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 FĂ©in 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

 

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It’s not about Jobstown, Paul Murphy nor Joan Burton. It’s about what side you’re on.

The date was September 17, 2016.  I got the Luas with my wife and our two young children to Heuston Station, which was one of the meeting places for the latest Right2Water march.  We all set off towards the centre of town, and there were thousands gathered in just our section and the various groups from around the city were to converge at St Stephens Green.  

As we walked along the quays, I’d say it was probably around Ormond Quay, a man walked up to my wife as she pushed the buggy carrying our then 17-month old daughter and stuck a microphone in her face.  Behind him was a cameraman with his device pointing at her.

“So why are you marching today?”

“I don’t want to talk.”

“But I thought you cared about water changes?  Why are you marching then if you don’t want to talk about it?”

To be clear, I am paraphrasing the man, but that is definitely the gist of the exchange.

Needless say I wanted to throw him into the Liffey.  On a more sensible level, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind.  My wife does not feel comfortable in those situations.  And why should she.  All she wanted to do to lend her support for something she believed in was march, and it is as much her right not to talk as it is to talk.

How dare you confront a peaceful protester in this manner?  Would you not at least ask permission for the interview first?  Identify yourself and the broadcaster or publication for whom you are reporting first?  This is what I wanted to say to the man.  But I knew it wouldn’t come out that way so I took her hand and led her away from him.

I don’t want to give the impression that I go to these marches all the time.  That’s not because I’d be ashamed if I did, in fact it’s more to the contrary…I’m ashamed that I had somehow managed to be elsewhere each and every time such activism was going on, no matter how much I believed in a particular cause.  My “excuse” for the past year or so has been that I have been more interested in the US Presidential campaign plus my online time has been taken up by running a monetised sports blog.

None of that really matters, though.  You either show up for events like this or you don’t.  And on this day I honestly thought showing up was enough.  I should have been more prepared for a moment like this one.  I should have known to confront this asshole with a clear head and using accurate language to give him a proper soundbite and I should have also known to use my phone to record my own words as well.

Anyway, here’s my point that relates that incident above to this article.  

Do you believe my recollection of what happened?  Or do you think I’m exaggerating the reporter’s aggressiveness and/or lack of professionalism for the sake of the cause I was marching for?  Your honest answer to that question is very important when it comes to contemporary Irish politics.

Something else happened to me on the day of that protest.  As we waited at Heuston Station for the march to start, I was handed a placard.  I looked at it. It read “Jobstown Not Guilty”.  I handed it back to the man.

The reason I wouldn’t take it was not that I was opposed to the Jobstown cause, rather that on this particular day, while I did know about the incident in question involving then-Tánaiste Joan Burton, I was unaware of the specifics of the pending legal case, and also the organisation to back the defendants.  

Basically I didn’t want to be going around with my children holding a placard for a cause I knew little about.  And truth be told, in the short amount of time between receiving the placard and handing it back, I didn’t have time to check whether or not it was somehow connected to Sinn Féin, which was my greatest fear.

Since then of course, I have gotten to know more and more about the #JobstownNotGuilty cause.  Again because of other distractions, I never managed to get too involved in the activism, but you can be sure I was delighted when the defendants were found not guilty at the end of June.

Was the delight down to my thoughts on the actual events which transpired on that fateful day in Jobstown in November 2014?  Of course not.  I wasn’t there.  My delight stems from the fact that this was way, way more than a court case.  This was actually the coal face of modern Irish society.  People’s approach to the topic could not illustrate more where they stand with regard to the “haves vs have-nots” nature of public opinion these days.

And am I a fan of Paul Murphy?  I can’t answer.  I don’t know the guy personally.  But I do know that he was elected by the people of Dublin South-West on a ticket which couldn’t more clearly define his mandate if it tried : “Anti Austerity Alliance”.

I have certainly read multiple attempts to smear him though.   Like this op-ed by Philip Ryan in the Irish Independent over the weekend.

Paul Murphy really fancies himself as Ireland’s modern day Nelson Mandela with a megaphone

Here’s a thought…instead of slagging the man off for his megaphone, why not ask yourself why he feels the need to use it?  Or better still…give him the megaphone YOU’RE using.  Let HIM write a piece in the Indo and let your readers form their own opinion?  

No – it’s much easier to hide behind your column and slag the man off along with half-truths and tenuous associations.

And while we’re on that subject…a few points.  The pro-establishment media are very concerned with the fact that a water balloon was thrown.  So much so, they make it sound like it was a Molotov cocktail.  If that’s the extent of the violence that took place, then that’s surely enough to question the general narrative for starters.

They are also very concerned with the fact that Joan Burton is a woman.  Why?  She was the Tánaiste at the time.  It shouldn’t matter a jot what gender she is.  There was nowhere near this level of hysteria when President Higgins had a similar in-car experience a couple of months later, although the mainstream coverage was still very much anti-protester.

And as for “kidnapping”, well that one’s easy.  The court has decided it wasn’t.  Therefore it wasn’t.

But we had the ultimate side-taking just recently in the Dáil by our new Taoiseach.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fnewstalkfm%2Fvideos%2F10156467130447907%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Asked by Deputy Murphy if there would be a public inquiry into false statements made by gardaĂ­ throughout the course of the trial, Varadkar replied thus…

Deputy, you had a fair trial…

…so we’d best leave it at that.”  Had that been the Taoiseach’s point, even it it meant brushing Murphy off on the Garda thing, I would have understood to an extent.   Remember…“Taoiseach” is supposed to mean “leader”, and one every bit as much of the people who voted for Murphy as those who voted for Fine Gael.

But he couldn’t resist going on…

…you were acquitted, but that doesn’t mean that your behaviour was right.  And it may well be the case that you weren’t engaged in kidnapping, but it was thuggery.

…and his good buddies at BlueshirtFM, aka Newstalk, were on hand to provide plenty of “huzzah!” for his clearly biased opinion.  No fear of asking a Solidarity representative on to provide some kind of balance.

The Jobstown trial and all the pro-establishment opinion surrounding it is not about what took place that day.  It was about framing the narrative of Irish political discourse.  The country was brought to its knees by the actions of the government, the banking sector and the construction sector and one by one the public are expected to pick up the tab.

Whatever you may think about Paul Murphy, he is merely the latest focal point for the establishment to attack through various means.  If it wasn’t him it would be someone like Brendan Ogle.   Or Mick Wallace.  Or Ruth Coppinger.  Or Clare Daly.  The way this country is set up right now, it’s remarkably easy for those either wishing to suck up to the establishment or afraid to appear “too left” to play the man (or woman!!!) instead of the ball.

And what is the ball?  It’s the true political discussion, one that is not being had anywhere it matters.  It’s not about Fianna Fáil vs Fine Gael.  It’s not even about “haves” vs “have nots”, at least not precisely.

It’s about three distinct groups….those who speak for the “haves”, those who speak for the “have nots” and the most important of all, those burying their heads in the sand, making countless excuses for not getting involved.  Much like I tend to do.  At least I find the odd hour or two to voice my opinion here, though that of course is nowhere near enough.  JLP

Follow the Jobstown Not Guilty Facebook page here

#IANWAE

If Sean Fitzpatrick did not commit a crime then we need new laws. Now.

Oh, how this makes my blood boil.

Here are some viewpoints on the role former Anglo-Irish Bank chairman Sean FItzpatrick played in the Irish banking crisis.

According to the judicial system…

But Judge John Aylmer ruled this morning on day 126 of the trial that the investigation carried out by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement fell short of the impartial, unbiased investigation that an accused is entitled to.

According to Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett…

Mr Boyd Barrett claimed Mr FitzPatrick walked free because of a set-up and not a blunder. “This stinks to high heaven,’’ he added.

Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat “The Cope’’ Gallagher intervened to say he was referring to a trial and should “refrain lest there might be consequences’’.

Mr Boyd Barrett said: “There is a direct link between Seánie FitzPatrick’s rotten, corrupt activities and Anglo Irish Bank and the families this week being sent to Garda stations or are sleeping in parks because there are no homes.’’

…and then we have the viewpoint of the Irish Times Legal Affairs correspondent Colm Keena

“Sean Fitzpatrick did not commit a crime.” (paraphrase)

It won’t surprise you to learn that my own views would tend to lean towards those of Deputy Barrett.  And while the Irish mainstream media takes such great pains to point out that he was speaking under “privilege” as if it is some kind of cowardly act, I would put forward the proposal that the opposite is the case.

Maybe it’s true that technically Fitzpatrick did not break any laws.  And I would go further in pointing out that watching him “sent down” will not make me feel any better about what the Irish banking sector did to this country.

But if the way he comported himself in both managing Anglo Irish loans and his own personal ones was “legal”, then surely it must be a priority of our parliament to bring proper laws into existence.  And if we can’t bring down a sentence on him in a court of law, how about one from the court of public opinion, making sure the new laws get known as (at least commonly assuming the Dáil would never approve it) The Sean Fitzpatrick Laws.

On the subject of what actually has been done to improve legislation since the crash, here is but one recommendation of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis published in 2016…

A personal remuneration clawback provision linked to medium term performance should be part of the employment contract for senior executive management and board members.

Just to break that down…basically it seems to suggest that if a bank is losing money, the “bigwigs” at the bank should not make money in terms of bonuses.

BUT ISN’T THAT BLOODY WELL OBVIOUS???????  Did it really have to take a group of elected representatives the guts of three years to come up with stuff like that???

Like I said, blood boiling.  At least we have people like Deputy Barrett who are free to speculate as to what is really going on amongst the ranks of the establishment without fear of prosecution under libel laws by our nation’s real cowards.

#IANWAE

80% of Irish people vote for FF or FG according to FF TD?

“Historically, over recent decades or even the last election, the vast majority of Irish people vote for Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, the figure might vary 60, 70, maybe 80 percent.”

The above statement, made by Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming on the latest Irish Times “inside Politics” podcast, illustrates one of the core reasons we have this very website First Person Plural.  It’s a myth that needs to be destroyed in the public domain once and for all.

In fairness to the podcast host Hugh Linehan, he did offer something of a rebuttal to Fleming’s claim when he pointed out that the figures were down in the most recent election in 2016, but it was nowhere near the kind of response that was truly warranted.

The so-called “Civil War” parties received a combined total of 49.8% of the popular vote in the 2016 general election.  In 2011, the combined total was 53.5%.  So the reality is that the figure has been nowhere near the 60% mark since the 2007 election, the third Bertie victory just before “the crash”, where they combined for over two-thirds of the vote, ie 68.7%.

But even those numbers aren’t enough to crunch in order to get a true picture of the Irish political taste.

Recently in France they had their presidential elections, and among the headlines from those results are how “low” their turnout figures were.  For the first round 77% of the electorate voted, for the second round it was just under 75%.  In other words, it was considered a bad thing that a quarter of the people failed to register their vote.

Not since 1997, Bertie’s first election victory, has an Irish general election cracked the 70% barrier.

And in last year’s ballot, despite all the anger surrounding the way the country was failed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour both before and since the crash, as many as 1,147,534 registered voters failed to turn up on election day.

For me, those votes are up for grabs, and I would argue a significant proportion of those voters would be perfectly willing to vote for anyone but FG or FF (or even Lab) if a decent unified platform was put before them.

If not, the perception that there are only two “serious” options will endure.  Fleming was almost gleeful in the podcast painting FF as some kind of left wing option simply because they are slightly to the left of Fine Gael.

#IANWAE

Stat sources – Wikipedia & Irish Independent

 

 

Social Democrats call for separation of Church and State after #TuamBabies

We’re not sharing this Dáil speech by Catherine Murphy TD from the Social Democrats website because we have a particular preference for the party itself; it’s just we like the fact that something like this is being said in our national parliament.

“if Tuam has shown us anything it is that the State must take responsibility for its citizens and that the Church has no legitimacy in the healthcare, education or politics governing our citizens.”

No doubt there are other TDs who share Murphy’s sentiment, but unfortunately among the total amount of TD they would be very much in the minority.  I wonder if that would be the case if a referendum were held on the matter?

Barry Cowen’s smugness re: #Right2Water campaign does not hold water

“Oh look at me!!! I’ve made the #Right2Water campaign look foolish!!!”, to paraphrase Fianna Fáil TD and brother of Bertie’s successor, Barry Cowen during the past week.

At an Oireachteas hearing (aka Joint Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services Debate), Cowen asked representatives of the movement if they were in favour of a charge for excessive use of water, to which he was replied in the positive.

Deputy Barry Cowen: I ask the witnesses to answer the following. If this committee was in a position to agree a process by which people who use excessive amounts, in the opinion of this committee, were charged, is Right2Water happy with that?

Mr. Steve Fitzpatrick: Yes.

This led Cowen to go on twitter as though he had somehow convinced a vegetarian to enter a Big Mac eating competition.

After Paul Murphy TD of AAA-PBP accused Cowen of “selective quoting”, The Journal decided to do one of its “fact-check” articles, which in essence served to back up the very picture Cowan was trying to paint, ie one that only pro-Establishment readers would appreciate.

Let’s back up this particular truck, shall we.

First we need to make a clear distinction between what regulating water is meant to do, and what instead our government actually did.

Of COURSE we should be regulating water usage.  It is an important resources and should not be wasted.  But before we do so, we need to identify who is wasting it the most and target the regulation at them.  This clearly brings the private sector in the firing line way before domestic users, but this State has never been led by a Government that would acknowledge this.

Instead, the Fine Gael-led government (yes, I know, with Labour also in tow) sought to establish a revenue stream (pun fully intended) for a new corporate cash-cow known as Irish Water, and began charging the general public long before there was any opportunity to gauge which houses were using excessive amounts of water.

And on top of the specifics of the #Right2Water movement, the main reason it earned itself such incredible public support wasn’t just because of the water issue itself, but also because it was the straw that broke the Irish camel’s back after successive years of austerity following the banking crisis which happened under Bertie Ahern’s, and ultimately Brian Cowen’s, watch.

Even without the most recent poll numbers, when Fianna Fáil party leader and former Minster under Bertie, Micheal Martin eventually has the balls to bring down this current Government and call an election, seeing how the wider voting Irish public sees only two possible parties for leadership, he will be Taoiseach.

Would it be crazy to assume that his government would quickly seek to establish water charges exactly as Fine Gael had done, using the above selective testimony as some kind of justification?  With Cowan as the Minster responsible, no less?  JLP

#IANWAE

A reason why Sinn FĂ©in hoovers up so many votes on the Irish “Left” – they communicate more?

Irish Left parties press release.png

One of the principal functions of this site is to examine the fractured wasteland that is the “Irish Left”.

There are many different parties, most of which explore the same issues and some ironically have the word “alliance” in their very title.  You could say they are collectively similar to the “People’s Front of Judea” gag as portrayed by Monty Python in “The Life of Brian”.

Of course that’s not to say their TDs and activists don’t do great work in their communities.  It is just that while they are focusing on this important work, in the bigger picture of the parliamentary set-up in this country, their representation continues to be minimal.

Here at FPP we do not consider SInn FĂ©in to be a “left-wing” party by any means.  They are a single-issue Nationalist organisation that uses this vacuum in the landscape of the Irish Left to win themselves seats, and they do this very well.  We can only speculate just how progressive their actions would be once actually in power, and we don’t really want to find out any time soon.

Still, we have to accept the reality that a lot of their ballot box support does come from the left.  So as part of setting up FPP, we added the main websites from all of the main political organisations to a heading in the news aggregator “Feedly”.  Represented there are The Labour Party, The Green Party, The Social Democrats, the People Before Profit Alliance, the Anti Austerity Alliance, and as we said, Sinn FĂ©in.

Just in case you’re not sure what an “aggregator” is…it is similar to the old “news-wire” in that it gathers the latest released by various news sources and lists them in chronological order, so the most recent releases will be at the top.

What you see in our lead graphic is a screengrab of how our feed looked this morning.  As you can see, of the 19 most recent releases, 17 are by Sinn Féin.

Perhaps, you might wonder, they do a “news-dump” every Sunday morning, ie posting a ton of stories all at once and doing nothing for the rest of the week?  Yeah, we wondered that too, so we scrolled down.  They post articles at that rate throughout the week, at least ten articles per day.

Communication via social media, particularly in times when an election is NOT imminent, is a key way of keeping in touch with the wider public.  If Sinn Fein are flooding cyberspace with policies and information during that time, is it any wonder that they have so much success when the elections do come around?

Obviously Twitter, Facebook & websites aren’t the be-all and end-all, but surely it has to be seen as fertile ground for organisations which focus on issues left of centre.  Here at FPP we will be looking to highlight not just the issues themselves, but how they are covered by the various parties AND the mainstream media.

#IANWAE