Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are the political elite up to the mark?

Do you know the difference between your White Papers and your Green Papers? Can you explain the Proportional Representation voting system?

Well fear not because politics as a subject could soon be put on the secondary school curriculum in Ireland.

A proposed syllabus for the subject is being finalised and will be presented to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn for examination.

It will be up to the Minister whether or not it is included as a subject in the Leaving Cert.

Early drafts of the proposed syllabus include the difference between left wing and right wing politics, globalisation and cultural theory.

Let's take a look at some candidates who could prove to be excellent politics teachers and those who would be lucky to get a pass if they were doing it in the Leaving Cert.


Known as ‘Garret The Good’, his knowledge of political history in Ireland is second to none. He has served as Taoiseach on two occasions and is revered in political circles for his depth and knowledge of politics.

The RTE News At One presenter is the media’s answer to Jaws as no politician goes unscathed when he is in command. When it comes to questioning and probing, he has no equal.

Ireland’s first female President is the perfect person to teach people all about the Constitution. She may have only served one term as President but her global reach since then has been fairly impressive. She has served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and is a member of the prestigious Elders - a group of world leaders convened to contribute their wisdom, leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems.

The Dark Knight of late night politics on TV3, Vincent has had more than his fair share of political scrapes in the past. His classes would be livened up by the numerous rows and debates that would be guaranteed par for the course.

The Independent TD knows how to get to the bottom of a bureaucratic minefield (just look at the work he did with FAS). When it comes to explaining the finer points of politics, he would be hard to beat.


This is the man who, when he was Minister for Finance, didn’t even have a bank account. Despite being Taoiseach for 11 years, we now know that he was living on ‘Planet Bertie’ for most of that time. His classes would descend into farce.

He would be a perfect teacher for a class who want to know the difference between a pot hole and an overgrown ditch. But when it comes to debating issues of national importance, the South Kerry man always lost his voice.

Lock up your Communion money because Lenihan could direct those nasty bullies from the ECB to come in and take it off you. He would be more suited to teaching creative writing than politics.

The Moriarty Tribunal didn’t believe a lot of what he was saying, so it is unlikely that Leaving Cert students would.You could argue Lowry has enough political experience to pass on to students but the Tribunal dealt his credibility a blow.

If the Sinn Fein leader can’t come clean over whether or not he was a member of the IRA, then how can he teach the youth of Ireland about politics? His students would doubt every word he says - and that would make his job next to impossible.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tips from Ed of the hacks pack

IT is hard to keep a gang of Political Correspondents quiet for any period of time but when Edwin Chen is in the room, you could have heard a pin drop.

So just who was this stranger who popped into Leinster House on Tuesday as the guest of the Oireachtas - he is the closest thing that Leinster House had to US President Barack Obama himself.

Edwin is a journalist with over 40 years experience and has worked as Senior White House Correspondent with Bloomberg News. He was also the president of the prestigious White House Correspondents Association.

He was on a flying visit to Dublin and popped in to regale some of the Leinster House hacks with stories of his time covering three presidents - Clinton, Bush Jnr and Obama.

And his view on Obama’s impending visit to these shores next month - it will do him no harm in sweeping up the Irish American vote in the presidential election next year!

The best thing about his job, according to himself, was telling people that he was a Senior White House Correspondent.

Can you imagine an Irish Political Correspondent saying the best thing about their job was, ehmm, being a Political Correspondent? Don’t think so!!

Put a cork in it!

SILLY pronouncements from politicians - we should be so used to them at this stage.

But the Dail is full of newbie TDs and so our inboxes are stuffed with silly press releases and pronouncements from the newbies who will learn - at some stage, we hope!

The daftest press release of the week came from Labour TD for Dublin Mid West Robert Dowds.

Dowds has called for the end of the sale of alcohol in glass containers - in order to ‘tackle the serious problem which broken glass causes in the country’s parks and sports pitches’.

So we should sacrifice our ‘bottle’ of wine for a plastic replacement just because some yobs decide to dump their bottles in a field rather than a bin?

Dream on Dowds!

Lovely Jubbly!!

TARTAN caps off to one user of the website for one of the funniest ‘politicians that look like stuff’ postings seen on the site for some time.

Going by the site name of ‘momoney’, this poster pointed out the remarkable similarities between one family who operate on a ‘wink and a nod’ basis and the infamous Trotters from Only Fools and Horses.

Again, caps off to you momoney!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

O'Donoghue Jnr to Kerry on Dail tradition?

FORMER Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue may be down – but he is certainly not out. Kerry people are made of sterner stuff than that.

And down in Cahersiveen, it looks as if the O’Donoghues could be preparing an assault on Irish politics again in the near future.

John’s son Michael Pat (25) is a final year student in UCD and he has said that he would consider a Dail run in the future to continue his family’s tradition of service to the constituency.

Michael Pat – who is named after his grandfather, the late Labour TD Michael Pat Murphy – is studying commerce in UCD and is a former officer of the students union there.

He has also been active in his father’s campaigns in recent years.

Sean Barrett lays down the law!

AND speaking of Ceann Comhairles, the current Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett is not a person to be messed with.

Oh no – the Dun Laoghaire TD is putting up with no crap in his Dail chamber.

And it doesn’t matter who you are!

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (the leader of his own party) is one of the latest people to feel the wrath of the chair this week.

During Questions to the Taoiseach on Tuesday, Mr Kenny was told in no uncertain terms by the Ceann Comhairle to ‘stick to the questions’.

Cue plenty of muffled giggles from around the Dail chamber.

Farewell to Gent Tony

LEINSTER House said goodbye last week to one of the great gentlemen of Irish politics.

No, he isn’t a politician but with the wealth of experience that Labour’s Tony Heffernan has (pictured far right at his final Political Correspondents' press briefing) maybe he should have been.

Tony retired from the Labour Party’s press office last week after a long career. Among those to wish him well in his retirement included Labour stalwarts Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte.

But just because he is gone does not mean that he will be forgotten. A gent like Tony simply can’t fade off into retirement.

Methinks he will remain a powerhouse of wisdom in the Labour Party ranks for a long time to come yet.

Twisted Zeppelin!!

WHEN Led Zeppelin met Twisted Sister, a beautiful relationship was created.

And it seems that the offspring of that great match is infiltrating Irish political life as we speak.

Just look at Independent TD Mick Wallace – he is surely the secret son/brother or twin of Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider.

Either that or Wallace is planning his own Leinster House hard-rock tribute band!

FF Front Bench Mans Up

FIANNA Fail unveiled its new front bench this week – and to be honest, it was a bit of a damp squib!!

Talk about jobs for the boys!! (Fianna Fail has no female TDs)

Quite literally EVERY member of the party got a new gig (the party is now just down to 20!)

It has nearly come to the stage where the party’s backroom team is nearly bigger than the party itself.

What next? The annual think-in in the coffee shop up the street?

What did they do to deserve Bertie?

BERTIE Ahern hasn’t gone away, you know!

He was last spotted giving advice to the Nigerian Government on the need to ensure consistent and transparent policies if their economy is to attract much needed foreign investment an economic development.

Nigeria, consistent and transparent in one sentence? He must have moved back to Planet Bertie!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Political Allsorts!

Staff working around Leinster House now know exactly how a teacher feels on the first day back at school with a new class, desperately trying to figure out who all the new faces are.

A handy photo guide to the new TDs, issued by the Houses of the Oireachtas, is a must-have accessory in Leinster House at the moment if you are to distinguish between students and some of the younger TDs.

Following the massive blood-letting in the election, the new administration is only a few weeks old and it seems even some of the TDs are still getting to grips with their new digs.

Common sights around the House are lost TDs trying to figure out where the Bills Office is or the Debates Office (they figured out where the bar and the restaurant were on day one!)

But it seems it will take them a bit of time to get used to the rules and traditions of the great house.

Young TDs can be seen blatantly chewing gum in the Dail chamber (a big no no) while over on ‘Independent Avenue’, the dress code is causing some raised eyebrows among many.

Wexford Independent Mick Wallace never fails to disappoint. We have seen every colour of the rainbow on him since he first took his seat.

In some quarters, they are even taking bets as to when he will wear a football shirt into the hallowed chamber!

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan - while being as neat as he can possibly be with a head of long hair and a glorious goatee - also looks a bit out of place surrounded by the suits and ties.

South Kerry’s Michael Healy-Rae is almost unidentifiable without his trademark hat and as for People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd-Barrett,he has turned up almost every day wearing black jeans.

Even Socialist TD Joe Higgins raised a few eyebrows on Tuesday. The normally dapper politician turned up in the Dail chamber wearing a casual beige jacket as opposed to the normal sports jacket that he normally wears.

As one stalwart of Leinster House told this column, ‘you’d think that they would at least dress up, this is the national parliament after all. But then again, aren’t they rebels who think they have a cause?”!

Leo scops the press!

Start as you mean to go on - that is the mantra of new Transport Minister Leo Varadkar who scooped every news organisation by being the first to reveal the cost of his St Patrick’s Day junket to India.

Every year, newspapers scramble to get the cost of the different Ministerial junkets but this year, young Leo decided to save us all the hassle and published the exact costs on his website - within days of returning.

Leo has never been backward in coming forward about how he spends his money - he was one of the first TDs to itemise his expenditure on his website.

And it seems he is carrying that practice on into Ministerial life.

For the record, the cost of his six day trip to India (accompanied by his private secretary as is normal practice) came in at just over €9,000.

This included flights to India, internal flights, overnight accommodation and gifts for dignitaries.

During the course of the trip, the Minister said he met over 100 people and addressed over 1,000 people at evening evening events in New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.

Smokers' cause won't catch light

Micheal Martin - turn away now. Do not read another line!

A new campaign has been started to convince the new Government to tweak the non-smoking laws in Ireland to give pubs a bit of, erm, breathing space!

Seven years after the smoking ban came into effect in all Irish workplaces, a smokers’ group has called for the legislation to be amended to bring Ireland into line with most European countries and ‘help save the Irish pub’.

The group is called Forest Eireann and its spokesman John Mallon said since the ban was introduced, more than 1,000 pubs have gone bust with more closures on the way.

“A sensible compromise has been found in countries such as Holland where small, owner-managed pubs can choose to be smoking or non-smoking, and larger premises are given the option of having separate, well-ventilated smoking rooms,” he said.

“With a change of government, let’s have a change of heart on the smoking ban and help save the Irish pub.”

Considering that the new administration is healthier than the last (Enda Kenny is a cyclist and a mountain climber), I’d say Forest Eireann’s call will disappear in a puff of smoke!

Political Twitterings

THE UK’S MPs have been given the all-clear to use Twitter while on the floor of the House of Commons.

The new rules, devised by the Commons’ Procedure Committee, has given permission to the UK’s 650 members of parliament to use the microblogging site while in the Commons chamber.

It’s also approved the usage of iPads, laptop computers and smartphones – with the committee agreeing that with “those who argue that [using Twitter] brings Parliament to a whole new audience.”

On the topic of tablet computers like iPads, the committee found that using electronic notes as a memory aid should be no different to the old-fashioned paper notes.

Nice to see the UK following Ireland's 'unofficial' lead.

While there are no set rules on the use of Tweeting from the Dail chamber, the fact is that many do.

And as for using an iPad in the chamber? That is so last year for the
Irish lads and lassies!