News Picks: Ireland prepares for a very important election

Ireland

Over the last few weeks, a general election campaign has taken centre stage in Ireland where I have been working for news website TheJournal.ie (hence the lack of regular updates).

It is often said of elections in countries that they are the most important in many years or even in the history of the country. In Ireland’s case this may actually be true.

The state itself has been in existence for less than a hundred years yet at the end of last year it reached a pivotal moment in its short existence when it was forced to accept an EU/IMF bailout after a disasterous financial splurge in previous years that effectively bankrupted the country.

The government that oversaw much of the economic success that eventually turned into an economic disaster, Fianna Fail, now face an electoral wipeout like no other in the party’s history.

There’s been the usual campaign promises and high rhetoric that will count for little once whoever is elected gets into government.

Here’s a selection of stories that have emerged over the past few weeks:

Public want Kenny as Taoiseach in a single party government – The opposition Fine Gael party could be on the verge of being elected as a single party government.

They have portrayed themselves as a very competent alternative that has a plan to sort the country out. There is a lot of rhetoric that many would be sceptical of in these times but Ireland is desperate for an inspirational figure in the mould of Barack Obama, perhaps.

Ireland has Enda Kenny, he is no Obama, he is no David Cameron. He is dour, at times anonymous and sometimes gaffe prone but he gives the air of a statesman in many ways and having accepted that it’s unlikely any other person will be the next Taoiseach (Prime Minister), the public seem prepared to accept him.

Independents could play a big part as FG make approaches – Kenny and Fine Gael will most likely need the backing of independent candidates to form a government and they recognise this.

Earlier this week I summarised those running and likely to be elected with over a dozen independents set to be elected to the 166 seat parliament, underlining the anger many people feel towards the political mainstream.

There are some bizarre candidates in amongst some very intelligent and smart people who would be a welcome addition to the next government.

Some are so disillusioned they predict military intervention – This was one of the most bizarre stories I’ve worked on since being in Ireland.

Ned O’Keeffe has been a TD (MP) for Cork East for nearly 30 years but is stepping down at this election, one of many from the governing Fianna Fail party. He has become so disillusioned with the actions of his party colleagues in government that he suspects the army could be about to takeover.

This is most unlikely. Ireland’s army, the Irish Defence Force, is not nearly strong enough to overthrow a government and what’s more the democracy currently in place will see those responsible for the economic collapse be made suffer at the ballot box which will satisfy most people.

But O’Keeffe later bemoaned the lack of intellectuals in government, a statement many in the country might not necessarily agree with, being more of the view that there weren’t nearly enough to avert the financial collapse.

But at least we’ve retained our pride…and sense of humour – Amidst the arrival of the men in suits from EU and IMF late last year, a brand spanking new terminal was opened at the country’s main airport in Dublin.

Terminal 2 was planned during the boom and built during the bust, it opened with many predicting rather cynically that it would be the perfect facilitator of the many people who would be leaving the country because of the bleak employment and economic prospects.

The Dublin Airport Authority sought to portray their new building as something to be truly proud of, just like being Irish:

Others were perhaps a bit more honest in their assessment of the terminal:

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News Picks: Tunisia, Ireland, Chile

Tunisia

Events in Tunisia just the start? – The weekend’s news agenda has been dominated by events in Tunisia but what’s really interesting is not only what is happening there but what may now happen in other Arab countries of a similar political structure where people young and old are gaining hope from the uprising in Tunisia.

Brian Whitaker, The Guardian’s fantastic Middle East expert, writes about clashes in Libya which, although they may die down in the next few days, are unlikely to abate long term where Colonel Gadaffi still rules after nearly 42 years. Whitaker’s Al-Bab blog is generally an excellent resource for analysis on the Arab world.

A Wikileaks revolution? – Foreign policy magazine speculates whether the diplomatic cables released late last year that highlighted the mafia-esque rule of the former President Bin Ali were part of the reason why the people rose up against their leader, demanding change.

Ireland

Tight vote expected in Fianna Fail leadership contest – Events in Dublin also dominated the weekend news agenda with a leadership battle slightly more civilised than what is happening in Tunisia.

But that doesn’t mask the sheer anger of many in the country as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen announced his intention to remain as leader of his party Fianna Fail. However this is subject to a confidence vote in his leadership by the 71 TDs (MPs) in the party on Tuesday. Cowen will be confident of victory after reassurances last week from those within the party.

However, Foreign Minister Michael Martin will attempt to unseat Cowen, launching his own leadership bid at a late evening press conference in a swanky Dublin hotel on Sunday.

Martin is blitzing the Irish media over the next 24 hours or so in an attempt to shore up his position. Whilst junior ministers are lining up behind Martin, Cowen, inexplicably, commands a strong position despite desperate approval ratings which would make you question the very sanity of the 14% of people who apparently back him as leader of the country.

Events in the Republic will be extremely interesting to follow over the next day or two. I’d recommend TheJournal.ie for the up-to-date coverage of what happens.

Chile

Fuel price strikes trap tourists – We were all engrossed and utterly charmed by the story of the trapped Chilean Miners last year which sent President Sebastian Pinera’s approval ratings sky high as he was on hand to greet each of the 33 miners who emerged from the depths of the earth. Pinera revelled in the popularity as you would expect. However, there is now growing discontent in Chile with rising fuel prices, people taking to the streets and in some areas violent protests trapping tourists. Pinera’s approval ratings are down.

Making sense of ‘Le Hand of Henry’

A lot said, a lot written but in the end nothing done. No replay, no hope, the Irish nation, and those of us who have moved away, mourn one of the greatest injustices in the history of football.

And how galling to have perhaps the best player to ever play for the country telling us to get over ourselves. Easy for you to say Roy Keane as you earn a comfortable wage for guiding Ipswich to relegation while the millions back home struggle to cope in the worst economic crisis in the history of the republic.

Qualification on Wednesday would have been a boost for a whole football mad nation. Who knows what the knock on effects of reaching the World Cup might have been for the people, for the economy for the future of our struggling nation.

Instead we were robbed at the hands of Thierry Henry’s will to cheat, the incompetence of a referee and linesman and the corruptness of FIFA.

How surprised are we to see no mention of the dubious handball on FIFA’s website and the utter silence of the most powerful man in football, Sepp Blatter who decreed that the World Cup play offs would be seeded just weeks before the draw, an illegal move if ever I saw one.

Now I must admit to being a little embarrassed to see FAI chief executive John Delaney plead for a replay on the basis of some precedent set in some obscure Asian qualifier a few years ago.

A replay was never going to happen but then we are all a bit desperate for something to cling to and the emotion of it all is raw.

But Delaney did make one good point in that this wasn’t a league or group game whereby the situation could have been redressed. This was a one off situation, a winner takes all scenario.

Ireland will not get chance to redress what happened on Wednesday. Instead they’ll spend next summer watching the greatest show on earth on TV.

And I doubt any Irish people, I know I won’t, will take pleasure in watching the World Cup next year, knowing it should have been us and not the French that are competing in South Africa.

Even the French themselves are embarrassed by it all. It is the great shame of a great footballing nation, world champions just over a decade ago, that they have cheated their way to the finals with the help of one of their greatest ever players.

And what gall for him to come out and call for a replay not long after FIFA and his own football association absolutely ruled out the possibility. A cynical PR move from a player once respected throughout the world but who will now be remembered as much for as his talent as for his will to win at all costs, even if it means cheating, handling the ball not once, but twice.

Surely this is a landmark moment in football. The calls for video evidence, extra officials, or something to cut this out are deafening and must be acceded too.

A system whereby a referee can stop the game a limited number of times to look at a 20-30 second play back on a controversial incident might work.

Failure to implement something that will prevent or at least lessen the chances of incidents like Wednesday’s happening again will only tarnish the game further and make a lot of people, me included, lose  faith in a sport that is increasingly allowing cheats to prevail.

Allow me to introduce myself…

Hello and welcome to my blog. This is not my first attempt at launching myself into the blogosphere but I wanted an outlet for my work not connected to my love of Liverpool FC.

So this blog will include all the work that I do for my university portfolios as well as any freelance stuff I have done for magazines and other publications. I became frustrated at the lack and outlet for students such as myself particularly at my own university and although this is slowly changing at LJMU I decided to take action now rather than sit around particularly as the Easter holidays afford me more free time than I would like. This is also an excuse to jib off coursework!

And so sit back and enjoy the random musings of a 21 year old Irishman surviving in the wonderful city of Liverpool.