Thursday, May 27, 2010

Web the way forward for Politicians

US President Barack Obama is many things to many people - but to our TDs, he is a man to be followed for his ability to garner votes and support through social media.

For those who have been living under a rock for the past few years, social media encompasses sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn and even Bebo as a means to communicate to their constituents.

Or for the cynical among you, it is an annoying way to pester you for votes without having to encounter you face to face (some TDs take note!)

A survey carried out in the past week about our politicians and their use of social media has shown that 77% of them plan on using it as an important tool for the next general election.

Well if it worked for Barack Obama....

Less than one third of politicians used social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs during the 2007 general election. But the tide has certainly changed now.

Now an estimated 74% of TDs are using the web to communicate with people - the majority use Facebook, about 42% use Twitter, 35% use blogs and 11% use YouTube.

And the reason - 88% believe that social media is changing the dynamics of politics and communication with voters.

But despite this, 60% still believe that door-to-door canvassing and face-to-face communication is the most important means of communication during an election campaign (they are the ones with an obvious death wish!)

And President Obama can take the credit for the tidal wave of interest in social media by Irish politicians - over 60% of those polled cited his use of social media tools played a significant role in winning his election campaign.

One of the TDs who took part in the research was Fine Gael’s Tipperary South TD Tom Hayes and he acknowledged the power of how social media can give him the opportunity to communicate directly with his constituents.

“People so often revert to these tools as part of their everyday routines and utilising these sites means that you can quickly be made aware of problems in your constituency and communicate directly with the people,” he said.

And the key point - “Communicating through social networking sites is a very useful way of showing younger people what politics can achieve for them and how it can affect their lives,” he said.

The Promised Land?

Over 5,000 years ago, Moses said to the children of Israel: “Pick up your shovel, mount your asses and camels and I will lead you to the Promised Land.”

Nearly 10 years ago, Bertie Ahern said: “Lay down your shovels, sit on your asses and light up a Camel - this is the Promised Land.”

Now Brian Cowen has stolen your shovel, taxed your asses, raised the price of Camels and mortgaged the Promised Land!

(Thanks to the political wit of for the above gem!)

Go-Go Gogarty

Green Party TD Paul Gogarty may have dodged a bullet for his infamous ‘F**k You’ outburst in the Dail - but he isn’t off the hook in the eyes of bookie Paddy Power.

Power has installed the colourful politician as their red hot favourite to be the next TD to swear during Dail proceedings.

Gogarty, whose controversial exchange with Labour’s Emmet Stagg hit the headlines before Christmas, is the 7/4 favourite to be responsible for the next outburst.

He is followed by the mild-mannered Fine Gael TD James Bannon at 7/2 and Sinn Fein’s headshop-eliminating Aengus O Snodaigh at 4/1.

Other names in the mix include Fianna Fail’s highly-strung gent Martin Mansergh at 5/1 and Cork rebel Ned O’Keeffe at 8/1.

“Gogarty has proven form in this particular race and is a very strong favourite. I guess the only question is who is likely to be at the receiving end of his next tongue lashing?” Power said.

When it comes to who will be the next offender, I know who my money will be on - Go-Go Gogarty!

Somebody needs a hug!

Somebody needs a hug and according to Labour’s Ciaran Lynch, it is the weary Fianna Fail party! 

With three by-elections waiting to be held, the question on everyone’s mind is - when will Fianna Fail name the day.

But Ciaran reckons that Fianna Fail and the Greens are running scared of the electorate - an opinion echoed by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and a whole host of opposition TDs.

“The truth is they are too rattled and too traumatised to face the people,” Lynch said.

“In fact, so traumatised are the Soldiers of Destiny that they have been forced to scrap their traditional Ard Fheis and replace it with a series of regional group hugs where the only item on the agenda is the ‘Have a Go at Gilmore’ motion.”

“Fianna Fail are punch drunk and should be put in the recovery position on the opposition benches for a good long time, at the earliest possible opportunity,” he said.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Micheal's Great Whirl of China

China’s Green Tea producers had better watch out – Ireland’s top expert on the stuff is on his way!

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin is a man who takes his health very seriously. Smoothies, fresh fruit and seasonal veggies are also part and parcel of his ‘five-a-day’.

Next week, the Minister will embark on a whistle-stop five-city, five-day tour of the world’s new economic powerhouse – China – and while he may indulge in a lot of his favourite tea to keep up with a gruelling schedule, the main focus of the trip is serious business.

The Minister is hitting Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Dalian.

At each location, he will visit key Irish companies which are supporting jobs at home by doing business in the world’s biggest market.

And my moles tell me that there will be a few positive announcements as a result!

The highlight of the trip is expected to be a visit to Shanghai, which is twinning with Micheal’s native Cork and is host to the World Expo.

The ‘Ireland’ exhibit is already one of the most visited at the event which only opened last month – maybe that has something to do with the fact that it boasts its very own Porter House.

The trip to China is the latest in his diplomatic offensive to tell the world that ‘Ireland is open for business’.

And it seems Micheal Martin has been using some divine inspiration for help along the way in this gruelling battle.

Only recently, the Minister and his diplomats used their influence to bring their message into the hallowed pages of the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano – where column inches are normally reserved for the messages and daily engagements of the Pope!

In between reports of statements from bishops, a message from Pope Benedict on the digital age and reports on the Pontiff’s recent visit to Malta is an article by Minister Martin outlining Irish measures to meet the economic challenge.

But it is not just readers in the Vatican that have been receiving Micheal’s message – similar articles have been placed in newspapers across the globe over the past month in places such as Europe, the US, Asia, Australia and the Arab World.

One has to wonder why Micheal Martin is taking such a prominent role in promoting the Irish economy.

He has been out to bat for the Government on economic issues on a number of occasions in the past few weeks. Is he being groomed for bigger things? Only time will tell.

Niall gets a fighting chance!

Politics – you have to take the rough with the smooth and that is what Donegal North East TD Niall Blaney is planning to do!

Niall will be hoping to get the ref’s vote tomorrow (FRI) when he gets into the ring to compete in a White Collar charity boxing match in Letterkenny to raise money fro the Friends of Letterkenny Hospital and Letterkenny Rugby Club.

Blaney has donned the moniker Niall ‘The Annihilator’ Blaney for the competition, which takes place in the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny.

He has been training for the even three days a week for the past six weeks and is fighting fit for the challenge.

He has been training at the National Boxing Stadium during the week when in Dublin and in the Raphoe Boxing Club in Donegal at the weekends.

“The training has been tough but it is great and I’m really looking forward to getting in the ring,” he said.

“The rough and tumble of politics is never easy but it is a far cry from the boxing ring. It is for a good cause though, and I am delighted to be taking part.”

Adams has Alastair in a spin!

The spat between Sky’s Adam Boulton and Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell created such a tizzy that it has been granted ‘gate’ status – BoultonGate.

Campbell is a formidable character and one would have to be either very brave or have a death wish to get into any type of disagreement with him.

But it is nice to know that Irish affairs are never too far from the spinning mind of Campbell.

Just after he returned from a 24 hour visit to Dublin to appear on the Late Late Show last Friday night, Alastair had to admit himself to hospital for an operation on his nose.

No – it was not Boulton’s revenge, it was something that had been scheduled for quite a while.

The operation required a general anaesthetic and anyone who has undergone one will know a myriad of things flash through your mind in the seconds leading up to knockout.

So what was going through Alastair’s mind? Giving Adam Boulton a wedgie in the Sky dressing rooms? Orchestrating a divorce between Cameron and Clegg? No!

His last thought before going under anaesthetic was – ‘sorting a row between (Gerry) Adams and (Martin) McGuinness’!!

Give me a general anaesthetic any day!

Dail Twitterati

The Dail Twitterati really outshone themselves this week as they get to grips with the social media phenomenon that is sweeping the globe.

First off we learned from Labour’s Liz McManus (pictured) that she narrowly avoided death by Ministerial car.

“Almost knocked down last Friday by Eamon Ryan in his big ministerial car. To save the planet, I was walking to work. I’ll take a bus next time,” she tweeted.

And then Green TD Paul Gogarty used the electronic media to voice his views on Cardinal Sean Brady’s decision to remain on as Primate of All-Ireland.

“It’s rare for an Oireachtas member to resign from any post without huge pressure. But if Cardinal Brady was a TD, he would be gone ages ago,” he tweeted.

But the cruellest tweet of the week came from the Green Party itself.

The party was thrilled to mark its 1,000th tweet and was hoping for something big to mark it.

“Hoped to have something epic for our 1,000th tweet, but great will have to do,” the party tweeted before plugging Green TD Ciaran Cuffe’s blog.

Ciaran is one of the most prolific tweeters and bloggers in politics.

But it seems the Greens have adopted the Eamon Dunphy attitude to all things in life – ‘it is a good blog, not a great blog’!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Head Shop Poetry?

Well who would have thought it – Sinn Fein has turned to a spot of art and poetry in their campaign against head shops.

Under the watchful eye of TD Aengus O Snodaigh, the art types in the Sinn Fein office have put artistic pen to paper to create their very own comic strip about the dangers of head shops that are springing up around the country.

And to go along with the cartoon strip – which can be viewed on YouTube – there is a topical poem about the background to the head shops which includes an inglorious mention of the Fianna Fail-led Government.

The poem goes something like this:

“Once upon a time, a dealer was out on the street,
But soon he fell foul of the Guards on the street.
In a moment of solitude and quiet contemplation,
The drug dealer had an ingenious revelation.”

“After his release, he teamed up with a friend,
A chemist by trade looking for a mind to bend.
They started a new business to test the scene,
Soon there were head shops from Dundalk to Skibbereen.”

“They claimed to be only selling novelty goods,
Along with some bath salts and seasonal plant foods.
But the reality was different and much worse than that,
Mind altering drugs sold while bank accounts grew fat.”

But with the country being run by a pair of useless tools,
Communities saw danger and sought to change the rules.
Unfortunately the Labour Party fell short of the mark,
And People Before Profit were having a lark.”

Under the Labour plan, existing shops would remain,
Legalise drugs was People Before Profit’s refrain,
Coming from its history of opposition against drugs,
Standing with the communities against pushers and thugs.”

It is only Sinn Fein that has come up with the solutions,
To tackle the spread of this toxic pollution.
Your man Aengus O Snodaigh is leading the charge,
Bringing forth legislation to tackle the scourge.”

“The Sinn Fein law if put into motion,
Would put an end to this vile trade, sale and promotion.”

What next – a karaoke version of ‘Love is the Drug’?!

Pope Micheal??

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin has been using some divine inspiration to support his diplomatic offensive to tell the world that ‘Ireland is open for business’.

The Minister and his diplomats used their influence to bring their message into the hallowed pages of the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano – where column inches are normally reserved for the messages and daily engagements of the Pope!

In between reports of statements from bishops, a message from Pope Benedict on the digital age and reports of the Pontiff’s recent visit to Malta is an article by Minister Martin outlining Irish measures to meet the economic challenge.

The Minister tells how the Government here is working to stabilise the economy

He finishes by telling readers ‘the global economy is improving and we are confident that we will take advantage of the upturn’.

But it is not just readers in the Vatican that have been receiving Micheal’s message – similar articles have appeared in newspapers across the globe over the past month, in areas such as the US, Asia, Australia and the Arab World.

Facebook Frenzy

There seems to be a bit of a race on at the moment among politicians as to who can get as many Facebook friends as possible.

Facebook has been adopted by many TDs and Ministers as a way of keeping in contact with their constituents. Some even carry out online clinics using their pages.

While some TDs and Senators are old hands at this Facebook lark (such as Dan Boyle, Thomas Byrne, Lucinda Creighton, Ciaran Cuffe and Jerry Buttimer among the many), others are stealing a lead on the rest.

Take a bow Deputy Niall Collins who has clocked up an impressive 2,959 Facebook friends!

But Niall is choosy as to who he allows to be his Facebook friends – constituents come first with him!


If you think our political situation is bad, take a look across the water and see the mess that has been created as a result of the UK general election!

Following Gordon Brown’s decision to step down as Labour leader, the fragrant foreign secretary David Miliband is now odd-son favourite to replace him as leader of the party and – maybe – Prime Minister in a minority government.

Also in the running is David’s brother, Ed Miliband, who is second favourite.

Others in the running include Alan Johnson, Harriet Harman and the unfortunately-named Schools Secretary Ed Balls (pictured)!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ireland's Greatest - Round Two!

It is the controversial poll that refuses to go away - but thankfully it has nothing to do with the state of the parties.

It is the RTE poll on Ireland’s Greatest Person, which has attracted a significant level of criticism because of the shortlist of people that the public can vote for - such as musicians!

Step forward Fianna Fail’s Mattie McGrath who wants RTE to go back to the drawing board to make sure everyone can have their say - including those who do not have any access to the internet.

Mattie has a problem with the voting system - it was limited to an RTE website.

“The problem is that internet voting excludes a large proportion of the population. There are many people in this country who still do not have easy access to the internet.”

“People who fall into that category would not have been able to place their vote as RTE did not make any other voting options available.”

And he pointed out that while the internet is a great tool, it is ‘still skewered towards the younger people of the country’.

“Since the poll closed, I’ve had several of my constituents complaint that they were unable to vote on this particular poll for these reasons.”

He said RTE has a duty to reopen the voting and provide other mechanisms for people to put their views forward.

“Otherwise, RTE’s designation of the Greatest will be a very questionable assertion,” he said.

And just for the record - Mattie’s vote for Ireland’s Greatest would go to Padraig Pearse.

Time to crack open the 7-Up!

There was high praise indeed last week from the revered pages of the Financial Times for Brian Lenihan and the job of work he has to get Ireland out of the financial roller-caster we are on.

Despite our difficulties, the FT’s well-regarded Lex column said Lenihan has ‘led the way among ailing peripheral eurozone economies in taking harsh fiscal measures needed to regain investor confidence’.

“He set the example months ago that Athens should follow now, slashing public servants’ salaries and welfare payments.”

“Investors rewarded him - the yield spread over Bunds narrowed,” the Lex column reported.

While we certainly would not be advocating a champagne celebration for this rich praise, we will stretch to a can of 7-Up!

Ireland’s national debt is increasing at the rate of €593 every SECOND, €35,578 every MINUTE, €2.1m every HOUR and €51.2m every DAY!

That is according to Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar who has a special section on his website to illustrate just how fast our national debt is spiraling upwards.

His debt clock is not about ‘scoring political points’, but rather to help inform the Irish people as to ‘the massive millstone of debt that has been built up over the past two years and is growing by the second’.

So by the time you have read this short piece, our national debt will have increased by €11,859.

Cowen's priorities

Last Friday, everyone’s world was rocked by the shock sudden death of Gerry Ryan - a mountain of a man with a mountain of a personality.

But on the same day, 900 Quinn workers were told that they would be losing their jobs in areas of Ireland that can least afford to lose them.

Within minutes of the formal announcement of Gerry Ryan’s death, Taoiseach Brian Cowen had summonsed the cameras in to give his own tribute.

But there was no sight nor sound of him in Cavan or Meath or Enniskillen or Blanchardstown.

It shows where his priorities lie.

While the Taoiseach's office has been quick to point out to this columnist that Cowen addressed the issue of the Quinn job losses last Friday while in Carlow, one has to ask - why wasn't he in Cavan or Meath or Blanchardstown?

Why did he travel to Carlow to announce 50 jobs on a day that 900 were being lost in the Quinn Group?

Again, it shows where his priorities lie.