Thursday, December 04, 2008

New concepts in Laptop design

Hat tip to Cristiano, these look very sexy indeed. Not entirely sure quite how functional they all would be especially on the road but surely we can expect to see some of them popping up in the new series of 24!

Are we seeing further evidence of corrosion in the FF base?

With the outburst from Cllr and 2007 General election Noreen Ryan of FF in Limerick against the mighty local political totem that is Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea, are we seeing the strain of the negative national mood beginning to tell? Many of those commenting are missing the local context in the timing of all this as the FF local selection interviews were talking place in Limerick over the last week or so. It may simply be that the new interview based and HQ driven selection process may not be proceeding as painlessly as had been hoped for. It was noted in the Limerick Leader recently with suitable expressions of disinterest in the process from local FF heavy hitters (in their own minds at least) such as Eddie (I could still get into the Dail) Wade and Jack (only a council seat makes me feel complete) Bourke. I think Wade said something closely along the lines that they could shove their interview process up a certain place and get a proctologist to examine their prostate while retrieving it. (this post is also over on sluggerotoole)

I strongly suspect that Noreen Ryan* has had her interview and picked up a definite vibe that she is not likely to be reselected. I particularly think her GE performance where she got barely 200 more votes than in the locals and she canvassed wearing sunglasses (was it the British Army that did the ad about the importance of making eye contact? Perhaps that is why she didn’t see it). That she should shoot her mouth off isn’t surprising, that the minister would retort by referring to her “as a person, utterly without credibility.” and continuing to say that “This is a grab for cheap publicity to conceal her utter inactivity and lack of performance as a councillor,”. Hmm....I can’t quite see how FF could have her on a ticket come next summer.

Fianna Fail ran 6 candidates, including cllr Ryam, in the 7 seat Castleconnell ward and they picked up 3 of the seats which was not a bad performance at all against the backdrop of the national picture. In fact it represented no change on the 1999 results. This time Labour and the Greens are making a really big push to gain a seat and with the demise of the PDs the future direction for cllr Brigid Teefy remains unclear. Might she now be looking for a home in the government party? And then we have to add in the likes of bright young lad Brian Stokes (who works with/for Peter Power TD and junior minster) who is bucking to get on the ticket in Castleconnell.

It is hard to see FF holding 4 out of 7 seats with the mood as it is now. This is moreover the case if they run too many candidates who fail to transfer amongst each other. The plain fact is FF as a party aren’t going to hold their seats by nominating imperious lads and ladies who lunch. They want them hungry and eager, and they want to have a tightly controlled panel of candidates. People who have a proven record of going off message and spending their time engaged in solo runs might well save their own seat but cost the party its other seats. While the national mood could change between now and election day, it is more likely that the government will choose to concentrate on the larger national picture and ensuring that they get things right so they can be returned to power in a few years rather than the immediate needs of cllrs. Of course, extrapolating too much from one ward is not without its dangers.

That said it may well be that this sort of radical surgery is needed if FF are to stave off the prospect that FG might pass them on. The story of the 2004 local and European was regarded at the time as being primarily about the increase in the SF vote. Yet in the longer term the vote retention and piecemeal seat gains by FG on what they had won in 1999 was of more significance. The 1999 results for FG were thought of at the time as a high water mark and later as something of a false dawn for the party in that those local successes didn’t prevent the tide going out in 2002. So sometimes it is not about the numbers of seats won but the overall context of the result.

It now seems that the FF brand and logo may even be more toxic than it was five years ago. I could tell from my own canvassing in the lead up to Christmas ’03 that many people were annoyed, disillusioned with the then FF/PD government and that they would take a hit come the summer but it was very unclear where the votes would go. In the end the votes spread out amongst the opposition parties in such a pattern as to please all concerned. The same could happen again, or any one of the opposition parties could take the lion’s share of the spoils. Only the campaigns and time will tell.

As for Cllr Ryan herself it is perhaps better for her to leave the party in a dramatic huff because she was standing up for ‘de local peeple’, run as an independent and if elected to return to the fold triumphant. With the FF logo more toxic than a tax demand on a poster it could be the only winning strategy for her and many others. No one ever said FFers were thick when it came to looking after themselves; it’s only when it comes to looking out for the rest of us that the brain tends to fail to engage.

* her site has been suspended, it would seem.

Where Mary Lou McDonald gets it wrong on Lisbon.

In an article in the Irish Times, SF’s MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald makes the case that the Lisbon referendum must not be rerun but that the Treaty must be renegotiated. The thing is she then goes on to make the same mistakes of overreach and presumption that the government did when campaigning for the treaty to be approved. What was rejected was the proposal to allow the Oireachtas sign up to Lisbon, not the content of the Treaty per se especially when so many citizens said they didn't understand it. Their response to vote No was in the circumstances quite sensible.

However, renegotiation requires that both parties are interested or able to do it. Mary Lou MacDonald argues that SF wanted the committee to look at “the future direction of the EU itself and how Ireland could shape that future”. I’m not sure how such an undertaking could possibly have reported back in any sort of realistic time frame and perhaps that was SF’s intent.

She states “There were also repeated attempts to scaremonger the public about the implications for the economy following the Irish people's rejection of the treaty. No evidence was presented to the committee to back up their claims.” The idea that the people’s rejection of the treaty has no implications for the economy is nonsense. If Brian Cowen had a bad flu, it would have implications for the economy for good or bad. That somehow our rejection of a EU treaty would have no consequences is complete overstatement of the position. Something she has rightly criticised elements of the Yes side for.

I do wonder at her suggestion about all the members of the public being given the chance to contribute in open session. It is unclear what ideas were not considered by the committee and what would have been the real value of every Tom, Dick and Harry having a chance to rant and rave at politicians on whatever their particular hobby horse, often only tangentially related to the EU is. “Sinn Féin also argued that the subcommittee should proactively engage as broad a section of the public as possible, that it should meet in open session, in and outside of Dublin, and listen to the opinions of ordinary citizens.” A halfway house idea that might have been worthwhile would have been to facilitate more engagement via the web, but the travelling road show idea as evidence by the Forum on Europe is past its best.

In talking about what needs to be addressed Mary Lou McDonald makes further missteps in saying about the report that it “sets out in detail the challenges facing Ireland and the EU and the mechanism for addressing the concerns of the Irish electorate on key issues such as maintaining our political strength, protecting neutrality, workers' rights, public services and taxation. It is clear that these issues can only be addressed in a new treaty which includes legally-binding protocols and not declarations of clarification which are not worth the paper they are written on.” There is nothing to suggest that all of the above must be addressed in order to win the support of the majority of the electorate. In a referendum all the government is required to do is gain the support of 50% plus 1 of the voters on the day. If they had adequately addressed the concerns of any one of the above issues they would probably have tipped the verdict from the vote last summer. The board scope of her argument that “...opinion polls,...demonstrate that people's concerns over neutrality, workers' rights, public services, democracy and Ireland's influence must be addressed in any future EU treaty” is also wholly incorrect.

She finishes by referring to our political goodwill with the EU while leaving aside the fact that much of this goodwill has dissipated in the aftermath of Lisbon. “It is time that the Government stood up for the interests of the Irish people and used the political goodwill which we have built up over many decades.” In essence the campaign strategy of SF and indeed Libertas was one giant blackjack hit, ignoring the possibility that we might be just as easily be bust as to hit 21.

As is her wont, she makes her point well, but doing it well does not in and of itself not make her point correct. Lastly, and of course, it is to be expected of me, given my own political leanings, to be saying this. It is quite poignant for a representative of SF to constantly refer to the democratic will of the people. It was the democratically expressed will of the people which they chose to ignore, election after election for 75 years, when it came to the republican movement’s campaign of violence which was supposedly in the name of the Irish people.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Commitment to extend Seanad voting rights should be acted on without further delay

NUI Seanad Candidate, Daniel Sullivan, has called on the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley to explain why he has still not taken a single step towards fulfilling his commitment to extend voting rights to all third level graduates. (I sent this - well a variation on it - out as a press release last week and it got the usual amount of attention that matters related to the Seanad tend to get)

‘Minister John Gormley made quite a splash for himself in a highly publicised speech about Seanad Reform on Nov 28th of last year. In particular he drew attention to the extension of the franchise to all 3rd level graduates.’ said Daniel Sullivan ‘He said that should the Seanad impede his efforts he would plough ahead anyway. Strong words, yet 12 months on we see no legislation in the pipeline. Almost one third of the way through the life of the 30th Dail and the legislative pen hasn’t even been dipped into the inkwell of lawmaking.

The minister addressing the Seanad on the issue of agreeing a consensus on the topic said “I will not be deterred from pressing ahead with the university changes if that co-operation did not materialise.” Minister Gormley specifically committed himself to reforming the university constituencies, as a first step in a complete revamp of Seanad Éireann that will allow all citizens to have a vote. For all the fanfare there has been no action to date.

Next summer will see the 30th anniversary of the referendum where the people expressed their opinion that the state should act to extend the franchise. Dan Sullivan says “Had I been elected in 2007 I would have looked to have had legislation before the house during the current autumn session. I have previously explored the option of taking a constitutional challenge regarding the failure to legislate as the people at the time were led to believe it was about taking imminent action on the matter. If the costs of such a challenge were more within the reach of someone with modest means I would already have taken the risk that the Supreme Court might view it as a matter of public interest and award me costs. I am still actively considering that option“

An amendment to the Constitution to widen the university franchise was passed as long ago as 1979 but successive governments have failed to implement the change. The 2004 report from the committee chaired by then Sen. Mary O'Rourke proposed the abolition of the Trinity College and National University of Ireland constituencies and its replacement with a single constituency of 6 seats. It’s really that simple. The same 6 Seanad seats as present but voted on by a single constituency of all Irish graduates of an Irish education institution with a level seven qualification. Close to 400,000 people or 20% of the adult population would be given a direct say in the Seanad if the registers were properly updated to include all graduates. Not the whole journey towards a fully reformed Seanad by any means but a simple first step that could be taken immediately.

Further reform of the Seanad beyond the electorate of the university panel would require another referendum. Among the proposals in the 2004 report were that the Seanad be increased to 65 senators, from 60. Some 26 of these seats would be filled from a single national constituency under a list-PR system, with a further six elected by a reformed higher-education constituency. Under these proposals another 20 senators would be indirectly elected by county and city councillors, deputies and senators under PR-STV system while 12 senators would be nominated by the Taoiseach.

Is this the most filmed fire in Irish history?

I got this in my mail yesterday and when you look at it, you will notice the many, many other views of the same incident listed beside it.

Don't be surprised if the overall viewing figures pass the 100K mark by the end of the week. And would this be some sort of record?