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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Photo Minute: The pollination of life

A NEW political world dawns today.

It’s beginning to dawn that Sinn Féin are a force. 

Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin has taken a great leap. At the time of writing, the results for the European and local elections are not in; at the time of writing, the polling booths are still open. But it’s a safe bet, based on a slew of opinion polls, that the Shinners will have a very good election.
That is discommoding for the main parties. In mainstream southern Irish politics, there is still something of the night about the Shinners. The main parties don’t trust them.
One Fine Gaeler told me, during the election campaign, that the Shinners’ approach to politics was on a different plane. “The rest of us have our differences, and sometimes serious differences, but we’re all in it for the same reasons. With them, you just don’t know what the endgame is.”
Sentiments like that can be attributed to fear that the Shinners’ electoral support is growing, and will pose a threat to the status quo of Irish politics. However, it’s a sentiment that is shared by many others in the two Civil War parties and also in Labour.
Some people point to the front-of-house members of the Republican party, such as the impressive Mary Lou McDonald, and a few of her fellow, younger, TDs, suggesting that they are not really the ones in control.
This school of thought has it that the real power resides with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, and a cabal around them that dates from the days when the focus was change through the barrel of a gun.
Some people within the main parties have pointed to the Shinners’ capacity to splash out on a campaign. “Where is the money coming from?” they ask. It’s a bit rich for anybody in Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael to harp on about greater accountability in the funding of politics.
Both those entities have resisted any attempt to do the obvious and legislate for the accounting of every single penny that is gathered and spent. Instead, we have a system in which the rules are made to be bent in order to facilitate donations being made without a name attached.
How, then, are they in a position to raise questions about the providence of Sinn Féin’s funding?
Of course, the Shinners also garner funding from their public representatives who, they say, donate everything above the average industrial wage to the party. This policy is admirable, particularly at a time of savage austerity. It’s also a sore point in the mainstream parties, where there is scepticism as to how the stated policy is operated.
Again, the scepticism may be rooted in self-interest, as the mainstream people would baulk at showing such solidarity with those whom they govern.
Then, there is the big lie. The arrest of Gerry Adams during the campaign doesn’t appear to have impacted on voting, but a bigger issue arises. In last week’s Ipsos MRBI Irish Times opinion poll, only 9% of the public said they believed that Adams was never in the IRA. Yet, all the party’s public representatives frequently trot out the line that they believe Gerry when he says he was never a member. If they are conspiring in that fallacy, what else is believed within the ranks to be merely a white lie in pursuit of the common purpose?
The party’s economic policy is another major bone of contention. Sinn Féin has produced budgets, which they claim are costed by the Department of Finance, illustrating how the burden of cutbacks can be lightened for the majority, principally, though not exclusively, by imposing a ‘wealth tax’. How such a tax could be properly costed at a time of mobile capital is a feat of actuarial gymnastics.
For instance, a modest proposal by the Government to introduce a ‘domicile levy’ of €200,000 for tax exiles has been a bit of a disaster. In 2010, just 25 individuals coughed up, but this had reduced to 14 in 2012, despite the removal of a restriction that it apply only to Irish citizens. If the wealthy elite are not prepared to hand over a modest sum like that, what hope is there that they would comply with a major tax based on their wealth? The recent efforts in France to go down the same route resulted in a flight from the country.
The big boys of politics have thus labelled Sinn Féin’s policy as “fantasy economics”.
They may have a point, but the Shinners don’t have a monopoly in promising rose gardens while in opposition. The current partners in government were no slouches in that department, either.
So much for the view of the Shinners within the Leinster House bubble. Out on the hustings, there is quite obviously an appetite for whatever it is that the party is selling.
This election has been about the Sinn Féin brand. For instance, the expected victories of their candidates in the three European constituencies in the Republic are largely down to the party’s brand, rather than the attributes of the candidates. All three, if elected, may well turn out to be fine MEPs, but that’s not central to their voter appeal. It’s all about the brand.
At local level, pundits are predicting that Sinn Féin will double their seats, with last week’s MRBI poll putting party support at 19%, up 12% from five years ago.
If those figures are to follow through in the polling booth, then the party can expect to take control of a number of councils. It will be interesting to observe how the Shinners make the move, at local level, from opposing to holding the reins of power.
Increasing numbers of voters quite obviously like what they see. One element of that appeal is that the Shinners are the last party standing. All others have had to get their hands dirty at a time of savage austerity. Evaluating the extent of such a protest vote is difficult.
Another key to their success has been the performance of their younger TDs in the Dáil. This is a high time to be an opposition TD, positioned to feel the pain of everybody who falls into the amorphous range of “lower to middle income earners”, which ultimately excludes less than 10% of the population.
But apart from all that, and taking account of the less-than-vital aspects of a mid-term election, the voters are conveying a very direct message.

Politics as usual is no longer acceptable. The reaction to the crisis, largely dictated by the EU, but managed at national level, has sent huge swathes of the electorate scurrying from the main parties. There is more to this flight than simple anger. The disillusion felt at how things have been handled is real. Above all, there remains a sense that reaction to the crisis has not been undertaken with a proper degree of fairness. And unless the main parties really get to grips with that, their share of the vote is destined to decline even further in the coming years.

By Michael Clifford

Friday, May 23, 2014

Barry Clifford: Carrying The Card Does Not Make You A Journalist

David Quinn, writing in the Irish Independent today and more used to trying to prove the existence of God there, is now trying to prove that Gerry Adams had something to do with murdering a woman during the recent war of attrition between Ireland and England. Thankfully both sides of that war have embraced the peace with the ‘most’ of us, which does not stop either in the blame game trying to use political capital in the form of smearing, jeering and the lies when it comes to election time. David is no different.

As usual David speaks for ‘us’, and trying to marginalize those outside that imaginary ring is his idea of proof. It is always evident of how he writes, and that narrow focus and knowledge painfully shows when he tries to write about anything else beyond the fiction of his religious beliefs. His article today is not a leap of faith to believe that it is more than a coincidence that his piece about Gerry Adams joins the chorus of the media mob on the morning of Election day.
Ethical, truthful, and impartial judgment is sadly missing by David that is the cornerstone of journalism, but then again carrying the card does not make you a journalist no more than a man carrying a bent spanner makes him a plumber. 

One time David heralded a piece titled a few years ago: The Village Atheist. Of course the inference was the man was the village idiot and all because he did not want religious fiction drummed in his child’s head in a Catholic school where there was no other school almost in the entire county that was not owned or managed by Catholics. Now, using the same style of writing David tells us that ‘most’ of us believe that Gerry Adams was in the IRA which is as sure a bet that David is also a Catholic.

But like all media scribes sometimes David unknowingly stumbles across the truth and that is the media is part of the establishment, though he opines that differently, and he is also right that media attacks can easily backfire.

Then there is the transference of guilt of past political crimes has David telling is that Sinn Fein is now offering voters a suspension of the laws of economics. A vote on taxing if not removing the obscene pensions that the obese Brian Cowen, the yet un-broken Bert Ahern enjoys, and that of his cronies, might just address that issue and balance more than a few budgets, for it was this insidious and most corrupt party that not only suspended the laws of economics but threw the book out the window all together. This was not just economics at play but the greatest betrayal against the Irish people since the foundation of this Republic.

Down the road indeed may give rise to more misery but it is the equal sharing of that misery that counts as much as enduring it.

By Barry Clifford