Relocated

January 6, 2010

Hey guys, I’ve moved the site over onto http://robertcassidy.eu where I’ll continue blogging with hopfully some more frequent updates.


2009: How was it for them?

December 22, 2009

This has been the most eventful political year in quite a while. We were brought to the brink of economic apocalypse and are still struggling to be held back from it. The people who led us there are trying to lead us back but it is felt they do not have the ability. The alternatives are perceived as being equally weak but benifit from having less blood on their hands. Here I hope to set out where we have come from, where were are, and where we’re are going to go in 2010.

Fianna Fáil

Fianna Fáil are the big winners of 2009 for the simple reason that they survived the year and stayed in Government despite the many challenges they faced. That is not to say they had a good 2009, quite the opposite. Their ratings are at the lowest since polling began in this state, their members are hated nationally and the leaders are a melancholic bunch. In February when Brian Cowen announced his part was joining the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, questions were asked about the direction the party was taking. Prominent MEP, Brian Crowley was not happy with this change in policy as he had been tipped for leader of the conservative group from which they came.

After this the focus switched to the European and Local Elections. The June elections were a monumental failure for Fianna Fáil. They lost 84 council seats on 2004 and Eoin Ryan’s seat in Dublin. Those elections were nothing short of a blood bath for the Soldiers of Destiny.

The Lisbon Referendum which focused on job creation and economic recovery was  shining star in the Government’s sky with Michael Martin securing a yes vote for the government. However, had the referendum been lost, it is safe to say that the government would have had little choice but to fall.

Around this time the Greens were negotiating the new Program for Government. It was speculated almost daily that the talks were on breaking point and the Greens may walk at any time. Hyperbolic nonsense in my opinion. The negotiations were completed and the program for government and an endorsement for NAMA were passed, thus giving Fianna Fail more time.

After 120 hours of intense and heavy debate, the greatest economic travesty in the history of the state, and possibly even Europe, NAMA, was passed by the Dáil, another success for FF.

It is these success however that are also wounding Fianna Fáil. They say they are making tough decisions but really we are looking at Yes, Minister style courageous decisions. Fianna Fáil are looking to the future now. They have expanded into Northern Ireland and with the election seeming unlikely until 2012 they will be looking to ride the wave of global recovery. Things could yet backfire however unless proper decisions are made.

Fine Gael

It is contradictory to popular opinion to believe that Fine Gael have a chance at loosing the next election.  All through the year they were given opportunity after opportunity to force and election but each time they were beaten back. Fine Gael have had a good year, they made gains in all areas but somehow the ultimate prize slipped through their fingers. Fine Gael’s highlights included George Lee’s election to Dublin South and an admirable return in the locals.

They failed to capitalise on these however and as such are going to be stuck in the Opposition benches, probably until 2012 and maybe even after. The Blueshirts fail because they don’t reinvest their profits. Take Lee for example; widely regarded as a economic titan, George Lee has not been given much time to speak. This is not surprising as  in Fine Gael, their front bench believe that it’s “their turn to be in government”, that it’s Enda’s “turn to be Taoiseach”. The reluctance of the old guard within Fine Gael to move aside for younger blood is what’s holding Fine Gael back.

There is also the infighting within the party. Frank Flannery’s remarks about a coalition with Sinn Fein and the disagreements between Enda Kenny and Lucinda Creighton have give the impression that Fine Gael are the Clampetts of Irish politics. When Garrret FitzGerald came out in favour of NAMA there was a major undercutting of credibility that Fine Gael had struggled to build up. These incidents need to be prevented, or at least better hidden should Fine Gale have any realistic hopes of entering government.

But what is mainly keeping Fine Gael on the other side of the room is the fact that they’re just not an attractive package. Within Fine Gael there is no consistency, no game plan. It’s just one campaign after another with none of them actually accomplishing anything.

Labour

When the words “Labour Taoiseach” are spoken, you know you’re doing something right. This has been a fantastic year for Labour. They have attracted dissenters from Fianna Fail and the Greens and steadily gaining momentum with over 20,000 new members this year. There is the cult of Gilmore and Burton which is always growing. Labour are rising because they are talking change. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are often thought of as two sides of the same coin with Labour being a strong alternative for those who don’t want to elect Coke or Pepsi.

Labour has been on the ball all year with it’s economic stances, ideas and observations. It called for the banks to be nationalised at a time when few others presented other ideas. Joan Burton is widely perceived as being the woman to get us out of this mess with her talk of fairness and making sure everyone pays their fair share. This resonates with the Public Sector electorate who are being levied by Fianna Fail.

Gilmore’s popularity is coming partially from his rhetoric and partially from the fact that he’s neither Cowen nor Kenny. He is seen as the third man; the one who offers a way forward. He could be Taoiseach if Labour can get another 7-10 seats in the Dáil and prop up Fianna Fáil or even Fine Gael.

The Green Party

What can be said about the Greens? Their core vote has left them, they resent Fianna Fáil for locking them into a loveless marriage and they have gotten a few promises about trees and deer and a commitment on a few other things. The reason the Green members voted to stay in government and support NAMA is because most of the disillusioned Greens have left the party.

The Greens ave had  a short lived life in Irish politics and it is difficult to see them staying around after 2012.

Sinn Fein

The Shinners had an uneventful year. Some moderate success in the North and very little in the republic. The loss of Mary Lou McDonald’s seat was unfortunate but predictable with that diverse a range of lefty candidates.

The Socialist Party

Mr. Higgins going to Strasbourg is a tremendous accomplishment for them.


Paul Gogarty’s Outburst

December 11, 2009

Hey guys, sorry I’ve not been posting lately. Some big things in the works.

Anyway, we’ve all heard Gogarty’s outburst and if you hven’t you can watch it here.

Now, once we get past the whole “Ooo… the man said fuck… bad man…” shite, we can look at the rest of what was said. He says

It is most unparliamentary language and I now withdraw it and apologise for it but I am outraged that someone dares question my sincerity on this issue.

I do not like what has to be done, but I will take responsibility, take it on the chin, get the unpopularity and lose my seat because it is the only thing we can do to get this country out of the state we are in.

Let’s look at this in stages:

1:  He reinforces his degree of sincerity.

2: Admits he doesn’t like what’s happening, which is another way of saying all other options are exhausted and therefore someone has to be a prick (by implementing these policies).

3: Assumes responsibility, therefore making him look even more sincere.

4: Admits a he will loose his seat which is at risk.

In my opinion is what this whole stunt is about his seat. It detracts from the actual vote and if tomorrow’s papers latch onto the swearing rather then the actual bill his stunt will have been a success. What Paul needs to remember though, is that  stunts are hard to manage properly.


NUIG Lisbon Debate

September 27, 2009

I attended a debate in NUIG last Thursday on the motion that “This House believes no means no.” Proponents of the motion were Jens Peter Bonde, John McGuirk and Tomas Sharkey. Opponents were Jim Higgins MEP, Prionias DeRossa MEP and Timmy Dooley TD.

First up was Jens Peter Bonde who asserted that not one of the opponents had read the Treaty, He criticised the Referendum Commission for not explaining the Treaty and the Yes Side for not mentioning the Treaty. He reassured the audience that regardless of how they vote we would still remain a member of the EU. He closed with a simple statement asking us to read the Treaty and decide for ourselves.

He was followed by Timmy Dooley who brazenly opened with “In the EU no does not mean no.” He told us that the Treaty “obliges the EU to take into account employment.” And that it gives more transparency. He continued to suggest that we were in Chad under an EU mandate whereas in fact it’s an EU led team under a UN. He mentioned that having a full time High Representative of the EU would make it more democratic, this is despite the position not being electable.

Next came John McGuirk who it can’t be denied is a fantastic debater. He and I met for a round of pool prior to the debate (I kicked his ass) and he showed me his speech which turned out to be a black A4 refill pad. When it was time for him to speak he opened with the line “Are you afraid yet? Because you should be.” He called the past month “a parody of a campaign and that it’s not far form becoming a campaign of “Yes to Kittens, Yes to Europe.”. He described the treaty as consisting of policies that put us on the road to recession. That the yes side’s argument of combating prostitution was flawed as Ireland had received opt outs on this and that business weren’t going to be deterred from investing in Ireland because “we not seen to be sufficiently committed to EU bureaucracy.”

After which came Jim Higgins MEP who asserted that there were “No changes in the text.” and that we’d received legally binding guarantees. He said Ireland was an attractive place to invest because “we speak English and have a well educated workforce.” Which I can’t see changing if we vote no…

Tomás Sharkey was next who used the analogy of a woman on her wedding day saying no only to be brought back to the church after her parents decided they knew what was best for her. He said Lisbon was a “A failed document, by failed politicians based on failed economics.” He said that the loss of a commissioner, under Nice, was only possible in a unanimous vote and he implored us to vote no so as to “give our government an opportunity to grow back bone.”

Prionias DeRossa was next. I was sent his speech in its entirety to I’ll post it.

Irish people stand to gain enormously from the Lisbon Treaty. Look at the statement ‘The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights‘ Remember that this Charter  becomes primary law under Lisbon (Art.6 TEU).

These rights apply to all men, women and children of the union, employed and unemployed, farmers and those in the fishing industry. Voting yes is voting for a more caring Ireland in a better Europe; nothing more, nothing less.

The NO campaigners want us to believe that Lisbon is about euthanasia, abortion, European armies and big states overwhelming smaller ones. Let’s look at the facts. There has been no conscription and there will not be and this is spelled out in the Legal Guarantees. Ireland’s vote at the top table will rise to 3.7% because every country has one equal vote as part of its voting rights. Those who say our vote is weakened are either poor at maths or treating the Irish public as fools.

So why are Sinn Fein, Coir, UKIP and Mr Ganley peddling fear and lies? What is their real purpose?

“Hardcore NO campaigns are driven by fear and loathing of the European Union, of its workplace protections and its dedication to democracy and its pluralism. UKIP is pushing for a free trade area that couldn’t care less about workers’ rights. COIR hates what the EU stands for; equality, pluralism and respect for all. They desire censorship, protectionism and isolation.

Mr Ganley wants a Europe that is hardcore military and an end to a neutral Ireland.

Sinn Fein are opportunists, trying to make their party relevant, refusing to accept the guarantees negotiated since last time on the Commissioner, neutrality and conscription. They continue to say no to Europe as they have done since the start.”

Astonishingly, a group calling itself ‘Women Say No to Lisbon – Again’ dismiss the Lisbon provisions against people trafficking, Arts. 79 & 83 TFEU, saying that because the Irish Government has opted-out from this area, these provisions are of no use to Ireland. This position displays an appalling isolationism and a depressing lack of solidarity with the 1.2 million victims of trafficking worldwide, according to the ILO. Many of these are women and children, trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Surely the progressive attitude would be to adopt the Lisbon Treaty so that at least women and children elsewhere would benefit from it, and then to campaign for Ireland to opt-in?

Already a combination of Eurosceptics and neo-Nazis are stronger in the European Parliament since the defeat of the European reforms in Ireland, France and Holland. A NO vote would herald a change of direction in Europe away from a more progressive union that respects families and workers and is pledged to full employment and a social market economy.

Ireland must be able to trade freely with the rest of a Europe which has common environmental and workplace standards agreed by all members and applying to all members. We will not survive and thrive in a more protectionist world. We need the reforms which Lisbon heralds on climate change, global poverty and the hunger crisis and we need a coherent and united Europe to work together to tackle the financial crisis and look for new and imaginative ways to create jobs and stability across all its member states. Europe has been good for this country and our citizens for 36 years. Let’s not throw it away.

Over all I have to say that the best speaker was John McGuirk, possibly because he is a closest to the age group of the audience but still has exceptional ability and the best on the yes side was Jim Higgins who made some substantial points on the document. Sadly though he resorted to some slurs on the no side.


May I…?

August 27, 2009

@Buzzoneill tweeted this video from Marriage Equality yesterday but I only got to watching it today.

Very interesting I feel, and an excellent piece of work also. However, I do have an objection. Why does a gay person need to ask permission to marry? This suggests to me that the government believes it is within it’s remit where in fact it is not. Now, understandably there are some legal obstacles from when Mary Coughlan changed the definition of spouse to actually exclude people from being recognised. Yes, the government actually did remove rights form gay and lesbian people.


Lesbian Midgets for Europe

August 17, 2009

In a strong endorsement of support for the Lisbon Treaty, a new organisation, Lesbian Midgets for Europe, has announced it will campaign in favour of the Lisbon Treaty. The group is headed by Lucinda Gee and has a strong grassroots support of over 500 members. At a press conference earlier today Lucinda claimed “All of Lesbian Midget’s for Europe’s members are entirely driven towards a strong, stable EU which places Ireland at the heart of the EU.”

She said Ireland’s reputation abroad was severely damaged by the No vote of last June and that her organisation would work very close with Women for Europe, Ireland for Europe, Pre-Pubescent Trinity College Students for Europe and any other bandwagon that they should happen across.

“It is only by working together for a Yes vote is is possible we can restore Ireland’s reputation abroad.” said Gee, a banker by trade. When asked how Lesbian Midgets for Europe planned to fund their campaign we were told “All donations are received from Irish citizens living in Ireland and we are fully compliant with SIPO.”

Gee is under no impression that this campaign will be easy. She maintained that although Ireland was “absoloutely shitless” at the prospect of being thrown out of the EU, she said that “It’s important we keep reminding the Irish People just how lovely Europe is…” and that “if Charlie McCreevy keeps opening his trap we may get thrown out no matter how we vote”.

When asked what exactly she thought of the Treaty she said “Well it’s lovely. Very heavy and complicated so it’s probably best that the Irish public don’t read it unless they forget the recipes for potato soup taught to them by their mammies who never did experience the joys of Europe.”

Lesbian Midgets for Europe are contactable through their website.


Denis O’Brien and the Irish Taxpayer

July 28, 2009

In a serious of interviews with Sunday Papers, Denis O’Brien revealed that the Moriarty Tribunal has ruled against him in sixty areas. Since the inception of the Tribunal O’Brien has tried and tried again to portray it as having an agenda against him, often seeking injunctions against it and even once bringing it to the attention of the European Court of Human Rights. In these interviews he switched his spin machine into overdrive, suggesting that the results would greatly hamper Ireland’s reputation and declaring himself a champion of civil servants. There is a strange irony here that Denis O’Brien should also be worrying about the tax payers in that, just before he sold Esat, he fled to Portugal as a tax exile and avoided paying tax on the sale.

O’Brien holds the belief that the State has wasted vast sums of money on the tribunal, even going so far as to buy anonymous ads in newspapers concerning the expenses of some tribunal lawyers. To date the Moriarty Tribunal has cost just over €200 million, it’s findings will leave the State vulnerable to possibly paying between €3-400 million to two loosing bidders, Persona and Cellstar. O’Brien has argued, and will undoubtedly continue to argue that the state cannot afford these. Those who agree with O’Brien are overlooking one very important factor here however.

Since the original granting of the license in 1995, vast sums of money have traded hands between all parties involved in Esat, TELNOR, BT, and Teléfonica. In 1999 the TELENOR and Esat boards began to disagree over the running of Esat Digifone as it had become known. With each board attempting to buy out the other’s stake and neither being successful. In 1999, BT, backed by the Esat board took over the company in a friendly takeover for a sum of £2.2 billion. With £1 billion going to Telenor, and the rest being divided between Desmond and O’Brien and others. Neither TELNOR nor BT can claim ignorance here to say they were unaware of what they were getting into as the rumours of the questionable awards process were well under way. BT also placed a health warning in the spinoff prospectus of mmo2 saying there was potential liability concerning the award issue. The company later became o2 Ireland after the spin off of mmo2. In October 2005, the Spanish mobile communication company Telefónica bid (successfully) for o2 Ireland. They may or may not have been warned of the issues concerning the license process. If they were it is entirely possible they took out a mitigation measure.

It is now entirely possible that the Irish state was subverted by business interests and if so it is not innocent. The cost of the tribunal and the payouts it will have to make are only a fraction of how it stands to gain. After the ruling of the tribunal a file will be sent to the DPP and CAB. Immediately the government can pursue the £2.2 billion and all of it’s subsequent investments as well as possibly reopening of the license bidding process which should allow it to be sold for more then the Esat consortium originally paid. If this were to happen it would be the single greatest CAB seizure in their history and a major windfall for the Irish exchequer who are currently scrambling to find money anywhere they can. The upside for the Irish taxpayer could amount to offset several months of borrowings for the state.


The Battle of Lisbon 2009

July 27, 2009

In the impending battle for Lisbon we see that already there is a multitude of colours sharpening swords. It appears it will be a battle not of parties but of people. The yes side has conscripted celebrities for their army including Bill Cullen, Eimear Quinn (Of Eurovision fame, apparently) and Mick Gawley “rugby legend”. These are people made up of the “We Belong” club. A celebrity based 3rd party who are campaigning because am… we belong in Europe, apparently. Judging by their site, and campaign team, they are going to be a primarily internet based campaign aimed at young people. Joining these we will have Generation Yes, a team of Trinity College attending children whose leader, Andrew Byrne, left them to work with the Cox/Laffan lead “Ireland for Europe, the successor to the Alliance for Europe. Over all the entire yes side is shaping up to be a crowded place, and each team will need to make a lot of noise to be able to claim the most credit. As they all appear to be preparing an online campaign (with the exception of Generation Yes who I don’t see as being very active outside of Dublin), they will be required to be very vocal in what they do and I don’t think Brigid Laffan is prepared to run down Grafton Street with flares in her hand singing “High School Confidential”.
On the No side we have Coir, Sinn Fein, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party and the other lefty fringe groups. Now, I’m sorry, but none of these groups are able to pull off a No vote. I’m sorry, it’s just not going to happen unless somehow Cowen and Lenihan implement the An Bord Snip cuts before the referendum.
There is a method to the Yes side’s campaign though. And it’s evident in the Red C and TNS/MRBI polls. Politicians are not popular right now. So by keeping them locked away in their offices and letting Bill “I sold apples for a penny” Cullen and Pat “Let’s hug Europe” Cox take charge this time it’s already putting the yes side 30 points ahead. My own analysis has the result going 80/20 yes due to economic uncertainty and the fear of being cast out of Europe. It will be a vicious battle with vicious soldiers and it begins very, very soon. All that’s left to do now is to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.


Social Media?s Potential in Electioneering

July 23, 2009

My BlackBerry supports email, Twitter, SMS, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Bebo, and numerous other social media programs and sites. Nor does it ever leave my hand. I have a routine that from the second I wake up I roll over and check my emails, then I move onto Twitter and finally rest on Facebook. Fast forward though other morning chores and I find myself checking out the news sites, RTE, Irish Times, etc. Again, all on my tiny phone. Throughout the day I will check this stuff again and again. As an experiment I loaded a usage recorder application to my phone which, by the end of one day, told me I spent five hours and 43 minutes using my phone. By week’s end the total usage statistic was 39 hours and 14 minutes. By month’s end, it was 136 hours. That’s about five and a half days of consecutive usage.

That software showed me how reliant I am on my mobile. What struck me about that whole experiment however was how much I was accessible through social networking sites. And not just me; to date there are over 400,000 Irish people on Facebook and 2,000,000 plus on Bebo. In terms of potential markets those are not figures to be ignored. Companies such as Coca Cola and various Hollywood studios are using them to reach new audiences that they otherwise would not be able to. Advertising in mediums such as newspapers or radio is being rendered obsolete through internet use by 13-25 year old consumers who seek their information from online sources.

In a commercial context these sites offer a superior form of advertising model through their ability to accurately seek potential customers based on their web usage. There is no reason however that such sites cannot be used effectively in a political campaign. In a recent experiment (ten minutes ago in fact) I found that a Twitter message has the potential to reach an average of 120 people from once it’s posted and the further potential to be “re-tweeted” 161 times in five minutes; thus giving a single tweet a potential target audience of just under 20,000. While political parties in Ireland have already began using this technology, there is still a great deal of potential to be unlocked from it. At the moment it seems to be confined to re-publication of press releases and trotting out usual party lines.

Politicians who use social media include Ciaran Cuffe TD and Senator Dan Boyle who both administer their own accounts themselves, thus making them directly accesible. To date very few politicians have recognised the potential of social media as a means of reaching their constituents and in turn allowing themselves to be reached. It allows the electorate a greater means of scrutinising their elected officials and enquiring about local issues. Politicians need to recognise that as technology advances, so to will the avenues of communication. For the most part, the electorate the current Dail relies on is close to death, soon to be replaced by a more tech savy electorate who won’t be rushing to shake hands after mass at election time. They will be canvassed through their phones on the DART or through their Facebook accounts in their office. They need to become more aware of how their electorate works and how nobody has the time for hour long chats on the doorstep about “the shtate of da roads”.


Possible Political Repercussions of An Bord Snip Report

July 16, 2009

I’ve also posted this on http://irishelection.com which has excellent coverage of the report.

The release of the An Board Snip report has been met with anxiousness, hostility and surprisingly, in some cases, welcome. It seems that there is a surprisingly large agreement amongst the people that cuts in social welfare and public sector services are a necessary evil. This seems to be based solely on the media’s war on the public sector. Off course, this will change rapidly once the smaller, less covered aspects of the report are brought to the attention of the public. Aspects including the ending of community employment schemes, grading of job seekers benefit by age and increasing the drugs threshold. The implementation of these measures would once again return the elderly to the streets accompanied, undoubtedly, by many more, unions are already painting the placards warning they’ll be on the streets if certain things are implemented.

The government will have to consider the events of the last senior’s protest concerning medical cards and how badly it hit them in opinion polls before they take a serious look at the proposals on medical cards, social welfare and education. But because these cuts are coupled with so many more drastic expenditure cuts, it would possibly put Fianna Fail in the mid teens and the Greens on less than five points respectively. Of course, there’s also the curious timing on the release of this report with Leas Cross and the ERSI findings both also being published today. The fact they all, coincidentally, emegred at the same time will somewhat lessen what would have been their individual impacts.

This weekend the Green Party holds a special convention which will decide their future (if any) role in Government after the slaughter of their councillors in the June local elections. One must wonder what areas of Snip they’ll take a stand…

It also appears that history is repeating itself given that the proposal to cut 5% off all Social Welfare payments would be the equivalent of Blythe’s cut of the Shilling off the pension as of course there were 20 shillings in the old pound, or 5%. That cut, it can be argued, is what lead to the ultimate destruction of Cumann na nGaedhael. It remains to be seen if the debate around these cuts proposals will affect the Greens. If implemented, these decisions have the potential to destroy Fianna Fail and the Green Party in the near future. There are already cries for the Dáil to be recalled to debate this, and I feel they will fall on deaf ears – the Government knows full well that while they are not sitting the people can’t yell at them. The Government will, over the coming months, remind the electorate that they are the ones making the difficult decisions. It is quite certain that, come election time, the electorate will reply with “Well we’ll make the easy one”.