Monday, July 09, 2018

Liadh Ní Riada Can Win Sinn Féin the Presidency



Sinn Féin can claim an astonishing double-result this autumn if they contest the Presidency. Firstly, they can strike another devastating blow to Fianna Fáil, who were too quick to row in behind a second term for President Higgins. But more importantly, by selecting Liadh Ní Riada as their candidate, Sinn Féin can make a profound statement of nationalism and Irish identity, the kind of which we haven’t heard in at least half-a-century.

Why Ní Riada? Because of who she is and what she represents.

Liadh Ní Riada is the daughter of Seán Ó Riada, the man who saved Irish music from doom in the early 1960s. We have made a bags of many, many things as an independent state among the nations of the world, but two things we have to show for ourselves are our games and our music.

Before Seán Ó Riada, people were ashamed of the music. It was strictly for hicks. What made the difference was the music’s embrace by Ó Riada, because Ó Riada came from the classical tradition. He knew the table settings, as it were.

Ó Riada recognised traditional music’s inherent dignity, and brought it to the concert hall. And people who had thought nothing of the music heard the orchestration of Róisín Dubh that Ó Riada did for Mise Éire and thought: hold on – is that us? To echo Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Irish Nation suddenly realised that this music, which they had considered a joke, poor potsherd, was actually immortal diamond and worthy of admiration all over the world.

Ó Riada founded Ceoltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, from whom came the Chieftains. The Clancys and the Dubliners were the beloved sons of the masses but without the Chieftains the music would have sunk back to obscurity. Instead, it lives, survives and thrives.

Seán Ó Riada himself cannot run for the presidency. He died young, in 1971, two months after his fortieth birthday. But Liadh Ní Riada, in coming where she’s from and in being who she is, can be the avatar of what Ó Riada believed in, an Ireland Gaelic, united and free.

Because what does the President do, really? The office is the vestigial tail of the Lord Lieutenancy. It’s either a retirement home or a springboard to a cushy job in the UN or the Vatican (although that’s not going so well lately).

Perhaps the most important role of the Presidency is in telling us who we are, in being an avatar for the nation. And what better avatar than someone who believes in the causes for which independence was won, at the cost of so much blood?

At a time when it’s so hard to say what it is that makes us different, why Ireland deserves nationhood, why, God spare us, the island should be united under one flag, would it be so bad to return to first principles?

Even if she were not to win, Liadh Ní Riada could do her party some service in landing another kick to the prone body of what was once the mightiest force in Irish politics, the Fianna Fáil party.
Fianna Fáil was once renowned for its profound political sense.

DeValera said he only had to look into his heart to know what the nation was thinking. But that political sense is entirely absent from the party now as it lurches from one disaster to another.

The confidence-and-supply agreement was a good move. But everybody knew it was, to echo a phrase of the past, “a temporary little arrangement”. There was no way it could be long-lasting, because there would come a threshold when such kudos available to Fianna Fáil for putting the country first by supporting a government would all have been gained.

After that, the pendulum swings in the other direction, and Fianna Fáil gets all the blame for being in government, and none of the benefit. Fianna Fáil were always going to pull the plug.

Except they didn’t. Opportunities arose one by one, and passed by one by one as Mícheál Martin steadfastly refused to take advantage. The revelations about the Gardaí making up traffic violation reports was the sort of dream chance that oppositions of other eras requested from Santa in their Christmas letters, and still Fianna Fáil held fire.

And now, it is they who have presented an open goal to Sinn Féin, in a misunderstanding of both the age and the current political situation.

Our is a populist age. It an age of clearing swamps, and giving voices back to the people. It is an age of distrust of the establishment and cosy deals among the members of same.

Not only have Fianna Fáil backed President Higgins for a second term, they have done so absolutely, positively, with no way to back down. With Fianna Fáil now backed into a corner - the last place any sensible politician wants to be -  Sinn Féin can now run a candidate that hits Fianna Fáil in both the head and the guts.

The head, by making Sinn Féin look like a party more interested in what the people think than what is convenient for the establishment. The guts, by fielding a candidate who will be a siren song to the traditional vote of the (once) Republican Party.

Can Ní Riada win? Reader, she can win on the first count. She doesn’t even need to say anything. All they need do is play this at her rallies and the Park is hers. Go n-éirí léi.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Mayo Post-Mortem #67: Exhaustion

One day you lower the bucket into the well and when you bring it back up the water just won’t be there anymore. That’s the day you know your goose is cooked, and that day arrived for Mayo on Saturday night in Newbridge, in the evening sunlight of this scorching summer.

It’s not the only thing that happened, of course. Kildare bet the house on the venue and won, and their players stood up to be counted. Aficionados of the game were teary-eyed at the foot passes of forty and fifty yards finding their men and, if they do nothing else this summer, Kildare will be worth a cheer for reminding the nation of the value of that skill.

All Kildare will have their ears pinned to the radio on Monday morning to see what’s next to get in the selection box. It’ll be of academic interest only in Mayo. After seven long summers, it’s going to be odd being locked out while the party goes on.

Will Sundays now see lost men and women going into the bookstores and browsing the adult coloring books, or the Danish home design books, or even 12 Simple Steps to Learn Business Cantonese books, as they desperately try to fill the Mayo-sized hole in time that’s opened in their lives? Thank God for porter and Smithwick’s ale – a fine refreshment and a sensible alternative in this hot and heavy weather – for their already-discovered powers of instituting oblivion.

There has been end-of-the-line talk about Mayo. It’s understandable, but it’s not fully thought out. Football teams can be understood in the same way the peculiar nature of fire is remembered down the centuries since the Greek philosopher Heraclitus first twigged it. A fire, said Heraclitus, is always changing, and always the same. How can something be changing and always the same? But look at the thing – how else can you describe it?

And so with Mayo, as it is with any football team. The pieces come and go, but the team, the movement, the idea, the spirit goes ever on.

What makes Saturday seem more of a watershed is that the fire hasn’t been flickering at quite the same rate as it should have been. A team will always change, and managing that dynamic is one of the keys to managing a team.

A reluctance to let reality intrude on romance has retarded that natural and necessary process of change, which will make it seem harsher than maybe it might have been when it comes, but there you go. You’re always best pulling off the band-aid in one tug. The ease-it-off approach is kidding yourself.

The good news for Mayo is that while Mayo are unusual in their extraordinary ability to not win All-Irelands, they are equally unusual in squandering a bizarre amount of riches in the process of competing for those All-Irelands.

Certain people hold that the issue with replacing players was that no players were coming true but that’s just not true. The FBD League was made by God in His workshop in Heaven for the express purpose of having a good look at young players. To use it to put even further miles on old men’s clocks is bizarre.

This is the team that started against Sligo in the FBD League in January, as recorded by the unrivalled Mayo GAA Blog: Clarke; Harrison, Cafferkey, O’Donoghue; Boyle, Hall, Paddy Durcan; Gibbons, Coen; McLoughlin, O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor; Doherty, Regan, Andy Moran. Reader: what on earth was the point?

But there it is. Rightly or wrongly, very few people think Stephen Rochford will ask for more once his three years run out in the autumn, and that will mean new management, new processes and, God help us all, new hope. One year after Mayo last lost in the Qualifiers, they beat the All-Ireland Champions to begin a seven-year All-Ireland quarter-final winning streak. The players are there. The players are always there. Mayo is always there. Up Mayo.

Friday, May 11, 2018

All-Ireland Championship Cancelled for Next Three Years, Possibly Forever

et in Arcadia ei
History matters in sports. One of the great joys in the completion of any sports season is the ranking of that season’s Champion among the pantheon of the greats.

We kid ourselves doing this, of course. All-Ireland Finals have been played over sixty, seventy and, for a short time in the 1970s, eighty minutes. The catch-and-kick game of the 1960s isn’t the almost-basketball game of the 1980s and the current game is the least like any of its predecessors.

What role would Brian Dooher, say, have played in the 1960s? Would the legendary Mick O’Connell of Valentia even get a jersey in this era where high-fielding really isn’t a thing anymore? If you were to play an imaginary game between a team of the 1980s and a current team, how do you even up the playing field?

Do you load up the men of the 80s with protein shakes, broccoli and weight programs? Or – your correspondent’s own preference – do you load the contemporary athletes up with warm Smithwick’s ale and a twenty-Carroll’s smoking habit, and see how much they fancy running up and down Croke Park then?

All good fun in the pub to while away the winter while the Championship sleeps, ready for another year.

Sadly, all that comes to an end this summer. The introduction of the so-called Super 8s means that this year’s Championship, and future Championships to come, are as different to the previous 130 years of competition as a brick is different to an ice cream cone.

The Qualifier system put great strain on the Championship by giving the Great Powers a get-out-of-jail free card while claiming to level the playing field for the smaller counties. But for all that, the fact that the eventual All-Ireland Champions still had to play three knockout games meant there was still a hint of what the Championship had been, and should be.

How many true knockout games did Kerry have to play in their ‘80s Golden Years? What about Galway coming into the hurling championship at the All-Ireland semi-final stage? Not that awful many.

This new age of the Super 8s, however, is a definite break with tradition. There’s no point codding ourselves anymore. Whatever puncher’s chance the underdog had prior to this is now legislated out of existence.

Powerful counties that have tradition and money on their side now have the rules of the competition itself in their corner as well. Dublin or Kerry can now lose twice, in their provinces and in the Super 8s, and still be in an All-Ireland semi-final, happy as Larry and licking their lips at the prospect of munching down whatever lambs are fed to their slaughter.

Darragh Ó Sé left the yerra behind in his column in the Irish Times during the week. The Provincial Championships doesn’t matter a tu’penny damn any more, according to Darragh. The Championship only begins in July in the Super 8s. Everything prior to that is shadow-boxing.

How has this come to pass? How has the Championship been turned on its head without Gaels seeing comets in the sky, or great cliffs falling into the sea, or any of those other portents of great change?
It’s all down to Money, of course, long-recognised as the root of all evil.

Eugene McGee once opined that the GAA lost its soul when it first agreed to shirt sponsorship. Whatever; whenever it happened the genie is out the bottle now, and there’s no getting him back in without some profound and uncomfortable sacrifice on many people’s part. And neither sacrifice nor restraint is a noted quality of Modern Ireland.

Quietly, unnoticed by many, an opinion grew within the Association, fostered by the GPA and their media enablers, that the GAA has a duty to offer the elite athletes of the nation a space or forum to display their gifts. This, aligned with Croke Park Teoranta’s insatiable desire for dollars, combined to bring about our woe.

The GAA that existed to provide the opportunity to play Gaelic games to as many people as wanted to play them has been pushed aside by a new organisation, eager to grab some of that sports/leisure industry revenue. The cuckoo has taken over the nest, and the end is nigh for the GAA as we knew it.

We are now on the slope that will tumble us, sooner than we think, towards a professional league of maybe eight football teams, six hurling. They’ll call themselves Leinster Lions or Breffni Badgers or the Earl of Desmond’s Rangers, and they’ll have woolly mascots that the kids love and it won’t be too bad, really, and we’ll get used to it sooner than we think, even whingers like your correspondent. But what it won’t be is what we once had, the pearl worth more than all our tribe that was the Championship.

Which makes it all the more important to speak truth to power now, before we are lost, and identify what it is that is before us. This new Super 8s Championship is a damnable thing. It is despicable, hateful, monstrous. It is an abomination, an affront in the sight of Almighty God.

And somehow it is here, all set to ruin the summer like one thousand showers or one million protests on the Garvaghy Road. It is a crime and a sin that the Super 8s now rig the Championship to ensure that only the rich can survive. We should shed a tear and keen a lament for that which is lost. We surely own it that much after all these years.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Why Mayo Don't Win All-Irelands

The Irish Examiner’s Kieran Shannon wrote a marvellous profile of Tommy Guilfoyle, the greatest Clare hurler of whom you’ve never heard, last summer. Tommy Guilfoyle was, and is, a prince. He is all that you could ask a man to be.

Guilfoyle's hurling career was dominated by injuries as freakish as they were frightening, and also he had to deal with the sort of personal tragedy that puts all those games we play in their true perspective. Tommy Guilfoyle spent the early ‘90s meeting with Triumph and Disaster, and treating both imposters the same.

And then, in 1994, it all came together. Injury free at last, Guilfoyle was back playing with the county and reminded the Banner of his talent by hammering two goals home against Tipperary, hated Tipperary, in a league semi-final in Limerick.

Ger Loughnane then took over as Clare manager at the end of the 1994 Championship. Loughnane is from Feakle, the same club as Tommy Guilfoyle, and Loughnane had trained Guilfoyle at Under-14. For Clare hurling, 1995 was going to be The Year.

And so 1995 was – just not for Tommy Guilfoyle. When Loughnane selected his panel for the 1995 Championship, Guilfoyle wasn’t on it. Guilfoyle wasn’t happy about this, and held it against Loughnane for sixteen years. And then news broke of Loughnane’s cancer battle and Guilfoyle, like the gentleman he is, put things in perspective and renewed his friendship with the man who denied him an All-Ireland medal.

Why didn’t Loughnane pick Guilfoyle? For this reason: Loughnane knew exactly the sort of team he wanted playing for Clare, and exactly what it would take to make them. The brutality of Clare’s training in 1995 is well documented.

Loughnane knew Guilfoyle couldn’t take that sort of punishment after all he had been through, and Loughnane also knew that there were no half-measures. No exceptions could be made. Everyone had to get equal treatment. And so, in the name winning, Loughnane cut Tommy Guilfoyle’s heart out and threw it in the bin.

If Tommy Guilfoyle had been a Mayoman, his would have been the first name down on every team sheet in 1995, and Clare would still be waiting for an All-Ireland. Clare people would love Tommy Guilfoyle and happily fight anyone who dared besmirch him or question his right to stand in the pantheon with Leahy and Whelehan and Pilkington.

But they wouldn’t know what it was like to hear the Clare shout ring out from Jones’ Road all the way west to the crashing waves of the broad Atlantic itself, as the team came home to the torchlights with the Liam McCarthy cup on the front of the bus. They’d still be waiting on that particular joy.

In Mayo we think they’re big-time because of all these finals we’ve been in. Mayo are everyone’s second county and we lap that plamás up like cats at a saucer of milk. We never stop to ask if all that milk is any good to us, or if it’d be any harm to have a shot of whiskey now and again instead, to put hair on the chest.

Anthony Daly was Ger Loughnane’s captain when the curse of Biddy Earley was broken in 1995. Nineteen years later, he resigned as Dublin hurling manager after Tipperary hammered Dublin into the ground in a quarter-final. He was doing colour commentary on RTÉ radio some weeks later when Limerick put up a heroic-but-doomed stand against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final on a wet day in Croke Park.

Joanne Cantwell asked Daly what TJ Ryan, the Limerick manager, would be feeling on the sideline. Daly, as ever, didn’t hold back. TJ Ryan will be proud of his men, said Daly, and would not feel the scalding humiliation Daly himself felt when he watched Tipperary lay waste to Dublin from the Dublin sideline earlier in the summer.

Daly went on to talk about the welcome the Limerick players would get back home, and how everyone would congratulate them on how well they played and commiserate them on their bad luck. They don’t commiserate you on back luck in Kilkenny, mused Daly; if Kilkenny had let a chance to win slip as Limerick had done, they’d go off and pick a team that wouldn’t let that happen. No forgiveness.

That’s the difference, said Daly. If you want to be big-time you have to be ruthless. You have to be able to cut the beating heart right out of your best friend and throw it in the bin like it’s nothing more to you than a chewing-gum wrapper. Winning has a price and if you can’t pay it, you can’t have it.

Up Mayo.

Monday, February 26, 2018

TV3's Rugby Coverage

Quinny. Great, fantastic, brilliant.
As a colour commentator, TV3's Alan Quinlan is a little on the black-and-white side. It's hard to know why this is the case - Quinlan worked with Sky Sports before TV3 won the Six Nations, and his fearsome reputation as a player would suggest that he knows where bodies are buried.

None of that came through in his commentary on the Ireland v Wales game on Saturday. It's disappointing, not least because the game is difficult to analyse.

If Ireland were so good, why were Wales within three points of snatching a result at the death? How did Ireland overcome the losses of Henshaw, Henderson and Furlong (to say nothing of Farmer Seán O'Brien)?

Were the replacements so good that suddenly Ireland has discovered a rich seam of international players? Were the missing players maybe not-all-that-exceptional in the first place? Or is it the case that the system is more important than the man in modern rugby, especially in Joe Schmidt's particularly mechanised vision of the ancient game?

These are the questions Quinlan should elucidate for us as the game progresses, not least as modern rugby is so very technical now. Just as the missing nail cost a kingdom, so a man coming in the wrong side of a ruck can now cost a Championship. It's hard to keep up.

It's likely that Quinlan does know all this. He won a lot with Munster when Munster were as gods in Ireland, so he must have figured something out along the way. But whatever that is, he's either unwilling or unable to share with the viewer.

Quinlan's delivery is odd - when he speaks there's a breathless quality to him, like a man whispering at the top of his voice. He's always excited, which is the same as never being excited. He tends to say "Watch Sexton here", or "watch Best here" but never goes on tell us why - either because he's too excited or expects we can discern patterns in the hillocks and drumlins of red- and green-clad beef strewn about the five-metre line without a guide.

Also, for a man who is relatively new to the job, Quinlan has developed two peculiar quirks in his commentary. Quinlan is very prone to the colour commentator's capital error of repeating what the main commentator just said. In an effort to perhaps disguise this, Quinlan elides his remarks to simply listing the players names. "Best, Murray, Sexton, Earls!" he roars. "Sander, Farrell, Sander, Murray!" "John, Paul, George and Ringo!" "Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!"

The more surreal of these quirks is Quinlan's extraordinary reliance on adjectives. This is something he's almost certainly unaware of - who thinks of parts of speech when they speak? - but it is almost certainly unique to him. There are many poor colour commentators - Tommy "Tom" Carr springs to mind - but the adjective stream is a new one on me.

Your correspondent was watching the game for the first twenty minutes before the penny dropped about Quinlan's reliance on adjectives. After that, to keep score on each one was, with me, the work of the next sixty minutes.

Alan Quinlan used fifteen different adjectives to describe play in those sixty minutes. There is a case to be made that he used sixteen, if you consider "what a" an adjectival form - what a kick, what a pass, what a tackle. Sadly, it took me a little too long to twig and I did not keep score of that one. I'll be ready again.

On the others, he used seven adjectives once and once only - bad, big, effective, impressive, incredible, super, and tremendous.

Huge and massive were called to the front twice. Wonderful was used three times, dangerous five, good eight, fantastic eleven, brilliant twelve and, the clear winner with thirty-four carries across the gain-line was great. Great kick, great catch, great tackle, great offload, great ruck, great maul. And so on and on and on.

The Quinlan adjectives are relentlessly positive. The only negative adjective Quinlan used in those sixty minutes was bad, and he only used it once.

Quinlan used dangerous five times but, in rugby, that can be seen as a compliment. Whenever Quinlan himself was described as dangerous in his playing days, it was always meant as a compliment - unless used by the citing commissioner, of course. From this we can only conclude that not only has Alan Quinlan taken some sort of Positive Thinking course, he's come out the other side. Brilliant.

Back in studio, Shane Jennings is a thoughtful analyst but, in an unfortunate echo of international career, he struggles to get noticed above the sulphurous hot air of his gasbag co-analysts. Reader, your humble correspondent would happily spend an hour listening to the Minister for Finance, Mr Pascal Donaghue, TD, extemporise on the Irish income tax bands viz-a-viz European tax harmonisation with particular regard to corporation tax and the liquidity of the sovereign than ever hear one more word on the subject of rugby from either Shane "Shaggy" Horgan or Matt "Maddie" Williams. At least neither Franno nor Hookie have made their way to Ballymount - a small mercy for which a nation offers its grateful thanks.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Social Media Ninjas and the Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment Committee
The Times Ireland edition led yesterday with a story about an (unnamed) Irish anti-abortion campaign group that has hired a company called Kanto to handle the digital side of things once the campaigning starts.

Kanto was founded by one Thomas Borwick, who describes himself as the Chief Technology Officer of the Vote Leave Brexit campaign, and the story goes on to speculate that, because of the tactics used in the Brexit campaign, the hiring of Kanto and Mr Borwick “will raise fears about the Eighth Amendment referendum.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

The definitive book of the Brexit campaign is All-Out War, written by Tim Shipman, chief political correspondent of the Times’s sister paper, the Sunday Times. It’s 662 pages of small type in paperback, 26 of which are a fairly comprehensive index. Neither Thomas Borwick nor Kanto are mentioned anywhere in those 26 pages.

In the index section dealing with Vote Leave, we are directed to ‘and digital campaign, 414-19, 421, 424-25, 464.’ Thomas Borwick isn’t mentioned there either.

Shipman identifies Vote Leave’s digital campaign as a key part of the shock victory. On pages 414 to 419 of his very readable book, Shipman identifies the key players – Henry de Zoete, digital director. Zack Massingham, of a Canadian social media company called AggregateIQ.

And there were three astrophysicists from the west coast of the USA who were brought in to crunch numbers in the same manner Wall Street hired physicists to construct models to persuade people to invest in subprime mortgages before August, 2008. We can’t be sure, but it’s unlikely that Thomas Borwick was one of those astrophysicists.

A quick Google revealed some, but not very many, references to Borwick as CTO of Vote Leave, most notably a piece by Carol Cadwalladr in the Guardian. And the man himself is not sparing in singing his own praises on his LinkedIn page with regard to his work with Vote Leave: “I have gone through the process of everything from wire framing websites to daily scrum meetings and planning our central database system for 43 million voters and maintaining an 80 user computer system.”

Just below the Experience section in LinkedIn, as the great world knows, is the Skills section. The specific computer skills Borwick lists are Microsoft Office, Microsoft Excel and HTML. Quite a modest list for the Chief Technology Officer of a system sitting on a 43-million-row database that was used to create the biggest political upheaval in Great Britain since the Glorious Revolution of 1689.

Your correspondent has no fears for Thomas Borwick’s PR career. Borwick’s father is Jamie Borwick, 5th Baron Borwick, and his mother, Victoria Lorne Peta Borwick, Baroness Borwick, is a former Deputy Mayor of London and MP for Kensington. The family have a coat of arms – three bears’ heads, a row of three eight-pointed-stars, all on a white background. One imagines even the haughty Lannisters sitting up and taking notice.

What this means is the man has contacts. If you hire Kanto, you get access right into the ventricles of the beating heart of the British establishment. What you may be less likely to get is the sort of computer savant that the unnamed Irish anti-abortion group may be expecting. Whoever that anti-abortion group is, it is to be hoped they kept the receipt.

Monday, January 15, 2018

On Referendums

The 'eighties, man.
RTÉ are guilty of some sloppy reporting of Ms Mary Laffoy’s remarks at the opening of the latest meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly in Malahide on Saturday last. RTÉ tell us that “Ms Mary Laffoy told the members that the holding of referendums is a fundamental part of democracy,” but what MsLaffoy actually said was “The holding of a referendum is a fundamental component of our democracy.”



The “our” is important. They never hold referendums in the USA. They hold them all the time in Switzerland. They are held very rarely in the United Kingdom and, after the unmitigated disaster of the last one, they will think long and hard before calling the next.



Ireland holds referendums to change the constitution because the constitution dictates that it can only be changed through referendum. The current constitution succeeded the Free State Constitution in 1937. The Free State constitution was changed by act of parliament, as the US constitution is. This is what happened to the infamous Oath of Allegiance – De Valera and Fianna Fáil dumped it in jig time, and quickly took apart other provisions of that Free State constitution that they found equally objectionable.



There then being nothing left but the bones, Fianna wrote up a new constitution which was accepted by the people in 1937. Eighty years ago, and counting.



There were fourteen referendums held in the first fifty years of the Constitution, of which ten passed and four failed. There were twenty-five more amendments passed in the next thirty years, and more failed referendums than your correspondent could be bothered counting (the numbering on Wikipedia seems a little inconsistent).



As European integration continues referendums will be needed more often and will be less and less suited to changing the constitution. Referendums are suited to broad-stroke topics, rather than Brusselspeak. The legalese will be too subtle to be suited to a referendum debate and vote, and it is the nature of referendums that when people are in doubt, they will vote no to be on the safe side.



The idea of representative democracy is that the people shouldn’t have to wade through this sort of legalise to make decisions. The sovereign people elect representatives to carry out their wishes, and its those elected representatives that are to do the wading through the legal thickets. If the people dislike how their representatives do that wading, they elect some other representatives. Representative democracy.



However. The nation is now lumbered with a series of problems when it comes to referendums. The first problem is that the Ireland of 2017 is starkly different to the Ireland of 1937 and the constitution is no longer suited to the governance of the country. Ireland needs a new constitution.



The second problem is that while the population is better educated in such things as skills and diet, we are less educated as regards civics, public standards, public behaviour and the very definition of nationhood. This is part of a general western malaise of course, but a small country like ours should have been better able to hold its public representatives to account.



Whatever the reasons, the fact is that if a new constitution were written by a joint committee of Pericles of Athens, Thomas Jefferson of the United States and Cú Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster, it still wouldn’t get passed because a combination of cranks, demagogues, ne’er-do-wells and out-and-out fools would get together to find a fault, any fault, and persuade a scared and gullible electorate to take no chances boys, take no chances, you wouldn’t know what they’d be up to. Don’t take a chance!



The third problem is that the current crop of public representatives are rather in love with the idea of referendums, as it means they don’t have to take responsibility for what they were elected to do. Taking responsibility is about the last thing they want to do.



A craven reaction to the Abortion referendum is only to be expected, of course. But the twenty members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Funding of Domestic Water Charges voted unanimously – unanimously! – in favour of a referendum on the ownership of the nation’s waterten months ago. There were usual suspects on that committee but there were also politicians there who aspire to governing the country, and who should hang their heads in shame. By whom I mean Barry Cowen, Alan Farrell, Kate O’Connell, Willie O’Dea, Lorraine Clifford-Lee and maybe one or two others. The full membership is here.



The chances of any government addressing this referendum issue and the datedness of the constitution are, of course, extremely slim. They’re quite content with this piecemeal, heads-down, rock-no-boat agenda while the European super-state is being built and Ireland is left out. Until the day comes when the Taoiseach of the day is called to Brussels and told there isn’t going to be an Irish constitution any more.



He or she will be told that the country’s economy has crashed four times and being bailed out three, and no matter how often you’re told you’re told that your insistence on seeing houses as capital assets, your limiting of access to justice to those who can pay and your inability to police the country is scandalous, shameful and a bridge too far, the penny just won’t drop. We’re sorry Paddy, but we’re taking the keys of the car. You’ll be much safer with us to mind you.



But, of course, it will be too late to cry about it then. The British are ninety-five years gone. We have no-one to blame but ourselves.