Monday, July 20, 2009

The problem with Sinn Féin in the South - It's not just about our presentation, it's about our vision!

Below is a piece received from Ban Sidhe and it was meant to be a comment in response to a piece from 17th July entitled "Establishing A Political Narrative".

However, when I read this piece I felt that it was too good to be left as a comment and deserved to be posted as a separate piece. For me it is the best analysis I have read concerning the failure of Sinn Féin to have grown in power and influences in the South, in the manner we would have hoped. It also covers what we need to do to move Sinn Féin forward to achieve the goals we have for the party.

This is quite a long piece, but I feel it is really worth reading.


Let me apologise in advance for the length of this post, but it is a complicated subject and I want to cover it all. I never get to talk about Irish politics due to my blog being about Palestine:)

The debate on Sinn Féin’s narrative and the counter-narrative is fascinating as we all try to deal with the fact that the only alternative to the current government parties that has any prospect of achieving electoral success was not embraced by an electorate facing a disastrous economic crisis.

That economic crisis is hitting us harder than many other countries because as we can see the money was salted away by corrupt bankers, property speculators and assorted scallywags who were the darling of a fawning media and establishment politicians who help them us as exemplars and denounced anyone who questions this as economic illiterates.

In these circumstances people did turn to alternatives but they did not turn to the only one that had any reasonable chance of exercising power so they elected Joe Higgins in Dublin, and an assortment of Trotskyites across Dublin. They did not turn to Sinn Féin and we are wondering why.

The answers tell us about honest Joe, about the lack of community work about the need to be relevant to the 26 etc etc etc but the first thing we need to recognise if we are to earn the votes of the electorate is to recognise that they had the chance to vote for us and they rejected us in favour of others.

The last thing we want to do is think of this as merely a presentational matter, or tinker with our message, retreat from serious political work or retreat into clientelism. That is not to say that we should not consider our presentation, that we should not tinker with our message, question the type of serious political work we are engaged in or work hard for our local communities and constituents. We need to do all of these things but doing these alone or more importantly doing all of these in the absence of a diagnosis of our recent electoral malaise will not help and could even make things worse.

Joe Higgins was not elected because he had an army of community based councillors behind him delivering constituency services. He was not seen as less economically illiterate as Mary Lou – he was much more vulnerable to that criticism than Sinn Fein. His rhetoric was not some sophisticated newspeak that hid the socialist message behind clever choices of words. Yet he won – he attracted the votes that Sinn Féin failed to and we need to wonder why – more than that we need to find out why!

The reason I am so hostile to seeking to deal with this at the level of message and image (and I repeat these things are important and do need to be worked on) but the reason I do not want to start from these points is that I think they avoid the major problem we have.

In the previous election when Sinn Féin failed to break through at Leinster House. This was pre economic crisis and pre the bail out of the bakers so we could understand that the electorate would find the status quo relatively attractive but we all heard the media pundits and some Republicans muttering about Sinn Féin’s irrelevance and our “economic illiteracy”.

Then we had a range of people telling us that we had to move with the times- the 6 counties is either sorted, or stable, or stagnant and Sinn Féin as a party of the North was irrelevant to the south and we needed to place ourselves in the centre in the south, with realistic policies and southern leaders.

The recession led a to a half-hearted fightback as we old fashioned Rebels with our Che t-shirts laughed at the cheek of the thieving bankers who got us into this mess turning to the governing parties to bail them out by cutting our social welfare budgets while foreclosing on small businesses and driving us out of work. The revolution was still on – we were right all along and could smugly puff on our best havanas.

But there was no analysis of what type of country we actually sought to build and how we intended to get into a position to do so. This election would be our election – the big parties had let everyone down and we had tidied ourselves up and would not throw any hostages to fortune and we were keeping everyone strictly on message.

After this election we scratch our heads and wonder what we have to do to win elections in the 26 counties – and we again look at our image and our message and we do not examine our basic and economic paradigm.

The basic problem for Sinn Féin is that we need to have a clear vision right now for this country. The war in the north is over and we are moving into a period of nation building – where we are seeking to reconcile with unionists and bring them into our nation. In the south we have a partitioned economy that has squandered one of the fastest periods of growth that any country has experienced in many decades and is now in the depths of recession. We are trying to become relevant and electable by being “leaderly”, by being “respectable”, by being a “safe pair of hands to mind the shop” at the same time as talking about workers rights and an Ireland of equals.

Why should people vote for Sinn Féin if we are just like the big parties only with a social conscience? They already have the Labour Party for that. And now they have the Greens. There are other parties that will crawl into coalition with the big parties for a seat at the big table and then abandon everything that made them distinct when they sat in opposition. What makes Sinn Féin any different – why should people believe that we would do any different?

Clearly whilst we do not want to appear to be looney lefties, and we do want to place ourselves in the political mainstream so that we can influence politics and government, that does not mean we have to abandon left wing positions. The electorate in the past elected Tony Gregory, and in this election elected his successor and then Joe Higgins, as well as an assortment of “People Before Profits” SWP’ers. They have voted for Sinn Féin in significant numbers at various times and in this election in other parts of the country, so they are willing to vote for change but they need to believe that they will get change or at least someone who will fight for change. I do not think they believe that Sinn Féin is sufficiently different from the other parties or that we will deliver change if we are elected.

We have had an MEP in Dublin and the socialist paradise did not arrive. Joe Higgins will not deliver it either, but if he plays the left maverick, the people’s champion he may well hold onto the seat. We can’t just set ourselves the goal of being the leftist mavericks, a party of Irish Dennis Skinners, Sinn Féin is more ambitious than the Joe Higgins’ of this world – and we need to be.

Sinn Féin is not seeking to be a good opposition – we are seeking to be in government and that is much harder and requires clear thinking and clear strategies.

This is where our debate needs to concentrate – what do we want to do with the electoral strength that we are seeking? If we are seeking electoral strength to be in government but have no clear vision of what we intend to do in government then we are worse than useless. We would be better being a solid opposition than a weak and dithering government – or junior partner in a coalition with a right wing party.

One difficulty we face (that our competitors on the left can evade) is that we are a party of government in part of this country already. We are the second largest party in the Northern Assembly and that means that we are in government there – along with the DUP.

So we can be tested on our achievements or lack of them in the north. Allegations that the north is stagnant damage us in the 26 counties. The fact that the northern assembly has only limited powers and is still within the UK economic system limits the choices that we can make and the fact that we are in coalition with a right wing party (the DUP) limits them even more. We are vulnerable to accusations that we are merely in government for the sake of being in government for the “mercs and percs” as its called in the south.

In the north it is vital that Sinn Féin continues to lead from the front in government. It is vital that we exercise power to benefit our communities and seek more power to benefit our communities even more. But in doing this we face serious challenges.

The British Government economic policies and the insistence on Public Private Partnerships create major problems for us. We have to deliver investment to our communities and have to work within certain realities. But we have to ensure that we don’t start to believe that when we do the best we can that that means we are doing the best there is. We need to be good in government whilst challenging the restrictions that bind us.

We could look at the devolved parliament in Scotland and see how the SNP under Salmond is succeeding in exercising power within the UK imposed restrictions whilst at the same time pointing out what could be achieved if the restrictions were not there. The SNP seem to manage the trick of taking credit for every positive action and at the same time blaming Westminster for every failing.

Sinn Féin is seeking to develop a clear view of where we want to take things in the North. MLA’s like Martina Anderson are challenging the old ways of doing things, stretching the Civil Service and forcing them to act in new ways. Whilst we have also been outflanked on occasions but we are getting better at it and this has translated into continued electoral growth.

Our problem in the south is that we need a clear vision. We are seeking to be in government but that will not happen in the same way as in the north. The coalition in the north is based on proportional representation. Despite its limitations our vote gave us access to limited power in the first Assembly election and greater power with our result in the last elections. It has its downsides and the dual vetoes that were necessary to prevent DUP sabotage can create problems for us too. It allows them to hold us back on occasions – most obviously in the case of the abolition of the 11+. But our access to power and the benefits we have been able to deliver have allowed us to continue to build our support.

In the south we are a small party and even if we grow to 15% or 20% we will at best be eligible to entry into a coalition government and up until now these coalitions have been with one or other of the two major parties. We will not have access to government as of right, like in the north, and so we will have to look at such coalitions very differently.

This means that we have to decide why we want to be elected, and how we intend to achieve that if elected, and then we need to set about selling that to the electorate.

So what we need to do is to develop a set of strategic objectives – for the whole country taking into account the different set ups north and south. We will be in government in the north and in partnership with the government in the south, whilst in opposition to that government within the 26 counties.

We are a left-wing Republican party and we are seeking to change the nature of this country’s relationship with Britain and the internal politics and economics of Ireland. That means people need to have a real say in how their communities are governed and how their economies are developed and that bankers and other vested interests are never again allowed to distort development to suit their short-term and self-centred aims.

That to me is socialism, but if that word is a problem then ditch it. Bring on the imaging consultants and the message manipulators to get our message across but first of all let’s decide on the message.


  1. Spot on a great piece. Vision and passion is what we seem to be lacking. We are just trying to be too respectable.

  2. Very interesting piece, but I'm not as impressed as the person who runs this site. For me you have avoided the big question. That is, who allowed this to happen? I always considered we had a vision. A united, free socialist Republic. Yet, where did that disappear to?

    Don't get me wrong. I feel the war was going nowhere and continuing it would have just meant more suffering for ordinary people. Yet in moving down the poitical road we seem to have lost our vision. What is Sin Féin all about now? Is it lunches in New York and meetings with business people and talking of caolition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

    I'll ask you again who is responsible for us loosing our vision?

  3. To my mind, there is a polar contradiction lying at the heart of our economics. It was merely antagonistic but now its polar: there is no solution despite our long wishing it away.

    The problem boils down to the leadership strategy of building unity from above through government and that makes, at the very least, for messy compromises. Just think about our position on PFI/PPPs which are accelerating in the north day-by-day. Another thing, just think about the cost of reunification and how that would be implemented (remember that 65% of the total workforce in the north have public sector jobs) - cutbacks anyone??

    The article blames greed and the bankers for the collapse of the FDI-model in Ireland. That is simply wrong and entirely underestimates the scale of the challenge.

    The FDI model to which all parties subscribe is laissez-faire and leaves economic development to be decided by the market. As a result you end up with typical laissez-faire problems like underdevelopment, peripherality, market failure, rising inequality and autarkic development. There is no sense of a planned or directed economy.

    So we built an open economy founded on exports and low corporate taxation. We got growth, employment and lost emigration. The negatives were high indirect taxation, poor public services, regional disparities and rising inequality.

    The crisis has been caused by the growth generated by that model combining with the unhelpfully low eurozone interest rate to superinflate a bubble in construction and overextend consumption through credit built on rising asset values. As the Celtic Tiger dipped, Govt receipts became ever more dependent on taxes on housing, prsi stamps and vat receipts on spending - all areas which were to collapse with the bust.

    Now that's happened, a normal country would devalue its currency at this stage - like Japan did in the 1980s - but we don't have that power. So within the FDI paradigm the only choice is to cutback drastically.

  4. (Cont'd) The response to this central economic problem over the past five years varied within the party. I think that the leadership either didn't see it or wanted to ignore it for strategic reasons. Maybe they were just too busy with managing the peace process.

    Some on the left demanded increased personal taxation on the rich as if this could or would pay for better public services. The leadership and many on the right were nervous about this and argued against such tax increases as unrealistic and unnecessary - so where would the money come from?

    Virtually everyone remained blind to the cost of reunification. Maybe it just was never on the radar for most.

    The party's all-Ireland team pressed for an endogenous growth strategy and a keynesian stimulus to diversify the putative (all-Ireland) economy away from overdependence and to meet the costs of reunification. They believed that this would pump-prime community enterprise and enable a transition to a socialist economy. That agenda was the only serious attempt to find an economic answer to the range of problems was sunk by variety of factors (not least ignorance). I'm not going into here but to me this represented a historic missed opportunity. If the party had espoused that agenda we might have done alot better in the last general election instead of talking blandly about rights with no idea how to implement them. What's more if we were saying that four or five years ago imagine the gains we would have made by now.

    In the end up I think it was allowed to fall because it would stand against the then dominant laissez-faire economics dominating our party and had the potential to make SF look 'unsafe'. Instead we adopted an economic policy which tried to say everything to everybody without really changing much at all and which was, as I told one of the authors at the time, represented both a concession to naivety and neoliberalism.

    Unfortunately now when everyone seems to understand keynesian stimuli and the need for diversification, it is now too late to go down that developmental pathway. We can't diversify our economy - we just can't afford a stimulus of that size. So it's a much harsher choice we face: cutbacks on the scale of An Bord Snip (times two by my reckoning) or some form of revolt.

    So it is not simply about banker's greed or even govt corruption but really about economics. I would agree that our party remains economic illiterates, not out of stupidity but out of necessity. It is simply impossible to afford the sort of society we have traditionally demanded while failing to break with the FDI model that underpins the modern Irish economy.

    As for the north, we aren't exactly being radical and what is coming in terms of cutbacks in the north will make those announced by An Bord Snip look pain free.

    The only solution is for SF to ditch socialism not just the word but the concept too. I entirely agree with the article the party has a huge amount to learn from the SNP in Scotland. That to me is the future for SF - if they have one. The SNP are very adept at 'conservativism with a conscience' combined with a nationalism which might win increasing recognition and agreement. I think that's where the party needs to go but I'm a socialist.

  5. Sorry anon (can you put an initial at the end of your comment so we know which anon I am replying to) what does FDI mean?

  6. FDI = Foreign Direct Investment

  7. Anon (please use an initial when posting so people know which anon I mean.) Concernig our need to drop the word socailsim,well that is what i fundamentally disgree with and why I set up this blog.

    In realtion to economics free market, deregualted capitalism produced exactly what anybody with a brain new it would. Namely if you return to pre world war 2 economic theroy then you will produce pre world war 2 economic results. Namely massive cycles of boom and bust, which has been the history of capitalism since its foundation.

    The Irish economy bought into that and when you let the rich and wealthy regualte tehmseleves then look what you get. Corruption, greed and the situation we have now. Everybody with a brain realsied the house price boom could not continue, but too many people had a vested interest in it to stop it.

    Economic socialism means to me involves the state influencing the running of the economy so it operates in the interests of its people and the interests of weakest within society are protected.

  8. Just a question for anyone in the know about what the limits and outer boundaries of socialism actually are....does socialism see individual enterprise as a good or a bad thing?

    I am supprtive of Sinn Fein, I agree with much of it's social policies, economic ones - I agreed for years that there should be a state bank etc. But where do individuals with businesses etc, fit into a socialist society. And is it possible for a society to embrace both socialism and individual enterprise? Are they incompatable?


  9. Hi Stephen,
    Thisis a massive question and one I cannot aswer here.

    For me the term socialism is a very broad term and can mean many things to many people. Have look at my first ever post for my opinion.

    Anyway in terms of individual enterprise I certainly see it as compatable with socialism, but that depends on your definitin of individual enterprise.

    I have nothing against people earning a living by meeting people's needs. Individual enterprise is dynamic and can often react to what people want in a manner in which the state can't.

    However, the individual enterprise does not solve all the problems that exist in society and it also creates massive inequaities. It is tackling these inequalities that I see as the job of socialism. I also see socialism as having to deal with the power blocks that exist in society. Many of these power blocks simply exist to promote their own interests.

    Look what the banks, builders, property speculators did when they were simply allowed to get on with what they wanted. Were the needs of all the people met? No, greed took over and society suffered. Did individual enterprise provide the schools we need? Has it provided affordable health care? Does it provide a good integrated transport system? Does it provide greater equality in education?

    For me there is a role in society for the state, community and individual enterprise.

  10. Stephen,

    I support SF and to my mind accepting people with businesses must be entirely compatible with socialism because to do otherwise is counter=productive not for our selfish strategic interests but counter productive for ordinary people working hard and fair. Some of those people working hard and fair also own those businesses.

    Certainly some businesses have abused their positions and wielded influence to ensure that fair play was less lucrative than dirty play. I personally am pro-business but businesses to serve society. Society does not exist to serve businesses.

    I have argued often that socialism is a word that means different things to differnent people. Socialists think one thing; voters think another. For this republican socialist means being interested in rooting out inequalities; it does not mean scape-goating small business people as enemies



  11. Good repsonse,

    Its about accepting that the market wont fix everythingGovt. has a role and a respponsibility to intervene and see that social needs are delivered on.

  12. This is not socialism but social reformism.

    Socialism, at least the scientific socialism of James Connolly, was about a free association of producers. There is no exploitation in self-employment - well there can be but that's a minor issue. The main thing is that all employment is at base exploitative and that this exploitation not only generates the State but conditions and determines history. At least that's what Connolly wrote. But maybe somebody out there wants to 'revise' James Connolly on socialism and come out with something to the right of the old British labour party...

  13. Would James Connolly be comfortable with being elevated to an unreviseable, unquestionable source of definitive socialism.

    Connolly is someone we go back to for guidance. But he didnt set himself as a prophet to bee wheeled out against people with different thoughts.

  14. Hi

    This is Stephen

    Okay so I get this is a website that invites people to come on and discuss where Sinn Fein should go now given the election results (which I do not think were that bad really - but the concensus seems to be that we should have done better, now that capitalism has fallen like the berlin wall). I find all this talk of abstract ideology is the one thing that is making us irrelevant to people in their daily lives. Socialism, social democracy, social reformist, etc. For me I haven't got the time to sit down and read through all the different branches of the subjects. I just want to know the real solutions that we can offer the people. For example youth unemployment is going to be a huge issue in sept with thousands of young people out of school and college without any real hope of finding a rewarding job, and no real prospect of finding a emigration destination either! What I think the party needs to do is work out the solutions, keeping in mind the key ideological beliefs it always has had - equality, justice - apply them to the proposed solutions.

    I have been saying this to many people I know in the party that are anxious about having the debate.. we can not wait too long to have it and it must not go on too long either, because if it does, we will be accused of sitting around debating ideology while the country burns.

    Surely at this stage, we can realise quickly that we need to return to our activist roots, our republican roots, and our socialist roots, we have to ignore the dublin media and concentrate on the people.

  15. Stephen, you say all this talk of ideology is making us irrelevant. Please tell me how much discussion has gone on within the party. or in the media, about SF ideology?

    I agree with the vast majority of what you write concerning the phrases socialism, social reformism etc. I also agree that we need to be talking about real issues and real solutions. However, people will only get active for SF on a local level, if they believe we have a national vision. For me that is where the debate should be. What is our national vision, what are we commmitted to, what will be accept adn what will we not accept.
    For example - For me talking about left wing policies and them being what is needed for the country, and then saying we will go into coalition with FF or FG is a joke. To say we are a party of working people and to then go to the states and have our leaders having $100 a plate fundraisers is wrong.

    We need to clarify to ourselves what we are and then it will be easier to putv our message across to the people.

  16. Stephen,

    good post, I agree with you. Considering the urgency of the situation the party-wide debate should now move on to how we can meaningfully help people. Whether we call it reformism, socialism or any ism we should now start to focus on helping people.

    Unemployment for 15-24 year olds is 21%; Spain at 34%. Last year we had a rate of 13%.

    Will we have a rate like the Spanish next year. How do we help those people through the crisis.

    I think whatever our particular flavour of left republicanism we all agree that something concrete needs to be done. People need to be helped.

    We are all lefties; we are all focussed on helping Ireland, all of it, get through this crisis and become a better place. The party has been described as socialist republican in An Phoblacht by the chair of the party.

    When the working and workless class come asking what we are doing for them we'd better be able to say we will do a, b, c etc etc in the short term, d, e and f in the mid term and g, h, i in the long term.

    We need to come up with the practical terms of what that means and fast because the working class and the unemployed in this state dont need to be told they are being done over. They dont need a theoretical framework to tell them that.

    If the left dont give them real, ready to go, solutions then they'll leave all left parties and vote for Fine Gael. And could we blame them if that happened.


  17. Okay to start off, I would be appalled beyond belief if Sinn Fein went into government with Fine Gael, Fianna Fail probably won't have the numbers unless they do a deal with Labour and look for our support, in which case I would argue we should stay out to maintain our identity.

    My comments regarding use of language was really aimed at people internally in the party. We could spend weeks, months, and years debating ideology and strategies to build a broad left alliance etc. But the real debate should be on how do we create a vibrant economy, based on the principles of co-operativism, equality, and justice, how do we reform the state to limit its abusive powers etc, and how do we now advance the ending of partition. That's where the real debate should be, ideological debate can inform it and shape it, but it can't be allowed to swamp and smother it. I can tell you this much, the members of my local cumann are not interested in philosophical debates about Marxist theory, or whether we are the real legacy of Connolly.

    I have to say just one thing, I know as a young republican I grew up listening to Adams and McGuinness on the TV, debating the developments of the of the peace process, I like many others may have chosen to study subjects at college that reflected the politisation into the republican movement. For example, some people I knew at college chose to study history and politics because of the deep longing to know more about the politics they followed and follow (I didn't choose politics). This may have impacted on the party in an unforeseen way, we probably have one of the largest contingent of politically taught and educated activists, who regularly and capably discuss out politics and policies in a language most people would not fully understand. Myself included. Don't get me wrong, I actually think it is a good thing, and I don’t want to downplay any role these activists will have in the rejuvenation of the party debate, and perhaps they will lead the debate and have the most impact, but I would argue they need to be mindful of the reality that others do not fully understand the intricacies and subtleties of the concepts like socialism, social democracy or Marxist theory etc.


  18. Stary Plough, you asked me to point to media coverage, well I suppose I can't really point to much media coverage as you well know, the media doesn't actually give us much air time, unless it is dedicated to attacking us.

    Recently however, there has been colourful discussions between Vincent Browne (TV3) and George Hook (Newstalk) about proposals Browne has made to cap wages at the top of the wage scale and to more equally distribute the capacity to work by limiting the amount of work some professions can do. A proposal I think we should further develop. An example would be to limit a lawyer to €100,000 pa and not allow him to earn anymore, this would mean that the work he would normally do over and above this would be passed to someone equally qualified, but who would otherwise, because of the recession, be unemployed. This would give more out of work lawyers work to do. In the public service, all wages at the top would be cut back, a bit like the hair cut the government wants to give some of the bad loans in the banks. So at the upper levels, wages would be cut back to say €125,000 and at lower levels to 100,000 and 80,000 respectively, leaving lower wage levels intact, protecting the less well paid who can't afford to see their wages cut due to mortgage commitments etc. George Hook has described this specific proposal as communist. Because it seeks to limit or cut what people are making to a standard. Something roughly similar to the idea that everyone should earn the same wage. He has ridiculed it incessantly. I think, leaving aside any notion of socialism or communism, the Browne proposal could be justified on republican grounds. Equality and justice arguments could be used to justify the proposal, equality because one could argue that the work is being unequally distributed throughout the labour market (because of the nepotistic practices of some professions), and justice arguments because there is more justice in cutting higher wages where the impact, socially, would be limited.

  19. Also, I can't for the life of me understand why the $100 a plate issue is so big within the party. I think it might be more that the at local level we don't see any of this money. But just so that everyone knows, Sinn Fein can no longer collect money in the US and elsewhere to bring home to Ireland to use for political activities, the law was changed, specifically to stop us from having money to build up the party. I haven’t heard of any collections in the last few years. Which may explain, why at a local level we are all tired of fundraising. It is so hard to raise the necessary money to run a 32 county political party. All the offices the party had throughout the country, especially in the Republic have cost the party a lot of money and have not really produced the results they were supposed to.

    There is a related issue however on the expenses controversy, when the issue arose in the media a few months back, I think it was in the Telegraph or something, and then a few weeks later in the Sunday Mail, and on radio, I was so angry that the media had totally twisted the story out of all reality. I was so angry I rang Newstalk to set the record straight that the 5 Sinn Fein abstentionist MPs did not receive any wages and had actually saved the British taxpayers millions in uncollected wages over the past decade. The person in the newsroom told me that it was up to the Sinn Fein press office to ring up and put the record straight … which poses the question why didn’t they? The story had broke weeks beforehand and I see now on the party website that a full response was issued - but this was never covered by the media outlets that originally covered the story, it was issued too late and the damage was done, and no attempt was made to undo it when it matter - the day the media "broke" the story.


  20. Stephen,

    I think thats an interesting proposal re the wage caps. Obama set the cap for company executives receiving bail out money at USD500,000. He didnt try to set it for all executives though. Part of the issuing being previous wage cap attempts led to the perks and bonuses culture that boosted pay so much.

    Lawyers is even more problematic as while many lawyers would earn 100k, many of the top ones would earn multiples of that.

    The cap would probably become meaningless the executives and the lawyers constantly skirting around it. The legislation would become more and more complex until eventually it was rendered meaningless.

    However just like the working class man can be pressured in the race to the bottom so can the top rung who are killing our competitiveness.

    Those banks takig money here are limited to 500K in wages. So some effort has been made, after pressure, to start this downward pressure. I believe that it can only be a downward pressure rather than a wage ceiling. But that can be no less effective.

    How might such downward pressure be created. I suggest by:

    (1) Capping the salaries of bail out banks - done
    (2) Implement a new contract on all hospital consultants which would cap their start off pay at €100,000, with a maximum of €150,000. (from the SF budget proposal)
    (3) Cap TD salaries at €80,000 and senators at €60,000(from the SF budget submission)
    (4) Remove the allowances payable to Chairs, Vice Chairs and Whips of 23 Oireachtas Committees and 5 sub-Committees (from the Sf budget submission)
    (5) The salary of CEOs of public bodies can range from €114,335 to €534,998. Most of these individuals earn more than the President of the United States who is on a salary of €300,000. Brendan Drumm who is on a salary of €380,000 received a further bonus of €80,000 in 2007. SF proposed Impose a 10% levy on all executives and non-executives of directors on state bodies
    (6)Reduce the number of Ministers of Sate from 16 to 5 (SF pre-budget)
    (7)Introduce a cap of one pension for all former/current TDs (SF pre-budget)
    (8) Introduce a 95% levy on bonuses in commercial state sponsored bodies for senior management. (SF pre-budget)
    (9) My own suggestion would be to review also what lawyers do. Because you can pay a man a reduced rate or you can pay him to do less work. According to a World bank study it took 515 days to enforce a contract in Ireland. A man in Dundalk would wait 111 days longer than a man in Newry to enforce a Contract of only about 70k (real small business stuff). Obviously our legal system is not very efficient which of course means more money paid out.

    These are 9 points, 8 from SF, which would represent serious downward pressure on the overpaid. No futile explaining to George Hook that its not communism but instead a raft of ideas to argue that for a more competitive economy at the top level.

    Recently I wrote about political narratives here. To my mind those proposals should be assembled into one narrative - reduce top end wages to share the burden, reduce wage pressures and reduce the cost to the state.

    It allows us to defend workers by rightfully focusing on the overpaid, it allows us to fight loopy left criticisms by pointing out these are Dept. Finance costed, and that actually by improving the speed of legal processses we help small companies stay in business while reducing the amount of money paid out in legal fees.

    The material is there but its not being used in the best manner.

    We have a pro-worker, pro-small business, challenge pay-inequalities message at our finger tips that would really connect with and fight back against the IBEC/Irish Times/FF nexus.

    Why is it not being used?


  21. Just saw this in the Independent.

    Consumer board asking for "professionals" to have their wages dropped.

    Why was that not us? There is an ongoing debate releveant to our voters for which we have several proposals all of which would show how we were pro worker, pro-small business and being constructive yet a consumer board beats us to the punch.



  22. Totally agree with you J, and Stary Plough, why is it that the Consumer board beats us to the proposal? In fact I think I heard Emo 'Happy' Gilmour also say something about lowering wages at the top.

    There may be a constitutional issue, do ye remember the controversy over the Judges' salary increases? Some in the government argued that they could stop the increases as there was a constitutional issue involved. Well it's very easy get around it, ask the people their opinion in a referendum to put any legislation reducing salaries into the constitution, this would reflect the will of the people and couldn't be ignored by either the government or the judiciary.

    Something proactive needs to be done to get people in the media to listen to our proposals. I was thinking around this issue over the last few days, the only thing I think can be done is to print out the proposals when they are issued and hand them to the journalists, or their researchers and ask them to read at least the executive summary page.

    In the US after the presidential debates, all the reporters head for 'spin ally' it is basically a hall where all the politicos hang out and try to persaude the journalists that their candidate did the best. We should try and set up a sophisticated lobbying team to lobby and convince journalists to give our proposals some coverage. It might be worth a go. Although I think we may have to focus on community activism mainly to get our message out.