Blogging Elsewhere

While this site is on hiatus, I’m still occasionally blogging elsewhere, like at my current job with ISIS.

Today’s post on incentivising people to use bottled water is generating quite a bit of discussion in Vancouver.


In case you hadn’t noticed, this blog is on hiatus. It will, in all likelihood, not return until 2011. This is mainly due to the workload involved in the MBA I’m doing at the moment (at the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia in Vancouver).
In the meantime, get your Irish politics fix from Cian and the team at

Minister for Public Service Reform

In case you missed it, Ruairi Quinn called for the establishment of a Minister for Public Service Reform the other day.

I’m going to claim partial credit for that idea.  I can’t remember whether I actually said it to Ruairi himself, but I was punting the idea around the Labour Party backrooms for a couple of weeks before I left for Canada.  Here’s some of the flesh I put on the bones of the idea while talking to people about it.

From East Lothian Museum (licenced under Creative Commons)

From East Lothian Museum (licenced under Creative Commons)

Why a Minister?

So why do you need a Minister for public sector reform?  Why not a committee or a working group or even just a Junior Minister?  The reason for this is that in order for the Public Service to both respect and cooperate with the process, and for the person in question to be able to legislate (both primary & secondary) at will, a cabinet level post is required.  This also stops, or at least hinders, interference from other Ministers.  Read the rest of this entry »

Waking Up Canadian

Well, I’ve arrived safely in Vancouver.  Nothing much to report yet, but two videos for your enjoyment:

And (of course!):

Now, where did I put my maple syrup, eh?

(Oh, and don’t worry – I’m not actually up at 2am posting this, I scheduled it so it would go out during daylight Irish time)

An Bord Snip – It’s All or Nothing

  • FF must now implement all or none of An Bord Snip Nua’s recommendations

Fianna Fáil, and the Government as a whole, now has two stark choices in front of it following the publication of the report of An Bord Snip Nua. Ministers can implement it word for word, cut for cut, job loss for job loss, or they can dump the whole thing. Any position between the two will bring them to an unbearable conflux of competing interest groups, protest and ultimately an appearance of weakness.

First cut is the deepest

Fianna Fáil’s problems haven’t started yet. The revelation of the full scale of the recommendations (whatever your thoughts as to whether they go too far, not far enough or are about right) has caused various interest groups to decry their own perceived unfair cuts.

But it will be the first backtrack that really begins the hurt. The first time that Brian Lenihan or Brian Cowen caves on some aspect of the recommendations, no matter how minor, will start a deluge of similar claims, talk of favouritism and demands that “we be heard”. “The <publicans/civil servants/farmers/quangos> are having their side taken”, another interest group will say. “Now, all we need to do is push harder and harder until the Government listens to our side.”

A road forked…

Fianna Fáil’s two options are to condemn the entire report (and therefore probably the Government finances for another year or two until they can come up with something better) or to implement it in its entirity.

The former allows individual groups to be placated, but runs the extremely dangerous risk that the public won’t wash a further abrogation of duty on behalf of the party they see as having brought Ireland to this breaking point. It also likely means that whatever cuts are made further down the line will have to be even tougher in order to make up for the time lost between now and then.

The latter means invoking the ire of every interest group in the country, and likely most voters on an individual level. However, it offers the only escape clause in the contract. By implementing the recommendations in their entirity and without so much as a comma changed, the Government can deflect some of that ire onto Colm McCarthy and his colleagues. “It was the economists what done it,” Brian Cowen will say. “Sure we had no choice.”

The middle ground between the former and the latter is a politically deadly minefield that could not be crossed by even the luckiest of sappers.

Feeling lucky, punk?

You might think that blaming the report’s authors wouldn’t get past the voting public, and it probably wouldn’t. But it would at least give the fig leaf required for the more ardent Fianna Fáilers to continue supporting and voting for the party.

It’s been Fianna Fáil’s approach to the health service for some years now. In fact, they created a situation where they have two people to blame: the HSE takes the first hit, and, if the clever voter spots that the HSE answers to the Government, sure “it was them PDs and that terrible Harney woman” who set it up and are in charge of it now. Nothing to do with Fianna Fáil, who only wish they could get their hands on Health again to sort it out. Damn those PDs. (This was most recently displayed when Micheál Martin objected to his own Government’s plans to build a private hospital on the grounds of the University Hospital in Cork.)

Proof of Concept

Any change to the recommendations, no matter how small, admits that those recommendations can be changed. And that would be fatal to the “a big boy told me to do it” plea.

Fianna Fáil got us into this economic mess. They got us into this fiscal mess. They’ve now gotten themselves into this Bord Snip mess. Will they be any more successful at getting out of that?

Two Seanad By-Elections, Two new FF Senators

Apart from the speculation on who will be Fianna Failure‘s nominees for the two Seanad by-elections (caused by the death of Senator Tony Kett [FF] and election to the European Parliament of Senator Alan Kelly [LAB]), a few people have been asking about the numbers, and whether Fianna Failure are really sure of victory in the two races (which are held as two seperate ballots, as the two vacancies arise on seperate panels).

Seanad Éireann

Seanad Éireann

Under Seanad by-election rules, only members of the Oireachtas, and not Councillors, may vote this time.

Here’s the maths:

The starting tally in the vote would be:

FF 27 Senators
FG 15 Senators (14 + Colm O’Gorman Ciaran Cannon)
LAB 5 Senators (6 – Alan Kelly)
PD 1 Senators (Fiona O’Malley, who can be expected to go FF, probably)
GRN 2 Senators (who can be expected to go FF)
SF 1 Senator
OTH 7 Senators (of which, 3 can, on a good day & with the right candidates, likely be expected to go LAB [Norris, Bacik, O’Toole], 2 FG [Ross, F Quinn], 1 FF [Harris], 1 unknown [Mullen])

Giving a final Seanad tally of:
FF 31
FG 17
2 unknown
Read the rest of this entry »

Return to Normality

I’m back.  I’m alive.  The election was won. (Thanks, Avril).

Took a bit longer to get back to blogging than expected, due to a bug in the upgrade of WordPress, but all sorted now.

Childers Election Poster

Childers Election Poster

A few online things to note from the campaign – Liveblogs and Twitter really came to life during the counts & results phase. did brilliantly at that stage.  The weakness of these media is still there, though: there’s no way of knowing what the reliability of the source is.  In the noise, there are great, solid sources (like your correspondant), and sources that are full of shite (like the Libertas spinners).  However, that applied equally to RTÉ, who occasionally got their announcements wrong.

Blogs, Facebook and YouTube didn’t have much effect on the campaign.  Having talked to a few internet-enabled politicos who were managing candidate websites, the traffic levels on election day and the few days before were higher than normal, but still in the low hundreds region at the highest.

I’m off to Canada in a month’s time (via DC), where the possibility of an election can’t be discounted.  July 27th is the date they’re theorising about, which would give me a good week of campaigning!

On another note, check out my little brother’s blog – he’s travelling around Asia on the way to Australia, and has just completed a 21-day trek in the Himalayas.

Election Button

In the tradition of recent online campaigns, here’s a button for the Irish local/European elections this Friday.

Voting Labour

Medium size (which seems to work best for Twitter profile images):




Feel free to use as you wish.  This is a copy of something someone else did, remade with the higher res versions of the logo.


By popular demand, here’s a version that works as a Facebook logo too.


May Day

A quote for MayDay:

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

No, it’s not Marx, it’s the Father of Capitalism, Adam Smith, in ‘The Wealth of Nations’. It’s here in context (para I.10.82).

Blogging is going to be very infrequent for the next month due to the European Elections!

In Poland, Nobody Likes Libertas…So They Find A Way Around Funding Rules

Very interesting news from Poland, (thanks to a source who shall remain nameless for pointing it out), which follows earlier blogger interest.

First up, the results of a new poll (English translation) undertaken in Poland on the European Elections campaign.  This was carried out by the local branch of TNS/MRBI (TNS/OBOP in Poland), so we can expect it to be fairly reliable.  960 people surveyed at the start of April across Poland.

The result: Libertas failed to get even a single person to “vote” for them in the poll.  Not one.  Not only did they register 0%, they failed to even get 0.1% of those polled to express a preference for them.

What to do?

So, what does Declan Ganley decide to do?  Well, according to English-language Polish news site, he’s going to find a way around the funding rules.

Though European election law insists that campaign funds must come from within the relevant nations, Ganley will secure loans taken out in Poland, so finding a way around the rule, it was revealed late last month. Libertas Polska will then default on the loans, forcing banks to seek recompense from Ganley himself.

They’re not quoting some Euro-federalist opponent of Libertas in that story, they’re quoting Artur Zawisza, who they say is the Vice President of Libertas Poland, and who Wikipedia says is the President of the Polish-Irish Interparliamentary Group.

Is this how Declan Ganley financed Libertas in Ireland during the Lisbon Treaty referendum?  The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) is still unsatisfied with the answers he gave about that funding.  Perhaps someone has unwittingly unearthed the loophole he’s stuffing millions of euro through.