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The other referendum question… May 21, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
14 comments

Elaine Byrne in the SBP points to some curious contradictions when writing about the referendum on the age of Presidential candidates. And she takes it in a most interesting direction in the following:

This is about the ageist institutionalised discrimination when it comes to income, insurance, mortgage eligibility and pension rights. A two-tier Ireland which offers different employment protections to predominantly younger temporary workers.

And she points to the manner in which under the post crisis ‘agreements’ something very strange happened.

The starting salary of teachers who began their career in February 2012 is 34 per cent less than teachers recruited in 2010. The staff rooms of public sector workplaces across the country are populated with people doing the same work but with substantially different take home pay on the basis of age. A policy which will be gradually phased out under the Haddington agreement – but only when new entrants serve their time.

She continues:

What was the bearded response by the unions to ageist pay scales? Young outsiders were sacrificed for the interests of older insiders. Instead of pay parity across the board, an older generation protected the guts of their pay by forcing draconian cuts on new entrants. “What do we want?” Worker solidarity! “When do we want it?” Once we are inside!

I loathe the outsider/insider stuff, probably more than I loathe the ‘bearded’ line, but there’s a real problem here. A two tier workforce has to be one of the most toxic outcomes of the past seven years, and one that suits the state and seemingly was of no significance at all to those who negotiated the ‘deals’. She notes too…

The first session of talks between the government and trade unions on pay restoration for about 300,000 public service staff ended this week. Unions are broadly in favour of a flat rate increase.
Does this mean that newer entrants will get the same flat rate increase as older workers but that the existing disparities remain? In the public sector, the generous pension scheme for pre-recession public servants is linked to the salary of the person presently occupying their retirement grade. So, if a current public servant has 20 years to retirement, their current pension contributions by the state are at the same rate as if they are at retirement age.
In contrast, pensions for new entrants (like most of the private sector) are based on average career salary rather than final salary.

It is bizarre, but then the emphasis on wages as against conditions has also been bizarre too, allowing extra hours for what was nominal retention of existing wages, when the reality was that these were wage cuts. Moreover, as many versed in union life will attest, pushing for the reinstatement of conditions is a significantly different challenge to reinstating salary cuts. Yet all this was lost on the unions during the crisis period.
And Byrne notes that this is true in different areas too…

The generation constitutionally barred from running for president must now contend with the causalisation of work contracts, minimal job security and access to fewer benefits.

Of course that generation will grow older and those issues contended with will become characteristic of the conditions of workers of all ages, so let’s not get too fixated on the age aspect. It’s about proper pensions, proper wages, proper conditions. It’s about work and all workers.

Conflicts of interest? No way! May 20, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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Elaine Byrne’s reports in the SBP from the Banking Inquiry – week 16, seeing as you were asking – are getting ever more interesting. This week she casts an eye across the sheer lack of interest in what to most would appear to be – at its kindest – potential conflicts of interest evident in auctioneers and valuers, the construction industry.
So bizarrely adrift from what we might like to term reality are those offering evidence that the Inquiry was treated to this:

Eoghan Murphy asked the former director general of the Construction Industry Federation if any relationship existed between donations and decisions taken by the government that would favour the industry by way of tax reliefs or incentives. “No way” was Liam Kelleher’s response.

No way!

Byrne notes how the banking industry was entirely uninfluenced and uninfluencing (to coin a phrase) by and on political matters. So they say.

No way!

Still, bad and all as that it is, and it desperately bad, there’s more still…

This Thursday, an entire day is dedicated to the former governor of the Central Bank.
John Hurley may provide clarity regarding the ‘he said, she said’ version of events around the alleged Jean-Claude Trichet phone call to Brian Lenihan and the ECB’s refusal to allow Ireland to burn the bondholders.
Trichet maintains he made no such request. But did his office make such a call to Hurley?
Hurley’s successor Patrick Honohan’s previous appearance before the committee and his subsequent letter may also feature.
Was Hurley aware of the powers he actually had to intervene? If so, why did he not use them?

Surely he was aware? Wasn’t he? Did he believe he could? I’m tempted to say… no wa…well, we’ll wait and see.

A leaflet from the NO side showing some NO ‘voters’..? May 20, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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IMG_0162

Thanks to RID for this, and here’s RID’s thoughts on the above:

Discovered a leaflet from the Iona Institute in my post today. It contains four testimonials from NO voters and reassures me that ‘it’s OK to vote NO’. I am glad they cleared that one up.

The testimonials caught my eye. Entitled ‘Why I am voting No’ they would appear to be the opinions of several people who will be voting no on Friday with accompanying pictures. However, one of the ‘voters’, Heather, is an American from South Carolina. ‘Heather’ is Heather Barwick, who is from South Carolina and is not, to my knowledge, a naturalised Irish citizen. You might recognise the name as she is invoked by David Quinn with great frequency in his heroic efforts to keep Ireland on the path of moral righteousness.

Nevermind American money in this referendum campaign; now Iona are bringing in American voters?!

For more referendum material, both NO and YES, IEL has a comprehensive collection… 

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A parallel universe of gay life and class issues. May 20, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
5 comments

… where has Bruce Arnold lived the last sixty years one might ask. The answer is, well, here. But not the here many of us who live here, perhaps most of us who live here, know. For he says that:

…since his arrival in Ireland sixty years ago, a “penalised, unhappy, disfavoured, disadvantaged, interpretation of homosexual couples” had developed, “largely by invention”.
According to Mr Arnold, when he moved to Ireland homosexuality was not penalised or illegal and “homosexuals lived a reasonably open and happy life”.

And what evidence does he present for this?

“I remember particularly Micheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards strutting through St Stephen’s green hugely admired and known as a gay couple.”

As it happens I know, because I heard the conversations growing up, that many didn’t know for sure whether either Mac Liammóir or Edwards were gay. But even if they were sure, even if they were living a reasonable enough life, though for obvious legal and societal reasons Mac Liammóir or Edwards clearly had to keep their relationship under wraps to some degree, how does the situation of two individuals who had a high profile position and the status, and protection to some degree (though let’s not overstate it given the levels of homophobia in the society), map onto the experience of the many tens of thousands of other lesbian and gay women and men?

Every morning I pass by a park where in the 1980s Declan Flynn, a young man of 31, was beaten to death because he was gay (Come Here To Me have this post here which points to the fact that this sort of murderous violence was no exception on this island and of course more generalised homophobic violence was part and parcel of the experience of many gay people and isn’t unknown still). There’s a certain crassness in light of that reality to what Arnold says.

Or perhaps it is worse than crassness. From the off I’ve argued in relation to this referendum and this measure that there’s a class aspect to all this. The Arnold’s of the world live in a bubble, a comfortable middle class and upper middle class bubble. They have the luxury of pretending the world is other than it is, or that the lives of gay and lesbian men and women was somehow unpenalised, happy and favoured in this society because by and large their own lives are unpenalised, happy and favoured. Those of us outside the bubble, those with eyes to see, know that it has been and in some, thankfully diminishing, respects continues to be otherwise.

Anyhow, his argument descends to ever more absurd depths as he continues:

“Several people have repeatedly said homosexuality was illegal and was decriminalised by Máire Geoghegan Quinn in 1993,” said Mr Arnold. “This simply isn’t true.”

Do go on…

“Homosexuality was never a crime in Ireland. Homosexual acts were and through David Norris’ work with Mary Robinson in Europe the edict was created that made the government here reluctantly, and with disagreement, decriminalise homosexual acts.”

This is brilliant stuff really. Complete revisionism. And to what purpose? Black is white, night is day. Ireland was a shining beacon of tolerance for lesbian and gay people. Decriminalisation wasn’t decriminalisation because ‘homosexuality wasn’t penalised’. Problem, what problem?

What to say?

Well at least Micheál Martin suggests:

Mr Arnold needed to reflect on the alienation and discrimination suffered within the Irish LGBT community.

He sure does.

Media bias on Israel/Palestine? May 20, 2015

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
10 comments

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this with the accompanying outline:

Here are the findings of a survey I recently carried out of letters to the Irish Examiner on the Palestine/Israel issue. It is a small survey covering 73 days of publication, but I think that its findings are quite revealing.
I contacted the Examiner by phone regarding the same, sent a hand copy of the survey to the editor and finally submitted a letter to the editor. I got no response.

Charlie Hayes Doc 1

Charlie Hayes Doc. 2

Charlie Hayes Doc. 3

Charlie Hayes Doc. 4

Charlie Hayes Doc.5

Support for Independents. May 20, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Useful snippet of information here in the IT on foot of their latest polls:

Most of the current high level of support for Independents is based on local factors or distrust of established political parties, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

And:

Some 31 per cent of Independent voters cited the local factor and another 14 per cent said the local Independent candidate was known to them personally. Distrust of the mainstream parties was cited by 26 per cent of voters, while 16 per cent cited independence from political parties as their reason.

In a way that’s self-evident, isn’t it, and yet the reasons for this, particularly now at a time of economic crisis and when there’s a wish for a greater degree of control, or at least a sense of same, on the part of citizens, particularly in a context where the broader levers of control- and in many respects actually have – seem to have bypassed them, whether national or European.

What also strikes me is how difficult it will be for the parties to mine these votes entirely. That 16% ‘Independent of political parties’ and 26% ‘Don’t trust large political parties’ is a significant cohort of voters. Add in at least some of those focused on local issues (and let’s now prepare for ‘local’ to be a word on every candidate from FF/FG/LP etc).

What of this?

Just 5 per cent of Independent voters mentioned anti-austerity or water charges as motivating their choice, while 2 per cent said they were socialists.

Referendum polling… May 20, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
4 comments

Well now. Not sure about all the predictions this morning from government and other sources pointing to 60s YES to 4ish NO while those on the NO side saying it’s closer to 50:50. As I said before, I think it should pass, but whether it will is a different matter – every vote counts. I don’t know what way this is going and any thoughts on outcomes are very welcome.

Pat Leahy makes an important point in the SBP about the poll in that paper (and others) at the weekend on the referendum:

We know that people sometimes lie to pollsters about their voting intentions. The recent British general election reminded us of this fact forcefully. And it is likely that some respondents to the poll on same-sex marriage, reported in this newspaper today, are saying that they will vote Yes – overwhelmingly the socially, officially and media-approved thing to do – when in fact they will vote No.

How many? Difficult to say. But the very rhetoric of the No campaign, one which has wrapped around itself a bizarre victimology, is such that it has provided cover of sorts to those who might present themselves one way while voting another.
He continues:

We know that significant numbers of declared Yes voters have doubts about the measure. We know that referendum campaigns can sometimes swing decisively in the final weeks before the vote, confounding the conventional wisdom and upsetting the pundits. Most referendums which have been lost by the government side have been lost late on. Even some of the ones that have nearly been lost – like the second divorce referendum, in 1995 – have seen that late swing.

And:

We know that the government is not terribly popular, and that this is a government-sponsored initiative. We know that the race is tightening, and today’s numbers show that it is tightening appreciably. We know that the No campaign has gathered momentum in recent weeks, hammering home its messages about children, surrogacy and the change to the status of the family. The No side’s numbers are on the rise. We know Yes campaigners are nervous, and some of them are terrified.

But he concludes:

All these things we know. But they do not, on balance, add up to a conclusion that the referendum is likely to be defeated.

His sense, and that of Richard Colwell of RedC is, that on current figures the Yes is still going to win. He and Colwell both argue that the Don’t Know camp is overwhelmingly No in composition. How to get around this sort of structural deceit (if that’s not too strong a word)? The way RedC is going is to ask people their expectation of outcomes.
The results are interesting. They show that some 61 per cent of likely voters believe the referendum proposal will be approved, against 38 per cent who expect it to be defeated.

If this is a true proxy for people’s voting intentions, then the race is not at 70:30. It’s at 60:40. That’s a hell of a lot closer than it was. It still means the Yes side is, at this point, on course to win. But it means the once-wide margin is getting narrower. It says this one isn’t over yet by a long shot.

But Leahy points to certain aspects of this campaign which predicate against a late swing that might deliver a NO result. He notes that there is wide canvassing on the part of the YES side unlike other referendums, that the issues are well-aired at this point which means most people have made up their mind. Short of a remarkable event taking place that might shift opinion it remains a YES in his estimation.

I hope he and Colwell are right.

What you want to say – 20th May 2015 May 20, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
45 comments

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

That handshake…  May 19, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
4 comments

Interesting to see amongst those protesting outside NUI Galway where Gerry Adams shook hands with Britain’s Prince Charles the following:

Crowds gathered at the entrance to NUI Galway, along with several protest groups, including members of the Socialist Workers’ Party.

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and students from Femsoc demonstrated over gender equality.

One protester carried a placard reading “Joe McCann – murdered by 1 (one) Para 15/4/72” – referring to the killing of IRA volunteer Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972. Prince Charles is commander-in-chief of the British Parachute Regiment.

That, of course, was OIRA volunteer, Joe McCann.

Business and workers “all in this together”? May 19, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
2 comments

A great deadpan analysis in the Observer Business leader (always worth reading) at the weekend on the living wage:

Most company boards want to “do the right thing” on pay and conditions for their workers, according to the amply remunerated Lord Rose, chairman of Ocado.
If that’s true, then they seem to be going about it in an unusual way. Only about a quarter of FTSE 100 companies have signed up to the living wage, a measure of the amount required for people to live with dignity, based on research by the respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Guardian and Observer are in the process of applying to be accredited.

And yet, the Observer notes that for all the touchy feeley rhetoric…

Some of the UK’s most respected companies are missing from that list, including all the major retailers. Sports Direct has been vilified for its treatment of staff, the majority of whom are on zero-hours contracts. But others are involved in practices which should make their boards blush.

And it gives this positively Kafkaesque example from the ‘hight street’.

Next – a company led by a man compassionate enough to have handed his bonus over to staff more than once – is one of them. Ten staff at the retailer are holding out against its decision to scrap extra pay for Sunday working – a move that hit about 800 people.

Here’s the kafkaesque bit:

The company deems those numbers a measure of how happy staff are to accept new contracts.

Except, except:

But more than one worker affected by the change described how they were persuaded to give up their extra pay: they were taken into a “forced change” meeting and told that if they did not accept the new conditions, they were effectively resigning. All have worked at Next for at least seven years.

And the leader notes:

Campaigners say that many retailers are now ditching traditional benefits, such as extra evening or bank holiday pay, as companies try to reduce costs in the face of a still-tough consumer market. With no collective bargaining in companies such as Next, staff have little support. The costs and career risks of challenging the company at a tribunal mean few take that route

And the pernicious dynamic which has been noted many times before where the state effectively supports private enterprise in paying wages continues and expands:

It is not just an issue for do-gooders. An estimated £11bn of taxpayers’ money goes towards “in-work benefits” to top up the wages of those on low pay. You don’t need to be an economist to realise that doesn’t add up any more.

We’re not in this together. We’re not even close.

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