Author Archives: Tony Groves

From top: Paul Murphy TD; Tony Groves

 

Paul Murphy is the Dark Knight. He’s the hero Protesters deserve. But not the one we need right now. When he came out onto the steps of the court, an innocent man, he declared what had “happened in there…disgusting”.

Disgusting was, I’d imagine, picked deliberately; the echoes of former Garda Commissioner Callinan, are too convenient.

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, wasn’t exonerated. Far from it. In fact no less than the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar declared “just because someone wasn’t convicted doesn’t mean their behaviour was acceptable”.

Clearly the Taoiseach for soundbites has learned nothing from the recent rebuke about sticking his nose in the business of the judiciary.

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, is profoundly guilty of the Orwellian Newspeak crime of Facecrime. A crime of acting inappropriately to the views of the establishment. His face doesn’t fit.

For my part, I’d have preferred Paul Murphy, an innocent man, to step in front of the microphones and begin by thanking the judge and the jury for proving that justice was not out of reach for those outside of the establishment.

I’d have liked him to talk about not condoning the uglier events of the day, but also stating categorically that the right to protest usurps the hurt feelings of those who deem themselves “respectable and honest”.

If there’s hope, it lies with the proles” – George Orwell

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, is guilty of wiping his feet on the unwritten establishment rule book. I’m not comfortable with his running roughshod over the hierarchical structures and ignoring the rules of disengaged engagement. I’m probably not Paul Murphy’s target audience.

Paul Murphy is for the proles (the Marxist proletarian) and their struggles. The proles who know that education doesn’t necessarily mean intelligence, and that respectability often does not mean honesty. The proles aren’t bothered by standing protocols, when they’re too often the stood upon.

When Jeremy Corbyn ran on a slogan of “for the many, not the few”, he was, in his own pacifist way, appealing to the proles. He knew that by standing up for those stood upon, that he might awaken in them something that no amount of mainstream smearing could quell, hope.

An awakened proletariat need “only rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies” for the Chumocratic Instruments of the State to crumble.

Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious” – George Orwell

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, in giving two fingers to the establishment, also gave a kick to the horse. That he did it in a way unpalatable to many, myself included, matters not a jot.

What matters is that the proles are getting a feel for their power, they can sense fear in the establishment and they’re realising that they have less to fear from a State that trembles at a tweet than they do from poverty. They’re becoming conscious.

Conscious of the imbalance in reporting that stresses the inappropriateness of social media* above the inappropriateness of perjury.

Awake to those who portray the ordeal of that day in Jobstown as in some way more trying than the proles own daily struggle. Angry that having won in court that they’re facing more anger than ever from the commentariat.

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, kicked the horse. Now the horse’s tail is swishing and one eye is open.

“Rise like lions after slumber
In unfathomable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep have fallen on you –
Ye are many, they are few.” – Percy Bysshe

The hope today is that we now have more reasons to be hopeful.

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

*note how the mainstream media don’t fret about the public judge, jury and executioner that is an RTE Investigates documentary, or a Paul Williams interview exclusive.

Yanis Varoufakis gets around, and much like the dreaded contagion of the financial crash, he’s rarely as advertised. When he appeared on the Russell Brand podcast (the day before the British General Election) he was a little downbeat; not at all positive about Corbyn’s chances.

Whereas, when he spoke at the DiEM 25 meeting in Dublin, he was the embodiment of positivity in Doc Martens. So much so that Vincent Browne told him to stop being so idealistic!

I guess the lesson is this: know your audience.

It is with this simple wisdom in mind that I read about last weekend’s Italian bank bailout. You see Italy has just pumped €5 billion into two banks that are not considered systemic to the Italian economy. The final bill (if any of these things can have a bill that doesn’t include the societal damage) is estimated to be in the region of €17 billion.

This burden, and it will be a heavy austere burden, will fall on the citizens of Italy and not the bondholders of Italian banks.

But the good news is that “Markets have rallied as a result”. The socialisation of private debt in order to protect market confidence, how very Irish of those Italians, hey?

A couple of weeks ago the Spanish had there own bailout bonanza. Santander, the private bank, raised €7 billion in a rights issue to bailout the Banco Popular. Santander then burned Banco Popular’s bondholders to the tune of €3.3 billion and completed the purchase for the symbolic amount of €1. No taxpayers money was involved in this Bailout/Bail-in.

So why did Italy opt to burn the citizenry and Spain the bondholders? The answer lies with Yanis Varoufakis and knowing your audience.

The Italians are less than 10 months away from a General Election, that’s just enough time for voters to not feel too much pain from the bailout and what would have been too little time for large investors and bondholders of the banks to forget their pain.

The two Italian Banks in question, Banca Popolare and Veneto Banca, have depositors and senior creditors who the Italian government do not want to upset.

So rather than use the EU’s bank-failure law, (the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive) they took “a very pragmatic decision… that shouldn’t affect investor confidence”. Gotta keep those investors confident, right?

So we have an a la carte menu in Europe now. I’d like one slice of a bailout, a large portion of a bail-in and can I get a good bank/bad bank diet coke to drink? Certainly, Sir. Could I interest you in some pragmatic pie for dessert?

Meanwhile, in Ireland we successfully sold just over a quarter of AIB, raising around €3 billion. Money, as the the best little country in the world to do as it is told, we are going to use (waste?) in paying down our debt. We are eating the Irish-Italian menu of toxicity. The one whose audience is for the bondholders, private investors and the European Commission, and not the citizens of the state.

When Spain breached the EU deficit rules the EU Commission sent them a fine of €2 billion. Spain promptly told the EU to go take a long walk on a short pier. The EU backed down and sent a symbolic fine of €0, citing “past fiscal efforts and the risk of a backlash” as their reasons for capitulation. The EU Commission knew its audience, it backed down.

Here in Ireland, we run in fear of the EU Commission and its possible fines. Irish Water, paying down debt and our budgetary gymnastics around the Fiscal Deficit are all examples of our Government working for the EU audience, rather than us.

In fact, the only time we stood up to the EU Commission was in the interests of Apple’s taxation acrobatics.

We have a new leader who doesn’t speak power to truth, he’d rather discuss pop culture. He has a grand vision, with himself at the head of it. His backbone in facing down Fianna Fáail and brazening out the Máire Whelan stroke goes missing when he’s representing you and I.

When he’s playing to his favoured audience he becomes Hugh Grant, or some other narcissist . What hope do we have of avoiding the property bubble floating along Sir John Rogerson’s Quay?

Yanis Varoufakis has a vision for a European Constitution that puts the citizens ahead of the markets. Yanis, I’d imagine, sees what has happened in Italy as the opposite of his vision; a missed opportunity to show how Europe can act as a protector of people and not markets. DiEM 25 has many great solutions, but so did Italy last Friday.

The EU had an opportunity to help Italy, the Italian government had a choice between market confidence or their people’s well-being. Both parties chose to opt for the Irish Stew. Me, I’d love some Spanish tapas. Luckily for me, they serve them in the Gravedigger’s.

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

Pic: Getty

From top: Minister for Finance Pascahl Donohoe; Tony Groves

It is difficult to define an elephant, but you know one when you see it – Bob Dowdall, Chief Inspector of Taxes

There are idioms and sometimes there are cliches. The elephant in the room is that both idioms and cliches are merely at different stages of the common lexicon cycle. One man’s philosophy is another man’s bunkum. Both things CAN be true.

It’s with this verbal trick in mind that my eye is once more drawn to the state of our exchequer returns. Month after month our indicators of economic performance have painted a picture of an economy that is once again the envy of all of Europe.

Forget Leprechaun Economics, we have more people at work than ever before in the history of the state. Don’t mind the begrudgers who point out Ireland’s preeminence in tax evasion scandals like the Panama Papers, we collected more tax in 2016 than ever before in the history of the state.

Put aside your concern for the various crises (housing, health, policing etc) and focus on a growing fiscal space that might start to tackle these issues.

But above all else, ignore the elephant in the room.

Since February a funny thing keeps happening with the income tax take; it keeps undershooting the government’s targets. Our former Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan is said to be at a loss to explain the results.

[Word of advice; in the event of a zombie apocalypse do not reach out to Michael Noonan, the Department of Finance and the new Finance Tzar, Paschal Donohoe, for help]

They can’t see the elephant in the room, let alone tackle it. It doesn’t take too much imagination to picture Taoiseach Leo Varadkar giddily welcoming the zombies and talking about his favourite Walking Dead episodes.

Whether our leaders are willfully blind to it, genuinely perplexed, or sincerely unaware doesn’t matter; the fact is that report after report has found that (at least) 1 in 5 self-employed workers are not really self-employed.

These are workers in the “sharing economy”, the “gig economy” and even your GP. The lad on the mountain bike, delivering your Thai Green Curry is a modern day entrepreneur, apparently. The fella sweeping the building site is the CEO of yard brush enterprises, who knew?

These are the workers whose job description includes the unwritten criteria of pretending they are self-employed.

This is the ‘elephant in the room’ work practice that the instruments of the state, Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social Welfare and the Department of Finance ignore because “the arrangement is administratively efficient in collecting tax from a sector which is traditionally recalcitrant when it comes to paying tax”.

What that actually means, in the eyes of the state, is that some money is better than no money.

It is bizarre to think that allowing people be misclassified as self-employed is the lesser of two evils, when, if these individuals were PAYE workers, the tax would be deducted at source.

From an employers point of view this is a ‘no brainer’. The estimated loss to the state (and saving to the employer) is an estimated 30% per employee.

Savings in pension contributions, sick pay, holiday pay, employers PRSI all hit the state coffers. All this while flexibility is forced upon workers in precarious employment. It’s manna from heaven for an unscrupulous employer.

There are quite literally tens of thousands of these wishy-washy contract for employment jobs, in lieu of contract of employment jobs; nearly 100,000 in Relevant Contracts Tax roles alone.

This herd of stampeding elephants have smashed holes in the ‘Fiscal Space’ that will determine our budgetary constraints. They have been allowed trample on hard earned employees rights, making the nature of work more precarious than in the past.The insurable jobs divide in the gig economy is estimated to be growing at 15% per annum.

People in such employment will be excluded from things like mortgages and employers pension schemes, they are not the recalcitrant children. They are the victims. The state, by looking the other way, are the issue.

You know an elephant when you see it, and this elephant is bad for the state, its citizens and the future. It needs to be addressed. Tackling it might seem like a mammoth task, but as the cliche (or is it an idiom?) goes; How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I just don’t see any big game hunters in our midst.

Note: I’d strongly urge you to check out Martin McMahon‘s video clips outlining his experiences of this sector. The links are embedded in the piece and are available to view in full here.

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

 

From top: Leo Vardkar addresses the media; Tony Groves

Long before Rome was an empire, there was the regal period; a much disputed and historically vague time. It was in this age that the origin stories of Romulus and Remus were born, and it was here that the myth of Roman citizenry was cultivated.

The kings, seven of them, while individually interesting characters, are not as important in today’s context as is the methodology of their ascension.

Kingly succession was not hereditary and the Romans used complex legal procedures that involved the appointment of an Interrex (a ‘between king’), a popular vote for the new monarch and senatorial ratification. Only then could the Interrex be called the Rex (Latin for king).

Hundreds of years later, the Romans, wanting to project later priorities into the past, cultivated backstories of these Kings. It was said that of the seven, three were murdered, one was struck by a divine lightning bolt, one was exiled and only two died in their beds.

The message to the later Romans was clear, Rome has no King, Rome needs no King; a message heard and manipulated by the Caesars.

Much like the recent election of Leo Varadkar to Fine Gael Leader (and in contrast to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader) the popular vote of the Interrex counted for much less than the “senatorial ratification” votes.

Much like the ascension of Leo Varadkar to Taoiseach, dodgy deals were cut with powerful interests in order to gain the senatorial favour. While unlike in Rome, no assassinations were ordered, one can’t help think of Michael Lowry and his backing of Leo Varadkar.

Much like the new Tory Taoiseach wants us to focus on his backstory and not his conservative, neoliberal politics, the Interrex would also have a backstory cultivated to appeal to the plebeians.

Numa and Titus Tatius, were said to be the sons of a refugees, Servius Tullius was the son of a slave. The message here, much like that of the new Taoiseach, is unmistakable: Romans could come from anywhere; and those born low could rise to the top.

Yes, there is much to admire in the son of an Indian migrant rising to the top position in the country. There is some comfort in his sexuality not featuring as a topic, but for a brief idiotic moment in the Irish Independent. But, there’s more discouragement in our need to slap ourselves on the back for such ‘enlightenment’.

I would love to see Leo Varadkar succeed. He has made much noise about the death of Left/Right politics, if only to deflect from his Right Wing leanings, and if he was to govern as he says then perhaps he will find a new route. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, briefly.

Let’s see how serious he is about resolving his “unfinished business” in the Health Service. As a country we await him fixing the date for the Referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

As a two speed economy, we await the “substantial increases in capital spending” he has promised. Let’s see him address the housing crisis and impending property bubble, without bowing to vested interests.

Leo has put his name to an ambitious list of promises. But until he starts to deliver on his “Republic of Opportunity ” mantra and living up to the (demagoguery like) hype, he will remain the Interrex; an in between king.

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

Rollingnews

From top: Pro life demonstration last Summer; Tony Groves

We need to talk about Abortion. Again and Again. Not only because a young girl, who was seeking a termination, was held in a psychiatric unit.

Not only because the Citizens Assembly (another vehicle from the Do Nothing Dáil) delivered recommendations that the Government are now referring to as a ‘guide’.

Not just because we had the Strike4Repeal, a walkout of workplaces and universities, take place on  March 8 and other methods of Repeal Activism go largely ignored in mainstream media.

Also not because I’m concerned that the new Taoiseach has drawn comparisons between women travelling for reproductive healthcare, to men travelling to Amsterdam on a Stag Party.

Nor is it because of the fact that any further delay to repeal is a violation of a woman’s rights.

No, I’m writing because of something Minister for Health Simon Harris said previously, that in the context of the latest outrage has been crystallized it in my mind.

After the UN Human Rights Committee’s found Ireland imposed “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” on Amanda Mellet, Mr Harris apologised saying:

“I am very sorry that this is how she was treated. Ireland’s history shows that it has been a cold and uncaring place for women and children. I felt the echoes of that when I read that UN view.”

I heard echoes as well. Echoes of a dark history.

When in January 2014 the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2003 was brought into force under former Health Minister and self-proclaimed conservative  (Taoiseach in Waiting) Leo Varadkar, it brought some truly terrible echoes from history ringing back.

Before you start complaining and yelling “Godwins Law” at me, I’m not about to draw an equivalence between Ireland’s failure to provide free, safe and legal reproductive options and Nazi Germany’s genocidal purges.

Whether it was the law for the prevention of hereditary diseased offspring , or the involuntary euthanasia of Aktion T4, or the Eugenic based practice of compulsory sterilisations, the Nazi State unquestionably engaged in “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.

But most startling, in an Irish context, is a little nugget. When an individual (with a disability, a mental disorder or a genetic flaw or was simply gay) was identified by the Nazis, a file would be prepared and sent to (and this is the chilling Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 part) three Doctors for sign off.

The three doctors, unknown to one another, would assess the individual and place a Red Mark in a box if the person was deemed unfit for life. It was a majority rule decision. If two doctors used the Red Pen, the person was done away with.

In Ireland a woman might have an abortion “where the threat to her life arises because of the risk of suicide. Three Doctors—a woman’s obstetrician and two psychiatrists—must agree that her life is at risk.”  Three Doctors must all agree.

Yes, I understand the very different circumstances. I acknowledge the aim of the States are ethically and morally very different. But when you imagine the pressure doctors were placed under back then, how the regime could punish dissent, you can’t help but imagine the pressure our doctors must be under today. They are caught between the 8th Amendment and the UN Human Rights Charter.

Ireland’s Medical Professionals need not be exposed to bad laws, the issues we are asking them to adjudicate on are too serious. Their jobs are hard enough and the physical and mental well-being of our mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends is too important for any more political games of kick the can.

Echoes from the past can be learned from. Yet here we are today, writing our own history, and failing.

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

Rollingnews

From top: Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe offer cakes and coffee during the Fine Gael leadership election hustings last month; Tony Groves

Facilitator: “Kevin Doyle from the Irish Independent…”

Kevin Doyle: “Congratulations Mr Varadkar…”

Leo Varadkar: “Hi, Kev…”

Kevin Doyle: (talks over Leo) “… first off on Fianna Fáil…you’ve said some things that we probably couldn’t say as this is airing live…”

The above happened at Leo Varadkar’s first press conference as the elected leader of Fine Gael. The bonhomie, over familiarity and little inside jokiness off the relationship between politicians and the media charged with holding them to account, laid bare in a 15 second exchange.

A window into world of anonymous sources, party spokespersons and a source close to a source.

I know that I’m just a grouchy old man shaking his fist at a cloud, but even I know that this is the way of the world. Journalists are embedded, and in bed with those they are paid to cover.Kevin Doyle is just doing his job, Leo is just playing the game, and we, as consumers, are eating junk food journalism.

Fox News unashamedly uses the tagline “Fair and Balanced” and it used to bother me. Not so much anymore, I mean, some people go to the cinema to suspend reality and spend a few hours away from the travails of real life.

Is it really any wonder millions of Americans watch Fox; the American middle class has shrunk relentlessly over the last decade and Fox News acts as a comfort blanket of unrealities and an outlet for their outrage.

The BBC warned Jake Painter, the man behind the Liar, Liar song, not to go too heavy on the Tories before he went on screen. They’ve also refused to cover this speech by Jeremy Corbyn. I’ve found their election coverage, while not as biased as Sky News, more pro establishment than in previous campaigns.

And I understand it. The Beeb’s reluctance to upset the Tories stems from money. I mean, they depend on the licence fee and this Tory Government have threatened to cut their budget by hundreds of millions. No matter how well Jeremy Corbyn does, the BBC knows too well that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Junk food journalism, in moderation, serves a purpose. It can be somewhat informing, it can build consensus and social cohesion. Unfortunately many of us aren’t discerning consumers. We eat our news at the same echo chamber restaurants every day. The only thing we like in moderation is any fair and balanced moderation.

I’m a glutton for news and my problem is overeating to the point where I’m able to hold opposing views at the same time.

Multiple helpings of the Indo, the Times, RTE, Sky News, Al Jazeera and Fox News, barely leaves enough room for my cognitive dissonance dessert. Still, I would like to see the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland show some teeth. I’d love to hear the Press Council comment on the quality of the commentariat.

There’s an old story, perhaps apocryphal, that I never get tired telling. It goes that in one of Lyndon B. Johnson’s early congressional campaigns he told an aide to spread a rumour about his opponent. “Leak to the press that the guy fucked a pig”, he reportedly ordered.

His aide, horrified, responded “Christ Lyndon, we can’t call the guy a pig fucker, it simply isn’t true”. Johnson, not to be overruled, shot back “Of course it ain’t true, but I want to make the son-of-a-bitch deny it”.

I often wonder in today’s modern media landscape that if you want to smear an opponent would an aide be necessary; couldn’t you just Whatsapp Kev at the Indo?

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

From top: Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar; Tony Groves

We’re on the countdown to the next General Election. Leo has won the battle of the blueshirts and hot takes are taking up all the space in your newsfeed.

The spectrum ranges from sycophantic to the sick about it. Scrub away the verbiage and the only relevant point is this; the Right has found their champion.

As false messiahs go, Leo is a marketing dream. The king is dead, long live the new shiny king. But I’m not too keen on discussing him anymore. I’m too busy pulling my hair out at the ineffectual response of the opposition.

As Fine Gael plot a route to victory, the opposition flounder about like a fish on ship’s deck. Our Social Justice crusaders remind me of the actual crusaders. More infighting than enemy fighting.

The impotent reaction got me thinking of the Fifth Crusade, around 1218ce, when Christian Armies had a plan to fight through Egypt, march on Cairo and then triumphantly on to Jerusalem.

The disjointed Crusader forces were resoundingly beaten at their first battle by the united Muslim Armies of Sultan al-Kamil.

Trapped and embarrassed, the “leaders” squabbled over the terms of surrender on offer from Cairo. Then, when all hope was gone, and the Christians were faced with ignominious retreat, a miracle happened. God will provide, you see.

Word reached the camp that a huge Christian army was speeding to their aid, crushing all in its path; a powerful and unbeatable military. So vast in numbers as to leave its identity in no doubt. For only one man could summon such a force, Prester John.

It was said that Prester John ruled over the largest, richest and most virtuous kingdom known to man. His was the closest thing to heaven on earth. Milk and honey flowed in his realm of mythical creatures and miracles.

The Crusaders were ebullient; they need only hold out a while longer and Prester John would crush the Saracens and restore the holy lands to Christendom. God is great.

How wrong they were! The army sweeping towards them, crushing all in it’s path was soon to form the largest land based empire ever seen. But it wasn’t the army of the Fantastical, Prester John. It was the army of Temujin.

The Mongols were coming and they cared not for the gods of Christian, Muslim, Leoliberal capitalists, or any other deity. The only cared for Tengri, the God of War. The rest really is history.

Back to today and we have no alliance of the Left, we have no Corbyn like Manifesto of Hope. We have smaller parties pointing fingers at smaller parties, rather than drawing up a genuine contract for change that can be presented to the public as an alternative to the “people who get up early” rhetoric.

It matters not a jot who the Prester John of the opposition is; for what it’s worth my preference would be for a Prester Jane. But we are on borrowed time. Leo holds the reigns and he will, quite Rightly, call a halt to proceedings when it’s most advantageous to him.

The Left need a simple unified document that makes a number of pledges on the key issues of Housing, Health, Education, Justice and Tackling Inequality.

They need to select a spokesperson that will stand on the podium and represent ALL of them on these non-negotiables.

This document needs to be pushed through every letterbox in the country, North and South. This needs to be our very own vision of a fairer society. A four page Manifesto of Hope that can be used to rebut the new face of old neoliberal politics.

This message needs to be all that they promote between now and whenever the election is called. Infighting and mudslinging must be put aside for the greater good. Parties of the Left and parties that purport to be of the Left must put the ideals of this document above the ideals of party.

Two years ago Jeremy Corbyn was a fringe politician. Six months ago he was said to have killed the UK’s Labour Party. Today, while not likely to win, he’s dragged a right wing government back to the table to discuss social justice and given hope to millions.

Prester John was a myth. Genghis Khan was the reality. We’d all be better facing the reality now before our new leader builds up a head of steam.

I’m asking the opposition to put aside differences, focus on commonalities and offer the Irish equivalent of the Manifesto of Hope. I’m asking the opposition, are you a Genghis Khan, or are you a Genghis Can’t?

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

Rollingnews

From top:  Leo Varadkar supporter from own constituency of Dublin West arrive at Drumcondra train station to cast their votes in the Fine Gael leadership election; Tony Groves

Frank Flannery was on the Eamon Dunphy Podcast eulogising Enda Kenny and the way he might look at you. And I couldn’t care less.

My mind conjures up a Terry Prone/Frank Flannery hybrid of clichés, sound-bites and smugness. A public relations spin doctor of titanic proportions. And I couldn’t care less.

Paul Williams is on the wireless telling me Garda HQ is called the Kremlin. His Co-Host, Shane Coleman is telling me the Charleton Inquiry is to start holding public hearings. I’d imagine Mr Williams may have felt a little chill at that. But I couldn’t care less.

Leo Varadkar, as part of his Opinion on Everything tour, says he “shares the public’s concern” regarding the Seán Fitzpatrick debacle. The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement is admitting mistakes were made. Me, I couldn’t care less.

Both candidates for the Office of Taoiseach have said the Citizen’s Assembly is a “useful guide”, while stressing they think it goes too far. They’ve chosen the vehicle, driven it and then complained about the destination. And me, a white male of a certain age, can’t even feign to care.

On a lunchtime run I passed two tents on the Royal Canal. The “site” was clean, the people had their washing hanging out to dry and their rubbish bagged for binning. And I ran on by like I haven’t a care in the world.

You see, I’ve had enough of these PR platitudes, and departmental debacles, and obfuscating inquiries and plain old outrages.

It’s not so much the singular events; I’ve just had enough of people pretending these events aren’t in any way connected. I’m apathetic to the public’s apathy.

People, suffering from outrage fatigue, aren’t making the connection from the financial collapse, to the tents on the canals. People, too busy “getting up early”, can’t hear the story behind the soundbite. People, contented in the knowledge that an inquiry is underway, confuse this for progress.

They don’t see the linkage between 11 Gardai working on the Seán Fitzpatrick case and 30 on the Operation Mizen investigation into Irish Water protesters.

People distracted by Beauty Pageant Politics don’t notice they are travelling down a path of greed, social exclusion and the shrinking of the public sphere.

The left and the so called opposition are busy kicking tyres, instead of conjuring up a vision for a fairer economy, a more inclusive society and public services that work.

We produce enough food in this country to feed 50 Million people. We have an untapped availability of clean energy and the only insatiable demand we continue to feed is the black hole of legacy debt.

But I don’t hear that message anywhere. I do hear the Fluff of Frank Flannery, the Tao of Terry Prone and the deflections of Government.

Official Ireland adheres to the commandments of distraction, deflection and division.

If we don’t start addressing this deflection, calling out this ineptitude, then we will continue to go with the flow and we will be back in the same mess again. Property bubbles drifting in on the summer wind.

The drum of distraction is beaten incessantly on the airwaves and in the newspapers. The rhythmic sound of faux outrage is designed to give the impression of progress and we are humming along.

The drum we need to play the slow relentless beat of change; a hammer blow against inequality, a thump in the face of the “I’m All Right Jack” brigade. We need to tap the beat at the breakfast table, at the office desk, in the lunchroom and on the commute home.

Make it the backing track to our lives, a rhythm that pricks the ears of the apathetic. We need to see it’s all connected. It’s not public versus private. It’s not left versus right. It’s about those with and those without. And caring.

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

From top: Simon Coveney (left) and Leo Varadkar (right) during The Fine Gael leadership debate at the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin last week; Tony Groves

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

When the Taoiseach-in-waiting Leo Varadkar quoted Robert Kennedy last week, rather than feel inspired, I felt the chill of fear run down my spine. I remembered another quote, that of T.E Lawrence:

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”

Lawrence knew it was men who imagined themselves visionaries who were the biggest threat to their fellow man. Leo is desperate to put on the shoes of the dreamers of the day. And he will try act out his dreams, much to the peril of the poor and underprivileged.

Much of the offensive things he says have a kernel of truth and the ring of modern common sense. But, I’d argue, there is nothing more dangerous to progress than modern common sense. We are in an age where things that only 10 years ago would have been deemed racist are now common sense.

The “logic” of Trump, Brexit and both the Far Right and Regressive Left has crystallised around beliefs that are, at their core, divisive. All the soundbites, that previously would have been morally inappropriate, are now deemed fine as long as passed off under the “appealing to their base” category.

Leo, I’ll be the first to admit, is far from the worst purveyor of the Us vs Them narrative. I saw a PBP/AAA poster recently calling for ‘Repeal, Resist & Revolt’. As an alliteration it’s fine, as a campaign slogan it’s dipping its toes into incitement. Hardly a message that refutes the claims of those who call AAA/PBP/Solidarity the “hard left”.

Common sense says “Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All‘. Common sense says we should all support equality of opportunity. Common sense says we need to limit the number of immigrants into the country. Common sense says issues are complex.

The reality is that only 11 gardaí worked with the ODCE on the Seán Fitzpatrick trial, but an estimated 30 gardaí worked on Operation Mizen into Irish Water protesters.

The reality is that the only system offering equality of opportunity is that of the Lotto; yiz buy yer ticket, yiz takes yer chances.

The reality says immigration is a net benefit to the host country. Reality says complex issues often have simple solutions.

When Galileo was tried as a heretic for claiming the Earth rotated around the Sun, he was given a choice; abjure, curse and detest his opinions, or death. So he did what any sane person would do. He publicly recanted his beliefs. The story goes that upon finishing his proclamation he mumbled under his breath the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves”.

Modern common sense is rooted in bias, in fear and in greed. It is a poison that has taken root in political and economic discourse. It gives licence to extreme elements on both sides to abjure, curse and detest the other side.

It’s the reason false lines like ‘those who pay for nothing‘ have near permanent residency in mainstream op-eds. It’s the reason those on the opposite side of the argument see conspiracy in every element of government, instead of opportunity.

Galileo knew common sense was nonsense. Much of what passes off today as common sense, playing to the base and political discourse is rooted in old beliefs and disproven nonsense.

The extreme elements on both sides must be dragged out into the light. The dangerous rhetoric and grandstanding must be called out for what it is and not explained away.

The so called centrists who think common sense means “the centre must hold” must be reminded of Galileo’s codicil “and yet it moves”.

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

Pic: Rollingnews

From top: Two cows; Tony Groves

Irish Socialism: You have 2 cows. They don’t get along. They each claim their milk is the best in the country. But neither of them has ever produced any milk.

Irish Capitalism:
You have 2 cows. You eat both. You ask the EU to lend you 2 more cows. You again eat both. The EU calls you to ask why you’ve not fulfilled your milk quota. You stall them and ask the IMF for 2 more cows. Once again you eat both. The EU and the IMF then come to Dublin looking for their milk. You’re out shopping at a Bulgarian Property Expo.

Irish Libertarianism: You have 2 cows. You demand that everyone else be issued with 2 cows. But only after you’ve sold 1 cow, bought a bull, increased your herd and gotten a government contract to supply cows.

Fine Gael:
You have 2 cows. You sell 1 cow and force the other cow to produce the milk of 4 cows. Later, you commission an inquiry into the cow’s death.

Fianna Fáil
: You have 2 cows. You kill them. You get 2 more cows and promise this time it will be better. You kill them, again.

Sinn Féin: You have 2 cows. You’d like to grow your herd, but nobody will sell you a bull.

The Social Democrats:
You have 2 cows. You used to have 3.

The Labour Party: You have 2 cows. You gave them to Fine Gael in 2011. 5 years later you asked for them back. They don’t respond to your request. You ask the public for 2 new cows. They don’t respond to your request.

AAA/PBP: You have 2 cows. You give them to the party and then demand the government give you 2 more.

The Green Party:
You have 2 cows. You love them.

Leoliberalism: You have 2 cows. They are very attractive but their milk is conservative and bland.

Simon Coveney: You have 2 cows. You sell 3 of them to Greencore. You then execute a debt for equity swap, ensuring you the rights to 4 cows.
You then sell the milking rights of 5 cows via an intermediary to a Holding Company based in Luxembourg, who then issue you a deed for 6 cows.
Your annual report says you own 7 cows, with the option of 2 more.
Meanwhile, your 2 cows are living in emergency accommodation.

Gerry Adams: You have 2 cows. No one buys your milk. But that’s not the substantive issue…

Catherine Murphy: You have 2 cows. If it wasn’t for Dáil privilege no one would have known how they’d been treated.

Brendan Howlin: You have 2 cows. You decreased their feed and demand they produce more milk. One dies and the other emigrates and is forced to work as horse. You blame Socialism.

Paul Murphy: You have 2 cows. You organise a sit down protest, block all the roads and demand you get 3 cows over a megaphone.

Micheal Martin:
You have 2 cows. You eat 1 and milk the other. You then throw the milk away, because Paul Murphy got elected on a promise to be lactose intolerant.

Enda Kenny:
You have 2 cows. 42 years later you discover 1 of them is a donkey.

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

Top pic: Joe Fox via Saatchi Gallery