Take me to your leader…

It’s all there in the words, you just had to look before the election to know the real outcome…


LABOUR PAT RABBITTE = Babbler. Tart Utopia.  

FIANNA FAIL BERTIE AHERN = Entail Hibernia Fanfare 

TREVOR SARGENT GREEN PARTY = Got Perverts, Arrange Entry
Of course, if John Gormley becomes leader, then it’ll be
JOHN GORMLEY GREEN PARTY = Jog Her Orgy, Permanently. I don’t know who she is, but it’ll be a party to remember!

SINN FEIN GERRY ADAMS = Grinners Fade, May Sin 

FINE GAEL ENDA KENNY = Needing A Fan Keenly. Or…Needing A Fanny Leek 

PDS MARY HARNEY = Shy, Merry Panda

All apt, all so true. Next time, before the elections start, I will throw out a few anagrams to predict the true outcome.


Greens on Planet Bertie

John the Gormless himselfJohn Gormless, gripping onto his podium to stop himself falling over with laughter

It is hard to credit now, but the Greens were saying some classic things about Bertie Ahern just a couple of months ago. Sure, they’d almost have you convinced that there was no way they’d ever go into government with them, would they? But it was all just a game, a rare old spoof. I just didn’t realise how hilariously satirical and funny the Greens were until I took another look at their speeches. It is all there. The convictions, the policies, the determination to rid the world of FF. But, you see, it was all a smokescreen. They were just playing hard to get.

Take some choice quotes from John Gormley’s speech at the 2007 Green convention (the full text is here: John Gormley’s 2007 Green Convention Speech) “…the PDs and Fianna Fáil…they live on another planet. It’s called Planet Bertie. And Planet Bertie is a very strange place… On Planet Bertie you can sign blank cheques – because everyone does it, apparently. On Planet Bertie you can spend the average industrial wage on make-up. On Planet Bertie you can get loans from people – that you don’t have to pay back. On Planet Bertie you can save €50,000 – without a bank account. And on Planet Bertie, climate change doesn’t exist. All that stuff is made up by Trevor Sargent. On Planet Bertie there’s a strange cult called Fianna Fáil, a type of religion without vision or values; and every year in August they go on their annual pilgrimage to one of their sacred sites, the tent at the Galway races, where they pay homage to their gods and the gods bestow them with gifts for doing their bidding. Oh yes, it’s a strange place Planet Bertie. So strange and so alien to our sensibilities, that it’s a planet that we Greens would like to avoid. For let there be no doubt, we want Fianna Fáil and the PDs out of Government. ” (My italics) Ah, but you’re cute John, there was doubt. Silly me for thinking differently.

He goes on: “We will introduce the strictest ethical standards ever seen in this country. We will curb spending not just at election time but between elections. We will severely cap personal donations and ban corporate donations.” Eh, well, you won’t. Ahem. No mention of that in your programme for government John, you must have forgotten that one.

He follows that up with another pledge: “One area where inequality is so visible in our society is in the health service. Any society where medical treatment is given the basis of the person’s ability to pay and not on medical need is a sick society – a society in need of healing. We reject the two tiered health system, which has been further entrenched by tax incentives for private hospitals on public land. ” Right, so letting Mary Harney back into the health ministry will stop that happening then, will it? You must have changed your mind on that one John. When was that then?

And then, hilariously, he nails it on the head: “But in reality we won’t be guaranteeing anything unless we’re in government. We want to be in government. We see ourselves as a party of government but, we are also an unusual Party in that we are a Party of conviction with conviction politicians. Prospective coalition partners need to know this. If they are into power for power’s sake, or if it is just about gimmicks and hype, then they should think again about knocking on our door. But if they are serious about providing a better society then they will find in the Green Party dynamic dependable people who want to provide this society with better leadership. ” Conviction politics? Is this for real? I would fall over laughing if it wasn’t so serious.  

Green Government

I am surprised at the large majority in favour, 86% for, only 14% against. But that’s life. I feel deflated. I do think there are too many abandoned principles and too many vague promises. FF have made a career out of dodging promises. But that’s one battle over. The Irish people in general seem to have lost the appetite for radical politics.

Greens and the M3

Here’s some great quotes of Cuffe guff from Ciaran Cuffe, circa 2005, re M3 motorway. “The sanctioning of the motorway is too high a price to pay for progress”, and “Approving the road in its proposed location would be an act of cultural and historic vandalism”. Yes, indeed! And he continues: “How much of Ireland’s history is this Government prepared to sacrifice on the altar of economic growth? ” So, you’d think he’d do something about it then, wouldn’t you?

I am reminded of the final passage of Animal Farm, where the animals look in on the pigs as they entertain the local farmers to a big feast. Four legs good, two legs better.

Green Reaction

From today’s RTE website:

Garland ‘betrayed’ by deal: The founder of the Green Party and its first TD, Roger Garland, has said he feels betrayed by the decision of the party to agree a programme for Government with Fianna Fáil. He said if reports of what the deal contains are true, it was ‘unbelievably bad’. He added that he believes the last thing voters had in mind when they voted Green was returning Fianna Fáil to power. On RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Garland said he feared for the future of the party if delegates at this afternoon’s special conference approved the deal.”

This has very little chance of being passed today. Fair play to Mr. Garland for calling it as it is.

Ten answers from the Greens

I asked Ten Questions of the Greens yesterday. The deal is in, the answers are with us, and the jury must now decide. Good luck to the 500 delegates to today’s Green Party special conference, for they’ll hardly recognise a single Green party policy.

1) Shannon flyovers will continue exactly as normal. Demanding Dail approval for non-UN sanctioned flights is sophistry at its greatest. This is not a concession from Fianna Fail. Thus, the Greens don’t think the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians worth a second thought. Shame. 1-0 to FF.
2) A carbon tax is to be introduced, with not a single commitment on the level or the timing. So we just might, maybe, get a 1% fuel surcharge or an increased VRT level on SUVs? Give me a break. For someone paying €100,000 or more for an SUV, paying a few extra bob will make no difference at all. Pathetic. 0-2 down, maybe it’s just a slow start?
3) The M3 motorway through the Tara-Skyrne valley is continuing as before. This was the easiest thing possible to get a concession on and the one thing they’ve missed. Irreplaceable harm to Ireland’s greatest cultural heritage from the Bronze age traded for a seat at the cabinet table. 0-3 to the Greens.
4) Transport 21 is exactly the same as before, with some extra money for public transport thrown in. Road building programme to continue exactly as before. Where’s the gain there? 0-4 to the Greens.
5) Apparently, according to the Irish Times, Mary Harney was offered Foreign Affairs before flatly refusing and instead asking for Health again. Private hospitals will continue to be built on public grounds. We’re heading for a humiliating 5-0 down at half time scoreline here.
6) No mention of Jackie-Healy Ray anywhere, so I presume you’ve let FF do the deal anyway and you’ve sanctioned it with a nod and a wink. Tens of millions spent on bricking over large parts of South Kerry is OK then, because it cannot be seen from Dublin 4. You are in government you know, you can demand something. Oh God, 6-0.
7) I presume spending on parks and the environment will improve, but I have no details of this yet. Will I give this a goal to the Greens? No. Because the top-rate of tax will still be reduced to 38% and because the PDs are still going to be in government and there’s still going to be half of South Kerry tarmacademed over. 7-0 then.
8 ) The Greens have shook hands with Bertie and his FF cronies on a deal. They will be propping up FF for five years. Another goal by Bertie Beelzebub. And the PDs (Princes of Darkness) are to be included too. That’s worth 9-0.
9) I voted for the Greens precisely to not vote for FF. I voted for peace, sensible environmental policies, and better governance. Not this. A Green vote will never come from me again. Are you expecting to pick up votes at the next election? Just look to what has just happened to the PDs! 10-0 to FF.
10) The Greens haven’t even announced what Ministries they’ll be getting. That’s “a matter for the Taoiseach”. Huh. Admit it, this deal stinks, and you’ve got nothing, absolutely nothing, of value here. Get out before it is too late! 11-0 to FF and the Greens are still grinning.

I sincerely hope this deal is turned down by the Green party faithful. This is a monstrous deal that gives FF everything they want and gives the Green’s nothing.

Ten questions for the Greens

Green Party members Eamon Ryan, Dan Boyle and (right) Ciaran Cuffe outside the Green Party office in Dublin city yesterday. (From Irish Independent)

Ten questions that need answering before you step into bed with FF:

1) Will Shannon flyovers be curtailed or stopped? The renditioning of prisoners is being facilitated by the (neutral) Irish government. Can you be a part of that disgrace?

2) Have you secured concrete assurances that Ireland will begin to honour its Kyoto commitments about carbon emissions, without buying dubious carbon credits?

3) Will the M3 motorway through the Tara-Skyrne valley be stopped and a more sensible route chosen, or do you intend watching over the desecration of sacred, irreplaceable land?

4) What changes will be made to Transport 21 in order to make it deliver basic public transport services for Dublin and our other major cities?

5) Will you support a government with Mary Harney as Health minister, who favours the building of private hospitals on public land?

6) When Jackie-Healy Ray carts off millions of euro in – let’s face it – bribes to support your new government, who will be accountable for this blatant squandering of public money, this pork-barrel politics?

7) What money have you secured for extra discretionary spending on the environment, to set up the parks for Dublin you’ve proposed and the cycle-lanes, clean water, and so on?

8 ) What powers do you have to clean up corrupt governance in Ireland when you are shaking hands with the most cunning and devious of them all?

9) What do you say to the many Green voters who voted for your party with the express understanding that you were being elected to get rid of Fianna Fail? Will you apologise? What will you do when your vote halves at the next election?

10) Okay, so you enter government knowing you’re entering a pact with the devil. Will you at least listen to that Dalkey sage, Chris De Burgh, father of the ex-miss World etc, who says “Don’t pay the ferryman, until he gets you to the other side”? Huh?

Failure to nominate Taoiseach?

What happens on June 14th if neither side can obtain a majority in the nomination of Taoiseach? We have to assume that the current Ceann Comhairle will be reappointed (Rory O’Hanlon, FF), unless a deal is done beforehand. Also, last time out, Sinn Fein abstained from the vote, apparently on principle. Since no one is speaking to them this time either, they will not vote on either option. If they do abstain, then the two opposing sides still have to get 83 votes from 161 remaining deputies. The constitution doesn’t specify the numbers but definitely indicates that it has to be the majority of the Dail. My central thesis is this: that on June 14th neither FF or FG will be able to form a solid 83 seats vote.

There are precedents for the non-election of a Taoiseach. It happened in 1989 and confusion reined about the proper, constitutional solution. The Dail transcripts make for interesting reading. Haughey: “The situation which now obtains, where the Dáil has failed to agree on the nomination of a Taoiseach is unprecedented in our history.” Well, it can happen!

Eventually, a recess would be ordered and a deal would have to be hammered out in the interim, before a new nomination process would be ordered.

Why will neither side be able to reach 83? Because I believe that FG+Lab+Greens (=77 seats) will try to force a vote for an alternative coalition, without any realistic possibilty of it happening. Throw in Michael Lowry and one of Finian McGrath or Tony Gregory, and you have 79 votes. The PDs are in a difficult position now, especially with the growing rumblings from the on-going Mahon tribunal. If they decide to not enter a new coalition with FF, then FF would be left without sufficient votes to form a government. That would be 80 (their 78 seats – Rory) and possibly 3 independents.

I do believe this scenario is unlikely, but possible.

Final Irish Election results

My predictions (early on the day of the count)…

Predicted result of election to 30th Dáil
Fianna Fáil 76
  Fine Gael 48  Labour 16  Green 8  Sinn Fein 7  Progressive Democrats 1  Non Party 10

Final result of election to 30th Dáil
Fianna Fáil 78*
  Fine Gael 51  Labour 20  Green 6  Sinn Fein 4  Progressive Democrats 2  Non Party 5

Comments: Both FF and FG performed better than I expected. Labour’s seats held up remarkably well too. All of the smaller parties got hammered (or squeezed!), most especially the PDs and Independents. It was a throw-back election, similar to the pre-1990s status quo, or the 2 1/2 party system.

In terms of a government, the number required to elect a Taoiseach is 83 votes (for the barest of majorities, and only assuming that a non-government TD becomes Ceann Comhairle (or chair of the Dail)). Fianna Fail look almost certain to be that party. There are basically 5 options open:

1) Realign with the PDs and gather together some independents. This would be a minority government with independent backing (80 seats + 3 independent votes). Bertie loves this idea, because he could give Harney the health ministry and continue with the status quo of the last 10 years. He knows that they’ll play ball with him and are in no position to dictate terms. The PDs look like a busted flush. They’ll see this option as an amazingly good result considering their dramatic loss of seats. The only problem would be the continual dependence on independent votes. Of the 5 independents, only 2 are natural FFs, 1 is an ex-FG minister, and there are 2 socialists. So the deal would be with the 2 FFs and one of the socialists: either Finian McGrath or Tony Gregory. McGrath is already on the record as saying he wants a deal. It’ll be done, no doubt about it. Probability: 60%

2) Fianna Fail to enter coalition with the Greens (producing 84 seats). The Greens have major intellectual and political difficulties with FF and would be involved in internal squabbles. Also, FF would find it hard to embrace some of the Green policies esp in relation to road building and Shannon. Likelihood: 15%

3) Fianna Fail could enter coalition with the Labour party, producing a very stable seat count of 98. However, Labour would expect 4 or 5 cabinet seats for their support, would have to break their agreement with Fine Gael, and would expect to have to elect a new leader. But with the carrot of government dangling before them, these difficulties can be overcome. Probability: 25%

4) Fine Gael (!!) might cobble together a coalition of Labour, the Greens, the PDs, and some independents. The goverment would have 79 seats and depend on the votes of 4 independents. Not only is this option extremely unlikely (the PDs + Greens is the unlikeliest combination of all), it would be unstable, directionless, and prone to internal squabbling. FF would hardly allow this to happen. Basically, this option is highly unlikely: Probability 0.01%.

5) Finally, there might be a FF/SF coalition. Seeing as there are so many other good options for FF, this is unlikely too. Probability: 1%

Irish Election Results

We have a fascinating electoral system in Ireland. Proportional representation, single-transferable vote, multi-seat constituencies. This produces amazingly complex battles, particularly over final seats in marginal constituencies and often between members of the same party. A handful of votes have been known to tip the result one way or the other, or destroy a political career. Witness Dick Spring, leader of the Labour party and second-in-command (Tanaiste) of the government…who lost his seat in 2002, despite having more first preference votes. Beaten on transfers.

Today, the 2007 election count is happening. It looks like Fianna Fail will win another five year term. Fine Gael have recovered somewhat (but, then, they were coming from such a poor result last time…), and all the smaller parties are under immense pressure. The PDs (second party of government) have been squeezed almost out of existence. Sinn Fein are hardly gaining at all, while Labour are looking like loosing seats.

It is early days yet, but here are my personal predictions: FF 76 (-3) FG 48 (+16) Labour 16 (-4) PDs 1 (-7) SF 7 (+1) Independents 10 (-4) Greens 8 (+2).

This means that 1) a FG/Lab/Green coalition is impossible (only 70 seats, when 83 needed). 2) FF/PD outgoing government is also impossible (only 77 seats). 3) A possible FF/SF coalition looks slightly possible (although at 83 seats, there are huge political difficulties for FF in entering coalition with SF). 4) FF/Lab have plenty of seats, and despite the pre-election pact between FG and Lab, this looks the most likely option. I predict a FF-Labour coalition government from now until 2012. I’ll be back later with the final results!