Tag Archive for Fine Gael

Why angry silence is the only way to commemorate 1916 Rising

1916 banner – presumably there was no room for Ian Paisley.

The banner at College Green has barely been unveiled, but it has already confirmed what I have long suspected.

That I do not want any part of of a commemoration of 1916 that denies, distorts and destroys what it is supposed to remember.

Only in Ireland could a banner commemorating a revolution feature a man who recruited for the enemy and called the event “wicked and insane”, as John Redmond did.

It comes as no surprise. For years the battle has been fought to see who would “own” the memory of 1916.

In then end, it seems, Bórd Fáilte won.

As a result, what we are getting is an approximation of history, a “1916 Rising for Dummies.”

The blood of the dead – men and women, soldiers and rebels, over 300 civilians and more than three dozen children –  washed from the streets.

The barbarity – war crimes on both sides – is forgotten, and the context crushed under the weight of collective denial of what the Rising was, and more importantly, what it wasn’t.

What should have been a conversation about the country we have created has been made into a marketing vehicle for tourism.

Anything else would have forced us to confront the truth of the intervening century.

For all the reverence in which the signatories of the Proclamation are held in Ireland, almost everything they stood for died along with them.

The notion of “cherishing all of the children of the nation equally” was quickly abandoned.

With the hospitals, the schools and the populace in general controlled by a vicious, venal and violent religious junta that is still remarkably healthy and wealthy, it couldn’t be any other way.

Partition – as promoted by what is now Fine Gael – put an end to the dream of a republic that would cover the entire Ireland.

And any chance of a functioning trade union movement to represent the working people died with James Connolly, strapped to a chair in the Stonebreaker’s Yard in Kilmainham Jail.

What we got was no mystical vision of independence, as laid out by Pearse.

Instead, we got exactly what most other countries that were eventually freed from imperialism experienced – a divided society ruled by an appointed elite, first as a transitional system of governance that then became the norm.

The greed and power of the church coupled with Ireland’s isolated position on the edge of Europe kept it out of the reach of international socialism and the kind of liberal social democracy that saw Scandinavia and Germany thrive, especially in the post-war period.

Instead, like many Catholic nations on the periphery of Europe, the Irish poor were condemned to lives of poverty, promised their reward in heaven while their cassocked moral guardians enjoyed the fruits of everyone else’s labours here on earth.

Having presided over misery and poverty, tugging its forelock and deferring to the church for much of the state’s existence, there is little on the credit side in the great ledger of social justice for any Irish government.

Pointing to the recent marriage equality referendum only highlights how little has been done to “cherish all the children of the nation equally.”

Women are still second-class citizens, earning less and dictated to by the state, or ignored when they become too noisy.

The Lads still rule, and their friends at the golf club still get the no-bid contracts and the cheap properties and the planning permissions they need to feather their nests.

Children with special needs and those who occupy hospital trolleys night after night don’t play golf.

The 1916 Rising delivered change, but not the change it wanted or expected.

Yeats was right – a terrible beauty was indeed born; and the poorer you were, the more terrible and the less beautiful it was.

And so to those struggling to “own” the narrative. the idiotic banner at College Green – with three of the four featured having died long before the Rising ever took place – is a symptom of how history in Ireland is distorted and watered down for political ends.

The irish Times reported that the idea for the banner came from the Department of An Taoiseach – perhaps unsurprising, given the spectacular ignorance of the clown that has inhabited that office for the last few years.

Enda Kenny has been doing his best to soft-soap voters into believing that his Fine Gael party are sympathetic to the Republic and the ideals declared by Padraig Pearse a hundred years ago.

Yet it was his party that banned the 60th anniversary celebrations – and using the Offences Against the State Act as the legislative framework to do so is surely the definition of GUBU.

Perhaps even more so than the endemically corrupt Fianna Fáil, Enda’s party is the party of The Lads. Those who have most get more, those who have least get nothing at all.

Labour will begin its struggle to make itself relevant again, oblivious to the fact that Connolly died for his principles, while they immediately abandoned theirs to give a few ageing men one last shot at a ministerial post, where they gleefully inflicted misery on the people who had voted for them, begging for protection.

Like its protagonists, the Rising was complicated, messy and not easily interpreted, but the history ever since is somewhat easier to read.

A hundred years on, Ireland has, on the whole, failed to live up to its promise.

Too often it has failed the poor and the weakest in society, often consciously and deliberately as politicians descended from those who filled the power vacuum by creating a system to benefit themselves and their cronies.

Forget our music and our food and our culture.

Forget the high esteem in which our people – not our politicians or bankers, not The Lads – are held around the world.

Forget our athletes and our artists and our innovators.

All this exists in spite of, not because of, the country we have created out of the ashes of the Rising.

We can celebrate all these things another day.

If you want to commemorate the Rising properly, do so by not accepting the Bórd Fáilte narrative.

The Rising belongs not to them, or the politicians, or The Lads and their vested interests.

It belongs to those who bear the heaviest burden form a political system that demands their servitude but denies their needs, just as it did in 1916.

So skip the official “celebrations” and stick instead to history and the original date of April 24.

Go to the GPO, or to any other post office that has yet to be closed by the march of “progress”.

Stand there in angry silence for a minute and remember what Pearse and the others promised, and how pathetically little their political descendants have delivered.

Then go off and, in the words of Gandhi, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

That means tearing down the system of clientelism and privilege, of recognising the dignity of each and every person, and of demanding the highest standards from everyone in public office.

It means accepting that we have to pay our share, and that taking “uncomfortable decisions” means that we too will be affected.

It means doing not what is best for ourselves, but what is just and noble and right, even if we personally lose out.

That would be a truly revolutionary act in modern Ireland.

 

 

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.

We all killed Johnny Corrie

The loudest sound in Ireland today is the echo of the empty words around the death of Johnny Corrie.

Once again, the airwaves are full of the breast-beaters, filling their lungs on the oxygen of publicity while ignoring their own complicity.

And we are all complicit in Johnny’s death.

The very politicians who slashed the services that might have helped the dead Kilkenny man now elbow their way to the plinth at Leinster House – a stone’s throw from where Johhny died – to proclaim their dedication to the cause of homelessness.

As long as it doesn’t cost anything of course, and only until the headlines run out.

Elsewhere, the leaders of the Catholic church, whose legacy of institutionalised abuse causes hundreds, if not thousands, of traumatised Irish victims to seek solace in drugs and drink every day, has promised to act.

But the reparations due to the adults that became of the children they raped and abused remain unpaid. At every turn, they refuse to cough up the cash they have hoarded, swindled from the Irish people from behind a facade of piety.

And those of us who walk the streets of our cities have nothing to be proud of, either.

How many of us have contemptuously called people like Johnny scobes and junkies and scumbags?

How many of us have described them as a blight on our cities, an eyesore, a problem to be solved?

How many of us have laughed on a night out as we kicked their paper cups, telling them to “get a fuckin’ job” instead?”

How many of us went to the polls at the last election and voted for permanent austerity, ensuring that the first services to be cut would be the ones that might save the lives of people like Johnny?

How many of us have pursed our lips and piously proclaimed “I won’t give them money, because they’ll only spend it on drink or drugs”?

It may come as a shock to your middle-class sensibilities, but to an addict, drink and drugs are a very important part of their day; in fact you could say they are the most important part of it.

Even more so, on occasion, than having a roof over their heads. Everything else comes second. And if you don’t give them money, they’ll get it somewhere else.

What we have have created a society where the market decides who gets to have a home, and what kind of home it is.

We have created a society that says everyone is equal, until they slip up.

We have created a society that looks down patronisingly on those who live on the streets, without ever asking what it was that put them there, or offering them anything like a reasonable chance to turn things around.

And even in Johnny’s terrible death, the class card is played.

Johnny, we are told by the Irish Independent, “came from a caring family, but struggled with addiction problems since his teens.”

As if the families of other addicts don’t care.

As if the deaths of working-class addicts don’t matter.

As if addiction is selective.

Then the Indo tells us that “despite the best efforts of his parents and services, he could not defeat his demons” – something you never see written about a drug addict from Fatima Mansions or Dolphin’s Barn.

Sophie Pigot is rightly praised for not stepping over Johnny’s corpse and instead getting a policeman at Leinster House to call for an ambulance – but is this what we have come to?

Have we fallen so far as a society that we must make a heroine of someone who does exactly what one is supposed to do when they see another human being in need?

Johnny Corrie died in a Dublin doorway on December 1 2014, but he didn’t die alone.

Every one of us played a part in creating the country in which he could die so publicly, so helplessly, so needlessly.

We all stood over him as he passed on.

And none of us did anything, and now it’s too late.

 

 

 

Shock around the clock – but no change

The hoo-ha about the CRC payoff (and indeed Irish Water) is probably a welcome diversion for James Reilly and the government.

After all, it keeps the focus off the real source of the problem – that the Ireland we have created is designed for the benefit of a few while consistently failing the vast majority its citizens.

For all their talk about change, would Ireland really be that different if Fine Gael and Labour once again ceded power to the greedy spivs of Fianna Fáil?

The point is not that the CRC does great work. It is not that the CRC board are inept at best and downright devious in their dealings with the state at worst.

It’s not even about the fact that that the chairman of that board received a massive payoff when he finally stepped down.

The point is that, in a civil, developed, well-functioning democratic society, the CRC should not exist at all.

In a well-functioning, democratic society there would be a health service available to those who need it – in particular those who need it most.

In a well-functioning democratic society, those families and others who support them wouldn’t have to go out and beg for support, fundraising to ensure that the services which give their loved ones a better of quality of life are maintained, only to see their money pocketed by those who feel more entitled than the ostensibly less well-off.

In a well-functioning democracy, the staff and management would be well looked after by the state – and held accountable to it when things are not as they should be.

Instead, we have a professional class that sits on boards, claiming huge salaries for themselves while seeing children go without wheelchairs for months on end.

And then, when they’re found out, we have deals done for them to go quietly and prosperously into the night.

Not for a moment do I fault them, by the way – that they accept huge amounts of money for little or no work and at no risk to themselves is not their fault. It is the fault of those offering it. On your behalf.

The spoofing has already started, James Reilly intoning gravely that the government “will use all available options open to it, including corporate enforcement, the gardaí and civil courts” to get the CRC payoff money back.

The truth? That money is gone. That payoff was mandated in a legally-binding contract, and it had to happen. No amount of Reilly’s spoofing will change that fact. The money is gone, and it’s not coming back.

It’s just another milestone in a long litany of failures that seem to be occurring more and more regularly in recent years.

Almost since the foundation of the state, Ireland has abdicated its responsibility to its citizens.

It abandoned the health and education sectors to the clutches of the Catholic church, which indoctrinated its misery into the country’s youth for generations, physically and sexually abusing them with impunity, and then sullenly refusing to make restitution when they were eventually found out.

And now, with the church thankfully on the slippery slope to terminal irrelevance, Ireland has instead embraced capitalism as its new savior, outsourcing everything except the accountability for services, which remains curiously unassigned.

Ireland has become the perfect example of what Naomi Klein described in the Shock Doctrine – a society sacrificed on the altar of the most savage kind of capitalism.

(Anyone considering refuting that might want to have a look at where the €50 million on “consultant’s fees” for Irish water went before calming down.)

But the state is a product of its democracy, and the real blame lies with those who continue to elect fools and gombeens to government, regardless of their ineptitude.

The reason Ireland is a failure as a state is not because of the bankers or the fat cats or the spiv politicians.

It’s because, when confronted with injustice on a staggering scale, voters take one look out the window and rather than revolt, they call Joe Duffy instead.

There’s a bit of Twitter outrage, the odd headline in the papers, and then … nothing.

Nothing changes. Nothing happens. The kleptomania carries on, and the Irish people just watch as their money is pissed away on them.

The barricades remain unbuilt and unmanned.

The failure continues.

Mis-selling and misunderstanding

By raising PRSI, this government has proved itself no better than mis-selling banks it slavishly serves.

Budget 2013: Michael “Tweedle Dumb” Noonan. (Not pictured: Brendan “Tweedle Dumber” Howlin.)

Why is the government attacking the banks for mis-selling Payment Protection Insurance, and then doing exactly the same itself?

With this hopelessly ineffective coalition hog-tied by an ideological insistence on not raising income tax or reducing base rates of social welfare, there was little enough room for cuts or revenue-raising.

So what do you do?

Cut everything that isn’t base-rate welfare, and raise everything that isn’t income tax.

But as ever, the government (and much of the electorate) has misunderstood the concept of social insurance, and the fact that for it to be justified, people have to get something in return.

Why, for instance, should self-employed people be forced to pay PRSI when the chances of them ever getting anything for it are about as much as the Green Party ever being seen again?

The banks are rightly being hammered (and wrongly, in some cases, being able to avoid responsibility) for selling insurance policies that would more or less never pay out.

Rather than adopting the principle of paying for something and actually getting something in return, the government seems to have copied this scam of selling a dodgy insurance policy for their own use.

It should come as no surprise, of course. They’ve already decided to ape the banks when it comes to their funding issues and the foisting of private debt upon the general public, so a little mis-selling of insurance shouldn’t bother us.

Commentators (particularly the myopic ‘spokespeople’ for small and medium enterprises and economic think-tanks) tell us that ‘we must incentivize people to work’ – but where is the incentive for the self-employed in paying huge sums and getting nothing in return?

Their other favourite word – ‘competitiveness’ – was nowhere in evidence as the government once again studiously avoided doing anything about the laughably expensive childcare costs in Ireland.

Competitiveness is not simply getting people to work as cheaply as possible – it’s creating a situation where they can work, because the social infrastructure around them allows them to do so.

Forget taxes, and the idea that a small rise would cause a modern-day equivalent of the Flight of the Earls – it is the astronomical childcare costs that mean Dublin families must cough up thousands of euro of taxed income just to be able to go to work – with the rest of the country not far behind.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was another dig at women with the introduction of taxation on maternity benefit, as a less-than-generous system is further watered down to appease those bankrolling the economy.

And just how bound are we by these ideological insistences?

Well, our friends at the Iona Institute – not exactly paragons of reason – saw plenty to kick up about in the reduction of child benefit, but had nothing to say about the reduction in maternity benefit.

Next time they tell you they supposedly have the interests of mothers at heart too, you’ll know it’s lip service.

In fact in Ireland, lip service is about all that most people now paying PRSI will find they are entitled to.

Reality bites for Kenny

The budget will not be drafted in public.
-Enda Kenny

In fairness, he’s not lying.

But it won’t be drafted in Kildare Street either. Nor will it ever again be drafted in Ireland.

This budget will be drafted in Brussels and rubber-stamped in Frankfurt.

Welcome to the post-Yes world. This is what we voted for.

Of course, given the abject failure of this government to address the country’s economic woes – principally caused by the bank debt, whatever the spin doctors might say – this one was a fait accompli long before we voted yes a few weeks ago.

There will be more savage cuts to services. There will be more tax rises.

Fine Gael has even instructed its TDs not to speculate on its contents and that they would be given an “opportunity to offer their thoughts” later – the notion that FG backbenchers will be asked what they think of any measures contained in it is utterly laughable.

For “speculate”, read “debate” or “question.” Neither will be tolerated, and we can expect several months of Brian Hayes spewing party-fed guff about economics, and why we should all beat the cost of his cowardice.

The job of Fine Gael’s backbenchers, as it was in the recent referendum, is to nod sagely at matters they don’t understand and cannot influence. It it the illusion of democracy as practiced in Ireland.

Anyone who questions the logic of the budget proposals will be once again asked where the money will come from, or who will pay the nurses and the gardaí and the teachers.

In a remarkably display of political stupidity, one TD has taken it upon himself to pay a teacher’s salary out of money paid to him by the state.

Some see this as a great act of altruism, when in fact it is one of the most craven acts of political cowardice in a country not lacking candidates.

The TD in question, Brendan Griffin, pledged to give half his salary back to the state as an election gimmick, saying ”we are not all in it for personal gain.”

Shortly afterwards he hired his wife to a job paid by the state without even bothering to create the illusion of fairness by interviewing anyone else.

As if that wasn’t enough, he is now clawing back the €46,000 he pledged to give back to the state – an election gimmick – to pay a teacher whose job would otherwise disappear thanks to cuts imposed by his government – another election gimmick.

This is no great altruistic act on his behalf – it is a simple, grubby, vote-buying exercise.

To make matters worse, he is essentially buying another election with the same €46,000, at the same time as he is admitting that the policies of his government are grievously wrong.

Instead of installing a teacher in his constituency, Griffin could have showed some courage and voted against the cutbacks and against the poor having to bear the brunt of losses not incurred by them.

He didn’t do so. Instead, he chose to insure his political future using your money.

I arrived back from Ukraine yesterday (I learned quickly not to call it “the Ukraine”, as apparently they take offence), where I walked past the tented village protesting at the continued imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko every day.

It is a beautiful place, full of tough, creative, resilient people, but if ever there was a country both defined and hampered by corruption, Ukraine seems to be it. ANd the higher up you go, the more corrupt it gets.

My good friend Pelle Blohm was there for a few days too, and he told me of an interesting conversation he had with a tour guide about the political situation.

“She siad there are five or six factions, and it’s all about picking the right one – wind up on the wrong side, and you’re screwed.”

With the likes of Griffin pulling strokeslike this, Ireland is going thew same way.

And with Spain going under and Cyprus asking for a bailout, Kenny will soon have to deliver another austerity budget. With his own backbenchers unwittingly showing their hand, his time will soon be up.

Luckily for him, events will overtake his gullible stupidity, and history will simply remember him as the mewling, cowardly fool who hitched Ireland to the listing ship of the Euro, just before it sank without a trace.

 

Before the Deluge

"Nothing to see here"- Enda Kenny addresses the nation.

Today is the day when payment for the worst of the excesses of the Celtic tiger falls due.

Today, Brendan Howlin will stand up in the Dáil and tell the poor, the sick and the old in Ireland not why they have to pay the debts of the bankers, but how. And how much.

This should come as no surprise- after all, we voted for it. As I wrote the day before the general election in February, a vote for Fine Gael or Labour was a vote to accept these debts as our own.

In particular, I made the sour prediction that this day would soon be upon us:

We are also accepting that Ireland is to remain a society of haves and have-nots. Those who have resources- cash, credit, access to political power – will continue to ensure that only the weakest in society – the old, the sick, the children – will be called on to pay the debts foisted upon them. They were the ones who benefitted the least from the property boom, but they will now be asked to foot the bill.

The cuts today in euros and cents will hit hardest on those who can afford it least, the rises in taxes tomorrow will do the same, and the words about how those who were responsible for the crisis would pay for it will ring as hollow as they ever did.

Enda Kenny’s address to the nation last night can be summed up in one word.

Pitiful.

When it was most needed, he offered neither hope nor leadership. Often, he offered his unique brand of patronising stupidity.

“If you’re unemployed, you’re one of the many who still can’t find work.”

“Difficult decisions are never easy”.

And lest we forget: “You are not responsible for the crisis.”

But we’re paying for it Enda. Not the bankers, or the banks. The citizens. Often poor, unemployed, old, sick or children.

To paraphrase Charles Haughey’s similar address thirty years ago, Enda’s speech could be summed up as follows: “we are living beyond your means”.

He and his government have offered nothing in the way of new thinking – no spark that would or could inspire the public, the entrepreneurs, the hard-working lucky enough to have work.

Never has so little been achieved by so many.

At a time when our corporation tax rate is under threat, no-one has thought to threaten to cut it to stimulate jobs and create growth.

No-oner has thought to make an industry out of caring for our old and our sick and our young by offering them the care and dignity they deserve.

No-one has thought to leverage Ireland as Europe’s English-language service provider in accounting or human resources.

Instead, they’re going to take Bertie’s mobile phone off him- something which might have worked to save Ireland ten years ago, but won’t help much now.

Keep this in mind when Brendan Howlin stands up in the Dáil today and hands the bill for the banks to your children.

Darren Scully and Enda Kenny. (Not pictured- all their black friends)

Every now and again a politician says something so profound that it echoes in our history books.

“Ich bin ein Berliner”.

“Peace in our time.

“Tear down this wall”.

“I will no longer represent black Africans”.

Thank God for the appalling stupidity of Darren Scully – an avowed non-racist, some of whose best friends aren’t black – for once again showing us that austerity produces not just hard choices and more poverty for the already-impoverished, but it’s a greenhouse for racism too.

Far from drowning in a sea of celtic tiger-era skinny lattes, our racists and racism survive and thrive, especially now that we’re poor again.

I’ve written before about the ridiculous nature of some of the rubbish that gets spouted about Africans in Ireland by the defenders of the ideologies of Hitler , and yet still they come. Our friend Sven with his “99.8% of sex crimes in Oslo are committed by non-Europeans” comment on another piece is just one of them.

I argued long and hard on a similar subject with another crackpot racist (this time from Israel), whose basic assertion was that people were being raped in their droves by the Muslim hordes right outside my very window.

Be that as it may, there would be no statistics, as Swedish police do not record ethnicity- let alone religious affiliation- when investigating crimes here.

Gavin Titley wrote a brilliant piece today for politico.ie outlining why the likes of Scully think it’s OK to be staggeringly and publicly racist, and then deny it as not being racism at all.

I’d like to say read it and learn something, but having listened to George Hook’s section on it yesterday, it’s more like read it and weep.

Of course, there is an elephant in the room here too, and that is his continued status as a member of Fine Gael. Whereas a non-racist political party would have kicked him to touch the second he opened his gob, Fine Gael can’t.

Because to do so would be to admit that Enda Kenny’s Patrice Lumumba joke was equally wrong.

 

‘Cheque mate’ proves silence is golden

Even if it doesn’t come from Michael D’s corner, there will be at least one more major twist in this election yet.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was around McGuinness, as too many powerful people cannot abide the thought of him representing them.

But as long as Michael D keeps on the straight and narrow, the prize will be his.

- ourmaninstockholm, October 4

So it came to pass.

Sean Gallagher- what now?

Seán Gallagher almost pulled off the impossible, blazing out of the pack only to fall at the final hurdle in what has been one of the most remarkable presidential races in history.

I heard his close friend and PR aide Jack Murray on the radio today saying that Gallagher’s biggest strength – the fact that he wasn’t a politician – turned out to be his biggest weakness too.

There is an immense amount of truth in what Jack says, but maybe not in the way he meant it.

Murray means that a more seasoned operator – a Gay Mitchell for instance- would have met McGuinness’s attack head on. As soon as McGuinness mentioned the cheque, Gallagher should have countered with a quip about fundraising or NorthernBank or whatever else would shift the spotlight.

I have been a student of Jack’s when it comes to media and PR and he is the best in the business. Gallagher’s polished media performances were a testament to his great skill and attention to detail in preparing his client.

But I am of the opinion that both he and Gallagher took their eye off the ball a little and left the door open for McGuinness.

Gallagher’s weaknesses were twofold – his FF past and his business dealings.

He seems to have made forensic efforts to ensure that his business dealings were all either above board or corrected and in truth there was little in them.

His distancing himself from Fianna Fáil wasn’t nearly as effective. Time may heal all wounds, but the public still remembers what Dev’s party did to them. Gallagher shrewdly left the party and cooled off before declaring himself as a candidate, but it wasn’t enough.

As ever in politics, there is no black and white, and Gallagher obviously didn’t feel comfortable condemning the party for its astounding stupidity in destroying the country. Instead, he tried to give the impression that he was a lot further removed from it than he actually was.

Bad move. When McGuinness placed him at the scene of the cheque on the Frontline debate, all of a sudden Gallagher was stuck, and the reasonably innocent business transactions started to look like the underhand actions of a Fianna Fáil bagman. Once that happened, it was all over.

Michael D- you'd be smiling too.

And there, waiting in the wings, was Michael D.

Ireland’s ninth president ran a campaign of almost total silence- no hype, no grand visions, his closet forensically cleansed of skeletons.

Instead, he let others do the dirty work for  him.

McGuinness delivered the hammer blow on Gallagher, Norris twisted the knife (‘I think the mention of envelopes was unfortunate’) and Davis called for him to explain himself.

By midnight Monday, the dragon was slain.

All the while, Michael D stood there looking presidential, his poet’s trap firmly shut- throughout Gallagher’s spectacular rise and fall, he said nothing.

As quickly as Gallagher rose, he fell again. Michael D was back at the top of the pile. Order was restored.

Gallagher is by no means finished in public life, but even his renowned confidence and positivity will have taken a battering.

He may not have won this race, but with the lessons learned here, don’t rule him out winning the next one.

Et tu Mary? Then fall, Seanie

One of these men has some serious skeletons in his closet. The other is Martin McGuinness.

I’d like to think that one of the reasons that people like reading this blog is the fact that I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong.

And boy, was I wrong about the Frontline presidential debate on RTE.

Perhaps I was suffering election fatigue when I sat down to watch it, but I think I can be forgiven for saying that I was expecting the same non-answers to the same irrelevant questions.

What followed, of course, was two hours of the most gripping television in the history of Irish broadcasting as Gallagher stumbled badly on the home straight, and, sensing weakness, Michael D moved to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

In the bitterst of ironies, it was Martin McGuinness- no stranger to a bit of cavalier fund-raising himself – who held the smoking gun.

He had spoken to someone who had handed over a cheque for Fianna Fáil to the value of five thousand euro to Seán Gallagher, in return for his dinner and a picture with Brian Cowen.

Never has something that sounds so unappealing cost so much.

It cost the donor five grand.

It may have cost Gallagher the presidency.

The rest of the candidates, who until that point had failed to find a foothold on the Mount Rushmore-like face of Gallagher’s entrepreneurial stoicism, gleefully queued up to twist the knife.

Even Mary Davis – the candidate most likely to be accused of kicking a man whilst he’s down – got her digs in and has called on Gallagher to come clean or suffer the wrath of the people.

She has done little in this campaign, but this late intervention may just turn the tide.

In another bitter irony, Gallagher’s problem is very similar to that of his prime adversary McGuinness.

Both have shady political pasts that they would wish to forget, or at least cast in a totally different light to what anyone else remembers.

Neither can afford the luxury of condemning their supporters in the shadows (McGuinness in the IRA, Gallagher’s in FF).

Gallagher’s problem, like McGuinness, is that when he denies his past, he loses all credibility. Instead of prostating himself before the electorate and begging their forgiveness, he left himself open to being caught out.

Gallagher could have been the first of the new FF breed, accepting both his own past and the wrongs of the Galway tent but promising to usher in a new era of politics.

Instead, he chose to minimise his part in FF, thus creating a hostage to fortune that, in the media climate of this campaign, wasn’t likely to stay chained to a radiator for long.

Like the banks of the Dodder, the floodgates have finally opened, and a much more damaging allegation is that he took payments form GAA clubs to secure funding.

As most people know, the GAA is an amateur organisation kept running by the efforts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers, none of whom will be too enamoured at this prospect.

Add to this his seemingly odd (but seemingly legitimate) business transactions and we are witnessing a death by a thousand cuts.

I have written several times over the last few weeks that there was one major twist left in this race, but I don’t think that anyone in their wildest dreams could have imagined it would be a game-changer like this one. Not even Michael D.

At 1400 Irish time tomorrow the utterly ludicrous broadcast ban kicks in and the public pronouncements of the candidates will be effectively finished.

That means Gallagher has about 16 hours to save his campaign track or risk becoming the second candidate to throw this election away despite seemingly having it in the bag.

I have no doubt about the brilliance of his backroom team (some of them trained me in public relations) – the question is whether they can save him in time.

Watch this space.