Gavan Reilly

thinking out loud

Archive for the ‘Green Party’ tag

But where does it start?

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Yeah, I know, I’m actually blogging! Well, now that I can no longer describe myself as a student (a habit I’m going to find it quite difficult to get out of, I fear) and have to label myself as a “Sports Press Officer” – I’ll explain some other time – I’m going to probably have a little bit more time on my hands. I really can’t believe my five years of UCDness are over, but that’s for another day. Also contributing to my general time-having is the fact that we’ve moved house and now live on Upper Leeson St meaning that travelling is a much less cumbersome exercise, particularly when you can walk to most places.

On that theme, last Wednesday new housemate Mulley organised a bloggers’ tour of Leinster House with the Green Party. It had been ten years since I was inside that place (being classmates with ministerial offspring gets you fairly cool CSPE tours, folks) but since my political enlightenment of sorts, it was the first time to really take in the nature of the place. Ciaran Cuffe, our host, was an utter gent, extending the tour to the party’s offices inside Leinster House and to the Dáil Bar where he was more than happy to have proper chats with anyone who wanted them. Thus, myself and Brennan got a few minutes to have a reasonably in-depth chat with him about life as a TD, the challenges of representing an area with disparate social circumstances, and generally about the function – and more pressingly, the functionability – of the legislature itself.

Here I’ll pause for a quick politics lesson for those who might not be so interested. In the classical breakdown of Government, there are three branches of power: the executive (the panel of Ministers/Secretaries – in Irish terms, the Cabinet), who are charged with overseeing operations and issuing orders; the judicial (the courts system) who rule on the validity of laws and punish those who breach them; and finally the legislature (the Oireachtas), whose job it is to actually make those laws.

Last week on The Late Late Show, Pat Kenny decided to warm up for his new Questions-and-Answers-replacing political debate show by hosting a discussion on parliamentary reform (you can watch it here – skip to 1:16.45). Fintan O’Toole argued for the wholescale reconstruction of most of the bodies, and while people can always choose which parts to agree with and which to ignore, the one part that resonated with me was O’Toole’s assertion that in Ireland, we simply don’t have a functioning government as it’s described in the three-branches approach. The judiciary and executive both work – obviously their merit or competence is a matter of personal opinion) – but the legislative branch simply fails to function. In Ireland, the executive introduce a Bill, it is never debated with any substantive result, and the Government will always get what it wants and have the Bill passed. There is no debate; there is no constructive process leading to a concrete suggestion. The legislature don’t even, as a rule, introduce legislation: the executive comes up with something and the legislature rubberstamp it.

So what do you do about this? After the Late Late debate there is clearly a level of public appetite to examine the alternatives to the PR system or our multi-seat constituencies. So when I had the chance, I asked Ciaran how he felt it would start. Does it, I propositioned, start with his Green colleague, John Gormey, using his capacity as Minister for Local Government declaring he wants a reform and merely introducing a Bill? I remembered his predecessor Noel Dempsey doing something similar before the turn of the millennium and getting nowhere. What needs to happen before a Minister can make such moves and that they actually get somewhere? Why can every Fianna Fáil TD on the Late Late say they agree that reform is needed, but not be in a position to implement it?

The problem is that there is no set path. Are our politicians too scared to be the ones seen to destroy our nice cosy overrepresented system? Are TDs too lazy to introduce single-seat constituencies where they don’t have the option to pawn off any work to other reps for the same people? Ciaran, interested as he was, wasn’t really sure of a solution. If you do, I’d love to hear it.

The Dáil trip is described in more detail by Mulley, Darragh and Mark. Oh, and because she asked for a shoutout, hello Steph. 😛

Meanwhile, Scally has started his photobloggery over at Check it.

Written by Gav

May 17th, 2009 at 11:57 am

Towing The Line

without comments

It’s a fact that’s rarely disputed in Ireland – and rightly so, given how futile most arguments would be – that political parties in Ireland are rarely the consultative, ideological entities they ideally ought to be. The Big Two, as you might have ascertained from some of my other writing, are pretty much the same thing (I will have a lengthy post soon on my arguments for how that particular problem should be dealt with). Sinn Féin might as well only have one policy for all the contributions they seem to make to public debate, Labour do their best but really ought to look beyond their blueshirted Dáil neighbours, and everyone else… well, since the PDs went their own seperate ways, they really isn’t an “everyone else” to speak of. Bring back Joe Higgins and we’ll talk.

That leaves the Lovely Girls – those oh so lovely girls of the Lovely Greens. Aren’t they lovely? Who needs an economic rescue when we can ban regular light bulbs? (Oh wait, we can’t.) Who wants to hear us talk about security in Northern Ireland when we can casually sidestep bigger issues like third-level fees, or the fact that all of our high-profile people are bailing from the party?

There’s something distinctly Irish, then, about the fact that Paul Gogarty has decided to up sticks as the Greens’ education spokesman. The decision, according to RTÉ, comes on the back of the Greens’ Árd Fheis party conference at the weekend, where the members voted to set up a group devising the party’s educational policies.

Hmm. When you’re the junior partner in coalition, do you think it’s particularly right for one of your most prominent members to throw a hissy fit and quit his job, merely because in the light of near unanimous government disapproval, the plebbians bothered him with such menial requests as asking to have a hand in policymaking? How very Irish indeed. Not quitting as Chair of the Education Committee, not quitting as a TD – just basically deciding that unless you can be the one who gets to decide on the Big Ideas, you don’t want to be the vehicle trying to get them in power. Which would Paul Gogarty rather do, implement the Green Party’s policies on education – or anything else, for that matter – or implement Paul Gogarty’s policies?

How very Irish indeed. I remember when I read Stephen Collins’ account of the formation of the Progressive Democrats in Breaking The Mould over Christmas, and how genuinely surprised I was to see that the new members of the party got such giddy thrills from actually being involved in policymaking! For Christ sake, why shouldn’t the members be involved in deciding what their association believes in? What’s the point in being part of a political party unless you have a chance to sway its opinions?

As anyone who was familiar with last week’s UCD Students’ Union elections will now no doubt be aware, there are apparently only two parts to politics: having a name people know, and pressing the flesh. It, apparently, has precious little to do with what you actually think about things. What the point, thus, of politics really is, I don’t know.

It’s the tribalism of party politics that has stopped Ireland from ever having true ideology in its politics. Apparently more than 50% of the population would now be in favour of a grand coalition. Maybe it’s about time – teaching the politicians of Ireland that they have far more in common with their “opponents” than that which seperates them mightn’t be a bad idea. If one of our Government parties – not even the big one, for crying out loud! – could breed leaders who didn’t get pissed off when Joe Soap wants his opinion counted too, then it might be start.

Toby Ziegler, as he often would, probably said it best:

Kill them all. Yeah. […] I mean everyone. You’re all bothering me. I want to be left alone. Clearly, the only way that’s gonna happen is to be alone. So I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have to let you all go. [pause] Except the Yankees and the Knicks… and the Yankees and the Knicks are gonna need someone to play, so keep the Red Sox and the Lakers… and the Laker girls, and The Palm, and we’ll need to keep the people who work at The Palm. That’s it though. The Yankees, the Red Sox, the Knicks, the Lakers, the Laker girls, and anyone who works at The Palm. Sports, Laker girls, and a well-prepared steak. That’s all I need… Sometimes, I like to mix it up with Italian… and Chinese. All right, you can all stay, but don’t bug me. You’re on probation. Don’t forget. I was this close to banishing you.

PS – I do mean towing the line, and not toeing it. Tow in the AA Roadwatch sense, you see.

Written by Gav

March 9th, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , ,


with 2 comments

It’s coming! To all of Ireland! Except…

  • It’s being provided by 3 Ireland, the most unreliable mobile broadband provider of the three main mobile networks, with 386 pages of complaints on a megathread on
  • Everyone in the country is expected to use a USB dongle. No, seriously. A USB dongle.
  • the National Broadband Scheme now apparently only covers the “last 10% of the Irish population”, and so the Government saw fit to seek tenders instead of letting the market go after the other 400,000 peeople – without even seeing if takeup would be good enough?
  • 3 will have to spend 21 months doing building at 390 locations, “160 of which are new”. To provide basic high-speed mobile services for 400,000 people?!
  • 3 are committed to getting it done “within the 21 month deadline”, but are forgetting “a requirement for planning permission and scope for possible delays if appeals are lodged”

If anything positive has come from it, it looks like we may at least have a new telecommunications saviour in our midst.

Labour described the schme as underwhelming, with Senator Alan Kelly criticising the speeds provided under the plan. He described Minister Ryan’s moves as ‘a hodge-podge of wireless, satellite and land line solutions and that will leave Ireland in the technological dark ages’.

Frankly, when my parents’ house is still struggling to get a phone line 26 months after moving in, I couldn’t give a monkeys if 3 are going to spend millions so that we have can have a shitty USB dongle when we already have a shitty O2 one in the first place.

Sometimes I wonder if the Green Party have a bet on somewhere, with an underground bookies in Angola, seeing if they can become the world’s worst Government party of all time. Here’s a tip: put money on Eamon Ryan getting whipped across the face with a USB dongle if he comes within twenty paces of me.

Written by Gav

January 22nd, 2009 at 3:13 pm