New Irish Government Nominated

newgov2This evening in the Dáil following Enda Kenny’s re-election as Taoiseach. The following have been nominated as members of the Governments for the 32nd Dáil.

  • Taoiseach & Minister for Defence: Enda Kenny (FG)
  • Chief Whip: Regina Doherty (FG)
  • Tainiste & Minister for Justice and Equality: Francis Fitzgerald (FG)
  • Minister for Finance: Michael Noonan (FG)
  • Minister for Public expenditure and Reform: Paschal Donohue (FG)
  • Minister for Social Protection: Leo Varadkar (FG)
  • Minister for Health: Simon Harris (FG)
  • Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport: Shane Ross (Ind)
  • Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: Michael Creed (FG)
  • Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht: Heather Humphreys
  • Minister for Communications, Climate Change and National Resources: Denis Naughton (Ind)
  • Minister for Children and Youth Affairs: Katerine Zappone (Ind)
  • Minister for Education and Skills: Richard Bruton (FG)
  • Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government: Simon Coveney (FG)
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade: Charles Flanagan (FG)
  • Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation: Mary Mitchell O’Connor (FG)
  • Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Defence: Paul Kehoe (FG)
  • Super Junior Minister who will attend Cabinet and have special responsibility for disability: Finian McGrath (Ind)
  • Attorney General: Maria Whelan SC

Water – The straw that broke the camels back?

One of the major comments about the Irish people during the recent financial crisis and recession, was that there was no vocal, angry oppoistion on the street. This was a major factor in much instability faced by other countries faced with tough decisions because of the financial crash.

But why in Ireland, just as the recovery is starting to gain momentum, are now the Irish people protesting on the street?

Major protests are planned for today around the country against the implementation of water charges. The past number of weeks have been dominated by stories about Irish Water, its excesses, its board, the protests at installations and of course bonuses.

It is harder and harder for anyone to defend the mishandling of Irish Water, whether as a Government party supported or you see the need behind the introduction of water charges.

Irish people over the last number of years have made monumental sacrifices. Some have lost jobs, others seen the young people in their family leave for a better life elsewhere, while others have taken jobs they never thought they would do. We have seen higher taxes with USC, property charges and a range of other measures to shore up the Public Finances.

Water seems to be different. Why does a water utility need our PPS number? Why do we need to pay for our meter to be read if we are moving out? Why will callouts cost so much? Why will staff be paid bonuses when there is no benchmark for improvements?

There is a range of questions there that have no satisfactory answers. That has led to some misinformation, confusion and anger among ordinary Irish people, which I have not seen in my lifetime.

This is a wake up call for the Government and Irish Water. When dealing with the public you need to be open and honest. Only ask for the information you really need.

While I will not be protesting this weekend, I have some sympathy with those who do and believe the Government need to take a look again at Irish Water.

Otherwise this Government will face one of the biggest actions of Civil Disobedience this country has ever seen.

Why I’m Voting No on October 4th

On October 4th I will be voting No to the 32nd Amendment to the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Eireann) Bill 2013. I am doing this for a number of reasons. I spoke against the abolition of the Seanad Eireann at this years Young Fine Gael’s Garrett Fitzgerald Summer School and this blog post is broadly based on that speech.

Note: following a tied vote on a motion to back the Fine Gael stance in the Referendum at the Garrett Fitzgerald Summer School, The National Executive of Young Fine Gael took the decision to remain neutral in the referendum and allow members to campaign on either side if they wish.

Abolishing the Seanad is not a measure that reforms Irish Politics in a way that is better for the people. It further concentrates power in the Dáil and focus’ more power and influence on TD’s and the whip system, the plague of Leinster House.

This simplistic populist policy was created to grab a headline  and draw attention to a Presidential Dinner and to bolster Enda’s poll rating. There was no debate, there was no consultation, it was within the leaders prerogative we were told.

This will be the biggest change to Bunreacht na hEireann since its enactment. A change it was not made to withstand. It recklessly severs the constitution with a scatter gun effect.

This amendment does more then abolish the Seanad. It will also change the following:

  • This possibility of the reference of Bills to the people by the President will be removed from the Constitution
  • A nomination for President may be made by 14 members of the Dáil.
  • Impeachment of the President would be dealt with by the Dáil. A proposal to impeach would need the signatures of at least 30 members of the Dáil and its adoption would need the agreement of at least four-fifths of the total membership of the Dáil. The Dáil would then investigate the charges against the President and could remove him/her from office if four-fifths of its total membership agree.
  • Judges could be removed from office for stated misbehaviour or incapacity if at least two-thirds of the total membership of the Dáil so decide
  • The arrangements for removing the Comptroller & Auditor General from office would be changed in the same way as for judges.

(Taken from www.referendum2013.ie)

The Seanad has many possibilities and some of our greatest politicians have realised this and used it. Garrett Fitzgerald used his Taoiseach’s appointments to appoint the lead Jim Dooge as his Minister for Foreign Affairs. Enda Kenny used the majority of his appointments to appoint various people from Civil Society to give a wider range of voices in the Seanad. Though he recently missed the chance to replace Senator McAleese with an independent person to chair a Banking Inquiry, using it instead to appoint a party member.

Seanad reform has been constantly ignored by successive Governments.  12 reports and a constitutional amendment all not acted upon by the Governments and the Dáil.

At the end of the it is only the Dáil that can bring the true reform that is needed to ensure that we have a proper functioning bi-caramel system. We are not ready as a state to be a uni-caramel system. The political system has not been reformed enough and our constitution is not made for it.

Abolishing the Seanad will also not save us money. More sitting days and more committees, which have been promised, will end up costing the same, if not more!

The Government have also decided to hold Dáil reform hostage to this amendment by promising that the reforms promised in the Programme for Government will only happen if this amendment is passed. This is a wrong and cynical move by the Government. Those of us who want a reformed system want Seanad AND Dáil reform so that it works better for the people of Ireland.

If we abolish Seanad Eireann we lose an expert voice and an independent voice in our political system. The Seanad can have real power and influence over legislation, tidying up things that come from Dáil Eireann. It may not be front page news, but it is an important function and one we will regret when it is gone. Appearances in front of a committee are not the same.

We need effective Check’s and Balances in our system which is dominated by the Executive. Abolishing the Seanad is not reform, but will further entrench the power of the Executive to the detriment of our democracy. Vote No on October 4th!

 

I encourage you to read the full details of the Governments proposals on The Referendum Commission website. If you wish to get involved in the No Campaign check out Democracy Matters and Future Matters

Note: I am fully in favour of the 33rd Amendment to the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill 2013.

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    A Permament Referendum Commission? How about an Election Commission?

     

    No Jobs In The Lisbon Lisbon Treaty
    No Jobs In The Lisbon Lisbon Treaty (Photo credit: infomatique)

    Today the suggestion has been made for a permanent Referendum Commission after everything that happened with the Children’s Right’s referendum, but is it really viable? Would an election commission be a better idea?

    Apart from recent spate of referendums (4 in the last 12 months) we do not have that many referendums, so a permanent Referendum Commission is really out of the question, it would be a quango and we are supposed to be cutting them!

    But would not an Election Commission or Electoral Commission be a better solution. So what would it do?

    It could do the following:

    • take on the functions of the Standard’s in Public Office Commission (SIPO),
    • take on the roll of registering political parties from the Clerk of the Dáil,
    • take on the roll of registering nominating bodies from the Clerk of the Seanad,
    • take on the roll of maining the electoral register from local authorities,
    • take on the roll of the Referendum Commission during the referendum,
    • take responsibility for the running of all elections as well as the appointment of returning officers,
    • and take responsibility for educate the public on voting in all elections in the state.

    Would that not be a better solution? Would that not be more useful? I doubt this will happen, but I think the Government should consider it at least!

    The least the government should do is return the powers of the Referendum Commission it had before the first Nice Referendum! But I won’t hold my breath!!

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    European Commission Seminar, UCC, 2 October

    Interesting things often pop into my inbox, so here is one for all of you with interest in the EU and Economic Policy. I will be there, so do say Hi if you attend!

    The European Commission Representation in Ireland invites you to an evening seminar on‘European Economic Policy – What’s in it for Ireland?’

    Featuring presentations from local and national economic and political experts, this public event will provide you with an opportunity to voice your opinions and ask any questions you may have about the current economic situation. This event will take place from 6.30pm – 8.30pm on Tuesday, 2 October on the University College Cork campus.  Further detail, including information on the guest speakers, will follow shortly.  In the meantime, please RSVP to events@europeanmovement.ie or call 01 662 5815 to reserve a place at this free event.

    I will update this once the speakers are confirmed.

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    European Democrat Students launch ‘Knowledge is Power’ campaign

    Logo of the European Democrat Students

    The European Democrat Students (EDS) yesterday launched their “Knowledge is Power Campaign”. This campaign encourages EU political leaders to prioritize efforts on higher education and research funding. EDS urges leaders to introduce stimulus packages for the higher education sector, which is an important factor to help boost economic recovery in Europe.

    The EDS emphasizes the importance of having a good education system for our future generations, and wish to encourage politicians to invest more resources in higher education and research. The EDS strongly believes that Europe 2020 is the fundamental guideline for all 27 Member States and thus, endorse the principle of a knowledge-based economy where higher education is a central pillar for sustainable economic growth.

    EPP President Wilfried Martens strongly supports the EDS initiative: “the EPP believes that know-how in societies is central to economic growth and job creation, so we must create the best conditions for transforming them into knowledge-based societies. To reach this fundamental objective of the EPP, we strongly support investments in research and innovation. Ultimately, the economic success of Europe will be determined by the extent of the financial commitments allocated to these pivotal sectors of the economy. Europe must become a knowledge economy.”

    This campaign is EDS’ first Internet based campaign and consists of several online films and an online petition available at eds-knowledge.eu. With the petition, the EDS wants to reach out to young Europeans and thereby send a bold signal to Europe’s policy makers that young people in today’s Europe believe that we have to invest more in Europe’s future.

    So sign the petition, like on Facebook an follow on Twitter!

    EDS is the official Student Organisation of the European People’s Party.

    Fiscal Treaty Referendum: Thursday May 31st

    The date has been set for the Fiscal Treaty Referendum and it will take place on Thursday May 31st. Polls will be open from 7am until 10pm.

    The date was announced by An Táiniste Eamonn Gilmore in the Dáil this afternoon following a Cabinet Meeting this morning when the date was agreed upon.

    There will be much disappointment that the vote will be held on a Thursday considering that Fine Gael and Labour regularly lambasted past Governments for holding elections on weekdays.

    Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin has called on the Government to produce a white paper on the treaty to aid discussion and debate on the treaty.

    The next step for the Government now will be to publish the bill to amend the Constitution to allow for the treaty to be ratified and then to set up a Referendum Commission to inform the public.

    Campaigners have 64 days to persuade people of there arguments and with recent polls showing the Yes side in the lead with 60% its going to be a tough campaign!

    Don’t forget you can read the treaty here!

    Referendum Campaign to get under-way this week?

    An Taoiseach Enda Kenny
    An Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    According to TheJournal.ie the Government is to announce the date of the Fiscal Compact Referendum on Tuesday after their Cabinet meeting. While An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, will not be at that meeting due to his trip to China, it was he who announced it in remarks in Shanghai.

    The referendum on the EU Fiscal Compact will be scheduled to avoid clashing with the Leaving Certificate Exams, the Eucharistic Congress and the European Football Championships. This means it will be late May/early June or late June/early July.

    In either case expect the campaigns, both Yes and No to make a tentative start to their campaigns after the announcement of the date as campaigners get their canvassing shoes ready.

    Also as the campaign gets under way expect more polls which will be important as the undecided’s make up their minds and I will endeavour to cover them as always.

    You can read the Fiscal Compact here (PDF) or else you can also read theJournal.ie’s version in layman’s terms.

    Noonan announces deal on Promissory Note

    This is a photograph of the Dáil chamber, Lein...
    This is a photograph of the Dáil chamber, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin Ireland. It is the chamber and seat of Irish Government where Irish parliamentarians (TD's) govern Ireland. The photograph was taken on 28th of June, 2008 at the inaugural opening of the Houses of the Oireachtas (parliament) for a 'family fun day'. This we were told (by the guides) was the first time that photography was permitted inside the Dáil chamber. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Tonight speaking in Dáil Eireann, Finance Minister Michael Noonan, announced that a deal had been brokered on the Anglo Promissory Note which is due to be repaid. An excerpt from his speech from politics.ie

    Firstly, there is an issue that I wish to bring to the attention of the house as the Government has always committed that we would inform the Dáil about any development concerning the payment of the promissory note at the end of this month.

    In more recent months, we have been involved in technical discussions on reducing the burden of debt associated with the recapitalization of the banks. In particular our focus has been on the Promissory note arrangement that was put in place to fund the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation – formerly Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide. This is an arrangement, which requires the State to make cash payments of €3.06 billion each year to IBRC. There have been some developments on this issue during the day.

    The discussions with the European authorities on the general issue continue but we are now negotiating with the EU authorities, and principally with the ECB, on the basis that the €3.06 billion cash installment due from the Minister to IBRC on 31 March 2012 under the terms of the IBRC promissory note could be settled by the delivery of a long term Irish Government Bond. The details of the arrangement have still to be worked out.

    More as details become clear.

    Reaction to Budget 2012: Part 1

    L-R: Brendan Howlin pictured during the Labour...
    Image via Wikipedia

    Today we got a look at the first part of Budget 2012 . Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin today announced a series of measures that add up to the €2.2bn in cuts.

    The main points that I took from today’s announcements:

    • Government will reduce the size of the public service to 282,500 by end 2015
    • €250 added to the Student Registration Fee
    • Student Support funding cut by 14%
    • Student Maintenance Grant cut by 3%
    • No new post Graduate Maintenance Grants
    • Community Employment Scheme: The training and materials grant will reduce from €1,500 to €500 per participant per annum
    • Disability Allowance Cut to €0 for those aged 16 and 17
    • Disability Allowance for under 25s cut from €188 to €100 if under 21 and €144 if under 24. Now same as jobseekers allowance
    • Drugs Payment Scheme increased to €132
    • The frequency of the grant for hearing aids will change from 2 years to 4 years.
    • Winter Fuel Allowance reduced to 26 weeks from 32

    There are plenty of other cuts and changes announced, see the links at the end for them all.

    To me what stands out from this budget is the Disabled. Above I highlighted the cuts to young people with Disabilities, but on top of that there are cuts to the Equality Tribunal, Equality Authority and the Budget for Equality Proofing is completely gone. This is not how we are going to look after people in our society and allow them to live their lives with dignity.

    The cuts also focus on students with an increase in Registration fees and grant cuts. We cannot tax our way out of the recession but we do need a knowledge economy we we want to get out the recession so cuts in Education make very little sense.

    In these times it is understandable that the Government faces tough choices, and these cuts were probably hard to make. No one is ever 100% happy we a budget, and very few people will be close to that after today’s announcement. But as An Taoiseach warned us in his National Address, these are tough times and tough measures are needed, but they too need to be balanced. The problem with the cuts announced today is that these same people will be hit tomorrow in any announcement of an increase in indirect taxation, especially a VAT rise.

    The Minister for Finance will deliver his Budget statement at 3:45pm tomorrow.

    Further Reading:

    Budget 2012 (pt 1): the main points of Brendan Howlin’s announcement