Monthly Archives: October 2010

‘We’ overload from the Examiner

“ANYONE who loves this country, anyone who takes pride in the idea of being Irish, has had their view of their country, and their place in it, challenged over the last few years.

The once-great, or at least that’s how they were imagined, cornerstones of society have squandered their moral authority as their self-serving instincts and corruption were revealed to a population no longer prepared to be deferential or patronised. We once respected a sovereign government and a powerful political class, we once respected an unchallengeable church, all-powerful banks and public sector unions but how things have changed.” [Public sector reform – Enough of this insane nonsense, Editorial, Irish Examiner, 30/10/10]
Read on if you can, it doesn’t get a better. The summary is, everything bad that has happened to the country over the last 50 years is down to some low paid public sector workers taking a half hour off to go to the bank every couple of weeks.
This is without doubt one of the most absurd editorials written in the last 2 years, in any paper.
A corrupt Taoiseach, leaving a incompetent government; a corrupt banking industry, leaving a legacy of debt; a morally bankrupt church, leaving a legacy of abuse. Yet the Examiner does not cry “Enough!”
Yet when the Civil Public and Services Union “oppose moves to end arrangements whereby their members were given half an hour a week to cash pay cheques” on the grounds that “secretary generals and assistant secretaries general had not volunteered to give up privilege days” the Examiner has a veritable awakening.
It’s about time I guess, only about 37 days until the budget.
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On bad photoshop, bad journalism and pissing into the wind

Myers writing in last Wednesday’s Irish Independent:

“Yet there is hardly an RTE radio or television news bulletin in which a reporter doesn’t say the hideous, “He should have saw,” or “he should have showed”, or “he should have went”.”

How predictable is this? A conservative columnist railing against ‘improper use’ of the English language. In this case RTE’s alleged systematic corruption of “he should have seen” into “he should have saw”.

Stop the fucking press!

And who is to blame for this degradation of ‘proper English’?

“These wonderful institutions [colleges offering courses in journalism and media studies] clearly taught their students all about the evils of imperialism and the horrors of male sexual chauvinism and the unspeakable crimes of Zionism, and equally, of the boundless benefits of multiculturalism and quotas.

Clearly, this left little or no time for the relatively trivial matter of teaching people how to write and speak English correctly, talents that graduates must presumably acquire on the job.”

Yet again, its the four horsemen of the apocalypse: universities, feminists, peace activists and…drum roll please…foreigners.

That’s it, last post ever on Myers.

Remember children…

Eamon Gilmore is not a serious man:

“EAMON Gilmore’s lack of a credible cabinet of policies is the modern day political equivalent of the vain emperor’s folly.” [Irish Independent, 18/10/10]

“On Saturday last, Mary Byrne brought ‘The X Factor’ house down with a stunning rendition of ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, Just Be Close at Hand’. Her performance was marked by clarity, honesty and dignity.  Eamon Gilmore might prefer that other old number, ‘You don’t have to give the details, just tell us we’ll be grand’.” [Irish Independent, 18/10/10]

“Gilmore has been sailing along, careful to avoid nailing his colours to any mast. Presumably he is doing so in the hope of gaining power, where he could implement whatever agenda it is that he is being very coy about.” [Irish Times, 18/10/10]

Forget austerity, we’ve won the lotto

Matt Cooper’s introduction to an interview with Lorna Siggins on The Last Word, Today FM, 7/10/10:

“For many people getting an oil or gas find is a bit like winning the lotto, untold riches flow, great benefits for everybody involved. Unfortunately it’s not always like that, certainly when it comes to the Corrib gas field discovery, made as far back as 1996. It is a decade since the works started, trying to have the gas from that field processed in Ireland and yet all we’ve had over the last decade is misery and anger and rows and disruption and people’s lives, in many cases, not quite ruined, but very very adversely effected, and it is all part of a new book by Irish Times journalist Lorna Siggins, Once upon a time in the West.”

Listen here. [starts Part 1 – 17:30 mins]

The remainder of the interview, while interesting in the areas covering the social consequences of the project and the safety concerns, entirely failed to explore the subject of these ‘untold riches’. Given the state of the economy, the tone of this introduction is depressingly familiar. Just as negotiations or, god forbid, proposals to renege on zombie bank debt are marginalised in public discourse, so too are suggestions to revisit contracts made by previous governments in relation to these finds.

We needn’t bother even mentioning the phrase ‘Climate Change’, it is so far removed from the discourse at this stage that even whispering it would be to make oneself an outcast of intelligent mainstream debate.

For more on those untold riches and how they are to be divided:

The Great Corrib Gas Controversy, Centre for Public Inquiry, November 2005

On a slightly unrelated note, there is a photograhpic exhibition of Canada’s tar sands between London and Tower Bridge:

Image via Oil Change International

Women politicians and sexism in the Irish media.

This thread is opened for posting and discussion of examples of sexism towards women politicians in the Irish media.  Having recently been kindly invited to contribute to the Anti-Room blog, I wrote a piece on the need for gender quotas and a discussion has been going on there for a few weeks now.  Changing attitudes is arguably one of the biggest obstacles we have to seeing more women in politics and in public life in general, not least among those who control the way women are popularly perceived in those roles: the men and women of the media.   Women themselves are by no means exempt from being sexist about other women – especially in a male dominated environment like the media where being one of the lads is still a fact of daily working life for many, though certainly not all.   Of course none of this is news to many women but it seems like it needs to be said again and again until the point goes home. 

I’ve just posted a comment to the gender quota thread at the Anti-Room (see link above) about a throwaway remark about Margaret Thatcher made in an editorial in today’s Irish Examiner.  She is described as an ‘Enoch Powell in an austere frock’.  Male politicians are almost never discussed by reference to their appearance.  Their ideas and actions may be ridiculed, but their basic human dignity is seldom attacked in this way.  It is depressing when a woman who achieved as much as Margaret Thatcher did can still be discussed in these terms in the media and though I despise her politics, unless women start to support each other regardless in facing down this sort of casually vicious and sexist treatment, attitudes will never change.    Respect for women is key to bringing about real change – we’re going to have to insist on having it in equal measure.

Toxic truck and toxic journalism

“Dail gates rammed by protest truck” [Irish Independent, 29/9/10]

“Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd revealed that at least one garda on duty at the gates of the Dail had to jump out of the way of the truck.

“If it had been later in the morning, staff could have been killed, public could have been killed,” said the opposition politician, who was first at the scene.

“I think it’s a very serious incident and I think it’s an appalling vista to be doing your job as a garda or usher in Dail Eireann and to be seriously injured.”” [Irish Independent, 29/9/10]

Gerard Cunningham has taken a look at how the incident was reported in the regional papers and on the radio here.

Now that the non-violent nature of the toxic truck protest has finally been reported (which should have been immediately obvious at the very beginning), some commentators in the press have gone on to spin it another way:

“the best we can manage is an “angry” man driving up to Dail Eireann at 7am and carefully parking his truck in front of the gates. Take that, he hopefully didn’t shout. It’s surprising he didn’t hop out and put some money in a parking meter.” [Irish Independent, 3/10/10]

Being Nasty to Dan Boyle

Back in the day when I believed Dan Boyle was one of – if not the most articulate, well-motivated and capable politicians in Dáil Eireann, I interviewed him for the West Cork People freesheet – of which more below. 

That was in 2005, two years before the general election when nobody, but nobody – possibly not even Dan himself and certainly not this naïve citizen journalist – could ever have imagined the about turn which the Greens were destined to make in order to earn themselves a place in government in 2007.    As a former member of the UK Green Party and supporter of the Irish Greens on returning to Ireland in 2001, there was every reason to believe they meant every word of what they said about their policies – right up to the second they began negotiating for power-sharing with Bertie Ahern.  Shortly after the election in 2007  I emailed Dan Boyle to commiserate with him for having lost his seat in Cork.   As soon as the scale of the Green Party’s sell-out began to be apparent, I emailed Dan Boyle again.  Our exchanges are below and it’s clear that even at that early stage, the person formerly understood to be Dan Boyle had begun to be reprogrammed as a Fianna Fail clone, out of whose mouth immediately began to come the effortless, substanceless FF dissembling that we have (most of us I believe) come to know and hate during the economic crisis in particular: 

5th May 2007 

Dear Dan 

Subject: Message of Support 

I was really sorry – and surprised – to see how the election turned out foryou.  Sincerely hope you will not be doing a McDowell on us – it was a very odd election result. 

Best wishes

Miriam Cotton

Dan replied: 

“Miriam 

I’m obviously disappointed but I’m already thinking about the next campaign. I’m greatly encouraged by the messages of support I’m receiving. 

Dan” 

************************************************************** 

Having lobbied and campaigned for rights for people with disability in the run up to the election, I emailed Dan again a few weeks later about that and about the use of Shannon by the US military while the FF/GP power-sharing deal was being struck: 

19th June 2007 

Dear Dan  

Sincerely hope that the Green Party’s opposition to the use of Shannon will not be sacrificed. 

Ive not made any statement yet for the Disability Election Pledge Alliance– which depressingly met with what was effectively unanimous rejection from all parties. Ciaran Cuffe told me in person that no issue was non-negotiable and made it pretty clear, reading between the lines, that disability was not a priority despite all the mainfesto claims to the contrary.  . We had fine words from Greens, SF and Labour but no promises.

You are not going to give us rights, are you?

Best wishes

Miriam”

Dan replied: 

“Hello Miriam, 

 On Shannon there is a complication  of a subsequent UN authorisation  given to the US for  ‘reconstruction’ in Iraq. It is an obvious complication. What we have  secured is a promise is that if  should the circumstances arise  again as arose in 2003 where  overflights and landing rights were  given without a UN mandate could  not be repeated with the Greens in  government. And we secured a  stronger commitment on the  inspection of suspected rendition  flights. On disability half the National Disability Strategy will  be implemented by 2010 [hasn’t happened]. I’m  confident a cost of disability payment will be introduced [instead we have had stealth cuts]. On rights based legislation the review  of the Disability Act will give the opportunity of bringing that about. [Not even off the ground.]

 I know it is only half a loaf but  were hopeful that as we find our feet we can achieve more.

 Dan.”

****************************** 

Later that same day, following announcements in the media of the power-sharing deal I sent Dan Boyle this: 

Dear Dan 

I’d sent the email [above] before the Green Party struck its deal.  I cannoteven begin to express to you how astounded I am by what the Greens have done.  FF were on the ropes – the best they could do was cobble a tiny majority together and you gave them all the strength they needed – inincluding the discarding of everything that your voters believed they were voting for.  I can only think that some form of collective madness must have descened on you all in the heated pressure of those negotiations.  A terrible, terrible mistake.  It has profoundly depressed me – and finally persuaded me that there is no future for any of us in electoral politics.

It is almost distressing to hear Ciaran Cuffe and John Gormley speak –close your eyes and it’s just another Fianna Failer speaking all the usual meaningless double-speak – an invasion of the body snatchers.   All of the environmental groups are saying they will never again allow a green party spokesperson to speak at any of their events or come within a mile of being ssociated with you. 

I mean no personal disrespect or unkindness – but it would be better if the Green Party had never existed than to do this. 

Miriam” 

To which Dan Boyle then replied: 

“Dear Miriam, 

We have been anticipating negative responses to our decision, our collective decision, to enter government, however we have been surprised that they have been outnumbered by the positive reactions. I believe that most people vote Green to see Green Party policies being enacted in government. We cannot pick and choose our ideal situation for being in government, and certainly this current situation is less than ideal, but the opportunity may not arise again for a generation by which time it could be too late for many of our policies to be put into effect. For me the moral question is whether you go on the inside to try to effect some change and fail in trying to do so; or remain on the outside being politically pure but ineffectual? 

We have not jettisoned any principles what we believe remains the same.  Where we have made a judgement call is on what can be achieved and by when.  There is no policy difference between a government led by Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Neither do I believe that one party has a moral superiority over the other. Power corrupts and absolute powers corrupts absolutely. It only through being in power longer that Fianna Fáil has the capacity to be more corrupt.

I haven’t had any experience of environmental organisations wanting nothing to do with us, some have actively encouraged us down this road. One of things I believe we can achieve is to advance environmental ngos within the social partnership system. 

Political nirvana is not possible. Achieving change involves compromise often ugly. To those who inhabit political ghettoes far far away from where the resources are and where decisions get made I would ask how else can change be achieved? If we fail we fail but we will try damn hard to make those changes we believe need to be made. Blame us not for trying only for when we fail to achieve.

 Dan”

************************************* 

To tell the truth I kinda feel sorry for Dan myself to have been on the receiving end of my next message to him in some respects but I hope readers will understand what motivated it. 

Dear Dan 

Thanks for your reply.  I won’t write again because I am sure you are busy,as I am myself, but I feel I have to respond to your last email. 

There is so much in what you say that confirms my view.  Your response isan implicit acceptance of the uselessness of the electoral system as itstands – that you have to throw everything away in order to gain power.

Nobody is imagining that political nirvana is achievable but there are better ways of doing things than this.  Surely, after 60 years (or whateverit is) of Fianna Fail governments when most people don’t vote for them, it should be enough to make you wonder if there isn’t something wrong with a system that never delivers the polcies which people actually want – eventhose who vote for Fianna Fail for goodness sake!?  

In  common with all capitalist ‘democrats’ you are convinced that being in power is the only way to effect change.  All the evidence points in the opposite direction – even if official history doesn’t record it:  all social and ecnomic progress that has benefited society as a whole is as a  consequence of social movements propelling ‘great leaders’ to respond -not the other way around.   Democracy itself, so far as it has ever existed,

was brought about in exactly that way.  It is true that Irish people are exceptionally passive – and that is a huge part of the problem in this country – but again it is something that people out of power have more rather than less scope to change.  Real democracy is bottom up – not the sickly top down version we have been labouring under for all this time.  

You cannot say that your principles are the same as before and watch Taradestroyed, for example.  Gormley simply has to turn that decision around. The pantomime over Roche signing off the day before etc, is stomach churning.  A naked face-saving exercise.  And if you weren’t aware of it at the time, why was it not immediately fatal to the nrogitation!  The problem with the Green Party, Labour and Sinn Fein is that they spend all their time worrying about getting into power instead of working effectively for change – building a consensus on the issues and changing hearts and minds. That sort of effort is being sorely neglected by the opposition parties – it is dying on the altar of ‘political pragmatism’ – a pernicious creed that has been poisoning the Irish political system since Dick Spring and Fergus Finlay did their worst with it.  The Labour Party has morphed into a sort of muzak version of its former self.  

You can’t even say what you think in public now, can you?  Your version of democracy boils down to the period of post-election horse-trading, which voters have no say in whatsoever and which is dictated by the likes of IBEC and party donors behind the scenes – those whom Fianna Fail and the PDs are contracted out to.  Their agenda is your agenda in that situation, no matter what you say. The outcome reeks of it. Nothing said before the election counts for anything.   The Green Party have delivered all of Fianna Fail’s nastiest policies for them right up front.  It is you who gets to look bad, not them.  You have been played like fiddles.  And now look at what FF are doing to keep Beverly Flynn in the fold – it’s disgusting!  To say nothing of Ahern himself. 

You are not a restraint on Fianna Fail, your a part of Fianna Fail.   As to messages of support – I know that Fianna Fail people are tending to say that the Greens are at last showing signs of ‘political maturity’ and I dare say are delighted.  Perhaps your messages are coming from them? How many of your members particiapted in the vote?  

Anyway, enough said.

Miriam 

To which Dan Boyle replied  

“I understand all that Miriam but it isn’t the electoral system that is at fault, it is the way that people vote. Between them Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael win 70% of vote. The Green Party has won less than 5%.  Any democratic system has to accept that reality. I think you are wrong about the Green Party being silenced, we will continue to speak strongly on a whole range of issues. I realise you view is unlikely to change your view but I would ask you to judge us after a period in government that is something longer than 2 days.” 

But I still wasn’t quite able to shut up – the last short email of the exchange: 

“Dan

Within 2 days you had dropped Tara, Shannon, Co-Location…

I don’t mean to lecture you – only to convey the real depth of feeling that exists about what you have done.  I ask you to keep people like me firmly at the front of your mind because we are the sort of people who got you elected.  (I personally did not give Quentin my first vote because of my experiences with Ciaran Cuffe on the disability issue which was my primary concern) but I have been a committed green.  My husband wrote to you separately as an ex Parliamentary candidate in the UK.  We were both very active Green Party people at one time.  It is your core voters you have alienated most of all.  The others think you are all grown up now. I don’t think I’ll trouble to vote again under our current system.  

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Miriam” 

In the meantime, along with over 6,000 others, I’ve been ‘following’ Dan Boyle on twitter with an increasing sense of betrayal, bewilderment and anger –which at last morphed into disgust.  Last night, unable physically or mentally to withstand any more of the ossified platitudes that characterise his pronouncements whether on twitter or in the media generally,   I announced to my own small crew of followers that I was blocking Dan (i.e. he no longer receives my tweets nor I his):

“@murior A lot of hard decisions have to be made. Especially in the capital spending area”  

“@lostexpectation Politics is about stating what you stand for and challenging those who oppose. [!!!] Labour has to justify not merely condemn.”  

“@Littlesapling You’re presuming I’d want to spend 5 minutes with Joan Burton. It’s easy to do populist slogans.” 

“@HarryBrowne: One tweet Harry many on other issue @mediabite [me] has never dealt with me with anything other than invective.”

***************************

Dan has tweeted that he will not miss my ‘nasty style of argumentation’.  I suppose I must have been nasty to Dan Boyle in some way for him to say so, and certainly I have not tried to hide my exasperation from him in pointing out the contradictions and oversights in what he says but evidently he has forgotten our exchanges above and the nasty interview I did with him back in 2005 from which these are just two quotes: 

“There were two reasons for wanting to talk to Dan Boyle for this article: firstly, unlike most of our national representatives he has contributed a lot to public debate (including some hard-hitting speeches in the Dail) about services for people with disability and in the opinion of many his contributions have been welcome and insightful about the difficulties that people are facing. So, credit where it’s due. Secondly, and in view of the mounting frustration and dismay that is felt by groups around the country about government attitudes to disability issues, it seemed worth exploring an alternative approach to our political system to see what possibilities it might hold.”

….. 

“’Neither do we see the pursuit of power as being our exclusive objective [said Dan]. As an opposition party we also have an important role to play in trying to hold the government to account for its use of those resources and the way in which they are managed.’ With another general election looming in the middle distance the disability lobby might do worse than to use these well articulated principles as a template for assessing who will actually deserve their votes!  (Miriam Cotton, June 2005)” 

The rest of my nasty invective can be read here.