It must be very much like cleaning up a house after a flood and equally dispiriting. Today, voters in the Republic go to the polls to vote in a new government but all they will be doing is, as someone pointed out, to elect a loser. For whether the incoming government is formed by Fine Gael on its own or a coalition of Fine Gael and Labour, whatever it does will be deeply unpopular. You can almost hear all the candidates for once urging the voters ‘don’t vote for me, for Christ’s sake’. In that sense, candidates standing for Fianna Fail, which presided over the financial debacle of these past few years are in a winning situation: their party has no hope whatsoever of forming the new government, so those lucky enough to win a seat in the Dail will be quids in. They will have prime of place at the public trough and be able to trouser several billion euros each, yet all they will be required to do is to jeer from the guidelines as the government becomes ever more unpopular instigating cuts to salvage the economy.
Many eyes, not least mine, will be on Sinn Fein and how they will do. As far as I know, they do reasonably well in local elections and have quite a number of councillors, but never seem to have much success in general elections. That nice Mr Adams will, I’m sure, win whatever seat he is hoping for, but just how many of his Sinn Fein colleagues will make it to the Dail remains to be seen. (Incidentally, surely that last sentence of mine is a classic in that it seems to say something, but actually says fuck all. ) I am off work this week for a short break from helping the Fourth Estate defence democracy (or, as we usually put it, flog newspapers), and while I was briefly considering a week away from home, I did think of taking of to Ireland in my car for a mini tour. But bearing in mind money and the need to save it, I have decided to stay at home. So my loss is Ireland’s gain. Another putative destination was Jerusalem, as I would like to see both Israel and the Gaza Strip for myself, but that plan also succumbed to a desire not to spend too much money.
One interesting statistic is that what might, were I an unscrupulous hack, be termed as ‘almost half’ of all the candidates have forsaken the main political parties and are standing as independents. In fact, the figures are 233 of 566 candidates, not quite ‘almost half’ but still an impressive 41 per cent have completely lost faith in the established political
structure. (Oh, all right, ‘almost half’ – there, happy?). The BBC is reporting that turnout was 70 per cent, which is more than we have been managing here in Britain. I think the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent voting figures were higher than for last May’s general election, so the Irish obviously have a lot more self-respect than we Brits. The latest news is that Jedward did rather well and have jointly taken Dublin South for the Moron Party.
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Most recherché product of the week has to be the ice-cream made from human breast milk. It’s naturally not cheap, but Lord is it cool. It is on sale in London’s Covent Garden, and it seem every wealthy idiot worth that title as well as many not worth it are queuing up to pay £15 for a ten ounce portion, according to the Guardian. When I saw the headline, I immediately looked at the date on my laptop to reassure myself it wasn’t April 1. It wasn’t.
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A friend commented the other day that 2011 seems to be shaping up as ‘one of those years’. Other such years were 1848, which saw several revolutions throughout Europe; 1956, which saw the Russian - ahem, Soviet, though it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between the two - suppression of the Hungarian revolution as well as the Suez crisis; and 1989, which saw the universal collapse of communism throughout the Soviet bloc. I can imagine that exterior ministry analysists throughout Europe will be working overtime on reports ‘looking forward’ and keeping their fingers crossed they don’t get it all too wrong. On top of that, of course, is the decidedly dodgy economic outlook - not just the euro crisis which is still bubbling under, but also the banking crisis and the danger of a double-dip recession - which means for many the good, peaceful times are over. It will probably also show the claim that the EU ‘has ensured peace in Europe for the past 40 years’ as the self-delusional bullshit it always was. Certainly, times have been peaceful and the vast majority of Europeans have enjoyed - and increasingly taken for granted - growing prosperity, but the existence of the EU is concomitant and arguably a result of that peace and prosperity, not its cause. I have yet to be persuaded that the German people -as opposed to the German government - will happily throw good money after bad when and if Spain and Portugal go to the wall, and Greece goes even further to the wall. Incidentally, all the excitement in North Africa and has rather overshadowed an reports of serious rioting in Athens (see pictures). It seems a 24-hour strike and associated demonstration got seriously out-of-hand. What find quite amazing is that a search on the Telegraph and Guardian websites did not turn up any stories reporting the riots. Surely they are not too concerned with Libya?
It is at times such as this that I wonder what life was like for the ordinary Joe such as me in, say, 1847 or 1913. Just how much advance warning did he have of the shitstorm which was about to be unleashed?