Beyond the neon runes


The best of both worlds

Open up your Facebook page there for a second. Now, scroll down; past the videos of the funny babies, the incoherent ramblings of people you’ve never met and the requests to pray for the angels in heaven. Keep scrolling until you see some pictures, the ones posted by your friends who live abroad. Take a look at those pictures, take a look at their faces, at their surroundings and the people they’re with. Disgusting, isn’t it?

Okay, yes, I’m jealous, I admit it. I want to be in Canada, befriending amiable Canucks, attending hockey matches and feeling superior to Americans. I want to be in Australia, throwing shrimp on the barbie and drinking Castlemaine XXXX. I want to be in South-east Asia. I want to be in Berlin. I want to be in Barcelona. Basically, I want to be anywhere but here.

But I’m not. I’m in Ireland, with all the rest of you, tentatively shedding off the layers in preparation for another cloudy, slightly muggy, summer, reeling from revelations of child abuse, cover-ups and corruption, and wondering what kind of a country this is at all at all.

There are some benefits to staying however.

By staying, we get to have a sense of moral superiority over those who left, a kind of stoical pride in the fact that, when everything was going to pot, we stuck it out.

Unfortunately that’s about all we have. That and our right to vote of course. If we don’t like how things are being run, and most of us don’t, then we can utilise our rights as Irish citizens and get that crowd of hoors out of it, replacing them with another, more palatable, crowd of hoors.

So yeah, you can stick your nice weather, your competitive wages and your efficient healthcare; we have the vote, and that’s worth more than any fancy new lifestyle or swanky condominiums.

Except, soon we won’t even have that much over those smiling, tanned, bastards abroad.

Rather than go quietly, and spend his last few weeks in the job freewheeling into a cushy number, Enda Kenny has revealed plans to hold a referendum to extend voting rights to Irish people living abroad. This potential change to the Constitution would give “citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in Presidential elections”, and come into effect in time for the 2025 presidential race.

This is not a new proposal, it was originally submitted back in 2013. But in politics, timing is everything. So with one eye on the future and another on his own personal legacy, Enda has decided that he wants to be remembered as the man who gave the vote to our vast, far-flung, diaspora. That any kind of Yes vote will be a logistical nightmare is no concern of his, he’ll be long gone by then, boom-booming on a beach somewhere while his successors grapple with the numbers.

Because while the UK, US, France, Germany, and virtually every other western country, already grants voting rights to citizens living outside their environs, Ireland’s situation is, for a number of reasons, uniquely complicated.

For a start, thanks to a storied history of emigration, there are a lot of second and third-generation Irish people dotted around the planet, people who may never have set foot in this country but have citizenship by dent of parents or grandparents. If we were a superpower like the US or Germany, with a population to match, this wouldn’t be an issue; but only 4.5 million people live here, a figure that is dwarfed by our diaspora.

Imagine an election where the majority of voters don’t even live in the country where it’s taking place?

Then there’s the Northern Irish conundrum. Under the new laws, those living in the North would have the right to vote in our presidential elections. Again, the figures are worrisome, with another two million people potentially eligible to vote under the new legislation. And what of Sinn Féin’s role in all of this? As the only political party active in both states, will they be able to utilise their Northern Irish supporters to, in effect, monopolise the position of president for years to come?

Interestingly, nowhere in the proposed amendment does it suggest we find a way to allow those with no fixed abode to take part in what should be their right as an Irish citizen. Homeless people are not entitled to vote in any type of election, the reasoning being that without an address they cannot be accounted for when it comes to polling day. Shouldn’t this issue be resolved before we start worrying about those who have chosen to leave our shores?

Due to its complex nature, and the questions it poses, this referendum, unlike previous ones, is unlikely to offer voters a simple Yes or No option. Instead we’ll be asked exactly who we think the vote should be extended to, whether they be former residents, future residents or Yankee Doodle Dandies who, without fail, wear green on Saint Patty’s Day every year. We’ll also be asked how long someone has to have been living outside the country before they’re not entitled to vote and whether our friends in the North should be afforded the opportunity to partake in what is, coincidentally, a mostly meaningless election.

It’s a bit like when FIFA want to try out some new wacky rule-change, like increasing the height of the crossbar or giving the referee a can of shaving foam, and decide to trial it in the Danish Under-15 League, Third Division B. If it goes wrong then it doesn’t really matter, you’ll just have a few irate kids on your hands. And the same can be said for our presidency; should this referendum lead to changes in our Constitution which sees 46 million Americans voting in Dustin the Turkey as our President then sure what harm, tis only a bit of craic anyway.

What isn’t any craic, what’s far from any kind of craic, is the cost of referendums. They are notoriously expensive to organize which, in theory, should mean that we don’t have many of them and that, when we do, they’re carried out with the intention of implementing crucial changes to our Constitution, things that the public have been crying out for. Like, for example, repealing the eighth amendment.

That Enda Kenny has chosen to forward this referendum, a referendum that, lest we forget, no-one has really asked for, over something that large swathes of the population have campaigned for, on a consistent basis, is solely down to the current uncertainly surrounding his position.

Our outgoing Taoiseach recognises a political time-bomb when he sees one, and just as he yearns to be remembered as the man who gave the vote to our ex-patriate nation, so he wishes to avoid the abortion debate, and all its accompanying controversy, as best he can between now and his last day in the job.

So, because of an arcane elective system which saw two uneasy bedfellows form a coalition which was never likely to last, and some half-spoken truths which left our leader’s position beyond untenable, we get to vote on an issue which doesn’t really affect us, instead of one which continues to affect people, in the most terrible of circumstances, on a daily basis.


Pay to play

Jessica Farrar

Speaking of abortion and the eighth amendment, a Texan politician has, in response to the State’s own archaic laws, filed a legislation which would make it a crime for men to masturbate unless they do so at a sperm bank or other designated venue.

Arguing that ejaculating outside of the vagina or at a medical facility should be classed as “act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life” Jessica Farrar has created the ‘Man’s Right to Know Act’, a legislation which would see rogue masturbaters fined $100 for each and every unnecessary emission.

Explaining her reasons for forwarding the motion, Ms Farrar said, “”A lot of people find the bill funny. What’s not funny are the obstacles that Texas women face every day, that were placed there by legislatures making it very difficult for them to access healthcare.”

It is funny, it’s actually inspired.

Not only has Ms Farrar struck fear into the hearts of every man in Texas (as well as potentially finding a way to clear the entire debt of The Lone Star State) she has also, subtly and with great humour, laid down the gauntlet to those behind the ‘Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act’, a motion that could see women who have abortions charged with murder.