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(New) Dáil Report! February 20, 2020

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Well now. Some entertaining speeches this afternoon, not least one from one of those nominating Micheál Martin which went somewhat over the top in praising him. But to what purpose was all this for? Perhaps most striking to me was – entirely reasonably from their perspective, were some of the speeches supporting a SF Taoiseach from the further left which sounded, well, far far from enthusiastic. Can’t blame them, but I wonder how this plays further afield amongst voters. Meanwhile Connolly and Collins speeches were pretty good.

History Now (NVTV): a talk Dr Brian Hanley gave at QUB February 20, 2020

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This audio is from a talk Dr Brian Hanley gave at Queen’s University on 14/02/2020 on his book The Impact of the Troubles on the Republic of Ireland, 1968-79: Boiling Volcano.

Which can be found here!

Pensions… February 20, 2020

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Reading this in the IT it struck me just how iniquitous pension arrangements are. For example, as noted in the piece:

Should I join my company scheme?
Absolutely. A good employer will pay between 5 and 10 per cent of your annual salary into a pension scheme. If your company has a decent scheme and you earn €40,000 per year, the company will put between €2,000 and €4,000 into your pension pot every year. You will have to match at least some of this contribution.

But many employers are not good employers – for example, I worked for a good portion of a decade for a group of companies where only upper management were gifted pensions. All others, like myself, had nothing. And given that less than half of private sector workers have occupational pensions, and even there not all are subsidised in part by employers clearly there’s a massive deficit.

Moreover there’s something utopian about the requirements:

Pricewatch asked asked the number-crunchers at Standard Life to work out how much we would need to put aside. To retire with a private pension of €19,500 a year – which is half the average industrial wage – at at age 68, you need to save a fund of €463,900.
The cost of saving to get to the same final amount almost doubles every 10 years you delay saving. So if you start saving at 25 you will need to put aside a gross sum of €301 per month. With tax relief at the top rate, it is actually €164. If you start at 35, then you need to put aside €519 a month before tax, which works out at €283 with the reliefs in place. And if you start at 45 then the monthly gross savings come in at €969, which is €529 with tax relief.

Look at those sums. Someone at a point in their lives where they are likely facing huge housing costs, potentially some of them close to having offspring and so on, need to get €301 per month. Not even close to a runner.

And all the talk of auto-enrolment isn’t going to change that either.

The piece itself essentially pushes people towards private pension provision, but there’s an underlying tone that grates throughout given, say average and median wages in this state.

This was meant to be the day… February 20, 2020

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…when Micheál Martin became Taoiseach, presumably the head of a coalition of SDs, GP and sundry others. To me that always seemed a little unlikely given the numbers, but sure, no doubt a man or woman can hope. He would be the first FF Taoiseach of this decade and first FF Taoiseach of just short of a decade. He would ensure that every FF leader was Taoiseach.

Instead… he faces this prospect:

A deal that would lead to a new government being formed may not be finalised until April, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has told his TDs and Senators.

Mr Martin told a meeting of his parliamentary party, on the eve of the first sitting of the 33rd Dáil on Thursday, that it could be two months before a new government is formed.

Since:

Mr Martin, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan are all expected to put their names forward.

And none is expected to be elected, this time out, anyhow. This is going to run and run, most likely.

I4C Dáil group… and other matters. February 20, 2020

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Talk here of efforts to construct independent technical groups – with seemingly two such already in the field.

One group, spearheaded by Tipperary Independent Mattie McGrath, is engaging in government talks.
Another group of Independents, organised by Marian Harkin and Michael Fitzmaurice, is meeting to form a technical group to get greater Dáil speaking time. It is not yet known if this group will then engage in government talks.

Then there’s yet another person ‘considering’ running for Ceann Comhairle – this time the indefatigable Denis Naughten.

The rather loose I4C adjacent technical group lost two members this election – with Maureen O’Sullivan and Tommy Broughan deciding not to stand again. Dean Mulligan came tantalisingly close during the contest but currently there are only three TDs who would fit the bill for a group – those being Joan Collins, Thomas Pringle and Catherine Connolly. So, of the other Independents who could make up the two necessary to form a technical group? Some names are floating around. Any thoughts?

Outsiders? February 19, 2020

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Anyone read Breda O’Brien in the IT at the weekend? In a piece on the election she made some pointed remarks about ‘outsiders’ and the danger of treating people as such. Now in fairness, O’Brien does outline with some clarity the socio-economic reasons that led to the rise in the SF vote. And it is difficult to disagree with her on any of the aspects she raises in that regard. Not least her support for cooperative housing models.

But… for her there is another issue. Hence her framing the piece as follows:

The general election is a story of outsiders who 20 years ago had 2.5 per cent of the vote and one TD. Most of the media in the Republic poured contempt on them.

Is she making a comparison. Sure is!

And half way through the column she swerves somewhat to perhaps predictable terrain.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin thought that by forcing his party in a socially liberal direction it would finally earn the love of young, urban voters. Young, pro-choice women were promoted in every possible constituency. The electorate did not care.
Fianna Fáil forgot a few vital things. Firstly, hardcore liberals would prefer to set themselves on fire and die screaming rather than vote Fianna Fáil. This did not preclude the same liberals from courting and flattering Fianna Fáil as a means to an end.

Secondly, even though Fianna Fáil was busy telling people that the electorate does not vote on single issues such as abortion, it forgot that the people who do vote on single issues are passionate and willing to poster, leaflet and canvass for anyone that represents their values.

She argues FG made ‘the same mistake’. And she points to the fact that while a number of anti-abortion TDs were re-elected, quite a few pro-choice TDs were jettisoned. Again, in fairness she notes:

Many of them topped the poll despite the Sinn Féin tsunami. I wish I could say it was because they were pro-life.
No, it was because they are perceived as hard-working people who care about for their constituents. It is not that the electorate votes only for selfish reasons. Housing and healthcare are basic needs that any worthwhile government should provide.

But then again a number of strong pro-choice TDs also retained their seats – Brid Smith being one amongst them.

However, whatever about the accuracy or not of that thesis I think she is stretching matters in the following when she writes:

Sinn Féin, of all people, should be aware of what happens when people are treated as outsiders or are left out.
This is a lesson for the right-wingers, too, who want to leave out thousands of decent, hard-working immigrants, despite knowing how many Irish people emigrated longing for a welcome in the new country.
Politicians need to think a bit harder before they decide any group in society can safely be made to feel outsiders, unwanted or backwoodsmen. It only took 20 years for Sinn Féin, even with their frightening and murky history of supporting armed struggle, to repay with a vengeance those who sought to keep them outside the gates. Other political movements might not take so long.

There’s an obvious problem with that comparison. For a start SF’s political turn, as it were, was always one which was more broadly based than simple unity – arguing for a leftist approach from the off, albeit fluctuating between where on the dial it actually was positioned. She mentions the ‘right-wing’ but I suspect she is thinking of a point closer to her heart. And it seems to me that again SF is different to – say, an anti-abortion political vehicle gaining speed in quite the same way. Aontu is the closest we have to such a vehicle and one can already see the limitations – without question the retention of the seat is an achievement. But even SF’s precipitous rise hasn’t brought it close to being able to walk into state power, and it remains at a strong but not entirely commanding 25% of the vote. Time and again we have seen that forces that place abortion at the centre of their political practice do not prosper. Only those that adopt it as part of a suite of issues see real gains. Perhaps her message is that FF should restate those credentials. Or perhaps she hopes for something else. But not quite comparing like with like.

Ongoing links to dissident republicanism? February 19, 2020

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Ailbhe Rea on the Guardian podcast said something that really made cough and splutter over my coffee.

Talking about a piece she had written in the New Statesman she suggested that SF in the Republic was for some voters ‘beyond the pale’ which is correct, but she went on to say…

As well as on-going reservations about the party leadership, their links to dissident republicanism, to ex-IRA figures, that mood and that balance…

Huh? What links to dissident republicanism? I suspect it was an error but it’s a loaded one to make.

What you want to say – 19 February 2020 February 19, 2020

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

Labour leadership news! February 18, 2020

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Interesting to see the line up behind the respective candidates for the Labour leadership – for Aodhán Ó Ríordáin nominations from Ged Nash and Ivana Bacik. For Alan Kelly nominations from ‘newly elected TD for Dublin Fingal Duncan Smith and seconded by Cork East TD Seán Sherlock’. How does this end?

Equals? February 18, 2020

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The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost. told an audience in a speech in Brussels:.

“In short, we only want what other independent countries have,” Mr Frost said.

“So if it is true, as we hear from our friends in the Commission and the 27, that the EU wants a durable and sustainable relationship in this highly sensitive area, the only way forward is to build on this approach of a relationship of equals.”

Hmmmm… not sure that’s how, for better or for worse, markets work in these circumstances.

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