Impressive words and actions from Varadkar on #RepealThe8th announcement but how media will frame the debate remains to be seen

THE ISSUE

After much urging to announce both date and format regarding a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, Leo Varadkar’s government has finally done so.

THE MEDIA

Article by Rónán Duffy in The Journal on January 30, 2018

‘We’re asking people to trust women’: Repeal referendum to be held before the end of May

“We know that thousands of Irish women, women from every single county in Ireland, travel abroad for abortions every year. We know that women obtain abortion pills through the post to end their pregnancies without any medical support or counselling or supervision. So we already have abortion in Ireland, but it’s unsafe, unregulated and unlawful. In my opinion we cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions,”

THE COMMENT

After much waiting, we have finally heard from the Irish Government on the issue of the Eighth Amendment, and for the most part it was the news we wanted to hear.  The referendum is to be held at the end of May, and for the most part, the vote is to be on a straight repeal.

It is natural for Pro-Choice campaigners to remain sceptical, however.

First, I have questions on this intervention by the Attorney General on the need to have wording left in the Constitution which allows the Oireachtas to legislate.  Why wasn’t this information given to both the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee?  Or, if it was, then why are we choosing to ignore their findings?

And second, this quote from Duffy’s article concerns me…

Speaking at Government Buildings this evening about his own views on the referendum, Varadkar said that he would be campaigning to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Given that Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail has managed to contort his own position into something similar to the Taoiseach of late, I sincerely hope that the Irish mainstream media does not consider the two ‘Civil War party’ leaders to be the foremost spokespeople of the Yes campaign between now and the referendum.

They are both leaders of political organisations that have been given free votes to their parliamentarians so we would hope that parties with stated positions on Repeal, as well as other organisations, will be given sufficient time to present their case when the debate takes place in the public domain.

All of that remains to be seen, but for now, this can only be seen as a positive step.  JLP

#IANWAE

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CNN’s Chris Cuomo uses facts to challenge Trump’s claims of economic success, including the President’s own words

THE ISSUE

President Trump wants us to stop focusing on anything negative to do with his administration and instead heap praise on him for the success of the US economy since he took office.

THE MEDIA

YouTube clip by CNN on 29 Jan 2018

Trump [in clip from campaign speech]: “When you hear 4.9 and 5% unemployment the number is probably 28 and 29, as high as 35…”

Cuomo [in CNN studio]: “You know what?  I agree with the President!

THE COMMENT

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” ― Daniel Patrick Moynihan

For me, the health of an economy is far from the only yardstick by which we should be judging our government.  But even if we accept that it is, CNN’s Chris Cuomo has done a great job putting the figures Trump has been crowing about into context.

At best, the economic reports under Trump are basically continuing the success that Obama had after inheriting a disastrous crash of the market.  But as Cuomo points out, in some areas the figures aren’t even that great in themselves.

But the best evidence he has comes from ‘candidate Trump’ who’s words are often found to be in direct opposition to those of ‘President Trump’.

And don’t just take CNN’s word for it…back in August the New York Times pointed out that : ‘Trump Praises the Stock Market at 22,000 That He Said Was a Bubble at 18,000

Let’s be clear…all politicians play fast and loose with economic figures to big themselves up, it’s just that in Trump’s case he has taken it to a whole new level by selectively ignoring his own words from the not-to-distant past.  JLP

#IANWAE

Wise words as Blindboy tells podcast listeners to keep their eyes [and minds] open on the net

THE ISSUE

There’s a lot of crazy shit on the internet, but that’s no reason to ignore the web altogether.  Much better to get engaged and know how to identify and, when necessary, challenge the crazy.

THE MEDIA

The Blindboy Podcast on January 24, 2018

Finucanes Ointment

“Lads, I will stress…I’m not an economist.  I’m somebody that got a name for themselves by wearing a plastic bag on their head.  So when you hear me talking about things like neoliberalism…don’t take my word for it, go and do your own original research from far more reliable sources than me…”

THE COMMENT

It’s a highly entertaining 77 minutes of audio content even without the message that is the focus of this FPP post.  I highly recommend you listen for the three monkey stories alone.

But whatever about Blindboy’s [aka Rubberbandits] topic of the day, his words in the quote you see above speak volumes and can be applied all across the world wide web.  I know many people much younger than myself who steer clear of online content because they fear it is a haven for trolls, WUMs and clickbait.

Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that the internet is NOT a haven for trolls, WUMs and clickbait, but if you persevere you can quickly learn to spot them as mere weeds in what can actually be a Garden of Eden for rational thought and shared knowledge once you know where to look and how to handle the information you’re consuming.

Going back to Blindboy’s general content for a moment, maybe I’m not crazy about the c-bombs, but that’s possibly more my own issue than it is his, and it certainly doesn’t stop me from subscribing and you know what, I’m not a million miles away from throwing him a few bob on Patreon either…one thing is for sure, no matter how edgy his themes may get, his ever-increasing listenership will surely guarantee him a permanent sponsor in no time.

Meanwhile we can all do with following his sage advice.  JLP

#IANWAE

Discussing the Civil War parties’ positions on #RepealThe8th and #housingcrisis is not discussing the issues

THE ISSUE

I know Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are the two largest parties in Dáil Éireann, but it will always be the position of this site that the ideological differences between them on virtually every issue are minimal, yet to listen to mainstream media you’d think their views are all you need to hear.

THE MEDIA

Podcast by Inside Politics in Irish Times on January 24, 2018

Fianna Fáil Divided / Leo’s Bank of Mum & Dad

THE COMMENT

The Irish Times podcast annoys me more and more every time I listen, but since one of the purposes of this site is to point out the inadequacies of Irish mainstream media, I must continue.

In the latest instalment they spend just over half an hour covering two major issues in Irish politics without so much as even hinting at the position of a party that could be considered ‘left of centre’.

Like I said under ‘The Issue’, I know they are the two largest parties and this is probably why the national newspaper chooses to focus on their positions.  However, I would suggest it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ argument as to whether the media attention is driven by the popular vote or vice versa.

This is why the Irish ‘Left’ needs to get its act together and push for a united front to force the Civil War parties to come together.

#IANWAE

Burger King ad for net neutrality is a good thing though not for the best of reasons

THE ISSUE

The Donald Trump administration has ended net neutrality, meaning corporations can pick and choose what website you can visit by playing around with broadband speeds.  A bit like gerrymandering which we featured last weekend, it’s not the ‘sexiest’ issue yet it is still very important and restoring it should be of interest to all different types of political persuasion,

THE MEDIA

Article by Katie Reilly in Time magazine

Allow Burger King’s New Ad to Explain Net Neutrality to You

“The Burger King brand believes the Internet should be like the Whopper sandwich: the same for everyone,” the fast-food giant added.

THE COMMENT

Hey – I really, really don’t want to be negative about something that helps raise awareness about net neutrality…even if it’s a big business doing it, I really don’t care.

But I can’t help but comment on one small detail…the nature of the business in question.  Basically, it takes flame-grilled burgers to capture the attention of the wider American public even on something as important as this, or to put it differently, the way to their brains is through their stomachs.

Maybe if it was McDonalds with cheesburgers instead of Burger King with Whoppers then even the President himself could be won over?  JLP

#IANWAE

Classic ‘slow news day’ story on RTE.ie does little more than stoke northside v southside and public v private sector conflicts

THE ISSUE

Maybe as well as talking about ‘Fake News’ we should also be coining a term like ‘Hate News’?

THE MEDIA

Article by John Kilraine – ‘Dublin Correspondent’ on RTE.ie on January 24, 2018

Row over ‘inferior’ planter boxes on Dublin’s northside

“To me this just epitomises an attitude in the city council – a northside/southside divide,” he said.

THE COMMENT

When a comment by one independent councillor is considered a ‘row’ by a major Iriish news source, you know it’s a slow news day.

This is the comment I saw on Facebook that accompanied the link to this complete non-story…

Oh FFS!!!
This is what our public servants who get paid with our hard earned taxes, spend their time bleating about!! With all that needs doing in the city! Give me strength!!

Personally I’d be more concerned about our hard earned TV licence money that’s going to our national broadcaster.

#IANWAE

Click here to check out our new feature on Dáil Leaders’ Questions.

Dáil LQ notes – Jan 24, 2018

Dail LQ notes

cropped-fpp-logo2.jpgThis the first in a new series of posts we have been meaning to start since the inception of this blog. 

We believe Leaders’ questions to be the most important regular event in Irish politics, yet while it does receive live TV coverage by the national broadcaster, it happens on Wednesday at 12pm, thus guaranteeing that the vast majority of the popularity will be unable to watch,

Great lengths are taken to ensure that things like sporting events and other forms of entertainment are timed so we can be both watching and taking in the ads that go with them…yet when our political leaders are discussing key issues of the day, we have to rely on DVRs.

With these posts the hope is to take notes on the Leader’s questions as they happen, offering our own paraphrasing on the various contributions from the political figures and other panel members in the RTE studio.  It may take a few weeks to hone this format to exactly the way we want it so please bear with us.  Here goes…

Pre-game

Host – Sharon Ni Bheolain

Panel – Michael Lehane [RTE] and Elaine Loughlin [Irish Examiner]
Sean Sherlock TD [LAB] on video link

FPP – I only caught the final part of the pre-game where they were discussing the Eighth Amendment debate, with the general gist of the conversation suggesting that mostly due to legal concerns outlined by the Attorney General, there would be difficulties with a straight Yes/No referendum. I heard no opinion expressed to the contrary.

Questions begin

Micheal Martin – We need teachers and they need to be better paid [and with gender equality] so why has education department been so inept?

Leo Varadkar – Our teachers are grand, since my lot took over from your lot we’ve more teachers – here are some stats and besides, when you see less teachers it means economy is going well. We also

MM – You’re not answering my question, in fact you are giving dishonest, partisan responses. There has been complete inaction, please accept that there is a crisis that needs intervention.

LV – I’m partisan? YOU’RE partisan! Here’s some more stats.

Louise O’Reilly [SF] – Ill treatment and disregard for women, especially in provision on medical services like trans-vaginal mesh implants. I refer you to Prime Time last night. I have been raising this issue with Minister for Health. I have four specific questions on this issue…these are four crucial issues on women’s health can you at least acknowledge

LV – my sympathies and concerns go with any patients suffering, I didn’t see Prime Time, I didn’t know you were going to raise this issue so I haven’t been briefed. I’m not a doctor in this field so I would have to refer to to the proper experts. In other words, no.

LOR – I have been after the Minister on this, but he has still not been briefed. You should give a message to these women and to HSE that there is international evidence that this practice needs to be stopped.

LV – Again, I haven’t been briefed and if there have been legal cases I can’t get involved. I agree that HSE and Minister for Health should consider all relevant evidence.

Brendan Howlin – School buildings are in the hands of PPPs but in the case of one in Wexford [which is part of a group of schools under the same PPP] it is disrupting the running of the school despite assurances to the contrary. When will teaching begin in Wexford and the other sites in the school bundle?

LV – It’s a very important matter – it’s going to take us a couple of weeks because one of the partners has had issues to sort this out but we’re in a strong position and it will be sorted out. This has not arisen simply because it’s a PPP.

BH – The selling point for PPPs is that should one partner collapse, the remaining partners should sake responsibility. Why is there not a proactive move to make sure the agreed timeline is fulfilled? The govt cannot be passive.

LV – I can give that assurance – the Dept will be involved over the coming weeks. I even have a statement from the Dutch partner company so obviously we have to believe it.

Maureen O’Sullivan [IND] – Ireland needs to address tax justice as you’re off to Davos – you told European Parliament that we’re not a tax haven. Here’s some information that suggests otherwise – some clothing companies have filthy rich CEOs while their workers in Bangladesh are anything but….will the government look at the area of tax spillovers?

LV – I read the WEF report ahead of going to Davos…here are some good things they had to say about Ireland to put them on the record because it makes me look good. This year for the first time revenue commissioners from different countries will share information with each other. Companies cannot be ‘stateless’ and we have eliminated the ‘double Irish’.

MOS – The positive will be undermined unless we look at the negatives. Human rights must be protected as well as economic concerned. Instead of Double Irish we now have ‘single malt’. If we’re not careful we will appear on bad lists.

LV – We can’t focus on the negative, sure we’re grand. We can change our laws all we like but it’s not enough we have to work with OECD. The government is committed to tax sovereignty. Can I remind you that our low corporation tax has been a tremendous success.

Post game –

SNB pins the teacher crisis on Labour, challenges Sean Sherlock, he offers defence
Micheal Lehane – People are being lured away by private sector
Elaine Loughlin Irish Examiner – Dubai effect, Google effect
SS on schools – not enough for Taoiseach to say it’s going to ‘take a few weeks’
ML – Taoiseach is being vague on this
SNB on LOS questions – Is LQs the place to discuss these procedures?
EL – It’s not just one individual case it’s a widespread problem
SNB – we have thirty seconds left on tax injustice
SS – I want to say something on the women’s issue…Ireland is doing a lot better on tax transparency. But I’m cynical on Davos.

FPP COMMENT

For this first instalment of our feature I’d like to focus on the presentation rather than the substance.

I really don’t understand why RTÉ bothered to have a presence in the studio at all.  Before the LQs they spoke about the Eighth Amendment which was never even mentioned in the Dáil session then in the post-game segment they barely had enough time to go over the various topics discussed.  Sean Sherlock just about managed to spit out his party’s position but he was just parroting Howlin’s words while the two journalists offered little by way of analysis, deciding instead to inform us about the answers that Varadkar gave.

As far as I’m concerned, Leader’s Questions should be something everyone is talking about, every bit as much as sporting occasions, every bit as much as what Donald Trump said, every bit as much as the Great British Bake Off.  Sticking it an hour before lunch on Hump Day with reluctant coverage by RTÉ isn’t going to spark too many debates around the watercooler, that’s for sure.  JLP

#IANWAE