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The Election Site

Both Copernicus and Dick raised some issues about Irishelection.com over on a thread at backseatdrivers. While i dont want to get Irish Election sidetracked into a great deal of navelgazing on the front page, I think debate is healthy and will only make irishelection a better site in time for the event itself.

A few issues that are being talked about:

1) Is the site too loosely focussed on Irish politics and getting bogged down in posts about general news items?

2) Does the site need a set of criterion for articles to be cross posted and by extension and editor?

3)Is the current set up too opinionated? Ought it focus more on the hard facts and let the opinion come out in the comments?

Im sure readers and contributors have opinions on this-let me know.

Update: New Contributor Colm Bracken has a few ideas-"Ideally, it would be nice if contributors addressed election issues and not get sidetracked by peripherals. Let's talk health, Fianna Fail, white papers, manifestos, social housing and the like."

3.30.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

We Ought To Do More Than Vote

From Irish election:


Lets face it, being a citizen in Irish society is not the most difficult. Every five years we are invited (not forced) to go to the polls and cast our vote. To what extent however should voting in a General Election be seen as the measure of participation in democratic society. Ought Irish people do more than elect representatives?

More... This is a question as old as the hills. A recent report from the Democracy Commission at TASC (PDF) discussed a number of issues reagarding participation in Irish Democracy. Our current model see us vote while under the impression that to some extent all politicians are the same and it is only rarely that our will is to be found in Government or Legislative outcomes. The interests of louder bodies are heard first, the wealthy are listened to more, business comes first, these are refrains not only of the left but of all sides of society. Should anyone feel Im being too harsh check out Mahon or Irishcorruption to diabuse yourself of the genuine concern behind this assertions.

"It does require, however, that people can have their say on matters that affect them."

I think that in principle we would all agree that the true spirit of democracy lies somewhere in the median between the full-bodies representation we have at the moment where our autonomy and deliberation is outsourced to politicians for five years and the Athenian model of direct deliberation where all 4 million+ Irish people descend on Kildare Street for three days a week.

Aristotle defines the citizen as "one who shares in the administration of justice and the holding of office". Where justice ought be read in a wider sense of social justice and the division of goods as well as the common usage of justice. On such a model of citizenship the population of Irish democracy radically reduces from 4 million to some couple of (tens of?) thousand or so. Many however would condemn such a model as wholly unworkable, in today's society we have large populations and the need for quick decisions and workable systems of government necessarily excludes the vast majority from some sort of involvement with the running of state and society.

I disagree and believe that it should not be so. The Irish are in the luck position to have a large amount of wealth generated in the last few years, we are bursting with technological nous and other forms of intellectual strength. There are few logisitical reasons why Irish democracy cannot be more accomodating to the idea of popular deliberation.

Dr. Iseult Honohan of UCD School of Politics and IR (in the report) suggests "two dimensions to active democratic citizenship, status and practice. Legal status grants certain rights, such as equality before the law, freedom of speech and association, etc., and certain duties or obligations, such as obeying the law, paying taxes, etc. In this sense being a citizen is essentially a matter of laws, and of fixed rights and obligations. The practice of citizenship on the other hand involves such things as participating in self-government, sitting on juries, informing oneself about the democratic process, supporting the public good and defending one’s country, and refers to people’s attitudes and behaviour."

Active democratic citizenship is the involvement in more than voluntary social and local schemes, it is the retaking of institutional government by the idea of popular involvement. I will even fall short of arguing for popular veto but certainly the capacity is with us for more active democratic citizenship. The active forii for public deliberation and engagement now exist only on the periphary (boards.ie, blogs etc) and there is little or no statutory observation given to the debate. Indeed such debate often lacks the legitimacy of having a mass of people arguing positions.

Before I go further, I ought address why popular deliberation ought be considered a good thing. The current trend in political discourse is to maximise freedom arguments and to see the state as thief in chief. Perhaps there are elements of this argument that ought be heard, considered and then accepted and rebuffed yet the counter trend to see in the state the expression of another vital and essential element of the human social consciousness is one which offers such an idea oxygen. For those of us who eye the state as provider and expect of it, the state too needs reform, it ought be more open and suceptible to the intervention of the people even those who would see it done away with. There is a public sphere, a popular forum for discourse the realm of social action, it simply is. To ignore it is to bracket an equally vital component of political society and to argue away elements of being.

The condition of the public realm deteriorates when we, as components and actors in it, are alienated from control or input over it. The decision reached by the most people has by definition considered the most opinions and most options. The enabling of the popular sphere ought not be seen as crude tyranny of the majority for it is not intended as a simple referendum on each issue. It is a complex means to achieve an active and engaged population capable of approaching a problem from thier private perspective and also of empathising and contributing to the broader social narrative.

A population does not reach that state simlpy be being abandoned to their own compartmentalized space, active exposure to ideas, history and life in general ought be included. The educational system which currently equips our kids so capably for the private industry of their choice needs to address its deficiencies in the skills needed to negoitate and build an active and vibrant public sphere.

Where we see democracy as the outsourcing of our autonomy and interests for five years at a time falls prey to the marxist dictum that you are simply electing a different set of oppressors. I personally feel that the people need the right to ask questions of their own and have a hand in deciding the fate of a people. Not a national/exclusionary people but a people that is a polity, a cosmopolitan society of equals.

Back to our report: "Democratic deliberation aims to ‘reinvigorate our understanding and practice of democracy in a pluralist and complicated world through emphasising democracy itself as a process that requires constant deliberation or dialogue'".

Indeed bringing the majority of the people along with the thinking of a state encourages greater strength and pride in the democratic integrity of a state, not mere resignation at the futility of casting a vote every so often. Indeed when such resignation is dominant and futility the most common feeling, there are truly crises of legitimacy.

Some of the commissions ideas are off the wall, most will only work with a sustained root-and-branch commitment to enhancing democracy in this state. Deliberative polls, citizen juries, Preferenda(sic). Indeed an eyecatcher is the idea of a popular bill, submitted to the legislature or the people for consideration with the required number of signatures. California here we come.

But the issue at heart is not the means but the principle, today's Ireland can sustain all sorts of deliberative arrangements that bring the people much closer to power, bring decisions much closer to the ground and make scrutiny not an indulgence or a play thing for the opposition but an inbuilt part of the system. I believe a commitment to a more expansive democracy, democratising the public sphere and re-forming government is a good thing for the Irish people.

The increased vitality of debate, interaction of citizens and recognition of mutual interdependence is at once the logical extension of democratic thought and the taboo of representative democracy. Sure we agree to elect others to decide for us, but what is wrong with working alongside those who represent us on issues of great importance?

Many would say we were radical to pursue some economic policies in the 80s leading to the Celtic Tiger, well let us be radical about social inclusion and the reenforcement of the public sphere. Deliberative democracy ought be firmly planted high on the agenda for the next election.

3.28.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Fair Play to Health

Dpeartment of Health now using RSS feeds. Quality stuff. E-Government at its finest, now if they could only sort out provision issues.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

What a Charmin Regime

Amnesty bring news of the Belorussian regime in full flight;

"Many detentions are reportedly accompanied by beatings. Of particular
concern are minors, who are not detained by police, but,
after their age
has been checked, are reportedly pushed from the buses in which other
detainees are being held before being transported. Some allege that they
suffer injuries as a result of being pushed from the buses."

3.22.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

The National Question

As you can see from below, the interview which Frank Neary has started with Killian Forde

(SF Councillor) and which will continue through the week, focussed on issues of globalisation and the new economy that has taken shape in the preceding 20 years or so. And there are a vast number of people out there in the community who would say that this is correct and proper. Its time that Sinn Fein moved on from myopic nationalist rhetoric in favour of entering the broader political discourse and talking economy, health, welfare, society etc.

I must say I would be one of those people. However, one cant help but notice the emerging noise from Peter Hain's office, and matching noises from Bertie, that the Northern Assembly must be gotten back together again. Like the king's horses and the king's men they work their hardest to put humpty dumpty back together.

The dilemma over the Northern Assembly is probably only taxing a rather small number, at most a sizeable minority, or Irish citizens. Yet perhaps it ought interest a larger number. Consider what I feel are two of the crux examples over the recent past;

1. The Love Ulster march which led to the Dublin Riots. A group of, admittedly unsavoury, loyalist marchers came to Dublin to march in protest and rememberance at loyalist victims of the troubles. The move to come to Dublin had major potential for furthering peace. We had a loyalist group recognising the centrality of Dublin in the issues which affect Northern Ireland, if it came off the Irish negotiating teams would have a huge plank to add to their arguments in favour of continued devolution.

As we all know such positive potential never got actualised. The march itself was ransacked and turned into a day of mayhem. It was done, we are to believe, to keep the loyalists out of Ireland. Yet from the same corners comes talk of a united ireland and being a nation once again. I doubt Im the only one to see the dissonance taking place between words and actions.

2. The attempts to get the DUP and Sinn Fein to sit down together. While this seems more tangentially related, it is key. Sinn Fein's best hope of being in power in the next two years lies in Stormont. They know it and want it. The north offers a chance for them to prove their capacity for delivery on the bread and butter of government. Right now its an opportunity being denied by Ian Paisley and the DUP. So in the face of DUP intransigience comes the alternatives.

Peter Hain talks of a shadow assembly, bereft of executive powers and little more than a talking shop. Dont get me wrong in a talking shop Paisley is better off, all talk and no delivery. Bertie too. Sinn Fein talk only of full powers in accord with the Good Friday Agreement and no one really looks like they are goign to come to an agreement.

So what am I bloody posting on, simply this: Ought the national question be at the center of the next election?

It has been a long time since talk of the north dominated (to the exclusion of all else) the election discourse. It has been mooted that from that formative period, where parties divided on the issue of the North, we have moved closer to a more open model of politics, embracing left-right divisions and so forth. Yet the demons of the Dublin Riots live on, there is little evidence to suggest that we as a body politics have put the issues stemming from partition behind us.

Is there a case for a once and for all discussion on a final resolution of the Northern Question at the next election. We have all of the major players involved, the major attitudes represented and the space for an open engagement with the electorate. An electorate who are far more nuanced in their approach to the northern issue that comes with time and history.

I suspect that whether the politicians or the electorate like it or not, the North will be a major issue, the question is will it be positively brought up, considered and engaged or passively foisted on the election from outside. There are still demons in the closet and perhaps its time to get rid of them.



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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Irishelection and Irish blogs in the Irish Times

The Irish Times on tuesday is set to carry two pieces on blogging, the first is a look at the phenomenon of blogging in irish politics and whether it will go the US route, i know that most bloggers have their own reservations on that issue and will doubtless pick over the article tomorrow.

The second and far more important *ahem* is the inclusion of a piece on irishelection.com in the paper. Adam Maguire was good enough to write a piece on the site, profiling it and sending it on to the Times. They liked it and we struck lucky.


Also check out irishelection.com its a brand new site with a brand new feed.
The project was started on Friday night and the credit for the template and the amazing content (see PartyNews and an amazing Archive) must go to Simon. Without him we would still be in the dark ages.
Cheers.

3.21.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Irishelection in Irish Times

Adam Maguire, as an enterprising journalist, has managed to get irishelection.com into the Irish Times tomorrow (Tuesday). I have no idea how it is going to look or what it might end up saying. All I can say is thanks to Adam for working on this and getting us famous.

Those of you who link to irishelection might change the address to http://www.irishelection.com as it will be soon hosting a newer and upgraded version of Irish Election.

We are still looking for contributors by the way, if you fancy it just email me progressiveireland[@]yahoo.ie

Again thanks to Adam, once again blogs make it into the Irish Times, Damien has beaten a path we might be following ; )Irishelection

3.20.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Paddy's Day, A Match Against the English for Silverware and....

Im only thinking of one thing, April fools day.

Today is the day all people of all colours and in all places decide they like the way we drink and do so in our honour. Tomorrow is the day that the Irish are led into the bowels of the great oppressor to try and secure some silverware in the Triple Crown or, unlikely, the Six Nations Championship. The atmosphere will be intense, with the collective Irish sentiment still lingering over the stadium like a chinese smog. There will be little that can lift it if we win and little that can lift it if we lose. On Saturday all will be Irish, simply because its more fun.

Yet I cannot focus on such a close object without going cross-eyed. Cross-eyed with excitement and cross-eyed with worry. For soon April fools will be upon us. Munster will be trotting out in the Quarter Finals of the Heineken Cup, the roar of the best fans in the world will ring out and all will be well again in the world. While Perpignan fans tend to be bad travellers, we can never know about the team. So we need all hands on deck.

Saturday needs to yield a clean bill of health to the munster participants. Paul o Connell is going to give 150% as usual, all we can do is hope he gets out unscathed. For some Irish, this will be a longer weekend than anticipated, for others it will be revelling as never before.

Once we get through Saturday unscathed, then the party begins and on April 1st the games return.

C

3.17.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Green Election Manifesto Launch



Well that is perhaps a tad of an overstatement. The initial phase of the Green's 50 Steps programme is launched today. There are two major things to bear in mind;

1. The plan itself

2. The contrast in tone, content and rhetoric versus the alterative government.


1. The plan is set to be released in 50 stages over the course of the next election. Its an interesting tactic in and of itself, maintaining a certain momentum, profile and also placing education at the center of the Green campaign over a long period.

The eyecatcher is a promise to invest the guts of E1 Billion in education in the first year of government, oh dear oh dear says Micheal, here comes another bust-time tax and spend leftie-communist government. Only that those crafty Greens are talking big. They reckon a targetted programme of spending 1 billion euro can be done without necessitating any additional taxation.

Dan Boyle: "There are a number of mechanisms by which the tax take can be raised without increasing the headline tax rates. In any event we anticipate that the additional investment in education will actually save the taxpayer money in the longer term,"

Good stuff though, they decided not to bother specifying these mechanisms until Stages 23 and 37 [or thereabouts ;) ] They argue that the funding will go to specific intiatives, designed to tackle some of the education systems deepest problems.

'"But let me stress, it is not simply about money, it is about looking at the areas where urgent change is needed and if this needs additional investment, so be it. Key areas where additional spending will be needed include adult education, implementation of the McIver report recommendations and school building projects."

So the Greens have decided that there is much to be done and much ground to be gained in the "qulaity of life" issues. I agree, for the majority of people in this country quality of life issues represents the deepest failure of politics. Some may say we expect too much, I disagree for even if our expectations were drastically lowered, the satisfaction of those expectations is still unlikely. The people of Ireland are responsive to big ideas, argued coherently and backed up with costings. If they can do it and show they can, then perhaps they will succeed in creating the bigger narrative framework so lacking in the "alternative government".

On a sidenote: Clever Trevor argues that this plan makes huge sense if one considers the E500,000 a year spent per young offender in prison.“Although this party is committed to putting an extra one billion euro into education, the reality is that this Green Party initiative would actually be an investment and save the country money in less crime, more equity and a better quality of life for all our people.”

Which is fair enough, though I smell an area ripe for money to be taken from and respent on education. While the policy is nice and shiny now, wait until FF and PDs get stuck in.

2. The contrast between the Green approach to this election policy and that of our nascent Coalition in Waiting couldnt be sharper. I voiced my own dissatisfaction at the tone of the FG/Labour managerialist strategy yesterday. When one thinks of two issues- managerialism and Education-I know which one is more associated with politics and which less so. The Greens can run and make decent ground on quality of life issues if the coalition leave it too late to take the lesson from Rip off Republic and begin to construct a more grabbing idea. They could too focus on better quality of life (which doesnt have to = state provision) focus on drawing the represented closer to the representatives.

The Green party are at their best when they are talking positive talk. As lefties they excel in it, and also like good lefties get carried a way just a bit. But the route they are taking in independence is the route that Rabbitte shunned. If it proves the better path, then FG and Labour may rue the missed opportunities early in this campaign.

Breaking News say the plan is to release this one a week over 14 Months, does anyone think this is an effective way of drawing policy together? Or simply a gimmick for sustained publicity ultimately offering little to the debate on education

C


Irishelection

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Fair Play to Her

Rachel from North London was mentioned here recently, when he father (a man of God no less) was treated rather shabbily by his MP and Home Office Secretary Charles Clarke. Following on from that I just wanted to update- both her and her father have been invited to attend a meeting with Clarke in the near future, Rachel is hoping to get answers to why there hasnt been a full pulic inquiry into 7/7 yet.

We watch and wait.

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3.15.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Preparing for Government





Perhaps unsurprisingly, Frank is unimpressed with the hullabaloo over yesterdays joint document by the government in waiting. The document was released to highlight the oppositions proposals to tighten up on government waste if /when (I'll use if for ease) elected next time round. The new campaign is looking to underwrite the clearly professional tone that Fine Gael and Labour are trying to strike in time for the upcoming election.

All of the image is on professional, capable hands, waiting and preparing to take control of the country from the spendthrift madmen and incompetent oofs of the present administration. Im sure very few voters would dismiss out of hands concerns over the manner in which the government has spent our money over the last two terms. There have been some very high-profile blunders, higher-profile relcalcitrance over the follies (Martin Cullen, I see you shuffling down the back).

All of this is well and good, it just so happens that yesterdays announcement is not how I would forsee a prospective government laying the ground work for their election. Attacking the government over PPARs, and its ilk in the infrastructure sectors is, to my mind, a monumental folly of tactics at this stage in the game.

I agree with most FG and Labour people who argue that it is way too early for policy, Frank will have to wait and see what emerges on that front. If a policy is good, the government will steal it. If its bad, then it speaks for itself. Instead FG and Labour are prosecuting an image strategy which presents them in press releases as the "alternative government", discusses their "preperation to govern" and posits them as managerially capable. However the flaw in this image is that over the 5 governments in the last 20 years, Labour and Fine Gael have been in one together and Labour in one with Fianna Fail.

My own feeling is that the opposition have still failed to learn the lesson of Eddie Hobbs' Rip Off Republic series. Eddie Hobbs managed to tap a river of feeling that was running through the country, he popularised it and without and solid policy proposal managed to secure the attention of over 600,000 irish people. He elucidated emotion that was running rife in the electorate. The opposition (by virtue of a pre-existing website) fell in behind the momentum almost as taken aback as everyone else that it had taken on a life of its own.

The lesson here is not that the government need to be attacked on managerial issues, they are to be attacked on issues of principle." The government wasted money and we will manage it better", was what was heard yesterday, in the long run who will remember. Instead there is huge room for Labour and Fine Gael to construct a broader, wider principled narrative. Not a sanctimonious, patronising principle but one which goes back to first principles and over the coming months constructs a dialogue on the principles of irish democratic government, principles governing public policy, broader themes which can bring the people living in the communter belts back into the fold, themes which offer genuine choice to the electorate.

What yesterday suggested to me was a collapes into the age-old paradigm of irish politics of Fianna Fail and anyone-but-Fianna-Fail. Matters of principle and policy can come second to the primary issue of management and personality clashes. The irish electoral market has long since moved on, with a much wider electoral market facing us next year. The electorate can be interested and involved in wider deliberation by drumming up dialogue on the fundmentals. The priniciples which need to ground a coalition of Labour and Fine Gael, a commitment not to broad meaningless phrases (prosperity, goodness, lollipops) but commitments to "involvement", participation, a fair deal for voters, a more responsive government.

Government begins and ends with the people, it represents the interests of the public at large. A Fine Gael Labour pre-campaign strategy should be focussing on framing the debate in broader terms which relate in very real ways to the lives and perceptions of irish people today. We have shambolic public serivces, moderate interest from government in putting the commuter first, moderate interest from government in dealing with housing issues.

Of course my own prescription seems muddled enought, but from a starting point of discussion of democracy, citizenship, rights and respect, Im sure that a bigger and better narrative could be built up. One premised on the interests of citizen, the quality of government and the primacy of dialogue and openness. Consistent discussion of managerial projects (Accountancy and Social partnership) are necessary but are nuts and bolts to a bigger picture that FG and Labour are yet to paint.


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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Worst Drink in a Can

For me, right now it has to be this can of Guinness that i am drinking. It is absolutely rotten. Like all cans of Guinness I consume, I wonder why the hell I bought it. In my defence i have since stopped and this is the one from the back of the fridge.

It got me thinking though, others love cans of Guinness-so what is your worst drink in a can (alco or non)?

I know if i want a nice can of Guinness, the Murphy's can fits the bill in an odd quirk of irony.
Guinness cans-muck. With a widget.

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Bloglines and Blogger

Mostly blogger but both of these guys are really pissing about today. Half of bloggers feeds wont load and the other half wont allow me access to the webpage.
Sometimes.......

3.14.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Go Prepare for Government





Just popped round to the Labour website to fix the RSS feed for their press releases and I spotted the motif for the forthcoming party conference.

Im sure Labour are unworried by the horrible history that such a phrase condures what with them "returning to their constituencies and preparing for government"(see 1981).

Hopefully they wont be as long in preparation as the Liberals.

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Free Irish Times Feed

Folks, Simon over at tuppenceworth found the most amazing little site, Feed43 it's called.
Anyway he asked someone to do a feed of Eircoms breaking news for him and I obliged my services for a while since it beat studying.
Then he challenged me to do the same to this page that carrie s the Irish Times' biggest stories of the day for free.

Lo and behold you now have yourselves a walking talking RSS feed for free Irish Times content.

Your welcome, if your really feeling in my debt, I like alcohol as a gift.

The drawback to feed43 is its feeds only reload every six hours, but for the Irish Times feed thats all you need. Breaking news sites, not so handy. Im looking to convert some of my faves into RSS now. God Ill never study again.

Update1: Jeez this is massive altogether, Ive added the press feeds from the major political parties to the links over at irishelection, Yup thats the major parties direct to your RSS aggregator. For some its no good but for anoraks...now you have no excuse for not being informed.

More to come, dont be shy in suggesting sites that might need a bit of treatment.

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Rights Based Legislation for Teachers

[I just want to move to the top the challenge to Irish blawggers to open a debate on rights based legislation in ireland, I mention it below so read on]


Last night on Questions and Answers, the TUI raised the issue of their recent survey of pupil behaviour among secondary teachers.
[from De Paper]
Half of the 1,200 teachers who took part had seen unacceptable bullying or cruelty to students by their peers in the past week alone, and one-in-five had seen it in the shape of unacceptable physical violence.

Teachers themselves are under constant threat of being victimised, with the survey finding that about one-third had very recent experience of their property being damaged or being verbally abused by students.

It shows one-in-five teachers are at the receiving end of threatening or intimidating behaviour on a weekly basis and 8% said unacceptable sexual innuendo or harassment had been directed at them by students in the past week.
On the show representatives of the TUI called for "rights based legislation" for techers, which would guarantee the safety and authority of the teachers to some extent. While the government has a record of being reluctant to put up rights based legislation, on issues which might be of far greater importance, there is always merit in tackling an issue like this case by case.

Ive got no experience in the legal framework of rights based legislation, though I would like to see some of our legal commentators throw a few cents into the jar on the need for rights based legislation in Ireland (in general and also for the disabled, teachers and minorities e.g.)

However, I wonder about the current state in which teachers find themselves in. The Irish Times and Examiner carry the news that the forthcoming task force report on education looks likely to stop short of radical legislation to curb behavioural issues.

The TUI are demanding minimal considerations from the state it seems, last night on Q and A (above), the TUI representative wanted to have teachers affirmed in their work, mandated the power to act fairly and proportionately and codes of behaviour. Im guessing this stems from the fact that nearly 80% of students can get a suspension overturned and with each success the teacher sees their standing diminished further. Rights based legislation in this case is needed (according to the TUI) to redress the balance in favour of the institution against the onslaught on the misbehaving hoardes.

It seems fair enough, we might agree that teachers get afforded rights based legislations (leading to cementing of status, recognition of roles and entitlements etc), they are facing serious problems in controlling classes. Perhaps, but for the government and governments in general, rights based legislation is suspiciously viewed as a slippery slope.

It was only last year that the government decided that there was no possibility of rights based legislation for the disabled which would enshrine in law the entitlements of the disabled and the responsibilities of the state toward the disabled community. OF course the TUI are not only calling for the rights based legislation, they want to see some new disciplinary measures brought in with the task force report.

A "sin-bin" or school within school (depending on your stance) is top of their list, basically getting the trouble makers out of class and cooling them down while preparing them for reintegration. Many would find such a notion worrying ("school ghettos") and agree with the task forces failure to recommend the idea to Hannifan. So what is to be done?

The unfortunate thing about this is that the teachers are caught up in the middle of a wider phenomenon, one that Blair, Fine Gael and the Mail like to call anti-social behaviour. The debate about school behaviour slots into this wider template of youth out of control in our society and what to do about it. The response to school discipline has to be an integrated and educated response to the needs of our youth.

While perhaps the Magill editor and his cohorts might prefer to see increased parental responsibility and discipline, even hinting last night at a regret at the loss of old school discipline, I dont think any solution can be seen in such a myopic fashion. Parental discipline is no longer the byword for a good slap and lockdown in your room. From a younger and younger age, parental control is going out the window.

Of course we flirted for a while with the notion of ASBOs to keep kids off the streets and out of our hair, a band aid tactic intended to take the heat out of the then looming crisis in "respect" another of Blairs buzzwords.

Tony Gregory was talking the night before on the Week in Politics (here), he made the case for community based programmes in the estates that were thrown up without a thought to facilities or youth in the last 30 years. The creation of programmes which help to channel some of the energy and frustration is not only desirable but essential in the broader response to school discipline and social discord.

Im pretty sure that at this stage Ive digressed all over the shop. A single blog post is not the place to begin to solve some of the largest issues to face Irish society. Youth from certain socio-economic backgrounds, certain sectors of our community and certain areas of the country are being cast adrift. Dealing with discipline in schools can take the usual route of bolting stable doors, legislating away the problem from the front pages of the Irish Media or it can get to grips with the issues on the ground, the expanding sense of social nihilism (hattip: Copernicus) and the ongoing erection of the barriers between us and them.

All children have the right to be educated, education has to be the best and surest route up the ladder. This requires a motivated and protected group of teachers, given the right tools for the job and the necessary support to help kids out, but it also requires that kids end up in school without a massive nihilistic chip on their shoulder. Its hard to get rid of the feeling of being cast adrift in your own country once it decends upon you.

There are many different strands that feed into what is manifesting itself as the next Daily Mail crisis. Any serious response must recognise not just a role for the parents but a role for the state, media and broader popular opinion in recognising the need for enabling attitudes and projects to get our support. Parents have a role, as it is with all these situations, but the bigger picture needs to be taken account of also.

Returning, finally, to the initial issue of rights based legislation for teachers, the argument for their protection and valuation is great. Teachers ought be affirmed in their work since it is of paramount importance to the development of an inclusive and progressive society. Rights based legislation has the potential to be a great enabler on the way to such a society, but it cannot afford to be overused, or misused.

I wonder does the recourse to rights based legislation for teachers set the bar too low for the enactment of the legislation to protect groups within society? If there is no other way then im sure I wouldnt have a problem supporting it. However I must say that issues of school discipline need to be seen in a wider context. Youth are all we have and irish youth in an era of unrivalled prosperity ought be able to expect opportunities and facilities among the best in the world.

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Thomond to go to 26,000

Great news for Munster Rugby fans as the IRFU confirmed today that talks with local residents in the area have been completed successfuly and Thomond is likely to go to 26,000 capacity stadium.

There was a worry that the pershing cold of Musgrave park was to become home to Munster Rugby but thankfully the residents of Limerick pulled through in the end and Munster can remain in their spiritual home.

Cant wait for that first Heineken Cup game at a bigger and redder Thomond Park, though i doubt the expansion will make getting tickets any easier. I wonder is the expansion likely to alter the feel of the ground, I know some soccer teams in the UK encounter such a problem, but I have to feel that fans like Munster's will make an atmosphere wherever they are put.


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» Author: Cian » Comments:

I Hate Studying

With a passion, since I left secondary school I am incapable of sitting still for longer than ten minutes to study for an exam. Perhaps it a result of only having to study for exams once a year.
Whatever it is, I simply cannot sit down and concentrate on this revision business. Love reading, dont mind essays, but its the revision that really gets me.

So here I am posting this instead of studying.

C

» Author: Cian » Comments:

John Bolton on Iran

BBCs Hardtalk had a 30 minute interview with John Bolton tonight (Monday night). Its available here though for 24 hours only I think.

Some interesting bits and pieces, dealing with Iran, Darfur, UN reform and the Human Rights Council and a grilling on Guantanamo/Abu Ghraib.

While its little different to what we may have read around the place, a thirty minute face to face does have its advantages in giving the impression and feeling lost on print.

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3.13.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Of Interest to Bloggers

Might be the forthcoming launch of 'Comment Is Free' by the Guardian. Its being billed by them as:

"...a major expansion of Guardian comment and analysis on the web. It is a collective group blog, bringing together regular columnists from the Guardian and Observer newspapers with other writers and commentators representing a wide range of experience and interests. The aim is to host an open-ended space for debate, dispute, argument and agreement and to invite users to comment on everything they read.

The blog is updated regularly through the day, with best blogs featuring on our pick of the day. We also carry all the comment from the Guardian and Observer newspapers, giving readers the chance to comment on these articles directly for the first time.

Comment is free is the home of If, the cartoon strip by Steve Bell - Britain's most celebrated political cartoonist - making its debut on Guardian Unlimited after 25 years in the paper. Dan Chung, our award-winning photographer, also has his own photo-blog. And we regularly podcast Guardian and Observer political and cultural debates."

The site only appears to have gone live in the past while (from Pickled Politics), but is intended to host a wider range of commentators than the Guardian's own comment page. Its a pretty intriguing experiment in group blogs and new media. One which is choc-full of potential in theory. I and I'm sure other bloggers too, will wait with interest to see what comes of this major meeting of MSM and Bloggers.

The press Gazette also carry some interesting insights into the legality and difficulties of a major media organ opening up to comments from all sorts.

What do you reckon bloggers, ought we start beating down the doors of our own establishments to look for an Irish version of this meeting of the minds? Or is it another Pajama Media in the offing?

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Of the People, For the People...(?)

From Rachel, comes the rather disturbing story of one Charles Clarke MP. Home Secretary Clarke was in his Norwich constituency recently talking to constituents, who happened to inclued her father in the crowd. Ill copy the rest here, do read it.

My dad, who is a parish priest and honorary Canon, read my draft article on Forgiveness ('The F-word') last night, and it so happened that he was going to to a clergy meeting this morning at Norwich Cathedral where the special guest was the Home Secretary Charles Clarke .

Clarke is my father's MP.

Clarke, in his speech to the assembled clergy, made much of the fact that he had spoken to the PM ''only yesterday'' and the PM was at the time considering the problem of an angry Sedgefield constituent about the closure of a school. Clarke remarked upon this system of top executives still being MPs and responsible to their constituents, how unusual this was compared to most Parliamentary systems. You lucky people, even though I am the Home Secretary, I am still also your M.P and here to help with all your little problems and enquiries. Etc.

He didn't actually say ' you lucky people'', Dad said, but that was the inference. Dad was pleased that he could finally ask his M.P, Charles Clarke, the question he has been keen to ask for some months. Dad waited eagerly to ask his question; he had already written to Clarke in December 2005 with his question. But Clarke had not replied.

Dad was therefore very keen to be part of what was advertised in the meeting notes as ''30 minutes of reflection'' after Clarke spoke. (In these meetings, ''30 minutes of reflection''means ''30 minutes of debate''. But it a clergy meeting, so they all ''reflect'', rather than shout and argue. It's more dignified and godly, see. )

Unusually, according to Dad, on this occasion there was not a debate and questions from the floor, as is usual with these meetings at which Clarke was the special guest today: there were instead only 3 questions which Clarke answered at length, the questions seemed to Dad to be pre-prepared to give Clarke an opportunity to talk about things like prisons and police in a self-congratulatory way.

Dad was not able to ask his question, the last question finished and it was announced that there would be Eucharist in 2 minutes. Dad was very angry that ''the Eucharist was being used as a filibuster.'' And still he had not had a chance to ask the question that was by now burning him up inside. It was time to break bread together; people began to leave the room.

My father tells me he at this point left his seat and strode up to Clarke, because he wanted to ask his question, and he said,

''Congratulations on fixing the meeting so that nobody can ask questions! You will have heard about Rev Julie Nicholson who is so angry she cannot forgive the bombers who killed her daughter on 7th July , well, I have a question, my daughter was feet away from the 7/7 Kings Cross bomb, and she and some other surivors have said they are not angry with the bombers, but with the Government, because there was no public enquiry. Why is there no public enquiry?''

Charles Clarke looked at my father ''in a very nasty way'', and then he said to my father

'' Get away from me, I will not be insulted by you, this is an insult'.

And he stormed past, and Dad was so upset he could not share Eucharist with this man,

and my father left the cathedral in despair.

Dad has cheered up a bit now, but he was almost in tears at being so insulted by Clarke when I spoke to him: he did not think he had insulted Clarke at all.

Why is it an insult when the father of a bomb survivor, a gentle man of God, who has never caused trouble in his life, asks for a public enquiry? Why is his question not answered?

You can write and ask Charles Clarke yourself, but I do not expect he will trouble to reply. If he does, can you leave a comment in my blog? My father , and I , and many other people would very much like to hear his answer.


While Clarkes action is by no means a gauge of the attitude of all or even any politicians, it does say something about the sorry and disconnected state of some Democracies when representatives feel aggrieved at having to answer to constituents in an open fashion and not just behind the privacy of the ballot. I worry that Clarke's attitude is part of a wider pattern of attitudes in the political class that sees itself as the Guardian elite rather than at the employment of the people.

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The Hamas Dilemma

Its been a while since I sat down and read news, any news, or blogs for that matter. So this afternoon I wandered over to alertnews to find some of the stuff that doesnt make Reuters front page (its particularly good on Africa etc).

I found a few articles that underlined what is coming to be an alrmingly complex paradox to add to the already dense web of paradox and conflict at play in the Middle East. First up the news that Simon Peres on Sunday held informal meetings with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. This, to me, is good news, the talks represent some pragmatism on the part of Isreal which realises that despite Hamas relations with members of the PA who support a 2-state solution must be maintained and strengthened. At least I hope they do, for in the future you can be guaranteed that even relations with Abbas will become strained or irrelevant as the full impact of the Hamas victory comes into play in domestic and regional politics.

"This was not a political meeting," a senior government source said. "They discussed building a special emergency fund for humanitarian aid for the Palestinian population."
While I know a great deal of people have issues with welfare dependency, I think in this case it has to form part of a wider plan to help reassure Palestinian society and restabilise the PA in order to facilitate the ultimate creation of a Palestinian state. However the key issue here is not that Isreal is willing to create a fund to dole out Aid in the long run such an approach is not the best way in which to ensure peace. If the dependence on aid goes on longer than necessary it become self defeating and creates a social psychology of resenment and does not allow Palestinians to promote their own welfare.
But Israeli government officials have said Israel would not stop humanitarian aid from reaching the West Bank and Gaza. "(The meeting) was to establish what has been agreed upon in previous talks and to continue to keep the channels for humanitarian aid open," the senior Israeli government source said
Which is again a good thing as relations need to be maintained between parties on both sides who might be able to bring about a 2 state solution.

Setting aside the issue of whether Aid in the long run is feasible, we come to the crux of the paradox now facing our policy makers in the west. Its the news that Hamas found warm welcome in the arms of the hardliners in Saudi Arabia on a trip to ensure that funding for the PA will come from somewhere.

While it is clear the west faces a huge issue in ensuring Hamas recognises the Israeli state, it runs the risk of turning rhetoric about a terror state into fact by letting Hamas run to the arms of the Saudi backers of Islamic extremism. Its not simply Saudi that is waiting to underwrite another territorial conquest for extreme islam but Iran seems intested in underwriting its neonationalist strongman image in Palestine. There are accounts available of the manner in which most of the modern terror organisations still thrive on the funding available from Saudis and from territorial cannibalisation (the Afghan drug trade eg.)

The money trail is a fundamental aspect of dealing with terrorism and the potential to create a shell state which lines the war chest of terror organisations. Such is now the crux of the paradox facing the EU, US and others.

Do they hold their noses and continue to offer assistance to the PA while pushing the two state solution (during the terms of Hamas and whomever wins the forthcoming election in Israel) or withdraw funding on principles which are pretty sound but run the very real risk of turning Palestine into a very real terror state. The current Hamas regime is without doubt to be populated with men and women sympathetic to suicide bombers. Yet Hamas has managed to keep suicide bombings down during the recent ceasefire.

I would personally prefer to see funding continued in the short term by EU and US agencies while a strategy could be drawn up to ensure the continued existence of the PA which would not be reliant on the funding of fundamentalist fruitcakes.

The best outcome would surely be one where Hamas was brought to the table to endorse a two state solution but in the likely event of having to settle for less we ought be aware of the full impact which our decisions might lead to.

Is it a case of principle needing to triumph over pragmatic considerations or can a solution ride the uneasy paradox and compromise between values and safety. While I dont endorse any underwriting of the efforts of Hamas to attack Israel, I realise that the insitutions of Palestinian democracy are in frail health, they must be built up to cope with a transition to 2-states and also to keep at bay the extremism likely to be funded by Saudi and Iran.

Can we afford to lost Palestine too? That it seems is the question, and grappling with the issues at the heart of that question is not a nice prospect for western policy makers.

Update: Im aware that many of the characters who as members of the PLA would benefit from having a state are like this woman. I dont agree with her politics and neither, I suspect do the EU or the USA. Is the alternative (cutting the cash) worse in the long term, that is the question. To which the answer has to be yes.

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Blog Awards

I am gutted to have missed the awards, was hoping against hope that I might be able to go but alas it was not to be, having said that, it looked like a mental night. Full credit to Damien for the amazing work. He deserves all the credit and plaudits that can be heaped upon him.

Colm has got a variety of great links for others who are trying to get a flavour of the night.

Well done to the winners, especially the ones i voted for.

Again well done to damien. Amazing work.

C

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Fundraising for a Good Cause

Gavin has a very personal plea on his blog for his readers to contribute for a fund in aid of his cousing victor who was seriously injured playing rugby for Longford FC.

He has asked that all bloggers link to the story and where possible make a donation to help with the care and rehabilitation of Victor who is now paralysed from the neck down as a result of a Rugby injury.

Victor was on the news today to highlight the fact that there will be around 200 at the Ireland Scotland game in landsdown to raise funds.

Gavin, I dont posess a credit card (the joys of student life) but you can rest assured that I will be donating through the bank and I encourage all of you to do the same.
You can contribute via paypal on Gavins blog or you can giro:

Ulster Bank, Longford (a/c no 54437094, sort code 98 60 30).

3.09.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

UN Reform

Kofi Annan released the lastest in his series of proposals to overhaul the UN yesterday. The report itself is here, and his press release here.

Havent had a chance to read it, or anything else for that matter-up the walls till the weekend- but a reuters report suggests that its not all sweetness and light.

UN Staff are concerned about what they see as outsourcing and job losses in New York, while EU and US are pretty happy, LDCs and poor countries suspect that the budget cuts and efficiency savings are going to come out of projects from which they directly benefit.

On top of all this, most diplomats seem to be preturbed by the potential for uprooting the current balance of influence (and power of sorts) in the latest reforms, which clearly worries those at the top of the influence pile. If it goes through there will be a spate of Gala parties in NY Diplomatic quarter as countries race up the greasy pole.

Cian
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3.08.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Gardai had Prior Knowledge of Omagh - Labour

Browsing through some of the Party press releases online, I came across an interesting piece from yesterday by Joe Costello. (I looked through yesterday's transcripts and it seems that it was Pat Rabbitte who brought it up in Leaders Questions'.)

"Today in the Dáil I questioned the Taoiseach about fresh claims that an informant, relocated by Gardaí under the witness protection programme, had given his handlers prior information relevant to the Real IRA’s plan to bomb Omagh."
It seems that the PSNI representatives, "on Wednesday the 22nd last, the outgoing Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI, Sam Kinkaid, accompanied by his successor and by Superintendent Baxter who has led the Omagh bomb inquiry, made clear to the Omagh families their view that both MI5 and the Garda Síochána had had relevant information which was not passed on to their service and which, taken together, would have placed them on a much higher state of alert."

The information is said to have come from a Donegal car theif, Paddy Dixon, who was stealing cars for the Real IRA operation. His Garda handler voiced the allegations on the bombing and a body was set up to inquire into the affair. The inquiry report was never published nor publicised but was seen by Enda Kenny and Joe Costello
[from Costello]
I said I was struck by the consistent and apparently congenital inability of that committee to query the official Garda version of events in any case where it differed from that of Detective Sergeant White, whereas every hole was picked in the case put forward against the Garda authorities.
While the press release is not clear enough for simply old me to understand, it seems the inquiry was looking at the process of getting the information that was in the posession of Dixon's handler, Detective Sergeant White, to the top of the tree and on to the North. It is clear that this didn't happen and the PSNI seem to blame the gardai for this. If I am wrong about the nature of the report, I am open to correction but it seems to be the thrust of the release that this is what is was about Gardai cooperation and intelligence gathering with regard to Omagh and the PSNI.
[again Costello]
The present position is that the PSNI has made conclusions in its inquiry that run directly counter to the Nally report and its findings.
Clearly there exists a number of serious questions around the intelligence in the run-up to the atrocity north of the border
It is surprising enough that the Nally committee was able to reach the findings it did without interviewing Paddy Dixon, the Garda informant at the heart of this affair. It is even more disturbing that the PSNI felt the need to make it clear again last week that they still wish to interview that man.
...
The Nally report has not put an end to it. The police services of two neighbouring jurisdictions, which ought to have the closest co-operation, are now at loggerheads on the matter.


Costello has a point that all sides of the border and the Irish sea made an unqualified commitment to ensuring the highest possible standard of justice for the families of Omagh. The allegations he makes are serious, the report as it stands looks remarkably like some form of one-sided work intent of covering tracks as much as uncovering truth.

If this is so, and it is important to stress the unpublished state of the Nally Report, then it is clear that a further and more open approach must be taken as a debt of honour both to the Omagh victims and to our own process of justice. In a Republic the role of law must be above reproach to continue with the legitimate rule of law.

Bertie's responses in the Leaders Questions of yesterday are at the bottom of this page and the following page:

The Taoiseach: ...However, it has been the view all the way through that any information given to the Garda by the security forces was acted on long before the explosions. I cannot be certain of the facts but the relevant security information was acted on long before 15 August 1998. The bomb that was in preparation at that time was intercepted. I do not say the Deputy is talking about a different issue but the information was passed to the Garda by MI5. The information was acted on and the bomb that was in preparation was intercepted. It has been my understanding that the PSNI and the chief constable do not believe the account given by Sergeant White
...
To be clear on the matter, if Sam Kincaid was talking about the information that was given to the Garda by MI5 - I cannot be certain that is what he was talking about - that information was acted on and the bomb that was in preparation was intercepted and dealt with.
...
It appears there are two issues. The Deputy says that Sam Kincaid said his sources did not give him information and my information has always been that the information we got was acted on. I do not believe there was any other information. That was my understanding.
There does indeed to be two issues, anyone who reads the transcripts gets the impression of two men at cross-purposes. Sam Kinkaid's allegation as reprinted is that the Gardai had information, seemingly different to that in mind by Bertie Ahern, which was not passed on and would have contributed significantly to dealing with the Omagh Bomb.

While there is a great deal of fog at this point, the allegations by the PSNI and Labour are serious enough to merit further clarification on the events and certainly if there is a case to be answered after that a full inquiry.

Bertie's reply was not sufficient considering the scale of the allegation, he wasn't informed of the question before hand so at this point he must get the benefit of the doubt that he was genuinely confused. However, I would like to see some clarification of the position of both Kinkaid and the Government on what was known and whether it was passed on. It is implied that Dixon's intelligence is linked to the successful attack not the one which Ahern says was foiled on the intelligence of the Gardai.

The two were at cross purposes yesterday but cannot afford to remain so, for the credibility of our force and also the justice that the Omagh families deserve.

This allegation about the Gardai follows reports last week in the Sunday Times of the MI5 deficiencies and coverage by the SDLP and Slugger. So far its the first explicit attempt to enquire into the exact Garda role in this.

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3.01.2006 » Author: Cian » Comments: