by Pat Brosnan


Presidential Election and Referendums


While it was no great surprise that Michael D Higgins was elected President of Ireland with over a million votes to his credit the highest ever rewarded in the State and even though Sean Gallagher went near enough it is still doubtful if he could have ever overtaken Michael D even though the Frontline programme with its revelations had never happened. Apart from Sean Gallagher and Martin McGuinness in third place the other candidates were never really in it with a chance, but still they all got their own volume of support.

For readers of this column it might be remembered that my own mini-prediction at the very start of the campaign was that Michael D was going to win. My reason for this and subsequently giving him my personal No 1 vote was because he took steps to abolish the despicable Section 31 of the broadcasting act which had deprived people of free speech for several years under successive governments and ministers. While this was my main reason for supporting Michael D there were of course many others; his support of the Irish language and Irish culture, his talents as a poet and writer and his concern for underprivileged people both at home and abroad. It was no doubt a great day for the Labour Party, their candidate winning the Presidential Election and another of their candidates topping the poll and winning the Dublin by-election. Fianna Fáil also polled very well in Brian Lenihan’s former seat and so did the Socialists, but it was certainly a dismal occasion for the Fine Gael Party with their Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell (no doubt a decent and upright man himself) finishing away down the line, even far behind the Sinn Féin candidate who had to put up with such disgraceful mud-slinging. To further add to the Fine Gael misfortune the Party dropped by 12% in the Dublin by-election since their last showing in the February General Election there and of course the referendum which was very much promoted by Minister Shatter of Fine Gael was also lost by the Government though the other one concerning judges was carried as it was generally expected to be.

With all these setbacks occurring for the main Government Party after only nine months in office could it be that the tide of public opinion is already turning. If this is so Fine Gael has no room for complacency and the Party will need to make a much bigger effort to keep the promises they made before the election. If they are to regain the ground that they lost last week they will have to go far more easy on their planned austerity measures during the coming budget and take much less dictation from Europe and its bureaucrats as well as its capitalists and moneylenders. They will do well now to adopt more of the Labour Party policies because on last week’s showing these are far more popular than those of Fine Gael. It will be interesting to see how things will eventually turn out, but it was surely a wake-up call to the Government that the people can never be ignored or taken for granted and that promises made are expected to be kept. Any Fine Gael Presidential candidate has never been elevated to the office even though there has been some talk going the rounds on this occasion that if Pat Cox or somebody else had been nominated they might have been there with a better chance. It is my belief that any candidate put forward by the party would not have done any better. From long experience it would appear that the majority of the public has an aversion of voting in a Fine Gael candidate to Áras an Uachtarán.

It was a source of some personal satisfaction to me that my own votes last Thursday were cast in the right direction, my first vote to Michael D Higgins for the reasons already stated, voting yes to the referendum for the control of judges remuneration just like any other civil servants and finally voting no to the proposed amendment of the Constitution giving power to the Houses of the Oireachtas to conduct an inquiry into any matter they would deem to be in the public interest. My objection to this amendment was mainly that there could be a risk that this power might one day be used for political purposes such as to silence an opponent or a political dissident. On the other had it is also my belief that democratically elected representatives of the people at all levels should have more input in many other directions including the right of intervention and to be able to speak out on behalf of a constituent where there is a suspicion that something is wrong and unfair in a legal matter. We all know that in recent years some Dáil Deputies have been censored for speaking out in this context and even one lost his ministerial position because he stood up for a constituent and that in itself was also very unfair and even senseless, and anyway what are public representatives for, if not to intervene in any relevant matter on behalf of their constituents.

It is to be hoped that last week’s exercise in democracy throughout our state for the powers that be will provide a valuable lesson that the voice of the people is ultimately the defining factor.

While there was a whole lot of nonsense in the course of the Presidential campaign and very many needless recriminations one of the most stupid questions of all was asked by a fairly youngish woman in the frontline programme when she question Martin McGuinness as to why he came to seek election from another country to what she termed “our country”. One wonders if this lady has ever hear of Armagh, Down, Tyrone or Derry ever winning an All-Ireland final or the Irish Rugby team being selected from all over Ireland, before pretending to be smart and asking a silly and ridiculous question.

But then again of course it’s a free country where people can ask questions no matter how senseless.

Anyway as in the words of that popular song “it’s all over now” and Michael D is in the Áras. We hope he will have a happy reign for the next seven years.


Celebrating Killing

There is little doubt that there is something weird and sinister about people going out to shout, roar and demonstrate in streets in cities and towns in any given country in order to celebrate the killing of a former leader or for that matter anyone else. This was very much in evidence during recent weeks in Libya after the killing of the former ruler of the country Colonel Gaddafi and members of his family. Killing anyone no matter who they are is bad enough, but then going onto the streets chanting, waving, flags and generally acting like hooligans is uncivilised and obscene when these people go at it to celebrate someone’s death. The NATO powers went in to Libya to intervene in the civil war there. Does anyone think that this interference will bring people together and bring peace to Libya no more that it has done in Vietnam, in Iraq, Afghanistan and in many other countries all over the world? Interference in the internal affairs of another country does not generate peace, it usually leaves behind it a bloody civil war. We had an example of this even here when the British left in 1921.But fair play to the Irish people on all sides, they never went out celebrating the deaths of even the most notorious Black and Tans or British Army Officers during the War of Independence, whatever about the living our people always respected the dead. In the civil war the IRA never celebrated the deaths of Free Staters and to give the Free State government and the Free State army due we never heard of them publicly celebrating the deaths of Republican leaders or army members. It was the same during the more recent war in the North, the IRA did not celebrate publicly the deaths of leading or other Loyalists or British Army members who were killed and neither did the Loyalists or even the RUC and British Army did not celebrate the deaths of leading IRA officers and members who were killed or died on hunger strike.

The only organisations who occasionally did celebrate the deaths of militant Republicans were British newspapers, but not all of them done so.

So it would appear as regards respect for the dead that all our people on both sides of the border, unionist and nationalist, loyalist and republican, have one thing in common, respect and reverence for the dead. That is indeed a good thing of which all Irish people have reason to feel proud, unlike other nations who prefer to celebrate death rather than life.


The Bins

It now appears that all householders in the country who live within 200 metres of a bin collection point must now register with a bin collection company to take away their waste or in default to face ongoing fines.

This is just another crazy measure being imposed and very likely emanating from European bureaucrats to create further financial problems and possibly make criminals out of ordinary decent householders who refuse to comply. Many people were taking their waste to council dumps and paying for it but whether this practice can continue or not we do not yet know