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EU Again, Democracy and People Power

I was scurrying about blog-land yesterday when I came across someone posting regarding the EU constitution and post-democracy. The point they were making is that the EU is seen as a next generation of organisation and government. However I am struck by how willingly our elected leaders give power to an instruction of zero accountability. It is some Kierkegaardian concept of diminishing responsibility. Where many people form in groups, responsibility becomes divided among them and no single person feels or seems accountably for the actions of the many. However responsibility is actually indivisible therefore the group merely destroys all responsibility. The EU ahs the same effect on most national politicians. By using the EU and groups as a proxy for making unpopular decisions in a context of shared sovereignty it is unlikely that any single member will be held to account. People can simply point to the broader EU grouping and blame all or none.
The beauty of this system is that national politicians circumvent democratic safeguards and restrictions on their behaviour. This allows their action to be informed by lobby groups and other unsavoury actors seeking to wield influence. The EU has been a large dose of back door corporatism, which for years has grown unobserved and unchecked. I think that the French no, which came about for its own reason but has large ramifications nonetheless, can begin a trend not necessarily of socialising Europe but of opening and democratising it. To be fair extended power to the parliament is a bit of a fop. They do little more but make broad recommendations and hold budgetary power every so often. The problem with the insular EU is the ease with which thinking becomes homogenised.
The time has come for EU to evolve and for the proud people of Europe to be consulted about the direction of our continent. Many of us are suspicious of the gravy train etc but what we should be more worried about is the degree to which our national politicians can use the EU to make some nasty decisions with relative impunity. No local politician gets punished for EU activity (broadly speaking, all politics is local) however the reverse is true.
We must fight for light to be shed on the working s of the EU and if it hopes to continue running then so must it open up. The EU is a necessity in our times but is has many roads down which it can follow; the crossroads we arrive at is forced on us by many new and varied problems. Europe is clear of the burden of WWII and so the EU now needs a current and real sense of purpose heading into the 21st century. It can lead nations to peace prosperity and equality or it can continue to be a dark and impenetrable entity used by big business to force open markets. I sincerely hope that this opportunity is taken by the left to reform and redirect Europe. It must be reformed to become an extension of the will of the people.
The EU has great potential to be a uniter of people and the bearer of an alternative to or form of capitalism. It will only be this if we direct it so. Ultimately we can control and frustrate Europe until it works to our advantage, how does one unite a 25-country body into consensus? I don’t know. We achieved it once and look unlikely to do so again. Any deal should be informed by a broad European left influencing not only policy but also direction and democratic expansion. If it weren’t so dark a body, a debate on the merits of the constitution would be much easier.
The remaining countries must have a vote. A profound division is opening between people and politicians. They do not overly worry but they should. After sixty years of simple blind faith the people of the EU are looking for some return on their investment. The opening divisions of Europe between politicians who feel empowered by an undemocratic entity and a people who realise that their freedom depends on the strength of their voice looks like a fight from the enlightenment. There will be debate and coercion but the unfortunate truth is Europe must now and forever more be forced to make its case in a fair and clear manner and can no longer rely on peoples blind faith or parliaments simply ratifying anyway. Though it may make the life of Tony Blair more difficult rejection can spark a renewed sense of ownership by the people of their Europe.
Red Rover

5.31.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Labour and THAT Pact

The recent vote by labour in the beautiful Tralee, to enter a pre-election pact is harmful in many more ways than we think. There are a few times in Irish political history when this nation may have stood at the brink of an ideological shake up, (69, 92 and maybe 07). Each of these times it is labour who stood to gain from advances in a coherent ideologically motivated electorate. In 1992 Labour enjoyed a great deal of success running as a Labour party, not some one else. The assertion of identity and promotion of diversity is something labour does quite well, if only because of the big-tent nature of the left.
It is fair to argue that these changes didn’t take root because the adequate follow up work was never done, labour never hammered home this division in the system and never clearly developed a stage two from the stage one of winning more seats and being more popular. In 92 many believe it was entry into government with FF that killed them at the next election, however polls tend to indicate that it was actually throughout the life of the Rainbow government that labour began to lose ground. This poll data supports a point I feel is quite essential to a new progressive consensus in Ireland.
The point is that when parties do their own thing and act as a independent and representative structure they tend to be supported, I like to term this alternative ‘politics’. However, when parties instead succumb to the easy option and align themselves into blocs of two or three there tends to be less enthusiasm. This I like to term alternative ‘government’. The key objection I have to the new labour pact is that it robs the voter of their say, we no longer get the opportunity to choose a party close to our own outlook but are instead forced to vote for the bloc we think wont run the country badly.
This is the weakness that has affected the Irish party system for years, i.e. that the FF dominance in this country forced the other parties to be a bloc of any one but FF. I think that the current ebb in FF dominance and indeed that of FG is something of an opportunity for other parties to establish an identity and a coherent choice for Irish voters. The voter is more likely to respond to different ideas and debate than they are likely to respond to two drab pre-agreed points of view disseminated across the many parties. Granted the Greens and the Independents are going it alone but it seems that labour and FG held the best hope of forcing a new cleavage in Irish political mindset, i.e. beyond the FF centric view of government and towards the party centric view of politics/policy.
The Labour party looks set to be the team that may let the side down again and it is a pity for there may be gains in it for them unknown to polls and party management data.
The alliance with FG may make some on the left of the party uncomfortable but the threat posed by the significance of the deal is more considerable. I am dismayed that the party didn’t opt for voter empowerment and choice openly encouraging all parties to pin their policy flag to the mast and let us decide. Number can be examined afterward and that is the time for hard-headed politics. The election is a call for people to say how they wish to be governed under which ideals and through which policies. The more variety the more likely they are to respond. By opting to play the alternative government card politicians are admitting they are all the same but some are nicer, they should have opted for alternative politics and let it be known to all that they are fighting on different platforms and for different goals.
It is my belief that labour truly hold the key to this new cleavage and that is a weighty burden laden with risk, I say its labour because only labour can recast 1922 divisions in a more modern ideology driven environment. They can create a genuine tripartite partition and encourage other smaller identities through their independence but by being conservative and taking the safe option it is doing us all a disservice.
Alternative politics is possible and most dearly desirable, we can choose more deeply clearly and truly. A vote for FF/PD or FG/Lab is not some clear policy agenda it is a call for a change of personnel and nothing more. Alternative politics empowers us to make a fuller decision. A vote for FF is different to a vote for PD as one is closer to the unions, one closer to business, likewise a vote for FG can be different to one for Lab as one is closer to rural conservatives and the other closer to urban progressives. I think it s time we re-framed the debate in Ireland and sought the alternative politics.
Red Rover

5.30.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

French 'non' - now what?

Well, that is it for the constitution; our debate is over before it even has begun. I am aware that governments are considering whether to run there’s anyway or not. However the overwhelming feeling coming from the French voters is that the old political adage rings true, all politics is local. The debate never got off the ground regarding the pros and cons of the EU it was always a vaguer vote against the vagaries of capitalist evil and foreign invaders, typified by a deeply tainted and unpopular leader.
Though I am beginning to wonder whether the ‘non’ is a far more comfortable option clinging to the status quo. It seems unlikely that the nice treaty is going to suffice as a means of securing a social democratic European vision. As I said earlier the constitution is a framework all constitutions are. It made more provisions and options but ultimately we need control of Europe in a democratic manner to affect the social/progressive change. I am still unsure how I would vote if called to do so.
None of the debate in France actually helped to shed any light on the broader EU debate that needs to happen. I myself believe that governments have never, and purposely so, framed the European debate. A clear approach was never taken to debating the EU and it was most certainly never debated in a public space. EU debate is very easily hijacked by Far Left/Right and the awkward anti squad who are anti everything. The result is that fair and reasoned debate about the EU cannot take place. This vote is a wake up call for many of the governments who have coyly used the EU as political cover.
Debate should have taken place long ago about the direction of the EU, to do his there must be a clarifying of what the EU does. That is a vast and technical issue but broad sweeps of issues can be a good start. In effect it is only now that this 60 year-old institution is trying to explain itself and its existence. No one in the EU has really worried about the connection with its citizens until the negative of its democratic deficit began to manifest themselves. This negative is broad popular disassociation with the union and above all a hijacking of the debate by those furthering different agendas altogether. Thus the EU debate is beginning in an area where it really shouldn’t be required to go yet, namely in areas of immigration and nationalist concern. These are secondary issues to the EU's agenda and raison d^etre. The EU no more than ever is required to explain itself and why it requires our loyalty. However this cannot be done in good faith by local politicians and this is the key to current popular drift away from the EU project.
I mean by this that the EU will need to make full use of national politicians and media in order to connect with the people, much like it uses a national civil service to exercise its decisions. In using these politicians to elucidate the power and role of the EU as a growing regulatory and economically powerful body citizens are inevitably going to conclude that any EU project will undermine the legitimacy of the national politician as they exist presently. This process is occurring at the moment but likely to worsen should the EU expand and progress as expected. In effect the EU is a third layer of our governance i.e. local, national and European levels. This squeezes the role of our national politicians as the EU can increasingly relate directly wit the local governments. It’s an embryonic trend which would become more apparent the more we got to know the EU.
Thus any debate that we have, as is now necessary to have, must take place in the centre ground and start from first principles, it will need to be fronted by our own politicians but they will in effect only underline their growing illegitimacy/irrelevance in thing economic as the debate progresses.
I am not scaremongering but it does explain the increasing obsession in tinkering with social behaviour and local legislative issues as most of our economic, global, issues are tied up in the hands of the EU. What we need to begin doing is asking, what are these issues, is the EU competent to safe guard our interests, is it accountable to us or do we require reform, change and progress.
The EU should have done this a long time ago. It is a body that is not of the nation state it is not of the status quo and if it wishes to progress in any manner or form the debate must be framed and won by the centre. This debate must be clear and related not to local but truly European issues. We are big enough and smart enough to know our minds but we must be given our chance to have a grown up debate on the EU. Only when we are coming to grips with first principles will we move to the passionate and subjective topics of globalisation, capitalism and immigration for these are truly topics Europe facilitates in both directions-protectionist or free and open.
The French vote holds lessons for the EU that it will do well not to ignore. It needs to relate it needs PR and most of all it needs to convince us of its necessity. I am ready and waiting for debate on a horizontal plane where we are all equals in our opinion not a vertical one where we think what we are told. Europe must descend from its bubble and live in a world of ture competition. it msut compete with our nation for our loyalty and our support. For an institution in love with competition it doesnt fight its corner very well. it needs to
Red Rover

5.29.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Lord Puttnam and an interesting set of thoughts

The recent report in the U.K. by Lord Puttnam into media and its role in democratic development threw up some surprising and engaging findings. (variety of links here: Guardian, Observer & many more) The premise of the debate is greater public engagement through the media is required to boost the standing of parliament. Puttnam’s arguments make a great deal of noise about the power the media has to restore parliamentary powers of accountability over the executive. This is an outcome I think few of us would not desire. The idea of a better and more powerful Dáil is only second in dreams and hopes to a more learned set of members. All in good time I suppose.
The eye catching proposal, for me anyway, is to ‘incorporate’ the media formally into democratic structure and give them a formal place in the running/government of the state. not in a prescriptive sense but in a capacity as formal P.R. and also as watchdog. What difference is this from our current set up? Well over the lifetime of this governement there has been a marked rise in news management and spin. One of the ways to begin to clarify our politics is giving unfettered access to the debates and discussions occurring in the house. If a TD sees he can make political capital from performing well we are more likely to better the standard of policy creation and discussion. Also increased coverage is likely to broaden calls for reform of Dáil accountability practices. We have already as a society acknowledged the link between media and politics in a sense however our observers are on the outside looking in, they are an attachment but not a prerequisite of our modern democracy.
Puttnam’s recommendations make many other calls most of them U.K. specific, thus I think we should also begin to examine more progressively our democracy, establish bodies that will promote progression and development of our democracy making it fairer and more inclusive, above all promoting involvement and ownership by the citizens. Undoubtedly the media will have a huge role along with pr and communication. The need is for checks and balances to be considered.
If media is to become a tool of democracy then the far reaching and wholistic view must be taken regarding powers of the branch of power and responsibilities. Is media a business of a political establishment or both? Tough questions indeed and juicy political theory. Our task is to turn this theory into practice in true progressive style and redefine our media model for a new era of democratic engagement.
Any idea of free press involves the dichotomy of restricted ownership yet any idea of media as an integral part of democracy at large ca smack of state propaganda etc. However models such as the Beeb proved in the 60s that a middle ground exists. True competition has eroded the degree to which the Beeb is seen as moulding a nation but it once did. According to research many citizens, even the young ones, are interested in politics albeit the majority in single issues. However reaching out to these people and letting them see how government and society can inform and be informed by them is a major step forward toward 21st century integrated democracy.
Proper communication and media distribution are essential. The reshaping of our parliament is long overdue and must begin with wholesale changes in our contact and knowledge thereof. CSPE this is not, we are talking deep rooted and radical change to meet the needs of a new society. Ireland is a changing place and people will respond if they are included and engaged with what goes on.
These are only a variety of perhaps incoherent babblings but the report can be fascinating in parts. There are a great many options open to us for re reengagement. We must take them and pressure our system to reform.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

do people really want party unity?

Listening to some of the labour debate about the electoral pact I am inclined to agree with Ruairi Quinn’s analysis that no other party could have quite such a debate as labour. Perhaps like all other leftwing parties it is a big tent that houses many different approaches to social justice but more importantly the labour party can seriously ask question of itself and its leader in a way some other TDs would envy. I am not going to over romanticise a party which is rife with whips and line managers but some semblance of light and debate are always to be praised.
However do voters listening to this think, as John Bowman pointed out, that labour are at war and factious or is debate a commendable thing. I am inclined to the latter, when we are given clarity in how a party sees itself and defines its policy agenda we cannot but be assured of the fullness of the principle. It is perhaps overblown and over educated pedantics but it is worth praising for its freshness and clarity. The left has always loved talking shop but when it comes to solid policy and complete party competence a debate is the only way forward.
Party discipline means that we get a hundred or more clones of the party leader and his policies when that is unrepresentative of the support base and electorate. The leader’s cabinet will always be allied or sympathetic to him but in being si public bout this issue labour have said we are open and willing to debate our selves and our ethos. Whether right or wrong they point the way to some utopian state of iris politics. I won’t hold my breath that dissent and intelligent debate will follow from all sides of the house.
Red Rover

5.28.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

EU and international disintegration

The west seems to be facing a large degree of disintegration in the coming few days. Today the NPT renegotiation summit will end in failure to secure global consensus on the nuclear question in the face of renewed focus and danger associated with nuclear development. Tomorrow it looks highly likely that France will vote no in what has been one of the most confusing and sullied debate in a long time.
I have been attempting to follow the French debate for a while and each time I read something new it seems to completely contradict the last statement of ‘fact’. Consequently I am drawn to consider if, after nearly sixty years of western integration, the wheels are starting to come off. The last great war to engulf Europe left a great deal of political and economic scars. The resulting integrationary process aimed initially at containing a German resurgence brought about a huge boon in economic prosperity among those that were in early. The resulting disparity between the social democratic Europe on the west and the communistic Europe on the right meant that 1989 left a huge deal of learning to be done. We learned from German reconciliation and from other agenda pursued in the nineties. Time has come when Europe and the broader west reaches a crossroads.
The American government of GWB II has made it patently clear that no aspect of attaining the national interest is off limits, from torture to intervention to war, the result ahs been a degree of insecurity and discomfort with American hegemony and unilateralism. The fact that America controls both physically and ideologically the economic system disseminated to the world has only increased our unease. These guys are driving and there is no one shotgun (not even the UK who are truly no more than hoping for some consideration as deputy superpower or hoping to maintain some allusion to power).
This has forced Europeans to look inward and out to find some definition that can be consistent with the modern reality. The result of such an attempt was the Treaty. This treaty however was intended to be a tidy up not a direction setter. As soon as Gisgard decided to follow some political agenda versus institutional sustainability then he raised the prospect of vicious debate among member constituents. The left in Europe is becoming more prominent in opposing all attempts at entrenching capitalism but for the treaty its too late. The treaties economic provisions date from the Treaty of Rome. The social dimension is new and debatable.
The broader point I am trying to make is that since we began to see a unilateral disengagement from the western consensus by the US government Europe was destined to feel threatened. We are not going to be a counterbalance to America and in our hearts we know this, so do we become some progressive, social democrat alternative or do we intend to go our separate ways. Many in Europe have become averse to risk in the last few decades. This is understandable as a result of our semi-stable social fabric. Now we are asked a question that is risk laden and without an easy answer. A yes means one uncertainty and a no means another.
The reaction is to disengage toward secure ground and so the world begins dividing into self-reliant blocs of with us and against us type characters. This is truly not what was envisaged by global integration. It is unlikely to happen on Monday but the trend is developing. Such disintegration is typified by U.S. attempts to abolish the U.N. and other organisation of state equality.
I am not decided on the treaty though I feel a deep unease at the fact that only the left splinters over Europe except in the U.K. Workers no longer seem tolerant of corporate cannibalism or even liberal a la carte capitalism. A distinct unease is moving from extreme left toward the centre. It is unease over corporate activity and domination, unease at the power they exert over all our lives and most of all the capacity they have to destroy lives in a single announcement to the stock exchange. The left is moving slowly onward with a message of controlled corporate activity, voters want security and stability. This is not new to any political culture, what is new is the fact that increasingly our international system cannot give it. We have begun to see a disengagement and disintegration from international law and consensus. The conclusion to draw from this is that no longer are states representing our interests which are best served by a joint approach and unity of purpose but following the line of the corporate lobby which requires disharmony and disunity to flourish in a competitive environment.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Accountability Culture?

I have always been struck by the quality of a Joe Higgins performance either in a live setting or in the Dáil. He is doubtless a great representative and tenacious in his activity. He ploughs a lonely furrow both in terms of ideology and in quality. On the Week in Politics last night however he made a good point regarding the government and especially Mr Lenihan. How is it that there is no culture of accountability within this political system? How can ministers and TDs be allowed to get away scot free with the degree of malpractice and ignorance they possess? It is an amazing feat of longevity that the FF ministers manage to wangle away from every single political mess they create without a single blemish. Fair enough we don’t exactly expect much better from them but then what might happen if we did?
The complete disregard for events of malpractice in politics is lamentable. The affair with Lenihan and McDowell only underlines the Travers debacle and so many other typical government enterprises. I am not advocating a witch hunt culture where the indo or the times decides who stays and goes. But I think it reflects on what politicians think of us when they hardly deem us worthy of holding them to account. The nation hasn’t got a great record in weeding out unsavoury characters nor exacting some form of parental control on TDs. I know it sounds desperately naïve but for sure it exists. Politicians do not respect nor acknowledge the claim that we hold over their actions. They have a moral accountability for events on their watch and events they perpetrate in our name.
A more serious consideration of their democratic responsibility would ensure some respect but I fear that this is yet another sign of where the loyalty of TDs lies. It certainly is not the tax payer.
Any Minister with respect for tax payers would be gone following a Cullen-esque adventure in E-voting or a Martin-esque adventure to Angola. Alas non, we are told it’s a nothing move on and get over it. If I stop short of demanding a resignation I am certainly calling for a serious move towards accountability, it’s our government and we should be the final arbiters of their fate. If they don’t like that prospect, they should consider their action before they take it.
We can’t fire them for every mistake, we can be sure they know what we think and have learned suitably. These are the problems facing democratic politics and until we get some serious change in place alienation with the system shall only grow.
Accountability was the suitably populist pillar of the Tory campaign in the UK but I think here it’s a cause should be taken up by all with respect and desire for a healthy political system; any opposition loses interest in it within two minute of election to power. We cannot trust them, it’s our natural instinct. But they do little to make us feel like altering our assumption.
Responsibility.
Red Rover

5.23.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Consumer Power and other Guff

I cant say im a big fan of his stuff anyway but cliff taylor's piece today in the SBP is a bit much even by such a madly marketing man. the background is the recent consumer report advocating the abolition of hte Grocery ORder banning below cost selling. Cliff is in favour because irish consumers get a bad deal because of it. however what he is addressing is only the symptom not the problem.
Cliff's main premise is that tesco and dunnes et al can give us much cheaper food and groceries if only we would allow them pass their hefty 16%+ discounts onto the consumers, which such saintly institutions would do in the name of competition and a good deal. this sounds like a heal all panacea to irish consumer ills. i dont believe it is. the first and most obvious hit is the small local stores which cannot compete. this point is plain as porter. there is no hope a local store could remain profitable while tesco undercuts them by 16% or more. the problem here is that the food could go the same way as petrol prices in the UK.
there they deregulated in what was a 'good deal' for the consumer, the competition opened up to tesco's purchasing power. tesco plummeted their petrol prices and put most locally franchised stations out of business. with the competition erased they duly raised prices to what they would normally be and sold to most of the market. nice if you can get it.
on a broader point i am trying to highlight the power these huge corps have to do damage to locally grown business. the man who ran the local shop may be forced to go cap in hand to a tesco store looking for work. its wonderful for our collective bourgeois pocket but in a wholistic view it is not the answer. competition can only be done on a level and fair playing field. this consideration informed the Order in the first place.
next to my point about how it is they secure such discounts. 16% is a whopping amount of money for a supplier to just give away. tesco are notorious for their aggressive purchasing polices. they demand such a high consistency in fresh produce that nearly 40% of whats grown can be discarded. that is in itself shocking. we are groomed to demand the picture perfect fruit and veg when we can countenance eating them. tesco haggle and harry for the cheapest possible price from local suppliers, who are independent and easily overpowered by the quantity of tesco's order. the discount is secured on the back of robbing a suppplier of his fair due. this is part one of a squeeze by tesco on producer and consumer. we are then sold the goods at cost price as below cost is illegal. tesco can thus pocket any difference ensuing. not to slight them you can replace tesco with any major brand store in this country. however no other store has pushed so hard or so much to secure in the UK a market share that counts as monopoly under EU Law. competition? What competition.
my final point is this simple logical one.
supermarkets are businesses.
a business is run for profit.
selling below cost is not profitable.
therefore other goods become more expensive while the below cost goods become enticing.
more profit is made by using below cost selling as a lure.
if this is not true then supermarket would be supporting abolition.
thus profit and greed are again at the center of policy decision. instead we must defend the rights of producers and consumers to fair treatment by big business. abolition is bad news for suppliers and it removes rock bottom in terms of cost cutting. its not perfect but there are alternatives available to government to promote good practice in reducing rip off culture (taxing super normal profit e.g. or limiting margins) the easy decision is to open up our arms to the beast and allow a monopoly to develop and cartel to form.
even if competition is the panacea and allowing the biggest dog in town to throw its weight around is not competition its bullying. remember we should be able to rely on government to defend our interests, we elect them after all. instead we need an independent statutory body. our TDs didnt feel up to the challenge of talking tough with big business.
consumer protection is another syptom of the social schizophreina i am seeing dialy. we are at once consumer nad worker/producer of wealth. as both sides of a single person we enjoy two very different sets of rights. consumers to all the best of big business enticement, producers to all the best of big business cost cutting. this dichotomy will relaign itself soon. not in some socialist revolution per se but in a more natural reconciliation of what it is to be human.
Red Rover

5.22.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Michael and Conor, What were ye at?

Much has been written about the tirade of both ministers and tds. All I have to contribute to this is the profound disgust I feel at McDowell dismissal of immigrants with inflammatory language that promotes not one iota of conflict resolution or understanding. The PDs are quickly becoming a populist propaganda machine and shout be summarily bounced from office. Lenihan is a buffoon but McDowell knows the language he uses has serious implications in promoting racism. It is something that should appall us. we can no longer accept such low-life behaviour from our TDs.
SIPO should be about more than simply financial conduct. A TD is like a baby needing a nanny. our politics is corrupt and rife with intolerance and ignorance. These two only underlined it again.
Mcdowell's calculation that there is more racists than pd voters in the country is a smart one and could garner more votes come 2007 he certainly hasn't helped promote equality as is part of his brief.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

New Maillist

Just set up a new mailinglist for the blog. hopefully those who wish to be kept updated will sign up and i will email when a new update is posted. join on the right and follow the instructions in front of you. anyone who wishes to do so can also beging emailing commentary to me for inclusion in the blog.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

EU Constitution

It is slowly but surely rising up the agenda along with stem cell/aboriton and not before time. The new treaty codifiying structures within the EU is one of the biggest pieces of Irish diplomatic success since the Nuclear NPT in the sixties. However because its been sealed by Irish handling doesnt automatically qualify it for our support. There are a myriad of aspects to ratifying this treaty and a number of questions need to be considered in deciding its merits. BTW you can read/download it here.
Question 1: what does this new constitution mean for ireland and its sovereignty? this is a complex enough question to answer. any infringement on state sovereignty is a big issue for any electorate. consequently sinn fein have ardently opposed euro-expansion into 'sovereign territory'. The treaty is attempting to do a number of things in one go. First it must take account of how to run a 25 state EU currently run along the lines of a six-state body. Thus the introduction of QMV. What QMV does is remove to a degree the national veto in some areas and replace is with a majority of 15 state AND 65% of population represented.
This means more streamlined decisions by the council and less need to accommodate all points of view. However it can spell danger for small states who find that with a small proportion of population may become sidelined and railroaded along big-state interests. However since at least 15 states are needed it is likely that a balance will ensue and consensus be found. QMV looks good on paper but we have no idea how it will perform in practice, back stage deals are likely to ensue.
As is said the national veto is preserved in areas of defence, foreign policy and taxation. However these are the big three issues for the coming decades as an increasingly integrated EU will look to flex international muscle. Tax harmonisation has been on the agenda for years and the new eastern flat tax initiative will highlight the need for a common taxation policy in the EU to halt internal cannibalising and promote solid coherent competition. Talk of competition brings us to the second question.
Question 2: Do we want a more markets or more social basis?
The big EU trek has been a story of economic progress and integration among countries with similar social models (except UK and Ireland to a large extent). The mainland was more disposed to social democratic tax and spend social inclusion. This meant the EU was rarely troubled about social direction. Right and left argued but the public always had the last say. Now Europe has disintegrated slightly and the social consensus has broken into big government supporters and individual power supporters. The split is symptomatic of the spread of capitalism and the expansion to an Eastern Europe of different make up.
The choice for EU citizens is how to cope with a dichotomy of old and new Europe. The bastions of free capital eastward or the protective nannying of the west? This is no easy choice and eventually some synthesis will occur but what does the constitution allow?
This clash occurs between the rights in section II and the protocols in section III. The supporters claim that legally binding rights should ensure protection for all citizens and preservation of some social model. The detractors say in III the protocols unsure sweeping marketisation of the EU with the services directive only the tip of the iceberg. The UK reckons that the rights bill doesn’t interfere with their own domestic labour relations policies so we must believe that the status of section II is to be confirmed. It took 100 years for the US to act on the rights stipulated in the amendments. It oculd take us longer.
On the question of social Europe I think it is fair to recall this is a constitution and as such is a frame work. The laws will be made by those whom we elect. It is not the constitution which is pro market but the politicians. As I have said before one must vote for what one values.
Labour and De Rossa seem to believe a socialist vision of Europe is attainable through the provisions of the constitution. This is reassuring but as yet unsatisfactory. Little will be known about the new EU until ratification but we can be sure that competition will be the buzz word and many directive will issue to that effect. Europe will not cease to function as a champion of private enterprise and liberalisation of economies. It will also not cease large pork barrel payments to farmers and unfair trade agreements with poorer countries. Leading again to another question.
Question 3: What about EU abroad?
The EU will have a new permanent foreign minister; he shall be a vice president of the commission and also head the foreign ministers council. This means a more integrated EU approach to international relations will emerge, the national veto will also remain intact on foreign policy. The minister is a plus and a figure head for Europe. Expect a newer raised profile of the Brussels set abroad and a diminution of individual state duties. The EU foreign minister will not replace state relations but will have a great deal of clout.
However more important is EU policy on development. This is not enshrined in the constitution but has been demonstrated by Peter Mandelson recently. He slapped Tony on the wrist for going so far as to demand fair standards of trade for poorer countries, effectively siding with NGOs and the poor nations. This rebuke says a lot for the thinking in Brussels and also highlights the pressure that the EU is under to deliver local results to ensure support and survival. Things like fairness and development don’t cut political mustard.
Again I must say little in the constitution will change the behaviour of the EU towards trading partners nor hinder or secure a good deal for developing nations. The EU could take alead in development of states but instead opts for short term member interest and corporate lobbying.
the EU seems unlikely to promote fair access for outside states to local markets. this is hypocritical and to be honest its unfair. the constitution doesnt address it and it is unlikely our politicians will either.
I am undecided and I would dearly like all of you to think hard on the meaning of Europe for us. More questions exist and I shall bring them up in time. The first three are juicy and wen we see a direction we may begin to decide how to vote. Email and let me no how you are going to go. Or any comments and questions
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Im Back

pc was down for the week, so i am making a bleated return to the ring. posts will commence shortly. thanx for coming back and bein patient.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Kylie's Woe and its meaning for us

Kylie’s woe may turn into something of a positive for education purposes in the area of breast cancer. While a number of teens would already be aware of the disease many will now be living through the stages in empathy with their pop idol.
Meanwhile our own breast check service is in some form of motion but still grossly underperforming on targets for its expansion. The rollout of BrestCheck needs to be increased, so too awareness of other silent killers. The health expenditure on projects like this is correct but as always more is needed.
We need a wholesale look at how we approach health care, in terms of treatment, diagnosis, patient after-care and also public education. Having seen the response of government to call for education we need to worry. The stock reaction is harvest it out to committee and draw up a module for inclusion in transition year studies. This model is, like many of our others, ineffective. We require a more rigorous approach to the health system of this country.
A few simple rules need to be complied with:
1. Health care must be free to those who require it, at the point of access.
2. Individuals must be given the best possible waits that are logistically feasible, that means good management and more facilities.
3. The public must become involved in the creation of a service to suit them. Specialist hospitals are great ideas in theory but most people have general illness requiring general treatment.
4. The system must be administrated by a body that is fiscally responsible and medically adept. There are a number of models of administration, of them renaming has been least effective (All health boards becoming HSE and staying the same.)
5. If a new method of taxation is required to finance this system then introduce it, also it is plausible to levy private insurance with some cost or impose a mandatory foundation insurance guaranteed by the state, private insurance is free to compete to offer top-ups or add-ons to the foundation, fundamental treatment. Cash follows the patient then into hospital budgets and hopefully into a better service.
6. Education needs to be wholesale and fundamentally useful. courses such as first aid are obviously effective but it may be required for ireland to introduce civic training as an obligatiory german style six month social work initiative. Familiarisation with health and health risks would be covered along wiht experience in the voluntary sector. Politics could lso be included as a means of explaining the power of a vote and the nature of our social structure. it need not be rocket science but iti s real life and far more so than some of the current Leaving Cert.
Meanwhile I wish Ms. Minogue all the best in her treatment and recuperation.
Red Rover

5.17.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Greens and Government

SHould the grens head into an election as part of a three-party preagreed coallition? Well it seems unlikely that the experience of the Labour party will encourage any Green memeber of the meritsof courting FG. however there are some other practicalities to look at. should a three party coalition be elected on a shared platform? this gives voters more say in the governemnt policies and allows us all to be sure what we are getting. the last rainbow coalition didnt do a great job of getting reelected but it has obvious democratic merit to allow the voters decide on proposals for government not just party policies likely to change as part of a coalition.
what is dangerous for a group like the greens is the degree to which FG could cannibalise their vote. The greens are noted as a party that does well in affluent areas. So too are FG. if the greens are runing alongside FG rather than a standalone party it may be unlikely that they will gain much support. the big FG machine could literally peel off some green voters and the result is not good for the green party.
labour is having convuldsions at the thought of another sleepover in the FG camp and is struggling to create any unique identity under pat rabbite "except the usual we are not FF" stuff. LAbour would be best served by an independent campaing with a lot of candidates and a secure social democratic message. As such it could taking the lead in forming our own center left progressive consensus among the disparate parties and independents of the left.
such a lead could easily be followed by the Greens and may leave an incresingly conservative FG out in the cold. however for a man of great bluster Rabbite is lacking the killer instinct in making Labour electable on their own. They need a collective profile, coherent and stable message and positive campainging. it night seem premature to be saying this but such is the work needed to forge a progressive mood in the country that now is the best time to start.
The parties of the left would not be best served by flying in on coattails instead of forging a solid and strong base of voters on issues that matter. Positive on policy and collective in responsibility.
Red Rover

5.14.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Saturday Supplelement- PR in the UK

Recently in G2 there was an article explaining the theory behind the newLabour obsession with choice and consumer power. The main thrust of the theory is that choice allows us to balance the power of a consumer’s voice within a service with the power of taking ones custom elsewhere in protest at bad service. Choice is a tool which should allow those who desire to do so hold institutions to account and in effect by raising the prospect of exiting the service ones power of voice becomes enhanced. This is not intended as a comment on the merits or not of choice merely of consistency in newLabour thinking.
Giving choice to consumers is seen as a means of redressing a power imbalance between institutions and those who use them. Choice is a stick that the consumer can use to threaten any service provider with-"improve or we leave". It is theoretically used to balance voice and exit, ie complaint of leaving. For newLabour the appeal is obvious, middle England would always have been best disposed to choice, they could afford private but wouldn’t automatically chose it if the public services were of good enough quality. The argument counter to this is that its effect on the less well off is not very beneficial. The effect of consumers leaving a service can be the removal of that service and the less well off who rely on it have no choice but to pay.
My point is this, why if newLabour is such a strong advocate of choice in the public realm has it not become a strong advocate of choice in the civic realm? The current electoral system means that the first person to pass the post wins. On the face of it many would say why not? This is why not, in an average constituency many candidates secure less than 50% of the vote to become elected. Therefore an MP for the next parliament is only effectively representing anywhere from 30% to 50% of the electorate. The extent of under representation when looked at on a national level means that any party with 35%-40% of the national vote can secure 60%and of the seats in the parliament (roughly 45% votes and 60% seats for Labour in 2001 and 35% and 55-60% seats 2005)
This is not necessarily how it has to be; newLabour can place far more power in the electorate’s hands. Choice would be a very fine lever of power to begin with. The current system embodies almost everything that newLabour sees as wrong in the provision of public services, namely that power lies in the institutions hands and very little weight is given to the voter’s voice. The voter is almost powerless to force change in the institutions that govern Britain. One can reply ‘what about exit?’, well 40% of the electorate decided to exit this time by abstaining and still government takes no notice, it only attempts to woo the ever shrinking number of willing voters.
The only option is choice. The time has come for the U.K. government to examine a means of giving voters real power. The vote can be an enormously powerful tool. Here are two of the simpler options available to those who could and should empower voters.
The first option is to maintain the principle of one MP per constituency. Voters currently place an ‘x’ beside their favoured candidate. There is one count and the most votes wins. There is no minimum threshold for candidates to pass in order to be deemed elected, no minimum number of constituents whose support is required to elect an MP.
There can be. The government can implement a threshold of 55% or some other number of elector as a minimum support required for candidates. But surely no candidate could on one count only gain 55% of the vote across the country? They don’t have to do it on one count. By allowing voters to replace ‘X’ with ‘1,2,3,4…’ we can begin to change the one count only policy. All that is required of voters is to vote in order of preference, irrelevant of party and all according to choice. What it means is that those candidates with lowest votes get eliminated and second preferences distributed until such time as either a) a candidate accumulate over 55% of support across ballots or b) no candidates are left but one.
The other option is more complicated and requires more work. This option increases immeasurably the fairness of the votes to seats ratio and makes candidates more reliant on voters. It is a broader system of P.R. where a party can receive its number of seats according to proportion of votes received and allocates them according to a pre agreed list; this however removes mps from constituency work and requires a correlated strengthening of local government in order to meet constituency needs. In a country attached to the idea of local constituency MPs there is also the PR system which adds members across a constituency. By making mps dependent on population in a constituency one can increase proportionality. Such a system as our own PR-STV is a wonderful example of proportionality and the added bonus of tied constituency representation. Jack Straw voiced his concern over the detachment a list system or Additional member system creates within the body politic. It is funny he never addressed the STV system. This solution was built in Britain and exported to two colonies for expirement. Ireland and Malta are still the only two countries in the world to use PR-STV. It must have been two succesful at ensuring fair distribution of power to be countenanced by the british establishment. The arguments for and against becomes increasingly academic as one discusses method but what we should all agree on is simple.
A candidates must be made to listen more closely to constituents. A party must be made more accountable to public desire. If people are given a real and powerful choice then they may reengage with the electoral system, if we desire people to have more voice we must give them more choice. For the progressives in the UK think of the damage to the conservative party a lib-lab one-two vote could have done. No wasted vote, no unheard voices and all choices making a difference. It might not suit our politicians but for those who believe in the power of choice the logical extension is right before your eyes.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Iraq, Overflight and Oversight

The revelations from Labour TD Roisin Shorthall regarding the expense the government of American overflight in Irish airspace to is incredibly embarrassing to the government. That much is obvious to everybody. However it raises more questions about government procedure than it answers. There are a number of issues that arise as a result of the war in Iraq and Shorthall’s subsequent revelations. The first issue is back to late 2002 and whether this government has any real conviction in the principle of Irish neutrality.
Back in the build up to the second Gulf War, there was a great deal of uproar over Shannon “warport” being used as a base for American military logistics. The government never explicitly expressed support for the war so we are left to assume Saddam would have been offered facilities at Knock should he feel compelled to retaliate. The revelation that we are thus subsidising American military overflight implicates us irredeemably in the war effort. This should be the final affront that many moderate Irish people require to speak up and speak out against this government’s behaviour. Many of the centre in the Irish electorate took the long view on Shannon and Iraq, the issue of neutrality was fudged sufficiently that normal day to day life was undisturbed by moral dilemmas. Now that changes. We are paying for America to fly over our country en-route to killing 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Note that a tiny proportion of the Saddam-Iraqi regime has been killed by U.S. bombing runs. Such behaviour represents serious contravention of Cowen’s promise at the time to respect the integrity of Irish neutrality, thus what was seen by many people as an issue of the Government versus Hard Left now moves to centre ground as we must ask questions of the governments behaviour and intention.
We must ask serious questions, again, of what our representatives are doing with our country. I am displeased that we have been implicated to such an extent by the government in this probably illegal war. the government owes us answers, we are sovereign holders of power in this state and we overwhelmingly support neutrality, its easy and to be fair Dev called it well, small countries don’t influence big conflict. The time has belatedly arrived for us to hold a debate on where our country should stand, to borrow a phrase from the Franco on the `Green “constructive ambiguity can be no more”.

The second issue raised by Shorthall’s revelation comes from the parliamentary procedure prosecuted by her. The question was submitted recently the reply which was published was prompt and informative to a point. The whole area of parliamentary questions has been derided as a waste of time, if one doesn’t ask exactly the right question then one receives a fudged and uncooperative answer. It is clearly in no minister’s interest to reform this ineffective system. Shorthall asked the right question and got an answer that for some on the left is a barrel of dynamite. Then she publihed the answer in full. Parliamentary oversight is incredibly weak in our democracy, it’s a pedantic political point that is only raised in conjunction with a large news story. It doesn’t hold the nations imagination for very long. Neither does it serve the nation very well. Opposition hold no interest in greatly reforming this fact as they too hope to be in government at some stage.
The effectiveness of Shorthall’s question in opening up our eyes to the actions of our government should be supported. We need to callously manipulate such populist questions to further the case for some type of reform and reenforcement of parliamentary oversight. We cant obstruct the business of government more than they do themselves and other arguments can be similar argued for. Let me know some, I am firmly pro-oversight and believe there is a moral imperative for parties on the left to run a clean sweep program. The nation needs to renew its confidence in the ability of government to carry out the work we demand of it. Not to spin and manipulate the truth with fudges and control. We got the truth this evening. Let’s hope there is more to come. The case for reform lies in the potential for E10,000,000 and 140,000 troops to grow and grow as the threat from Iran and Syria to the US ego grow too.
PQs are a start but we need to explore engagement as a major source of information, TV and radio hold a powerful tool in their possession. Unbiased and unfiltered coverage is required at some decent hour. We will reengage we are a political nation but a more coherent policy for reengagement and accountability are required.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Bertie Bowl II- the airborn sequel

just a quick post before i hit the road for four hours this evening. listenting to the accounts of Cullens speech yesterday, it really strikes that the airport terminal rift is beginning to look like BertieBowl part deux. like all good sequels its a pale copy of the former and far more likely to bomb. THe PDs are irate that noone is interested in building a privately run terminal and that the big siptu member in iveagh house has begun briefing against the idea.
the thing with Bertie is he keeps his powder dry untill its most explosive and effective for use, doubtless he is still ruffled over the Abbotstown mess but it seems like revenge is going to be sweet, will this be the chance to push the TDS from the nest and return to the 'gene pool' of independent FF tds?
it sure sounds like a romantic notion and many backbenchers are known to support it. i would be less reactive. it is unlikely that a Pd party could last over a year in the wilderness of opposition without serious electoral implications, they may be unhappy with FF reimposing their will on government but that seems to be tough luck. the calculation must be stay in government at least for another year or be damned to a slow death.
harney and mcdowell have worked too hard to let that happen, so we may see an uncomfortably compromise while pds publicly become best buddies with the business interests. since moving to the social posts and losing charlie the PDs still are influential but seem to be lacking direction, again i am struck by the single trick economic ponies that they are becoming. even mcdowell is following a privatising agenda.
looks like fun and frolics for the press gallery but little effective movement for the rest of us. personalities clash, slanging matches ensue and an uneasy peace will be declared. its the bertie bowl all over again.
Red Rover

5.13.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Disabitly Legislation and More bloody Government nonsense

The case of the disability legislation crosses the radar screen again tonight, 3 out of the 7 consulted organisations have now withdrawn from the process of drawing up the legislation because of government ineptitude. They require guaranteed minimum services for disabled children and adults. Having watched the tale of these parents and children it is hard not to be moved by their plight. Currently the only way of ensuring state services for a disabled person is a high court ruling. This is an abominable situation and one which we should be deeply ashamed of.
Current debate is being stonewalled by government spinning of figures. Over E100 million invested since some arbitrary date. I am not sure who is supposed to be proud of such a record however, 100 million and still no adequate care for the vulnerable in our society. Where is the anger? Locked up with our aspirations in the basement, we have a car park to live in.
People in our society desperately need the states help, they lie on trolleys each night in A&E, they fall through the cracks in schools because of special needs, they are forced to remain at home because the state cannot afford to help with therapy. While we have sanctioned government largesse, delivery has slowed to a standstill. It would be easier to get Bertie to set up a tribunal investigating why this is the case than to get responsive improvement out of this government.
The travesty of our treatment of mentally and physically disabled cannot be allowed to continue, these are members of our society and are entitled to their rights. They are entitled to our help and I am sure we would be willing to give it. We have stopped having debate and are reduced to mere point scoring. It is time we made a conscious decision to hold our leaders to account on delivery. Unfortunately we are in what might be termed the road mentality regarding delivery, the government is engaged in a road building programme this takes years and we cannot really judge until its completed fully. The same argument cannot apply to our consideration of the issue of disability rights.
I am willing to countenance more taxes or funding for a revived and responsive health service. I am no longer willing to support, through my taxes, a government that delays on major decisions influencing people’s lives.
We could all make a difference to this situation but not a single part of me expects national uproar outside Dail Eireann tomorrow. A change in attitude is a start.
The weakest and poorest in our society are not looked after. Their parents are forced to stay home and pay for the full time care of these individuals. The state looks on and rings its hands with well meaning. Meanwhile 100 million euro has fallen into a black hole. I would set it aside as a war chest and let the courts distribute it.
This state is falling down around our ears and we are stuck with a pack of well-spun delaying TDs who wouldn’t make a decision to save their political lives. Rights for all minorities and disadvantaged should be instituted post-haste; this should be followed up by direct funding of the treatment that is urgently required to guarantee some quality of life.
Heaven forbid we end up with more scenarios like the man from Cork with MS who went to Switzerland for assisted suicide. It is a sad indictment of our society if people are literally dying to leave it.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Post Election in the North

Having finally watched the last coverage of the election in the north seep off our screen i think the coast is clear to make a contribution with my two cents. MY initial reaction was dismay at the degree of support the DUP received. one would have thought a strategy of divide and conquer would have worked into naionalist hands better. however i am growing in belief that paisley is a man who one can do a deal with.
Why do i say this? well put simply he is a northern solution to a northern problem. the unionists were too british by a half and affiliations and misplaced identity made anything but rule from westminster impossible for them to countenance. the dup is a very different animal. it is a beast born and bred in ulster with its own identity. where the UUP were looking to london for political support and inspiration the DUP extract it from the grassroots of northern ireland.
this means that above all else the DUP identity is less slavishly british and more distinctively ulster. such a mood within the party is reflective of a broader consensus on northern identity, the people of ulster are growing in economic and social confidence as a result they no longer look to other capitals for guidance but to each other. its not a perfect place to be but it shows signs of growth. this growth is translating into parties which are more ulster that anything else, a modern product, or at least evolving product, of community on the ground.
my point is that because the DUP is an ulster solution there is no more important thing for them than holding power in ulster. such a move is more in tune with the thinking of the DUP than the UUP, of course elections were fought on anti cooperation platforms but core voters like to hear a core message. this time it could be different, it wont be easy nor will it happen straight away but watch the DUP grow into a deal to bring back powersharing and devolution. then the real issues of northerners can be addressed after 30 years of diversion. they deserve better than that make sure they get it this time ian.
Red Rover

5.12.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Working Time Directive

Well the EU took a bold move today by ending the exemption granted to britain to opt-out of the 48 hour maximum work week. It a move we should all welcome, despite groans about competitiveness and productivity. The beeb reckon approx 4million workers in the UK work in excess of 48 hours a week. This represents 1/7 of the entire workforce. finally these workers have some guarantee of a limit to the time worked and some limited protection of their own private time.
This decision was taken as i am sure you are all aware against the background of a new expanded EU. The demoliton of the opt-out sends a signal across the breadth of the continet that no exceptions can be tolerated on the standards EU workers are entitled to. i am conerned not to wax too lyrical about the EU but such broad standard imposition is welcome. The state of the world now requires a strong EU to impose standards on corporation and business not the other way around.
This move is a step in the right direction, you know when the tories are up in arms we gotta be doin something right.
however i am struck by the degree to which the EU is willing to sign its own death warrant. A move like this is going to be presented as a move to usurp British sovereignty and all other negative connotations connected with europe. this is bound to be yet another nail in the coffin of the EU constitution, a move many of us may not lament but which will be returned to later.
this move goes some way to guaranteeing rights for EU workers. its not perfect but by cutting down on opt outs it makes business conform to not get around laws and rights.
the Eu is the only political body within which we have any clout which can seriously influence the actions of big business. this is a victory for social europe but it is a small one and one which will have to be built on to defuse views of it as a vehicel for capitalist exploitation.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Heady Ideology

I am reading Mobiots 'age of consent' presently and am struck by his chapters on global trade etc and the influence of capital. It struck me that as Ireland is the second most globalised economy in the world, have our politicians truly lost all power. Their activity is reduced to measly points scoring and meaningless debate around the fringes of policy. My view is that they have been squeezed for legitimacy by an increasingly coherent EU from above and from corporate influence on the ground.
This government is hamstrung by its marriage to international capital as a source of income and will continue to hemorrhage power in all directions with the Europe of the regions initiatives. we better prepare for a long slow death of Irish autonomy for its coming thick and fast. our reluctance to engage in meaningful action against corporate interests in society for fear of appearing anti-business is laughable. The state is responsible to its citizens and as such must act as a barrier which protects our interests. When the government switches sides we are the most vulnerable. If you can bring yourself to examine the people around you in the traffic jam on the way home, ask where there loyalty lies and why you have not harnessed your power to bring about positive change in your life. That is a start. If you did that you mightn't be up at six every morning to beat the traffic and give your boss an extra two hours a day. Where are you going and what do you desire from Irish society?Its your call, 2d work and spend or 3d individuality and direction?
Red Rover

5.11.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Stem Cell raises its divisive head

Mary Harney was raising the spectre of stem cell research again today and in doing so raising the prospect of more bitter divisions within the government. I am struck by the willingness she shows to branch out on matters of great interest to the corporate health care sector and unwilling to look after public needs. She could be doing a great deal to reorganise the HSE s that it is not just an amalgamation of health boards,she could even shock us by looking at the potential for more beds and staff in A&E. Some fresh ideas on public health should occupy our agenda not some fanciful chase after millions of dollars in research money for stem cell research.
Its a debate worth having. But only when the emergency issues are taken care of. This issue looks set to underline the increasing timidity of our government to make strong decisions on the direction of our country. Such inactivity makes the lads in FG looks positively progressive with their policy initiatives. initiatives don't cut it but at least its a start. This government has parked so much debate that the Abbotstown development must be needing a car park at this stage. We must open our mouths and begin to expect more from our leaders. We didn't elect them to chase money all over the globe. We elected them to look after society.
The weak the young the old all require attention urgently. Time again to look at those journalistic consciences around our cosy Dail bar and begin to have meaningful debate. Where should the health service go? Where should priorities lie? Why are the PDs-a one trick 2 dimensional free-market pony-in the biggest social jobs in government? I am tired of being a commodity. I desire action and I desire change. Lets begin considering where we are going and why we are letting Mary hearney divert us with the issue concerning corporate America.
We need beds. Then we can discuss abortion, stem cell research and the role of the church in setting state policy. If you value it, vote for it-to borrow a phrase-or at least signal your intention to. The plaster aint working. PD/FF coalition no thanks.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Lets Get Them Thinking

I have a summer off so i am going to use it constructively, i will begin emailing our esteemed representatives in the Dail a survey for research purposes. my aim is to find out how little they know or care about ideology. the obvoius questions will be ther like major political influences etc.
i am looking for a further selection of questions. email or post as comments. the full survey will be posted asap hopefull within the week. keep me going guys.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

ASBOs

ASBOs are an alluring piece of legislation. They are practically win-win for the politicos. We are about to inherit this legislation, like so much of our other policies from our British brethren,and should bear that in mind. As legislation goes this is a vote winner. Many estates around the country,(working class, commuter and middle class) are plagued by bad behaviour from their youths. Many stories of drunken vandalism assault and more are reprinted in the press and a general consensus of something must be done exists.
This something appears to take the form of an ASBO, anti-social behaviour order. These were pioneered by the former British Home Secretary David Blunkett. ASBOs have the wonderful affect of not being too distasteful to middle class voters and empowering Gardai to do arbitrary work requiring minimal intervention. In total a typical Mcdowell solution. Legislation can make everything better. Again with the treating us like automatons. ASBOs have been accused of making criminal charges provable on a civil basis. i.e. By loosely defining the criteria of qualification it is easy to ensure they are successfully attained.
These civil orders are meant to keep offenders out of the criminal justice system. Wonderful stuff indeed that the human rights group liberty in the UK has been very uncomfortable with the actuality of the laws:

"Most of the behaviour he talks about tackling is straightforwardly criminal - and it should be dealt with accordingly, by the police through the criminal courts."

"ASBOs don't do that. Instead, they subvert the criminal justice system by attempting to tackle criminal behaviour and impose criminal-level penalties through the civil courts - on the basis that someone has 'probably' committed the offence. It's a shortcut that undermines the quality of justice: that's no way to tackle these very real problems".

This is hardly a ringing endorsement for the legislation, but it goes much deeper than that. ASBOS require more than police to ensure proper enforcement. A guard is certainly within his duty to apply for one but the broader problem is that we need more community centric application of these orders. We need to become aware of problems teens, their habits and the causes of these habits. We cant just slap civil restraining orders on them. Such a solution is no more than a band aid. The community based approach means we have to get mentors, community groups and other organisations in on the implementation and policing of our communities. We must ensure that there is an alternative for these people to anti-social behaviour. We must take a holistic approach and offer infrastructural and local support to the affected communities and the offenders. If we don't offer support when they are apprehended then the ASBO merely becomes a stepping stone to the criminal justice system. Kids no longer grow out of these things.
The community employment schemes would have been just the tool to begin tackling community support structures. These things cost money and because we don't explain such things to the electorate it is money we are unwilling to pay. If we want a proper solution to anti social behaviour we need more than guards. We need educated, aware, capable local people taking an interest and giving guidance. They need to be back up by local infrastructure, youth clubs and other replacement activities for the current behaviour. We can get ourselves out of this mess. Legislation will help but unless McDowell breaks with trend and follows it with people and a change in attitude then we are likely to see the same mixed-bag of results in the UK. Community police work. They need money and training but they are worth it.
Anti social behaviour could begin the rebuilding of our social fabric and herald a more mutually interested society. A true civic society if you will. Actions speak louder than words. So people are better convinced by example rather than law. Labour have helpfully examined a community based solution as too have the Lib-Dems in the UK.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Slightly less Rabid now

Its easy for me to snipe. They have a hard job. Yes they do but a good attitude helps tenfold in such situations. I am making the case here and now for some broad educative course to take place for six weeks after an election where tds are taught policy and politics not this madcap horseracing they seem to engage in. It aint entertaining and it certainly aint effective. Lets start working and stop jockeying.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Back To My Point

I completely moved away from my point on suicide. However I shall return. The blight of suicide on our society is a growing one. The government has spun a good game but done little. Suicide is not a simple issue and I shall not attempt to look into its psychology today. People especially young people are tragically feeling life is not worth living and taking their own life. Who is responsible for hollowing out their existence until they despair so much? We are I fear. We have allowed people to fall to the margins in our quest for the panacea that is competitiveness. By unleashing the laws of the jungle that is neo-liberal capitalism on a society not completely ready for it we have began to pick people off as ruthlessly as nature would. Let us all hang our heads. We have all been complicit. The solution is not easy nor is the status quo. If it hasn't affected you then it will. And soon it seems. I am not advocating some return to hippy philosophy but our society needs to change. We must not lose sight of that fact. We will probably maintain our current obsession with profit and cars and all the other trappings of Irish middle class life. However when the specter of suicide alights on your doorstep remember our complicity. Life has become meaningless, education has become pointless for many. I return again to my point of this government being economically dynamic but socially inept (exceptions obviously exist but their promotion is as likely as my receiving a webby).Other parties aint much better. The lot in FG are wonderfully tactful at populist themes but they are still Christian democrats. Preaching private morality and tax cuts. One dimensional and bereft of ideology. Don't look left yet they are busy being 'alternative'. I am encouraging the left to get is sorted. I remain convinced that only a fresh outlook on society will begin to solve this problem. Focus on community care community inclusion and community engagement and education. The left should begin discussing such matters as potentially joint policy platforms. We can no longer offer alternative government. We must begin offering alternative politics too. The Irish are a good natured sort. Talk and engage with them and you'll find them willing to lend you their vote. We must start now. Really examine the state of Irish society in all its hollow soullessness and begin discussing our options. People will follow but we must set the agenda. Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

YFG suicide campaign

Recent launch by FG of their YFG campaign on suicide should draw praise from all sides its a small piece of good publicity for Enda Kenny, fast turning himself into a man who knows what buttons to push to get us all moving away from the government. On a broader view it is also clear that this government has a serious issue with people, not just sucidal citizens but anti-social, disabled, unemployed the old etc...across the political spectrum whole rafts of people are simply not 'reached out to' by the politicians. Its becoming diabolical. There is a large swathe of backbench TDs who could reel off the problems affecting local constituencies and constituents if we cared to listen, but we dont. The government takes a view of us as cogs in some broad economic machine. All initiatives are taken with monetary value in mind. Thus the marginal groups in this society go ignores. The recent argument over the disability act is a case in point, although one should begin to properly examine rights-based legislation as an issue in itself not just for the disabled. Such legislation would have a great deal of impact on Mr Mcdowells legislative agenda.
But i digress...the government is sitting on top of an increasingly restive can of worms. People are being bought off with 'productivity growth' but this only exacerbates the gap between those served and those not served. Has anyone told our TDs what their full job is? Apparantly not. The answer is not jockeying for position although some do like the gee gees (Eh Jim?) the answer is service. Not slavery but service. If u cant manage it then let local councils do it. I fear TDs eyes are too big for their political bellies in this regard. People can no longer be micro managed.
Unless we are treated like people and get a government who can see the endemic social problems in this country we are lost. Im glad the PDs are economically aware (wrongheaded but knowledgable) because on people and publice services they are inept. One must marvel at Harney's economic approach to the health service, the PDs and much of the right are one trick ponies. Sure you might save on your taxes but you aint gonna have a service worth paying for in return. The government must start seeing us as people not a consumers. I am tired of leading this imposed double life. I am both a citizen with my full political rights but also a consumer and all i actively do is work toward goods. Sorry but two dimensional people dont make up a full and vibrant society. There are people out there who cant fully enact their rights. The government has a moral responsibility to include them. They are people. Not paper. Not numbers. Not euros. People. And they are falling through the cracke. They deserve better.
Red Rover

» Author: Cian » Comments:

My Goodness, My Airport

Fresh from a raft of privatisation, the airports in this country stand at the center of another ideological drive by the pds. Such wonderful news it is to hear that i not only do we get to choose the airline we fly with but also from which terminal we get to leave from ("terminal 2 is so much more airy darling...", "the coffee in one is outstanding"). Without being excessively cynical i wonder how much of this has to do with a certain low cost airlines attempt to ensure low cost labour at the low cost terminal.
We irish should know better than most that in matters of infrastructure you get what you pay for, or not in the case of the health service. I am apalled by such brazen attempts to hold progress to ransom because there is going to be demands for jobs, proper pay and working conditions by the unions in a DAA built second terminal. I have no objection to populating the workforce in T2 with foreigners willing to do the work. I have a problem with a government that sets up a system where they can be taken advantage of, bereft of union recognition and advocacy.
This terminal is about more than airlines and the cattle they herd onto their airborn marts. It is about people, jobs and the surrounding community.
By the way has anyone considered the fact that the CO2 emmissions from our shining new airport are going to go untaxed because of government cowardice in the face of big business. thats one for another day but for now i am calling on both goverment parties to come down from their tree and promote people for a change. Public tranport would benfit far more from a direct rail link to the airport, providing commuters with reliable effecient and eco-friendlier transport.
micheal o leary can piss off in his taxi.
Red rover

5.10.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Welcome!!!

hello to one and all, this is the first echoing call through cyberspace attempting to find progressive thinkers with an interest in irish politics. I shall be your host, im fed up and thats a warning. I have grown tired of living in a country seemingly obsessed with personality where issues are the domain of a small media and political elite and the rest of us are practially colonies of the D4 set. Not to disrespect the D4 set some are very progressive but its a big place.
This blog is an attempt to offer comment and analysis of irish events from a perspective that is different to the staid media renditions. i am trying to inject some new ideas and offer a space for new discussion. The Times, The Indo, The Examiner on and on none of them speak for me. The left hold the secod largest block of seats in Dail Eireann yet still we function like roaming tribes. we must unite and come to some agreement on policy and direction. i want to help, read...think...critique...interact. lets retake irish democracy and renew what made us great.
I am Red Rover and we are open to contributions.

» Author: Cian » Comments: