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The unashameable in pursuit of the unelectable… or is it the other way around? June 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, The Left.

What a load of nonsense presented to us yesterday evening in the Dáil, from the gathered ranks of FF TDs around Mattie McGrath and Christy O’Sullivan to the bizarre sight of opponents and supporters of stag hunting breaking across the two camps. Given that the measures introduced last night and to be introduced next week are really quite minimal, but are also an improvement on the status quo, the amount of shadow boxing was somewhat unreal. And while I try to keep my class war tendencies to a minimum the sight of certain groups being constrained is cause for some small pleasure.

But reading Sarah Carey’s odd article in the IT that lambastes the Green Party for doing something that the Green Party actually said it would do by arguing that ‘it is more to do with [John Gormley's even deeper compulsion to justify his party's presence in government]‘ and trotting out the notion that due to her agricultural upbringing she was taught the ‘Hobbesian reality that life is nasty, brutish and short [for beasts]‘ erm… not sure that’s such a great argument to be making. Surely there are good reasons to minimise brutality, particularly avoidable brutality, whatever about longevity.

And I say that as someone who due to extended family also had a rural background, in Meath of all places, probably in my first two decades spent a fair chunk of weekends and summers on farmland, and had even been hare coursing on the odd occasion (amazingly dull and pointless I found it, but then I’m not much of a person for spectator events).

So to dismiss genuine feeling about this matter as sanctimonious doesn’t quite cut it for me.

Still, to see Tommy Broughan lose the Labour whip for his temerity in abstaining is also quite a sight. Kudos to Arthur Morgan too for a nicely played strategic approach to yesterday. And while people will know how dubious I am about Independents voting with the government without a quid pro quo this was one occasion where I had no reservations about two of the votes cast. Credit where credit is due. To see something done about regulation of puppy farms and stag hunts, however modest that may be in the scale of things, is not a bad days work. But, hey, that’s just me.

Or to put it another way, this was not the issue to bring the government down on. And indeed it clearly wasn’t, given the disposition of forces.

And what was the issue precisely? Stephen Collins noted…

Lowry said people in rural Ireland were frustrated and angry at what he described as an attack on rural country pursuits and farming.
The Greens were baffled by the vehemence of the reaction to the two pieces of legislation and insist that there is no threat to other rural pursuits such as fishing, shooting and fox hunting.

The absurd machinations in Fianna Fáil indicate a panic which is really quite pointless. They’re completely screwed either way, it’s not like their stock is going to fall much lower, and for an issue which has about as much purchase in urban areas as Jackie Healy-Rae himself this truly speaks of a situation where they’ve lost all sense of what they are and where they should be.

Stephen Collins gets it just about totally wrong when he argues that all this demonstrates ‘unease at influence of Greens’. I doubt they give a rashers about the Green Party. I suspect it is, and even he ultimately concedes this, that they know they’re in deep deep trouble and any excuse will do. There’s something a bit unseemly about this. Because it sure as hell isn’t the implementation of a rather watery Green party inspired programme that’s done the government in. Anything but.

Sure, he’s not far wrong when he says:

Similar sentiments were expressed by Independents Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae; for them to vote against the Government is ominous. It is the first time the two TDs who have backed the Coalition all the way since 2007 have jumped ship.
While their defection was compensated for in the Dáil last night by the decision of Finian McGrath and Maureen O’Sullivan to vote for the stag hunting ban, the long-term consequences for the Coalition could be serious.
Lowry and Healy-Rae are shrewd constituency politicians and their decision to leave the comfort zone of backing the Government in the Dáil indicates that they are preparing the ground for the next election.

But come on, when in the last year or two has it been anything other than this situation? This government has always been living on borrowed time and that’s hardly more evident today than it was yesterday. Indeed realistically I’d be doubtful that either Lowry (who let us not forget has his own troubles) or Healy-Rae who I’d also agree is one of the shrewdest political operators on this island for all of his presentational issues (or perhaps because of) want an election tomorrow. Or this side of 2011. And it might also be fair to point out that Healy-Rae wasn’t too fussed about this the other side of last weekend, apparently indicating that he would vote with the government. That he was spooked into this perhaps also indicates just how this was whipped up by various interests.

And as for Collins follow-up observation…

The problem for them is that trust between the two parties has taken a hammering and with huge decisions to be made in the autumn about the budget it will become increasingly difficult to hold the Coalition together.

Get out of here. The idea that this will seriously impact upon the coalition, and in particular its economic approach which has been largely seamless hitherto is also nonsense. The heavy lifting has already been accomplished in terms of lashing the GP to the mast with FF. That was what made some of the departures in the past year from the Oireachtas so risible, there were plenty of opportunities to walk earlier and with much more credibility. That something will be the economic straw that breaks the camel’s back? Unlikely, in the extreme.

But add to that that there’s something enormously tasteless about how, finally, this exercises them when no end of issues that directly affect living breathing humans are waved through with a rhetoric of steely determination, austerity and self-ascribed ‘courage’.

As Vincent Browne might say… give me a break.

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1. Mark P - June 30, 2010

The whole thing was hilarious. All that grandstanding over a trivial issue that only a few hippies and a few upper class twits on horses give a flying fuck about in the greater scheme of things.

I did enjoy watching Labour line up to vote against something they allegedly believe in for nakedly political reasons. And I similarly enjoyed the inevitability of Mattie McGrath rearing his head on the news. The likes of McGrath and Healy Rae are national treasures, serving as living reminders of the fundamental nature of mainstream Irish politics.

WorldbyStorm - June 30, 2010

Not necessarily that upper class. The master of the union ward is a property developer – so who knows… might be, might not be.

2. sonofstan - June 30, 2010

I love the ‘country pursuits’ argument: the notion that something is valuable and worthy of protection simply because country people do it. Perhaps we city slickers ought to be doing more to protect our distinctive native pastimes from attack by arrogant hicks…….. maybe start with the heroin trade? After all, if rural TDs can argue for the right to drink and drive because the social benefits outweigh the inevitably fatal consequences, then surely a similar argument might be mounted in support of legalising the fairly blatant open air dealing and consumption that goes on in Marlborough St/ Talbot St./ on the Boardwalk…… it’s undeniably a social outlet for the otherwise terminally anti- social.

I’m with you on the stag hunting, WBS – anything that takes even the slightest nibble at the sense of entitlement of the ‘upper class twit’ is to be welcomed.

3. Garibaldy - June 30, 2010

Interesting thread from Pete Baker on Slugger related to this


4. WorldbyStorm - June 30, 2010

Interesting Garibaldy. I think he did the right thing actually.

SoS, that’s it. Your protecting urban pastimes concept intrigues me… I think we could add in a lot more than just that one… :)

LeftAtTheCross - June 30, 2010

How about joy-riding? My car was stolen from Blanch’ shopping centre last Wed night. As a rural dweller should I be demanding the right to hunt those involved with a pack of hounds?

WorldbyStorm - June 30, 2010

That depends.

sonofstan - June 30, 2010

Sorry to hear about that, LATC: it’s one of those times when one’s liberal reflexes are severely tested, and the attractions of corporal and even capital punishment become more comprehensible……

Presumably you were in a state best summed up by removing two words from your nom de blog?

Garibaldy - June 30, 2010

Sorry to hear about that as well. Free state bastards.

LeftAtTheCross - June 30, 2010


Thanks for the empathy. Actually no, it didn’t really bother me, and truth be told I’m feeling quite smug about that :-)

Apart from the hassle of trying to find a replacement, but we’re a 2-car family, what with being rural types, so all wasn’t lost.

And don’t be calling me a liberal :-) “Property is theft” after all.

sonofstan - June 30, 2010

And don’t be calling me a liberal

Sorry. I forget where I am sometimes.

LeftAtTheCross - June 30, 2010

Thanks Garibaldy. It was probably a nordie looking for a ride home. If you see a 97-D turquoise Mazda up there in Belfast give me a shout :-)

EamonnDublin - July 1, 2010

Unfortunately when nordies come down here..they never go home!!

WorldbyStorm - July 1, 2010

Actually that is a crap thing to happen LATC. You’re taking it well.

5. LeftAtTheCross - June 30, 2010

Depends on what :-)

This rural pursuits thing really is parish pump politics at its most extreme. Populist shite. Great distraction from the 444,900 live register figure. The Greens really do have their heads firmly up their holes by bringing this into the fray at this time, and what’s worse is that the media and public are acquiescing and allowing the focus to shift towads what is great theatre but shit politics.

sonofstan - June 30, 2010

The whole ‘protecting rural pursuits’ mantra is cogged off of the unspeakable ‘Countryside Alliance’ pro-hunting and keeping the peasants down bunch across the way, isn’t it? Fronted by the idiotic Otis Ferry, son of Bryan and grandson of a miner.

Garibaldy - June 30, 2010

Social mobility in action SoS

EWI - July 1, 2010

trotting out the notion that due to her agricultural upbringing she was taught the ‘Hobbesian reality that life is nasty, brutish and short [for beasts]‘ erm… not sure that’s such a great argument to be making.

I’d expect nothing better out of a daughter of well-off Blueshirt farmers from Meath, but it’s a sad state of affairs that there is such a constituency within FF these days. The parents’, grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations would’ve ‘seen’ the hunt off their Land Commission farms with a shotgun or some other such encouragement….

LeftAtTheCross - July 1, 2010


Stag hunting, and fox hunting, doesn’t get much support from most people out in the country. As you say, it’s the preserve of the landed gentry and the rural nouveau riche, the horsey set. However, shooting is a different matter altogether, they’re all at it out here, it’s an everyman type of country passtime. There’s plenty of suspicion that the horsey stuff is the thin end of the wedge, that all country pursuits will be banned, and hence the cross-class alliance of rural folk against the tree-hugging D4 cosmopolitan Greens, as they would see it.

ejh - July 1, 2010

That’s Agent Ferry, you realise. (Also see: Agent Sarah Ferguson and Agent Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.)

EWI - July 1, 2010

However, shooting is a different matter altogether, they’re all at it out here, it’s an everyman type of country passtime.

Very true, LATC.

6. Crocodile - July 1, 2010

LATC has a point – though in some parts of the country fox hunting is just as cross-class as shooting. It would be convenient to see field sports as elitist activities indulged in by toffs: we could all combine a vagueish anti-cruelty inclination with a bit of class resentment and that would be enough. The truth is that the average shoot or coursing crowd is as broad a spectrum of Irish society as you could hope to find.
And if there’s any elitism going on, it’s the metropolitan ‘we’re going to drag you into the 21st century whether you want it or not’ kind. Mr Gormley knows best.
I think there is something interesting about FF TDs becoming exercised about this. It speaks about the disempowerment most people feel: voters and backbenchers who despair of influencing economic and geopolitical events see a chance to make a stand on something they know more about than their rulers do. I expect more local-single-issue candidates in the next general election, not fewer as most are predicting.

LeftAtTheCross - July 1, 2010

“I expect more local-single-issue candidates in the next general election”

What would it say about democracy in this state if that happened, and if more were elected? It would be hard to see it as a progressive development, other than a one step backwards and hopefully two steps forwards at a later date. Not saying that the mainstream parties don’t deserve a hammering but one would like to think that disenchantment with politics would result in a protest vote on the Left of the spectrum, rather than support for local / single issue candidates.

Crocodile - July 1, 2010

I agree – and that is why Labour were right to keep their official mouths shut the other night. A broad feeling of disempowerment in rural ireland should be fertile ground for Labour – but thousands of prospective votes would be lost if they supported Gormley’s ‘de haut en bas’ priggishness. It wouldn’t be the same if Sinn Fein had stronger organisations in constituencies like South Tipp and Waterford – they’s be more willing to see local resentment as opportunity rather than regrettable oikishness on the part of the boghoppers. Labour should plug in to that anti-green, anti-FF energy in rural constituencies.

7. FergusD - July 1, 2010

In the UK the pro-fox hunting lobby managed to cleverly link NuLabour’s anti-fox hunting measures with rural poverty, isolation (rural public transport went into serious decline with de-regulation). housing issues (little social housing being built, in-comers buying second homes), education (closure of small rural schools) etc. As a result they could pull out very large numbers of far from rich rural people to support fox and stag hunting. OK some of the “ordinary” rural people may enjoy following the hunt, but the support for the Countryside Alliance from them wasn’t really about that, it was about “townies” seemingly neglecting rural issues. The Countrside Alliance wasn’t interested in the ordinary rural worker of course, but they could be used. Not a big constituency in the UK today but Labour (if it drops the Nu) could still have something useful to offer rural dwellers if it put its mind to it. Lesson there maybe for Irish Labour?

8. FergusD - July 1, 2010

Crocodile – I think you’re right. We don’t need any talk of culshies! There are a lot of real issues in rural areas.

As for fox-hunting, in the UK that issue wqs driven by the League Against Cruel Sports lobby, which provided cash to NuLabour, and by, dare I say it, middle class liberals. In terms of cruelty to animals modern industrial farming has more to answer for. I’m not a fan of fox hunting myself, but I do like to fish and have no objections to shooting.

BTW – has fox hunting actually stopped in the UK? The hunters to make the law unworkable by breaking it but you hear nothing about it now. Is that because they have stopped and realise they don’t miss/need it? Or is it, in fact, that it continues and the whole thing was a charade? Who knows – I don’t.

Crocodile - July 1, 2010

There’s a phony war going on in the Uk re fox-hunting. I think hunts still meet and if they kill a fox while drag hunting they aren’t prosecuted, because they didn’t set out with that intention. But then they never killed that many foxes anyway.
What has been banned in the UK is hare coursing – and that’s definitely on the Greens’ to-do list here, which is why the strongest opposition within FF is in coursing constituencies rather than hunting ones.

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