Irish Rejection of Seanad Abolition is a National Disgrace

The defeat of the proposal to abolish the powerless Seanad House in the recent Referendum in Ireland is a damning indictment of the Irish people.

Seanad Referendum Result in Ireland

The Seanad House is the upper house of the Irish parliament. It cannot prevent legislation from Dail Eireann (the main parliament) being enacted and has for decades been used as a way to bail out failed politicians and to reward public figures who supported the Government of the time.

It is not accountable to the Irish electorate with many members of the Seanad either being appointed by University Graduates or directly by the Government of the time. Members of the Seanad enjoy huge financial benefits at the expense of the public and have no real power or function.

It should have been an easy decision therefore, to abolish the Seanad. All of the signs pointed to an easy victory for the abolitionists. An opinion poll just a few days before the vote indicated 62% of those in favour of the proposal and in the few intervening days nothing of any real substance happened. There were no major developments, no game-changing revelations.

How then was the proposal defeated by just under 52% to 48%? What is the reason for a 14 percentage points swing in only a few days when nothing significant occurred?

The answer is both simple and depressing: The Irish people did not vote.

The Constitution of a country is mostly regarded as a sacred thing.
In some countries.
But clearly not in Ireland.

With a turnout of only 39% of the approximately 3.15 Million eligible voters only 1.23 Million voted. Those who won the referendum amounted to 0.63 Million. Just over 623,000 voters decided the fate of the Irish Constitution. The population of Ireland is approximately 4.6 Million.

So where is the disgrace? A lot of people are just not interested in politics. Many are too worried about paying their bills.

By comparison European countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Germany regularly have huge voter engagement compared to Ireland. Foreign Reporters who visit Ireland look on in amazement at the utter lack of interest shown by the citizens here. The country is on its knees financially and here was a perfect opportunity to save countless millions of euro over the coming years by greatly reducing the number of politicians in that rarest of events – an example of real political reform.

What did the Irish people do?

1. They did not vote.
2. Some of those that did vote used their ballot as a protest against Government policies.
3. Those that stood to gain from the retention of the Seanad enthusiastically campaigned in their own self-interest.
4. Some political parties (Fianna Fail in particular) cynically used the Referendum as an opportunity to give the Government a thumping. More self interest.

The biggest reason though is the first listed above. The Irish people have long since lost any right to complain or protest. You get the Government you vote for and the life you settle for. If you are not wiling to vote then you have lost any right to complain. You need to shut up.

Those pictures of lottery winners that regularly adorn the tabloid newspapers could today easily be replicated with pictures of the Seanad members after the Referendum votes were counted. They Have won the lottery and at our expense.

What do the Irish people do?
They sit in their bars drinking their pints, watching the football.
They moan and grumble about the latest round of austerity taxation.
They drink their bottles of wine while watching their soap operas on television.

While the well-heeled elite from the Universities and professional classes laugh at them for their ignorance and stupidity (and then count up the allowances and pensions they can parasitically squeeze from our system of Government) the Irish…… down another pint. And complain.

The upcoming 1916 anniversary of the Easter Rising should be cancelled immediately. The Republic for which those men and women fought is dead.

There are countries in this world that are today fighting and suffering to get the freedom and democracy we Irish so take for granted.

We are a disgrace.

by Michael Green
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Labour Party Exile May Form New Political Party

Speculation is mounting that a new left-wing political Party may be formed in Ireland.

The Labour Party are currently in a Coalition Government with Fine Gael that has effectively continued the policies of the Fianna Fail Party that it ousted at the last election. It is this position that has seen support for the Labour Party plummet in recent opinion polls.

Labour is supposed to be the Party representative of the working classes and yet has supported the imposition of a property tax as well as the never-ending austerity measures. Against this backdrop the possibility of a new Party with a socialist backbone is very much alive.

Roisin Shortall was a Junior Minister in the Government but resigned her position after further cuts to the Irish Health Service were implemented. She is very much a thorn in the side of the Labour Party leadership at the moment and could align with similar left-of-centre independent T.D.’s to form a new Party that would directly challenge her former colleagues.

by Michael Green
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Calls For End To Austerity As Ireland Plunges Back Into Recession

Those commentators who have been critical of the overuse of austerity policies in Ireland are claiming that Ireland’s plunge back into recession is proof of their views.

A 'People Before Profit' March Protesting Irish Government Policies

Since 2008 the Irish economy has been battered by international forces beyond its control in addition to massive self-inflicted damage caused by a property market bubble and the near collapse of the Irish banking system.

The effects were far-reaching. Unemployment stands at 13.7%, public services have been slashed, bitter wrangling continues between the Government and its own employees in the Civil and Public services. Emigration has soared to Famine-era levels while those left behind have been burdened with extra taxes and levels of debt that will take decades to pay off.

Ireland re-entered recession in the final quarter of last year and with ‘negative growth’ prevailing it seems that the austerity and tax increases have dampened any possibility of a domestic recovery. The Property Tax did not help either. Demanded as a condition of loans granted to Ireland by the EU/IMF/ECB the Property Tax was almost gleefully imposed by the Fine Gael Government who clearly see it as an easy way to bring in finance. Political cover was provided by the European ‘troika’ who could be blamed for demanding its imposition – ‘it wasn’t us – its them!’ Job done.

Chart showing the financial effect on Ireland of the economic crash

The uncertainty caused by the Property Tax, the fear of its impact and the never-ending burden of yet more taxation certainly played a huge part in dragging the country down again.

Ireland is also more exposed to events outside its borders than most other countries. As an island nation the most basic raw materials must be imported, raising costs. Exports to Britain, Europe and beyond have to be expensively transported, raising costs. Any change in the value of the Sterling and US Dollar currencies can lay waste to the best laid of export plans in the space of a few hours, again raising costs.

Even bad weather can effect the Irish economy, especially domestic spending, further depressing a beaten-down population who retreat to their ‘mortgaged to the hilt’ apartments in semi-derelict half-built housing estates to ponder the future – ‘I wonder if Australia is still looking for electricians?’.

Maybe this is the bottom of the trough?

Domestic spending looks to be improving now that the Property Tax shock is pretty much out of the way. Anecdotal evidence of a recovery in both the construction market and the property market have been borne out by recent numbers. Major road projects are being undertaken for the first time since the economic crash in 2008, a sure sign that things are about to improve. The South County Dublin section of the Dublin property market has actually seen a 12% increase in prices in the first 6 months of 2013 according to Irish property website Daft.ie, with an overall rise of 5.3% in Dublin prices over the last year.

Hot stuff. And even the weather has improved!

So despite the economic woes there does appear to be grounds for optimism. This is year five of the greatest economic crash in the history of the country. Being well positioned to catch a ride on the global economic upturn that will inevitably come must surely be the current Government’s major priority, as well as its best bet for being re-elected.

by Michael Green
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Rebellion in Labour Party Might Suit Fine Gael

The Irish Government Coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party looks very unlikely to run its full term despite the insistence of the two Party leaders.



Rarely has a Political Party leader looked in so much peril of removal as does Eamon Gilmore at this moment. To the despair of his Labour Party colleagues it is their Party who are taking the lions’s share of the blame for the never-ending austerity measures that the current Government is imposing.

Never mind the fact that the policies now being implemented were first started by the previous Fianna Fail administration. Never mind the fact that Fine Gael is the largest Party in Dail Eireann (Irish Parliament) and should shoulder most of the blame. The electorate has focused most of its ire on the Labour Party who seem to have abandoned just about every one of the core values for which it once stood.

It must seem amazing to Fianna Fail supporters and Fine Gael supporters alike that the Labour Party, that which is supposed to represent the interests of the working classes and unemployed, the poorest and the down-trodden, could be part of a Government that has introduced such savage and wide-ranging cuts in public services and incredible increases in taxation.

That the Labour Party supports the introduction of a Property Tax will probably be the final nail in its coffin. Of course both Fine Gael and Labour claim that they have no choice with the Property Tax and that they must introduce the tax as part of the EU/IMF/ECB loans to keep the country going. If that does not work then they will point to Fianna Fail and blame them for all of the austerity being foisted on the hapless Irish public.

This tactic worked for a while but has now worn very thin. Fianna Fail has bounced back in the polls while the Labour Party has plunged downwards. The Party has now lost 5 T.D.’s (members of the Irish parliament), all of whom have left in disgust at the direction the Party is heading. MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Nessa Childers is the latest member to resign from Labour’s Parliamentary Party. The Labour Party candidate in the recent Meath by-election did not get even enough votes to secure the return of his election deposit! There is a public perception that the Labour Party leadership has sold out and the Party seems set to implode with rebellious factions fighting each other.

But does this suit Fine Gael?



The Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has repeated his assertion that there will be no renegotiation of the ‘Programme for Government’ and that there will be no substantial reshuffle of his Cabinet. He is basically giving Labour no wriggle room whatsoever at precisely the moment when they are taking the flak for the severe policies the Fine Gael Government are implementing. That is pretty useful political cover!

If Labour left Government, as they must surely do in advance of any General Election, then Fine Gael would still have enough support to carry on, and, even if it did not, it could cut the smaller Party loose while attacking the policies of Fianna Fail and then the policies of their previous coalition partners.

A Fine Gael unencumbered and untainted by a link to a faltering Labour Party would certainly look more attractive to the Irish electorate than the current coalition Government does. Fine Gael will find a way to ditch Labour unless, as seems likely, Labour does it to itself.

The Labour Party is heading towards utter decimation.

by Michael Green
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Further Fianna Fail Poll Surge Is The Low-Mark Of Irish Despondency

The ruling Fianna Fail Party was trounced in the 2011 election. At 17% of the vote they seemed to be on the very edge of oblivion. Fine Gael and Labour had brushed them aside, bolted into power on a wave of optimism about ‘real change’ and ‘burning the bond-holders’ (a reference to not paying back bank loans to unsecured bond-holders in Europe).

For a while it seemed that there might actually be some a change in direction. But alas it is now clear that the current Government has merely assimilated the trappings of power worn with such gusto by Fianna Fail, and in fact is implementing much of the previous Government’s policies.

It is difficult now to see any real difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael from a policy standing. The historical civil-war divide between the two parties is now all but irrelevant. Fine Gael have made very few changes to the deal struck with the EU/IMF/ECB troika who are lending Ireland huge sums of money in order to pay back German and French banks (and at a nice interest rate). Even the renegotiation of the Irish Promissory Note Deal is but a scratch on the surface of the mountain of debt facing the country. Heralded as a triumph it actually increases the amount of debt Ireland owes!

The Irish electorate is facing a scenario where there are two big Parties occupying the moderate central section of the Irish political landscape (Fine Gael, Fianna Fail) while the Labour Party vainly attempts to brand itself as the party of the left wing, a space now dominated by Sinn Fein and the Socialist Party. Rumours abound that the vacancy for a more right-of-centre Party may about to be filled with the establishment of a new ‘Progressive Democrats’ style of Party, but it has not happened yet.

The most recent opinion poll shows that Fianna Fail are now the best supported Party in the country at 27% compared to Fine Gael on 25%, 20% for Sinn Fein and Labour at 13%.

How could this happen?

How could the Party that was in Government while the Irish economy imploded be a mere two years later regarded as the best bet to lead Ireland to recovery?

Perhaps it is a sign that the current Government has failed or that the prospect of Sinn Fein in power is just too much for some people. Perhaps it is the disgust with the Labour Party being expressed so openly now by even some of its own membership. Perhaps it is the now five years of austerity and hardship that has been imposed on a relatively docile Irish citizenry by its masters in Government.

Perhaps it is a combination of all of the above – or is it that such are the depths of Irish despondency and cynicism with the Irish body politic that people will now vote for anyone just to get some real change.

Anyone.

Even Fianna Fail.

by Michael Green
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Irish Constitution to be Changed in Radical Shake-Up

A ‘Convention on the Constitution’ Committee is meeting to make several recommendations to the Government so that the Irish Constitution can be changed.



The Committee is made up of 66 members of the Irish public, chosen by random, with 33 politicians from various political parties and a chairman making up the 100 strong group. The first order of business they faced was whether to leave the voting age at 18 years or to lower it to 17 or 16 years. They may also vote on reducing the term of the Presidential office from 7 years to 5 years. As many as 8 constitutional amendments will be considered by the Convention including:

  • A review of the Dail Eireann (Irish Parliament) voting system
  • Giving Irish residents outside of Ireland the right to vote in Presidential elections
  • An amendment relating to same-sex marriage
  • An amendment regarding the role of women in the home
  • An amendment increasing the participation of women in politics
  • An amendment to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution

Any actual changes to the Irish Constitution must be approved in a national referendum.

The work of the group represents a unique opportunity for the citizens of Ireland to have a real say in the most important of Irish legal documents. Unionist parties in Ulster were invited by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to participate in the work but declined. Sinn Fein and several other Ulster parties are represented however.

Recent opinion polls suggest that the Irish people are in favour of the abolition of the Seanad (lower house of Parliament), legalising same-sex marriage, and allowing Irish citizens abroad the right to vote in Presidential elections.

by Michael Green
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Increase in Support for Fianna Fail as Government Parties Suffer

A recent opinion poll of Irish voters has shown a further increase in support for Fianna Fail. The party that has been blamed for the current economic downturn was pummeled in the last General Election but is now beginning to show signs of recovery.

Perhaps part of the reason for Fianna Fail’s rebound is the failure of Fine Gael to introduce a ‘new kind of politics’ as they promised. At the last General Election Enda Kenny’s party asked Fianna Fail supporters to ‘lend us your vote’ while they got the country back on track. Many voters did and it seems are now regretting their decision.

The poll showed Fine Gael at 29%, down 7% since the 2011 election. Fianna Fail are next at 21%, up 4% since election day. The vote for Sinn Fein is very volatile and they are currently at 16%, up by 6% from the last election. The biggest loser is the Labour Party who look certain to be severely punished for their collusion in introducing austerity budgets and a national property tax. They are currently on 13%, down by 6% since the election.

Of course it is difficult to say just how much of the Fianna Fail support is just a protest at the current government. What remains a real possibility though is that the party could at least hope to return to government in the next election, especially given the difficulties faced by the Labour Party.

A year ago that seemed like a fanciful thought.

Flag Protests Continue in Ulster

The demonstrations by Ulster Unionists over the Union Jack Flag controversy have continued with no end in sight.

The protests were sparked by the recent decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the number of days that the British Union Jack flag would be flown above Belfast City Hall from 365 days to 17. Increasingly violent protests have been taking place with Belfast business owners despairing at the loss of revenue and warning of possible job losses.

Unionist protesters are even planning to demonstrate outside the Irish parliament building (DailĀ Eireann) in an event that is certain to be met with opposition by Dublin nationalists.

There is a very real concern that the protests in Ulster have been hi-jacked by paramilitary factions seeking to promote their own agenda. A confrontation with similar Dublin-based factions would result in a big problem for local law enforcement.

Trouble Continues in Ulster Over Flag Restrictions

The decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the number of days that the British Union Jack flag can be flown above Belfast City Hall from 365 days to 17 has been greeted with an escalating amount of violent protest in Belfast and beyond.

At least 27 police officers have so far been injured in the violence that has followed several protests by loyalists who oppose the decision. Bricks and petrol bombs have been thrown at security forces, cars burned and death threats made to Councillors.

Despite appeals by the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson,himself a loyalist, for the violence to cease, it has been reported that loyalist paramilitary influence may be driving the protests.

The violence has coincided with the visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was warmly greeted by both Peter Robinson and his SinnĀ Fein counterpart Martin McGuinness. The former first-lady and her husband Bill Clinton were pivotal figures in the fledgling peace process and became the first US President and first-lady to visit the province in 1995.

Further Crackdown on Welfare on the Way

It is a sign of the economic times that social welfare is again being targeted by a broke Irish government. Years of austerity, cutbacks and tax hikes have not yet been enough to balance the books in Ireland so the next target is those people who have already lost their jobs.

The ‘Jobseekers Allowance’ is usually paid for 12 months after unemployment begins but it is likely this will be cut to 9 months after which time the allowance will become subject to a ‘means test’. Such an individual examination of a persons income is likely to result in the amount paid being reduced. There are also a percentage of people who would be more encouraged to seek out work rather than endure a means test and a likely welfare cut.

This so called ‘labour activation measure’ could affect as many as 40,000 people in Ireland and is certain to be greeted with hostility by sections of the Labour Party who are currently in coalition with Fine Gael. The measure is likely to be yet another wedge to be driven between the two government parties in what is becoming a regular occurrence. The chances of Labour actually leaving Government though are pretty remote. Their public support has plummeted in recent months if the opinion polls are to be believed and any short-term election would see the party severely punished.

More likely Labour will try to water-down or even prevent the new measures from being implemented. With other big issues such as the abortion legislation and the ‘Croke Park Agreement’ also on the horizon it looks like the differences between Fine Gael and Labour are once again about to be brought into stark relief. Much to the delight of the opposition parties.