Pollwatch: Sunday Business Post/Red C 25th March 2012

There is an interesting poll in tomorrows Sunday Business Post by Red C on both Party support and the fiscal treaty referendum. It is worth nothing that the poll was taken before the announcement on a deal on the Promissory Note and the Mahon Tribunal Report .

The top-line figures for party support are as follows:

  • Fine Gael 34% (+4)
  • Labour 15% (-1)
  • Fianna Fail 16% (-1)
  • Sinn Fein 18% (nc)
  • Ind/others 17% (-2)

Fine Gael manage get to get a four point bump in the poll this month. I am not sure exactly why considering all the major developments happened after the respondents were polled! Of course with the Ard Fheis next weekend there has been some mention of that.  Labour and Fianna Fail both continue their slow slide, but of course the next poll will the most important one for Fianna Fail. If their move to kick Bertie Ahern and others mentioned in the Mahon Report  are the right moves to keep support from the voters. Also it shows the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis and the apology has not helped with the polls.

Labours as the junior coalition party seem to be the ones suffering from policies implemented as there voters do not seem to agree. Of course with their National Conference coming up they could manage to stake out their own course after that.

Sinn Fein hold on to their support level as they start their campaign against the Fiscal Compact Treaty. Independents and others are the ones who are down two points as can happen when a party gets a boost larger then 2 percentage points.

On the treaty referendum the poll found the following:

  • Yes 49% (+5)
  • No 33%(+4)
  • Undecided 18% (-9)

When the undecided’s are excluded it is

  • Yes 60%
  • No 40%

Which is no change from the polls earlier this month. The campaigns have yet to get under way, but with the undecided’s splitting evenly at the moment it might not be tight, but lets not get complacent!

The Fianna Fail Frontbench

Fianna Fallacy
Today Micheal Martin announced his knew frontbench. It would seem that their is a job for everyone in the Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party, plus a councillor. Here is the full list:
  • Leader and Spokesperson on Northern Ireland: Micheál Martin TD
  • Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Finance: Brian Lenihan TD
  • Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade (also Party Whip): Seán Ó Fearghail TD
  • Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Financial Sector Reform: Michael McGrath TD
  • Spokesperson on Public Sector Reform: Sean Fleming TD
  • Spokesperson on Education and Skills: Brendan Smith TD
  • Spokesperson on Social Protection: Barry Cowen TD
  • Spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government: Niall Collins TD
  • Spokesperson on Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation: Willie O’Dea TD
  • Spokesperson on Children: Charlie McConalogue TD
  • Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Defence: Dara Calleary TD
  • Spokesperson on Health: Billy Kelleher TD
  • Spokesperson on Transport, Tourism and Sport: Timmy Dooley TD
  • Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources: Eamon Ó Cuiv TD
  • Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food: Michael Moynihan TD
  • Spokesperson on Arts and Heritage: Robert Troy TD
  • Spokesperson on Marine and Fisheries: John Browne TD
  • Spokesperson on Horticulture and Rural Affairs: Seamus Kirk TD
  • Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Gaeltacht Affairs: Micheal Kitt TD
  • Spokesperson on Small Business Regulatory Framework: John McGuinness TD (also Fianna Fáil nominee for Chair of the Public Accounts Committee)
  • Legal Adviser: Cllr Jim O’Callaghan

List from theJournal.ie

A Weekend is a long time in Politics

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That was some weekend wasn’t it? I have never in my life experienced a weekend in which so much has happened politically. We entered the weekend with Brian Cowen as leader of Fianna Fáil and we finished it with him as a caretaker Taoiseach.

His resignation as leader of Fianna Fáil was not that surprising considering the amount or pressure on him from all parts of the Fianna Fáil part and the failure of stalwarts like Eamonn O’Cuiv to back him. He knew his time was up. He had to go, but hes staying as Taoiseach.

We now face the possibility this week that the leader of Fianna Fail might not be in Government going into the election. That is if Michéal Martin wins the vote on Wednesday, which he is expected to do. But I wouldn’t trust those Fianna Fáilers and the result could surprise us.

After all the drama on Saturday, the Greens went into crisis mode. They held a meeting on Sunday and at press conference yesterday, they announced they had “lost patience” with their Government partners and were pulling out of Government. This means we are left with 7 ministers. The minimum number allowed by the constitution.

The Cabinet now looks like this:

  • Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs: Brian Cowen
  • Finance: Brian Lenihan
  • Tánasite, Education, Skill, Health and Children: Mary Coughlan
  • Community, Equality,  Gaeltacht Affairs, Transport, Environment, Heritage and Local Government: Pat Carey
  • Agriculture, Fisheries, Food, Justice and Law Reform: Brendan Smith
  • Tourism, Culture, Sport, Enterprise, Trade and Innovation: Mary Hanafin
  • Social Protection, Defence, Communication and Natural Resources: Eamonn O’Cuiv

The election date is obviously going to change with this and a date that seems to be appearing is Friday 25th of February. That is of course if they can pass the Finance Bill and stave off the vote of confidence.

Tonight’s meeting on the Finance Bill between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens will be an interesting one. It will be the one that decides whether or not we will have a Finance Bill going into the election. Its going to be an interesting week.

The Fianna Fail Heave

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So Fianna Fail are as divided as Fine Gael was last summer. The Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting gets under way at 5:30pm and is expected to last until around 9pm. The wording of the motion to be debated is reported to be

“That the Fianna  Fáil parliamentary party has confidence in Brian Cowen TD as leader of Fianna Fáil.”

Its been a tough week for Brian Cowen in his office as Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fail and has fast fallen from approval with both the public and his party.

On Sunday Cowen made a big mistake in relation to this heave. He should have accepted Michaél Martin’s resignation. For how can he keep someone in his cabinet that has no confidence in him. This is the approach Enda took with Richard Bruton and it probably helped save him as it showed he could take decisive action. Cowen has proven yet again that he cannot make the hard decision.

Listening to Mr Cowen on Six One news last night it struck me again how useless Cowen is at communicating. He started on about “transformative changes” rather then just saying “changes”, which would have been enough for most people.

I am not sure if Michaél Martin is the best person to lead the Fianna Fail party, but his actions this weekends show that he has balls, and will make a decision, eventually!

Is this what we are going to be left with? A Fianna Fail government afraid to make a decision. We are in a bad financial state as it is. This Government needs to go. This sorry saga shows that Fianna Fail is putting itself first. TD’s are worried about their seats and no they are in jeopardy if Cowen stays on as leader. But do they have the guts to sack him? I don’t think so.

Will the Government delay the election?

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Today’s Editorial in the Irish Independent asks for that the following occurs,

On December 7, the Dail must pass the Budget. Then the Finance Bill should go through with unprecedented speed, to clear the way for the General Election.

Most people would agree that that is the way that the Government should be planning things, if the budget passes.

But are they?

According to Leo Varadkar TD, they are not.

Under Fianna Fáil’s plan, there are only 10 sitting days left until the Dáil rises on December 16th followed by a 33 day break until the Dáil sits again on January 19th. The Taoiseach has consistently claimed that the Budget is of prime importance yet he is refusing to bring it forward or allow extra time for it and the subsequent Finance and Social Welfare Bills to be debated and voted upon.

This is a joke. If the Government does not change this plan, it will not be looked on favourable by the electorate. They are hanging on by a thread and by following this course of action they are trying to cling to their positions as they know the writing is on the wall.

Hopefully the Greens will try and change this plan.

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Why not to Vote Fianna Fail or Greens next January

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One paragraph from yesterdays Observer’s Editorial should be memorised and remembered for a long time.

Much of that story is familiar from other countries caught out by the credit crunch. But Ireland’s unique misfortune is to have, in Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fáil government, leaders who shipwrecked the economy and then capsized the lifeboats. The initial crisis response in 2008 was designed in such a way as effectively to absorb the doomed banking sector into the state, with no safeguards for taxpayers. While fitting as a kind of poetic commentary on what had happened in the boom years, as policy it was insane. Every cent of tax revenue disappeared down a black hole of debt; a ballooning budget deficit demanded brutal austerity measures – public sector cuts, tax rises – which drained any remaining cash out of the economy and prolonged recession.

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Zombie Banks, Zombie Government, Zombie Taoiseach

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Its finally happened. The Green Party have called time on the Government, but won’t resign until after the Finance act has been passed. Jackie Healy-Rae also has announced he will not be supporting the Government. Cork North Central TD, Noel O’Flynn, is tonight meeting with supporters to decide his future.

This has been a long time coming and with the election due in January, expect canvassing to start in earnest in the next week or two. Also will Fianna Fail be fighting this General Election with a new leader?

With the By-Election on Thursday, it will be a hard task to get the budget passed. Especially by a Government with could either be described as a “lame duck” Government or a “zombie” Government.

What can we expect from this budget? Well according to the Cork Evening Echo we could have the following:

  • Social Welfare Payments (except Old Age Pension) down 5%
  • Minimum Wage down €1
  • All income to be taxed
  • A property tax

Will this be enough? Or will this bring us further down as if the low-paid are to be taxed, they wont have money to spend and therefore support the economy.

Is it worth Fianna Fail’s time to pass the budget? Is it worth Cowen’s time to stay on as Taoiseach to pass it or should he just hand over to his successor (Lenihan or Martin??). I’m sure who ever wins the general election will probably have a mini-budget in April-May. Should we hold off until then?

In the meantime its time to dust off the walking shoes and prepare for a long and cold campaign.

In the meantime prepare yourself for plenty of protests.

*Title taken from a tweet by Cllr John Buttimer

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Lucinda’s Argument for a Tallaght Strategy II

Lucinda Creighton TD has blogged about how she thinks the Government and Opposition should work together on the budget. She raises some interesting points.

Need for Patriotic Rather than Political Response to Economic Crisis

Some may say it is naive of Opposition politicians to suggest that now is a time when we must put aside the old fashioned confrontational, adversarial politics of old and replace it, albeit temporarily, with a constructive engagement with the Government and the Minister for Finance. I don’t consider myself to be naive, but I do believe that politicians on both sides of the Dail chamber need to start putting the country first.

We all know that Fianna Fail has made a dog’s dinner of our economy, our society and the lack of faith in politics generally in this country. I contend, however, that it is pointless repeating this mantra of blame. Our people are intelligent and savvy. They don’t need constant reminding. They will serve up a large helping of retribution to the Government when the time comes.

In the meantime, I think that we on the Opposition benches would be well advised to offer a Tallaght Strategy form of constructive engagement in the Dail. What this country needs desperately is a sense of optimism and some degree of certainty. This is not only important for those all important “international markets” to which Minister Lenihan repeatedly refers, but much more importantly, it is critical from the point of view of our people. Irish people are increasingly deflated and despairing. If they see some patriotism and true leadership coming from Opposition Deputies, I have no doubt but that the entire country will rise to the enormous challenges which face us.

In the coming weeks, there must be a meeting of minds between The Opposition and the Government. Garret FitzGerald is correct – there has been no serious effort by the Government to share necessary information with the Opposition. If this changes and the Minister shows a degree of openness and a willingness to work honestly with the Opposition, then we should reciprocate. We should agree the broad parameters of the Budget in the weeks to come. Major public spending cuts will be necessary, and I hold firm to my opinion that the quicker we can make a dent on our deficit the better (as per my previous blog). This can be accelerated by a serious effort at public sector reform as has been advocated and detailed by Richard Bruton over a period of several years. In addition, we must stimulate the small and medium enterprise sector through PRSI and VAT breaks, in order to restore competitiveness and growth to our business community. This is the only way we can eventually secure a return to job creation. A stimulus plan, along the lines of our New ERA proposals, financed by a combination of private investment and the National Pensions Reserve Fund would assist in stimulating shorter term job creation.

These are just some suggestions that should be on the table. They are not prescriptive, and we in Fine Gael would have to enter discussions with the other parties with an open mind. The sooner this happens the better. Ireland cannot afford to wait.

Let’s Work Together to Save the Country

To a certain extent I do find myself agreeing with Lucinda, but will the government be as open as it needs to be? Can they really work for the good of the country or will they as some have pointed out, use this co-operation as a way to implicate the opposition parties in the budget. Blaming them for the hardship and cuts that will follow?

Yes, the Government needs new ideas. But the opposition to help will need complete open access to the figures and to see where the money is going. Will the Government be willing to do that?

I think the Government will be willing to share the information. It will have a hard enough time as it is to pass the budget with its majority being so slim. The question is will the government remain above politics and take the opposition on board and not bash them with the budget. Of course the opposition will have to do the same. While they can fully blame the Government for past mistakes and budgets, they must not bash the Government with a budget they worked on.

This is a catch 22 for politicians. Can they ignore their instincts and work together for the betterment of us all? Here is hoping they can

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A Vote For Labour is a Vote for FF

The Sunday Independent’s story that senior Labour figures are hinting at working with Fianna Fail after the next election. It cements the idea that many people already have of Labour.

I agree fully with Scandelcentral of course who say:

However Labour is very suited to Fianna Fail. They stand for nothing. Together we would form a fine coalition. It would only plunges us into economic desolation. We wouldn’t see economic growth for decades, if we are lucky, as Labour halts Fianna Fail cutbacks while forcing them to increase spending widening our continued deficits. Apocalypse is the only word which rightly comes to mind

Of course this reminds me of the goings on after the UK elections on whether to do a deal with Labour if Gordon Brown was still there. Labour here will only work with FF without Cowen.

Labour won’t gain many transfers or 1st preferences from this ploy! It just proves that they will work with anyone to get into power. It smells of desperation to me!

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Fianna Fail Senators Caught “Flipping”

Remember during the expense scandal in the UK that the big issue was over the “flipping” of the designations of first and second homes. Well it would seem that two Fianna Fail Senators were doing just that over here.

Ivor Callely, who could be expelled from the Fianna Fail Parliamentry Party over his flipping of his homes. Despite his home being in Dublin, Mr Callely was claiming his expenses based on his second home in West Cork.

It  now seems that Senator Larry Butler was up to something similar. He was claiming his expenses based on a house in Kilkenny and not his home in Foxrock.

Should we be surprised that Senators Callely and Butler were gaming the system? Are others also doing it?

Personally I think they should both resign for abusing the system. As Guido would say, “they were troughing it”!

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