Saturday, October 30, 2010

Housing advice from developers and debt advice from debt holders

Over the last week the SF Oireachtas team put the focus right on the grossly negligent decision of the govt. to continue to take advice (and act in the interest of) property developers while at the same time relying on bond holders to give advice on dealing with the economy. The south of Ireland is now a profit center designed to maximise returns for a few business interests rather than a state seeking to guarantee the highest standard of well-being for its inhabitants.

Bond Holders:

The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights, Martin Ferris TD has claimed that the Government’s austerity programme is not only designed to pay for failed bondholders and speculators but is being advised by them. He referred to the fact that the Chairperson of Goldman Sachs Peter Sutherland whose Asset Management section holds Anglo Bonds has been advising the Government on the cuts.

Deputy Ferris said: “Apart from the economic and financial issues that we have discussed here for the past few days there is the whole moral and ethical aspect of the situation.

“All of the proposed misery is being planned to benefit failed speculators among whom are the Anglo bondholders. There are websites which have published the names of these companies and there are discussion groups on the internet about it. And yet no national newspaper here has regarded it as of sufficient importance.

“While most of the bondholders are European based there are Irish connections and no doubt some of our fine patriotic and charitable tax exiles have their noses in the trough.

“More importantly perhaps is the connection between all of this and the fact that representatives of these people are advising the Government on how best to make the rest of us pay for their mess.

“Take Peter Sutherland for example. He has held various high positions in this state and on behalf of this state abroad. His views are still given a lot of credence and he was recently widely quoted in claiming that this state had an obligation to protect the Anglo Irish bondholders.

“And of course he has been advising, in a totally disinterested way of course, the Government on how they should deal with the crisis. Among his proposals has been to sell state companies. And no doubt he probably knows chaps who might be interested in buying them at a fair price.

“How many of those who referred favourably to Sir Peter’s excellent advice also referred to his own possible self interest and the interest of his friends in all of this? He is, after all, Chairperson of Goldman Sachs whose Asset Management section is a key Anglo bondholder and which incidentally made profits of more than €13 billion last year.

“If our priority is to look after people like this, then the description given on one web site of Ireland as, ‘an international welfare state for super-rich bankers’ is all too accurate.”


Pearse Doherty shows that the only opposition, the only alternative voice in the Oireachtas, is Sinn Fein. Labour and Fine Gael think you can build a consensus with corrupted and bought out politicians.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Below is a statement from Conor Murphy on the need to fight the planned Tory cuts. As stated previously I believe Sinn Féin must refuse to implement these cuts full stop.

We are a left wing party and must refuse to be pawns of a right wing goverment which is directly attacking working people. We must show working people from across Ireland and from various cultural traditions, that Sinn Féin will fight for them. It was not the working class that caused this mess.

Executive must take lead in challenging cuts

Sinn Féin MLA and Executive Minister Conor Murphy has stated that the Executive should now prepare a united approach to fighting the punitive cuts being brought forward by the British government. This follows today’s Executive meeting which dealt mainly with the Comprehensive Spending Review and the affect it will have on the local economy.

Speaking earlier Mr Murphy said:

“Today’s meeting was realistic and dealt with the issues at hand.

“We put it to our Executive colleagues that there needs to be consensus when fighting these cuts. We were elected to do this and represent the citizens of the North, to deliver for them and not to acquiesce to what the British government has proposed. This would be failing our electorate gravely.

“The Tory government, though Owen Patterson, has said that they received an endorsement for their platform of cuts from the electorate and that people knew what they were voting for.

“Let us be clear. That mandate was rejected whole-heartedly at the last election in the North of Ireland with not one conservative candidate being elected. We said no then to cuts then and we are saying no now.

“We have laid out measures to grow the economy based around what was promised from the Gordon Brown. Owen Patterson stated he would honour this agreement yet £4bn has been removed from this package.

“This is a disaster for the local economy, especially the construction industry. There is no fairness in devastating one of the main sectors of the northern economy, as there is no fairness in attacking the most vulnerable in society through attacks on pensions, benefits and low-income families.

“Coming from this we need to see the political parties sitting down, bringing proposals to the table to work out a clear strategy on the best way forward.

“Sinn Féin have already released our document and there has been positive acceptance of it containing viable and workable economic proposals. Let debate these and lets have the other parties bring forward similar proposals. The initiative lies with us all here.

“The Assembly has already been recalled to debate the economic crisis and as an Executive we must follow suit. Today is the start of that process. We need to accelerate our efforts and work towards safeguarding and providing jobs in the immediate future and putting in place economic stimulants for future growth.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

The story of the NHS rowers - Tony Benn

“There was a boat race between a Japanese crew and a crew from the National Health Service (UK). Both sides practised long and hard and the Japanese team won by a mile. So the NHS ...faced with this problem setup a working party which reported that the Japanese had eight people rowing and one steering and the NHS had eight people steering and one rowing.

So they brought in management consultants and the management consultants confirmed the diagnosis, suggested the NHS team be completely restructured to make it more efficient, more cohesive, streamlining and all-round better performance. A strategy document was drawn up and the recommendations encouraged restructuring for the entire organisation.

As part of the restructuring, a number of appointments were made including three Assistant Steering Managers, three Deputy Steering Managers, a Director of Steering Services and the rower was given an incentive to row harder. They had another race, this time the NHS team lost by two miles, so management laid off the rower for poor performance, sold the boat and gave the Director of steering services a large payout for making the ‘hard decisions’ and concluded they had too many management consultants and not enough managers!"

A story from Tony Benn.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Too busy to hold an election.

The Government is telling us its too busy with the "job in hand" to hold elections. But they are not too busy to open new FF offices in Crossmaglen (80 years late better than never I guess) or attend Ogra FF talk-ins, attend their own drink ins and waste time opening shops and conferences and any other myriad number of locations and non-events over the last 16 months. What a weak and watery excuse.

Mary Lou McDonald noted in her blog that there is something seriously wrong when a government will go to any lengths to prevent elections

The government is dead set against a general election. It would be a ‘distraction’, they say, from ‘the job in hand’. They don’t want to be ‘distracted’ from their bailouts for the bankers- cutbacks for the people agenda.

They don’t want to hold elections to fill the empty seats in Donegal South West, Waterford and Dublin South either. The ‘distraction’ of losing those bye-elections could bring the government down.

Avoiding elections is an expensive business. It cost €9000 to transport junior minister Dara Calleary from Brussels to the Dáil to vote against holding the bye-elections. He travelled by government jet and the taxpayer picked up the tab.

Today the government goes into the High Court to defend their refusal to hold the bye-elections. Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty took the case. He believes that no government has the right to withhold people’s democratic right to vote and to have full representation in the Dáil. He’s right.

There is something seriously wrong when a government will go to any lengths to prevent elections.

The government, Labour and Fine Gael have an agreed position to introduce crushing cutbacks over the next four years. Brian Cowen and company now want to formalise that consensus so they’ve invited like-minded parties to talks.

The Taoiseach’s decision to exclude Sinn Féin from discussions because we oppose those cuts shows that the Government is not willing to listen to any alternative opinion.

Politicians talking among themselves is no substitute for an election.
The scale of our economic problems, the length of the dole queues and the staggering numbers emigrating – these are the reasons why the government is running scared of elections. They are the very same reasons why an election is so necessary.

We need an agreed way forward. A way forward democratically agreed by the electorate. After all it is the people who are in charge here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Campaign against Water charges

The campaign against water charges has a new and valuable portal that to help organise a campaign against the unfair water charges - .

The site highlights how water charges will "hit the lowest income group four times harder than the highest.  It will give rise to annual bills in the region of 170 euro per person or 685 per family of four."

This is also a campaign for a more thoughful approach to how the state should handle the issue of water distribution in the southern state.

One option the Govt. is looking at is an outlay of €500 million to install meters in 1.1 million households with proponents pushing a demand for full cost recovery i.e the householders will pay for everything with the possibility of a bill of up to €500 before the tap started to flow.

The Govt. focus is wrong. The focus must be on making the water distribution system more effective rather than trying to control the pattern of consumption. Currently 58% of treated water is lost through broken pipes. Actively tackling leaks would, according to the Local Government Review Group, make a significant contribution to managing the cost of the system.

The Fianna Fail govt. decided to build housing state after housing state and encouraged its friends to enter into large scale investment property deals domestically and internationally when it should have been investing in the national infrastructure.

Now they want us to pay for their mistakes...again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Remembering the Past: Fenian Col. Michael Corcoran

On October 11, 1860, US army units in New York City were instructed to turn out in parade in honour of the visiting Prince of Wales, the 19-year-old heir to the English throne. One unit refused to do so: The fighting Irish 69th Regiment.

The refusal by leading fenian Col. Michael Corcoran to march led to an significant increase in the recruitment of soldiers into the Fenian movement.

Corcoran himself was an interesing figure. When his father died his pension ceased and Michael joined the Revenue police and worked in Donegal. By 184e he had however joined the Ribbonmen and spent the next two years involved in agitation. Then suddenly he quit the police and went to America. He joined the New York Militia the 69th and became involved in the Irish cause. When the New York branch of the fenians was founded he was the first man sworn in by John o'Mahony

Corcoran later led the Irish legion, an all Irish brigade, in the Federal army. One of the units in that brigade the 155th NY had very significant Fenian Brotherhood. In June, 1866 they took part in the Fenian invasion of Ontario with the aim of using Canada as leverage in negotiations to secure Irish independence. The invasion was not a success and the unit was later forced to withdraw back to New York.  John Corcoran was not involved. He had already passed from a stroke a few years earlier.

One of the most striking tales of his life started on the 6th October 1860..Corcoran had just turned down tickets to a dinner in the Prince's honor as he was not "not desirous of joining in the festivity."
The "festivity" was going to be an undemocratic assembly of the high and mighty. Corcoran would not follow suit. A democratic vote was put to the men who agreed that marching was not an option.

Corcoran stated that the men would not march in honour of "a sovereign under whose reign Ireland was made a desert and her sons forced to exile." making clear that Irish men in New York would not be turning out for "the bald-faced son of our oppressor."

Polite America, ignorant or uncaring of the exploitative and opressive conditions then pertaining in Colonial Ireland, was furious. Corcoran was arrested, stripped of his command and prepared for court-martial. The wider Irish community however appreciated his, and his men's efforts. A green flag remembering the event was presented to the regiment. Before the court-martial was carried out the American civil war had begun and the Federal state had more pressing concerns.

Corcoran died from a stroke in 1863.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Martin, Ulster fry and the Tories

Well, who would have thought it? Martin McGuinness sitting with a bunch of Unionists eating an Ulster Fry at a fringe meeting of the British Conservative Party conference. OMG!

Okay, I’ll try and look beyond the obvious confusion at seeing a major republican figure sitting in the company he was at the venue he was, but what was he doing there?

Martin is Deputy First Minister of the six counties and he is in a coalition government with Unionists, okay we accept this fact. The British government is planning on imposing massive public expenditure cuts that if introduced will destroyed the lives of thousands of working class people. So the coalition partners in the Northern government head to the Conservative conference to argue the case for not introducing the cuts in the North. Okay I can accept that.

As Martin said at the assembly prior to his trip, “Let me be very clear, Sinn Féin will oppose the unfair and unjust proposed cuts by the British Government; our position remains that we must grow our economy, protect those most vulnerable in our society and ensure that we work to meet the requirements of those in most objective need.”

Also an excellent piece in An Phoblacht argues the case against the cuts and the need to move power over the Northern economy away from London and back to Ireland. This article concludes with this paragraph.

United resistance“As a party we are looking to build an alliance with the trade union movement and the community and voluntary sector to resist the cuts and to defend frontline services,” Mitchel said. “The public sector did not create the economic crisis – it was the private sector.
“We should not accept the inevitability of cuts. We should focus our minds on challenging them. All parties should agree a common approach in all of this.
“We need to enter into a negotiation with the British Government to resist cuts and secure proper control of the economic levers which will allow us to map a way out of the current recession and to protect the most vulnerable and those experiencing disadvantage at the same time.”
“We need to plan to grow the economy and all options must be on the table. This includes the development and harmonisation of the all-island economy. The existence of two currencies, two different tax and social welfare regimes, two health services, and so on, all restrict our ability to effectively tackle the effects of the recession.
“We need to end needless duplication and develop efficient systems that benefit everyone on this island.”


All of the above I have no problem with and indeed support. We entered into the GFA in order to build a better Ireland, with Ireland’s future being determined by Irish people. So, all of the above in my mind fits into this category.

BUT, what if the attempt to build a successful opposition to Tory/Lib cuts fails to stop the cuts? What then?

I believe we cannot allow our party to be a tool to implement massive cuts in services across the North. We cannot accept that we are powerless to resist the inevitability of these cuts and therefore our job is to make them as palatable and painless as possible.

If we were to allow this to happen we would be heading for disaster North and South of the border.

At present in the South we are attacking the major party consensus on the need for cuts. We are organizing a mass march in Dublin on 4th December against these cuts and we are right to do this. However, whether we like it or not we are judged by most people as a largely Northern party, and if people want to vote for us they will look to our record in the North as proof or what we really are all about. If Martin’s Ulster fry up fails to stop the cuts then the party must fight them in every way possible and refuse to implement them.

If this does not happen then people across the 32 counties will make their own judgments on Martin’s trip to the Tory Conference, and they will make up there own mind as to who and what we are all about.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

You've won the Sweepstakes - The outsourcing of responsibility in south Ireland.

When the saorstát was set up the new administration choose the least path of resistance when it came to the provision of a number of important services. Two fundamental services necessary for the development of a state where effectively devolved from state control - Education and Health. While there may have been a reason at the start to do so to allow this to continue for decades was a serious failure of State responsibility and helped create or perpetuate a state not able to identify its responsibilities and act on them.

Significant elements of Health care was provided by a mix of hospitals predominantly ran by the catholic church, with some few provided by the protestant churches and some intermittent, and resisted, state oversight. However while both voluntary hospitals resisted the state they accepted its funding as and when needed. The saorstat was naturally in a financially weakened state considering the turbulent times it had passed through. Due to a low population base and a weakened economy it had difficulty raising the necessary funds to support hospitals. The answer was the Irish hospital sweepstakes - a state monopoly on lottery i.e a gambling racket -  not that I dont have anything against a flutter but you'd think churches would. The sweepstakes was an okay idea in the sense that it managed to extend the funding of hospitals beyond the limited population of the saorstát with significant funds coming from abroad. It was a bad idea in that it was used to fund institutions which were not under the absolute control of the state but were the equivalent of privatised institutions. Mary Harney would have liked the idea - State money to support non-state monopolies of critical services.

The Sweepstake itself was open to all the flaws of a racket managed by Govts. (of both parties) with a penchant for handing responsibility to someone, anyone.  The American edition of Reader's Digest once described the Sweeps as "the greatest bleeding heart racket in the world". Many of the funds raised in America of Britain never made it back to Ireland but went into the pockets of distributors. But there was a more pernicious element to the Sweepstakes than that.

The story of the Sweepstakes has many parallels with modern Ireland. The Sweepstakes was set up with loopholes that allowed its organisers leave large sums undeclared as expenses. The impact of the sweepstakes started to spread to other sectors beyond the health. Soon directors of the Sweepstakes were to be found in every sector of the economy with some directors sitting on up to 30 company boards. Similar to the golden circle mapped by TASC a small group of men were taking control over every aspect of the economy. Apparently RTE had enough material in the mid 1970s to expose the deep concerns many felt about the Sweepstakes. It will surprise no one that RTE choose not to broadcast it. (How RTE can be made a neutral non-govt. controlled station is an important challenge for the future.)

The state failing to provide important services, instead relying on non-state institutions funded by state raised revenue, corruption and the misuse of state funds to gain control of wide sectors of the economy, a media gagged and incapable of reporting the truth. A decades long story unchallenged by FF or by FG.

Education is also another area where the state just mosied on glad that someone else was doing the lifting.  Currently about 90% of primary schools are patroned by the Roman Catholic church. These schools are privately owned, publicly funded institutions. Across the school sector the state is an outside party - there to pay the bills. The patron is not a figure head. They have ultimate responsibility for the school ethos, the appointment of the board of management, financial and legal matters and the supervision of staff appointments in accordance with Department regulations. Patrons generally discharge their responsibilities in close consultation with boards of management and other interested parties involved in the schools. In other words they have significant powers.

While the catholic church figures heavily in the outsourcing of Education as well this is not about the catholic church. Indeed there are many other denominations and of  course non-denominational schools. Similarly while in the Health sector there are some very objectionable acts by catholic denominated churches. (Notably in 2005 the board of the Mater Hospital in Dublin stopped a trial for a new cancer drug. Women who wished to take part in the trial could not get pregnant which obviously meant they had to use contraception or not have sex. This was in conflict with the ethos. Money from gambling was not in conflict with the ethos of hospitals though - but as horrible a story as that is I am not trying to focus on the catholic church here)

The main focus must be on the state's tendency to step back from taking responsibility for critical functions. While they may have reason to do so for a few years at the foundation of the southern state it was not acceptable to leave the situation continue for decades across two of the most important areas in which a state must provide services. To do so was to accept the principle that any service, no matter how critical need not fall under the Govt's direct and complete control. The Govt. became a partner rather than a leader. Rather than forcing the pace of change, modernisation etc. it just sat back and let society drift. Little surprise then that the current Govt. has provided little leadership in the financial crisis. Instead it has taken the Banks at their word, it has followed the interests of the developers and the golden circle rather than steering its own course. Commentators like David McWilliams and Brian Lucey have both wondered aloud about whose interest the Govt. is serving. At this point about 3/4 of the south's residents agree its not the Irish nation. But I dont believe that the Govt. could ever have done anything other than follow the Banks and the advice of the special interest groups even if they were not as delinquent as they have proven. The tradition of governance in south Ireland is not one of leadership but of relinquishing sovereignty to any group willing to take over some of its tasks.

Fianna Fail stand indicted as do Fine Gael on this point.

The final point on this abdication of responsibility I will leave to Professor Kathleen Lynch who recently gave the annual Tasc lecture. In a speech entitled From a Neo-Liberal to an Egalitarian State: Imagining a Different Future' she notes:
As a society, we do not have a strong commitment to public solidarity despite our rhetoric. This is reflected in failure over the course of the last 10 years for social welfare provisions to keep pace with the cost of living. We have one of the lowest rates of social expenditures on education, housing, transport and welfare within the EU. (See Tables 1 and 2 below using the SILC data). Our lack of commitment to the public sphere is evident in many concrete ways, from the lack of public spaces for play for children (especially safe indoor places) to the lack of public sports facilities, to the lack of investment parks and public amenities in so many towns and villages.

It is even evident in our churches. Most of our leisure and sports facilities are actually privately owned by clubs that are legally constituted as private bodies; GAA pitches, tennis courts, gyms, rugby pitches, golf courses etc. are all private. Indoor play areas for children are almost universally commercial. And the lack of commitment to the good of the public sphere is evident when public and private interests collide; it is evident in the way space is organised and the quality of the built environment between public and private hospitals, in the relative luxury and comfort of private rooms versus public wards; it is visible in the pitches, tennis courts and other facilities in well-off schools compared with the bare yards of small fields that are there for those in less-well-off or poorer areas.

Ar muin na muice

Labhair Darren Mac an Phríora le Comh. Críona Ní Dhálaigh faoi bpolaisaí ainmnithe nua a mbeidh ag teacht i bhfeidhm i gCathair Bhaile Átha Cliath.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Will they, Fu*k!

Blogging comment of the week would surely be from Betty who posted the following on in relation to all this talk of a grand coalition :Question–if there is a change of govt will FF support the new administration??? As Mr James Gogarty [might have] said “will they, F***

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Irish Politicians or American mobsters?

A man who set the world record for current account deficits. An embezzler from a charitable fund. A beneficiary of passport retailing. A tax dodger with a lucky streak on the horses and a man known the world over as a "drunken moron". What do they all have in common?

Are the above decent Irish people, a list of Fianna Failers or 5 of America's nastiest mobsters.

They are off course random mobsters from American history. Do you think any country would so damned to have 5 useless leaders like that in a row? Certainly not in Ireland. We set high standards for political office you know.

Sure we've only ever had decent, honest men rule us here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Is Ciaran Cuffe lost in a ghost estate?

An excited Ciarán Cuffe, as opposed to an excitable Paul Gogarty, wrote on his blog about what he wanted to achive now that he had finished up his staycation on the Beara. There is a whole list of ambitious things to do, or just talk about. One of which was a review of the nationwide survey of ghost estates carried out by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, where Ciarán is whiling his time away as junior minister,  with the intention of coming up with a plan to put the empty houses in Ireland and the excess Irish hotel capacity to use.
One of the things he promised was by the end of September we should have "some good analysis completed, and be in a position to sit down with stakeholders and offer some positive advice on these issues."  
As the excellent Nama Wine Lake notes its now October 01st and neary a peep out of Minister Cuffe? Did he forget to do the work? Was he over excited after his holidays or is it just another sorry episode in the demise of the Greens - a party that made big promises about being in Government but when it got there didnt really know what to do. 
Is he waiting for permission from Fianna Fail or maybe Ciarán's still driving around a ghost estate wasted on the noxious fumes of planet Bertie. Save yourself some trouble Ciarán and get in contact with Sinn Fein to learn about solutions to the housing issue.