Brid Smith TD addresses Drimnagh residents on the proposed ‘carbon tax’

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I could have been at home watching Manchester United v Barcelona.  But I made myself a promise that I would make an effort to get more involved in local politics, and given the amount of signs I have seen around the area for this meeting in St John Bosco Youth Club, a mere ten minute walk from my front door, to not go would be to break that pledge.

The meeting was held by local councillor Hazel De Nortúin.  Now when I say ‘local’, she hails from Ballyfermot, yet she represents me as Drimnagh has been curiously cut in two and my house falls in the ‘Ballyfermot/Drimnagh’ zone.  Still, the very holding of this meeting shows that the councillor is willing to be involved throughout the ward.

Her party is People Before Profit.  I confess to knowing little about them, save for assorted Facebook posts, but I do know that their name itself is closely aligned to my politics so it was a safe bet that I would feel at home in this company.

The principal speaker was Brid Smith TD and the theme was ‘Why Carbon Tax Won’t Stop Climate Change’.  She began by highlighting the protest by schoolchildren all over the country, but particularly outside the Dáil. where over 15,000 were reported.

Deputy Smith also pointed to a poll which found that 39% of Irish people saw climate change as one of the most important issues of today, adding that while some might think that was a low percentage, she was actually encouraged by it.

She has recently been sitting on a Special Oirechteas Action Committee which followed on from a Citizens Assembly.  She referred to it as more of an ‘Inaction’ committee because it appeared that the decision to level the carbon tax on ordinary citizens was already made.

She claimed that the supposed thinking behind the tax was that if people’s habits could be changed, ie if we can move away from carbon-intensive forms of energy, then supposedly this would influence (‘by osmosis’ as she ironically called it) the large corporations.

An interesting plan if true…especially given that when it comes to distributing wealth, corporations tend to favour things going in the opposite direction.  When it comes to the carbon tax, should we call their plan “Trickle up?”

She also pointed out that even if carbon taxes did have some positive effect, they would never be enough to tackle climate change on their own, yet once implemented the government could well consider them to be a ‘catch all’ of sorts.  ‘The one tool becomes the only tool’.

Next the TD covered the whole area of ‘Just Transition’ – when she explained it I knew what she meant though I had never heard it called that before.  Basically when a society moves from one form of energy to another, care must be taken that the existing workers in the old service are offered the opportunity to move into the new field.  Seemingly People Before Profit have been working with Bord Na Mona workers in this area.

Apparently three of the main political parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour, along with the Green Party, are in favour of pushing ahead with this tax, which probably means it is likely to go through.

In the interest of fairness I took some time to go over the websites of various parties to see how they presented their policy (if any) on carbon tax and/or climate change in general…

FINE GAEL – banner on homepage #TogetherOnClimate Climate Action – when you click it you see 16 links under heading of ‘progress’ none of which refer to carbon tax.

‘carbon tax’ search produced links on Special Oireachtas Committee

FIANNA FAIL – No search facility. No mention of carbon tax under section ‘tackling climate change’

LABOUR – ‘Labour’s clear preference is for ring-fencing funds from carbon taxes to pay for home retrofitting, including in local authority housing, and other ways of reducing energy poverty’

SINN FEIN – ‘Imelda Munster has criticised the agreement…to increase carbon tax four fold’

GREEN – Cuffe : ‘The aim of the carbon dividend, or carbon cheque, is to change behaviour. By placing carbon taxes and giving back what is taken to households it provides direct incentives for people to move to low carbon heating.’

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS – can’t find policy on carbon tax but policy section shows they are keen to reduce emissions
RIGHT2CHANGE 10-Point policy programme – ‘A Progressive Government will make protection of the rights of Mother Earth a Constitutional Imperative’

‘The IFA is up in arms over suggestions that people should eat less meat and drink less milk. No doubt carbon taxes will be pushed also as a key part of this debate.’

‘Women make up 70% of farmers world-wide yet only own 2% of land…they are responsible for 90% of the caloric intake of the average family’

SOLIDARITY – nothing on climate change on ‘what we stand for’ page

…just to be clear, my research for the above information was not exactly extensive.  There are so many parties in the jurisdiction that it isn’t easy to keep up with them all.

As you can see my attention was drawn most to the Right2Change platform – the quotes above were taken from the Facebook page of Joan Collins TD.  I like the way they constantly use phrases like “Under a Progressive Government Ireland can…” because while that may be extremely aspirational right now, if we don’t discuss and use such terminology regularly, it could remain so.

But that’s not to say I was completely turned off the PBP folks just yet.  They passed around a page for names and addresses – I offered my information though I fell short of ticking the ‘Join’ box for now.

When the meeting was over a chatted for a few minutes and then left.  I was first to head for the door and Deputy Smith thanked me for attending.

I’m glad I did, and I look forward to following the progress of the PBP’s resistance to the introduction of the tax.

Next on this site I’d like to start covering the various candidates standing for election to the council in May.

#IANWAE

 

Shortage of water but no shortage of blame in Irish discourse

THE ISSUE

As the Irish heat wave continues, arguably the most contentious ‘establishment v majority’ issues in recent memory is anything but water under the bridge.

THE MEDIA

Article by Sarah Burns, Vivienne Clarke in Irish Times on July 3, 2018

Irish Water warns ‘nightmare scenario’ if no big rainfall in autumn

“We need sustained rain. Unless there is torrential rain we’re looking at a very dry autumn,” Irish Water managing director Jerry Grant said on Tuesday.

Article by The Green Party in GreenParty.ie on June 30, 2018

Greens: Heat-wave exposes the short-sightedness of Water Charge abolition

“Government capitulated to populism and now communities are paying the price…The reality is that as our climate changes, these water shocks will continue and we don’t have a plan to conserve, harvest or levy for the use of our most precious resource.”

Article by The Workers Party in WorkersParty.ie on July 2, 2018

Dublin water restrictions show up failure of Irish Water to tackle infrastructure

“The government wanted to use water charges to squeeze yet more money out of the same group of people – low- and middle-income workers. Once it became clear that was not going to be possible, the issue of upgrading our water infrastructure was conveniently dropped from the table.”

THE COMMENT

We normally base these posts on one piece of content but this time we have three to compare and contrast, and it’s on that old chestnut of Water Charges which was bound to rear its head with the spell of hot weather we’ve been having.

Given the Irish establishment was committed to toeing the EU line of introducing water charges for regular citizens, you’d imagine a water shortage followed by a heatwave would be the perfect opportunity for them to point the finger at the #Right2Water campaign.

But why should the government and/or mainstream media do this when they’ve the Green Party to do it for them?

As you can see by the above quote in the IT, they chose to simply report on a statement from Irish Water.  No comment, no pushback, no challenging questions, just your basic stenography article.

Now in fairness, you can see why the Greens would be in favour of charges, though I’d suspect that if they were the ones setting up Irish Water it would look much different and would tend to levy more responsibility on business than private users.  That said, I can’t say I’m happy with their ‘giving in to populism’ angle.

The #Right2Water campaign, as far as I’m concerned anyway, was about way more than water.  It was a bridge (pun half-intended) too far in a continuing government policy of austerity, and in the end public pressure won the day.  For now.

If Irish Water wasn’t set up to benefit the people instead of simply being another corporation for the government to cash in on down the line, there would still have been opposition to it but I reckon it would have been much more difficult to get such widespread support.

Unfortunately it’s all too easy to spin the ‘well we tried to do something, and the lefty public said no’ narrative, but while I’m hardly a fervent follower of the Workers Party, their quote seems to be the most accurate depiction of the situation.

Yes we need better water infrastructure, yes it has to be paid for, but until it’s done in such a way that the majority of citizens pay the bare minimum while the tab is taken up by citizens and companies that waste this valuable resource, I’m afraid the stalemate will remain.  JLP

#IANWAE

#Right2Water campaign’s victory over charges should at least earn them a right to reply on further water issues

THE ISSUE

The Irish establishment / government took quite a heavy beating on Water Charges, and the way this week’s shortages are being spun, it certainly looks like they haven’t let it go.

THE MEDIA

Article by Killian Woods [with reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald] in Fora.ie on March 5, 2018

Ireland’s ‘fragile’ water supply could make firms think twice about investing here

“Dublin Chamber chief executive Mary Rose Burke has said the restriction of water supply in the capital could make some companies looking to invest in Ireland reconsider their options.”

THE COMMENT

For full disclosure, I took part in #RightToWater marches and did not pay my charges so it’s pretty clear where I stand on the issue.  But this particular post is more about media coverage than it is the water issue.

Check out the linked article on Fora.ie, a business site which is part of the Journal.ie network.

While I understand that the focus of this site is what is going on in the business community, does that mean it should only ever offer their point of view on particular issues?

This is an article in which the Dublin Chamber of Commerce is effectively being given free reign to offer it’s own take on the restrictions recently put in place by Irish Water.  Forgive us for assuming a like-minded approach among the Chamber, the Government which took such a bad beating over water, and the jobs-for-the-boys private company which it created.

While they don’t actually state that water charges need to be reinstated, it’s not exactly well hidden between the lines.  If there’s not enough money to fix the water infrastructure, they claim, then there won’t be investment which in turn means no more jobs.  The implication is very clear.

All I want to do in this article is present a viewpoint from the other side, which I believe Killian Woods could have done.  And he wouldn’t even need to ask for a quote either…he could have copy/pasted from the Facebook page of any anti-austerity TD such as Paul Murphy :

The water shortages we’re experiencing are a consequence of long-term under-investment in infrastructure. The predictable attempts to use them as a new argument for charges have to deal with fact that London, which has meters and charges, has the exact same problem. The solution is investment, which should be funded by progressive taxation of profits, high income and wealth.

No prizes for guessing which side I’m on, but at least I have presented you with more than one viewpoint in my article.  JLP

#IANWAE

Economic ‘experts’ from the mainstream media act as though crony capitalism is the only game in town

THE ISSUE

We always need to be sceptical of the mainstream media, but arguably the area where we need to be more so than any other is that of economics.

THE MEDIA

Article by Dean Baker in Center for Econopic Policy and Research on February 21, 2018

It Wasn’t the Market that Made Elites Incredibly Rich, It was Elites Rigging the Market to Make Themselves Incredibly Rich

None of the rules we have in place that redistribute upward were given to us by the market. They were the result of deliberate economic policy.

THE COMMENT

When legislation is passed that cuts corporate taxes it is chiselled into concrete, yet when it redistributes wealth among the lower classes it is written on tissue paper.

The reason that quote is rather clunky is that it’s mine, and I’m far from a qualified economist, but FWIW I reckon the #AppleTax issue and way the Irish government protects its corporate tax rate are at the forefront of a status quo that is generally accepted as ‘untouchable’ and similar thinking exists in other western countries.

For that reason Baker’s quote from his article is what inspired me to write this post, but the wider point is that when it comes to economics we have to look beyond what the ‘experts’ put forward by the mainstream media say, and that is where the internet comes in.

I’m not saying we have to agree with the thoughts of people like Richard Wolf, but if we are to have a full discussion on any topic it seems a no-brainer to at least discuss the alternatives and even a massive crash like that we experienced ten years ago wasn’t enough to have us wondering if  allowing the top corporate players to run the economy wasn’t the best idea. Since then elected representatives who dare to oppose austerity are virtual outcasts both in the Dáil and in media coverage of same.

So that’s my point…but if you’re on for getting more specific, check out this Op-ed in the NYT and then read Baker’s reply.

While Economics is an academic field in its own right, there’s no reason why we the voters can’t educate ourselves to a decent standard on it once we know where to look, and more importantly, where to be sceptical.  JLP

#IANWAE

Notes from Dáil Leaders’ Questions – Wed Feb 21, 2018

Intro

Leaders’ Questions is arguably the most important weekly event in Irish politics, as the government must give answers on various topics to the opposition parties on live TV.  However, as it is held on a Wednesday just before lunchtime, its effects on the national political discourse is minimal.  Unfortunately we’re far more prepared for discussions on sports, soaps and reality shows than we are political issues.

In this new series on FPP we’ll be taking notes throughout both the Dáil session and RTÉ’s coverage, with much para-phrasing of course…

Pre-game

Host – Sharon Ni Bheolain

Panel – Rose Conway-Walsh SF

James Ward – Irish Daily Mail

Michael Lehane – RTE pol corr

Definition of unborn to be determined by Supreme Court

RCW – ‘It’s important to get it right’ – in favour of repeal

SNB – What’s the official SF position?

RCW – Our position is pro repeal.  We need an Ard Fheis to clarify 12 week issue

ML – March 6 is when referendum bill will be clarified

JW – no alternative to 12 week provision, possibly Tanaiste will provide one

SNB – re impasse on the north, SF delegation to meet PM

RCW – important to restore GFA institutions, draft agreement in place

SNB – what’s in the agreement? There have been leaks

RCW – leaks not helpful, important to focus on the entire package

SNB – many in south scratching their heads that Irish language act could hold up the talks despite your new leadership not speaking Irish

RCW – it’s about people’s right to have their Irish identity

SNB – do we have a number on speakers north of the border

RCW – I dont have them to hand, but it’s about the right to have your Irish citizenship recognized

Leaders’ questions

Micheal Martin – HSE decision to cut thousands using patches ‘Versatis patches’ these are people on chronic pain.  It was like shutting down their own a and e department.  Here are some personal stories of the importance of these patches.  Joe Duffy has been the main advocate on this issue.  The suddenness of the decision was incredible.  This was about cutting costs but it has visited great trauma – can you and minister intervene and suspend the decision?

Leo Varadkar – Ive heard the harrowing stories so I looked into it last week.  We need to understand the background to this issue.  It is being prescribed for uses other than that which it is licensed.  You do need controls to stop people becoming dependant, plus there are side effects.  It’s not just about money, ten times as many patches being prescribed here as in UK.

MM – I dont accept that, I think this is a cost-cutting measure.  The sudden overnight nature of decision was appalling.  The time for explanations is over and a decision needs to be urgently revisited.

LV – there is a process in place for appeals of these decisions, here are some stats, those who apply for the right reasons are being accepted.  

Louise O’Reilly – Thank RTE investigates for piece on Alison McCormack – people should feel safe in our hospitals.  Patients should be confident that when a mistake is made all will be done to rectify the situation.  This was missing from the treatment of AMcC when her breast cancer was misdiagnosed.  She had to ask for information, nobody came to her.  Nine months was lost.  Why was she not immediately informed?  Another case had also been misdiagnosed.  Why was there no apology – will you ensure a duty of candour?

LV – I didnt see the programme but I have read about AMcC case and I deeply regret her case and thank her for her bravery and I hope the mistakes will not be repeated.  It’s a sad truth that there will be human error and the important thing is that there is honesty about it when they happen. We recently passed legislation to improve these open disclosure situations going forward

LOR – duty of candour i not statutorily underpinned in the legislation  Can you confirm that a second patient was informed that she was misdiagnosed and that there will be full and comprehensive review of the system,

LV – This is a matter for St James, they issued a statement last night, I sincerely hope the second patient has been informed.  I am advised by Minister for Health that they’re ‘on the case’

Paul Murphy – Re – your past dog whistle campaign on welfare cheats, thus demonizing unemployed people.  Here are some stats on complete lack of people’s security to plan their lives.  Jobpath is insufficient and is effectively privatising social welfare.  Penalty rates have gone up since Jobpath was implemented, although 84 million has gone to the private companies.  Similar schemes have been shown to be fraudulent in UK.  Govt’s own figures show the jobs arent being found.  Will you now read the writing on the wall for Jobpath?

LV – Welfare fraud is very real in every western society.  It’s people who are pretending to be poor and vulnerable.It disappoints me to hear left wing politicians defending this fraud.  Because of our actions we have been able to increase payments elsewhere.  Unemployment is down and that’s not just because of overall recovery it’s because we rock and if we did things your way we’d be like Greece and Venezuela

PM – It’s like Enda Kenny is back, you managed to attack something I didn’t say and didn’t answer the question at all.  Your Jobpath scheme has failed, what are you doing.  Since you are doubling down, why are your figures on fraud changing?

LV – My numbers are not changing…re JobPath you have to refer to ‘counter factual analysis’ which is a big long fancy term I presume will make most people listening switch off so I can’t be hurt too badly by this answer.  Again I say the unemployment figures are down

Danny Healy Rae – local question on water scheme in my area of Kilcumin [CC needs to call for order in the house] uses comparison between his area and D4

LV – Im afraid I cant answer the question as I dont have the information to hand, you should give us some notice in advance, in terms of bigger picture we’ve three billion for Irish Water plus another five in the future.

DHR – I’m going to speak a bit more about Kilcumin, every year it’s the same story the council have money for the road, basically I want my voters to see I’m doing something about this

LV – once it’s announced you’ll hear all about it, the appropriate minister has passed me a note saying it will be looked at

Post game

SNB and ML go over exchange between MM and LV but clearly biased towards Martin

JW says Leo’s logical approach to response may not go down too well

RCW – did the HSE ask for a reduction in price?  Was cost analysis done?  We’re debating this in the Seanad later?

SNB – what about the patient safety issue

RCW – If you have the money, you can get the patches and that’s not fair.  A full review must be done

SNB – on to LOR’s contribution re St James Hospital

JW – how many times have we seen patients have to go up against a hospital

SNB – Paul Murphy, allegations over Jobpath and private companies

RCW – We have also asked about this, many questions to be answered

SNB – DHR proves all politics is local

JW – nobody surprised he asked the question, he was probably expecting a sarcastic reply

FPP comment

Again I found the pre-and post-game panels to be inadequate.  Less hacks, more politicians for debate please.  That said, Senator Conway-Walsh putting Sinn Féin’s positions on the Eighth Amendment and the northern government were interesting.

When it came to the main event, based on the information presented, I actually thought the Taoiseach won the exchange with Martin over those patches.  The FF leader led with a very emotive use of his opening question, and seems to have been ably teed up by the Joe Duffy show for the past week – my mother in law knew all about these patches at the weekend.  Varadkar’s logical reply stopped him in his tracks to an extent, although when it comes to ‘courting the grey vote’, which Martin was clearly doing, then it’s very possible he may have had some success.

On the hospital case, much like the Taoiseach I didn’t see the RTE show, though gain it’s interesting to see how our national broadcaster is again involved in the framing of a question.  It certainly sounds like a terrible mistake but as Louise O’Reilly was grilling the Taoiseach I wasn’t sure if this was the right forum for such questioning as it was easy for Varadkar to deflect.  Of course at this stage I didn’t know about Deputy Healy-Rae’s line of questioning….

The highlight was of course the exchange with Paul Murphy.  The tone was combative from the moment he opened his mouth yet while LV is always quick with a jibe at the left, Murphy was absolutely right in pointing out that for all the smart comments there was no actual answer to his specific question about Jobpath.

As for Danny Healy Rae, well, this was parish pump politics at it’s ‘best’.  As a TD he’s entitled to use his time as he saw fit, and his choice was to be prioritise being seen asking a question regardless of whether or not an answer was to be forthcoming.  He was even sure to compare the needs of Kilcumin to those of ‘D4’ and I’m sure that will look very good to his constituents on his Facebook page.

In summary, this was my third time reviewing the Leaders’ Questions for FPP and my original hypothesis, that this is something the whole country should be watching every week, has not changed a bit.  JLP

#IANWAE

 

Irish Times lets Fine Gael off the hook big time in end-of-year love-in, er, I mean, podcast

THE ISSUE

The Irish political conversation is dominated by a narrative that insists the electorate’s only two options for government leadership are the so-called ‘Civil War’ parties.

THE MEDIA

Podcast by Irish Times – Inside Politics : ‘The Year In Politics’ on Tuesday, December 26, 2017

‘…people feel they can relate to these people more because they feel they have lived the same experiences they have…’

THE COMMENT

Over in the US, Donald Trump and his Republican-led government are constantly moaning and groaning under the weight of repeated challenging reporting from publications like the New York Times.  Too bad its Irish namesake doesn’t give our own recently-appointed political leader similar treatment, if this ‘end of year’ summary is anything to go by.

Essentially the all-male panel has given Leo Varadkar & co a free Party Political Podcast.  Wherever these are recorded, I pity the poor cleaning staff because they’ll have their work cut out removing all of Fine Gael’s 2017 political woes that have been swept under the carpet.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten that this is the party that had to admit defeat on the water charges.  Well, when I say ‘admit’ defeat, I actually mean grudgingly concede it.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten the fact that Varadkar rose to power under an electoral process within his party that was chronically tilted away from the grass roots members, meaning all he had to do was shmooze his way through his fellow TDs to get the nod.  This weighting method is very similar to that which saw Hillary Clinton controversially secure the 2016 Democratic nomination at the expense of Bernie Sanders.

Apparently we are meant to forget the homeless crisis still prevalent in the Republic, simply because the Taoiseach says so.

And apparently we are meant to forget the disgraceful whisteblower controversy which nearly sparked a Christmas election and ultimately cost the Tánaiste her job.

Nobody expects the mainstream media to completely ignore a government’s positives, but what this IT podcast has done is to summarize the Irish year in politics thusly…’Sure isn’t it great that our top cabinet members are all so young?‘ [paraphrase]

And as one of the leading bits of ‘evidence’ of the effects of having such youthful leadership, the ‘lads’ cite the Eighth Amendment debate.

Despite the fact that Fine Gael’s own Citizens Assembly recommends repeal and legislation, and despite the fact that the Oireachtas Committee recommends repeal and legislation, the government position at the time of this podcast was that a decision is yet to be made on how to proceed.  No guarantee has been forthcoming that a straight yes or no choice on repeal will be offered to the Irish public.

Yet somehow the panel twists this state of affairs into one that represents a sweeping generational change.  Well, for this conservative jurisdiction that may be true to an extent, but given that Fine Gael are the country’s most conservative mainstream party [just about ahead of Fianna Fáil], do we think these ‘young pretenders’ have reached their current positions by cultural revolution or because the elder statesmen ahead of them on the ladder gave them a helping hand along the way?

And the final insult for me from this podcast came when they made the most ludicrous segue from the potential impact of FG’s boy wonder on the Irish electorate to the ‘youthquake’ experienced in Britain’s general election campaign that brought Jeremy Corbyn extremely close to Number 10.  I had to switch it off after that so you’ll have to listen yourself to find out what they said after that.

Here’s to a 2018 where Ireland’s political establishment, both in Leinster House and the media, are called to account whenever they ignore at best, or put down at worst, progressive issues.  JLP

#IANWAE

Only one way for the Irish Labour party to come back that I can see

So I was flicking through my twitter feed today, desperate to find something, ANYthing that didn’t make reference to US presidents apologising for racists.  I noticed this –

 Dermot Looney is a local councillor to me and I have followed his tweets for a while.  He is talking about this article in the Irish Examiner where Labour TD and former Environment Minister Alan Kelly suggested that the Social Democrats should merge with his own Labour Party.  An interesting proposition.  Interesting in that it’s so laughable and smacks of desperation.

I made a grave mistake in 2011.  Not only did I vote for Labour, I backed their going into government.  I thought with such a strong contingent in the Dáil they’d be able to implement a decent portion of their manifesto. I was very, very, wrong.

On the contrary, while they certainly did not do nothing in government (bringing Educate Together into the Irish school system wasn’t nothing and despite all the austerity they managed to keep union strikes at arms length), they were an absolute failure at accentuating any positives and were attacked from all sides to become yet another minority partner of an Irish coalition to be devastated by the electorate.

So is there any way back for them?  Well with this ‘new politics’ we seem to be ‘enjoying’ now, they have been able to get policies pushed further down the Leinster House canal than they might have before, but is that enough?

Well I can tell you one thing…courting other parties on the ‘left’ to join them isn’t their answer, at least if they ever want me to take a punt on them again.  In fact, now that I think of it, only one thing would turn my head.

I want the Labour Party to pledge that they will never again form a government in this country until it’s one they can lead.  

Prefereably I’d want to broaden the scope of the pledge to say they’d go in with any ‘left-wing’ government but since Sinn Féin are considered ‘left’ that just wouldn’t do.

Now don’t get me wrong – I know they would never make such a pledge.  They’d continue to use the ‘watchdog’ argument for going in with either FF or FG even though it has failed to materialize so many times.

But for me, if they really want any hope of getting a sizeable vote at a general election they have no choice but to lead the resistance to the FF/FG monopoly – in fact, if there are any two parties on this island Alan Kelly should suggest merge it’s them.

The way things stand now, the Roisin Shortalls and the Joan Collins and the Mick Wallaces of this world do nothing but mock Brendan Howlin’s party, and from his own rhetoric the feeling appears mutual.

Perhaps my idea is folly but Labour will need to do something otherwise more of their ranks, including Dermot Looney himself, will defect to parties like the Social Democrats.  JLP

#IANWAE