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Acts of contrition November 29, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael made a right dogs dinner of the last week or so. Fine Gael on balance more so, but Fianna Fáil didn’t cover themselves in glory. And SF who moved the confidence motion process in the first place (though found themselves outflanked by FF) can only reap limited rewards.

First up Fine Gael whose bloodyminded obduracy in all this was a sight to behold. Leo Varadkar today is a very different Leo Varadkar from two weeks ago. All he had to do was to keep in mind that toughing it out – when the material circumstances are so fractious and the person he is toughing it out for is being somewhat circumspect as to pertinent aspects of the situation – is never a good move. And yet on he went. As did others in FG. It says nothing good about his judgement and potentially knocks support away from that party just when matters were on the up. It was a very contrite Taoiseach we saw yesterday afternoon at Leader’s Questions/

Worse still is the sense that had the latest batch of emails not come out we might be facing into an election over this. That’s not a good perception.

But then that is precisely the perception in relation to FF. That they were willing to go to the wire and across it over this issue. With an electorate gazing in bafflement and increasing anger at the likelihood of an election at Christmas (and so relatively early in this government and its leader’s tenure) that is something that will I suspect dog it on the doorsteps. Granted this is a political win for them – a Tánaiste. And that too will have implications. But…

It would be slightly unfair to say that everyone else was irrelevant in this, but they largely were. In a way what was notable was how conspicuous by their absence other voices were – a function in part of much of this happening over the weekend.

I’d been dubious that an election would be called from the off. Frankly the temperatures both daytime and nighttime struck me as far too cold for any snap campaign. Don’t laugh, that’s a factor, not least in terms of weighing up whether it is sensible to arrive at voters doors. But also there seemed to be too much positioning and assuming poses in all this on all sides. Unedifying, but there we have it. Which isn’t to say the Tánaiste was wrong to resign. Anything but. Her position was arguably untenable from the middle of last week. That it took so long for that to sink in for her and her colleagues tells us something very interesting about Fine Gael as is.

And what of the future? The polls – the most recent one anyhow, had already showed a reversal of fortune for FG and FF. I wonder is this a watershed moment for them where they jumped too soon and too fast without heed for the consequences. It really does raise the question what on earth was Varadkar in particular thinking, but also Martin. This from RTÉ is telling:

A senior Fianna Fail TD said that his party was not wholly certain of its ground last Thursday ahead of demanding the Tánaiste’s resignation.
“We had a hunch that Alan Kelly had a very good ‘mole’ and that more would come out.” But there was no certainty about that.
There was a view that Leo Varadkar performed well on the Six One News on Friday night and set out a plausible event. However, the outcome of the full trawl of documents was a game-changer, according to everybody.

It’s all a bit wing and a prayer isn’t it?

By the by, how does this affect government formation in future? Can’t see many Christmas cards heading AK’s way from FG. And while the point was made on RTÉ that the current arrangement is not a function of trust between FG and FF but rather expedience it can’t have helped. And within the coalition – such as it is, clearly the IA’s withdrawal of support for the Tánaiste was key too. How does that affect matters?

And yet, and yet, if those polls remain low it is very difficult – for all the hot air from some FGers about campaigns changing party support – to see a break for the country immediately. Whose interest is it in if the situation on foot of this crisis leads to even worse outcomes than those pointed to by Adrian Kavanagh’s projections.

Mary Lou McDonald argued that the confidence and supply arrangement was a ‘sham’ and there’d be an election soon. But what if the electorate don’t particularly want an election? They certainly don’t seem to to judge from all reports. And why would that change substantially in April or May?

Does it become a case that unloved and unlovely this arrangement totters on for months, perhaps a year or so, simply because there is no great alternative? And for all the talk that confidence and supply is over if there is no alternative – indeed even the prospect of same old same old after another near future election what happens to Irish politics. The most immediate response in that regard short minutes after the resignation was this and it suggests that this is not the GP prior to early 2011 walking away leaving FF hanging in the air:

Fianna Fail’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has said the confidence and supply agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine  Gael remains in place even though it has  been stretched “to the boundaries”.
He said the Tánaiste’s resignation has not been confirmed to him, but it looks like her departure is immient and therefore  the motion of no confidence will not proceed.

Well, he’s right. But the politics may be wrong. We’ll see. Though perhaps the tweet on the RTÉ thread directly after was the most telling and points to the immediate future.

Fiach Kelly‏Verified account @fiachkelly

What betting on Simon Coveney for Tánaiste and Josepha Madigan for Cabinet?
4:01 AM – 28 Nov 2017

Life, political life, goes on. Some will count it better to be at the Cabinet table than pounding the streets just before or just after Christmas. Strike that – some will always count it better to be at the Cabinet table at any given time.

David Cullinane perhaps struck the most important note in coverage after the resignation, that at heart this is about a citizen who was suffered the accusation of ‘a vicious lie, the most vicious lie’ and that the state or state entities appear to have been involved in this. That’s what has to be remembered in all this.

What you want to say – 29th November, 2017 November 29, 2017

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

Photograph of the Princess Margaret visit protesters released from Mountjoy Prison 1965 November 29, 2017

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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castle-hotel-dublin-february-1965-11

Photograph taken on the steps of the Castle Hotel,Gardiner Row, Dublin in February 1965. Of the prisoners released from Mountjoy jail, the morning of the lying in State at Arbour Hill of the remains of Sir Roger Casement. Except for John Grogan, Cathal Goulding and Stan Doran The Welcome Out Committee, all others were somehow involved in the Princess Margaret visit protests in 1964”. Richard Behal.

Via The Irish Republican Marxist History Project

First they privatise..or they cut…then they remove entirely… November 28, 2017

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From this evening’s Guardian…

Northamptonshire county council, which needs to claw back £115m in savings over the next four years, has launched a consultation on the future of its library service. Three options have been put forward: two would shut the doors of 21 libraries; the third would close 28, leaving only eight branches open.

And:

Up to 28 of the county’s 36 libraries could be closed if the plans get the go-ahead. The move has been branded “monstrous” by Watchmen creator Alan Moore.

And note the Tories…

A proposal from Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Stanbra to halt cuts to the libraries service was rejected by the county council last week. “We wanted them to add a fourth option, which said ‘keep libraries as they are’, but the Conservatives voted against that,” Stanbra said. “At the moment, the consultation is giving the choice of three options, all of which involve the closure of libraries.”

Today’s other resignation November 28, 2017

Posted by Tomboktu in Uncategorized.
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Congratulations to the unions (and in particular Michael Carley, of this parish) in Bath University on today’s resignation by Glynis Breakwell over her rather large pay packet.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/nov/28/bath-university-vice-chancellor-quits-after-outcry-over-468k-pay

‘An eccentric little off-shoot of Britain’ November 28, 2017

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I think this piece by Fintan O’Toole on how Brexit is threatening the reworked relationships between these islands is broadly correct. Though I would qualify that with the point that it is this version of Brexit, one which has determinedly sought to push out of the EU (legitimately given the referendum result) but keep on going past EFTA/EEA membership. If the UK had sought the latter so many of the problems that we (and they) now face would be manageable, indeed more than manageable. And yet, as we know this Brexit, pursued by this Tory party has left us in a situation approaching… well, certainly something I can’t recall seeing in my lifetime.

O’Toole catalogues the failures, self-deceptions, downright stupidity and ineptitude of the British government in the past year and a half and notes that despite repeated requests they have offered precisely one utterly half-baked document on the Border which was derisory in terms of its content and the response it consequently drew from all quarters, ask:

So what is the Irish government supposed to do? What happens with the border is a vital national interest. Ireland is desperate to hear what Britain has in mind. Instead, it has been told not to worry its pretty little head about it, but trust in the reassurances of its betters. It is being placed in the position of a 1950s wife, whose husband is betting the house on a horse race while he tells her, with increasingly irritation, to stop worrying because the nag is sure to romp home.

Depressing, but not inaccurate.

And he further notes:

Behind this reckless arrogance, there is an assumption that Ireland is an eccentric little offshoot of Britain that must shut its gob and stop asking awkward questions. It is, in fact, a sovereign country with the full backing of 26 other EU member states – and how strange it is that we have reached a point where this comes as an unpleasant surprise to so many people in London.

And if that seems an overstatement let’s keep in mind what the Sun (at least the UK version) said about Ireland and the Taoiseach only a short few days back (and as SonofStan noted in comments unfortunately that attitude to Ireland is abroad amongst a good number in the UK that somehow we are at best a partially sovereign state and independent only in part from the UK).

One of the most dispiriting (as well as telling) aspects of all this has been the utterly risible understanding of sovereignty we’ve been treated to, and the complete indifference to the sovereignty of others. As a picture of a world that those pursuing Brexit (and other exits) offer it is equally telling.

Evasive manœuvres. November 28, 2017

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Had to smile at this, the news in the Guardian that…

David Davis has provided the Brexit select committee with a government-led analysis on how leaving the EU will affect 58 sectors of the economy, but opposition MPs believe “politically embarrassing” information may have been removed from the reports.

It is understood that ministers have removed anything deemed to be market sensitive and taken out information that they believe could weaken Britain’s negotiating hand in talks with the EU27.

And given how those latter two conditions could just about cover anything one chose them too…

Tories.

#GE17…The last best chance for the left at an election? November 28, 2017

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DOC has pointed to Adrian Kavanagh’s projections on foot of the poll at the weekend. Keeping in mind that the poll was taken before much of the controversy over the Tánaiste had emerged the results sobering:

Fine Gael 53
Fianna Fail 51
Sinn Fein 24
Social Democrats 4
Solidarity-People Before Profit 3
Labour Party 3
Green Party 2
Independents 18

That’s the best showing for non-FF/FG/SF in many moons as a slow but relentless dynamic of the ‘traditional’ two (FF and FG) has seen others bar SF squeezed out with those others constituting between 10 and 20 seats with the lower figures becoming more evident.

And while this was halted in the last poll what is to say it will not manifest itself again should an election be averted.

Granted it’s not great for the left – there’d be substantial losses in there. But better than it has been and better perhaps than it will be. Conversely this is the worst showing for FF and FG in a while too, and on these figures it would constitute a reprise of 2016 for them. Good says many of us (keeping in mind, as Kavanagh himself always notes, that these figures aren’t the key but rather the broad bands of support for various forces).

Unless a Christmas or immediate post-Christmas election depresses turn-out, etc. And this will likely be the only chance for the opposition to point at FG/FF and say ‘this is their fault… vote for us.’ Or would it be ‘a plague on all your houses’ from the electorate?

What do others think?

The moderate centre? November 28, 2017

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I was a bit amused by Pat Leahy’s piece in the IT at the weekend where he argued that the potential collapse, indeed the near enough collapse, of the government was a colossal failure of the political centre in the Dáil.

In a way I can’t disagree with the following. There is an irony as it is framed:

The collapse of the confidence and supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil – and the sudden prospect of a general election – represents a colossal failure of the political centre in the Dáil. The two big parties regard themselves as the sensible governing centre of Irish politics, the people who for all their faults and all their differences can be trusted to run the country. Unlike – as they would have it – the subversives in Sinn Féin, the headbangers of the far left and the opportunists in the Independent ranks.

And yet, I can’t help but think that this underscores a delusion of many in this polity (and further afield I imagine) that somehow a moderate centre – a pragmatic moderate centre – a, well throw in whatever term you want in relation to this supposed moderate centre is a reality. That it is able to deal with itself or divisions within itself in ways that others could not.

But even the most cursory examination of Irish political history would suggest this is far far from the truth. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil while trumpeting their supposed centrism have been right wing parties – pragmatic sure, but right-wing nonetheless. That this has been tempered on occasion, though only on occasion, is undeniable, but the fact remains.

In a polity where two parties with remarkably similar approaches have swapped power back and forth across many decades it is difficult to argue that there’s particular moderation. Anything but. There’s been incredible, implacable hostility. So much so that it took months to cobble together the current political dispensation. And it wasn’t a foregone conclusion by any means. That’s the reality of their pragmatism, the current wedding was only brought about for fear of another election where one or other or both would lose seats.

Moreover Leahy himself kind of gets this.

Its unravelling in recent days represents the triumph of partisan atavism over pragmatic politics. The consequences for good government in this country will be adverse, perhaps drastically so.
“Fault on both sides” is often the laziest school of political analysis. But it’s true here. The behaviour of both Fianna Fáil and the Government in recent days has been short-sighted and irresponsible.

Of course there’s atavism. And of course it is partisan. That’s the function of the exercise. If they weren’t partisan they’d be the one party. But they aren’t.

But I think there’s another aspect to this – the idea that because somehow they are ‘moderate’ (a loaded term and one I believe is largely inaccurate) this means they are more open to engagement with one another (or should be). Does that seem likely when one looks at the relationship between Varadkar and Martin?

There’s an emerging consensus, Leahy himself mentions it, that even if there is no election this government’s days are now numbered.

Confidence and supply is dead; even if a compromise to get over the next few weeks is hammered out over the weekend, it’s hard to see the concept getting another run once the next Dáil gathers to figure out how it’s going to elect a government.
If anything remotely like the current polls is repeated in an election there will be another hung Dáil. How is a government to be put together then? There is no prospect of a majority for either party. After such destructive acrimony, co-operation will be difficult if not impossible.

I’m sure that’s right. But cooperate they will until they don’t (have to). Moderation? Overrated, and always conspicuous by its absence.

Legal advice that wasn’t? November 27, 2017

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And another wrinkle is added to the overall tale…

There have been calls from opposition parties for Ms Fitzgerald to resign after it was revealed that she was sent an email when she was Minister for Justice, which set out the legal strategy that was initially about to be pursued against Sgt McCabe in May 2015.

Ms Fitzgerald has said that she received legal advice from the Attorney General that she could not intervene in the legal strategy of former garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the O’Higgins Commission.

This evening, the Department of Justice confirmed to RTÉ News that the contact from the Attorney General’s office was for information purposes only and “not legal advice”.

Uh-oh.

I mentioned last week that I wondered whether much of what we’ve seen was designed towards a possible end – that being a resignation. Does this bring that forward?

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