Talking Movies

June 18, 2014

Politik: Part III

It has been, mercifully, over two and a half years since this blog strayed in the direction of politics; and yet now, regrettably, it’s happening.

Enda-Kenny

I don’t really have much to say on the matter of the banking inquiry fiasco. I’m far more interested in pointing out two things that Pat Leahy said in his 2013 book The Price of Power which, when combined, seem to cut through the contradictory messages coming from the government in recent days. First Enda wanted a committee majority to set the terms of reference, because without being in charge of setting the terms of reference, the government would not go ahead with the inquiry. Then he seemed to say the government didn’t want to interfere because that would politicise the inquiry; so there would no be whip imposed on the members of the committee. …However, they would still be working off the terms of reference he had politically imposed.

Here’s Leahy’s sardonic record of the failed Oireachtas powers referendum in 2011:

“The referendum was narrowly defeated, to the great annoyance of many in government who had planned a lengthy and detailed embarrassment of Fianna Fail’s stewardship of economic and banking matters in an inquiry held under the new, enhanced powers.” (167)

And here is Leahy’s unrelated commentary on the expert group’s report on abortion in 2012:

“After the expert group delivered its report, Labour was in a far stronger position. Labour officials had worked carefully and discreetly on the terms of reference for the expert group with a view towards ending up with exactly the sort of report that the group ultimately produced. According to one person who was closely involved in the process at all times, ‘Getting the terms of reference we wanted was absolutely critical. In many respects that was the key battle.’ The direction given to the group largely determined its eventual findings.” (235)

Draw your own conclusions on whether that means the banking inquiry is intended to actually investigate what happened or merely to embarrass Fianna Fail in time for the next election.

*Pat Leahy’s excellent The Price of Power: Inside Ireland’s Crisis Coalition is published by Penguin.

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October 26, 2011

Politik: Part II

After a lamentable fall off the wagon with a post-election political blog in April here is the even more disgusting spectacle of a pre-election political blog in October. Thankfully there won’t be any more political events until 2014. We hope.

Senator McCarthy as Requested
The two constitutional referendums to be voted on this Thursday have been alarmingly lost in the white noise of the hopelessly bilious Presidential campaign. Tom McGurk and Vincent Browne have both written cogent columns arguing against granting more power to the Oireachtas to conduct inquiries as the Government wishes. Worryingly this proposal seems to be liable to be passed by a landslide. Browne’s legal objections to the wording of the proposed amendment raise the terrifying spectre of these committees deciding that the people they call before them don’t have the right to legal representation, to face their accusers, or to know the charges brought against them, and that they don’t have the right to see if the courts believe that the committee has acted fairly by the constitutional rights of the person so victimised in striking this balance between rights and cost-effective enquiry. I don’t know if Browne is scaremongering or not, or whether it’s possible that Fine Gael could spend the entirety of this Dail investigating every member of Sinn Fein one by one for their own private amusement, as has been suggested elsewhere in a piece of definite scaremongering. All I know is that a committee investigated Ivor Callely over his expenses and its conduct was so ill-advised that when the courts were finished reviewing the proceedings Ivor Callely appeared like a victim whose rights were traduced by a witch-hunt. If the Seanad was incapable of properly investigating and making findings against one of its own friendless members, do you really want the Oireachtas to be given power to investigate ordinary citizens and make findings of fact against them without judicial oversight that they are conducting proceedings in a responsible fashion? Is an ill-informed landslide about to give us our own democratically requested HUAC?

James Madison is Disheartened
In the frenetic last days of his pursuit of a nomination David Norris made a petulant outburst when a county council voted against him which implied that a vote against his candidature was a vote against democracy itself, rather than say, a vote against his candidature. Norris in insisting that only the public should vote on his candidature appeared to be conflating a democracy with a republic, a distinction James Madison was always keen to make. In a democracy the citizens vote directly on matters affecting them, but in a republic they elect representatives to vote for them on such matters; this is what allows republics to grow in size. Madison expanded this exponentially in Federalist 10 by advocating a large continental republic as the best defence against vested interests hijacking government because there would be so many vested interests they would cancel each other out. So, if the county councillors are trusted enough by the voters to elect them as their representatives what is the substance of Norris’ complaint? It would appear to be either that the county council system is undemocratic because it denies citizens a public plebiscite on every issue (in which case he apparently has no faith in the concept of a republic) or, it would appear to be that the county councillors who voted against him were unqualified to represent the wishes of their electors on this and this matter alone but were qualified to represent the wishes of their electors on all other matters. The latter possibility would be an extraordinary interpretation of what Irish democracy is all about but then Norris was never really seriously questioned on the major contradiction of his rhetoric of appealing to the people, has he not just spent two decades representing a rotten borough?

First We Go Negative
Gay Mitchell’s bizarre campaign has been both hilarious and awful to observe. Churchill said that he never knew of a man who had added to his dignity by standing on it, and Martin McGuinness’s candidature seems to have been contrived as an in-joke to enable the Irish public to enjoy one of the funniest recurring spectacles in Irish politics, that of Fine Gael rabidly frothing at the mouth about “Law an’ Order, Law’n’Order, and the Foundation of the State!” But Mitchell’s self-destructive savaging of McGuinness set the tone for his whole campaign. Attacks on Mary Davis, carefully crafted under the guise of ‘research’ by polling companies, as reported in the Sunday Business Post, saw questions couched so as to vilify a candidate without seeming to. Imagine, for example, “Would you be more or less likely to vote for X if you knew that X had been convicted of burning a small town in Leitrim to the ground during the course of a drunken hooley in 1985?” (That example’s inspired by Neil Sharpson’s hilarious play The Search for the Real Jimmy Gorman) Gay Mitchell’s campaign was like watching a poor 100m runner kick all his opponents in the shins during the warm-up before the race in the misguided hope that this would allow him to win in his personal best time of 30 seconds. It wouldn’t. It would get you disqualified by the officials, or here public opinion. Gay Mitchell needed to articulate why we should vote for him, but he never did, instead he just told us ad nauseam why we shouldn’t vote for anyone else. It’s obvious the Fine Gael top brass never wanted him as a candidate but amusing themselves by joining in kicking everyone else’s shins rather than championing Mitchell has spectacularly backfired.

September 3, 2010

They Call Me Mister Screen…

So, much to my surprise, my team again won the Screen Cinema Film Quiz and its prize of a free private screening in the cinema – but the film to be finished by 2pm.

StoneUsher

I arrived back from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at about 9:00am on the morning of the quiz and was battling the jet-lag of the damned when I staggered in to Doyle’s pub at 7:20pm (being 2:20am KL time which I was still on) to discover that Pete Moles had been replaced in the team by Emmet Ryan at the last minute as a result of a mishap with public transport. So 4/5ths of the line-up that won the quiz back in June was ready to fight again. Emmet brought to the table a deep love of bombastic action movies and sports movies, Paul Fennessy brought an encyclopaedic familiarity with art-house and foreign films, James Ward brought knowledge of the arcane lore of Shakespeare and The Lion King amidst other specialities, Dave Neary brought mental lists of Oscar nominations and foreign film titles, and I brought an extremely frazzled version of the fergalMDB. We sallied forth under the gloriously entertaining (to us at any rate) team-name Roland Emmerich’s DEATH in Venice, a remake that would make half the world’s critics kill themselves on general principles, and one which we exulted in coming up with insane plot-points for between rounds. Indeed James won two spot-prizes for his absurd/inspired doodling of promotional posters for this dream/nightmare project. All together now in that deep American trailer voice: “Godzilla is back, and he wants his 327,000 lbs of flesh”.

The quiz had not only changed venue from MacTurcaills but had also been re-imagined from the previous time with the purpose of thwarting our victory by ditching the rounds we had got perfect scores in last time: quotes from films, matching actors to roles and roles to actors, naming foreign films from their original titles. I was confident of getting trounced even before we started and ironically this feeling only increased when I noticed that Donald Clarke’s dream-team of film critics were absent. Hilariously enough though we scored perfectly respectably in the rom-com round designed to cripple us, instead suffering dismal failures in a movie music round and the cult film round where I somehow subconsciously remembered approximately how long Donnie Darko was told by Frank he had till the end of the world, but got it wrong by one frickin’ minute (It’s 28 days, 6 hours, and 42 minutes, not 28 days, 6 hours, and 43 minutes). But we triumphantly scored 17/18 in the brain-freezing round devised by the Sunday Business Post’s film critic John Maguire, who rendered 1940s films without vowels and then misleadingly spaced the consonants: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp as ‘THLFNDDTHFCLNLBLMP’, and, yeah…

We started off around 6th place, but slowly crawled up the leader-board thanks to miracles like Dave remembering the name of the creator of the replicants in Blade Runner, the man who headed an eponymous corporation, he looks like Lou Reed and has his eyes gouged out by Rutger Hauer, and his name is, is, is…Tyrell! But there was an insurmountable gap between us and the leaders even as we somehow bludgeoned our way into second place. So we were cackling at the prospect of multiple free films comprising season tickets for either the second 1980s season or the first 1990s season, the prize for second place, when to our astonishment we weren’t named in third or second place. We were wondering what questions we could have blown in the final round to slip into fourth when to our genuine shock we discovered that we had won it again – tying with the leaders who imploded in the final round. So we jointly won, having never led at any point, and also took the trophy, bobble-headed Frodo, on a tie-breaker, and as successful defenders of our title.

Now let’s see which of us joint champions can retain the title next time…

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