Got to admit… May 7, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Bioethics, Culture, Feminism, Irish Politics.
Jacky Jones in the Irish Times,former HSE regional manager of health promotion, is a voice of reason on a range of issues from private schools through to reproductive rights.
Unfortunately the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 will not protect or vindicate women’s reproductive rights. The name change – removing the word “maternal” from the title – means there is still ambiguity about whether the woman’s life or that of the foetus is prioritised. It is only a matter of time before another Irish woman asks the European Court of Human Rights to protect and vindicate her right to terminate a pregnancy because her health, as distinct from her life, is not protected by the proposed legislation. In the meantime, Irish women will have to rely on the kindness of strangers in the UK.
Some more thoughts on that Red C Poll… December 4, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Bioethics, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
1 comment so far
A few days have passed since the SBP Red C poll was released. And that offers time to work through the reasons that it may have seen such significant changes for at least one of the parties. The headline figures were as follows:
Fine Gael 28% (down 6%), Labour 14% (up 1%), Fianna Fail 20% (up 1%), Sinn Fein 17% (NC), Green Party 3% (up 1%), Independents, United Left Alliance and Others 18% (up 3%).
And while all others were broadly within their pre-existing levels of support, it is the FG figure which is most striking. In the space of a month it lost 6 per cent and in doing so dipped below 30 per cent for the first time in a Red C poll. As Pat Leahy put it:
A month ago Fine Gael was untouchable – miles ahead of everyone else on 34 per cent. Not today. Unbelievably, having dropped by six points to 28 per cent, Fine Gael now sees, approaching in the rear view mirror, its old enemy: Fianna Fáil.
That may be overstating it, and yet, and yet, both parties are now 8 per cent apart. That’s the thing with Irish politics, the closeness of FF and FG in terms of what they offer to voters is such that there is some (not a huge amount) interchangeability in that vote. Leahy argues that the death of Savita Halappanavar is a motive force in all this. I think it is to a considerable extent. But it’s very difficult not to believe that a broader dissatisfaction with FG over various issue, plus more immediately the travails of the Minister of Health, have also fed into this and that the abortion issue was in part a means by which this dissatisfaction could be activated.
Leahy makes a further crucial point:
It’s also clear from today’s numbers that the public is a good bit less conservative than Fine Gael on the abortion issue.
It’s arguable that the rather vociferous ‘pro-life’ FG TDs have done their party no good at all and it will be instructive if they moderate their tone in the next while. I put up an interview with Harvey Milk at the weekend where he noted that often a perception of greater strength of right wing attitudes than actually exists can prevent progressives from acting. In the case of abortion that seems to be the case. It is true that the death of Savita Halappanavar brought home the realities facing women in this state for many, but it is also difficult to believe that there had not been a slower shift in public opinion on the matter, and I think purely on an anecdotal level from my own perspective of hearing people on the matter – with all the necessary caveats – I would see that as being probably accurate.
Of course that doesn’t mean there’s a contradiction in all this. It could well be that despite all that FG remains a lot more conservative on the issue, that it is not tagging along after a perceived public opinion, but that its representatives are genuinely attached to much more conservative positions. It’s certainly telling to see names like Brian Hayes placed in the ‘pro-life’ camp.
The irony is that if the FG vote is a form of political collateral damage in respect of abortion legislation then it is truly a case of a party playing it safe and being undercut by changing public opinion – and a further irony, it is not economically linked.
That said on that latter matter Leahy makes a most interesting observation:
Public opinion has also shifted on the budget. Whereas previous surveys tended to show that the public was more in favour of public spending cuts than higher taxes, today’s poll shows that opposition to cuts in welfare payments, especially pensions, is shared by two-thirds of voters. However, a similar proportion (67 per cent) say that tax increases for higher earners – defined as those with over €100,000 household income – should be the first option for the government.
Voters favour further public sector pay cuts, rather than cuts to welfare and pensions, with a fifth of voters (21 per cent) saying it should be the first option, while over half (55 per cent) say it should be an option considered by the government. Just 20 per cent say the option of “higher taxes for all” should be considered, though a similar proportion say it should not be on the agenda at all.
One could dismiss all that as being a case that ‘anyone but us’ should be taxed or should have their wages cut, on the part of voters. But an appetite to increase higher taxes on those better off is at least moving in the right direction.
And he concludes by suggesting:
Overall, this poll shows not just political support but the political landscape moving away from the government parties. It’s not altogether clear what might replace this. But it does remind us of the underlying volatility that the economic crisis has wrought on Irish politics. The crisis has already changed our politics to an historic degree. That change is not necessarily at an end.
That’s the thing. As was put elsewhere, FF is positioning itself to the right of SF and to the left, marginally, of the Government. That may reap dividends, and already it is six points above where it was in similar polling half a year ago. All FF wants is to recover lost ground, as much and as fast as it can. So it will do literally anything to achieve that end. No more the chatter about FF becoming a niche right wing party that we heard in the aftermath of the election. Their ambitions are much much bigger than to be a PD redux. But it could be that their rather minor gain is because others have made the running in this – indeed a not dissimilar dynamic could explain why SF haven’t improved upon their position, given the very public and rather unusual – for them – apostasy from the party line on this particular issue.
Look at the Independents and Others who are up to 18 per cent. What remains striking is how the supposedly impotent and irrelevant Independents and Others continue to command a vast share of the vote. Yet if anything the recent events have shown how even given near non-existent political power they retain an ability to shape the discourse and in ways that are both positive for themselves and immensely damaging to their rivals. Again it seems reasonable to propose that this is a function of the most recent events, and particularly the high profile of Clare Daly, and Joan Collins and Mick Wallace in matters (a lot is made of the fact that those involved mention each others names a lot, but it would seem to be an approach that is not without merit if one wishes to solidify the Independent and Others vote share).
In a way what all this reminds me of is the way that when the opportunity arrived for voters to turn their backs on the Fianna Fáil and the Green Party during the last government they did so and in droves. It’s as if there is a need for ‘permission’ in these matters, and once it is given, or rather taken, then that’s that. It’s not, as Leahy notes, that ‘these positions are set in stone’. FG could recover though I hesitate to use the word ‘easily’. But with so much bad news still in train… it may be that this is a key moment in the electoral cycle.
And a Budget tomorrow!
What should be the Garda priorities? July 4, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Crime, Inequality, Justice, Society.
An Garda Síochána is conducting a public consultation as part of its preparation of a three-year strategy for 2013–2015. Have a look at how they frame the discussion with the first question in the consultation [the Gardaí use drop-down boxes with the numbers for ranking, but they don't transalte to CLR's website]:
An Garda Síochána has limited resources and is faced with a wide range of demands. In your opinion, what priority should An Garda Síochána give to the following policing areas? (Rank in order of priority – 1 being most important and 10 being least important. Each number can only be used once.)
Drugs (including importing, selling and taking drugs) Public Order (for example, tackling drunkenness or rowdiness as well as anti-social behaviour) Hate crimes (for example, targeting someone based on their race or sexuality) Ensuring road safety (for example, preventing serious and fatal collisions, young people racing around in car etc) Violent crimes (such as assaults rape, sexual assaults, and domestic violence) Property crime (such as burglaries, thefts and robberies) Criminal damage (for example, damage against your property, vehicle or graffiti) Fraud (for example, computer and telephone scams or someone else using your identity without your knowledge) Financial crimes committed by those working in businesses and large corporations. Human Trafficking (for purposes of labour or sexual exploitation)
Now, even leaving aside the question of precisely how the responses to a public consultation will affect the choices the Gardaí make for priority areas (if, oh, 400,000 responses tell them they should make hate crimes based on race or sexuality the first priority, and the next highest priority is in the 100s of responses, will that put it to the top of the list?), isn’t that opening question just weird?
Financial crimes presented as a separate category from fraud. And young people racing around in car — is it different when middle-aged people do it? All of the compenents of the drug trade lumped together without distinguishing those with power in the trade from those without. Anti-social behaviour — when it is not a deliberate political action — would seem to me to always be wrong, but drunkeness — if I don’t get rowdy or drive a vehicle — might not be, but the Gardaí have put them in the same category.
I would like to know how they rank crimes where there are large numbers of potential and articulate “direct” victims (public order and property crime, for example) against crimes where the victims may indirect (the gardaí’s ‘financial crimes’) or smaller in number (hate crimes) or vulnerable (trafficking). And how do you rank any of the crime categories against the more-than-just-crime issue of road safety?
I live in an area where the Chief Superintendent has gone beyond the legal requirements for county-based Garda Joint Policing Committees and holds quarterly meetings with residents’ associations and other local community groups in each of the areas covered by the individual stations across the Division. And he takes seriously the two questions of listening to concerns raised and reporting back. [Complaints about dangerous parking outside seven schools in the school rush-hours resulted in this response at the following meeting: They had checked the issue at all schools, and in two cases they agreed that the situation was dangerous, but in the others, just an inconvenience for a short period. They met the two school principals, and a letter went out to all parents at the two schools. A week later, some garda shifts were changed to have officers in place at both rush hours -- that week, the gardaí spoke to drivers who tried to looked like they intended to park dangerously, told them to move on, and reminded the parents of the letter. The following week, the officers started issuing tickets, and 70 were issued in a month.]
At one of the meetings last year, the Superintendent presented statistics on garda activity in the station’s area. Among the data on speeding traps set up, speeding offences detected, drunk and disorderly outside pubs, burlaries, damage to property, etc. were two tables on drugs operations. One operation was implemented by the local drugs squad, and targeted local dealers. The other was an operation implemented by ‘beat’ and community gardaí and was targetted at the buyers. Up went a table showing the number of stops and searches in public spaces in the hunt to catch users with stock for their own use. That number over a year was in the high hundreds — I think it was between 700 and 800. But the total number of detections was in two digits. I made myself unpopular with a pair of questions: First, was it an effective use of resurces to stop and search so many people with so little crime detected for it? Second, what mechanisms did they have to ensure that the stops and searches did not work to alienating young men from the disadvantaged estates in the station’s area?
The current Garda national questionnaire does provide space to expalin your views, although some of the options you get appear to depend on the choices you make in previous questions. It would seem to be a bit difficult, but possible, to use the survey to present the kind of conerns I raised at the meeting. But I am minded to ignore some of the questions and say what I want to say anyway.
And in fairness, it is refreshing to get the opportunity to say that financial crimes need a bit more profile in the Gardaí’s work, although I am deeply uncomfortable having to rank that ahead or behind concerns like human trafficking or hate crimes.
If you would like to add your views, mosey on over to http://www.garda.ie/Controller.aspx?Page=9358