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Economics has a lot to say about market failure, its causes consequences and resolution.  The government know these. Indeed, at the cabinet table sits a man with formal economic training, in R…

Source: Ireland- subsiding housing market failure

Having been involved and currently involved in a few campaigns, I am curious as to the real benefit of the Social Media as opposed to face to face critical discussion. The derisory nature or lack of debate is something which concerns me. Speculation about the SOS (Save Our Services Campaign) and how we are or are not doing things by those who haven’t engaged or showed up to a meeting, yet can snip from the side-lines is something that jars me.

We often see this in campaigns and unfortunately there will always be differing opinions on how best to tackle a certain issue, but there is a basic strength in the collective that can be drawn from. To-date the campaign has got its requisite thumbs up (likes on social media) and garnished support from the wider population locally.  However this must be taken in context of the mighty keyboard.  It’s unfair to say that this is the only thing to come from the social media space as its really not.

 

Where does social media fit in this era? It’s used for many to spout what I call google facts, which I have to say is often incorrect as Google only report what you or I put on it.  To this end, I have seen umpteen incorrect articles on not only hospitals and health care but also how best to challenge something of injustice within communities.  It is useful to get support in the broad spectrum of media congestion, The Mary Boyle story by Gemma Doherty for instance.  This story whilst followed by many of us for some time, really only hit the high notes of a campaign after the online YouTube video was released.  Until then many people didn’t hear of the case.  What it has brought is, and its not exclusive to that campaign, the nastiness of the few.

 

As someone who has been on the wrong end of this for things I have said and done down through the years, its disturbing how someone credibility can be torn to shreds on social media, no matter how the or what medium they utilise to redress this. I would like to point out that I am not defending those whom this has been thrown against, namely politicians and the state organisations, but in terms of how does anyone really get their credibility back when completely falsely accused.

A case I only know of through the media, the Ian Bailey Case, seems case in point. This person has never been convicted of anything in Ireland yet is shunned by many.  His case and its current pending French Legal Challenge has largely gone off the radar in twitterland and facebookers.  Why?

 

In foreign countries social media which was used to gather people to congregate and oppose oppression was used recently by the Turkish Prime Minister (via Face Time on an iPhone) to rise the people to overthrow a supposed coup. Whilst admirable to use this medium, it was also hypocritical given he himself opposes most from of Social Media and controls the vast majority of it thought government sanctions and blocks.

Pokemon Craze has seen aimless people behave almost abnormal in the search for a virtual image in their locality. Where does this ultimately begin to level out and people regain some sense of reality and what is real in their lives.  It also fair to say, why am I even writing this as who will read it let alone agree with it, never mind take it as absolute fact and most definitely read this in the spirit it was intended.

A muse to far, or a slanderous piece that can be litigated against by someone. So what’s the real life context for Social Media, maybe split the terms and leave it at that, 1) Social and 2) Media.

I have just collected my canvas cards for the coming local elections.  As the title of this suggests the work continues for many of us have been trying to effect any positive change on the area (indeed country) for some time.

For the political parties their message is similar to the rest of us bar the simple difference in that we can offer a real alternative as opposed to the same old party political bs we have now become accustomed to.

Hope this local elections campaign will shake up the system as it needs a massive overhaul and I don’t think there is the political amongst the parties to adopt real meaningful change.  Lets see how we fair.Image

Some of my previous blogs were rants and ravings regarding all that was wrong or in my opinion negative.  I hope this will as my card suggest remain positive and strive for this.  Should the parties decide to open up the debate then I will gladly engage and let people really know what has been happening over the past 5-10 years. 

Enjoy the read and all comments and suggestions welcome.

Alan……………..

Election 2014

With all that goes on around a busy persons life, you’d have to wonder why they would take on another task.

You know what they say, if you want something done, ask someone busy.  As I type this I am flat out and have time to announce that I am standing in the Local Election in May of this year.

Press releases went out this morning and we’ll see what the reaction is.  So far anyone who is remotely into politics has contacted me to wish me well, but what was scary was the lack of engagement with the indifferent voter / electorate.  There was a whimper of a “you are mad….trying to change that system…you’re mad…” going on in the locality.  Some want to support you, but are afraid to show their colours and be seen to go against a party.  Well newsflash folks, time to grab this moment and walk with me on this journey to “putting the people first” and electing all our hope and desires and seeing them implemented and voted for at each opportunity.

That’s my first bit of wordpress writing for a bit but I will have to be more regular with the election coming up.  Best go and get elected, ohh to be upbeat!!!!!

2012 MY YEAR REVIEWED

2012 MY REVIEW:

What a year 2012 has been!  It has thrown up many a good and bad thing in equal measures.  For many we can eloquently rhyme out all the bad that has happened in Irish life this year from the introduction of the Household Charge to the recent Budget which is viewed as regressive.

What may not be so evident are the Good things that happened in 2012.  All those stories that emanated in local communities that don’t make national airwaves have struck chords.  For me the Olympics and in particular one young lady made me proud to be Irish, Katie Taylor.  I watched grown men / women cry when she took that elusive gold medal for Ireland.  I shed a tear myself not just at the win, but for the fact of us being allowed to be joyous for something at last that didn’t include some payoff or political intervention.

This journey with Katie from the first bout to the last was the only singular act to lift a nations spirits to which nothing else achieved or even came close to doing so.  We watched from all corners of the country at “…our wee Katie” take on the best the world had to offer and she rose to meet and overcome all obstacles to claim the adulation of nation indeed the world.  Being proud was an understatement.

From the national high to the national low, POLITICS.  Have we ever been served by politicians as underwhelming as the current crop.  I watched in shear pain at the lack of connection our elected (and we elected them) representatives had with their people.  At each and every turn this year they removed themselves even more from the ethos of what being a representative stood for e.g. represent US.  This disconnect proved critical and will continue to prove critical for all parties in 2013.  Not wishing to turn back time, but I’m reminded by the litany of phrases of “…Stable Government to have Stable markets…” and “…we need stable politics for the country…”.  What is proven is that we received neither in my opinion.

Labour will be the greens in electoral terms.  Fine Gael will be the largest party as nothing seems to shake the party faithful which seems very like the Finna Fail of the past, worrying.

Finna Fail are rising again, not for the extensive leadership skills of the Mr Martin, but as a consequence of the poor government decisions.  Sinn Fein are hovering up the populist stance at every opportunity and doing little on the ground, bar readying themselves for any future election.

The independents are doing a soso job.  The good of deputy Ross the not so good of deputy Wallace.  What I do predict is that there will be more and more independents showing their political prowess in 2013 to stand for the local election in 2014.

Yes there are many many things that we personally overcame or succumbed to this year, the passing of family, friends and colleagues.  The illness that struck down young and old, the rich and poor and all sexes.  The new ways we tried to live our lives with less money and pay our bills by falling into arrears with one or the other.

What I do have is a sense that, we as a people are still here, we are still waiting on the turnaround in the economy, we are still living and we aren’t going away.

2012 will stand out for if nothing else, we as a people are still wanting BETTER.  Lets cross our fingers and hope against hope that you and yours can realise this.

The Minister for Public Expenditure in his infinitive wisdom has signed a statutory instrument in law that TD’s will have their expenses increase by approx €26,000 per annum.  The figure for Ministers increases is not readily available.

Fundamental objections to this have not arisen as this instrument went unnoticed by the majority of elected representatives and the wider media in general.  The information came in an article in the Irish Independent of Thursday 12 April 2012, yet no official communication came from the Department responsible, nor has any official statement been made to justify this increase.

 

This seemingly unnecessary increase has not given credible explanation as to why this was necessary.  No proof that indeed this additional increased payment was sought or needed.  No rationale that necessitated this increase therefore in my opinion its inexcusable.  Do TD’s work more now than they did some 20 /30 years ago – DEBATABLE.  Do they need additional money to communicate with their constituents – ask Angus O Sn Sinn Fein TD in Dublin, he could answer this better than I could.  Do they require more financial instruments to propagate incoherent messages which now seem their main objective, maybe!

 

But surely this payment, strikes at the core of the minister inability to judge the mood of the people, let alone his capability to complete the Role of managing the Public Expenditure portfolio.  We can make allowances for ill judged comments or genuine mistakes, but to sign this into legislation whilst sitting at the cabinet table to encourage austerity is frankly absurd.

What is extremely worrying is that in this time of austerity, when people across our beautiful land are struggling to make ends meat or survive on ever depleting social protection incomes is the insensitivity of such a move.  It surely wouldn’t find favour in many sectors and judging by the distinct lack of information on this shows that the “cute hoar” of politics has not gone away.  Corruption was endemic in politics for years, now it falls under the guise of Government Business, something I find completely contravening what we as society deserve.

Judge for yourself!

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/editorial/retrograde-step-on-tds-expenses-3079719.html

 

RISE UP or FALL

Regardless of your view on Irelands prospects as a viable entity in euro and world economies, the immediate concern is if its viable for the people at home to survive.

For the last two years our government, rightly or wrongly, have maintained an Austerity plan to quell European worries about possible collapse of financial systems.  Critical thinking suggests “we don’t have the money hence we should cut our cloth to suit and maintain our commitment to the European project”.  Economic thinking suggests simply “we will need another bailout as government policy is fatally flawed”. Humanist thinking suggests “we have lost the fabric of what we are as an Irish nation and we need to look after our own before we can look after anyone else”

 

I wont go into other theoretical concepts such as Marxist, neo liberalism et al as most are polar apart and at times seem little relevance to the Irish collective in modernity.

 

What has become very evident in recent times, is that the Irish people do not vent their anger in a constructive collective.  I say collective as we don’t see campaigns joining up to strengthen their voice.  They hold small, sometimes menial, rallies of a few hundred all over the country which prove nothing but to highlight that they are all speaking on their own issue.

Example, 200 school children and 100 parents protest at the cuts to education in West Donegal.  Approximately 150 protest another day in Letterkenny against austerity. Five people walk to Dublin to protest at austerity.  These are all prime examples that no collective strategy is being offered.

 

Disjointed campaigns don’t work. Protests of this calibre don’t work as previous experience shows.  Do I castigate those who are trying to actively engage the mindset of the people, no.  I applaud them, however, I do feel that if they put their minds together and their resources then a protest worthy of the problems in their entirety would make someone somewhere take notice.

Imagine this;  If all the current protestors, campaigns and angry citizens joined forces and came together on the one day to protest, chances are tens of thousands would marching and causing media, politicians, policy makers to sit up and take notice.  Have I protested at the cuts, yes.  Where there a large group to support this, NO.  Why?  Having suggested to protestor organisers to hold off on the date and ensure that the maximum turn out possible would be on another date and that asking other like minded groupings to become involved, I was met with the singular word, NO.  They wanted their own spotlight which indecently turned out to be a dimly lit match.  Did it prove anything, YES.  It proved that about 70 were standing alone and no others were supporting.

 

All the above only proves that the collective must be the format for future protesting.  It also irks me to hear the term “None Violent Conflict / Protest” suggesting that another possible resort is to in-act violence.  It’s a Protest, nothing more, nothing less.  Its primary aim is to build something of a movement to engage the wider society to join, support and indeed become actively involved.  The objective is to change things for the better.

 

With the Irish people’s ever scepticism of who to believe, who to follow and what should be done to change things for the better, we as a people are somewhat like a boat endlessly floating on any current without a rudder. This only serves to instil further scepticism and disengagement of the people.  It does however strengthen the hand of the government when such a lack of a cohesive movement means they can almost do what they like as no constructive opposition or message is being received loud and clear fro the people.

 

If we don’t Rise Up in a positive and constructive manner, then one option is to Fall.  The later may just be the catalysts to affect the change we all desire.  By then the will of those may be too diminished to proactively transform our country back to one of the people and for the people.

Nearly half a million are unemployed in Ireland today.  Of those there are many experts in various sectors, construction, teaching and many other professions.  So when if comes to drawing up a plan to address the issues facing the unemployed, who should we involve?

 

Having watched many programmes such as the Fontline, Prime-time (both RTE) and the Vincent Browne Show (TV3) I often wonder why they invite speakers who are either politically elected or those from a pure economic background.  When do you watch any of these “current affairs” programmes and see an Unemployed Person on the panel?  I cant recall any.

Lets place a very simplistic example in train to flesh this out.

A case of the Health system is imploding and consultants are being let go from their employment.  One of the television stations is to complete a panel discussion.  Chances are they would have someone of a consultant standard to discuss this crisis on the panel.  If not they would have a Consultants union or senior representative on the panel.

Is it therefore not unreasonable to ask that such discussions on Unemployment should at the least merit having someone from the half a million unemployed speak as a panellist?  Surely YES.  But why don’t they ask for this.  Television, radio and print media frequently want to speak to someone who is unemployed to ask their opinion on matters pertaining to new initiatives or the jobs crisis in general, yet what some do is to do a “soft interview” and use this as anecdotal evidence of unemployment and then they get an “expert” panel discuss the problem.

 

It is this very point that vexes me. I appreciate that many unemployed don’t want to speak publically about their situation not only for fear of how people would respond to them or make them feel even less valued, but also as the strong likelihood that Social Protection would come down on them in what ever way they can.  It’s almost like years gone by when you wouldn’t complain about a Garda as you could bet that they (the Gardai) would get you some way.

 

We have a group of so called experts exulting how to tackle the crises that is Unemployment.  Recently I watch as a Minister, T.D., another T.D., and an Economist discussed the merits of a new Government initiative to get the country, not working, but to manage the welfare system.  This specific topic of how best to manage this is primarily why its not helping the most vulnerable in society.  They cant agree who is best to tackle the problem, let alone if they have the skill set to do so properly.  In addition they still haven’t tackled the lack of a joined up system, which they have spent over a year on to engage this “target audience”

 

So if you’re unemployed you must wait until they get their house in order to then begin to address the issues.  Least we forget, the unemployment ever increasing figures have been on this trend for over four years and nothing has changed.  Apologies, one thing has changed there are renaming FAS to something else that will have the same people as during the boom and the same silly theory of how best to do anything, which has failed miserably.

 

The expert’s sphere of unemployment is those experiencing it, the UNEMPLOYED.  The myriad of issues facing families and individuals are so complex and different that it should be them that are engaged in panel discussions.  Not merely to give their side of the story, but most importantly to bury the incorrect myths and negative image society have today of the unemployed.  Society mistaken believed that we have nothing to offer.  With half a million people unemployed now it’s one of the largest bodies and sectors in the state and now is the time to respect our opinion.  Now is the time for society to face up to the fact that we do have something to offer and we are the experts in this field.

Frankly, I have issue with a TD getting approx €110,000 in wages and a television station who believes that they are better qualified to discuss the issues of people on low social welfare.  It also ilks me when I see an economist “comment” in factual terms on us when they have little real insight to the wider implications we face on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.  Its not just about money!  How would they like if I were on a programme to discuss the problems that many of them created and provide, as they often do, little of any real understanding to the problem.  They would laugh or get angry as who would I be to comment constructively on their problems.  Well I do the same, laugh or get annoyed at them doing the same thing to us on programmes every week as they misguided feel they are the UNEMPLOYMENT EXPERTS!

Gender Quotas:

There is a feeling that the lack of women in political circles is detrimental to the political democracy of Ireland and that parity should be a real goal to be achieved.  This parity would most likely take the form of ensuring quotas are introduced.  The reality is that draft legislation is on it way and has been in the offing for some time now.

Does it actually answer the democratic deficit or will it really ensure that more female politicians are elected. Many seem to think so, but what do you think.  The debate has been strangely held prominence within the political arena with some support from various specific interest groups.  The debate has yet to stir the nation to converse in all regions of the country as to the merits of this.  Yet it stills angers the proponents of this legislation and supporters of the quota system that the message isn’t getting out their as they would like or indeed registering with the parties they want to adopt it.

Now the move is on by parties to align themselves with this quota system, i.e. they’re jumping on the bandwagon to make themselves look good and show that they were always in favour of this.  Fine Gael sent directive back in the early part of 2002/03 to their constituencies to select a female candidate.  Whilst this didn’t cause consternation, there was murmuring as to why this was.  Finna Fail also met with consternation at selection conventions that the party hadn’t selected enough female candidates.  They eventually were brow beaten into selecting a number of female candidates. The results of each party after the selections was that both had few female elected.  Many ordinary party members were left fuming that the various party head quarters were sending dictates that cost many as they believed good candidates not to be selected.

Regardless of their favour the fact remains that there aren’t enough women politicians.  The usual reasons flouted in various circles suggest that politics is a male dominated practice and they don’t want women involved.  This might have been prevalent in the 40’s to early 80’s but since there has never been, from I have seen, any attempt to stop a person running for election because of their gender.

Gender quotas also impose a construct on society when there may be no necessity to do so.  Imagine the scenario where a person wants to get elected in their county for the dail and they are accepted as the best person for the party locally.  This imposition might suggest that they don’t run if they are male for to select a female. Not only does the positively discriminate for the female but also discriminates against the male.

The Irish Constitution under Article 16.1.3 suggests

that no law should be enacted that places any citizen under a disability or incapacity for membership of the Dail on the grounds of GENDER…

Some of the pros and cons that should be discussed further;

  • Quotas are against the principle of equal opportunity for all, since women are given preference over men.
  • Quotas are undemocratic, because voters should be able to decide who is elected.
  • Quotas imply that politicians are elected because of their gender, not because of their qualifications and that more qualified candidates are pushed aside.
  • Introducing quotas can create significant conflicts amongst gender specific groups e.g. Womens Groups / Mens Groups

Pros

  • Quotas can compensate for actual / perceived barriers that prevent women from their fair share of the political seats.
  • Women have the right as citizens to equal representation.
  • Women’s experiences are needed in political life.
  • Election is about representation, not educational qualifications.
  • It is in fact the political parties that control the nominations, not primarily the voters who decide who gets elected, therefore quotas are not violations of voters’ rights.
  • Introducing quotas may cause conflicts, but may be only temporarily.

No having perused the above, replace the ‘Women’ words with Men and you get the sense of if this is actually fair.  The Suffragettes who burned their bra’s to get fairness wanted just that, fairness.  They didn’t want additional exceptions, they didn’t want the system to discriminate against them, they wanted the same as was available to men.

Is there anything to fear from this imposition of gender quotas.  If we are to accept that women get paid less for comparable jobs that men do then there may be exploitation of women in this area as well.  Go into a local supermarket and you see the laws that have failed in action everyday.  Minimum wage imposed on employers always a moot point for me.  Now we see the youngest legal workers in most shops, why because they cost less than older experienced workers.  Sectoral dominance or I should say cultural norms is also a problem.  Childcare has few male workers, nursing has few male workers even community development also has few male workers.  I haven’t seen anything being introduced to balance this imbalance.

Further to exemplify this.  When out of work one time and eager to complete any course to stay active, the only course available was hairdressing.  I asked the FAS person that I would like to apply to do this course and was told “…no you cant as you’re a man…”  I didn’t seek to site gender equality or that legislation should be changed.  Maybe I should have, but I got on with it.

There has been many actions proposed internationally to address the gender inequality in varying situations.  Few have had any real impact as the quota was not the overriding impetus for increases.  In fact most increases came as a consequence of the actual conditions being changed or improved.

Fact:    gender quotas will not allow for election / promotion of the best candidate

Gender quota only promotes Women to position and not men

Gender quotas have been got rid of in the majority of countries they were implemented

Gender quotas only guarantee a woman will be there regardless of her abilities

I am against gender quotas primarily as they are often implemented the wrong way.  Where political systems have seen increases in the female representations is when

  1. The condition of participation is broken down.  E.g. barriers for single female mothers
  2. Child care conditions as of right are in place
  3. Cultural norms must be challenged
  4. Tokenism is over used as an option and should be stopped

The assertion that we elect “THE BEST PERSON” should be our focus.  If we want equality, we shouldn’t impose something that favours one gender over the other.  Fair policies can be implemented, but imposing a blanket policy wont necessarily help women enter political life.  It may stigmatise those who do get elected, that they only got in because they were a woman.  I want the best people in regardless of gender.  I have seen attempts to put women into political life as elections that if anything pushed their cause back years.  Tokenism will be par for the course with political elites unfortunately.  Ensuring that we have equal opportunities is more important.  E.g. if you were an unemployed person chances are if someone stands against you who is a Teacher then you wont get elected.  Generalisation yes, but factual in many constituencies.

The mood of late has focused on how we as a country can claw its way from recession.  There is a palpable anger with the political class today.  Anger derived from broken promises and lumping austerity on all of us.  During the last two General Election campaigns candidates waxed lyrical about reform of the institutions they served in.  However they stuck to what political reform would be in their specific interest.  Yes some mentioned reducing the amount of politicians, some even went as far to suggest that ministerial cars would be abolished.  This is not reform, this is a piecemeal approach to quell the annoyance felt by ordinary voters.  While all this was easily achievable with a stroke of a pen, the substantive issue were left to be pondered.

a)     How do we make politics relevant to the people?

b)     How does the body politic instil a sense of “politics is needed” or TRUST?

c)     How can politicians act to reform their own jobs in a unambiguous way?

No party really explained how they were going to do this.  Each placed some lip service in their respective manifestos, all of which I have read.  The apathy people have for politics isn’t necessarily poor, it’s the POLITICIANS we have issue with.  We almost pay homage to politicians that they and they alone can do more for us than ‘us’ ourselves.  One economist mentioned during a road show that “…people must stop bowing to politicians and get on with their lives to get things done…”  Are we as society to blame for our reliance on the Td or local councillor?  Have we put far too much emphasis and given too much credence to the ability of a Td or councillor to help us?  These questions are not for answering here.

 

Below is a draft or basis for changing the institution of politics as we know it. Some suggest getting rid of the Senate as a means of reform and capital saving will be huge.  But frankly this will do little if anything to save us real money when you look at the bigger picture of the financial mire we are in.

I would implement a more radical plan for the Senate and it doesn’t involve abolishing it.  The Senate in my eyes serves no discernable purpose.  We as a nation don’t elect them and they don’t have much say in what happens.  This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t good people in there, or to say that they couldn’t do more, but merely abolishing it doesn’t serve anything only to save pittance.

The Senate should or could be where we elect individual monitors from the public pool of excellence.  There are fantastic people in Ireland and many have never had the opportunity to stand for public office, this would be their chance.  The primary remit would be to keep a watching brief on Government matters in a few key areas.

(1) watch how the budget spend or cuts are proposed prior to full budget implementation.  This will, put simply, stop the debacle over cuts to people with disabilities being rolled back on after the fact.  My point is it would have been discussed and though through before being announced.

(2) The monitors can keep an eye on how the government is performing overall.  If the monitors, who have no vested interest and importantly political allegiance, can recall the Dail for to debate on matters of importance. E.g. during holidays or at times such as last winter when the country ground to a halt, they could be reconvened at very short notice.

(3)  The monitors would provide impartial guidance to the government on most matters thus doing away with special advisors.  Given these would be elected people in what is the UPPER house, they would advise on matters of importance now and matters into the future.  Each elected person would have their own portfolio of sorts and could relay information of relevance to the appropriate minister and work closely with colleagues across the Dail & Senate.

(4) Probably the most important of all.  We heard, prior to the last election, how stable government would provide stability to the markets.  There was a time when this was critical, but only in the context of a country experiencing a dictatorship, army control etc.  So this in the Irish context was utter Bunkam, as far as the current system is concerned.  It provided nothing of the sort.  This is were the important element would be.  The monitors would in good conscience submit as to weather a government should step aside or continue in power.  They could suggest a mid term election or even go as far to impeach someone and force an election.

This would move us away from the majority a party holds in government to, at times strangle and maintain power. It would also keep a watching brief to stop whatever government wants to implement legislation or basically whatever they want that would be deemed to significantly be in the governments benefit.

They could also, if the scope was widened, become the authority on should we need referenda on topics of national importance.  Give guidance and make appropriate the legislation to reality, sorry real lives.

 

The senate would be truly a worth while venture.  Non political and impartial.

 

The Dail itself would also need radical overhaul.  Party politics played out in Orichetas Report is sometimes very hard to watch.  We have ministers sitting on their own, replying to comments / questions from other singular T.d’s across an empty chamber.  Simply being in Leinster house does not mean that you can feck off to your office and ring a few people, why bother having secretaries then.  No, if elected then you should be in the chamber listening to the debates that have implications for many.  The format of debates I will get to shortly.  If you were elected by the people to represent the people in Dail Eireann then you’d better sit in the chamber and represent them.

 

The Dail would sit 5 if not more days a wee, depending on the importance of certain issues.  5 days & late nights if need be.  Currently they sit Tuesday through Thursday and infrequently on Fridays.  No more in my reformed Dail.  You turn up Monday morning 8.30/9am and you are there to Friday evening when you then can go home to the family like many in Ireland have to do today to survive..  We call this a working week in normal society therefore our representatives will also perform the working week in the Dail, where they were elected to.

Td’s clinics and other public gathering for constituents can be organised around this and during other holiday breaks.  Holidays would also mirror ordinary working peoples schedules and this closing for months would stop immediately.

Debates and ministers questions currently happen in a very protracted manner.  Each speaker has minutes to question and comment and not everyone has untimed speaking rights in the Dail.  How seriously wrong is this?  Debates would now take the form of each minister being in chamber at an allotted time where all members of the house can question, comment and debate the matters in hand, overseen by the chairperson ‘Ceann Comhairle’. Open and free debate would then really take place.  E.g. Leaders questions would afford everyone the opportunity to question the Taoiseach, something that today is almost non existent unless you have agreed or nominated speaking rights or are a leader of an opposition party etc.

Motions for specific Debates would be handled by the Senate & Ceann Comhairle so important matters that arise can be discussed without delay.  It would not be the gift of the sitting government to adjudicate which topics are debated and when.

 

The actual make up of the Dail is purely for the public to decide.  Imagine this if you will.  A Dail made up of more independents than parties would make it something completely unusual.  The formation of a government would be bringing together independents based on, not who topped the poles, but on your field of expertise or talent.  This radical step would afford us decisions not based on what is best for our party or how it will make our party look, but on what is best for the people.  There individual performance can then be tracked better by the Senate / monitors and performance levels would possibly be higher.  Debates would be focused on the issues on not as we currently see, which party was to blame FF, FG labour etc and also the minister would not be fearful of backbenchers as they would all be individual members without the baggage of a parliamentary party to keep onside.  Given that no parties were to be bowed to, the individual, whilst monitored by the Senate, would be almost an employee of the state and we would get enhanced performance and none of the party political blame gaming that often overshadows debates.

 

The Ceann Comhairle would be elected by the Senate, giving the chair real impartiality.  The office would be filled by an elected representative separate from existing Td’s which would do away with the fact that the Ceann Comhairle doesn’t have to be elected in an General Election, thus nothing would be Guaranteed.  Simply, put another section on the ballot paper for Leader of the house and list the candidates.  Let us all have a say, thus no democratic deficit.

 

To ensure this enhanced democracy additional implementation methods for transparency, openness and fairness would be passed.  An individual citizens assembly would be proposed and enacted as soon as possible in each region of the country.  Regional assemblies would feed into a nationally convened assembly.  From this, recommendations for government and specific proposals to be acted upon by the Dail.  This mechanism provides local and national democracy in effect.  It has the capacity to look at regional variations and propose some initiatives to tackle specific problems.  The days of blanket policies to address the needs of a nations people doesn’t work.  This mechanism can afford variations to plans and seek political accountability through the Senate.

Dail select committees would be made up of half Dail members and half private / community individuals from various sectors.  E.g. Finance committee would have someone with expertise on the committee and be recompensed for expenses only, or a small appropriate fee given.  The appointment would be drawn from an open competition of applicants.  Vetting of each applicant could involve if they had political affiliation, serious convictions, publicised books or articles that were inappropriate.  In short anything that may bring them or the committee into disrepute would be a no no.

So I have covered some aspects of the Dail and Senate, more suggestions and ideas can be forthcoming from people, but this would go some way to creating real political accountability and possibly something we can have confidence and trust in.

 

This may all look like trying to dilute the political beliefs of the public at large.  It may be viewed as watering down someone’s party political passion, but the contrary applies.  I am not adverse to people being members of a political party or participating in the hustings for their political candidate.  What I am interested in is creating a balanced approach to governance of a nation.  If we as a society believe that politics can be of the people, for the people, then it should reflect this in its make up.  Otherwise we simply continue to fall into the existing system that many feel aggrieved about.

What is the cost of such ventures?  Firstly, there would be a benchmark set, reviewed regularly, that each Senate and Dail member would get approx €65,000 per year.  Their expenses such as lodgings whilst attending work would be subsidised in part only.  Mobile phone etc would be free as this is the least we should provide.  Attire such as suits would not receive subsidised cleaning bill.  Ministerial appointments would have additional benefits, as yet to be decided.  However the overriding theme for ministerial personnel would be the Honour of serving the people, not the monetary value it brings.  Pensions would be reduced to a significantly smaller amount and only payable when she / he / they retire at the age of 65.  Ministerial pensions would also be inline with these.  Why, well some of the best political minds may never get into a ministerial position so they should not benefit from a party system of the larger you are the better you will be paid.

The overall savings to the state wouldn’t be enormous, but it would be a significant start.  Over the term of a Dail sitting the monies saved would soon mount up.  All reform, bar complete downsizing, cost money.  There would be no actual cost to implement this, as the initial saving in the very short term would cover the implementation and consultation.

 

We can go further in terms of the office of the Presidency.  The president has relatively few powers, bar calling the council of state together and referring pieces of legislation back.  For approximately €300,000 in wages I think we can utilise this office somewhat better.  Firstly the wages are obviously too high and should be brought down by a minimum 40%.  This would still be higher than most world leaders.  The approx €300,000 in expenses would also be looked at, especially for foreign dignitaries coming here.  We can put on a show, but not to the millions it cost for Obama and the Queen.  The dividend has yet to be realised on these visits, so maybe it could break even remains to be seen.  The Aras would be utilised more formally for visits and for the government to utilise as well.  It’s a big house for one family unless you have 30 children.  Council of state would be regularly convened to trawl over the state of the nation and be in a position to come up with real recommendation for the Dail & Senate to action.  They would also work with the Citizens Assembly closely to ensure that thinking and actions are inline with the common good and provide a firm bases that if any proposal is made that it is indeed what the largest majority of the country wants.

 

All of this would take legislative change, but I believe the mood is right to at least consider these as proposals.  The finer detail regarding wages, performance indicators and other specifics can be determined later.  The basis of this document is to seek radical change, not for the sake of it, but because we deserve it.  If the body politic is serious about reform then they must implement serious proposals and not just pay lip service to it.  Parties have mentioned that they are serious about reform.  Abolishing or getting rid of something does not get rid of the substantive problem.  We don’t trust the body politic, we have little respect for political institutions and reform is always paltry in real terms.

What I have written above can not only reform the political system and institutions, but also give the people a real sense of inclusiveness in the making of this country again, at least from a political stand-point.  Politics is important in all our lives.  Political decisions are made daily and effect nearly everything in our lives from the tax we pay to the laws that are implemented.

Therefore we should contribute to this system more proactively.  Currently for much of the wider public their only involvement is a tick in a box during an election.  With between 40 to 50% of people not voting this creates an imbalance.  If this approx 40% were to vote maybe things in the political make up of the Dail might be different.

Nevertheless it should be imperative that we as a nation have a greater say in how we are governed.  Not for power sake, but to have a positive influence.  Democracy is often used as a stick to blame the political class.  Make democracy the instrument to enact real change.  This would give us the general public a sense of ownership and a feeling that politics is relevant in our lives.  Political reform is more than just the institutions, its about the mindset we have, good or bad, about politics in general.  From the stay at home unaged parent to the CEO of a multi national, their respective beliefs would be considered in equal manner, not dependent on what donation you give.

 

I have spoken about common sense before in other posts on this site and again I bang on again about this.  Common sense can prevail when current flawed thinking is laid to rest.  Political reform must be meaningful in all its remits and will take some time to implement.  If there is the political will amongst our current politicians then this will happen.  I wont say, it cant happen, nor will I say the will is not there.  The will of the people must be the overriding concern and for me anyway the time is right to do this now, not later, now.  My vote demands it….

Please feel free to discuss this, agree with it, condemn it, add to it, amend it, send it to friends.  Whatever you do consider what it could achieve for us all and the nation.

Alan Mc Menamin.