Archive for February 28, 2016

Biggest failures in #GE16? Labour, FF, FG and journalism

What election were you watching?

The one I saw was the utter destruction of the status quo.

Incredibly, what a lot of my colleagues apparently saw was a resurgence of it, in the form of Fianna Fáil.

Who, incidentally, had their second-worst election on record.

I saw the outright rejection of the traditional right-wing (note – not centre-right) notion of “stability”of so-called Christian democrats as embodied by the singularly inept and staggeringly incompetent Enda Kenny.

I saw the annihilation of the Irish Labour Party, 100 years after its founder was tied to a chair and shot for his revolutionary tendencies, solely because it abandoned those people who begged it with their votes to protect them.

I saw an election where a motley crew of traitors and treacherous sleeveens record their second-worst election since 1927.

I saw the return of Lowry and two Healy-Raes in an indication that the parish pump of Irish politics is still in full flow in certain parts of the country.

I saw an election that saw Sinn Féin finally returned to the political mainstream after the horrors of the “Long War.”

I saw record numbers of small parties and independents returned as the establishment which has failed Ireland since the foundation of the state was sent packing.

And I saw a fourth estate in the form of the Irish media that couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

Throughout the count, journalists and broadcasters have struggled to understand virtually all the phenomena described above, instead choosing the easy angle of the Fianna Fáil “resurgence” – despite the fact that it has seldom in its history been as weak as it is now.

The paralysis is evidenced by the “experts” called to give their opinions – almost to a man (and occasional woman), they are part of the establishment they built, all while the media stroked their egos.

We had the laughable sight of snake-oil salesman Pat Rabbitte calling anyone who annoyed him “ultra-left” and making the staggering observation that Labour – who pissed in the faces of the poor that voted for them and assured them it was raining – is the “only Social Democratic party” in Ireland.

We’ve had Jody Corcoran, whose Sunday Independent newspaper were the big losers in the election as their private Renua party ran aground on its maiden voyage, now lionizing Micheál Martin – a man they have consistently attacked for five years, but who now holds the balance of power.

And we have the return of the odious Conor Lenihan, possibly the greatest spiv of them all – a man who, together with his inept brother and the rest of their cronies, ruined Ireland.

Not only did he contribute to destroying the country – when he was done, he took his state pensions and jumped ship to tout for foreign direct investment.

For Russia.

The problem of Irish political analysis by journalists was laid bare by the pleasantries exchanged – “congratulations on your election/commiserations on losing your seat.”

Whatever you think of them, your job as a political journalist is not to engage in niceties with people in power, or those who would aspire to have it – it is to ask intelligent pertinent questions on behalf of readers and listeners and viewers.

Time and again last night, bitter Fine Gael politicians contended that it was up to the opposition to take the reins of government.

This conveniently ignored the fact that, despite their abject failure, they would still have a considerable influence on how that government might look, especially if they swallowed their pride and joined Fianna Fáil.

Elsewhere, Labour’s increasing variety of failures all used the same three words as the headed to the gallows – “the national interest”.

Seldom were either of these two self-serving, petulant narratives questioned by the journalists interviewing them.

As I’ve stated elsewhere many times, bias is not always conscious; it is sometimes a function of class and privilege and position.

It is my sincere belief that too many journalists are bound to their desks recycling press releases,tweets and Youtube sound-bytes, and not out in the field actually talking to people and building their own understanding.

In truth, far too many of those in positions of power in Irish media and who are in turn tasked with holding those in power to account are too close to be able to do so properly.

A case in point – when Brian Cowen imitated Ryder Cup golfer Philip Walton and made fun of his speech impediment late one night in a bar, there were plenty of journalists present.

Not only did they not report it – they laughed along.

If, then, reporters are too close to those they should be holding to account, it is easy to understand why they absorb the narratives fed to them like crumbs from the top table.

It is easy to see how the establishment line becomes the truth as quickly as it does.

If Labour are the greatest failures, and Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are not far behind, we must be honest and say that journalism has also failed the democratic process in Ireland.

It is not an easy place to work, but the inability to either predict or explain the outcome illustrates the need for voices who go against the grain, who do not cosy up to the powerful, and who put no price on their ability to say what they see.

In short, what we need is more independent journalists, and less Independent journalists.

And until we get that, we will only be getting the part of the story the insiders and career politicians want us to hear.

Voters suffer when journalism becomes a rich man’s game

One of the more interesting aspects of the current general election campaign – and indeed the last five years in Irish politics – is how both politicians and media are constantly and consistently misreading the electorate.

As the back-slapping reverberates around their self-contained echo chamber, journalists and politicians cosy up to one another, their flabbers completely gasted when voters either don’t buy their narratives.

Worse still, the great unwashed often ignore them completely, discussing the issues that mater to them on social media and alternative outlets like Broadsheet instead.

A recent example would be RTE’s Claire Byrne recently describing the continued existence of the Special Criminal Court as a “key issue” of the current election campaign, when it is nothing of the sort.

RTE has been accused of bias, not least by supporters of Sinn Féin and the left, and this may be true – but it’s not necessarily a conscious bias.

In fact it is more that, like a crow looking into a milk bottle, they simply don’t know what it is they are looking at.

The problem for journalism is clear – what was once a working-class profession has now become a luxury vocation for those who can afford to indulge in it, and more often than not, they are completely out of touch.

At the very outset, the gates into journalism are locked.

You either need to study journalism, communications, media or arts and pay the fees that Ruairí Quinn said you’d never have to pay.

That simple fact alone immediately closes off the avenue for many people.

(There is of course the possibility of joining a newsroom and working your way up, but this is very much the exception these days).

Then when you do struggle through college and come out the other side, you are expected to work for free for several years – the only difference between “internships” and Jobbridge is that the latter, staggeringly, actually pays more.

The fact of the matter is that more or less the only way to build a career in Irish journalism is to have a mummy or daddy with deep pockets – not the kind of people to be ticking the box for Mary Lou or Clare Daly, if the truth be told.

This process of self-selection leads to a complete lack of editorial understanding for vast swathes of the Irish political landscape, from the enormous anger over water charges to the fact that most people have long since moved on from what Sinn Féin used to be.

With expressions of anger and violence disbarred in the homes of the middle and upper classes, the editors and journalists simply do not know how to deal with it.

Instead of analysing it and trying to see it for what it is – and indeed doing something so simple as actually asking the people concerned what they think – they try to shoehorn it into a context that they can understand, and are doomed to failure.

As a result we have a situation where editors seeking to influence the political discourse don’t have to lift a finger – it is enough just to employ people who come from the same stock.

I am proud to contribute to RTE, the BBC and Swedish public service.

I strongly believe in their mandate and that it is to be defended at all costs from the constant political attacks – from both left and right – that would seek to either silence or castrate them.

I am also proud to remain independent of them – often, my only goal when I contribute is to put a face to people who go otherwise unseen in our media, be they refugees, the poor, drug addicts or whoever else..

That RTE has displayed bias during the current campaign is a moot point, but it should not be assumed that it is conscious or malevolent.

Instead, it is a problem of diversity.

Journalism was once full of working-class jobs, and we must open up the media once again not just to the working class, but to as diverse a range of people as possible.

We need to make journalism, and indeed all aspects of media work, possible, affordable and accessible for all.

At the moment, Irish media is becoming more and more a playground of rich kids, the heirs to the fortunes of The Lads, so its output in support of their aims shouldn’t surprise any of us.

And given the media’s responsibility to hold those in power to account, in the end it is voters that suffer.

We all felt you in our pockets, Fergus

A man believed to be former ACC banker Fergus Crawford who accosted Mary Lou McDonald yesterday. Doesn’t like paying tax.

NOTE: Rabo Bank, the parent of Fergus Crawford’s ACC, was never bailed out by either the Irish or Dutch state. As a collective it was never

nationalised, and instead sank €900 million into ACC.

Ironically, if it had been it would have been Dutch farmers who make up its membership that would have lost out.

So while Fergus and ACC were never the recipients of a state bailout, they certainly contributed to the 2008 meltdown in Ireland.

WE ALL FELT YOU IN OUR POCKETS, FERGUS

An impassioned “concerned citizen” and self-confessed apolitical voter confronted Sinn Féin’s Mary-Lou McDonald on Grafton Street yesterday.

He accused her and her party of attempting to “tax people out of existence.”

Why? Because if Sinn Féin get into government, he will “feel it in (my) pocket”.

Now not wanting to pay tax is understandable – indeed, tax avoidance is a favourite pastime of many Irish people.

And that this should happen before the TV cameras on Dublin’s most upmarket shopping street is almost too good to be true.

I have previously advised against ever suspecting a conspiracy where common stupidity would seem a more likely reason, but yesterday’s clash was either a divine coincidence, or a clumsy set up.

You see, if the hive mind of the internet is to be believed, we’ve all felt this guy in our pockets, for the last eight years or so.

He’s Fergus Crawford, and we apparently bailed out his bank to the tune of €900 million.

Think about that for a second – one of the greatest corporate welfare scroungers in the history of the state doesn’t want to pay tax.

Fergus didn’t reveal much about his past or present.

For instance, he never mentioned that he was a relatively senior figure at ACC, or that his current employer manages pension funds for rich people, who are not renowned for their eagerness to send cheques to the revenue.

Given that his new venture is an Irish entity for Swiss investment house Sarasin, and that a story in the Irish Independent from 2013 says that they were set to take an office at St Stephen’s Green, it’s a short imaginative leap to imagine Mr Crawford building up a head of steam before charging down his marble steps to confront the people who paid for his mistakes.

Interestingly, Mr Crawford – if it is indeed the same fella who was chief economist and Head of Product Development at ACC, among other roles before the crash – didn’t waste too much time on the “middle-income earners” that he first appeared to be taking up the cudgels for.

Nope, he quickly abandoned them. Instead, his answer to Ireland’s problems was to “create wealth” – presumably the kind of “wealth creation” that he made his name in, and that led to a €64 billion bailout by the Irish people, who are now dying on trolleys for the privilege.

Blithely ignoring the fact that the Internet would out him within hours, our as-yet anonymous concerned citizen (erroneously reported by some as a “small business owner”) then moved on to his real concern – “What about their pensions?”

For those unfamiliar with how this works, Fergus and the likes of Sarasin invest people’s money to provide them with an income when they retire, siphoning off a huge chunk of money in the process, often laughably called “management fees”.

Part of their strategy is to pay as little tax as possible, sailing very close to the wind of legality, and sometimes ending up on the wrong side of it.

As recently as January of this year Eric Sarasin paid a “low six-figure sum” to close a tax fraud investigation into his affairs in Germany.

I wrote yesterday that Ireland is run for The Lads, and with impeccable timing, up pops Fergus and his enormous sense of entitlement to confirm my every word.

Ireland is still run for The Lads alright, and will continue to be so.

But The Lads are getting worried that their gravy train is about to be derailed.

It’s about time.

 

 

 

 

The Lads are counting on you

The Lads are counting on you

The message from the establishment parties for the election is a clear one, and it’s very important that you clowns in the electorate don’t get it wrong – you need to vote for The Lads.

They’re counting on you.

Firstly, let’s get one thing straight – you don’t matter.

Not unless you’re male, an en-tra-pan-oor, own a bank or a big building in London or Singapore, or live in a tax haven.

Your function in this is to vote for people who will look after the aforementioned, not to engage in all this crap about social justice and fairness and equality and all that nonsense.

Ireland, you see, is run for The Lads – sometimes by The Lads, but mostly for them. And you better not forget that.

Forward-looking nation that we are, there are some women among The Lads, but it is mostly men.

The Lads need you to work as cheaply as possible so that they can make as much money as possible off you.

The Lads also need you to pay as much tax as possible, so that they can pay as little as possible, and then lecture you about why they shouldn’t have to pay any at all.

The Lads also need you to pay your taxes and expect nothing in return.

That way, The Lads can start up private enterprises like creches and care homes and hospitals, and have a nice oul’ closed bid process where they divvy up the public money that they can get their mitts on.

Then The Lads can then charge you through the nose for things that you’ve already paid for, but that their mates in Leinster House have ensured cannot and will never work properly.

The Lads get to sweep up everything, from “social” housing to communications networks, and you will only ever get to own a share in them if they’re not making any money and never look like doing so ever again.

And ultimately, when it all goes wrong, The Lads will come back to you looking to be bailed out, because they can’t be expected to take these losses on their own – they’re The Lads, for fuck’s sake! Sure don’t we owe them everything!

And as for women, The Lads don’t like them much.

THey want control over their own bodies?! The cheek of them!

They want to be allowed into the boardrooms?! Over the dead bodies of The Lads!

They want to stand for election? IN OUR SEATS?!?!

If you are voting for Fine Gael, or Fianna Fáil or Labour, you are voting for The Lads.

You are voting to allow them to continue putting their hands in your pocket and take your money and your medical card and your dignity.

You are voting to return to power the guard dogs of The Lads, the very people who ensure that the benefits of trickle-down economics continue to flow upwards.

You are voting for stability – for The Lads.

You are voting for recovery – for The Lads.

You are voting for prosperity – for The Lads.

Now a situation might well arise where a few others at the bottom of the food chain might make a pound or two in the process, and that is entirely regrettable – but you can be sure that The Lads won’t be long knocking the craic out of it with a rent hike, or an increase in your premium, or your phone bill.

So remember – vote for The Lads.

They have a plan.

But it doesn’t include you.

And it never will.

 

 

Why I won’t be watching the #GE16 Leaders Debate

The Irish people: Lions led by (these) donkeys

For years I have commented on political communication in Ireland, as well as campaigning for the right of Irish emigrants to vote.

But having watched the “Leaders Debate” on TV3 I’m not sure a vote would be anything to have anymore, and frankly another debate is about as much use to me as an ashtray on a motorbike.

The “debate” on TV3, such as it was, was awful, undignified tripe, consisting of a herd of empty-headed braying donkeys struggling to make their soundbytes heard in an echo chamber of rampant egotism.

You had Gerry Adams pontificating about the great and the good, as if he had never heard of the generation of murder and misery that happened on his watch in Northern Ireland.

You had Joan Burton, whose only political achievement of note is reneging on every promise her party made since the last election (including the cutting of base rates of social welfare, which for some reason Labour still deny, despit the slashing of benefits to young people, driving them out of the country).

You had Micheál Martin, the incumbent Ard Rí of the Party of Spivs (or, as Gaeilge, Fianna Fáil), conveniently forgetting that all the things he was criticising the current administration for were caused by the fact that he and his cronies utterly destroyed Ireland as they buried their noses ever-deeper in the trough.

And then you had the top banana, the laughably inept Enda “Hide and Seek Champion of Mayo” Kenny, the man who is Taoiseach when it simply doesn’t matter who “leads” Ireland.

There is little to suggest that the RTE version will be any different.

It is often said that one canvasses in poetry and governs in prose, but not these morons – they canvass in soundbytes tested on focus groups and then govern in whatever way they are told by their betters in business, the banks and the EU.

Tonight’s debate will add another few hardy bucks to the mix, including Lucinda Creighton of right-wing crackpot outfit Renua, and Stephen Donnelly, a man of admittedly impressive intellect but also a possessor of principles (such as his broad acceptance of TTIP) which would be anathema to other Social Democratic parties that sprang from the workers movements.

But at the end of the day, principles do not matter in Irish politics.

All that matters is power.

If you want to know about the parties, by all means read their manifestos, but in doing so please be aware that, in Ireland, your vote only elects a parliament, not a government.

Literally everything that is said and written between now and when you cast your ballot has no value, as once the count is in all bets are off and the jockeying for position in the next junta begins.

And no matter what they say now, everyone is open to governing with everyone else, because all that matters in Ireland is being at the top table, however briefly, and maximising the return for yourself and your mates once it is achieved.