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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Irish poll gives grist for the mill of endless political speculation

February 29th, 2016 Comments off

Unfortunately for Ireland, it’s not all over bar the shouting.

The 2016 general election was held on Friday February 26, but when and how the new government will be formed is anybody’s guess, and the guessing is going to be prolonged and probably wrong.

That other cliché, about “the people have spoken, but we don’t know what they’ve said”, has been over-ventilated in the days since the election. However Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times had a crack at decoding, and his analysis is worth reading.

Ireland, as most readers would know, was hit savagely by the Great Financial Crisis. Over-reliance on property lending and purchase, particularly by small banks who should have known better, meant that the whole economy came crashing down in 2008. This, post the failure of Goldman Sachs, could be traced back to the spread of derivatives and mortgages for people who could never pay them back, as best described by US author Michael Lewis.

So in Ireland – famously described as “the Wild West of European finance” by The New York Times – imprudent and unregulated behaviour in the banking sector eventually led to the impoverishment of the nation.

However, not all pigs are created equal, and the wealthier pigs generally got off very well. But if you were an Irish person on a small fixed income, with a disabled child, trying to make a living in third-level education or the building industry, you were in trouble. Government cuts appeared to fall mostly on the poor, and the imposition of universal water charges caused a rage and refusal that became durable.

After the crash of 2008, unemployment soared to 15 per cent – and that was only what was admitted. Many people could no longer pay their mortgages, and, seven years later, the full fallout of this was only becoming apparent as more and more families sought emergency accommodation.

So what was happening in Kildare Street, home of the Irish Lower House, the Dail?

The government which presided over the property madness, the “Celtic Tiger” boom, was turfed out at the 2011 election by a furious electorate.

Five years later, however, the party which comprised that government, Fianna Fail, has come back from its decimation and now, two days after the election, holds 43 seats in the 158-seat lower chamber, the engine of government.

The previous incumbent, Fine Gael, holds slightly more seats. The two parties are old enemies dating back to Ireland’s civil war in the 1920s, and once it would have been unthinkable that they would join forces to govern.

But that was then: this is now, with an array of small parties and independents taking a third of the seats in the new Dail – a refreshingly democratic but unworkable mixture. The two big beasts will have to bury their tusks and talk about working together. This is what the pundits have been saying on talk shows in the lead-up to the election, and what the paper of God, The Irish Times, says, not too forcefully, in its editorial on the election result.

Much has been made, almost gleefully, of Ireland possibly joining Europe in a new way, by being one of the countries (see Spain, Belgium) which in recent times have struggled for months to form a workable government following elections.

From this observer’s point of view, the thirst for power, or office, is so strong in the professional politician that, most of them, would sell their mothers to get a toe in any administration.

And that is one of the reasons why the rise of the Independents, on one hand, is a very good thing: such people know they have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being in government , or running a Ministry. But they still want to be there, representing their constituents and making short those who are in power do not ride roughshod over the rights of all.

If democracy is sought, the roots of the word have to be respected: demos, the people, and kratos, rule.

When the people speak, they don’t always do so in neat joined up sentences. That is something we all have to accept.

 


 

 

 

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Corbyn’s in the frame – so watch out

October 1st, 2015 Comments off

PETER MANDELSON didn’t like the question.

It was 2010, and he’d come to Dublin to plug a book, and consented to a public interview at the concert hall.

“Lord Mandelson, do you think conviction politics have come to an end in Britain?”

A fair enough question from the audience, but touching a deeper and more serious place than the interview – a fluffy thing featuring probing posers such as “do you like wearing the ermine cloak of a Lord?” – which preceded question time.

Snarling ever so slightly, the Prince of Darkness dismissed the idea as tedious and irrelevant.

And now, there’s Jeremy Corbyn!

I strive to be heard above all the sniggering and horrified intakes of breath. A man of priniciple, someone who has stuck to the hard road of old-fashioned socialism, who has kept the red flag flying in his heart: not really one of the political class of the 21st century, is he?

Since Corbyn crushed the other identikit centrist candidates for leadership of the British Labour Party on September 12, there have been all sorts of agitated ripples from that mighty stone being chucked in the pool.

The heirs to the shameful legacy of Tony Blair – just so you know where I’m coming from – in Labour are only now coming out of goldfish mode and recovering the powers of speech.

The Tories, somehow not perceiving that this is probably actually a good thing for them, are having multiple orgasms of horror/delight. The Spectator magazine has been particularly entertaining in this regard, as columnists and contributors from both right and left line up to choke on their porridge and explain that this is The Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened in British politics.

Okay, so Corbyn is a humourless old trout, but it is as refreshing, as bracing, as a shower in a mountain waterfall, to see one of his ilk centre-stage in mainstream politics. Read more…

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2015 Gallipoli evacuation was one big mess

May 12th, 2015 Comments off

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AND so to Gallipoli, for the centenary of the disastrous first World War campaign, in the company of An Uachtarain Michael D Higgins of Ireland.

That’s slightly gilding the poppy, as your correspondent wasn’t in the President’s party, but on the same plane, in steerage rather than the glamour of first-class.

Turkish Airlines are a pleasant carrier, but even the president’s presence didn’t mean we got into the air on time at Dublin.

However that was a minor transport consideration compared to what lay ahead. Read more…

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50% turnout? Politics needs more ‘Hell and Maria’ types

May 28th, 2014 Comments off

POINTLESS is an enjoyable early evening quiz show on BBC One. In it guests aim to decide which answer to a question would have had zero correct answers out there in the real world.

It’s hosted by Alexander Armstrong, with the wonderful, bespectacled Richard Osman as his sidekick. And last week there was a fascinating fact which appealed to me particularly. It was that Calvin Coolidge’s vice president on the 1924 ticket, Charles Dawes, was the same man who wrote the music for the hit song “All in the Game” in the 1950s. (“Many a tear has to fall, But it’s all, In the game…”.)

And to top his achievements, Charlie won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925. He was, according to the Nobel website, known as “Hell and Maria” Charlie.

Now there’s a multitasker/polymath par excellence, which leaves one musing via the cliché “They don’t make ‘em like that any more.” At least, not in our dull western democracies, where high office seems reserved for the superhumanly bland, setting aside an Obama or two.

Read more…

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Assange and Wikileaks – reflection

November 28th, 2013 Comments off

This is a paper I wrote last year, and have belatedly decided it’s not half bad – though of course will be updating for lectures this winter...

THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS has a number of angles. One is the theme of free speech/power to the people; one is of the ‘little guy’ who takes on the global establishment and leaves it red-faced and determined to get revenge; one is the privacy or privileged nature of certain communications – or whether that never exists at all.

For people in the news media, one interpretation is that their role is undermined, even made redundant, by the Wikileaks phenomenon. At its core, Julian Assange’s project does away with mediation – the material goes straight from initiator to the public, so there is  no ‘mediation’ (filtering, editing, selecting) and so no role for media.

Wikileaks has blown open journalistic procedure. Yet it has also highlighted the need for professional journalistic practice, in selecting, editing, and presenting important information so it is of use to the public (which, it could be argued, the undifferentiated dumping of thousands and thousands of government messages can never achieve). In its first global coup, the release of the State Department cables in late 2010, Wikileaks could not have achieved the amount of coverage and controversy if it had not partnered with leading newspapers across the globe, whose senior journalists combed through the cables and selected the material which was most important and made the best stories.

Read more…