Friday, May 16, 2008

Will Biffo do the Fianna Fail Haka?

Fresh from his ordination as Head Bottlewasher of the Republic of Oirland, Mr Brian Cowen has got straight down to business, and has gone on a nationwide tour to promote the Lisbon treaty. He's doing his handshaking and baby-kissing show in venues all over Ireland, and is playing to packed houses. An audience of 'rural dwellers' packed in to hear him speak today in Mullinavat, County Kilkenny, and after delivering a precanned speech -
he then used the occasion to appeal to that unloved, underpriveleged, neglected section of Irish society - the farmers.

Irish farmers have been getting pretty angry of late. Fresh from the biggest boom in land prices in Irish history, and with the boom in agricultural commodities only building up a head of steam, farmers are still not happy. Instead they are going back to doing what they do best. Whinging and moaning.

The brunt of their anger this time is directed at the European Union's trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, who heads the EU delegation in the World Trade Talks. The plight of Irish farmers is only one of many considerations that compete for attention in Mr Mandleson's mind ; this seems to upset the Irish farming lobby, who are used to shouting louder than anyone else, and getting their way. Remember, this is the same lobby who once threw a live sheep onto the desk of some poor sod in the Department of Agriculture. It's all a bit ironic really, considering farmers have milked the EU dry for years thanks to the EU's costliest charity - the Common Agricultural Policy.

Now farmers are livid that Ireland will lose it's veto at the talks. Well boo hoo. Pass me a Kleenex. Picture it. A deal about to be struck at the WTO ; it's a win win situation for everyone. More trade. More global growth. More employment. But the IFA aren't happy. Irish farmers throw a hissyfit. And oh shit, the deal is off. I don't think so!

For some reason, Mr Cowen feels he has to appease this lobby. Friday, he strutted the stage in Mullinavat like an evangelical preacher, as he pleaded to his congregation to stay at the heart of Europe rather than the periphery. No doubt spurred on by his 42% rating in the latest opinion poll, Mr Cowen has the gadge of a fella who got lucky the night before, and the night before that. I suppose, he is on honeymoon.

But he couldn't lose the Lisbon vote, could he? Probably not. To do so would be a case of 'snatching defeat from the jaws of victory' ; as of today, the number of Yes voters outnumbers the 'No' side by a factor of 2:1. But there is the odd cloud on the horizon. First is the wholehearted support of Enda Kenny et al :
Second is the dodgy economy. Any of these accidents-in-waiting could damage the campaign if left unattended. It would be wise to muzzle Kenny, but unfortunately that's not within his powers. Let run amok, Mr Kenny might encourage people to vote no just for the heck of it. But at least Mr Cowen can take heart from the erratic campaigning of the motley crew of misfits that make up the No campaign.

Lisbon or not, the Fianna Fail show must go on. Voters can expect to see Cowen press the flesh. Nothing is more important than the Fianna Fail party. And if we're lucky, and the Lisbon treaty is ratified, we may see Cowen burst into a spontaneous version of the Fianna Fail victory dance. Expect the arms to be raised in triumph, and I'd be very surprised if we're not treated to the Fianna Fail haka - Biffo lifted shoulder high by an army of henchmen in tweed caps, howling like a pack of Bagles. And for the icing on the cake, we'll be treated to the Biffo thumbs up. Can't wait.

Still, it's weeks to polling day. There could be a few banana skins between now and then. Let's hope a few of them are put under Biffo, just to wind him up. Me, I'm tempted to vote No. Just to see how they would justify holding a second referendum if they lost. And a third. And a fourth. Have they no shame?

Oink Oink!

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