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The Crushing of Greece Brought Near: If Britain Were Greece February 29, 2012

Posted by Garibaldy in British Politics.
42 comments

Fascinating and depressing piece of the BBC website describing what the effects of the cuts in Greece would be in Britain (I’m using their term; don’t know if it means the UK including NI or not). Well worth a watching to better understand the scale of the attack on the lifestyle of the Greek working class.

If Britain were Greece

Waivers and waste collection in SDCC February 29, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
1 comment so far

What a loveable bunch they are down at Greyhound. For news comes that:

Dublin waste firm Greyhound is threatening to charge more than 17,000 waiver customers in south Dublin a full bin collection fee if the council or the Department of Social Protection does not subsidise the service.

Now one could ask as to what the benefit of a privatised waste collection service is if it’s not able to deliver the service that the council was delivering previously. Actually, that’s a good question. And what is the answer?
None that I can see or hear.

Greyhound agreed to provide the bin collection service to waiver customers for an initial 12-month period after South Dublin County Council deducted the cost from the agreed sale price when it sold the business to Greyhound last year.

As the agreement expires at the end of March, the private waste company today warned the council and the Minister for Social Protection that if the cost of the service, estimated at €2.8 million, is not subsidised it would have no other alternative but to charge waiver customers for the service.

Oddly enough neither company nor council mentioned this last March when the ‘purchase’ of SDCC’s waste collection business was unveiled.
Indeed anything but, as according to the Irish Times from that date.
:

The agreement allows the firm to expand its services to more than 70,000 homes in the south Co Dublin area. The company has pledged not to increase waste collection costs in the South Dublin County Council area,

And most importantly that sentence ended:

….and will honour all existing waivers.

Payment methods for consumers are unchanged.

Managing director Brian Buckley said the acquisition “fits perfectly” with Greyhound’s business development strategy.
“We can offer customers greater value for money because we can recycle more of their waste. We send less material to landfill than any other operator in the market, and we believe that our customers should benefit from the higher recycling rates that we achieve.”

Which is odd, in retrospect, because now Mr. Buckley is a lot less chipper.

Greyhound chief executive Michael Buckley said: “We need a resolution. These customers are struggling to survive financially, and they cannot afford to pay for the service. On the other hand we are a private operator and we can not provide an ongoing service free of charge.”
“We are informing our wavier customers in South County Dublin of the situation and are presenting them with a choice of payment plans which are the cheapest in the market.
“These customers are under no obligation to choose our service, and we accept that many simply can not afford to pay for a bin service,” he added.

And he continued:

“Greyhound has been presented with an enormous financial challenge after acquiring two loss making businesses. This is the basis of our pre-paid model. We are confident in our strategy to restore the businesses to profitability while providing customers with the cheapest prices and best service in the market,” said Mr Buckley.

‘Perfect fit’, or ‘enormous financial challenge’. Which one is it?

But this points us right back at SDCC who sold their ‘waste collection business’. Who will collect those bins? Who knows?
Though kudos to Greyhound for a most interesting ‘business development strategy’. Pity the hapless ‘customers’ weren’t told about it earlier.

Meanwhile speaking of Greyhound, here’s a report in the IT from February 2010.

THE FOUR Dublin local authorities have begun action against Greyhound Recycling for its failure to collect green bins from householders across the Dublin region last month.

Dublin City Council served the company with a “performance failure notice” on behalf of the four local authorities late last week for not fulfilling the service requirements in the contract they won from rival waste company Oxygen more than a year ago.

And, here’s one or two FG local representatives who in March 2009 were none too happy with Greyhound’s service in SDCC area.

Fine Gael councillor John Bailey and his daughter, Cllr Maria Bailey, have lodged a motion for the next council meeting, calling on the manager to cancel the contract with Greyhound because of poor service.
“I am appalled at the behaviour of the company over the last five weeks,” he said.
“I have been inundated with complaints and there have been bins everywhere. It’s no way to operate a service.”

And…

Fine Gael councillor Mary Mitchell O’Connor said her bin in Cabinteely was not collected for three weeks.
“I received a calendar setting out when the collection would take place, but it’s a work of fiction as there has been no sign of Greyhound on any of the days indicated,” she said.

Sounds familiar.

The trouble with toner… February 29, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Sinn Féin, The Left.
13 comments

It would be wrong not to mention in passing the Aengus Ó Snodaigh toner cartridge story which, on some levels, is highly entertaining. But perhaps not one that he would find that funny.

Best tweet? … word has it AOS is in possession of a hard copy of the internet.

He certainly won’t be the only TD and Senator who it can be fairly said has overused the facilities available or is overusing them. But he’s been caught.

“Excessive” seems charitable when describing industrial level quantities of toner cartridges being used. And what’s inexplicable is that it was thought that none of this would come to light. FOI’s are an handy instrument for the press to unearth some of the ambiguities and worse of life within the Oireachtas. So it was never a case of if this would be examined in the cold light of day, but when.

That in a way is almost as bad as the ‘excessive’ usage in itself. Sure, no crime was committed, no rule broken, but the perception is far from great.

It’s difficult to judge whether this will be a nine-day wonder, or even just a one day wonder. The news of the referendum certainly displaced it fairly rapidly. But it is a chink in the armour of O’Snodaigh, who by any lights is an hard-working representative and fairly clearly to the left within SF.

Long term impacts, if any? Any thoughts?

*pic added by IEL :)

Game on… February 29, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
33 comments

So, along with the household tax here is another issue to trouble the Coalition – the recognition that yes, despite all the fluff about it being otherwise, the fiscal treaty demands an Irish referendum. And that on the day when S&P announce that Greece is in selective default. Not a great time for the Eurozone, or indeed the Euro, which might account for its slide against the dollar.

Coincidentally, or not, Backroom in the Sunday Business Post this weekend had a number of interesting observations on the latest outcome to the Greek crisis. As s/he notes the Greek deal is simply insufficient unto the scale of the problem that state faces- national debt reaching 168 per cent of GDP next year. And no guarantee that the deal will be accepted by private sector lenders. But Backroom also notes the central aspect of this, that being that…

The EU has failed at every level. It was the EU which pushed the euro project that has turned into such a disaster. A leading German official privately confided to the Financial Times: “It seems to me that we have invented a machine from hell that we cannot turn off.”
In the face of the economic crisis which the euro has unleashed, the EU has repeatedly done too little too late, as it seems to hope that the problem will somehow go away by itself.
The EU Commission has allowed itself to be supplanted by France and Germany which seem now, contrary to EU treaty law, to be directing affairs.

For those who retain a degree of adherence to the European project as a concept and actuality it is that latter aspect which has been so deeply dispiriting. For the two states to assume a position of primus inter pares has mean the effective abandonment of the supposed aims of the Union. This was never meant, at the rhetorical level, to be a union where individual nation states could sideline the Commission and institutions. And even if that were accepted and acceptable, which it is not, there is little evidence that Germany and France have acted beyond their narrow national interests.

And it is this which one suspects is the reason for the bizarre analyses of the crises put forward by those explaining away their actions…

Instead of accepting the truth – that the euro reduced interest rates too much in periphery states and that this led to enormous debt, property and public sector bubbles in those states – the EU has preferred a comforting narrative of sinning spendthrifts on the periphery being rescued by unsullied savers in the core.

What is conveniently forgotten in many analyses is that the EU, and other international organisations such as the IMF and OECD, tended to a panglossian view of what was occurring economically and commercially on their watch in both the individual states and as regards the international regulatory systems during the 2000s.

That said I wonder if the following is entirely correct…

There are huge implications for Ireland’s political parties in the gradual change in the EU’s power, capacity and political attractiveness. With youth unemployment now hovering at around 50 per cent in Spain and Greece, the EU has been transformed from ally to enemy for the young.
In Ireland, the youth unemployment rate is 29 per cent. It is easy to see Ireland’s eurosceptic parties winning support at the expense of pro-EU parties.

Hmmm… Perhaps. They point to SF as capitalising on this attitude, but I don’t – to be honest – see SF as anywhere near as eurosceptic as it was. Euro-critical, surely. And that’s hardly an unusual position in these days. Interesting too how McDowell’s comments recently on new parties seemed to explicitly rule out euro-scepticism. And whether euro-scepticism as an immediate response to the crisis can be translated into a long lasting political strand in the society seems to me to be a very open question. Again, perhaps, but I’d be dubious.

I don’t have a clue what the outcome of the referendum will be, I wonder if our now enviable track record of running referendums twice on issues will make people less risk averse in terms of voting no, if only to discomfit our supposed ‘partners’ in Europe. But either way, good that whatever decision is taken on foot of it will have at least a tinge of democratic legitimation. The genuinely disturbing aspect of this is how unusual that is in some of the states at the centre of the crisis… Italy… Greece…

We were also able to showcase the very best of our agriculture, sport and dance – That Xi Jinping visit from the viewpoint of… February 29, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Many thanks to a friend of the Lounge who forwarded this from one…

(more…)

Joint Statement of the Communist and Workers’ Parties of the 5 Countries with Highest Levels of Unemployment in the EU February 28, 2012

Posted by Garibaldy in Communism, Communist Party of Ireland, European Politics, European Union, KKE, Workers' Party.
29 comments

“Organization and struggle for stable work with rights. Immediate measures for the unemployed. Struggle for a society without unemployment, exploitation, capitalists. The answer is socialism.”

Worker, Unemployed

The Communist and Workers Parties of the countries of Europe which have been most affected by unemployment Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia and Ireland call on you to struggle and organize.

We address the 24 million “officially” unemployed people in the European Union, particularly the long term unemployed, the unemployed young people and women who are most badly affected.

We address all those who are not recorded in the official statistics, but experience the same nightmare of unemployment.

We address the semi-employed, the agency workers, the workers without social security, those who work in a state of employment by rotation with flexible shifts, with individual contracts, with piece-work contracts, who experience employer intimidation, who face the danger of dismissal and unemployment.

We address those who are forced into unpaid labour under the pretence of opportunities to return to work; those who are deprived of their entitlements to redundancy payments by employers’ pleading “inability to pay”; workers who are on strike and engaged in occupations and sit-ins to protect their jobs and rights.

We also address the farmers who are being wiped out, the small professional and self-employed who have been led to closure by the assault of the monopolies, the anti-people political line of austerity which attacks the working class-popular families.

All of you, as well as every worker today, better understands that this labour “jungle” is spreading and is becoming a general law which, slowly or quickly, big capital, its governments, and the EU seek to impose in every workplace. There is no time to lose.

In the countries where our parties operate, Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia and Ireland unemployment has reached very dangerous levels. The bourgeois class in each country and the predatory alliance of the EU as a whole, have declared war on the working class and the poor popular strata. The capitalist economic crisis brings new measures which smash whatever the anti-people offensive in the previous period had left upright, especially after the Maastricht Treaty.

In this harsh reality, a handful of plutocrats have made fabulous profits. And yet they demand further measures. Their crisis is not a debt crisis, it is a capitalist crisis which came about due to the over-accumulation of capital.

In order to overcome the crisis in favour of capital, the industrialists, the bankers and the other sections of the plutocracy along with their political representatives impose hard measures in order to further reduce the price of labour power and force more people into unemployment.

In this situation the people’s resistance to these harsh measures has been hindered by those elements in the trade union and labour movement who, having long ago accepted the logic and the ideology of capitalism, now plead that there is no alternative but to succumb to the offensive of capital.

The way forward is to win the majority of workers and their families for class based popular struggles on the strategy which promotes their interests. The Communist and Workers parties must be at the heart of this process.

Struggle together with the class-oriented forces, together with the Communist and Workers parties.

Organize in your unions and workplaces. Contribute to the development of activity. In this direction the strength of the working class can be reinforced.

Demand immediate measures for the protection of the unemployed:

Decent unemployment benefit for all the unemployed.
Comprehensive medical pharmaceutical healthcare and social security protection.
Freezing of their loans and mortgages.

Unemployment is not a natural phenomenon. It is bred by the capitalist system which is characterized by the anarchy in production, by exploitation.

Only a socialist economy, that is to say a centrally planned economy that will be based on workers’ power and the socialized means of production can guarantee the right to work for all.

This is what happened in the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries and it is a historical achievement and one of the many accomplishments of the socialist countries.

Our parties call you to struggle every day, to struggle for the abolition of the exploitation of man by man, for a society without unemployment, for socialism which can satisfy the needs of the people.

The Parties:

Communist Party of Greece

Communist Party of Ireland

Workers Party of Ireland

Socialist Party of Latvia

Socialist People’s Front of Lithuania

Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain

That Poll , The Household Charge and Anti Household Charge Posters on poles February 28, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Economy.
19 comments

A snotty little attack on the Household Charges Campaign

Cllr Richard Humphreys, the Labour Party Councillor for the Stillorgan Ward, has criticised the poster campaign by the “Campaign against the Household and Water Taxes”.

“Posters advocating non-payment of the household charge have begun to appear on poles around the County, urging people not to register or pay. There is something ironic if not ridiculous about the fact that the Anti-Charge campaign is using poles paid for by Council money and maintained by the Council in order to advocate non-payment of lawful charges to fund essential local government services.” Humphreys said.

After continues along the same lines and how its FF and The Greens fault we have the charge before finishing with ..

“It is also somewhat striking that the “Campaign against the Household and Water Taxes” is a somewhat shadowy organisation which does not list its members or committee conspicuously on its website. Nor does it publish on its website any rules or constitution which would show that its committee is accountable to its members. Its press releases are featured on a Socialist Party website and it gives every impression of being another vehicle for the cynical politics of the Ultra-Left Alliance.”

Shadowy?
As for the posters on poles argument … does he really think that the money raised will go to local services?

And speaking of the household tax, the detailed findings of that Sunday Times Behaviours and Attitudes poll are now online , all 73 pages of them.

Amongst the information and one that I missed in the paper was

Respondents were asked in today’s poll, whether they, or anyone else in their household, has already paid the €100 household charge.
This question was asked of all eligible voters aged 18 years+ and, by definition, would include some younger members of households who are likely to be unaware as to whether the head of household has or has not paid the charge.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the vast majority of Irish households have yet to pay the household charge.
Indeed, just one in ten of all Irish adults aged 18 years+ claim that either they or somebody else in the home has by now paid the charge – rising to just 1 in 8 of those aged 55+ years. This leaves a massive proportion of Irish households who, as of the end of February at least, have yet to pay the household charge.
Of most interest, however, is the fact that over a third of all of those voters living in households which have not yet paid the charge claim that they do not intend to do so.
44% state that they do intend to pay it, with a further 20% undecided.

I may be wrong but the Anti Household Tax movement hasn’t got the same coverage as the Septic Tanks. That said Nationwide Household Tax protests were covered on Saturdays RTE television news. They finished the report by saying that 120,000 households had registered so far. … No mention that it was ‘just’ 120,000 out of 1.7 million households.

Now another little bugbear here (and elsewhere) has been the constant lack of measurement in polls for the ULA or at least more than one of its parts.
This is the question asked about party support. The Workers Party are there but no ULA, no Socialist Party, no People Before Profit Alliance, no WUAG etc etc

Michael McDowell and the current dispensation. For him, what’s not to like? Apparently quite a lot! February 28, 2012

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

Michael McDowell is at it yet again. Mutterings about a new party that would in some way occupy the space the PDs did in their day.
And what’s most notable are his thoughts that:

…he claimed the current Coalition would not survive into a second term and predicted a new party would soon emerge to fill the political vacuum.

His prognostications go like this:

He said it was “improbable” the present political alignment would survive the next election. “Fine Gael and Labour will not have the appetite for another five years of working together. They’ll have sustained a hell of a lot of damage, especially Labour. Anyone who thinks we’re in default mode and things will just rumble on is getting it seriously wrong. There will be something new, something very different.”

What vacuum would that be then? Presumably one on the right. And yet we have a government that is privatising €3bn of state assets. One that is using noticeably strident rhetoric against those on welfare despite levels of unemployment of 14 per cent. One that is slashing public expenditure by billions in successive budgets.

Programmes that the PDs, even in their wildest days, never dared to put before the Irish people.

But logically if FG/LP are implementing these policies then what will remain to be done at the end of the five year period to fill the ‘vacuum’? And logically too given that he points to the LP being more damaged, that would presumably be because of a perception it had shifted rightwards. Why does he think that former LP voters would go right rather than left, and why does he think that already right of centre voters voting FG would go to a new party rather than sticking with what may by then be arguably the most efficient implementer of right of centre policies in the history of the state?

All very odd really.

And perhaps it is this that accounts for the rather insipid criticisms he does air.

Mr McDowell, who returned to the Law Library after losing his seat in 2007, launched a scathing attack on interest groups who “beat their own drums from public funds” and also criticised the Government’s plans to regulate the legal profession.

My God! Regulation of solicitors and funding for the INOU and the NWC. Those are the real problems in this society, aren’t they?

How Ireland Voted 2011 – The Full Story of Ireland’s Earthquake Election: Review February 28, 2012

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

Given that the 25th of February 2011 was Election Day, and this is near enough the twelve month anniversary, it seems only appropriate to consider the most comprehensive analysis of that election, that being How Ireland Voted 2011 – The Full Story of Ireland’s Earthquake Election. Edited by Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh and published by Palgrave MacMillan it’s a fairly handsome paperback volume. But presentation aside, and I’ll return to that point, it’s a good overview of arguably the defining election of the last decade, if not longer.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters, each of which deals with a different aspect of the election. So one can read about The Background to the Election, Candidate Selection, Campaign Strategies and Political Marketing, Internet Explorers: The Online Campaign, Women and the Election, analyses of the election results, and so on. The authors are in the main drawn from the world of political science – Jane Suiter, Michael Gallagher, Richard Sinnott and the late Peter Mair who died during the completion of the volume. But interestingly Pat Leahy of the Sunday Business Post is the author of the chapter on Campaign Strategies and Political Marketing. So the analysis is strong throughout.

A number of chapters are of particular interest. On the Campaign Trail provides accounts by various candidates of what the campaign was like at ground level. What’s useful about this is not so much the sense of looking behind the scenes of the campaign, but rather a sense as to the tone of this campaign in particular. And it appears to have been distinctively different in some ways. Candidates refer to Facebook and Google advertising campaigns. Fine Gael candidate Seán Kyne who won a seat in Galway West hardly refers to Fine Gael party centre and appears to have been running a campaign that on some issues put him at odds with party policy (as with his lack of support for the abolition of compulsory Irish in the Leaving Certificate). Labour candidate in Waterford, Ciara Conway, doesn’t mention her leader, or the early effort to position him as Taoiseach in the campaign. Then there’s the hapless Conor Lenihan, ex Fianna Fáil Minister of State who tellingly has a broader sense of the wax and wane of national political support and activity than some others quoted. There are also pieces by Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin and Richard Boyd Barrett of the ULA. Both of those candidates discuss national politics and the economic situation to a remarkably greater degree than Kyne or Conway. There’s also a reflective piece by Paul Gogarty of the Green Party where he admits that ‘while some members of my team urged positivity, I preferred to take a realistic approach, and refused to play up my chances. We were gearing up for a hiding and there was no point in pretending otherwise’. And then there’s a piece by Averil Power, who did not take a seat for FF in my own old stomping ground, Dublin North East but was elected to the Seanad.

Another chapter that is perhaps of specific relevance to many here is the one on the Online Campaign. Written by two post-doctoral researchers, Matthew Wall and Maria Laura Sudulich, it examines in some detail the shape of the campaign on new media. And it takes a well balanced view. They argue that while ‘no serious campaign consultant would advise his or her candidate to focus solely on online campaigning in an Irish election and an investigation of the campaign activities that corresponded to electoral gains in the 2007 Irish campaign found that posters and leaflets were the most effective campaign tools…nevertheless, Irish parties, candidates, and citizenry have made rapid advances and undergone remarkable changes in their political use of internet technologies since the 2007 election’. They also note that ‘candidate online campaigning has more than doubled in prevalence since 2007, when only 32 per cent of candidates had individual campaign sites’.

One very intriguing piece of information is how rapidly Independent candidates have taken to these technologies. They reference Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, John Halligan and Michael Lowry, all of who use Facebook and/or Twitter. Indeed disturbingly they note that Lowry has ‘over 5,000 friends on his Facebook profile’. But they also make the point that not all have adopted new media. Maureen O’Sullivan ‘succeeded without large numbers of friends of followers, and others such as Tipperary North candidate Kate Bopp and Dublin South-East’s Dylan Haskins were unable to convert popular social networking profiles into seats – although Haskins did particularly well for a non-affiliated first-time candidate, winning over 1,300 first preferences in a highly competitive constituency’.

I find that latter point worth considering. The problem with social networking is that, per definition, it is not restricted to geographical areas such as constituencies. It’s not that Haskins, or whoever, might not be popular in terms of such sites, but without the ability to operate in strength on the ground there was a clear gap between aspiration and implementation. And the O’Sullivan campaign suggests that in real terms the relationships between online media ‘support’ and actual political support may be nebulous at best. That said it is clear from the use of social media during the Presidential campaign that they can if given the right circumstances have an effect of considerable degree. One wonders if any future candidates will permit the use of tweets during a debate in the way the last one did?

In a way this is the most frustrating aspect of social media in contemporary politics. We know they have an effect, but unlike posters and leaflets it is difficult to gauge that effect in any substantial way. And in relation to official party websites there’s a chastening statistic related as regards web use; ‘in the 2001 UK election, Lusoli and Ward found that 5 per cent of survey respondents had visited the site of a political organisation, while a study of the 2010 UK election found that this proportion had tripled’. That’s still only 15 per cent of survey respondents. Impressive, certainly, but far from hegemonic. Then again, whether the party website is the best exemplar of the online form is open to question. How many here dipped in and out of those sites more than a couple of times during the campaign, as against a deeper engagement with boards, blogs, online media such as the Irish Times, Independent newspapers and RTÉ and so on?

Anyhow, the chapter considers that ‘this election has received wider coverage (in terms of the numbers of people producing coverage and the volumes of news and analysis disseminated for public consumption) than any previous event in the history of Ireland’. That’s almost certainly correct. And even though they note the fragmentation of content creation as containing a downside due to the near impossibility of recording all that is posted online they are in general terms positive about the outcomes.

Peter Mair’s chapter is fascinating too, being focused on The Election in Context. And he notes that ‘in [election] 2007 analysts expected change and got continuity, even though the continuity was fragile. In 2011, they expected change and they got change, even though in some crucial respects the outcome was not that different from what had been experienced in earlier momentous contests.’ It is perhaps a stretch to suggest that 2007 played a similar role to the 1992 election in the UK, where expectations of significant political restructuring outstripped the rather more banal reality, where as 2011 was similar to 1997 in seeing a genuine structural shift. But perhaps one can also argue that the changes in 1997 in the UK were to dissipate – although few then would have foreseen a Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition as the outcome of a future election. Mair convincingly argues that 2007 ‘was the last good year before the Celtic Tiger collapsed’ and economic issues were subsequently to assume a centrality that was quite distinct from their position prior to the crisis. Indeed we are still living through that very process of transformation. Intriguingly Mair argues that as well as Fianna Fáil and the Green Party being ‘losers’ he would add the Progressive Democrats ‘which entered the 2007 election as an independent patty, and which had dissolved themselves mid-term’. And it is telling that of their Dáil cohort only Noel Grealish remains – although their last leader then Senator Ciarán Cannon is now a Fine Gael TD. But the political import of this is that Mair suggests that in terms of volatility 2011 – and he argues that 29.6 per cent of votes to FF/GP and PD were lost that year – was the most volatile election in Irish political history. And placing this in historical context, the arrival of FF as a force in the Dáíl in the 1930s, the 1943 election where both Labour and Clann na Talmhan made significant gains, and even 1992 where the LP ‘suddenly doubled their vote’, he still regards 2011 as exceptional, and continues ‘even though it is possible that it may yet signal a return to the sort of extended sequence of highly unstable electoral outcomes that marked the late 1920s and 1930s’.

And it is as a resource informed by the depth of analysis apparent above that the book is particularly useful. From the nature of the campaign to a consideration of potential outcomes from policies announced both before and during it – one chapter for example considers The Final Seanad Election? – it works well for a broad audience.

WIth that in mind it’s also worth noting that there’s little question that the standard of presentation of many academic and crossover books – those which sit between academia and more general readerships, has improved enormously in the past decade. This one, for example, contains a few pages of photographs on glossy paper close to the introduction and is dotted with diagrams and photographs throughout.

And given that political activity is uniquely visually oriented it cannot really be otherwise if one is to give a full analysis. That said a chapter dedicated to that might have been of particular interest. Interestingly the chapter on the Online campaign is perhaps best in that regard because it examines party websites. Of course there are now a broad range of internet based resources for those looking for examples of election material. The Irish Election Literature Blog hosted by our own IELB is a first port of call.

But these are relatively minor quibbles given the breadth of engagement of the book with the overall topic. Should anyone interested in the topic have this book on their shelves? Most definitely.

And there’s one thought from it which has remained with me subsequent to reading it, and that’s the following:

‘…in 2002 Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil won 133 seats between them, and in 2011 the same parties won… 133 seats’.

So, perhaps big changes, but not necessarily quite as big as they might sometimes seem.

Fianna Fáil one year on….. February 27, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Fianna Fáil, Irish Politics.
Tags:
9 comments

A year on from the General Election and a week before their Ard Fheis is a good time to wonder about the fortunes of Fianna Fail.
In the past year Fianna Fail have been a ‘constructive opposition’ , which is hardly surprising given the current government are continuing on with their policies. In today’s Indo there’s a big headline “FF Tells ‘Cautious’ Martin: time to shape up” with a few TDs complaining that they have given the government an easy time, they don’t know what Fianna Fail stand for and that some TDs aren’t pulling their weight.
One thing mentioned was that there is a bunch of only 8 or so TDs available for media appearances. I presume these were Sean Fleming, Michael McGrath, Billy Kelliher, Niall Collins, Willie O’Dea, Eamon O’Cuiv, Dara Calleary and Sean O Fearghail. Collins, Calleary, McGrath and O’Dea aren’t too bad but they’re not brilliant either.
Due to Fianna Fails period in government they are in effect fighting with one arm tied behind their back. The simple answer of we’ve got to cut back this or that because of the mess you left us with, is one that is hard to argue with. It remains to be seen how long that line will be effective but personally I think it will last a long long time.
Then of course there are other reminders of the past…. there must have been horror in Mount Street last week as John O’Donoghue and later Noel O’Flynn broke their silence and offered to come to the rescue of the party. That’s before we even get to the Moriarty Tribunal findings. There’s talk that decisive action against those found guilty is needed by the party and that certain people should be expelled from the party if they are found guilty of wrongdoing. That’s fair enough and I’d be happy to see it. However it would look like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. How many crooked Fianna Fail politicians from Charlie Haughey down actually were expelled from the party? (Ray Burke? , Liam Lawlor? Colm McGrath?…)

This Ard Fheis is a time for the members to speak, I gather too that it is to be “member led”. I’ve been looking at some Fianna Fail Blogs and various Facebook pages to try and gauge the mood and see what might be in store.
There’s still some “If it wasn’t for Lehmans Brothers we’d be grand” being bandied about and of course there is also a look back to the past achievements of the party. From those past achievements Fianna Fail people hope to look to the future.
A good example would be the Legion of The Rearguard site, “a site created for the grassroots of Fianna Fáil by the grassroots of Fianna Fáil“. The most recent post there “The Fianna Fáil That We Would Have” gives a good insight into what some of the grassroots are thinking. It outlines a list of previous achievements and more. It begins with the following paragraph and takes off from there

The People have judged Fianna Fáil in the recent general election: having found our policies wanting, they have acted accordingly. The extreme economic difficulties that Ireland has suffered over the last four years have their origin during the 14 years of uninterrupted Fianna Fáil lead government and just as the organisation rightly took credit for the Peace Process and Ireland’s unprecedented prosperity which has kept 1.85 million people at work even during recession: Fianna Fáil has taken responsibility for its part in the present crises, has apologised for these failings, and has been doled its electoral punishment.

I don’t think its as simple as that, the apology may have been given but I don’t think it has be accepted yet. The effects of “its part in the present crises” will be felt for a long long time.
There are some internal elections taking place at The Ard Fheis. Looking at some of the candidates leaflets there are some common themes. A bigger say for the party membership is one but many of the others mentioned look to the parties past. Its heritage and tradition. Nearly all of them mention regaining the electorates “trust”.
There are other clues “Fianna Fail needs to be issues driven” , mentions of support for septic tank protests, being against cuts in education.

Two of the major issues though and ones that can’t be remedied in the near future are the lack of women TDs and lack of seats in Dublin. For an insight into the memberships ideas of Dublin its worthwhile checking out the “Fianna Fail Dublin City Focus” Youtube Channel where there is an introduction video by Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick and replies are being uploaded by members.
Darragh O’Brien and Averil Power may get the odd bit of airtime but the lack of Dublin TDs means in the Dail they have nobody directly appealing to Dublin voters, no Dub that Dubs can relate to like (cough) Bertie.
If you have a party that has mainly rural TDs, then rural issues will naturally seem more important. Rural issues will be the ones heard in clinics, raised at local meetings and so on. It’s no coincidence that the Septic Tank charge was reduced as it was one thing Fianna Fail were in a position to oppose and benefit from. Fianna Fail haven’t opposed the Household Tax , in part its a legacy from their own time in office but also when a Property Tax comes in, it will be Dubliners that will have to pay the vast majority of it. If they had TDs in Dublin I’m sure some of them would be kicking up hell at the prospect of their constituents having to fork out anything from 600 to 1,000 a year.
The lack of Dublin TDs also means that there is a lack of choice when it comes to panelists on various TV shows. The performance of David McGuinness in the Dublin West by-election shows that there should be a future for Fianna Fail in Dublin, but its a sign of the times where Fianna Fail are thrilled to have come in second in a by-election for a Fianna Fail seat.

The Sunday Times poll at the weekend saw a rise in support for Sinn Fein among younger women voters, in Mary Lou McDonald they have a role model and regularly when she speaks in the Dail Sandra McLellan is sitting beside her. Fianna Fails lack of women TDs is hurting them, yes they have some female senators and Averil Power does get a bit of airtime on Television she is a Senator and the Seanad or indeed some of her TV performances do not get the same coverage as The Dail does.

We go back though to where does the party stand?
Can it still be the catch all party? … if not who are they battling with?
Is it with Sinn Fein and Labour or with Fine Gael?
What areas can they produce policy in that would be taken seriously by voters?

We’ll know a little more after next weekend.

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