Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tomorrow's referendum

So the media moratorium has finally arrived. Tomorrow I get to go to the polling station and vote on the fiscal compact/stability treaty/austerity treaty and I am going to tick the No box on the ballot paper. I have stayed out of this campaign for all sorts of reasons, limiting my contributions to a few tweets here and there and arguments in the pub over a few pints.
It feels strange to have a vote and to not have knocked on a single door. Even during the Presidential, despite moving house and having a 7 month pregnant wife to look after, I managed to get out for a few canvassing sessions. But for the compact I couldn't bring myself to doing it. Canvassing on this topic would either be an exercise in 20 second glib soundbites that are inaccurate at best and false at worst, or require spending half an hour at each house explaining the full consequences of a yes or no vote and discussing the actual text of the treaty.
The problem is that the media coverage of the referendum has also descended into the former. Both sides playing the soundbite and the ad-hominem rather than debating the contents of the treaty and the grand picture of the Eurozone we would like to see in the future. Personally, I am quite in favour of the European project, leaning towards the federalist end of the spectrum. But it needs to be full federalism, not the half way house we currently have. But that seems unlikely to happen, or be proposed by any of the current political leadership across the EU, so we need to find another solution to our current crisis but the Compact and the ESM are not the silver bullet we are all waiting for.
I'm assuming the vote will be carried by about a 60-40 margin and in a year's time we'll be right back in another crisis, with Spain having sucked most of the money out of the ESM. I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Farewell to a comrade

One of the things I like most about being involved in politics is the wide range of people you bump into at meetings, leafleting, canvassing and all those other political activities. Some of them you click with immediately, some take time and effort to get to know. In the latter category I would put Paul Duffy, who passed away last week at the age of 72.
On joining the Rathmines branch many years ago, Paul was one of the first people I got talking to. Little did I know what I was getting in to. After half an hour of discussing JFK and how he redefined the attitude of a generation I was almost fit to leave the venue screaming and never to return. But I realized that behind the slightly odd exterior was a very genuine person with a keen interest in politics.
So I came back the next month and we got talking about music. On discovering that I was involved in choral music he immediately divulged his love for the music and life of Count John McCormack. I was pretty sure I had heard my grandmother wax lyrical about McCormack but she was almost of an era with the man and so couldn't have avoided him. Paul on the other hand had chosen to get into this music and was a member of the McCormack society for many years.
Over the course of several election campaigns I spent many leafleting sessions covering the highways and byways of Dublin 6 with Paul. He seemed to have an unending energy for the granite steps up to the large houses on Kenilworth Square and Grosvenor Road. Once I got into the swing of canvassing, our trips together became rarer, as cold-calling people was not something that Paul particularly enjoyed doing. But even in the depths of the cold, wet winter nights of last year's general election, Paul could be found traipsing around Rathmines covering as many letterboxes as possible for Ruairi and Kevin.
I last met Paul at our branch meeting at the end of March. Despite arriving late (as usual) and upscuttling things as he found a seat and dug out his agenda and minutes, he was in good form. We discussed the Fiscal Compact and the mess the City Council had made of the privatization of the bins. And we discussed JFK and John McCormack as always. He sipped his glass of Guinness after the meeting ended and then headed off home. It was with some shock that I saw the email on Thursday that said he had passed away.
While you could never say that we were close or even friends, Paul was a reliable comrade over many years. I was glad to be able to attend his funeral this morning and pay my respects. The torch has been passed to a new generation of Labour activists in Rathmines, but Paul's contribution to our political efforts and his impact on our lives will not be quickly forgotten.