Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Apparently.
In all the years since I left Ireland, I have never wanted to be back at home more than now. This election marks a time of real change, but make no mistake; the Irish electorate could still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and vote for more of the same, just when radical change is necessary.
Witness the non-runner that was (and is) “Democracy Now”- all the best ideas in the country rolled up into one chaotic movement that, somewhat predictably, never got out of first gear.
Living and working in Sweden as a journalist/writer, I am spared from a lot of the pub talk and media waffle about Ireland and the upcoming election, so the idea of this blog is to reflect from an international perspective on some of the issues, personalities and tactics in use in the General Election of 2011 and to hold the arguments of the parties up to the light.
What is just as important as what is said is how it is said, and I’ll be hoping to point out recurring themes such as “trust” (Inda and the Bogtrotters), “change” (Eamon and Croke Park Combo) and “an older boy made me do it” (John Gormley and what used to be the Green Party), as well as the bias, waffle and humbug coming from the Fourth Estate themselves (that’s journalists, to you and me- the first three are unfinished satellite towns near Athlone).
The Scandinavian way of political life is entirely different from the parish-pump politics that we know and love, so a lot of what happens will be viewed through the prism of a working democracy, rather than the anarchic back-slapping cattle mart (occasionally without the cattle) that is Leinster House.
The last election I covered in Sweden was in the autumn of last year, and it too was seismic in its own way, as the far-right Sweden Democrats finally managed to clean up their Nazi image enough for them to be allowed in to parliament.
I’ve also been involved at a low level on some Irish political stories, two of which should have brought the last government down long before the Greens got their knickers in a twist over a cabinet reshuffle.
I have access to Irish media via online newspapers, Irish radio via iPhone and a gizmo that lets me watch Irish TV over the internet (most of the time). I also have a tremendous list of hacks, wags and general layabouts on Twitter to keep me in tune with the mood of the people, and when I want to telax and take a break from reality, I have the tweets of Paul Gogarty (soon-to-be-ex-Green Party TD) for my enjoyment.
I had intended to put my normal journalistic integrity to one side for the next few weeks, but seeing as there is not a single candidate running that I would consider voting for yet, I don’t have to take that decision until closer to polling day.
What I will say is that living in Scandinavia for over ten years has taught me that you don’t get great public services without paying high taxes, and anyone telling you different (I’m looking at you, Enda Kenny and Leo Varadkar) is either lying or not much good at the sums.
Once again, we go to the polls looking for the best Ireland has to offer, and once again it looks like we’re going to come up very, very short on that front. Like any dedicated foreign correspondent, I’ll update the blog when I can or when anything interesting breaks that is worth commenting on.
Please note that these occasionally partisan and often insulting views are entirely my own and not shared by any of my past, present or future employers- if they were, I would have gotten a proper job writing about the election instead of covering cross-country skiing…
/Our Man in Stockholm, Feb 2 2011.