Friday 15 December 2017

Anton Savage: Will the Taoiseach and Tanaiste take in refugees? What a silly question

A migrant girl carries a child after crossing into Hungary from the border with Serbia on a field near the village of Roszke, September 5, 2015.
A migrant girl carries a child after crossing into Hungary from the border with Serbia on a field near the village of Roszke, September 5, 2015.
Tanaiste Joan Burton
Cabin crew

One of the unfortunate realities of political life is that words have to be carefully chosen - a single misplaced one can cause huge problems for a politician.

The media often gets the blame for this - journalists are accused of 'taking quotes out of context' - but the blame lies as much with other politicians.

If a political opponent gets an attack of foot-in-mouth they'll attack, whatever the context.


The result is a guardedness in political communications. Each TD knows that a 30-minute press conference ends up being a 30-second sound-bite, where the flow of questions, the mood and the understanding of those in the room count for nothing.

They therefore weigh their words carefully. The result is sometimes daft.

Like this week, when both the Tanaiste and Taoiseach said they would accommodate refugees in their own homes.

Clearly a clever journalist asked them each a question: "Would you take a refugee into your house?" Both of them, being seasoned politicians, knew that the only acceptable answer was a variant of "Yes".

Anything else would be a political powder-keg - "Not in my house, says Joan and Enda".

But to actually believe we will see refugees living in their homes is ridiculous.

Not because they wouldn't do it (who knows if they would or not?) but because either of them taking in refugees would cause them unending problems.

First, within their own parties - because the moment it was announced every TD in Fine Gael and Labour would be asked if they're following their leaders' example.

It's a fair bet that many would deeply resent being pressured into taking unexpected house-guests.

Enda and Joan's second problem would come from the Opposition, who would point out that our asylum system is so inept that Cabinet ministers were now housing refugees.

So the two of them are in a position where they can't take in refugees, but can't say that.

Now, in theory, their fudges should allow for enough pressure to be applied for them to be forced into accepting house guests. "Ye said you'd do it if the situation arises. Show some leadership. Go on, go on, go on."


But that won't happen, because it will get no political fuel. Media can shout and roar, but that gets old, fast.

To keep up political pressure, the media needs politicians fuelling them with quotes, press releases, demands and dictates.

But on this one no Opposition TD is going to try to pressure the Taoiseach and Tanaiste into throwing open their hall doors. Because if they do they know they'll immediately be asked - "When are you doing the same?"

So the real answer to the question "Are you going to take in refugees?" is "That would kick off a laughable spate of unprecedented political tokenism".

But guess what? They'll never, ever say that.


When it comes to a ballad session, the world's top general blows them away

General Martin Dempsey

The High Kings are a hugely successful musical export whose audience is assumed to be nice Irish Americans mainlining heritage from the old sod.

So it was a bit of a shock to find they played the Pentagon this week.

Not only did they perform in the heart of the American military industrial complex, but they played for the man at the top of that complex - General Martin Dempsey.

He's the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military advisor to the US President and the man who chairs the meetings between the heads of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army and National Guard. He also does a mean rendition of Whiskey in the Jar too.


We know this thanks to Darren Holden of The High Kings. He was sworn to secrecy before the gig, but afterwards appeared on my radio show to tell of standing in the world's biggest office building, singing Rocky Road to Dublin with the most powerful military man on the planet.

According to Darren, not only can the general carry a tune but he has a nice singing voice - and every time he made eye contact with one of the group he winked while warbling.

It should be pointed out, when you're the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who's going to tell you if you sound like a strangling cat?

The President is the only person senior enough - and it's unlikely that Dempsey sings in front of him.

The really great news is that the military man is due to retire soon and already spends a lot of time visiting Ireland. He could be the fifth member The High Kings have been holding out for. He's disciplined, popular with Americans and possessed of a voice like silk - and he has combat experience.


Sex shaming the mile-high clubbers

Cabin crew

The crew of a Norwegian Air 737 are getting a lot of attention for an in-flight announcement they made on arrival in Stockholm from Paris this week.

They congratulated a couple who had visited one of the plane's bathrooms together and sent them 'best wishes of happy reproduction.' According to reports, the passengers cheered and clapped and began a feverish whispering session speculating as to who it might be.

All of which is very funny - as long as you're not the couple in question. Wouldn't it have been better for the crew to knock and raise their issues privately rather than setting out to humiliate paying passengers?


Sgt and son, a real family business


The news that Irish army Squadron Sgt Liam McGahern and his son Sgt Trevor McGahern (inset) are both going to be serving on a US mission in the Golan Heights is almost as impressive as that of Dwight Eisenhower and his son in World War War 2.

Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, was on a transport with his son who had just graduated as an officer.

His son asked: "What is the protocol for saluting if we meet an officer more senior that me but more junior than you?" His dad replied: "Every officer is more senior than you, and more junior than me."

The McGaherns may not have the same spread of rank, but it's nonetheless nice to see a father and son serving together, particularly when doing something so important.

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