Irish Times lets Fine Gael off the hook big time in end-of-year love-in, er, I mean, podcast

THE ISSUE

The Irish political conversation is dominated by a narrative that insists the electorate’s only two options for government leadership are the so-called ‘Civil War’ parties.

THE MEDIA

Podcast by Irish Times – Inside Politics : ‘The Year In Politics’ on Tuesday, December 26, 2017

‘…people feel they can relate to these people more because they feel they have lived the same experiences they have…’

THE COMMENT

Over in the US, Donald Trump and his Republican-led government are constantly moaning and groaning under the weight of repeated challenging reporting from publications like the New York Times.  Too bad its Irish namesake doesn’t give our own recently-appointed political leader similar treatment, if this ‘end of year’ summary is anything to go by.

Essentially the all-male panel has given Leo Varadkar & co a free Party Political Podcast.  Wherever these are recorded, I pity the poor cleaning staff because they’ll have their work cut out removing all of Fine Gael’s 2017 political woes that have been swept under the carpet.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten that this is the party that had to admit defeat on the water charges.  Well, when I say ‘admit’ defeat, I actually mean grudgingly concede it.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten the fact that Varadkar rose to power under an electoral process within his party that was chronically tilted away from the grass roots members, meaning all he had to do was shmooze his way through his fellow TDs to get the nod.  This weighting method is very similar to that which saw Hillary Clinton controversially secure the 2016 Democratic nomination at the expense of Bernie Sanders.

Apparently we are meant to forget the homeless crisis still prevalent in the Republic, simply because the Taoiseach says so.

And apparently we are meant to forget the disgraceful whisteblower controversy which nearly sparked a Christmas election and ultimately cost the Tánaiste her job.

Nobody expects the mainstream media to completely ignore a government’s positives, but what this IT podcast has done is to summarize the Irish year in politics thusly…’Sure isn’t it great that our top cabinet members are all so young?‘ [paraphrase]

And as one of the leading bits of ‘evidence’ of the effects of having such youthful leadership, the ‘lads’ cite the Eighth Amendment debate.

Despite the fact that Fine Gael’s own Citizens Assembly recommends repeal and legislation, and despite the fact that the Oireachtas Committee recommends repeal and legislation, the government position at the time of this podcast was that a decision is yet to be made on how to proceed.  No guarantee has been forthcoming that a straight yes or no choice on repeal will be offered to the Irish public.

Yet somehow the panel twists this state of affairs into one that represents a sweeping generational change.  Well, for this conservative jurisdiction that may be true to an extent, but given that Fine Gael are the country’s most conservative mainstream party [just about ahead of Fianna Fáil], do we think these ‘young pretenders’ have reached their current positions by cultural revolution or because the elder statesmen ahead of them on the ladder gave them a helping hand along the way?

And the final insult for me from this podcast came when they made the most ludicrous segue from the potential impact of FG’s boy wonder on the Irish electorate to the ‘youthquake’ experienced in Britain’s general election campaign that brought Jeremy Corbyn extremely close to Number 10.  I had to switch it off after that so you’ll have to listen yourself to find out what they said after that.

Here’s to a 2018 where Ireland’s political establishment, both in Leinster House and the media, are called to account whenever they ignore at best, or put down at worst, progressive issues.  JLP

#IANWAE

Inevitable attack on #RepealThe8th movement targets Amnesty Ireland and Colm O’Gorman

THE ISSUE

Colm O’Gorman is both Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland and a leader of the #RepealThe8th campaign, thus making him a prime target for the so-called ‘Pro-Life’ movement.

THE MEDIA

Article by Amnesty International from Amnesty.ie on Friday, December 8, 2017

CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS UNDER THREAT FROM DRACONIAN LAW AND AMNESTY COULD FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES

SIPOC wrote to Amnesty International Ireland only last year to acknowledge that its work on reforming Ireland’s abortion laws, which includes the work supported by the OSF grant, was not in breach of the [Electoral] Act

THE COMMENT

My attention was drawn to this matter by a string of ‘outrage’ posts from the usual right-wing suspects on Twitter such as John McGuirk and Evert Bopp.

The perennial trolls make several references to supposed ‘illegal actions’ by Amnesty.ie and have been recycling the same argument all weekend.  Obviously only a fool would take their social media opinions at face value without making an effort to get Amnesty’s side of the story, which is very different as you can see by the above link.

What interests me about this is how the law in question is being applied.  Ireland is great at passing laws but when it comes to enforcing them, not so much.  While it does look like Amnesty was in technical violation of the said Act, it also seems that they were singled out by the authority in question, after previously being advised that they were ok.

Imagine a road with a 60km speed limit on which cars travel daily above and beyond that level without penalty.  Suddenly a group of ‘concerned citizens’ inform the gardaí about one vehicle in particular, after which an officer is dispatched with a speed gun to patrol the road to catch that one suspect without checking all the others.

We could use another analogy, calling this a political equivalent of racial profiling.  Amnesty [and by extension the Irish mainstream media for not covering this to the liking of Messrs McGuirk and Bopp] are being accused of political bias when you would have to question the motives of those who initiated this controversy by registering a string of complaints with SIPOC.

I wonder how much scrutiny of funding the likes of Iona Institute and Libertas could handle.

With public opinion strongly in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, it was inevitable that the so-called ‘Pro-Life’ movement would work behind the scenes to pull any kind of stunt they could to try and tip the scales the other way.  It’s a shame that they have managed to persuade and official body to help them in their cause, but hopefully enough people see sense to realise for what it is and not take it any further.

#IANWAE

Big step for #RepealThe8th movement as Oireachtas committee set to back up Citizens’ Assembly

THE ISSUE

The Irish Government has been considering the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution which enshrined the protection of unborn children after a referendum in 1983.

THE MEDIA

Article by Sarah Bardon in Irish Times on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Oireachtas committee set to recommend repeal of Eighth Amendment

Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher said trying to replace or amend article 40.3.3 is not practical, insisting a straight repeal is the only option.

THE COMMENT

I’m no fan of Fianna Fáil but when they or Fine Gael or indeed any political party falls on the right side of an issue I’m happy to give them their due.

After hearing the opinion of experts from all points on the vast spectrum of this issue, first the Citizens’ Assembly and now a multi-party Oireachtas Committee, it seems the will of the Irish people has changed drastically from the two-thirds yes vote from the referendum back in Ireland’s Dark Ages, also known as the 80s.

Of course the so-called Pro Life movement is making accusations of ‘bias’ because apparently their ‘side’ of the argument didn’t get the 50/50 coverage they wanted but as I said earlier, it’s a spectrum rather than a two-sided coin and the Iona Institute position lies only at one extreme end and thus should receive a proportionate amount of exposure.

It’s not over yet though – this article simply states that the committee is ‘set to recommend’ repeal.  They still have to actually recommend it.  Then the Dáil needs to organise a referendum for straight repeal with a simple yes or no option for the Irish people, not some fudge involving complicated wording.

Here’s hoping the committee members go on to back up their words with action next week.

#IANWAE