Leo should remain as Taoiseach for now but not without strong Opposition and challenging media #COVID19Ireland

These are unprecedented times.  Our worlds have been turned upside down and we have absolutely no idea what comes next.

I have been periodically blogging on this site for almost four years, and I have never made a secret of the fact that I believe in a Progressive government for Ireland.  This of course means the parties which have always represented the status quo such as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have never gotten my vote. I also have little faith in other parties purporting to be “left” such as Sinn Féin and Labour.

Yet when faced with a situation like COVID-19, I do not believe that a radical change to the face of our government is what is needed, even when it comes as it did right after a general election.  Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael were in power when it was time to lock the country down and particularly in the most relevant departments like those of An Taoiseach and Health, we need continuity and stability so regardless of political hue I think the correct course would be for them to remain for now.

Now I’m hoping that my established premise will be remembered as I voice some concerns over the current situation.  In his address to the nation on St Patrick’s Day, Leo Varadkar literally referenced Winston Churchill.

“This is the calm before the storm – before the surge.  And when it comes – and it will come – never will so many ask so much of so few.”

Address by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar 17th March

For the life of me I cannot fathom why there was not more of a backlash to this.  I am absolutely no fan of Sinn Féin but am I the only one who sees the irony in the fact that they would be lambasted for any kind of Nationalist references at this time yet our Taoiseach, one who has often expressed a liking for the leadership of one conservative UK leader in Thatcher, gets a free pass after throwing a nod to another?

This point is one of semantics and cosmetics I know, but I make it first because of the levels of reaction I have seen on social media ever since.  Of course we need to stick together as much as possible during these times, and given the original nature of the crisis there should be much leeway afforded to our government, yet the levels of praise for his leadership have been, in many, many cases, “Churchillian”, and this concerns, nay frightens me.  

Strong opposition and challenging media are important ingredients to any democracy.  If a day ever came when Ireland had Progressives seated around the Cabinet table, I would expect nothing less than for them to have their feet held to the fire where possible, and we all know that would be the case.

And while the Green Party did not get my vote at the last election either, I cannot understand why they are being vilified for not unconditionally joining FF and FG in government.  They claim to have offered three options to the “Civil War” parties, all of which have been rejected…

“I think the idea that FG and FF would present this narrow option to the people of the two of them in power with one of the smaller parties propping them up is very self-serving. It has the coincidental effect of giving them the most amount of power, for the most amount of time with the least amount of oversight.” 

Green TD Neasa Hourigan

Why are politicians so reluctant to form a government?
Justin McCarthy – RTÉ.ie

…and the backlash appears to be “shut up and get on board”. Whatever your levels of respect were for them before, surely they would be lowered should they accept those terms.  But this post is not just about the Green Party. It’s for the type of representative body we want the Dáil to be when it comes to acting as a check on our Government.

Then there is the Irish mainstream media, one that already had a reputation for being more stenographers than challengers.  And that was even before this particular Taoiseach came to power, one who sought in virtually his first act to set up a media arm with the sinister title of the “Strategic Communications Unit“.

Below are just some areas where I would like to ask questions of Leo Varadkar and his government, in no particular order:

  1. What exactly happened with those orders from China which arrived with inadequate supplies?
  2. If Opposition parties should feel shame for insisting that the Dáil convenes due to risk of social distancing among civil servants, have any measures been discussed to allow for some kind of COVID-19 friendly Dáil sittings until the crisis is over?
  3. COVID-19 tests – they are in limited supply.  Is there any transparency as to how they are allocated?  And I have heard stories that the testing itself can take over two weeks to produce results – why is that, is anything being done to speed up the process and is this fact reflected in the numbers we are being given?
  4. We have all has been adversely affected by this crisis, but that does not mean we will all be struggling by its end.  When everyone’s assets have been reduced, the priority of Government care should be those who are left with little or nothing.  So what exactly do you mean by “tough decisions” that have to be made once this crisis is over? Is there to be a period of austerity similar to that affected by the banking crisis or will the burden at very least shared regardless of wealth if not borne by the 1% at the top?  

I am happy for Leo and Simon to remain in their jobs.  I am delighted that Leo is rolling up his sleeves to pitch in as a GP.  That’s all great. But if a republic values its democratic principles, no government should go unchecked, and we certainly shouldn’t assume everything is rosy on these shores based on a comparison to the leadership of the blond buffoons either side of us.  All I’m asking is that we be mindful of this. JLP

And so the predictable corporate media takedown of Bernie Sanders begins…

We saw it with David Norris here in Ireland in 2011, when the Irish mainstream media took a letter of clemency the progressive candidate wrote 10 years previously as an excuse to associate his name with the word “pedophilia” on virtually a daily basis until he withdrew from the campaign.

It happened to Jeremy Corbyn from the moment he became the Leader of the Labour Party in 2015, with the tactics remaining more or less the same (although much of the attacks came from within his own party) although you can replace the word “pedophilia” with “Antisemitism” and it contributed greatly to an embarrassing election defeat last December

Now with Bernie Sanders showing himself to be leading the polls in Iowa, CNN is doing it to him, just a day before the last Democratic debate before the first caucus takes place.

The stakes were high when Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren met at Warren’s apartment in Washington, DC, one evening in December 2018. The longtime friends knew that they could soon be running against each other for president. The two agreed that if they ultimately faced each other as presidential candidates, they should remain civil and avoid attacking one another, so as not to hurt the progressive movement. They also discussed how to best take on President Donald Trump, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters. Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.

Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in private 2018 meeting that a woman can’t win, sources say
MJ Lee, CNN.com

The key words in the above quote are in the headline – “sources say”. To be fair to CNN, they at least tack them on, although being at the end, they could well be ignored. There is certainly nothing in the opening passage of the article itself to suggest that they are second (third? fourth?) hand reports of a private conversation.

As you can see, MJ Lee categorically states at the end of the quote : “Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.”

They do include a response from Sanders himself, albeit halfway down the page :

“It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

They do walk it back slightly today, quoting Warren herself who claims : ‘I thought a woman could win; he disagreed‘. An important distinction, yes? That immediately throws into question how this exchange was interpreted. HOW did he show his disagreement, Senator Warren? Did he actually say “I disagree”? Did he actually say something along the lines of “I do not believe a woman can win”? Or, as I suspect, did he happen to be shaking his head right after you said “I think a woman can win”? That COULD suggest disagreement, but it could also suggest he was shaking his head while forming his thoughts. We don’t know.

Whatever the strategically planted attempts to be ‘fair’, there is no doubt that the overwhelming slant of these articles is that there is a suggestion that “misogynist” is to Sanders as “antisemite” supposedly was to Corbyn (you hear nothing about it now he has said he’s stepping down as leader) and “pedophile” supposedly was to Norris (he’s still a Senator!).

The Young Turks, who are Bernie backers, offer this take on the story :

All of this leads me to believe that Bernie shouldn’t be the nominee, but only because I fear that if that were the case, the US corporate media would then consider Trump the lesser of two “evils” and continue to give the president’s rhetoric infinite free air time much as they did in 2016.

Since I primarily want that orange moron out of the White House, and it seems that the Democrat darling is Joe Biden, I would probably be supportive although I reckon it would be a smart move to nominate Warren as his VP, while publicly promising to adopt some of the progressive platform in the first term as a sweetener.

I would be satisfied with such an arrangement, although my ideal choice would have to be Bernie. It’s just a shame that the only reason not to have a Progressive government is that the corporations wouldn’t be agreeable. Even if it’s not in my lifetime, I hope a day will come whereby their objections won’t matter. JLP

Hillary’s so “Crooked” that Trump’s own Dept of Justice can’t find anything to “lock her up” for…

The U.S. Attorney who former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions tasked with investigating Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One deal, and the FBI’s inquiry into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state has reportedly found “nothing worth pursuing.”

DOJ Clinton Probe That Trump Desired Has Reportedly Found ‘Nothing Worth Pursuing’
Matt Naham – LawAndCrime.com

All the tweets calling her “Crooked Hillary”, all the rallies where he encouraged his followers to mindlessly chant “lock her up”, all the insinuations on Fox News…and it seems they have found nothing.

So when it was the Mueller investigation, it was the Democrats wasting taxpayers money for the #RussiaHoax. And nowadays we apparently have more taxpayers money wasted for the #ImpeachmentHoax.

So using that logic, that means that Trump has been wasting taxpayers money for what can only be called the #UraniumHoax???

Trump’ hypocrisy (and Fox News’ effectiveness) exposed in one of his shortest tweets of 2019

We returned to blogging yesterday as part of a New Year’s Resolution to post more often about Irish politics, but of course that doesn’t mean we’re just going to ignore the US President altogether!

Even the fleas on the dogs in the street know that when the US Senate eventually gets around to having a trial on Trump’s Impeachment, he’s going to be “acquitted”, mostly because of the extremely high bar of 67 out of 100 votes required to do so.

Another thing we all know is that Trump is going to Lord it over everyone once that happens. He will see himself to have moved on, to be fully exonerated, and if anyone should bring up the subject again, they are nothing but sore losers. Anyone who has followed his twitter account over the past few years will know this will be his way of thinking.

With that inevitability being established, let us consider his way of thinking in the above tweet. It was originally posted as a follow-up to one where he essentially praised himself for the way the storming of the American Embassy in Baghdad was handled by the US troops. This message was a little sting in the tail to serve as “red meat for his base”, so let’s explore his premise shall we.

There were a total of TEN investigations into the 2012 terrorist attack on the US government facility in Benghazi, Libya, but by far the most significant was Trey Gowdy’s one for the House Select Committee, which ran for two years and included over 8 hours of tesitmony by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. All suspicions that the investigation was a political exercise (witch hunt???) were confirmed by Republican congressman (and current House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy when he said on Fox :

 “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

Investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attack

Although the exhaustive investigations did find areas where the government departments could have performed better, there were no conclusive findings of serious wrongdoings against anyone, including Clinton. Or to put it another way, she was EXONERATED.

Yet here we have the President still referring to it (sidenote – on his first attempt at the tweet he spelled Benghazi wrong) and thanks to years of Fox News constantly finding infinite different ways to brainwash their viewers into believing “Benghazi > Death of US soldiers > Hillary’s fault” regardless of the actual findings, it still proves an effective weapon for him today.

Since he is so keen to invoke the Benghazi situation, perhaps that means he himself is willing to testify about Ukraine before the Senate? And since his current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also a leading figure in Gowdy’s committee, he should be more than willing to do the same?

I won’t hold my breath. And while Trump’s ability to get away with blatant hypocrisy is indeed scary, I’d be much more worried about the role of Fox News in this narrative.

Micheal Martin behaving like Taoiseach-in-waiting before #GE2020 has even been called

The Universal Social Charge (USC) will not be abolished in the next five years, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said. Mr Martin has made clear the charge will continue for the full duration of the next Government’s term.”

Martin: USC ‘will not be axed in next 5 years’ : Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner

Happy New Decade, and once again, apologies for the long gap in posting. Things were happening and online priority had to be given to our other site.

But now, our 2020 New Year’s resolution dictates that at a bare minimum we should have 5 posts on Irish politics every 7 days between now and the General Election, and to kick things off, I have been drawn to this article in the Irish Examiner which starts with a pair of jaw-dropping sentences as far as I’m concerned.

This country has been in a political trance for decades now, with the general public fully convinced that the only alternatives for government are the so-called “established” parties. Since FG have been in power since 2011, the air of inevitability that it is now FF’s ‘turn’ is, quite frankly, terrifying, especially when you consider they have been led by a member of the exact same inept government that Enda Kenny used to get into power in the first place. And even then, it was considered his party’s “turn”.

When is this ridiculous cycle going to be broken? When are we going to realise that while the “Civil War parties” may be alternatives for each other, they are certainly not alternatives for the country?

Over the coming months we plan to explore the current political scene here in Ireland with a view to examining the media coverage of the issues, the parties, the candidates and most importantly, the persuading of the general public to actually get out and vote.