A spot of bother over the Technical Group and some apparently unwelcome new arrivals October 22, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
…no end of fun and games this afternoon as the Technical Group took umbrage at the Ceann Comhairle’s insistence that two refugee’s – that would be Creighton and Mathews – from the Reform Alliance (or perhaps not) should be given speaking time by the TG. That his insistence that they be allowed to join the TG goes against previous precedent where the understanding was that those elected under one banner could leave a party or formation but could not join a Technical Group – a de facto barrier to defection. And, almost needless to say, it means that TG speaking time is diminished by the extra numbers – in the absence of any concomitant agreement (or willingness) on his part to increase the overall amount. The CC pitches it as a democratic issue, that Creighton and Mathews should be given the time by the TG. The TG sees it as a case of them being forced to accept new members against all precedent and losing out in the process.
Three TDs, count ‘em, three, thrown out, including Catherine Murphy, John Halligan and Thomas Pringle. Given that they’re hardly the awkward squad on the TG benches it indicates the depth of anger over this issue. I’m told one F. McGrath was limbering up to contribute to the discussion when the CC decided to close down debate for the day with the Dáil resuming tomorrow at 9.30.
I’m not sure how this will play out. It is supremely, well… technical in a sense. And there’s no particular love for the TG abroad (though no particular antipathy either it has to be said). Creighton et al get a remarkably uncritical ride from the media, though more than a few of us no doubt suspect that’s due to the entertainment value rather than any particular political aspect of their approach (interesting to contrast the RTÉ and IT takes on the subject, for the former it’s all about the Reform Alliance, the latter is a fair bit more nuanced).
Tellingly neither Deputies Flanagan or Timmins have joined Creighton and Mathews on this unusual voyage to the TG. You can come to your own conclusions as to what that may auger for the future. And it’s odd, is it not, that Creighton would be quite so dedicated to joining a body of people that – to put it mildly – appears unenthusiastic about her and her compadre (by the way she took last week to sitting in amongst TG TDs, in the chamber). But it is said that she’s very keen, given the wreckage of the RA to associate herself with something more credible. There are those who would suggest that it is a sign of just how far her star has fallen that now the obvious solution to her is to join the TG, but them’s the times that are in it.
It could well be that given she’s no prospect of a return to FG that anything is better than being entirely on the outside and any political vehicle will do. Got to admit that the breathless response that the news she was intending to join the TG was given in some quarters and the actuality of the response from the TG shows the absolute gulf between rhetoric and reality in a lot of political reporting. The idea that she would join and in some way arrange a ‘takeover’ was always risible, but never more so than this afternoon.
A government called hope? October 22, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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A fascinating insight into the thinking of the government is offered by Pat Rabbitte in his weekly column in the SBP. Noting that on the campaign trail in the constituency that dare not be named he was interrogated by people about the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council he notes that one very good question was put his way, why is it that when growth is 2% or 5% the IFAC’s advice is always the same, that is to further deepen expenditure cuts and so forth.
He’s sanguine about the Budget:
Therefore, in Budget 2015, I think the government has demonstrated sound judgment. To completely ignore the groundswell for some alleviation of the burden on ordinary people would not have been sustainable. No survey of attitudes, however scientific, compares to an election or a by-election. Allowing for our national talent for exaggeration, the bald truth is that a very great many families have taken as much as they can bear.
True, the alleviation is modest. And it is a strategy not without risk. But it will go some small way to reinstate hope that things are getting better.
There you have it, hope…
But to add to some straws in the wind we’ve already seen, some intriguing stuff here…
There still remain issues that will test the resolve of government. The construction of a refurbished network to conserve and supply quality water to households and businesses is one such challenge. The acute housing shortage, particularly in Dublin, is another challenge. It was critical that the budget would help create an improved environment that facilitates government delivering on such important issues. Up to now the government has been losing the public debate on both water and housing, and no government can surrender to the “don’t pay” water campaign and retain credibility.
And yet, and yet, Rabbitte knows as well as you or I that the government has – at most – fifteen or so months to go. No great task to push the water charge to the margins in one way or another and hand it over to their successor (less so, of course, for FG than the LP given that the former is more likely to be in government come what may). And this would, surely, only be an extension of the strategy that Rabbitte himself so wholeheartedly bought into in relation to election promises not that long back, would it not?
He’s yet another who seems to believe it is the structural composition of Irish Water that enrages citizens rather than the charges themselves. For example:
Everyone in government knew a new utility with a capacity to borrow off the state’s balance sheet could not be established without outside contractors. The experience in Britain bears this out. However, ever since these contractors were described by the company as “consultants” the government has been playing catch-up. Notwithstanding the asset created or the sophistication of the systems put in place or the number of jobs created, words like “consultants” and “bonus” are contaminated.
This is a remarkably expedient analysis, and I can’t help but think that it does the government and its cheerleaders no good at all. Indeed, it must make for quite some effort of will to misinterpret what is obvious to any of us outside Leinster House what the dynamic powering opposition to those charges actually is.
And what of those sixteen months?
Water aside, the conduct of budget making on this occasion augurs well for the longevity of this government. The tension that existed between the two parties in the previous three budgets was noticeably absent. On this occasion there was no solo or even competitive leaking. What emerged late in the day was clearly authorised. Previous criticism of the Economic Management Council has been replaced by a recognition of the inherent sagacity behind its creation. A year is a long time in politics, but the smart money now must be on this government bringing in another and better budget in October 2015.
That’s another oddity? Does Rabbitte think that longevity alone, i.e. more or less completing its full term is a mark of success? Hard not to believe that he does. And is this the slender strand of hope that the LP looks to to secure its fortunes? That a better budget in 2015 will do the trick for the subsequent, and all to soon to arrive election?
It would appear so. I’m always leery about projections into the future, but given the government has had an awful couple of weeks, that the support for the opposition in all its myriad forms has held constant across years now I wonder just how much this is the political equivalent of whistling past the graveyard?
This being Rabbitte there’s the customary lash against the opposition… the implicitly ‘non-serious’ opposition:
This would be more likely than not to benefit government, provide serious parliamentary opponents with a route to test their proposals and expose those interested in opposition only for the sake of opposition. It should be tried.
Well, we’ve seen a ‘serious’ party go into government and we’ve seen the outcome. The trashing of pre-election promises, the buckling – almost the welcoming – of the orthodoxy… small wonder that many many seek to place their trust in other quarters.
A small antidote to this is provided by, of all people – though not uncharacteristically – Cliff Taylor, now apparently writing in the Irish Times who suggests ‘another and better budget in October 2015’ is unlikely to be much cop…
The Government can’t buy the next general election. It hasn’t got the money. Though, of course, it still can’t help itself trying – just a bit anyway.
At best it might be able to afford to trim income tax next October by something similar to this year and add a bit more to spending.
Though his definition of ‘hike’ and mine are obviously a little different…
The budget was a strange mix between old-style populism and these new-era realities. The hike in child benefit and the tax relief on water charges harked back to earlier times. The troika – opponents of universal benefits such as child benefit and supporters of the water charge – won’t like either of these. And they are right.
And what of the actual impact of the Budgetary measures?
In overall terms the ESRI analysis later in the week told the story. When you counted in water charges the overall impact on people’s incomes was small, between 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent at most. The message that the days of big cutbacks are over may affect people’s psychology but the extra cash in our pockets won’t go too far.
May, being the operative word in the above sentence. And here’s another thought:
The budget itself involved a €1 billion spend, but when you subtract the water charges bill and other costs such as university fees the net boost was only a few hundred million.
And I’d tend to agree with his closing thought:
As demands grow on the Government in the year ahead – for higher pay, more spending on services, more tax cuts and so on – this is what Ministers need to remember. The Government can’t buy the next election. So why even try?
Oh, but they’ll try to make it seem like a giveaway in twelve months time. For all the good it does them.
SF, the IRA and another legacy of the conflict. October 21, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Uncategorized.
It has to be said that the testimony of Maíria Cahill is extremely compelling. The specific issue is grim in the extreme, its implications for broader processes difficult to ascertain.
The question does arise as to where this can go? It’s difficult to see a legal route forward. But that doesn’t predicate against other processes where people voluntarily come forward to assist. There’s a political dimension to this, which is worth discussing further in a different post. But it’s important to untangle politicisation (from whatever quarter) from the core issue of a woman who felt that the experiences she described were marginalised or dismissed or the processes she was subjected to were incomplete and biased.
It is areas and issues like this which have proven so troubling as the armed conflict stage has slipped into the past, as against paramilitary activities as such – which is not to say the latter haven’t been troubling. The interface between internal codes of discipline and behaviour and an external society which where the broader legal framework was – for a significant number – simply invalid has thrown up some deeply difficult contradictions even before we arrive at these events.
It speaks of issues of democratic legitimation for processes that had no societal legal element, and the dangers of relying upon those processes that were internal to organisations. Simply put internal investigations were in and of themselves flawed from the off. It also points up the isolation of those who found themselves in situations like that Maíria Cahill has outlined where there were those who abused what authority there was and there was no alternative authority to appeal to.
The end of austerity and the reception the Budget was given… October 21, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
Pat Leahy and Michael Brennan, again in a long piece on the Budget in the SBP, note one basic point – for all the talk about the ‘end of austerity’ (a nonsense given that expenditure cuts aren’t being made up) and a ‘give-away’ budget, there’s this:
The picture wasn’t all rosy. Even before the budget was announced, government backbenchers knew what the opposition’s attack would be.
“They will say that all the tax cuts are being taken away in water charges,” said one Fine Gael TD.
And they did. Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and independents all highlighted the impact of water charges on voters’ pockets. They had to, because nothing in the budget seemed to be upsetting voters. Fine Gael and Labour TDs reported that the phones in their offices were eerily silent after budget day, with no deluge of emails either. One Fine Gael TD said there had been no reaction at all compared to the “venom” after the previous three budgets. A Labour TD also noted the difference, recalling how one voter shouted, “Shame on you” at him outside the local school, on the day after the respite care grant cut in Budget 2013. They all have similar tales.
I’ve heard similar tales of a quiet response to the Budget.
I think FG and LP would be making a very very serious error to believe that that indicates acceptance, as distinct from quiescence. And that’s no minor distinction. Hitherto we have seen how political anger has been manifested at the polling booth. That anger remains, as the proximate cases remain. Those water charges aren’t going away. Far from it. Nor is the cumulative effect of year after year of expenditure cutting budgets. And the marginal changes in taxation rates are indeed ‘taken away in water charges’.
The end of the age of austerity and the end of the left-wing independents and SF? They wish. October 21, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
Pat Leahy and Michael Brennan, again writing in the SBP have the following provocative little suggestion:
The truth is that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin were horrified by the budget – just as Fine Gael and Labour used to be horrified by the Fianna Fáil giveaway budgets of the Showtime era.
And this as well…
Higgins had been an isolated figure on the backbenches after Clare Daly quit the party two years ago. But he is now flanked by Murphy and by Coppinger, who won the Dublin West by-election in May.
What about the prospects of getting Daly back? Murphy said he would like to see a new movement of the left. “It could be a broad party which encompasses different strands of the left, which includes potentially the likes of Clare Daly or Joan Collins or Richard Boyd Barrett,” he said.
We’ll see. If the age of austerity is over, then the age of anti-austerity – so politically profitable for Sinn Féin and the left-wing independents – might also be over.
Hmmm… Cliff Taylor had some thoughts on this in the Irish Times this week. More on that in the next day or so…
But Elaine Byrne in the same edition of the SBP writing about the lack of appetite for reform at this point, as against earlier in the life of the government, had this thought:
The rejection of the Oireachtas inquiries and Seanad referendums was a message in neon lights that the electorate did not trust this government with more power. The anti-establishment shift in voting patterns was corroborated in the recent by-elections.
The combined Fine Gael-Labour vote fell by 46.8 per cent in Dublin South-West and 25 per cent in Roscommon-South Leitrim when compared to their 2011 vote. The local elections saw Fine Gael’s vote drop by 12 per cent and Labour plummeting to a third of the vote it achieved in the 2011 general election. The Sunday Business Post/Red C Poll for September revealed that coalition support is down almost 20 points from the inauguration of the democratic revolution.
The next poll will be useful to assess the impact, if any, of the Budget, but with those water charges still in train it would require quite some degree of optimism to think things are changing substantially on foot of it.
Smart-alecky… October 20, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
…this colour piece here by from the Irish Times really captures the tone of some of Leader’s Questions in the Dáil over the last week or two between Joan Burton and others, including Mary Lou McDonald. I think this last in relation to some of the back and forth over the water charges is spot on:
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald produced a copy of a letter Wicklow County Council sent to households on its rental accommodation scheme telling tenants that a failure to pay their water charges could result in their eviction.
Joan, however, jumped right in.
She said Wicklow County Council was controlled by the Opposition. Warming to her theme, the Tánaiste suggested that when Mary Lou got time in her busy schedule “you might pick up the telephone and make a call to your own public representatives” and have a conversation with the management.
“I am shocked that they would permit a letter to issue like that,” she added.
“It’s a management issue,” shouted Sinn Féin’s Dessie Ellis. “They don’t have influence.”
Funnily enough outside the Dáil Joan later clarified that she had asked her officials to contact Wicklow County Council to verify the facts of the letter.
In the Dáil bearpit she may have scored points against Sinn Féin but as to scoring votes … that’s another matter entirely.
Dear God, no. Not another attempted ‘launch’ of that neo-PD party? October 19, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
Reform Alliance TD Lucinda Creighton has said that that the idea she is recruiting people to a political party is not true.
Her comments follow reports in today’s Sunday Times newspaper that she is recruiting members for a new alliance.
A ‘new’ alliance?
It’s certainly odd to read this…
Speaking to RTÉ’s The Week in Politics Programme today, she said she is talking to others to try and offer “a new vision” to the Irish electorate in the next General Election.
Is that not this, not entirely new vision, which is put forward by a group of former FG TDs and Senators of which she herself is a member and arguably de facto spokesperson and leader?
Apparently not, for she says…
…she did not wish to be a “sole trader” and was inclined to find a way to offer something different to existing political parties.
Though… simultaneously she…
…denied claims that she is recruiting people for a new political party.
“All I can say is that I am very much inclined to try and find a way to work with others and to put something before the Irish people that they can see as being different from the existing political parties, that they can see as offering them a new vision for the country.
“That takes time. I’m not teasing anybody. It’s simply trying to find the best way to offer people change at the next election,” she said.
Peoples Democracy Member 1969 – by Peter Cosgrove Part Two October 19, 2014Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics, The Left.
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Peter Cosgrove a former Peoples Democracy member sen’t a history of the events of 1969 and the early Peoples Democracy to The Irish Republican & Marxist History Project. Its a fascinating read and another voice on that tumultuous period.
As Noted by NollaigO in the comments to the first piece
While the Belfast to Derry January march of 1969 (often described as the Burntollet march) has been much commented on then and ever since*, other parts of Peter Cosgrove’s memoir describe events which are less well recorded: The Peoples Democracy [PD] participation in the 1969 Stormont election; Bernadette’s election for Mid Ulster; Peter’s experiences trying to work in the Northern Ireland schools where he fell foul of the Catholic hierarchy; August 1969 behind the barricades** and the PD’s launch of Radio Free Belfast where they experienced the heavy hand of a political censor sent up by the Dublin Republican leadership (Shorely Editor?!); again the role of the Catholic Church is recorded where their antics in the areas behind the barricades is described.
This historical record has been available for some time but is only now being made publically available on the net.
Water charge protest in Clonmel today October 18, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
Thanks to Paddy Healy for this…
A huge day in Clonmel today .A day when ordinary citizens,communities got together to say No to Water Charges. A day when the left stuck together.The WUA,Éirigí,SF,PBP,’Clonmel Says No’ stood shoulder to shoulder with South Tipp and West Waterford’s citizens. This is above politics. This is people power at its best!-Organisers
Attached: Photograph of Clonmel/Dungarvan Protest for the abolition of Water Charges at Mainguard Clonmel to-day
Leading the LP October 16, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
Joan Burton took Leader’s Questions this morning (and on a slight tangent isn’t Mary Lou McDonald a formidable presence in the Dáil these days – and one that clearly rattles Burton – entertaining to see the latter attempt a ‘prolier than thou’ line in relation to McDonald) and the thought the crossed my mind that perhaps her brightest prospect for the future is something along the lines of Michael Martin, leader of a party that is much diminished from its past position.
She is indeed now leader, but in the dying days of this government and one has to imagine that the only way is down from here. Unless there’s a stunning turnaround in the fortunes not merely of the LP but also of the government she’s liable to be sitting on the opposition benches, assuming she returns, with a much depleted cohort of LP TDs.
I’m curious as to what others think about her leadership, at least in this more public phase of it since the Dáil has returned. Will it help the LP or hinder it, does it have any distinctive aspects to it and has she managed to carve out any particular profile?
Pat Leahy noted in “The Price of Power” how her name was put about throughout the pre-government formation in relation to being a prospective Minister, but interestingly suggests that at no point was she really in the running for Minister of Finance, or even the current Brendan Howlin position. The former makes sense, in an FG dominated government that was always going to be the way. That latter was a bit of a surprise, given the media noise in advance of the government, but then why should it be? There was always something a little contrived about that noise. What’s also fascinating, as Leahy relates, is the way in which there was – and how can one put this – apparently something of a loyalty deficit towards Gilmore. It’s astounding stuff in a way given another narrative of the time about pulling together to ‘save the country’.
On another tangent the newly minted Deputy Fitzmaurice looked near enough shell-shocked as he sat amongst the opposition benches during Leader’s Questions. And why wouldn’t he? It can be bad enough to watch all this, to be actually amongst it must at times be traumatic. I should add that Senator Craughwell presents quite a different picture being clearly delighted to be in the Seanad. And why wouldn’t he, come to think of it?