So independent Teachta Dála Colm Keaveney, a former member of the nominally left-wing and socialist Labour Party, is to join Fianna Fáil, a grouping now firmly on the liberal democrat centre-right of Irish politics. Ah, the ever flexible principles and beliefs of Ireland’s political elites. Yesterday a class-warrior, today a free marketeer. And where next for the travelling politico? Well that depends on the opinion polls, doesn’t it.
There may well be something anomalous about the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll but even with that caveat in place the results are quite extraordinary with Sinn Féin pushing Fianna Fáil into third place and Labour recording their lowest survey rating in 25 years.
Fine Gael, 26% (+2)
Sinn Féin, 23% (+2)
Fianna Fáil, 22% (-4)
Independents/Others, 21% (+3)
Labour Party, 6% (-3)
Green Party, 2% (+/-0)
Compare these figures with the earlier Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll and the averaged-out “banding” of voter preferences becomes obvious: FG and FF on plus 20%, SF on minus 20%, the Independents on minus 20%, Labour on minus 10% (not to mention that big band of undecideds)
As always I ask the question: why is the Green Party, a political organisation without a single Teachta Dála or any national presence worth talking about, separated out from the category of Independents/Others when parties with elected members sitting in An Dáil are hidden away under a single meaningless description? Why are the polling companies maintaining the presence of the Greens in the public eye in contradiction of their actual democratic representation?
For some time now certain sections of Ireland’s right-wing media have been hyping up the idea of the country’s two main political parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, entering into a coalition with each other or actually merging their respective organisations. Both are centre-right groupings wedded to a doctrinaire form of ultra-capitalism (with FG sitting further to the right than FF). Both have dominated Irish politics for decades and both are descended from the civil war split in the original revolutionary-era Sinn Féin movement.
To some a united FF/FG party makes perfect sense and this is highlighted once again by the over-excited reporting surrounding the speculation that former RTÉ presenter and well-known Fine Gael supporter Bill O’Herlihy will call for a political alliance between both parties at the upcoming Michael Collins oration at Béal na Blá (an annual Fine Gael event). Some would present this potential grand coalition as an act of “patriotism” or a coming together for the “common good of the Irish people” (healing old Civil War wounds, presenting a united governmental front to the world as Ireland labours under continued economic depression and mass emigration, putting people in power to “make the hard choices” over state and public services – choose your rhetoric). Of course it is nothing of the sort. In fact such posturing has more to do with worries in the Irish political, media and business establishments over the electoral rise of Sinn Féin and the various smaller left-wing parties and Independents of all political hues than a genuine wish to heal historical wounds, old or otherwise. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael (and the politically promiscuous Labour Party) may still garner the support of some 65% of the electorate but the anti-establishment opposition is taking much of the remaining 35%. With FF and FG unlikely to have the numbers to form a single-party government after the next general election and Labour probably the victim of a ballot-box knifing there are few potential coalition options on offer for the two big cats of Irish politics if SF and others succeed in gaining the predicted numbers at the polls.
The Belfast cumann of Fianna Fáil wishes the Orange Order a happy July 12th (with a lovely photo of uniformed men and boys in brown shirts marching behind British terrorist – yes, terrorist - flags).
“Belfast Fianna Fáil wish all members of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland a happy 12th of July. If you’re celebrating today, we hope it’s a joyful and peaceful day for your families and your communities.
Fianna Fáil supports calls for the 12th July to become an Irish national holiday, in the same way we support St Patrick’s Day also being recognised as a national holiday across Ireland. We must cherish the wealth and diversity that exists across our island.”
One presumes they mean “diversity” like that shown below.
The results from the latest Sunday Independent-Millward Brown poll (7th July, 2013) are in and while I’m sceptical of voter surveys during periods of such uncertainly amongst the electorate some trends are obvious. Despite the adverse publicity of recent times Fianna Fáil’s slow climb to the mid to high 20s continues. While that may decrease somewhat come the actual general election there is no reason to believe that the party will not be in a position to form at least one half of a viable alternative government to the present Fine Oibre coalition. Sinn Féin is solidifying its vote in the mid to late teens and again while some slippage might be expected on election day the party seems to have successfully nurtured a core vote that should remain in and around the 15% mark. Fine Gael on the other hand finds itself heading towards familiar territory in terms of its historic vote. Not bedrock by any means but disappointingly down from its high-water mark of just a few years ago. For Labour the results must be terrifying and combined with private polling it is certainly a driver for the internal discontent of recent months. As always a question arises over why the Green Party, an organisation without a single Teachta Dála, is given a separate mention to the likes of the Socialist Party which has one TD or the ULA which has two or three (ULA, PBP, SWP – who can tell?). Since the last general election the Greens have consistently been listed separately which has no doubt helped keep their name in the public’s gaze and aided their attempts at a relaunch. Which is a bit of odd generosity by the polling companies…
Fianna Fáil 29% (+2%)
Fine Gael 26% (-1%)
Sinn Féin 19% (+2%)
Labour 8% (-3%)
Green Party, Independents and Others 19% (+1%)
POTENTIAL SEATS IN DÁIL ÉIREANN
Fianna Fáil 55
Fine Gael 48
Sinn Féin 27
Green Party, Independents and Others 24
Will this be another false dawn for Fianna Fáil’s oft promised yet rarely materialised intention to organise as a political party in the north-east of Ireland?
“Thirty Fianna Fáil members met last night to launch a new Belfast unit. The inaugural meeting took place at The Pavillon, Stormont Estate, Belfast.
Peter Armstrong, an IT entrepreneur from South Belfast, was elected acting Chairperson of Belfast Fianna Fáil. He explained: “Fianna Fáil has a growing membership throughout Northern Ireland, particularly young people involved in our youth group Ógra Fianna Fáil. Ógra have a very active cumann at Queen’s University that meets once a week during term time. We’re now establishing a senior party unit so we can retain university members after they’ve graduated, and so we can continue to recruit new members from across society in Belfast.”
“There is a growing frustration across the north that the current political establishment in Belfast, the DUP and Sinn Féin, are more interested in playing to their political bases than they are in addressing the big challenges facing our community . Fianna Fáil can bring fresh policies and new thinking to the north of Ireland, we can develop new policies that will work right across the island, we can bring our communities closer together and we can further the causes of peace, integration, prosperity and unity, in line with our republican values. We welcome new members of all ages from all communities throughout the greater Belfast area.”
“Fianna Fáil had a very successful Ard-Fheis last weekend at the RDS Dublin attended by more than 4,000 delegates and the largest ever northern contingent. Key motions were passed that will see Fianna Fáil create a northern roadmap with a view to developing the party structure across Northern Ireland. We will work with Party Headquarters in Dublin to move this forward and bring the Fianna Fáil message to more and more communities.”
Another empty announcement to add to a decade of such empty announcements? One would hope not but we will have to wait and see (and wait, and wait, and wait…).
Interestingly Hoboraod draws attention to a claim in the Irish News that Fianna Fáil’s new leader in Belfast, Peter Armstrong, is the son of Rankin Armstrong, the current editor of the Unionist-leaning Belfast Newsletter.
One definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result each time. So take the words of Robin McAlpine in the Scotsman newspaper on the SNP’s policies for an independent Scotland and more importantly the example of Ireland’s calamitous slide into cowboy capitalism during the 1990s and 2000s.
“Currently, the SNP exists in a third-way fudge between two political philosophies. Critics have named this delusion “the myth of Scandimerica”, the belief that you can have Scandinavian social services with US-level taxes. Actually, there was no need since the delusion already had a name – the Arc of Prosperity.
The Arc of Prosperity was a knowing fantasy predicated on the belief that corrupt, housing-and-speculation-gone-mad Ireland was actually the other side of the coin of socially democratic Norway.
The opposite is the truth; economically and socially the politics of Ireland were diametrically opposed to Norway. The former followed unstable get-rich-quick doctrines with an unsustainable faith in short-term trickle-down. The latter emphasised productive growth, a balanced economy and long-term investment strategies where the equality and high standard of living these generate make higher taxes painless.
Let’s call these the neoliberal model and the European social model. There isn’t space here to detail their characteristics but very loosely one promotes progress-through-conflict (markets, competition, wealth-creators) and one promotes progress-through-mutuality (productivity, balanced economy, public services).
…they are more-or-less mutually exclusive. The things you do to increase real productivity work against short-term speculative gain. The things you do to encourage competition create unbalanced economies. The ideology of “wealth creators” is at odds with the ideal of a strong welfare state.”
Which begs the question, why are the three establishment parties of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour working so hard to revive a socio-economic model that has proven to be such an economic, social, cultural and environmental disaster for our island nation? What is driving the political, business and media elites in this country to recreate the Celtic Tiger economy and society of a decade ago when they – and we – are well aware of its superficial and ultimately corrosive nature? Are the political classes in Ireland so lacking in wit that like a dog returning to its vomit they must nose at the mess they have created in the hope of lapping it up again?
Or do they wish to replace a failed Celtic Tiger economy with another certain-to-fail Neo-Celtic Tiger economy that is little more than a self-perpetuating Ponzi Scheme for the top 1%? And where does that leave the other 99% of the population who have nothing for their labour but bitterness and resentment? What then of any concept of social or communal responsibility by the majority when a minority can simply act as if they exist above such things?
We have a choice in Ireland. We can become the Celtic Norway or Finland of western Europe with our social and cultural mores reflected in our economic structures. Or once again we can become the Wild West of Europe, where society and culture are dirty words, where concepts like responsibility are deemed to be an unnecessary restraint on our freedom to do our worse.
- Comment: Why SNP must tap into their inner Borgen (scotsman.com)
- One of Ireland’s ugly economic realities: snakes on the loose (seattletimes.com)
- Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor – “Tempered with Reality: Economic Theory and the Real World” (irishcentral.com)
Two days away from An Sionnach Fionn sitting in an anodyne hotel conference room with twenty strangers doing ISO Audit training and I wake up to a blather of pontifical grandstanding from Michéal Martin, the leader of resurgent Fianna Fáil. The majority of his speech was devoted to regurgitating well-rehearsed attacks on his party’s (southern) rival’s in Sinn Féin with the odd dig at the DUP. Oh there was a wee bit of flag waving in there too but not of any major kind. Not the type of flag you’d actually run up a flagpole and give an oul salute to. More like those little toy flags on white sticks that they give to children on St. Patrick’s Day to shake as some bloke in a foam leprechaun suit walks by waving at the (usually sodden) crowds.
From the Belfast Telegraph:
“The leader of the Opposition in the Irish parliament has launched his strongest attack ever on Sinn Fein and the DUP’s record in Government.
Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin accused the two largest Assembly parties of happily exploiting the risks that others took and being mainly motivated by party political interests.
The TD said that both opinion polls and events showed “a clear and growing disillusionment with Government… in significant parts of both communities”, which the Executive, London and Dublin must tackle.
“The greatest responsibility lies with those who spent nearly a decade standing in the way of full implementation of the Agreement,” he said. He hit out at Sinn Fein’s behaviour during the Queen’s visit to Dublin. “Where was Sinn Fein when the British monarch bowed her head in tribute to Padraig Pearse and James Connolly? It was on the street outside chanting and holding protest signs… these were empty and divisive stunts, witnessed by millions,” he said.”
While some have their interpretation of the speech one is tempted to simply remark, “Well, Michéal, fine words are all well and dandy but actions speak louder than words. So perhaps its time to put-up or shut-up?”
As for ISO Auditing the most important thing I learned over two days also has the widest application in the real world: “When in doubt, fuck it out…”
Much like the Irish electorate did to Fianna Fáil in 2011.
- Another Poll – Fianna Fáil Voters Abandon The Fine Gael Fold (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Voting Fianna Fáil – Like A Dog Returning To Its Vomit (ansionnachfionn.com)
Another weekend, another poll, this time a telephone survey of 1000 voters by Millward Brown on behalf of the Sunday Independent newspaper. I’m always wary of examining polls in newspapers that fail to provide a link to the hard data of the survey and this one is no different. We are relying on the journalists and editors to provide us with the substance of the poll free of any predefined spin. In the case of the “Sindo”, an agenda-driven right-wing newspaper which has traditionally curried favour with the two big political power blocks of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, that is something of a challenge.
However, for what its worth, here are the results of the telephone questionnaire:
“Fianna Fáil 27%
Fine Gael 25%
Sinn Féin 20%
The most obvious thing to note is the slow drift back to Fianna Fáil, which has now been played out across a number of different opinion polls and can no longer be simply dismissed as “snap-shots” of voter dissatisfaction or statistical blips (or as Jason Walsh so memorably puts it: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so an Irish voter returneth to his Fianna folly“). Though we continue to have a very volatile electorate with high levels of “don’t knows” or “undecideds” it is clear that FF has managed to stabilise its core vote (albeit at a historical low level) and is successfully building upon that.
On the other hand Fine Gael is rapidly shrinking back to its electoral inner heartlands. There is no good news in the survey for the party and quite a few TDs elected on narrow margins must be beginning to worry about their future prospects. Eventually such worries will be made known and sooner rather than later.
For Sinn Féin it is a case of no news is good news. While the party seems to be having trouble making or sustaining a 20%+ breakthrough in the polls it can be fairly confident that any drop in voter satisfaction is not going to be too significant for its percentages. For a political party that in the electoral lifetime of many its sitting TDs was normally in fifth or sixth place in the opinion polls to find itself a regular number three must be satisfying indeed. However the party’s position, though laudable, is still lower than it should be. The SF ceiling is arguably in and around 25%. While it is very hard to see how it could progress beyond that in the near to medium term it certainly should be questioning why it is failing to approach anywhere near that figure.
The core membership of the Labour Party (or those left after the WP/DL putsch) must be ruing the day they followed their executive-hungry leader into power. In effect all that Labour managed to achieve was to clear out an electoral space for Sinn Féin to grow (and for a while the ULA with it). It is debatable whether the party will get back that traditional or Labour-tending floating vote not to mention the many first-time voters who bypassed the Labour Party altogether and went straight to SF (both now and in the future).
The ULA will be similarly depressed with these results, as must be most activists on the non-Sinn Féin or non-Labour Left across Ireland. This is their time, if any time is, and they have simply failed to exploit it both in political and electoral terms. The ULA debacle, and all the animosity and bad blood surrounding it, will make for a hard sell with voters come the next general election. Increasingly parties of the further-left seem likely to be character-driven, one or two politicians popular with local constituents around whom a political party operates. It is all-but certain that the Socialist Party or the People Before Profit/Socialist Workers Party will never become major national parties in Ireland. They will remain local, parochial even, but with unfulfilled higher aspirations.
As for the Greens… I can’t even bear to bring myself to comment.
- Another Poll – Fianna Fáil Voters Abandon The Fine Gael Fold (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Polls, Politics And Conspiracy Theories (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Millward Brown Poll: Scary buns for Fine Gael? (sluggerotoole.com)
- Labour at the next election ……10 seats? (cedarlounge.wordpress.com)
Two weeks ago I queried the possibility of the next incarnation of An Dáil becoming more like the Israeli Knesset: a host of independents, small parties and shifting political alliances with a handful of big fish around which other groups coalesced. Following the latest Irish Times / Ipsos MRBI poll that certainly looks more likely:
“Fianna Fáil 26% (+5%)
Fine Gael 25% (-6%)
Sinn Féin 18% (-2%)
Labour 10% (-2%)
Green Party 1% (-1%)
ULA/Independents/Others 20% (+6%)”
However two important facts must be borne in mind about the survey. Firstly it comes with a significant margin of error of +/-3%, a statistical figure many commentators and journalists simply choose to overlook (or don’t understand). Secondly the poll was taken before the crucial (and divisive) debates and deal in Dáil Éireann on the so-called “promissory note” which will certainly effect any future polling (the Red C / Business Post poll is some two weeks away, as of now). With those things noted it is clear that recent polling indicates an upward trend in Fianna Fáil’s support amongst the electorate with a corresponding fall in that of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.
The prolific Adrian Kavanagh at Political Reform has number-crunched the figures and come up with the following estimates for Dáil seats:
“Fianna Fáil = 54
Fine Gael = 45
Sinn Féin = 24
Labour = 13
Green Party = 0
ULA/Independents/Others = 22″
More than ever it seems clear that Fine Gael’s phenomenal general election results were in part dependent on disaffected FF voters some of whom also registered a preference for Labour. With Fine Gael effectively following the same socio-economic polices as the previous coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Greens, albeit without the deft populist touch of FF, many former FF voters are now returning to the fold. Fine Gael it seems is now being punished by the electorate for pushing through the very same austerity measures favoured by Fianna Fáil. Ah, the fickleness of the Irish voter!
But one must hand it to FF. As I pointed out before, they have adopted the previous post-atrocity tactics of Sinn Féin: go low, keep your core happy, issue a few platitudes or inoffensive phrases and wait for the heat to die down. And die down it did. While some Irish voters may never forgive Fianna Fáil for the mismanagement and corruption of recent decades (in and out of office) others are more forgiving and quite prepared to shake hands with the devil they know. How many cheques and donations will be flowing FF’s way over the next two or three years from the usual sources now that Fine Gael is in trouble? Its called hedging your bets. A little bit of largesse here, a little bit there.
How are Fianna Fáil’s recently dire party finances now, I wonder? That would be interesting to know and an indicator of where the “smart money” thinks its best hope for future influence lies.
So could the unthinkable happen? Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in coalition following the next general election? No. Those who believe such an alliance to be the likely outcome of voter fragmentation at the ballot box simply don’t understand the intensely factional nature of politics in Ireland. Or how institutions of any sort conduct or perceive themselves. No institution chooses to deliberately help its rivals; and when all is said and done FF and FG are rivals. And bitter ones at that. Each wishes to drown the other, not toss it a lifeline. Even at the risk of their own survival. If the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit/Socialist Workers Party couldn’t make the United Left Alliance work, let alone merge with each other, what chance of a united FG-FF coalition (or a Fianna Gael. Or would it be Fine Fáil?).
As for the smaller parties, Sinn Féin keeps bobbing along in the high teens, up to 20%, down to 15%. If the old rule of thumb of previous polls is true (the SF vote is always underestimated through voter reluctance to admit a preference) then the party should be content with 18%. However its mediocre performances of late (especially in the north of the country) should be a cause for worry. 18% is good but it should be better. The glass ceiling for Sinn Féin votes hasn’t been reached yet and that is largely through the party’s own inadequacies (and admittedly a resolutely hostile media establishment that runs the gamut from newspapers to television).
SF will remain possible partners for a future FF administration, either in coalition or through some procedural chicanery in Dáil Éireann. That still leaves the Labour Party who one suspects will be Fine Gael’s only hope of a coalition ally unless the much-prophesied PDs Mark II emerges from the shadowy wastes of Ireland’s political Right (with a few wayward Independents thrown into the mash). As it is Labour is on its continued downward spiral. The only question is when will the crew start bailing? Or do they intend to go down with the captain?
The Independents, the rump ULA and such flotsam and jetsam as rises to the surface of Irish politics, continue to see an improvement in their standing as far as the polls are concerned. Some are motivated by genuine social and economic concerns and beliefs (despite her recent troubles, and my own personal views, Claire Daly is still someone to watch – which goes some way to explain the media fascination with her). Others are a downright embarrassment. But where will a significant vote for various “Others” get us? A more diverse Dáil Éireann certainly but also a more fractured one too.
Meanwhile in the north-east of the country another poll, albeit a regional one this time (via Hoboroad’s Political Highway):
However several seasoned observers strike a note of caution in relation to the figures. Interesting but a bit unlikely seems to be the general impression. Of course the figures here are more telling of changing political demographics than any amount of voter surveys.
UPDATE 17.00: Talking of the “promissory note” Football Clichés has some pertinent thoughts while NAMA Winelake highlights the continued asset-stripping of the Irish nation. Also check out Tomás Ó Flatharta for his take on the recent polls.
After thee years of witnessing the abuse and manipulation of Irish democracy my own feelings on Ireland’s continuity state, the political establishment of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour, the parasitical and amoral business and media elites, and the self-serving bureaucracies of the EU, et al, are probably best summed up by the below. Our new national anthem?
- Polls, Politics And Conspiracy Theories (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Government Sign Emergency Bank Legislation Before Mum & Dad Get Home (donegaldollop.wordpress.com)
One weekend, two polls, and the results look good for both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. However things are not so rosy for Fine Gael and are positively awful for Labour.
“Fine Gael 28% (no change)
Fianna Fáil 21% (+1)
Ind/Other 21% (no change)
Sinn Fein 19% (+2)
Labour 11% (-3)”
Ouch. Meanwhile the “Oirish” edition of the Sunday Times has the results of its Behaviour & Attitudes poll:
“Fine Gael 26% (-4)
Fianna Fáil 24% (+2)
Sinn Féin 19% (+5)
Ind/Other 18% (-1)
Labour 11% (-1)
Green 3% (no change)”
That has gotta hurt. Political Reform crunches the numbers and comes up with the following seats based on the Red-C poll:
“Fine Gael 56
Fianna Fail 38
Sinn Fein 25
Independents, Green Party, United Left Alliance and Others 24
Taking the Behaviour & Attitudes results the extrapolations yield:
“Fine Gael 51
Fianna Fail 42
Sinn Fein 26
Independents, Green Party, United Left Alliance and Others 24
Based on this polling (and the ongoing trends) I think several members of the present FG-Lab coalition will be breathing sighs of relief that the next general election is some way off. I certainly wouldn’t like to guesstimate the make-up of any future government with surveys like this. Could we end up with a politically fractured Dáil that has more than a passing resemblance to the Israeli Knesset? And would that be good or bad for Ireland’s democracy?
As others have pointed out Sinn Féin seems to be hollowing out Labour’s “working class” vote while scooping up quite a few former Fine Gael voters too (though the latter should probably be regarded in most cases as ex-Fianna Fáil and some at least will continue their electoral journey back to the one-time Republican Party). Oft-made media predictions that the SF vote would fall back to pre-2011 general election levels (in and around 9%) seem more and more like wish-fulfilment than political analysis. The Sinn Féin vote has bobbed up and down in the 14% to 20% range for some time now and there it is likely to remain for the foreseeable future (and if it does change significantly the direction of movement seems likely to be upward not downward, bar some unforeseen catastrophe).
Fianna Fáil must also be be quite satisfied with its rising polling, not to mention expressing a fair degree of wonder at how the hell it got away with not paying the ultimate price for being part of the disaster that enveloped this nation in 2009/2010. The switch from a near electoral meltdown to a respectable 20%+ poll proves the party strategy of simply hanging on until people’s memories faded, and the Fine Oibre coalition of FG and Labour created plenty of unpleasant new ones, has paid off. Ironically FF took a leaf out of the Sinn Féin playbook – in times of trouble keep your head down, keep your nose clean, mumble a few inoffensive platitudes, and simply wait until the trouble blows over. As it always does.
On the other hand Fine Gael must be starting to worry with the old rival coming within a hair’s breadth of out-polling it though there is certainly no sign of a panic yet. People may express dissatisfaction in mid-term surveys but come election day?
As for the minnows of the coalition, the Labour Party (emphasis on the “parrrrty!”)? Well that leadership putsch by former WP/DL apparatchiks isn’t looking so great now, is it?
Though there is some sort of good news for Labour as the United Left Alliance (ULA) enters true meltdown mode with the Socialist Party bidding it a not so fond adieu. What is left now of the ULA is pretty much a rag-bag of independent Left activists, effective and (more often) ineffective, not to mention the Socialist Workers Party – sorry, People Before Profit (ahem…). At a time when Ireland needs a genuine left-of-centre voice on politics, economics and society the further reaches of the Left seem to be spending as much time campaigning against each other as against the reinvigorated phantasm of anglo-american capitalism. Which of course suits Labour. Not to mention Sinn Féin.
Any bets on SF emerging as the dominant left-of-centre party in Ireland over the next decade?
Meanwhile in some real news, the type of news that some of the parties above should be screaming from the rooftops, the always excellent NAMA Wine Lake reports that:
“Not content with receiving a bailout of €21bn – without which, the bank would be utterly bust – not content with shoveling €1.1bn into its pension fund last August 2012 – without which, AIB would be in the same position as myriad pension schemes around the country and have to renege on pension benefits – and not content with giving redundant staff five weeks pay per year of service - when staff at Vita Cortex had to fight tooth and nail to get 2.9 weeks, this afternoon we learn via the BBC in Northern Ireland that several AIB staff are to receive GBP 2m (€2.3m) of bonuses and contract-increment payments.”
Nice work if you can get it.
Talking of which David Ford, leader of the liberal Unionists of the Alliance Party and the Justice Minister in the regional administration in the north-east of the country, is making a play for some of the SDLP’s voters. With anti-democracy protests from the militant extreme of the British Unionist minority ongoing the future of the Alliance Party in all those nominally Unionist constituencies with significant Roman Catholic or small “n” Nationalist voting blocs is looking increasingly in doubt. Naomi Long is probably on her way out in East Belfast as far as the Westminster seat is concerned and several Alliance MLAs look to be in trouble too. So to Ford’s forlorn hope of attracting a few disaffected SDLP voters to make up the numbers. However, in typically schizophrenic Alliance mode the party is attracting more avowedly Unionist politicians and activists than ever before with former UUP and Tory types drifting into the fold.
Which hardly adds to its attractiveness for Nationalist voters. Even the palest of pale green.
Of course it could be worse. Here is Willie Frazer, the very public face of the anti-democracy demonstrations, in Q&A with James Bennett at the University Times:
“Q: There is a video of you on YouTube saying that protests over the flag will always be peaceful “except when certain elements who are working for the British government get in and create violence.”
A: Well if I said it that way I probably meant that whenever people attack peaceful protesters they will defend themselves. I was talking about elements within the republican movement… but also elements within the police force. Not every police officer though, because 99% of them are good.
Q: Are you saying that members of the PSNI have purposefully incited violence?
A: Yes. I’ve seen it myself.
Q: How have they done that?
A: Well, for example, if you hit a woman who is standing on the street who is seventy years of age… If you hit her with a baton…
Q: Is this recently?
A: Yes, in the last few weeks. That’s only one. I’ve seen a lot of women being beaten to the ground.
Q: By police officers?
A: By police officers.
Q: Are you saying that the Irish government knew about 110 murders?
A: Yes… There were people… involved. Just to give you an example… We know for a fact, and it is in Irish government documents, that the Irish government authorised the Irish army to give 500 weapons out of the army barracks in Dublin in 1972 to the IRA around the border. We want to know why that was allowed to happen. That’s not hearsay; that is fact. If he can come down here and call up an inquiry into Pat Finucane, we want an answer to that. We want to why they did not arrest the men who hijacked the minibus in the Kingsmill massacre, when they knew the name of the men involved.
Q: The IRA were involved with putting horsemeat into beef products?
Q: Why would they do that?
To make money. It’s the same with cows that have to be sold within a certain number of months after they’re born. Basically old fat cows that are 30 months old have been put into the food chain because the republicans have the means of getting it in. And a blind eye has been turned to it. This is the kind of thing that’s going on that we’re sick of… There is a blind eye being turned to so much fraud so that they don’t upset the peace process. That is what is creating the problems here.”
As a Gaelic Republican I suppose my politics lie somewhere on the social-democratic centre-left. Sometimes my opinions veer towards the centre-ground, sometimes towards the far left. In the days of my (callow) youth I used to vote Fianna Fáil and Labour. Yes, that’s right, I was one of those fabled left-wing FF types. We did exist you know, until greed and corruption forced us to turn away from a party that we thought we knew (but perhaps never truly did). Fianna Fáil and Labour was the dream ticket for those like myself on the left of both, the desirable coalition with the proper balance of republicanism and socialism. Though never enough of both, if truth be told.
One detected early on that something was not quite right in the Fianna Fáil camp. A certain attitude or culture. A tendency to say one thing while doing the other. The generation of the party that spawned the Celtic Tiger scorned a belief in ideology or a core set of principles and eventually dumped their own to seize whatever seemed popular or advantageous at the time – however deplorable or ultimately destructive it may have been. They stole the clothes of Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats, and covered them with a thin veneer of mindless populism. Power, avarice and cronyism became the guiding principles of the party and its leadership. As for Labour I could never bring myself to be wholehearted in my support. There was something not quite right about them too. A certain holier-than-thou, faux-liberalism that I couldn’t stomach. Some of the biggest snobs I’ve met in my life were young Labour activists. No one can condescend quite like a Labour Party member.
With the FF and Labour pigs wallowing in the trough during the hey-day of the Celtic Tiger I was left voteless, as it were. No question of supporting Fine Gael. For all sorts of reasons that was repugnant and remains so. Some might ask, why was the Fine Gael dog not as openly corrupt as its Fianna Fáil counterpart? The answer of course is that it didn’t need to be. The dog at the top of the dunghill does not need to worry over-much about the rivals fighting it out below. The so-called hard left (silly term) weren’t much better. Back in the day I had more than the odd clash with members of the Workers Party. Some were thoroughly honourable people, genuinely committed socialist republicans. However those at the top were less so, and increasingly less so as they took the reins of power and galloped the party off into near oblivion. Now days of course they sit atop the Labour Party, one time rivals infiltrated from within in classic Communist style (anyone remember the days of the Militant Tendency? The irony!). Of course these guys (and gals) had no more interest in Marx (or Trotsky) than they had in a hole in the wall. Well, except perhaps a hole-in-the-wall cash machine. Mercs and perks here we come. So no WP for me (though in fairness I’m not even sure what their politics are these days). As for the far distant outliers of leftwing politics in Ireland, the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party, et al. No thank you. The Socialist Party in particular left me stone cold and still does so. They have too much of the myopic internationalist about them, a party that would seem more comfortable on the streets of London than Dublin. I can’t but help think of the thoroughly disagreeable Kate Hoey when I see the opinions of some SP types (and she’s still at it!). There were indications of change but they have yet to appear (apparently).
For a while I found myself drifting towards the Greens until they showed their true colours. Teamhair was the start, Daingean Uí Chúis the last of it. Never again in my life will I vote Green. Never. These days I usually throw my number one to Sinn Féin (albeit with the odd sigh or two). I have a lot of issues with the party but there are precious little other choices. Truth be told there isn’t a political party out there that truly represents my views. But then again, doesn’t everyone say that? (unless you vote Fine Gael).
All of which rambling leads to nothing in particular
Hmmm. Micheál Martin, leader of the discredited centre-right Fianna Fáil party, has stated at the annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration in Baile Uí Bhuadáin that the local population in the North of Ireland are citizens of the Irish state. Well, sort of. Discussing the high rates of child poverty in Belfast the Irish Times reports that Martin says on behalf of FF that:
“As a Republican Party we have to care about these issues. As long as any Irish citizen is being failed by politics, we need to take an interest and do what we can to address it.”
So, if the people of Belfast are Irish citizens, by virtue of being born and living in the city of Belfast, then surely they should be living under the jurisdiction of the state, the same as the rest of us? Surely they should be accorded the same legal and constitutional rights as other citizens of the state, even those, say, born and living in the city of Dublin? Surely they should be participating in the national legislature of the state through their elected representatives, just as we do? And surely Fianna Fáil, the “Republican Party”, should be standing for election in Belfast and elsewhere across the north-east of Ireland seeking a mandate from all the citizens of the state, not just those south of the border?
Or is all this talk of Irish citizens in the North of Ireland just another piece of Opposition rhetoric that is quickly forgotten when taking up the greasy reins of power?
Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin in government together? Something surely to send the Seoníní elite at the Irish and Sunday Independent newspapers into a bug-eyed frenzy of outrage and opposition to a new “Pan-Republican Front”. Yet here is Éamon Ó Cuív in the Oirish Mail on Sunday:
“Éamon Ó Cuív has called for Fianna Fáil to consider coalition with Sinn Féin in a move that would reunite the parties split by his grandfather, Éamon de Valera.”
Did Éamon de Valera split the revolutionary era Sinn Féin? I thought it was the Pro-Treaty faction who split from Sinn Féin and formed Cumann na nGaedheal, the forerunner of Fine Gael, in 1923? Oh well. History and journalism in Ireland doesn’t really go together. Er, Irish history that is.
“Mr Ó Cuív insisted that Sinn Féin’s recent history would not be a problem, declaring: ‘They’d be as acceptable as were the Workers’ Party, which now runs the Labour Party.
‘They have a bit of history and one of them is Tánaiste now,’ he said, referring to Éamon Gilmore’s past as a Republican Clubs [Official Sinn Féin/Official IRA] and Workers’ Party member before Democratic Left merged with Labour.
However, Mr Ó Cuív acknowledged that there would be major ideological and policy differences.
Asked if a coalition with Labour remained a possibility, Mr Ó Cuív was dismissive.
‘I don’t think Fianna Fáil are compatible with Labour at all. The one time we were in with them it didn’t last long. I don’t think we’re compatible with Fine Gael either,’ he said.‘What’s the difference between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin when it comes down to it – except that it took them 70 years to recognise the Dáil? We’re both republican parties and we both come from the same stable.’
Fianna Fáil has 19 seats in the Dáil and Sinn Féin has 14. The Fine Gael-Labour Government has an overwhelming majority.
However, Sinn Féin surged in the most recent polls – to 21% – on the back of its opposition to the water and household charges and the coming referendum.”
Flag flying by Ó Cuív on behalf of the few Republican dissidents left in a political party that has all but divested itself of any pretence of Republicanism? Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin in coalition? Unlikely (and given the ferocity of Micheál Martin’s continued – and increasingly anti-historical - attacks on SF he certainly believes so) but a breakaway faction of FF under Éamon Ó Cuív?
Or is Ó Cuív lining himself up for a tilt at the leadership of Fianna Fáil itself, with an appeal to grassroots that are considerably greener than the party’s elected representatives? He seems to have a vision for the future of FF; and its not just one of crude survival and precious little else.
- What About Our Irish Rights? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Smells Like No-Irish Spirit (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Fianna Fail ….Post Mahon (cedarlounge.wordpress.com)
- Sunday Times poll suggests Sinn Fein leading in the battle of the opposition parties… (sluggerotoole.com)
- FF fury over senator’s Civil War jibe (teddyoshea.wordpress.com)
- Sinn Fein move up 6 points in latest Irish Times poll… (sluggerotoole.com)
The Mahon Tribunal has finally published its long-awaited report and like the lifting of the proverbial rock all sorts of nastiness has been uncovered lurking underneath. While the media focus will be on rump Fianna Fáil and An Taoiseach na Chófra, Bertie Ahern, don’t let this distract you from the other main conclusions of Mahon and co. It suits much of our still intact Post-Colonial Ascendancy, the members of the political establishment and their many willing helpers in the national media, to blur the truth by throwing up all sorts of drama to hide their own culpability in the “mafiaization” of the Irish state from the 1970s onward.
But look at the facts and figures, the long list of politicians investigated by the Tribunal in its search for the truth behind the repeated allegations of corrupt or suspect practices in local government in the 1980s and ’90s, specifically in the rezoning of land in Quarryvale, in west Dublin. In some ways the report is almost a who’s-who guide to notable people in Irish local and national politics at that time. Some of the names are startling. More so as it quickly becomes clear that this is not simply a tale of just one political party’s malfeasance but a tangled web of petty corruption that dragged in all the major political parties in Ireland – and in just one small region of the country.
One has to ask: if just one local authority in the media-cockpit that is Dublin was that bad, what was the rest of the country like? And what is it like now?
TheJournal.ie carries a list of local councillors named in the report, many of whom are well known figures, with details of their activities. It makes for sober reading:
“SEAN ARDAGH (FF)
The Tribunal was satisfied that, Ardagh had been considered an “important and valued supporter of the Quarryvale project from 1992 onwards”, and had received relatively modest political contributions from Frank Dunlop and developer Owen O’Callaghan.
It also noted that Ardagh had been “less than frank with the Tribunal as to the extent of his contact” with Dunlop and O’Callaghan…
CLLR MICK BILLANE (DL)
The Tribunal reported that – as a matter of probability – Cllr Billane had at some point met with and was lobbied by Dunlop and/or O’Callaghan.
Following a meeting in October 1997, O’Callaghan provided a charitable donation of IR£10,000 to Citywise, a registered charity which provided services to city centre youth. The Tribunal was satisfied that Billane had secured this contribution at the meeting, despite his testimony that he had no recollection of the meeting itself and only “vaguely” recalled his involvement in securing the charitable donation
CLLR CATHAL BLAND (FG)
Cllr Boland told the Tribunal that he had received a sum of IR£4,000 in cash from Dunlop by way of an election contribution from anonymous donors on 11 November 1992.
Boland said was not lobbied by Dunlop in relation to the Quarryvale project and had had no concerns about taking the money from him, even though he knew he was a lobbyist, because he had always found Dunlop to be upright and had considered him “a pillar of society.”
Boland said that he absented himself from the 17 December vote because he had been approached by another party asking him to vote against the plan and offered £500 for doing so. He said that did not accept the money, but still he felt he had been compromised by the incident…
CLLR PETER BRADY (FG)
On 30 March 1998, the Tribunal Counsel noted an interview with Alan Dukes TD, in which Dukes alleged that Cllr Peter Brady, had told him that Cllr Brian Fleming had been offered £100,000 if he (Fleming) could ‘deliver’ the Fine Gael vote to secure the rezoning of the Quarryvale lands”.
On the issue of the conflict between Cllr Brady and Alan Dukes, the Tribunal found in favour of Dukes evidence. As such, it concluded that at some point between 1995 and 1998, Brady did relay to Dukes that Fleming had been offered IR£100,000 to deliver the Fine Gael vote in support of Quarryvale.
LIAM T COSGRAVE (FG)
The Tribunal was satisfied that Dunlop gave IR£2,000 to Cllr Cosgrave around May or June 1991, and concluded that the payment was “in all probability” solicited by Cosgave in the course of being lobbied by Mr Dunlop in the period leading up to the Quarryvale rezoning vote.
The Tribunal said that it believed that at the time at which Cosgrave was solicited and accepted the election contribution, he was aware of Dunlop’s ongoing role in relation to Quarryvale – and described his conduct as “improper”.
The Tribunal accepted Dunlop’s account of having met Cosgrave at Newtownpark Avenue in Blackrock on 11 November 1992, and that on this date he had given cash donations of IR£2,000 (later returned) and IR£4,000 respectively to Cllrs Pat Rabbitte and Cathal Boland.
MICHAEL J COSGRAVE (FG)
Tribunal satisfied that M J Cosgrave solicited and received payment of IR£1,000 during the time of his January 1993 Seanad Election campaign…
The Tribunal described Cosgrave’s request for money and his acceptance of it “compromised his required disinterested performance of his duties as an elected representative, and was improper”.
LIAM CREAVEN (FF)
Creaven acknowledged having been lobbied by Dunlop, stating that he had been lobbied both for and against rezoning.
In response to the Tribunal’s inquiries as to whether or not he had received any payments in relation to Quarryvale, he said that he had received a “hamper” from the parties involved in the Quarryvale Shopping Centre.
JIM DALY (FF)
The Tribunal was satisfied that Cllr Daly was lobbied by Dunlop in relation to Quarryvale and that it was “probable” that Daly requested an election contribution, given the imminence of the local election. However, it noted that – whether or not Daly had solicited the contribution – he had accepted it in the knowledge that Dunlop was a lobbyist for Quarryvale.
PAT DUNNE (FF)
The Tribunal was satisfied that Dunne solicited money from Dunlop for the 1991 local election campaign…
It accepted Dunlop’s evidence that he had given Dunne a sum of IR£15,000, and was satisfied that this payment was corrupt.
MARY ELLIOTT (FG)
Elliott said she had not attended any public meetings in connection with the re-zoning of Quarryvale other than Council meetings, but acknowledged that she had been “lobbied by local organisations”…
She said that she never received any payment or donations from parties involved in the project and, while admitting that she had dined in the company of Dunlop and O’Callaghan…
JIM FAHEY (FF)
The Tribunal was satisfied that Fahey solicited a payment of IR£2,000, and that such solicitation and acceptance of funds had been improper.
TONY FOX (FF)
Cllr Tony Fox was identified by Dunlop as a recipient of £2,000 in cash during the local election campaign.
CYRIL GALLAGHER (FF)
Despite Dunlop’s testimony that there had been no express link between a IR£1,000 payment to Cllr Cyril Gallagher and Quarryvale, the Tribunal was satisfied that Gallagher had been ware of Dunlop’s role as a lobbyist for the project.
SEAN GILBRIDE (FF)
The Tribunal said it was satisfied that the “primary purpose” of Cllr Sean Gilbride’s decision to take a leave of absence from his teacher’s post and place himself on O’Callaghan’s payroll was “to enable Gilbride devote himself on a near full time basis to promoting the Quarryvale project for Mr O’Callaghan”.
It described as “incredible” the suggestion that the political ambitions of an elected councillor could be properly served by that councillor placing himself on the payroll of a developer at a time when that same developer was promoting the rezoning of lands…
RICHARD GREENE (IND)
The Tribunal was satisfied that a cash donation of IR£500 received by Greene had been given to him by O’Callaghan via Dunlop, and the developer’s “generosity to Cllr Greene was not unconnected to his zoning ambitions for Quarryvale”.
TOM HAND (FG)
The Tribunal was satisfied that Dunlop paid Cllr Hand IR£20,000 in cash in two tranches of £10,000 each specifically in return for his support on Quarryvale, and that the payment was corrupt.
FINBARR HANRAHAN (FF)
The Tribunal was satisfied that, during the course of the 1992 general election, Dunlop in all probability paid Cllr Fibarr Hanrahan either IR£2,000 or IR£2,500, with the principle reason for the payment being to secure his support for Quarryvale. It concluded that such a payment was “improper”.
JACK LARKIN (FF)
The Tribunal concluded that a payment of IR£1,000 to Cllr Jim Larkin during a period around the 1991 Local Elections had been made. It was satisfied that a request for the money had probably been made by Larkin after he had been lobbied to support Quarryvale…
DONAL LYDON (FF)
The Tribunal rejected Cllr Donal Lydon’s evidence that he did not solicit a payment of IR£1,000 in or about May 1991, and concluded that such a payment had indeed been made between 16 May 1991 and 6 June 1991.
MARIAN MCGEENIS (FF)
The Tribunal noted Cllr Marian McGennis’ “significant role” in relation to the Quarryvale rezoning proposal over the course of 1991 to 1993, and also noted that – in her initial dealings with the Tribunal – she had not been forthcoming about the extent of her involvement with Dunlop and O’Callaghan.
The report was satisfied that McGeenis solicited a IR£1,400 cheque from Dunlop in July 1991, and that over a period of two months had been the recipient of a total of IR£6,500 from individuals closely associated with the Quarryvale issue.
COLM MCGRATH (FF)
The Tribunal was satisfied that McGrath solicited a payment of IR£10,000 that was “in all probability” requested on the basis of the assistance he was giving O’Callaghan.
It added that further payments of IR£10,700 and IR£20,000 could neither be described as political donations or “loans”, as had been suggested, and that such payments were corrupt.
OLIVIA MITCHELL (FG)
The Tribunal said it was satisfied that Cllr Mitchell received a sum of IR£500 in cash from Dunlop at the time of the 1992 General Election.
TOM MORRISSEY (FG)
The Tribunal confirmed that Cllr Tom Morrissey had remained “staunchly opposed” to the rezoning of Quarryvale as a town centre at all times.
The Tribunal was also satisfied that there had been no improper motivation from any party in relation to Morrissey’s firm producing diaries for Dunlop’s firm at a cost of IR£377.52…
ANN ORMONDE (FF)
According to the report, Cllr Ann Ormonde received in total at least IR£1,650 from Dunlop between the period January 1993 to 1998 – in the knowledge that he was a lobbyist in circumstances in which she herself was involved.
GUSS O’CONNELL (IND)
The report noted that the absence of Cllr Guss O’Connell’s from the County Council on 17 December 1992, the date on which votes on a motion relating to Quarryvale were cast, had been beneficial to O’Callaghan.
However, it was not satisfied that this situation had been “orchestrated”…
JOHN O’HALLORAN (LAB/IND)
The Tribunal’s report noted that Cllr John OHalloran “had not been, in general, frank with the Tribunal” in the manner in which he responded to requests for information in relation to payments made by Dunlop and O’Callaghan.
In 1993, O’Halloran received an IR£5,000 cheque from O’Callaghan/Riga – and the Tribunal pointed out that, just weeks later, he was one of five signatories to a letter to the Minister for Finance in which tax designation was sought for Quarryvale.
O’Halloran also received a payment of IR£250 in or around the time that he signed a motion on Quarryvale, and that he did on occasion receive small payments of IR£500 over the course of the making of the Development Plan 1991 – 1993.
The Tribunal was satisfied that O’Halloran solicited a payment of IR£2,500 in 1996 from Dunlop…
PAT RABBITTE (DL)
The Tribunal accepted Dunlop’s evidence that Cllr Pat Rabbitte had been listed as a recipient of IR£3,000 in cash in 1992, and that that sum had later been returned to him by means of a cheque.
THERESE RIDGE (FG)
The report described Cllr Therese Ridge as not merely a staunch supporter of the Quarryvale campaign but also a person who “actively engaged” in providing advice in relation to the strategy generally, and specifically in relation to motions relevant to Quarryvale”.
The report added that she was “handsomely rewarded” for her efforts – both in the form of cash donations totalling IR£1,000 and by Dunlop taking care of printing and other costs associated with her election campaigns.
COLM TYNDALL (PD)
The Tribunal was satisfied Tyndal had been lobbied by O’Callghan in relation to the Quarryvale rezoning proposal – and that Tyndal (on behalf of his company Marine & General Insurance Ltd) had likewise lobbied O’Callaghan for his company to be appointed insurance broker to companies associated with O’Callaghan.
The report concluded that Tyndal had exploited his position as an elected councillor in circumstances which benefited a company with which he was closely associated…
Tyndal testified that he could not confirm whether he received a donation of IR£500 from O’Callaghan in 1999…
GV WRIGHT (FF)
In relation to a payment of IR£10,000 by Dunlop and O’Callaghan to Cllr GV Wright in November 1992, the Tribunal said it was satisfied that the motivation for such a payment was to “ensure Wright’s ongoing support for the Quarryvale project.”
Reading through the report, the all too familiar names, businesses and organisations that crop up again and again and again, one is reminded of a variation of that old curse: a plague on all your houses.
- Smells Like No-Irish Spirit (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Former Irish PM Bertie Ahern ‘failed to give truthful account of cash’ – The Guardian (guardian.co.uk)
- Ahern failed to account for IR£165,000, Mahon finds (teddyoshea.wordpress.com)
- Mahon Tribunal rolling news blog… (sluggerotoole.com)
- The Mahon Report… (cedarlounge.wordpress.com)
- Former Irish PM Ahern lied over finances-inquiry – Reuters (reuters.com)