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This Week At Irish Election Literature December 9, 2016

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Starting off with Three postcards from a series produced by The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland

A leaflet from Neil Clarke of the Greens from 2004 in Letterkenny. Interestingly his brother was Maze escapee James Pius Clarke.Jim McDaid resigned after greeting him on Court steps when his extradition was turned down. Clarke won the final seat on Letterkenny UDC by a countback, the last two candidates were tied on votes and Clarke won as he got more first prefernecs.

“Fianna Fáil Seasca Bliain Ag Fás” Booklet For Concert To Celebrate 60 Years Of Fianna Fáil

And finally From the mid 1980’s “A Restless Society ..Developing a Sense of Community” a large policy document produced by Young Fine Gael

There’s Noel Limits February 2, 2014

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Noel Whelan on the Saturday Night Show. For some reason the producers had trouble filling one side of the debate so we were left with Susan Phillips – whose liability would count her among the reserves – and Noel, who while a supporter marriage equality was there on a slightly different mission.

Writing in last week’s Irish Times he cautioned that

Homophobia is a horrible word. It is defined as “an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people”. In ordinary usage in the current debate, the term is even harsher. Those who accuse others of being homophobes are not only branding them extremists but also suggesting they hate gay and lesbian people. Given its potency, it is an adjective which, if used at all, should be used sparingly.

and that

I did not see RTÉ Television’s The Saturday Night Show last weekend. I have not seen it since because the relevant segment has been taken off the RTÉ player after libel threats from some of those referred to by the guest,

Had Noel joined the 17,422 people who have watched the re-uploaded clip he would have heard Rory O’Neill say

Homophobia can be very subtle.

Subtle in a way you will not find the dictionary. Subtle in a way you should probably hear before filing your Saturday column. For Noel the word alone is ‘horrible’ and ‘harsh’. While speaking to some other journalists on the matter it occurred to me that ignorance has picked up the same sort of pejorative connotations as homophobia but I digress.

Noel continues

Calling opponents homophobes may bring some level of satisfaction to those who do it and may attract cheers of applause in their own circles and on microblogs in the liberal realm, but it does nothing to advance the cause of debate.

It is also counterproductive in the effort to engage and persuade the mass of the moderate Irish electorate to support and vote for marriage equality. Ill-informed or irrational commentary on this, as on all issues, is best confronted by better-informed and better-articulated counter-argument.

While the argument for bringing people along, letting people have their say has some merit, if rarely occurs, there is something very telling at work here. First, that people shouldn’t tell the truth, their lived truth, in the face of – and because of – other people’s ignorance. Opponents of LGBT rights and the moderate Irish electorate respectively.  Equal marriage is not the time or place to talk about homophobia. We are now to consider self-serving sensitivity and their solicitors in a country where coercion is standard practice at referendum time?

Second, this debate should be won on the perceived ‘better-informed and better-articulated counter-argument’ rather than for the ‘cheers of applause in their own circles and on microblogs in the liberal realm’. One or the other and only the former ‘to advance the cause of debate’, the latter  ‘nothing’.

The last two weeks are of note because the chatter of micro and other blogs have fuelled this issue while print was silent with RTÉ censoring itself and guests. One example being Simon McGarr’s post, with the amplification of Broadsheet.ie, saw John Waters step down from the BAI two days later. (last resignation resulting from a newspaper anyone?)

Twitter over the past week…

homo

…and google trends tell their own story

Aside from the familiar internet anxiety professional commentators have watched the narrative slip if not from their control at least out of the correct boundaries they expect and are expected to lay down. This is not unique but something many of our own political sages have become acutely aware of since 2008.

If you were put yourself in the place of a political columnist or panellist. Career built in the Dáil bar and long election nights. A career built on sources, swings and transfers.  Imagine then watching talk of credit ratings and bond spreads come to dominate. New podcast from the Live Register outlines an eagerness to present the ‘market view’ so much of the blame lies at their own door but it is also instructive that both Pat Leahy and Jim Power bemoaned the perceived distraction of last year’s abortion debate.

Much of this is mirrored in ongoing tensions and indeed column inches within leftism, feminism, anti-racism, LGBT and a number of other struggles. There are considerable differences in opinion, approach and much more but most of the heat generated is masking the most basic questions authority and its efforts to fend off challenges. Influence and power, however subtle or perceived, adjusting to a new atmosphere. Protecting its interest.

It can be the Iona Institute and dissent from their idea of family
Newspapers and those angry people on the internet
Marxists and those angry women
Feminists and those angry women of colour

That Whelan and Breda O’Brien’s son – the only straight men to contribute – were pointing to some other real  homophobia in the distance suggests the “readiness” condemned last Saturday reflects these voices are either only now being heard or getting harder to ignore.

In particular though Whelan’s attitude underlines something routinely confined by professional commentators to that moderate Irish electorate. A desire to avoid the issue we are actually voting on.

More on welfare January 4, 2014

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Richard has an important post today on the ‘welcome news’ for Joan Burton and an Ireland ‘happy to embrace a new culture of grassing on their neighbours’. Yes the fantasy world of reports received and estimated control savings.

The alleged rise in civic duty is but a reflection of our compliant press, if only they were as critical. In addition to Richard’s post, below is chart mapping mentions of “welfare fraud” in the Irish Times since the year 2000.

wfsIT

This is without context of course but rarely are the words uttered in benign circumstances, negligible across twelve years in Tara Street. Things were stable enough during the good times, Bertie kept us honest. The sudden outbreak of scams and laziness only really kicked in when the exchequer found Sean Fitzpatrick hiding in the attic.

I don’t have proper figures for the rest of Joan Burton’s tenure but the trend is 2010 & 2011 catching up with the entire ten years previous.

There was one jump there in 2004, a mysterious spike in May and June before stopping dead once the Citizenship Referendum had passed. For every other year just check when the budget was and count backwards. 

The year in guff 2013 December 23, 2013

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Following last year’s round up, we turn again to the realm of political blather – and it’s like we never left. A five month abortion debate, social media panic and the near overthrow of democracy in October counts 2013 as a bonanza year for spurious hooey. A personal favourite was Senator Healy Eames’ contention that women will soon be travelling to Ireland for terminations, likewise this post could have been composed entirely of conflicting lines from Eilis O’Hanlon. The weight of waffle was overwhelming at times so further suggestions welcome in the comments.

 Companies in Ireland pay close to the correct amount of tax

– Eamon Gilmore

Has President Berlusconi been known to be misogynistic in the past ?

– asks Mary Wilson 

In short, [Clare Daly] has the kind of strong, handsome face that appeals to a wider male constituency than the hard left.

– Eoghan Harris never short of sharp analysis

Like a lot of people, I underestimated Enda Kenny, he’s been nothing short of a phenomenon

– Simon Coveney

Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror

– Barack Obama

I would like to thank the Four Seasons Hotel.

-Nora Owen and Judge Judy conclude a lengthy unemployed bashing interview

The country breathed a collective sigh of relief as the electricity outage strike was called off.

–  no shortage of balance RTÉ News

oppression haters

–  John McGuirk identifies the real enemy

Finest police work anyone has ever seen in the world at any time

– Boston bombing coverage was hard going at times

Twitter is the Seanad of the people

– Dominic Hannigan

Enda Kenny has been the number one promoter of abortion in Ireland

– Spokesperson for Boston based ‘Students for Life’ on RTÉ News.

It exclusively extolled left-of-centre thinkers, including some quite extreme figures. All non-leftists mentioned were implicitly traduced. Worst of all, it excluded the majority who occupy the middle ground and who carry little or no ideological baggage.

– Dan O’Brien and the tiresome name-calling of the reactionary left.

Hook: Have you been watching Mario Rosenstock?

Vincent Browne: I have yeah.

Hook: What do you think of his impression of me?

hhh

It is a bit late at night for conspiracy theories

– Noonan dismisses speculation during the IBRC liquidation or a plan later revealed to be called ‘Project Red’

The decision of the trade unions is one that they have made

– an awkward order of business for an Taoiseash as Croke Park II results came in

The conclusions of the report are the conclusion of the the report and the report concludes..

– Pat Rabbitte spending too much time with An Taoiseach

It is the politics of class warfare which I hoped was long forgotten.

– Shane Ross enjoyed the 1913 centenary

In every battle, there are deserters and we have had a few

– former left wing politician Eamon Gilmore

I would always have been comfortable with the label of pro-choice but never have had to define that or reason it out for myself

– Colm Keavney

It sounds like someone got carried away while designing the website

Bill O’Herlihy definitely not advising Government and the tobacco industry

I have just come from another heavy day spent reducing the living standards of the Irish people.

– Pat Rabbitte

Sinn Féin does a huge disservice to socialism and the great socialist leaders and thinkers of Ireland’s past with its exercise today.

– Comrade Damien English defends the property tax

I think people underestimate the steel, determination and patriotism of Labour parliamentary party members.

Brendan Howlin

A very capable Minister, but also visionary European

– Noonan popular with EPP adviser Siegfried Muresan

Ruairi Quinn wants a communist state in Ireland

Deputy Tom Barry on efforts to eh, further remove state involvement in funding education

Let’s be truly liberal and stand against this illiberal culture.

– sadly Gay Mitchell’s intervention came too late for the abortion debate

Delighted to see NNI finally doing something to protect newspapers’ intellectual property. That principle more is important than the detail

– The Irish Times Health Correspondent Paul Cullen and ‘the detail’ being Irish newspapers threatening domestic violence charities while trying to undo the internet

It’s time politicians stood up and said they’re not afraid any more

– Minister Rabbitte on arrival of social media

It will take a great deal more than the expenditure of hot air and windy rhetoric in basketball arenas to achieve a successful outcome in this battle

– SIPTU statement during the Croke Park waltz

Standard of TD is higher because of dynasties

– according to third generation Deputy Dara Calleary

I believe that we will one day read in the history books about this period that the crisis brought Europe even closer together, the continent is currently enjoying a very fortunate era.

– German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

If this is the backwoods, I’m glad we’re in it

– Edwin Poots and the Stormont abortion debate in a nutshell

We have also reduced the cost of borrowing to the State. This is probably the greatest saving of all. One only had to read the report on the front page of the Irish Independent

– strictly reliable data from Deputy Martin Heydon

We pray for courage – the kind of courage that is needed to look the truth in the eye and to call it as it is, without yielding to self-deception or bowing to convenient compromise, scrupulously avoiding ambiguous language which cloaks the true horror of the situation and reduces its seriousness in public.

– Cardinal Sean Brady

A word from James Connolly November 14, 2013

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…and the Party he founded

Today’s announcement that Ireland will make a clean break from the bailout without a precautionary credit line vindicates the role the Labour Party has played in Government.

Though if you replace ‘England’ with ‘IMF’ you see James Connolly wrote about exiting the in 1897

If you remove the IMF tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.

The IMF would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.

The IMF would still rule you to your ruin, even while your lips offered hypocritical homage at the shrine of that Freedom whose cause you had betrayed.

Nationalism without Socialism – without a reorganisation of society on the basis of a broader and more developed form of that common property which underlay the social structure of Ancient Erin – is only national recreancy.

It would be tantamount to a public declaration that our oppressors had so far succeeded in inoculating us with their perverted conceptions of justice and morality that we had finally decided to accept those conceptions as our own, and no longer needed an alien army to force them upon us.

As a Socialist I am prepared to do all one man can do to achieve for our motherland her rightful heritage – independence; but if you ask me to abate one jot or tittle of the claims of social justice, in order to conciliate the privileged classes, then I must decline.

Such action would be neither honourable nor feasible. Let us never forget that he never reaches Heaven who marches thither in the company of the Devil.

Howlin’s betrayal November 8, 2013

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Just pulling this out of the open thread for discussion

Gavin Sheridan today writes

We’ve had sight of new amendments to the FOI Bill 2013 proposed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

We will be blunt: if passed, Freedom of Information is dead.

TheStory.ie will, in all likelihood, cease all FOI requests. And we will not seek funding from the public to support an immoral, cynical, unjustified and probably illegal FOI fee regime. We will not pay for information that the public already pays for. We will not support a system that perpetuates an outrageous infringement of citizen rights. The legislation was gutted in 2003 and it is being gutted again. More generally the number of requests from journalists from all news organisations in Ireland will fall as a result of these amendments, and the resulting efforts to shine a light on the administration of the State will certainly deteriorate.

And secrecy will prevail.

You may remember the Program for Government

We will legislate to restore the Freedom of Information Act to what it was before it was underined by the outgoing Government, and we will extend its remit to other public bodies including the administrative side of the Garda Síochána, subject to security exceptions.

Which is strikingly similar to Brendan Howlin’s own comments on publication in July or indeed the Labour Party manifesto

Labour will restore the Freedom of Information Act so that it is as comprehensive as was originally intended. The fee structure for Freedom of Information requests will be reformed so that cost does not discourage individuals and organisations from seeking information, and the remit of the Freedom of Information and the Ombudsman Acts will be extended to the Garda Síochána,the Central Bank and other bodies significantly funded from the public purse, that are currently excluded.

Back to Gavin Sheridan

Today we had a look at new amendments Department of Public Expenditure and Reform  proposes to make to the Bill. They are nothing short of staggering. In some ways we are going so far back that we might as well not have an FOI Act in the first place.

[…]

This provision kills all requests containing a request for more than one record from more than one division within a public authority. It’s also a proxy fee increase. If you ask for four things from different divisions of the same body, your request fee jumps from €15 to €60. This would kill most requests this blog has ever sent. It would also kill most requests by journalists who are trying to maximise the amount of information they can get for the unjustified €15 fee in the first place. The €15 fee created multifaceted requests.

Any Irish citizen can obtain FOI from the United States or indeed Her Majesty’s government free of charge fwi

This provision basically means that you can be charged anything for, well, anything. It gives discretion to officials to charge for moving a mouse or typing on a keyboard. If a public body wishes it, this will kill most FOI requests.

Is this the end of FOI in Ireland, should these amendments pass? Effectively, yes.

And why, you might ask, are all these new and significant amendments appearing now, just before Committee Stage? A cynic would suggest these changes were well considered in advance and are being introduced at the end of the process in order to sneak them in. But we’re not cynical, are we?

As government gush about IMF goodbyes nothing so clearly underlines that Troika or no Troika, an Irish politician has always been behind the most vindictive decisions.

The Disappeared of convenience November 6, 2013

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Darragh MacIntyre’s documentary is available on RTÉ Player here.

Included was one clip from An Taoiseach in the Dáil

Deputy Gerry Adams has made the charge; he should now cut out the waffle and engage in some straight talking. Perhaps some day he might tell the truth about the tragedy, the remorse and the compassion that should have been shown to Jean McConville.

Obviously TV time constraints prevent full showing of the exchange but how many would have known Enda Kenny was dodging questions about the diminishing respite care grant?

Likewise this from Eamon Gilmore

How many bodies are buried on this island because of Sinn Féin?

That was in response to Mary Lou McDonald and the question of primary care. Or more precisely that was Eamon Gilmore using the still missing sons and daughters to evade the issue of James Reilly speaking to NAMA before a site in the Minister’s constituency, owned by member of Fine Gael, was selected by criteria which remains as elusive as the truth from Gerry Adams. Phew

You would be surprised just how much Jean McConville and others feature in Dáil exchanges, particularly after a budget. What wont be surprising is how removed the routine frontbench deflection & backbench sniping is from scenes on Monday night. Like a mother awake with years in her eyes and visions of her son crying while looking into a hole.

Other people’s sleepless nights are irrelevant when your political career to date suggests you are probably incapable of them but on it goes. When not cowering behind the dead we are inundated with experts on Northern Ireland and the eager backbencher who’s interest so transparently ends wherever the ammunition stops. There was a voxpop on Drivetime earlier this year in which most people on the street didn’t know who Brendan Howlin was. One wonders if many scholars of cross boarder welfare rates could identify Simon Hamilton or Nelson McCausland. They know who Iain Duncan Smith is. Only a fool would pretend Sinn Féin and the NI Executive have anything approaching the powers or flexibility available even still to IMF captured government in Dublin.

I have beaten this drumbefore but the gushing and concern since Monday night is difficult to swallow from people whose conception every other day resembles BBC weather.

The only thing worse than being rose tinted about Sinn Féin is those who see that bit floating off the coast of Britain only as a rod to beat them. Search for ‘Northern Ireland’ on Independent.ie results in pages of Martin O’Neill, Gerry Adams and Rory Mcllroy. No news.  Fianna Fáil since inception have spent their stints in opposition dusting the republican rhetoric and no different now is Micheál Martin’s interest in the north all about cowboy and indian politics in the south.

Meanwhile coverage of Anne Cadwallader’s book was very much presented as an uncomfortable and collective problem to be dealt with as part of the process.

Those reassuring us of Gerry Adams unacceptability are the same aware of his inevitability. Careful to always frame these observations as benevolent advice in the interest of Sinn Féin. Terrified of a country where McGuinness took 243,030 first preferences. Adams was elected on the first count after our wisest sages predicted a struggle. Hard man Dermot Ahern didn’t hang around to be beaten. The same so loudly appalled at this island’s history barely blink as the names of IRA victims are kicked around for want of an excuse.

Nothing underlines the cheap dishonesty more than contrast when the peace process is actually on the agenda. Enda, Micheál and Gerry sit alone in the chamber. There is an atmosphere of sobriety and collective purpose not seen on any other issue in Irish politics and certainly not in Dáil Éireann. It even verges on respect at times. No one is under illusions about the present situation, never mind the past and yet.

The day Enda Kenny gets the truth from Gerry Adams is the day Enda Kenny needs a new excuse and if Northern Ireland only exists to beat Sinn Féin would it exist at all without them?

Bad attitudes October 17, 2013

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After two and half years of denigrating youth and unemployed, in rhetoric and action, the latest is upbraiding the opposition for their attitude while virtue flows from caring, pro-active and most importantly, deeply offended ministers.

An Taoiseach yesterday

Like everybody else, I regard the young people of this country as its future. The Deputy, however, seems to want to confine them to the dole queues and not give them the opportunity to get off the live register or dole queues and take the opportunity to be trained, mentored, attend further education or find a job or to incentivise them to do this. I do not accept her assertion in this regard.

How dare she insult their intelligence and motivation? How dare she insult their right to go and have a job? How dare she, with her Sinn Féin antics, want to confine our young people to dole queues in perpetuity – to give them taxpayers’ money and confine them to the dole queues?

Confined you know?  And by the opposition too

But back to this “insult” to “intelligence and motivation”.  Mild exposure to…

header copy

…well,  anything regularly fed to a keen press would leave you with different impression of Government attitudes to the 407, 000 people on the live register and their lifestyle choice.

Joan Burton this evening delivered a master-defence the indefensible. No transcript online yet (more anon) but her leadership of the Irish Labour is all but assured

flashback October 16, 2013

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That time Micheál Martin voted to cut the over70s medical card

AN estimated 15,000 pensioners protested outside Leinster House yesterday

During the hour-long protest, former Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins drew one of the loudest cheers with his accusation that the Government had bailed out the banks at the expense of the pensioners.

“The bankers escaped in a limousine being paid for by you and me with the Minister for Finance at the wheel, and the Taoiseach directing traffic,” he shouted.

Cheered

“And in their haste to escape, when they saw the pensioners, instead of throwing some of the billions of loot out the window, they drove right through them and snatched their medical cards as they went,” he said.

There were cries of “Where’s Enda” as Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny made a delayed appearance on the platform. But he was cheered by the crowd when he said the €30m the Government was trying to save on the medical card scheme was only “half the amount spent on those bloody electronic voting machines”.

“We are opposed to their decision, we will speak for you tonight and we will vote for you tonight,” he added.

Mr Kenny also dropped a hint that he wants to revive last year’s electoral alliance, saying that his party would be campaigning for universal medical cards for all over-70s “backed by the Labour Party”.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore warned that more Government cuts to free services were in the pipeline.

“When they are finished with the pensioners, they will move on to the children. And when they are finished with them, they will move on to other universal services such as water,” he said.

Fancy that

Fate of the Seanad October 3, 2013

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To think we have squandered seventy six years when – with a few minor adjustments – Seanad Éireann could have delivered such gains for scrutiny, equality, diaspora, accountability, diversity, diaspora,  united Ireland, economic recovery, diaspora…and still.

Who knew that the upper house is all that stands between us and a tide of totalitarian terror. The most Irish of ‘grubby power grabs’ grasps at a chamber with no power and less influence.

Remember the 1930s they say. Yes, over dependence on the market and weight of punitive debt. Well no, the reality is we have no alternative there however when faced redundancy the political class and aspiring squatters are only bursting with creative ideas.

On one side we find Enda ‘FG Taoiseach & dynasty TD of 38 years’ Kenny taking on Ireland’s political establishment.

On the other it’s Michael ‘Centre for Public Inquiry’ McDowell carping about checks and accountability.

Rarely have we seen an issue divide such strange camps and both have lifted the lid on themselves for the most part. I never knew former Senators and presumably all Oireachtas members are entitled to free parking for life at Leinster House. Central Dublin. Are these the cosseted sectors Eoghan Harris so bravely eviscerates in defence of the coping classes?

Interesting here is the claim of both sides to target the elite. Tom McGurk early on told us to “thwart the politicians” (a majority of whom are on his side…) while Alan Dukes calls out the insiders. That each see themselves looking back is revealing.

Seanad Éireann has been an unrivalled example of the who-you-know law of public life and neither side, however well intentioned, are in a rush to alter that mutual benefit. We can open, not close it but who is codding who about the door remaining manned? The All-Party patronage machine? Anyone with an informed & honest view of how parties operate?

Towards the lower end of this greasy poll we find the kind of cross party alliance seen during every EU treaty, steady the ship. Embedded journalists, the party youth,  USI and the cult of conservative careerism where democracy matters and usually ends at the gate of Leinster House. An earnest campaign for more diverse voices and more Enda Kenny on television. Politicians as we’ve seen over the past few weeks are prone to confuse themselves with politics and what’s is good for politicians sets the terms & limit of any political reform.

Perhaps the most nauseating exchanges at this year’s MacGill summer school was the issue of Fintan O’Toole’s aborted Dáil run. The theme? Building a Decentralised, Participatory and Accountable Republic. The reality? When not airing perceived slights of the Irish Times we were treated to several long winded and damaged egos from the floor making an ultimate virtue of running for office. Eamon Ryan we were told by one speaker and his decision to stay in politics was a vote of confidence the republic. This is the high politics of a campaign where bicameralism was twice described as a ‘buzzword’ on RTÉ.

Much of this was underlined with the assumption that the presence of two chambers in Leinster House automatically equals the kind of oversight which comes with bicameralism but it goes some way towards highlighting the kind of illusion parliamentary democracy has come to uphold across much of the world.  Susan Watkins in the LRB recently set out the lay of the land in the EU and that in itself points to a lot of issues we have barely started to grapple with. There is not a house of parliament which would stop and indeed many on both sides of the debate would welcome a Monti style appointment should we get carried away. This and many of the instincts we ourselves have felt over the past few years puts the recent weeks of technocrat scare in a ha’penny place.

Most of the warnings I’ve seen feature departed horses and the problems originate at home and long before the Troika. The illusion is here again and the decision on Friday is the question of one captured chamber or two. Most of what lands on the statute is the result of power games played outside Leinster House but that’s another post.

To take that scintilla of decision making conducted in public. Much consternation raised about the guillotine is nothing more than opposition noise. The days of parliamentary deliberations changing minds are long gone if they ever existed so what’s the fuss about guillotine. We’re unlikely to ever see as much time given to what the abortion bill received and that was hammered out behind scenes before grinding through the Oireachtas unchanged. The alternatives are far more radical than we are likely to see and what’s left is talk.

Fianna Fáil are finding opposition very difficult because they know exactly how the game works and how powerless it leaves them. Brian Lenihan Snr once advised Seán Doherty that only place you can get away with a lie was inside Dáil Éireann and they don’t need much reflection to know that is what they are up against.

Then we have the Economic Management Council. A cabinet committee that this campaign has at least put on the map to some degree. The root of public awareness is of course resentment from Ministers outside. I don’t think I am alone in thinking, like a promoted backbencher, their concern would quickly evaporate in a change of circumstances. The EMC is useful though. Like the IFSC Clearing House Group it provides a rare glimpse of honesty. You can have all the watchdogs and dissenting voices in parliament but the State’s top civil servants sit with global finance under the Deparment of Taoiseach. There is it.

Contrary to this is the strain of thought distilled here by Una Mullaly

What reforming the Seanad does offer is a brilliant opportunity to make a political forum that looks like Ireland, that gives a voice to every sector of Irish society – not just the political elite, and that increases and encourages smart political discourse about all of the issues that impact us, particularly social issues. I think that’s a really exciting prospect.

A reformed Seanad should give representation to our new Irish communities, to people from Northern Ireland, and graduates of all universities – and as a graduate of DCU, this is something I’m particularly into! Also enacting a gender balance with equal numbers of men and women elected from vocational constituencies,

The question evaded here and many a fantastical desire is what about Dáil Éireann? What about the cabinet table? Indeed what about cabinet committees.  The radical defence of democracy too often looks like the goal of ghettoising diverse, expert and representative voices into the Seanad while the cabinet table rotates between the civil war parties. Aspiration without ambition and most worryingly conservatism in the cloak of reform as our forum that looks like Ireland acts as a release valve for lack of real change in power.

We’ve heard the same four or five ‘good’ Senators name dropped repeatedly and mostly by people who opposed them at every turn. Twenty four Seanads in seventy six years electing sixty each time and we’re left with a handful who’s battles took place elsewhere. Is this argument for retention of Seanad Éireann or abolishment of political parties?

A measure of appetite for ‘real reform’ is reflected in the FOI Bill published during the summer while the big news in politics was Alan Shatter’s book. In FOI there is potential to tick many of the democratic boxes currently dangled before us. The press tend not to bark too much, trading in sources close to the minister as they do. While the issue will be lucky to register with many of the watchdog millenarians currently consumed with a twenty million or not saving.

I don’t doubt a genuine desire for whatever better politics looks like and well founded opposition to skinning part of the Oireachtas but equally I don’t believe you and I will miss it when the dust settles. Watching school tours fall asleep in the gallery behind David Norris has been the highlight for some time. If anything it is organised politics who face the internal tension of Dáil rebels, a Seanad with nothing to lose, abolished town councils, gender quotas, boundary changes, seat reductions and local election fall out. Severing another limb off the beast will cause no harm and surely greater competition can only bring more efficiency eh.

A quote attributed to Napoleon goes something like “when the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him”. That is not to be taken as some sort of nihilist accelerationism but I do believe the hubris of this crisis often has power showing it’s face just enough for people to stop believing in it. Improvement in identifying it would suffice and peeling back another layer of the rancid onion will help.

We can save democracy and continue the illusion on Friday, extend and pretend but come Monday your radio will buzz with budget, bye bye bailout and back under the market’s boot.

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