Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Joan Burton - same accountancy degree as Bertie?

Labour’s Finance spokesman Joan Burton regularly reminds us that she is a qualified accountant.
I’m beginning to wonder if she graduated from the same college as Bertie Ahern.

For starters, Labour’s only detailed cost-cutting proposal for bridging the huge deficit in the public finances is to cap public sector pay @ €200k per annum.

Does even 1% of the public sector workforce earn over €200k? What miniscule contribution to cutting the deficit will such a token measure make?

Then there's NAMA.
Today in the Dail, Joan Burton is pushing all the populist buttons by implying that “nurses, firemen and doctors” are looking at pay cuts in order to fund NAMA.
Burton doesn’t seem to understand that the current budget deficit is not caused by NAMA and will not be changed by NAMA.

Any NAMA-related impact on the pay of public sector (and other workers) will only become a factor if NAMA fails to deliver in 7-10 years time.

So either Burton doesn’t understand the nature of the current budget deficit or else she’s playing populist politics by misleading the public.

In either case, that makes her very questionable ministerial material. Labour/Burton need to stop waffling, drop the NAMA populist bullshit and start putting forward some realistic solutions to resolve the budget deficit.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Seanad turkeys squeal as Christmas approaches.

Enda Kenny's proposal to abolish the Seanad has certainly caused a reaction in, indisputably, the best club in town.

Yesterday featured the most animated and fractious "debate" in the Seanad - the turkeys can see Christmas coming. It was amusing to watch this bunch of self-serving wasters squealing at the prospect of their snouts being removed from the public purse trough. (There's the ham to go with the turkey/Xmas metaphor).

Even if Kenny's abolition proposal doesn't actually materialise, it must surely bring forward serious Seanad reform - and many of the current well-paid incumbents will be out on their ear. No great loss.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mary Robinson for EU President?

Well, according to some Irish media (the Indo yesterday was prominent) Mary Robinson is on the short-list.

As she hasn’t a hope in hell, this cannot be a serious piece of news.

The EU is predominantly a trade-related political and economic conglomerate. Mary Robinson is a Mother Teresa-type figure who is into human rights rather than trade.

You can just imagine the relationship between China and the EU if Mary was the figurehead? They hated her guts when she was with the UN.

I looked up Paddy Power this morning but they don’t seem to be offering odds on her chances. However, I wouldn’t be backing her, I’d be looking to lay her. Now that’s an unfortunate turn of phrase.

Lisbon Dialogue of the Deaf is over - now it's time to change the rules

Well the Lisbon Treaty is passed, at least as far as Ireland is concerned and, whether you voted Yes or No, you must be somewhat relieved that the media noise on this topic has subsided considerably.

The arguments for and against could not possibly be described as “debate”. If anything ever qualified as “the dialogue of the deaf”, this was surely it - both times around. I’ve had a headache from Lisbon II for the past three months, thank God it’s all over. Now we just have NAMA and the budgetary crisis to live through. Pass the anadin, please!

I heard a good quote this morning from Mark Twain on the subject of newspapers – “if you don’t read a newspaper you’re uninformed, and if you do read a newspaper you’re mis-informed.” That piece of wisdom could have been very aptly applied to the Lisbon Treaty “debate”.

On the subject of referendums (or referenda), we seem to be completely hamstrung by a couple of Supreme Court judgements. The Crotty Judgement means that every major change in the EU cannot be passed by our elected Oireachtas but must instead be put to a national referendum. Allied to this is the McKenna Judgement which prohibits the Government from spending public money to promote one particular side of the argument in such a referendum. Then you have the national broadcaster, RTE, which is deemed to be obliged to provide equal exposure to the Pro- and Anti- sides in any such referendum.

The result is that you can get massive over-exposure for all sorts of cranks, whingers and unelected demagogues and every referendum is a perfect opportunity for these to get some media exposure – despite most of them having no mandate whatsoever from the public to speak on their behalf.

In the Lisbon campaign we’ve had Declan Ganley/Libertas given huge exposure – despite the annihilation of that party at the polls in the recent European elections. Then you get cranks like Richard Greene (the wrinkly wing of Youth Defence) representing Coir, Roger Cole of the anti-war anti-US alliance, ex-Green Patricia McKenna who’d start a row in an empty room, Tax-free republican socialist Bobby Ballagh – who always wants more taxpayers money spent on the needy etc etc..

Every referendum must be like Christmas for all these fringe groups who can’t get elected to anything.

I can’t wait for the “children’s rights” referendum we’ve been long promised. This, apparently, will include a revision of the legal age for sex – essentially the minimum age at which young girls can have sex with older men – without the latter incurring a charge of statutory rape. I can’t wait for that to be debated on RTE. To achieve balance, they’ll need some dodgy old men to represent the “No” side – spelling out the joys of underage sex and the benefits it brings to young girls. You can see what a nonsense the McKenna Judgement and RTE “balance” rule can result in.

So we need some sort of weighted majority mechanism – just like that proposed in the Lisbon Treaty – to allow our own elected Government to promote appropriate constitutional change and also to allow RTE to represent the views of the majority in an appropriate way.

A proven electoral mandate would have to be at least one constituent of such a formula – note that I didn’t include MEP Joe Higgins or Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou in my earlier line-up of cranks.

Corruption: The rotting of the body politic.

Most of us think of corruption as the taking of bribes, improper use of power etc etc., but the word can also mean the rotting process of a dead body.

When senior politicians are investigated for accepting money from “friends”, or spending lavishly at public expense, we are invariably told that either “no favours were done” or “it was within Dept of Finance guidelines”, so there is no case to answer as far as the politicians are concerned.

However, to the general public these are prime examples of corruption, as in “the rotting of the body politic”.

The level of John O’Donoghue’s expenses is a disgrace, but he’s probably the tip of an ice-berg of similar excess among the ministers who have held office over the past decade.

Incidentally, Nora Owen might well be forgiven the occasional hint of a smile.