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All very equitable… June 5, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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…is the news that the five largest groups on Dublin City Council will rotate the mayorship with SF holding it in 2016 and Christy Burke taking over as Mayor on behalf of the Independents this year.

Of course this is all the easy stuff. Wait for the Budgets and then we’ll see what’s what.

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1. Mark P - June 5, 2014

An early indication of where SF are looking: a carve up of the jobs with the establishment parties, with only People Before Profit of the multi-councillor groups excluded.

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2. Michael O'Brien - June 5, 2014

5 June 2012

Press statement: Councillor Michael O’Brien, Anti Austerity Alliance, Beaumont/Donaghmede ward, Dublin City Council

APPEAL TO SINN FÉIN NOT TO THROW AWAY OPPORTUNITY TO LEAD ANTI AUSTERITY MAJORITY ON DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL INSTEAD OF GIVING KISS OF LIFE TO FIANNA FÁIL, FINE GAEL AND LABOUR

Commenting on the negotiations taking place between parties and independents on Dublin City Council ahead of the vote for Lord Mayor tomorrow (Friday) Councillor Michael O’Brien of the Anti Austerity Alliance said:

“One constant theme I got back on the doors in working class areas in the North East of the city during the election was the desire of many people to reject the three traditional establishment parties of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil. I know this was the reaction many other candidates from across the left received from constituents throughout Dublin.

“Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour’s combined numbers in the chamber amounts to 25 councillors out of 63, a minority. Sinn Féin as the largest party is in the driving seat to potentially lead an anti austerity majority made up of themselves, groups to the left of them and left leaning councillors. Such an arrangement could cohere around an agreement to oppose further cuts, fight the gateway forced labour scheme, oppose the inclusion of unjust taxes in the council budget and for serious action on the housing crisis and a struggle with central government backed by a campaign of people power for the resources needed to restore cut services .

“Unfortunately instead of taking this approach Sinn Féin are proposing to give the three establishment parties each a mayorship and a share of chairing Strategic Policy Committees. Sinn Féin circulated a short budget statement crafted with aspirations to impose no more cuts but essentially worded to win support from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour. Whether these parties all get the nod from their national leaderships to accept Sinn Féin’s overtures remains to be seen but I am certain that by not working to shut out Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour from all positions of influence Sinn Féin’s approach is greatly at odds with the thousands of people who voted for them looking for a consistent anti austerity alternative.

“These parties of the establishment together over the last six years have waged war on the living standards of working people. The Anti Austerity Alliance and others including Sinn Féin engaged in a political struggle against these parties in the course of the months and years leading up to this election. This political struggle does not cease at the doors of City Hall but has to be taken into the chamber. Cosy arrangements that might serve to soften the path into a future coalition government is not what is needed.

“I regret that the vast majority of independent councillors at a meeting today signed up to this budget statement and on that basis Councillor Christy Bourke will be nominated for the mayorship. Implicit in tomorrow’s nomination of Christy Bourke is the way being opened for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour being given a turn of the mayorship in years three, four and five of this council term. Regardless of what transpires in the council chamber tomorrow the struggle that really counts is what is organised in the working class communities in opposition to cuts and attacks like the water tax which will be the main priority for the Anti Austerity Alliance.”

Ends

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Jack Jameson - June 6, 2014

Socialist Party activist appeals to a party (SF) the Socialist Party has shown unrelenting outright animosity towards previously.

Changed times indeed.

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Jolly Red Giant - June 6, 2014

Would you dispute the fact that SF received a lot of votes based on the fact that they were anti-establishment and anti-austerity?

If you do then why do you think it would be a bad idea to effect that anti-austerity mood by parties who presented themselves as such working together to ensure an anti-cuts budget in the council?

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Jack Jameson - June 6, 2014

Where did I say it was a bad idea?

I just pointed out a change in SP attitudes to SF.

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LD - June 6, 2014

A change in approach, not attitude, based on changed circumstances with SF’s rise in support.

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3. shea - June 5, 2014

saw the other day on one of the shinners senators cullinane from waterford facebook saying that across the state they are applying the d’hont system to the mayor position on different councils around the state, then he go on a little bit of a rant about someone meeting in secret.

not sure from the AAA statement seems a bit excited but is it saying that in this system the shinners are introducing is an implicit understanding that all budgets will be supported regardless?

“It’s heartening to see Sinn Fein across the state put forward a fair and practical proposal on how to elect Mayors and Deputy Mayors. We are advocating that the D’Hondt system be used which allocates the positions based on the proportionality of the groups represented on the council. If implemented in Waterford each group including FF, FG, SF and the Independents would have an opportunity to nominate someone for the position of Mayor. The fact that Sinn Fein is advocating this mechanism even in councils where we hold the balance of power demonstrates our commitment to a new and fair way of doing politics. It’s about inclusion not exclusion. It’s sad that FF, FG, LAB and some IND’s are meeting secretly in Waterford to carve up positions between them to exclude SF. My view is let them and expose them. The fact that John Hearne and Pat Fitzgerald could be excluded given their poll topping vote is a disgrace.” https://www.facebook.com/dcullinane1/posts/10203759521209289

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4. Logan - June 5, 2014

I notice that SF are engineering it so that the indos and SF have the mayoralty first on Dublin City Council, and then FF, FG and Lab.
Makes it a bit easier for them to contemplate allowing the Council to be abolished for not agreeing a Budget after two years, if they were so minded…
Unlikely though!

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shea - June 5, 2014

Devious minds can be the most interesting of minds, didn’t think of that one, basicly shinners and independents could be in an ‘iam all right jack’ mood with no carrot for them to be nice after year two. well spotted.

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5. Justin Moran - June 6, 2014

The application of D’Hondt to the allocation of ‘mayors and chairs’ has been a Sinn Féin local government policy as long as I can remember. It was in our local government manifesto and, I think, in our Dublin manifesto.

The notion is that no one party or coalition should control and dominate the Council to the exclusion of smaller parties.

This isn’t about doing a deal with FF, FG, Labour and others, it’s about a fair allocation of positions among the parties regardless of who they are.

Had the various Trotskyist parties and groups been a united bloc and won enough Council seats, they would be as entitled to their representation as anyone else.

Its successful introduction to Councils in the South (Times is reporting it will be adopted in Cork as well) is a positive development.

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LD - June 6, 2014

The problem is that’s all very abstract. Surely the question of stopping austerity budgets in the councils is more important than gentleman’s agreements with establishment parties?

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

That’s the spirit Justin, start as you mean to go on with weaselling apologies for deals with the main parties of the right. You will have plenty of time to practice this sort of tune so I wouldn’t worry too much about being completely unconvincing at this early stage.

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shea - June 6, 2014

has there been an agreement to support any budgets yet?

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makedoanmend - June 6, 2014

Whether you like it or not Mark P, this is established SF policy. They’ve been practicing d’Hondt policy in Monaghan for quite some time. FF and FG in Monaghan, to say the least, aren’t too fond of the system even as it gives them PR opportunities where they afford SF none in other councils.

I see the logic of the d’Hondt system in the 6 counties where the system was introduced to bring some sort of fairness into a warped system, but I’m not so sure that it’s really required in the South.

Nevertheless, it’s not some nefarious activity on SF’s part nor of their supporters.

There’s plenty of sticks to beat SF with now and no doubt into the future. The d’Hondt system, for better or worse, isn’t one of them.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

I know that carving up positions with FF, FG etc has been SF policy for a long time. I’m not surprised by it.

However as carving up positions with the right wing parties, by whatever method and forever however long they’ve advocated it, is a wrong (and also itself right wing) policy it is a perfectly reasonable “stick to beat them with”. Particularly as there will be at least some people out there who voted SF as they thought SF represented an austerity-sceptical alternative who will in fact be surprised and not terribly pleased to see SF voting in FF and FF mayors.

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makedoanmend - June 6, 2014

Do you know what the d’Hondt system is?

Any party with enough representation is allocated seats on committees and certain offices are shared, such as the mayorality. According to the system, it doesn’t matter the political orientation of the parties involved – only that they achieve enough voter recognition to be included in the system.

I believe FF and FG are fairly major parties, no? This is why they would be included in the system. Just like the DUP, UUP, SDLP and SF share the ‘spoils’ on the majority of councils in the North.

Really, SF will afford the ‘real’ left with plenty of opportunities to claim righteousness. This is just petty.

And did it ever occur to anyone on the Left that this might be a good opportunity, to sort of like conjol,e SF into joining up and defeating some aspects of the austerity & “because markets” ideology.

That a few minor victories by the left might just begin to alter the public discourse and open up opportunities for the Left to make some major strides forward. Or our we to be treated to shite and triviality ad naseum?

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

Thanks for the smug and patronising response.

Yes, I know what the d’hondt system is and more importantly what it leads to in these circumstances: deals with the major position carve ups with the main right wing parties on a “fairer”, apolitical, (ie right wing) basis. That’s a wrong policy and also a telling one. Particularly when those establishment parties have just taken a hammering and SF could if it desired assemble anti-austerity council majorities.

D’hondt suits the narrow interests of SF, (a) because it is has no princied objections to deals with the right, (b) as you note because “fairer” right wing carve ups provide good PR and (c) because they hope to pressure the establishment parties into giving it a share of jobs and positions elsewhere. It does not suit anyone who wants to see those councils play any kind of role in fighting austerity.

This is worth criticising regardless of the technocratic “apolitical” way in which SF presents its arrangements with the establishment parties. And regardless of how long they’ve advocated such arrangements.

As for your question about “cajoling” SF, has it ever occurred to you that proposing left wing courses of action – like advocating that SF should seek to assemble austerity critical council majorities in areas where it is the largest party – and criticising it when it refuses and instead, as it usually will, adopts a right wing business as usual course is exactly the kind of “cajoling” you are blathering about?

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CMK - June 6, 2014

The technical use of the d’Hondt system is a good idea, but the political context is everything, as always. Sinn Fein are in council chambers in such numbers because they ran on a explicit platform of opposition to austerity. Sure, political activists on the Left saw and see through that, but the vast majority of those who voted for SF didn’t and don’t, for the moment.

If SF were sincere in their opposition to austerity, they would be seeking ways to work with out parties, groups and independents on councils with the view to building an alliance to resist the County manager and to use their political position to push hard for, for instance, no cuts to council budgets. And to take fight to the government if councils fell because of a majority votes against austerity budgets. A situation where a half dozen Councils were suspended because the majority of elected members were opposed to further budget cuts, this would very considerably raise the political temperature and sharpen opposition to austerity.

But SF are taking a leaf out of the trade unions’ book and committing themselves to opposing austerity on a rhetorical basis only but facilitating and co-operating with austerity on a practical and political basis. Scarcely a fortnight after the huge swing to them they are eschewing the basis for that vote and clearly settling in to ‘working constructively’ on councils. They won’t suffer as big a hit as Labour for this sell-out, as they are not as thick as Labour, but this will have a political cost for them and removes one of the most important political tools: their ‘opposition to austerity’.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

But doesn’t Joe Higgins sit on the Oireachtas Finance Committee, and isn’t that the result of a not dissimilar process, indeed aren’t many Dáil proceedings based along the lines of a ‘carve up’ of resources and time according to the size and representation of groups?

I’ve never heard any left group or individual TDs demur from that, quite the opposite, if anything, as exemplified by Catherine Murphy’s research it is that there’s too little given to the Technical Group and Independents, not too much.

And frankly it makes sense even if only because it means that left voices can’t be sidelined completely if the right is in power (and vice versa). That doesn’t strike me as either apolitical or right-wing. Not least because the decisions will still have to be voted on by cllrs.

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makedoanmend - June 6, 2014

smug – mirror.

a pox on all your houses.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

Look, you are the person who responded to an objection to the political implications of Sinn Fein proposing a d’hondt distribution of council positions by assuming that we just didn’t understand the technical aspects of the d’hondt system.

Everyone in this discussion knows, at least in general terms and often in more detail, what d’hondt is. The issue at stake isn’t how it operates, but what SF proposing it means in political terms – ie SF, who are in a position to put together austerity critical majorities in a number of councils are instead opting as their first choice to carve up Mayoralties and other council positions with the main establishment parties. That they justify this in technocratic rather than political ways doesn’t mean that the rest of us should discuss the issue on those terms. Technocratic or apolitical solutions to just about anything in the context of this country’s politics are just ways of legitimising right wing norms.

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6. shea - June 6, 2014

on news at 1 just there this deal has broken down, FG pulled out because of no commitment to support future budgets and FF over an independent not getting to be mayor in 2016 about to pull out so there we have it, FF and FG rejecting a kiss of life of the provos, a line for eoghan harris to use.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

Yes, it was always possible that some of the other major right wing parties would balk at a deal for their own reasons. What is of interest is that such a deal was SF’s preference. Meet the new boss same as…

By the way, I see that SF are pulling together a centrist alliance of themselves, Labour and most independents to try to run South Dublin County Council. This would be opposed by 12 FF and FG councillors on the right and 6 AAA and PBP councillors on the left, plus a couple of other independents of unknown (to me) political leanings. I’m not sure if this is in parallel to their usual proposed jobs carve up with FG, FF and Lab or instead of it.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

I understand that on Cork City Council they are proposing the same carve up with the main right wing parties as on DCC, although as in Dublin their proposed friends may think they have better options.

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shea - June 6, 2014

looks like when SF was a small party they argued that everyone should get a slice of the pie, now that they are a bigger party they are offering smaller parties a slice of the pie. maybe nice tokinism based on their shared experience rather than sinister ploy.

not mad about the council to be honest after the elections always found it dull and con straining giving that power lyes with the city manager, pointless talking shop in its current state that took up to much man power and influenced party work on its status of precieved value rather than actual value. can only name one of maybe the last five mayors of dublin and only because mention was made of him in the news two weeks ago for loosing the seat. A lot of it is pageantry, don’t see to much to get worked up over. If your plan is to work towards exposing the hypocracy of the council and force a confrontation with the city manager that would be interesting and great though i don’t think the shinners are at that level yet nor the electorate.

on south dublin was gino gallagher of pbp in some allience with labour and the shinners last time out?

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Yep.

And let’s just note the following from the Irish Times as to what has actually happened.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-f%C3%A9in-to-hold-position-of-dublin-lord-mayor-in-2016-1.1821991

“A planned arrangement whereby the position would rotate between the five largest groupings on the council collapsed after Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil pulled out of negotiations.”

And:

“Sinn Féin, the largest party on the 63-seat council with 16 seats, has entered into coalition with Labour (eight seats), the Green Party (three seats) and 11 Independent councillors. The agreement will see Sinn Féin holding the mayoralty for two separate terms, with the Independents also holding it twice and Labour once.

The new arrangement means Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will not get the opportunity to hold the mayoralty during the council’s five-year term.”

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Btw, anyone know the composition of the 11 Ind/Other cllrs?

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

Yes, their first choice was an arrangement with all of the establishment parties. Their second choice, after that was rebuffed by FF and FG is a kind of “centre” alliance with Labour and some independents, with FF and FG opposing to the right and the PBPA, AAA and some other Inds opposing to the left.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Perry I presume, anyone else?

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

Not sure how they ended up in the end. Earlier in the process I’m told third hand that Perry and Eilis Ryan were advocates of an austerity sceptical majority against the establishment parties as was the UL’s Pat Dunne.

If that’s accurate about Ryan, I regret not voting for her.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

I’m not entirely surprised from what I’ve heard too.

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7. BB - June 6, 2014

Michael O’Brien’s post above is the first time ever I have seen a timely and considered statement from a councillor on this site. Additionally, it has the ring of authenticity about it. I have always disagreed with the Socialist Party’s position on the national question: but ‘animosity’ it is not. They never defended the legitimacy of the anti-imperialist struggle. And they repeatedly equated the just struggle of nationalists with the actions of loyalist death squads.

Other posts give me some issues for thought too, including the notion that “Had the various Trotskyist parties and groups been a united bloc and won enough Council seats, they would be as entitled to their representation as anyone else”. A refusal to learn the errors of previous ways will have dire consequences. Simple as that.

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8. Eamonncork - June 6, 2014

The D’Hondt system presumably also provides Sinn Fein with the perfect excuse for going into coalition with either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. Because it’s not about anything as petty as party politics, it’s all about guaranteeing the best possible representation for the electorate. So might is right and smaller parties can go and take a jump.
I love this invocation of the D’Hondt system as some kind of unassailable scientific system. It’s just a formulation which Sinn Fein have chosen to use. And the message does seem to be, “We’ll form coalitions with whoever we like, and give them as much power as we want to. We did it with the DUP, we can do it with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.” And all that self-congratulatory stuff about the party’s new air of responsibility doesn’t bode well either. It in fact reads as though electoral success on this side of the border has emboldened SF to dispense with any alliances made with small-time left wing parties. So long suckers.
Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

I think it’s perhaps a little early to be coming to that conclusion. The real crunch time is when budgets have to be decided upon.

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CMK - June 6, 2014

Expect deals in which SF will abstain or be absent on the night while FF/FG/Lab with a couple of independents vote through the cuts. That’s the best we can hope for. More likely it will be SF voting to cut budgets ‘in the national interest’ etc.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Perhaps, let’s wait and see.

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CMK - June 6, 2014

Yes, what happens at the December budget meeting will be the clearest indicator of SF’s stance. Of course, this sort of horse trading doesn’t augur well.

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shea - June 6, 2014

CMK that may be the case. From FG pulling out of this deal in Dublin it appears there is no expectation to support a budget in this deal, just that each group get a chance to wear the over sized chain.

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9. LeftAtTheCross - June 6, 2014

SF proposing the same in Meath (where they have 8 councillors):

“On Friday we will propose that positions on all boards and committees are filled on a proportional basis, much like the ‘group’ system employed in many council chambers around the country, or the D’Hondt system employed in the North.”

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10. hardcorefornerds - June 6, 2014

There’s a big difference between d’Hondt as a PR system, as it’s used in elections, and as a means for distributing power (not that Dublin mayoralty really counts as such?), as it’s used in the Northern Assembly. The latter case is of course due to the specific problems of normal representative democracy in the North, where majority rule is unacceptable – hardly the case in Dublin. The result is to presume an operation of a consensus, which is itself problematic. I’m somewhat surprised to find myself in agreement with Mark P here. (!)

“they would be as entitled to their representation as anyone else” – they were elected, ergo they’re already represented; at least in the current understanding of democracy (whether it works or not is anothr question).

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

I’m still puzzled as to how all this really differs from Oireachtas proceedings or Committees? Those latter too presume some level of consensus, at least in so far as an agreement that numbers are broadly speaking (though with some interesting exceptions) filled by repsfrom all tendencies. Again, I’ve heard no complaints about that – except when people aren’t on such committees.

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hardcorefornerds - June 6, 2014

I posted that before I saw your comment, and it’s a good point… but, isn’t it still more to do with representation (and the assumption that committees should reflect the makeup of the parliament from which they’re drawn) than power?

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

True, but given that the Mayoral position is a pretty pointless honorific perhaps it does make sense to dole it out in that way – again not least because it means that if the right is in the ascendency at least there’s some left profile, either way It’s hard to get too worked up about it, and particularly difficult to see it being representative of anything much in terms of what actual effect its allocation will have in relation to the real meat and drink of decision making and more important voting. I’d be hard pressed to name the most recent Lord Mayor if there hadn’t been an election at which he lost his seat (which also tells us something about its utility).

I guess I just can’t see how this can be read as a sell-out in any real sense. SF had a pre-existing policy, they tried to implement it and were rebuffed and they went with the next one. All shadow boxing on everyone’s part, not least FF and FG. Though I won’t weep that their noses are out of joint.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

I’m not in favour of this kind of pretend apoliticism in the Dail either, although I would advocate the left taking any position that the right wing parties are silly enough to offer us. There is an argument that committees are a rather different beast in any case, as their very purpose to include both a range of other voices within the context of an inbuilt government majority. As I said though, I’m against any aspect of our political system that tries to make any aspect of politics “above politics”.

Here SF are trying to make another part of politics into a technocratic non-political decision. In the context of this state that is always a right wing thing to do in principle and in practice, as it is going to reward the main right wing parties, it is even more so.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Well, there we’ll have to differ. I think there are good solid reasons why the left should get involved in everything it can which have nothing to do with apoliticism.

And there’s clearly no principled objection from any party, large or small that actually uses them. And if there isn’t then it’s futile as well as hypocritical to try to set non-participation as a standard that all others must abide by.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

The left should use any platform it can get. That’s quite different from advocating that political positions which are currently contested on a political basis should instead be distributed by a technocratic method. And different again from agreeing with the main right wing parties to vote as if such a technocratic method was in place even when it isn’t.

I do have an objection in principle to that. And I have an even stronger practical political objection to it – handing as it does a leg up to the main right wing parties just after they’ve taken a hiding and when there is, if SF should wish it, the opportunity to create austerity sceptical majorities on a number of key councils.

If for instance FF decided to vote socialists into some position somewhere we should take it and use it to advocate our ideas in as effective and ruthless a way as we can. Taking advantage of your enemy’s stupidity is just fine by me. That doesn’t mean that we should then decide that it’s Fianna Fail’s “turn” to hold some position and then vote for them. Nor should we respect any implied “non-political” aspect of positions we take.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

That’s more than fair enough re your personal objection to it, but the party you’re a member of apparently doesn’t – at least in the Oireachtas and has never expressed – that I can find – any objection to it.

I actually think there’s good reasons to allocate positions according to party strength or through some degree of consensus as long as those aren’t decision making. Committees it strikes me should be made up with representatives from all political forces that are represented – not least to actually break the concept of cosy consensus that handing them over to the right would allow for – it is perfectly legitimate for members to diverge or disagree and ot make that disagreement public, and that’s something that is only going to happen with participation. And of course there’s the small matter that there’s no foreseeable circumstance where the variegated splendour that is the Irish left is likely to be in a majority position (at least not as you define the left) to take over Oireachtas committees or whatever.

And while it may seem like a clever idea to turn this around when the left comes into a ‘majority’ position I’d suspect that that will play very badly with actual voters. Which leads to another thought. I’d tend to the view that today and yesterdays machinations will be regarded as a bit of a coup by SF in so far as it’s put space between it and FF and FG (and who really cares a toss about the LP?). Moreover the former two parties will appear to have been unwilling to work with SF. Even better again.

Of course, as noted above, it’s all pretty meaningless in this particular instance and I’m genuinely surprised at how much energy is being expended on it all.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

The Socialist Party has never made any comment about the allocation of Dail committee seats by a system which long predates our presence in the Dail and which is specifically designed to include (a) a wide spectrum of opinion and (b) an inbuilt government majority. I wouldn’t like to preempt what view it would take should this become an issue.

The SP does however an objection in principle to anyone advocating that council positions should be allocated on a technocratic basis, and a further objection to proposals to vote with the right wing parties as if such a system was in place when it is not. These issues of principle are important. Technocratic encroachment on political decision making is right wing encroachment. But they are not as important as the practical political objection that SF are advocating a carve up with the right wing parties, which will give those parties a leg up at a time when it is possible to marginalise those parties on a number of key councils.

Given that these positions are ferociously contested, I’d disagree that they are entirely meaningless, at least in so far as anything in council politics matters in a country where local government has so little power. Councillors give you a platform. Council positions give them a higher profile and a bigger platform. SF think that they are important enough to go to considerable lengths to assemble voting coalitions around them. I certainly think that they merit a press release and a few critical comments in return.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Surely. My read on this is that SF naturally is using this to try to look good (as they see it) and broaden it’s appeal. This is all no-cost The further left is using it to generate publicity. That too is no cost.

Frankly I’m glad both groups/parties are getting something from it but it has little or nothing to do with austerity or fighting austerity.

The people who aren’t happy will be FF/FG. Whether the LP cares much in their current benighted state is another issue again.

But it’s hard to take terribly seriously. It really is a case of the stakes being too low to much matter (I certainly don’t think it much of a coup for SF to get it in 2016).

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hardcorefornerds - June 6, 2014

I think, to expand a little further on my last comment which I had to cut short, the difference with the committees is that they have a specific function in representation, as part of parliamentary debate and scrutiny, whereas the mayoralty is honorific and not functional in the same sense. There’s also perhaps a contradiction in pointing to its low profile and arguing that the left would benefit from holding it; in any case, I don’t think the issue is as much the office itself but the role it plays as a prestigious, if empty, prize to be carved up between the participants in a ‘coalition’ that at least implies some other commitments and/or cooperation.

It may be SF policy but that’s exactly why I would be concerned about it, transferring something that has a particular role in the NI polity (stabilising and arguably neutering it, perhaps also to the specific benefit of SF as a large party there) to a different context. One could argue that there is a value in consensual politics, separate from and beyond orthodox ideological approaches, but I don’t think that’s being argued for here outside of the assumption that D’Hondt is ‘fair’ – which is itself an ideological position.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

It seems to me though that at least SF isn’t being inconsistent in applying it. It may be wrong, it may be inappropriate, but it isn’t inconsistent. As to fairness, well, I tend to the view that proportionality in the context of representation is crucial and d’Hondt is in that respect effective.

I agree re committees, but I imagine the argument is that the Mayoral position shouldn’t be ‘owned’ by any one force, that it should in a sense be purely ceremonial and therefore everyone gets a go (which simultaneously leeches it of any real political meaning). I don’t think that’s unpersuasive given its lack of executive power. And again should the worm turn and the right sweep in in 2019(?) in the Local elections then precedent is there for the left not to be sidelined.

Completely agree there’s a contradiction in relation to the low profile as against the left holding it, but everyone in this discussion is to some extent caught up in that contradiction. Personally I think it’s over-reified. But I also think as noted below, or above (not sure where) that this has played perfectly for SF in terms of forcing FF/FG out of play.

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11. The Caretaker - June 6, 2014

Wow, it would appear it’s not just the establishment whose nose is out of joint re the SF advance.

Can we expect a mountain to be made out of every molehill?

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

You can expect every sell out, every preparation for coalition or every accommodation with the main establishment parties to be commented on. Just as with Labour and the Greens before them.

You can also expect SF apologists to moan about such criticism and to portray those to their left as irrelevant or carping. And you can also expect soft on Sinn Fein broad “left” types to be uncomfortable about all the horrible unpleasantness of political disagreement. I have actually have more time for honest SF partisans than why can’t we all just get along well meaning sorts.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

I’m all for political differentiation and avoiding ‘why can’t we all just get along’ but… I can’t see how that can seriously be applied to this particular issue.

Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of time to hold everyone to account for their action or inaction over the next few years.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

There will also be plenty of apologetic wheedling, special pleading and, “well, it isn’t really the most important issue is it” type guff about every criticism of SF’s behaviour on just about every issue over the next few years too.

As for how political differentiation can be applied on this issue: austerity-critical majorities are possible on a number of councils, if SF so decides. The socialist left and various left independent councillors advocate doing this, starting with shutting out the pro-austerity parties in the votes for council positions. Sinn Fein instead prefers, using right wing technocratic justifications, to carve those positions up with the right wing parties, thus signalling their responsibility and willingness to play ball. That’s a very clear political differentiation.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

But the two don’t follow do they, the issue of honorific positions and votes. They’re two fundamentally different issues. SF will face its rubicon in relation to the latter, not the former. I’m puzzled as to why d’Hondt is ‘right-wing’ given that it is about proportionality of representation and nothing more.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

Technocratic solutions or those which regard aspects of politics as “apolitical” or which seek to put them “above politics” when argued for in a right wing general political context are always right wing. More specifically, in an Irish context, giving a leg up to FF, FG and Lab is right wing.

Yes, of course, the budget vote will be more important. But that doesn’t mean that nothing else is important. SF had a choice on the question of council positions – divvy them up with the right or build an austerity sceptical majority. They chose the former. They will get some benefits from that, and they will also get some criticism. They evidently feel that the benefits are worth the criticism, but that doesn’t mean that the criticism isn’t worth making.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

How does allocation of those positions prevent the construction of an anti-austerity majority?

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Just re your first point Oisin Quinn now knows precisely how meaningful the position actually is.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

And who is to say that Quinn wouldn’t have got the 160 votes one of our local Labour councillors got instead of a semi-respectable defeat if he hadn’t had one of those positions? The idea that those positions are completely meaningless flies in the face of the lengths the main parties will go to to get them. Now the main parties may be wrong about a lot of things, but as far as purely technical aspects of elections go, like for instance profile raising, they do tend to know which is their arse and which is their elbow.

As for how divvying the “goodies” up with the right wing parties effects the creation of anti-austerity majority, it (a) signals to everyone on the council who SF is and is not looking to deal with and (b) reduces the positions they can offer softer independents who might go either way in a pro/sceptical towards austerity split. And in a more general way it represents SF giving the parties of the right a helping hand rather than treating them as pro-austerity lepers.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Yes, but we can play that lots of ways. For example, other LPers were elected. Despite his name, profile and the Lord Mayor job he was defeated.

As to the point whether these are meaningless or not, surely neither of us think they’re terribly meaningful. Perhaps marginally so, but the value some FF/FG/LPer puts on this – or indeed Ind or SF or Other is near enough subjective, and I’m sure you and I both know and have nothing but contempt for the jockeying for ‘position’ far too many pols get into (often on an individual basis) in relation to what Dunne rightly argues are ‘trinkets’.

re the other bit. I think it’s seriously over-thinking it to think SF is tick tacking with the orthodoxy in that way. If they wanted to there would be so many easier ways to do it. And of course the easiest would be simply to vote the budget through later in the year.

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sonofstan - June 7, 2014

And of course the easiest would be simply to vote the budget through later in the year.

Which i’m willing to bet they will do. Is anyone surprised at this, really? And the d’Hondt stuff is nonsense.

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WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2014

Possibly so, but it’s there on Page 5 of their Local Election manifesto for 2014.

“Use of the D’Hondt system for allocating positions in elected bodies on a fair and proportionate basis. “

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Jack Jameson - June 7, 2014

Good spot re SF manifesto pledge on D’Hondt, WBS, when many (including on Left) complain about parties not honouring election pledges.

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12. Mark P - June 6, 2014

Statement from Cllr Pat Dunne (United Left)

Sinn Fein misses historic opportunity on Dublin City Council.

Sinn Féin had an historic opportunity to lead Dublin City Council and
more importantly the people of Dublin in a real fight against the
consensus of our domestic troika of austerity parties – Fine Gael,
Fianna Fail and Labour. What they have chosen is to go into an
alliance with these parties and some of the independent councillors.
Sinn Féin made no effort to form a policy driven anti austerity
majority bloc on Dublin City Council, even though the potential exists
for one. Their main concern appears to be the trinkets of office
especially the role of Mayor in 2016 and looking respectable to
potential government partners. In Dublin South Central the message
was loud and clear on the doorsteps and that was to replace FG, FF
and Labour with an anti-austerity council.
Instead of the cosy consensus deal being done at the moment we
could have had a council that was prepared to fight central
Government and organise and mobilise people with demands for
housing and other necessary services. What we have is a clear
indication of Sinn Féin’s political trajectory. They are concerned with
power for power’s sake and all the trappings that official Ireland can
bestow on them.
The clear majority of people in Dublin did not vote for a return to the
establishment way of doing deals with right wing parties. People
voted for change but are being presented with the same old, same
old. I will be not be part of this pro austerity pact and will continue to
organise against the attacks on peoples living standards.

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13. roddy - June 6, 2014

Did the wp not do a deal with establishment parties when McGiolla became mayor?

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

I’m sure they did. So?

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14. Mark P - June 6, 2014

In Fingal, by the way, SF will be bemoaning the ingratitude of the Labour Party. Despite being treated benevolently by their new Provo overlords in DCC and SDCC, Labour still opted for a deal with FF and FG and some independents in the North and West suburbs.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Got to love the contradictions.

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15. roddy - June 6, 2014

D’Hondt is only a system to allocate posts fairly.It has nothing to do with budgets ,policy or anything else.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

Ah “fairly”. In such platitudes are politics concealed.

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16. Mark P - June 6, 2014

And in Cork City, Sinn Fein and Fine Gael bloc with Fianna Fail to elect a Fianna Fáil Mayor. Once again the phrase “meet the new boss…” springs to mind.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance and Workers Party supportted the AAA’s Lil O’Donnell in a straight left/right vote.

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17. roddy - June 6, 2014

Mark ,you see SF are the only party North and South who were consistently ganged up on to prevent them holding any office.They know that the D’Hondt system will prevent that happening to them or anyone else and that is why they advocate it.

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

Not the only party, but the largest. And yes, I agree with you that they advocate d’hondt, a right wing technocratic system, for reasons of their party’s narrow benefit.

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ejh - June 6, 2014

a right wing technocratic system

Were it not Friday night, I would be interested in a detailed explanation of why D’Hondt was intrinsically “right wing” or “technocratic”.

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WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2014

Been there, done that, ejh, didn’t get a clear response…

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shea - June 7, 2014

he is sort of saying if its not adversarial against the right wing then it is right wing, no middle ground.

out of interest was a plan presented to SF in the last two weeks, did they turn a proposal down or are they being critiqued for not thinking something up?

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WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2014

I was wondering much the same in regard to your last questions there.
Re the ‘if it’s not adversarial against the right wing then it is right wing’ isn’t very persuasive. D’Hondt was introduced for electoral systems, indeed the whole concept of proportionality (like PRSTV) has tended to be something the European and other left have supported precisely because it has allowed them greater representation. Of course, in the UK with it’s winner take all approach that’s not been the case (in the main). And it’s interesting how averse those in the BLP are to PRSTV or any proportional electoral system. I think that’s an error but oddly British politicians on the left tend not to listen to me. :)

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shea - June 7, 2014

it can be good as a motivator Fág an Bealach and all that. Depends who his audience is.

yeah its difficult for people here to look at the world beyond britain, tend to ape them alot and take arguments that do not necessarily fit.

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Kevin Hill - June 7, 2014

Do you think the British labour party (BLP) is left wing? Not for a long time, I think.

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WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2014

Just discussing that here yesterday, how people once regarded on the right of the BLP like Crosland appear at this remove to be radically left wing by contrast with the current crew. I’m conflicted by them, they still have a class base, but left wing? Not really, centrist perhaps very slightly centre left at best.

But just on the broader point of PRSTV, it remains telling to me how many old Labour people are antagonistic to it.

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hardcorefornerds - June 7, 2014

D’Hondt, as used for dividing up positions of power (however insignificant in themselves) after an election rather than for allocating seats in an election, is a technocratic system because it takes away the contest of power based on majority rule and assumes that the plurality of interests represented can operate within a consensus; and that by default, in the current political climate (or more broadly in the relation of state and society to capital) is right-wing.

I’m less surprised I’m in agreement with Mark P on this than I am that no-one else seems to see this.

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RosencrantzisDead - June 7, 2014

Does that argument still obtain if there is only one position in contention? A sole mayor need not compromise with anyone if they have no desire to. In the context of a cabinet or a committee, however, you might have a point.

No matter which way you look at it, this is not a smoking gun. SF councillors may very well vote for austerity budgets, but I am happy to wait for that day before I crow.

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WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2014

Just re the last point, I’ve no great expectation that budget’s won’t be passed – and I don’t think spinning that is going to work – but let’s get there first.

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WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2014

Just re your point hcnf, I agree that for executive positions it’s just not going to work – though there is a good question then (not applicable in the context of local government) as to whether the sort of interparty deals that are needed for government etc are expressions of democratic will or push the process a step back from an electorate (in contexts where multiple parties compete for executive positions and are forced to create coalitions to govern and consequently fill those positions).

That last said (and it’s more in the way of musing about democratic will) D’Hondt to me would be perverse if applied for filling executive positions (except in extremis as in NI) but for ceremonial positions, well I can’t see the problem. Indeed there’s a counter argument that by ensuring everyone has a go it stops them from being (ab)used for party political purposes. Of course that’s not just why SF is doing this, they want the kudos of 2016, though as I note above I don’t think that’s much cop really – I see however that at ceremonial occasions the LM will be only second to the President, but it’s all a bit pointless and cosmetic and no doubt this will be pointed out at the time.

Frankly, I find it nauseating to see pols posture as LM’s, committee heads etc. as if somehow their being in those positions conferred some special quality. Oisin Quinn wandering around Dublin with the chain etc… I mean, give me a break. This is something of substance?

Just re agreement with you and MarkP I thought myself and shea and RiD were the only one’s to take the contrary position. I’m pretty sure we might be in the minority on this. :)

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18. roddy - June 6, 2014

Yes the only party ganged up against by all shades of unionism including the RUC supporting ,united British Isles ,loyalist licking SP /militant tendancy.

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CMK - June 6, 2014

Aww, all those wee Provos oppressed by the by the big, bad Militant Tendency need a big hug!! It’s not too late!!

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Mark P - June 6, 2014

Perhaps the first evidence yet that robots can drink.

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CMK - June 6, 2014

Or say the rosary.

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19. Joe - June 6, 2014

“the RUC supporting ,united British Isles ,loyalist licking SP /militant tendancy.” :) :) What a line. Brilliant. :)

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