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Thought this may be of interest and even topical considering The Referendum on Friday. It is from the May 1993 edition of ‘Fightback’ which was produced by the Irish Workers Group student members and supporters Galway.
A good word for the Independents and Small Parties… May 13, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
At the weekend there was a comment or two on the site about Mick Wallace. I’m not here to defend him, but… I was struck by something Pat Leahy wrote in a piece in the SBP on Independents and small parties where he suggested they now have to offer some answers as to what they would do in government. As he notes:
One of the biggest changes that the Great Recession has wrought on our politics is how it has fuelled the rise of independents and small parties. Never before have independent deputies and small parties played such a role in the Dáil, and in wider politics.
Even before the crash, the number of independents we elected in Ireland was highly unusual. Since then, we’re off the charts.
That’s a most interesting point and one well worth returning to again and again, just what is it about this state that has led to such numbers of independents? My own read, for what its worth, is that it is a combination of a very weak centre left/labour tradition, perhaps an attitude that there’s a partial aspect to the state (conscious or unconscious, and this derived from partition to a great, though not exclusive, extent), obvious failure of the larger parties and perhaps something approaching a localism as a substitute for other isms as they appear to founder. That’s just off the top of my head, no doubt there are many more factors and/or those I point to are over emphasised by me.
And judging by the polls, independents and small parties – the “others” – are set to continue to play a significant role in Irish politics. After the next election, they may play a pivotal role at the very centre of government formation. That is certainly what many of them are gunning for.
Some of them, let’s be clear on that. There are those who have no intention – perhaps sensibly given the degree of support afforded them by the electorate – to attempt to enter government, for whom indeed state power seems so far off as to be unrealisable. That’s not, as it happens, an unprincipled position, or in its own way unrealistic, though whether it can resonate with sufficient citizens to make substantive changes to the way things are run is another matter.
But Leahy takes a line that is refreshingly different in all this, arguing that even in opposition those Independents and small parties – or some of them – have been remarkably effective (though one could cynically argue that so they should be given the number of them).
It is popular and somewhat fashionable to dismiss the role of independents as simply opportunist, seeking to trade their votes for constituency favours from government, classic purveyors of political pork and little else.
But an examination of the record of the current Dáil demonstrates that independent TDs and the small parties have made significant contributions on a variety of issues. For sure, many of them are interested in little more than their own constituencies. But they are hardly alone in that – many party backbenchers (and some ministers) are the same.
Recent events offer some evidence of some independent TDs’ effectiveness.
And he points to the centrality of Daly and Wallace in highlighting this evidence.
The former justice minister Alan Shatter is in the throes of a High Court challenge to the report by senior counsel Sean Guerin which led to his resignation last year. Leave aside for a moment the fairly entertaining consequences if Shatter wins his challenge, and consider how we reached this point.
No senior counsel – or anyone else – would have investigated the events concerned had they not been indefatigably pursued by the independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, as part of their continuing campaign against Garda malpractice.
Nor is he unwilling to engage with problematic issues:
Let us observe in passing that – presumably unrelated but coincident with this campaign – Daly was arrested on suspicion of drink driving, handcuffed and the details of the incident leaked to the media. She was subsequently released without charge, having passed a urine test in the Garda station.
In most countries, Wallace would have been forced to resign after the revelation of his tax cheating. Most people would have resigned without being forced, recognising that their actions had brought their status as a law-maker into disrepute. But you can’t dispute that Wallace has done some significant public service since. Remember, both the Garda commissioner and the top official in the Department of Justice have left their posts too.
This is not to cheer for the pointless rolling of heads; merely to point out that Wallace and Daly have been instrumental in the achievement of a level of accountability that is rare in Ireland.
He also points to Catherine Murphy’s – amongst others – championing of questions over Siteserv, and there are other examples too (though the thought also strikes what of high profile Independents who haven’t been quite as… ahem… high profile as one might have expected on substantive issues?).
Leahy argues that as the election approaches the success, as one might characterise it, of these Independents is such that it may lead to a sort of failure if they cannot fashion a means of being relevant. And perhaps small wonder that we see so many vehicles being rolled out by them, albeit in markedly different forms:
For independents and small parties seeking to hold the balance of power, it’s all about the numbers. There are two possible governments that might need the support of one or more of the above groups – the current coalition, or a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil combination short a few seats of a majority.
In that case, we could see different groups of independents or small parties effectively bidding one another down.
If that happens, the group that has the most discipline, and the cheapest demands, will be the one to join the government. But, one way or another, independents and small parties are here to stay.
But beyond that it suggests that Independents and Small Parties can have a relevance as oppositional forces in the Dáil and Seanad. Question for some is whether they can have a relevance as supporting governing forces. Perhaps a lot rides on whether this is a good election to win or to lose?
More on the Right2Water conference… May 7, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
Cactus Flower on PoliticalWorld has pulled some of the threads from Friday’s conference together here which is very handy indeed. It sounds like a very interesting event with speakers from Podemos, Syriza and so on. And some fascinating points made.
That document issued on Friday “Policy Principles for a Progressive Irish Government” is available in various spots online, but for the sake of being useful, here it is too. 111930_12796_R2W-Unions_Policies_A5
Quotes from the Democratic Programme, the 1867 and 1916 Proclamations, sections on Right2Water, RIght2Jobs, Right2Health, Right2Debt Justice, Right2Education, Right2Democratic Reform (the proposal to breathalyse TDs ahead of votes is…different). But where does it go from here? The last page suggests:
We want to develop this discussion further and so we are seeking your input.
On Saturday, June 13th, the Right2Water Unions will host a second conference to determine a policy platform ahead of the next General Election.
But is that for a Right2Water electoral vehicle, or some sort of lash-up, however loose or otherwise, that R2W would support? A lot of questions.
What do people think of it?
Whatever happened to ‘The Campaign for Labour Policies’ ? April 29, 2015Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics, The Left.
Whatever happened to The Campaign for Labour Policies , “a campaign of grassroots Labour party members and supporters for an alternative political programme to the one now being pursued by government.” that began mid 2012 ?
Did they leave or just give up the ghost? No activity for over a year on their twitter or their website.
I’m genuinely curious as opposed to wanting to just slag off Labour.
The following statement has been agreed between the People Before Profit Alliance, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and some independent activists including Cllr Brendan Young.
The anti-water charges movement, which has seen hundreds of thousands mobilise and become active in campaigning, has transformed politics in this country. It has forced climbdowns by the government and given people confidence and hope that the austerity agenda can be defeated. It has opened a potential to build a significant Left, working class political movement.
We welcome the initiative by the trade unions involved in Right2Water to host conferences in May and June to discuss a political initiative. The fact that a number of significant unions are discussing launching a political platform and considering support for a range of candidates is a very important development. It could create a political pole of attraction for many who are fighting austerity and oppression – and who are looking for a political formation that fights for genuine social equality.
For a democratic, bottom-up, participative approach
In order for this to have the best chance of achieving its potential, we think it is essential that the process of deciding on a political platform and an approach to the general election is participative, open and democratic. The mobilisation and democratic self-organisation of people in their communities is vital to the strength of the movement against the water charge. Their involvement is essential for the development of mass support and participation in any new political initiative which could have an impact similar to Syriza or Podemos.
We welcome the initiative of the unions to organise events in May and June. But it is vital that these events do not remain limited and invite-only. Instead, they should become conferences involving all sections of the anti-water charges movement, anti-austerity groups and those active in fighting for democratic rights who favour taking a political initiative on an explicit anti-austerity basis.
In advance of the 13 June event, we think there should be local open meetings or assemblies of everybody active in the anti-water charges movement or other active social movements, meeting to discuss the issues and to decide on delegates to send to the event. The meeting on 13 June should therefore be a much larger meeting than 200 people: as well as including trade union representatives and political representatives, it should include representatives of campaign groups across the country, selected by those involved in campaigning on the ground. On foot of this, the June gathering should be able to decide for itself the political positions it adopts and how to proceed – not simply endorse previously determined statements.
Non-payment of water charges is key
We believe that this political initiative should complement the crucial struggle against water charges in the coming months – not become an alternative to it. In order to advance the actually existing struggle against austerity – the movement against the water charge – and to draw on its strengths and develop mass support, the political initiative should champion the demands of the movement, openly call for non-payment and use its forces to organise non-payment and active resistance to water metering on the ground. This should be part of a general approach, which is to use elected positions to encourage struggle from below, rather than focusing on elections and parliamentary positions.
Principled positions against austerity and for democratic rights
We think that the initiative should adopt a principled anti-austerity position. That means committing to oppose and organise to fight against any more austerity and for an immediate reversal of key austerity measures such as water charges, property tax, USC for those on average or low incomes, health, education and welfare cuts. It also means developing a strategy for repudiation of the bankers’ debt; for a write-down of residential mortgages; for taxation of wealth and big business profits; and against privatisation of public services and natural resources.
Instead of putting money into bank debt, we think there should be public investment in housing, healthcare, education, childcare, public transport, water services, renewable energy and environmental protection – as the start of re-orienting economic activity to meet social need and provide useful work for young people and the unemployed.
A new political initiative should stand for the separation of church and state; and commit to extending democratic rights to all oppressed groups: women, the young and the old, LGBT people, Travellers, migrants, asylum seekers and people with disabilities. As a first step, it should commit to campaigning for a Yes vote in the upcoming marriage equality referendum; and to campaign for repeal of the 8th Amendment and lift the ban on abortion in Ireland.
We also think a political initiative should champion the right of workers to defend their jobs and living standards. It should support solidarity action with the likes of the Dunnes workers and action to scrap the anti-union laws. Opposition to austerity should not stop at the border: we think austerity must be fought both in the North and the South. The implementation of Westminster cuts by Stormont is no more acceptable than the implementation of Troika cuts by the government in the South.
Reject coalition with Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or Labour
This kind of real change requires a political alternative that will break the rules that impoverish working class people. We cannot do that if we accept the approach of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour – the proponents of austerity, inequality and oppression. So a new political initiative must publicly commit to reject any coalition or deals with Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or Labour.
It should fight for a Left government committed to breaking the rules that impose austerity and that prioritise the restoration of the profits of banking and big business; for a government committed to restructuring the economy and society to meet the needs of people and to protect our environment – including unilateral repudiation, if necessary, of bankers’ debt.
The opportunity to build a substantial political challenge to the rule of the 1% in this country is massive. The initiative by the Right2Water unions can be an important step in building that if it is done on the basis of a bottom-up, participative and democratic approach. If it is based on struggle, non-payment of the water charges and a principled anti-austerity stance, we can have a major impact.
In summary, we think a new political initiative should:
• be open, participative and democratic in its organisation and functioning;
• reject coalition with Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or Labour;
• openly call for non-payment of the water charge;
• have a principled anti-austerity approach that repudiates the bankers’ debt and supports public investment to meet the needs of ordinary people, environmental protection and provide proper jobs;
• campaign against oppression and for democratic rights, including marriage equality and repeal of the 8th Amendment;
• oppose racism and the scapegoating of minorities.
Richard Boyd Barrett TD, Cllr. Brid Smyth, Cllr. John Lyons, Ailbhe Smyth and Brian O’Boyle on behalf of the People Before Profit Alliance; Paul Murphy TD, Ruth Coppinger TD, Joe Higgins TD, Eileen Gabbett and Joe Harrington on behalf of the Anti-Austerity Alliance; Cllr Brendan Young ; Eddie Conlon; Des Derwin; Shane Fitzgerald; Tomas O’Dulaing; Raymond Deane.
The Minister says no… April 23, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Thanks to Paddy Healy for this:
Parliamentary Question for Written Answer From Seamus Healy TD
To ask the Minister for Social Protection ,Ms Burton
If she will restore the entitlement of working widows and working loan parents who are respectively in receipt of a survivors pension or a lone parent allowance to illness benefit
And if she will make a statement on the matter?
To which this was the response:
* For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 22nd April, 2015.
R E P L Y
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton T.D):
The social welfare system is designed to respond to a range of contingencies such as illness, unemployment, old age and widowhood. In Budget 2012 the Government decided, having regard to the fiscal necessity to contain social welfare expenditure and to protect weekly rates of payment, that it was no longer possible to have a social welfare system whereby some people got more than one primary weekly payment.
So, from January 2013, half-rate payments of jobseeker’s benefit, illness benefit and incapacity supplement for those who get widow(er)’s pensions, surviving civil partner’s pensions or one-parent family payment ceased (for new applicants for jobseeker’s benefit, illness benefit and incapacity supplement). Other concurrent payment entitlements, such as new participants on Community Employment schemes, were also ceased as part of the Budget 2012 measures.
Prior to this, there were a limited number of exceptions in the social insurance system to the general principle of “one person, one payment”. These exceptions usually applied in the context of short-term benefits. For instance, recipients of One-Parent Family Payment, Widows and Widowers Pensioners etc. could, until Budget 2012, also receive short-term social insurance benefits, such as Illness Benefit and Jobseeker’s Benefit at half-rate at the same time.
These overlapping payment arrangements were introduced in the early 1950s when the social insurance system was first established – a time when there were only 10 individual social welfare payments – and the social welfare system has been significantly developed since then.
I am satisfied that the general principle of “one person, one payment” serves to maintain the equity of the social welfare system.
Ideology trumping all… April 23, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
One of the more interesting aspects is that the NTA did not model their proposals, did not produce a business impact-assessment, did not undertake a cost-benefit analysis to justify the need for, or benefits from for franchising. Now just think on that for a moment. If a private sector company decided it was going to franchise or outsource 10 percent of its business, there would be cost-benefit analyses and business –impact assessments all over the place – upsides, downsides, alternatives. Any senior management attempting to railroad such a franchise initiative through without such analyses would be clearing out their desks by noon.
And while – oh yes, Ernst & Young did provide an analysis, as Michael notes, this was based on one academic study. I recommend anyone concerned about this issue, which should be all of us, read what Michael has to say. It points to how ideological considerations trump all else in this area. But Michael also notes that this effort to privatise services is actually running against the grain of a re-municipalisation of public services including transport across Europe. Why so? Well, it’s hardly a surprise to see that ‘poor service and high fares’ have been the outcome of privatisations.
But of this nary a word from our government, and as was asked in relation to another facet of public transport only a week or so back, what of our representative of the Socialist International? What do they make of all this?
One of the worst aspects of living in a state where the left has been marginal for so long is the realisation time and again of just how much our lived environment is shaped by those for whom our goals are anathema – how contingent and partial public provision is, how grudgingly conceded and how rapidly removed. Pieces like this from Michael are essential to reminding us of how blatant that shaping is and how it continues and remains set to continue…
NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham said privatisation would involve a transfer of ownership and loss of public control, which she said was not the case.
But wait, the whole point of the new policies are that… ‘10% of bus routes are opened up to the private sector’. What does she call that? And what what does she call the following?
She said that any Bus Éireann or Dublin Bus employees who had to transfer to private operators would have their terms and conditions preserved for the duration of the new contract.
However, she acknowledged there was nothing to stop the private contractors from paying new recruits nothing more than the minimum wage.
British Labour tilting towards the ‘mainstream’… April 22, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left.
Telling to find ourselves discussing here on the site at the weekend how British Labour has been responsible for some unlovely tilts, rhetoric, policy and otherwise during this election and then to be presented with the front page of the Observer where it notes that:
Ed Miliband has made a direct pitch for the support of disaffected “one nation” Tories, insisting that he is on “the centre ground of politics” and would save the country from David Cameron’s rightwing, anti-EU agenda.
In an interview with the Observer, two-and-a-half weeks before polling day, Miliband reaches out to moderate Tories, saying Labour is now a party of “fiscal discipline” and social conscience that would tackle inequality and keep the UK firmly at the heart of Europe.
The Labour leader says: “I am a politician of the left, but I am positioned where the mainstream of politics is positioned. I am on the centre ground of politics.” By contrast, he describes Cameron as “ideologically beached” and with no answers about how to tackle inequality.
The object of the exercise being ‘to counter Tory claims that he would team up with the SNP in a left-wing coalition’ and this:
Labour strategists also believe Miliband is succeeding in building his reputation in the country during the current election campaign and is appealing to centre-ground voters who had believed, beforehand, that he was not prime ministerial and was too leftwing.
In fairness to Miliband he hasn’t thrown the term left under the bus, or not as such. But it is depressing to see yet again how much must be conceded to the right. This isn’t just his fault or responsibility, the societal pressures in Britain are remarkably adept in constraining left programmes – always have. His own party, and predecessors were well capable of constraining themselves too, unwilling to make left wing arguments when they were in power. But it is yet another sign of how contemporary social democracy has been utterly unable to shape a narrative that can push back from the left against the right. Some would, perhaps accurately, suggest that it is not the purpose of the BLP to push back, that functionally and otherwise it is comfortable enough with the status quo. And yet… even from an organisational point of view – purely utilitarian, pragmatic and arguably self-serving, how does it benefit them or more importantly those they purport to represent if they are pushed into the fringes of political activity?
That Left Conference for May – so how’s that going? April 20, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
All (mostly) quiet on that front. Does this calm herald a new era in Irish left politics, or is there a storm approaching in the run-up to the general election?
Student politics… April 17, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
Pat Rabbitte in the SBP has some thoughts on the upcoming referendums. He’s utterly dismissive of the one proposing the age of eligibility for contesting Presidential elections should be reduced to 21. I’m not that fussed either way about it, but I’m not sure Pat arguing from his own rather limited experience is the best argument agin:
It is a daft proposal. What kind of 21-year-old would want to become President? Apparently the answer is an exceptional and mature one. This is especially alarming because if there is anyone less suited for the Presidency than a 21-year-old, it is a 21-year-old who is going on 50.
I was a president once at 21. Fortunately the only citizens under my rule were students. They and I considered our main purpose to be to make as much mayhem as we could for the government of the day on issues like equality of opportunity in education and the price of coffee and strong drink on the campus. To have sent any of us to the venerable old house in the park would have been simply unthinkable. We would probably have made Paul Durcan Poet Laureate and encouraged him to engage in pursuits inside Áras an Uachtarán similar to those that preoccupied him with the judge’s daughter outside the gates.
I don’t know. I too was involved in elected student politics for a number of years in a not dissimilar role – I was a couple of years older than Rabbitte had been when he was involved but what struck me was that for the most part people involved took elected roles fairly seriously. Sure, it wasn’t navigating the Titanic away from the iceberg like stuff, there was no real danger involved, though – that said, I was involved in campaigns that drew extremely antagonistic responses from socially conservative quarters. But nor was it nothing.
And it’s curious in the extreme for Rabbitte who – arguably – gained a fair bit of political capital both within and outside organisations that he was a member of through his involvement in USI appear to throw all that under the bus.
Indeed being a generation younger than Rabbitte and also a member of the WP at the time I remember being both entertained in the mid to late 1980s to read as an SU member the typed reports from USI of the period when OSF/SFWP were at their height in that organisation, and also being a little bit envious given that I was the only person in SU politics, or at least in SU politics linked to USI, who was flying that flag during that later period. It was clear from those reports that there was no end of open conflict between various factions vying for supremacy. I’ll bet he took it pretty damn seriously then. Others did.
And while I’m as sceptical and/or cynical of student politics as most of us – it is too limited, too self-referential, for the most part too transitory a population of people, and found the focus of my political activity to be in the constituency/community then and after, it is pointless to argue that it had no scope for opportunity in communicating our (various) messages. My own belief is a party has to have roots outside academia, otherwise it will be too…well…limited… self-referential…etc, but that it is useful to have some roots everywhere.