MORE to folly
Rosie Hackett Bridge, Dublin 1
A coalition of Irish NGOs call for the government to follow through on “the promise Ireland made when signing the UN Sustainable Development Agenda” in 2015.
The grouping displayed a giant banner on Rosie Hackett Bridge and lead a march through Dublin City centre to mark the 2nd anniversary of the adoption of the Agenda 2030.
New world order, dude.
From top: President Michael D Higgins TD at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Tullamore, Co.Offally last week; Derek Mooney
To have voted in just one presidential election you would need to be at least 24 years of age now. To have voted in at least two of them; you would now be 38, at minimum.
If you voted in three presidential elections you are at least 45 and if you voted in four, then the very youngest of you will be 60 before the next one.
That, of course, is if there is a next one. Though I personally think there will.
If today’s Ireland Thinks/Irish Daily Mail poll is correct, and there is no real reason to assume it isn’t, then 76% of us would like President Higgins to continue on after his first term expires in late 2018.
That is fair enough. I, like most people, like our President. I think he is doing a good job and that he projects a positive image of Ireland as a caring, cultured and outward looking country.
I didn’t vote for him in 2011 (either first or second preference), but that does not matter. If the poll is correct then just under half of those just polled did not vote for him either.
As a candidate in the 2011 election, when we had a selection of people pick from, Michael D Higgins was the first-choice pick of just under 40% of voters.
So, it would be a bit of a stretch to read today’s poll as saying that he would automatically be the first-choice pick of 76% of voters, without knowing who those other potential candidates might be.
In the same vein, it is also a major stretch to interpret today’s result as saying that 76% of us believe that President Higgins should have a second term without an election.
That said, today’s poll will doubtless come as a bit of welcome news to those hoping that the President will run again.
They were due some good news after the recent opinions pieces in the Sunday Business Post, Irish Examiner and the Sunday Times (Ireland) urging the President to think carefully about going for a second term and to keep good to his word, as given during the 2011 elections, and only serve a single seven-year term.
While there have been other pieces written along on the same lines over the past few years, including this from Brendan Morley in June 2016, these three particular pieces from Elaine Byrne, Alison O’Connor and Justine McCarthy will hit home, as none will be seen as coming from opponents or those with political axes to grind.
Of the three, Alison O’Connor’s will have been the least well received, choosing, as she did, to go with the issue of age.
It is a tricky personal subject, but as the few of us who have experienced two or more presidential election campaign can attest: presidential elections are all about the tricky personal subjects.
There clearly is precedent, via President de Valera, of having an octogenarian as head of State, though in the case of Éamon de Valera, the voters got to have their say when he sought re-election in 1966 at the age of 83.
In contrast, Justine McCarthy’s analysis and observations may have the most impact. In essence, she warns those supporting Higgins not to play politics with this, specifically not to be cute-hoors and continually delay the announcement of the decision whether or not Michael D is running again.
The perceived wisdom is that those supporting a second term for Michael D – let us call them Team Higgins – believe their best tactic is to have a second term by acclamation.
From their viewpoint, there is no overwhelming appetite among the main parties for another election next year, especially with a likely general election and referendum on the Eight Amendment already on the cards for 2018.
They assume that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would be happy to see the presidency go uncontested, leaving both to focus on fighting each other. They also know that they need the two main parties to keep out if they are to coast through.
There may be some basis to this belief, but it does not factor-in the wishes of others. Presidential nominations are not the gift of the big parties that they once were.
To run you need to be nominated by 20 members of the Oireachtas (TDs/ Senators) or 4 county/city councils. This makes the independents serious players as it does Sinn Féin.
Various independent TDs and Senators have already indicated that they are determined to field a candidate and, while the candidacy of the ebullient Senator Gerry Craughwell will not be much of a worry to man nor beast, there are rumours that other independents are already talking to more substantial figures as possible contenders.
But there is a problem, it is one of timing. National presidential campaigns are complex things to design, staff and build and can take 6, 9 or even 12 months to get right.
This is probably why Team Higgins is so keen to delay its announcement for as long as it possibly can.
It knows the amount of work and resources required to mount a credible national campaign and it knows that anyone from outside the big political parties wanting to take a serious run at the park in the autumn of 2018 needs to start planning now.
If you are an aspiring non-party candidate then the next three or four months are crucial.
What seems not yet to have dawned on Team Higgins however, is that the issue of whether there is a challenger or not has already slipped out of their hands.
The best they can do now is to try to nobble a contender before their get to the starting gate – hardly the actions of a principled campaign, but this is presidential politics.
Even then, once the main parties see that there will likely be an election the internal pressure will mount to run their own candidates, at which point all bets are off and Team Higgins is in a bitter race for a second term, a second term it said clearly and repeatedly back in 2011 that it did not seek or desire.
While some in Team Higgins may still hope that they can delay an announcement well into 2018, I strongly suspect that common sense will prevail over the coming weeks and that the position will be clarified before Christmas.
If I were a betting man, I’d be putting a few euros on the President reaffirming what he originally said in 2011 and announcing that he will not be seeking a second term.
Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney
Dublin Half-Marathon medal; Tony Groves
Standing on the crowded start line of the Dublin Half Marathon, among the people who get up early in the morning, on Saturday was an interesting experience.
Thousands of people, with all manner of motivations and goals crammed together to run 13.1 miles. It was, to my mind, the very opposite of the echo chamber.
It was a true Republic of Opportunity.
The distance was the same for every participant, the hill at mile 5 treated everyone with the same contempt and the pockmarked roads of North County Dublin had no care for variance of stride or stumble. Real free market capitalism.
The Republic of Opportunity that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks of is very different, his vision is based on the American Dream of Big Business and Foreign Direct Investment. There’s no point going on about how the cyclical path of this journey leads to disaster.
The majority of people are aware that the Republic of Opportunity is a two tier society. They know that government allowed Ireland, 1% of the EU population, to carry the burden of 40% of the Financial Bailout Cost.
Most of us know that our Democratic Representatives chose not to represent us when austerity was the EU medicine on offer and we know they stood up for Apple when they were paying an effective tax rate of 0.05%.
Most of us know about the 8,000 homeless people, the 675,000 on hospital waiting lists and most of us, based on the latest opinion polls, don’t really care.
The unpalatable fact for those of us on the liberal left is that the majority are happy enough with the boom and bust cycle we are trapped in.
Most of us are happy to pretend capitalism didn’t flame out in 2008.
Most of us, and this is the kick in the balls, think the way to avoid the mistakes of the past is to double down on the practises that caused it.
We like the Republic of Opportunity guff because it plays to our ego. It let’s us perpetuate the myth of the self made man. It is both the wealth effect and, what economists call, Subjective Expected Utility Theory in one.
Those with wealth, capital or on the property ladder feel better off; they spend more money and take more risks. Unfortunately, their sense of wealth is subjective to the underlying asset; in Ireland that’s mainly land. Land, as an unproductive asset, is the number one driver of inequality.
The homeless crisis, the rental crisis, the increase of property prices by €500 per week are all related how land is treated in the Republic of Opportunity.
The majority of those with capital must know that the price of their current economic good fortune is paid with the misery of those locked out of the market.
Nor is the Republic of Opportunity solely for the landed class. It is also for the Foreign Direct Investment that drives our ‘Leprechaun Economics’ economy.
Ireland is a great place for FDI and FDI capital. Before, during and after the recession FDI was increasing here.
But this good news story is also a driver of inequality in it’s own way. When you have workers, many of whom get up early in the morning, paying marginal tax rates of 50% and huge Multinational Corporations paying a blended average rate of 2.8% then you have a recipe for conflict.
When you factor in that these FDI companies employ little in the way of indigenous workers and most of the labour is in sales, marketing and legal & accountancy then you’re faced with another problem.
While there’s no official data, it is estimated that almost 80% of Google’s Irish Workforce are from outside of Ireland. As an open borders advocate, this represents a conundrum. Ireland needs more diversity, not less.
But how can the average paid, non FDI, worker compete against a high paid Facebook accountant for the 1 Bed Apartment in the IFSC?
They can’t. But, rather than follow the linkage between a Multinational Company paying 3% in tax and poorly funded social housing issues, it is easier for the fella priced out of the rental market to blame Johnny Foreigner.
There’s a very real risk, at least in Dublin, that a wealthy sector of foreign workers become targets of the anger of inequality. Anger, that should be directed at the establishment, might give rise to the ugliness of racism. You can already see it fraying at the edges, in the comments sections and social media posts.
This is not a kick at the Republic of Opportunity. This is a funeral dirge for the optimism that we’d learn the lessons of the previous crash.
Someone recently pointed out that there’s no point deriding the political figurehead or any political slogan WITHOUT first looking at the electorate.
The outsourcing of democracy via a vote every five years doesn’t absolve the public from responsibility. Sitting in our armchairs, feeling shocked by the latest RTÉ Prime Investigation is not social activism.
Moaning that someone should do something isn’t going to move the Republic of Opportunity mantra closer to an opportunity for all.
The very transient nature of our “democracy”, when viewed through a generational lens, absolves, at least in my eyes, the politicians more than the citizenry.There’s a cheap refrain: “There’s no point voting, sure whoever you vote for don’t the government always get elected?”
The counter (and more truthful response) to that is: “The people get the government they deserve.” Increasing inequality, housing crises and health crises are the responsibility of us all.
You can’t just tick a box every five years and then point fingers for the next 1,824 days. The wasted decade will be truly lost if, as we seem so keen to do, we forget the lessons of the past.
If we want to keep running around in a feudal system, based on haves and have nots, then cry ‘keep the recovery going’ and walk onwards to the looping circuit of the Republic of Opportunity.
Maybe to walk a mile in Leo’s shoes we should all be forced to run 13.1 miles. And just end up where we started from again.
At least I got a medal for my idiocy.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld