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National Public Services Alliance – Press Release on Public Sector Agreement March 31, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
2 comments

Press Release Paddy Healy , Chair, National Public Services Alliance 086-4183732

The “public service deal” is historic betrayal of public service union members by ICTU and its Public Services Negotiating Committee of general secretaries.
National Public Services Alliance calls on the elected national executives of individual unions to reject these destructive proposals without ballot where rules permit.
Should national executives put these proposals to ballot, NPSA will campaign vigorously in each union for a “no” vote

NPSA also calls on all national executive committees of individual unions to keep directives and forms of industrial action in place rejecting the call by Kieran Mulvey to end industrial action.

But there is no guarantee that the public service pay cut will be restored according to Kieran Mulvey on RTE on Tuesday morning even if cost savings are made.

Government can break this agreement, including the restoration of pay cuts, at any time in future if government deems that the economic situation requires this. While there are review dates there are no dates for actual payment and no agreed amounts in each phase
Staff will be forced to accept redeployment even out of their profession under pain of compulsory redundancy.

This means that ICTU and the General Secretaries have conceded that public servants are no longer permanently employed as previously understood.

The general secretaries have agree that the Staffing Moratorium and “Pension Levy”(discriminatory tax on public servants) will continue.

For the first time public service union leaders have accepted the principal of compulsory redundancy in public service.

The existing Pension scheme has been given away by the general secretaries for new entrants with a vastly inferior scheme being introduced for next year.

A pay freeze in the public service has been agreed until 2014 even if the economy recovers and comparable employees secure pay rises.

Shameful Betrayal

ICTU is collaborating with government in cutting back public services in schools, hospitals, universities, social welfare offices, passport offices, and local authorities etc.
The general secretaries have explicitly agreed to the continuation of the staffing moratorium. Already thousands of public service posts have been eliminated including 1,540 nursing posts, several hundred teaching posts, 1200 Special needs assistants for students with disabilitie, thousands of pastoral care posts in schoolss,and several hundred lecturing posts.

The suggestion that these eliminations can be replaced by redeployment and flexibility is a blatant falsehood.

A fire sale of conditions of service, established over decades, has been conducted by the general secretaries.

The demand for a contribution from the super rich through assets tax and a third income tax band has been dropped while the unions are acquiescing in cuts in social welfare.

The €50 billion in assets of the top 300 individuals are being left untouched while €22 billion is being poured into banks who are increasing mortgage repayments.

Now €2 billion euro per year is to be extracted from public service provision to pay debt service on the untold billions being used to bail out banks and developers.

It is outrageous that public servants should be asked to vote on the alternatives of foregoing urgently needed pay restoration or maintaining their conditions of service.

ICTU and the General Secretaries have allowed the government to cut pay and to blackmail public servants into agreeing to entirely inappropriate changes in public service provision and conditions of service.

Unilateral abrogation of current pay agreement by government is agreed by general secretaries (Public Services Negotiating Committee) though being paid in private sector and commercial state sponsored bodies.

Cost savings will be funded from elimination of posts under moratorium, loading the work on the remaining employees and the application of Transformation Agenda including cuts in health, education and general public service provision.

The wholesale elimination of promotional posts under the moratorium is a reduction in life long earnings and pensions of public servants.

Government has “promised” to avoid further pay cuts but only until 2014 provided cost savings are delivered!(but this government will probably be long gone by then).

Pay cut may be restored in stages over a number of years provided that:

1) The changes in conditions of service have actually taken place
2) The savings have actually been achieved in each individual employment(eg if primary and second level teachers don’t agree cost saving measures in schools, they will not have pay cuts restored)
3) Review dates will be in Spring each year beginning in 2011 but this is not the date for restoration of a proportion of the pay cut

A mechanism along the lines of the current Performance Verification group will be established now called the Implementation Group.

This will lead to employment contracts and other changes being renegotiated with the gun of non-restoration of pay cuts and further pay cuts to the head of the unions and with management in the driving seat.

This “deal” will seriously damage public service unions unless it is defeated.

National Public Service Alliance intends to deliver such a defeat.

That NAMA ‘gamble’… March 31, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
5 comments

Well, if the heading on the IT editorial wasn’t enough to have you choking on your porridge, then the text beneath it was hardly more reassuring.

A multi-billion euro gamble.

Cheery. And typical of the IT’s position throughout. The editorial noting that far from drawing a line under the banking crisis this was more in the line of an update pointed to various problems. They saw some sign of optimism in the idea that less might have to be pumped into AIB and Bank of Ireland if those banks were able to sell assets. The very sane Karl Whelan dissents on (see his point 6) …

But it also noted that the ‘remarkable and unexpected disclosure that the bill for Anglo Irish could be some €10bn more than expected’.

Stop and think about that for a moment. All the agonies over the Budget delivered but a few billion in savings this last year. As a state, public sector wage cuts, cuts in service provision, cuts in CDPs etc, all that amounted to less than half of what is intended not to bail out Anglo Irish, but simply to provide the last tranche to that bank.

And those monies, whether the Government likes it or not, do come from the public purse, and therefore impact directly upon us. With all the attendant risks that one would expect from a financial sector gone mad.

In reality, nothing that could have been said yesterday would have altered the fundamental risk associated with Nama. At its most simple, it is a calculated gamble that the all-in upfront cost to the State of bailing out the banks will be less debilitating than the wider costs of letting them fail. That upfront cost is still not clear but based on the information that was released yesterday it could involve capital injection of up to €31.8 billion in fresh capital and close to €40 billion in debt issued to the banks to pay for their discounted property loans.

And as is noted:

The cost of having let the banks fail is unquantifiable and is inextricably linked to the impact on the State’s own credit worthiness and ability to borrow. Ultimately the view was taken that standing behind the banks and their obligations to international debt markets was preferable to letting their bond-holders suffer the consequences of the banks’ greed and stupidity.

Which is interesting, because then the editorial notes that:

The approach was necessarily kinder to the banks than many would consider appropriate, giving as it did the two big institutions a fighting chance of staying independent. Their subsequent behaviour has done little to counter the perception this was a mistake. Executives hung on grimly to their jobs; business screamed for credit and borrowers saw interest rates rise while the European Central Bank left its rates at record lows.

An attempt is made to provide some, but not a lot of justification…

Standing where we do today, the trade-off does not seem obvious. But it is worth remembering that when Nama was first proposed over 12 months ago, Ireland faced a predicament not unlike the one Greece finds itself in today. The state of our national finances was such that serious doubts existed about our ability to manage our way out of our problems and there was a real possibility that debt markets would be closed to us.

And yet and yet, curiously NAMA has not been central to the argument about debt markets. Instead it has been the cost of the public sector that has driven that argument. Now, the two issues are not mutually exclusive, and that could well be sleight of hand on the part of the government, attempting to divert attention (and how successfully that project has worked out for them on one level, whereas not so much on another) while they tried to patch up the financial sector. And yet and yet and yet… Michael Taft has a most interesting piece on bond yield trends across the course of the past year or two… And yet, and yet and yet redux. Ireland is the laggard in terms of bringing forward measures to address the situation. We stand some 12 months if not indeed more behind our friends in Europe and more widely afield in presenting ameliorating instruments.

That’s not good by any reckoning.

And the IT recognises this implicitly:

Things have improved dramatically since then, due in part to the Government’s efforts to resolve the banking crisis. That does not validate Nama in itself but it underlines the need for some sort of determined action 12 months ago.

Yes. Do something, anything. Chuck a few chunks of red meat in the water in hope that the sharks will swim after them rather than try to tip over the boat (by the way I’ve never been in that position, the closest being a spectator to Roy Scheiders efforts in Jaws, so I have no idea would it work).

In truth, Nama is a product of expediency. Making it work will require an ongoing, high-intensity effort. It will have to be scrutinised and revisited repeatedly over the next decade and longer. But public confidence is in short supply and the unexpected addition yesterday of a potential extra €10 billion to the cost of keeping Anglo Irish afloat has done nothing to help.

But here’s the thing, can you imagine an editorial in the Irish Times yesterday, today or tomorrow which might argue that diverting say half, or a quarter of the €10bn to a stimulus package would be a good idea? Ideologically they cannot, would not, do so.

Simon Carswell is no more cheerful in his analysis in the Irish Times when he quantifies the ‘investment’ in the banking area that looks likely to top €80bn inclusive of NAMA (indeed the FT argues that… . And as he says, ‘it will be some time before the State is able to recover even a fraction’… how long, one wonders?

And as has been expressed so forcibly elsewhere, there are alternatives as regards NAMA. And always have been. And nor is it possible to cleanly separate it from other aspects of our predicament. The IT recognises as much.

But for a more disturbing, indeed quite frightening view, we need only turn to another paper’s editorial, that of the Financial Times which argues that NAMA takes on a bad loan book with a ‘nominal value of €81bn’, ‘a huge risk’ and ‘represents a frightening 47 per cent of Ireland’s 2009 GDP’. It then continues by arguing that such a risk could only be taken if taxpayers costs are minimised and bank losses are finalised, a situation which as it notes ‘neither of these conditions has been clearly met’.

Unfortunately, the resulting losses will not be shared beyond the equity holders. Until September, the debt holders will continue to be guaranteed. This means the state will have to underwrite any equity injections needed to recapitalise the banks.

Worse again:

A second flaw is that Nama does not truly draw a line under the losses. Although Ireland’s finance minister, Brian Lenihan, promised a “once and for all” solution, the deal leaves open the possibility of a subsequent levy on the banks if Nama itself makes a loss.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that any subsequent levy would be at least in part paid for by the customers of said banks. Great. But elsewhere the FT is not entirely convinced by the plan… noting that the core tier equity capital ratio of 7 per cent, although as noted by Carswell considerably lower than other competitors, is in and of itself a ‘tough target’. And worse, how capital will be raised remains open. Bank of Ireland intends to raise €2.7bn privately, a figure which as the FT notes is ‘double its current market value’, while AIB must find €7.4bn which will necessitate the sale of assets across Europe and in the US.

Which makes one curious as to what sort of banks are BofI and AIB to be when all this is over, and what sort of value they will have? And what of the rest of us forced to stand by and watch?

A bad bad days work yesterday.

Bring me the spreadsheet of Leo Varadkar… March 31, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
12 comments

While we work through the implications of NAMA, let’s for light relief turn to an highly entertaining post on the self-same Deputy Varadkar’s blog wherein he number crunches the SBP poll (and isn’t that poll the gift that just keeps on giving?) to arrive at a most astonishing conclusion (hat tip to Cian) .

For he has decided that:

My spreadsheet is based on the swing indicated in the poll being replicated evenly across the country.  Of course, this won’t happen. 

So we could stop there? No, apparently not.

There will be regional variations (swing to FG and Labour  and FF collapse will be greater in Dublin) and lots of local variations especially where the PDs are gone or where there is a strong independent. 

Don’t worry if you think that’s not quite rigorous enough…

But these things usually even themselves out. 

Hmmm… And to puncture the doubts of the… er… doubters he continues:

  I am also assuming an that left-of-centre voters will transfer strongly to each other and that terminal transfers will favour the non-FF candidate.

Well, when you put it that way… well I know I’m convinced. Although… wait a second… we’ll come back to that.

So, what he’s come up with, and in fairness he does describe it as ‘counting chickens again’ is:

The result would be FG 72 seats, FF 45, LAB 33, SF 8, Greens 4 and Others 4 – Higgins, O’Sullivan, Lowry and Murphy. 

This is exciting. Perhaps too exciting. As is the following:

Based on these figures FF would slip to 45 seats with no seats in Kerry North, Tipperary North or Dublin SE.  They’d win one in all rest and two in Carlow-Killkenny (just about), Galway West (assuming Grealish goes FF), Louth (due to Kirk) and Laois-Offaly (only chance of 3).  Possible casualties include Michael McGrath, Martin Mansergh, Ned O’Keefe, Margaret Conlon, both of the Andrews or even Hanafin, Michael Mulcahy, Conor Lenihan, Peter Power and Beverly Flynn or Daragh Calleary.

What of his own?

FG would have its best election ever [Presumably so much better than under that slugabed Garret, hence the seventy two, our Garret only getting 70, the best FG performance... er... ever - wbs] with a remarkable 4 seats in Mayo (unlikely but possible), and the possibility 3 in Galway East, Cavan-Monaghan and Laois-Offaly.   Seems unlikely but the that’s how the figures fall.

Yeah, and the figures never lie.

Check out these…

A Gilmore Gale would bring Labour to 33 seats equalling the Spring Tide with fewer votes.  They’d take 14 seats in Dublin alone the same as Fine Gael.  A big problem for Labour, however, is the absence of candidates in areas where they could have a real chance with the right candidates; Galway East, Clare, Laois-Offaly, Louth and Cavan-Monaghan.

Well, perhaps. But what of this…

The collapse in Fianna Fail would grant a reprieve for the Greens with White, Gogarty and Cuffe losing out but Boyle making a surprise comeback but only if SF and FF transfers favour him over Fine Gael.

Now, I’m no expert, but the idea that SF transfers will go to the GP in any volume seems, a tad unlikely, given the breach that their participation in Government represents for many many on the left.

But what of the following, and once more in fairness to Varadkar he writes it through gritted teeth no doubt.

Sinn Fein will become a Dail party in its own right with two possible gains in Donegal and possible gains in Dublin Mid-West and South-West.

Yeah. Maybe. I’d say 6 on a good day. 8 on a remarkable one. Okay, the collapse of Fianna Fáil might bring about those circumstances. But… we’ll see.

So, cut to the chase Deputy.

The likely outcome would be an FG-Labour coaltion under Enda Kenny with 105 seats.  FF, Labour and SF combined would only have 81 and they’d need the Greens or Indepedents [sic] to get it together.  To do it without Labour, Fine Gael would need to do business with SF and the Greens.  That’s not going to happen.

I’d be highly highly dubious that if the numbers came up right FG wouldn’t make some effort to talk to the GP. Granted SF is a different matter, at least today.

And in this utopia there’s room for even better… better than utopia you say? Why yes, one where there’s no reason to give anything to those pesky Labour Party people and their social democracy…

However, if Fine Gael can push up towards 40%, a single party government becomes a real possibility.  FF nearly got an overall majority in 2002 with the same share of the vote.

Not that the Deputy isn’t a cautious fellow (and it may just be my browser, but he doesn’t allow for comments… wise man)…

But it all comes with a serious health warning.  The Election is months (or years away) and a week is a long time in politics.

How right he is. How right he is.

It may seem churlish of me to pour cold water upon his critique, particularly given how we’re more than happy to muse on the runes (or SBP polls – whichever comes first)… Still… I think we could all benefit from a good hard look at that spreadsheet of his. I really do.

Well, this is painful… NAMA March 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
29 comments

So far so bad…

The National Asset Management Agency is to apply an average discount of 47% on the first loans it will acquire from the five financial institutions involved in the scheme.

This means the agency will give the banks just over half of what the loans were worth on the banks’ books.

This is well ahead of an average figure of 30% estimated by the Government last year.

So much for that then.

Speaking in the Dáil, Minster for Finance Brian Lenihan has said that the country is now fiscally stable and credible. He said the scale of the damage is now known.

Well, that’s not okay then. And what of this for a self-exculpatory statement…

Minister Lenihan also said that senior figures in banking had made appalling decisions, which the taxpayer will pay dearly for, for years to come.

Senior figures in banking? Oh them. Yes, indeed. But by no means restricted to them.

And what of this?

Meanwhile, NAMA chairman Frank Daly said its guiding principle had been to safeguard the interests of taxpayers by taking a ‘scrupulously objective view’ of the value of the assets and the security attached to every loan.

Mr Daly said the process has been rigorous and tough and that he was surprised at the lack of security on some of the loans.

He said the level of co-operation NAMA has received has varied.

Surprise at a lack of security? A varied level of co-operation? Well I never.

Proposed public service agreement – the view from the top. March 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
47 comments

This was passed on by a friend of the Lounge…

30th March 2010
To: Branch Secretaries
Cc: CEC, DECs, Staff

Dear Colleague
Proposed public service agreement
Intensive negotiations took place between the public service unions and employers over the weekend, brokered by senior Labour Relations Commission staff. The talks concluded at 3.00am this morning with agreement on a proposed public service agreement. I have called a meeting of the CEC for 8th April to decide whether and how the proposals should be put to ballot of members.
Under the proposals, the Government has given IMPACT and other unions a commitment that there will be no further public service pay cuts if extensive reforms in work practices and conditions of employment are implemented throughout the public service. The proposals also provide a mechanism for the reversal of existing pay cuts over time if reforms deliver verified savings.
The proposals would see a review of the savings that accrue from agreed public service reforms in spring 2011. If sufficient savings have arisen, the restoration of pay cuts will begin. Initial priority will be given to public servants with pay rates of €35,000 or less, according to the proposals.

Further reviews will take place in 2012, 2013, and 2014, with more money becoming available to restore pay rates if verified savings have been achieved. The reviews will be undertaken by a performance verification group with an independent chair and equal numbers of union and employer representatives.
If accepted, the deal would also deliver pension protections and a guarantee of no compulsory public service redundancies. Under the proposed agreement, the period for which 2009 pay rates would be used to calculate pension entitlements would be extended from the end of 2010 to the end of 2011. It was agreed that a review in early 2011 would consider a future extension beyond this date.
The Government’s has confirmed its intention to continue the moratorium on recruitment. But a new agreement on redeployment of staff – within and between public service organisations – would generate savings and help protect services as staff numbers fall. The agreement would see staff redeployment within organisations as the first choice and includes protections for staff, including limits on the distances over which they could be redeployed. Voluntary redundancy schemes could also be used in some circumstances.

Savings would also be generated – and services protected and improved – through detailed work practice reforms in each sector. The pay, pension and job security elements of the deal would be depended on full staff cooperation with these changes, which are set out in separate ‘transformation’ documents for health, local government, education, and the civil service and non-commercial state agencies. These will be published on the IMPACT website as soon as they are available in electronic format.
The proposals restate the Government’s plans to restore the public finances and reduce the deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014.
The proposals also include an ‘industrial peace’ clause and an agreed mechanism to quickly resolve disagreements about the agreement.
The overarching agreement is being posted on the website this morning. The detailed proposals for transformation in health, local government, education and the civil service and non-commercial state agencies will be published on the IMPACT website as soon as they are available electronically.
I will contact you again after next week’s CEC meeting.
Yours sincerely,

________________
Peter McLoone
General Secretary

In place of strife? That public sector union agreement… March 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
1 comment so far

Well, it’s no secret that union members are demoralised. This has been a bad two years for both those in unions and the public sector (not always the same group, or rather that union membership stretches far beyond the public sector – whatever the media might like to suggest). It has been an unprecedented time actually. I can’t recall any period in my life, stretching back to vague memories of the early 1970s when unions and public sector were so reviled by the commentariat. I’d never previously bought into the idea that people were becoming detached from unions, in part because numbers were increasing, but now it seems to me that there is a significant section of people who have absolutely no understanding, indeed no experience, of the function of unions. That there knowledge of them is almost entirely received.

In part this dovetails with the current trope of a private sector somehow held in thrall to the public sector. Massive systemic failures by private enterprise? The resultant deficits are held by some to be the responsibility of a ‘bloated’ and inefficient public sector (the line in the Sunday Business Post and Irish Times has almost constantly been that the first area to be addressed – indeed in some ways the only area to be addressed – is the PS). Flexible markets exhibiting their flexibility by off loading tens of thousands in redundancies – somehow in some intangible fashion ‘solidarity’ is demanded of the public sector, implicitly or sometimes explicitly in terms of wage cuts (this proposition was directly made by Marian Finucane at the weekend. And so on.

I’ve noted before that on the latter issue this is a bizarre and self-serving distortion of the very proscriptions that private enterprise has demanded as regards the environment within which they operate. They have sought the freedom to shed jobs as required – although thankfully so far employment protections remain, and the quid pro quo has been a welfare net which is by their own reckoning as much social ‘solidarity’ as is necessary (although that hasn’t saved benefit from cuts). At least hitherto. Not for them the situation as extant in some of the continental states, still influenced even distantly by social democratic thinking, where redundancies are more difficult to impose, even closing a company is a process with more steps than here. To now hear the demands for further ‘solidarity’, particularly from those who eschewed any such language at the height of the economic boom when the mantra was much more along the lines of ‘we have what we hold’ is as ironic as it is inevitable.

And in this context, paradoxically at the point when they are need most unions are presented as a part of the problem, rather than as a necessary bulwark against capital.

But then unions are – in their machinations in the broader scheme of things – their own worst enemies. By colluding with social partnership in the way they did, by tacitly agreeing with a firesale of taxes (albeit unions have not and are not as powerful as they are painted by some, and in these areas were merely trying – much like a Labour Party which as recently as 2007 was arguing for further tax cuts – to keep up), they too have a measure of responsibility. Nor have they argued for the extension of provision across the society, as they should have, in a range of areas from pensions onwards. Indeed they’ve appeared on too many occasions to be overly eager to be pragmatic, sensible. So when government decided to shut them out who is truly surprised at their eagerness to be get back in?

The headlong flight towards ‘reforms’ appears to me to be muddle headed. It presupposes that our public services are broken in a way which I, as a consumer of many of them, and others simply cannot see. This isn’t to say that there are areas that could be improved. Of course there are. But the argument that there are systemic problems when in truth we have a public sector that is more characterised by its variation than any great uniformity (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), seems profoundly incorrect.

No word of the historic underfunding of our public services, of an ideological hostility to them that has only recently become entirely overt, of a partiality in the dealings of the state – exemplified by the preferential treatment to higher civil servants in terms of their wages in the very recent past. No sense that in international terms our public services are smaller than average and relatively efficient given the levels of funding, that the workers within them are not outrageously well paid (although true that in some areas and at higher levels wages have been too high). And so on and so forth.

Is the agreement any good? I’d be cautiously pessimistic. It seems to me that there are far too many opt outs, too many hostages to fortune. Who seriously believes that the economic situation is going to have righted sufficiently by early next year that increases could be contemplated (I write that sentence entirely disagreeing with the precepts on which it is based but writing it in the context of the prevailing orthodoxy which unions appear to have bought into).

The thing is that I suspect very few in the public sector have genuinely believed that there would be any return to the status quo ante, that the pension levies (indeed I’ve stated it here previously, I’m not hugely exercised by them albeit the means and manner of their introduction appeared gratuitous in the extreme) or the wage cuts would be rolled back. But, I wonder (and remember I work on contract with the PS) whether many expected the unions to agree so readily to changes above and beyond those measures.

To see the unions align – as far as one can tell unquestioningly – with a predominant narrative on those changes is dispiriting.

And speaking of that poll…and that agreement last night. March 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
24 comments

Oh dear oh dear. This has to be bad news for Fianna Fáil. What to do next they might well ask, having taken the ‘tough’ decisions, been applauded by a right of centre press and now face – as AK has noted in his analysis, a Michael Noonan/Fine Gael 2002 like outcome. Small reward for such supposed economic virtue.

Most interesting details? Well, a small gain by Sinn Féin, which might indicate that Gerry Adams speech is reaping some dividends by shifting away from left territory to more emollient ‘Republican’ territory. Labour retaining 17%. That’s a sustained trend. A couple more points and they’ll be up at 30 odd seats if the election goes well for them. 5% for the Green Party may be somewhat heartening, but where are those transfers going to come from? And note that Independents remain a significant bloc, although they’ve only gained 1%. I’ve been dubious that they’ll be returned in any numbers next time out, but… I’m changing my mind. An awful lot of the previous FF vote is going to go there, if the percentiles on this poll are anywhere accurate.

But more importantly look at Fine Gael. 35% and holding (okay, up 1%, but the point is made). That’s a solid solid vote and short of Kenny taking an axe to Varadkar, for his apostasy as regards Garret FitzGerald, hard to see them shrugging off too much of that any time soon. Kenny gets a lot of stick for his approach, but surely this vindicates his softly softly strategy. He’s no knight in shining armor, but, he’s steady and unthreatening. No small thing in a society that has undergone near-catastrophic shifts in the past couple of years.

And soon is soon. We’re now moving to two years and closing on the election. Cowen is clearly not a beloved leader, not even a respected leader, not even considered the leader to shift the economy around. The problem for him is that he’s unthreatening too, but in a bad way.

For all the arm waving about that latter topic it remains striking how few people have bought into the notion that he can do it. A mere 29% think he’s up to the job (remarkably a figure somewhat greater than his party support – is that the GP voter in there?). 66% disagree with only 5% not knowing. If there is no alternative precious few people believe that the only remaining option will be successful under him. Which is odd given that apparently there’s no alternative and the government is continuing to proceed with the measures that are supposed to inevitable.

Of course, comes the response, ‘this would be true of any government at this point’. And maybe so. But I wonder if FF aren’t prisoners of their own rhetoric. NAMA has shifted back into the public eye. The commentariat’s calls for blood in terms of arrests has taken place. But curiously this hasn’t assuaged a population which has donated quite enough of its own, thank you. I think, perhaps fatally for FF, the idea that NAMA represents a bailout of their mates has taken root. It may be fully true, or only partially so, or not really – but that is largely irrelevant. It feels true for many and therefore they’re not going to demur when it comes to pointing fingers.

Then there’s that pesky past. The small matter that the Taoiseach was Minister of Finance is coming back to haunt him in no small way. The DDDA/Anglo crossover provides more problems. The safe pair of hands when Bertie shrugged off the job way back when is suddenly looking dangerously exposed.

No wonder elements in the FF back benches are squirming. Where, they may well be wondering, is this taking them?

As ever, what about the Left? Well, if we tot up the figures we see that between them Labour and Sinn Féin have 27%. We can most likely throw in a few extra percentiles from the SP and other left party candidates. So, being generous, we see a situation where – even excluding the Green Party – the Left sits on 30% plus. The attacks on the public sector appear to have failed in one key respect…and that is politically.

And here’s the thing about such attacks. It’s all very well for the Sunday Independent or various commentators to whip up a fury about the public sector. But the truth is for all the macho bullshit about deep cuts and massive redundancies neither politically nor economically are either of those courses terribly sensible, and that workforce (or more importantly electorate) isn’t simply going to vanish. Particularly politically.

Instead of their voters simply supporting the current government, it seems that they have gone to Labour. 5% or more across almost two years now. Quite some achievement by Fianna Fáil to lose them. Quite some achievement by Labour to claw them away and to retain them.

And this presents a pretty problem for Fianna Fáil. For to claw them back they’d have to do something… like… like… minimise the effects of the cuts on the public sector in some fashion. Attempt to negotiate work arounds as regards pay and conditions… what’s that you say? Go into talks with Public sector unions? Perhaps even successfully negotiate an agreement with said unions, until recently the most damned of the damned! The worst of the worst. The… language fails us.

And lo and behold, that’s precisely what is going on (by the by, a notably emollient language from John Gormley at the weekend as regards public sector workers).

This game isn’t over. Not by a long shot. And whatever about the commentariat, who are going to go crazy apeshit over this (Garibaldy’s Sunday Independent post almost, but not quite, writes itself… ‘collective loss of nerve’, ‘betrayal of the coping classes’, etc, etc) the calculation in Fianna Fáil might be that 5% from their ‘natural’ constituency is 5% too much, particularly when the only ones to gain are… Labour and in a broader sense Fine Gael.

Is that enough? Not really, but it’s something. On these figures Fianna Fáíl will be going into an election, even if it manages to draw back some support from Labour, on or about 30%, at best. But it may be too late. AK I think points to a meltdown in the FF vote. Despite last night’s agreement this may still be where all this is heading.

Back to the future? Brian Cowen may well be haunted by the shade of Michael Noonan. March 29, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
21 comments

A very welcome guest post from AK of Irish Election Literature Blog.

If the polls are to be believed, the next election has all the indications of a bloodbath for Fianna Fail. Recent mutterings may also indicate an election being closer than we think. How much of a bloodbath remains to be seen but Its starting to look as if we could be in Noonan territory. Could Fianna Fáil’s performance be 2002 Noonan-led Fine Gael like?

Fianna Fáil should get more than 31 seats but there will be unexpected names and numbers falling all over the place.
In 2002 Fine Gael won 31 seats on 22.5% of the votes, a loss of 23 seats. In 1997 they won 54 seats on 27.95% of the vote. So a drop of 5.4% cost them 23 seats. Their Losses included Jim Mitchell, Alan Dukes, Austin Currie, Brian Hayes, Frances Fitzgerald, Alan Shatter, Michael Joe Cosgrave, Paul Bradford, Deirdre Clune and of course Nora Owen. (Labour won 21 seats on 10% of the vote)

Why?

(more…)

Left Archive: Labour, The Party Programme, Irish Labour Party Conference, 1980 March 29, 2010

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Labour Party, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
3 comments

LP PROG 1980

A few short words on this document which fills a gap in the Archive between the 1990s and the 1970s as regards the Irish Labour Party. Note the use of the Starry Plough on the cover, in a very modern incarnation and set within a predominantly red black and white colour scheme. This harder edged imagery is somewhat echoed by a text which happily utilises the word ‘socialist’ from the off.

Brendan Halligan, then General Secretary provides an introduction and notes that…

The LP is required under its constitution to publish from time to time a Party Programme which it is intended, would state the party’s basic principles together with an outline of the policies whereby they can be implemented.

The Programme is to be distinguished from an election manifesto which normally is confined to short-term issues as they relate to an election. The Programme has a longer vision and, indeed, a different purpose. It shold be the basic guide for all party activity over a generation.

It continues…

It is appropriate that at the beginning of a new decade the LP should once again address itself to a restatement of its basic socialist objectives and the means whereby they can be achieved in practice. It is always a challenge to a serious political party to abstract itself from the day to day pressures of politics and to reappraise its policies in the light of change.

And concludes…

The Labour Party accepted that challenge and updated its Programme to meet the new demands and priorities of the eighties. It offers this Party Programme as its vision of Ireland during that decade, an Ireland organized on socialist lines.

And inside? Well, count the ways in which so much has stayed as it was. Or worsened.

Page 23…

As a socialist party, Labour’s objective is to devise an equitable taxation structure which will include all income earners within the taxation base and which will be levied on all earnings, no matter how they are derived. The aim will be to effect a real redistribution of income and wealth between the different groups in society so as to bring about greater equality and the elimination of poverty…

Page 29

The fundamental aim of the Labour Party n this vital area [Health] is the establishment of a free comprehensive health system for all citizens incorporating a general medical, hospital and specialist service, dental, aural and opthalmic services and free medicines to be provided on doctor’s prescriptions.

Our socialist policy on health is based on the acceptance of equality and the right of every citizen to medical treatment without cost.

Interesting reading page 10 on “The Unity of the Irish People” which attempts to straddle a number of different positions relating the North, although is surprisingly sharp in its thoughts on ‘the second Unionist veto’ (p.11).

As ever, there’s more. Apologies for the quality of the scan, I hope it’s reasonably legible.

Economic Reality March 29, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Economy.
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I’d like to direct people’s attention to Conor McCabe’s post symbolic of the stark reality of the current state of the economy.

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