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Posts Tagged ‘ Irish politics ’

Joan Burton Squares Off With Mary Lou McDonald

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Heated debate took place this morning on Newstalk between two of the most prominent women in Irish politics. After tossing over the topical issues of the day the segment developed into a scrap on Sinn Fein’s legacy of association with Republican violence.

Burton criticised a lack of discussion and transparency on what she called recently at a Labour conference the ‘Sinn Fein – IRA nexus’. Some certainly may be tired of Burton’s approach, the usual refuge of Irish politicians who come under fire from Sinn Fein TD’s. Mary Lou retorted with a very articulate criticism of Eamon Gilmore’s alleged involvement with Official IRA groups. However there is no doubt that many Irish people are still troubled by the issue Burton discussed and it seems likely that Sinn Fein will have to distance itself further from association with the republican violence. Although the significant ground made by Sinn Fein was the main story of the recent elections, it should also be noted that many middle-leaning voters seem to have favoured the disgraced Fianna Fail party over Sinn Fein. This, in the face of the fact that we were voting against a government that has implemented several unpopular austerity budgets, tells us Sinn Fein have not yet moved into the political mainstream of Ireland. Continue reading

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Proposed Seanad Abolition Masks True Problems

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This Friday, you’ll be asked to take part in a referendum, voting for or against the abolishment of Seanad Éireann, Ireland’s second House of the Oireachtas. It’s an issue which has dulled some and bored others, and unsurprisingly split the country’s political parties once again. It’s hard to know what the right choice is. On the one hand you have an unelected body whose relevance is hard to ascertain, and on the other, a chance to save some money and rid Ireland of a few more politicians, one which undoubtedly appeals to many people.

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Opinion: Abortion Debate Highlights Political Impotency of the Younger Generation

File:Abortion protest - Barcelona, Spain (8133579204).jpg

Abortion protest – Barcelona, Spain. Photo: David Berkowitz.

As I left my house to go to work yesterday I found, as I regularly do, junk mail crammed into my letter box. But, unlike the usual menu for takeaways or an estate agent trying to get me to sell my rented house, I found a leaflet for anti-abortion. It was well made with good eye-catching design; even the pictures of its featured politicians were Obama-ised like the famous ‘Change’ posters. I left it where it was and continued on my way. Two minutes down the street I met the man who was handing out the flyers. Now, I work in a place where daily I deal with large numbers of elderly and retired people, so take my word for it when I tell you; he was one of the oldest people I have ever seen. He was walking up driveways at the pace of a snail with a limp, and his liver spots were so numerous they could have been freckles on a ginger child. Never before have I seen the division of opinions between the old and the young so perfectly portrayed. And yet, despite this man’s obvious lack of vitality he was standing up and making an effort to involve himself in an issue he feels very strongly about. The same can definitely not be said of the majority of the young people in my generation.

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Crippled Irish Political System Requires Total Revamp

eire“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner,”

-James Bovard, Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty.

It has been stated and stressed many times over the course of the past few years, in various ways and with various examples to illustrate the point: Ireland’s political system is a frustrating failure. Our politicians are almost universally reviled as people who will say anything to get elected, promptly forgetting about such promises when the votes are tallied and their place in government has been cemented for another few years. If the people are accused of apathy then it’s hard to blame them. At this stage the whole process is a farce, a joke, to the point where much of the electorate feels alienated and simply doesn’t bother joining in anymore. Why, they ask, when elections feel like a sham – merely replacing the people sitting in Dáil Éireann rather than the policies they enact. How many thought they were getting away from cronyism and the political policies saddling the majority with the mistakes of the minority when Fine Gael was last elected to government? And how many simply sighed when they finally realised it was really Fianna Fáil in a different guise sitting in Leinster House spinning the same tired old yarn? Continue reading

Happy Couple Heading For Break Up

Cracks Beginning To Emerge In Coalition

Don’t you just love the first year of a new relationship?

Ah, the intense excitement and romance of it all; not to mention the chemistry of bonding which floods the brain. The desire to learn more about one another other; the budding relationship is fresh, fun and adventurous.  It has also been revealed that the simplistic act of being in the presence of your other half on a daily basis can stimulate love… So was that the case for Fine Gael and Labour?

One year on, having spent a year cooped up in the Dáil together, we ask, has the union of Fine Gael and Labour been the perfect partnership? Can this coalition stand the test of time? And has the honeymoon period ended for Enda and Eamon?

Sure they had a rocky start to their relationship, with the Tánaiste himself admitting they had been “knocking lumps” out of each during the general election campaign, but the publishing by the Government of its first annual progress reports details that they have made a ‘solid start’ at tackling the problems faced by the State.

The 45 page publication claimed that from 167 policy commitments listed in the implementation plan for the coalition government in their first year together, more than 150 of them had either been delivered or substantial progress had been made. The report also served as a reminder of their ‘achievement’s including the extra mortgage-interest relief for the negative-equity generation, the €10 billion reduction in the interest bill on our bailout loans, the reversal of the cut to the minimum wage by €1, and lastly, and possibly my favourite….. The €4m saved on ministerial car costs!! (Such expenditure was not warranted in the first place!)

(But remember this is their own self assessment of their progress… and as the infamous saying goes, ‘self praise is no praise’)

They did however accept that they had failed to delivered approximately a dozen commitments (how very noble of them!) but emphasised what they claimed were successes on debt reduction, banking and restoring stability (Again debatable!).

Acknowledgement by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, that as a government they had failed to provide enough support to struggling mortgage holders was welcomed and he alluded to the fact that a temporary cabinet sub-committee had been formed to address the issue of distressed mortgages. (Let’s hope some action on this issue follows…as personal insolvency legislation is apparently still awaited.)

Mr Kenny also cited that the burden of the bank bailout was still “too onerous” on taxpayers (You think Enda?).

Also, despite his promise in May 2011, to publish “report cards” evaluating the performance of individual ministers, they were not included in this report. However it was confirmed in recent days that this would not be a public exercise. Instead Mr Kenny met with ministers, senior and junior alike, and had an “honest appraisal” with them prior to the publication of the Government’s performance in this report.

Furthermore, it seems like Mr Kenny is adamant that this coalition will be a match made in heaven; expressing his feelings that “The people will be the judge of the ‘A Class’ in due course at the end of five years”. (You’re sounding overtly confident Enda! Relationships are tricky… Who says it won’t all crumble before then? Who says you won’t be deemed the ‘NG’ class?! Tread carefully Enda, tread carefully!!)

An Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore appeared to be somewhat more in tune with reality reminding us that whilst as a government they had taken over the reins in “horrific circumstances” that they had made progress, but he was not going to exaggerate it. Stating “We know full well the extent of what we have to do and we know full well the difficulties people are having”.

Of course the opposition parties were on hand to suggest that the report was a mere propaganda exercise, but both Taoiseach and Tánaiste denied any such PR exercise was at the heart of this report or that it was a mere ploy to paint a rosy assessment of their progress.

The bleak realism pointed out by opposition parties captured a myriad of ongoing issues they failed to address; the hoards of crowds queuing up at jobs fairs this week  in search of employment opportunities abroad (undoubtedly a case of forced emigration!), unemployment rates and the health budget cutbacks of €750m (a vital service which should not be ignored!).

Fine Gael had previously planned to celebrate their first anniversary in fashion (without inviting the Labour Party along!) by means of a photocall with TD’s and Senators holding up stars in an effort to illustrate their achievements over the past year. Thankfully, for both us and their better half, this ‘supposed’ celebration was cancelled as it was deemed by some clever sod as ‘inappropriate’ (Whoever you are – we are grateful!!). The sheer notion of celebrating alone raised the obvious questions surrounding the cohesiveness of the coalition government. They may have been all smiles at the publication of the annual progress report, but they cannot fool the nation! This is no perfect partnership – this coalition has got to work, for the sake of the nation and our hope of an economic recovery! (This is one relationship that cannot break up!)

Given the sheer scale of the economic crisis, and the major issues which the coalition government has yet to address, it is without a doubt not the time to be celebrating when so many people in the country are struggling – FG and Labour… Enda and Eamon, having reflected on your first year together, it is quite clear that the honeymoon period is most definitely over!!!  Now, get back to work guys… you have one hell of a job YET to do!!

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