Could it happen?  Could Fianna Fáil be about to disappear as the dominant political party, and fade into obscurity?   We have seen such transformations before: the political scene in our closest neighbour was once dominated by the Liberal Party, but they declined rapidly into a marginal electoral force in the early decades of the last century.

However, one doesn’t have to go so far back to find a precedent for a political party collapsing almost overnight.  The story of the 1993 Canadian federal election should be enough to give Fianna Fáil loyalists nightmares.    Read the rest of this entry »

John Kay (in the Financial Times) writes about banks that are  “too big to fail”, and as usual is worth quoting :

Their activities underwritten by implicit and explicit government guarantee, it is increasingly business as usual for conglomerate banks. The politicians they lobby sound increasingly like their mouthpieces, espousing the revisionist view that the crisis was caused by bad regulation. It was not: the crisis was caused by greedy and inept bank executives who failed to control activities they did not understand. While regulators may be at fault in not having acted sufficiently vigorously, the claim that they caused the crisis is as ludicrous as the claim that crime is caused by the indolence of the police.

Make your mind up, Mary

19 October, 2009

Last Thursday, the Irish Times reported Minister for Health Mary Harney as saying that Professor Drumm’s proposed €70,000 bonus was in respect of 2007, not 2008, but that she accepted there could be some confusion as it was being discussed in the context of 2009.

She said the economic situation had clearly changed, but the decision to grant Prof Drumm a bonus was entirely a matter for the HSE board, in which she had total faith. Read the rest of this entry »

Two related news pieces….

Firstly, according to the Irish Times this morning, the number of prisoners in Irish jails has passed 4,000 for the first time in the history of the State, based on new Irish Prison Services figures.

Secondly, a “career criminal” who preyed on elderly people alone in their homes has been given an eight-year jail sentence, according to The Irish Independent  (13th October 2009).   Alice Connors (36) apparently had 86 (yes, 86) previous convictions — including 22 burglaries  — with victims aged from 60 to 84 years.  One is tempted to ask why somebody who has racked up so many convictions by the age of 36 was still at large.

 These reports set me thinking again about an issue that has always intrigued me. 

According to the World Prison Population List, for every 100,000 of population, Ireland in December 2008 had 76 people in prison (although presumably it is a bit higher today).  This compares with twice this number (153)  in England and Wales and no less than 756 in the United States.  These differences are dramatic.  But what causes them?

Read the rest of this entry »

Another Fás Tale

11 October, 2009

A friend of mine is in the restaurant business and swears the following is true.   I believe him.

One night last year, he was phoned  by his restaurant manager to get clearance on a strange request a valuable customer had made.  The customer was an executive in Fás, who had just hosted a lavish dinner for about 25 people in the restaurant, all paid for by Fás, and presumably validly so.

However at the end of the evening, when the bill (which was for about €2,500) was being settled, the executive asked asked the manager to add an extra €500 to the bill, and to give the exceutive a voucher for this amount in return, for his personal use.

Read the rest of this entry »

Good news: the Green Party has adopted electoral reform as one of its core policies, and is trying to get Fianna Fáil to buy into it as part of the new programme for Government.  The Greens say:

The Irish system of multi-seat constituencies elected on the single transferable votes carries with it considerable advantages. Representatives are close to the people who elect them, and smaller parties have a greater potential to elect their candidates through this system. On the negative side, there is concern about TDs being over-concerned with constituency matters at the expense of the national outlook. 

To counteract this we propose that a proportion of the seats be elected by a top-up procedure. For example, in a Dáil of 130 seats, 100 could be elected by local constituencies and 30 from the national lists of parties that have achieved at least 2% of the vote. In this way we would have deputies with both local and national perspectives.

This is exactly Read the rest of this entry »

Sometimes a sentence or a phrase jumps off the page (or increasingly these days, the screen) and sticks in the mind long after the overall sense of the article containing it has evaporated.  This can be for many reasons, but often it’s because a writer has efficiently encapsulated in a very few words a viewpoint or a conclusion that one has already arrived at, but which one has yet to express in a convincing manner.

For instance, in the Irish Times on Saturday, September 26, 2009, Eamonn Delaney wrote a review of Matt Cooper’s book Who Really Runs Ireland? The story of the elite who led Ireland from bust to boom… and back again.

It included this sentence: People welcome the Sunday Independent as an antidote to the Morning Ireland-Prime Time axis with its emotionalised news reporting, and soft ride for the trade unions and special-interest groups.”

Read the rest of this entry »