Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mayo at Home Amongst the Nobility


There was a science teacher on the staff of St Muredach’s College, Ballina, in the 1980s called Joe Kenny. Joe was a big believer in bringing the theory down from the clouds and home to where you lived. To this end, used to tell the most beautiful analogy about the nature of chemical compounds.

If you look at the periodic table of the elements, the elements that are listed in the rightmost column – Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon and Radon – are called the Noble Gases. They are called noble gases because they have a full complement of eight electrons in their outer shells, and this makes them very, very stable. Noble gases are the upper class of the elements; they do not mix with the lower orders.

The other elements – the metals, the metalloids, the halogens and the rest – are social climbers. They all want to be stable like the noble gases, and they form compounds to achieve that stability. Sodium combines its single electron with Chloride’s seven to form a compound, common salt, with eight electrons in its outer shell.

But leopards don’t change their spots. A compound can never become an element, least of all an element as elevated as a noble gas. Even though this new thing, salt, is supposedly stable, it’s not, really. It lacks the blue blood, and always betrays its humble origins. It will always call the midday meal “dinner” when the noble gases call it “lunch.” It will always answer nature’s call with a visit to the toilet, rather than the lavatory.

And so it goes with the Mayo support. The support are compounds, raised to stability by years of success, but always wondering when will be the next time Mayo lose a Connacht Final to Sligo, or be butchered by Cork by twenty points, or bet toyed with by Kerry as a cat toys with a dead mouse.

The players, however, look at the world differently. 1975 is indistinguishable to them from 1798. 1993 isn’t much different. What’s real to them are their memories of Ciarán McDonald and James Nallen and Liam McHale – the memories of watching them as children, and wanting to emulate them as men.

One of the many remarkable things about the current Mayo generation is its longevity. The most previously-consistent Mayo team was John Maughan’s team of the ‘nineties, which won three Connacht titles in four years and came closer than any other, before or since, to winning Mayo its fourth All-Ireland title.

This Mayo generation has reeled off five Connacht titles and, even more amazingly, has won its subsequent quarter-final in each of those five years.

You will read, or have already read, in this week’s Championship previews that that this achievement is as a millstone around the players’ necks. Not true. It can be a millstone around the supporters’ necks, for whom the bleak days remain very real, but when the players themselves stand among the elite every August and look around them, at the Neons and Kryptons and Xenons of the football world, they know that they belong.

A millstone? Reader, dream on. This Mayo generation know that they have the measure of anyone else out there, including Dublin. The very fact they’re still being talked of as contenders, after the almighty balls that was made of the post-Horan transition, is testimony to the extra-ordinary things that are happening in Mayo right now.

Because for once the current generation, talented though it is, is being pushed from below. The Minor winners of 2013 did not get the recognition they would have got had Mayo not lost (another) senior final the year they won, but those one-time minors showed in the Under-21 victory that there are men there who are ready for their close-ups.

Not that their time is come yet. Most of the current generation aren’t going anywhere, but the strength that can added to the squad by those men who will join from the Under-21 panel is considerable. Cillian O’Connor is the most under-rated player in Ireland but his return to the panel for the dying stages of the league underlined, once again, his worth.

There are tweaks to be made on the team, and question marks here and there. Of course there are – how could there not be? This is a game, after all. Balls bounce funny. But Mayo people, whose fondest wish was once to see a Mayoman lift Sam on the third Sunday just once before they died, are now coming to the realisation that is no longer a dream but an imminent event. Maybe this year, maybe the year after. Maybe both. Maybe neither. Like the weather, there are some details that are known only to the Lord.

But the when isn’t now as important as it once was. When was important when we thought Mayo might win an All-Ireland, when no-one was looking, as nearly happened in 1996. Those days of backing into the party are over. Mayo come in front door now. We are now looking at a Mayo team that will win by right, and God speed that happy day. Up Mayo.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Football Championship Preview

People used to decry the lack of competitiveness in the Championship during the era of the Big Four. In 2016, the Big Four era looks like a wide-open contest that anyone might win.

Paddy Power is offering slightly better than even money on Dublin winning the 2016 Championship. That is a short, short price in a 32-horse race. There is clear separation from the rest as we look down the board – Kerry are second favorites at 3/1, Mayo 11/2, new kids on the block Tyrone at 12/1 and it’s 16/1 the field after that. So, football is now reflective of Irish life in general – both are a case of Dublin and then the rest.

Is there any point in running the Championship at all? Well, yes there is. Dublin are clearly the best team in Ireland and would win a US-style best-of-seven series against anybody, with very few teams, if any, being able to take them to the seventh game.

But the Championship doesn’t have best-of-seven series. Come August it’s all about turning up on the day and, in knockout competitions, upsets are always possible.

The biggest problem Jim Gavin has is keeping his team focused. The Leinster Championship, to the shame of the all counties involved other than Dublin, is a joke. One-time super-powers like Meath, Offaly, Kildare and others should be humiliated to have fallen so low. Instead, they seem to accept their position in the ashes.

Dublin have always been the big dogs in Leinster, but even when Meath, say, lost to Dublin, Dublin knew generally knew that they had been in a game. That hasn’t been the case in some time, and there is no reason – none – to suspect that’s going to change.

Which means Dublin have three hurdles to clear to retain the All-Ireland. Gavin’s job is to for them to keep their edge in the three months between now and August, when Dublin’s season begins.

Dublin, as ever, are bathed in hype. The modern Dublin team does more to live up to it than its predecessors, but the hype is still there. Oisin McConville was one of few to call Dublin out for being poor for long periods against Kerry in the League Final. People who are interested in winning this year’s All-Ireland should note the mental frailty that Dublin displayed there, and know just how very hard it is to maintain concentration over a long season of going through the motions in Leinster.

The other thing that aspirants to glory should note is that Dublin are very used to having things their own way. What will they be like when things start going against them? Gavin has drawn a lot of praise for having learned the lesson of Dublin’s defeat against Donegal in 2014. Have Dublin really learned a lesson, or have they just not come up against a team that questioned them the way that Donegal questioned them?

The team that will beat Dublin need a McGuinness at the blackboard to plot Dublin’s destruction. Is there anybody among the contenders that could lay claim to such a level of generalship?

Yes, there is. It is Tyrone. Since the era of the manager began in the mid-seventies, only one man has guided two generations of teams to All-Irelands – Seán Boylan with Meath in 1987-’88 and again, with a new team in 1996 and 1999. Mickey Harte has it within his power to emulate Boylan, and to end his time with Tyrone on yet another high. The only question is if his players can execute on the pitch what Mickey will have plotted in his head. And only time will tell that.

Equally, short of meeting them in the final, beating Dublin does not mean you win the All-Ireland. Donegal, 20/1 longshots to win the All-Ireland this year, can tell you all about that. The demise of Dublin would spur on the rest just as much as it would those who defeated Dublin, and open the competition out again.

Kerry most of all. It would be interesting to know whom the average Kerryman would prefer to meet in an All-Ireland, Dublin or Tyrone. Chances are he doesn’t know himself. Tyrone have been under Kerry’s skin since 2003 but Kerry really expected to beat Dublin in the final-that-didn’t-count a few weeks ago. Their frustration at not only not doing so, but getting hammered by a coasting Dublin team, was clearly evident at full time. Kerry can’t be in a good place in the heads right now.

The other major contender that are seldom in a good place in the their heads are Mayo, of course. More on them and their prospects tomorrow. In the meantime, Dublin are the pick but if you’re having a bet, Tyrone is a sensible investment at about 12/1.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Government or Circus?

The yawning gap that exists in Ireland between the process of electing a government and what a government is expected to do was illustrated in an almost offhand exchange about the Independent Alliance on the Irish Times’s Inside Politics podcast of last Friday night. The exchange is between Fiach Kelly and Pat Leahy of the Times’s political staff, and begins at 12:25 on the podcast:

FIACH KELLY
Sarah’s right. They are not used to government. They are used to saying ‘get up the yard, get off the fence, let’s put our shoulders to the wheel’ - 

PAT LEAHY
They’re the opposite of government. It’s not just that they’ve been a conventional opposition, but it’s the exact opposite. They’ve never been the sort of opposition that had to prepare, that had to watch what they said because they envisaged being in government after the next election.

FIACH KELLY
They had their ‘Charter for Change,’ which formed the basis of their negotiations over the past number of weeks. This document they drew up about a year ago about their principles – motherhood and apple pie is a generous description of said document. I was speaking to someone in Fine Gael today who said that last week was the worst week of their lives because, at least when they were dealing with Fianna Fáil they were professional operators, they knew how to negotiate. Then you turn around and talk to the Independents and they didn’t know how the system or the government or anything like that worked, at all. So it’s going to be a very steep learning curve for them.

And the question your broken-hearted correspondent asks of all this is: why don’t the media report this? Where are the articles and think pieces that say politics is a profession, like any other, and while getting elected is a key skill, being able to govern is another?

A national politician who is serious about national politics should know how the instruments of government work. He or she may disagree with how those instruments work, and that’s fine. When he or she is in power, he or she will then have the power to make those instruments better. But he or she must know what those instruments of government are in the first place. And it’s quite clear that members of the Independent Alliance haven’t a bull’s notion.

There is a chicken-and-egg situation here. Media claim that they don’t cover these issues because politicians don’t talk about them. Politicians claim they don’t talk about these issues because the people aren’t interested in them. But how can the people learn about them if not through the media?

Yesterday the Sunday Business Post led with a story about an ‘understanding’ between disgraced TD Michael Lowry and Fine Gael in return for Lowry’s support for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. As remarked upon here earlier, Lowry is like the dog that didn’t bark in the old Sherlock Holmes story.

Why would Michael Lowry support the government? What’s in it for him? The people of Tipperary elected Lowry on the first count in the election because he is seen to “deliver” for the people of Tipperary. What’s Lowry swung for the Premier this time? Why haven’t we been told? Why hasn’t any other media outlet (especially RTÉ) reported the story? Why hasn’t anyone asked the Nemesis of Cronyism, the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross TD, how he feels about a secret sweetheart deal with Michael Lowry?

This tweet from Matt Cooper may help explain why:




Extraordinary. A story broke in the US last week about how ridiculously easy a member of the Obama administration found seeding stories in the media. That man wouldn’t ever have to get out of bed in Ireland.

But we have a government now, and they are sitting down to govern. How will they do that? Well, some of those governmental decisions that effect people’s lives and, potentially, the future of the state itself will be decided by a man who won a coin toss. Not because the Taoiseach has had his eye on this or that person’s career and thinks he or she could do a really good job as a junior minister in a particular department. No. It’s because he won a coin toss.

Imagine if, God forbid, you are in court, accused of murder. And instead of a judge, Bozo the Clown walks in and announces that, as a result of a coin toss, he’ll be running the court while Mr Justice Murphy will be doing pratfalls and standing on rakes in Fossett’s Circus for the foreseeable future. Then, with Bozo tooting a horn rather than banging a gavel, the court comes to order and the trial for your life begins.

Welcome to Ireland in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. God help us all.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

A Government Cannot Be Formed

I, for one, do not welcome our new overlords.
A government cannot be formed, and it’s the people’s own fault. The sooner the political establishment comes to terms with that, admits it and pulls the lever for a second election the better off we’ll all be.

Fianna Fáil have had a merry old time over the past three weeks bullying Fine Gael in negotiations. And now, in the best schoolyard tradition, Fine Gael are going have their fun with that one group in the Oireachtas who are more natural victims than they are – the independents.

All that stuff out of Shane Ross and his bunch about new politics and broad policy outlines is now exposed as what anybody with the intelligence of a toad could see what it always was – nonsense. John Halligan is digging in over his local hospital, which should have every alarm bell ringing for Denis Naughten. Naughton won Roscommon because he knew Roscommon Hospital had to come first. If Halligan gets Waterford – oh, excuse me, your honour, the South-Eastern – Hospital sorted for a cardiac unit, what must Naughten do to deliver for the Ros? Brain Surgery? Head transplants?

It is interesting to note that supposedly the most idealistic of the independents, Deputy Zappone, was the first to row in behind Enda Kenny’s re-election as Taoiseach. It would be interesting to know what exactly she’s been promised in return for her support. Your correspondent likes to think she’s been promised a herd number for a unicorn farm somewhere outside Firhouse or Knocklyon, but chances are the deal isn’t even as substantial as that.

And what of that most mysterious of independents, Deputy Lowry? Deputy Lowry has made no bones about his support for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, and nobody seems to have a problem with that. Five years ago Dáil Éireann passed a motion calling on Deputy Lowry to resign his seat, such was the Dáil’s repugnance at his behaviour, as exposed by the Moriarty Tribunal. Nobody now seems to have a problem with his presence, to say nothing of his vital vote in electing a government. If everyone and their uncle is getting sorted, what in all this for Deputy Lowry?

The media don’t seem too bothered harping on about this. The media are part of the problem. The media are negligent in their duty in calling these members to account, and saying this is not the way to govern a country. It’s all a game in Ireland’s political Bermuda triangle of Leinster House, the Shelbourne Hotel and Kehoe’s of South Anne Street.

Your correspondent thought – foolishly, as it turns out – that the crash of 2008 would be a learning experience for the country. Instead, it’s been an exercise in becoming more ignorant.

At the nadir of the boom, the standard narrative was that the country had fallen into an economic abyss that would take thirty years to recover from. It took three. So, either the abyss was actually a pothole, or Ireland pulled off an economic miracle so extraordinary it makes the German post-war recovery look like two cavemen fighting over a tusk using the barter system. Or both. Or neither.

There are subtleties to all these things. We don’t subtle in Irish politics. Or thoughtful. Or even vaguely sentient.

Maybe, when the election is called, we’ll bite the bullet. Maybe we’ll show the political parties that there is a reward at the ballot box for proper, intelligent politics. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. The only functional part of Irish politics is that we get exactly the government we deserve. God help us all.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Second Election is the Only Sensible Solution

Enda Kenny must do the sensible thing. He must go up to the Park and tell the President it’s time to give the wheel another spin.

The strong media consensus that a Grand Coalition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael was not only the only possible result from the election but that it was the only sensible result from the election has proved to be so much blather.

It would take a seismic change to overturn a political culture that has lasted for nearly eighty years. As it happens, that seismic change happened five years ago, but instead of a radical realignment of Irish politics, we got a return to the Fine Gael / Labour coalitions of the ‘seventies and ‘eighties. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were just as ideologically similar then as now, and they certainly had numbers to form a coalition, but nobody was talking about an FF/FG coalition being either inevitable or obvious then.

Five years on, we have stalemate, as the difference between how elections are run in this country and how governments are formed are clearer than they ever have been. In theory, the voter goes to the polls with the intention of selecting a government for the country. In practice, the voter goes to forty different polls and votes for the candidate that will best represent his or her local area when it’s time for goodies to be handed out.

Hence the impasse. In the past, the dominance of the major parties has been such that the flaw inherent in the system was never exposed. Fine Gael’s loss of a TD for not building a school in Ballycarrick was made up by the gain of a TD who was passionate on the retention of the garda station in Carrigbally. Checks and balances.

Unfortunately, the slow dissolution of the two-and-a-half party system has not been matched by a likewise evolution of political awareness in the electorate. This is partly a western thing; it doesn’t seem that the US electorate are having a particularly statesmanlike moment right now either, while the Tories in the United Kingdom are pointing a gun to their own heads while threatening to shoot the hostage. Extraordinary behaviour.

But the Irish context seems worse, somehow. Not least because the country is so small, and it shouldn’t be so hard to communicate what’s actually happening. For a small country to be independent, the citizens must be more active than they have to be in the big country like the UK or Germany or the USA. In big countries, there will always be enough clever and/or informed people to keep the political show on the road. Here, we need more hands to the mast.

A second election, then, but an election like no other. This second election, if it comes soon, will be the first honest election in God only knows how long. It will be an honest election because the electorate will be eager to know just why it’s going through this all again, and this will involve asking hard questions of the politicians.

Elections are understood to be about what different parties will do if given the chance to govern. This election has been unusual in electing a substantial number of TDs who are not trying a jot to govern, or who cannot muster support because they are independents. It will be interesting see them answer the question of why anyone should vote for them next time out.

For that reason, the Taoiseach should accept that, while the people have spoken, what they’ve said is unintelligible. Therefore, they must be asked again. Enda Kenny bottled a chance at remarking the politics of the country after the 2011 election by coalescing with Labour, rather than forcing Fianna Fáil to support their own policies. It is that choice that allowed Fianna Fáil to rise again so spectacularly.

But now Enda Kenny has that rarest of things in life: a second chance. By calling a second chance he can expose the limits of clientelist system and bring the voting public to a new understanding of politics and what good governance can actually do. The people will see that they must vote for a government, rather than a county councillor with super powers.

For what it’s worth, your correspondent doesn’t expect that happen. Some sort of government will be cobbled together that will pass a budget (Berlin permitting), and then collapse in 2017, leading to the election then. But things will have moved on by then, and the moment will have passed. New politics is difficult for old politicians, after all.

And yet that hope still glimmers. Enda Kenny has a very rare chance to really make history. I hope he takes it while it’s there.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rugby Union Should Be About Position, Not Possession

Eddie Jones, the new head coach of the English rugby team, hopped a ball during the week by accusing Ireland of being boring. For a man rebuilding England in the shape of the pack-dominated great English teams of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, this is a rich slice of fruit cake indeed.

However. The loquacious Aussie larrikin has spoken a truth that dare not speak its name. It is this: modern rugby union would bore the britches off a Scotch Presbyterian. It is horrible. When rugby was an amateur game, what was good rugby and what wasn’t was an ongoing discussion. Now, all is schtum, and nobody must speak ill of the crash-bang-boom game.

The origin myth of rugby is of William Webb-Ellis, bored by the football played at Rugby public school, one day picked up the ball and ran with it. And that is what rugby union is meant to be – carrying the ball and running with it.

But not only is that not what modern rugby is about, picking up the ball and running to daylight is not something you can do in modern rugby. Once you have the ball, you are to look up, find the most convenient member of the opposition, and run right at him, eschewing daylight for a ruck. And another ruck. And another, and another, in perpetuity.

Rugby used to be a game of field position. Now it’s a game of possession, and those two games are fundamentally different. Soccer or Gaelic from the 1970s looks different to the modern games, but 70s rugby and modern rugby obviously, blatantly, clearly different games.

Mike Gibson’s first thought on receiving the ball has to have been fundamentally different to Rob Henshaw’s, even though they both play at inside centre. Rugby is not the game as it was. And the change is devolution, rather than evolution.

Certain rugby pundits sneered at some years ago at Warren Gatland’s Wales as being Warrenball, based on the sheer beef of that human cannonball Jamie Roberts at inside centre.

But reader, Warrenball wins Grand Slams and Lions Tours. Who doesn’t play Warrenball anymore? Where is the team that runs now? The French, the British Lions and Fiji were the one-time great exponents of running rugby. The French can barely field a team any more, as the Top 14 teams/franchises have turned out to be the farrow that ate their sow.

The British “and Irish” Lions, whose very survival this long into the professional era, are on their last legs. South Africa will have fallen into the abyss by the time the next tour there rolls around there and not only could the ‘Stralians not give a stuff about the Lions, Australia only became a tour venue for the Lions when the International Board finally decided to effect the Apartheid ban on South Africa nearly twenty years after it was introduced.

Fiji have no players left, as anyone any good at all is shamelessly and shamefully poached by the New Zealanders before he’s old enough to shave more often than once a week.

And so we have the situation now that rugby union has become a poor man’s rugby league, a biff-bang-boom game, a crash-bang-wallop game, where men too big for their natural frames to support repeatedly crash into each other like a thirty-ball Newton’s Cradle on the grass of Cardiff, of Edinburgh, of Dunedin and divers arenas to many to count, and then wonder why their careers are cut short by injury.

The domestic Welsh rugby competition plans to experiment with new rules. A six-point try (point inflation in the value of the try in rugby union – there’s a project for aspirant rugby statisticians), and two points for every kick at goals. Persistent fouling at the breakdown to be punished by much more liberal use of the yellow card.

Reduced value for kicks, fewer players on the field for the majority of the game and a simpler breakdown? They know that style of rugby in Widnes, Wigan and Hull, but rugby union it ain’t.

Is there no hope for rugby union, then? Should we just bury the thing and move on? Of course not. Rugby Union through its history has been good – much better than the GAA, for instance – at revising its laws to make sure the correct balance is struck between teams’ efforts to win and the spirit, the genius of the game.

We see it now with constant tweaks on the laws at the breakdown, but the game underwent its most dramatic transformation at the end of the ‘sixties when the game was stagnating, just as it is now. Players could only kick for touch on the full from behind their own 22-metre line. A kick that went out on the full became a scrum back, and rugby began its greatest-ever era.

What can be done now to save the game, just as the penalising of the kick on the full saved the game in the 1970s? A suggestion, for your consideration.

Restore the scrum and lineout as contested entities. A scrum won against the head is a rarity in modern rugby, the reason being that the ball is never put into the scrum straight. The straight put-in is still in the rules. Why not enforce it?

The way to restore competition in the lineout is to ban lifting. At the time of its introduction, lifting in the lineout had already been legalised in South Africa during the Springboks’ exile, and a sneaky lift was quite common in the game in general. But the lifting that took place then was nothing compared to the military discipline exercised at the lineout now. For one hundred years, the lineout was a contested entity. Now, a lineout is guaranteed possession.

Could it be that the current emphasis in rugby on possession rather than position is an accidental consequence of lifting in the lineout? Isn’t it the lineout that gives rise to modern truck-and-trailer rolling maul, another blight on the game? If so, a simple banning of lifting in the lineout will make teams think for themselves once again, and maybe bring some sort of spontaneity back to the game. Why not try it? What have they got to lose?

Monday, February 22, 2016

What the Election Should Have Been About

From the Irish Examiner
The final leaders’ debate is on tomorrow. Miriam O’Callaghan will doubtless introduce it as a debate about the issues. But these things are never about the issues. Not around here.

The Irish nation doesn’t do thinking in generalities. Whether that’s the media’s fault or the politicians’ fault is a chicken-and-egg situation – we would have a higher level of political debate if the media would report it, politicians would frame issues in a different way if they thought the media would report it that way. Who knows?

The only thing we do know is that one leader saying that, if elected, he or she will hire 500 new guards, and the next seeing the five hundred guards and raising 300 teachers, is rubbish. Rubbish. Here are the questions that should be asked during tomorrow night’s leaders’ debate, but won’t.

The Economy
As an open economy that does not control its own currency, what would different parties do to exert control on the economy? If inflation is rising, for instance, a government will usually raise interest rates to make it harder to borrow. This lessons the money in the economy and means that prices don’t go up quite as high.

But if inflation is rising in Ireland but flat in the Eurozone, that’s not an option for Ireland. One of the reasons the crash happened was that interest rates were too low relative to the money available, and this created a bubble. What has the current government done to protect the state from that happening again, or from recession in China? What will an alternative government do to protect the state from those and other external economic threats?

The Electoral System Itself
Irish politics is engineered to favour clientelism at every step. To survive, a TD must put local interest ahead of the national interest, even though TDs are elected to govern the nation, not the local area. This is partly why it will be so very difficult to form a government after this election. What steps has the current government taken to address this systemic failure? What steps will the alternative governments take to address this issue?

Education
One of the reasons for Ireland’s current economic prosperity is that the reputation of Ireland’s workforce as being well-educated is very good. But grade inflation has become more and more obvious in STEM subjects at secondary level, and it’s only a matter of time before the tech firms realise the educational system isn’t quite as advertised. What steps has the current government taken to address this issue? What steps will the alternative governments take?

The Distribution of the Recovery
Although elected to govern for the entire state, and by aspiration the entire island, successive governments have favoured the development of Dublin at the expense of the rest of country. A spatial developmental strategy was proposed as far back as 1969, yet nothing has been done about this issue. There are number of reasons for this, bribery, corruption and plain stupidity among them. What steps has the current government taken to address this issue? What steps will the alternative governments take?

Health
Hard case stories are terrible, but governments have to look at big pictures. When it comes to patients on trollies, there are questions not being asked. Are patients on trollies localized – do some hospitals regularly have more patients on trollies than others? Which ones? Why? Are patients on trollies seasonal – are there more patients on trollies in winter than in summer? On Saturdays rather than Wednesdays? This isn’t a medical issue. A medical issue is finding a cure for cancer. The vast majority of issues in the health service come down to poor management. What steps has the current government taken to address this issue? What steps will the alternative governments take?

Crime
We have a Special Criminal Court in this state. We have abolished trial by jury in certain circumstances, an extraordinarily totalitarian situation about which the normally vocal liberal lobby are strangely quiet. Why not use these extraordinary powers to break up Irish gangland, rather than seeing them being glamorized in the gutter press and in TV dramas? What is the Government’s position on this? What are the alternative governments’ positions?

Media Ownership
There can be no real democracy without a free press. A free press keeps the people informed on what their leaders are doing. Without a free press, how can the people know how they’re being governed. Recent technological and business changes have turned the Irish media landscape on its head, to the extent that whether or not a free and independent indigenous media is now under question. What is the Government’s position on this? What are the alternative governments’ positions?