So How Will I Vote?

Presidential flag of Ireland.
First Prize - The Presidential Flag

Great feeling of power here. Because the polls open soon there’s a reporting moratorium. Broadcast media have to shut up about the Presidential election. Print media don’t though. So today, blogging is officially print… If you want to be sure not to break any laws, print this off and only read that.

Two things sadden me about the election. The first is that the man who is within an ace of becoming our next President was until recently a member of Fianna Fáil. To my mind he still is in all but name. The McGuinness ambush may have been rather tabloidesque, but at least it alerted a much larger section of the public to this. It doesn’t matter a damn whether he collected a cheque personally, if it was before or after the event or if the donor had a criminal conviction. What matters is that Seán Gallagher was fundraising for Fianna Fáil right into the Cowen era. Surely that is enough to disqualify him as a prospective President.

The other thing is that the case for Michael D. Higgins never seems to have been made somehow. It looked for a good while that he was simply going to drift into the Presidency mainly on the strength of there being nothing particularly wrong with him. Which would have been a shame really, because he is probably the candidate with the most positives. He’s a nice man with a genuine, active interest in justice and human rights, very much in the mould of Mary Robinson. I believe there are more good reasons to vote for Michael D. than anyone.

OK yeah, I kind of wanted David Norris to win. But that wasn’t for good reasons. More for the entertainment potential. It’s gone beyond fun and games now though. No one but the mild-mannered academic socialist can prevent the next President of Ireland being a product of our worst ever government.

Seán Gallagher’s Open Secret

Three Thumbs Up

The national sport of Ireland is, as you know, Getting Away With It. Politicians like Haughey and Ahern were not popular in spite of their unexplained wealth. People want to beat the system, so they vote for politicians who beat the system.

What they get from that of course is a system beating itself.

So it’s not that people are tricked into thinking that Seán Gallagher has nothing to do with Fianna Fáil. They know it’s a pretence, and they are willing to play along with that pretence. They may tell each other that Gallagher represents a new, reformed party, or even a future alternative to it. But does he? Hardly. He’s close to the Construction Industry Federation, of all things. Lobbying group for probably the biggest bull in our whole economic china shop. All that’s new is the improved presentation, and Gallagher is all presentation. He’s not a successful businessman, but he plays one on TV.

Yet for many, he provides the perfect compromise: They can pretend they’re still voting to punish those responsible for our economic free-for-all, while actually promoting the party they believe most likely to bend the rules in their favour. It the same old politics of the man on the inside, the same old story of the state that subverted itself.

Who Wants To Kill Dana?

puncture
Unlimited metaphors for Dana campaign now available

I hope it was none of you. I’d be very upset if one of my readers took it all too seriously and tried to assassinate Dana. That’s wrong and stupid. What if you failed and she got in on a wave of sympathy?

OK, I wouldn’t joke about this if I thought it was for real. Or at least I’d make different jokes. But it’s not real. No one was trying to rub out Dana. Maybe it isn’t hard to imagine someone with a grudge against the Catholic church having a stab at her tyres, but who stops at stabbing just one? And anyway, that’s no assassination attempt. Unless of course they had the expertise to damage a tyre just enough to cause it to blow out later when moving at high speed. You know, the kind of expertise that doesn’t exist.

No. The Scallons had a blowout. Unusual, but they happen. That they should even speculate that it was some sort of assassination attempt tells us all we… well, all we already knew about their grasp of reality.

Let’s pass over this sideshow, and concentrate on keeping Fianna Fáil the hell out of the Park.

 

The Fianna Fáil Revival Starts Here

LOL (Laughing Out Loud) - Bertie Ahern
Image by infomatique via Flickr

I don’t know what Bertie Ahern‘s balls are made of, but perhaps we should be using it to generate nuclear energy. For they are massive. He told us today that not preventing the national economic collapse was the fault of the media, because they were too preoccupied with investigating his wrongdoing.

No that’s just awesome. Even Berlusconi must have gasped.

It’s utter nonsense of course. The media were full of voices shouting stop – certainly more so than government. Mr. Ahern is living out a self-justifying fantasy, and his words are as relevant now as, well, pretty much anything else said by a member of Fianna Fáil. With the obvious exception of course of Seán Gallagher. Yes, I think we can regard him as a member still. Though it appears he did resign both from his cumainn¹ and the party’s national executive, he hasn’t exactly distanced himself from the organisation, launching the campaigns of FF party candidates – presumably for a fee – as recently as six months ago.

It looks very likely therefore that his split with the party was not moral or ideological, but pragmatic. He wanted to be elected. To have any chance, he had to lose the stinking albatross-corpse of a Fianna Fáil ticket. And the ruse seems to have worked. People say they will vote for the honestly-really-not-Fianna-Fáil candidate. I don’t know what to say, you’re all mad. Mad, or masochists.

Rather like McGuinness², he’s building foundations for his party’s eventual rehabilitation. Unlike McGuinness though, he might actually win. And if he does, what are the odds of him returning to the party – in a greatly enhanced role – just as soon as his term is over? If not sooner.

  1. Local party branch.
  2. Sinn Fein’s presidential candidate.

Norris Is In

After an astonishing roller coaster ride of a campaign that saw him first bow out and then bow to pressure to return, David Norris will be on the Presidential ballot paper. And what a paper. Nominations are not yet closed, but the line-up is looking to be:

Now that is a Presidential race. Suck it, USA.

Happy Bertie To You

Croke Park Dublin
Intimate Venue Available For Family Occasions

Talk Show host Joe Duffy just claimed “Nobody is saying Bertie Ahern¹ was corrupt.” Does he not know about the libel laws in this country? A person can pull shit like this and we are still not allowed to say they’re corrupt.

Let’s just put it this way: Nobody is saying his financial affairs were entirely above board either. Among the people who aren’t saying that are the tax office.

It’s hard to say if somebody personally received corrupt payments when that person seems to have no clear concept of a difference between personal, family or party money. But corruption isn’t just kickbacks and envelopes full of cash. Ahern, and the party he led, were closely involved with the property, construction and finance industries in two distinct but intertwined ways: On one hand the party came to associate its political fortunes with the runaway success of these sectors. On the other, a great many of them associated their personal fortunes with that success too. Virtually the whole party – and it must be said, a sizeable portion of the Irish political caste as a whole – were compromised by their involvement. Is compromised the same thing as corrupted?

Not if it won’t get me sued.

Ahern is in the news again now because it’s his 60th birthday this weekend. More specifically, because he’s having his party in the country’s most important stadium, Croke Park. Seriously. His immediate family don’t seem to see any problem with this. Sure it’s an entirely private matter. It’s just that it’s being done in the most public possible way.

I invite them to consider how this will be perceived from abroad. As our country depends for its day-to-day running on funding from the rest of Europe, the man who presided over its financial implosion is being fêted at our national stadium. It’s difficult to explain, isn’t it? Frankly it makes Berlusconi’s Italy look respectable.

 

  1. For late arrivals, the Taoiseach of Ireland during most of the boom years.

Merry-Go-Roundup

Week 100 - Photoshop Contest Party
Image by oddsock via Flickr

Let’s start the week with a recap of the last one – a momentary break from the nausea helps one better appreciate the carousel, I find.

All hell broke loose in England, with the young indulging in a strange mixture of wanton violence and want-one theft. The more repulsive commentators, in Ireland especially it seemed, were keen to blame it on the feminist-socialist conspiracy to raise children without fathers, completely unconscious it seemed of the fact that this made them sound disturbingly like Anders Breivik. Those who wanted to blame black people had to make do in the end with blaming white people who just talk like black people.

The British government reacted in many ways at once, most of them useless, but the one that got my attention was when David Cameron began a sentence “Free flow of information can be used for good, but…” betraying the fact that he is not at heart a democrat. This view was supported by no one, except of course China.

On a related note, surprise hit of the week was an article on the decline of the meme. What I’d thought of as a throwaway remark was later bandied about Twitter as “Chapman’s Law”: If you hear about an internet meme via any medium except the Internet, it is already over.

I also discovered that I can say what I like about gay Presidents and right-wing politicians, but if I really want to get an argument going here, the thing I need to do is criticise Apple.

Back home then, and off our coasts new dives were being made on the wreck of the Lusitania. What seemed like the last nail was knocked into David Norris’s Presidential campaign when it was revealed that, in an unguarded moment in 1975, he admitted that his adolescent fantasies had been homosexual in nature. This was taken up by some in the press to mean that he represented a paedophile threat to himself.

Attention switched to veteran TV personality Gay Byrne, and he was even approached with an offer of support by the once-great Fianna Fáil party, who until now have only lost one Presidential election in the whole history of the State. But fortunately everyone suddenly realised that this was a completely mad idea.

And at home home, my mother received a call from a phone scammer. My rage was not a nice thing to behold, but the lesson I took away was that if I stayed calm when talking to the scammer next time, I’d be able to scare even more shit out of them.

Still closer to home, I was bitten by a mosquito and had a bad allergic reaction. Having tried about everything available in the pharmacy and found it wanting, if not utterly useless, I discovered an instant, effective cure: Water.

I hasten to point out that that doesn’t make it homoeopathy.

President Of Popular Opinion

Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne speaking at a publ...
It's not even plugged in. He can only talk into microphones now.

Well that was a bullet dodged. Gay Byrne for President. Wow.

Some background here for the overseas reader – in Ireland we elect a President to do nothing. Unlike the American President who is head of both, the Irish President is head of State but not of the Executive. In other words they don’t make decisions at all, they are quite literally there just to look pretty. Well, look stately I suppose. They are meant to be a figurehead for the country, standing above the tooth-and-claw world of politics. Like royalty, but without having to pay for their whole extended family. The Constitution requires them to agree with government policies and never say anything controversial.

Someone thought that this was a job for Gay Byrne?

Gay Byrne was for decades the biggest figure in the Irish media. He hosted both the most popular daily radio show and – by far – the most popular weekly TV chat show. All live. Since his retirement it’s taken at least three other presenters to cover for him. He is is a well-loved, avuncular figure with a twinkly eye who embodies some of the best aspects of Ireland. Some. He can also be irascible and strongly opinionated. I invite British readers to imagine a Terry Wogan with… moods.

As soon as people have calmed down a bit they’ll realise the idea was as mad as a yoghurt with spanners in it. What were the chances of Gay Byrne getting through a seven-year Presidential term without telling the government where to get off?

Zero. There was no chance of that happening. Thank God he turned the nomination down. He would have made Hugo Chavez look diffident.

The Right To Employ People

Differences in national income equality around...
Inequality - Apparently There's Not Enough Of It

I just heard someone called Jackie Lavin on the Pat Kenny radio show say that unemployment benefits interfere with “the employer’s right to employ people”. That’s an interesting concept, isn’t it? I remember when right-wing lunatics used to just call social welfare an interference in the sacred free market. Now it’s an abrogation of their rights. They are actually being oppressed by social welfare.

I hadn’t known that the wealthy had any special rights – at least not officially – but according to her, one of them is to have other people be poorer so that they’re more affordable. That’s kind of mind-blowing, isn’t it? The rich have a right to poor people. It makes a strange Zen-like sense.

This Jackie Lavin is on the radio because she’s a “Business Personality”, best known for appearing in the Irish version of The Apprentice as mentor to her real-world business and life partner Bill Cullen. Also, for appearing in and writing for glossy Hello!-style magazines, like the one owned by Bill Cullen. He’s an entrepreneur, Fianna Fáil donor and I suppose our nearest equivalent to Donald Trump. These are important people then.

Why not apply this entertainment paradigm to the country as a whole? If the unemployed don’t shape up, we can fire them from their homes – from the whole country indeed. ‘Firing’ is much sexier than that dated emigration idea.

I mean. Fuck this.

Dame Enda

NYTimes Cartoon

Newspapers, never call yourself a ‘paper of record’. Every silly mistake you make then becomes a silly mistake, of record. It’s extra fun when an institution as grand as the New York Times decides that Enda Kenny’s name is wrong and corrects it. And his gender, while they’re at it. Couldn’t they employ a competent sub-editor from Estonia or somewhere?

Mind you, a certain paper I used to work for (ahem) made a similar mistake with my copy once. Or rather, the opposite mistake. At the time there were rumours about a certain Fianna Fáil politician receiving a payment of over a million from a certain businessman. We all knew who it was, but libel laws prevented us from saying. So I decided to refer to him as ‘Edna’, which I considered the least likely possible name for a TD – especially a male one.

My sub-editor happily ‘corrected’ this to Enda – three times – changing the deliberately strange into the merely confusing, and making it look like I was impugning the reputation of the man who is our Taoiseach now. Ironic, considering his promise yesterday.

But why am I telling you about it? Thanks to the magic of the Internet, here it is. From December 1996.

Knew I should have gone with Ethel.

Speaking of wealthy businesspersons, in the news this morning we learn that there are now five people in Ireland who have made the Forbes list of dollar billionaires. To think, only a few years ago I would have felt quite proud of that fact. Now I just want to see their tax clearance certs.