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It works in Switzerland. March 29, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

Labour were the big losers in Meath East (and more on that and the Left later on), Direct Democracy Ireland will probably be the happiest of all the parties. The party, which registered last year was able to have a brand on the ballot paper and appear as the ‘New Party’ that many (or at least the media) have been hoping for. By its very nature Direct Democracy appeals to all views. Its the ultimate catch all. The number of candidates in the By-Election probably also suited them in that Ben Gilroy had limited airtime for various appealing soundbites but the whole concept of what Direct Democracy is, wasn’t really explored.

As an unregistered party Direct Democracy Ireland fielded three candidates in the 2011 General Election (Another Jane Murphy of the Christian Solidarity Party also carried the direct democracy logo and website url)
Paul Clarke Dublin North central  – 311 votes (0.85%)
Gerry Kelly in Dublin South Central – 137 (0.27%)
Raymond Whitehead – Dublin South 120 (0.17%)

So without the oxygen of publicity that was available from the By-Election campaign they didn’t fare too well.

Gilroy was able to play the outsider well, had a fairly well financed campaign and the advantage of Direct Democracy is that you dont actually have to have any policies, you can be all things to all people.
We’ll take it back to votes in Kells, Dunboyne, Ashbourne and so on and you, those that elected me can vote on what way we should be voting in various Dail bills…. or how do I know you voted for me?… or is it DDI members only that get a vote? … or can anyone turn up and vote? …”do you have to be a constituent?” …” can I vote at all three meetings?” … “It works in Switzerland”

From the Direct Democracy Site

What is direct democracy?

Direct democracy is a form of democracy in which the people have the right to:

1. Select their own candidates to represent them.
2. Call a referendum on any topic if a sufficient number of people deem it necessary, by gathering a set number of signatures.
3. Create legislation and put it to a referendum if a sufficient number of people agree with it, by gathering a set number of signatures.
4. Recall, remove from office, any representative deemed to have acted in breach of their terms of employment.

On the percentage Gilroy got, there’s certainly a few Council seats to be had in 2014 and also its likely that their candidates will feature more prominently in media and other outlets. The By-Election has also given them a recognised profile and no doubt we’ll be seeing Gilroy as a guest on Vincent Browne, RTE and the like. (He might even be given his own show on Newstalk 🙂 )

This Week At Irish Election Literature March 29, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Election Literature Blog.
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First off there’s Meath East galore leaflets on the site which naturally dominated the week for me.

Then a 1997 Flyer from luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan

and finally From the 2007 Fianna Fail Ard Fheis, the front and back covers of the Clar

oh and no quiz this week as been to busy with the by-election 🙂

After Cyprus. March 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.

Cliff Taylor has a few interesting thoughts on Cyprus in the SBP. He notes that:

One thing fatally weakened the hand of Cypriot negotiators during the week. The markets didn’t go mad, even when Cypriot luminaries started throwing in mentions of the possible return of the Cypriot pound. The markets were a bit nervous and fragile, but there wasn’t a lot of panic to be seen.

And it is important to regard a lot of the events of the last week or so as negotiations, spoken and unspoken, not least in the A Very British Coup style recourse to the Moscow option. It looked good on paper, but it was probably always untenable as a way forward. Problem being the price Moscow would extract would be far too high for a polity already well embedded in the Eurozone economy – such as that latter entity is in these strange days.

As always the issue devolves to financial extraction:

Taxpayers are to take on €10 billion of new debt to bail out the banks, but where is the rest of the cash to come from?

And Taylor feels that:

The only way the numbers could be made to add up in Cyprus was to impose some kind of levy on depositors. It was the way this was done, rather than the fact that it was done, which caused such a fuss. And, as we can see, big deposits are now back in the firing line.

That’s an interesting line, and a bit more positive – from his perspective – than last week when the very notion of a dip into supposedly secure deposits was regarded by him as well out of order. What a difference a week makes – eh? But then that’s the new normal. Once stunning events are now seen off almost casually. It is that which I suspect will have a long term impact when the penny drops – really and truly – that deposits are no longer safe from depredation if push comes to shove. As has been asked on this site, where is safe to put money and the answer is… nowhere. Nowhere at all. And it should make all of us very very wary about the hasty efforts to confirm that all is well, that Irish deposits are sound and that the government would never, I mean never, every think of taking anything from them. We shall see.

That’s a new and big lesson for everyone, but also the markets to learn. Which is what is puzzling about the lack of response so far.

Of course for us on the left there are interesting aspects to all this. In principle we shouldn’t be averse to such measures, any more than we are to properly constituted property taxes – for deposits are property. Setting levels, though. Now there’s the rub. €50k, €100k? Those figures seem to me to be significant in and of themselves, but mileage may vary.

Taylor continues:

I think the message from all this is political. It is getting more and more difficult to get political acceptance in the rich countries for yet another rescue, and populations in much of the periphery are worn down by austerity.
A bit of growth could make this all politically much easier, but the latest indicators from central Europe have been poor. You would have to think, as the year goes on, that even if this one is sorted, sterner tests lie ahead for the markets.

That’s important too. Away from panglossian predictions from this government the mood music elsewhere is not good – and not just from central Europe. The Tory growth projections last week were far from astounding. Sterner tests indeed.

More on the middle class… March 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

While we await a result from the byelection, apologies, but I cast my eye over John Waters column during a quiet moment this week. Though on a complete tangent here’s a funny thing. A week or two back I was looking at the Columnists list on the IT website and whose name was missing from that august body? If I said the first name started with a J and the second ended in an s… would that help? It’s there now, though whether that is convenient or not I leave to others to determine.

Anyhow, Waters is contemplating Cyprus.

A friend describes the situation in terms of what he calls “wagon theory”. Once upon a time, economies were measured by the productive energies of their workers. Inside the wagon were the old or otherwise incapacitated, whom the strong and able-bodied wagon-pullers had no objection to carrying as passengers. But the pseudo-boom facilitated by privately generated money and cheap credit enabled politicians to build careers and ideological empires by offering free carriage in the wagon to anyone who agreed to tick the relevant box on the voting paper.

Unsurprisingly, we ended up with far more passengers in the wagon than workers pulling it. In addition to the old-age pensioners and invalided, there were all kinds of welfare recipients whose expectations and entitlements would not long before have been considered the stuff of fantasy. There were the personnel of NGOs, quangos and semi-State behemoths. There were the paper-pushing battalions of the nanny state and the regiments of public pests – health and safety regulators, tax inspectors, traffic wardens, clampers, snooping TV licence inspectors and talentless TV anchorpersons – who, contributing nothing to the common good, imposed invisible levels of unnecessary stress upon the wagon-pullers while whipping them to their early graves.

That’s an highly entertaining, albeit more than borderline offensive, analysis. Entertaining because he neglects a couple of inconvenient facts. Unemployment throughout the 1990s and 2000s went to essentially historic lows – as close to what is considered full employment economically as it is possible to find. That doesn’t suggest wagon-jumping, anything but. In relation to semi-state’s etc I find that an unlikely proposition. Demographic changes saw increases, sharp increases, in populations, but given how vague his proposition is it’s difficult to apply any serious logic to his argument.

As to ‘traffic wardens’, etc, this is the rhetoric of the Daily Mail’s small ‘l’ libertarianism – enough said.

By the way, I think he should take his ‘friend’ aside and put them right as to the treatment of the old and ‘otherwise incapacitated’ across centuries, quite recent ones too, and he’d find that panglossian analysis to be a crock.

But what I find interesting is that for all his rhetoric about the universality of his religious views – at least as they apply to the Irish people, he’s remarkably quick to come up with a list of people who for him are in some way lacking. Look at that list again, there’s the unemployed and others ‘welfare recipients’, ‘personnel of…’, ‘nanny state…public pests’ (that’d be much of the state sector) and so on. There’s the obligatory lash at the media, though not one notices the print media. And then there’s the ‘wagon-pullers’ with whom all virtue resides.

That may be to his mind a silent majority, but to many of us, perhaps most, it appears a rather small slice of the population of this state – even were we to accept the idea on his terms.

In a way it’s a perfect complement to the Martha Kearns piece on the ‘middle class’ from last week’, but whereas Kearns at least had the good sense to acknowledge that there are many many who toil or don’t whose position is much much worse off than the ‘middle class’ Waters can’t even bring himself to admit that.

Of course consider the nature of the candidates presented by the larger parties at the byelection and wonder at how – given the way the system is stacked towards those supposed ‘wagon-pullers’ – that any progress has been made at all.

That latest RedC poll. Forget the details, but what of the analysis. March 27, 2013

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

As has now become clear, we’re sated on political polls. Too many. A complaint one might not have expected to hear in the not too distant past. But what is clear is that the multiplicity of them hasn’t actually helped. In part that is because despite everything the government remains embedded with a super-majority, and is also likely to see out (most) of its term. So much of the polling is somewhat pointless. Sure, it’s interesting to see the variability but it doesn’t mean much when there’s little or no prospect of an actual vote any time soon.

I’ve certainly grown more and more suspicious of headline grabbing polls where SF or FF are suddenly making significant gains. It’s not that either of those situations is impossible, just that they exist in a vacuum.
None of which is to say that polling isn’t useful, and in particular the Sunday Business Post RedC poll which because it is monthly has a consistency that others lack. There are trends, there are dynamics. It is unwise to entirely dismiss them. And in any event it’s not so long ago either that many on the further left were – rightly – calling for the inclusion of the ULA as distinct from the Independents/Others category. The increasing lack of enthusiasm as that project has faded shouldn’t prevent those on the left for still calling for a proper breakdown of such figures because otherwise it leaves the field open to the biggish four (or five if one counts Inds/Others).

And in a way that’s why polling remains important, because the process by which polls are conducted and the manner in which they can shape the discourse is such that they have at least some power wider afield. If the Socialist Party or PBPA or the UL are left out that can have a marginalising effect. Minor, but not nothing. It constrains the space within which the political discourse occurs. And moreover it doesn’t matter if we think that poll x or poll y is nonsense. Newspapers know that sales increase when they have polls. Citizens are interested in them. And if citizens are interested in them then so should we be, or at least attempting to shape them as best as we can.
Still, all that said you’d have to wonder if there’s a certain amount of taking the proverbial up at the SBP when reading the following:

There will be widespread relief in the Labour Party as its support increases by one point to 13 per cent today, though the party faces a difficult by-election this week in Meath East. There are fears in Labour that the party’s candidate, Eoin Holmes, will achieve only fourth place, behind Sinn Féin, but today’s poll, which shows the national picture is stable, will calm jitters among the party’s backbenchers and grassroots.

Hold on a second, let’s look at the figures again:

State of the parties
Fine Gael 28% (no change)
Labour 13% (+1%)
Fianna Fáil 24% (-2%)
Sinn Féin 14% (-2%)
Independent/other 21% (+3)

Are they being entirely serious. A 1% increase in the LP figure demonstrates the ‘national picture is stable’? Hardly. This is all margin of error stuff. The LP figure could be a few percentage points lower again. Other recent polls would appear to suggest that it is.

And more importantly, there’s still considerable volatility elsewhere. Both FF, SF and the Ind/Other figures are in flux, but again FG could be lower (or even higher).

Richard Colwell of RedC attempts to persuade us that all is well:

The benefit to regular polling with tight controls is that we shouldn’t really see big shifts in every poll, but rather should be interested in the underlying trend in the longer term over three or four polls. Occasionally, events do conspire to effect relatively large changes from one poll to another, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

We employ several techniques designed to give stability to our polling in order to be sure we can trust trends and don’t regularly see spikes in support for one party or another. These include very careful sample selection, with adequate mobile sampling and randomised number selection, to ensure every household has an equal chance of being reached. Questions are both worded and ordered so as to minimise bias and ensure parties have an equal representation. We also use techniques such as analysis by likely voters and weighting by past vote to ensure our sample – and, in turn, their vote intentions – are not biased in any way.

But that still doesn’t mean that a 1% increase should be taken as indicating anything much in particular. Take Labour, it has indeed risen from 11% in January, to 12% in February to now 13%. But again, these are all within the margin of error and worse again conflict with other polls. What we could safely say is that the LP’s vote remains mired in or around the 9-13% area.

We also know from previous work that there is some disquiet among Labour voters, with many feeling that promises haven’t been kept, and the “fairness” they sought from the party has not been apparent in aspects of government policy.

Contextualised with the information on the Property Tax one could say that that is a problem that is going to increase. And given the fall in support for both governing parties the following seems overly optimistic.

That said, rather than government parties in crisis, this does suggest the picture is one of a more normal backlash against a government in the mid-term between elections, but not a meltdown at this stage.

Worth remembering that the LP has shed somewhere upwards of six percentage points since Election 2011. Fine Gael has seen off a good 8 per cent plus. That doesn’t sound so much until one considers that for the LP that’s 40 per cent or more of all the FP votes they received.

What’s interesting too is the caution in the following in comparison to the LP stable rhetoric:

There is also clear evidence in the medium-term trends, of a move back towards Fianna Fáil, particularly among voters who were once strong supporters of the party, and for whom the flirtation with either Labour or Fine Gael has been unrewarding.

However, this move back to Fianna Fáil is also perhaps more gradual than some have suggested. In the Red C polls at the end of 2012, the party recorded a gradual increase in support month on month. This trend was the first indication that the party was emerging from its so called ‘toxic’ status.

The suggestion that it may be acceptable to vote Fianna Fáil again in the media possibly encouraged this view. Today’s result, however, which sees the party secure 24 per cent of the vote, looks more in line with the longer-term trend – that of a party on the up, but at a more gradual and considered pace.

But in February FF experienced a spike where it jumped from 21% to 26%. It’s return to 24% doesn’t seem to be a part of a more gradual and considered pace.

Colwell sees long term decline for SF. But… although it is true that the Presidential election was an high point for that party, it also has seen two increases in its vote, once to 18% and more recently to 19% despite falling to 14% in the most recent from 16%.

And this is where trends can be deceptive. It’s long been argued here that the only certainty is uncertainty and volatility and that individual parties are varying within quite broad bands of support. The economic forecasts aren’t, for all the strenuous efforts to suggest otherwise, getting any better and arguably things are going to get more evidently worse for individual citizens. Again consider the data on the property tax, and over the horizon are water chartists and so on and so forth. This may have a greater effect upon the Labour party but it would be a brave person who believed FG would see all this off unscathed – and again other polling suggests they’re in trouble too.

Though all that said, consider how the Independents remain strong. Up 3% to 21%.

Finally, independent candidates remain a significant force at a time when people are rebelling against an incumbent government.
Support for independent candidates and other smaller parties has been hovering around the high teens and early twenties for the past several months, and in today’s poll, it again hits 21 per cent. A move towards independents is often seen mid-term, particularly when the opposition parties are not palatable to those who originally supported the government.
However, this does at least indicate that the problems for one independent TD – in this case Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan – do not necessarily reflect badly on the independents as a group.

It is entirely possible that as the CAHWT picks up speed again that that is reflected in these figures. It is also entirely clear that ‘none of the above’ remains a very strong dynamic in the political system in this state, even now.

And again, as was noted last week, that is the key aspect to all this. Two years and more into this government and nothing is solid, all is fluid. So much opportunity in that.

Meath East March 27, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

So today voters go to the polls in Meath East and by all accounts Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fail and Fine Gaels Helen McEntee are very much the front runners .Despite the raft of polls in recent weeks, it appears that there have been no polls done in the constituency (or none that we know of), which is a pity as I’m sure one would have been more newsworthy than some of the other National polls.

I watched RTEs Primetime Meath East debate on Monday night and was severly tempted to put my foot through the screen on various occassions. …. and thats before we even get onto the fact that only four of the eleven candidates were invited.
We had Thomas Byrne talking about a “Bankers Charter” that will be the Governments plan to tackle Mortgage Arrears, not one of the other candidates were quick enough to pick up on this and Fianna Fail writing the ultimate “Bankers Charter”. Still Fianna Fails past will surely put a ceiling on their support and possible transfers.
Eoin Holmes of Labour , aside from saying that he was an employer, was arguing that by electing him the balance of power in the government would shift to Labour as they would have more influence in policy. So I presume if The Programme for Government were to be renegotiated the fact that Eoin Holmes was elected would negate the fact that five Labour TDs have lost the whip since that Programme for Government was agreed upon. His eve of poll leaflet was unusual to say the least.
Fine Gaels Helen McEntee got herself in a lather a few times about Dynastic politics and of course various unfinished estates now qualifying for the Property Tax.
Sinn Feins Darren O’Rourke stayed on message about cuts, austerity and The Property Tax and actually did OK. The funny thing is that his own circumstances seem to reflect the problems an awful lot of the voters have.
So how will it turn out?
First off if its the woeful weather we’ve been having the past few weeks then turnout will be low. Low turnout will probably benefit Fianna Fail as they seem to have thrown the kitchen sink at this campaign and their loyal voters will turn out for them. We’ll see how transfer toxic Fianna Fail are too. It would be a blow to the Fianna Fail comeback were they not to win.
It will be a blow to Fine Gael were they to lose the seat but I suspect that Helen McEntee will do far better than Thomas Byrne on transfers, not necessarily out of belief in her politics but out of sympathy.
Again its going to be neck and neck between the two and its too hard to call at the minute.

Its below Fianna Fail and Fine Gael where some of the real ramifications could be. Can Sinn Feins Darren O’Rourke translate Sinn Feins position in the National polls into actual votes? Will he beat Eoin Holmes of Labour?
If the National Opinion polls are correct then he really should be beating Holmes into fourth place.
Then we have to ask can Holmes finish fourth?
I saw odds the other day that had himself and Ben Gilroy of Direct Democracy Ireland both at 25/1 to win the By-Election. Gilroys campaign has been fairly prominent and He’s selling the whole “New Party” idea too. He’s also pro life. Theres a feeling I’ve heard from a few people that Gilroy will do well, however I suspect if people actually read what Direct Democracy is, they may be less enthusiastic.
Seamus McDonagh has run a good campaign and got a lot of coverage at both National and local level as well as having the backing of some Left TDs. He could poll well.
Independent Labour candidate Mick Martin will also take votes off Holmes. Holmes will also be transfer toxic.
The Greens will improve on The General Election percentage wise but with a low turnout they may not increase their actual number of votes.
Independents Tallon, Keddy and O’Brien are unlikely to trouble the vote counters much although Keddy seems to have developed a bit of a cult following, either way they’ll each do well to poll over 200 votes.
So with no great expertise I’m going to call it in the following order……

…. and be totally wrong !

What you want to say… Open Thread, 27th March, 2013 March 27, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Affairs of the heart…and periphery March 26, 2013

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in European Politics, Uncategorized.

In recent weeks the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee was holding hearings on the state of the Union and Irish attitudes to same. The standard narrowness of Irish debate takes on even slender proportions in EU matters thanks to the coercion involved due to multiple failure of Ireland’s political class. Any time spent watching Strasbourg or even visiting the Parliament website feels like a different planet.

Hearings took place before Cyprus unfortunately.  Cheerleading has become increasingly fruitless as our masters repeatedly make a complete bags of things. A measure I think of how serious the situation remains (again) was the usually uber responsible Karl Whelan openly talking about runs and spreading deposits across accounts on television last night.

The economists, ‘leading’ journalists, MEPs and usual suspects invited to Oireachtas did little alter the consensus but there is still insight into what that consensus looks like in 2013.

They were

Ann Cahill of the Irish Examiner, RTE’s Sean Whelan and Dan O’Brien of the Irish Times (transcript)

UCD academics Prof Brigid Laffan and Dr Gavin Barrett. (transcript)

Seamus Coffey UCC, Mr. Nat O’Connor and Mr. Tom McDonnell TASC. (transcript)

Dublin MEPs Gay Mitchell, Emer Costello and Paul Murphy (transcript)

Il post Sean Whelan’s contribution below for no reason other then some rare candidacy from an RTÉ journalist and iteresting to see a polcor wanting rid of STV and Multi-seats. Paul Murphy is below and TASC worth a read above.

Mr. Seán WhelanI thank the committee for the invitation to appear today. As things change at European level, so must things change at the level of national parliaments. We have had a plethora of changes as a result of the economic crisis we have gone through, with measures such as the six pack, the two pack, the fiscal rules, the European semester, budget co-ordination measures, and so on. All of those necessitate a reform of governance of Irish EU affairs and in domestic Irish affairs, which are increasingly intertwined. Countries that successfully adapt a new economic management system are more likely to prosper. At the very least, they are more likely to be off the radar for investors worried about economic mismanagement.

Being off the problem radar alone, however, should in no way be confused with success. During the last decade, we spend most of the time as a blip on its counterpart, the success radar, hitting all EU targets used to measure economic performance in the single currency area in particular. There was outrage here and abroad when the European Commission reprimanded us in a most gentle way for breaching the broad economic policy guidelines about ten years ago. We could do no wrong it seemed, right up until the point where we blew up in the most spectacular fashion. This was because we became victims of what might be called “stealth failure”, something that sneaks up because we are not looking out for it and not prepared to deal with its consequences if it breaches our defences. It is like the Germans with mad cow disease. If there is no testing for a problem, it will not be found in the first place.

The move to the single currency was a truly massive change but we responded with a minimal change to our institutional set-up to deal with it. We are now scrambling at national and European level to catch up. We also must undertake a lot of national changes. We should not just implement the European changes. We should be prepared to go well beyond the level of change required at European level. We should be more proactive in adapting our institutions and governance, guided by strategies that are both offensive and defensive in their approach to dealing with the evolution of the European Union and our place in it. I suggest as a philosophical starting point that Europe is something we make ourselves, not something that is done to us. It is also far more important that we make changes in our governance here for our own sake, not just to be seen as the good boys in Europe. We cannot afford another catastrophe like the one we have just experienced.

When I talk about an offensive European policy, I do not mean going around offending people but of having a point of view and advancing it coherently over the long run. We can do this already on narrow sectoral policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, or national economic priorities such as corporation tax. Do we have a view to advance, however, on other issues, such as pan-continental macroeconomic policy, world trade policy, modernisation of the European Union itself or other international institutions?

When I talk about defensive European policy, I mean being able to guard against the worst excesses of European policy and against our own internal failures, such as failures to implement or non-implementation – looking out for the stealth failures I mentioned.

What I am referring to is best summed up in Dr. Eddie Molloy’s phrase “implementation deficit disorder”, which has caused many difficulties down the decades in the management of the State. Defensive strategies are also required to guard against the negative perceptions of European Union membership. The idea that Ireland is being bossed around and forced to do things is corrosive of support for the European Union. Defensive strategies can help ensure that perception is minimised by ensuring we are not in a situation in which we can be bossed around in the first place. However, in cases in which one is being bossed and booted around by other countries, one needs to be able to switch into an offensive strategy and go on the offence against it or even think about getting out altogether.

In terms of legislation, it is relatively easy to appear part of a winning coalition in the Council and in the Parliament but if one ends up through one’s own stealth failure becoming a ward of the system then one has no one to blame but one’s self. We need to be hard-nosed in Ireland, particularly in our political and parliamentary system, and most especially about money in all its manifestations, protecting the wealth of the nation from all enemies, internal as well as external.

There are number of strategies that might offer a quick fix in the short term and other medium and longer-term suggestions that might be useful to consider. We should consider using MEPs to greater effect. It is good to see a member and a former member of the European Parliament at the committee. They are a great resource to have. We have a small parliamentary and political setup here. Having elected members in the European Parliament is a resource on which we should draw in a more integrated way. They have the expertise and day-to-day knowledge of what is happening in the European Parliament. It is good to gain visibility on issues earlier. We also have the Lisbon treaty amendment, under which legislation is supposed to be sent to national parliaments as a first measure. There is the potential to draw national parliaments much more closely into the European process. We need to use those opportunities to get a better handle on what is happening and deal with it though the twin prisms of offensive and defensive strategies. Another ally of the Parliament should be the Fiscal Council in helping to deepen one’s understanding of and engagement with fiscal policy. It could be seen as a useful harm reduction mechanism in its most simple form, but most usefully, if it is employed correctly, it can help in the process of hardening up the State when it comes to dealing with financial problems. The idea is to protect the money and the citizens who own that money.

Perhaps a more medium-term suggestion is to make better use of the science and technology options assessment panel, STOA, in the European Parliament. We are becoming increasingly aware of the need to have legislation dealing with fairly complex issues and it is useful to have a sounding board to test out technical issues and aspects. It is quite expensive to build up that expertise, whereas it already exists in the European Parliament. There may be some ways for Ireland to try to subcontract or piggyback on what the STOA group is doing that could be useful for parliamentarians in Ireland. Ultimately, given the changes that have occurred and are continuing to occur and the level of complexity that is now evident, we must change the electoral system in order to give Deputies and Senators sufficient time to deal with the issues in a much deeper way. Members do not have time to do what they need to do and the big impediment is the electoral system. Until we change that we will be engaged in an uphill struggle to get on top of the issues that present themselves.

In summary, I believe offensive and defensive national strategies are needed for dealing with the development of the European Union and our ability to act tactically in support of strategic objectives. One must be constantly vigilant against stealth failures. To quote a great Cork man, “Fail to prepare – prepare to fail”.

With regard to the question of institutional change, I will first address the points raised by Deputy Dooley about who is in charge of the European Union and the growing tendency of people to look to national leaderships and setups. This trend was inevitable because the system has designed it in that way – it is the default position. The treaties, which were agreed and in some member states approved in referendums, established the primacy of national governments in all matters. This means that when the system comes under stress, people will look to their national leaders, given that national leaders have assigned to themselves the key role in driving the European Union. The leaders are the members of the European Council and the national systems that back them up. Until that system changes, we will be stuck with it. Given that constraint or reality, we need to do what is best for us within that system. That is the reason I spoke of having a defensive outlook, hardening up the State and getting tougher across every aspect of dealing with the State.

Senator Colm Burke’s suggestion regarding the role of the Seanad in dealing with European affairs appears to be a good use of the resource that the Seanad represents. In Britain, the House of Lords committee dealing with European Union affairs does excellent work and is one of the best resources available for those who want to find out about developments in the European Union. One can read many of its reports to find out about the EU. I presume upper houses in other parliaments are also doing good work in this area.

It is good that Members of the European Parliament are addressing the Seanad. There is significant scope for the Upper House to develop as a type of European Union clearing house. This would not necessarily add additional complexity to the system, as Mr. O’Brien pointed out, if it acted as an early warning radar – I am obsessed with radars – picking up issues quickly before they became problems. While most of the legislation is not a problem, occasionally something may slip through. The Oireachtas must try to feed into its offensive system to try to get things done when this occurs. The faster and more efficiently we do this, the better. I recall, however, that it is Fine Gael policy and possibly Government policy to abolish the Seanad as part of its institutional reform programme. The only element of the reform of which I am aware is the proposal to abolish the Seanad.

This leads us to the issue of electoral change, which is a vast area. Members will be familiar with the background and history of the issue. The use of single transferable votes in multi-member constituencies is a perverse system. It is nuts, and it wastes too much time. However, when one suggests abolishing it one is immediately accused of seeking to abolish proportional representation. That is not the case. As members are aware, the system in place here is a very strange and curious version of proportional representation, one that is used only in national elections in Ireland, Malta and the Australian Senate.

Members are all painfully aware that it wastes too much time. Members of the Oireachtas spend far too much time campaigning for elections and not enough time in the House dealing with the kinds of issue they were elected to deal with. I was going to say it is a luxury we cannot afford, but it is not a luxury. Members suffer under this so-called luxury.

Deputy Timmy DooleyInformation on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Bring it on, please.

Mr. Seán Whelan:The committee understands what I am driving at. It is something that has become an enormous cost to the country and we cannot afford to bear that cost for much longer. We need to change the system to one that gives Members time. I will not be prescriptive about what that system ought to be. For many decades, there has been discussion about a variation on the German system in which the House is split into two halves as a possible way of getting at least a cadre of people who would have a bit more time away from the constituencies, but that is something Members can sort out among themselves fairly quickly and easily. I appeal to them to do it quickly because it is the key problem and will become a catalyst for addressing a whole lot of other structural changes that need to be done in this State but will only be done if the political system has the time to devote to them. That is one aspect of the structural change that should be driven by the crisis we are in now. From that electoral change, the Oireachtas would have the various mechanisms for addressing all of the issues that have come our way as a result of the crisis, not least fiscal management.


( Part one below. The rest is on the VoteJoeHiggins account) Plenty of argument.

Is that a certain note of hesitancy over the outcome to the vote on CP2? March 26, 2013

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

Just reading the reports on the SBP on that topic it struck me that there was a degree of uncertainty as to whether it would be passed in some of the statements.

Impact spokesman Niall Shanahan said attendance at information meetings had been strong and that workers were “keen to understand” how the new agreement, which includes longer working hours and cuts to some premium pay or allowances, affected them….
Shanahan said it was “much too early” to predict which way the vote would go and that the main message relayed to members was “what does this proposed deal mean to me personally” and “what is the alternative?”


Siptu has also started to issue ballots to more than 60,000 of its members who work in the public service. Information meetings have been held for those who work in areas of public administration and health since last Tuesday, and more will follow for those who work in other sectors, like state agencies and local authorities.
A Siptu spokesman said there were “huge concerns” around the proposed deal, and that a document had been circulated to clarify many of these.

Two quotes is nothing, but just on an informal basis talking to public sector workers there’s a lot of resistance to this, and it will be educative to see how passive or active that manifests itself.

Taxes and jobs. And unleash the McQuaid redux… March 26, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

Some fascinating stuff in the SBP on jobs and taxes this weekend. Take for example this crie-de-couer from Barry O’Leary, chief of the IDA.

“We’re not concerned about the rate of corporation tax,” said O’Leary. “We’re concerned about personal tax rates, which have reached a maximum. They’ve gone as high as they can go.” He said he welcomed the commitment made earlier this month by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to reduce income tax rates as soon as possible.

Hmmm… interesting. As is the following:

During a week when Britain committed to lowering its corporation tax rate again, O’Leary said there was “no way” corporation tax changes would have any discernible effect on investment in Ireland. “They [multinational corporations] are continuing to come, in big numbers. Tax is just one element of it – if you were only deciding based on tax, you’d be going to Switzerland or Singapore or the Netherlands,” he said.

But could it be that he’s simply looking too closely at one aspect of the issue in reference to personal tax rates. For…

Alan McQuaid, economist with Merrion Stockbrokers, said that jobs announcements by multinationals in the first three months of this year had been encouraging, but domestic job creation had to catch up.
“SME job creation has the potential to be as encouraging. The creation of five jobs by ten companies is 50 jobs. It’s tough to get the domestic side moving, however, until banks start lending again,” he said. “The state of the labour market has a big impact on consumer confidence – if it’s seen to be improving, it’s a big positive overall.

And that’s really that. It’s all very well fretting about multinationals, but it is the domestic side where the problems lie and which are unnameable to amelioration by multinationals actions in terms of job creation in any significant numbers.And as to that fresh from the the Central Bank:

The study predicted that there would be a gradual improvement in the Irish labour market in the year ahead, with unemployment rates falling to 13 per cent by 2014.

13 per cent is crazy high. And McQuaid doesn’t see those figures improving in the next two years. Add to that Cliff Taylors pessimism about growth elsewhere in the SBP and it look grim.
Still, the orthodoxy always has a fallback… from the SBP editorial:

The government, and most of the country, seems to have completely forgotten the virtues of low personal and business taxation and its important role in stimulating the economy during the years when the real Celtic tiger boom of the 1990s was being built.

I’ve noted previously that income tax is now in or around where it was during those years. Years when the boom was arguably at its most sustainable. Which is perhaps why…

Almost no significant voice in public life now argues for tax cuts as a means of stimulating economic growth.

Because the orthodoxy line now is that we were under taxed during that period – and actually, they’re not far wrong in that.

Indeed, one of the internal dynamics of the present government is Fine Gael’s resistance to Labour’s push for further hikes in personal taxation. Differences between the two parties on tax increases brought the coalition to the brink in the days before the budget last December, and skirmishing has begun in recent weeks in advance of next December’s budget. It’s no coincidence that Fine Gael ministers have been warning about the dangers of more tax increases lately.
But remember that these arguments are being made against further tax increases, rather than in favour of reductions in existing taxation.

The SBP is sure that that’s not good enough.

Our marginal tax rates – at 55 per cent for the self-employed earning over €100,000 and 52 per cent for PAYE workers (why the difference?) – are too high, and the higher rate of income tax kicks in at about €32,000 for a single person. This is too low. It means too many middle-income workers are being taxed at rates more appropriate to much better-paid people.

But the oddity is that there’s no reason given as to why these are too high or too low. Somehow growth occurred in the 1990s with very similar levels of taxation. And given that the SBP is itself a doughty defender of the line that we spend too much on public services given how little tax we bring in the logic of its line can only be to yet further diminish those public services. Although it has a neat line in inevitability in the following paragraph:

Taxes that are too high kill enterprise and will strangle job creation. If there is to be an economic recovery in this country, it will be generated by the private sector, as the public sector inevitably downsizes. A penal tax regime – and we are at the brink of that, if not already there – will slow or shut off that recovery.

But unfortunately it appears to have almost completely missed the lesson of the past fifteen years.

We believe that the government should commit itself to reductions in personal and capital taxation in the years ahead. Budgets are tight certainly. A property tax is needed. But it is by no means clear that tax cuts will reduce revenues. On the contrary, when Charlie McCreevy halved capital gains tax in one go, revenues from the tax doubled the following year. Think about that.

The problem is sustainability and stability. Though not in quite the way the SBP sees it:

Public spending is clearly unsustainable in this country and must be reduced. But as the country emerges from the bailout, it must take a pragmatic approach to taxation. Cuts in personal, business and capital taxes, implemented correctly, will help in economic recovery.

But as noted in comments at the weekend, the editorial then concludes on this gem:

That must be more important than any ideological hang-ups.

Unless those hang-ups happen to be of a rightward persuasion.

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