Friday, June 01, 2007


So what do I mean when I say "Reforms to ensure consistency in sentencing and the delivery of real justice."?

I suppose I believe that the balance of the criminal justice system prioritises crimes against property over those against the person. How often do you hear about armed robber getting a suspended sentence? And I think we need to look are refocusing sentencing so that custodial sentences are for those who are violent and a danger to society.

We should explore non-custodial options for non-violent offenders who aren’t a danger to society.

I'm not suggesting that politicians hand down sentences, far from it. I would not like to see the minister for justice or anyone else interfering in court proceedings.

I would suggest the DPP is staffed by professionals and that they should be able to ask for a sentence appropriate to the seriousness of the particular offence compared to the sentencing norms that would be established by reviewing previous sentences. And that is reflective of the nature of the crime committed. However, if you wanted to know what the average sentence for assault was in 1995 there is no point in asking the department of justice as no one had been tracking some ploddingly trivialities like who got how long for doing what. So the department does not know what the norms are because they’re not tracking sentence.

Victims of crime should be consulted and advised of the progress of the case though they should be able to opt out of this if they so choose but we should not have cases where someone is released back into the community without the victims being aware of it. This happens all too often and for victims of sexual crimes seeing their assailant back in their home town without warning is just unacceptable.

if you wanted to know what the average sentence for assault was in 1995 there is no point in asking the department of justice as no one had been tracking some ploddingly trivialities like who got what for doing what.

The aim of the criminal justice system is meant to be summed up in the terms Punishment, Protection of society, and Rehabilitation. Prison on its own makes us as a society feel good but the question remains does it do any good.

It seems odd that whenever alternatives to prison are suggested people lose the plot; whether it is ankle bracelets, curfews, or random testing for drugs. We seem to have both on the left and the right of the political debate a belief that it is prison or nothing. As free citizens we have many rights including the right to liberty which could be curbed in the case of those convicted of non violent offences. Why for example should we not prevent someone from consuming of alcohol if they are convicted of an alcohol related crime?

In combination with this, we need to realise that if we are prepared to spend X millions on prison then we need to commit to similar expenditure on prevention and that means educational opportunities and family supports. Justice is more than just building prisons and introducing new laws. It is about the application of the law.

For an Able Life

I am campaigning for the reversal of the imposition of charges on disabled adults who are living independently. Click for some history.

I guess when my main activism has been concentrated around ensuring that my sister and every other person with a disability is treated in a decent manner just as every other citizen of this republic should be.

I read this piece by Fergus Finlay (updated link now in Irish Examiner archive) in the Examiner* back in April and I was positively seething afterwards. I urge everyone to read Fergus's piece. And please Click the Clamp to the right to sign the petition - >

My sister, who is a year, a month and a day younger than me, is intellectually disabled (as if she didn't have enough to put up with being my sister) and lives quite happily in Killarney, in sheltered housing managed by the Kerry Parents and Friends Association who do a fine job trying to ensure that people in Kerry can live as independently and fulfilling a life as possible. Finding a place close to home was a process of years of fighting mainly on the part of my mother dealing with the various bureaucracies of the state, during which she was placed in Devlin, Co. Westmeath, Mayfield Co. Cork, Tralee and now Killarney.

It now appears that the department of health (which has historically dropped the ball on supports for those with disabilities) is planning to implement the same regime of charges for those with disabilities as for the pensioners in residential care. Which means they will charge disabled people for living in residential settings. And charge them out of their disabled person's maintenance allowance. The DPMA is currently €184 per week which is less than an old age non-contributory pension and about the same as the dole. So if you are on the dole, and live away from home the state will pay you a rent supplement but if you make the same attempt to live independently as a disabled person the state will charge you for the pleasure? And, get this, the state is also planning to apply this new regime retrospectively! They are right now sending bills to the parents of people with disabilities looking for back payments. Can you fucking believe it?

You know one of the most stressful things for parents of someone with a disability is the ever present thought of what will happen when you're gone. This is someone that you love with all your heart but you know that unlike your other children who you will also worry about (worrying seeming to be in the very nature of parenting, and is something that you don't realise until you become a parent yourself or see friends become parents) that your disabled child won't ever be able to fend for themselves completely and they will always need someone to be looking out for them. And when you're gone you hope that your community will care for them and the state which is the community writ large and the mechanism for expressing that care will do what it can.

I actually genuinely thought that Cowen's efforts, particularly in his budgets , were the sign that the issue of treating people with disabilities fairly, and supporting those organisations that work in the area, was now completely part of the mainstream of Irish political life. I thought despite all the other differences I might have with the guy that here is someone that gets it.

I can tell you now that anyone whether from the revenue or the department of health who tries to take or takes by sleight of hand money from my sister will find me on their door beating their fucking head in with whatever comes to hand. When it comes to my sister I will happily get all Timothy McVeigh on you and your place of work.

As Fergus points out unlike the elderly those with disability will almost certainly never have the chance to be members of the work force and accrue money and assets that might be put into paying for their care. Again, I would urge people to read Fergus's piece he manages to be put it much more than I do.

* The examiner has in the last few years become my alternate to the Irish Times, in large part because you can't depend on the Independent to get the days of the week right.

The NUI Stakes are off and running

The horses in the paddocks and as they approach the track itself we will have a quick look over the following runners and riders.

Bresnihan, Valerie: - Social and Human Rights Researcher

A previous runner and also did quite well as I recall.

Brodbin, Shane: - Product Manager

Ex-DCU SU President

Connolly, Mark: - Financial Services Official

Apparently he is very supportive of the government, in fact wanted that on his entry on the ballot paper but did not have any documentation to back it up. Honesty when I saw him in person I thought he was one of Bock the Robber's men from the Blog Awards. Seriously.

Crowley, Liam: - Solicitor

Another man from Puck, Christ people will think we're trying to take over. A director of elections for John "the bull" O'Donoghue on occasion. And a local election candidate for FF in 2004.

Garavan, Mark: - Lecturer and Sociologist

The Shell to Sea representative. I'll bet J/Gerry Cowley never thought when deciding to support him that he would be out of the Oireachtas himself when the election was being held. Sociologist? I thought he had suggested he was some sort of chemical engineer when taking about the pipeline.

Healy, Paddy: - Immediate Past President, Teachers’ Union of Ireland, and Lecturer

Apparently, a brother of Seamus Healy who was TD for Tipperary South until a short while ago.

Hillery, John Anthony: - Medical Doctor

Hogan, Martin: - Green Reform Candidate and Business Mentor

Nice bloke. Can't imagine he is too impressed at Mark Garavan's late declaration.

Kennedy, John Paul Alexander: - Software Engineer; Young Fine Gael
Endorsed Candidate

Lowe, Martina: - Director, GET AHEAD

MacCárthaigh, Dáithí: - Abhcóide/Barrister

Monahan, Oonagh: - Business Manager

NUIG person, is the west awake?

Mullen, Rónán: - Barrister, Teacher, Columnist

Was or is a columnist for examiner or Daily Mail. some suggestion on that he is supported by the cleric wing of Irish politics. Was with the press office of the Dublin Diocesan Communications Office at one time too.

O’Callaghan, Bernie: - Hotelier

Ó Gógáin, Liam: - Engineer and Lecturer

Father's rights is primarily his focus or so it appears from googling.

O’Riordan, Mary: - Medical Doctor

O’Shea Farren, Linda Mary Patricia: - Solicitor and Human Rights Advocate

Was Nora Owen's programme manager according to the good people at and has a nice address apparently.

O'Sullivan, Bernadine: - Secondary Teacher

Former ASTI President who has run before and came close to unseating Brendan Ryan. Was last time her only real chance? Her campaign may well consist of saying
Benchmarking- bad ICTU - boo hiss and so on.

O'Toole, Joe: - Senator and Educationalist

Educationalist no less! there's posh for ya. Used to be when being a teacher was good enough for our Joe. Still and all he's from Dingle so I won't say anything too bad about him.

Philips, Susan: Political Analyst

Seems to be UCD academic

Price, Brendan: - Biologist, Founder: Irish Seal Sanctuary

Plenty of experience over this course and well aware of intricacies of the process.

Quinn, Feargal: - Senator

A pleasant man to speak with and surely a shoe-in again this time out.

Ryan, Brendan: - Senator and Lecturer in Chemical Engineering

Interesting to see Brendan making a targeted love bomb of engineers. His vote dropped last time out after he had joined the Labour party and run in the general election. Not sure what impact it may have this time.

Sullivan, Daniel K: - Disability Activist and Software Development Researcher.

The above was intended to have read Software Development Researcher and Disability Activist but the box was rather small and once I got Software Development Researcher written I realised I would have write Disability Activist above it for it to fit in the same area. I have some qualms with the word "Activist" too as it speaks to me of folks gathered around a Formica topped table, smoking butts talking about assisting the workers in their struggle to overthrow the bosses. Still it seems to be the vernacular of the times so.

Oh and the flag has been dropped and they're off...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Where could Labour have won?

Reflecting on Tommy Broughan comments and those of others whether in the meeja or the Labour party about the Rabbitte - Labour Strategy got me thinking about where the party could actually have won if they had pursued a more independent path and if as a consequence their % had been up.

In essence that would mean taking votes from FF candidates that would have come from those that would have wanted Bertie as Taoiseach. After all those that wanted Enda would be less inclined to vote for a more neutral Labour.

Kerry South - the key factor here I would reckon was Moynihan-Cronin's decision to retire and then come back. While she was out of the picture others were knocking on doors and saying "vote for me", it is hard to make up that gap once others have gotten the political mind share in a locality.

Meath East - This is a kind of split in that the FG vote seems to have been up too. Was Byrne's vote down to geography? Strange thing is that Fitzgerald's votes did not particularly go anywhere. They just sort of drifted off in various directions.

Dublin South Central - the problem for the Labour party here is the variety of left options who to be honest do not think much of Bertie or Enda. Here people have a choice between the left, the hard left, the far left and the "we're so left we must be right" people.

Wicklow - well, the FG vote was up too so it could be argued that had the Labour party been even more anti FF that they might have secured that vote instead of it going to FG. It has to be said that Nicky Kelly's more recent brushes with the law in relation to driving issues can't have helped.

Tipperary North - more of a problem with the same old face I'm not so sure the locals are all that crazy about the self help crowd O'Meara is involved with.

Dublin North - again another old face though this time the brother. If they had gone for some new in Dublin North instead of the Ryan's regarding it as a fiefdom.

In essence Labour could have been 2/3% higher nationally and not won anymore seats (bar Hannigan I reckon) unless the candidate selection issues about were addressed. In all bar one of these seats it was old familiar faces, perhaps too familiar faces that were running.

So, I think the problem for Labour wasn't the accord it was the failure to prevent FF getting votes instead of Labour's failure to get them.