Thursday, October 25, 2018

Tagged under: ,

Michael D And The Forgettable Five

Anthony McIntyre writes in advance of tomorrow's presidential election and Blasphemy referendum.

The presidential election campaign has been a borefest. A debate between the candidates might in future be used as an anaesthetic in operating theatres. Switch on a recording five minute's prior to being wheeled into surgery and the patient will surely be rendered unconscious. Recovery might be another matter.

Democracy would have benefited greatly from a more even contest. As it stands the combined vote of the forgettable five is likely to be less than number of votes cast for the sitting president. Last time around the campaign was spicy. Now it is just prickly. The insertion by Martin McGuinness into the 2011 race ignited passions and animosities. It got incendiary at times.  The late Derry Catholic performed well up until being confronted by the son of Private Paddy Kelly in an Athlone shopping mall. At that point his campaign, while never likely to be successful, went into a tailspin. He was even asked on radio about the stench of murder. And the emergence of a 1985 interview in which he outlined the conditions whereby the IRA could kill gardai and soldiers like Private Kelly, took the wind out of his sails. The wheel had come off the wagon.

Sean Gallagher was unfortunate in that his failure to handle a letter bomb from Sinn Fein in the form of a question about a brown envelope saw him snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Now it is hard to remember who else ran. Dana maybe but only because she tends to turn up at the opening of a toilet seat.

Next time we might not remember that anybody other than Michael D ran at all. Sean Gallagher's campaign never recovered from the fatal damage seven years back. He exudes the persona of a mourner looking into a grave where the departed rests, wishing the clock could be turned back until somebody gently takes his arm and leads him away from Grave Aras.

Liadh Ni Riada's feet are far too small to fill the shoes of McGuinness. Her willingness to wear the war poppy rather than the anti-war poppy, combined with her being in receipt of the average industrialist wage and the average industrialist expenses, all the while shouting about Michael D's plane journey up North, echoing Gavin Duffy's lear jet socialism jibes, has reduced her to a token candidate. Not a Screaming Lord Sutch or Rainbow George but with as much hope of assuming presidential office.

Tomorrow I will head off with my wife to cast our votes. What she does with hers is her own affair but Michael D will get mine. Was I to vote only for the perfect candidate there would be no vote cast. His diminutive size has done nothing to diminish the manner in which he has towered above the Forgettable Five. That said, the Blasphemy referendum is of more interest to me. The notion of living in a supposedly modern society that has taken great strides in terms of secularism, women's reproductive rights and sexual orientation, subject to a law that protects unicorns collides with my tendentious sense of propriety.

Yes, tomorrow will be the culmination of a good year in terms of referenda. Overcoming the diktat of those who those who simultaneously demand that society protect the unborn and the unicorn will be complete.

Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill.

Follow Anthony McIntyre on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre


Henry JoY said...

Even though I personally will be claiming my vote, I have a hunch, based on the low numbers from the islands today, that we may have a turnout of as low as 30%. Probably a reflection of how pathetic the current field of contestants for the Presidency are and the minimal concerns among the population as whole about a blasphemy clause that's almost irrelevant.
Even if the article remains unchanged its totally redundant, completely redundant and obsolete ever since the insertion of a definition of blasphemy into the Defamation Act of 2009. The minister for justice at the time, Dermot Ahern, admitted that the new law was written in such a way that no one would ever be prosecuted under it. It requires the State to prove that a person published or said something grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion “thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”. And remember also the State must as well prove that the person deliberately intended to cause such outrage. Surely a tall order, is it not?

Its highly unlikely that a case could be successfully taken save but where somebody belligerently strives to cause gratuitous offence. To whatever degree the retention of the said article curbs the misanthropes' splenetic outbursts there just might still be some merit in leaving it be.

AM said...

Henry Joy - and what would be the "some" merit in keeping it? There are other laws which achieve the type of outcome you favour. We don't need something as ridiculous as a blasphemy law: in fact so ridiculous that, as you suggest, nobody is ever going to be successfully prosecuted over it.

If it is not in the constitution other states who have cited it as a means of suppressing their own citizens will no longer be able to.

It is a bit like removing crosses and religious paraphernalia from public buildings. Religion should be a private matter. If people want to read the bible or watch porn, they should be free to but they cannot claim the public space for it and demand that their opinion should be protected in law above other opinions and their symbolism displayed publicly over other symbols.

The constitution and a society's law should be meaningful, not archaic and utterly immaterial. They should relate to people, not unicorns and mermaids.

Niall said...

Dragons den offered up a candidate or two.....sums it up really! Did I just blaspheme there against the dragon gods?

Henry JoY said...


as you know only too well simplistic arbitrary thinking which dismisses nuance and reduces everything to binary evaluations of good/bad and right/wrong tends to be a reflection of both populism and laziness (and this has become almost as common from the left as it was traditionally from the right). Much better I say to ask how useful any proposed change might be? Yes, your argument about other nations citing it in their pursuance of suppressing their own citizens has merit. I, on the other hand, see it as potentially useful in curtailing the coarseness of public discourse that has become all too common. Anything that encourages restraint in this domain has, I'd contend, 'some' merit.
As the good book suggests in the beginning 'there was the word'. There is something to be said for self-restraint and informed self-censorship.

It seems to me that you insist on taking an entrenched position with regards to religion in the public space; to my mind, trenchant resistance at this point in time merely slows the decline of religious influence, which in truth in Irish society has all but evapourated already. Watching your daily cartoons I often wonder as to why you vest so much energy in this issue?

AM said...

Henry Joy

as you know only too well simplistic arbitrary thinking which dismisses nuance and reduces everything to binary evaluations of good/bad and right/wrong tends to be a reflection of both populism and laziness (and this has become almost as common from the left as it was traditionally from the right).

Which is why I avoid populism and laziness.

The change is more useful than no change for the very reason you accept - change will deny the theocrats a reference point.

Where is the potential in retaining it for curbing coarseness? There is none. It is totally ineffectual in that sphere. Nobody has been prosecuted under it from the 1800s, I believe.

If coarseness in discourse is to be curbed, it is hardly a power we wish to hand to the state. It is a matter for individuals.

Self restraint I am fine with - self censorship, no. Censorship is always forced by something other than the self even when we pretend otherwise. Self restraint is just that.

I have a robust position and don't use the term entrenched to describe it. I think we should all be treated equally. If people want a cross on a building other people should have the same right to want an image that they prefer. Bill Shankly or something. Why elevate or prioritise religious opinion over a sporting one? We at least know Liverpool FC exists. I think it worthwhile to push back against this culture of entitlement. People must be free to practice their religion on themselves but not on me.

I invest minimal energy in A Morning Thought. I find it funny. There is no compulsion on anyone to look at them.

Henry JoY said...


though your points are well made and you offer good and sound rebuttals I still see the Presidential contest and indeed the current referendum as nothing much more than shadow boxing around more substantial concerns which have greater relevance to a majority of citizens; the veracity of this assessment will be borne out by the small number of citizen participating in the referendum and the election.

By way of protest, Michael D. has gotten my effective vote only if he needs it, after having lodged, hopefully temporarily, with the Derry man. In similar vein, I've cast a 'No' to the removal of the blasphemy clause.

James Quigley said...

Great quote from Mark Hennessy Irish Times " Finally Michael D returns -never in the field of human politics has a man gained so much by being silent for so long."

I believe he was referring to one of the presidential debates. A media phenomenon that I could not bring myself to listen to and I can say it was not laziness.

As for the blasphemy addon (or maybe the presidential bit was an addon) Michael D presided over the old constitution and he will preside over the amended one and ne'er a word was said about either. Hold your tongue

I believe they tried to do Stephen Fry not long ago a blasphemy charge.

AM said...

Henry Joy,

there was no need for a presidential election. The Forgettable five were worried in case people might forget them

There were more important matters than Blasphemy. But given the opportunity to remove it from the constitution it was important to avail of it. The arrogance of religion, thinking somehow that its opinion should have a lofty status firewalled by the constitution - given the possibility we should all have moved to get rid of it.

James I am not so sure they tried to do Fry with Blasphemy but somebody tried to Fry Blasphemy by registering a complaint to show how ridiculous it was.

Henry JoY said...


as big a farce as it was, t'was better an election than mot one. Michael D. having reneged on his promise to be a 'one term President' was irresponsibly given a free ride by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Hence the ego-centric candidates that emerged.

As a non-theist I'm not disappointed with the referendum result. However I would have preferred had the referendum allowed for an alternation, as recommended for by the Sixth Report of the Constitutional Convention, to include provision of a new article against religious hatred. Once again the ruling parties took the soft option.

Anyways, as Ivan Yates described him, we have the pompous poet for now. And as I've drawn attention to before, should he die in office, we'll probably be forced into having a more honest conversation about Irish history of the last century plus.

AM said...

Henry Joy,

I am not so sure it was better an election than not. That rule applies to governments and to symbolic presidents where need be. I don't see what was achieved through this one. It was crucial that an election be available and provided for once a contender comes along. I think we will remember it for three things - not for the 6 candidates. The lavishness accusations;

SF prepared to wear the war poppy; Casey's comments on travellers.

Michael D did reverse his promise but he will not be judged harshly for that. There was a view that when he first took on the role he could not have imagined being fit for a second term, only discover that when he reached the finishing line he found a second wind.

I an quite pleased that the referendum result came through. I am on count centre duty today for Atheist Ireland. Probably be reading Kindle!! Rather than have constitutionally enshrined protecting religion from hatred would prefer one that protected citizens from religious hatred.

People are entitled to hate what they want. We should not have the state deciding what can or cannot be hated. As citizens we should be discouraging hatred, exposing it, assertively challenging it. If people want to hate religion or atheism, fine in so far as it is no reason to criminalise their hatred. Society requires protection for all its citizens whatever religion or soccer club they follow. Religious people not their religious opinion need safeguarded from hatred.

I still prefer the pompous poet to the pompous poppy!

Good points nonetheless.

James Quigley said...

Just what stand did Michael D take on the war in the Middle East (pick one), Shannon Airport being used to ferry US army and Guantanamo Bay prisoners, War in Yemen etc, etc? What was his stand on the sex and brutality crimes of the clergy and the cover up? What was his stand on Water Charges, housing crisis, Ireland's debt, health system, education, Ireland's Sovereignty etc etc. The questions just seem to go on and on don't they? Anyway he will be happy to serve another 7 yrs apparently. But doing what and for whom I wonder, more of the same, I suppose?

Is the presidency above politics, whatever that means but is often used? Or as Mary Lou was quoted as saying using what seems SF's want for hierarchical structures 'first citizen of Ireland' as a primary explanation.

Just what is Michael D's politics anyway and has he thrown them out the Aras window? One final question is was he the best of a bad lot (yes) but should that be a reason to vote, (no)?