Latest SBP Poll May 25, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
Fianna Fáil gains one point to 26%, while Sinn Féin is unchanged at 16%. Independents and ‘Others’ are up one point to 21%.
Well, I guess it had to happen. First time in five years since FG wasn’t ahead of FF. So, where’s the FF ceiling, or is there one? How does this affect Kenny’s leadership. SF (and LP) consolidating. And the Independents? Perhaps the last week or so was one controversy which did them no harm at all – quite the opposite.
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Not least his view that:
The propensity of the Irish political system to tie itself up in knots over arcane or even trivial issues, while gliding over serious matters that have a vital bearing on the country’s wellbeing, has again been in evidence over the past few weeks.
And his oh so cautious tip toeing around the issue:
The spat between Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Independent TD Mick Wallace over penalty points provided a more enjoyable source of controversy. The colourful characters involved and some of the information disclosed certainly added to the gaiety of the nation.
Shatter undoubtedly overstepped the mark when he put confidential information he had obtained from the Garda Commissioner about Wallace into the public domain. It was simply wrong for the Minister for Justice to have behaved in that way. While the approach taken by Wallace and his fellow Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan right through the penalty points controversy has smacked of hypocrisy, that is no excuse for the Minister’s breach of privacy. It was also unwise of him not to disclose his questionable behaviour at a Garda checkpoint during the Dáil debate in which he half- apologised to Wallace and made fun of Flanagan’s encounters with the gardaí.
But he continues:
While all that was going on the Government was engaged in serious decisions that will have a direct impact on the lives of people up and down the country for years to come.
Ah, ‘serious decisions’ so. That’ll put manners on us as regards viewing this matter as a potential abuse of political power….it’s a supposedly ‘enjoyable’ sources of controversy adding to the gaiety of the nation! Well well well…
Howlin Bill Removes Genuine Collective Bargaining! Paddy Healy Appeals to Unions to Turn Back Now!
From Paddy Healy, Former President TUI, Former Member of the Executive of Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Currently Member of National Management Committee Retired Members Association TUI
The Bill gives government power to unilaterally cut pay and pensions , to change allowances, to freeze increments and to change conditions of service including working hours. It enshrines the government demands made to unions in the recent Croke Park 2 proposals in law.
It has a key coercive clause. Under “Purpose of the Bill” it contains
1.1• (to)provide for a suspension of incremental progression for three
years for all public servants unless they are covered by a
collective agreement that modifies the terms of the
incremental suspension and which has been registered with
the Labour Relations Commission.
This means that unless a trade union signs up to the agreement, even if the pay of members is under 65,000, their increments will be frozen for 3 years.
A registered agreement cannot be concluded unless the public service employer agrees to it
If a union doesn’t sign up to changes in pay and conditions you will have the statutory changes in pay and conditions imposed and, unlike unions who sign up to an agreement with the relevant public service employer, increments of members will be frozen for 3 years no matter how low their pay!
The new powers of the Minister remain until the Government decides there is no longer an emergency! This may stretch through decades and the terms of several governments. Crucially, the employer decides when and if it ends. The legislation does not automatically end when the so-called Haddington Rd Agreement ends.
Effectively, all the unions represented on the officer board of the Public Services Committee of ICTU and others, have agreed to this legislation by “negotiating” under its threats and by forcing members to ballot on proposals to cut pay and worsen conditions in a situation where they either accept the proposals or have worse imposed on them by Law This is to deprive members of any real choice.
How long will it be before similar legislation is applied to commercial state bodies? Could private employers demand such powers or legislation which would enable them to exercise such powers through a compliant government? The precedent is highly damaging to Irish trade unionism generally.
Genuine collective bargaining and the right to free trade unions is being undermined in the public service!
Unions have agreed to this into the indefinite future and ,in effect, to become quasi-organs of government. The legislation may be used by even more right-wing and anti-trade union Governments than the present government.
It is a serious step in the direction of corporatism as espoused by the Italian fascist dictator Mussolini. The Irish fascist leader of the Blue Shirts, General O’Duffy, a great admirer of Mussolini, is smiling somewhere in vindication. Poor Larkin and Connolly are turning in their graves in the centenary year of 1913.
I appeal to all Irish trade union leaders to turn back now. You are agreeing to a historic undermining of the trade union rights of Irish workers which have been won over generations!
Demand that this legislation be withdrawn now. Don’t force members to ballot under legislative threat.
Paddy Healy, May 24, 2013
Complacency abounds… May 24, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics.
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Entertaining to read the thoughts of Paul Mulligan, head of operations at RTE Television, as expressed in the SBP, on the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland code on Children’s advertising. Entertaining, but a bit depressing. For Mulligan opines on the changes to the code, which minimal enough as they are he’s not happy with. Take it away Paul:
He said the limit on cheese ads as originally planned highlighted the flaws in the nutritional points-based system that’s being adopted. “Cheese is high in fat. You can’t argue with that, but it shouldn’t be limited – and that’s what happens when you opt for a scientific-based model.
Am I wrong or is he actually arguing against ’scientific-based’ models? It is difficult not to have that impression but I’m open to correction. Moreover why shouldn’t advertising of cheese be limited? It is indeed high fat – very very high in fat. And salt too.
“It seemed a bit strange that the Department of Health would be putting ads on television encouraging people to eat cheese to ensure calcium intake, while another body set up by the government under the Department of Communications would be telling people you can’t advertise it,” he said.
There’s a contradiction, surely. But there is also the point that RTÉ doesn’t have to feel obliged to try to sort out the contradiction from its side. It can make changes for the better in the area it has autonomy.
But the takeaway line is clearly the following:
“We’re an agricultural-based economy; we shouldn’t be saying it’s not healthy.”
Why not? High-fat foods are a problem, whether we’re an agricultural-based economy or not. One can envisage in fact that pressure through, for example, curtailing advertising might push cheese producers to develop significantly lower fat/salt cheeses.
And then he throws his hands up in the air:
“Some products that are currently advertised may no longer be able to advertise across the schedule,” he said. “We have to take a holistic view of it, though. RTE is in the business of making commercial revenue, but we’re also a public service broadcaster – so, if it’s in the interest of the public’s health, we won’t ignore it.
“The problem with these rules is that they don’t address the overall problem. We know that obesity is a problem in this country but the answer to that is to educate people, to get them to play sport. Restricting advertising is not going to address the problem,” he said.
It won’t obviously address the problem in full, but it would remove one part of the structural elements which prolong its existence. It would be a start.
There’s an even more impressive example of pass the parcel in the following from Miriam Hughes, ‘chief executive of ad agency DDFH&B’…
“The burden of responsibility is being put back on the advertiser, rather than the parent. What happened to parenting in this country? And we, as parents, taking responsibility for the programmes they watch and what food we buy and feed them?”
If that’s the case then why are they bothering to advertise at all? But the answer is obvious, advertising does have an effect even if that effect is nebulous and in the specific difficult to pin down.
Here by the way, again from the SBP is an outline of the new code. Doesn’t go far enough to my mind, but, it’s a start…
Revised children’s code
• The revised Children’s Commercial Communication Code will be published at the end of the month is expected to come into effect from September.
• The code will define children as under 18-year-olds, define children’s programmes as programmes where over half of the audience is under 18, and define children’s commercial communications as communications for products, services or activities which are considered to be of particular interest to children or are broadcast in children’s programmes.
• It’s expected that ads which target children for HFSS food and drink (high in fat, salt and sugar) will not be permitted in children’s programmes as defined by the code. The programmes should also not include celebrities or sports stars, programme characters and personalities from movies, contain health or nutrition claims or include promotional offers.
• Britain’s Nutrient Profiling Model will be used to determine whether products are high in fat, salt and sugar. Companies will have to provide certification to broadcasters as to the scoring.
• It’s expected that broadcasters will have to restrict the advertising for HFSS products to 25 per cent of overall time and 25 per cent of total spots across the day.
They say the situation is… May 24, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Uncategorized.
Do as I say, not as I… May 23, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
This news item today, linked to by CMK in comments earlier, about John McGuinness is most enlightening. And timely too given his name appeared in this piece here.
The Public Accounts Committee has heard that an office kitted out for the former Junior Minister John McGuinness was more akin to one on Wall Street than Kildare Street.
The spending watchdog committee is hearing from the OPW as to why €250,000 was spent on the office for the then Junior Minister.
Deputy McGuinness is now the Chairman of the Committee, and has vacated the chair temporarily to allow questions from TDs and Senators.
As the news report notes:
Deputy Gerald Nash has asked the Chair of the OPW Clare McGrath to explain the spending.
“Where for the cost of buying a three-bed semi-detached house in Drogheda for example, we have a very lavish office on Kildare Sdtreet that is really more akin to Wall Street than Kildare Street to be frank.”
There was a time, not that long ago when we heard a very different sort of story:
Committee Chairman, John McGuinness TD said that the report’s findings “stress the lack of proper monitoring and targeting of expenditure in many State agencies,” and added that an absence of sufficient information and planning “means that often money is not used properly, as no reliable data exists to inform spending”.
Or how about this from a speech on the FF website that was delivered a couple of years back:
The state is accountable to the Dáil and members of the Dáil are accountable to the Irish people. The Committee takes its duty seriously, and, in relation to the Bill now before you, I seek what I believe are necessary powers to audit, investigate and hold accountable those in Local Authorities who together spend billions of public money in a manner, that is, often far from satisfactory.
The members of this House are the ones that can make this happen. This is not about party politics. This is about our belief in ourselves, our willingness to demand good governance, come what may, and our ability to withstand the pressures that will be brought by those who prefer the ‘veil’ and the ‘vague’ to the cold light of objective and close scrutiny.
We should remember that we spend most of our time here debating ways of taking money, through one tax or another, and far too little time on how we can save money, as water drips into the ground, funds are unwisely spent and expensive consultant’s reports fill the dustbins of some departments.
On a completely different matter… ahem… for some reason the thoughts of a certain S. FitzPatrick come to mind, who, while he was engaged in other most interesting actions like laying the foundations for our current parlous situation, somehow managed to find time in his busy schedule to say the following…
….[he called] on the Government to reduce corporation tax and tackle the “sacred cow” of universal child benefit, State pensions and medical cards for the over 70s.
Mr FitzPatrick said the forthcoming budget needed to be bold and “brave” and not revert to a tough budget.
It is what it is, they are what they are. Perhaps, though, all the above might make some just a tad less credulous when the great and good opine on certain matters.
CPOI Statement May 23, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
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18 May 2012
At its regular meeting the National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland evaluated the present political and economic situation in the country, north and south. What is most clear is that the crisis of the system is deepening: the contradictions are deepening and spreading as the ruling elite continues to make the people pay for the crisis, and the system attempts to overcome the crisis at the expense of the people.
The Irish and British ruling class continue to use the crisis for a growing assault on working people, north and south, whether in the form of attacks on pensions and social welfare or a “bedroom tax.”
The external troika continues to determine all economic and social priorities, working in alliance with the Irish state, Irish capital, and all the establishment political parties. At the EU level the voices of monopoly capital are attempting to sow confusion while appearing to be responding to popular discontent with the effect of “austerity”—appearing to be listening and learning, to empathise with the suffering of the mass of the people, talking about the need to modify their strategy. But this in fact is just a change in language, not a change of strategy.
The Irish government in particular is attempting to turn the labour market into a hiring-fair, with tens of thousands of workers facing a life of precarious employment. The recent Supreme Court decision in relation to registered employment agreements will further erode and undermine workers’ terms and conditions and will result in renewed pressure on already low-paid workers.
The Communist Party of Ireland has pointed out and continues to argue that the policy of “austerity” is working as designed. It is essentially geared towards bringing about a massive transfer of wealth from working people to the super-rich and the monopolies. It is working as designed and is being executed with all the skill that the ruling class can draw upon, in particular using the state as the main vehicle for imposing their strategy, backed up and reinforced by their mass media.
The debt crisis is purely a means to an end, that end being the complete subservience of working people and in particular the subservience of the trade union movement. This is best reflected in the continuous bullying and coercion of workers into accepting some reheated Croke Park II agreement, despite the fact that the majority of public-sector workers have previously rejected it.
In the North the Protestant section of the working class will find no refuge in blind-alley politics in relation to the flying of flags. This will not put food on the table: it is a distraction, a political circus dressed up by a bankrupt leadership—a leadership who fully support the economic and social policies of the London government—who have no answers to the growing crisis of unemployment and deepening poverty. The flags protest is merely for blowing smoke in people’s eyes.
Not alone are the people of the South facing daily cuts in services, pay, and pensions, they are now being treated to a display of sexist and misogynist bilge from establishment politicians and the discredited hierarchy of the Catholic Church regarding the rights of women, in particular regarding a woman wishing to exercise her right to life beyond that of the foetus she is carrying, the right to safe and secure abortion. The time has long passed for a full and unequivocal recognition that women have the right to control their bodies and their fertility.
The CPI again reaffirms that we need to build the people’s resistance, to break the trade union movement away from the cul de sac down which elements of the leadership seem determined to continue dragging workers: of cuts in wages, deterioration of their terms and conditions, and savage cuts in public services.
The CPI reaffirms its call for maximum support for protests against the forthcoming meeting of the leaders of the G8—a club of the rich for the rich—in Co. Fermanagh. In particular it urges support for protests organised by the trade unions and other progressives organisation.
Building the people’s resistance and presenting an alternative direction for all our people, north and south—beginning the difficult but necessary re-conquest of Ireland for and by its people—is the task that the National Executive Committee and all the party have set themselves as we begin to prepare for our 25th National Congress in 2014. Statement ends.
SOCIALIST VOICE from CPOI now available May 23, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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From the front page article:
Austerity is working, on many levels. It is the main vehicle for the transfer of wealth upwards from working people to the wealthy; it justifies the growing assault on workers’ rights and the wholesale privatisation of public assets; it is the stick for beating workers with.
Irish austerity: Change of words but not of policy [EMC]
Medical cards under savage attack [MA]
Water and woods to be flogged off [MA]
Reform or transform? The confusion of growth economics—Part 1 [NL]
Croke Park II rejected [Anne Casey]
The capitalist crisis and the demolition of workers’ rights [NC]
Can we learn from Cuba?—A response [EON]
Venezuela: Electoral challenge a coup attempt [RCN]
Colombians call for solidarity [SE]
The Progressive Film Club: an inspiration and an education [PD]
Ireland’s neutrality demonstrated again
Speaking of the Phoenix, SF and FF May 23, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
I’ve meant to write about a piece in the Phoenix from a few weeks back for a while now. It’s an useful overview of Fianna Fáil’s shifting profile in the last year and what that may imply for future political activity in the state. The Phoenix argues that:
FF has gradually moved to the left as a muffled debate has led to positions on the property tax, taxation and the public service that are more like Old Labour in opposition than the New Workers Party (as M. Martin pointed out at the weekend) in government.
Let’s be clear, this is obviously a cosmetic enough move.
But it notes that they have proposed a 3% USC surcharge on those earning over €100,000, supported PS workers in relation to CP2 and attacked the government over the home repossession bill.
Not only but also:
John McGuinness has been isolated on the FF front bench. The McGuinness hardline on the PS is now out the window…
It’s fair to note he’s had his own problems too in recent times.
The Phoenix suggests that FF and Martin…
…know well that they are in competition with SF for some of the lower paid PS vote and working people generally.
This is an not unimportant point. It is clear that FF lost badly in 2011 in Dublin and other urban centres. So badly that it remains without a TD in Dublin. But the only way to cajole its vote back is to somehow make itself attractive to the urban working class vote that it managed to lose so successfully. And the McGuinness proscriptions, for all their vehemence, were never going to play well with that constituency, however much they were lapped up by the media.
Still the Phoenix makes a most interesting observation:
FF and SF are not polar opposites as Martin’s excoriating rhetoric would indicate. But FF is also chains a vote that the other party cannot reach, namely, that section of the middle class that deserted the party, however temporarily, for FG at the 2011 GE. The merest whiff of a cordite coalition with SF would see these voters fleeing back to the Blueshirts or the LP like frightened sheep.
And FF is in the unenviable position of potentially seeing a significant tranche of its pre-existing vote departed permanently to SF. But it cannot, if it hopes to retain any pretensions to being a ‘national’ party ignore that former vote, and it will seek to entice as much back as it can. So it’s quite a tricky balancing act.
Moreover, the Phoenix argues that the idea of coalition with Fine Gael is in effect a non-starter with party activists unwilling to go down that route. I think that’s very important because it does make the range of possible governments post-2015/16 come into clearer focus. The thinking is that Fianna Fáil would wither on the vine in coalition with the old enemy, and I think there’s something in that. I also think that there’s far too great a tendency to underestimate the unlikelihood of such a move due to sheer pragmatic considerations.
There’s often talk about how FF and FG should merge, but even were one to believe that they were essentially the same in political and ideological terms, something I’m dubious about, even if the outcomes of their policy approaches tend to be relatively indistinguishable from one another, there are good bureaucratic reasons for them not to do so. Two organisations offers the option of two structures, with two leaders and two routes to advancement and so on. Small wonder that the Progressive Democrats developed, offering a third option (and less wonder again that some want another bite at that ‘leadership’ cherry).
All of which is to say that only in extremis, and perhaps not even then, would there be a coalescence. And that implies that it is very very unlikely that while the FF party has a heartbeat, so to speak, that it will enter into a unity government with FG. Indeed the very most that might occur would be a sort of reverse ‘Tallaght strategy’. And as demonstrated by FF in recent times they’re not above getting the digs into FG and the government even now in our supposed time of crisis.
Still, the Phoenix makes the point that for FF SF remains the ‘most logical coalition party’ even above and beyond a coalition with a rump LP and a ‘rag-bag of Independents’. Whether that day comes to pass remains to be seen.
…[the US government] cut a deal with multinationals to encourage them to bring back, or repatriate, the billions of dollars kept offshore to avoid tax.
Cook said he had no plan to bring back the $102bn built up by Apple at current tax rates, and recently opted to return money to shareholders by borrowing money instead. “I have no current plan to do so at the current tax rates.
“Unlike some technology companies, I am not proposing a zero rate,” he said. “My proposal is that we have a reasonable tax for bringing back money from overseas.
Cook said the tax rate for repatriated money should be set “in single digits” to persuade companies to bring it back. Standard tax for US profits should be, he said, in the “mid 20s”.
But wait, what’s this?
He also revealed that Apple had struck a secret deal with the Irish government in 1980 to limit its domestic taxes there to 2%.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore denied that Ireland had negotiated corporate tax arrangements with individual companies, despite the claims Apple had “quietly negotiated” an income tax rate of less than 2 per cent with the Government.
Speaking in Brussels yesterday where he chaired a meeting of the General Affairs Council, he declined to comment on the tax affairs of individual companies, but insisted Ireland did not negotiate special tax rates.
RosencrantzisDead noted here the point – on foot of Kenny’s voice being added to this chorus of denial, that it might not be a ‘special tax rate’ but more likely an issue of what was taxable income or whatever.
In terms of institutional reputation that small piece of information, whether accurate or not, is deeply problematic to the state. For it opens up the question of who else might, or might not, have benefited from such largesse were it available at all. If it is correct the recriminations from those who didn’t will be mighty, if it isn’t it won’t matter because all the assurances in the world won’t mollify suspicions. And of course it’s another
What’s telling in a way is how blunt Apple is about its position and its requirements – even if those are unlikely to be met. And yet it will add to the background noise in a context where, as noted by the Guardian, it exemplifies ‘how threats from multinational corporations are driving down taxes across the world’.
In some ways it is refreshing. There’s no pretence here of a social or economic good. Apple is all about producing products and making money and that’s that.
And yet I wonder too. When people articulate something along the lines Cook did it actually suggests that those being addressed – the US government in this instance – retains power. Nick Cohen once said, and apologies for dragging this out yet again, but it is appropriate:
…however novel the ability of companies to shift money and jobs around the world, and however restrictive the limits on the autonomy of national governments have become, corporations remain weak. When all is said and done, they are hierarchical associations for the production of profit. They can’t raise armies or levy taxes or enact legislation. Governments can do all three and turn nasty if they have the inclination…
Which is why the response should be a concerted effort by the US and other states to push it and its compatriots back. Because if nothing else this should sharpen minds in states across the world as to how to put some check on the power of the corporations.
Now the good news is, of course, that this is not going to be the status quo forever. Apple will fail and will fall, others will take its place – though not, I suspect, socially oriented operations for quite some time to come. But states have to take much of the blame for allowing a situation to develop where corporations can all but dictate policy to them. In the US in this open way, and – if one is to believe Apple – in this state in a covert and fundamentally anti-democratic fashion.