During RTÉ Radio One’s Late Debate show coverage of the US election results, I challenged #Trump supporter and American Greatness editor Chris Buskirk on his bizarre assertion that the violence we have seen on US streets over recent months has been caused by anti-Trump groups alone. His claim that shops and offices in Washington, New York and other big cities were being boarded up beacuse they feared violence by anti-Trump protesters has been proved untrue in recent days with the arrest of several armed pro-Trump supporters at various count centers – AP News.
In my latest Broadsheet.ie column I look at the recent I look at the spate of misinformation on Óglaigh na hÉireann / Irish Defence Forces mobilisation etc and ask if these are all just sick pranks or is there something more sinister happening? Politico ran a piece on this global phenomenon a few days laters.
I also look briefly at the current political situation and suggest a straight-forward alternative to setting up a national unity government (though this is still my preferred option). In essence it involves formalising what is already happening by giving the other party and Dáil group leaders a formal role in the oversight of Irish govt’s #CoronaVirus response.
Veteran vaudevillian comedian George Burns used to ask: “why is it the guys who really know how to run the country are cutting hair and driving cabs”?
Whether you call them hurlers on the ditch, Monday quarter-backs or that prick at the end of the bar-counter, there have always been (and will always be) those bolshie, mouthy gits who, in the words of the great Brendan Behan, go about like eunuchs in a harem seeing others doing but knowing they can’t do it themselves.
Most are irritating but essentially harmless nuisances, even the ones who manage to discover how to use social media.
But there are others. Those who go that bit further. Those whose malicious intent is less easy to spot in an online era of nonchalant cynicism and aloof detachment.
This column first appeared on Broadsheet on Nov 4th, 2019 and looked at the weekend Fine Gael digital attack on Fianna Fáil which backfired badly and ended weak.
Being active on social media is not the same as being good at it. This is something Fine Gael learned yesterday morning.
At 9am it launched a digital attack claiming Fianna Fáil is not producing policies. Pretty basic stuff from a party in government, you’d have thought. Hard to screw that up. Attack the main opposition party for not doing enough. Claim they are just criticising you, trying to score points and acting like an… well… an opposition.
To be fair, Fine Gael got most of the basics right. They produced a decent digital video, loaded with graphics and charts and pumped it out across social media platforms. They backed it up with a press release in the name of Colm Brophy TD, hoping that the following day’s print media would pick up on it.
So far, so meh… yet, within barely an hour their digital campaign was not just misfiring, it was backfiring and going down in flames.
This column first appeared on broadsheet.ie Feb 26, 2019/02/26
There was a time when Sinn Féin was the master of targeting. It used to know to aim its attacks and not to waste its time or resources.
But not anymore. Maybe it’s the loss of the old big beasts or the ascent of a new middling style of leadership, but whatever the cause, it is increasingly clear that it has lost its ability to target.
We saw it last year with the misguided and misfiring presidential campaign. We saw it last week with its no confidence motion in Simon Harris. While it was supposedly aimed at the floundering health minister, most Sinn Féin speakers had Fianna Fáil in their sights.
They were not the only ones. Minister of State, Jim Daly… no, me neither… bizarrely concluded that the best way of defending Harris against Sinn Féin criticism was not to launch himself at the provos but rather to join them in lambasting Fianna Fáil.
If Sinn Féin wanted to get rid of Harris and cause an election, they would have gone after the independent TDs whose Tá votes are keeping the Taoiseach and his ministers in office. But they didn’t.
This Sinn Féin propensity to miss the target was on display last weekend when it went into an online meltdown over SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood telling the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis, referencing Donald Tusk’s recent comments, that there would be a special place in hell for those who call for a border poll in Ireland with no plan on how to deliver it.
No sooner had the applause for Eastwood died down than the online warriors were tetchily pounding their keyboards slamming Eastwood, the SDLP and its partners in Fianna Fáil.
This is my Broadsheet.ie 2018 Summer Political Reading List
If you are thinking of taking a few political books away with you as you wind down in August, then the list below may be of help.
As with last year’s list, the books here appear in no particular order. These are the books that caught my attention over the past few months, including some from the second half of 2017 and one that I wanted to like, but couldn’t.
As this list broadly reflects my personal biases, feel free to offer your own suggestions in the comments section below. Enjoy the Summer and see you back here towards the end of August.
A timely read, this book by High Court judge and former Irish Labour Party Sp/Ad, Richard Humphreys examines how the structures and principles that underpin the 1998 Good Friday Agreement could work in a post Brexit, United Ireland.
In this Broadsheet.ie column I welcome the Irish government’s campaign to win a seat on the UN Security Council, but wonder just who precisely was the target of the high profile launch in NYC…?
Last week the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister of State for Defence and the Minister of State for the Diaspora went on manoeuvres in New York.
While their jaunt was ostensibly to “launch” Ireland’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, their real purpose was more domestic.
It was an impressive display.
In addition to these four government members, curiously all of them from Fine Gael, were a former Irish President, the Defence Forces’ Chief of Staff, Bono, U2, a contingent of uniformed Defence Force members and an even bigger contingent of Irish political correspondents.
If UN Security Council (UNSC) seats are allocated on the basis of display, then Ireland should be a shoo-in.
But, UNSC seats are not won by those who just put on the best display.
They are won by years of horse trading and deal making.
This Broadsheet.ie column appeared online on June 19, 2018
As part of the hoopla to mark Leo Varadkar’s first year as Taoiseach, Fine Gael produced a nifty infographic setting out some of the new leader’s biggest achievements.
The list offers an interesting insight into what the Taoiseach cares most about or, to be more accurate, what the Fine Gael pollsters tell him that his potential voters care most about.
Pride of place goes to the very frequently hyped national framework plan, Project Ireland 2040, followed by “Brexit Leadership” and the “8th Referendum”.
At the other end you find “and gardai” shoehorned into a claim about hiring more nurses and teachers, followed by curiously worded item on housing, though the word itself fails to make an appearance.
To avoid embarrassing Leo by putting a figure on the number of houses and apartments built over the past year, the copywriters had to come up with some phrasing that managed to convey the idea of progress, without breaching the standards in advertising code. The result is this extraordinarily clunky and impersonal boast that: “There were 4,700 exits from homelessness in 2017”.
If ever a single phrase summed up Orwell’s description of political language “… as giving an appearance of solidity to pure wind”, it is surely this.
It reads as if it came from the pen of someone who writes real estate ads. You know the ones, where “open plan apartment” means the bed is between the cooker and the lavatory and “close to nightlife” means the place is directly over an all-night, bikers’ bar.
This is my first Broadsheet column of 2018 – looking how Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar are more concerned with selling their story of governing than the actual business of government
One of the nicest things about the run up to Christmas are those chance encounters with former colleagues and old acquaintances as you frantically rush around town looking for those presents you claimed you ordered online six weeks earlier.
I had a few of those, but two may be of interest to you. Both involved high level civil servants, from different departments, who I knew from my time in government. After catching up with each on the whereabouts of mutual friends, we got to talking politics.
Both reported that there was virtually no real policy work going on within government and that ministers, specifically the Fine Gael ones, were focused exclusively on PR, ferreting out any possible item of good news that may be in the pipeline and getting it announced ASAP, courtesy of the Strategic Communications Unit, with the maximum fanfare and hoopla.
This is my Broadsheet column published online on December 19th last.
Though it would probably be more accurate to call it an idiom than a word, “fake news” it now 2017 new word of the year. Not just in English. Norway’s Language Council pronounced ‘fake news’ (falske nyheter) as the new Norwegian word of the year saying:
“The word is not completely new, but its use has exploded over the last year… It is a word that has set the agenda and was given a lot of attention during the 2016 US election, and that attention has continued.
Though they probably said it in Norwegian.
Though idiom has its origins in last year’s U.S. Presidential slug fest between Trump and Clinton, it has come to be the hallmark of Trump’s presidency. A few months back we saw President Trump bizarrely claim, in an interview with fellow Republican nut job Mike Huckabee that was so soft (and full of crap) that it could have been sponsored by cushelle toilet rolls, that he invented the word “fake”.
It is not only the charge Trump levels at established news organisations who put out stories or commentaries he does not like, it is also the tactic that Trump’s surrogates use to deflect criticism.