By Patrick Brogan
“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
If you seen the film Network you would be familiar with that line. Howard Beale, the mad prophet of the airwaves. We are in the age of the mad prophets, or at least, a time when some people are able to express the public’s anger and restlessness.
We have all seen the effect Trump is having on the media in the States. ‘The Donald’ is certainly tapping into something ailing at the heart of American society. Much has been made of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance. A lot of white folk took umbrage over the Blank Pantheresque clothing she and her performers wore. Critics saw this as an anti-white declaration. It’s interesting that they saw this as a threat when all she was trying to do was show black people are tired of being shot in the streets by the very same people that should be protecting them. Then there was Kendrick Lamar’s powerful performance at the Grammy’s. Both acts were more about black pride than anti-white sentiments. Such is the paranoia among white conservative America, these artists were now labelled as bigoted for having pride in their heritage. There is plenty of unrest in the US.
The unrest has spread across the Atlantic. In the build up to the general election, there was a Right2Change protest that meandered along Dublin’s streets. How would this impact on the elections and would any Irish politician tap into the anger as effectively as Trump did in the States?
In short, no. The opposition had been given so much ammunition to fire back at Fine Gael and Labour and the only party that took advantage of this was the one that was guilty of many of the same offenses when in the Government before.
Fine Gael and Labour seemed to go from one disaster to another in their election campaigns, much as they had when they were in power. Members of these parties now must surely look at the respective leaders as liabilities. Enda Kenny is a racist. He has told racist jokes in the past. He has also blamed the Irish people for the economic collapse. How he ever became Taoiseach baffles me. In this election there was a bit of a backlash towards Fine Gael. They went from 76 seats to 50. This seems very minimal when you consider the racist arrogance of their leader. If I was on the opposition, I would bring up this every time I was talking about Fine Gael or interviewed on any topic. The past of other politicians is constantly brought up, why not his?
Joan Burton is, to quote the great Malcolm Tucker, a “Dickensian hysteric”. She may describe remarks criticising her as sexist, but she is not cut out for political life. Her interaction with normal people is poor and she is in way over her head in debates. There is a persistent smugness in that party. Pat Rabbitte showed that when he appeared on RTE’s Election 2016 and Tonight with Ivan Yates he told the people they were wrong for going against his party’s wishes. No wonder Labour lost 30 seats.
I feel the main reason Labour took the brunt of public anger was because Fine Gael are right wing, with a history of fascism, whereas Labour, as their name suggests, was founded to look after the ordinary worker. Seeing as a lot of these people are now either homeless or close to it they have failed in their objective. It is this sell out and abandonment of principles, coupled with arrogance, which has cost them. The smaller parties must learn that going into government with the two ‘civil war’ parties almost guarantees electoral oblivion. It happened Labour the last time when they were in government, they went from 34 seats to 17, and look at the PDs, The Green Party and, to some extent, Democratic Left. There is a perception that going into government means leaving your ideology at the door as it stands in the way of pragmatism.
Yes, them again. The party of Bertie, Cowen and Haughey just will not die. Their resurgence owes a lot to the weak Government, but Micheál Martin does have to take some praise. In the leaders’ debates he looked by far the most poised and confident. He spoke the less bullshit as well, which went down well with an electorate tired of endless sound bites. There is something very personable and likable about the man. However, his party did destroy the country the last time they were in power and Martin was a high ranking minister in that cabinet. He was the first to jump ship and resign and this made him look like he had a conscience. His resignation was more down to political maneuvering though as he had seen the writing on the wall.
To my eye, there has been no great restructuring of the party. I have no confidence that they will prevent the same economic disasters happening in the future. Indeed, they seem to be peddling the same old stories that caused the crash in the first place. More than just reform is needed. Banking is based upon usury. No talent is needed. Nothing is gained for society. The boom-bust cycle actually helps the banks as it squeezes all the money back their way. Fianna Fáil are more than happy to let this continue because it is a party of short sighted individuals that are out for their own gain. There was a good example of this shortly after the election. Both Micheál and Éamon Ó Cuív floated the idea that a hung Dáil could still work. The individual TDs could bring forth bills and legislation proposals. Think of how revolutionary that would be. We could do away with the party system and all the childish bickering that comes with it. Of course, Fianna Fáil wasn’t seriously proposing this and were just playing for time. They like to use the words political and reform when it suits their agenda. They have no incentive to shake up the status quo.
For a number of reasons Sinn Féin are the most interesting party. If only they could turn that attention into votes. In fairness, they did increase their share of seats. From 14 to 23. They didn’t really push home the advantage though. After Fianna Fáil destroyed the economy and Fine Gael and Labour exacerbated the problems, Sinn Féin should have been the real voice of change. There are a few reasons this didn’t happen.
The media coverage of Sinn Féin can be summed up in three letters, but repeated endlessly. IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA. As long Gerry Adams is leader this will keep happening. Is whether he was or not important? Of course it is. For one, if people were killed on his orders it is a big deal. We often hear that he gave the order to have Jean McConville murdered. If this is true he should be hung from the nearest lamppost. The only evidence of this is the testimony of two people that hated Adams for his role in the Good Friday Agreement. Bringing peace to the island. How dare he? Such conjectural evidence the media should not be allowed repeat.
Then we had Paul Williams on The Late Late Show. Paul Williams calls himself a journalist, but he is more of a Press Secretary for the Gardaí. He does very little in the way of investigative research, he is spoon fed everything from the Gardaí. Now that’s out of the way, Paul Williams said; “The only people who will vote for Sinn Féin, in regard to that part of their manifesto are the drug dealers, the killers and the kidnappers and the terrorists”. He’s referring to the Special Criminal Court. What he failed to mention was that Amnesty International and the UN also want it abolished because it impinges on basic human rights. Ryan Tubridy, as presenter, should have pointed this out. This is typical of the biased coverage Sinn Féin receives from the media, especially from RTE.
We seen the political reaction to Sinn Féin and Adams too. The other parties speak of Sinn Féin like they have leprosy and rule out any possibility of a coalition with them. This seems a bit ridiculous for a few reasons. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were both born out of the republican movement. Are they now ashamed of this? Labour and Sinn Féin are ideologically similar on paper. Also, people like Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte were members of The Workers’ Party, the political wing of the Official IRA. The differences are not that many. As Gerry Adams pointed out in interviews, if the DUP could go into power with them why can’t the parties in this jurisdiction do it too?
Of all the political leaders we have now, none can even come close to Gerry Adams’ achievements. Bringing long lasting political stability seemed impossible after centuries of turmoil on this island. Yet, we have it and it was Adams who got the ball rolling. Rather than acknowledge that people like Joan Burton would rather say “Why are you threatening me?” when he points a finger her way. The political and and media establishments constantly bring up Sinn Féin and their leader’s past in a way the other parties don’t have to suffer.
The Best of the Rest
The smaller groups didn’t make the impact many had hoped and some even predicted. They are relative novices though and they are handicapped by financial constraints, which we brought up in a previous article. It was a good start though. AAA-PBP are just one seat short of matching Labour, a good achievement. The Green Party made a bit of a come-back taking two seats. If they can bring up issues that effect climate change we should all be happy because apart from Labour bringing in the Climate Action Bill and the White Paper on Energy no other Irish political party seemed bothered about climate change, this includes the Greens when they were in government.
The Social Democrats held onto the three seats they brought into the elections, no mean feat. The three that were elected have clearly a moral and social conscience. Hopefully, in time, more people will hear their message. Much has been made of Renua‘s “failure”. This has to be viewed in the context of this being their first election as a party. I don’t agree with many of their tenets, but one thing has to be pointed out, at least they’re honest and don’t try to spin. For the sake of democracy, it is good to have at least one honest party that is open and has right-wing principles. I think they will learn a lot from this election and move on from it.
Most of these parties were effected by the timing. If these parties had’ve been formed ten years previous they would have had a lot more bite. There is also the issue with funding. It is very hard to break through the financial glass ceiling that is Dáil Éireann. We may have a stalemate at the moment, but we have seen the first shoots of a change in the political landscape.
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