Jude Collins

Monday, 31 October 2011

Michael D's victory speech - "Is feidir linn!" or what?

I remember Barack Obama’s victory speech in Chicago three years ago.  Bet you do too. The vast crowd, the faces gleaming with expectation, the soaring oratory, the tears of joy and pride. One of our own, the black people said, one of our own. Stirring stuff. There was more stirring stuff in Galway last night – Eyre Square crammed, flags and bands, cheers and tears, and of course Michael D Higgins’s soaring oratory. One of our own, the Galway people said, one of our own.

Today, with just a year before the US’s presidential election, Obama is taking a pounding in the polls. I’m not totally surprised. “Yes we can!” stirred the blood, including my own, but I never quite understood it. Can what? Beat Al Quaida? Rethink American foreign policy? Start feeding the one in six American children who go to bed hungry each night? What?

So let’s take a peek at  Higgins’s victory speech.  He refers to the “many valuable suggestions” of other candidates  “which I hope to include and encompass over the next seven years”.

He spoke of “an inclusive citizenship, which is about equality, participation and respect” and his “vision of a real republic where life and language, where ideals and experience, have the ring of authenticity, which we need now as we go forward”.

OK. There’s loads more but that’s enough. Once I hear a politician say “going forward” I know s/he is doing the equivalent of Harold Wilson lighting his  pipe during a TV interview – playing for time so he can think of the next thing to say.

Right. Those many valuable suggestions  by other candidates that the President-elect is “hoping to include and encompass”. Which ones? And why did he not tell us they were valuable until now?

That “inclusive citizenship” thing. I'm an Irish citizen. How will the new President work to make sure I’m included in, for example, voting for his successor? Can I have an example as to how I will be treated with equality and encouraged to participate in (presumably political) life ‘down there’? And is the “real republic” he has in mind the same one that Tone, Pearse and Connolly talked about? At a basic geographical level, how many counties will it have?

What does a republic “where life and language, where ideals and experience have the ring of authenticity” look like? Come to that, what does the statement mean? Anything? Or is it another “Is feidir linn!” – “Yes we can!”?

You're quite right - it's not the done thing to be critical of someone newly elected,  but  frankly I don't give a damn for the done thing. Higgins himself would surely agree that words must mean something.  Emotionally I thought his victory speech, like Obama’s, was eloquent and passionate, and you could see why those Galway people were getting choked up. In terms of meaning his speech was mainly  smoke and mirrors. 

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A letter from the Park (or near as dammit)

Dear comrade,

Thank you for your letter of congratulation and you are indeed right, Ireland couldn't possibly have elected a more intelligent or cultured man than myself, or, let me add, one who has published more books.  So, dear Comrade, this grey October morning, I unite myself with you in the solidarity of being over the moon. It was as you point out a singularly bruising contest but let me add that I maintained my dignity at all times,  don't you know, even when that nightclub bouncer creature looked home and, as the cliché has it, dry. Happily most of the blows aimed at me  went over my head and struck an opponent which was, as they say now, a bonus. And so today, I gird my loins (such as they are) for movement into the highest office in the land.

 Which is as it should be.  Mine, as you doubtless are aware, has been a life dedicated to things of the spirit rather than the flesh, to the cause of culture and not cute-hoorism. I am proud to number among my friends and, might I modestly add, admirers,  people from all over the world, not least the gallant rebels of Nicaragua and the Middle East. When called on  I was never  found wanting in my willingness to speak out in favour of such oppressed people and have stood  shoulder to shoulder or, where a box was not available, shoulder to thigh with these men  - and women, of course women, indeed - men and women of courage in their search for those pearls beyond price, freedom and equality.

You may ask me what I mean by the word  'freedom' and 'equality, and while I am tempted to respond with the words of my good friend Kris Kristofferson,  that freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, I choose rather to use the term as it was used in classical Roman times, that is, as an identifier, an innate feature of the citizen's rights in our new Republic. And let me add to that my complete and utter rejection of the term 'republic' which we sometimes hear prated by the rag-tag-and-bobtail ruffians of Belfast and  Derry and south Armagh. These people have the temerity to use such sacred words as 'liberty' and 'unity', when in fact they have never studied Latin as I have, when they wouldn't know their in toto  from their ad nauseam.  And yet they dare to speak of liberty!

And while I find myself on that subject, under my Presidency there'll be rather more discrimination from now on about who is allowed to tramp  over the lawns of Aras an Uachtarain.  We will of course maintain our sympathy and solidarity with the oppressed unionist people of Northern Ireland, but if Jackie McDonald or anyone else thinks they're going to be down here deafening the neighbours with their singularly tuneless Lambeg Drums every Twelfth of July they've got another thing coming.  Likewise with this presidential habit of continual tripping northwards, sadly  a feature of my predecessor. I wish to imply no criticism or censure, but  in these times of austerity we must preserve as much as possible of the national budget, not for northern jaunts but for things artistic, for the ethereal joy of sean-nos singing and the glory of the Saw Doctors in full flight.  Besides, I once found myself standing beside the aforesaid Mr McDonald  (Why incidentally are so many of these people called 'Jackie'?), and let me be honest, I found it an unnerving experience.  So no more drum-pounding and parading about the Park, frightening the squirrels and deer every Twelfth.  What guests I have will be a carefully selected number, including such sensitive musicians as  the Saw Doctors and Bono, and even reaching out as far as the likes of  Paul Brady.

Finally, people ask me what sort of presidency will mine be - what will be its distinguishing theme? I must tell them and tell  you that if I were to sum it up in one word, that word would be 'Towards a New and Better Republic'. Yes indeed, that's five or six words, but let's not quibble, dear comrade. The point I want to emphasise is that I will help the Irish people  rediscover their Irishness and together we will build a new republic, a new Jerusalem you might say, inclusive of all citizens who have documented evidence of an IQ within 10 points mine and who live within the boundaries of this 26-county state we feel proud to call Eire. Together we will imagine a new Ireland, a new age, in which men dare to dream dreams and where those who, like myself, have written and published books of poetry will be given their rightful place as na crionnaí  or council members in my brave new tomorrow.

What more can I say, comrade? If it wasn't for this blasted knee I'd be doing a moon dance across the Aras ballroom this very instant. Vincemeros!

Yours in unflinching solidarity

Michael D Higgins

Uachtarán na hÉireann

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Irish Presidential election: five things we now know.

1. Most of the southern media are a sad, craven lot. If you watched Tonight with Vincent Browne  last night you'll have seen an example of how they react when confronted with their own shortcomings. Robert Ballagh told Michael Clifford what he thought and Clifford looked as though he'd swallowed, not a sip from his mug but his own tongue. Ballagh's criticism was that Clifford and Co. dealt with candidates' personalities and ignored the big issues. My own judgement is based on the fact that they spent several weeks standing on coffins pointing at Martin McGuinness and no time examining his record over the past seventeen years. If that's not bias with a capital B, then my cat has five legs.

2. McGuinness's entry transformed the contest. It sent  a surge of electricity through it - the type  surgeons produce when they put clamps on the patient's chest and shout "Stand clear!" When McGuinness announced his candidacy, what had been a half-dead affair was suddenly pulsating, brimming with life.

3. The Irish electorate shouldn't be let out without a grown-up.  With three days to go, with the state on its economic knees having its softer parts squeezed tighter and ever tighter by Europe,  the electorate  decided it would be a wonderful idea to elect a life-long member of the party that banjaxed them.

4.  Sean Gallagher didn't follow Martin McGuinness's career at Stormont. For decades in the north, the question of the  11+ examination was tossed around. It shouldn't be held, yes it should, maybe there's something to be said for it, no there's not,  we've the highest A Level results in the world, we've the highest level of non-qualifieds, etc, etc etc. Then McGuinness was made Minister for Education and within weeks he'd abolished the ghastly examination. Vested interests screamed and still scream, but  the ridiculous exam is gone and it ain't coming back.  Over Gallagher's financial and Fianna Fail dealings, the southern media spent  ten days and more making  tut-tut and oh-dear and well-now noises. McGuinness went onto RTÉ's Frontline  on Monday night and cut through the waffle. He confronted Gallagher with a single clear case of chicanery, Gallagher went ooer,  recollection, envelope, I did, I didn't, where can I implode, please?  I bet Gallagher wishes he'd paid more attention to how Martin McGuinness the politician works.

5. Michael D Higgins owes his place in the Phoenix Park to McGuinness's intervention. The Labour party is denying it already but the facts speak for themselves. On 24 October - three days before election day - paddypower bookies had Sean Gallagher at 1/4 and Michael D Higgins at 5/2.  Three days before.  There was a giant gap between them on the three consecutive polls. McGuinness confronted Gallagher about that cheque and within 48 hours, all bets were off, the gap vanished and Higgins was home. Today, it's a formality - Michael D Higgins will be the ninth President of Ireland.

Why did McGuinness do it?  Well, partly to enhance his party's standing in the eyes of the electorate. No politician acts without an eye to the effect on voters. But  also because that's the kind of man McGuinness is. When he sees something that he believes needs changing, he applies all his formidable power to it - whether that's as an IRA leader, a Minister for Education, a Deputy First Minister or a Presidential candidate. He has indeed done the state some service. Granted, we're back 21 years with an over-the-hill politician being sent to the Park; but think what nearly happened - seven years of Gallagher representing Ireland. Phew - close one, that.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Try to avoid tabloid-think, Terry

Terry Spence of the Police Federation

Since the chances are you're not a total fool, you'll know that the performance of the southern media - not all but a large section  - has been warped to a shameful degree during this election. The fact that they put on a gentlemanly/ladylike act by having an election moratorium for the day or half-day before the polls open should deceive no one. It's  the posturing of hypocrites. That said, you'll get people that believe they weren't warped enough. Yesterday's Indo had a column lambasting RTÉ for being too gentle in their treatment of Martin McGuinness. I'm going to have to hide that last sentence from our cat in case he  takes a seizure.

But let's park the election and the Indo, and turn our thoughts to Terry Spence. He's the chairman of the Police Federation here and he's all over the front of the News Letter  this morning, calling for the withdrawal of benefits from parents of children/teenagers who riot. I was on the BBC's Stephen Nolan show this morning with him and you could have got a more reasoned discussion out of Frank Spencer. If Terry Spence's unspoken assumption that rioting and poverty are linked is true, would we not be better to treat poverty rather than cut benefits? Pass.  Is cutting the family's benefits not like the teacher who punishes everyone in the class because one person did something wrong? Pass. Is there any connection between rioting and the coat-trailing of an anti-Catholic organisation, to wit the Orange Order, in places where it's not wanted? Pass. What parent ever created by God was able to control their child/teenager's actions all day and all of the night? Pass. Wouldn't withdrawing benefits encourage other teenagers in the family to be hung for sheep rather than lambs and  join the rioting as well? Pass.

People like Frank Spen - oops, Terry Spence, should confine their attention to seeing that the police service here, with its ghastly record  over the past forty years, conduct themselves in a manner that'll  win public trust on all sides. They should also resist the temptation to mouth populist platitudes - "Hit them in their pockets!" "I blame the parents!" Leave that to the tabloid rags on both sides of the border.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

What Hugh says happened, what Sean told Rachel

Hugh Morgan press release:

I wish to clarify and set the record straight in relation to the dealings I had with Sean Gallagher which resulted in my attendance at a Fianna Fail fundraiser in the Crown Plaza Hotel, Dundalk, on the 1st July 2008.

Sean Gallagher , who I had never met previous to this, contacted me by phone. He first phoned me on the 6th June 2008 and invited me to attend the above fundraiser. In the course of the call he requested a donation of €5,000.00 for Fianna Fail. He advised me that this type of fundraising would replace the annual Galway Tent Fundraiser. In return for the €5,000.00 donation I was promised a private audience with the Taoiseach and I would get a photograph taken with him.

He told me that the Taoiseach would give an up-date on the economy in the South which in his words was 'beginning to wobble'

On the 9th June he again phoned me to confirm my attendance . I confirmed that I would attend and was prepared to give the donation he requested. He left two mobile phone numbers for me to contact him on these numbers are 0878293028 and 0879763122.

On the 27th June Sean Gallagher visited my business premises at Killean, County Armagh. I wrote a cheque for €5,000.00 and gave it to him personally. The cheque number is 13014. I still have the stub of the cheque , This payment is declared in my Company accounts and was cleared through my bank on the 1st July 2008.

I then attended the fundraiser which was also attended by other businessmen from South Armagh, North Louth and across the Northeast. Sean Gallagher greeted the guests on arrival and directed us to the room at the top of the Hotel where the fundraiser was held.

Brian Cowen gave a speech on the economy and predicted a soft landing. At the end of the night Sean Gallagher introduced me to Brian Cowen and facilitated a photograph to be taken of myself and him. Approximately one week later Sean Gallagher called back to my business and gave me the photograph.

It is a fact that approximately fourteen years ago I was convicted of tax evasion in relation to fuel smuggling in Northern Ireland. As a consequence to that, I have repaid the Exchequer and paid a substantial fine. I was never investigated by CAB or any other agency in the Republic.

Since that time I have developed a successful international business known as Morgan Fuels.

I employ over eighty people in Ireland ,both North and South. I have business interests in Ireland , Britain and Europe and the Morgan Fuel card can be used up to 4,000 service stations in fourteen countries across Europe.I am also the official sponsor of the Armagh County teams of the GAA.


Sean Gallagher interview with Rachael English on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on

Gallagher: I was asked by Fianna Fail Headquarters of which I was a party member at the time in 2008 which is no secret if I would mention it to local business people which I did. 

English: So you rang people up and invited them?

Gallagher: No, people that I met, I explained that there was this event coming up. I have to make it very clear, I sought no money, I received no money from anybody, that was dealt with by Headquarters Fianna Fail Headquarters. I also want to make it very clear that while I attended the event I was not asked for money, I made no contribution myself in either a personal capacity or as a corporate donation either before the event, during the event, or after the event.

English: How many people did you invite?

Gallagher: I think I mentioned to possibly three or four people, and I have no idea to this day whether or not they made a donation whatsoever.

English: Does this not though invite further scepticism about your links with Fianna Fail?

Gallagher: Well I think that has been well trashed out and it's an ongoing issue that keeps coming up. I mean I have made it clear numerous times that I was involved in Fianna Fail in 2007, 2008 and for a short period in 2009.

Sean Gallagher's defective memory

Well. This election was dull, dull, dull. Until, that is, one Martin McGuinness announced that he was running. Then there was a sharp intake of breath in Dublin 4 and the media went into frenzy mode. This gradually diminished to a lower, near-tedium level (“These bloody debates, I’ve had a bellyful”) until Monday night when once again, a move by Martin McGuinness raised the temperature sky-high and all bets were off. Or at least those on Sean Gallagher the non-Fianna Fail candidate.

The Gallagher case is full of more zig-zags than a Bertie Ahern news conference but a number of things do stand out.

1.     Gallagher has refused to answer questions about the €83,000 loan he took from his own company. The law says you can take a loan  of 10% from your own company. Gallagher took a loan of 70% and so clearly breached the law, which could have landed him in jail. He says it was all a misunderstanding.
2.     In 2001,  Louth Enterprise Board put a loan of over €25,000 into a firm co-owned by Gallagher.  In 2004 the Louth Board came looking for its money but in the meantime Gallagher’s firm had changed its name and claimed its right to pay back nothing. After a legal dispute, Gallagher’s firm paid back some but not all of the money.  Nobody knows how much. Or little.
3.     “I sought no money. I received no money from anybody” – Sean Gallagher during Monday’s debate.
4.     “It’s very feasible that if I did deliver to his (Hugh Morgan’s) premises a photograph, he may well have given me a cheque”.  – Sean Gallagher on RTÉ yesterday.
5.     “I think I mentioned it to possibly three or four people, and I have no idea to this day whether or not they made a donation”. – Sean Gallagher on RTÉ, 20th October.

Sound familiar? Mmm. Quite. So what now? 

Well, either the electorate in the south will awaken from the deep slumber into which they’d fallen and smell not so much the coffee as the stink of ancient Fianna Fail fish and tell Gallagher on Thursday to get lost.  In which case we’ll be back where we started about 21 years ago, when the Áras was a rest home for clapped-out politicians. Or the awakening will have come too late for enough drowsy voters and Sean Gallagher, who if we’re to believe reports has contradicted himself on a number of occasions  (what we ethicists sometimes refer to as “lying”), who has been a  Fianna Fail man all his adult life and who acted, it seems, in the proud tradition if not the exact practice of the Galway Tent, will lead the south of Ireland for the next seven years. 

Finally, a word or two about the duties of Martin McGuinness. In the media’s constant questioning of him over several carefully-selected but unsolved killings which the police and the gardai haven’t cracked, it’s clear they expect McGuinness to do this work for them – bring those responsible to justice. McGuinness the politician should become McGuinness the policeman.  So what are we paying the police and gardaí for?

Plus. For ten days or so, the media had the story listed under No 1 above.  But while there were vague rumblings, no outcry was heard. It wasn’t until Monday night and McGuinness’s questions to Gallagher that the media suddenly woke up and began shouting their heads off about Gallagher’s odd business practices. So in addition to policeman/detective, it appears McGuinness must add the work of being the media’s alarm clock.

So that’s detective, alarm clock and politician, all rolled into one man. Sounds to me like a multi-talented person we could usefully elect to the Áras. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Martin and Sean and that awkward envelope

Well – that was a debate. No need for the strong coffee or smelling salts to keep the eyes open until the end of RTÉ’s Frontline  programme with Pat Kenny.  How did they do?

1.     Higgins: he kept his head down for the most part, only raising it to go on about ‘a new Ireland’ and imagination and the arts and how he wouldn’t say anything about Denis O’Brien other than that he wouldn’t be on his list. At times he looked old (nothing wrong with that) but also a bit tired. Or maybe it was bored. Hands fidgety, eyes blinking a little more than usual. He did OK.

2.     Dana: continued her loveable-little-girl-from-Derry bit, which is of course her strongest suit. And that she’d “stand with the people”, which was fair enough. The family row thing didn’t get raised so she did OK.

3.     David Norris: he had a good night. At times he tried to force his way into the conversation and the braying note asserted itself and you – well, I – remembered what a pain in the bum he can be when he plays, is the toff. But like a team with nothing to lose, he performed in a relaxed and at times witty way. If he’d had outings like that every time he came on TV, the story would be different.

4.     Mary Davis: something of the same relaxation was to be seen in her responses, although she got a wee bit snarled up in that question about Denis O’Brien being on her committee.  I’m not totally clear on the Mary-Denis thing but I guess from last night that Denis is/was one of her backers.

5.     Gay Mitchell: cheesh. And double-cheesh. Something in Gay’s clockwork has gone seriously wrong over the past few weeks, and there were bits of his inner machinery pinging all over the studio at one point. It’s  real baffler – he’s actually a hard worker, I’m told, and some of the points he made last night and other nights were sound ones. But he just came across as a bit, um, hysterical. Null points, I’m afraid, Gay.

6.     Martin McGuinness: his best debate of the campaign by a country mile. His most impressive feat was to take over Pat Kenny’s role – he was the one that asked the questions of Sean Gallagher. Pat Kenny at one point tried to convert some reference to a knock on the door into knocks on the door in the north, but maybe half-way he realized oops, the 5 o’clock knock thing was a loyalist gang speciality rather than a republican one, and pulled back. McGuinness’s two best bits were his ‘Just answer the question, Sean’ as poor old Gallagher got panicky and started talking about being given, of all things, an envelope; and the bit where he responded to the young woman who was a typical you-up-there-should-stay-up-there Southerner. If he’d paid her (in an envelope, of course) he couldn’t have asked for a better chance to bat the partitionist ball clean out of the studio, over Dublin and into every home in the country.

7.     Sean Gallagher: near-total disaster. I say near because most of the time he did manage to sound calm, in a kind of – and I say this with no insult to our four-legged friends – bovine way. Which was good thinking, except that the occasion called for some return fire which he appeared not to have. There was an effort to make The Man With The Envelope into a fuel smuggler and mate of Gerry Adams,  but Kenny smelt blood and whacked in with wanting to know why Gallagher had invited such a miscreant to a FF-er banquet.

Will McGuinness’s man-with-envelope story sink  Sean G?  It could well do, and I’d not be surprised if tired MD Higgins didn’t break into an elfin dance of joy, once the missus pulled the curtains last night. The bookies think Higgins will win and the bookies are rarely wrong. And McGuinness will now have evidence of that leadership quality he said he brought to his presidential bid. Who’s the person everyone’s talking about this morning? Gallagher, and he must wish to God they weren’t. Who’s the other person on everyone’s lips? McGuinness, the man with the awkward question that changed the whole shape of the presidential race. And I’ll bet there was the odd roar of approval north of the border when he reminded Dublin 4 that  Derry, Antrim, Down, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh are as Irish as Cork, Dublin and any other county on the island

It should be an interesting couple of days ahead.  

Monday, 24 October 2011

Tasteless dress-up and morality

Apparently there’s a brouhaha in Derry about some youngsters getting dressed up in Osama bin Laden outfits. Quite a number of people are upset by it – they see it as being in very poor taste.

Well I suppose if I had had a relative or friend killed in the attack on the Twin Towers, I’d be less than thrilled by such dress-up too. But I’d almost lay money that those complaining didn't have friends or relatives who died. (Mind you I’ve no evidence one way or another, but that’s never stopped southern commentators in their questions to Martin McGuinness, so why should it stop me?)

No,  I think if we want to feel Outraged or even Insulted, we might think of the 25,000 + people who died needlessly on 11 September 2001. Especially as around 20,000 of them were five years old or under. Because that’s the number of people who died of starvation that day. And today. And every day in between.  Those are UN figures, by the way. Or consider the fact that one in every eight children in the US goes to bed hungry. If you’re non-white and a child, you’re twice as likely to hit the sack with an empty belly.  If the money intended for ten Stealth Bombers were used otherwise, 100,000,000 people’s lives could be saved.  Count the noughts -  one hundred million.

We’ve each got a limited supply of moral outrage/indignation. So maybe we’d be better employed directing same at what is happening every day around the world rather than fretting over some Derry dressy-up stuff. Anyway, Osama is yesterday’s World Villain. We’ve got real live villains who work hard to keep this kind of global obscenity in place. 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Money and the Áras and having a good laugh

Money: it would drive you mad if you let it. Can’t live without it, can’t live er um, well actually most of us figure we could live quite nicely thank you with it. Last weekend, Edwina Currie was on Stephen Nolan’s BBC Radio Five Live show expressing her serious, serious doubt that anyone in Britain had so little money, they went hungry. But then her idol was one M Thatcher, so she would say that, wouldn’t she? 

Back in the real world, money is an increasing worry for more and more people. Here in the north, at least  55,000 people are out of work.  Each day brings fresh news of lay-offs and threatened closures. In the south – well, in the south at last count, nearly 450,000 people were jobless. 

Now. The President of Ireland, as we’re told time and time again, can’t  do as a politician does and draft legislation that might create jobs. But s/he can set an example.  Say you had a president who boozed a lot: not good. Or who smoked like a train or looked a bit odd or had no neck : not good again. We like to think of our president as someone who won’t look or sound embarrassing.

Above all, there should be a connection between the president and the people. S/he doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the people –  Mary Robinson wasn’t -  but they should live lives that let them know  how ordinary people live.

So how does that pan out in the Áras stakes? Well, there’s probably nothing much the people in the south can do about the presidential residence. The Áras is far bigger than any human being needs,  although some will tell you it ‘lends dignity to the office’. Mmm. I’d say dignity comes from within, not from where you call home.

But back to money. Let’s assume the presidential race is now a two-horse affair (actually I think it’s still a three-horse). If it is a two-horse, how closely in terms of income do the two front-runners resemble the suffering southern population? Can the south’s populace, as they’re being hammered into the ground, look up at the president and murmur “At least we’re all in this together”?

Take the twinkly little man from Galway with the gammy leg - how does his income compare with that of the ordinary Sean Citizen? Well, Higgins  receives three pensions – one from his teaching career, another as a former Minister in the Dail, and another for being a TD. Put those together and you get around €130,000 every year. Add to that the President’s salary if he gets elected and Higgins will be pulling in something between €400,000 and €5000,000 per annum. A bit beyond the realm of the average punter, wouldn't you say?

Or supposing - no, stop laughing - supposing the next president is Gallagher, the Dragon’s Den man.   I’ve never seen the TV programme but I’m told  it involves people who’ve a money-making scheme presenting their ideas to a panel of People With Money. And since Gallagher is one of the people on the panel,  it’s reasonable to assume Gallagher is a rich man. Outside the Dragon’s Den, Gallagher ran a company called Smarthomes (guess what they did) which had a turnover of €10,000,000 a  year. Yep, that's millions all right. He’s alleged to have lost several million in the recession, like a lot of other property big boys, but like a lot of other property big boys, even though he's coy about saying how much, he's probably got several millions stashed away.  So will he take his salary of over  €200,000 a year if elected? Does a bear evacuate its bowels in the deep dark forest?

So there you have it. The Irish people  of the south are losing their jobs, thanks to Fianna Fail corruption and property developer greed. So the polls show a lifelong Fianna Fail activist  with a property bent most likely to be elected.  Following him in the polls is a poetry-writing academic who’s been a life-long Labour Party representative- that's Labour which is  cutting to the bone in every sector, in a kind of neo-liberal frenzy and in direct contradiction of their pre-election pledges. Which means that, if the polls are correct,  you don't know whether to laugh or cry or both.

First, though, let us all stand and sing  the first three verses of “God Save Ireland’. 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Gaddafi: bet he's sorry now!

Well, good news tonight or what! Isn't it wonderful? Mind you I'm against killing people as a general rule but some people you just have to, well, kill them.  There's no other word for it. For the sake of the world. If Muammar Gaddafi had had his way it would have been Libya today, Russia tomorrow, God knows where next Saturday - there's no knowing where a madman will stop. So he had to be stopped before he invaded London or invented weapons of mass destruction. That's why I bet David Cameron is really pleased he's dead. I'm not saying Mr Cameron is a man of violence. Check the British PM's record whatever way you like and you'll find that the worst he's done is get pissed at the Bollinger Club and break a few bottles of champagne over Boris's head. Other than that, nothing. But he wasn't going to go condemning the men of violence who killed Muammar Gaddafi. Ho no. Because they did it, in a funny kind of way, for Gaddafi's own good. For Libya. Otherwise he would have gone on torturing and killing people - he was addicted to it, you know. In fact, if he couldn't get people to torture and kill, well, he'd rather be dead.  Seriously. That's why he didn't go to another African country when he could have. Because there wouldn't have been any Libyans there to kill. Or torture. Or both. So he stayed where he was. And got killed.

The best part about it, of course, is that we helped kill him! Isn't that a nice warm thought? I mean if we hadn't got together with France and all the other decent countries, and got those peace-loving people in NATO to climb into their planes and drop bombs on Tripoli and Sirte and anywhere else that they thought Gaddafi and his friends might be, well, who's to say that the rebels - yes, yes, I know, they waste an awful lot of ammunition, firing in the air like that - who's to say they would have won on their own? They might have. Some of them looked really tough, the way they were shouting and stuff. But  maybe they mightn't have. So just in case,  NATO and the rest of us just dropped a  few thousand tons of explosives on anywhere we thought Gaddafi or his mates might be, and that made all the difference. It certainly made a difference to the people on the receiving end!

I said back there that the best part was that we helped kill him. I've a confession to make. It isn't really the best part. The really best part, the bestest best part, and I promise you, read my lips, it just happens to be that way, we went into Libya, or rather NATO planes bombed the shit out of Libya,  with no thought of oil on our minds. Hand on heart. We just felt it was time the people of Libya were liberated. Yes I know, education and health and everything else went up seven-fold since Gaddafi seized power. But as they said on the BBC this evening, it was the OIL that did that. NOT Gaddafi. He didn't do a thing - he just sort of sat there in his tent, drawing up more plans for sending flotillas of ships loaded with semtex to the IRA. In between drawing up plans to torture and kill his own people because, well, because that's the kind of man he was. Yes, Libya has a really good health record. And it has a really good education record. And they have so much work available, they were able to give employment to thousands of African workers from outside Libya. But don't you see - it was the OIL that did that - not Gaddafi. Just as it was for JUSTICE and DEMOCRACY and PEACE that we went in and helped the gallant rebels with our war-planes and bombs and SAS-type people on the ground.

The only bad part to the whole episode is that we didn't have cameras to show Gaddafi caught in that hole place. That would have been really good. Then we could have taken him out and shone a light inside his mouth in front of the cameras, like with that other guy, and then later hanged him in front of the TV cameras. That's the bit I feel sad about. But you can't have everything. All in all, it's a wonderful achievement by the peace-loving world.  I mean it really, really is. All together now - We! Killed! Gaddafi! We! Killed! Gaddafi!  Makes a guy feel proud, don't it?

What, me Fianna Fail?


Well, you got to admit he’s a fresh face. Not a face that’s startlingly handsome but then this presidential election was never a beauty contest, was it? No no no. But Sean Gallagher is a face that most of us haven’t seen before. Whereas Michael Higgins, Gay Mitchell, Dana – well, the phrase “a comfortable old shoe” comes to mind.

So let’s check out the front-runner’s qualities.

1.     He’s a criminal. That is to say,  he “breached company law”, which is another way of saying the crime was a business crime, involving a loan from his own company.  Had the law proceeded with full rigour, he would have been fined around €13,000 or sent to jail for five years. Or both. Ouch. Did I mention he’s the front-runner for the Aras?
2.     He was a member of Ógra Fianna Fail in the 1980s
3.     He was political secretary to Fianna Fail minister for health Rory O’Hanlon.
4.     He was Fianna Fail Louth TD Seamus Kirk’s director of elections.
5.     He was a member of Fianna Fail’s  Ravensdale cumann.
6.     He was elected to the Fianna Fail National Executive.
7.     He resigned from the Fianna Fail National Executive in January of this year, but not from the Fianna Fail party.
8.     In his resignation letter he said he wanted “to express my continued support to you and your colleagues in this challenging period for the party”.
9.     He resigned from the Fianna Fail Ravensdale cumann in March 2010.
10.  During the last general election, he appeared on platforms and at launch campaigns with four Fianna Fail candidates.
11.  His presidential campaign team director is Cathal Lee, a former Fianna Fail district councillor.
12.  Two senior advisers from the Fianna Fail-Green government (remember them?) are working on the campaign – Donal Geoghegan, the Greens’ chief adviser when in government and Richard Moore, press adviser to Fianna Fail’s Dermot Ahern for nearly ten years.
13.  His media adviser is Suzanne Collins, a former press officer with Fianna Fail.
14.   Jack Murray is a former press officer for the PDs and he’s giving Gallagher voluntary help.

I haven’t mentioned his business background but it related directly to the property boom.

What brought the south of Ireland, not just to its knees, but into a pit from which it won’t emerge for maybe twenty years? Fianna Fail and the property developers, with more than a little help from the banks. And now the front-runner is a man (see above) with a Fianna Fail record as long as your leg who had business related to the property world and who, had the full rigour of the law been applied, might be in prison.

It’s nice when  a state, after a terrible crisis, can make a fresh start, isn’t it?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

All right, all right - let's broaden the debate

I had a complaint from a correspondent on yesterday's blog, essentially saying would I give over about the bloody election and talk about something else? S/he  (correspondent remains, as most do, under the intriguing veil of anonymity) has a point but let me briefly give my reasons for the presidency emphasis. It's simple: were McGuinness to be elected to the Áras, for the first time the people of the twenty-six counties would have sent a signal that, among other things, they felt empathy with northern nationalists/republicans and saw them as their fellow-countrymen. Not that much to ask, is it?

OK, so let's broaden it a bit today (I missed TG4 last night anyway) and consider if  our way of deciding who will be president a good one?  Without a moment's hesitation I would so No,  the way presidential elections operate is very bad and we should change it.


1. We could have a hereditary head of state, as  have the neighbours across the water. The argument they give  is that it makes for continuity. Unfortunately it also makes for Prince Charles and  Prince Wills and similar ghastly surprises. And did I mention it's anti-women (only use one when we run out of men, chaps) and anti-Catholic (no taigs need apply).  I think we can safely give that one a miss.
2. Establish a dictatorship. Vote in a strong man - or woman - and take off the safety-catch. Full powers for life, go to it, sunshine. It eliminates all tedious discussions and debates, it saves money on elections, and it gives us all someone to look up to. Alas, it also makes for imprisonment without trial, torture and insufferable levels of sycophancy. Scrap  that one too.
3. Voting with a twist. I think it was the writer Ray Bradbury came up with this one: vote in your president, but part of the deal is that s/he will then have an explosive chip implanted in his/her brain. When enough people - a majority of the population - dislike how the president is behaving they press the Detonate button on their mobile,  the president's head blows apart and there's a new election.  It'd mean all candidates were serious about running and it'd make sure the president always made popular decisions. But there's something about it I don't quite like, although I can't put my finger on it.

In fact, when you think about it, you might reasonably claim there's not a lot wrong with the presidential system we have, except that we may well vote in a turkey (no offence, Dustin). In fact, according to the Red C poll, we're well on our way to doing so later in the month. That's not the turkey's fault: who wouldn't want that kind of money in that kind of house for seven years, in exchange for a few inspect-the-parade showings? The problem is with the electorate - you. (I nearly said 'us',  but as you know I live north of the border and so don't deserve to have a say in who is Irish president.) On 27 October,  will it be 30%? 40% of the  voters turning out on the day? That's ridiculous. Australians have made voting compulsory. They shouldn't need to and we shouldn't need to - sorry, you shouldn't need to - but it's a situation that shouldn't be let continue by any self-respecting people.

The other thing that should change is telling people the Big Lie: that is, if they do vote, they've done their democratic duty. God, I get mad when I hear that kind of twaddle. What about the seven years in between? Or if it's politicians we're electing, the four or five years?  Schools, the media, everyone should make it clear that involvement in politics is part of being a citizen. Caring about your society and how it's governed has to mean more than an X once every few years.  "But everybody knows politics is a dirty business - I want nothing to do with it"? In that case, get in there and change it, would you, and stop whingeing on the sidelines. Yes I know that such active involvement in politics by everyone has little or no public support  - that most people are happy the way things are. But then there was a time when most of us were happy with drink-driving,  smoking, refusing women the vote and sending small boys up chimneys. We changed all those; isn't it time we changed the X-marks-the-spot political culture?

Because if we don't, in seven years' time we could well end up yet again voting in a man whose hand shakes when he speaks or a man who feels no shame about being up to his oxters in the Fianna Fail party all his adult life. Oh, and being a money-owing property developer . If you think neither of those prospects calls for a more involved and knowledgeable electorate as soon as absolutely possible, you'll probably want to start promoting options 1, 2 or even 3.  But going on in this sheep-like (or do I mean Gadarene swine-like?) way is stupid and dangerous.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

No need for language like that

OK -  starter for ten. Which presidential candidate said the following yesterday:

“What I have offered is my life and what I am offering is a significant portion of the rest of my life.” ?

Let’s see now – sounds extreme, doesn’t  it? And extreme is next door to extremist. And that talk about offering your life – a hint of blood sacrifice there, wouldn’t you say?  And we all know that republicans are the blood sacrifice people, so except you take  Sean Gallagher as being a republican – well, he has been a very active Fianna Fail man all his life, and they have taken recently to reminding us they’re the republican party…Nah. Don’t be silly.  It’s Martin McGuinness – has to be.

Except it’s not. It’s Michael D Higgins. He’s  a very complex man, Higgins. Maybe that’s why he wanted to have a debate with Gallagher, who offers a relatively simple message: vote for me because I can skip really fast and I have a disability.  Higgins sees being a faithful Labour Party man all his life (apart from a wild six months in Fianna Fail) as offering his life, which in a way it must have been . Can you imagine yourself having to attend meetings on a near-daily basis with former Stickie Eamonn Gilmore, with not a single Stickie weapon decommissioned?

As if that weren’t enough, Higgins has mood swings. While he was still leading in the polls he was a murmuring, smiling, cuddly little teddy bear of a candidate. Now that Gallagher has passed him like a Cabinet minister’s car on a country road, Higgins has got quite snappy, not to say snarly. No more Mr Nice Guy. Or not as much at least.

But fair play – he’s still prepared to be nice to people even those who don’t give him their No 1.  He was yesterday: ‘It’s very important to be a candidate that people can transfer to with comfort and enthusiasm. But it’s not a deal. I think people are very, very wise. They know how to vote”.  I think he kind of ruined it with that last bit, wouldn’t you say? – all you have to do is write 1,2,3 etc,  and put the bit of paper in the box. Any dope could do that.  But there you are. Higgins finds wisdom in the simplest things.

But. But but but. Higgins is not himself simple. He is, as he’s reminded us several times, a man who’s lectured in universities. Even in some American universities. And he has written books. And poetry. Ah yes,  Higgins  the poet.  I’ve never read any of Higgins’s poetry, I’m afraid, and neither, I’m willing to bet, have the vast majority of the very very wise Irish people. So I’m now calling on Mr Higgins to come clean with the electorate about his past. Produce the poetry. Read us a bit of it. And after that we – oh, God, I keep forgetting that thing about us so-called Irish in the north not having a vote – after that you in the south can make up your minds about his suitability as a representative of the Irish people at home and abroad.

Me, I could never vote for Michael D Higgins, even I had one. Which I haven’t. Not because he’s bald (glass houses, etc), not because he’s old (more glass houses) , not because he supports freedom fighters abroad but hates terrorists at home (faraway hills etc) but because in a public place, where there are very probably children within earshot, he is given to using totally uncalled-for language. He did it again yesterday.  In a public place, before an audience and with no prior warning, he said that the president could use his or her influence “in terms of moral suasion”.

Suasion. Hands up how many of you have ever used that word in a public place? Sorry, Mr Higgins. No, not that way – that leads to the Phoenix Park. This way. And if you don’t come quietly, we have ways of suading you.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A money-saving plan

I have, not a plan, but a money-saving proposal. I know it'll be welcomed, especially in these days of austerity in every area (especially for the average citizen living in the south).  My plan has two parents: one is imbedded deep in the presidency of Mary McAleese . The other is known as Red C.

You know the way elections are really costly businesses? Fianna Fail figured they'd crack that by investing in  digital voting machines and so get rid of all that manpower and waiting around in the future. It didn't work. The Irish people of the south, being of a suspicious nature (I can't think why), told Bertie and his flash machines to get lost. So the old method of writing  Xs amd 1, 2, 3s with the stub of a pencil or teensy biro continues.

But not in every case. In some cases, even the pencil and biro are laid aside. Remember Mary McAleese's second term election in 2004? Then you've a better imagination than a memory, because it didn't happen. Since everyone agreed there was no point, she was given a past-the-post second term without benefit of election, because everyone agreed there was no point.

Which brings us to my proposed saving. Let's cancel the presidential election. Right now. Pack up the posters, shred and recycle the speeches, erase the TV 'debates' - in short, let's call the whole thing off.

Why? Because we know the result already. The Red C poll has spoken, showing Gallagher is the runaway winner, M D Higgins a bit behind but not that much, and the rest nowhere.  We're told that while everyone takes it as read that Martin McGuinness is a liar (what need have we of proof?), so too everyone takes it as gospel that the Red C Poll  speaks truth.  In that case,  why bother with the election? Just send the man with no neck and the second of his wives to the Park and be done with it. And let the Sunday Business Post  have the banner headlines: 'It Was Our RCP wot won it'.  A win-win situation. Except, of course, for the six losers. And maybe the first Mrs G.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

That Red C poll - makes you think, doesn't it?

OK -  guess which paper  today has the following headlines:

‘Michael D fears Sinn Féin in Aras would endorse IRA’

‘Uneasy riders who do not understand the Republic’

‘McGuinness plays victim in election he cannot win’

‘McGuinness finds that it is a long, long way from there to Down Here’

‘Miriam moment was when the mask slipped

‘Victims of Troubles haven’t gone away, you  know’

‘McGuinness shows no fear taking on ‘rotten-to-the-core’ civil service.’

All right, all right – today’s Sindo, of course, yes you were right but the thing is, why?  The day after a poll which shows McGuinness slipping three points to 13% and Gallagher surging a million points to 39%, leaving Higgins stumbling in his wake, why is the Sindo focusing on McGuinness?

Two possibilities: 

1.     The Sindo writers are a lazy shower who had their stuff written and ready before the Red C poll came out at tea-time yesterday, and they were so busy searching under the bed for a Provo from 1973 that they hadn’t either time or energy to change a word.
2.     They don’t believe a word in the Red C poll and are convinced that on 27 October,  the man threatening their darling M D Higgins will be not the bald chap who looks like he got a welt of a hurley stick  in the face at some point in the past, but Martin McGuinness.

A lot of people were surprised by yesterday’s poll, showing Gallagher at  39% , Higgins at  27% and McGuinness at  13%  . I was surprised myself. If you were to believe it  and the RTÉ commentators like the doe-eyed David McCullough, you’d  conclude that the field had finally thinned out to two candidates, Gallagher and Higgins, and all the rest were also-rans. Mmm. Could be right. But then I think of how the most-used word in the British press a few days’ back was ‘inevitable’, in describing the resignation of that good Catholic and seller of arms Liam Fox;  the previous day and week, none of the papers used the word ‘inevitable’ when speaking of Fox and resignation – only after the event.  The media, in Britain and Ireland, have a habit of drawing insightful conclusions in the wake of something having occurred. Before the event it’s, um, on the one hand, maybe, it looks like, who’s to say, I dunno, etc.  Now that the Red C poll has spoken, they’ll pile in to explain how they knew that all the time.

Maybe they’re right.  But I still remember listening to the car radio in 1970 and listening to an astonished Ted Heath comment on his totally unforeseen win in the general election; I remember Neil Kinnock shouting at a mass rally “We’re aaaallll rriiiiiighhhtt!!’ and then getting his arse whopped at the polls a few days later.  The Sindo, if you can bear to read it, will tell you that  63%  of people thought Miriam O’Callaghan did a good job on Wednesday night; those of us with ears and eyes know that Miriam HAS a  good job ( €300,000 + at last count) but most certainly did not DO a good job on Wednesday night, not if your criteria are balance and equal treatment. On the criterion of doing her damnedest to subvert McGuinness’s candidacy, she was great.  So yes,  the Red C poll says  there’s just Gallagher and Higgines left, but it was done before that infamous debate. A very persuasive medium, telly.

A final word: let’s leave McGuinness out of it for a moment, OK? That means the people of the south are poised to elect as president a man who was on TV in something called ‘Dragon’s Den’, who thinks skipping is a quality the Irish people value in their president, and who has been, all his adult life, an activist in the political party that nuked the Irish economy for decades to come.  Either that or they are poised to elect a tired-looking little man who has been a professional politician for the last 30 + years,  whose party (Labour) is currently doing in government what it swore it wouldn’t when running for office. In short, the Irish people of the south are poised to revert to the notion of the Aras as a rest-home for old politicians or they’re going to send a slightly odd-looking life-long activist from the political party that slashed and burnt the Irish economy to a near-terminal point.

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I can’t see the Irish people of the south being quite that  stupid. Can you?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Are you mad as hell and...?

Below is the recent exchange between myself and the Complaints department at RTÉ. If you feel as I do, don't just fume - complain.  Now. Their email address is (unsurprisingly) complaints@rte.ie

From: Jude Collins [mailto:judejcollins@gmail.com]
 Thu 13/10/2011 19:32
 Complaint regarding presidential debate
- Hide quoted text -

I trust my complaint THIS time will at least be acknowledged - unlike last time.

Last night's debate on RTÉ as you must know by now was a disgrace to the name of public broadcasting. For Miriam O'Callaghan to present herself as a neutral chair while at the same time calling one of the candidates a murderer, enquiring if he went to confession, dismissing his quotation from the Bible about peacemakers as 'surely ironic', asking other candidates to indicate if they thought McGuinness 'was acceptable', presenting the conflict in the north as solely the responsibility of the IRA - if this weren't such a serious matter it would be laughable. In future I'd suggest viewers be forewarned that what they are going to see is a kind of political game-show in which the idea is to ignore nearing on twenty years of peace-work in Stormont and presenting  the most popular single politician in the north as unworthy of office. Shame on you, RTÉ. I won't add 'Shame on you, Ms O'Callaghan' as she's clearly beyond shame.

Jude Collins 

https://mail.google.com/mail/images/cleardot.gifhttps://mail.google.com/mail/images/cleardot.gifComplaints to me

Dear Jude,

Thank you for your e-mail about the Prime Time Presidential debate. Your comments will be included in the RTÉ Audience Log, which is published weekly, and circulated internally, to senior programme management and is submitted for review at RTÉ's Editorial Meetings.

Please see below for a response to the points raised in your mail from RTÉ's Editor of Current Affairs programming, Ken O'Shea;

"Thank you very much for taking to time to write to us with your views. We in Prime Time appreciate all feedback from our audience – positive and negative – and all such communications are taken very seriously by our team.

We reject the central assertion that Martin McGuinness was treated in an unfair manner.
RTÉ is obliged to be impartial, objective and fair in its treatment of the candidates. We do not believe this requires us to treat all candidates in an identical manner. As a candidates’ past actions are of significant interest to the voting public, it is necessary to probe candidates’ backgrounds, as part of any interviews or debates.
Clearly the same questions cannot be asked of each candidate. We believe the questioning of Martin McGuinness was legitimate.

From my perspective, I am perfectly satisfied that we treated all of the candidates in the same way. Each got precisely the same time to make their pitch and each was questioned in the same way.
We would also point out that all candidates were given substantial time to discuss matters other than their personal suitability for the role.

I regret very much that you were unhappy with our efforts on this occasion, but please be assured that we always strive to provide fair, balanced but rigorous current affairs journalism.We hope you will continue to watch our election coverage.

And finally – I will be raising the points made by you at our weekly editorial meeting next Monday, as they are well made and warrant further discussion by the team. We fully realise that we don’t always get it right and we always need to be thinking about questioning and improving our work."

Thank you for taking the time to make your views known,

With every good wish,
Máire Nic Fhinn
RTÉ Communications

From me to Complaints: 

Dear Maire,

Thank you for your communication. I accept of course Mr O'Shea's point re the need for questions regarding a candidate's past, insofar as these would have relevance to his or her  fitness for office. In the case of Mr McGuinness, the past 17 years of his life in which he achieved what everyone predicted would be impossible - first peace and then working alongside, in a spirit of friendship, those who were sworn enemies -  was completely ignored, while his period in the IRA received sole focus. "Impartial, objective and fair'?  Ms O'Callaghan called Mr McGuinness a murderer on live television without producing a scrap of evidence  in support of her charge. "Impartial, objective and fair"? Ms O'Callaghan also asked Mr McGuinness did he go to confession - again, no question remotely resembling this was asked of other candidates. "Impartial, objective and fair"? Finally, Mr McGuinness was uniquely singled out  and the six other presidential candidates asked to judge on his fitness to be included in their number/running for president. "Impartial, objective and fair"?  

Mr O'Shea's response adds to the  lop-sided treatment of Mr McGuinness an insult to my intelligence, and the intelligence of any rational viewer.  I assumed that RTÉ bias resided solely in the performance of Ms O'Callaghan. I can now see that the weight of Mr O'Shea authoritative bias supports her. 

I am genuinely shocked that  Ireland's national TV station would not just permit such conduct  to occur but then argue that it was commendable.  Those responsible should hang their heads in shame.

Jude  Collins