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Candidate co-option July 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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It’s a while now since the elections, both European and Local, but one thing that has struck me looking back on the results is how co-opted candidates didn’t appear to have enormous success.

Now, let’s be clear, that’s not the fault of those who were co-opted, or even (mostly) of the parties who co-opted people. Circumstances sometimes simply dictated that the elected person has to step down and/or smaller parties simply lack the personnel to be able to contest elections both at home and abroad.

However, there were at least one or two instances where a successful candidate stepped away from a seat in their term and simply retired. I point no fingers and name no names though one party with the initials L and P didn’t cover itself in glory in that regard.

This is, by any measure, a bizarre eventuality, running for an elected position is something not to be undertaken lightly and in one or two instances where long time politicians contested and held seats only to leave front-line politics entirely is problematic.

But putting that aside from a purely tactical position it didn’t work well at all. And it does suggest that the optimal situation is for a successful candidate to retain their seat.

Hardly a surprise, that. Voters need to build up a sense of who is representing them – particularly those at the European Parliament. Indeed it could well be that the sheer distance that particular forum is from voters on a day to day basis, as distinct from geographically, means that it is only at elections that they get a chance to assess and, in a way, legitimise those who are elected. Once they’re gone that’s grand – from their perspective, but they don’t want that process short-circuited by political machinations subsequently. I think while not necessarily entirely logical it is understandable. And in some respects perhaps that’s the only way it can work given the low interest in the European Parliament between elections.

It will be telling if the current crop of successful candidates decide to remain in situ across the life of the European parliament.

Just on that psychological distance it will also be interesting to chart the progress of some of the newly elected MEPs whose ability to shape the narrative here will be significantly less than might have been hitherto.

Free Education July 25, 2014

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

Here’s a most useful bit of analysis all the way back from 1998 and in the Independent which while examining third level education makes the case that:

ONE OF the more interesting facts to emerge from the figures published by the Comptroller and Auditor General in relation to undergraduate costs in the year 1994-95, is that it is probably as cheap to keep students at most of the courses in university as it is to keep them on the dole.

Of course the situation has changed since then, and it would be handy to have a sense by how much and in what ways, but still a thought-provoking

Fianna Fail ,Gender Quotas and the next General Election July 24, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.

Come the next General Election Parties will have to have at least 30% female candidates or lose some of their State Party Funding. In purely electoral terms it is bound to cause some rancour at selection conventions, more rancour as names are added by Party HQ to the ticket and of course the possibility of scorned candidates running as Independents.
As an example of some of the difficulties facing the parties I’m focusing on Fianna Fail, especially as it has no female TDs and there are a large number of Councils with no female Fianna Fail Councillor. The abolition of Town Councils also means the pool of possible Councillors is smaller.
As it stands Fianna Fails election planning and strategy will be interesting, then add in Gender Quotas and the fact that all their TDs are male and it becomes quite a challenge. Of course you have the added complication of there being less seats and newly redrawn constituencies on top of all that.
In 2011 Fianna Fail fielded 75 candidates. In certain areas like Dublin North, Dublin South West, Dun Laoghaire , Kildare North and Longford Westmeath, sitting TDs meant they had to field more candidates than was ideal. Cork South West, Donegal South West, Dublin Central, Dublin West and other constituencies they also fielded too many candidates.
I’d imagine they would ideally run around 75 candidates. So with 20 males TDs already ensconced, that would leave 23 or so of the remaining 55 candidates having to be female. The below is all guesswork but shows the difficulty and balancing act required to field the required number of Female candidates.

Carlow-Kilkenny 5 seats
Kilkenny based John McGuinness is currently a TD and there are no female FF Councillors in Kilkenny. Bobby Aylwards nephew Eamon Alyward was elected to the Council.
Likely Carlow based Jennifer Murnane O’Connor polled well in the Local Elections so I’d assume it would be her as the Carlow based FF candidate here.
So probably 2 male 1 female

Cavan-Monaghan 4 seats
Cavan based Brendan Smith is a sitting TD, In Monaghan there are no female FF councillors and former TD Margaret Conlon failed to win a seat there at the locals. Cavan based Councillor Niamh Smyth would be a possible choice but given a significant part of Cavan is now in Sligo Leitrim its likely that were FF to field three candidates two would be from Monagahan.
So probably
1 male 1 female

Clare 4 seats
Timmy Dooley is a sitting TD and the only female FF councillor is Ennis based Claire Colleran Molloy who didn’t poll especially well in the Local Elections. Dooley would be strong in Ennis too. So likely Fianna Fail will run two male candidates, possibly Shannon based Cathal Crowe as the second.
2 male candidates.

Cork East 4 seats
No sitting Fianna Fail TD but likely to run two. Kevin O’Keeefe would be in poll position for a nomination and there doesn’t appear to be any possible female candidates.
2 male candidates.

Cork North Central 4
Billy Kelleher a sitting TD and no potential female candidate on the Council. Likely run a second male candidate.
2 male candidates

Cork North West 3
Sitting TD in Michael Moynihan, as far as I know there are no female Fianna Fail Councillors in the area. Probably a running mate from the other end of the Constituemcy.
2 male candidates

Cork South Central 4 seats
Losing a seat so unlikely that Fianna Fail will field more than its two current TDS Michael Martin and Michael McGrath.
2 male candidates

Cork South West 3
Senator Denis O’Donovan will probably stand along with a second candidate , no female Fianna Fail Councillor in the area.
2 male candidates.

Donegal 5
Sitting TD Charlie McConalogue is Innisowen based as is Fianna Fails only Female Donegal County Councillor Rena Donaghey. Fianna Fail will probably have to run three candidates to cover the various geographical areas. Former TD Mary Coughlan may yet be persuaded to run, especially given the difficulties around Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill.
2 male 1 female candidate

Dublin Bay North 5
Averil Power will surely run here, although the performance of Séan Haughey, Tom Brabazon and Deirdre Heney in the Local Elections might force a second Fianna Fail candidate.
1 female and 1 male (or 2 female)

Dublin Bay South 4
Presumably just the one candidate, Frank Kennedy and Jim O’Callaghan being the obvious names ……. although Mary Hanafin did start her electoral career in this area when elected to the Council for Rathmines in 1985.
1 male candidate

Dublin Central 3
The redrawn Dublin Central looses a good deal of Mary Fitzpatricks home patch but I’d imagine she’ll run.
1 female

Dublin Fingal 5
Former TD, Senator Darragh O’Brien will surely run here, there are no female FF Councillors in the area, so if a running mate is selected it may well be Darragh Butler.
1 or 2 male candidates

Dublin Mid West 4
Former TD John Curran may run again although Trevor Gilligan looks well placed.
1 male candidate

Dublin North West 3
Councillor Paul McCauliffe looks a likely candidate again no female Fianna Fail Councillor in the area.
1 male candidate

Dublin Rathdown 3
Shay Brennan was a late addition to the Fianna Fail ticket in the locals and polled very well being the first candidate elected in Dundrum. However Senator Mary White has distributed a number of ‘constituency newsletters’ in the current Dublin South. She also has regular newspaper ads in the local papers. There will surely be only one candidate. Her gender would I suspect give the Senator an edge.
1 female candidate

Dublin South Central 4
Catherine Ardagh is a possible choice although I’m not sure of the intentions of former TD Michael Mulcahy.
1 female candidate

Dublin South West 5
John Lahart has been selected as the by-election candidate in preparation for the new boundaries (he represents Rathfarnham which only has a small part of it in the current Dublin SW). Would FF run two here?
1 or 2 male candidates

Dublin West 4
David McGuinness the obvious name here but Jack Chambers polled very well in the locals.
1 male candidate

Dun Laoghaire 4
No Sitting TDs but three potential female candidates in Mary Hanafin, Kate Feeney and Jennifer Cuffe. If Sean Barrett stays on it will be in effect a three seater and running two candidates in such a competitive constituency may hamper the chances of both candidates. I’d hazard on a single candidate strategy, although if it is Mary Hanafin who gets the nod at the selection convention … one of the other two may be added.
1 female candidate.


Sinn Féin and Clann na Poblachta July 24, 2014

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

It’s long struck me that the party the contemporary SF is most like is not Fianna Fáil, lite or any other version, but Clann na Poblachta. Of course the comparison is not exact, far from it. The historical antecedents of CnaP are indirect as against a fairly, though not precisely, direct lineage for SF. And there’s an obvious difference in the histories, CnaP was a new formation, SF is a long standing one.

But yet, if one considers how SF is, however imperfectly, left of centre and Republican, then I think there is sufficient substance in the comparison to make it useful, not so much as regards the past of SF, as its potential future.

CnaP was, famously, a coalition between social radicals (some with very curious histories behind them, including the then far right – for more on this consider RM Douglas’s commanding history of Ailtrighe na hAiseirghe where quite a number of AA members went across fairly smoothly to CnaP), many of them informed by developments in Britain and in particular the radicalism of the post-war Labour government in areas such as health and welfare. In that respect CnaP was a somewhat social democratic party, and it is – I think – fair to say that SF is likewise.

But the Republican element to the make up of CnaP was as important. And it was remarkably strong. This was, as it were, broadly the generation of Republicans who had supported the anti-Treaty side, but not gone with Fianna Fáil when that party entered the constitutional arena. They had remained with or supportive of Sinn Féin and the IRA throughout the following years until the sheer impotence of that as either a military or political force during the war years pushed them to break with it.

It’s a bit more complex than that – for ironically parallel to the rise of CnaP a similar ferment was evident within SF and the IRA and in such a way that the more militarist approach of the 1950s appeared, but it will suffice as a general analysis.

Perhaps that jettisoning of the overt militarist element, by breaking with the IRA is similar, albeit not entirely with the process SF has been through in a decade or so.

And it’s not that difficult to see that oppositional approach to the system amongst those like Sean MacBride co-existed or informed a degree – though only a degree – of social radicalism. The appeal of those like Noel Browne who brought that social radicalism and a corresponding energy must have been considerable, even if, as we know, it all went awry further down the line.

Again, let’s not overstate this. CnaP was always a much more uneasy coalition than SF seems to be. But SF is itself a coalition, as are all political parties with a membership larger than a hundred or so members – and even then I may be being generous. They have to be because of intrinsic political and interpersonal dynamics. And SF is pulled in various directions as the conflict recedes into memory (some telling indications of populism in the last few weeks too). That said, while the nature of the conflict and the goal of Republicanism as being a form of political glue holding SF together is often commented on, less frequently is the small fact that given the continuing existence of Northern Ireland and the necessity for SF to engage with that also offers a glue. It’s political pre-eminence there is extremely useful in many respects but not least in providing a constant reminder of what is being sought, as much as what has – by their lights – been achieved.

And it provides a tension and a strength, legitimising at all times their continued existence in a way that CnaP could not hope to replicate. I’ve always been a little more impressed than many I know at the influence CnaP had on the Irish polity in relation to partition. The Anti-Partition campaigns of the late 1940s were both a part of and a response to CnaP. That they failed dismally is well known, that they were tried at all is testament to their effort. They were, too, of course, hugely counterproductive. Assistance to nationalist candidates in the North at elections during that period rebounded by consolidating the unionist vote. And in essence CnaP became just another Irish political party of the centre-left with no clear rationale, a process that perhaps the Mother and Child controversy accelerated rather than initiated. But the logic of anti-partition candidates was – albeit premature – not entirely without merit from their position. And look now at how in the context of the North SF is indeed that anti-partition party (and a source of continuing coherence in good times and bad).

Finally, CnaP gained 10 seats at their height. Far from discreditable, but not what was expected and thereafter never achieved again. SF has built up from much much lower numbers. There’s no reason for it to go back to previous numbers, and every indication that it will double or perhaps eventually triple CnaP’s tally, but what was given by the electorate can sooner or late be taken away.

Again, changed circumstances. There’s broad agreement on the current dispensation, but… nothing is for sure. And those stresses that felled CnaP. In some respects they’re built into the very nature of the political system in this state.

City States July 22, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

This piece on Slate from earlier in the Summer answered a question I’d long had as to why city states didn’t really survive into the modern era. It’s a curious one because in numbers they persisted into the 18th century (and perhaps arguably a little bit longer if one considers fairly unique cases like Danzig). And Singapore is sort of in that category.

But consider this:

Autonomous cities took off in Europe at a time in history when rule of law and political authority were weak. Wealthy merchants in a city would band together both to fund their common security and to enforce property rights when larger governments couldn’t.


what went wrong? Often, these cities evolved political systems that gave wealthy merchants direct control over governance, and they used that power to make life miserable for the competition. 
“The big drawback is that once a group of people are running their own affairs, they’re also looking out for their own interests,” he says. “So they start setting up barriers to outsiders coming in and all these restrictions on others engaging in commerce within the city limits.”

It’s a sort of riposte to all that right libertarian stuff about removing the state and all will be well. Truth is that state like structures with the same vices, or worse – much worse, manifest themselves.


As oligarchies closed to outside commerce, the European cities began to slowly decline. Their closest successors today might be autonomous Asian cities like Hong Kong and Singapore, which share their economic dynamism as well as some of their troubling cronyism.

Actually, remember a couple of years back when Singapore was held up by some as an example of the sort of state Ireland could ‘reform’ itself into.

Shocked… shocked I tell you! July 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.

At the news here from the Examiner…

Former justice minister Michael McDowell privately appealed for “household name” IRA suspects to be granted royal pardons.

The arch-critic of Sinn Féin and the Provos – who once compared the republican movement to Nazis – was attorney general at the time.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded it.

SF ‘bullying’ Irish political parties? Really? July 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

Stephen Collins excels himself in today’s Irish Times when he writes the following:

The Dáil adjourned for the summer recess with a publicity stunt from Sinn Féin which served as a reminder to all the other parties of just what a ruthless opponent they face.

For that implacable…

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald [attempted] to misrepresent the position adopted by Tánaiste Joan Burton on the appalling situation in Gaza. McDonald unfairly suggested that Burton was more concerned about advising Irish citizens to leave Gaza than with the death and destruction being inflicted on innocent women and children.


It was followed by an intervention out of the blue from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who called on all members of the Dáil to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza and the Middle East.

Now, one might think that were there any great resistance to such a call, let alone an ideological antipathy to same some out of 166 or so TDs, all elected by the citizens of this state and seasoned politicians to a woman and man, would have the gumption to resile.

But no, not a bit of it…

Fianna Fáil and the Independent TDs jumped to their feet immediately and were sheepishly followed by Government Deputies. At this stage a number of the Sinn Féin TDs held up photocopies of the Palestinian flag.

If the underlying issue wasn’t so serious then it would be almost funny. But it’s not, because fundamentally what happened in the Dáil wasn’t an issue or a problem. Was it?

But apparently this was lèse-majesté. Or worse.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett was justifiably furious at having his function usurped. He told Adams that if he ever had a similar proposal in future he should do the chair the courtesy of giving advance notice.

“I do not want to be put in that position ever again,” said Barrett.

Again, is this a particular problem? Again, were there any particular objections there was every opportunity to push back. Were there any particular objections? Collins does not mention if there were… bar ‘some TDs silently fumed at the irony of a party which supported a campaign of terror and murder against the civilian population of its own country attempting to make political capital from the suffering being inflicted on the people of Gaza’ which seems to miss the point about the issue of solidarity with those in Gaza today as distinct from a futile (at this point on this day in relation to this issue) focusing on the past.

Anyhow, there’s more…

An exchange at a private meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the final day of the session also exposed another layer of cynical political posturing but this time across party lines.

At the meeting the legal adviser to the Dáil and Seanad, Melissa English, accused some members of the committee of undermining her independence.

The TDs she mentioned were Mary Lou McDonald, Shane Ross and committee chair John McGuinness, all of whom have engaged in populist outrage over the past couple of years, usually at the expense of witnesses at PAC hearings.

In the process they have generated great publicity for themselves but at the cost of bringing the fairness of the Oireachtas committee system into disrepute.

Get out of here! A squall on a committee – perhaps tellingly no reference by Stephen to what happened when a vote as regards the banking inquiry committee composition was overturned by…erm… FG and LP and what that might imply as regards ‘bringing the fairness of the Oireachtas committee system into disrepute. And a request that people stand for a moments silence as regards Gaza?

This is the ‘ruthless opponent’?

There are those throughout recorded history who had to push back against reaction in its worst possible forms who – given the chance today – would laugh hollowly at the idea this was ‘ruthlessness’. And they’d be right to do so.

On the Runs… July 17, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.

The reporting on the On-the-runs in the Irish Times is curious. In this piece from today on the latest news that

In a keenly-anticipated report, Lady Justice Hallett found that the scheme used was “unprecedented and flawed”, but that it was not unlawful or improper.

There is the following:

The on-the-runs emerged into public view earlier this year after an Old Bailey judge ruled that John Downey could not be prosecuted for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing because he had been given one of the letters.

And then:

However, today’s report has found that Downey was not the only individual to have received letters of comfort — a fact that will be seized upon by Unionists.

How is that ‘a fact that will be seized upon by Unionists’ – at least in the sense that it was a fact that is new? In February there was this in the Guardian which detailed that potentially 190 odd former IRA members might be covered by it.

But to be honest the entire discussion around the O-T-R’s has been disingenuous at best and downright dishonest in reality. For example, the continued rhetoric that the scheme wasn’t known about by some politicians is bizarre.

Other political parties told the investigation they were unaware of the scheme.
But Hallett notes: “There were sufficient references to the overall scheme … to put an astute observer on the alert, notwithstanding the replies to the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson, and Lady Hermon by Peter Hain MP [then Northern Ireland secretary]“.

There surely were, not least this:

The report has a lengthy annex detailing the scores of occasions when the on-the-runs scheme was publicly referred to in the media or during parliamentary debates. On May 7th, 2002, it notes that the Rev Ian Paisley, the DUP leader, told the Northern Ireland assembly: “The union flag is banned from government buildings for most of the year. Security installations have been removed, on-the-run terrorist have been pardoned and there has been discrimination against victims in funding.

I used to joke in the mid to late 2000s about the string of garages with On The Run shops in them. If I could make that joke, and I’m literally nobody, how it could pass Peter Robinson or David Ford by is remarkable…

Blaming the bureaucracy… because… July 17, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

Back Room in the SBP argues that the arrival of Derek Moran as secretary-general of the Department of Finance suggests that the ‘civil service mandarins [have] finally got their man in Finance’. Back Room points to the fact that:

…as a senior civil servant, Derek Moran did receive such warnings [that government Ministers economic policies in the 2000s risked calamity] from mid-ranking civil servant Marie Mackle.
Her warnings, like those of her colleague Robert Pye, were essentially ignored. She was told by Moran not to bother repeating them. And last week, Moran got the top job at the Department of Finance.

The conclusion being that Back Room draws from this that it is ‘business as usual’ and ’nothing has really changed after Ireland’s economic unravelling over the last decade’. And Back Room later argues that – for example – policing reform will ‘only further embed the power of institutional interests at the expense of democratic accountability’.

S/he continues:

This may please those in our universities, trades unions and retired media grandees (quango-class Ireland) who can look forward to a steady stream of appointments. But it hardly furthers the cause of good government.
Critically, however, it further entrenches the oligarchical elements that run our state and diminishes the prospect of them being disturbed by ministers who must ultimately answer to the people.

So there you have the analysis, presumably those oligarchical elements are who? Well, it’s not entirely clear, but Back Room mentions ‘key insiders such as barristers, medical consultants and senior civil servants’, so perhaps that’s in addition to the trade unions, universities, etc.

But that’s perhaps the wrong lesson to take from this, not least because political/ideological approaches ruled process. The Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat governments were wedded to low and no regulation (see financial regulation, mentioned here in the last few weeks) as a policy and ideological approach. Similarly with low personal taxation. And that attitude was shared more widely, not merely with FG but also a Labour Party that in 2007 was willing to attempt to undercut FF/PD on the issue at the election of that year.

In other words while there might have been entrenched opinions within the civil service, but those opinions didn’t form from nowhere. To have kicked against them, and all credit to those who did, was to kick against an orthodoxy. A grievously complacent economic orthodoxy at that. And let’s not forget that this was a complacency and an orthodoxy that stretched into international institutions in their view of Ireland during the period.

Which is not to say that those who were concerned weren’t correct to raise their fears, but it is to misread the balance of forces to suggest that somehow the problem was a civil service that wouldn’t raise concerns. That might have been the case in small part, but it seems to me that the situation was actually worse than that, that the strength of that orthodoxy meant that only a small number actually contested it. And to contest it meant not just disputing attitudes within the Department of Finance, but the Minister, the Cabinet the government more broadly, FIanna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, the main opposition parties of the time, international institutions and bodies, the Irish media and so on.

Again, that merely underscores the courage of those willing to raise warning flags, but it also demonstrates the nature and scale of the task they faced.

And while it is indeed correct that civil servants should raise questions, one wonders – given the nature of how power is exercised in this particular democracy, what weight will be given to them. In essence it remains the elected representatives of the citizens of the Republic who determine policy and make decisions based on that. Civil servants can, and should, feed into that, but they don’t have a veto (at least not as such in that context), and consequently it seems curious to place so much emphasis upon them. They don’t exist in a vacuum, isolate from all else around them. If there’s an orthodoxy, chances are they’ll reflect that to some degree.

That’s the problem with orthodoxy. Back Room seems to believe that simultaneously the civil servants are both the problem and cure. I’m not sure that that is the case or can be in the contexts we are examining.

That’s all very fine about SF wanting to work with the LP. But will there be LP TDs to work with? July 16, 2014

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

Is the thought that comes to mind reading this sterling defence of a leftish coalition proposal by Mary Lou McDonald today.

It’s good to hear her reported in the IT as saying:

…the next administration should not contain either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

“We need to find, and we would like this to happen sooner rather than later, a space and a way in which we can build a dynamic and build agreement and build consensus on those points that we agree on to offer that alternative,” she said.

But will SF stand aside if the numbers fall a certain way, ie one in which the LP, as seems overwhelmingly likely, will have too few TDs to enter a government and the only way forward is in coalition with FF. As it happens I’m still dubious that FF would want to enter any such arrangement, except as the dominant partner, and even then…

Indeed all this seems very abstract. There’s surely little chance of an SF/LP lash-up anytime soon. So is this about projecting a certain image of the party? Or is there more, or less, to this than meets the eye?


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