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Latest Red C and Sunday Times/B&A poll October 25, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.

Probably the most anticipated polls in a good while. Sinn Fein Down in RED C but no change in B&A poll , Independents / Others up in both. Is that the Left though?
More analysis later in the week.

Sunday Times/B&A poll
Fine Gael 25 (+1),
Sinn Fein 19 (no change)
FF 18 (nc)
Labour 9 (-5)
Independent 25 (+3)
Greens 3 (+1)

FG 26% (-2)
SF 20% (-3)
FF 18% (NC)
Lab 8% (NC)
Inds/Others 28% (+5)

From 2005 advice to Sinn Fein from the SWP October 24, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.

Distributed outside the 2005 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis by the SWP…
click to enlarge….

Water charges? “Too ambitious”, they say? And those changes being contemplated… Too little too late… October 24, 2014

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

hot on the heels of the news that the Tanaiste thought “the timeline for the set-up of Irish Water is “certainly too ambitious”” – which raises the question where has she been for the last three years, now we are told that:

The Government is preparing an additional package of “comprehensive” changes to the water charging system, to be announced in the coming weeks, in an effort to blunt the political damage to Fine Gael and Labour.


While changes for parents of dependent children still living in the home are in play, sources stressed no details or measures have been finalised. However, any changes are likely to focus on the €102 rate for additional adults rather than any additional tax or welfare proposals.

It’s little enough and nowhere near satisfactory when the clear demand is abolition of the charges and the raising of revenue/funding of water through general taxation. But it does point to the simple fact that the government is clearly deeply concerned by the ongoing campaign(s) against the charges, after all, weren’t some budgetary measures meant to ameliorate the damage to them too?

I think evidence that they simply don’t get the depth of anger and opposition to the charges is evident in the following too:

With the Government set to cap water bills at a fixed rate in order to provide certainty – with speculation the freeze could be in place until late 2016, when the majority of meters have been installed – TDs and Senators have raised the issue of families with adult children living at home.

Until late 2016 they say, and then there’d be another government and charges would presumably creep up and…amazing stuff.

Still, let’s note one other thing, for anyone who says that campaigns don’t have any effect… here’s clear evidence to the contrary.

Ah… that’s tax relief… October 23, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

From the IT this evening…

The Government is to relax the rules governing a special tax incentive scheme to attract foreign executives into Ireland after just 31 individuals availed of the scheme last year.


Under the original rules, an employee was able to make a claim to have 30 per cent of their income between €75,000 and €500,000 disregarded for income tax purposes.
However, after a low take-up rate in its first two years of operation, Mr Noonan plans to remove the €500,000 cap, making it significantly more lucrative for highly paid individuals to work here. The scheme is also to be extended until at least the end of 2017.

There’s nothing like the Finance Bill, is there?

Meanwhile, what’s this from the pensions ‘industry’? October 23, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

EWI was first off the mark early yesterday on the following:

**** from the private pensions industry on Ráidió a hAon this morning, purring in a ‘business segment’ about how much public subsidy they get, and advocating (of course) slashing the state and public pensions, and forcing autoenroll of the citizenry into their grasp!

It is pretty shameless. At a conference of the Irish Association of Pension Funds there was all sorts of alarmist stuff.

Irish workers cannot be sure of receiving a State pension in retirement in future generations,

And why is that? According to them:

The cost of existing hidden state pension liabilities are estimated by the Pensions Authority to be €440 billion – more than double the €203 billion national debt estimate for the end of this year, a figure that already amounts to 111 per cent of GDP and requires significant reduction under European budgetary rules.

And their solution?

Just a thought. According to them…

A study of 25 state pension systems by the Australian Centre for Financial Studies and Mercer finds that Ireland’s State pension is among the best in the world in terms of adequacy.

And yet, as I know from my own experience when people have tried to sell me private pension plans the line is that the state pension is simply insufficient for the lifestyle I am supposedly eager to enjoy. There may be some truth in that – not as respect of said lifestyle but the broader issue. Note this view from outside the insurance industry bubble.

But all this sits oddly with the idea that the state pension is adequate because the talk is rarely if ever about boosting the state pension to a significantly higher level, instead it’s all about commercial pensions taking up the slack in some way.

There’s also the question as to how much credence should be placed in studies by commercial pension providers given the fairly obvious potential for conflict of interests.

The study cited above is the ‘Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index’ and comes from the Australian Centre for Financial Studies and Mercer.

Some might not find that problematic. Some might no.

It’s interesting to note the assumptions built into the ‘Mercer Global Pension Index’. If we go here we can see that it takes a profoundly, well, political line on pensions…

• Some governments have increased pension ages over the longer term.
• The labour force participation rate of 55-64 year olds in most countries has steadily increased.

There are those of us who would consider the first far from an ‘improvement’. But note too the use of the term ‘reform’ throughout. ‘Reform’ in what sense and to whose benefit?

Useful also to look at the ACFS’s ‘corporate partners’ who are apparently ‘like-minded organisations’. That would ANZ, National Australia Bank, Mutual Limited. Amongst others.

Does all this invalidate the ACFS or Mercer? No, but it does mean that any suggestions from that quarter should be considered very carefully indeed. None of this is revealed in the article on the piece in the IT. It’s not even a consideration. The data is simply taken as read – ‘Australia and the Netherlands are seen as having the next best state pension provision’…etc, etc.

Meanwhile, here’s a stark warning from the private pensions industry.

Warning: If you invest in these products you may lose some or all of the money you invest.

Hmmm… sustainability they say?

Meanwhile, another day another scare story…

Trust in the Irish pension system is at an all-time low, the head of the industry lobby said yesterday, warning that the Government should not rush to introduce any form of mandatory pension saving.

This last, by the way, flies in the face of the Mercer advice – though before we applaud Mercer’s progressive credentials let’s remember what auto-enrolment actually means as against strengthening state pensions through general taxation.

Addressing the IAPF annual benefits conference, Rachael Ingle, chairwoman of the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF), said the industry wanted to conduct research on how big an issue inadequate pension coverage in the State is “before we compel all the people of Ireland to save for retirement at a time when they are all cash strapped”.
“There is a huge amount of work to be done before any type of auto-enrolment solution is introduced in Ireland,” she said, saying any system would need to involve affordable and meaningful contribution rates.

This, is also, of course from the broad commercial area that gave us this highly politicised gem back in the 2000s in the Irish Insurance Federation’s submission to the then Green Paper on Pensions:

And what did the Irish Insurance Federation say:

* We do not support the idea of mandatory pensions. The introduction of fully mandatory pensions would create more problems than it would solve. There would be a high degree of complexity involved and it would be very difficult if not impossible to design a regime which would be appropriate for all participants. In our opinion the better option is a reasonable basic State pension and voluntary provision on top of this.

* Why not mandatory? Because:
o Enhancing the “Pillar 1” State pension, as recommended, would go a long way towards providing an adequate retirement income for low- to middle-income earners; this in turn reinforces the idea that any additional pension provision – while it should be promoted and incentivised by the State – should remain voluntary;
o It represents an abdication of personal responsibility and it weakens the link between effort and reward;
o It removes personal choice;
o It enshrines the principle that citizens must be taken care of by the State from ‘Cradle to Grave’ and increases ‘Big Government’;
o It creates a dilemma regarding who should manage funds and may result in a lack of individual savers’ control over the management of their retirement funds.

A commentator writes about pensions… October 23, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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A certain E. Harris, as noted in the SISSOTW, was in fine form at the weekend, but I do think it’s worth teasing out very slightly further some of the implications of what he is saying.

As I said, I am no longer a republican socialist. But I still retain the sharp sense of social justice that brought me into the Workers Party – and out of it again. Reflecting on the Budget I was struck by the blatant bias of its class politics.

So far, so good I guess (all things considered)…

The Budget boosts those who already have too much.

Indeed, though it is here that it begins to slide off the rails…

The only big group to come through the recession in comparative comfort was spared any cuts. I refer to the well-padded public sector.
The NYU findings mean I have no hope of changing the cold hearts of the Labour Party, Sinn Fein, Joe Higgins, or other protectors of the public sector. But as some of them are brazen enough to posture as socialists, let me ask them two simple questions.

And he continues:

How can you condone a system in which public servants, on average, are paid eight euros an hour more than workers in the private sector? How can you condone a system which sees private sector workers with no pensions taxed to pay the pensions of public sector workers?

Now I too feel there are issues here. I think that there’s a problem but let’s see what his view of the problem, or even a partial solution is.

In any fair society, the first priority would be closing these gaps. Far from doing so, the Budget favours propping up the status quo. And the most striking symbol of selfish class politics was giving a fiver to rich and poor children alike.

But it is implicit in his thinking, as expressed to this point, that the priority would not be raising the general state pension so that those private sector workers without pensions would enjoy a better pension provision than hitherto, but instead lowering public sector pensions (his thoughts on child benefit are interesting too, though tangential to this discussion, not for him the evidence that universal benefits are more effective in reaching those who need them than means tested benefits).

But by how much? He does not say. Fully, so there is no disparity? How does that benefit those who are forced, like so many of us, to depend upon a state pension which is, as the private pensions industry is always quick to point out, inadequate? Some of the way, if so how much or how little?

Indeed his bona fides on this issue would be considerably more credible if he at least made some effort in regard to demonstrating how he intended that private sector workers without pensions would be better off rather than it simply being business as usual.

But to do that would, of necessity, require taking on a business sector of which a large part is entirely comfortable giving no pension provision at all to those who work within it. I’ve problems with the public sector pensions system (though some have been addressed) but one could hardly complain that, whatever those problems, the principle of employers taking some regard for those who work for them was ignored. By contrast what of the – what is it, over half of – private sector workers with no pension provision provided by their employers.

And clearly his time in the WP somehow didn’t quite stretch to the concept of levelling up as distinct from levelling down.

It’s also remarkable how fully he has internalised a belief system, and this from a man who once cleaved to the notion of the state as a directly progressive force in generating economic activity, that ‘civil servants create no jobs’. Of course it’s also a nonsense. States can and do generate economic activity, civil and public sector workers in a multitude of roles are central to this, whether in the NRA, or health or education or local authorities or whatever. Indeed it’s something of a big lie to suggest otherwise, as well as being on a purely analytical level risible.

One other point. He waxes lyrical about the following.

Most Irish jobs are created by self-employed Irish people. They could hardly do so if they did not earn over €70,000 a year – the salary of many a civil servant who create no jobs at all. This small group also pays the most taxes.
Fine Gael backbenchers have failed to protect this tiny but productive group. Just as they have failed to see fair play between the public and private sector. This may please the Labour Party but Fine Gael will have to pay the butcher’s bill at the next General Election.

Now, as it happens I’ve no antagonism at all to those who are self-employed. I’ve argued before that the lack of social protections that has typified the approach of the state towards them (albeit with some amelioration in recent times) has been simply wrong. But is he right to place his trust in the idea that they are the main engine of job creation?

A look at this from Michael Taft raises some significant questions about that proposition.

Michael’s conclusion is that:

The fastest growing sectors are construction and the public sector sectors of public administration and education which, again, doesn’t indicate a broad-based growth. It is worth noting that the majority of sectors suffered a decline. Two notes: these are seasonally adjusted and exclude the not-stated category – so the total of the above sectors don’t add up to the total. And the agriculture sector – which experienced the biggest volatility during the CSO revision – may retain its volatility for a while.

Last year he notes:

The low-paid hospitality sector could have made up 50 percent of the net gains while in the first half of this year most sectors declined

It’s worth noting that construction, public administration etc, and low-paid hospitality sectors are not generally the sole preserve of the self-employed (actually there’s a broader question as to what is defined as the self-employed in his definition of the term – does he mean sole traders, or those in partnership or limited companies? And if so is his definition so broad as to be unwieldy, i.e. all those who have companies and employ others or those who are actually sole traders? Or could it be he simply means business men and women?).

And this has some interesting points too… not least:

The reason why the rise in one-person self-employment is not an indicator of good news, is that during a brutal recession, it is likely involuntary.

A spot of bother over the Technical Group and some apparently unwelcome new arrivals October 22, 2014

Posted 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, 2014

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

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, 2014

Posted 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, 2014

Posted 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’.


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