Politics »

  • Wars and Rumours of Wars

    July 16, 2009 @ 10:38 am | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    Your Humble Scribe was asked to chair a debate on Afghanistan last night at a Dublin hotel. Unfortunately, due to pressure of work (reporting on the Greens’ row with Dermot Ahern), most of the speeches were over by the time he got to the meeting.

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     There’s more of this in store if the Taliban win (Photograph by Brenda Fitzsimons) 

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  • Rating the Presidents

    February 15, 2009 @ 9:37 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    This only just came to my attention although published a few months ago. It is a rating of all the US presidents in terms of best, worst, etc. It was a link on my AOL email homepage today. See what you think by clicking here.

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  • Time to shout stop over Israel-Palestine

    January 5, 2009 @ 10:13 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    It’s not enough for the international community to wring its hands and weep crocodile tears over the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza. It’s time to get serious about brokering a solution before this problem develops into a wider conflict that could bring the entire world order crashing around our ears. (more…)

  • Sock and Awe

    December 23, 2008 @ 10:51 am | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    It’s difficult not to see the funny side of the incident where the “journalist” threw a shoe at President Bush in Baghdad ( see also previous blog on the subject) and I have to share this piece of badinage with you. It was sent to me unofficially by an apparatchik in our own current regime who was taking a break from, er, saving the country. (more…)

  • George W. the “sole” survivor

    December 15, 2008 @ 1:42 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    I have seen politicians dodging questions at press conferences but this is my first time to see one dodging shoes. Bush’s reflexes are quite impressive, it must be said. It would be equally interesting to see what is happening to the TV journo as he lies on the floor. Listen to the screams. I wouldn’t want to be in  his “shoes” right now.

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  • How to become US President: smile, stay away from specifics

    September 29, 2008 @ 12:01 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    It looks like John McCain’s intervention in the bailout crisis – when he suspended his  campaign and made a dash to Washington - hasn’t  had the desired effect. Latest opinion poll evidence shows Obama ahead by eight points.  Sometimes in politics masterly inactivity is the best approach.

    In fact, Obama has a very good line in looking good, smiling broadly (he has a marvellous warm smile, a great advantage in American or indeed any politics) and not saying anything very specific. His candidacy is in some ways a cultural rather than political phenomenon.

    Firstly, given the state of the economy and the whole subprime-bailout mess, any candidate for the Democrats has a natural advantage. You can get votes just by being there.

    Secondly, entering into specifics might win over one constituency but it will alienate another. Keep on keeping on and talking in vague generalities. It’s about winning and, as broadcaster George Hook said in his private briefing (well, it was supposed to be private until we journos heard about it) to the recent Fine Gael think-in, coming second is irrelevant. Sorry if it sounds cynical but these are the hard facts of political life.

     The appeal of Obama is that he is a new face with a new style. He gives us to  understand that he would be more conciliatory than his predecessor in international affairs. The assumption is there would be no more adventures like the Iraq invasion.

    As with JFK, if Obama wins it will be said that “the torch has been passed to a new generation”. But every political leader has to contend with what Macmillan called “events, dear boy” and it was Kennedy who got the US embroiled in Vietnam. And who would  have thought Blair would be the one to get Britain caught up in the former Mesopotamia again?

    A friend of mine who was recently in Iraq reports that the country is settling down. The “surge” seems to have worked. But at what cost. One would still find it very hard to argue that the invasion was justified in the first place. Sure, it would be painful for the Americans to have to listen to loudmouth Saddam and see him strutting the stage if he were still around but was it worth all that blood and treasure to get rid of him?

    The enthusiasm for Obama in Ireland is almost universal, stretching from the right in the form of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to the near-left in the Labour Party and the Greens, not to mention innumerable dinner-parties in South Dublin and other parts.

    The Democrats have suggested that US firms opting to set up in places like Ireland which offer low corporate tax rates should be penalised because of the consequent job-losses back home. Speaking on RTE’s Questions and Answers, US Ambassador Thomas Foley said this was unlikely but, if it did, the effect could be “dramatic”. It also looks as if McCain would be better for the undocumented Irish in the US, judging from the comments of lobbyist Ciarán Staunton. 

    Apart from Iraq — where the disagreement is becoming more and more historical — and abortion, there don’t seem to be any massive divergences of policy between the two candidates. No doubt the race will have further ups and downs before polling day and the result cannot be safely predicted as yet. Meanwhile, if you want a smile check out the Sarah Palin take-off on Saturday Night Live

    Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times

  • Will Fine Gael ever get back into government?

    September 13, 2008 @ 12:24 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    There is an old radical dictum that, “If voting could change anything, they’d abolish it.” You used to see it scrawled on placards at demonstrations, penned by some obscure anarchists from the fringe. I have a feeling it was on display at the big anti-Iraq War march in Dublin back in 2003.

            The one thing we can do by voting is to change the government. This used to be pretty straightforward, you simply voted for or against Fianna Fáil (depending on whether they were in or out of office, if you follow me). Since FF abandoned what Pádraig Flynn said was one of its “core values” and opted for mixed marriages of convenience, the result of voting for one party or another is less certain.

           It is probably the case that virtually all the people who voted for the Greens in previous general elections, except possibly last year’s poll, never expected them to get into bed with the Soldiers of Destiny. But there they are, working quite happily with their senior partners.

           Sure, there are issues of contention which either Ciarán Cuffe or Dan Boyle, neither of whom are in cabinet, will ventilate publicly. But by and large, the Greens are delighted to be in government; they feel they are achieving things and mirabile dictu party membership has reportedly increased by a third.

            Labour have, as we know, been in and out of government for decades. They finally crossed the Rubicon in 1992 by forming a coalition with FF whom they had portrayed for a long time as something akin to the Devil Incarnate.

             Sinn Féin are in government with their old arch-enemies, the DUP in the North. The party would clearly like to be in office down here as well, on the appropriate terms. The results of the 2007 election showed that an alternative to the FF-led coalition was possible. SF made it plain that it was ready to enter negotiations with other parties about coalition, including Fine Gael.

            On June 10th last year, speaking on RTE Radio’s This Week, SF’s Caoimhghín O Caoláin said: “We are available and willing to speak with all different opinion, including Enda Kenny and Fine Gael; we have ruled out absolutely nothing.” And he continued: “If Enda Kenny is serious, for heaven’s sake, let’s put the question to him, why has he not contacted Sinn Féin, or is all this about Enda Kenny being an alternative a load of nonsense?”

             People with long memories were reminded of 1948, when an extremely-disparate group of parties formed a coalition under John A. Costello and ended 16 uninterrupted years of Fianna Fáil rule. Clann na Poblachta were identical twins of today’s Sinn Féin and their leader, Seán MacBride, had been the IRA chief of staff.

           If you want a government led by either FF or FG, it seems the only way to ensure the outcome of your choice is to vote for one of those two parties. Despite the Tallaght Strategy espoused in 1987 by Alan Dukes, it seems the prospect of an FF-FG coalition remains a most unlikely eventuality.

            Next week we shall have the  “think-ins” of the two main parties followed by the Greens. FF are in Galway on Monday and Tuesday; FG in Limerick on Wednesday and Thursday and the Greens in Tralee on Thursday and Friday. The FF event looks predictable, although you can never be sure.  The announcement of an early Budget showed that Brian Cowen is capable of springing a surprise.

             FG are being somewhat reticent. They may have something up their sleeve. There is talk of proposing a constitutional amendment to protect Ireland’s tax autonomy, especially its low tax rate for corporate investors, from the beady eyes of our European partners.

               FG have a new political director, Michael McLoughlin, replacing Gerry Naughton. The new man is not well-known to the media. He has a simple, straightforward task: get the party back into government.

             How to go about this task is, of course, another matter. Hollywood legend Sam Goldwyn said, “Predictions are very hard to make, especially about the future” but we may see a situation after the next election where FG has a similar choice to last year’s. The price of office may be cooperation with the “Shinners”. They dithered over a similar decision in the past regarding Democratic Left but then pinched their collective nose and took the plunge.

           The one thing we probably won’t hear much about at the FG “think-in” is the party’s 75th birthday. They were founded back in 1933 and their first leader was the Blueshirt chief Eoin O’Duffy. Interestingly, O’Duffy was previously IRA Chief of Staff for a period. Like Seán MacBride. And like one or two Sinn Féin people, perhaps?

    Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times


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