Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Irresistible Rise of Mr. Nation

All over Europe the right has been gaining momentum over the past few years, Austria, Denmark, France and Finland to name a select few countries. The irrestable rise if Timo Soini and his True Finns party earlier this month personifies the trend. The True Finns are a party that at first may seem ambiguous as they champion of what appear to be leftist ideals on economic policies, while having strong conservative ideologies. In practice there is a potential for a progressive social policy, but only for those that are fall into the True Finn caste.

We are not far into the Twenty First Century, but the economic crisis coupled with a lamenting for a ‘traditional’ past. Historically the hard right, has gained momentum. The right in general terms is a practice in exclusion, be you a true Finn or a staunch Irish Nationalist, there is no doubt that any that conservatism sets itself against others in a practice of exclusion from their future plans. The youth factor is one that is catching on as we see a lost generation latch onto the populist ideals of the various proponents of liberal nationalism, conservatism etc. Unfortunately these world views miss out on the bigger picture.  

In the last general election the young vote evaporated for Fianna Fáil and the Greens and transferred over to the likes of Labour, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin. The latter being the most important one. Sinn Féin made similar gains proportionately to that of the True Finns, while not quadrupling, but tripling their numbers in the Dáil. While overall there is some form of balance in Irish politics, conservatism and nationalism made major gains.

Looking at the wider trend in Europe at this point in time there are many characteristics of a Europe that has not only stopped growing and is now entrenching. The somewhat forgotten phrase ‘two tier’ Europe is now in fact a reality as there is an inner core of European countries for a variety of reasons are far better equipped to weather the storm of this current economic crisis. When Ireland rejected Lisbon Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, suggested a ‘club of the few’ could be established to ‘move ahead’. This is problematic in a number of ways as it is one that excludes an opposition, an opposition that is in very general terms confined to the peripheral states of Europe.

In looking at contemporary Europe, France is now considering ‘temporarily suspending’ the Schengen Agreement, as immigration from Tunisia and Libya rises steadily. This follows an incident in which the Southern Border of France was closed to Italy on the 18th of February this month over France’s crack down on immigration. This event caused an outcry from Italy, in which it stated that the terms of Schengen had been violated. This phenomenon is not isolated as the beleaguered Southern periphery of Europe struggles to deal with immigration. The attitudes adopted to Turkey and whether or not it should be a part of Europe has also highlighted the prevailing attitudes of a Europe leaning to the right. Quite recently these attitudes were ousted by our very own Soini, Lucinda Creighton, Minister of State for Europea Affairs. Creighton’s views are conservative to say the least, grounded in deeply seeded religious and nationalistic rhetoric which has alienated such people as Dr Kerem Oktem of Oxford University, who had been invited to Ireland to launch his book Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989, in which he illustrates all of the positive influences that Europe has had and can have on Turkey, an extreme periphery of Europe.

The Rise of Mr Nation, Soini, Sarkozy etc is certainly a regression for Europe and perhaps is testament to the limitations of the European ideal. Mr Nation also represents a Europe that is about borders rather than a Europe without, a story of seperation. Increased Euro scepticism on Ireland's part will only serve to be antagonistic to voices that are already unfavourable. It is now more than ever that peripheral countries need a strong voice in Europe if it is to survive.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Electioneering and Missing Peoples

Some interesting events in the Student Union Election Race have come across the Inkblot desk. It is a strange election in changing times. The campus is changing its shape and has recently acquired a new president. In this context we have many candidates who have been long involved in the SU and some not involved at all. What has been the most interesting aspect of this elections for us ‘Observers’ is the manner in which it is being fought.

SU elections have always been about sweets, silly gimmicks and putting stickers on people in the various night haunts around Maynooth. However this election has taken on a far more aggressive stance on the bombardment of the Maynooth night life. So much so we have seen Bar Staff sporting the attire of a candidate and another member of the exec vacating their position to aid in a Candidate’s campaign. This has all seemed to be just part of the increasingly multifaceted traits of electioneering. However it has all gone a little topsy turvy of late, so much so that people have been banned from boards, for asking where their Welfare Officer was.

In my perusing of these election machinations I have come across censorship, Stalin, rumours of shots named after a candidate and more facebook pictures than you could shake a stick at. So without further ado  I would like to make it clear that The Inkblot does not have any affiliations or preferences to any candidate or position and merely would like to have the most up to date information on the campaign out there. On that note, the following link is worth a gander and to make of what you will.

Education Welfare Manifestos Maynooth

So here we have it, the final few days of the SU elections. I took it upon myself to have a brief look at the manifestos for the Education and Welfare candidates. I had started to actually summarise and pull apart the manifestos that I could get my hands on (apologies to Caoimhghín Ó’Caoláin and Stephen O’Reilly). So those included in this piece are (in no particular order) Gearóid Brennan’s, Fiach O Neil’s, Cathal Óg Donnelly’s and Sabrina Farnan’s.

Overall there are some very good points to be had out of each manifesto. Gearóid’s has ambitions to add a defibrillator programme to the campus, which seems like an excellent idea, but is let down by promising such things as ‘Some departments have really embraced the virtual world. Sadly, some lecturers have not, with some point-blank refusing to use it … I would propose to the university authorities that any department not using moodle at all would face a budget cut.’ This seems slightly unbalanced and perhaps a little unrealistic to be placing fiscal penalties on departments for non compliance to Welfare policies. A good manifesto, if a bit lengthy but suffers from slightly from focusing on issues that are obviously close to this candidate’s heart, but lead to what some might deem unfeasible promises.

Next up is Fiach, who presents a stalwart manifesto full of very good ideas that are based on existing programmes. For example his Safe Talk Training Programme and the Online Welfare Database. As a reader it is hard ot fault this manifesto as it comes across as knowledgable and shows history of accumulated experiences. Overall a tidy and concise manifesto.

Next up is Cathal Óg’s manifesto, which again has some very good and novel ideas such as a video blog of a trip to an STD clinic. It does however fall into the same pitfalls as the former manifesto, but perhaps not as many times. One question worth asking this candidate is how he plans to provide the ‘free’ English lessons for the international students? Overall this manifesto is more concise that Gearóid’s, and ends up reading easier and taking a slightly more toned down approach to his ambitions if elected.

Last, but not least is Sabrina Farnan’s manifesto which again like the previous candidates has some very amicable ideas, such as promoting Healthy Eating and Imroving Walkways for the disabled. The manifesto is however a little on the short side and a little sparse on the policy side. It does not however contain any outlandish promises which is refreshing.

Overall the standard of manifestos are good, with some promising more than others. The experience of the candidates is varied and each of them can offer something unique the position. In reading through their manifestos I have certainly been educated on the position and can safely say I will be asking the candidates I feel have the strongest arguments some more questions before I make my mind up, which all of you should do. Their manifestos serve as a plan for their year if elected. Read them and assess how achievable and more importantly how will they change the position for the better?

I invite you to read all of their manifestos, to question your candidates and make an informed decision. 

Radio Free Maynooth

Have a listen here to the newest show in town. Featuring your very own Thobias Inkblot, Dave Editor in Chief at The Observer and Brian, blogger at Spare Change. Enjoy and feel free to comment on our ramblings or suggest a topic of discussion of what we hope to be a weekly slot.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The State of the Nation

The following is an account of the events that have taken place over roughly the last week in Irish Politics, specifically focusing on the leader’s debate and the political fallout (results of the election). We have experienced what one person in particular has deemed a ‘Democratic Revolution’. If this were to come from a previously hidden away corner of Irish politics that had until now remained skulking in the background, the statement may have carried a little more weight. The last event the electorate had to endure and attempt to make up their minds on what way the crumbs of the cake divided went like something like this.

Calm and collected they all did arrive,
Mirriam O Callaghan was there to imbibe,
Three lads to debate,
Éire there to be ate,
This is where they all did strive.

The final debate of election had taken place and where did it leave the electorate? According to the last pole before E-Day only eleven percent of the electorate were now unsure of where their allegiances lay. So in a sense this poll amongst the coalescing of political rhetoric into brief slogans had helped to focus people’s minds.
The final ‘leaders’ debate saw the three potential Taoisigh square up to each other in what one would expect to be an epic face off if you were to be sucked in by the introductory montage and epic music provided by the RTE. What it was in the end was of course something entirely different. Míchael Martin attempts to wound the very calm Enda Kenny failed for the majority of the debate. Martin smacked of desperation, but did succeed in one thing. He managed to chisel out the limitations of the Five Point Plan of Fine Gael. What it will seem to do in essence is place the same burden on the tax payer as will the Fianna Fáil programme for government. Fine Gael claim that there will be an adjustment of 73% cuts and 27% tax, which appears to be a low tax option for the electorate. However, the knight in shining armour arrived to slay the mighty Mayo Behemoth. Míchael Martin a Knight in Shining armour you say? Well yes I do. But isn’t he from the very party who until now taxed  the most vulnerable and cut the minimum wage? Well yes he is, but in what initially seemed to be a good strategy for the debate he began to poke holes in the Five Point Plan. It is a pity that Míchael Martin couldn’t follow this up with any sort of coherent narrative for his waning party.
When Enda claims such a low tax he is neglecting to mention that there will be other taxes and charges applied that can only be called stealth taxes. For example there will be a water charge, but this will be organised at the local level and more importantly for those voting students, there will be a graduate tax. Measures such as this clearly make the Fine Gael option one of high cuts and high taxes. This is where we have to thank Mr. Martin for his scathing interruptions of both candidates.
Eamonn Gilmore was slightly absent from the proceedings initially, but then gave what can arguably be his best performance to date in the election campaign. He appeared calm, but also assertive which was directly at odds with the sheepish and choir boy image of Enda and the other man who had been backed into the corner by raging public opinion. Labour, normally considered weak on policy, seemed to bring balance to the debate, combining quite well with Fine Gael’s ‘realism’. So what resulted was Labours 50/50 policy, personified in Gilmore’s fifty percent calm and fifty percent indignation. Labour’s taxes seem to be spread out evenly, but Gilmore was keen to focus on tackling bondholders and on reversing the Universal Social charge and also taxing those who earn over 100,000 more heavily.
Fianna Fáil’s approach was essentially we have done the ‘heavy lifting’ and will do more of the same, with introductions of water charges, cuts in the Public Service. Similar in fact to what Fine Gael wishes to do, but there is one major difference. There is no reform of the health service on the agenda for Fianna Fáil, where it is on both of the other parties’ agenda.
‘A lot done more to do’, obviously doesn’t fly any more as we have now ingested what can only be described as quite predictable results in the general election. What it looks like is a Fine Gael/Labour Coalition that is more heavily dominated by the former. How 50/50 Éamon will fit in with Shneaky Enda remains to be seen, but this unlikely marriage will certainly provide us with plenty of lovers spats to talk about here in the land of Political Punditry … It is kind of like the Jordan and Pete André malarkey … God help us all. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Here we go again ...

To add to the previous entry in the Student Observer , I wholeheartedly agree that this general election represents an opportunity for Irish society to make a break with the past. This is important for a number of reasons, the first and foremost being that the country is ‘now mired in debt’. I am using this quote for a reason, but first let me make it clear that I am not doing this because of some deep seeded political affiliation. The quote is in fact from the Green Party during the week in which they attacked Labour’s  economic policies. Now I am not sure if the irony of this is lost on you or not, but just to make matters clear the outgoing government have left a tab of over 90 billion euro at the Dáil bar. So it seems a little rich for comments such as this to come from anyone who presided over the economic meltdown of this country.

What I want to illustrate here is that the political quagmire we find ourselves in is rampant with political rhetoric. This may seem like I am making a salient point. Isn’t Irish politics always awash with blustering old men having the same argument? In a word, yes. However, this is key to those of you voting or more importantly voting for the first time. It is very hard in the very small pond that is Irish politics to make an informed decision, especially when the three biggest ducks are all flapping their wings and quacking at each other.Try to look past the ripples and have a look at each party’s policies. 

Keep an eye here and on the Student Observer for updates. Synopsis of the main political parties’ election manifestos to appear here shortly. 

General Election 2011: Election Primer

Interesting article to lead us in to the madness of the next few weeks,