Saturday, January 30, 2010
Details emerge of Budget 2010's brutal education cuts
Budget 2010 saw yet another attack on one of our most vital public services, education, and in so doing has again foisted most of the burden on disadvantaged and vulnerable students.
This is not the first time such a savage budget was imposed on the education sector, with previous budgets resulting in higher class sizes, increased third-level registration fees, axing of special needs classes and cuts to schools in the most disadvantaged areas in the 26 Counties.
This time round the school building budget has again been cut, despite the dire circumstances in which many schools find themselves. Third-level grants have also been slashed, which will affect thousands of grant recipients.
An overall cut of just over 5% will be administered by the Minister for Education and Science Batt O’Keeffe this year.
Our education system is already chronically underfunded. Indeed, proper investment was never made even when the money was there. Because of this the 26-County education system ranks bottom of the barrel in the EU in terms of funding with one of the highest class sizes in Europe.
Yet again, despite workers crying out for jobs in the construction industry, the government has failed abysmally to invest in a proper school buildings programme and instead shockingly has opted to cut the fund for new school buildings and repairs by a staggering 27%. Across the state schools are desperate for new buildings as well as vital repairs to old ones. They are not being listened to. Children are spending their school days in prefabs which in some cases pose a serious risk to their health as well as greatly affecting the quality of the education they receive.
A cut of 4% will be made to special education initiatives in primary schools as well as a 21% chop to the National Council for Special Education. These cuts will affect some of the most vulnerable schoolchildren – those with special needs. Already we have seen closures of special needs classes across the state, we now learn that up to 1,200 special needs assistants will be let go this year. This will have a huge and devastating affect on young vulnerable children who deserve an education as much as any other.
Budget 2010 implements a series of savage cuts to the third-level sector. This makes a mockery of the so-called ‘knowledge economy’, which the government purports to support and is particularly insulting to students considering the excessive salaries of university heads, which is just €4,000 short of what a government minister earns, plus expenses.
Budget 2010 introduces measures for an overall reduction of 4% in provision for institutes of technology and universities. This will see students having to deal with diminished practical and tutorial supports, shorter library opening hours, overcrowded lecture halls and limited access to labs. The recent fiasco in Dublin Institute of Technology whereby labs were cancelled, student services were severely curtailed and libraries services cut shows just how badly an effect a cut like this will have.
The Budget also introduces a 5% cut to the Student Maintenance Grant.
This will come into effect immediately and will affect new and existing grantholders. It is estimated that around 60,000 students per year avail of this grant. With the cost of going to college for a year estimated at being anywhere in the region of €7,000 to €8,000, this will mean that thousands of students literally wont be able to afford to go on to higher education and will end up on the dole queues.
Targeting the disadvantaged:
As has been the general theme throughout the lifetime of this government as far as cuts are concerned, it is the least well off who are the biggest target and this has been maintained in this year’s education budget.
The Millennium Partnership Fund, which provides financial assistance for further and higher education students who are experiencing financial difficulties while attending college, has through Budget 2010 been discontinued. A student applies to this fund to help them with either temporary or ongoing financial difficulties and it has been a lifeline for many third-level students struggling to get by. The discontinuation of this important scheme will result in many pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds being unable to carry on with their studies.
Budget 2010 makes for the removal of eligibility for student support grants for those in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance and Vocational Training Schemes allowances. Far from encouraging young people who are out of work to take up training schemes this measure effectively makes it so that if young people do take up training they will lose all their money. This is a nonsensical measure and will penalise, not encourage, young people to take up training courses. As well as this, allowances to participants in Vocational Training Schemes, Youthreach and Senior Travellers Training Centres will also be reduced.
Other cuts to education implemented in Budget 2010
Reduction of €8 million to Strategic Innovation Fund.
Allowances to participants in VTOS, Youthreach and Senior Travellers Training Centres to be reduced.
Teacher in-service education to be cut by 26%.
The supply teacher scheme at primary level will cease from the start of the 2010/11 school year.
Funding reduced by €1.2 million in 2010 for projects in Local Drugs Task Force areas in Dublin City and County and will be phased out completely in 2011.
CUT: The government has failed abysmally to invest in a proper school buildings programme
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
So I though why not map the republican blog community on to Google maps.
The idea is to list each Republican blogger, SF cumainn on line etc and then put it on the map. i.e Sinn Fein Sligo marked in Sligo. Bit of tweaking before its finished. must sort out if there is a way of showing the names on mouse over etc. It'll all come good in the end I hope.
So if your cumainn has a blog or your local rep etc then maybe you could post a comment with the link and the address (town, county). I will then put them into a database and load them onto the map.
So the idea is to have an easy way for people to see what republicans are blogging near their area, what cumainn are in their area etc.
It'll also mean that anybody searching for Sinn Fein on google comes across republican sites more frequently etc.
I am sure there are many other ways we could use the internet and these new collaborative programmes.
Does anyone have any other ideas?
View Republicans ONLINE in a larger map
Monday, January 25, 2010
Today is a day of fairly significant industrial action across the public sector.
Over 300,000 trade unions members are going to be involved in protest actions over the government cuts. This move has enraged the Health Service Executive which said its worried about the effect of any action on patient safety and services. Many many thousands across this country must be amazed to hear and I can attest that I am one of them. My locality is now done to a part time ambulance services. Little worry from the HSE or the govt. about patients or service then nor about the running of the HSE which is all Chiefs and few Indians.
The HSE attack on the very idea of even striking is one that's appealed to others it seems. The Irish Exporter's association wants air traffic controllers to have a no strike clause in their contracts. Famously in the US Regan took on and beat the Air traffic unions and then proceeded to continue with every other union.
And whatever about the merits or the demerits of any particular case the need for stronger union representation is more pressing than ever.
The Govt. is waiting to hear from the Labour Court about the lowering of the minimum wage in the hospitality, retail and construction sectors. Mary Coughlan who rather laughably holds the brief for enterprise, trade and employment, says the lowering of the minimum wage in these sectors "would only apply where employees agreed to the measure in order to keep their jobs". Well that means pretty much every job then doesn't it. Still rather than apply pressure on wages at the top its more fun to do it at the bottom.
A perfect example was the recent rowing back on the pay cut, or should that be deliberate mess-up, of salaries of the top civil servants. Whose supposed pay cut was 15% but that pay cut was based on their base salary plus bonus and everybody who applied for the bonus got the bonus. As a result their salary cut is only a few per cent. Tough times at the top.
Share the pain is the principle at stake here and its what people want to see happen. As wealth is not shared then neither is pain though..
While the need for Unions has never been more critical the unions have continued to decline in strength. The latest CSO figures for 2007 have only 31% of all employees reporting to be union members with that figure much higher for the Public sector than the private sector. Private sector unions now come courtesy of your HR division or Human Remains division as a friend of mine calls them.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Liam Mellows’ Republic
Liam Mellows led an extraordinary life. He was born in 1895 and executed by the Free State Army in 1922. During his short 27 years he was an IRB member, na Fianna organiser and a republican volunteer. He was a veteran of 1916, the Tan War and the Civil War, and was imprisoned in Britain, the United States and Ireland.
But Mellows was not just a military organiser and activist. He had an acute sense of the political and social dimensions of republicanism. He was one of the 57 TDs who rejected the Treaty during the Dáil debates on 6 January 1922 and he led the anti-Treaty forces into the Four Courts.
After his arrest, and reflecting on the war of independence and the subsequent victory of the pro-Treaty forces, Mellows wrote what remains his most important contribution to Irish republicanism, the ‘Jail Notes’.
His conclusion was that “Ireland does not want a change of master. It would be folly to destroy English tyranny in order to erect a domestic tyranny that would need another revolution to free the people. The Irish Republic stands, therefore, for the ownership of Ireland by the people of Ireland. It means that the means and process of production must not be used for the profit or aggrandisement of any group or class.
“Ireland, if her industries and banks were controlled by foreign capital, would be at the mercy of every breeze that ruffled the surface of the world’s money-markets. If social capitalism flourished, a social war such as now threatens practically every country in Europe would ensue. Ireland, therefore, must start with a clean slate. The Irish Republic is the People’s Republic.
“In our efforts to win back public support for the Republic we are forced to recognise, whether we like it or not, that the commercial interests and the gombeen man are on the side of the Treaty. We are back to Tone – which is just as well – relying on that great body, ‘the men of no property’. The ‘stake in the country people’ were never with the Republic. They are not with it now and they will always be against it – until it wins! We should recognise that definitely now and base our appeals upon the understanding of those who have always borne Ireland’s fight.”
For Mellows, the political, social and economic dimensions of the republican struggle must be intertwined.
The failure of the war of independence to create a real republic was, in Mellows’ view, a consequence of a failure on the part of republicans to adequately integrate the socio-economic and political dimensions of struggle into a coherent programme that spoke to the needs and aspirations of the Irish people.
Sinn Féin today must continue to learn from Mellows. We must at all times combine the political demand for an Irish republic with a coherent social and economic programme that seeks to end inequality and poverty; produce and redistribute wealth; and provide every citizen and every resident with the means to live a full and prosperous life.
How can a people be politically independent if they are denied the social and economic means to fully and equally participate in society?
For Mellows, the only republic worth struggling for was one that establishes the ownership of Ireland for all of the people of Ireland. Mellows called this a people’s republic. Today we call it a democratic socialist republic.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Insider Trading In The Banana Republic.
One of the key challenges that the progressive left must tackle is the issue of corporate regulation, oversight and standards in the south. Cowboy standards in the south have indebted ordinary workers massively, and created a business environment where half a million people are jobless while insolvency rates for businesses are going through the roof. Carrying the can for all of this is regular Sean citizen.
Just recently we saw a good example of how sloppily we allow our businesses environment to be run – to the detriment of honest businesses and their workers and ultimately to the state.
Back in February 2000 the DCC company, a well established Irish company sold of €108 million in shares of Fyffes, the banana company. This proved to be incredibly lucky for DCC because about a month later the Fyffes shares fell by about 25% when Fyffes updated the market on its trading situation. Somebody in heaven must have been looking out for them. Back on this mortal coil though it turns out Jim Flavin, head of DCC, also sat as a non-executive director on the board of Fyffes. (If we had a functioning media that examined who sat on what boards then we would see many interesting things wouldn't we. Just look at the Dublin Docklands Authority and Anglo-Irish).
Anyway as Jim sat on both boards and managed to sell the DCC shares just before things bottomed out there seemed to be questions to answer. The Fyffes shares fell 25% and a fall of 10% is regarded as enough to examine if there was insider training.
Fyffes made a complaint and An Garda, the Stock Exchange and the Director of Public Prosecutions all had a look in. But the wheels of justice move slow and more so when it comes to company wrong doings. The case did not get to the high court until 2007 when the High Court commented "To trade on the use of inside information is recognised for what it is. It is a fraud on the market. The insider who exploits his access to the special knowledge he enjoys for the purposes of the company in his capacity as executive or director of a company commits a crime."
But the High Court found in DCC's favour. On to the Supreme Court then and a different view of things. The Supreme court found that a serious offence had taken place. The law had been broken. DCC paying out €44 million emphasised the fact.
This would appear to be a clear cut case then surely? Well no of course not. In murky waters nothing is clear. A High court inspector was appointed to review things and his report has just been issued.
The Inspector's report confirms the law was broken, but only by accident. The key idea was that DCC had advice to the effect that their actions were within the law. This was good enough for the Inspector. The Irish Times noted that "If – as now appears the case – the paid-for advice of a lawyer replaces the onus on an individual to act in a moral fashion, then corporate law will continue to be broken as long as there is a lawyer prepared to venture an opinion."
Further noting "The Supreme Court has found that a very serious offence has taken place, but the various agencies of the State, ranging from the Garda through the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Financial Regulator and now to the ODCE can't or won't seek any sanction against the company or the individuals involved."
And sure why would they?
But what about this Director of Corporate Enforcement guy - Appleby. Is he a toothless wonder or someone stymied by the rule book from doing good. Who knows? But documents revealed under the Freedom of Information Act to RTÉ in 2007 showed that he had been seeking more resources since 2005 and considered the staffing he had to be "wholly inadequate". He wanted 20 more staff, including more gardaí.
When the matter was raised in the Dáil, the grafter in chief, Bertie Ahern, seemed to become annoyed. "It is not that Mr Appleby's work is not considered important . . . He has 36 , so it seems extraordinary that he could want another 20 . . . One would not receive such an increase in any department . . . He will have to wait his turn." And while he got a few extra positions shortly thereafter did he receive the amount of folks he needed. Considering the free wheeling culture in Corporate Ireland it would appear that no he did not.
How free wheeling this state's corporate world acts is further shown by how DCC sold off the Fyffes shares. The used a foreign based shell company to sell off 31.2 million shares. This little trick allowed them avoid €17 million in taxes on its profits. But the High Court inspector said no Irish laws were broken in the process and Appleby's criticisms were misguided
And what about that Euro 17 million in unclaimed taxes. Is there a job there for revenue?
€17 millions is a significant sum. The average price of school books in the south is €390. 17,000,000 in tax is free books then for 43,589 kids. Roughly the poorest 10% of pupils could have the costs of their books covered for them for a year with that money. Money which poor regulation, weak company law, and ineffectual oversight cost the southern state.
I believe that for progressive parties it is as equally important to focus and innovate policy on Corporate law, Company Law, strengthening regulatory guidelines etc. as it is to focus on issues like council charges etc. They cannot be separated.
As a left Republican party we have to be as well known for promoting responsible financial regulation, effective corporate oversight and a more coherent company law in the south as we are for being a party of community activists defending communities at council level.
In my opinion both Labour and the further left focus too much on one at the expense of the other, albeit from different sides. That's a mistake that means Labour has lost its activist vigour and desire for real change while the further left fatally weakens it ability to create change rather than just provide opposition.
But in order to be effective agents of change a progressive party must excel at both.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Today was a fairly normal day in Ireland. Nothing of note really happened did it!
Certainly nothing happened in comparison to the terrible news thats coming out of Haiti.
On every newspaper, television and radio station there is going to be wall to wall focus on the disaster. And we will all watch it. Not out of a morbid desire or some strange car-crash voyeurism but because as normal people we will watch this and feel a deep empathy and sorrow for the suffering of other people.
You'd think that most people would think the same. Well unfortunately they dont. Some people look at this as a useful disaster and they think every cloud has a silver lining.
Looking at BreakingNews.ie I was struck by a series of related posts.
At 12:25 Minister Mary Harney "announced the roll out of a bowel cancer screening programme which kills around 930 people here every year."
Hmm! Fair play the Govt. Doing the right thing. I am impressed.
But wait...there is more:
At 12:32 Mary Mary strides once more across the media like a colossus with another missive:
"The Health Minister has today announced that she is reversing the decision not to roll out the cervical cancer vaccine for secondary school students."
Oh! So they climbed down did they. But at least they are also doing the right thing. And so rather than this being a craven climb down we know have a positive cancer detection strategy. Rather than caving we now have Harney the leader. Aint she the bomb.
That this "leadership" was on the 1:00 news did no harm to Harney or the govt. A climb down became a positive and a problem was neutered. Best of all nobody was going to focus on this too much. Because of Haiti it was just accepted and the news moves on.
Next it was the turn of fellow Fianna Failer John Gormley.
No sooner was the 1:00 clock news show over than John boy was ready to roll. There was just enough time to make the tea and do the dishes after Dinner before he started his bit.
At 14:23 modernising John confirmed that "Dubliners will directly elect a Mayor this year.Environment Minister John Gormley has announced the capital's citizens will go to the polls in June. The job will command the same salary as a Government minister."
Who could not be impressed. This was the Greens as they want us to see them. The party modernising the southern state's dated institutions by coming up with a trendy Mayor idea. I was in awe but John didnt stop there. He was on his bike ...
At 14:46 decisive, honest, reforming John came out "to limit junkets for Councillors. Green Party leader John Gormley says he is determined to end the "abuse" of Councillors attending too many conferences."
Thats the kind of Greens we wanted to see. The Greens we once believed in etc etc. I could almost see myself voting Greens at the next election. Their story was beginning to get some traction at some level.The Greens love pretending they are a modernising force. And today they piled it on trying to get that message into our head.
But the coup de grace was at 18:25 because at that hour Breakingnews.ie reported that "Ireland is sending 80 tonnes of emergency supplies to Haiti following Tuesday's devastating earthquake.The aid will be distributed to 8,000 families through charities Concern and GOAL who are working on the ground there."
And thats only right and good to see but wait whats this at end:
"Some 35 members of the Government's Rapid Response Team are also on standby to travel to the stricken region."
The Governmant's Rapid reaction force? Excuse me? Who the hell is that? Or do they instead mean the southern Irish state's rapid reacion force. Because by christ whats it got to do with the those parasites sitting around the cabinet table. Still, pile it on! If it makes the govt. look good they'll do it.
Today Mary Harnney and John Gormley took advantage of a disaster to stack their messages so as to command attention at news time. Nothing could compare with Haiti but by stacking the messages they could command some air time and sell their messge to the people. Mary turned a negative into a positive and Gormley used today to reboot his parties image and once more push out the message that the Greens are reforming and modernising.
Is this nasty. Yeah of course it is but by god they are slick operators.
Today was a master class in media and ultimately voter manipulation.
Link Backs: Political Messages
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Weather is a funny old beast no doubt about it. While we have always had more than our fair share of water in this land generally its been to our advantage as Brendan Behan noted. However more recently its been kicking the crap out of us. In late 2009 we had the floodings where unfortunately half of the country was inundated under water. And of course if we want to go back a few years more we can think back to Galway - the modern European city, investment hub etc. etc. where people could not drink water from a tap because of its was contaminated with shite, to be frank.
At the time of the November flood we highlighted that the OECD had published a report only a week before saying that while progress was being made the Govt. had a lot more to do to ensure an adequate water management system was in place. Now waiting for the govt. to do something adequate is waiting for Godot. Small chance of it happening.
So when the snow started to fall over Christmas it was a sense of déjà vu. How would the state handle water when it was frozen? We all expected the govt. to be confused by this change but we didn’t expect the confusion to last so long. Road after road was left impassable as rock salt ran out. Some counties, Clare If I recall correctly, ran out of salt faster than other counties. Effectively mismanagement, slow reaction, whatever meant that if you lived in Clare your were at greater risk than your friends elsewhere in the state. Nice thought that but then where you live has always been a factor in how you are treated.
But back to water. Now that the ice is going to melt its expected that there is going to some fairly significant damage to pipes and so on. The Irish times does a run down of the mess: A spike in demand in Dublin saw water pressure lowered to conserve supply and several areas are without water as highlighted by Mary Lou. In Cork the same story but there even places like the Mercy hospital have a compromised supply.
Leitrim householders have been experiencing disruption to their supply since before Christmas.
Reservoirs in Galway are very low with cuts in supply reported in Loughrea, Rosmuc, Moycullen and Gort. Galway County Council has provided tankers for emergency supplies. If there is one city that needs someone to take the finger out its Galway. They are having a miserable time of it and they deserve some leadership.
So what type of leadership did they get. Well Irishelection.com notes that the Mediterranean playboy Noel Dempsey certainly has no regrets about lying on a beach while the country’s transport system collapsed. If he could walk to the beach then we could walk to work.
Noel said it was never a bad decision to go on holiday and he did not accept people needed to “see and hear” from him when the conditions were most severe.
“Ministers for Transport don’t actually go out and grit the roads,” he said.
Sounds like he is giving the public a Gogarty there. And as Caoimhin pointed out if there is no more salt then use sand . Why did common sense not prevail? Maybe because with the top man tanning in the sun the Transport dept. went into dull bureaucrat mode because nobody was ultimately in charge. But in reality he knows he can get away with it because unfortunately in Irish govt. structures the higher up you go the less responsibility you have.
If anyone lives near Noel Dempsey can they please buy him a shovel and a bag of grit because he needs to learn that if required even a minister must get out and grit the roads.
The lazy sod!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Prior to 2009, there was only a single Sinn Féin Councillor in the constituency of Laois/Offaly who had been holding the fort alone since his election in the Local Elections of 1999. Ten years later and several Local and General elections passed, four Sinn Fein Councillors now sit on three Local Authorities in both Laois and Offaly, three of whom were elected in a single election in June 2009 with two almost topping the polls. This notable milestone included the running of a candidate in one areas which had not been contested by Sinn Fein in over 60 years.
How was this success achieved? Despite numerous setbacks in the form of diverging personalities, and internal opposition, steady growth was maintained in the constituency with growth from a single Cumann in 2002 to now having Cumainn in each electoral area as we enter 2010. The key focus has been on the grassroots structures which abide strictly with the party constitution, the operating of probationary periods for new members, and targeted development of cumainn combined with hours of organising, canvassing, public relations, and first class representation has made the area a success.
The result is the ever increasing recognition of Sinn Féin as the only serious Left alternative to the stale politics of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in the constituency along with the absolute decimation of the Labour Party in both the General Election of 2007 and the Local Elections of 2009.
The spirit of Fintan Lalor lives on.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Sinn Féin has described the defection of Killian Forde to the Labour Party, taking with him a Sinn Féin Dublin City Council seat in Donaghmede, as a betrayal of Sinn Féin voters and members. It is understood that the defection will be announced tomorrow (Monday) in advance of the monthly meeting of Dublin City Council.
Mícheál Mac Donncha, Chairperson of Sinn Féin in the Donaghmede Ward, and a member of the party's Ard Chomhairle, said:
"Killian Forde was elected last June as a Sinn Féin Councillor, on a Sinn Féin policy platform, with the support of Sinn Féin activists in the local election constituency of Donaghmede. His candidature benefited from the support of the party locally and nationally. He stood before the people as a Sinn Féin candidate and received his mandate on that basis.
“While he, like anyone, is quite entitled to leave the party if he feels it is no longer the place for him, he has no right to take with him the City Council seat he won as a Sinn Féin candidate. His retention of this seat and defection with it to the Labour Party is a betrayal of Sinn Féin voters and members in the Donaghmede constituency, including activists who worked hard over eight years and two local government elections to elect and re-elect him.
"Killian Forde was elected as chairperson of the Council Finance Committee on the basis of his membership of the Sinn Féin group. It is clear now that Killian Forde's support for a Labour Party-sponsored City Council budget that imposes new charges on low income households in this City was a prelude to his defection to that party.
"Sinn Féin will continue to stand side by side with low income families in this City who have been hit by draconian budgets imposed by central and local government. Already Sinn Féin in the Donaghmede ward and in the Dublin North East constituency is moving on from this and we held a special meeting on Saturday to plan the way forward, developing the party and continuing to give principled and effective representation to people in this area and across Dublin."
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I personally agree with much of his argument and I can confirm that within Dublin Sinn Féin Killian had been vocal in his opinions. Although his leaving was not expected and if he joins the labour party tomorrow then well, I wish he'd made his position clearer.
Submission in relation to the 2009 local and European election in Dublin.
From Cllr Killian Forde.
In my opinion Sinn Féin is in serious and potentially critical decline in Dublin.
The organisation has too few members, a shortage of electable GE candidates and a membership that is frustrated and tired.
Looking at the next GE election the most likely scenario, as it now stands, is that we will lose our seat in Dublin South Central. We will also fall far short of securing seats in Dublin South West, Dublin North West, Dublin Central and Dublin North East.
A modestly optimistic scenario would see us retain DSC and win DSW, thereby returning Sinn Féin to the same position as 2002 with the same personnel.
We need to commit to a number of clear decisions within the next couple of months if we are to have any ambition of being serious political players in the city.
We are one election away from being totally irrelevant in Dublin and the south in general.
Concentration of resources.
SF should target and contest in no more than 5 constituencies in Dublin. In order of likelihood of success they should be.
1. Dublin South Central.
2. Dublin South West.
3. Dublin North West.
4. Dublin North East.
5. Dublin Mid West.
I do not believe we should contest in Dublin Central. The departure of Christy Burke, and the probability he will run as an independent, coupled with the poor vote in the Cabra ward, means this seat is not winnable in the next General Election
I would recommend that a decision be taken by September on which constituencies to run in. The decision to run should be based solely on the potential to secure a General Election seat. Arguments about “building for the future” by constituencies should not be entertained.
Other Dublin constituencies should be put into hibernation and all members seconded to neighbouring constituencies. An audit should be done on the skills set available in each of the cumann and tasks set that match the individual.
Dublin Mayoral Election.
Next summer an election is due to take place for the position of the Mayor of Dublin. This affords us the opportunity, perhaps the last one before the GE, to get our politics, messaging and election logistics right. The decision on the candidate needs to rest solely with the Dublin Cuige and be done by means of an open contest with a secret ballot. Members should be encouraged to put their name forward. We need a healthy open debate and competition. The candidate selected should reflect where SF in Dublin wants to position itself. I would recommend that a convention be done on this candidature in October 2009 with a DOE appointed the same month. Its extremely unlikely we can win the seat but we should aim to pleasantly surprise people with a refreshed, succinct and clear political message.
All SF candidates running in the GE election must receive training to work on their areas of weakness. An honest strengths and weakness’s assessment should be carried out on each of the candidates selected to run. For instance DELETED….
Specific weakness to do with policy know how, image, interview techniques, canvassing behaviour can be improved by sourcing expert assistance in these areas. SF in Dublin should aim that all of its candidates in the next GE are the whole package.
Sinn Féin is an appalling run organisation. Its structures are opaque, its personnel management non-existent, there is little accountability on the senior leadership and people are appointed to important roles without any experience.
Sinn Féin, it appears to me, does not even have a basic organisational chart for employees, elected officials, candidates and cumman members to be able to refer to. The power and associated decision-making in the party lies with individuals not embedded structures. This means that those seeking to question or contribute to decisions, policies or strategy have to try and negotiate through a maze of offices, titles, committees, working groups and individuals to try to get their voice heard. The structures that do exist have not the confidence to make decisions, meaning that even minor matters get funnelled up to a small amount of the same people in the party. These people then end up with an effective veto on everything. This practice makes the party bloated, slow and predictable.
People are routinely appointed to positions in the party with no experience in the role. This must end. In the period preceding the 2009 election we have had the appointment and employment of a Head of Publicity that has no experience in PR and as far as I know no specific experience on brand management or marketing. It also appears that the post was never advertised and the person selected was chosen for reasons unknown. The Director of Elections appointed to oversee Mary Lou’s crucial European campaign had never even participated in any form in any election before, anywhere. Managerial appointments in Leinster House include people who have never managed people before. It appears that we have a reoccurring approach of training people “from the top”.
From now on all employment for posts must be publicly advertised and people interviewed for the post by members of the party with experience of HR interview skills.
Policies are our tools and, still, our development of same is far too slow. Our response to the economic crisis was glacial. The bank guarantee happened in September, our economic policy was launched, way too late, in March or April. My own experience trying to engage was irritating. I submitted a contribution to the Chairperson of the Economic Strategy Group who forwarded to the Secretary General. I never received any feedback from either and I know my paper was never distributed to other members of he Economic Strategy Group. In short, the time I spent in researching and writing it was a complete and utter waste of my time. Time that I could have spent canvassing or organising my election.
I recommend that we need to look at policy development from two parts. One is by ensuring that the TDs and their PA’s are given the autonomy and trusted to issue statements and brief positions papers for public consumption in response to ever changing events and so compete in the publicity battle.
The policy development department needs to be allowed to develop their work and that work signed off rapidly.
The Party culture.
Sinn Féin and republicans value loyalty and obedience, probably above any other virtue. This was an understandable position when the republican movement was at war. It has now become the greatest hindrance to us developing as a dynamic, interesting, vibrant, creative party. There is little tolerance for dissenting opinions and nowhere for people to take those opinions. Criticism and accountability of the leadership has been discouraged for so long that simply put there is a culture of fear and misguided loyalty that militates against empowerment and people taking responsibility with their work and the development of the party.
Politics is about the battle of ideas. We need to facilitate and positively encourage the frank and open exchange of ideas. People need to be ambitious, hungry for positions and impatient for chance. Competition for candidatures need to be encouraged, policy should be developed to allow for a frank exchange of ideas.
The leadership of the party, both elected and those on the National officer board must decide what they want. Their style of operations and management are not appropriate and unhelpful if they really want the emergence, nurturing and development of new leadership and electoral talent.
Dublin Sinn Féin should endorse candidates to run for all A/C positions at the 2010 Ard Fheis. This gesture will send an important message to the ordinary party membership, namely that it is ok and normal for leadership positions to be contested. Dublin Sinn Féin can play a positive role in influencing change in the party culture. The Dublin officer board can provide the leadership needed in our party so that it’s ‘corporate culture’ becomes one in which the vital checks and balances needed to keep the organisation fresh, vibrant and evolving are mainstreamed.
Summary of recommendations.
1. Contest a maximum of five constituencies in the next GE.
2. Do not contest Dublin Central.
3. Cumann who are not in areas selected for contesting the next GE are put into hibernation and the personnel redeployed to the target constituencies.
4. Organise a convention and select candidate to stand in next years Dublin Mayoral Election by October 2009.
5. Dublin Sinn Féin should encourage prospective candidates to put their name forward to ensure there is a healthy debate and competition internally for the Mayoral position.
6. Ensure an experienced DOE is appointed by October 2009 for the Mayoral election.
7. Provide appropriate targeted and tailored training for the candidates selected to run in the next GE.
8. Monitor the employment of personnel to ensure that all posts are publicly advertised and the hiring process transparent and fair.
9. Encourage the TDs offices to develop a quicker and more autonomous response to political developments.
10. Allow policy sub committees to do their work and drafts to be presented to the membership, not the A/C or General Secretary’s office, first.
11. Dublin SF should put forward candidates for all A/C positions for the 2010 Ard Fheis.
12. Start challenging decision making by the national officer board, because it now seems obvious that no one else will.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Below is his statement on the matter. Dublin Sinn Fein has now lost three sitting councillors since the last local election. To paraphrase.. To loose one councillor may be unlucky, to loose two councillors is strange, but to loose three is fucking disastrous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyway here is Killian's statement.
Yesterday afternoon, after nine years of membership, I resigned from Sinn Féin.
As people within the organisation will know I had become increasingly concerned with the direction of the party over the past three years. This concern was magnified after the 2007 elections but I believed that organisational changes promised to create an organisation fit for 21st century Ireland would evolve. These changes were re-promised after the election debacle of 2009 and yet those changes still had to materialise.
Sinn Féin had become staid and unresponsive and lost direction in the south over the past few years in both policy and organisational terms. The leadership of the party appeared to not recognise or were unwilling to accept that changes are long overdue. These changes were essential to transform the party into one that values discussions, accommodates dissent and promotes merit over loyalty and obedience. It is only logical that if you disagree with the direction of the party and are unable to change it there is no option but to leave.
In relation to my recent vote on Dublin City Council I will explain; as chairperson of Dublin City Council’s finance committee and the Chair of the Budget Working Group I had a specific responsibility to try and secure as fair a budget as possible. A budget that had to be balanced despite tens of millions in cuts in central government funding, a collapse in income from development levies and a massive reduction in our own revenues from services such as car parking, leisure and rates.
Working with other left wing parties and individuals we ensured that the budget presented to the Councillors on December 21st protected jobs, front line services, secured leisure facilities and minimised service charge increases.
The one item that all political parties were unhappy with was the partial removal of the bin waiver for those on low incomes. However this is not the function, responsibility or within the power of the Councillors to change. The power to set the fees and any waiver is the sole responsibility of the City Manager. This power was removed from Councillors and handed to the City Manager by a Fianna Fail minister.
I felt that voting against the budget, particularly given the positions I held in the Council, would have been totally futile and a meaningless gesture. Surely Irish politics has had enough of this.
For this reason I proposed and voted for the budget despite the instructions of my party.
The country needs radical change to make it fit for purpose for a new era. Many of our institutions of governance are creaking, discredited, some are corrupt, and they need to be radically overhauled.
If we do not shape success from the opportunity this crisis presents, we will be left high and dry. Decisions taken over the next few years by governments will dictate whether Ireland can finally become a modern, democratic European nation or the Haiti of Europe.
I want to be part of an organisation that can introduce the necessary legislative changes and constitutional reforms that will enable my generation to live on an island they can be proud of. Sinn Féin was not that organisation.
I look forward to continuing to work with all of my colleagues on Dublin City Council promoting a fair and vibrant city and providing a comprehensive constituency service for the people of the Donaghmede ward.
The strategy of building an Alliance with Labour is one thats been discussued a number of times on this site. One comment challenged anyone who had an alternative strategy in mind to bring it to the table. Thats worth doing as an exercise just to see what the options are and while the end result may or may not be a viable strategy hopefully such discussion can broaden the options for the party and how we move forward.
Firstly I'd like to say I personally see merit in a working relationship with Labour while still having doubts about their lingering anti-republican factions, their willingness to do the shovel work necessary to rebuild the southern state and ultimately their committment to creating an all-Ireland republic.
Significant caveats but still the basic idea of working together with the other major Left wing party would offer some advantages to our project from time to time.
My suggested alternative strategy is therefore somewhat similar to the proposed Labour alliance however it differs as regards the degrees of effort that the party should invest in that particular relationship at the expense of building other alliances.
And while the proposed Labour alliance does not suggest an exclusive relationship with that party to the detriment of others options I am concerned that in its current form, with the requirement of SF having to prove itself suitable to Labour that it may become an alliance that sees the party repeatedly seeking to impress Labour to no end. How frequently would we have to court Labour before they went on a first date with us? As too often happens to over eager suitors we might just end up with egg on our face while dashing Enda gets the girl. Is that a risk we can afford to take. What benefit would we get from such a situation?
On what basis should we commit to such an alliance?
Well the arguments that I have seen seem based on 2 points:
(1) That as a sister left party then there is a natural bond;
(2) Further Labour is a large party and as such an alliance with them would have a meaningful weight, and also offer the opportunity for realignment of southern politics.
Point 1 is in my belief not a sufficient basis for a strategy simply because all the evidence points the other way.
point 2 has more weight to it because as the "natural" coalition partner for Fine Gael due to their size Labour are a party that can wield some influence, and will shortly be in govt. As has been commented elsewhere it may be an insurmountable obstacle to the strategy that we offer Labour nothing in return if they walk away from FG/FF. How can we convince labour to turn their back on govt. with FG in return for the prospect of an alliance and the prospect of future power in a left block.
And thats the main issue with the alliance. Because Labour is so disinterested in it we could simply exhaust ourselves working for it with nothing to show for it but Labour crowned as the leader of the Irish left with SF its sidekick.
Rather than creating an alliance with Labour we should first aim to deepen the working relationship with that party. A working relationship that would from time to time allow both parties to advance their separate aims. This will yield material benefits to both parties and allow us at times to push forward a common policy agenda but it will not demand the impossible from either party. We retain the commitment to engage with Labour but that engagement is conducted in a more more careful manner
But that would only be one aspect of the strategy because the significant amount of energy that would otherwise have been invested in Labour would now be freed up to develop other initiatives. And rather than trying to have a dialogue with one other elected party extra effort could be invested in developing relationships with community organisations, trade unions, and also other organisations and bodies ranging from anti-poverty groups, farming organisations, progressively minded business groups who reject the failed IBEC arguments condemning them to huge rates of insolvency etc.
There is a large group of people out there who have no access to influencing how south Ireland is shaped. They are not simply the voters themselves but also people in various civic bodies who have no avenue to articulate an alternative vision. Instead they are stifled by the consensus, for example that 67% of people who followed Labour, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and voted Yes to Lisbon. The 33% who voted no are a disenfranchised block. I suspect that such disenfranchised blocks exist in many of the civic bodies across the southern state. One feature of the south is how such bodies take leadership roles in society that maybe political movements should be giving. In the south a progressive agenda can be driven as successfully, i suspect, by engaging with such bodies as it would be by investing in relatoinships with established parties.
This sense of disenfranchisement is evident also in the Irish media where the FG-Labour-FF consensus to generally regarded as gospel.
Rather than trying to build an alliance with one party we should instead be focussed on building alliances with those who would rather hear a different voice than the Irish Times/ Sindo; those who believe that a farming group like the IFA should be more militant in breaking the hold of FF allied beef barons, and so on and so on.
The focus must be on the community structures and civic groups or representative bodies that wield so much influence in the southern state. We must give the disenfranchised minority in those groups a political ally. Ultimately this will allow us to more effectively deliver change on behalf of all the disenfranchised in south Ireland - voters, non-voters and those working in civic groups who can create the progressive alliance we wish to build.
Is this a more profitable focus? Labour would be then just one additional interface for out party not our main focus?