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

Corporate media pats itself on the back for ‘solidarity’ in White House press briefing yet ignores progressive question

THE ISSUE

The majority of the corporate media may well be ‘anti-Trump’ but they also take care to make sure progressive issues are at best, ignored or at worst, belittled.

THE MEDIA

Clip by Lawrence O’Donnell in YouTube on Wednesday, July 18, 2018

“…the most perfect of White House press corps teamwork unfolded…”

THE COMMENT

It’s hard to disagree with Lawrence O’Donnell and for the most part I enjoy his MSNBC show The Last Word, particularly in the Trump era.  But much like news coverage by the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, you often have to ask yourself if they are always covering a given topic to its fullest and consider what is being left out.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ press briefings are always contentious occasions, but yesterday’s was always going to be even more so given all that happened surrounding Trump’s Monday meeting with Russian despot/president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and its aftermath.

Of course Lawrence is right when he points out in the above clip that it was nice to see NBC’s Halle Jackson and The Hill’s Jordan Fabian working together to prevent ‘SHuckS’ (why isn’t everybody calling her that????) from dodging important questions, having seen the entire briefing I think it would have been prudent for him to also mention what happened regarding April Ryan from the American Urban Radio Network.

Ryan and SHuckS have had several heated exchanges in the past and on this occasion, I thought her question was not only relevant but also one that was unlikely to have been asked by her fellow journalists in this session.

In her defence of the president’s approach to election security, SHuckS listed a range of measures she claims has been taken by the Trump administration.  Ryan wanted to know if voter suppression, in other words actions taken by mostly Republican state legislatures around the country, was also on the list.

At first, her question was completely ignored.  To be fair, Ryan was eventually allowed to ask it, yet while SHuckS offered some words in reply, none of them could really be considered a ‘straight answer’.

But this post is not about SHuckS, rather O’Donnell and the corporate media for which he works.  If there really was a general sense of teamwork among the White House press corps, then Ryan would have received the same help from her colleagues that Jackson did.

Ryan’s experience wasn’t completely ignored by the wider media.  Josh Feldman of Mediaite wrote of it in his piece : “April Ryan Confronts Sarah Sanders For Not Calling on Her in Briefing: ‘I’ll Keep Asking the Question’” while a more conservative slant was put on it in “April Ryan keeps interrupting Sarah Sanders – Sarah finally loses it” by the Daily Caller’s Benny johnson.

But with Trump finding new creative ways to shoe horn himself into the headlines every day, I can’t see the very real issue of voter suppression coming even close to the mainstream again any time soon.  JLP

#IANWAE

 

Fox News evalutates the opinions of all American students on SCOTUS pick by interviewing five of them

THE ISSUE

Fox News might as well be renamed TrumpTV.

THE MEDIA

Clip by Fox News in YouTube on July 8, 2018

“Every person I spoke to all assumed Trump was going to pick a man.”

THE COMMENT

This clip is Fox News at its best.  Well, I really should say ‘worst’ but since they get such good ratings I suppose you could spin it as a positive.

In what is quite possibly the most unscientific vox pop ever put on the airwaves, a young guy goes on the streets of New York (probably not far from Fox News studio) and clearly gets the answers he wants from random people, with the ‘Students hate the SCOTUS pick that Trump hasn’t made yet’ narrative more than likely determined before he ever set foot on the sidewalk.

The premise of the narrative, of course, is highly disingenuous.  It is widely known that the shortlist for Trump’s Supreme Court choice was taken from a longer list drawn up by the ultra conservative Federalist Society (think Iona Institute and you’re in the ballpark) so no matter which judge Trump goes for, anyone of a progressive or ‘liberal’ mindset would be inclined to oppose the nomination.  For example, there isn’t a single judge on that list which would fail the ‘I will help abolish Roe vs Wade’ litmus test.

But why ruin a good narrative with the facts?  The already-brainwashed Fox News viewership don’t need much of a push to support the stereotype they have already been fed of ‘students’.  Once the answers from the vox-pop are selectively chosen and they spend more time in the studio mansplaining the responses than actually airing them (assuming the overall sample was actually bigger than the one they put on air that is), it only takes a clip of less than three minutes to get the ‘job’ done.

As I always say about entities like Fox News, it’s not its existence that is downright scary, it’s the fact that so many people actually believe content that is so blatantly skewed towards the Republican agenda.  And it has only gotten more blatant under this president.  JLP

#IANWAE

The first two quotes in Journal.ie article on ‘Pro-Life’ SaveThe8th launch are from men…

THE ISSUE

The No campaign in the upcoming #RepealThe8th referendum is definitely starting on the back foot and thus it will be interesting to watch it’s media strategy between now and May 25.

THE MEDIA

Article by Rónán Duffy in Journal.ie on Thursday, March 29, 2018

‘Abortion is a licence to kill’- Save the 8th launches its referendum campaign

Speaking at the launch at Dublin’s Gresham Hotel, Save the 8th spokesperson John McGuirk said that it was “an outright falsehood” that “the medical evidence in this debate is tilted in favour of repeal”.

McGuirk was speaking following an address by obstetrician Dr John Monaghan who has long opposed abortion…

THE COMMENT

I have to assume the Save The 8th campaign media people were delighted at the coverage they received from this article in The Journal…’Abortion is a license to kill’ was their main message and there it is, right in the headline.

But when you actually drill down a paragraph or two, you see a different story.  I’m far from a PR expert, but given this is an issue that is to all intents and purposes one surrounding women’s health, I’d be surprised if having had all this time to prepare their campaign, the Save The 8th people would be happy that the first two people being quoted on their behalf were men named John?

McGuirk is well known on Irish twitter as a right-wing, shall we say, ‘antagonist’ and has been laying the groundwork via his account for quite a while, so it is no surprise to see him front and centre.  You can be sure to find numerous tweets from his account between now and voting day which are designed to provoke vitriolic responses which will then be used as ‘evidence’ against the Yes camp.  This is why my policy is #DoNotEngage.

But although I do feel strongly that men should be involved in this debate, I really think that pushing two of them forward at the very start of a campaign comes across as a massive own goal, once enough people draw attention to it, that is.  JLP

#IANWAE

‘Inequality in America: A National Town Hall’ is required viewing all over the world

Apologies once more for the gap in posts – financial realities mean we have had to prioritise our monetised site in recent weeks as it has been a busy time for content over there.

However, even if we managed to post every day since we kicked off FPP in August 2016 we wouldn’t have been able to express our core beliefs more than this one and a half hour long video of the recent town hall hosted by Bernie Sanders.  Please check it out if you haven’t already.  It’s a shame it was only covered online.

#IANWAE

 

Impressive words and actions from Varadkar on #RepealThe8th announcement but how media will frame the debate remains to be seen

THE ISSUE

After much urging to announce both date and format regarding a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, Leo Varadkar’s government has finally done so.

THE MEDIA

Article by Rónán Duffy in The Journal on January 30, 2018

‘We’re asking people to trust women’: Repeal referendum to be held before the end of May

“We know that thousands of Irish women, women from every single county in Ireland, travel abroad for abortions every year. We know that women obtain abortion pills through the post to end their pregnancies without any medical support or counselling or supervision. So we already have abortion in Ireland, but it’s unsafe, unregulated and unlawful. In my opinion we cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions,”

THE COMMENT

After much waiting, we have finally heard from the Irish Government on the issue of the Eighth Amendment, and for the most part it was the news we wanted to hear.  The referendum is to be held at the end of May, and for the most part, the vote is to be on a straight repeal.

It is natural for Pro-Choice campaigners to remain sceptical, however.

First, I have questions on this intervention by the Attorney General on the need to have wording left in the Constitution which allows the Oireachtas to legislate.  Why wasn’t this information given to both the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee?  Or, if it was, then why are we choosing to ignore their findings?

And second, this quote from Duffy’s article concerns me…

Speaking at Government Buildings this evening about his own views on the referendum, Varadkar said that he would be campaigning to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Given that Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail has managed to contort his own position into something similar to the Taoiseach of late, I sincerely hope that the Irish mainstream media does not consider the two ‘Civil War party’ leaders to be the foremost spokespeople of the Yes campaign between now and the referendum.

They are both leaders of political organisations that have been given free votes to their parliamentarians so we would hope that parties with stated positions on Repeal, as well as other organisations, will be given sufficient time to present their case when the debate takes place in the public domain.

All of that remains to be seen, but for now, this can only be seen as a positive step.  JLP

#IANWAE