How new politics is ringing in the short-changes

CROSS the world, voters are turning away from est-ablishment parties and giving their votes to alternative or extremist views. 

Americans cheering for Trump, millions voting for Brexit and now Germans rejecting Angela Merkel’s pro-immigrant agenda.

We’re constantly told the world is in turmoil, that a “frightening” prospect of anti-establishment sentiment is taking hold. Ireland, however, appears to be the exception.

The post-election hysteria around “seismic” changes in the political landscape hasn’t quite come to pass.

Since the economic shell-shock years, only two new parties were formed. Lucinda Creighton’s Renua failed to return a single TD and its founders have departed, leaving it essentially non-existent. 

The Social Democrats started late with great promise, returning its three sitting TDs and almost adding a fourth.

Since then, the experimental three-leader set-up has failed with the bitter departure of its best-known performer Stephen Donnelly. 

The Irish left-wing is heavily fragmented and focused around the single issue of Irish Water. But with Fianna Fail now in that brigade, Paul Murphy and other prominent socialists are being robbed of the one-trick agenda that gave them a reason to exist.

The Murphy-branded politics of discontent has not caught on in middle Ireland, in the way it did elsewhere. This leaves us with the twin powers of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. 

Sinn Fein is the third party, filling in for Labour — and so Ireland has returned to relative calm in the face of what is reported as global chaos.

Opinion polls show the only real change a general election would bring is a swap from a Fine Gael-led minority government supported by Fianna Fail to a Fianna Fail-led minority backed by Fine Gael.

It’s hardly the “new politics” our mainstream media predicted. A more historic shift might be Fianna Fail sharing government with Fine Gael.

The arrangement itself wouldn’t be the political game-changer, but handing Sinn Fein the Opposition would.

No left-wing party has ever held such a role and it would create a definite right-left political divide for the first time. 

The language after Election 2016 was one of fear, fear of an unknown and strange world where the two biggest parties would no longer swap the balance of power.

Most of those telling us that, however, are media types — typically middle-class residents of the capital, united with establishment parties in a common fear of change.

Political journalists enjoy unhealthy proximity with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

This was especially evident at Fianna Fail’s 2010 Galway think-in when Brian Cowen was the subject of intense commentary about his late-night drinking, singing and impressions after a stumbling morning radio interview.

Political hacks and colour writers were all in attendance that night, drinking with the Fianna Failers and enjoying Cowen’s show.

They did not, however, initially report on the incident. It only came to light in a tweet from Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney who said Cowen sounded “half-way between drunk and hungover” in the interview. 

The media then seized on their night out with the Taoiseach that would have otherwise gone unreported, like all socialising between reporters and politicians.

Stories about the establishment parties are leaked and analysed and passed into the public sphere from close bonds forged over decades. It’s a club of like-minds and they hope to keep it that way.

This is why you can hear the terror prickling on the necks of journalists and TDs on Friday morning talk panels about the “destabilising” of establishment forces around the world.

By contrast, a scandal erupted in Sinn Fein last year leading to over 50 members of a Cumann in Cork resigning from the party over a disciplinary action against a senior party figure there.

What was noteworthy about the story is that not one media organisation managed to uncover the reason for the turmoil in the first place. 

The spin by the mainstream press was that people in Sinn Fein were too scared to leak. 

The real reason nothing leaks out is because the party rarely partakes in Dail bar antics with journalists and lacks the cosy media relationship enjoyed by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Independents.

The disdain for alternative or left-wing views is evident in the language used across broadcast and print media.

Water protesters were viewed in a singular light by journalists and one minister’s description of “sinister elements” was reported gleefully by the like-minded press.

Ireland remains immune to the alleged worldwide political shift — but there are more countries like ours than those that have changed. 

Can you even argue that the US is transformed as they seek to replace their first black president with a white one in their 60s/70s who they’ve known for 30 years? 

Even Britain, said to be more divided than ever after Brexit, has turned from a multi-party state to a one-party Tory one. 

Thanks to the internet, we’re hearing more voices from more places than ever before but the message seems to be the same — the world is turning anti-establishment. 

When you listen closely, you’ll hear that more noise just raises the volume of a consensus rather than question whether it’s even true to begin with.

Split not the Pitts for us

BRANGELINA are locked in a bitter custody battle for their many children.

Brad Pitt is expected to get Tinky Winky and Dipsy, while Angelina Jolie will get Lala and Po.

Divorce isn’t pretty for anyone but it’s hard to feel sorry for Brangelina, who have gone through it so many times it must feel like going out for pizza.

They also have the world’s media at their disposal to settle scores and have wasted no time doing so.

Ocean’s Eleven hunk Brad is portrayed as a midlife-crisis-riddled love cheat, Tomb Raider babe Ange as a fun-averse, scorned spouse. 

For a power couple who prided themselves on highlighting issues in the Third World, it was ironic that their divorce managed to knock Syria off the top story slot on many news channels.

When the extraordinary lives of the super-famous get undone by something as ordinary as a divorce, the world takes a small bit of pleasure

Watching them try to kill each other in the action flick Mr and Mrs Smith is starting to feel like a documentary. 

Another chapter in reign of Prez

MICHAEL D is busy promoting his new book When Ideas Matter this week, a publication of presidential speeches. 

Few people can sit through most of his long-winded and meandering sermons, never mind sit down and read 352 pages of them. 

It’s an actual book containing speeches he has already delivered in his role as President. 

Therefore the sum effort in writing his latest tome might have involved pressing the keys ‘CTRL+C’, then ‘CTRL+V’, followed by hitting the print button. Or perhaps getting one of his many tax-funded staff to do it for him. 

It’s still unclear if the book features speeches written by his full- time head speechwriter Aziliz Gouez, who is paid €65,000 a year by the State. 

The promotional blurb on the book rather hilariously describes it as “a series of remarkable and urgent speeches, which are anything but the bland commentaries of a ceremonial head of state”. 

By pointing out the thoughts of most commentators on Michael D’s speeches, he’s clearly hoping to preempt criticism of this book (all his speeches are available on the Aras website). 

It’s the third book Higgins has published since he became president. His predecessors Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson both waited until their terms had ended before publishing theirs. 

However, Michael D is donating proceeds of the €24.99 tome to the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People. 

Many of his speeches, which often go on for a lockjaw- inducing 4,000 words, criticise free market economics and capitalism. The President earns €1.75million for his seven-year term. 

He lives for free at the Aras with house staff, an 18-strong chef and catering team costing €862,000 in wages per year, a chauffeur-driven car, free travel and vast entertainment expenses all running into the millions. 

He will also qualify for three huge State pensions on retirement. 

Not bad . . . 

Dobbo’s dollop

I USED to confuse the Ploughing Championships with the Lisdoonvarna Festival — which involves a different sort of ploughing altogether. 

It’s well known that the Ploughing Championships was how the Famine started. Thousands of tractors going back and forth over the Midlands for weeks — but they forgot to plant any potatoes.

They were distracted by the throw-your-welly-at-a-wife competition and Richie Kavanagh mauling folk songs on the back of a donkey. 

Ever since then, it has become a sort of Tupperware party that’s gotten out of hand.

It’s the one time Nuala Carey, below, is actually famous as black and white TV owners hit the RTE Weather tent to see if she’s real or a Met Eireann-controlled robot. 

One year, Roscommon telly watchers saw Grainne Seoige in colour for the first time and tried to burn her as a witch — but since she is made from a solid block of ice, she can’t go on fire.

It’s not all serious, however, as farmers have a great sense of humour at the event.

In one corner, they’ll be complaining about the poor price they get from supermarkets for their veg. In the other, buying tractors worth €150,000. Hilarious.

But beware the military wing of the Ploughing Association, known as the ICA. 

They hold bake sales aimed at keeping wild men docile with Madeira cake. 

A violent war broke out in the 1970s when one woman told another that her buns tasted “bought”. That’s an insult so great it’s like telling a TV3 presenter they’d be better off on UTV Ireland.