Tag Archives: Politics

Weekly Drawing Challenge – Through

In yesterday’s post I used this phrase:

“Let me present Batman – the Dark Knight, Thor – the Thunder God, and Robin – the Guy Who Looks Good On Christmas Cards.”

In the first draft (yes, I do edit this stuff, even if it doesn’t look like it) between Thor and Robin I had “Bertie – the Disgraced Liar”. I took it out in the end because most of you that read this aren’t from Ireland and so wouldn’t understand it, and because it was a pretty feeble attempt at political satire in any case.

On Thursday a Tribunal of Inquiry into corruption in our planning system found that our ex Prime Minister Bertie Ahern had lied to it about large sums of money which he received, firstly when he was Minister for Finance and then when he held the most powerful position in our land.

Most of us knew this, of course. The evidence that he gave to the Tribunal was funnier and more imaginative than anything I ever written. He explained two lodgements of £22,500 and £16,500 as loans (or “dig-outs”, as he called them) from his friends because they felt he was hard up after his marriage break-up, although he had over£70,000 in cash at the time. He said that he was at a dinner in Manchester after being at a football match, was asked to say a few words and the listeners were so impressed that they had a whip-around and presented him with £8,000 sterling (had this been a fee for speaking he would, of course, have had to pay tax on it). He denied that he ever received any other sterling, ever, and when it was pointed out to him that lodgements of £15,500 to accounts belonging to himself and his daughters were definitely sterling he suddenly remembered that he had won it betting on races in UK.

$45,000 was lodged into one of his accounts. He simply denied that he had ever received dollars from anyone.

This odious little toad, by the way, was our leader when the property bubble which has led to the destruction of our economy began. He was on first-name terms with the chairman of the bank that collapsed most spectacularly, and for which we (population 4 million) have to pay out a promissory note debt worth €3.06 billion (€3,060,000,000) before next Friday.

Several people I know have lost their jobs. Our company had to impose pay cuts on all of us and let 25 people go.

Some of my children will probably have to emigrate. I may one day have grand-children that I see only once a year or so.

Ahern chickened out of facing the voters in the last General Election, where his party was massacred. That party began moves this week to expel him (something never before done to a former leader) at a meeting to be held next Friday. He chickened out of that too, by resigning from the party last night.

He is through.

My attempt at drawing him captures little of his smirk, of lips that were so quick to tighten into a thin line of repressed rage whenever he was asked a difficult question. About the only thing that I’ve captured is his almost cylindrical head, so like the buckets of cash with which he ran his life.

So no jokes today, just a venting of my contempt for one of the most self-serving, money-grabbing, deceitful creatures to ever infect politics in our country.

A recent challenge, which I never got around to doing, was “Distorted”, so I’m using today’s post to cover that too.

But it’s not my drawing I’m talking about.

Keeping it Real

So today the election is upon us. Commentators say our crap governance is the fault of our tired old electoral system and not, strangely, the fault of our crap politicians. Let’s try a new system, then.

This election should follow the X-Factor format, complete with the existing panel of four judges. This may appear as if we‘re handing our democracy to them, but bear with me.

While the current system offers us only party hacks and the offspring of retiring politicians, there’ll be no shortage of fame seekers willing to stand under my plan. And absolutely every one of these will get the chance to perform in front of Simon and the gang. The early weeks would feature some of the worst of them. People will say daft things like “bigger people breathe in more air, so there should be a tax on lung capacity”. Others will say dafter things like “sure, let’s stick with the current lot, the others might be worse”. Some will forget their lines and ask to start again. Some would forget their own arse if it wasn’t attached to their legs.

Every now and again some middle-aged woman will captivate the audience with an astonishing, fiery oration. Cheryl will cry, the audience will go wild and the woman will embark upon a career which will eventually see her embark upon cruise ships, performing the “I have a dream” speech in the nightly cabaret.

The ones who make the knock-out stages will perform upon a specified theme each week, the health service first, then the economy, etc. We all get to vote (that’s the ‘X’ Factor) and on Sunday nights the candidates will stand nervously side by side. Some will tremble, some will cry, some will link arms (it’ll be a bit like the end of the night in my local, in other words). Eventually Dermot will speak.

“The first person through to the next round is……………………….. (there are not enough dots in my laptop to illustrate how long this pause is) ………………… (meanwhile girly screams of “Pete!” or “Mikey!” will issue from the crowd)……

………………”Mikey!” The screams will be deafening. Mikey will punch the air, all the others will link arms closer, like a  wall in front of Cristiano Ronaldo. Eventually Dermot will deign to speak again. “The next person..”

And so on, until there are just two left. These will each perform again, giving thirty seconds of powerful rhetoric, then wait upon the judges. Simon will call one of them poor. The crowd will boo. Louis will praise whichever one Simon slags off. The crowd will cheer. Dannii will look like Kylie. Cheryl will say they “ah booth winnas”. The men watching on TV will fall even deeper in love with her. Then all four will vote. It will be a tie, and they will go back to the audience vote (see, we haven’t lost our democracy at all). The loser will go home to apply for whatever reality show is on next. The winner will go forward to the next week, and so on, until we have a winner.

Let’s face it, it’s not that radical a change. The standard of debate in our Dáil has always boiled down to a bunch of dull nobodies sitting in a big house talking shite at each other. If they can copy Big Brother, surely I can use the X-Factor. And in my programme the winner is decided by phone vote.

In other words, the more you spend, the more power you have.

You might say that I am mocking Irish democracy. I say I am continuing it.

Naughty Step Again

Once again we Irish have been very, very bold.

Following this week’s kidnapping of a bank official’s wife and the subsequent robbery from the AIB branch where he worked, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern suggested charges for customers withdrawing cash at ATMs, as it’s for this reason that banks have to carry so much money. While he later backed down about the charges, he did insist that we should move more towards a cashless society.

In short, bank robberies are our fault, because we selfish feckers want access to our money. The government, to be fair to them, are doing their best to change this situation by taxing us and running our economy in such a way that we have less and less money to want access to, but still we demand what little we have, forcing the poor banks to stock money instead of carrying out proper banking functions, such as refusing credit, paying themselves bonuses and trying to find ways around the salary cap imposed on their chief executive.

Now many people would claim that the ever-increasing crime rate might be due to a police force that’s too small and under-resourced, or to backlogs in the court system, or to the revolving door system of prisons, because there are too few of them. These people might suggest that the blame lies at the feet of someone who could remedy some of those problems – a Minister for Justice, for example.

The sheer cynicism of these people is typical of what makes Ireland grate instead of great. Mr Ahern is a political and intellectual colossus. Admittedly he has not yet got to grips with the problems of drug-wars, increased paramilitary activity and a growing knife-culture, but he has brought in an inspired piece of legislation which means that grown men and women cannot buy a bottle of wine at a minute past ten on a Saturday night. If Dermo says we’re not worthy then worthy is what we are not, and if that phrase seems a little unwieldy then a shit is what I do not give.

Besides, he has a point. Housebreaking would not take place if we didn’t insist on filling our homes with TVs, laptops and small amounts of jewellery. Car theft would not happen if we didn’t all have cars. Muggings would not occur if it weren’t for our ridiculous insistence on walking the streets in broad daylight.

And what about political corruption? What about the procession of politicians, many of them from Mr A’s own party, who have been caught fiddling expenses, or committing slander, or spending money raised to help their sick friend, or presenting laughable evidence to a tribunal to explain their uxexplainable cash lodgements? Is that not the fault of the politicians themselves?

Mr Ahern would say no. He’d say that’s our fault too. And he’d be right.

We voted for them.

Stayin’ Alive

I’m going to live forever. Or as good as.

There has been a lot of gloom over the announcement yesterday by Social & Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin that the pension age is being increased, in stages, from the current age of 65 to 68. I took a lot of encouragement, though, from the reasons that she gave for doing it. Mary says:

“It is simply not sustainable that we can afford a pension system based on the current model which allows people to spend almost as long in retirement as they do in the workforce.”

I started work in 1975 and will be reach the current retirement age of 65 in 2022. By then I’ll have been working for 47 years, so Mary believes that I’m going to live on, a drain on the state’s resources (like a human Anglo-Irish Bank), until 2069.

By which time I’ll be 112. I’m in the age group described as middle-aged, but it turns out I’m not even half-way there yet. I’ve so much time ahead of me – I may yet learn to play the piano, may yet finish watching the box-set of Lost (or indeed, may yet start watching it), may yet finish decorating the second toilet (don’t bet on it, it’s been 24 years so far).

I may even manage to post just one post which doesn’t include a spelling mistake that I don’t notice until I look at the published version.

And I certainly will be a drain on the state. Taking it that my pacemaker battery lasts eight years it will be need to be changed seven times. That’s seven hospital visits. And I’ll have to do this as I’ll need to keep as healthy as possible to keep in pursuit of my pension, which will keep being pulled away just as I get there, like a steak on a piece of string used to tease a dog.

You can’t find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow because you never quite reach the end of the rainbow. The same will now apply to my pension.

But at least I’m going to live a long time. Mary said so, and she’s a Government Minister, a former teacher, and has a picture of herself with Bono on her website, so she’s probably quite clever.

Or perhaps she’s just a brainless bat talking Pollyanna-type rubbish to hide the fact (not very well) that once again the Government have found a way to take our money.

As a TD, of course, Mary started qualifying for a TD’s pension after just two year’s service. She’ll get a full Ministerial Pension after she’s been a minister for 10 years. And she’ll get these pensions for many, many more years than that, which is hard to square with her statement above.

Still, I bear her no ill will. In fact, I wish her a long and happy retirement.

I just hope it starts soon.

The Sadness Of King George

So George Lee has resigned, after just 8 months as a TD.

Since his leave of absence from RTE doesn’t expire until May, many people are wondering what he will do to keep busy. No need to worry, George has a packed programme of activities arranged that will keep him occupied until at least the week-end.

Tomorrow: George runs the Marathon. Well, not the whole thing. Or most of it. Well, he turns up at the start and makes sure he’s in all the photographs.

Wednesday: George gets a job teaching at Hogwarts, but resigns when he finds that you can’t really just wave a magic wand and change things.

Thursday: George becomes manager of the Irish soccer team. During the first game an opponent handles the ball. When the ref refuses to give a free George takes his ball and goes home.

Friday: George starts a blog, using the tagline “anything worth doing, is worth doing for at least ten minutes”.

Saturday: George gets to opportunity to have an affair with Keira Knightley, but walks away, saying he’d hoped he’d feel more used.

Simple, Really

The Government, reluctantly and under extreme pressure, is to hold an enquiry into what went wrong in the banks.

My prediction (indeed everyone’s prediction) is that they’ll spend a few million and come up with a load of generalised waffle.

I can save them that money (though they can send me some if it, if they wish). The paragraph below tells them everything they need to know.

Joe borrowed money to buy a car which he then wrote off in a crash. Though his asset is gone, he still has to repay the loan. Rich borrowed money to buy shares in Anglo Irish, which were then written off in a banking crash. His asset is gone, so he doesn’t have to repay the money.

That’s the banking culture in a nutshell. It’s better to be rich than an ordinary joe.

They’re welcome.

A Book at Bert-time

The Revenue Commissioners have granted tax-exempt status to the proceeds of sales of Bertie Ahern’s autobiography, on the grounds that it has “cultural or artistic merit”.

They don’t usually grant this to books that are factual, or they’d have to give it to school textbooks, the telephone directory and the Dublin Bus Timetable (ok, not that one). Therefore they obviously reckon that Bertie’s book is a work of fiction.

And the news that you can write fiction about Bertie and get tax-free dosh for it has attracted the attention of other authors, as these forthcoming publications show….

The Great Bertsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is the tale of a man of unexplained wealth who spends much of his time gazing at a light at the end of a dock, when he isn’t giving evidence in one. The story ends tragically when Bertsby is attacked in Tara Street Baths by a deranged man, or “loolah”, as he calls him.

De Damned United, by Nick Hornsby. The hilarious tale of Bertie’s brief reign as manager of Manchester United, where he turned them from being the envy of Europe (they were known as the Celtic Tigers, much to the annoyance of Celtic) into a second-division laughing stock. This was mainly due to his incomprehensible instructions to his players, and to his insistence on finding room for Ray Burke in his team. Mr Hornsby is working on another book, The Really Damned United, which tells of what happened next, when Bertie’s assistant Brian Cowen took over instead. As the team sank lower and lower he declares himself happy with their situation (“we are where we are”), blames everything on the rest of the world (“sure Real Madrid are shite too”) and then sells all his players off cheaply to new club Nama Academicals during the January transfer window.

The Secret Life of Bertie Mitty, by James Thurber. The story of a daydreamer who imagines himself as a great statesman, a socialist, a man of modest needs, a sports journalist, just an ordinary Joe. Supposedly funny, but actually just sad.

Celia Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. This tells the story of young Celia and her love for the powerful and mysterious Mr Ahern. Since he is already married in his heart to wealth, popularity and Drumcondra  the romance is doomed from the start, and all poor Celia gets out of it is the odd cheap house. She finally ends the relationship with the by now immortal line “Reader, I nutted him”.

Before the Flood

Sorry I’ve been missing. I’ve been up to my eyes at work.

In these straitened times, that should be a good thing, but it isn’t. Another river of shit is flowing towards the wonderful people who work with me. We’re all going to get paid less when we come back after Christmas, and some, though thankfully only a few, won’t be coming back at all.

I’ve been so busy because I’ve had to pull together information that the people at the top will use to control the river, to decide in what directions to channel it and where to let it burst its banks. Shit happens, and they have to decide who to. They hate it, and I don’t envy them.

Meanwhile the staff carry on working, and discussing next week’s (much-diluted from last year) Christmas party.

I feel so sorry for the ones who’ll be going. The rest of us, well, we’ll manage. we’ll get by on our lower salaries and, if things ever pick up again, we’ll see good times again.

But the anger at the Government and the financial misfits who caused all this will still burn inside. It will not burn with flashy and short-lasting flames of rage and shouting. It will smoulder deep, deep inside, and because of this it will last much longer. And this deep-felt anger is burning  in other companies, in the public service, in all of society.

We keep being told that things are going to change. Unless the powers-that-be really are as divorced from the people as they appear, then they must see that things will have to. Because the people of Ireland have had enough.

Banana Nama – 2

Sorry, but I can’t let this topic go.

The Government’s NAMA has bought €77 billion worth of loans from the banks. The property relating to these loans is worth €47 billion, but we’re paying €54 billion for them. We’re told that it’s not a bailout, that NAMA will pursue the developers for their loans just as diligently as the banks would have. And I’ve no doubt that Brian Lenihan believes that.

Ok, let’s keep it simple.

A property company, Balls of Brass Limited, borrowed €1.5 million from AIB to buy a property. This property is now worth €1 million. We have bought the loan from AIB for €1.15 million, to reflect “long term economic value”.

Next week Balls of Brass goes into liquidation. It is entitled to do this, indeed obliged to, as it is hopelessly insolvent. Its only creditor, which is us, gets legal ownership of its only asset, the property which is worth €1 million.

And we’ve just paid €1.15 million for it.

And that’s the end of it. The company is in liquidation – effectively deceased – so there is no-one and nothing left to pursue. The company has met all its legal obligations by handing over its asset to its creditors. No-one has done anything legally wrong.

But we’ve just lost money, unless the Government intends to hang on to the building in the hope that prices will rise. What if they keep falling? At what stage does NAMA lose its nerve and sell for even less than the €1 million it’s supposedly worth now? 

Bank share prices surged on Thursday after the figures relating to NAMA were released. You can see why.

On The Doorsteps

From Saturdays’ Irish Times:

As if Fianna Fáil general secretary Seán Dorgan hasn’t enough to contend with at the moment, a bogus letter supposedly signed by him has being doing the rounds of websites in the last couple of days. Written on party-headed notepaper, it appears to convey instructions to party workers on how to deal with difficulties faced when canvassing.

Seán Dorgan received a copy of the letter yesterday morning. “It’s not genuine. Clearly, it’s my signature, but nothing else. This is juvenile politics and nothing else. It’s a complete and utter fake and forgery.”

CanvassingHere, however, are the instructions that he really did send out.

1.  Tippex out the words “Fianna Fáil” on your leaflets.

2.  When the voter opens the door, don’t infuriate him by telling him straight out you’re from Fianna Fáil. Tell him you’re a Jehovah’s Witness.

3. If he rails against the bankers, nod sadly and say “I know, they’re fuckers”.

4. Blame everything on the Progressive Democrats – after all, they’re gone now.

5. If he says he has lost his job, don’t say “yes, but more importantly, if you don’t vote for me, I’ll lose mine too”.

6. Any instruction to “shove your leaflets up your hole” should not be followed literally.

7. If he tries to blame Fianna Fáil for banjaxing the economy,  say “you’re right, and as our punishment you should keep voting us back in until we fix it”. This logic is so daft that it might actually work.

8. Keep a car running outside the gate.