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Meanwhile back at the Seanad… December 10, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in back at the Seanad.
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… not as much as one might hope to point to this week… which is not to say there’s nothing. Ah no, there’s something… check it out…

Eoghan Harris: Information on Eoghan Harris Zoom on Eoghan Harris Like everyone else in Ireland, I care for my country, as do my colleagues in the Seanad. In the closing days of this Seanad we should reflect on the crisis in Irish politics, which is the lack of respect for politics and politicians. Our primary task should not be to score points against each other within the political system. All politicians have a duty of care to the Irish people and to get people to respect politics once more, because politics has never been so disrespected in modern Ireland.

Part of respecting politics is to understand the nature of the crisis. Conventional wisdom is that it is an economic crisis. It is that, but we have been through economic crises since the 1920s and dealt with them. The problem with this crisis is that there is a crisis of authority as well – a crisis of politics itself and of leadership. That is the reason I proposed, in my column in the Sunday Independent last Sunday, a reverse Tallaght strategy for Fianna Fáil – that in Opposition it would support the incoming Government. The broad parameters of the budget are agreed and what people are fighting about here is the small change. It is like arguing about the composition of a Christmas pudding, where the raisins should go or whether there should be less flour and so forth. The point is that all political parties in these Houses are committed to the broad parameters of the budget and it behoves Fianna Fáil to support the incoming Government. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of the anarchist, independent and messy forces in this society.

People crave stable government from the centre for a few years to allow them to get their heads and their act together. I appeal once more to the parties about this. I am glad the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, picked up my reverse Tallaght strategy on “The Frontline” programme and that the Taoiseach endorsed it this morning. Fine Gael and the Labour Party should consider their duty of care to the other side and their duty to give Fianna Fáil a soft landing. They should say: “Yes, we accept that we all have a duty of care and that we are all within the broad parameters of this budget together. We have a duty to create a centre of authority in Irish politics.”

That duty devolves on the Labour Party as much as others. I was interested to see that Deputy Seán Sherlock believed the budget should be supported. That marked the intelligence and cop-on for which his family has always been noted. All political parties in this House should consider whether it would not be wiser of them to gather around and protect the broad parameters of this budget and of public policy. I know, and they know in their hearts, that is what the Irish people want them to do.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I hope the Opposition is listening.

Oh, no doubt… but even if it’s not, the good Senator has a friend…


Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Harris about the need for consensus on these issues. It is painful, and Senator O’Toole referred to this, to watch political parties exploiting the protests outside the House. However, we have seen over the last couple of years the exploitation of the financial and economic crisis in the country purely for party political gain. It does nothing for the image of politics and definitely does nothing for this country.

I agree with my colleague, Senator Callely, on the need for a debate on NAMA. It is not functioning as effectively as it should be at this stage. Unfortunately, much of the future of this country is vested in NAMA and unless it performs to its full and best potential, we will suffer as a consequence. I seek a debate on this.

With regard to the OECD report, while we should not be complacent about its findings we should consider it in context. It has been acknowledged that it is a comparison with five years ago and we have a significant number of young people who are immigrants and whose literacy skills would obviously be more challenged than those of natives. The other issue, which is positive in some respects, is the fact that there are fewer early school leavers. Many children are remaining in school, which is a good development.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames One in six is still dropping out.

And he continues…

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh That said, we should hold a reasonable debate on the subject. The quality of teachers, which is a huge issue, and the curriculum should certainly be the focus of that debate.

Finally, will the Leader hold a debate at an early opportunity on the HSE and the hospital consultants’ contracts? It is shameful that, having increased salaries by approximately 50%, they are now reverting back to the breakdown between public and private practice in our hospitals. A stop must be put to this abuse of privilege and I seek an early debate in that regard.

Meanwhile, there was a rumour doing the rounds that Fianna Fáíl and the Green Party had agreed that they’d propose the abolition of the Seanad as a means of getting in ahead of Fine Gael…True or not it certainly got some Senators excited…

Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin: Information on Niall Ó Brolcháin Zoom on Niall Ó Brolcháin I renew my calls for a debate on wage structures following yesterday’s budget. I was pleased to see that a maximum wage in the public service was introduced by the Minister in the budget. I called previously for the maximum wage to be linked to the minimum wage, but that was not done. I was looking for a linking of eight times the minimum wage. The figure of €250,000 is between 14 and 16 times the minimum wage, depending on what the minimum wage is. It is important to have a debate on this because it affects many people.

Senator Leyden spoke about a debate on the abolition of the Seanad. It is important to have that debate. I would personally advocate reform rather than abolition. If we had a referendum on the abolition of the Dáil right now, there is a possibility it would pass. A knee jerk reaction on the abolition of the Houses of the Oireachtas is not a good idea. Clear reform is what we need.

And others too…

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen Zoom on Ronan Mullen Most of us find ourselves giving reluctant support to the budget, despite the lack of credibility in the Government’s projections for growth on which the four year plan is predicated, and despite the apparent political opportunism which continues to bedevil decision making. Everybody is happy to see that there were no cuts in the State pension, but when we see that there were cuts for people with disabilities, it becomes clear that political calculations were at work and that is very unfortunate.

I ask the Leader and the Deputy Leader to speak to their bosses in the Government about the playing of politics with the institutions of this State. We heard that there was a last minute discussion about whether it would be a good idea to scrap the Seanad, apparently in order to gazump the leader of the Fine Gael Party and to do what he did a few months ago, namely, to reach for the cookie jar of populist ideas, instead of having a mature, considered debate about how the institutions of our State are working. This is reminiscent of the five minutes’ notice given by the smaller party to the larger party in the Government about its general election intentions. It is simply cynical.

Those of us who have some kind of political contribution to make will find another way of offering ourselves to the electorate. It is not about us. However, was any consideration given to the people who work in administration here as support staff for Senators? Or is it just all about gaining the political advantage? If there was serious respect for the institutions of this State, we would be looking at a reformed Seanad. We would be looking at a list system so we could move from a situation where people are voting on the basis of local considerations to a situation where parties would be putting their ideas out on a platform, the personnel on a list, and people would vote for ideas instead of personalities. That would be real political thinking and would show real responsibility towards the electorate—–

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan Zoom on Pat Moylan We cannot have a debate on that now.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen Zoom on Ronan Mullen —–instead of the shamelessly self-serving opportunism that we are getting at the moment.

Indeed… and there’s more…

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney I welcome Senator Leyden’s opening comments on the reference in yesterday’s budget speech on the future of the Seanad, as well as Senator Mullen’s comments. In all the discussion on abolition and reform, the Members of this House over the past few decades have taken it upon themselves to initiate a variety of debates that have culminated in a stack of reports with very positive proposals on how this Seanad could be more reflective of life outside it. If there has been no reform, that has not been the fault of the elected Senate, but rather the fault of successive Governments that have failed to grasp the need for reform of the Senate. Senator Leyden is right to paraphrase the former Minister, Michael McDowell, talking about his own party in saying we must be radical or redundant. I would welcome any initiative the Leader, even at this stage, could bring forward that would inform the public. If it was suggested that the Dáil would be abolished, I guarantee the public would vote for it. That could be followed by the Presidency and then we could get rid of the local authorities. We can go down this road if we wish but at the end of the day there must be some loyalty to the democratic institutions of the State. If there is to be further debate on the future of the Seanad, it must take account of the various reports that have been done, the most recent of which was carried out under the former Leader of the House, Deputy O’Rourke, which contained far-reaching proposals. Governments have ignored it, however, and now it is turning around with a populist, knee-jerk reaction to suggest the Seanad should be let go. Of course the public would be happy to abolish this House. They would abolish everything and I do not blame them, but they must be informed.

Mind you, no getting away from the Budget… Senator Mooney continues:

Yesterday was a sad day. Traditionally budget day was a day of some spectacle, and I use the word advisedly. Yesterday we saw massed ranks of gardaí both in front of and behind the House. People are fully entitled to protest, it is right and proper they do so, and we all know and appreciate the anger, pain and hurt being felt by those who are struggling with families. God knows, it is not too far from my own door or those others of us who face an uncertain future. I wish to record, however, my appreciation of the behaviour of the gardaí yesterday, where they adhered to their oath to uphold the institutions of the State. This House should express its thanks to the Garda Commissioner for the manner in which the Garda Síochána carried out its duties yesterday.

And what of this…

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson ….

I also join those speakers who mentioned the protests outside the Houses yesterday. I am a democrat and I believe people should be entitled to protest in a peaceful manner. The 200 or 300 people who protested outside this House last night, however, were nothing short of a disgrace. They are not democrats in any way and I point that some of the flags and emblems on display last night were flags and emblems displayed by the 200 thugs who hijacked the students’ protest a number of weeks ago. This is a democracy and it cannot be hijacked by such people. As Senator O’Toole mentioned, some of the flags and emblems being held by protesters belong to a party that has representatives in the other House who claim to be democrats. Let us tell it as it is. These people are not democrats; they are thugs and layabouts. I pay tribute to the Garda Síochána and to the staff of the Houses for protecting Members.

And this…

Senator Camillus Glynn: Information on Camillus Glynn Zoom on Camillus Glynn I echo the remarks of Senators O’Toole and Wilson. I have been in public life for 30 years and I respect the views of everyone. That is one of the great things about this House, the other House and all the local authorities. People can put themselves forward for election, be elected and have a mandate to speak. I will not repeat the remarks made by the Senators but the fact that I have alluded to them is an affirmation of my agreement with them. The Garda Síochána is the best police force in the world. I am proud of it, as is every Member of both Houses. On the issue of Seanad reform, there is an attitude in these Houses that it is a great thing to propose radical ideas. I am aware there is nothing so good it cannot be improved. Of course this House can be improved. There have been several reports on it and they are all gathering a layer of dust. That is not the fault of the Seanad. We have put ourselves forward for reform on many occasions but nothing has happened.

Information on Camillus GlynnZoom on Camillus GlynnI echo the remarks of Senators O’Toole and Wilson. I have been in public life for 30 years and I respect the views of everyone. That is one of the great things about this House, the other House and all the local authorities. People can put themselves forward for election, be elected and have a mandate to speak. I will not repeat the remarks made by the Senators but the fact that I have alluded to them is an affirmation of my agreement with them. The Garda Síochána is the best police force in the world. I am proud of it, as is every Member of both Houses. On the issue of Seanad reform, there is an attitude in these Houses that it is a great thing to propose radical ideas. I am aware there is nothing so good it cannot be improved. Of course this House can be improved. There have been several reports on it and they are all gathering a layer of dust. That is not the fault of the Seanad. We have put ourselves forward for reform on many occasions but nothing has happened.

Fear not… we’re all safe with this level of concern…

Meanwhile, what a treat it is to be lectured by someone about education and teaching…someone whose knowledge of the curriculum appears to be a little lax. But hey, that won’t stop them from saying any old stuff right off the top of their…

Senator Eoghan Harris: Information on Eoghan Harris Zoom on Eoghan Harris I did not get a chance to read the OECD report yesterday, but having acquainted myself with it a bit more, I would like to call on the Leader for a debate on education. The problem with debating education in this House traditionally has been that there are so many teachers in both Houses of the Oireachtas that the debates always descend to a level of letting the Government spend more money, whatever Government that might be, and that everything will be fine. It is clear from the OECD report that there is a problem with teaching skills as well as everything else. It is no good throwing money at the Garda Síochána if we have bad cops. It is no good throwing money at the ESB if technicians are just working four and five hours per day.

The problem with teaching at the moment is that it seems there is a problem with teaching skills. If there is, then there is a managerial problem to be fixed. I would like a proper debate that would allow us to raise some of the unpopular things. There is a duty among Members of these Houses to say things that vested interests cannot say, whether those interests are teachers or anyone else. One of the things that strikes me is the fact that much teaching is very difficult. It involves rote skills and hard brutal learning of facts and figures. Mathematics especially involves hard work. It seems to me, as an outsider, that in recent years since 1980, there is much child-centred nonsense going on that makes the relationship between teachers and parents more emollient, but the fact remains that teaching is hard work. Much of it would be unpopular with parents if it were done properly.

In the past 40 years, picking up the habits of Britain, we have gone for all this trendy stuff and green flags, and we have forgotten that de Valera was educated in national school. There is no great curriculum around him. Michael Collins was educated in national school. How is it that they could come out and take on an empire? They were mathematically numerate and highly literate. How come, despite the fact that our teachers are some of the highest paid in Europe, and despite the fact that university lecturers are some of the highest paid in Europe, we still have problems with core teaching values? Much of that comes from the fact that we need to return to some traditional habits of teaching. We need to accept that, just like playing the violin, it is not easy all the way.

But let us end with this, a fine example of the debates that echo around the chamber…

Senator Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White I have a second question, on the important issue of the future of this and the Lower House. We deserve clarity, not just rumour. The airwaves have been full of rumours following the announcement of the leader of the Green Party on 22 November that it was time to have a general election and that it should be held in the middle of January. On the same day the Taoiseach stated: “It is my intention at the conclusion of this budgetary process with the enactment of the necessary legislation in the new year to then seek a dissolution of Dáil Éireann and to enable the people to determine who should undertake the responsibilities of government in the challenging period ahead thereafter.” Is it still the position that, once the budgetary measures and the legislation required to enact the provisions of the budget have been completed, the Taoiseach intends to dissolve the Dáil and hold a general election? Alternatively, are we now in the hilarious situation where the Taoiseach is presenting the impression that he still intends to dissolve the Dáil but that the Green Party will not let him?

(Interruptions).

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which some Senators, Senator Alex White in particular, can raise rumour to fact, believe what they want to believe because The Irish Times tells them it is so—–

Senator Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White Just answer me.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Answer the question.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle —–and choose not to believe what is stated in the House. The position is clear.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Is the Green Party still talking about a general election in mid-January?

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle The calling of the election is the constitutional prerogative of the Taoiseach.

Senator Paudie Coffey:Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey This is like “Lanigan’s Ball”.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle The leader of the Green Party announced that, following the completion of the budgetary process which would involve the passage of the Finance Bill in both Houses, we did not intend to remain in government.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins He specifically gave the date of the middle of January.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle This is clear, concise and precise and dependent on the co-operation of the Opposition in both Houses.

Senator Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White For goodness sake, the Senator should listen to himself.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle If Senators are so concerned about calendar events, I encourage them to co-operate.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Is it power-sharing?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan Zoom on Pat Moylan Questions to the Leader, please.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle The process is already being assisted. The Dáil and the Seanad will be reconvened earlier, while the publication of the Finance Bill will also occur earlier.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins It will not be the middle of January then.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan Zoom on Pat Moylan Members, please.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle I will put to bed Senator Alex White’s particular belief the general election will be held in January.

Senator Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White No. I cited the Minister, Deputy Gormley’s statement.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle He did not say that.

Senator Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White He did.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins The Green Party will pull the plug in January.

Senator Eugene Regan: Information on Eugene Regan Zoom on Eugene Regan January 2012.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan Zoom on Pat Moylan No interruptions, please.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle The Minister said the election would be called in January.

Senator Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White He stated the general election would be held in the second half of January 2011.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle I agree with Senator O’Toole, in that—–

(Interruptions).

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan Zoom on Pat Moylan Members, please.

Senator Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White Senator Boyle is making it up as he goes along.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan Zoom on Pat Moylan Senator Boyle to continue, without interruption.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle I will not even go there. I support Senator O’Toole’s request to process certain legislation.

Senator Joe O’Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole Will the Deputy Leader manage it?

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle I have mentioned it to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and believe he wishes to raise the matter at the next Cabinet meeting. Draft legislation on both matters has been prepared and could be initiated before the recess. I hope the proposals made will be given active consideration.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins Was it to be in January 2012 that the Green Party would pull the plug?

Senator Ciaran Cannon: Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon It is now.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle A matter on today’s crowded Order Paper is not for debate, but a debate at the earliest opportunity on the change in the construction of the National Economic and Social Council, an important body for social partnership, particularly in the context of long-term strategy, would benefit the House. Both Houses need every assistance in formulating a long-term strategy because the people are crying out for such a vision.

Comments»

1. Niall - December 10, 2010

1980 is recent? It was thirty years ago you silly ejit!

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WorldbyStorm - December 10, 2010

I missed that… But doesn’t it say it all?

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2. neilcaff - December 10, 2010

Whereas the unqualified cheer leading for a disastrous housing bubble by a certain newspaper and it’s journalists is another epoch entirely

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3. CL - December 10, 2010

‘Deputy Seán Sherlock believed the budget should be supported.’-Senator Harris.
Shortly after being elected to his father’s seat Deputy Sherlock said that the Labour party was now also the party of millionaires.
One is almost forced to hope that Sinn Fein will offer some real opposition to the Sherlocks of the Labour Party, and by so doing give the working class some representation.

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4. meng die - December 10, 2010

Seán Sherlock strikes me as someone who’d be as happy in Fine Gael as Labour. From what little I know about his father’s politics, the son seems to have taken quite a jump to the right – am I right about this and, if so, does it come down to the slow death of the sugar factory in Mallow? How much is he a taste of things to come in the next generation of Labour TDs?

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5. “elf and safety” | Machholz's Blog - December 11, 2010

[…] Meanwhile back at the Seanad… (cedarlounge.wordpress.com) […]

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6. Tomboktu - December 13, 2010

[An aside: Bloody Oireachtas crew have “updated” their website so that older links to specific debates are now incorrect. And the search function isn’t working well either. I discovered this when I wanted to get the PQ I wrote about here last ago and couldn’t get it through the Oireachtas site and then decided to use the links in that post. <Grrr>.]

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WorldbyStorm - December 14, 2010

you’d wonder why they did that, no?

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Tomboktu - December 14, 2010

The new structure gives a separate link to separate chunks by actual breaks in the debates. So, for example, the PQ and answer now have a separate web page instead of being buried in a page that contains a long list of written answers. On the other hand, all of the first debate on the recent budget (Lenihan, Noonan, Burton and Doherty) appear as a single long page.

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7. Easy solutions « deshocks - January 6, 2011

[…] Meanwhile back at the Seanad… (cedarlounge.wordpress.com) […]

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