish fishermen. Of course the physical similarities between the two men are marginal, and I can only explain my confusion as the product of impaired vision caused by the shitty weather over the weekend.

The incident got me wondering about the condition of our current government. Are they that unpopular that it’s at least plausible that the likes of Fahey might have jumped ship? It could hardly be surprising. I mean, as well as refusing to admit that their laissez-faire policies and over-reliance on doomed markets have exacerbated this recession, we lately have Conor Lenihan et al suggesting that the dramatic drop in support for the government is a result of the tough decisions they’re having to face. They’re effectively saying their unpopularity is our problem because we can’t stomach their bravery. In my opinion, it’s this siege mentality that’s infuriating people, and the reason they’re likely going to be slaughtered in the upcoming elections.

Frank Fahy (the FG one) clearly recognises this. Check out this piece from the Galway Advertiser, basically declaring: “I’m not Fahey. Don’t fuck me over by confusing me with FF.” These elections are going to be so disastrous for Fianna Fáil that there’s a fear they’ll also be bad for people who vaguely resemble Fianna Fáillers