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A deafening silence from Government TDs on the something someone said that someone else doesn’t want anyone to know about… and what of their views on parliamentary privilege… or… May 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
12 comments

And now the Oireachtas weighs in:

Oireachtas sources say they believe “standing orders were not breached and privilege was not abused” by Ms Murphy while moving a Private Members’ Bill through the Dáil last night.

And:

Oireachtas sources also said they believe the current situation whereby the contents of a Dáil speech are not being reported to be unprecedented.

Why is it not being reported? How many citizens of this state would be so blessed?

The point was made to me this morning by a friend that it is long past time that a Government TD or two or four or perhaps the whole lot of them came out and upheld the principle of parliamentary privilege. Most telling that they haven’t as of yet.

Did you know the Dáil wasn’t sitting next week? I didn’t. But I think all of us would support the following from Micheál Martin looking for a recall… and credit where credit is due to him for this:

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has called for the Dáil to be recalled in the light of what he claimed had been the silencing of media outlets in relation to comments about businessman Denis O’Brien by Independent TD Catherine Murphy yesterday.

I think it is the responsibility of all TDs of whatever stripe to make noise about this both inside and outside the Chamber.

By the way, check this out from ‘a spokesman for Mr. O’Brien’.

James Morrissey questioned the accuracy of what Ms Murphy had said, maintaining Dáil privilege had an important role but could not be abused to have falsehoods misrepresented as facts.
Mr Morrisey said a core principle of a democracy is the right of every individual to their good name and reputation and it was important that people “stand up for democracy inside the Dáil and outside the Dáil”.
Hmmm… And:

Mr Morrissey said if there is wrongdoing involved it should be examined and investigated, but until then Mr O’Brien was entitled to his good name.
He also pointed out Mr O’Brien’s record of job creation in Ireland.

Which is relevant in what particular way?

This isn’t bad either, as Tomboktu noted in comments elsewhere:

The National Union of Journalists has criticised the media for not publishing the statement Ms Murphy made in the Dáil last night.
NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley warned that faith in the media would be “shattered if proprietors and editors did not challenge threats to parliamentary democracy and freedom of expression”.
Mr Dooley said: “It is gravely concerning that media organisations felt constrained from publishing the comments, made under Dáil privilege, by Deputy Catherine Murphy concerning financial matters relating to Mr Denis O’Brien and his alleged relationship with IBRC.
“The fact that the national public service broadcaster was constrained from broadcasting material freely available on the website of the Houses of the Oireachtas, and that other print and broadcasting organisations felt similarly constrained, raises fundamental questions about our parliamentary democracy and the right of the media to report freely on parliamentary proceedings.

By the way, for those that are interested here’s the wiki page on the issue…

And here’s a pretty good summing up from the Supreme Court of Canaada:

“Privilege” in this context denotes the legal exemption from some duty, burden, attendance or liability to which others are subject. It has long been accepted that in order to perform their functions, legislative bodies require certain privileges relating to the conduct of their business. It has also long been accepted that these privileges must be held absolutely and constitutionally if they are to be effective; the legislative branch of our government must enjoy a certain autonomy which even the Crown and the courts cannot touch.

Like any such mechanism it can operate incorrectly, but the principle appears to me to be of such compelling importance – and indeed the reality of its use is that it has overwhelmingly been a positive rather than negative – it is well worth upholding.

Meanwhile as also mentioned in comments the Guardian carries a good piece on the issue. Comments under it were disabled after being open for a while apparently.

In the late evening, the nightly discussion programme on TV3, Tonight with Vincent Browne, was presented (because Browne is on holiday) by Ger Colleran, editor of INM’s Irish Daily Star.
He read a statement from TV3’s management stating that there must be no discussion about Murphy’s comments following letters from O’Brien’s lawyers.
So there it is. The owner of the bulk of Ireland’s media outlets is using an injunction to prevent reports on his affairs appearing in the rest of the media he doesn’t control.
Clearly, there are questions to ask about the press freedom implications due to Ireland’s lack of media plurality and diversity.

All true. But again, where is the Government?

Meanwhile, back in the North… May 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
4 comments

This piece on Slate on the fact that Northern Ireland is now the only part of these islands where same sex marriage is prohibited is intriguing. One has to wonder how long they can hold out? It suggests that the DUP is the main stumbling block. Clearly it’s one of them… what do others think?

But, as intriguing is this:

Political homophobia is connected with religious power. Northern Irish people find themselves living under what has been called “essentially a theocratic regime,” due to the hold the Calvinist fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church has over the DUP. A recent study found that Free Presbyterianism “remains the largest faith among both DUP members and elected representatives.” As many as 30.5 percent of DUP members are Free Presbyterians, compared with a measly 0.6 percent of the Northern Irish population at large.

Two thoughts, is it quite a ‘theocratic’ regime of does the nature of the dispensation alter or ameliorate that? And is that correct about the membership of the DUP? According to this page here on wiki the church has 10,068 members in NI. And according to this, research by Professor John Tonge (quoted on the Irish National Caucus website, no less ) suggests:

just under a third of DUP members (30.5%) are Free Presbyterians and slightly more (34.6%) are members of the Orange institution.
To put these figures in context, the 2011 census recorded that there were 10,068 Free Presbyterians in Northern Ireland – just 0.6% of our total population.
Like most political parties, the DUP does not disclose its membership, but it is believed to number around 1,100 people.

Seems remarkably small, doesn’t it?

Some more interesting stuff:

Overall, Free Presbyterians are more than 50 times more common in the DUP than they are in the population. Orangemen are 21 times more common in the party.
The prevalence of both bodies increases as you move up the ranks. Almost 40% of the 175 DUP councillors elected in 2011 were Free Presbyterian and more than half (54.2%) were members of the Orange Order. These proportions may have fallen a little in the council elections held last month.
Among the DUP’s 38 MLAs over a third are Free Presbyterians and exactly half are Orangemen. The proportion increases further among the party’s eight MPs.

But, perhaps counterintuitively – or perhaps not:

Prof Tonge points out that the influence of the Free Presbyterian Church has declined over time, whereas the Orange Order membership appears to have increased.
This is partly due to an influx of new members between the signing of the Belfast, or Good Friday, Agreement in 1998, which it opposed, and 2006 when the DUP signed the St Andrews Agreement on power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

And:

Assessing the most active members of the party, Dr Tonge found: “It is the Orange contingent not, contrary to popular myth, the Free Presbyterians, who really count as the most active of all.”

By the by, any figures on the UUP membership numbers, or those of the SDLP, and while an all-Ireland party, how many SF members would there be in the North?

Tipperary and the next election May 29, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.
9 comments

tippnew

The two three seaters of Tipperary North and Tipperary South united to form the new five seater Tipperary Constituency. A part of North Tipp has gone to the new Offaly constituency. It is thought that this area was an area where Labours Alan Kelly would have polled well.
Currently the sitting TD’s are Noel Coonan and Tom Hayes of Fine Gael, Alan Kelly of Labour , Seamus Healy of WUAG as well as Independents Mattie McGrath and Michael Lowry. All are due to contest the next election.

So we have a redraw, going from 6 to 5 seats and all six sitting TDs due to contest. Fianna Fail won 3 of the six seats available in 2007 but lost out in both North and South in 2011, so they will be looking to win back at least the one seat.

Sinn Fein won a seat in each of the five council areas in 2014 and if the polls are correct they should be in with a chance here. Their main problem is that although their councillors would be known in some areas they wouldn’t have a Countywide profile so it may be difficult to win a seat here. This could also be a place where Renua could be in with a chance were they to attract a well known respected candidate. So thats at least nine candidates with decent prospects of winning a seat.

Talking to Tipp contacts there is an assumption that Michael Lowry and Tom Hayes should be safe. After that it’s anybodys …..
Fianna Fail have selected former ICMSA head Jackie Cahill ,he has should have a good chance (however the area gone to Offaly would have been good FF country).
Tom Hayes has been a TD longer and is better placed geographically of the two Fine Gael TDs, so he is more likely than Noel Coonan to hold on.
Alan Kelly should be in trouble and Labour only won the one seat in Tipperary in the Local Elections, part of his Nenagh hinterland has moved to the new Offaly constituency what could save him is if Fine Gael lose a seat it could be those Fine Gael transfers that get him over the line.
Mattie McGrath has a high profile and would be ‘a good constituency TD’ and there are plenty of FF gene pool votes in Tipp. His base in Newcastle in the South West of Tipp may do him no favours geographically.
For Fianna Fail Jackie Cahill has a good chance, although it is suspected that Siobhan Ambrose and/ or Michael Smith jnr will be added to the ticket. They certainly need a candidate in the South. There should be an FF seat here but it is one hell of a competitive constituency and Mattie McGrath and Michael Lowry may hoover up potential FF support .
Seamus Healy , who lost his seat in 2007 before regaining it in 2011, is probably vulnerable, especially with the Geographical situation of Clonmel and WUAG only winning one Council seat at the Local Elections. The scrapping of Clonmel Borough Council was also a blow for WUAG ….. which has led to unlikely talk of him running for Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein will poll well but will find it hard to win a seat as they have no particularly high profile candidates . Were Healy to run for Sinn Fein he would hold his seat easily. An unlikely scenario but you never know. That said he could probably rely on some Sinn Fein transfers depending on the candidate they select.

A bloodbath of a constituency so. I have a funny feeling it will end up being Lowry, Hayes, McGrath, Healy and somehow Alan Kelly will win a seat…….. but I could be totally wrong

Someone said something somewhere about someone else but no one can be told what the something they said was… May 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
36 comments

…so much for Dáil privilege. RTÉ, the Irish Times, etc aren’t reporting on what Catherine Murphy TD said today in the Dáil due to legal pressure from you know who. The concept of Dáil privilege appears very shaky – does it not?

Addendum, Broadsheet are made of more resilient stuff. As is Murphy herself.

Going… going… May 27, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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…a busy day at the Dáil, to put it mildly, with Aer Lingus, going… going…not quite gone. Certainly a process that seems remarkably speedy as was noted in the chamber. Hard too to feel sanguine about the assurances that are being offered…

IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh said he understands Ireland’s protection and loyalty to Aer Lingus, but IAG’s deal would be a “growth story” for the airline.

And:

He stressed that Aer Lingus will remain an Irish airline and will be managed at the headquarters in Dublin.

That of course would be this IAG which does appear at the least to raise certain contradictions.

As always the question is why sell the remaining 25% share? Who benefits and who loses?

Meanwhile, also in the chamber:

Renua leader Lucinda Creighton has criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny after he said Independent TD Clare Daly had delivered a “rant” in the Dáil.
“I really think that the Taoiseach certainly does not do himself any justice by speaking to any member of parliament in that way,” Ms Creighton said.

Archbishop Martin raises an inconvenient truth…and other clergy are aware of it. May 27, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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I thought Archbishop Martin’s words on Saturday were most striking carrying,
as they did, an implicit criticism of his own ‘side’ – so to speak.

He said the referendum result was “an overwhelming vote in one direction” and he appreciated how gay men and lesbian women felt after the endorsement of same-sex marriage – “that they feel this is something which is enriching the way they live”, he said.

“I think really that the church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board, to look at the things it’s doing well, to look at the areas where we really have to start and say, ‘Look, have we drifted away completely from young people?’ ” he told RTÉ News.

And:

“I think it’s a social revolution… It’s a social revolution that didn’t begin today,” he said. “It’s a social revolution that’s been going on, and perhaps in the church people have not been as clear in understanding what that involved.

I think he’s right, and then there’s what he doesn’t mention – perhaps understandably. The legitimacy of the Church has been undercut by that history that we all know of. Once I thought it might take a generation for it to be able to claw back lost ground. Now I’m of the opinion that it almost certainly won’t in any foreseeable timescale.

“It’s very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people, then the church has a huge task in front of it to find the language to be able to talk to and to get its message across to young people, not just on this issue, but in general.”
Dr Martin said it was important that the church must not move into denial of the realities. “We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal by simply denying,” he said.

And here’s a very sensible point and one that those on the socially conservative right should consider carefully:

Most of these young people who voted Yes are products of our Catholic schools for 12 years,” he said. “There’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the church…We need to sit down and say ‘are we reaching out at all to young people?’ … We’re becoming a church of the like-minded, and a sort of a safe space for the like-minded,” he said.

The problem is that this isn’t a referendum likely to be run any time soon (by the by, the push by Breda O’Brien and others on surrogacy is fascinating to watch, but hard to believe it will have much impact. There was little appetite for it to begin with), and on social issues the RCC keeps getting pushed back.

Indeed this has been the pattern for, what, over two decades or so. Moreover a tranche of young voters are clearly so far beyond the purchase of the Church that it is utterly irrelevant in their lives. One could even, very tentatively argue that there’s only, at this point, one very significant item on the social front remaining – though on the other hand it’s not impossible to see a push on the economic rights of the disabled and other groups being strengthened.

And an abortion referendum, though at this point it is difficult to discern the constellation of forces in the Oireachtas or in the next one that would allow that through, is a whole different ballgame.

Nor would that won or lost (depending upon perspective) fundamentally alter the current status quo of divorce, marriage equality, etc, etc. Nor is there any serious push back on those fronts likely – it was very telling how IONA et al had had to settle with civil partnership as a reality. Ain’t no going back, not now.

And oddly, just as the problem with the ‘youth’ vote is that it is fragmented and has coalesced in part around this one issue and is unlikely to do so again, well, much the same is probably true of those who take the NO side.

Indeed although some have tried to suggest the NO side being – what, 37% or so – an unrepresented constituency, the problem is that that’s just on this issue. I’d be very surprised if divorce was run again as a referendum that support for it would be lower than 70%. And likewise with many many other measures. Yes, there are those who take to a socially conservative view on various issues, but in varying degrees. They overlap on some of them, but not on others. Mattie McGrath – and others – may find it possible to pull together some support from some of them, but not all, and likewise with others. That said it is possible that that works just perfectly for him and them. As was noted earlier in the week one glaring problem for the NO side was the sheer lack of numbers working for them on the ground. This suggests a remarkably passive group – and riffing on my thoughts earlier about how they no longer have FF or the Church to sub-contract out to it does make one wonder about how supine they were in the past. Was it a case of agreement with, but unwillingness to get one’s hands dirty at the hard end of political engagement on the part of many with those views?

Another thought. It is extremely telling to me that the one right of FG/FF party we have seen that gained any serious support was one that was actually socially liberal. Simply put while the electorate unquestionably can be on occasion economically and socially conservative, again, its needs have been well met by FF and FG. It simply hasn’t needed a party entirely focused on social conservatism. And to start one now would be an exercise in futility given that it remains well serviced by those other parties in the totality.

His own solution doesn’t sound so much like a solution as an aspiration:

“That doesn’t mean that we renounce our teaching on fundamental values on marriage and the family. Nor does it mean that we dig into the trenches.
“We need to find…a new language which is fundamentally ours, that speaks to, is understood and becomes appreciated by others.”

And:

Dr Martin added that “we tend to think in black and white but most of us live in the area of grey, and if the church has a harsh teaching, it seems to be condemning those who are not in line with it.
“But all of us live in the grey area. All of us fail. All of us are intolerant. All of us make mistakes. All of us sin and all of us pick ourselves up again with the help of that institution which should be there to do that.
“The church’s teaching, if it isn’t expressed in terms of love – then it’s got it wrong,” he said.

But does that work, and if so how?

Add in the Association of Catholic Priests latest comments, and they represent around a third of priests and there’s no end of remarkable stuff flowing from this referendum:

ACP co-founder, Fr Tony Flannery, said “the day of doctrinaire Catholicism is over in this country. The people are no longer willing to listen to speeches and sermons on morality from the church.”
What was “ particularly sad was to see the bishops in total opposition to a mass movement of the younger generation”.

“The very people whom the church should be trying to listen to, and trying to learn a way of communicating effectively with, were the ones they were driving further away with all their pastorals in each diocese,” he said.
He also felt Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin “allowed himself to be bullied by the extreme conservative Catholic papers into adopting the same rigid line as the other bishops”.

Fascinating in itself but what of this from other ACP reps…

Another member of the ACP leadership team, Fr Gerry O’Connor said “the result went as I expected. I really see it as legislation catching up with people’s lives.” He felt “the Irish people should be proud”.

Or this:

Augustinian priest Fr Iggy O’Donovan said one positive was that “of all the moral referendums we’ve had it was the most reasoned, with pretty civilised debates”.

He was “absolutely delighted” with the referendum result.

Amazing stuff really.

“It would have happened anyway”… May 26, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
15 comments

Well, some people aren’t happy with the referendum result, and no mistake. In the Irish Times who was it that was straight out with a crie-de-couer for those who had voted No. Why Breda O’Brien! What was interesting was that all the carefully rehearsed arguments were put forth again… not least this old chestnut… but the tone. Well, the tone…

We have damaged irreparably the connection between marriage and a child’s right to know and be cared for by the two people who each give them half of their biological, social and familial identity.
Sure, reproductive technologies are used anyway, but before May 22nd, no one could say that the Irish people voted to affirm in our Constitution something that inevitably separates children from half their genetic heritage and one half of their relations.

Note that ‘sure, reproductive technologies are used anyway…’. The affirmation – and she is well aware of this is about marriage equality, not reproductive technology. The situation stands as it has. She could – of course be lobbying against reproductive technology, though it will be educative to see which procedures she believes are anathema. But that remains a different issue.

Then we are treated to this:

Some day, there will be a young Irish woman wandering the streets of Copenhagen. She will have been raised by her lesbian mother and her partner, both of whom she loves dearly, and who are great mothers.
But she also has a deep longing to know the other half of herself, her father, and simple things like whether she got her love for music or the shape of her hands from him. All she knows is her father was a Danish sperm donor. She has no idea how many half-siblings she has. She is in contact online with other sperm donor children, some of whom have 150 half-siblings.
Her father’s address, given when he sold his sperm, is long out of date. So she wanders, looking at Danish faces, wondering, is that man my sperm donor father? Could that be a half-sibling?

And then… she cuts to the chase.

It would have happened anyway, regardless of the amendment. But she also has to deal with the crushing fact that in 2015, her fellow Irish citizens voted for it and affirmed this arrangement that deprived her of half her identity. They voted that it was natural, primary and fundamental, and enshrined it into the Constitution.

I think the above paragraph is both offensive and deeply misleading. She knows this ‘would have happened anyway’. She knows that whether a same-sex couple or not a same-sex couple go down the route of donor egg or sperm is entirely immaterial in relation to same sex marriage. And yet somehow she cannot resist making this about same sex marriage. I think that tells us quite a lot.

We are also told that somehow some great injustice has occurred because:

We do not have to admire a political system that ignored 734,300 voters, aside from six brave TDs and Senators who dared to be different.

But as noted on Monday that’s not so strange given that the formations to which she belongs or which she gives support could not themselves motivate anything but very small numbers out to actively campaign on their own side (and for all the complaints from the NO side Averil Power’s thoughts on YES inclined FF TDs keeping quiet for fear of ‘losing votes’ suggests an entirely contradictory dynamic in play). In that they have no one to blame but themselves and what appears to be a broad enough societal acceptance in regard to marriage equality. Of course, given that, the numbers of TDs or Senators who took the opposing view would be low. It is indeed what Miriam Lord – and God knows I’m quoting unlikely people this week – suggested was the shy Yes vote.

Then we get her now customary tilt to the left. I’m always fascinated by this because it is essentially a rhetorical tilt. I really don’t want to play the woman rather than the ball, so I will make no comment other than to say that faced with the weight of economic as well as social conservatism that those in IONA appear to represent from their public pronouncements it is difficult to take entirely seriously such language.

We do not have to admire a Government who relentlessly framed this so it was always going to be a battle between the heart and the head. We do not have to admire Government Ministers who talked about damaging the gay people’s mental health if we voted No.
The same Government presided over the disintegration of mental health services – everything from removing guidance counsellors from school, often the first to pick up serious problems – to decimating the psychiatric services. The hypocrisy is stunning.

Yes. There’s a hypocrisy there. But this isn’t quite the killer argument that she appears to think it is. The hypocrisy isn’t one that overwhelms the reality that the introduction of Marriage Equality is a progressive move, or that should per se have stalled or stopped that introduction. There’s hypocrisies all over. If abortion is introduced it will be an hypocrisy that other injustices exist in relation to children or babies but it won’t be one that per se undermines the introduction of abortion, any more than the lack of services in relation to family, etc, when divorce was introduced meant that that undermined the measure to the extent it should have been withdrawn.

Finally what of this:

We do not have to admire the fact that the campaign may have lasted weeks, but the soft coverage of gay icons and celebrities and “human interest” stories pushing the Yes side have been going on for years, with the enthusiastic collusion of the media.

This I think I find almost the most pernicious line in an article which is borderline offensive in many ways. What does she want? No coverage of ‘gay icons’. Hard coverage of same? In what way and why? I suspect I cannot put it better than this tweet here. I fear that we just got a glimpse into an underlying attitude that is for the most part kept well out of sight.

The coalition deals behind the marriage equality referendum… May 26, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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Fascinating to read Pat Leahy and Michael Brennan in the SBP on the referendum campaign backroom dynamics. And even more fascinating to read him speak of the deal that paved the way for the referendum. Those who noted Labour’s support for the Seanad abolition referendum may have been somewhat puzzled both by its somewhat laid back engagement. But no surprise at all when one learns that it was the price of Fine Gael support for the marriage equality referendum.

Though they never knew it, the poor old senators were the price of the same-sex marriage referendum. Fine Gael needed to make good on its promise of a referendum to abolish the Seanad, a hasty promise made by Enda Kenny when he was under pressure in opposition. A bold political reform, they called it, showing that the political system was taking some of the pain that ordinary people were feeling because of the economic crisis. Labour was interested in a different kind of reform. If the Seanad’s neck was going to be put on the chopping block, Labour wanted a gay marriage referendum.
“They had one type of reform that they wanted, and we had this,” said one Labour insider with knowledge of the discussions on the matter. “There was an understanding that these things had to travel together, or they wouldn’t travel at all.”

It’s not difficult to think that Labour got the best of that deal and by a long chalk – at least in terms of implementation, and it is perhaps notable that Fine Gael began, as it became clearer that it would be a YES vote to throw itself ever more wholeheartedly into campaigning for it in order to ensure that it wasn’t identified over closely with the LP. Which means, as Stephen Collins noted in the IT:

Although the precise benefit for Labour is hard to quantify, the paradox is that its initially reluctant coalition partner Fine Gael could end up with a greater benefit from the outcome. Even though he was distinctly uneasy in his early days in office about committing himself to proceeding with the marriage referendum at all, the Taoiseach did not shirk from taking a leading role in the campaign.

And looking at how the by-election transfers from the LP flowed mainly to FG perhaps FG will feel that overall they’re definitely getting the best of the coalition deal.

Airtime at the General Election May 26, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
7 comments

Interesting point by Pat Leahy in relation to a dispute between the government and RTÉ:

Politicians obsess about the media all the time, but they are far more concerned with RTÉ than with anyone else. This is because, in the words of one senior figure in government: “Politically, RTÉ is more important than all the other media put together.”

It makes sense, I suppose for it is in a way ‘official’ in a way that other stations are not. In part this is due to its status as an arm of state – that generates a perception of it as being different to the commercial channels.

There is a constant barrage of complaints, every day. Right now it is intense, extremely intense.
It always is during an election or referendum campaign. Most of the process takes place behind closed doors, but occasionally it breaks out into the open, as it has done of late.

And it’s not just the government:

Fianna Fáil is incensed at what it says is its exclusion from debates on the marriage referendum, which it believes are being hogged by the government parties, while Sinn Féin has also complained. Though an RTÉ source tells me that the first thing the broadcaster knew about the Sinn Féin complaint was when the party put out a press release about it.
Relations between Fianna Fáil and RTÉ have been poor for some time; the party believes that RTÉ programmes have been paying undue attention to its internal difficulties.

Well, yeah. And so they would and arguably should. But Leahy points to a more troubling dynamic:

But it is RTÉ’s relations with the government parties that offer more cause for concern, I think. This is because the government (unlike the opposition) has the ultimate political tool – the power of executive action. It also has the power to directly interfere with RTÉ commercially – and therefore curtail it editorially.
And relations between the political leadership of the government and the station are simply dreadful. Senior sources in both organisations, speaking privately last week, confirmed this.
Michael Noonan’s recent outburst on Today With Sean O’Rourke, when he responded to repeated questions about the Siteserv controversy by attacking the station for not disclosing reports about the future of RTÉ (the station later said that publication was a matter for the government) reflected thinking across the coalition.

That outburst was remarkable in many respects, not least – ironically, the lack of coverage or attention it got. There were those listening to it who thought they perceived a degree of threat in the comments made. Not a good position for anyone involved.

But Noonan’s public outburst was only the tip of the iceberg of his attitude to RTÉ. I was told recently by a reliable source that Noonan had raised RTÉ’s editorial content twice at recent cabinet meetings. I put this to a member of the cabinet. The minister responded: “All the time.”
Further conversations last week revealed that Noonan has complained to colleagues about RTÉ “breaching the Broadcasting Act”, “fomenting discontent”, “leading the opposition”, and so on.

This, I think, tells us something fundamental about this government. Away from the smiles at Dublin Castle at the culmination of the referendum there’s an attitude abroad that sees RTÉ’s coverage as not reflective of problem(s) the government has in a range of economic and political areas, but actually a significant part of the problem itself. That this is absurd, that the anger with the government is a deep rooted and continuing phenomenon cannot be dismissed as a creature of the coverage, escapes those making the charge.
But any excuse:

I am further told that conversations have taken place in government about an advertising cap on RTÉ, and further reforms to the broadcasting market which would reduce RTÉ’s dominance. However, I understand that there is likely to be significant opposition within government to this, especially among (but not limited to) Labour ministers.
RTÉ’s coverage of the water protests is brought up again and again by government figures privately, and is not just limited to Fine Gael. As Pat Rabbitte’s recent criticisms demonstrate, Labour is just as annoyed. “We have made it clear to RTÉ that we’re unhappy with their coverage,” says a government source. “And we are not moving on from it.”

It gets worse, if anything – and MarkP noted it here:

There is a looming battle over airtime in advance of the next general election campaign. Previously, the general rule has been that the share of the vote at the previous general election governs campaign coverage, but RTÉ has pointed out that the political landscape has shifted considerably since then.
Fine Gael and Labour got 56 per cent of the vote in 2011.
“On airtime, we get 56 per cent of it and the Socialist Party get 1 per cent. We will fucking insist on it. It will be a battle, and we will win,” says a senior figure in the coalition of the discussions he anticipates with RTÉ.

One might think it unwise for them to announce this, even off the record, in advance. One hopes that the SP and others will seize the opportunity to push back against this sharply. They’d better. But along with the threats – I mean of course, the talks about changes in how RTÉ is funded, etc, there’s this:

This is seen at the station as a direct commercial threat because of editorial content – the crossing of an important line.
“This is worse than it ever was with the last Fianna Fáil government,” says one senior person at the station, citing “political threats on legislation”.
Senior figures in Montrose insist that political pressure on the commercial side will have zero effect on programme makers or news content; but they are taken aback by it, all the same.
“There is a sinister element of it around funding that we haven’t seen since Ray Burke,” said the source.
Government figures are adamant, however. “They are completely unbalanced against the government” is one typical comment.

Oddly enough there’s an echo there of the NO campaign in their charges that everyone was agin them, not realising that the support for YES was not a reflection of that, but rather the cause of that. Whether the government is adept enough to be able to deal with this is another matter entirely.

One obvious reason there won’t be an election before end of July and a telling comment from Averil Power May 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
2 comments


… and I didn’t even think of it yesterday, more fool me…
They’ll want to see the legislation arising from the successful result of the marriage equality referendum implemented. Alan Shatter notes that:

 

…that the legislation giving effect to the result of the same-sex marriage referendum will be implemented before the Government’s summer recess.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Shatter said same-sex couples should be able to get married by early September .
Mr Shatter said he welcomed “the Government indicating that the legislation will be through the Houses of Oireachtas before the summer vacation.”

Meanwhile…

What a telling throwaway comment from Averil Power, having exited Fianna Fáil. Speaking of her former colleagues…

She said that some Fianna Fáil representatives declared publicly that they were voting No and “worse still, others told me they would be voting Yes but were afraid of campaigning for it in case they would lose votes.”

For all the complaints from the NO side about reps being afraid to express their opinions I’ll bet the dynamic described by Power was a very real one. It suggests the hill that the YES side had to climb in some places.

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