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My Summer 2018 @broadsheet_ie political reading list

3 Aug

This is my Broadsheet.ie 2018 Summer Political Reading List

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If you are thinking of taking a few political books away with you as you wind down in August, then the list below may be of help.

As with last year’s list, the books here appear in no particular order. These are the books that caught my attention over the past few months, including some from the second half of 2017 and one that I wanted to like, but couldn’t.

As this list broadly reflects my personal biases, feel free to offer your own suggestions in the comments section below. Enjoy the Summer and see you back here towards the end of August.

Beyond The Border, The Good Friday Agreement And Irish Unity After Brexit by Richard Humphreys

A timely read, this book by High Court judge and former Irish Labour Party Sp/Ad, Richard Humphreys examines how the structures and principles that underpin the 1998 Good Friday Agreement could work in a post Brexit, United Ireland.

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Real audience for Varadkar’s @UN Security Council bid not in NYC, it’s here

22 Jul

In this Broadsheet.ie column I welcome the Irish government’s campaign to win a seat on the UN Security Council, but wonder just who precisely was the target of the high profile launch in NYC…? 

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Last week the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister of State for Defence and the Minister of State for the Diaspora went on manoeuvres in New York.

While their jaunt was ostensibly to “launch” Ireland’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, their real purpose was more domestic.

It was an impressive display.

In addition to these four government members, curiously all of them from Fine Gael, were a former Irish President, the Defence Forces’ Chief of Staff, Bono, U2, a contingent of uniformed Defence Force members and an even bigger contingent of Irish political correspondents.

If UN Security Council (UNSC) seats are allocated on the basis of display, then Ireland should be a shoo-in.

But, UNSC seats are not won by those who just put on the best display.

They are won by years of horse trading and deal making.

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Lights, Camera, Inaction – @finegael is a production company, not a government

22 Jul

This Broadsheet.ie column appeared online on June 19, 2018

20180615_103600600_iOSAs part of the hoopla to mark Leo Varadkar’s first year as Taoiseach, Fine Gael produced a nifty infographic setting out some of the new leader’s biggest achievements.

The list offers an interesting insight into what the Taoiseach cares most about or, to be more accurate, what the Fine Gael pollsters tell him that his potential voters care most about.

Pride of place goes to the very frequently hyped national framework plan, Project Ireland 2040, followed by “Brexit Leadership” and the “8th Referendum”.

At the other end you find “and gardai” shoehorned into a claim about hiring more nurses and teachers, followed by curiously worded item on housing, though the word itself fails to make an appearance.

To avoid embarrassing Leo by putting a figure on the number of houses and apartments built over the past year, the copywriters had to come up with some phrasing that managed to convey the idea of progress, without breaching the standards in advertising code. The result is this extraordinarily clunky and impersonal boast that: “There were 4,700 exits from homelessness in 2017”.

“Exits”?

If ever a single phrase summed up Orwell’s description of political language “… as giving an appearance of solidity to pure wind”, it is surely this.

It reads as if it came from the pen of someone who writes real estate ads. You know the ones, where “open plan apartment” means the bed is between the cooker and the lavatory and “close to nightlife” means the place is directly over an all-night, bikers’ bar.

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Its work is done, time to retire #hometovote and time for an Electoral Commission

22 Jul

This Broadsheet column appearing online first on June 5th 2018. 

749aa29a488f3df8a3ab91d3bb1e4228Type #HomeToVote into Google and you will find pages and pages of links to news items from around the globe detailing the stories of thousands of young Irish emigres travelling back to vote at the recent referendum.

You need to dive a few pages into the results to find items relating to the 2015 origins of the hashtag during the Marriage Equality campaign. Its history, in so much as there is a history, is set out on pages 158-159 of Ireland Says Yes: The Inside Story of How the Vote for Marriage Equality Was Won (One of the books on my 2017 Summer political reading list).

#HomeToVote spontaneously appeared late in the afternoon on the eve of polling day. The campaign had its own #BeMyYes campaign which had generated tens of thousands of messages from people committing themselves to Vote Yes, including many from young Irish people abroad considering returning home.

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Change the record Mary Lou

22 Jul

This column appeared on Broadsheet.ie on May 29th 2018.

fr-billy-o-dwyer-spinmasterThere have been a few Fr Ted references here over the past few days, so let’s start off with another one. Remember that episode of Fr Ted where the lads need to raise money to fix the water leaks in the parochial house?

You know the one, they destroy the car Bishop Brennan gives them for the raffle and thus have to rig the draw to ensure that Dougal’s ticket wins it. Ted gets Fr Billy “Spinmaster” O’Dwyer to do the disco before the draw, but there’s a problem. Fr Billy has only one record with him and it’s “Ghost Town” by The Specials. Undeterred, the Spinmaster plays it over and over and over again, oblivious to the fact that the crowd have stopped listening.

I like Ghost Town. Not only is it a good song, it is a serious piece of popular social commentary, but even the loyalist Special fan would concede that forcing anyone to listen to it over and over again could turn them against it.

This is something that Sinn Féin’s “spinmasters” Mary Lou MacDonald and Michelle O’Neill could do well to bear in mind.

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My thoughts for @guardian on #8thRef result. It shows that #Irish voters understand nuance and complexity

26 May

The Guardian newspaper asked me for my quick analysis of the Irish abortion referendum results. My comments appear on their live blog.  Below is a fuller version of my comments, including a link to what I believe was one of the most perceptive (and overlooked) tweets on the campaign.   

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Final Full Results via RTÉ – https://www.rte.ie/news/eighth-amendment/results/

“A landslide. To call the scale and extent of the Yes vote anything else is to way understate and underestimate it.

While most people saw a Yes majority coming, very few – and this includes the pundits and commentators – forecast anything on this scale.

The general assumption right up to the last week was that the Yes would win decisively, with a comfortable margin, leaving the No side in the low 40s nationally and tipping just over the 50% mark in the western, more rural constituencies.

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My #8thRef what result do you expect @Twitter poll: full results are in. It’s just for fun – vital to #GetOutAndVote #GoVote tomorrow

24 May

Twitter poll Final

On Tuesday last I posted a simple poll on Twitter.

It asked people what they think the outcome of Friday’s referendum will be – as opposed to how they personally plan to vote.

The poll closed just now, with 2,104 votes.

The results are:

  1. 44% See a Yes Win with Yes getting somewhere between 50% and 54%
  2. 23% See a Yes Win with Yes getting somewhere between 54 and 58%
  3. 18% See a NO Win (I did not offer a choice of No margins)
  4. 15% See a Yes Win with Yes getting over 58% of the vote

The relative position of the four options offered has not changed since early on Wednesday.

This was just an exercise in the “wisdom of crowds” – the decision will made tomorrow by the people who show up…. so:

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#GoVote Logo via LisaCongdon.com from 2012

 

#GFA20: when voting united us – Why Seamus Mallon should be honoured

24 May

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Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP) event at Kennedy Institute, Maynooth University: Stephen Travers, Seamus Mallon, Eugene Reavey and Dr. Rory O’Hanlon (Pic via https://twitter.com/TaR_Platform)

In a week when a referendum campaign that has managed to divide some of us comes, mercifully, to an end; it is worth recalling that this week, in fact this day, marks the twentieth anniversary of a referendum that briefly united us across this island.

Twenty years ago today, almost 2.5 million people across this island went to the polls to vote on accepting the Good Friday Agreement. Just over 2.1 million of them said Yes to the Agreement while 360,000 voted against.

The results, North and South, endorsed what the parties had agreed at Stormont Buildings and saw Northern Ireland set to see a return of devolution based on partnership government.

Heady days. But anyone who thought that having such a sizeable public endorsement and mandate for the Good Friday Agreement was going to ensure its smooth and speedy implementation was soon to be sorely disappointed.

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The formats of recent #8thRef debates makes the case to set up an independent electoral commission now.

24 May

This piece was written for Broadsheet.ie and appeared online on Tuesday May 15th 2018, on the morning after RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Show debate on the abortion referendum: see HERE.  

CB debateOn the morning after the night before’s hyped-up #8thRef Claire Byrne debate: committed Yes campaigners are insisting that the Yes side won it while staunch No activists are declaring with equal ferocity that their side prevailed.

In my own view, neither side significantly moved the dial among undecided voters with the real loser in the whole sorry mess being public sector broadcasting.

This was not the fault of the presenter/moderator Claire Byrne or any of the lead speakers for the Yes or No sides, but of the folk in RTÉ who decided that having daytime TV style confrontation in front of a cheering crowd was the best way to discuss a fraught, complex and emotionally charged issue.

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Dean Acheson, Brex-iteers and Theresa May or…. Britain still looking for a role? #Brexit

14 May

This column appeared on Broadsheet.ie on May 8th 2018 under the title: There is no Future in England’s Dreaming 

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I opened my third Broadsheet column with a 1962 quote from the former US Secretary of State, Dean Acheson:

 “Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role”.

When that column appeared at the end of May 2016 the U.K. Brexit referendum vote was still three weeks away. We still had hope.

Almost two years later and Acheson’s quote seems truer than ever. Over the past few weeks we have seen increasing evidence that the UK Cabinet is incapable of agreeing a common and unified position on the Customs Union and the Single Market.

On one side you have the beleaguered Prime Minister and Tory leader arguing for a “customs partnership” that would see the UK just outside the existing EU Customs Union but remaining so aligned with it and EU standards as to render borders unnecessary.

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