Monday 29 February 2016

Democracy in action

As I warned you before the event I, II, III, we just [Friday 26 Feb 16] had an election in Ireland. The psephologists have been doing their thing extrapolating the results from exit-polls on the day. There is a peculiar breed of number-wonks called tallymen who hang over the railings as the ballot papers are emptied out on the counting table, unfolded and smoothed out for counting. These tallymen can keep running totals of 1st, 2nd and 3rd preferences and before the votes are ready for official counting can tell their party bosses what the result is likely to be. The single transferable vote STV method which we use in Ireland typically will last all day before a result is official declared, so it's nice for the candidates of the major political parties to know whether they will need to get back to their real job as a teacher, publican or lawyer.  The ballot paper [recently with added thumb-nail pics for the illiterate] is the size of a tea-towel, so just stacking them is a chore. Hilarious? spoiled ballots I - II. Three of the constituencies have candidates so close after 10 or 12 counts that they have decided to have a full re-count: the counters must be a bit punchy at this stage.  Early Monday morning after two full days of counting 148/158 seats have been filled.

Dau.II, since her politicisation over the Marriage Equality Referendum in May last year, has gone a bit psephological herself.  She decided that a) she wouldn't vote for either of the two [centre-right christian democrat] largest parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil b) she would vote for women unless they were so far to the Right that they couldn't be clearly seen - or believed.  I think she may have thrown a preference for the local Sinn Féin chap because she is under the age of 35. Anyone over that age has spent part of their adult lives in a world where Sinn Féin was synonymous with IRA and IRA was associated with Armalites - whether or not they agreed with the politics. So she has helped achieve a FF/FF/FG/SF result for Cork South Central.

My political pal Kevin is from Kildare South, two of whose candidates were Fiona O'Loughlin (FF) and Fiona McLoughlin (FG). One of them is going to have to change her name if they are going to the hustings head-to-head again. It helps a little that FGiona got married and became McLoughlin-Healy.  The fact that Healy met her when he was a medical student and she was a newly qualified nurse to make another doctor-meets-nurse story tells you that doctors and nurses don't get out enough; although this couple looks kind of radiant.

The name Healy rings down Irish politics for the last generation because of shenanigans in Kerry. For years the most effective fixer for Fianna Fáil in The Kingdom, as they call Kerry, was a farmer's son called Jackie Healy-Rae. He was born John Patrick Healy in Reacaisleach in 1931 and could as easily have become JP as Jackie. He added the -Rae to give himself distinction and consolidate his association with his natal soil. In 1997, he felt he'd served the party long enough (30+ years!) and wanted his seat in the Dáil. FF declined his application, because they felt they owed more to the son of their retiring TD. For a Republic we have a huge love of dynasties. Healy-Rae ran as an independent and topped the poll, getting almost double the votes of the favourite son. Who needs a party when you are The Machine??  But the party needed him because they had a a knife-edge coalition majority and Healy-Rae sold his support for a serious injection of capital into his deeply rural constituency. Over the next 10, Fianna Fáil Celtic Tiger, years, South Kerry got the best schools, the best roads with the smallest pot-holes, and a few multinational start-ups. Jackie Healy-Rae retired from politics in 2010 and his son Michael inherited his mantle and his seat in the 2011 election. One dynasty has been supplanted by another!  In the current election, Son of Healy-Rae put his ear to the ground and realised that the drums of Kerry were tom-tomming for the clan.  His brother was told to stand for election and the two of them swept up the first two seats between them.  I presume the brothers will continue to deliver for their neighbours: be damned to refugees, the national debt, the future of Europe and the future of the planet.

Last week, I pointed the finger of blame at Michael Lowry, another Irish poll-topper, who had been indicted for corruption and still got landslide votes. In 2011, just after his election, Michael Healy-Rae used €2000+ of tax-payers money to vote himself to win a "celebrity" nonsense TV game show. Seemingly he sat at his phone in the Dáil for 2 days doing nothing but make premium-rate calls to the game's voting line. I guess his constituents see this as commendable stamina and application. It seems pathetic really: if you're going to be corrupt can't you do it in grand style like Charles Haughey  or Hermann Göring or Jean-Bédel Bokassa of old?
I don't know about yours but my mind is boggled.

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