Thursday, May 31, 2007
'Gays are repulsive' - Paisley Jnr
Get a load of these extraordinary comments from the DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr:
"I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong.
"I think that those people harm themselves and - without caring about it - harm society.
"That doesn't mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do."
How sad is this waste of space? Homosexuals harm society? Unbelievable. I personally find this man's views repulsive and I feel he is harming society in a big way by spouting this kind of disgusting homophobia.
Amazingly, as a junior minister, this guy is actually part of the department which is responsible for promoting equality and the Single Equality Bill! Gay rights campaigners have demanded an apology from him and one campaigner, Andrew Muir, said the comments were harmful:
"Our research proves that 29% of young people have actually attempted suicide because of homophobia in society and I think these comments are very concerning."
This incident really does make you wonder how a pathetic party like the DUP can do so well in the North when its members are utter bigots. Do unionists really want to put their future in the hands of people like Ian Paisley Junior? I hope not.
This loser is stuck in the stone age and his remarks are out of order. Shame on him.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Partition remains a problem
I've been very annoyed to hear many commentators in the North mistaking Sinn Féin being rejected at the polls as Partition being rejected at the polls.
Take for example Monday's Radio Ulster Talkback programme (last half an hour) which focused on Sinn Féin's election performance. This broadcast referenced an article by Balrog's Chris Gaskin who is angry that his piece was used to attack his party. That's fair enough but I'm more angry about the programme using the election result to make out that we in the south are no longer interested in Partition. Sorry, but this is totally untrue.
The broadcast featured the woefully inept Henry McDonald of the Observer who felt that the election shows we in the south are no longer interested in the North and that we are content with Partition. Henry then went on to say, much to my amazement, that we in the South do not like people in the North because of their accents! He justifies this because he went to a meeting in Dublin once and a lady insulted him over it. I'll tackle this man's nonsense in a moment. First let me touch on the issue of Partition so I can set a few people straight, mainly naive unionists, who seem to think that the apathy towards Sinn Féin reflects an apathy towards Partition.
First off, the party which won the election - Fianna Fáil - are a republican party. They want to see Ireland reunited. The same is true of Fine Gael, Labour and every other party in the south. Consistently polls in the south show a majority of the inhabitants in favour of ending Partition, hence why the parties hold the views that they do. The reason why Partition was not an issue in the election is because in recent years we have taken steps to ensure that it is no longer an issue! This is what unionists have long sought. The constitutional question settled. Under the Good Friday Agreement, a united Ireland can only occur if both parts of the island vote for it. Since a majority in the North have to vote first (and since this doesn't look to be happening in the near future) why on earth would we in the south talk about a united Ireland? We can't do anything about it down here until the people in the North take the necessary steps first.
Don't mistake silence for acquiescence. Starvation in Africa was not discussed in the general election. It doesn't mean we don't care about that issue. The violence in Iraq was not discussed in the general election. It doesn't mean we don't care about that issue, and so on and so forth. I think a lot of people in the North are having difficulty understanding the election results because the elections in NI go very differently. Up there the constitutional question remains at the forefront. In fact, it defines the whole political system. People are more used to hearing unionists express their love for Britishness and nationalists expressing their love for Irishness and the key issues like health, crime, the economy hardly get a look in. Rhetoric rules the roost. Here in the Republic, as well as in Britain, the key issues do take precedence. Chris over on Balrog wrote:
"We must also remember that the electorate in most of the 26 counties are not as trusting as the Northern voters. They require and demand proper policies and proper strategies from us. It's not like South Armagh or West Belfast where you could stand a donkey with a tricolour and they would get elected."
I don't think it's a case that Northern voters are more trusting. I think they're more naive. I agree with his main point though. We in the south aren't interested in who flies a tricolour or wears a republican badge. We want to know that our candidates can handle the bread and butter issues of politics. Rhetoric just won't wash. Just because people in the south are less susceptible to rhetoric does not mean we are less interested in reunification. Sorry to disappoint any unionists.
If there is a gulf developing in Irish politics it is northern nationalists who need to reflect on this. Prior to the election in the North, the SDLP (not Sinn Féin) received praise from the main parties in the South. Now you can argue that this is because it is in the interests of the south's main parties that Sinn Féin do poorly, and I concede there is a large degree of truth in that, but I think the reality is that the SDLP are the kind of party that we in the south can identify with. Nationalists in NI flocked to Sinn Féin and have made them the largest party in the North yet in the south they now possess only 4 seats out of 166. It seems to me that the reason a gulf may be forming is because northern nationalists are now pledging their support to the extreme wing of Irish nationalism whereas this is something we in the South will never do.
To me, the real question is not "why did Sinn Féin do so poorly in the South?" but rather, "why did Sinn Féin do so well in the North?" This is what the majority of us in the South are wondering.
Now then, let's go back to Henry McDonald's idiocy. Henry claimed that the election results indicate we in the south are content with Partition. That we feel there are two very different nations on the island and that we regard the North as a foreign entity. As someone born and reared in Dublin I can confirm categorically that this is fanciful rubbish. Henry needs to ask himself what Irishness actually is. You see to me and most people in the South, Irishness is Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught. It is 32 counties. It is learning the great Irish myths in school and about the Ulster hero Cúchulainn. It is learning the Irish language (and the various dialects including Ulster's). It is learning Irish history and the huge significance that Ulster has had on Irish history. Plantations, United Irishmen, Home Rule etc. It is Gaelic games. It is meeting up with a pal from the North and watching the all-island rugby team together.
We regard the North as a different place? Bollocks Henry. It is our country.
As for Henry's theory that Sinn Féin might have done badly because we in the South dislike Irish accents, it's probably not worth my while responding to this kind of infantile crap but I will. Firstly, as a caller mentioned to him, our President, Mary McAleese, is from Belfast. Secondly, going into this election, Gerry Adams had one of the highest approval ratings of all the party leaders - his poor grasp of the economy was his downfall. Not his bloody accent.
Right now the Republic has a huge immigrant population with non-nationals estimated to make up 10% of the population. Unlike countries like Britain and France which have had race riots, the immigrants in Ireland have had a mostly warm welcome from the majority. On United Irelander I put this point to Polish Ambassador to Ireland Witold Sobkow. Here is his reply:
"Ireland has no huge problems with immigration because of many factors. In France, for instance, you have a sizeable marginalised Muslim community, which is a legacy of France's colonial past. Ireland has no colonial past. For Ireland immigration is a relatively new phenomenon. For France, Britain or Germany it isn't. Ireland is pragmatic and presents an attitude worthy of praise: "if you have a problem, solve it constructively". One example of such a positive attitude is a decision to give up the requirement of knowing the Irish language for Garda recruits - as a result more than 200 immigrants are being trained to serve the Irish and their national communities - this is a step towards a better integration. There are Polish shops, churches, school, and cultural centres in Dublin. We feel at home."
And so despite Irish people welcoming Poles, Lithuanians and other non-nationals, Mr McDonald, a well-paid journalist I'm sure, seriously believes that we in the South have a problem with people from the north of Ireland...and their accents? I've never heard such utter nonsense in all my life. I'm really sorry that Mr McDonald encountered an unpleasant Dublin woman on a visit here. Hell, I know how he feels because I encountered plenty last night when I went out with some friends. The fact is however that this is not symptomatic of Dubliners being xenophobic, it is symptomatic of the fact that there are arseholes in every part of the world and you happened to meet one. Don't tar us all with the same brush. I've been to rural parts of Ireland and have encountered hostility due to my Northside Dublin accent. I didn't jump to the conclusion however that the entire population were bigots.
I hope Mr McDonald cops on because I don't wish to see him embarrass himself further by spouting such insular twaddle. I also hope he doesn't jump to the conclusion that my hostility towards him is based on him being from the North. I assure him that it is purely because he has the logic of a baboon.
In closing, let me make clear that we in the south love this country - by which I mean this island - a great deal and the various people who reside here. We love it so much that we will not be truly content until the disgrace of Partition is removed for good and the people of this country, north, south, east and west, can move forward as one forever.
When will Partition cease to be an issue for the people of the south? When Partition ceases to be.
Monday, May 28, 2007
It's been a while dear readers since I've read an article that has brought up the taste of vomit to the back of my mouth, but, sure enough, that is exactly what happened to me earlier on when I happened across an article in the Sunday Independent by one Brendan O'Connor.
O'Connor has written a truly stomach-churning piece of condescending trash in which he sees fit to lecture the nation on how 'sophisticated' they are for returning Fianna Fáil and Bertie Ahern to power. Of course having Brendan O'Connor lecture you on sophistication is like having OJ Simpson lecture you on being a good husband but I thought I'd nonetheless indulge Mr O'Connor's right-wing recital and show it up for the garbage that it is.
O'Connor fittingly entitles his address to the country, "Voters aren't so simple after all" and declares...
"They haven't gone away you know. The sophisticated electorate are back...Every media outlet, present company excluded, was telling people that they were in the mood for change. But no one quite knew what it was we wanted to change. Things were good. In fact, things were better than they'd ever been."
Now you're probably thinking to yourself, 'is this guy not aware of the sick and vulnerable people of our society who desperately need assistance'? Well, indeed he is aware of them. It's just that he doesn't particularly give a damn about them. Get a load of this...
"The poor and the sick will always be with us, but the vast majority - the non old and the non sick, the walking well - were happy."
Can you believe that? If ever a sentence typified the disgusting 'I'm alright Jack' attitude so prevalent amongst the self-serving elite of this country, truly this is it. In essence what he's saying is, f*ck the sick and the elderly because I'm neither. This guy has no consideration for those who are less fortunate than him. He's a disgrace. He then proceeds to engage in some token Sinn Féin bashing. No doubt to please his corporate overlords...
"In our sophistication we have deemed that we are not interested in putting cranks and obsessives and single issue gobshites like Sinn Féin into power. We'd rather people who will run the country."
Of course where would a right-wing address on sophistication be without a mention of Michael McDowell? Now it was put to me recently that McDowell is viewed by the media in a "pathological negative" and that the media are intolerant of someone from the centre-right. Well I strongly disagree on that and I think O'Connor proves my point. Get your sick buckets at the ready...
"But we did let ourselves down slightly. What is a complex and a sophisticated electorate without a complex and sophisticated guy like McDowell? We kind of surprised ourselves there. We didn't quite know our own strength. We will mourn it now for a while. Clearly we're not as sophisticated as we think. Just ask McCreevy, or Alan Dukes. In all our sophistication we sometimes don't know when we're onto a good thing."
Can you believe this tripe? We didn't know our own strength? We will mourn it for a while? I'd be embarrassed to write this load of hammy hogwash. Seriously, who the hell sits around contemplating whether or not the electorate are sophisticated? Unreal haughtiness! This fool ought to be leading the Tories instead of David Cameron. Furthermore I've not yet met one individual who intends to "mourn" the fact that McDowell lost his seat. Quite the opposite in fact. O'Connor finishes his sermon with a flourish by touching on the man of the moment, Bertie Ahern...
"But it is a measure of the sophistication that we didn't ditch, on a whim, the important guy. He should be aware though that normal service resumes now. The honeymoon is over...He was the underdog and we liked that. But now he's the top dog again so all bets are off."
A laughably phony commitment here to closely monitor Ahern's spell in office. By the way, since when was Bertie the "underdog"? Snake perhaps. Underdog? Hardly. Then again, as long as he pleases his masters he can write any old guff. Brendan naturally couldn't sign off without giving us a suitably arrogant conclusion to his piece and in that sense he didn't disappoint. He writes...
"But for today let's just bask in a great victory for democracy, humanity, people power and our own sophistication. We are, as the fellah might say, a class act. Well done everyone. And we'll deal with you next week Bertie."
Yeah he'll deal with you next week Bertie. So don't forget the brown envelope and he won't forget the lotion.
I can't recall reading an article in recent times that contained this degree of snotty, sycophantic drivel. Just nonsense. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that a guy who has a face like a smacked arse could come out with so much utter shite. Mr O'Connor might find that remark a bit unsophisticated. I can't say I give a toss.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Talk will now turn to who will join Fianna Fáil in government but I thought I'd take the time to compare this year's election's results with my predictions on how things would turn out. I had a pretty mixed bag as it happens. Take a look:
Fianna Fáil - 68 seats
Fine Gael - 50 seats
Labour - 20 seats
Greens - 9 seats
Sinn Féin - 8 seats
Progressive Democrats - 3 seats
Ind/Others - 8 seats
Fianna Fáil - 78 seats
Fine Gael - 51 seats
Labour - 20 seats
Greens - 6 seats
Sinn Féin - 4 seats
Progressive Democrats - 2 seats
Independents - 5 seats
As you can see I badly miscalculated the level of support for Fianna Fáil which I was sure would slip. I expected the Greens would do better what with the increased interest in global warming and climate change but that didn't transpire. As for Sinn Féin, while I never believed they would make the huge gains some predicted, I nonetheless expected them to make gains. The fact they actually lost a seat surprises me greatly. On the other hand I was remarkably accurate when it came to Fine Gael and Labour with my prediction spot on for the latter and one away with regard to the former. I also correctly forecast the meltdown of the PDs though I didn't see McDowell losing his seat too. Several Independents were squeezed out by the strength of the big two which is also a bit of a shock.
Looking at the numbers and from listening to Ahern today talking on Sky News, a deal with the PDs and some independents could well be his preferred route now. For the PDs to remain in government having lost six of their eight seats truly would make a mockery of democracy and would sicken me to my very core. Then again, perhaps it would be a fitting arrangement. After all it would be a shame to leave another party with the job of cleaning up the PDs' mess.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
A look at some constituency results
The big shock of yesterday was obviously Michael McDowell losing his seat in Dublin South East. Last night PD party president Tom Parlon admitted he heard a big cheer in a pub in Birr, Co Offaly, when it was announced that McDowell had lost out. I'm sure similar celebrations took place in pubs and homes across the country too! I feel Irish politics is well better off without him. I took the liberty of checking some of my past Words on Wednesday features and specifically the word association for Mr McDowell's name. Here is what some of the politicians said about the PD leader...
"Hubris" - Pat Rabbitte, Labour
"Spiteful" - Dan Boyle, Greens
"Failure" - Tony Gregory, Independent
Fresh insight for you there into how Mr McDowell was viewed. Speaking of my past interviews, here is how the TDs I have interviewed in the past have performed in this year's General Election:
Catherine Murphy, Independent, Kildare North
Result: Seat lost
I asked Ms Murphy back in April if she was confident of hanging on to her seat. She replied, "I am hopeful. There is an extra seat in the constituency however it will be competitive like all elections". In the end she fell just short as 2 of the 4 seats went to Fianna Fáil, with Fine Gael and Labour taking the others. Speaking today Ms Murphy said she had realised in the final week of canvassing that there was a definite swing towards Fianna Fail. My commiserations to her at this time.
Tony Gregory, Independent, Dublin Central
Tony Gregory wasn't willing to make any predictions on how things would go when I interviewed him, although in newspapers he expressed the view that he felt he would lose his seat. This was the constituency in which Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald was tipped to land a seat. In the end she didn't make it and Mr Gregory retained his seat. Congratulations to him.
Arthur Morgan, Sinn Féin, Louth
It was a bad election for the Shinners but Mr Morgan's re-election will prove some comfort. It was a bit of a scrap for Mr Morgan but he had told me he was quietly confident of retaining his seat and in the end he did so. Well done to him.
Tommy Broughan, Labour, Dublin North East
Tommy had to wait a bit for his result but he managed to retain his seat in Dublin North East. I asked Mr Broughan some months back how he felt things would go in the election and he told me, "It will be very tough in Dublin North East this time round, as it always is...There will be a major challenge from Fine Gael and Sinn Fein and I also think that we shouldn't underestimate the Greens". In the end the seats went to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Tommy took the other seat for Labour. Congratulations Tommy.
Joan Burton, Labour, Dublin West
Ms Burton told me it would be a tight race to retain her seat and that turned out to be the case. In the end Ms Burton pipped the Socialist' Party's Joe Higgins who lost out as Fianna Fáil's Brian Lenihan and Fine Gael newcomer Leo Varadkar took the other seats. I congratulate Ms Burton on her win but I must say I'm terribly disappointed that Mr Higgins has lost out as he is in my opinion one of the best and most diligent politicians in the country. For him to lose a seat is pretty disgraceful as far as I'm concerned and further proof that this country hasn't got its priorities right.
Dan Boyle, Greens, Cork South Central
Result: Seat lost
Dan Boyle had a disappointing time of things as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael bagged two seats each with Labour taking the remainder. Cork South Central illustrates pretty much what happened nationally with the smaller parties squeezed out by the big two. My commiserations to Mr Boyle.
Ciarán Cuffe, Greens, Dun Laoghaire
It was a real battle for Mr Cuffe in this 5 seater constituency but in the end he pipped the Independent Richard Boyd Barrett to hang on to his seat. I'm pleased for Mr Cuffe as he seems like one of the good ones.
Pat Rabbitte, Labour leader, Dublin South West
Mr Rabbitte retained his seat for Labour in Dublin South West following the second count. It's been a disappointing election overall for Mr Rabbitte but it looks like his party could still wind up in coalition with Fianna Fáil. Since he has repeatedly refuted such talk however it might mean Mr Rabbitte will have to step down in order to facilitate such a situation. Time will tell.
I feel it's been a really interesting election overall with a hell of a lot of shocks. McDowell losing his seat is not something I had anticipated but I'm delighted that it's happened. I think Joe Higgins losing his seat is an absolute travesty. Tom Parlon looks like he's lost his seat for the PDs and I hope that proves to be the case. Liz O'Donnell, Deputy leader of the PDs, losing her seat is another surprise. I'm not as hostile towards Ms O'Donnell as I am her other party colleagues so I offer my commiserations to her.
I'll likely make some more observations on the election over the next few days but I'm left agreeing with a Fine Gael TD from Mayo who yesterday said that the people of the west had voted for change whilst the people of Dublin had prevented this from happening. That is a fair assessment and my fellow Dubliners have rallied behind Bertie "I'm one o' da lads" Ahern. I'd like the rest of the country to know however that not all us Dubs are enamoured with these clowns and that some of us, myself certainly, are gutted at the way things have turned out. T'was an opportunity to make real change and it was an opportunity utterly wasted.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Gangsters set for another term
Fianna Fáil have defied the odds and could land over 80 seats. It is entirely possible as I write this that they could even end up with an overall majority which would be quite remarkable.
Fine Gael have made gains but Labour have struggled. The PDs have done badly, as have Sinn Féin and the Greens, and it appears the smaller parties have been the victims of the resurgence in the two big parties.
I must say I'm bitterly disappointed at the outcome of this election. As my father remarked to me earlier, "Bertie romped home eh? Just shows you how corrupt this country is." Indeed it does. I don't know what it is about Ahern but it seems like he can get away with anything in this country. He truly is the 'Teflon Taoiseach' because nothing sticks to him.
I didn't see Fianna Fáil doing this well at all and I expected the Greens to do better. The performance of Fine Gael and Labour has been pretty much what I expected. I also didn't buy into the hype about Sinn Féin taking 10+ seats and I was right as they have done poorly. Mary Lou MacDonald who was pushed heavily might not even take a seat which would be a big blow to Gerry Adams. Meanwhile Sinn Féin's Sean Crowe has lost his seat. The PDs have struggled as I expected.
I'll comment on this election more over the weekend when the results are counted but I have to conclude that Fianna Fáil's scaremongering over the economy has worked. As Bill Clinton famously remarked, "It's the economy, stupid" and the opposition parties should have done better in this area.
I feel a strong sense of sadness as I see Fianna Fáil cruising to victory in this election. Just like when Haughey was in power, the Irish people are being duped. Big time. The fools who re-elected this lot will regret it when the crises mount up. They broke their promises last time and they will break them again. It's what they do best.
I am reminded at this sad time of the words of the great American, Thomas Jefferson:
"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine."
Amen to that. The mob in this country are a right bunch of bloody idiots. You reap what you sow, folks.
Update - 8:50pm: Well here's a big casualty. Michael McDowell, leader of the PDs and the Tanaiste (Deputy Leader) of the country has conceded he has lost his seat. The PDs currently stand at 1 and have suffered a political hammering as I correctly predicted.
Is there any way back for the PDs? Doubtful.
On McDowell's departure from Irish politics, I for one won't be shedding any tears. Good riddance.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Voting gets under way
I just got back from my local voting station which I must say was pretty quiet. For a second I thought I'd wandered into the local Liverpool fan club (well done AC Milan by the way).
How did I vote you ask? Well I gave my first preference to Labour and I gave transfers to Fine Gael and the Greens. Fianna Fáil, the PDs and Sinn Féin received diddly squat from me. Here's hoping my compatriots vote along similar lines and get rid of this corrupt shower of incompetent buffoons!
Voting closes at half past ten tonight and counting begins at 9am tomorrow morning. This election is expected to be one of the tightest in this state's history so if you haven't voted yet I urge you to do so because your vote certainly does matter in this election.
Turnout was 62% in the 2002 election so it will be very interesting to see if we can better that this year.
I have already touched on how many seats I see the parties taking but in case you missed that, here is how I calculated matters:
Fianna Fáil - 68 seats (-10)
Fine Gael - 50 seats (+18)
Labour - 20 seats (-1)
Greens - 9 seats (+3)
Sinn Féin - 8 seats (+3)
Progressive Democrats - 3 seats (-5)
Ind/Others - 8 seats
Since 84 is the magic number required, by my figures that would leave Fianna Fáil and Labour the obvious option for a coalition government. I'm hoping I'm wrong though and that Fine Gael, Labour (and maybe the Greens if need be) can form a government instead. We'll have to wait and see how things go.
Like I said in a recent post, hopefully the "Next Steps" that Fianna Fáil have mentioned in their election manifestos will ultimately turn out to be the steps leading out of Dáil Eireann.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Enda vs Bertie - Who won?
Was it a bruising encounter? No. Did it have the energy of Wednesday night's debate? No. It did in my mind however serve a purpose and I found it a welcome exchange in helping me make up my mind for next week's election.
Obviously the big question is - who won out? In my opinion Kenny just shaded it. I would say though that this was more to do with Ahern producing a fairly lacklustre performance rather than Kenny wowing me. I felt Kenny did well however and that he produced a suitable performance. Below you'll find a more detailed account of how I thought each man did...
Enda Kenny - Fine Gael
Having stated already that I will be seeking a change of government, going into this debate I was looking for three things from Enda Kenny - an impassioned account of his party's policies, a well-reasoned argument on why a change of government is so sorely needed, as well as a performance that presented him as a man who could realistically lead this country. I felt he delivered on all three areas. He gave a strong defence of Fine Gael's aims, he articulated very well what a disaster Fianna Fáil's spell in power has been (particularly on health) and in contrast to his predecessor Michael Noonan, he came across like a guy who could realistically run the Republic of Ireland and run it well.
Having said that I would have liked him to have gone for Ahern's jugular when the subject of his personal finances came up but that's a small gripe on my part.
Four out of five. A slick effort which refreshingly had substance to back it up.
My own calculations last week had Fine Gael taking 50 seats, giving them an increase of 18 and making them the party which would profit most at Fianna Fáil's expense. However when I added up my numbers and added them to the numbers I worked out for Labour and the Greens, it only came to 79 which would not be enough to form a government. I really hope Fine Gael end up taking more seats than 50 but we shall see how things go. Kenny's performance in the debate won't do him any harm by my reckoning.
Bertie Ahern - Fianna Fáil
For a guy who has been getting stick from the national media, the public and even his junior partners in government, this was a very respectable performance. I was particularly keen on seeing how Ahern would handle the issue of his finances. As much as I don't believe a word of his explanation on that matter, I felt it was nonetheless a deft explanation on his part rather than a daft one. Having said all that I felt it was a pretty lethargic performance from the Taoiseach. Someone texted in to RTE saying they felt Ahern looked "jaded". I think that's an apt description of his performance. Ahern I felt lacked the fire in his belly that I've seen him show on previous public exchanges. I'm not sure whether that was down to Enda Kenny or whether it was the furore about his personal finances catching up with him, but tonight the Taoiseach did nothing for me.
People are stuck on trolleys, crime is going out of control and yet Ahern was left repeating promises he'd made years ago. Promises which he hasn't kept. I thought Kenny came out with a good line when he said, "Taoiseach are you not embarrassed repeating promises you made ten years ago?"
Not a bad performance from Ahern by any means but he could have done a lot better.
3 out of 5. Disappointing display. He was bested on this occasion.
As I stated last week, the way I have it worked out Fianna Fáil will take 68 seats and since I have the PDs ending up with 3 seats that would leave Fianna Fáil and the PDs unable to form a government again. I have Labour taking 20 seats and if that's how things turn out, Fianna Fáil and Labour could form a government together as they'd have 88 seats by my figures which would be well enough. However, Labour leader Pat Rabbitte has stated that he will not do a deal with Ahern as he wants an alternative so my calculations have things looking very messy indeed if that's how things actually pan out. I hope instead that Fianna Fáil take a real hammering in this election and that it will be a smooth transition into an alternative government. On this occasion I'm willing my figures to be wrong!
I'm not sure what effect, if any, this debate will have on how the election goes. Personally speaking my mind is well and truly made up and I'll be backing the alternative government. Interestingly, I just nipped over to Paddy Power's Irish Election Betting.com and according to them:
"Enda Kenny is consolidating his position as the odds-on 8/11 favourite to become next Taoiseach. Bertie Ahern has drifted to 11/8, his longest odds of the campaign to date.
"Punters are also putting their money behind the 'Alternative Government', which is now the Even money favourite for success."
I don't always trust opinion polls but I do tend to trust the Bookies and this news pleases me greatly. I'm hopeful that by the end of this month Enda Kenny will be Taoiseach and that Fianna Fáil and the PDs will be out of office.
Roll on election day.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Party leaders lock horns
I'll thus give my thoughts on how the parties will do whilst I comment on the leader's performances one by one.
On Wednesday we had the four smaller parties represented. Labour's Pat Rabbitte, the PDs' Michael McDowell, Trevor Sargent of the Greens and Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams were involved. Thursday is being billed as the big head-to-head as it will pit Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of Fianna Fáil against Fine Gael hopeful Enda Kenny. These Irish head-to-heads usually lack the big drama of, say, the American efforts but this one should be interesting to see whether Mr Kenny twists the knife over Ahern's recent financial difficulties.
As for Wednesday's programme, I felt it was pretty interesting and it made for good TV as they all laid into one another. Here are my thoughts on how the leaders did along with how I reckon their parties will do in the May 24th election...
Trevor Sargent - Greens
I felt Sargent had McDowell rattled more than any of the other panellists. Seeing as that was exactly what I was looking for going into this show, I was left impressed. He did well I felt in hammering home this government's failure to provide an equal society for Irish people. Going into this show I was apathetic towards Mr Sargent's party. Now I regard them as a good option. I think that stands as a good display on his part.
Four out of five. Good work.
Based on my own calculations from last week I had the Greens winning 9 seats from this election which would be an increase of 3. In most people's view that would be around the best the party can hope for. I'll stick to my guns on that one and say they'll take 9 seats.
Michael McDowell - PDs
Ah poor Mickey McD. He's not had a great time of late. Current polls make for grim reading for his party. One minute he's raising questions about the Taoiseach's finances, the next minute he's laughing and joking with him. The people are a bit baffled. You would have thought then that on Wednesday evening McDowell would have presented a cool demeanour and tried to reassure those who were losing faith in his party. Instead, McDowell decided to snarl and snap at everybody around him. To my mind he spent more time bashing others than promoting his party's policies. He sounded like a desperate man. With that being said it wasn't a disastrous performance on McDowell's part but I doubt he's won anyone over with his backs-against-the-wall display.
Two out of five. He was flustered and it showed.
The PDs have 8 seats at present. Most people are predicting losses for them. The question is, how many? My calculations have them picking up just 3 seats which is a loss of 5. That would be a very bad day for McDowell's party indeed. Fingers crossed!
Pat Rabbitte - Labour
I've stated already that I'll be backing Labour and Fine Gael so tonight I was looking for Rabbitte to justify my faith in his party. I thought he did very well. Unlike McDowell he DID keep his cool and he uttered the line of the night referring to McDowell as a "menopausal Paris Hilton". I loved McDowell's reaction to that line. Of course, as much as I like seeing McDowell under pressure, I primarily want to know if Labour will deliver for the public. I felt Rabbitte did a good job emphasising his party's policies and I believe Labour will do well handling the economy despite McDowell's scaremongering.
Three out of five. Good, solid performance but I would have liked him to be a bit more forceful as Sargent was.
Labour are on 21 seats at present. My calculations have them ending up with 20 seats when it's all over. That will be a disappointment to many but who knows, it might see them in government.
Gerry Adams - Sinn Féin
Adams was at times a bit like the boy left out as the debate continued. It seems to me that he has no idea whatsoever when it comes to economic policies and he frequently brought up the peace process and tried to move the debate over to that topic. He did however impress me with his talk of making Ireland a more equal society and that more importance should be placed on tackling drugs. It was this point that led McDowell to sensationally claim that Adams, "sold provo know-how to the FARC guerrillas in Colombia in exchange for 25 million US dollars". To me though this just made McDowell look desperate (I mean why bring this up now?) and I thought Adams was right to regard it as pathetic on the PD leader's part. So overall I'd say Adams was so-so.
Three out of five. Fought his corner well but he is very poor on the economic nitty-gritty stuff.
Currently the Shinners have 5 seats. The way I have it worked out they'll take 8 seats this time around. That will be a good improvement for them but, in my view, not good enough to get them into government.
If anyone wants to check out the debate, or commentary on the debate, you can do so on RTE here.
As I touched on above, Thursday should be fascinating as Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny clash. I'll look to post my thoughts on that debate when it's over.
Let the gloves come off!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Harry avoids Iraq - what a surprise!
According to a statement from Clarence House, The prince is "very disappointed" at the decision but will not be leaving the Army as a result.
Explaining his decision General Dannatt said:
"Following a visit to Iraq last week I discovered a number of threats relating directly to Prince Harry and those around him and I am not prepared to export those risks."
Commenting on the news, Reg Keys, whose son Thomas was killed while on active service in Basra in 2003, said he found the decision distasteful and questioned whether insurgents could have told the prince apart from other service personnel. Mr Keys added:
"It would appear that Harry's life is more valuable than my son or the other nearly 150 service personnel who've given their lives."
That would appear to be the case, yes. I have to laugh at this excuse about Harry's life being under threat if he went over there. Isn't that what serving in the Army is all about? This isn't a game, it's real life. The British troops in Iraq are under threat every day.
If I was a British person I'd be asking myself why this royal gets to avoid service on account of the dangers in Iraq, yet the rest of the British troops have to endure it. It seems royal blood means more than "common" blood.
Then again that is the way modern Britain is. It's one rule for some and another rule for royalty. There was a story yesterday about Mohammed Al Fayed wanting to involve the Queen in the Diana inquest. The reaction? Well here is what the coronoer 'Lady Butler-Sloss' (nothing upper class about that name!) had to say:
"As far as Her Majesty is concerned, I don’t know what the protocol is and whatever the protocol may be it should be observed.
"In as far as you’re saying that Her Majesty should be directly approached, I think that’s unheard of."
Yeah, God forbid that happen. We can't have the British public thinking they and the monarchy are on their level. The very idea!
It's farcical situations like these which make me appreciate how fortunate I am to live in a republic where all men and women are regarded as equals.
For British personnel, It should be either "all in" or "all out". If Iraq is too dangerous for Harry then it's too dangerous for everybody else.
I feel sorry for the British people. They're being treated like mugs.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Paddy last in Euro farce!
Sadly Ireland suffered the indignity of coming dead last this year as it seems the people of Europe, with the exception of the tone deaf Albanians who gave us 5 points, quite rightly snubbed our mediocre effort.
The song "They Can't stop the Spring" by folk band Dervish picked up the proverbial wooden spoon and I was disappointed that our nearest neighbours the UK didn't give us any points! We gave their entry 7 points even though their song was just as bad as ours if not worse.
I sat through the Irish entry with my hands covering my face. To call it cringeworthy would be an understatement. It had the most in-your-face "diddly-eye" music you will ever hear in your life. I was half expecting a farmer and his cow to walk out on stage.
The person who choreographed the Irish entry must have been stoned because it was like watching something from Woodstock. The lead singer Cathy Jordan was dressed up like a hippy and waved her hands about as if she was beckoning the return of flower power to the masses. Just atrocious altogether.
They can't sing a note
Of course even if Ireland had produced a good song it wouldn't have mattered much as the contest has become a great big joke with the Balkan countries always voting for one another. Same with the Scandinavian countries. Obviously when you're an island nation you don't stand much of a chance. Especially when the nearest island won't give you a vote. Miserable Brits!
The song which did win was a big pile of rubbish and I was amazed that it won. It was so forgettable I can't even recall the tune. I felt the best song came from Georgia but that didn't fare too well. The favourite was Ukraine's entry which featured a drag queen with some sort of star on her...uh I mean his head, but that ended up in second place. Interestingly Ireland gave maximum points to Lithuania which was bizarre as they weren't popular with other nations at all. Did Ireland's Lithuanian immigrant population dial up in their droves for it?
Anyway I just thought I'd share my thoughts on what was a very frustrating evening indeed. Expect to hear this Eurovision humbling discussed in great detail over the weekend here in Ireland as the media tear into Dervish.
I miss the days when we couldn't stop winning this contest but the Eastern Europeans have ruined all that, along with the abysmal songs Ireland have churned out of course.
One final note, pardon the pun, Irish people want us to get closer to these chaps and to embrace Europe? My hole. They'd gobble us up if they got a chance. Self-serving swines the lot of 'em!
Friday, May 11, 2007
Sanchez abandons NI fans as predicted
"During my last month or so at Fulham I became increasingly enthused by working daily with players on the training pitch, and the satisfaction that I felt at seeing the end result on a weekly basis.
"Northern Ireland will be a great job for someone and I leave the team in good shape with them at the top of their Euro 2008 qualifying group.
"I wish them all the best for the future. They're disappointed but I hope they understand my actions."
Hate to say I told you so NI fans but...here is what I said back on April 11th when it was announced that the NI boss had taken up the job with Fulham but would stay with NI part-time:
"Of course we have the typical guff coming from the IFA and Sanchez himself trying to reassure NI fans that he "remains committed" but when one reads between the lines it's clear his heart is not in his current job.
"Anyone who follows football knows how this sort of thing works. Sanchez will dip his toes into the waters of top-level management and will soon want to abandon the morass that is the NI set-up. And you NI fans thought things were going so well!"
Of course NI fans wouldn't believe me would they? Let's look at some of their replies:
"While I'd prefer we had Sanchez's undivided attention, I'm reasonably relaxed about this development. He'll not be in 'international duty' again till August, and it was always likely he'd leave either after the qualifiers (if we don't qualify) or the finals (if we do). That will remain the case."
"You honestly haven't a clue."
- Audaces Fortuna Juvat
"News that Lawrie wishes to persue (sic) his career in the full time thrust of club football comes as no surprise to me.
"He has made that absolutely clear publicly since the day he signed the contract at the IFA - a contract I believe he will honour.
"That contract binds him until the end of the current Euro campaign.You really should do more research on such matters before you embarrass yourself by posting such nonsense."
- Audaces Fortuna Juvat again
"I fully expect to see LS take charge of the Northern Ireland team until the end of the current campaign - albeit may well be in a part time capacity."
- Audaces Fortuna Juvat once more
Tuck into your humble pie lads! Does it taste bitter?
Like I wrote back in April, anyone who follows football knows how this sort of thing works. Sanchez leaving his post was an inevitability. His heart just wasn't in it.
I do actually sympathise with NI fans as I feel he has left them high and dry and I don't like to see that sort of thing happen. I don't fancy their chances of qualification now seeing as Sanchez has worked a minor miracle there.
NI fans must be gutted.
The war is over - the election isn't though...
That was a battle which, to a large extent, helped shape the future of Europe, and while today was a friendly meeting of the two traditions on this island, it is clear that Ahern was sending out a battle cry to the rest of the Irish parties as an election looms which, to a large extent, will shape the future of this island.
Both men were in good spirits as they viewed an exhibition on the battle at Oldbridge House, part of a multi-million pound restoration project by the Irish government. Said Ahern:
"This is of course a special place for the Protestant/unionist and loyalist people of this island and the government was deeply conscious of this when we acquired the site back in 2000.
"Since then we have launched a development programme which will see the completion of new visitor facilities next year, which will secure over 500 acres of beautiful countryside for future generations to enjoy."
Ian Paisley presented the Taoiseach with a musket in return for Mr Ahern's gift at the St Andrews talks of a walnut bowl made from a tree from the site. A tree was also planted in the grounds of Oldbridge House to mark the occasion.
'Bring on the Shinners!'
Paisley said he appreciated Mr Ahern's welcome and "what has been done here and you will have an invasion from Ulster on many occasions". He joked, "I trust you will not allow any of these weapons to be commissioned".
Ahern and Paisley also attended a reception for guests from north and south of the border. The guests included politicians, representatives of the Orange Order and other loyal orders, local authorities and others associated with the project to develop the site. The Tanaiste Michael McDowell and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern were also in attendance, along with newly appointed ministers from the Northern executive.
I'm aware that today was a very encouraging day for the people of Ireland. Despite that fact, people in this half of the island anyway should take note of the timing of this event.
As much as I oppose Ahern's policies and character, I'll give the devil his due and acknowledge that he is a master at manipulating the media to suit his own ends. He did it months ago when questions first arose about his finances when he tearfully appeared on RTE protesting his innocence and pleading to be understood (which many people lapped up). Now we have 'Bertie the conciliator' standing shoulder to shoulder with the man Irish republicans have long viewed as the Antichrist. I've no doubt many Irish people will lap this moment up too without reflecting on it in greater detail. I shan't be one of them.
Having said that, I don't wish to pour scorn on this moment as I recognise the significance of it. I commend Ian Paisley on taking this step and I'll leave the last words with him:
"Instead of reverberating to the roar of cannon fire and the charge of men the shot of musket or the clash of sword steel, today we have the tranquillity of still water where we can contemplate the past and look forward to the future."
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Bertiegate? Baloneygate more like
Last week we had Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Tom Parlon, claiming Fine Gael were about to trigger a "bomb of information" on Day 21 of the campaign trail, and now members of the media are getting in on the act as well. Take a look at the words of the Evening Herald's Andrew Lynch from yesterday's paper:
"THIS election campaign is being hijacked...Somewhere in the bowels of Dublin Castle, a shadowy puppet master is trying to pull the media's strings and destroy a Taoiseach."
You couldn't make this stuff up, could you? Clearly someone was watching his 24 DVD box set a little too much over the weekend.
'Where is the shadowy puppet master?'
Lynch goes on to defend the Taoiseach and tries to determine who might want to ruin oul' lovable Bertie's reputation. First he suggests Sinn Féin:
"It's also worth noting that on the doorsteps, SF canvassers are using this affair to brazenly claim that FF are fundamentally corrupt and that they're now the true voice of republicanism."
Oh My God! Are you serious? How dare they! Imagine, a party highlighting the misdeeds of its rival! This is truly unheard of.
Lynch then goes on to suggest the Opposition, more specifically Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, are to blame for the leaks. He adds this delightful little doozy:
"We may never know for sure, but we do know this. Irish people have a strong sense of fair play and they won't like the idea of their election being guided by a hidden hand."
The Irish people have a strong sense of fair play, do we? God knows how Charles Haughey lasted so long then. I also love how Lynch talks about "a strong sense of fair play" yet overlooks the key issue here - that Ahern's finances appear to be dodgy! Where's the fair play there, Andrew? Why not lash out at that?
Lynch instead directs his ire at those trying to "manipulate" events yet it's plain to see he is attempting to do the very same thing when it comes to his own readers. Not all of us are that dumb, Lynchy boy. Look at his sad final paragraph:
"The Mahon mole must be sniggering up his sleeve right now, but on May 24 he might find that the electorate is not as easy to manipulate as he thinks."
Ooh, do you think so Andrew? There I was thinking that the main problem was the Taoiseach's suspicious finances when clearly the real problem is this "Mahon mole" trying to deceive little old me. Well then, I'm not going to stand for that! I'm going to do my utmost to ensure Bertie Ahern gets another term in office! Or...maybe not.
This hysterical rhetoric from the Government is becoming increasingly desperate. Rattled? You bet they are.
I don't give a damn how this information got out or gets out. Hell, the tooth fairy can deliver it for all I care. I just want to hear the TRUTH about what these guys were up to and I think most Irish people feel the same. I'm sick of the current crowd dismissing and demeaning these findings and trying to play them off like they don't matter.
They DO matter. And on May 24, I pray that this Government and the well oiled lickspittles like Andrew Lynch get that message loud and clear.
Party Profile - Fianna Fáil
So anyway I sat down a few hours ago and figured, 'What the hell I'll write it out again' and lo and behold, I lost the damn thing again. That's right folks, I lost the same bloody post. TWICE.
I'm starting to wonder if Bertie Ahern has got some securocrats on my case because he doesn't like me talking about him. Anyway I just thought I'd share all that with you because when you read this post it will be the third draft and it has me feeling mightily PISSED OFF. (sigh) OK I feel better after that whinge. Alright then let's try this one more time...
This is the first in a series of posts I have decided to write on the General Election (didn't plan on doing this many admittedly) which will take a look at all the main parties fighting for votes. I think it might prove particularly interesting for readers outside these shores who might not be too familiar with the groups involved. As well as that it will give me a chance to go into detail with my thoughts on the lot of 'em. So then, let's begin by taking a look at Fianna Fáil.
Fianna Fáil, in English meaning the 'Soldiers of Destiny', are the largest political party in Ireland. They are currently in power in the Republic alongside their junior coalition partners the Progressive Democrats. They are led by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
The party traces its roots back to the huge split which occurred in Irish politics over the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which paved the way for the Irish Free State and which ultimately led to the Irish Civil War. Having initially refused to accept the legitimacy of the Free State, Eamon de Valera realised the public were willing to give it a chance and so he attempted to persuade Sinn Féin to abandon its policy of abstentionism and to take up seats in the Dáil. Sinn Féin refused and so in 1926 de Valera resigned from the party. Thus Fianna Fáil was born.
The party's chief goals upon its inception were the reunification of the country and the restoration of the language. While the party claims to feel strongly about both issues to this day, in truth the party has become more focused on the bread-and-butter issues of Irish politics.
The party has traditionally counted upon support from the working class community and has proven popular in both rural and urban parts of the country. The party has historically had quite a conservative outlook.
Under de Valera the party transformed Ireland from a Dominion state into a republic in all but name. Under his leadership the country also managed to make it through the Second World War relatively unscathed.
The Lemass era opened Ireland up to Free Trade politics and moved it away from relying upon a protectionist agricultural policy (although Protectionism had initially been Fianna Fáil policy to begin with)
Fianna Fail has also presided over the Celtic Tiger boom which has resulted in the most prosperous years of the Irish state's existence.
Under Reynolds and Ahern the party was also involved substantially in advancing the peace process in the north of Ireland.
Hmm, gangsterism? Well their election manifesto has been titled "The Next Steps" so I'll let them explain in their own words:
"Ireland has achieved an incredible amount in the last 10 years and the NEXT STEPS are all about protecting our success and your future."
I find this quite funny actually because when you look at it closely it almost sounds like a threat. Protect their success? Protect your future? I'm a little concerned. Seriously though it seems their campaign will centre around economic issues which is smart because economically the country has done well under them. The first paragraphs of their manifesto highlight the emphasis they are placing on their economic record:
"Fianna Fáil in government has led the transformation of Ireland's economy. We have moved from being a high-unemployment, high-tax and low public investment country to having the lowest unemployment, lowest taxes on workers and highest rate of public investment in Europe.
"We reject the shallow ideologies of right and left, believing that a strong economy, the promotion of individual enterprise and increasing investment in public services are fundamentally-linked objectives. The record of the last ten years shows that this approach works."
Given that the Taoiseach has had to answer questions on his own finances, it will be interesting to see how the financial debates pan out over the next fortnight.
I like the ideology of Fianna Fáil a great deal and I have spoken many times on United Irelander about my admiration for Eamon de Valera. I also have respect for later Fianna Fáil Prime Ministers who followed such as Sean Lemass and Jack Lynch. Sadly, the corrupt years of Charles Haughey (the man de Valera remarked would ruin the party) and several corrupt Ministers have brought shame on this once proud party.
I reckon De Valera must be spinning in his grave at the behaviour of these chancers. Bertie Ahern is now facing big questions about his own finances and I must say I don't trust the man one bit. There is a culture of corruption in the party now. It's rife.
I am also sick and tired of the broken promises offered by FF (remember that new national stadium we were promised last time?) and I'm angry at the Ireland I see around me. Every week I read reports of stabbings and shootings and it's becoming apparent that the current shower are losing the battle on crime. Add to that the health crisis and people being left on trolleys or sent home when they shouldn't be and you've got one great big mess. A mess I don't think Fianna Fáil can clean up.
So to summarise, will Fianna Fáil be getting my vote? Not a chance. As far as I'm concerned the 'Next Steps' they can take are the steps leading out of Dáil Eireann!
Current polls have Fianna Fáil and the PDs neck and neck right now with Fine Gael and Labour. This election will be very close indeed. I've read a lot of predictions on how many seats each party will take. To achieve an overall majority a party needs 84 seats. That won't happen this time around we can say with a fair degree of certainty. Last time Fianna Fáil managed 81 seats and the Progressive Democrats made up the rest.
I hope to go into greater detail on seat tallies at a later date but my prediction is that Fianna Fáil will lose a lot of seats this time and from my own calculations I have them taking just 68 seats which would be a loss of 13. Now I'll concede there might be quite a bit of wishful thinking there on my part but we'll see how things go.
I do think the time is ripe to send Fianna Fáil a message and I hope the electorate do precisely that later this month. This party has needed a wake-up call for a long, long time now and I for one will be giving it to them at the ballot box.
The steps are that way, boys...
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Smiles all round as devolution returns
Well it's been a long time coming but devolved government has finally returned to the people of Ireland's north. No longer will decisions be made by Direct Rule ministers in London, now they will be made by locally elected representatives of the six counties.
Today's events please me greatly as I started this blog back in December of 2004 and back then the prospect of the North's executive returning seemed very remote indeed. Since that point in time, great strides forward have been made by both sides of the community and a promising future beckons for the people of this island.
Back then I never would have imagined that in less than three years the paramilitaries would be effectively removed from the political equation and that Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness would be made First Minister and Deputy First Minister respectively. That's what has happened though and I thought British PM Tony Blair made an interesting comment today in relation to that:
"There are people who still think that the compromises that were made along the way were unacceptable.
"But sometimes politics is about that in order to achieve a better end - and there are always two kinds of people in politics - those who stand aside and commentate and those who get their hands dirty and do."
The ends don't always justify the means but if everything pans out for the best in NI then maybe in this instance they do. History won't remember the voices of disapproval, the Jim Allisters and Bob McCartneys of this world. No, instead history will remember the 8th of May, 2007, as a day when people compromised, swallowed their pride and took the necessary steps to pave the way for a better future for all.
It may be an imperfect peace but it's a peace nonetheless and God willing, it will hold out over the long run.
As for the two Prime Ministers, they played their part in this process and deserve credit. I have little respect for Bertie Ahern and personally regard him as a snake, but sometimes you need a snake to keep the rats in check. I felt Ahern paid a nice tribute to his counterpart Tony Blair for making the peace process work:
"This was not a process that promised quick or easy rewards. But he (Tony Blair) has been a true friend of peace, and a true friend of Ireland.
"And for that we express our heartfelt thanks. I thank him, not so much for the tea, not so much for the castles that I had the pleasure of spending so many times in, but for the true determination that he had, for just sticking with it.
"For 10 tough years, he has spent more times dealing with the issues of the island of Ireland than any person every could have asked any other person to do."
These days I take what Ahern says with a pinch of salt but on this occasion he's spot on in what he said.
All in all I think the majority of people in Ireland can be content about today's events. Having said that we shouldn't slap their backs and kiss their arses too much as they still have to prove that they can work together. We've had a lot of false dawns in the past and while I'm more optimistic about the future now than I ever have been in the past, the onus is still on the North's politicians to make it work.
It's also worth pointing out that amidst all the platitudes and praise that will no doubt be heaped upon NI by many nations in the next few hours and days, NI remains an artificially constructed political entity which was the by-product of sectarianism and greed.
Today's event should be seen by the people of this island as a stepping stone to the reunification of Ireland and as a means to righting the wrong of 1921 and the disgraceful mutilation of our country. We have been scarred by Partition for many decades. Soon though we will be free from this blemish upon our nation.
Monday, May 07, 2007
'We come of the same stock' - Paisley
If I were to ask you all to tell me which politician from the North had uttered the above sentence, you might answer back Gerry Adams, or maybe Mark Durkan, but I doubt many of you would expect a sentence like that to have been uttered by the Reverend Ian Paisley, leader of the largest unionist party in NI. Yet it was indeed Paisley who uttered that very line when speaking to RTE correspondent Tommy Gorman yesterday evening. You can see it here. (Real Player req'd)
I couldn't believe my eyes and my ears as I observed Ian Paisley, the man who at one time threw snowballs at Taoiseach Sean Lemass on a trip to the North, the man who helped organise riots over the flying of an Irish tricolour, sitting down calmly discussing the similarities of people across Ireland.
It reflects a new-found spirit of openness on the part of Paisley who tomorrow is set to be sworn in as the North's First Minister at Stormont and who, later this week, will meet with current Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as the pair visit the Battle of the Boyne, the site of King William of Orange's famous victory in 1690 over the forces of King James.
It's a quite extraordinary time for the people of this island and it really hammers home how far we've come from the dark days of the past. The Provos and the UVF are no longer in the equation, devolved government is set to return to the North, Paisley and the Taoiseach are taking a trip to an important unionist spot. It's cause for optimism and if we can get through summer without any trouble then there's a lot to be excited about for the future.
Paisley is right - we do come from the same stock and there is a similarity in our characters. That is why, when conditions are right, we will vote to reunify our land so we can all move forward as one into a golden future.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Labour and FG please save us from these crooks
Meanwhile, here in Ireland, things just got a whole hell of a lot more interesting as yet more questions emerged about the Taoiseach's finances, with the PDs leaving Ahern to explain himself to the people.
The issue centres around whether or not the Planning Tribunal is investigating £30,000 given to Ahern by businessman Micheál Wall. On Thursday, Ahern came under fire from journalist Vincent Browne:
"The problem about this money that you got from Micheál Wall is, that it ain't credible that it was for the purpose of the renovation of a house".
A flustered Taoiseach replied:
"This has nothing to do with the tribunal. I allocated my money for uses and I'm entitled to do that. I earned the money."
Unfortunately for Bertie, the PDs have been sticking the knife in with speculation that they would even choose to leave government. Today leader of the PDs Michael McDowell backed away from that idea but called on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to make a full public statement about his finances. He added it was now appropriate that a full statement be made by Mr Ahern stating that the information given by the Taoiseach last autumn was very different from the information now available from other sources.
So then, yet another scandal surrounding Ahern and his government. Charlie Haughey would be proud wouldn't he?
My take on this is that Fianna Fáil have proven themselves to be totally untrustworthy for government. How many brown envelopes was the Taoiseach receiving back then I wonder? His postman must have been very busy.
I happened to tune in to RTE 1 this morning where I found an Election 2007 special. In a very amusing turn of events Progressive Democrat TD, and current Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Tom Parlon, phoned in to the programme and his performance was simply woeful. He ended up making a mockery of McDowell's tough stance on Ahern by effectively suggesting Ahern be given the benefit of the doubt! But that was not all - Mr Parlon revealed that a Fine Gael deputy had told him Fine Gael are set to trigger a "bomb of information" on Day 21 of the election which will apparently shake the current government to its core. Man, this election is coming across like an episode of 24.
Labour's Ruairi Quinn, Fine Gael's Brian Hayes and the Green Party's John Gormley were in the studio and the general consensus was Parlon's performance had been "pathetic". I concur. As Hayes pointed out, the real reason Parlon was not going for Fianna Fáil's jugular was more likely down to the fact that he faces a stiff challenge from Fine Gael's Charles Flanagan in his Laois-Offaly constituency and he desperately needs Fianna Fáil transfers to retain his seat. Nice to know that that Mr Parlon puts selfish interests before the interests of the country. I hope people in Laois and Offaly were watching.
Amazingly, the revelations about Ahern's finances could end up proving to be a positive for the embattled Prime Minister. A Red C poll in today's Sunday Business Post shows that despite the controversy, support for Fianna Fáil has increased by two points to 37%. You may also remember that the last time there was controversy about Ahern's dodgy dealings, support for him increased then too. Proof if any were needed that there are a lot of morons in this country. In most other countries when a Prime Minister engages in questionable activity support would dip but in this country, you can actually prosper from it. It's probably why Haughey did so well in Irish politics.
Maybe Fianna Fáil should acknowledge that Ahern has been using his position improperly. Maybe throw in some information about people he had "whacked". I reckon Fianna Fáil would then win an overall majority such is the idiocy inherent in so many people here. I despair sometimes I really do.
Even so, Ahern is under real pressure right now and I am hopeful and confident that his past will ultimately come back to haunt him.
I can now reveal that I have made my mind up which way I will be voting in the General Election. With Fianna Fáil showing themselves to be both gangsters and a waste of space, with the PDs proving they are cynical opportunists with no real policies, with Sinn Féin being Sinn Féin, it leaves me with only one real alternative - a rainbow coalition.
My first preference will go to Labour and I will give transfers to Fine Gael and perhaps the Greens. Possibly an Independent as well. Damn the other shower of gangsters.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Can you come up with a good caption? See my effort by rolling over the image.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Thank you, Tony
Blair has been in power in Britain since 1997 and stands as the Labour Party's longest-serving PM, the only person to have led the party to three consecutive general election victories, and the only Labour PM to serve more than one full consecutive term.
In a matter of weeks Gordon Brown is set to succeed him as the new Prime Minister of the country.
The Spotlight programme touched upon Blair's legacy in relation to Irish politics and featured interviews with figures from across the political spectrum ranging from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, to the DUP's Ian Paisley to Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness. The general consensus from those interviewed was that Blair has done an admirable job when it comes to the North.
McGuinness said Irish Republicans would generally not give credit to British Prime Ministers but that he would give Blair credit for his role in the peace process .
Paisley was not quite as kind but conceded Blair had done more for NI than his predecessors had (although John Major in my view deserves credit for his role also).
The Taoiseach meanwhile made a good point when he said that no British PM has taken such an interest in Irish politics and had the influence on matters here in Ireland as much as Tony Blair has done.
That is correct. Not since William Ewart Gladstone have we in Ireland had a British Prime Minister take such an active interest in making this island a better place. Gladstone's efforts to bring about Home Rule in Ireland would ultimately prove to be in vain but Blair's effort to bring about agreement across the island has proven to be largely successful.
People unwilling to give the man his due with respect to events here need to open their eyes and take a look at the Ireland pre-1997 and the Ireland of 2007. Prior to Blair taking office, the Provisional IRA were still around, still arming and still posing a grave threat to peace and stability. Unionists were hostile to Sinn Féin, nationalist demands and the southern half of the island which still set out a constitutional claim on the North. Now fast-forward to the Ireland we have ten years later. The Provisional IRA have declared their war is over, their arms are decommissioned and they are no longer arming. Sinn Féin are on the policing board and are about to share power with Ian Paisley's party. Unionists enjoy a much better relationship with Dublin and there are currently plans for Paisley to visit the Battle of the Boyne site with the Taoiseach. The DUP have made frequent political visits down south too.
If you had told somebody prior to Blair's tenure in office that these things would happen they simply would not have believed you. Why? Because it sounded impossible. But in a lot of ways that is what Tony Blair, admittedly with help from Bertie Ahern, has done - made the impossible possible.
In office, Blair has had to endure an appalling amount of criticism. The British public aren't the sort of people to heap praise on those in authority, unless you wear a crown on your head that is, and Blair has been the target of mocking being called names like "Bush's poodle" and "Teflon Tony". I've always found it rather disappointing. In fact, I think the British public might be in for a rude awakening when Gordon Brown steps into power. I get the feeling Blair will look a damn sight more appealing when Brown finally steps into 10 Downing Street and I reckon the grass won't seem quite as green to the Labour ministers when that time comes. We shall see.
I suspect that here in Ireland Blair will be remembered pretty fondly but I get the impression that outside of these shores, the 'I' which Blair is associated with most will not be 'Ireland', it will be 'Iraq'. Regardless of what one thinks of Blair's policy on Iraq I think with hindsight we can see that Blair placed too much trust in America's George W. Bush and that this trust was not respected the way it should have been. The "special relationship" between America and Britain, from this outsider's perspective anyway, was not handled well by the Americans and I think a lot of British people are justifiably angry about that.
Personally speaking, I have nothing but respect for Tony Blair and all the diligent work he has put in to making my country a better place to live in. People are happier and more optimistic and the "dark days of The Troubles" seem consigned to the past forever thank God. Blair has played a big role in making that a reality.
Arguably the most famous quote to ever come from the lips of Tony Blair came prior to the Good Friday Agreement when a deal was close to falling through. Blair commented, "I feel the hand of history on our shoulder". So often in Ireland the "hand of history" is a heavy one and weighs people down but Blair was not brought down by it, instead he used it to lift everyone else up to a new plateau. A better place.
That's not the stuff of any old politician. That the stuff of a master statesman and, in my opinion, a fine man to boot.
Thank you for your contribution Tony. I for one will not forget it.
© 2008 United Irelander.