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.

Enda Has A Go

Hibernian CartoonOw. Ow ow ow ow. Look, I wish Enda Kenny well as Taoiseach. He has an unenviable job, I hope he does it well, I have more confidence in his ability to do it than I have in… Ooh, loads of other people. So to be fair I have to say that some really good promises were made today. Particularly, a ban on corporate political donations. I also like single-tier health very much, and a Minister for Children may be a good idea even if it does sound odd.

But he needs to be able to give a speech that doesn’t make me wince like I’m listening to a gas cylinder being whacked with a jack handle. He must get a professional speech writer. I know he doesn’t have one, because no paid writer could be that bad. Please to God.

“The long Hibernian nights on the western edge of Europe” he intoned, alluding to… something, I’m not sure. I was too distracted by the apparent implication that nights get longer the further west you go, by trying to figure out what exactly makes a night Hibernian, and by wondering if I was taking him up wrong entirely and the Long Hibernian Knights were a 70s heavy rock band. Imagery was strewn around the speech like low coffee tables, adding little decorative or useful, mainly just impeding progress.

And then bills or tax demands or something hitting people’s doormats “like stealth bombs”. What the fuck might a stealth bomb be? Enda there are stealth bombers, which are planes that are hard to spot, and there are smart bombs, which can be guided to their targets. Stealth bombs would be bombs that you don’t notice.

No seriously, I’m not listening to five years of this.

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.

Pleasantly Batshit

O'Keefe CartoonI love it when they don’t care anymore. Now that Ned O’Keefe has resigned from politics, he can tell us what he really thinks. And over what one might be forgiven for suspecting may have been a drink or four, he gave his candid opinions about the recent government – of which he was a supporter – to Cork paper The Evening Echo:

“The situation has become so bad that an Army coup is a real possibility.”

Wait, what?

“Our political system is going to fail further. The two Brians have made a right mess of the country and I see the real possibility of an Army coup.”

O… K. Does the man with two Brians realise we don’t actually have a lot of army? We’ll have to rent.

“People thought I was mad with all the things I have predicted through the years, but I foresaw the economy collapsing due to lax regulation on building housing estates and unwanted shopping centres.”

Shopping centres. Well he’s right if he’s saying that they were a symptom of the failure rather than the cause. I’m just not sure he is. But then a weirder direction:

“So what if Charlie liked nice women and a few extra nice shirts? He was the best leader we ever had.”

So our problems have nothing to do with corruption. It’s just young politicians these days. They don’t know how to be corrupt with style.

Laugh About It, Shout About It

Some election campaign. It seems like the only issue being debated is when, where and how issues are going to be debated. A five-way, then a three-way? I’m not sure they’re up to it, frankly. Look, enough. Let’s just not have a leaders’ debate, OK? They’re only TV, they don’t tell us anything useful. For Christ’s sake, it’s not like in the US where you might never have seen the candidates on one platform before. We have a parliamentary system, they argue practically every bloody day of the week and no one watches. This is going to be fantastically different?

Besides, it creates the false idea that we have a selection of available Taoisigh. Nothing much short of assassination could prevent Enda Kenny winning now. (And that was not a suggestion.) The only other person in with a shout is Labour’s Eamon Gilmore, so if we’re to have a meaningful leaders’ debate then really it should be between those two alone. This would make it far more watchable too – in that if Fianna Fáil’s leader was on it, I wouldn’t be able to watch. I’d be throwing bricks at the screen, which is distracting and bad for reception.

Debate CartoonWhat would Micheál Martin have to add to the debate anyway? That Labour and Fine Gael are actually two different political parties. With different policies. They’re running against each other in an election, and believe different things. That is all anyone in Fianna Fáil has to say, the sum total of their election platform. I guess they can’t very well run on their record. Micheál Martin’s role in the debate could be performed perfectly adequately by a caption at the bottom of the screen.

What he fails to understand is that a Fine Gael/Labour government that collapses due to ideological differences is still infinitely preferable to a Fianna Fáil one that lasts. For a start, it would mean they weren’t in power just for what they could shovel off the table.

Not Your Parents’ Political Obit

CowenBye CartoonAs all political careers end in failure, it is traditional to look back over them and ask where they went wrong. Supposing for a moment that a single false move really could explain everything, what was Cowen’s?

Some say that as Bertie Ahern’s anointed successor he was pretty much cursed from the start. The party’s triumph as they crowned him was so loud because it was trying to drown out a whisper. Haven’t we been here before? Wasn’t Bertie meant to be the good and true leader who would make everything right after Haughey? Wasn’t he going to clear up all the questions?

Some day it will dawn on the party membership, on the country in general, that what’s wrong with Fianna Fáil cannot be fixed by just changing the guy at the top.

But people seemed willing to give him a chance, so I don’t think it’s true that Cowen was finished before he started. The first problem of his own making was probably the Lisbon referendum fiasco. While this made him look unexpectedly weak, I could argue that it still wasn’t really Brian Cowen’s fault. The 2007 election certainly hadn’t been a rout, but the majority of us did not go to the polling station to return a Fianna Fáil government to power. And yet, thanks to the political ineptitude of the former Green Party (yes I’m calling them that already), we found one jammed into our gullet. While the reasons for the rejection of Lisbon were many, I think a major one was resentment of this unwarranted government. That was not within Cowen’s realistic control.

So then of course there was the economic collapse. Again, not exactly his fault. Well at least not Cowen the Taoiseach’s; his stewardship of the Department of Finance had doubtless contributed greatly to our mad over-dependence on the property sector, but the deeply corrupting relationship between Fianna Fáil and its contributors is, again, not the work of one man. Much of the country was complicit in it.

Then, the embarrassment of a second referendum. But we can all be pretty ashamed of that one. “Not so independent-minded now you’re broke, eh?” Less said there the better really.

So the list of mistakes is long, but no one seems really enough in itself to be labelled the turning point in Brian Cowen’s career. Is it just that, with the economy in ruins, we need to blame somebody and he’s in the firing line? No doubt that’s how it seems to him. Or was it, as is so often the case, simply the slow accumulation of many small missteps?

No. If any political career failed in one single moment, this was that one. It happened when he agreed that the people of Ireland would pay back the losses of speculating bankers. That was a mistake of such enormity, you wonder if he actually had the authority to do it. Is it constitutional to give the country away?

Without this things would still be pretty bad, but he would probably have been leading his party into an election now. One in which they would have been merely punished rather than summarily executed. But by sacrificing his people to save bankers, Brian Cowen doomed his career. Doomed a lot of our careers.

It’s All Over

CowenfishAh. Hear that? That’s the restful sound of no government.

Brian Cowen was just on the radio, saying goodbye. Listing the things that Fianna Fáil didn’t screw up. Predictably, doing it with massaged figures. After being in politics so long, these people become vague about what truth actually is.

Ireland fifth best place in the world to live? I think you’ll find that was more before your stewardship than after. Ireland receives more US investment than Brazil, India and China combined? Now seriously. If “funnels cash through for tax purposes” is the same as “invests”, that may just be true.

I will not deny that this government occasionally did things right. Even on purpose sometimes. The problem is, if they’d given us a space program that discovered a friendly civilization who sent us unlimited free energy, it would still have been the worse government we’ve ever had by some considerable margin.

It’s All Over

CowenfishAh. Hear that? That’s the restful sound of no government.

Brian Cowen was just on the radio, saying goodbye. Listing the things that Fianna Fáil didn’t screw up. Predictably, doing it with massaged figures. After being in politics so long, these people become vague about what truth actually is.

Ireland fifth best place in the world to live? I think you’ll find that was more before your stewardship than after. Ireland receives more US investment than Brazil, India and China combined? Now seriously. If “funnels cash through for tax purposes” is the same as “invests”, that may just be true.

I will not deny that this government occasionally did things right. Even on purpose sometimes. The problem is, if they’d given us a space program that discovered a friendly civilization who sent us unlimited free energy, it would still have been the worse government we’ve ever had by some considerable margin.