Royal Pain

Royal standard of members of the British Royal...
At Least The Royals Have Standards

A woman on the radio is going to Britain for their royal wedding, so she can see all the best people there decked out in fine clothes and jewellery, and get away from all the doom and gloom here that was brought about by greed.

Can she not make mental connections?

I shouldn’t listen to Liveline¹, it’s a form of masochism. It’s obvious that the producers choose the most irritating callers deliberately. Royalty fans now. Even leaving aside the whole problem of the stealth recolonization of Ireland via television,  how can anyone, anywhere in the current universe be a fan of royalty? Its entire basis is the idea that some people are born innately superior to others, that they inherit the necessary qualities – or even the God-given right – to rule us. That idea is anathema. How exactly does it differ from racism?

The British royal family may be an amusing burlesque these days, but when you think about it what it stands for is actually shocking. So no, though it does represent a mostly positive change in relations between our countries, I won’t be out to look at the Queen of England when she comes to visit here. A nice old lady she may be perhaps, but she is also a symbol of – to speak plainly – evil.

  1. The most popular phone-in radio show in Ireland.

France Unveils A Darker Side

Anti-Muslim and anti-women, or pro-freedom and pro-women? Or indeed, anti-Muslim and pro-women, or (here’s a combo) pro-freedom and anti-women?

It’s hard to take sides on this unusually crucial issue of French couture. I am against people hiding their faces in public, whether they choose to or are forced. I’m against Islam – and indeed religion in general.

But I am in favour of the freedom to practise whatever religion you choose, no matter how strongly I disagree with that choice, as long as you do no harm to anyone else. And I can’t really accept that hiding your face in public is harmful to others. Rude certainly, but France isn’t introducing any law against rudeness.

I will have no truck with When-in-Rome arguments. In this Rome, they do religious freedom. Or did. And it is a matter of religious freedom. There is no point claiming that the veil is not a genuinely Muslim practice. Are you really going to say to someone “Your religion is not what you think it is”? Your beliefs are what you believe they are, I think.

Does the veil oppress women? Certainly if someone is forcing a woman to veil herself that is oppression, but there is no need for a law against forcing people to do one specific thing. Indeed, it’s a very poor precedent – do we need separate laws for everything you can’t force people to do? And if she chooses it herself, then this law is oppressing her. In practice there will be winners and losers. While some may seize on this as an opportunity to unveil, it will make others prisoners in their homes. No one can say that the net effect will be liberating.

When it comes down to it, the real motivation for this law is discomfort. France is uneasy with the number of Muslims who live there, but is willing to tolerate them – as long as they aren’t too blatant about it. So they ban the practice of a small minority, basically because it’s highly visible. A country has a right to outlaw things it considers foreign to its way of life I suppose. But rather than protecting France’s revolutionary ideals, this betrays them.

Save The Senate

This is a photograph of the Seanad chamber, Le...
What our Senate might look like with the useless scum removed

There could be no better image of all that’s wrong with the Senate than Ivor Calelly contemptuously abusing the house to save his own political career. No wonder the public has no respect for it when so many of its denizens were dumped there, in what the parties seem to think of as long-stay parking.

This is a great shame. Though as presently constituted the Seanad is, let’s face it, a pustule, what we need in this country is more oversight of the executive, not less. It may be little better at this than the rubber-stamping Dáil, but it is a little.

The Senate has some great strengths. You can get into it without really being a career politician, without being slave to the party whips. We could use more of that, you know. The Senate has – or had – people like Shane Ross and David Norris.

Want a simple way to reform the Seanad? End the Taoiseach‘s right to stuff it with useless lackeys. Skim off the political pond scum.

Save The Senate

This is a photograph of the Seanad chamber, Le...
What our Senate might look like with the useless scum removed

There could be no better image of all that’s wrong with the Senate than Ivor Calelly contemptuously abusing the house to save his own political career. No wonder the public has no respect for it when so many of its denizens were dumped there, in what the parties seem to think of as long-stay parking.

This is a great shame. Though as presently constituted the Seanad is, let’s face it, a pustule, what we need in this country is more oversight of the executive, not less. It may be little better at this than the rubber-stamping Dáil, but it is a little.

The Senate has some great strengths. You can get into it without really being a career politician, without being slave to the party whips. We could use more of that, you know. The Senate has – or had – people like Shane Ross and David Norris.

Want a simple way to reform the Seanad? End the Taoiseach‘s right to stuff it with useless lackeys. Skim off the political pond scum.

Look Behind You

Foreign troops have entered Bahrain to quell the month-long uprising. Some are calling it an invited peacekeeping force from neighbouring Gulf Cooperation Council states. Others are calling it what it looks like – military intervention by Saudi Arabia.

Remember the raving lunatic Gaddafi who seemed to be under the delusion that he was the ruler of Libya? Well he’s winning. He may only have minority support, but it’s the minority with most of the heavy weapons.

There is little the rest of the world can do for Japan now. They have the resources to deal with the disaster; any specialised help needed they will get. The danger is that while we are fixated on the human tragedy and nuclear drama, besieged dictatorships in the Middle East will move to crush their nascent democracy movements.

Interactive Television

Interactive TV CartoonI wish we had Al Jazeera here. I mean we get it of course – I’ve been watching it for hours every day recently – but I wish we had an Al Jazeera of our own. In the West, TV stations can be accused of having a liberal bias if they don’t actively advocate shooting Mexicans. Al Jazeera – now that’s a liberal bias. While they try to keep up the traditional detached tone with neutral headlines like “Overnight Disturbances in Tripoli”, occasionally a “March of Freedom” slips through.

They’re perfectly aware, and proud, of the active role they are playing in bringing down dictatorship in the Middle East. “There we are!” said a news reporter, as footage from celebrations in Benghazi showed that they were projecting Al Jazeera onto a wall of the square. This is the most important TV news channel in the world today, the only international broadcaster that could effectively advocate democracy in the Middle East.

Of course Friday was a good day for democracy here too. Saturday may be better, may be worse, as we discover how people actually voted. Join me here through the day as I watch them prise open the boxes.

Voted Yet?

Mubarak PosterCourtesy of  Broadsheet.ie, a lovely piece of what, back before political correctness ruined a perfectly good word, we used to call Art Terrorism. The logo in the top left of the poster is – naturally – that of the Fianna Fáil party.

Well I’ve just been out with my ballot hammer, adding my own small nail to the lid of Fianna Fáil’s coffin. An interesting thing: Everyone in the station and in local shops seemed to be in a good mood, chatting about the election and how it was a lovely day for one. OK, the weather was pretty nice, but I really think there was more to it. People were glad it was an election day. After all, a change of government is the first grounds for hope they’ve had in years.

Get Up and Vote

P45 CartoonWe should be having a revolution here. Instead, if polls are to be believed, we may be electing a government even further to the right, even more willing to elevate rich over poor, than the one we are throwing away.

Don’t believe the polls, it’s too easy for such prophecies to become self-fulfilling. There is everything to play for right to the end. Which is why I’m up at 3:00 writing this so you can read it before you leave in the morning. It isn’t too late to send a message to all the political parties, to their wealthy friends, to the other countries of the EU. We are in a hole that was not made by the ordinary people of Ireland, and certainly not by those who are going to suffer the most because of it. The message is that we will not put up with this shit.

Don’t vote for Fine Gael to punish Fianna Fáil. There are much better punishments. Vote for people who don’t mince words about repudiating the awful “bailout” arrangement. That’s there to save the Euro, not us. Remember we have a hostage.

This means voting for out-there parties like the United Left Alliance – or even Sinn Féin. Few things would give the establishment more pause than a substantial rise in the SF vote. It also means voting for Labour, even if I am disappointed on the stand they’ve taken. Or lack thereof. Essentially we need Labour in government if there is to be any hope of the next few years not turning into an orgy of punishment for the poor.

Please, get out there now and warn those who act like they own us. Remind them where power really comes from.

Meanwhile, back in Galway West

My own constituency is going to go to the wire. While there are some laudable independents running, I don’t personally think any of them have a chance – except the ones who are independent more in name than in outlook. These are Noel Grealish, the ‘last PD’, and Labour’s lost candidate Catherine Connolly. It seems very likely that the final seat will be between these two, and I hardly need to tell you which is the vastly preferable outcome.

Indeed I like Catherine Connolly better than Labour’s official candidate, Derek Nolan. I’ll be putting her ahead in my order, and I hope a lot of others do too. I believe Galway West can elect them both.

And there may be an extra trick that more daring voters can play, if Kernan Andrews in the Galway Advertiser is correct:

Senator Healy Eames needs to outpoll Deputy Grealish and stay ahead of him to ensure she takes the seat. If she does, she will knock Grealish out and this will free up the last two seats for the Galway Left – which means victories for Labour’s Derek Nolan and Independent Catherine Connolly.

So that’s my only FG vote – Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames. Remember that name. She may help us simultaneously finish off the last PD and elect, for the first time in the history of Galway West, a second TD on the left.

Which… would be nice.

What Debate?

Micheál Martin Cartoon“The big issue here… The big issue…” says Micheál Martin, attempting to talk over someone in the RTÉ debate. I look forward to hearing him say that a lot more. Preferably on street corners.

Really, what is he doing in this studio? His party will be lucky to make it into opposition after this election, never mind government. His opinions are irrelevant, his policies fantasies.

But then the whole debate is a polite fiction. The election results seem to be pretty much a foregone conclusion, the only real thing at stake the precise relative strength of Fine Gael and Labour in the mix. So in effect we’re watching a debate between Gilmore and Kenny, with Martin there as punching bag. That’s a thought actually. If they just wrestled the fucker to the ground and took turns kicking the jam out of him the electorate could go to bed with a smile tonight. Miriam there keeping count of the points. “Nothing below the belt. Oh, go on then.”

But instead it’s just the usual three grown men bickering like siblings. Not only is it pointless, it is actually bad for democracy. I mean, it makes us fantasize about solving problems with violence. That can’t be good.

Mmm. Violence.

Libya’s Warning From History

Muammar's CarI really need to stop confusing Ban Ki-moon with Sun Myung Moon. It’s making the news seem very odd. At least though the UN Secretary General (not the businessman who says he is Jesus) gave an unequivocal response to the massacres in Libya. Our own government still seem to feel there are pros and cons to gunning your own citizens down en masse. It’s probably just as well that they’re resigning power next week.

Unless that is they’re looking at Qadhafi’s dogged approach to politics and thinking “Well, that is another option.”

You may think there is little connection between Ireland and Libya, but the world can be astonishingly small sometimes. Yesterday one of the candidates running in next week’s election lost his brother to the fighting in Benghazi. In fact three members of Ireland’s Libyan community have lost family members so far, a statistic which hints that the number of deaths may be much higher than reported.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that a Dr Ibrihim El Sherif and about 60 Libyans delivered a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday, urging our government to condemn the violence.

“We want freedom. We want justice. We want freedom of expression, we want the freedom that we can go to the ballot box like the Irish people in coming days,” he said.

Come on, Libyans. You can do better than that. You’ll only get the same freedom at the ballot box as the Irish people if (a) your uprising turns out to be led by people who are fundamentally conservative, (b) they take control, but then immediately have a civil war between the very conservative and the very, very conservative, and (c) every election for ever after is basically just a choice between one of these nasty, small-minded factions and the other.

And really, what are the odds of that?

That reminds me – found out that one of the Fianna Fáil canvassers I swore at yesterday was the great-grandson of revolutionary leader Éamon de Valera himself. Dev the One-Eighth; I feel like I’ve been touched by mediocrity.