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  • The Gift that Keeps on Giving

    August 26, 2011 @ 5:52 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    Greetings to y’all. Just back from a summer “staycation” and rarin’ to blog. Need one say how desperately quiet the political news is at the moment? Except, that is, for the presidential election which is the gift that keeps on giving.

    (more…)

  • Gordon Brown’s gaffe

    April 29, 2010 @ 4:07 pm | by Harry McGee

    There are few spaces in the world, visual or aural, that are now free from prying eyes and ears, most of them electronic.

    It’s more dystopian than the world poor old Winston Smith encountered in George Orwell’s 1984.

    Gordon Brown found that out to his cost yesterday. The video above give the full narrative of the toe-curling episide with pensioner Gillian Duffy in Rochdale. (more…)

  • Country and Western Alliance 2009?

    November 5, 2009 @ 8:55 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    A certain wag who worked on this newspaper some years back used to have great fun at the expense of aspirants for jobs and promotions that appeared “on the board”. His favourite witticism was to tell one or other of the hopefuls: “Your name is being linked to the job – people are saying ‘Joe Bloggs hasn’t a chance of getting that one’.” Oh the cruelty of it! But it was very funny and the victim usually laughed as well.

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     Tá Máire réidh! (more…)

  • On the Road in Darkest Kilkenny

    May 27, 2009 @ 10:26 am | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    Macra na Feirme, representing the young farming sector, did a laudable act of public service by organising a debate in Kilkenny last night between the candidates for the three European Parliament seats in the Ireland East (formerly Leinster) constituency.

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     Avril Doyle watches the votes being counted in the Ireland East constituency in 2004, when she narrowly won a second Fine Gael seat in Europe (Photograph: Cyril Byrne)

    (more…)

  • 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

  • Brian Cowen on the Late Late Show

    September 5, 2008 @ 12:40 pm | by Harry McGee

    The Late Late Show has become a rehab centre for prominent politicians whose careers are hitting a downer, providing a home-grown Oprah moment to give a little lift to flagging reputations.

    It’s did the trick for Bertie (his LLS show appearance in the run-up to the 2007 campaign did him no harm at all as he showed himself expert at striking exactly the right balance between serious politician and man of the people).

    Tonight will be very important for Cowen. There has been no substantial interview with him for two months and tonight will tell us a lot about the measure of the man. He’ll have to be able to give a strong impression to the public that he is in command and knows how to get the country out of this crisis when Pat Kenny asks hard questions (and, with his current affaris edge, he will ask hard questions).

    He’ll also to be able to lighten up and show a little of his human side, his talent for mimickry, his quick wit.

    And as sure as rain on any give day this summer and autumn, Brian Cowen will be prevailed upon to belt out a song… which he will do!.

    It’s the Late Late and it’s classed as light entertainment. But don’t let that fool you. This is an enormous test. The history of the show is littered with dead political stiffs like Padraig Flynn’s spectacular gaffe about Tom Gilmarting and then Northern secretary Peter Brooke’s disastrous decision to sing ‘My Darling Clementine’ only days after an IRA bomb had killed several people in 1992.

    Cowen is a bit like Eamon Dunphy. You are so mesmerised when they are outraged or outspoken or on the warpath that you forget how incredibly dull and boring they can be at other times. Cowen is ultra cautious and always on guard. So his biggest danger when asked about the economy will be giving long indeterminate and rambling answers, kicking to touch in slow motion.

    The problem with the human side of the interview is that he just won’t lighten up. He was on with the supreme witterer and interview-lite merchant Ryan Tubridy early this year and came across as stolid and wooden. The same happened with Pat Rabbitte. This kind of chat show dross is well outside their milieu and their comfort zone… unlike the chameleon Bertie who thrived.

    Of course, it’s important to hear what Cowen does say. Knowing his paranoid caution, he’s going to let no cats out of any bags. But he needs to be able to communciate the sense of where the Government’s thinking is and the kind of strategy they want to implement. And despite the Government media handlers dismissing my story about a State of the Nation address at every turn, you know, if it works out well for Cowen tonight… this might in fact be it.

    But it will be keenly watched on all kinds of levels. This will be our first real chance to assess whether the dauphin prince of many years is really a king, or merely another man who would be king.

    If you want another listen to his rendition of Paddy’s Green Shamrock in Tullamore (with cartoon accompaniment!) here it is:

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