The Not-So-Curious Case of Stephen Donnelly in a Fianna Fáil Dress

That was the big news today. Not Trump acting like a bollix praying away to Arnie and the Apprentice (he’s really the president, is he?), not the Bus Éireann strike to come later this month potentially affecting thousands of passengers, no, it was that an Independent TD had applied to join a political party. Surely that’s nothing note worthy, that’s balderdash and a side-show from actual news?

But this was not just any TD, you see…

This was Stephen Donnelly, the man with a plan. He was an anomaly in the Irish political landscape. Being unattached to a political party or dynasty, he was truly independent of the system. He didn’t have a background of community work or parish pump politics to his CV to make himself presentable to his prospective and subsequent constituents, which was something stalwart independents had in spades in the past. Instead, in 2011, he presented himself and his no nonsense attitude with direct, sharp views on the financial mess the country was in, how it was being managed and how it should actually directed for any improvements to occur.

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“Don’t have anywhere to rest your elbow? Use ANY natural OR man-made surroundings”

And he SOUNDED like he knew what he was talking about. In the mess of NAMA and Anglo, in the IMF and the Trioka, the ECB and ECW (I made that up), you found yourself half confident in half knowing what was going on half the time after an interview with the Wicklow TD. He blazed a trail in being a new age politician; a person who, after seeing the faults in the public and political realm, came from the private sector to put these wrongs to right, or at least highlight them in his capacity with no ulterior motive or personal profit to be gained.

After some time of building up his brownie points in Dáil Éireann, he went into business with Catherine Murphy, a complete legend of a politician with a hard working red background and a very public present of bringing to light the consummate failure that was, is and forever will be Irish Water. Another shareholder in the new venture was Roisin Shortall, one of the few Labour ministers who had the courage to call bullshit on the then government, walking out on James Reilly when he was doing his best gerrymandering impressions regarding Primary Care Centre locations. While they were baptised the Social Democrats and placed themselves left of centre, Donnelly was certainly the one to keep it “centred”. But even at that, they had found a common ground to create a new political dialogue away from the predictable civil war stuff that he himself decried.

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It’s such a shame. Purple suited his background.

The likeable Murphy, the honourable Shortall and the believable Donnelly, how could the Social Democrats lose to an electorate who were sick of everything to do with anything? They didn’t win, nor did they lose, strictly speaking. They drew. They must have been disappointed to gain no seats, coming very close with Gary Gannon, but to hold their seats identifying then as a new party was still an achievement.

Fast forward some months after #GE16 as the kids called it, and Donnelly left. Irreconcilable differences. The parting was a moot point for both sides, and while far from amicable, it seemed they both said their pieces are were happy with that. Fast forward again and we get to him joining no ordinary party. Fianna Fáil, the party that “more or less” got us into the mess, the party that repeatedly lied and said all was fine, the party that he blamed – among others – on the stagnation of the Irish political scene, the party that will beautify CJ Haughey for all the time to come, ever and after, forever and ever, Eamonn.

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Get it?

Admittedly, I was very quick to scoff and laugh from my very high horse, Morality, and I made the bare minimum requirements of a joke regarding Fianna Fáil on Twitter no less. But then I stopped.

What if this is genuine?

And really, given his private sector background, can anyone be surprised? Not overly. To a certain extent, some SD followers got behind them due to Donnelly’s “charisma”, not necessarily a friendly kind, but it was a confidence and accuracy he held, no doubt from his days as a consultant. They now feel slightly betrayed, as do those who supported them due to their campaigning for marriage equality. Donnelly now goes to the party who supposedly fobbed the referendum as no big deal and laughed at it in party meetings.

So, the man who held views we all agreed with has gone bad in our eyes. It must also be said that his elevation to Spokesperson on Brexit would have certainly ruffled feathers in the party’s backbenches. But just because he is now on the frontbench for Fianna Fáil, that doesn’t change them. Sadly though, it just kind of changes him. By joinging Fianna Fáil, he’s chosen his own destiny, and whether he wins reelection is another matter, he has to win back the minds of the cynics who finally had a little bit of hope.

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I’ve seen more stomachable diarrhea.

Alas poor Donnelly, I believed you well.

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White Man Feels Important, Discusses Radiohead Album On Blog No One Reads

Like the vast majority of Radiohead fans, I went spare with excitement hearing the news of new material being released. Excellent, Radiohead will fix everything I thought. Was everything broken? Didn’t fucking matter, Radiohead were releasing music. But that’s ages ago I hear you say. You’re right. I heard you, but I heard nothing about any reviews save people’s acclamation of Burn The Witch.

Up to the point of writing this “review” I had not come across any reviews nor had I heard anything good or bad from my friends, the majority of which would be devout disciples to St Thom et al. Indeed, I had no idea what it was called. Only when I went cheap-arsing my way through Spotify to give a listen to the rest of the album did I find out its name, A Moon-Shaped Pool, and I worried at how much they were planning to get away with on this release.

Radiohead have in the past gotten away with all sorts, be it some of the questionable choices on Hail To The Thief (The use of laser guns in some of the songs) or the absolute prick-acting that Thom Yorke can get away with and still be beloved by the well-kept masses that are the Radiohead fandom. Even the experimenting he does with his voice can be seen at times to be disrespectful, with moments where his voice is more akin to a drunken-baby instead of focusing on melodic construction. Would he and they be feck-acting with this album?

They feck-acted with the last one, King of Limbs being one of the most irritating blip-bloppy start-stoppy scuts of an album that was only half-redeemed by its second half. There I go again, being a Radiohead fan, looking to forgive their faults. And King of Limbs was a fault. I will have that discussion with anyone. But, alas, alack and indeed as well, what would this album hold?

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He looks delighted with himself anyways. For a change.

Before I bought the album all I had were Burn The Witch and Daydreaming to go by. The former was a great piece, strings being used to great effect and Thom Yorke deciding to sing like he used to rather than the arse-boxing he has done of late. A true return to form of creating good solid sons with a bit of an edge. But the latter…

Well, Daydreaming gave us a large problem. Gone was the crisp efficiency of Burn The Witch and what had replaced it was a sloshing six minutes of mawkish nostalgia-driven sad tear sounds as Yorke cried a bit like a little haunted ghost lost inside a school boy’s throat. Nothing wrong with crying, or being a ghost, it was just that this isn’t very good crying.

Track three, Decks Dark, is a harmless and at times gorgeously basic with great key work guiding the song along until a little choral ghost – get used to them – brings it to another level, a better one but with more of a sinister tone behind “It was just a laugh, just a laugh, just a laugh.” My love of the laugh might cloud my judgement when I say it is a good song, but it certainly is one of the album’s best, given it’s well arranged, produced and recorded.  

An acoustic guitar greets us as Desert Island Disk plays, maybe the first time one has been heard for a while. The song does the best impression of Within You Without You of the 21st Century so far. It being the oddest of the bunch of tracks together, but still it holds its place. The album does make sense, everything is in its right place – hey, hey! – but it can suffer from over-stuffing the turkey, per say. And even having said that, it did seem over-written or over-wrought.

“You really messed up everything.”

No, not Thom Yorke’s own review of the album, this is the refrain in Ful Stop, a song that sounds like an automatic bin opening and closing repeatedly as someone learns how to play Stand Up (Sit Down) nearby and gets angrier and angrier as time passes as they realise their friend has learned Climbing Up The Walls. A quite acceptable jam happens in the middle eight – like I know what that means – but instead of capping off the song with an ending to make it redeemable, it just reverts back to little choral ghosts falling slowly back and forth in front of microphones with no deadliness.

A great song for a sad bit in an indie film? Glass Eyes. That is it. It’s a bad version of Give Up The Ghost. Fuck. FUCK.

Anything following Glass Eyes was sure to be better? Surely? A dirty bit of bass opens Identikit before downstairs Thom Yorke is busy in the bathroom, mumbling about all the cans he drank as upstairs Thom Yorke sings “I don’t want to know” him being a teetotaller and all. I think at least. Then some guitar and synth along with little singing ghosties being it to another place again, giving it a bit of grit and drawing the focus away from a sobering-up downstairs Thom Yorke. A fine ending, “Broken hearts make it rain” – a metaphor for something, I’d guess. Fucked if I know. There’s a cracking bit of guitar though to make Johnny Marr feel like a fool.

The Numbers is unfortunately not about the Lotto, but it is in fact a relaxed affair, with a steady and familiar chord progression – Talk Show Host for grown-ups, anyone? – and a vocal that is “normal” and relaxes you, as the overall sound and arrangement tends towards a Rick Wright affair you sleep to. That is of course before the strings light up the track and give the song an ending worthy of the sleeping giant quality the song itself holds. One to see live, surely. One of the best numbers on the album. Pun not intended. My apologies.

Just when things are going well, there he goes again at the start of Present Tense, dressed up in Ed O’Brien’s mother’s bedsheets like a little choral ghost, running around the studio, going “OOhoooooohhhhhooohhhh”.  The song’s intro, at least, written directly after they were lied to by someone who said King of Limbs was a good idea. And throughout the song he keeps repeating on himself in off-kilter moments that nearly overshadow the great music that actually is happening behind his pessimistic mutterings. It seemed to be forever filling a glass hat was already full.

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My review?

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True Love Waits is a song that would be nothing new to Radiohead fans, having appeared on the great I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. Here though, it does sound a bit… different. Instead of the powerful, bare bones and soul and acoustic guitar heart-blast of a song, it now is more a binary code reading of emotion. The Guardian said that the “piano, vocals and percussion that sounds like a beetle using a typewriter” and I have to ask, is that a good thing?

The overall point I think I took from it was that there seemed to be a never-ending need for there something always to happening in each recording. Instead of letting something breathe, or elaborating on a great section of instrumentation, they delayed or distorted lyrics, or had ghosts wail without end but with plenty of echo which, all in all, created a definite atmosphere that you cannot go around or get away from.

Yes, of course, bands can evolve even without my white permission to do so, and they can change their sound and style and set up and anything else beginning with “s” but if I were not to judge this album by their past achievements I don’t think I could or would give it a second or third listen. They have created some of the best sounds of the past 20 years without doubt, but these songs are hardly of that quality. To put it another way, Dwight Yorke of the late 90s would’ve walked on to many teams. By the mid-00s, he could barely walk. But boy could he smile.

And with this scathing opinion, I have to ask myself a more important question; do I even actually like Radiohead?

Pray for me.

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