Current Affairs Politics

Powerful Ard Chomhairle Versus Powerful National Executive

When is a party Ard Chomhairle not a sinister and shadowy body acting purely in its own interests, dictating decisions to elected representatives while bestowing patronage on unelected figures? Why, when it’s the National Executive of Fine Gael of course! Here is Miriam Lord writing in the Irish Times on the pseudo-democratic election to that most pseudo-democratic of Irish institutions, Seanad Éireann:

[Fine Gael’s] …much awaited top-pick of 13 favoured ones to contest the Seanad elections emerged from headquarters on Thursday night, along with the groundbreaking news that the party had selected the same number of women candidates as candidates called John. Three of each. A stunning achievement.

The members of the parliamentary party can claim no responsibility for bringing about this ceiling-shattering list. Instead, it was an inside job for what are known as the “inside” nominations.

Leader Leo Varadkar, general secretary Tom Curran and the members of the National Executive can take full credit for cranking up the effort to future-proof and gender-proof the old party.

When we say they can claim no responsibility, that’s not strictly true. TDs and Senators were given blank nomination forms at this week’s parliamentary party meeting. They had to sign them and hand them back. The National Executive then decided which candidates to select, filling in names on the pre-signed documents.

Each candidate needs the backing of four Oireachtas members. On their current strength, this allows Fine Gael 13 runners. But the TDs and Senators have no say when it comes to whose name they will endorse. They could be signing the nomination papers for an axe-murderer, for all they know about it.

The list is compiled very carefully, with an eye to winning future Dáil seats.

Lord is more agitated by the lack of gender balance in the FG nominations, and that of the other main parties, than the machinations of a party leadership issuing instructions to its elected officials on how they should vote on matters of public import. Like ensuring that a handpicked list of favoured individuals who were recently rejected by the voters at the ballot box are nominated for election to the upper house of our national legislature.

If this was Sinn Féin acting alone in such a manner the press would have a field day, the newspapers replete with outraged headlines and affronted talking heads filling the television screens. However because this is viewed as politics as normal in the Oireachtas and among the cosy Blueshirt-Greenshirt establishment no real objections are being raised in the news media beyond some otherwise legitimate complaints about the reduced presence of female candidates selected for the Seanad contests.

It would be slightly unfair to claim that Irish journalists are simply mouthpieces for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil (and Labour when it had any influence). But only “slightly” unfair.

32 comments on “Powerful Ard Chomhairle Versus Powerful National Executive

  1. The neoliberal school of representative democracy – your rulers will be uniformly unrepresentative, but at least they’ll reflect human genders.

  2. Great spot, ASF. Amazing isn’t it – the goldfish memory of the Irish media. Yesterday’s issue is completely forgotten today. The contradiction between SF’s supposed authoritarian AC and the FG crew not even noticed by them. You’re very kind to some journalists in your last sentence. Very kind! 🙂

    • Yeah, it’s amazing isn’t it? It’s literally one set of standards for the old ruling parties and one set of standards for the challengers.

      Similar levels of hypocrisy shaped the media’s reporting on the “intimidating” public meetings by SF and the identical but somehow perfectly ok public meetings by the Greens.

      And then the journalists bitch and moan about how their ethics are called into question or challenged by their critics. I mean, they actually invite it with stuff like this.

      • And the GP has been in fairness pretty sound in pointing up some of the contradictions. And another thing that irritates me is that the only mention of the Quinn murder came from the audience the other night, not from SF members or reps. Yet… the framing was… that it was the panel and reps… Totally skewed. Add to that the sheer volume of anti-SF pieces in the Sindo, IT etc and it really is stunning.

        • gendjinn

          The parallels between SF’s treatment in Ireland and Sanders in the US primary are striking.

          I see Doctor Who is now in the ‘Ra, helping the Provos go back in time to 1966 to kick off the Troubles by being an oppressive minority.

          Can’t reason with these people, they can only be defeated. Alas.

          • Yep! That’s very true re the actual roots of the conflict now being almost entirely ignored in these discussions. The why of how a conflict kicked off is relegated to no position at all.

            • gendjinn

              It’s pretty egregious alright. Especially in the post-WWII world of decolonization.

              At some point the argument is going to be made that the IRAs had legitimacy based on the right of all colonies to use violence to achieve their freedom. That they were further legitimized by the northern state’s abuse of its Nationalist minority, that once it allowed its security forces to murder its citizens with impunity and enabled by the judiciary it forfeited its legitimacy and its monopoly on violence and therefore the people had the right to overthrow it.

              Until it is FF/FG and the rest are going to continue pillorying SF with the PIRA. I think SF know this and the past few years of volunteer commemorations are the first step in setting the stage to make and win that argument. I think the next step will be highlighting the hypocrisy of poppy wearers using Enniskillen to indict the PIRA, while maintaining the legitimacy of the British army in the face of the far worse crimes of Dresden/Hamburg, Malaysia, Kenya, Iraq and beyond.

              • I’ve mixed views on legitimacy in regard to the armed struggle. Defensive actions, no problem, offensive ones, depends on who that was directed against and the nature of same. No warning bombings and proxy bombings are deeply problematic. But… putting that all aside the reality was a polity where there was a minority continually boxed in both politically and otherwise, where there was single sectarian dominance by a majority, where even minor changes and reforms were met with violence and so on etc. And that’s before we get to the conflict proper and if one isn’t willing to engage with that reality prior to it (and the degree of repression and so on) then it is a pointless discussion only used to score points. And of course nothing at all about how the conflict came to an end and who played a major role in that etc. For me once PIRA and SF had moved into that latter mode they deserved critical and far from unconditional but very real support for engaging in that process. And it used to drive me mad seeing the response first of the WP and later DL to this given their own history(ies) of disengagement etc.

              • gendjinn

                My personal opinion, perspective and choices would align with what you have written.

                However, those opinions are superseded by international law. International law that is clear on the rights of colonies to free themselves. If it is true for Africa, Asia and the Americas, why then does it not apply to Britain’s colony in Ireland? It did in early 20th Ireland before the UN came into existence and endorsed decolonization.

                Every conflict in history, whether it had rules or not, both sides violated those rules. The idea that there are rules in conflict is a propaganda fantasy and bludgeon for the enemy, northing more. All wars, conflict and killing are immoral, illegitimate and unacceptable. Wars never determine who is right, only who is left. Nagasaki, Dresden, Bengal. There are no rules in war, only the winners and the dead.

                I agree with you on no warning bombs (Manchester) and proxy bombs, and the disappeared and more. The criticisms I have for the PIRA, I have for the British army. It is those poppy wearers that ignore and apologize for UK atrocities of far greater scale while condemning Warrenpoint as an obscene terrorist act. And well do I remember my disgust at WP/DL’s hypocrisy. Especially their work at RTÉ.

                I still reflect on Aiden McAnespie and Stephen Restorick, two young lads who should have had full lives. It is why John Hume will always be a personal hero and it is a tragedy Unionists could not let his movement win. It is as JFK said, those that make peaceful change impossible, guarantee violent revolution. I honestly do not know how events could have unfolded any differently, except if Unionism and the British state had made different choices.

              • I’d slightly diverge re colony but functionally I arrive in much the same place as you. The worst of it is the feeling that absent a conflict nothing would have changed bar cosmetically, which is almost a despairing analysis but looking at how political and broader unionism simply could not countenance powersharing across the decades until the very late 90s it is impossible to see an alternative path.

              • gendjinn

                I think you are making an error in NI’s colony status. I know I bang on about Fanon/Cesaire/Reich a lot but since I’ve been in the US I have been friends with people who fled and/or lost family to dictators in South and Central Americas and after 9/11 spent a decade reading up on every revolutions. While my position on NI’s colony status was once more qualified like I guess yours is today, but after that it hardened.

                Primarily because Unionism is the exact same genocidal settler colonialism in every place empires have colonized. Unionism opposition to the Irish language today is the symptom that diagnoses them. Can’t have SC’s without the colony. SC pscyhology is NPD/BPD writ large and if one does not see that, one will never engage with them in a productive manner. There is no possibility of a meeting of equals, no chance of mutual respect, no compromise the colonized can make that will ever be respected or acceptable. With SC’s it is total victory over the native population or it is total defeat. One sees this in the “My British identity will be gone in a UI/I will move to the UK when a UI happens.” British ex-pats in a hundred other colonies said the same thing since the end of WWII.

                I again recommend reading those Fanon/Cesaire/Reich because they lay out the painful ideas we cannot shy away from if we wish to resolve the problems of the north in most equitable, painless and violence free manner possible. Also because these texts were read by IRA prisoners, shaped their thinking and as you have seen, led to them outflanking and outwitting Unionism since the peace process began.

                Sun Tzu: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

                Don’t forget Unionism would have preferred the Troubles continue to the peace process they feared was leading to a UI. Not all Unionists, but almost all their leaders and a majority of them. What an utterly contemptible and bankrupt political philosophy. But that’s NPD/BPD for you, other people’s suffering never matters except as propaganda.

  3. I could well be, but I have read Fanon et al and while I think they’re useful and filled with insights I think that each situation while similar is not necessarily the same. For example in the end unionism in Ireland outside of the six counties, including the three other Ulster counties, managed to come to terms with the situation with remarkable speed. If genocidal inclinations there were (and on the part of some I’ve no doubt there was an element of that) they managed to retreat very fast. So I’m not particularly pessimistic about this. And while unionism was without question unwilling to move to peace in anything like a reasonable timeframe or in some ways at. a political level contextualise peace I know that in 1986/7 much the same could be said of the Provos who appeared entirely wedded to physical force and no solution short of a traditional UI. Now we know at this remove that despite the events yet to unfold there were efforts from within and without for things to change, but that was before even a hint of the peace process (or Adams/Hume talks in 1988). So I’m always nervous about saying something is intrinsic to the extent of no change. It could be thank that’s why I’ll accept that I could be wrong, but there’s some room looking at the historical record for hope, not least that eventually we’ve reached a situation where the DUP and SF are sitting around a table together managing the North’s affairs. Fingers crossed for the even greater challenges of unity.

    • gendjinn

      I had the impression you’d read most of the canon I’ve cited, and I’d be in agreement with the entirety of what you wrote here. I’d be curious to your reasoning on exempting NI from colony status, not to get into a debate about it, just curious. I used to subscribe to the idea that NI was unique in having created a local numerical superiority over the natives and had legitimacy in ruling itself. However, its treatment of the Nationalist population post-partition forfeited its legitimacy, in the same manner Apartheid South Africa and Israel did and have done. Illegitimate by nature of being a colony or delegitimized by the nature of the state’s actions against its citizenry. Which is why over the years, despite my horror at the bloodshed and suffering, I’ve come around to seeing the IRAs war as legitimate. Well, as legitimate as any war can be. And you know my opinions on the legitimacy of war.

      I am optimistic about the future and the reason I raise the topics above is to argue that there is no point trying to negotiate in good faith with the Sammy Wilson, Campbell, Stalford Unionist types, they are utterly unreachable as they are too far buried in the Settler Colonist psychology of self-loathing redirected towards the natives. I would further argue that their continued opposition to the Irish language is a continuation of the centuries long genocide of the British colonial occupation and they should be called out in plain terms, not be let wriggle off that hook. The hateful side of Unionism should be put on the backfoot, and the pro-EU Unionism of the North Down type should be empowered. Purely from a sane negotiating stance in the upcoming unification discussions. This latter group is growing and it is one we can negotiate with and there are reasonable accommodations that can be made for them. The way Brexit is going, the pro-EU group will soon be sufficient to swing a majority for a UI, perhaps within the next 12 to 18 months, the Ashdown and recent LT polls are showing that is happening. Interesting Times.

  4. It’s interesting, again, very close to your position, though I was less convinced by the local numerical argument conferring legitimacy (which I kept quiet in my WP days! 🙂 ). But you know me, I’m always nervous about ascribing a single definition to anything – I think for example, you’re right that the North (and elsewhere) had colonial aspects, but that’s not entirely what it was, that the very nature of the exercise was more complex than that, if no less problematic (for example, cooption of local elites, admission of same into the broader colonial power on an effectively equal footing – the lack of a racial as distinct from class aspect, differentiation between Anglo-Irish and unionist heritages, etc, etc). I’m with you in respect of aspects of unionism being colonial or sub-colonial in outlook – the example of the Irish language is particularly pertinent given how in Scotland and Wales neither language isn’t used in the same way. But then again there are counter arguments re land ownership, etc, where the colonial enterprise didn’t quite take, distinctions between the populations imported and a host of other issues. As importantly is the fact that unionism in its most liberal face, that of Alliance tending people, but also some in the UUP, has manifestly come to terms with a broader potential dispensation beyond the GFA/BA and ending in likely unity. It’s what you say, the North Down type of unionism is interesting, because they will accommodate and conversely they can and should have accommodations made for them. Again fingers crossed!

    • gendjinn

      Again, I agree with you. The complexity lying in the fact that all these terms are constructs, which have the unfortunate tendency to dehumanize the people involved. And at the end of the day, we are all basically the same, with the same few objectives of a decent life and a decent future for our kids.

      Remember race is a construct, so any group can be racialized and othered, take the Hutu/Tutsi history. The problematic elements within Unionism (check out Ben Lowry’s current meltdown over QUB) are pure Settler Colonial psychology, whether or not NI is a colony the problematic psychology is there. There’s a great website “” which primarily deals with recovering from NPD parenting but there is significant overlap between SCP and NPD/BPD, checkout DARVO and watch how elements in Unionism use it constantly. It’s like learning about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, once you learn about it, the people with the facial signs leap out at you and you can’t unsee them.

      The main reason I bang on about this is because most of us Irish are willing to bend over backwards to make a compromise, and that will get us into trouble with the SCP Unionists, because there is no compromise other than utter capitulation that will satisfy them. The argument to retain Stormont in a reverse-GFA is an example of how our good intentions will backfire. The only way to cure SCP in the north, is ending partition and integrating the 6 counties into the 32. It worked in the south, but into the 70s those irreconcilable Unionists still sang GSTQ at Trinity and in their D4 golfclubs. Essentially they had to die out, maintaining partition or a semblance of it only delays the eventual dissipation of that problematic psychology.

      • I think a time limitedStormont in a reverse GFA might be no harm. But to me that’s all about a means to an end with the direction of travel clearly outlined – a perpetual reverse GFA won’t happen if only because of the numbers. Just to add to your point above the real oddity is how some of that sentiment jumped from unionist diehards to the likes of EH and RDE but then I think class, how their class position and that of others impacted on them middle class upper middle class – in fact one of the most amazing fears was getting a genuinely working class organisation like the WP and turning it largely though not perhaps entirely around on the issue of republicanism.

        • ‘Feats’ not ‘fears’

        • gendjinn

          Perhaps a time-limited, ease-the-transition Stormont might be a useful concession in negotiating a tranquil path but I’d be more of a rip the bandage off at once, because at the end of the day I firmly believe partition fuels sectarianism and the healing won’t commence until it’s ended completely.

          EH/RDE and the Cruiser are raging NPDs, it makes sense for that archetype to insert themselves into the power structure that validates their transferred self-loathing. Same dynamic one saw in Jewish collaborators with the Nazis. I’d highly recommend taking a walk through the outofthefog website, if you haven’t already, even just the highlevel concepts of Golden Child, Scapegoat, DARVO, Gaslighting – once you learn them you start to see their hand. Lead in petrol did a tremendous amount of damage, not to mention the role pesticides have played in autism, parkinsons.

        • I support the reverse GFA solution myself. Though it could be transitional in nature, given the likely post-reunification demographics in a devolved Six Counties. At least in the medium to long term. Then again, “northerners” of all stripes might find a Belfast administration a useful counterweight to Dublin central government, if it secures a better budget, resources, tax breaks, etc. Short term expediency could become a permanent advantage.

          • gendjinn

            I don’t understand why you would want to retain partition after a majority has decided to end it. Why should Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan continue to be screwed over by SykesPicot in Ireland? What benefits accrue from maintaining the source of division that fuels sectarianism in the north?

            • Because it could serve as an epidural for the birth pangs of a united Ireland? Because maintaining the facade of a status quo is usually more attractive to voters if instability or uncertainty is the alternative option? Because voters know the GFA so it’s an easier sell? Because the offer of regional home rule has been there since the 1920s? Because the Constitution allows such regional autonomy? Because it’s just good politics?
              My goal is reunification. All else is up for debate or political or constitutional evolution down the line.

              • gendjinn

                Epidurals are unhealthy, for mother and child. A Doula is a far healthier option.

                We already are nearing a majority for re-unification without retaining Stormont, Brexit pushes it over the line.

                And it is poor politics. Nothing I’ve said about Settler Colonial Psychology has registered has it? You will get absolutely nothing from the Gregory Campbell, Sammy Wilson, Christopher Stalford types for any compromise. They are incapable of compromise, will take it as weakness and treat you with contempt for it. Mo Mowlam saw that.

                Nor will you need to retain partition to get the pro-EU/APNI Unionists on board, Brexit is accomplishing that. The polls show that.

                And why should the border counties be screwed over?

                End partition. End it completely. It is the only cure.

              • Ask a woman having a baby, epidural versus someone shaking a dreamstick and chanting good vibes ?, and nine out of ten will take the needle! 😉

                I get your argument, and the validity of it, but realpolitik will get the border poll across the line, however dodgy the fudge.

              • gendjinn

                “Ask a woman having a baby, epidural versus someone shaking a dreamstick and chanting good vibes ?, and nine out of ten will take the needle! ”

                Heh. One day you may realize what an incredibly ignorant, crassly ignorant statement you just made. And assuming I’m not speaking from firsthand experience, well do go off.

              • Ah lookit, it was a joke, and I wasn’t assuming anything. For the record the handful of times where doulas or suchlike came up the women I was with were dismissive of the idea. I’ve never actually heard any woman advocate for that service outside of YouTube or some celebrity interview. Though I have an online friend who practices it. It was just a handy metaphor.

                On the real discussion we simply disagree on this issue of the best way to transition to reunification. You lean towards the maximalist, I favour the minimalist because I believe it more achievable in the short to medium term.

              • gendjinn

                Sorry, didn’t get the humour body language with it. I’d highly recommend reading up on Doulas, we used one and we had a far easier, less traumatic labour than the traditional get into the hospital, western medical approach. I’m a geneticist by training so it’s not like I’m coming at this from a hippie anti-western approach. There’s research showing the longterm negative outcomes for mother and child with the epidural. I was fine with the epidural approach, we both were, before we started studying and prepping for delivery. Even then we were planning on incorporating it if needed, it turned out we didn’t and I put most of that down to working with a Doula during pregnancy and having her advocacy during labour and in the hospital. I would highly recommend researching this for yourself if you find yourself having children, dramatically improves the process, experience and outcomes for both mother and child.

                It’s not that I am a maximalist, or an accelerationalist – I am not, it’s because I understand SC psychology. And I don’t want to continue screwing over the border counties. The minimalist approach you are recommending and in fact is likely to increase the extent, duration of the problems you are hoping to avoid. Take some time to read up on the psychology and you will see it reflected in problematic individuals around you.

              • No probs, and it’s always good to get a contrary position to one’s own.

                In an ideal world I’d prefer devolution to four provincial assemblies, maybe a fifth for Dublin alone, doing away with the other tiers of local government and leaving national government to get on with national stuff and the regional assemblies to get on with regional stuff. Take the parish pump and potholes out of Dáil Éireann. This would be very definitely regional government and not federalism or confederalism which I would regard as inherently unstable in an Irish context.

                But a century of “othering” the Six Counties will require a long period of de-othering. With the reverse GFA, in limited form, being the mechanism for reintegration. But I’m open to other arguments.

              • gendjinn

                Probably worth a post of its own, to tease out the issues in greater detail. If Stormont were to be retained, it would have to expand to include all of Ulster. I’m not sure there’s a moral basis for voting to end partition and then retaining partition. Take a look at SCP/NDP, it may turn you around on how best to handle intractable Unionism.

  5. But you know just thinking we’d be here for weeks working on the issue of colony/not colony and we’d both be right! 🙂

    • Entertainingly the UK itself accepted the definition of Ireland as a “colony” of England in its official legal response to the Scottish Independence bid with a publication called “Scotland analysis: Devolution and the implications of Scottish independence”. And that the Act of Union was simply the formal annexation of said colony. By implication that definition runs to the remnant of England’s historical colony on the island: “Northern Ireland”. 😀

      • That’s a very fair point. Not that they’d necessarily want that too public ! But just checked – the Colonial Office survives until 1966!!! Well within living memory and with no doubt many of the attitudes gendjinn points to above!

        • gendjinn

          Well, there’s the definitional argument, the axiomatic argument and the presence of the problematic SCP aspect of colonialism.

          I’m not too keen in getting bogged down in the first two, unless in the pub for fun, but the latter is a present-day problem that needs to be seen for what it is, because without that clarity we make the work of re-unification that much harder. Mo Mowlam saw Unionism for what it was and dealt with them accordingly, that is why they still hate her with an incandescent fury.

          Are ye following the vote rigging, voter suppression and electoral fraud going in the Dem primary right now? Check out exit polling discrepancies in MA/TX/GA and precinct closures. It’s even worse than 2016. And Biden will be crushed by Trump, he won’t even win the popular vote. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

Leave A Comment (Please familiarise yourself with the ASF Terms of Use and Commenting Policy before posting a comment)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: