By Eithne Hogan
Once upon a time, before the General Election, the national population of Ireland aka the

citizens or the electorate held many issues close to their hearts, minds and consciences – both

individually and collectively. These red line issues were deemed as immovable, heartfelt,

rationalised interpretations and understandings of serious and impending national questions

and societal issues which impacted directly or indirectly on them, their loved ones, their

communities, localities and in totality affected and shaped their very nation and home.  They

still are.

Homes. Food. Water. Employment. Education.  Health. The Environment. The staples and life

blood of society and its wellbeing.  Rights and Responsibilities.  Duty of care.  Inclusion and

marginalisation.  Equality.  Dignity.  Justice. Ethnicity.  Freedom.  Flash words for an electoral


In one sense, despite the eclectic coddle_of_what_‘went into the national melting_pot’__there_

was undeniably a brotherhood and commonality of sharpened feeling and mood in most parts

of the body politic. Changes and amendments, desired reforms and thoughts of policy

implementations varied in type and in scope and strategy and even in degree of angst and

frustration but still there was in Ireland a vibrant connectedness of political [and apolitical]

mood. In this short-lived participatory epoch, the most spoken word of the day had to be

‘change’__It dripped off the political tongue like butter.  And still is.  And spreading out in its

inimitable hotch splotch, it sat perched and responsive to the bread of hope and fear and

equally held lip service to the sprinkling of an utmost and obvious dread of anything that

smacked of sameness and anything but more of the same_

Anything but.


Other words used during this time included reform, real, meaningful, rights and alternative.

Some political pilots flew their flagships ever so impressively high right up to dizzying peaks

and way down to plunging dips where only eagles had previously dared and some more

conservative types incorporated more radical language and aspirations than in prior General

Elections; weaving promise on their ornate and embellished wings in the channelling of

perfect choice and public opinion: their banners of effervescence sparkling in the

environmentally friendly democratically bright sky. Promises were sometime made with pride

and conviction with hardly a glance at the face of Mr and Mrs Nonsense or his/her familial

counterpart in downgrade or derogation Lord of the Market and the Associated Lord of the

Electoral Pitch and Dance.  Some politicos were and are genuinely averse to games and clever

game playing and are substantially made of more human[e] and decent cloth.  How many in

situ do you wonder now?__Well__that’s_up_to_you_to_explore_and_discover; until possibly the

next big day when we are encouraged to peek into our cardboard keyhole of democracy.

But amongst all this medley of high drama, low shots, mediocrity and harmony; amid all of

this cacophony of difference and diversity, stood the tall ship and the thin red line of the

people – standing in real world cool as you like people power.  For these particular people,

standing steadily on the red line generally not borne of their making but necessary to create

as a counterweight to governmental pressure; the issues and demands either implicit or

explicit were fixed and solid and were the product and stuff of bodily strife and mental

anguish and battle. Battles against the harsh hands of austerity and the callous grab of

avaricious profit, structural violence and economic terrorism.

Red lines. The stuff of dreams.  The stuff of real life and real people.  The stuff of hope and

aspiration, of struggle and will, of all of those wobbly appropriated words that make a damned

pretty penny of worth when weighed against the craved and wanted individually mapped

numbers to photos on a ballot paper and the totalled count of a nation’s_expectations.  And

just when you think you can blink at the Demos and measure their mobilised capacity for

influence, then the democratic lights go flash, bang, dance and meticulously and hurriedly go

out. And somewhere in the shadows, in the uniqueness of your personal individual worth,

you are left to count on in the dark.

As for the sum of all its political parts?  To_many__it’s_the democratic equivalent of a shrill

instantaneous scream or a fleeting epiphany – almost religious.  Loud while it lasted, heard,

done, possibly damned but never forgotten; that is until the next time you feel the real pain

and it hurts.

But this time, yes this time especially, this time the Irish_understanding_of_the_term_‘red_line’_

took on an added garnered force and strength that it certainly has not experienced nor

witnessed in pre-election times for quite a substantial amount of decades I would say, and

you possibly might just agree with me on that one.

In fact, I_don’t_think_anyone_no_matter_the_politics_will_argue_with me too hard there!
Because there were many red lines.  There still are.
Homelessness as a national emergency/crisis/problem.  Red line.  The end of ruthless and

mercenary repossessions and evictions.  Red line.  The introduction of some form of debt-

forgiveness.  Red line. Irish Water RIP.  Red line.  The end of water metering.  Red line.

Democratic reform/structural change/participatory/direct democracy.  Red line.  Radical


overhaul of the Health Service.  Red line.  Reversals in cuts and changes in education.  Red

line.  Employment and the end to abuse of labour. [Not the party].  Red line.  Emigration.  Red

line.  The end to the exportation of our youth and future.  Red line. Proper and dignified care

and support of the sick, needy, vulnerable.  Red line.  Respect and ownership of our natural

resources.  Red line.  Radical changes in all of the organs of the government especially the

judiciary.  Red line.  The cessation of attacks on protest, free speech.  Red line.  An end to

political policing.  Red line.  Red line. Red line.

Red line.
And a by the way, for all involved in the spinning and dancing media machine, another red

line was to please to please stop using the word recovery. It was and is an insult and

abhorrence to the majority.

And it is the fabrication of the home and place where_your_convenient_‘modular’_truths flush

out in puddles and lie.  Red line.

But what we have now witnessed in such a short time post-election, just when the ink on your

pencil is newly and indelibly dry; is that some things may never change.  Any or all red lines

drawn with absolute intention and commitment in this representative democratic system we

presently have are open to use, misuse and calculated abuse.  And when your red line is so

quickly abused, it is interpreted by the abuser and destroyer as a mere ‘whimsical’_point

drawn with fingers in the shifting sand, with fingers that essentially mean absolutely nothing.

Your red line is figuratively etched out in a pitiless capricious process which effectively pushes

it back on the stones where cornered and bound by the rigours of the aftercount tide, post-

election waters blur and dilute it, washing across its fading red to pinkish existence, rendering

it meaningless. And with its insignificant lifeless demise, its originators, supporters and

staunch upholders conveniently blur with it, until they too are indistinct, forgotten and faded.

At least, that is the hope of the abuser.
And whether that is the absolute and final outcome depends ultimately on the answer to the

following question: who really owns the red line?

And whether that is the absolute and final outcome depends on the logical identification of

an election as the biggest most phenomenal transfer of power in the life of any given


So what do you think?

One of the earliest_references_to_the_phrase_a_thin_red_line_cites_“the_Battle_of_Balaclava_on_25

October 1854, during the Crimean War. In an incident which became known as the “The Thin

Red Line”, a two-deep line of around 500 red-coated Scottish infantry from the Highland

Brigade – with support from a battalion of around 1,000 Turkish infantry and six guns of field

artillery – stood firm against a force of around 2,500 Russian cavalrymen.”__pparently__this_

instance became an example of stoicism and steadfastness in the face of a mighty unyielding


However, I would like to extract the military zeal out of this phrase and how it can be

misappropriated_and_glorified_to_gather_more_‘fodder’_for_war. We all know how war can be

lionised and soldiers recruited from the magnetics of such brave words and sentiment. In


contrast to this, I wish to utilise it in a more pacifist but powerful manner. And I’m_also taking

a loan of a quote from one of the correspondents in The Times William H. Russell with words

used to describe these particular Scottish men. Russell remarked, he could see nothing but a:

 “thin red streak tipped with a line of steel”
And thus lay the seed of a war-time_eulogy_

especially the 1998 film adaptation directed by Terrence Mallick. Neither novel nor film glorify

war but show it in its utter destruction of men and planet.  Of mankind involved, it is in reality

a quote from James Jones’ book which reads “they discover the thin red line that divides the

sane from the mad… and the living from the dead…”

Some of the narrative and quotes from this film could be recited as an accurate reflection of

the global destruction we battle with in this our so called technological age.

First Sgt. Edward Welsh: We’re living in a world that’s blowing itself to hell as fast as everybody

can arrange it.

Private Edward P. Train: [narration] This great evil, where’s it come from? How’d it steal into

the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doing this? Who’s killing us, robbing

us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might’ve known? Does our ruin

benefit the earth, does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too?

Have you passed through this night?

The echoes of these words and so much more in this adaptation resound in your mind far

beyond_the_novel’s_reading_or_the_film’s_viewing___nd_for me, albeit in the most extreme form

of battle, it depicts the horror of where unfettered and unrestrained avarice and economic

desperation and greed can inevitably lead.

So the words here are much more than merely poetic_

I could be rightly accused of sensationalised hyperbole when I say that unchecked

continuance of the road we are travelling on could lead to another global catastrophe or even

war.  I could rightly be agreed with that at a minimum, we are already on the route and are


proprietary downgrade of the majority of peoples and populations when pitted against a

global elite. I could be agreed with that all societal service provision esteemed to us from our

benefactors have been downgraded or made defunct to then be sold on to the highest bidder.

I may or may not be agreed with in totality.  But somewhere on that scale lies the answer.

Finding that answer is the prerogative of the reader.


red line[s]?  And I can only now offer my own subjective interpretation on this one.


In my opinion, we the people always own the red line.  Even after the power transfer.

Especially after the power transfer.

When pushed to the brink of how much pain we can take or afford; through austerity by any

other name, when giving our lives and our labour to society for_its_betterment__when_‘doing_



when watching your family emigrate with no viable option, when witnessing the cruel might

of eviction, seeing suicide, witnessing deep and dark depression, perceiving the elderly and

the disabled struggle with more challenges than what nature bestowed them to begin with;

when all of the injustices and the inequities trials and tribulations add up to massive inequality

and practically insurmountable societal imbalance; well then we are already standing on the

biggest red line imaginable.  If the cumulative effect of all the red lines tot up to the road to

totalitarian rule and the destruction of the majority at its hands; we are already living in a

world that’s blowing itself to hell as fast as everybody can arrange it.  And our successive

governments were all but complicit in this explosion.  Why such a stark accusation and

indictment?  Because if they truly represent us, they should be standing on the right side of

the red line with us against these global elites and vulture capitalists and sterile and stagnant

destroyers.  They should be standing with the people they propose to judiciously serve.

And all this talk of republics, new societies, democratic reform [already backed off by and

reneged on as a red line issue for coalition by FF], means nothing unless they do.  It may never

be Nirvana but surely the outcome of salvation from this hellish urge is preferable or better

than the alternative where red lines frankly do not give a damn.


So where are we now in relation to the 2016 party red lines?

In_fact__“addressing_Fianna_Fáil’s first parliamentary party meeting since the General Election,

Mr Martin said there are no red lines issues because no coalition talks with Fine Gael have

taken place.”


Interesting__There’s_an_even_more interesting article in the Examiner outlining the red line

issues of the parties pre-election.  _nd_sure_we’ve_heard_them_all_at_the_doorstep_or_read_

them on election materials and manifestos.


The best example for me is where some parties had no red line issue to declare at all.  You

have to ask yourself the question, who do these parties represent when there were a plethora

of red line issues stemming from the people who elected them?  The stuff of baffle.  Perhaps

the stuff of waffle.

Fianna Fail


Our priority in government is focusing on improving public services and giving ordinary

working families a break. This focus will be our red line in government.

Fianna Fáil is committed to such major policy initiatives as a €30 increase in the pension, the

abolition of water charges, removing the USC for workers up to €80,000, lowering the pupil

teacher ratio to 23_1, establishing a €2,000 childcare tax credit, building 45,000 new social

housing units and increasing Gardaí to 15,000.

Fine Gael: Simon Coveney – (Candidate in Cork South Central)
[Watch them.  Although, given a chance, I have a hunch that they might increase the number

of Gardaí.]


Abolition of water charges – already gone.


The Labour Party

“We don’t approach election issues in terms of red lines_ We have areas that are priorities for

us: creating jobs; ensuring that more people begin to feel the recovery; and easing the USC

burden on low and middle income families.”

No red lines – already gone.


You should read the remainder of this article or similar pieces and commentary on what the

parties/independents do next and process this material in your own time.  It is worth your

valued time and consideration.


Then watch and compare all of their red line issues to those of the citizenry/people you are

one of – with the complexity of the situation or issue in tow.  Otherwise, you will be accused

of the convenient governmental stigma_of_narrow_and_blind_‘populism’_and_the_creation_of_a_

simplistic them/us bifurcation and reductionist thinking.  Don’t_let_them_do_this to you –

whoever the them are.  These admonishments are concepts that exist to diminish your

strength and purposefully wear you down.  Avoid them.  They only bear fruit if you allow



And then ask yourself again who really owns the red lines?  And furthermore, if there is an

aspect or shred or smidgeon of your thinking that believes that we the people do or even that

we the people should own them at all times; then place yourself firmly on the thin red line

with the others who think and act like you. Put your mind and your body and your soul with

conviction and dedication on that thin red line tinged with steel and support anyone who

believes that we can and we will reclaim the red line.  Do more.  Further people power and

help it grow.  Help build it.  Because if you want it, you have to build it yourself.  And only you

hold the power to do so.


Remember, it is your red line.


Now, own it!