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That left wing ‘bully pulpit’…  April 8, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.


Think of David Quinn, think of him positioned in a society where the centre-right has a hegemonic control and yet there is he, fretting away on a continual basis about those who dissent, even mildly from that hegemony.

This last week it is President Higgins who raises his ire for the temerity to raise issues like equality in the context of his speech at the weekend. That’s right. Equality. This he regards as partisan. How so, you ask?

President Higgins then outlined the ways in which this vision had been frustrated by conservative elements in Irish society, causing it to collapse into a “property-driven conservatism… the fetishisation of land and private property, a restrictive religiosity and a repressive pursuit of respectability”.

He invited his audience, and us, to reclaim “the joy of making equality the central theme of our Republic”.

This is partisan. This is favouring one particular political tradition over others. How could he warn us against making the commemoration of 1916 partisan in one part of his speech, and then do this? Could he not see the contradiction?

It has to be a ‘left-wing bully pulpit’! And for Quinn this is of a piece with a sort of unspoken conspiracy:

The only way Michael D gets away with this is because he has the backing of most of the media, and because the political parties have been content to let him at it. In addition, academia in Ireland, as elsewhere, is almost entirely left-wing, and therefore it is happy for him to use the Presidency to trumpet its point of view.

Now, mileage may vary but my familiarity with Irish academia on a working level across many years is that it is in actual fact nowhere near ‘entirely leftwing’ and I’d have to wonder at what his understanding of the terms ‘entirely’ and ‘leftwing’ actually are.

He offers us a counterfactual.

Imagine, however, if instead of having President Michael D Higgins in office we had President Michael McDowell instead, or, Heaven forbid, President Dana Rosemary Scallon. Imagine if McDowell used the office to laud the benefits of free markets, and imagine if Dana used it to laud the virtues of Catholicism.

Actually it’s not at all difficult to envisage what those worthies might offer. McDowell would stress ‘equality of opportunity’ – a phrase in the Proclamation. Dana, never likely to be elected, would of course have emphasised Christianity – or some such. There.

And of course it would all have to be cleared with the government of the day.

Of course what he is trying to do is to suggest that simply expressing left of centre sentiments is partisan yet appears unaware of how that right of centre (economic) hegemony operates, how that is normalised on a continual basis.

And there’s a curious contemporary note too when this very week in regard to housing there’s an acceptance across most of the political spectrum that some diminution of property rights may be necessary in order to assist in ameliorating the crisis. And Quinn seems not to understand that while the President is precluded from intervening or commenting on contemporary political matters he is allowed to speak on broader – shall we say – more philosophical topics, particularly in the context of Irish history.

He continues. Consider the chronology underlying this analysis here:

But seeing as he has not done that, let’s argue against them. Let’s attend to his ahistorical view of 1916 and subsequent developments first. In his Mansion House speech, he almost totally glosses over the fact that many of our leaders from 1917 on were rightly and profoundly worried by the socialist vision that was then newly on offer in the Soviet Union.

Given that 1916 predates 1917 one might wonder what was this ‘profound worry’? Who is he talking about? And the clumsy effort to link the left to the Soviet Union is more than a little awry. In fact he can’t quite make the case, as is seen in the following:

That vision was not restricted to the Soviet Union. It was enthusiastically shared by socialists everywhere. It was absolutely prudent for our political leadership a hundred years ago to worry that our home-grown socialists had a similar vision in mind for Ireland.

But then, whatever his thoughts on socialism, he doesn’t engage with how capitalism has changed or with the reality that there are varying attitudes within it. For example one would never think that protectionism was a trope of the significant portions of the right (even today) when reading the following:

As for his critique of capitalism, in the imaginings of Michael D Higgins, it was through the work of socialists like him that the poor were lifted up from their squalor and given jobs and a standard of living that people could only have dreamt of in 1916.
But none of this would have been possible without economic growth – and that growth was delivered by free markets and free trade, both of which were, and are, vigorously opposed by socialism.
In fact, it was only when this country shook off its protectionist economic policies (supported both by de Valera and by the left) and embraced free trade that the country began to prosper at all.

Worth him taking the time to read the Proclamation one might think. it’s not the most radical document in the world, but it does appear to be quite some distance from simple free market nostrums. And Higgins is correct about the Programme of the First Dáil too. 



1. An Sionnach Fionn - April 8, 2016

The ideological influence of the American Christian right-wing is written all over Quinn and his arguments. Including the knowingly false claims of victimization (the media are left-wing conspirators, etc. unreflective of “ordinary” people while persecuting those who share his background or beliefs). It is Tea Party, Fox News nonsense, right down to the terminology and phrases, but repurposed for an Irish context. The absolute nadir of political thought on this island nation, outside the ranks of the DUP or Renua.


2. Starkadder - April 8, 2016

“The only way Michael D gets away with this is because he has the backing of most of the media…”

The Michael D-hating “Sunday Independent” doesn’t exist in the Parallel universe Quinn’s mind inhabits.

And to continue with the ahistorical aspects of his article. worries about the “socialist vision” happily lead some of our leaders to endorse some of the most reprehensible regimes in world history (look at the fawning support General Franco receivied from Irish leaders like Cardinal MacRory and newspapers like the Irish Independent and Cork Examiner , not to mention various Irish cheerleaders for Mussolini, Salazar, Hendrik Verwoerd and even the Third Reich).


3. RosencrantzisDead - April 8, 2016

Everything Michael D. endorsed in the quote above is endorsed by the Constitution. Quinn is spouting nonsense.

Is it just me but have the number of people who wring their hands about the President being ‘above politics’ increased significantly since Higgins moved into the Áras? I don’t recall nearly the same amount of whey-faced types when Mary McAleese was President.


Michael Carley - April 8, 2016

There’s a big overlap with the people who have reconsidered their position on the Pope’s authority now that he occasionally tells people to go on strike.

Liked by 1 person

CL - April 8, 2016

I am delighted to have been invited by the Vatican to a meeting on restoring social justice and environmental sustainability to the world economy,” said Bernie Sanders
“Pope Francis has made clear that we must overcome ‘the globalization of indifference’ in order to reduce economic inequalities, stop financial corruption and protect the natural environment. That is our challenge in the United States and in the world.”


Michael Carley - April 8, 2016

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.


gendjinn - April 8, 2016

Yeah. That was a surprise this morning.

The NY primary is on the 19th, can he afford to take 1 or 2 days out of NY, can he afford not to?

FYI, the FBI investigation could still blow up in Clinton’s face.


4. EWI - April 8, 2016

Let’s test what happened with Quinn’s free markets delivering ‘trickle down’; oh wait, here’s one we’ve carried out already. Ten years of CnaG government after the Treaty, and ten years of ‘austerity’ and misery for the not-so-rich, before FF came to power.


5. sonofstan - April 8, 2016

Did he mention the Frankfurt School at all?

Liked by 1 person

6. gendjinn - April 8, 2016

I recall reading in CS Andrews autobiography about the work between Ireland and USSR on turf cutting, bog farming. Not long after, even contemporaneously apparently all “our” leaders were fretting about socialism.


7. Tomboktu - April 8, 2016

And of course it would all have to be cleared with the government of the day.

Are you sure that’s true? I could be wrong, but I think that the only speeches of the president that the Constitution require be cleared by the government are addresses to the Houses of the Oireachtas.


WorldbyStorm - April 8, 2016
gendjinn - April 8, 2016

All of his prepared speeches have to be approved by the govt. When he is speaking he has more leeway, because reality, but as the representative of Ireland he risks a constitutional crisis if he says something he knows the govt doesn’t want him to.

I mean, someone might have to call him “that fucking old bollocks” so he resigns. I love how they are now trying to write that out of history and make the euphemism “thundering disgrace” the reality.


CL - April 8, 2016

If Michael D. keeps on sounding like the Pope, the government,-assuming there is one-will have to object.


botheredbarney - April 9, 2016

Yes, and temporarily close its embassy at the Arus.


6/5against - April 9, 2016

I thought it was a ‘thundering bullocks’


Tomboktu - April 9, 2016

Weren’t the reports of the word ‘thundering’ actually the media blushing?


WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

They were indeed.


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