26 October 2011

#OccupyDameStreet - Presidential Interlude

Once again I feel compelled to say to those of you new to this blog that I am writing purely as an individual, and never on behalf of #OccupyDameStreet or any other group, movement or jamboree.

So tomorrow we go to the polls for the second time this year, to elect an almost entirely powerless figurehead whose sole responsibilities seem to be smiling, waving, leaving fire-hazards burning in the window and, based on historical precedent, avoiding late night phone calls from Charles J. Haughey and his chums (admittedly easier now that he is no longer with us). As a bonus prize we also get to decide via Referenda on the transferral of more power to members of Dáil Éireann, though sadly neither the 'Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children (Except Catholic Clergy)' nor the 'Seanad Abolition/Reform/Change/erm-maybe-we'll-just-get-new-carpets-in' proposals seem to have been ready in time (I'm sure all the legislators had a marvelous summer holiday though instead).

I will freely admit that I have never felt less informed about a Referendum than with either of these two, my inclination is to vote "No" on both, my reasoning being that a) a Judiciary independent of the Dail is a cornerstone of our admittedly flawed Constitution, and a separate pay-review body drawn from those outside of the Irish legal profession could carry out such a review function instead of TDs and b) while I do believe in the right of Parliaments to carry out reviews of matters of public importance and the current Tribunal system benefits no-one save the legal profession, The Irish Council of Civil Liberties have raised what seem to be valid concerns over the hurried nature of this legislation and the scale and scope of the envisioned committees. However the presence of Peter Sutherland, Michael McDowel and Mary O'Rourke all calling for a 'No' vote on this proposed 30th Amendment make me feel very uneasy doing so, possessing as I do an almost pathological distrust of anything said by any one member of this unholy trinity as an individual, and when their powers are combined I find myself checking over my shoulder for trumpets, lads on horseback and a lady on a funny-looking animal wearing altogether not enough clothing for this kind of weather.

No doubt this will all end up in the polling station with a coin toss, what used to be Ireland's favorite method of electoral decision making before the EU forced us to move to penalty shoot-outs.

On the subject of the Presidential election, however, I am much more informed and came to a decision many, many weeks ago. Happy and secure in this knowledge I allowed myself to take a few days off to man the barricades at #OccupyDameStreet, only to wake up on Sunday and discover that the nation had taken leave of their senses, and I was seriously considering phoning up a doctor friend to see how I could have up to 40% of the electorate (with a margin of error of +/- 2%) committed. It was akin to walking out from your hospital bed after a long illness/coma/slap-in-the-face-by-an-angry-plant to finding the streets inexplicably deserted and then suddenly being chased for your life once dusk fell by hordes of squat, balding zombies.

Seriously folks, are you all stark raving bonkers insane? Is this all part of a very cunning plan to escape the clutches of the IMF by sticking two pencils up our collective nostrils and cry "wibble wibble"? If so you forgot to send me the memo, I am really not amused.

Let's look at the facts - 1) Fianna Fail destroyed this country for the benefit of a small group of financiers and property developers. 2) Sean Gallagher made his money in the property sector, and as recently as 2008 was fundraising for Fianna Fail, soliciting donations of up to €5,000 which would secure a private meeting with then Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Even if he was not part of the cosy cabal of business interests that directly financed Fianna Fail and on whose behalf this country was run, he certainly directly enabled this highly undemocratic cash-for-access environment. The fact that he solicited donations on behalf of Brian Cowen from a convicted criminal is almost irrelevant, the main concern should be that he was actively soliciting donations in return for parliamentary access in the first place. 3) In 2009 he took a director's loan of €82,829 from his company Beach House Training and Consulting Ltd which breached Company Law and when challenged about this he has used the "that money was only resting in my account" defense and refused to be drawn further, leaving the electorate to guess whether his actions were criminal or simply incompetent.

This is the man that 40% of the electorate when asked in successive representative sample polls believe is the symbolic embodiment of the Irish nation? Well he certainly is the embodiment of that Irish nation of the last fourteen years, but I thought that everything that we had gone through as a people over the last two years was all about changing that - an end to crony capitalism, an end to back-room deals and Fianna Fail skulduggery with brown envelopes and paper bags exchanged at petrol stations, and end to dig-outs, whip-arounds and rounds of golf that resulted in legislation that favoured a few and crippled a generation. An end to the Billy Brennan politics of the wink-and-elbow language of delight.

If you want to know why #OccupyDameStreet exists and why I am down there freezing my backside off while you all are reading this on your laptops warm and cozy with X-Factor on in the background, it is because 40% of you seriously need a good kick up the arse. A serious kick up the arse.

It doesn't matter if you vote for the looney Christian, Ms Photoshoppy McQuango, the forgettable boring guy, the pompous guy or the chatty little gnome with the mad hair, just please come to your senses and do not vote for Sean Gallagher!!!

Oh, or the convicted terrorist. Don't vote for the convicted terrorist, that would be pretty bad too.

Photo: Not actually Sean Gallagher, but a Sontaran, a fictional squat and potato-shaped humanoid from the British TV show, Dr Who. An easy mistake to make, though.

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