Election Date and the Double Jobbing Cabinet

So the Taoiseach has announced in the Dáil that the General Election will take place on Friday the 11th of March. So that gives us 49 days to campaign for Ireland’s future. I am looking forward to that!

The Taoiseach also announced that Minsters will be double jobbing until that day. He announced the following portfolios.

  • Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs: Brian Cowen
  • Education and Health and Children: Mary Coughlan
  • Community and Family Affairs and Transport: Pat Carey
  • Agriculture and Justice: Brendan Smith
  • Tourism and Enterprise, Trade and Innovation: Mary Hanafin
  • Social Protection and Defence: Eamonn O’Cuiv

Lets get the show on the road!

Ahern, Coughlan and O’Dea.

Fianna Fáil
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So what do three of the above have in common at the moment? To me they represent why Fianna Fail is no longer fit to govern.

  • O’Dea lied under oath, and was forced to resign.
  • Coughlan thinks young people emigrate for fun and theres the whole Hanger 6 debacle
  • Ahern was cheerleader in chief for O’Dea and he is the Justice Minister!

This government is beyond itself. It is out of ideas. It has no idea what it should be doing. Of all the cabinet Ministers, the only one I think that is trying to do their job is Brian Lenihan. While I dislike the idea of NAMA, at least he is trying to do something to fix the country, none of the other ministers are!

We have a government where a minister can be brought down by a tweet. Two parties desperate to stay in power because one will be out of power and the other will possibly be wiped out at the polls.

The government has gone stale, Cowen has the opportunity now to embark a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle with his only constraint being the Green Party. What they want, only they know, though the Evening Echo is suggesting that Dan ‘tweet’ Boyle could be elevated to Cabinet.

Where does that leave the rest of us. Well there is the possibility of the Dublin Mayoral Election this year, through which Dublin residents can tell FF and Green Party what they think of them. You will have the Dublin South By-Election (2 years in a row, is that a first?) and you also have the Donegal South-West Bye-Election. Of course there will also be the Childrens Rights Referendum, but the popularity of the Government won’t come into that, hopefully! Then next year you have the Presidential Election.

I dont think FF or the Greens are going to do well in any of the upcoming elections. Dublin South is more then likely going to go Labour, Donegal South-West is probably going to Sinn Fein (I’m sticking to my prediction!), and the Dublin Mayoral election will probably go to Labour on Fine Gael transfers (just like the 1990 Presidential Election!).

Unless the Government gets its act together it will go from crisis to crisis as it is now. It seems to just get over one thing when something else crops up. They need to think quick, the boom is long and Ireland needs solutions now.

Its that or be wiped out.

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Letter to the Editor #1

no original description
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A friend has unwittingly given me a new idea. Its as simple as this, have something to give out about? then email me (editor@stephenspillane.com) and have a bit of a rant about something I blog about, maybe its something I missed or something you want to refute. Its up to you. All emails will be published subject to common decency and the law (defamation, copyright etc)

So onto the first of many (hopefully). It is about the Tainiste Mary Coughlan and her dealings with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary

Dear Sir,

So I’ve been really pissed at out inept minister Mary Coughlan who clearly has no ability to do her job. Were she a doctor, I would sue for malpractice and clear incompetence. however, she works as a civil “servant”, or trade union servant, as I prefer to term them.

What I’m referring to is her pure unbridled stupidity in my opinion and her poor handling of the Dublin Airport dispute where Ryanair want hangar 6.

Admittedly, Michael O’Leary can be a bit of a handful, but this time he has offered 500 (now 300) jobs on a silver platter to Ireland in a time where we are in the toilet financially and economically with massive unemployment, and she has done nothing to secure the deal.

This, in my opinion, is a disgrace.

And also the last straw for this government, in my opinion. So I want to know who the hell i can write to, and also, since you know more about these things than I do, to complain about this….

What I’m looking for in line of a response is, frankly, why she made this decision, the justification for it, and also what she has done in her entire term as minister to create 300 jobs at all.

I am well pissed off.

Steve Uniacke

I advised Steve to write to the Minister and to her Fianna Fail Consituency associates as well as the Enterprise, Trade and Employment Spokespersons of Labour and Fine Gael to get their assessment so he could see would they have done any better. What would you advise him to do?

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Budget – Still not happy…

So we have had two major(ish) u-turns on the latest budget. One on medical cards, but still 5% of pensioners will lose their medical card and one on the 1% “Lenihan Levy” which means that if you earn €17,540 you don’t pay tax but if you earn €17,541 you do as P. O’Neil points out over in Irish Election. I’m still not happy with that as I work in retail so therefore have to work Sundays and public holidays meaning I get overtime and have to pay the tax. I worked it out. On my average wage the Government will get what it will cost me to go to College next year! I agree with the unions that the limit should be set at €22,000.

But now attention is moving on to the cuts in Education and to a lesser extent Social Welfare. Will the Government u-turn on these I doubt. Schools look like they won’t re-open in January due to health and safety concerns. 16 yr olds lose their disability benefit (to save 0.07% of the departmental budget!!!!!!). Lenihan has targetted the old, the sick and the young!

This PR Budget, has blown up in their faces! They would be better off re-writing or better yet Lenihan and Harney resigning.

You could add Mary Coughlan to that list as she has shown how useless she is in her current post as Tánasite. What an embarrassment to Brian Cowen this government must be, which is ultimately a reflection on him as he appointed them. The Greens don’t come out much better with Mary White trying to claim that the Greens were going to pull out over the Medical Card, they weren’t! The gainers from this have been Labour, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and Independents, especially Finian McGrath and newly indpendent Joe Behan. I think next years local’s are a near dead cert loss for Fianna Fail over the Budget.

I do apologise for the incoherency of this post, but my mind is frazzled from last night

Why we won’t see Gay Partnerships under the Cowen Adminsitration

I have read two blog posts recently that will send chills down the spine of everyperson in Ireland who has campiagned for Gay Partnerships (Unions, Marriages, Whaterver you want to call em!). Two high profile figures in Biffo’s cabinet are not fans of the Gays.

One is Tánasite and Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment and the other is Minsiter for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

It was David Garrahy’s blog that alerted me to Mary Coughlan’s attitude and Maman Poulet who alerted me to Dermot Ahern.

This is quite worrying, Dermot Ahern’s Derpartment is the one that will be responsible for drafting the legislation and Mary Coughlan will have a lot of sway in Cabinet as Tánaiste.

I must say I am disapointed that in Ireland two high profile ministers can be against same-sex unions and hold up things dispite the fact that most people in Ireland would support some form of recognition.

UPDATE: I’ve expanded on this over on The Political Gay

Some Contributions from the Fifth Day of Debate on the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill

Yesterday, the Dáil had its fifth day of debate on the Second reading of the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2008. Some selected contributions.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan (Fine Gael):

The Lisbon treaty is the outcome of an extensive and open process that has gone on since December 2001. The process included a convention on the future of Europe that included not only national governments from member states but also representatives from national parliaments. There was real participation in this process by the European Parliament and the social partners. The convention was held in public and was accessible to the media and the public and it produced the proposals for the constitutional treaty.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Mary Coughlan (Fianna Fail):

Looking to the future, in the period 2007-13, Ireland can expect to receive approximately €12 billion from the CAP, with €2.3 billion coming from the European agricultural fund for rural development, EAFRD, to fund REPS, ERS, farm investment programmes, installation aid schemes and Leader programmes. An estimated €10 billion will come from the European agricultural guarantee fund and will be used to fund the single payment scheme and market support measures, export refunds, intervention etc.This is the background against which we need to look at the Lisbon treaty. This treaty provides for Ireland’s voice to continue to be heard in the EU in an effective and efficient manner. A positive vote in the referendum on the treaty will send a clear signal that Ireland is determined to maintain its place at the centre of EU decision making. I have been asked on a number of occasions to state what practical differences will arise for agriculture with the adoption of the reform treaty. In practical terms, the reform treaty will not alter the arrangements that currently apply in the agriculture and fisheries sectors to any great extent. The reform treaty introduces the principle of qualified majority voting to certain new areas but the principle has been enshrined in the agriculture and fisheries sectors for some considerable time. While there will be some alterations to the thresholds for reaching a qualified majority under the new arrangements, these alterations will not have significant implications for decision-making. The reality is that most decisions on agriculture and fisheries are arrived at by consensus. It is highly unusual for matters to come to a vote on agriculture and fisheries issues and when they do, close voting margins are unusual.

Deputy Liz McManus (Labour):

I have been involved in a number of referendums, some of which have been extremely contentious, and I welcome the peace that has been achieved, although we must debate the issues in an open fashion and deal with questions and concerns.

This seems a simple matter at heart, even though it is a long, complicated treaty. It is essentially about ensuring we have a framework for 27 countries. At present we are operating under rules that apply to 15 country membership. With the considerable growth in the EU we must ensure it can operate as efficiently as possible. We are conscious that an element of bureaucracy surrounds the EU. To an extent this is inevitable but it must be streamlined. More importantly, the EU must be democratised further than has been the practice in the past.

One of my concerns is about meetings of the Council of Ministers, which have always been held in private. The fact that co-decision is provided for between the Parliament and the Council is an important step forward. The greater openness in respect of coverage of meetings is a step forward although there are always means to circumvent this when difficult decisions must be made. Human ingenuity will ensure this pertains into the future.

The European Union often seems to be a distant body which does things that create difficulties, such as straightening bananas and so on, that are at a great remove from people’s lives. However, one should look back and consider the longer term. The European Union has been an enormously benign influence in respect of inequality and at times has been a persuader in ensuring that we dealt with such issues. As someone who has been involved in the women’s movement for far too long, I recall times when we depended completely on the European Union to protect and promote our rights. When we were obliged to fight tooth and nail against reactionary Government policies that excluded, denied and neglected women, we were able to reach beyond the national Government and obtain support from the European Union in a manner that was transformative for our lives and for women of my generation. This was not limited to women as it also applied to workers’ rights and to Northern Ireland.

Deputy Rory O’Hanlon (Fianna Fail):

Why should we ratify the Lisbon treaty? First, the Lisbon treaty contains little when compared to, for example, the previous treaties such as the Single European Act or the Maastricht, Amsterdam or Nice treaties. Its main purpose is to make the European Union more manageable. The same structures manage the European Union today as obtained in 1953, when there were only six member states, as opposed to the present total of 27. The three institutions that drive the European Union are the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council of Ministers. The role of the European Parliament will be enhanced in respect of input into legislation and policy for the member states and citizens of Europe. Membership of the Commission has been reduced from 27 to 18 and it is important to remember this measure is not new to this treaty, because we already agreed in the Nice treaty to reduce the number of Commissioners.

An important point for the Irish people is that we will have equality with all other member states. Although our population is only 4 million people, we will have a Commissioner on exactly the same terms as does Germany, with a population of 80 million people, and all the other member states of the European Union. Moreover, the five bigger states, namely, Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Spain, had two Commissioners until 2004. However, they will only have one Commissioner, in exactly the same way as Ireland, that is, in every 15-year cycle there will be a period during which member states will not have a Commissioner.

Deputy Peter Power (Fianna Fail):

Those who invite us to oppose the treaty would ask us to agree that the referendum will not be about Europe or the European project but about the merits or otherwise of the detailed text of the treaty. I fundamentally disagree. This is a referendum on the European Union and it presents Ireland with an opportunity to pass judgment on where we stand in Europe. This vote is as much a referendum on the European Union as it is about the arguments and complexities of qualified majority voting or the rotation of commissioners. The destiny and ambitions of this country are intricately tied to the European project so we cannot consider the treaty in isolation. Weighing up its pros and cons without having regard for the wider issues would be a fundamental misunderstanding of what is at stake.

Deputy Brian Hayes (Fine Gael):

The problem with the Nice treaty was that the political establishment, including my party and others, took people for granted. That is why it is crucial in the weeks ahead that effort is made on the ground, public meetings are held, arguments in local media and on radio are put to the “no” side, and, ultimately, people are not taken for granted. Name-calling and calling people loolahs will not help. We need a mature debate on the issues of Europe.

It is also important that those who argue for a “no” vote in this referendum tell us their vision for Europe. If, for example, the rules were changed on QMV or the position of the Commission, would they argue for a “yes” vote? Of course they would not. This issue has been used by certain groups in this country for the same cynical reasons of getting 50% of the publicity or trying to push other political agendas. If the Green Party was on this side of the House today, it would argue against the treaty for its own narrow, pathetic little interest, and everybody in the House knows that. The Green Party has used in the most cynical fashion every EU treaty debate for its own political ends and the people realise that.

Irish citizens like the idea of having a second layer of rights through the European Union. We have primary rights through Bunreacht na hÉireann but we have EU-wide rights also, for example, for workers and women. One can ask whether the advance of women in this country would have been possible two decades ago were it not for the European Union. At that time this country was still in a very conservative mode in terms of the position of women. It was the European Union that led the way. Irish citizens know this and they have a multifaceted view of their rights being domestic but also Europe-wide and international.

Deputy Michael Moynihan (Fianna Fail):

Many opponents of the treaty are making much noise about rejecting it. We must accept the treaty. Ireland is the only member state to have a referendum on it. This opportunity to exercise our democratic right on the treaty is a lasting testament to de Valera’s 1937 Constitution.

Deputy Chris Andrews (Fianna Fail):

Ireland’s relationship with the EU has been a very positive one. The “No” campaign, on the other hand, is pulling up the drawbridge before less fortunate member states can get on board. Theirs is a selfish and thoughtless position to keep what we have achieved for ourselves. Being part of a wider regional political and economic entity enabled us to modernise in many ways. We are a small open economy. It would never make sense for us to go it alone.

I ask voters, when making up their minds, to do so on the basis of two questions. These are what the treaty will do for Ireland and what it will do for the individual. When voters reflect on those questions, they will realise this treaty is good for Ireland, other smaller nations and Europe as a whole.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan (Fine Gael):

People regularly assign blame to the European Union in this country when something goes wrong. It is an easy target and a whipping boy for when something goes wrong. We can blame the bureaucrats in the European Union. Nevertheless, I was told confidentially some years ago that we have a fair amount of bureaucrats ourselves and we did not need to go over there for them. We could supply them with a full market if there was a need.

The debate was adjourned at 13:00 and will continue next week it seams.


Source:
Parliamentary Debates (Offical Report) Dáil Debate Vol. 651 No.4, Thursday, 10 April 2008

Previous Posts:
Some Contributions from the Fourth Day of Debate on the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill
Some Contributions from the Third Day of Debate on the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill
Some Contributions from the Second Day of Debate on the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill
Some Contributions from the First Day of Debate on the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill