Sarah Carey has a useful piece in today’s Irish Times.  She deals with (and comes out against) the suggestion that emigrants should (even if they don’t pay Irish taxes) have a vote in Irish elections. I find it incredible that votes for emigrants is being seriously suggested, given that (a) the Irish diaspora is very large relative to the size of the resident population and (b) non-residents wouldn’t have to live with the fiscal consequences of decisions made by the politicians they would help to elect – a basic unfairness.

Votes for non-tax-paying emigrants is another example of woolly thinking by the chattering classes, based on sentiment rather than practical reality.    If we are going to make changes to our electoral laws, then we should instead focus our energies on changing our system to one that will help reduce the impact of clientelism and parish pump politics – such as the one suggested recently by former Attorney-General John Rogers.

An extract from Sarah Carey’s article:

There has to be a mechanism whereby those who vote have to consider the personal consequences of that vote. Living here means you have to live with your decision. Sadly, you have to live with other people’s decisions too but that’s another day’s work.

I like too the guiding principle of “no taxation without representation”. It’s not reasonable that people who don’t pay taxes to the State should be allowed to have a say in how those taxes are collected and distributed. Those living in Ireland, no matter how poor, will pay tax, directly or indirectly.

If we are to change this system and insist that citizenship and not residency is the basis of the franchise, the right to vote must come with some corresponding obligations. Paying tax is the obvious choice.

We know of course that in the American War of Independence, the rallying cry “no taxation without representation” helped to bind together the insurgent forces.  However, thinking about the words quoted above, I wonder did the sub-editors mistakenly amend what I suspect Sarah intended to write in the second paragraph.  If she had written “no representation without taxation”  instead of “no taxation without representation”, it would have made more sense!

In passing, I note that a wicked friend of mine opposed the election of Mary McAleese as President of the Republic of Ireland: his reasoning was that the principle of “no representation without taxation” should apply and, as Mrs McAleese was tax-resident in a “different jurisdiction” (ie the United Kingdom), she should not be our most exalted representative.

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We used to mock the Greengrocer’s Apostrophe, where simple plurals were adorned with a redundant piece of punctuation (such as “Twelve apple’s for €3”).  If that wasn’t bad enough, two years ago I started to spot an even worse solecism: the use of an apostrophe in the third person present tense of a verb.  The first hair-raising example I spotted was in an advertisement in the Sunday Tribune T2 section on 13th September 2009, where we were told that “The Gate Theatre Celebrate’s [sic] Friel”.  The Irish Times joined in the fun last year in its TV listings for 15th June,2010 where we were informed (in relation to a World Cup match) that “the likelihood of another shock look’s [sic] slim”).

Today I received an e-mail from AIB Global Treasury Services informing me that “Euro Edge’s [sic] Back From One Month High”, reproduced below.

It’s bad enough that our taxes are being used to keep these people in their well-paid jobs.  The least they could do is avoid grammatical or punctuation howlers in their communications with the outside world.  It  reminds me of AIB chief executive  Colm Doherty’s misuse of the word “Fulsome”  last September.

Here’s an extract from a piece in today’s Irish Times .  Comment is superfluous, except to say that here is another example of how reckless failure to effect change in our institutional structures is having deleterious consequences for the well-being of our nation. 

STUDENTS IN one of Ireland’s largest teacher training colleges spend too much time studying religion, according to a report.

Trainee primary teachers at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick also suffer from programme overload, it said – many do not have time “to critically reflect on their professional development and practice”.

The report from the Teaching Council – the professional body for teachers – said the time allocated for religion in the college was four times that for science.

While the report welcomed the fact student teachers have access to the Certificate in Religious Education on an optional basis, it was concerned at the amount of time allocated to religious education within the Bachelor of Education (B Ed) programme, in the context of the overall number of contact hours available.

For example, attention should be given to the fact that subjects such as science, social, personal and health education (SPHE), geography and history are currently allotted 12 hours each, as compared with the 48 hours each allotted to other subjects such as visual arts, religious education and múineadh na Gaeilge.”

The report is certain to revive controversy regarding the huge influence of the Catholic Church in teacher training. The certificate in religious studies is a compulsory requirement of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference for teachers working in Catholic-managed primary schools.

These comprise more than 90 per cent of schools in the Irish system.

Some, however, have questioned whether State-funded teacher-training colleges should still require all students to complete a course in religion.

The most recent post on the blog of BBC Newsnight’s economics editor Paul Mason is called “Timetable of the euro-showdown” and is very informative, albeit slightly worrying.

 As an aside, it includes this quote: “So the difference in this phase of the crisis is that what is driving the problem is not economic collapse and abject political mis-accounting (as per Greece) nor the collapse of a kleptocratic banking and property elite (as per Ireland), but collapsing confidence in the Eurozone’s authorities.”

Interesting to see Auntie Beeb’s man describing what we had as a kleptocracy.

Mary Hanafin, supposedly one of the front-runners in any battle to take over leadership of Fianna Fáil, has revealed in comments to the Irish Times not only that she is unsuited to a leadership role,  but also the dismal state of our national politics.

Ms Hanafin said she had taught in Blackrock for 17 years and had a very strong base there.  In her 13 years as a TD she had “absolutely worked every day of it, with every group, every school, every community, every church fair, every everything. I mean, this has been my life”.

These revealing remarks again demonstrate that we are electing messenger boys/girls to Dáil Éireann, who love the feeling of power that being a TD entails, but have no guiding principles as to what should be done with that power.  Have you any idea, dear reader, what Ms Hanafin stands for politically, other than getting elected and helping her party retain power? 

I am more than ever convinced that our current electoral system is unfit for purpose, in that it produces TDs who are good at local stroke-pulling to win votes, but have little grasp of vital macro issues.  The standard of debate in Dáil Éireann is as a result execrable, and it is futile to expect such politicians to carry out their role as legislators with any degree of competence or any degree of independence from the Executive.  It is not stretching things too far to say that the genesis of our recent economic collapse lies in our persistent unwillingness or inability to elect serious, intelligent politicians.

In the same Irish Times article, fearing she may have given the game away, Ms Hanafin tries to recover ground with her parting comments, which seem to contradict her above assertion of parish-pump primacy:

“The next election is about the future of the country and the economy.    It’s not about the Dún Laoghaire baths or the 46A [bus],” Ms Hanafin said.

Too late, Mary.

This from the Guardian on 12th December:   

Climate change: human numbers don’t add up

The best way to cut emissions is to have fewer babies – but you won’t find it in the Cancún bulletin, or any politician’s vision ….  China’s “one child” policy – which may have stopped 250-400 million births, on official calculations – is not a polite subject for discussion anywhere in the west. Indeed, it’s often lumped into Beijing’s long list of human rights abuses. David and Sam, Ed and Justine, have their “happy events”.  Some year soon, perhaps, William and Kate will join in.  But set all that alongside LSE research last year for the Optimum Population TrustIt costs £5 on family planning to abate a tonne of CO2 – against £15 for wind power and £31 for solar power. In short, too many happy events equal global misery. It’s the harsh truth where Cancún communiques fall silent.

There are some areas where democracy can’t tread, some subjects too vexed for manifesto treatment. So we’re left with very modest proposals indeed; with Cancún, small headlines and small reasons to be cheerful.

Previous posts on this topic are here, here, and here.  Stop me if I’m becoming a bore.  But isn’t this about the most important issue we face today?

An unemployed professional man recently applied for a position in NAMA, and was interviewed.  He expected to be asked at some stage what his salary expectations were for the position, and so had rehearsed this conversation.  As he wanted the job, he had decided to pitch himself at a reasonably competitive level of €75,000 to €80,000 annually, taking into account the nature and extent of his professional experience to date.

Imagine his surprise, therefore, when (a) salary was not discussed, (b) he was in due course told he had been successful in his job application and (c) the starting salary would be €150,000.

It is believed that the chief executive of NAMA Brendan McDonagh earns about €500,000 annually.