Sunday, December 17, 2006

Were BUPA blocked from public sector group schemes?

Part of the basic problem with Risk Equalisation (RE) as the government have chosen to implement it is that the vast block of older people with health insurance who simply didn't move. Why was that?

Could it be that many people are actually members of group schemes rather than individual members and it is at this top level of those who selected which schemes were available that the choice has been made not to move. For example taking just the teaching sector the TUI, INTO appear from their websites have only VHI group schemes. Whereas the ASTI seems to have a 10% saving for both VHI and BUPA though their site only hosts a document related to VHI finances but not one for BUPA. Why would public sector organisations be favouring the VHI, I wonder? Could it be ideology, or protecting public sector jobs at the expense of the taxpayer? It would also seem that SIPTU also has only a group scheme link-up with VHI. Most private sector organisation will offer their employees a choice of scheme and then fund that group scheme with the usual discount since it is a group scheme.

It would be illuminating to know the extent to which public sector organisations are locked into group schemes with VHI and employees were not offered an option to choose between the 3 competitors. I continue to be surprised that no one in the dead tree meeja has bothered to investigate this.

I suppose this means the question in focus should be did large public sector organisations which had links with the VHI and the concept of a state operated monoploy insurer refuse to allow BUPA pitch for their group schemes?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gun Crimes - solved or sorted?

The Garda commissioner has said today Dec 15th 2006 that of the 23 gun murders this year 8 are solved and they are close to solving 3 more. However, solved does not mean people being arrested or charged, not to mind convicted and sent to jail.

Part of the problem we have in Ireland now is that the Gardai are solving crimes but they can't bring convictions. We saw that with the Gardai's knowledge about two of the men killed in Dublin this week. Both 'Martin "Marlo" Hyland' and the man killed in the IFSC were done to the Garda but where they are jail?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Our hard working forefathers

Every budget time in Ireland there is a cap tiping reference to paying back our forefathers who made this country what it is. Now, I have no general objection to taking care of our older people and especially those who have fallen on hard times or find themselves unable to take care of themselves. However, the suggestion that each and every one of them had slogged all their lives to provide for the overall wellbeing of the nation as if they were all engaged in some national struggle just doesn't hold water.

It is the sort of wishy-washy nonsence that makes most people under 40 in Ireland wonder if the past really happened at all. We're forever hearing about how much easier and relaxed life used to be in days gone by. If that were the case then they can't have worked as hard as people have done in the last 10 years.

Oddly enough you never hear about paying back our forefathers for the appalling mistakes they made, instead that is all the past, water under the bridge. If you turned 65 last year in 2005, you would lived through the 60s when educational opportunities expanded widely, then in 1977 more than half the population voted for the FF manifesto that abolished rates, car tax, and did they worry where the money was going to come from? They've made out like gangbusters in the property market in large part because of planning screw up they were directly responsible for.

I know plenty of people nearing retirement or who have retired who worked damn hard in Ireland and they will be the first to tell ya about the wasters in their areas who never worked a hard day in their lives. They are disgusted to find that their contribution is lumped in with those others who didn't pull their weight when times were tough.

For help our older people, but do it because they require the assistance and not because of some smokescreen of how it is something that each and every one of them earned.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Shamday Independent.

In today's Sunday Independent (Dec 10th 2006) on Page ten of the Life magazine, one of their writers a Pat Fitzpatrick does a Top Five piece as a guide to rugby

Their No.1, is "Limerick : The myth states that only the common man plays rugby on Shannon-side, so Limerick's middle class need to take working class lessons if they want to go to Thomond Park. In any other place, this would involve lessons in how to behave on the buses, what to say at greyhound racing and the best way to fold your tabloid under your arm. However, in Limerick, these are the signs of an aristocrat. There, you need to study top tips for driving a getaway motorbike, the beginners guide to walking free from court and the dos and don't's of showing your guns to Pat Kenny."

Now, I'm as much in favour of free speech as the next person but this sounds quite out there even to me. Firstly, and as if to prove the person writing the piece made minimal effort to ground their humour in reality, the real myth about Limerick and rugby is that everyone plays it and everyone is a fan indeed that even disaffected teenge goths are aficionados of the game unrivalled throughout the world. There is no suggestion that only the common man plays it. Seriously, what game is Pat Fitzpatrick suggesting middle class kids in Limerick play, ice hockey?

And Pat then moves on to make comments about working class people being the sort to use buses, frequent greyhound racing and read tabloids. Hmmm, we're really going to sort out traffic problems by implying that the better class of person doesn't need to take the public transport unless its on rails. While I'm not much of a fan of greyhound racing I recognise that the folks driving into most greyhound racing stadiums around ireland could buy and sell the rest of us. And isn't the home of greyhound racing in D4? Ok, it might be the Ringsend part of D4 but it's less than 10 minutes from Lansdowne rd. Lastly, isn't the Irish Independent a tabloid these days?

Then to finish up by claiming that all of Limerick's working class are criminals displays a lack of concern for personal safety that would make one certain that Pat Fitzpatrick has to be a pseudonym. Fact is that few criminals would choice to use a moterbike in this weather, far easier to steal a car and burn it out. walking free from the courts is usually assisted by the judicacry and showing your gun to Pat Kenny is such a primary school thing to do. Perhaps, that is where Pat heard about it during sos.

Monday, December 04, 2006

madame guillotine

I wrote the following last summer and sent it to the local press. Needless to say, it didn't get carried by any of them. The reason for revisiting it now is that Cllr Cosgrave would have absented herself from Dublin City Council meetings for 6 consecutive meetings after tonight but she turned up and made it her first meeting since March. If she had missed this meeting it would have been possible to rule thar she had vacated her seat and to select a co-option to replace her. So she struggled through the wind and the rain and passport control to ensure her grip is retained on her council salary. And she should at this point have lost most of her allowance for expenses as they are meant to be paid pro rata with her attendance. You know when everyone talks about the various scandals that happened down the years on local authorities and people comment as to why no one ever printed anything. Well now we know why. When the media can''t even be bothered to expose someone who doesn't turn up for work when the meetings are held in public sure why would they bother paying attention to what happens in darkened corners.

She has so much more to be proud of when it comes to the more local focus of north central area committee meetings where she has attended all meetings this year. She has asked no questions nor put forward any motions to the city council or the area committee during the entire year.

I'm also curious to know as to whether or not she claiming to be tax resident in France and thus claiming her council salary tax free? Or does she claim to be tax reisdent here but uses French public services and how the French authorities must feel about that. And could her actions have anything to do with the rejection of an attempt in January 2006 to demolish her house at Foxfield rd., Raheny (or at least it is still the place she is registered to vote at) and build 10 retirement condos? She was quite vocal about her dislike of new apartments, but sure when it would herself profiting her tune has changed. Anyway, below are my comments from July. They seem too mild now.

July 2006 -

'I feel very disappointed for the people of Artane and for Cllr Bourke personally that Cllr Cosgrave couldn't bring herself to support a Northsider for the position of Lord Mayor of the city instead favouring the Southside again for this position.' said Daniel Sullivan reflecting on the defeat for local Labour councillor Paddy Bourke in the Mayoral election. 'This is the second year in a row that Cllr. Cosgrave has chosen to throw her toys out of the Democrat Alliance pram. And it would seem that she was intent this year on voting against the Democratic Alliance candidate whoever the candidates on offer were. She did this, despite the fact that she was returned at the last election as part of that same offering, which the people supported in huge numbers. I suppose she expects Fine Gael voters should be grateful that she didn’t vote for the Sinn Fein candidate for Mayor Cllr Christy Burke. Or is she saving that for next year’s performance.'

Contrary to some of the reporting she was not expelled from Fine Gael last year, rather she simply lost the party whip in the council chamber for a period. That sanction appears only to have whetted her appetite for destruction. Dan Sullivan commented 'I think the appropriate expression is 'Spare the rod and spoil the child'.

The Cllr. in addition to turning her back on Donaghmede and Dublin for the sunnier climes of France for much of the year has decided to completely abandon her roots in Fine Gael. It is a very sad end for what was a long tradition of representation in the north east of Dublin.' Speaking as someone who stood unsuccessfully for Artane in 2004, I believed at the time and still believe that it was much better to tell the truth rather than to say something you don’t believe simply to get elected. I believe in telling it like it is. “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall”. Contrastingly, Cllr Cosgrave has, I believe, decided to deceive the entire electorate in Donaghmede and most especially the people who voted for her. It seems it was always her intention to be a part time commuter councillor. Jetting in from foreign parts when it suits her, I’m sure Marie Antoinette would be most impressed. If the councillor had any honour left, she would resign her seat now and allow the position be filled by someone who would be more available to the people of Donaghmede all year round.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Irish national debt in the 1980s - the figures and the facts

I keep having to do this so much on various sites that I've decided to have it on my blog to make it easier for me to find and reference. The figures I've used below come from the NationalTreasuryManagementAgency and the Irish government's own sites.

These are the figures in euros for Ireland's national debt

At the end of 1977 -National debt was €5,370
At the end of 1981 - National debt was €12,945 that is more than 240% of the 1977 figure.

That would be while we were governed by the oh-so fiscally responsible folk in FF we're governed by right now.

And in all honesty the beginning of year 1983 was the first one that the FG/Lab coalition had actual power and a chance to decide what to do. From June 1981 to Feb 1982 they had barely time to look at the books (and had to introduce a supplementary budget because of how reckless Haughey had been.). And the figures have to be viewed in comparison to the rate of inflation which in turn affected the interest rates

1982 - 14,816 which is a 14.45% increase on previous year

1983 - 18,274 which is a 23.33% increase on previous year

1984 - 21,358 which is a 16.87% increase on previous year

1985 - 23,492 which is a 9.99% increase on previous year

1986 - 27,440 which is a 16.8% increase on previous year

1987 - 30,085 which is a 9.63% increase on previous year

So, that is just over a 100% rise in 5 years. The numbers come from the government's budget figures used in 2002.

So when some people love to harp on about how the national debt doubled from 1983 to 1987 they are ignoring the fact that the FG/Lab government started off with an inherited deficit, in a sense taking over a control of an accelerating debt level. The deficit (or overspend) was of the order of nearly 10% from FF going from one year to another which they had to reduce. So the level of national debt would have risen by 70/80% even with no further borrowing had taken place simply due to the very high interest rates at the time, and that the debt meant recession and a lack of investment and further jobs losses which in turn meant fewer people in employment to pay taxes and more people out of work and drawing benefit so spending was going up.

It is also a factor that from 87 to 91 emigration from Ireland peaked which reduced the current expenditure demand on the FF government in terms of social welfare. Anyone remember Brian Lenihan telling us "after all, we can't all live on a small island' in an interview to Newsweek in October 1987? Of course not.

And lastly, people defending FF and attacking FG for what happened in the 1980s economically choose to forget that the spending Haughey committed the state to involved repeating current expenditure like hiring civil servants just to get the dole queues down. The incoming government simply wasn't in a position politically to sack them.

Water shortage in the northside area

Water Tankers will be at St'Brigid's church, Howth rd and behind UCI Coolock.

You can request water delivery at 2224220 or 6796186

More here -> water shortage

Friday, November 24, 2006

BA cross

BA have got themselves into some trouble last week over preventing a member of staff from wearing a cross to work, or did they? Is perhaps the truth that it is the media falling over themselves to be even handed that have instead dug a hole, got someone to kneel down behind the company and pushed BA into it.

Fact is, as the BA reps have pointed out repeatedly, they have a uniform policy against the wearing of any jewelry at work, and a necklace with a cross on it is when all is said and done jus that - jewelry. Wearing a cross is not a core aspect of being a Christian or a Catholic for that matter.

I wonder sometimes if there aren't people who go looking for things to be offended about.

Update - BA have decided to 'review' their uniform policy. I think for commerical reasons they had to do this but the media have created a dangerous precedent here. As noted on HIGNFY, someone could ask to wear a dead goat around their neck and as it is part of their personal interpretation of their faith, in this case Satanism.

Let's give it back

I'm struck at budget time with how proud the minister appears to be that he took in more money than intended as if he has somehow created more money (which as minister he can do but that fuels inflation), when it fact he has simply taken more of the public's money out of circulation than he had actually intended.

I can't help but feel that there is something wrong about the smugness involved in all this. Given that much of the increase this year is as a result of house prices running ahead of where they were expected to, it seems doubly cruel.

My suggestion would be why don't we do what the US federal government does and issue rebates or one off increases in tax credits when this happens? That way we would all share in the wealth that results from our economic activity.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Boot camps and bright coloured hoodies

Odd that all this bruhaha has blown up on monday about 'boot camps' as I was asking mates of mine over the weekend how come no one had come up with a 'make the little feckers break some rocks' type hard time proposal. Of course, as someone pointed out the last thing you want to do is take a nasty piece of work and make them a more physically fit, nasty piece of work.

Now, I'm pretty sure that I'm not being bugged by Billy Timmins, but it was somewhat coincidental. There again, if I was being bugged they might have stayed around as the idea we came up with was making those guilty of anti-social but non-violent offenses clean chewing gum off the pavement of our city streets in bright pink overalls on weekends using plastic utensils. And then take pictures and display them in public places. (OK, the pink overalls is my late addition to the idea)

Basically, make them feel bad, embarrass them, make fools of them. Anything, but make them feel like big lads because they got nicked.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

L'etat c'est everyone else

I've a personal view that when someone says 'the state' should do or pay for something that it is useful to substitute the words 'everyone else' for 'the state' and see if the idea still makes since. Try it at home, it's free and makes some things that are on initial viewing quite complicated seem a lot more straightforward.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Another year older, another budget

We're getting plenty of never mind the quality feel the width from the government about the estimates. I'm put in mind of a builder telling someone that they still haven't finished building their extension but bragging about how much more they have spent than they had previous intended to.

I was wonder how the issue will percolate down to the local authority leve. It would seem on initial reports about the place that the local authority grant has not risen to match inflation not to mind the commitments made as part of benchmarking. It would seem in part that the government is aiming to force the local councils to increase charges and as such create resentment against the opposition parties that are now in control of most councils around the country.

Of course, all this robbing Peter to pay Paul sleight of hand is going to have an immediate direct impact on local authorities most directly in the form of waste charges as budgets for the coming year. The government negotiated with the unions a few years back and agreed a partnership deal with increased pay for local authority employees. Then they did the dirty on the local authorities by not increase the contribution from the central fund to cover this increase.

I believe that paying directly for something such as the bin collection service places the issue in sharp focus for most people. to hear some talk about it you'd swear it was tiny minority of households that produced all of our waste and in fact we were all producing too much. I got myself into some hot water a few years back when I queried the comments from a public rep who appeared to be opposing the change in the Dublin City charges system from one that charged everyone the same amount to one that charged based on how often you put your bin out. In fact what annoyed me most was that while I had pointed out the problems with the intial plan the same person had publicly supported that previous reform package which was even less responsive to the amount that people put out and as such would have rewarded recycling efforts much less than the system introduced. Well, sure, you makes your choices and let the voters decide, and we live and learn.

Of course, any charge system should have a consistent national waiver system to address the issue of affordablity that affects those on fixed incomes and treats everyone fairly. That does not mean that someone getting the service for nothing would be able to dispose of all the waste you would like for nothing. There are issues to be addressed particular to different groups such as the issue that many older people have with disposing of pants for incontinence, there again I'm not sure that should be going into the regular wheelies bins as it is. I would think that there should really be a separate free collection for people in such situations.

On a minor political issue, I wonder where will Cllr Cosgrave place her vote when it comes to the budget for Dublin City Council? It would be nice but naive I suppose to think she might pay a visit and consult her constituents and those who voted for her as to what she should do.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fixing the electoral register.

See here is the thing, if you filled in the form and gave it to the collector, and it got lost in the system, what is there to stop it getting lost again if you fill it out now and have it returned by nov 25th?

And being a complete ninny but why do we not have a rolling register? Instead we have a deadline of Nov 25th and the register next comes out on Feb 15th of the following year. That is nearly 3 months to update and print something?

Surely, at this point the orginal register from which the printed version is made is electronic, probably a greate big excel file and that can be accessed via the web as we can see from so why can't they update the changes as they are going along? Each Monday morning the latest version replaces the version that was previously being accessed and then we can see well before Feb 15th and the final version being printed if we're on the damn thing.

Christ you would really wonder some times if the lads in the Dept of the Environment even know what century it is.

I will correct myself on one thing, the register comes out on Feb 1st and comes into effect on Feb 15th.

See it takes 2 whole weeks to distribute them. Odd that a publishing company and on-line sales sites can get you a copy of the new Harry Potter into hundreds of thousands of homes in the space of 2/3 days, we take 2 weeks to distribute the register to around a thousand locations.

But there is no IT job involved, the work of making the register available has been finally done and all this is copying a new version of the files up the same location once a week.

A rolling register would spread the cost and make it cheaper rather than having this false peak and who knows perhaps associated overtime.

Can anyone seriously think of a valid reason why we do this whole once a year deadline thing?

The most recent illustration of the farce our electorate register are
the revelations last week that a number of TDs have been struck off
the register despite personally preparing and handing in their forms.
If they are being targeted for elimination then what hope for the
rest of us?

As many people are now aware the Dept of the Environment has at long
last started to embrace the modern age and you can check if you are
on the register online using . Those who do
not have access to the net can continue to check at their local Garda
station or Post Office. If you are not on the current draft register
then you must fill in the form and get it into the council by
November 25th.

What is not understandable is why we do not having a rolling
register? By means all print and provide a paper copy once as year as
we already do, but we should spread the work of updating the register
throughout the year. All alterations to the register should require a
written note to be attached to the electronic master record. If
someone is removed the note should explain why that was done, just as
we have to provide a written form to be added. It would be very
interesting to hear why these Labour TDs were targeted for removal.

And finally, we should automatically add people to the register when
they are issued with a PPS number. Of course, only with the voting
rights appropriate to their status in the Irish electorate system.
The means to fix the register are so straightforward one would have
to wonder why it hasn’t been done already? E-voting has shown we
can’t trust the government to count the votes and now it seems we
can’t trust them to let us vote.

Monday, October 23, 2006

There are no accidents like...

road accidents. In fact there are no road accidents at all, the Gardai now prefer to call them 'incidents' as it is not a good idea to prejudge whether there was in reality anything accidental about what has occurred.

If you drive at 100kph on a 50 kph zone and hit a wall, that isn't an accident at all but might be more correctly termed negligence. We can't sue people for causing their own deaths and we rightly do not have crime of suicide anymore. And no it couldn’t have happened to anyone, it could only happen to someone who was driving at such speed in those conditions.

The media with their liking for the dramatic love to show us the scene and talk about the terribleness of the loss of life involved and how sad everyone in the locality is. What the meeja utterly fail to do with remotely the same emphasis is tell people about the outcome of inquests and investigations in the causes and circumstance surrounding the incidents. Pinning the blame appears to be something that happens behind closed doors despite the public nature of the inquests.

When it comes to creating a picture of why we have the level of road deaths we do what tends to happen is the media show us the scene, give us some superficial details and then each individual member of the public makes up their own back story as to what caused it based on their own bias, effing women drivers, slow drivers, drunks, drugs, speeding young fellas, learners, foreigners. Basically, it is a matter of think for yourself on less than all the information and takes your pick. The meeja give us say 30% of the facts and let people draw their own conclusions. The problem with this is that no one’s viewpoints are ever challenged. If they aren’t challenged why would they change?

Since all national politicians are elected based on locality pretty much none of them are going to speak out on the issue in a manner likely to cause hurt to Mary from down the road who lost her youngest in a road crash at 2am in the morning. So it is down to people who aren’t elected to say the necessary but painful truth. Most of the people who die on the roads are complicit in their own deaths. Yes, I guess I do come across as a heartless bastard but we need some less heart and more cop-on applied to the situation.

As part of this is the idea of general grief. We expect public figures to feel grief for people they never met and didn’t know. I’m not going to bed at night weeping for those who are dead in such circumstance. I do feel a general regret for their families but for the people who are dead I don’t feel anything but anger and annoyance. And that is the only feeling that will lead to something being done. There is some old phrase about nothing becoming someone like the manner of their passing, well if it is at the wheel of a car whether drunk or speeding in the dead of night then all that means is you were a fraking idiot.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

NUI election process

I'm going to attempt to blog my way through the Seanad election process, in part as a means to open up the process to the great mass of people. And slightly as a form of therapy for myself!

First off, some of the costs involved. The NUI Seanad register costs all of €140 for each copy, both the hard copy and electronic copy versions. They update it every year and it is released into the wild on June 1st. Now that could mean that people need to have two copies if the election takes place after June 1st. A significant issue when you consider that the more recent graduates are probably closer to home.

I've not bought a copy yet. Well, it is hardly suitable bedtime reading material. It would seem likely that the register consists of home address for graduates, which given how many of them have flown the coop in recent years and attempted to clamber on the property ladder makes the darn thing next to meaningless for the older graduates.

It should also be noted that current members are advantaged in having an allowance of Oireachtas envelope available to them. This is of considerably more advantage in their case when you consider the dispersed nature of the Seanad electorate. Is it any wonder no one seems to beat an incumbent?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

NUI Seanad Declaration

I've been talking with some people (I believe that is part of the vernacular for this sort of thing) and have decided that in the interests of highlighting a particular issue which I believe warrants attention and which spans party boundaries that I would put myself forward for election for one of the NUI seats in Seanad Eireann.

Cutting to the chase I'm going to be seeking a nomination as a candidate for one of the NUI Seanad seats as a means to give people an opportunity to vote and in doing so highlight the fact that more than a quarter of a century after there was a referendum on it (1979) that graduates of other universities and colleges in Ireland still don't have a vote for the Seanad. Whatever happened to one person, one vote?

I recognise from the outset that the likelihood of getting elected is considerably limited by the simple fact that as a non-NUI graduate I won’t be easily able to tap into any particular alumni base. However, there are now a considerable number of DCU, UL, QUB, UU graduates and also those from the I.T.s who also hold postgraduate degrees from NUI colleges and vice-versa. I believe that they would look favourably on an opportunity to voice their support for extending the franchise.

In this sense I intend to use the PR-STV voting system as a means to highlight the issue. Much along the idea of a preferenda I am asking people to vote for me No.1 to highlight the issue and then subsequently to transfer to the candidate of their choice thereafter.

If elected, I would seek on my first day in the Seanad to present legislation to reform the election Senators to ensure the principle of one person, one vote is respected within the context of the 6 seats constitutionally set aside for higher education. There was a time when one could continue with the idea that the University of Dublin represented a section of Irish society that needed some particular shielding. Now, it is as likely that the minority tradition in Ireland will have attended some other institution within the state or without. And if the intent is truly to include people from the other tradition on the island then why deny graduates from QUB or UU a vote?

6 seats, one person, one vote.

There will be more information over the coming days here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bertie's few bob

In his television interview, An Taoiseach clearly indicated that he purchased his current house for 'closer to €200,000' and obtained a mortgage to do so after the 93/94 period during which he received €50,000 in the form of what he has described as a 'loan'. As anyone who has borrowed money from the banks will know the banks require you to indicate if you have any other outstanding loans that may impact on your ability to make your repayments.

Surely, if the money An Taoiseach received was a loan then the bank will have a clear record of this fact. If they do not possess such records it is because it was not a loan or he lied to the bank when making his mortgage application. He either lied to them then or is lying to us now. And it is unusual for someone to be required to provide a lump sum for something like their children’s education in a separation settlement. It would be more the norm to require them to provide that amount when the children require it.

It is hard to believe that An Taoiseach feels that he could as minister for Finance be speaking about the Irish economy in a personal capacity at any time while he was a minister.
That he was telling business people domiciled outside the state about what he thought was going to happen in the Irish economy (which is what Senator Tom Kett helpfully has told us Bertie was doing instead of having the craic), receiving money for doing so and yet sees nothing wrong with doing so is beyond GUBU.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Idle speculation

this was originally written before McDowell was coronated.

Folks it is the end of the government. Bertie signalled as much as did Harney when both referred to the need for 'stable government'.

The PD elect a new leader and Bertie views the current program for government as being at an end and requiring renegotiation and McDowell or whover bails pulls out of government.

FF run on a election campaign of it has be us and Labour, and it would suit the PDs to be running against that option, they retain enough seats to be taken seriously and regrow some strength in opposition. At least that is the strategy as Harney and Ahern see it.

From the TV, Fiona wants McDowell as leader, Minihan doesn't, Parlon suggest he wants McDowell but that is in order that McDowell presides over a loss of seats and Parlon can then take over after the election. Harney, I believe also wants McDowell mainly as it allows him to get the blame for the election result.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Floating Aer Lingus

One of the main concerns around the floating of Aer Lingus is around the strategic nature of air travel for an island nation and the value of the slots into UK airports in particular Heathrow and the possibility that a private company might be tempted to sell those assests to companies which might fly into those slots from non-Irish destinations.

My suggestion would be that the current Aer Lingus would continue to exist as a state owned holding company and that it would own the landing slots, it would in turn then license those slots to the new floated Aer Lingus entity. This would be mean the slots would be retained in the control of the Irish people while Aer Lingus the transportation company would be free to expand.

Monday, June 26, 2006

FF backbenchers

So, the FFer backbenchers are complaining about being ignored by the government. So now at last, they must have some idea of what most of the citizens feel like when dealing with this government.

The grand ould duke of Cork he had two dozen men,
He marched them up to see old Bertie
And he marched them down again

When they were up, people feted them.
And when they were down, people ignored them.
And when they were only halfway up,
No one knew what to do with them.

The Grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.

When they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

On the passing of Charles Haughey

This last week the Northside has lost one of her most noted sons, and while I would be of a very different political persuasion, I recognise the depth of genuine human emotion that many people feel at this time. As it is well known he said of himself

"I have done the state some service and they know't. No more of that."

but the piece goes on to say ask us

"I pray you, in your letters,

When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,

Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,

Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak

Of one that loved not wisely but too well;"

At such times, we should not be quick to parcel up a life into mere pluses and minuses like some bookkeeper adding sums to see if the credit and debit balance out, but rather should look at a life as a whole thing. We should speak of him as he was, splendidly right at times, the building of the IFSC, free travel, and horrendously wrong others, opposition to the Anglo-Irish agreement, failure to tackle the national finances, being dependent on the largesse of others. The state too has done him some service too, and he know’t, No more of that. The greatest justice we, as Gaels, can ask for any life is for people to tell the whole tale, to leave nothing out and let the future draw its judgement where it may.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam

Friday, June 02, 2006

Letter to the Editor - June 2nd 2006

Madam, - The case which has lead to the voiding of a section of law intended to protect children from sexual predators is another example of a failure to plan or anticipate outcomes.

Surely the Attorney General's office and the Department of Justice was aware that this case was coming before the Supreme Court. And it should have occurred to someone at some level that the court might rule in favour of the plaintiff. And it would be expected that some thought would have gone into how to address that outcome and its possible effects.

The simple issue of competence at the heart of this is that (a) people should have been aware an event was about to occur; (b) they had to have some idea of possible outcomes; and (c) they should have prepared some measures to deal with those outcomes should they arise. Call it anticipation or planning - I believe the term used in politics is "being on top of your brief".

The basic fact remains that the system has failed because of a lack of due attention by those in high office to what was going on around them. If not one single person of significance loses their job over this, then we are being told as bluntly as you like that no matter what happens, no matter how big the screw-up, no matter how dire the consequences, no one in this Government will ever take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. - Yours, etc,

DANIEL K. SULLIVAN, Beaumont, Dublin 9.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Something must be done!

I'm trying to compile a list of the various statements that ministers come out with that give the impression that something will be done about a specific issue but which in fact contains no commitment to act on the issue itself. Feel free to add to it.

1) We are identifying the problem

2) We are examining the problem

3) We have commissioned a report

4) We have received a report

5) We will be releasing the findings in due course.

6)We're awaiting the translation of the report

7) We are examining the findings of the report

8) We are reviewing the actions necessary in the light of the report.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

MRBI Poll - the hidden problems.

I think the recent MRBI poll (published May 19th) boils down to the following, taken on the day itself of those prepared to give an opinion less than 1 in 3 of voterswill support FF and over 1 in 4 people will support FG. If after the long summer of world cup football, beautiful weather and fine women FF are still under 35% and FG are still over 25% then the whole thing is completely wide open from then on until polling day.

If FF did get over 35% in the September poll then I would expect them to give into the temptation and go to the country with a budget based election, it would represent their last chance to get enough support to have the seats to do a deal with Labour. We all know that FF +PDs isn't going to happen.

The PDs maxed out the last time and their only objective this time is to keep their losses at such a level that they don't become completely defunct. I would say that for this to happen they will need a minimum of 4 seats and at least 2 of Harney, McDowell and O'Donnell. For if it was Grealish, O'Malley (Limerick East), Sexton and A.N. Other from Dublin that survived then they would be finished as a party. They can possibly limp on after the loss of one from
Harney, McDowell and O'Donnell but not the loss of two.

If FF are under 35% then they will wait it out and go for late Feb, hoping that the actuality of any budget freebies and the usual post Christmas bounce might carry them through. They can’t leave it until May as their support has consistently dropped as the year progresses. And they leave themselves totally at the mercy of events. And let's remember that we are all being told Bertie's isn't a gambler, isn't it a gamble wait for something to happen that might help them than to strike when the picture looks even just plausibly good.

It should be noted that I’ve had 3 / 4 separate reports in the last 2 months about printers here and outside the jurisdiction being put on a retainer for September and October by FF. They are committed to keeping the option open for a quick run as the light gets dark.

Fact is that FF doesn’t have the membership/manpower anymore to completely dominate the canvassing side of things like they once did. Will they have more than any single party on the ground, probably. Though FG would push them closer than they have for many years. Now for FF as a government party the battle must be on the TV and the airwaves, they will have money to burn and they know that ending up in opposition with SF would mean the probable loss of even more seats next time out to SF, irrespective of any gains they might hope to make back from FG, Labour, Greens and the defunct PDs if they bounced back. They simply can’t beat SF in an auction election. Truth is no one can beat SF in an auction because SF will happily promise you the farm because they know they won't do a deal after the election and so won't be called on to deliver.

With all else that happened in recent years the biggest campaigning problem for FF is that their public representatives who are seeking reelection don’t want to be encountering the members of the public who are annoyed about one thing and another. Sadly for them, the Fianna Fail party didn’t take the opportunity to completely lance the boil of public discontent back in 2004 but rather their TDs and most especially ministers avoided engaging the public and left the local election candidates to fend for themselves for the most part. And boy are those local reps sore about it.

The local FF candidates took the heat and bore the losses but it didn’t satisfy the public. I wonder for the local FF councillors how many will kill themselves to get some of the no show FF TDs and ministers back into power? After all, many of the younger ones who did survive ’04 may reckon this is their best means to get a run out the next time themselves. Let the public knock off the sitting TD and there is an opening in the next election, re-elected them and those young people who take the hit in '04 are locked out for another couple of cycles. One thing FF people are is ambitious.

Take a local example, if Deirdre Heney doesn’t run in DNE do you think she will burn as much shoe leather for Haughey or Callely in DNC as she did for herself in '02? Or if she does run in DNE will the local FF councillors there bother to help her and deprive themselves of any chance of run for a generation? Hardly.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The dangers of the 1 in 3 question for FF TDs

Ireland once had what was termed a 2 and 1/2 party system. It might be now said to have a 2 and 7/8s party system.

The Irish electoral system has by in large been kinder to the larger parties in terms of seat bonuses when comparing to the smaller parties.. Both FF and FG have benefited from this since independence. However, FF have been by far the greater beneficiary in the last two general elections. In the ‘02 General election they got somewhat less that 42% and got 49% of the seats available. One of the many contributory factors, though not the only one is the number of 3 seat constituencies in areas where FF are strongest.

However, this very preponderance of 3 seat constituencies in which FF hold 2 of the 3 seats becomes a major issue for that party when their national support drops below the figure of 1 in 3.

The Irish electoral system of Proportional Representation (PR) by means of the Single Transfer Vote (STV) actually will guarantee you 2 seats out of 3 for 50% +2 votes of the total valid poll if you run just 2 candidates and if it is evenly shared between those two candidates. This amounts to a vote of a slight bit more than 50% getting you all of 66% of the seats in those 3 seats constituencies. This is a whopping 15% bonus. Not bad at all for a supposedly proportionate voting system. Indeed, in practical terms getting 40% will usually mean you get 2 seats in such 3 seat constituencies if it has been reasonably competitive, say if the smaller parties such as the PDs, Greens, and SF have contested along with an independent or non-party candidate. In order to ensure that the % figures remains on the right side of 40% FF will often run sweeper or some might say spoiler candidates who are designed not alone to ensure that their total amounts to over 40% but that the remaining vote can't coalesce sufficiently around two of the remaining candidates. This increases the chances of a result of 2 from 3 even if one of those two is elected without reaching the quota.

However, as the total % available to the 2 main FF candidates drifts down towards 1/3 or 33% the likelihood of another 2 candidates getting enough votes to squeeze out one of those 2 FF candidates starts to increases exponentially. The other factor here is the intra-party competition and the tradition of appeals to "lend me your No.1, sure John is ok." This has lead to the situation arising, which seems to cause such surprise in so many observers from overseas, of long time sitting TDs losing their seats to their running mates who some might have been as being on the under billing.

Taking Donegal SW as an example FF got 42% there which mirrors their national result almost exactly and their two candidates

Donegal SW in 2002

FF Pat Gallagher 7,740 21.72% 0.87
FF Mary Coughlan 7,257 20.36% 0.81
FG Dinny McGinley 4,378 12.29% 0.49

FG James White 4,680 13.13% 0.53
SF Pearse Doherty 2,696 7.57% 0.30
IND Joe Kelly 3,091 8.67% 0.35 (5)
IND Thomas Pringle 2,630 7.38% 0.30
Lab Séamas Rodgers 1,079 3.03% 0.12
SF Tom Dignam 1,133 3.18% 0.13
IND Gwen Breslin 951 2.67% 0.11

Now, imagine if the national picture is again mirrored here with exactly the same line up and FF were to drop 6%, coupled with a corresponding reversal in the rates of transfers that occurred in ’02. One possible group of scenarios is that the loss is evenly divided between the two FF candidates. In a situation where the 6% were to coalesce around one of the unsuccessful candidates White or Doherty, or the final successful candidate McGinley then they should be able to ensure that 2 from those three would be elected. Only if the 6% is scattered evenly (with the attendant attrition when transferred) would the two FF TDs be favoured to survive. In ’02 the transfer rate to the FF candidates was 25% compared to up to 65% internal to the non FF candidates. Even when Doherty of SF was eliminated in ’02 40% of his vote was available to be transferred between the two remaining FG candidates.

FF Pat Gallagher 18.72% 0.87
FF Mary Coughlan 17.36% 0.81
FG Dinny McGinley 12.29% 0.49 (18.29% 0.49)
FG James White 13.13% 0.53 (19.13% 0.53)

SF Pearse Doherty 7.57% 0.30 (13.57% 0.30)
IND Joe Kelly 8.67% 0.35
IND Thomas Pringle 7.38% 0.30
Lab Séamas Rodgers 3.03% 0.12
SF Tom Dignam 3.18% 0.13
IND Gwen Breslin 2.67% 0.11

Couple such a reduction in the total party vote available with the greatest fear of any Irish politician, that the perception that they are safe will get out and they will see that on election night their 1st preference vote will go wandering about assisting others who were not in any real danger at all. Some have made a tradition of this electoral poor mouth and become such quota sitters that in area where once their party challenged for two seats they are now fighting it out over the one (Kerry North is an example of this for FF, Galway West for FG).

So in the DSW situation outlined above where the 6% is evenly distributed would most likely not happen at all. Instead, we would get the following.

FF Pat Gallagher 20.72% 0.87
FF Mary Coughlan 15.36% 0.81
FG Dinny McGinley 12.29% 0.49 (18.29% 0.49)
FG James White 13.13% 0.53 (19.13% 0.53)

SF Pearse Doherty 7.57% 0.30 (13.57% 0.30)
IND Joe Kelly 8.67% 0.35
IND Thomas Pringle 7.38% 0.30
Lab Séamas Rodgers 3.03% 0.12
SF Tom Dignam 3.18% 0.13
IND Gwen Breslin 2.67% 0.11

In this situation Coughlan could possibly not be saved. Note the drop we are talking about from 42% to 36% is not as great as some of the polls are currently predicting.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Political compasses

You are a

Social Liberal
(76% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(33% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

I have to say I have my doubts about this one, there again it is an American one and from an American perspective perhaps I am a democrat.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

1140 days to go

Not a lot to report that would be interest to the casual viewer though I've been given some considerable pause to wonder if the political life is worth anything when you see behaviour like that at the PD conference where policies are recycled in such a brazen manner.

The Pretty Desperate Partyif you ask me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

In the future there will be dinosaurs

I need to blog more, or write more and perhaps at a later date convert that writing into blog entries at least.

There was an interesting discussion, or it was the beginning of an interesting discussion about pensions in Ireland on Q&A last night .

Part of the fiction around pensions is that the income people get from their pension is the return on some investment that was made on their behalf. In the public system what happens is that what you as S. TaxPayer pay in PRSI goes start out the door into the pocketboook of O. Pensioner. This is how it has been since state pensions were first introduced in Ireland as part of Lloyd George progam back in 1908 i think it was. The state started to collect money off people and pay it out to the old on the basis that the people they were collecting it off would get a pension in turn when it was their time.

Interestingly, many of those who would have been collecting in the 1950s/1960s were shuffled off this mortal coil by the Great War, so that helped to balance the books a bit.

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