The 10 Tribes Of Ireland

8 Aug

Forget about the McCarthys and all that. Ireland in 2014 is made up of Ten Tribes. Have a look and see if you recognise anybody (like yourself.)

1: THE SQUEEMIDS
Ireland’s biggest tribe, the Squeezed Middle. The official definition of SqueeMid is a 30 to 50 year old property-owning Irish couple who wished they moved to Australia when they had the chance rather than stay here and bankroll their kids, their parents and various other layabouts.
Latest CSO figures show that 98% of Irish adults describe themselves are part of the SqueeMids. And why not? Claiming membership of our most put-upon tribe gives you carte blanche to complain about everything. It’s like being a teacher without having to stand in front of 32 teenagers goofed off their heads on energy drinks.
Here’s a simple test to see if you are SqueeMid. Have you recently discussed the difficulties of making ends meet with a nice couple from Athlone while eating al fresco on the Costa Del Sol? Yes? Then you are not a SqueeMid. We hear they are taking on people over at the Quite Well Off Complaining Class – try them. (If you think this doesn’t apply to you because you were indoors on the Algarve with an annoying couple from Mullingar, then you are missing the point. Deliberately. So stop acting the maggot.)
The SqueeMids have a dilemma. They will remain mortgage slaves for the next 20 years unless a political party can set them free. There is only one party which looks willing to take the fight to the banks. That’s Sinn Fein. In fairness, the Shinners have a history of walking into banks and making people do what they are told. The SqueeMids are of a mind to vote for them because they have nothing left to lose.
My Verdict: A Sinn Fein Taoiseach. Then Ireland will really be full of couples who wished they had moved to Australia when they had the chance.

2: THE POPOPROS
There is a simple test to establish if you are a member of the Possibly Poor Professionals. If you ever charged someone €250 for five minutes work and they paid without question, then you are a PoPoPro. Or a prostitute, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
We are not implying that lawyers overcharge people for their services. That is because they are litigious and have a lot of time on their hands. So leave the lawyers out of this. That leaves the doctors and dentists.
It’s not a great time for you dentists. A lot of people simply don’t have money for cosmetic dental work. They are spending it on the essentials like tummy tucks and boob jobs.
Don’t worry, there is a new phenomenon in Ireland which will save your careers. Puritanism. Mick and Nuala are drinking less in recent years because we’re trying to punish ourselves for wrecking everything. We get our sugar kick these days from eating a cut-price chocolate bunny while watching Eastenders. And then another one during Corrie. There will be fillings ahead. So hang on in there.
It’s not so good for you doctors. Your waiting-rooms will soon be full of people with their perfectly healthy five year olds. ‘Why did you bring him to see me?’ ‘Because it’s free doctor.’ ‘You do realise it costs me money.’ ‘Yes. You do realise it costs me €50 every time I need you to write the name of an antibiotic on a piece of paper.’ ‘Point taken.’
My Verdict: Dentists should be fine as long as Aldi don’t put up the price of their chocolate bunnies. Doctors are in for some revenge. And lawyers are sound out.

3: PIPOARS
It’s a tricky time for you Piss Poor Artists. You probably still haven’t recovered after the boom. Remember the time you’d draw three dots on a canvas to represent the madness of money. And then sell it for 400 grand to a culchie builder who thought Leonardo Da Vinci was a type of pizza. Or the 20 grand you got from the Arts Council to write a poem on how the Celtic Tiger had robbed us of our soul. (‘They say money is good for the Irish soul, I’ve two words for that, My Hole.’)
Still, things are looking up. It’s only a matter of time before a PiPoArs gets a massive grant to do a portrait of President Michael D. You will feel the urge to show him posing in the time-honoured fashion next to an Irish Wolfhound. Maybe pick a smaller dog.
There is more good news. 2016. Official Ireland will be lashing out the cash to make sure we never forget the men of 1916. It doesn’t matter what you propose as long as your pitch includes the term Re-Imagining. Re-Imagining is vital for 1916 because the reality is that a small bunch of hotheads took over Dublin and then they surrendered.
We recommend a giant statue of Patrick Pearse dressed as Jedward, mad hair and all. The beauty of this is that it looks profound at first glance but doesn’t actually mean anything on further inspection. There’s only word for that. Art.
There will also be calls for the events of 1916 to be represented in the form of modern dance. If you are thinking four people in green capes standing still for 90 minutes while humming Sean South from Garryowen, then you’ve got the gig.
My Verdict: You are the one group in Ireland who will enjoy the goings on in 2016. Just don’t forget to Re-Imagine.

4: THE NIRISH
Greetings foreigners. You Nirish (New Irish) never cease to amaze us. We were astonished that you flocked here during the Celtic Tiger years because we have a shockingly low opinion of ourselves. More astonishing still is that the money ran out and loads of you actually stayed put. Even world-class self-loathers like ourselves are beginning to suspect you like the place. (We are also beginning to suspect that your home countries must be right shitholes, but we’d never say that to your face. Not when you always saying how friendly we are. We love it when you say that.)
We realise you have faced many challenges during your time here. The Africans among you will have been targeted by large gangs of right-on people. These people will stop at nothing to respect your culture and insist that it is a million times better than ours. You have probably seen them at a World Music event having what looks like a mild fit. That’s them trying to do an African dance. They would love nothing better than to be accepted into the Nirish. Unfortunately they are already paid up members of one of our largest local tribes, The Gobshites.
The key to your successful integration lies in an organisation we call the GAA. The GAA’s main role is to occupy children during the summer evenings so their parents can get smashed on cheap rosé in the back garden. It also runs a number of popular sporting championships. One of those is hurling. It’s the one where guys look like they are trying to get revenge on other guys for sleeping with their girlfriends.
Here’s the problem – if Polish and Nigerian kids start to outshine our lads at hurling we’ll never forgive you. We are world champions at hurling. This is borne out when we romp home in hurling-shinty internationals against Scotland, who in fairness are shit at everything. Hurling is our thing, a noble pursuit, ideally suited to the temperament and guile of the Gael. The last thing we need is Nirish kids proving otherwise.
My Verdict: It’s a great time to be Nirish – as long as Pawel Kowalczyk doesn’t captain Clare to a minor All-Ireland. Mind you, we’d pay good money to hear the RTE commentator pronounce his name in Irish.

5: THE REMICS
The Irish middle-class is split in two. You have Hopeless Social Climbers and Real Middle Class – the HoSoCli and ReMics to you and me.
Wondering where you belong? Then take this quick quiz. 1: Have you ever spied on parents picking up their kids at a school gate to see if that school is suitable for your child? 2: Do you have a strong opinion on hake? If you answered yes to both, then you are pure ReMic. If you replied what is hake, you are Lower HoSoCli. That’s low. Our guess is you watch Catchphrase and know someone with a tattoo.
As a bone fide ReMic, your biggest challenge has always been to show off your wealth without appearing vulgar. That’s a bit easier these days now that Michael Noonan has taken all your money. (You still wince at the thought of those leopard skin panties you bought for 250 quid back in 2007. Look, we all partied.)
Mindfulness brings you great consolation. Your motto is Live in the Now. Particularly since you took a look at your pension statement and resigned yourself to flipping burgers at the age of 83.
Thanks to Tripadvisor you can still enjoy the classis ReMic holiday on the cheap. That’s the one where you manage to avoid other Irish people. Who cares that you end up spending a week in some obscure Croatian mountain-top village with a busload of Belgian bird-watchers? At least there was no one in a Celtic jersey talking about their second-hand Hyundai.
My Verdict: The government are talking about middle-class tax cuts in the next budget. The last time they went down that road, you ended up in leopard skin knickers. So be careful how you go.

6: THE UNHIPS
You could be mistaken for thinking that Ireland is full of hipsters. Particularly if you live near a cycle lane. But the truth is that a large group of Irish people wouldn’t touch the hipster look with a rare 1970s Belgian racing bike. They are the UnHips. Here is a simple test to see where you stand. Did you spend a lot of money on vintage clothes and still end up looking like Olly Murs? Yes? Then you are a hipster. If not, well done.
The UnHips are largely invisible around our cities and larger towns. That’s the way they like it. They are more prominent in the smaller towns and villages, where hipsters are known as Queerhawks and shunned by the local population.
Your average UnHipster has an excellent grasp of history. He knows that after a good run in the 1960s, hipsters were an international laughing stock well into the noughties, when news reached Ireland that some guy in Brooklyn had grown a beard. The UnHipster knows this ridicule will come around again. And this time around, the hipsters’ fashion fuck-ups will not be recorded on an obscure black and white East German camera. Well actually they probably will. But they will also be recorded on smartphones and uploaded to Dropbox, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and one other multi-billion internet photo-storage app that was invented since I started writing this sentence.
In other words, there is one thing that an UnHipster will never have to hear from his kids. ‘Jesus Dad, how did you manage to score with anyone in those clothes? You look like Olly Murs.’
My Verdict: Your time will come around again, UnHips. Very very soon.

7: AN SLUA NUA
A sub-tribe for our second most popular language. (If you exclude Polish, Mandarin Chinese and probably Spanish.) The Gaeilgeoir tribe is now split in two. There is the old hard-core crowd who still scour the trad music scene in West Clare. They are cultural purists who find something deeply erotic in a black-haired beauty working her magic on the squeezebox.
The new Gaeilgeoir tribe, An Slua Nua, is made up of subtle snobs and rugby fans. (There is a crossover here as you can well imagine.) The snobs (Na Snobí) are those who reckon that sending their kids to a Gaelscoil is the only politically correct way to keep their kids away from the lower classes. (They are not wrong.) Na Snobí are usually members of the Quite Well Off Complaining Class who can’t afford to send their kids to a fee paying school. Of course sending your kids to a school where the parents must speak Irish could be seen by some as a form of racial segregation. Na Snobí are at pains to point out they are not racists. They usually point this out in English. Na Snobí tend not to use Irish unless they are talking about a nice summer day at the beach with Maura and her dog, Rustaí. Féach ar Rustaí, say Na Snobí.
The second pillar of An Slua Nua is rugby fans that are forced to watch Heineken Cup and Pro 12 matches on TG4. They are fluent in Irish at this stage. Seriously, ask them anything. As long as it is ‘would you agree that Hugo needs to front-up more in the lineouts going forward?’
My Verdict: There are only two things that could stop the march of An Slua Nua. The working classes might decide to reclaim Irish. And TG4 might decide to focus on traditional Irish sports. We have our doubts on both fronts.

8: THE GOMTES
As in Get Off Me, Two’s Enough. It’s the catchphrase of modern Irish parents. It is now widely accepted that anything more than two children is a bit common. It also means a couple with two young kids managed to have sex, which means one or both of you is a nymphomaniac.
It’s been a bad decade for you GOMTES. You put off having kids until you could build a career and get together a decent deposit for a house. The upside is you went on four city breaks a year until you were 35. The downside is your own parents are now too old to provide the only thing they are good for – free child-care. Was it really worth that wet weekend in Brussels? No.
Child care costs are ruining your life. The only upside is it’s easy enough to get your kids up in the morning for the drive to crèche. That’s because you have been forced to live in your car. A third child at this stage could push you over the edge. (Or into a station wagon.) The result is sex once a month, with condoms, the coil and the pill in case the vasectomy didn’t work.
GOMTES are facing a huge dilemma. One the one hand you want to advise your kids not to waste away their 30s traipsing around European cities in the rain. On the other hand, you don’t want them to start their own families too early or you will get stuck minding their babies. Our guess is you’ll give them a Lonely Planet European Guide for their 30th birthday. And who could blame you?
My Verdict: There is always a chance that the government will do something about the cost of childcare. It’s slightly less than your chances of getting pregnant with number three. Sorry about that.

9: THE ORCATS
It’s not an easy time to be an Ordinary Catholic in Ireland these days. All around you are angry, divisive people who seem hell bent on dragging your faith through the mud. And that’s just senior figures in Catholic think-tanks.
Gay weddings are obviously a complete disaster for your average ORCAT. It’s hard enough to find money for presents when all your straight friends get married – it could be close to impossible once the homosexuals get in on the act.
Another problem is the couple sitting next to you at mass. There is a good chance they have been dragged along by their snotty little seven year old because he has to go to mass once a month to make his communion. It’s hard to say your I Believe in One God when the hipster dad next to you keeps muttering about crazy people who never read anything by Richard Dawkins. With any luck he’ll go to hell.
But there are some real positives for Irish ORCATS. The main thing is you can look forward to life after death. It used be that heaven was a place you went at the end of your life to meet God. Now it’s the one place where you can draw a line under your past and finally get away from your creditors. (Unless you’re David Drumm, who also has Connecticut.)
And then there is Pope Francis. A papal visit would be a great boost for ORCAT morale. Even Hipster Atheist Dad would probably feel an urge to go and see him. Let’s face it, as benevolent father figures go, Francis is almost up there Johnny Giles.
My Verdict: Looking good as long as you can take the financial strain of gay weddings.

10: YOOFEES
The YOOF stands for young people. The FEES stands for what they cost. Which is a lot.
Here’s a quick YOOFEE test. If you start welling up while watching Reeling in the Years, you are not a YOFFEE. The problem isn’t so much that you watch Reeling in the Years – it’s more that you watch television. Young people don’t do that anymore. Welcome to middle-age.
This isn’t a great time to be a YOOFEE. There’s no easy way to put this. Your parents can’t afford you. Neither can they afford for you to be seen in last year’s runners. That’s social hari-kari. So they are wearing some old thing from Penneys while you are in that brand new pair of orange Adidas. If you think your parents won’t hold a permanent grudge for that sacrifice, then it’s true what they say. Young people have a lot to learn.
Here’s an economic update. It looks like most American multi-nationals have the same business plan – move all our jobs to Ireland and hope for the best. The upshot is you won’t have to leave Ireland to find a job. Sorry about that. Lack of jobs has been a great excuse to get off this shit-bucket of a damp rock in the north Atlantic. Now you’ll have to come up with something else. It will need to be good or Mammy won’t let you go. (She might seem like a cool older friend now in her skinny jeans and Converse. But, trust us, when you’re 22 and ready to leave home she’ll be wearing an apron and saying things like I hope it always stays fine for you. It happens to the best of them.)
Your parents are complaining about you spending all your time on social media. They haven’t said it to your face, but you’ve seen them mention it on Facebook. Don’t worry, they will never take away your mobile phone or iPad. Not when the alternative is to spend time discussing your concerns and anxieties. To be honest, they find all that stuff really tedious. You might have seen them admit it on Twitter.
My Verdict You face a rainy life in full-employment Ireland unless your elders blow the future on another crazy game of property roulette. We fancy your chances there. Australia here you come.

 

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Get Off Your Bike

7 Aug

Ireland is on its bike.  There was a 16% rise in cyclists in Dublin last year, where nearly one in ten journeys is now made by bicycle.  There are plans to build a cycle path from Dublin to Galway. There is a National Bike Week every June (how do you mean you missed it?) The Dublin Bikes Scheme is busier than a family-planning helpline the morning after the Leaving Cert results.  Entire aisles of Aldi and Lidl are given over to cycling accessories, like stalls selling souvenirs above in Knock. It’s hard to grasp why a wet hilly rock in the North Atlantic would suddenly take to the bike. Unless you view it as a religion. Let’s call it New Cycling.

Look at it from a non-believers point of view. A drive in the country isn’t complete until you get stuck behind a gang of middle-aged men cycling two abreast.  A ten minute walk along any urban foot-path will probably involve three near-death experiences with someone on a bike.  You could be mistaken for thinking these cyclists are careless assholes. They are not. They are just devotees of New Cycling. They are like the busy parish priest of old who didn’t mind breaking the rules because he was doing God’s work. These cyclists are righteous people. And unfortunately the path of the righteous man happens to be the one you are walking on to get to work. So be careful out there.

The self-righteous New Cycling brigade is convinced that cycling is the cure for what ails us. They take it as given that the environment can be saved and middle-aged men will live forever if only the country would get on its bike.  Crucially, in a country where your inferiority complex comes as standard, they believe that cycling can improve our standing abroad.

Thanks to the Dublin Bikes Scheme, the capital is currently ranked 9th in the Copenhagenize Index of bicycle friendly cities. You read that correctly, it’s called Copenhagenize. You might say that has the whiff of a sinister mass movement about it, if you were being generous. As you can imagine, the top two cities on this list are Amsterdam and Copenhagen. This makes sense. The New Cycling is a huge hit with the type of liberal hipsters who are disgusted we aren’t more like the Dutch. In fairness most Irish people suffer from a touch of Dutch envy. It’s because a lot of Irish men went to Amsterdam, took some space cake and paid €50 to do something very new with a young woman from Indonesia. That’s not the kind of thing you can tell Mammy. So we pretend to admire their social democratic model and the way they keep the North Sea in the North Sea. Not to mention the way they look so cool on bicycles.

One of the key tenets of New Cycling is Be Like The Dutch. That would be fine if we were just talking about soccer. It’s daft when it comes to bicycle worship. The Netherlands is a flat, densely populated country with an okayish climate. Ireland is none of the above. Most of this island is up there with the Sahara in terms of places unsuitable for a bike.  There was a time when we understood this. That was the time you’d pass a Dutch couple cycling up a mountain in Kerry in the rain, with 50 miles to the next shop. You’d feel sorry for the poor eejits because they didn’t understand that large tracts of Ireland are off limits for a pedaller.

We have lost that basic insight about our own country. We have gone crazy for the bikes, particularly in Dublin. That’s understandable enough. The capital has flat, wide roads and is overrun by a plague of hipsters. That ticks a lot of bike-boom boxes. But most of the rest of the country does not. A majority of the streets in Cork City can just about fit a donkey as long as he has small ears. And still the City Council put down a patchwork of bizarre cycle lanes which have left locals scratching their heads. Lanes crop up promisingly only to disappear into a footpath 100 metres down the road. A lot of these short isolated strips of tarmac look like the work of a guerrilla street artist looking to make some obscure point. (You could call him the Banksy of My Own Lovely Lee.) But then religion makes people do strange things.

You can see why New Cycling appeals to some people. Bikes are pure catnip for a certain parts of the middle class.  Particularly that strand which is constantly on the lookout for new ways to rub their world view into other people’s faces. They recently converted from Being a Foodie to New Cycling. You can’t blame them — cycling is a much more elegant form of showing off than wearing a t-shirt saying “I just bought some kale.”

Extreme Cycling, where you might travel from Rosslare to Singapore, is picking up followers all over the world. Devotees aren’t just in it for physical fitness.  Extreme Cycling is also a form of penance for anyone who spent twenty years on the piss and is pre-disposed to feelings of guilt.  Step forward your average 40 year old Irish man. And get down to your nearest Aldi for a head-to-toe dose of Lycra.

It might have its attractions, but New Cycling is on borrowed time. In fact the backlash has already begun. Gardai can now issue an on- the-spot fine to cyclists who crash a light or mount a pavement. The middle-class snob brigade will find something else to advertise their superiority. The middle-aged men will return to the couch with swollen knees. And we’ll eventually look out the window at the rain and say shag that, I’m taking the car.

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Let’s Party

7 Aug

Fancy starting a political party in Ireland? Read on to see how I would attract the hipster vote in Dublin, eradicate Young Fine Gael, wipe out unemployment by blackmailing Californian nerds and improve the sex life of people with young kids.

ABOUT YOU

You’ll need a snazzy name. Recent form has been poor in this area. The Reform Alliance sounds like some kind of 19th century religious group dedicated to getting people off the booze. There are a few countries in the world where that might have some appeal – Ireland isn’t one of them.

Your name should suggest to Irish people you will help them forget about the past and feel insanely good about themselves. So why not call your party Nurofen Plus. On the one hand this might look like a frivolous and crazy name to give a political party. On the other hand, Mick Wallace.  The fact that he topped the poll in 2011 suggests nothing is too crazy or frivolous for the Irish electorate.

You could always call the party something in our second language. It’s about time we had a party with a Polish name. Don’t use an Irish name. A slick name like Nua might appeal people who close their eyes during a sing-song. But people who close their eyes during a sing-song are always dyed in the wool Sinn Fein supporters. It’s one of the tell-tale signs.

Don’t worry that your party lacks a long and distinguished history. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have one, which means they are stuck with Annual Commemorations. Here is what happens at an Annual Commemoration.  You go to West Cork and stand in a ditch where founder members of your party killed a lorry load of policemen.  You deliver a lecture on how a commitment to peace is built in to the very DNA of your party.  You look fairly sheepish because in fairness, it’s a load of old shite.

JOBS

You’ll hear a lot of angry political commentators claim that politicians don’t create jobs. That’s not fair. A lot of politicians create a vacancy when they take a sabbatical from teaching to give it a shot up in Leinster House. And if wasn’t for the mess made by these former teachers, there wouldn’t be any work for angry commentators. Not to mention Joe Duffy.

Here’s the good news. When it comes to arguing job creation with the current government, you will be up against the mighty Richard Bruton. If you manage to lose that tussle, our guess is that you are a sheep. That’s not a figure of speech. We reckon you have fur and get very nervous around Easter time.

Minister Bruton’s job strategy is to attract some tech start-ups to Dublin with lows taxes and an endless supply of hipsters. This doesn’t go nearly far enough. You will attract ALL the start-ups utilising the one thing that is missing from the IDA’s toolbox. Blackmail. Here’s how it works.

1: Bring young American start-up executives to Temple Bar. 2: Show them the plentiful supply of hipsters. 3: Buy them loads of drink. 4: Take a damming photo of them with their pants around their ankles.

Here is the thing about American start-up executives. Their ground-breaking new app is in fact just another way for people to share photos of each other with their pants around their ankle. So it’s not like they can complain.

You will also need to breathe new life into the construction industry. That’s easy. You give everyone a medical card. Within three months every able-bodied person in the state will be building massive extensions to doctors’ waiting rooms. It turns out Paddy is a fierce hypochondriac when someone else is footing the bill.

CHILDCARE

There is a notion out that there that the best way to attract votes from Middle Ireland is to throw them a few quid to help with childcare. That’s rubbish.  The real issue with childcare isn’t the cost — it’s that parents have to bring their kids home at the end of another working day. That’s why Middle Ireland is so tired and cranky. You have the solution to this. A nationwide network of boarding creches. If you can’t see the vote-winning potential here, then you’ve obviously never been up at two in the morning watching Peppa Pig.

You’ll only need a short video to sell the concept of midweek boarding creches. A camera pans across a suburban living room. It is early Wednesday morning. There are two empty wine bottles on the coffee table and a pair of knickers over the back of the chair. The caption says “Get your Life Back with the New Democrats”. Or whatever you are planning to call your party. It doesn’t really matter as long as you offer free boarding creches.

You won’t see any support in the opinion polls. In the same way that voters in 1980s Britain were embarrassed to tell pollsters they planned to vote Tory, Irish parents are slow to admit they would like someone else to raise their kids. But then it comes to polling day, and they can’t get that image of two bottles of wine and a pair of knickers out of their mind. There’s only word for you after that. Taoiseach.

One other thing. The media won’t be on your side. Lefty chin-strokers will feel compelled to write endless columns denouncing you as some kind of populist madman. Until you ring them up and promise to get their kids into one of the more fashionable boarding creches. That’s lefty chin-strokers for you — they only want equality for everyone else.

COMMUNICATIONS

Money is obviously going to be a problem at the start. Particularly since the new rules on donations have made it more difficult to get back-handers from developers. Luckily there is one place you can save a lot of money. Speech writers. There is a notion in Irish politics that you need to employ a communications expert to re-arrange the phrases ‘leverage’, ‘jobs’, ‘going forward’ and ‘joined-up thinking.’ In return for that they send you a joined-up invoice, because all the number wouldn’t fit on one page. We have two words for anyone who thinks you still need a speechwriter — Enda Kenny.

Can you remember a single word that Enda Kenny has ever said? No. There are silent orders of monks who have said more in public than Enda Kenny.  The only memorable speech he ever gave was when he welcomed Barack Obama to Dublin. The reason we remember it is because it was a copy of Obama’s inauguration speech from 2008. That’s an impressive commitment to saying nothing.

Obviously, you can’t be a party leader in Ireland if you completely disappear from view. (In fairness to Eamon Gilmore, he gave it a right good go there for a few years.) Enda tackles this with the second part of his genius strategy — endless selfies. You could be forgiven for thinking that the internet exists just to share photos of some ordinary punter and Enda smiling weirdly like Robert De Niro. Sometimes he points. If things are good, he might stretch to a thumbs up.  That’s all he lets us see of him. Enda is the first silent-movie Taoiseach. He probably doesn’t need an expensive social media consultant to run his strategy. And neither do you.

THE YOUTH VOTE

A lot of time and energy is spent trying to get young people out to vote. This often involves a message from Bono, because as we know, young people always do what they’re told by rich men in their 50s. This would be the most futile campaign in Ireland if it wasn’t for our old friend, Please Drink Responsibly.

You will resolve all this youth apathy with one stroke of a pen. When you raise the voting age to 30. It’s a thing of beauty. Your average twenty-something these days is about as interested in voting as he is in getting a colostomy bag. Removing this burden allows him or her to focus on things they are good at, like binge drinking and trying to organise an orgy on Tinder. They will thank you for it later, with votes down the road.

Your policy will encounter fierce resistance from people involved in youth politics.  Excellent. Anything which angers someone who joined Young Fine Gael or Ogra Fianna Fail of their own free-will is fine by us. A useful by-product of your actions will be to remove the social side of youth politics in Ireland. In fairness, you don’t want them breeding with each other.

You will need to be careful of the language you use. Eradicating youth apathy by raising the voting age to 30 is one thing — telling people over 30 they aren’t young is political madness. If you want to see a gang of delusional 30 year olds in action, just spend half an hour at Electric Picnic.  In fact, you might be better off raising the voting age to 40. They won’t mind being told they are no longer young. By that age, most people have given up.

DUBLIN

You have to do well in Dublin. You have two options here. 1: Spend a lot of time and money researching the mood of voters in the capital and the issues which affect their everyday lives. 2: Recruit some well-known sporting figures with winning smiles. Talk about no contest. You know the drill. Leinster rugby players for Dublin South East, Dublin South and Dun Laoghaire; Dublin footballers for everywhere else. (Most Dubliners still suspect their hurlers are closet culchies.) Keep away from athletes. People still haven’t got over Eamon Coughlan’s mini-meltdown on Vincent Browne.

The biggest issue for Dubs at the moment is property tax. They suspect it is being used to subsidise easy-going lifestyles outside the Pale. It’s going to be tricky to address this without upsetting the culchies. (Maybe launch something at 7 am, when most of them are still in bed.) This looks like a job for our old friend the ring-fence. You promise that property taxes collected in the Dublin area will be ring-fenced for projects in the capital. The phrase has a magical effect on Irish voters. They completely believe that spending will remain in their area, while also being fully aware that ring-fence is Irish political code for “I will in my arse.”

One more thing. You need to promise an underground system for Dublin. Why? Hipsters. As you know, the capital is currently over-run by hipsters who like nothing better than hosting friends from other hipster strongholds like New York and Berlin. These visits usually end in humiliation when the visitor says “hey dude, let’s take a ride on your underground.” Your proposed new subway system will bring an end to this hipster shame. Don’t worry, you’ll never have to build it. The hipsters have about four years left in them, tops.

EQUALITY AND WEALTH

Here is how Irish people define wealth. 1: Estimate the most money you will ever earn in one year. 2: Add a tenner. 3: Anyone who earns that amount is rich and should be taxed like billio.

People use the phrase ‘politics of envy’ as if it as a bad thing. In fact, it should be at the heart of everything you do. Here’s a tip when you are out on the canvas. Say you are talking to Gerry and Noreen on the doorstep and you spot that their neighbour has a brand new Audi. You should make it clear that you are against flashy displays of wealth by fat cats living off the back of the ordinary worker. Then, when you go next door, tell your man that his crazy lefty neighbours want a slice of his hard earned cash. Don’t worry about getting caught — they’ll never talk to each other again.

The Irish electorate is in the mood for lefties at the moment. They want someone to tell them they are about to get their money back from the invisible fat cats. They like Sinn Fein because in fairness, the Shinners have a good reputation when it comes to taking money from people. Particularly if those people work in a bank. That said, if you don’t realise the obvious advantage you have over Sinn Fein, then you obviously weren’t around in the 1970s. Or the 1980s.

Research shows that the easiest way to appear lefty is to start almost all your sentences with the phrase “for too long now.” For example, “For too long now, the ordinary people of Ireland have had to take a backseat while fat cats rub their faces in it.”  Nice one, comrade. Not long now before you’ll be taking a back seat of your own. In a Merc.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

This is a tricky one. On the one hand you don’t want to appear to be in the pocket of wealthy backers. On the other hand, rich people have all the money. It’s what makes them rich. Unfortunately the new rules around donations make it hard to raise a lot of cash from wealthy benefactors who share your views on society. Or as you call them when the cameras are switched off, ignorant culchie pigs who need you to sort  out access roads for their new shopping centres.

You might feel tempted to run a micro-finance campaign on social media like Obama did in 2008. Don’t be nuts. There’s only thing worse than listening to helpful suggestions from a billionaire backer with a sense of entitlement. And that’s listening to 25,000 helpful suggestions from poor people with access to Twitter.

There is of course one type of fundraiser which will raise both money and profile. That’s where you set up a tent at the Galway races for some rich and famous supporters. (It’s been too long.) We will need a new word to describe the reaction of political commentators. Bejonkers sounds like it might work. Don’t worry, the electorate will see where you are going. There’s a cute hoor sized gap in the Irish political landscape since Micheal Martin turned Fianna Fail into a branch of the Boy Scouts. And you intend to fill it.

Another solution is to cut costs. For starters, you can do without expensive party political broadcasts. As you know, there is only one group of people who watch these broadcasts in Ireland — the people who can’t find the remote. That’s understandable, since it’s usually just a video showing some people in a factory with the words ‘Jobs’ floating across the screen. These broadcasts send the same simple message from politicians to the Irish electorate — we suspect you are a complete shower of morons. You won’t be sending that message.

COALITION

The minute you start gaining traction in the polls, some smartarse reporter will ask what they think is the killer question in Irish politics – are you willing to go into coalition with Sinn Fein? Your answer should be unequivocal. “We’ll do anything to get into power.” That’s one way of getting your party on at the start of the news. Not least because the reporter’s head might actually explode clean off his shoulders. And it beats the watery reaction of other parties which could be summarised as “ah shure we probably would if it came to it, you know yourself.”

We’ll Do Anything to Get Into Power would make a great slogan. It has the unusual quality in Irish politics of being absolutely true. And you could set it to music in the manner of the song from Oliver!  “Would you sort my medical card? Anything. Would you exempt me from water tax? Anything. Would you appoint me to a State board? Anything. Would you fund our arts centre? Anything, anything for you (as long as you are in my constituency.)” You see now that’s a party political broadcast.

There is one exception. Coalition with Fianna Fail. (It’s your Meatloaf moment — you would do anything for power, but you won’t do that.) Fianna Fail is the kiss of death for small parties. Just ask the PDs and the Greens. Who? Exactly.

That said, you will need to go into coalition with somebody. Come on, you’re not seriously thinking of putting one of your own into the Department of Health? The ideal candidate here is some crazy single-issue independent who got in because she promised free dog-grooming for everyone in Carlow. She’s got nothing to lose. Other parties will have taken note and by the time of the next election they’ll all be offering free dog-grooming down in Carlow.  Get a second independent on board as well. You’ll need a replacement when your dog-groomer resigns having somehow failed to run a world-class health service with a budget of €5.86.

DAIL REFORM

You’ll need to do something big here. The electorate got a bit excited before the last election when Enda promised a change in the way things are done in Irish politics. In fairness to Fine Gael, nobody had ever pulled a female TD on to his lap during a vote on abortion before this lot came to power.  And it’s not every head of state would turn up for the opening of a Penneys in Berlin. So there has been some change. Just not the right kind.

There are two things that bother Irish people about Leinster House. The first is the bar. The problem is not the drinking that apparently goes on around the clock. It’s that we’re not allowed in. The result is that we’re driven crazy wondering what is going on in there. You have the solution to this. Webcams.  When elected you will put internet accessible cameras around the bar. This is yet another policy which political correspondents will use as evidence that you are batshit crazy. And yet again the electorate will see where you are going. Even if it is just to allow them watch a Junior Minister picking his nose while eating a purple Snack.

The other change you propose could well be the biggest reform in Irish political history. You will ban the practise of Ministers reading out speeches from an A4 sheet. This comes from the time when education was thin on the ground in Ireland and reading was a sign of intelligence. Remember those days when every parish had one lad who could read in case someone got a letter. Then when he grew up, that lad would be elected into the Dail. We’ve checked — those days are gone.

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I Surrender. In a Renault Scenic.

15 Jul

We bought a Renault Scenic last month. I didn’t know it at the time but apparently the Scenic is a Surrender Car. And not just because it is French. Other Surrender Cars include the Opel Zafira, Ford Focus C-Max and Citroen Picasso. They are the cars you buy to say it’s all over. I have joined the ranks of cranky dads loading kids into people carriers outside Smyths Toy Store.

It looks a lot like this

It looks a lot like this

You’ll know us anywhere. We could do with a haircut and our jeans have a raggedy, hanging down arse. That’s not because we are rappers or anything – it’s just the way jeans go after wearing them for six days in a row because you are too tired to find a clean pair.
Anyway, here’s the weird thing about our new Surrender Car. I love it. I love how sensible it is. I love the fact that it’s slightly underpowered compared to our last car. I love bobbing around in it with the kids in the back. (And not just because your car is the one place you can legally restrain your kids out of reach. Although it helps.) I love people knowing that I am one of the tribe of raggedy arse tribe of men you see outside Smyths Toy Store, with our mad looking hair.
This is just another example of what I have suspected for some time. The secret to happiness in this life is simple – you’ve got to love your tribe. And no I don’t mean you need a Celtic away jersey and 26+6=1 tattooed on your forehead. Unless that is where you are in life – in which case go nuts.
No, by your tribe I mean, whatever bunch of people you find yourself lumped in with at any given time. The thing about life is you don’t always get to choose your tribe. Your parents and your job and your age will often take that choice out of your hands. But life works best when you can look around the room and say these are my kind of people.
I’ve been in a few tribes in my time. I started following Man United by accident in 1973. That worked out pretty well. Up to now. I fancied myself as an intellectual in college. That would have meant dickie bows in another university, but this was UCC, so we all wore second hand coats. I was a late raver in my 30s, jumping around Sir Henry’s in Cork with people half my age. I hung around with a gang of armchair Provos for a while because they were mad for the booze.
There was only one tribe that didn’t really work out for me. That was when I worked in Germany for a year. I spent most of my time hanging around with a bunch of ex-pats. A few of them were great fun. A lot of them weren’t. Let’s just say a lot of English people live abroad to make sure they will never run out of things to complain about. I ended up living with two Italian guys who kept trying to steal each other’s girlfriends. They were hilarious but watching two guys screaming at each other in Italian wears thin after a while. I came back to Dublin and slotted in with my old tribe of friends, who had all become professional slackers. Nice work if you can avoid it.
And now I have joined the loading-up-the-surrender-car-in-suburban-car-parks brigade. I know for a fact I could walk over to any one of these guys and fall into easy conversation. (‘Can you get the Peppa Pig theme tune out of your head?’ ‘No.’) The earlier versions of me would have found this depressing. In fact, most of the tribes I have gone through in my life probably hate each other.
The intellectual in UCC would have looked down his second-hand sleeve at the aging raver in Henrys. The raver would have pitied the man in the Scenic, while also wanting to give him a hug. The only interest the armchair Provos would have had in the Scenic is whether it might work as a getaway car. (It wouldn’t.) They would have debated this over a load of pints.
I’ve no regrets. At the heart of every mid-life crisis is the temptation to step back and join one of your old tribes. Here’s the problem – they’re gone. The ravers, the intellectuals and the armchair Provos have all pitched tent and moved on. They were just pop-up tribes that we put together in a moment of time. Myself and the other raggedy arse jeans guys have our own stories to tell, about various tribes that came and went. The only problem is we haven’t got time to tell them because the youngest fella just had a puke. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and get my hair cut.

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2 Jul

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Keep Away from those Ferraris by Pat Fitzpatrick

Keep Away from those Ferraris

by Pat Fitzpatrick

Giveaway ends July 10, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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