Friday, November 27, 2009

Murphy Report

I wanted to write about the Murphy Report on child abuse in the Dublin diocese but I can't. It's just terrible and shows how little regard the Catholic hierarchy had for the protection of children over the years.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Strike Aftermath

Tuesday was the first national public sector strike day. I picketed from 8am until 11am outside the building site at the back of campus thereby avoiding most of the hassle of interacting with people I know who wanted to cross the picket. Luckily it stayed dry for my stint and it was all fairly good natured. The guys on the building site, while working, were positive and joking with the strikers. Only one passer-by made negative comments, most were just getting on with their lives.

Once my slot was finished I wandered up town to meet some others who had been picketing at the City Council offices and we proceeded to support the private sector by propping up the bar in the Foggy Dew from midday until the Champions League started on the TV. Apart from not being paid, all in all it was quite a pleasant day. However, the sight of massive traffic jams heading into Newry didn't really help the cause and the letters in the Irish Times over the last few days have borne that out.

There is meant to be another strike on Thursday of next week in advance of the budget. It will be interesting to see if it actually happens and also to see if as many people join the picket line this time. It will also be interesting to see if our local union branch could be slightly more organised with rotas and covering the important places rather than locked gates.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Preparations for Tuesday

As a unionized worker in the public sector I'll be striking on Tuesday. It is a sign of how low the level of industrial action has been in the last decade or so that it will be the first time I've picketed (as opposed to protest marches). That seems to have been the main upside of the policy of appeasement and buy off in social partnership. It also seems like the first time that many on both the union and management side have been involved in this sort of situation.

Considering that the date has been fixed for over a month now, my union still hasn't sent around a rota for picketing duty. Several emails have been sent around asking those who will not be available (medical, childcare seem to be the main acceptable excuses) or who have a preference for where to picket. They also sent around an incomplete list of locations since several entrances to the campus have been changed since the SIPTU strike in 1996.

On the other hand, management seem to be intent on stoking up the flames and being as divisive as possible. While I accept that my striking should result in my not being paid for the day, the powers that be have made it very difficult for those who don't want to protest. Sick leave, work from home and holidays have been suspended so there is no option but to cross the picket line. A few of my colleagues would really rather not have to cross the picket but cannot afford to loose a days pay. In our line of work it is very easy to work remotely and this would ease tensions substantially.

I'm also still unsure as to how this strike is going to play with the public in general. I still believe that the premise is indefensible given the state of the public finances and media outlets like the Independent and Newstalk are going to have a field day driving further wedges between the private and public sector. At least emergency response units in Cork, Clare and Galway have postponed their actions due to the flooding so we can't all be accused of being totally self-centred and selfish.

Finally there is the small question of how I'm going to get to the protest if there is no public transport and I can't cross the picket line to park my car on campus. Guess it'll be shanks mare into town unless I get an afternoon slot in which case I can park for free on street thanks to Dublin City Council and their efforts to get people into the city centre for Christmas shopping. Must also remember to bring the rain poncho and my boots as being wet and protesting would suck.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

At the end of the day ...

Ahh football, the game for gentlemen played by thugs. It appears that football fever has taken over the political system in Ireland in the aftermath of last night's match between France and Ireland and the "hand of frog" incident. Dermot Ahern has been on the airwaves demanding a rematch and has made if as far as CNN World Sport. Dara Calleary has also signed an open letter to Sepp Blatter demanding a winner takes all replay in a neutral venue.

Now I'm all for a bit of national pride, even when it comes to the game of two halves, but does it really need to get political? Surely our elected representatives might have something better to do with their time than get involved in this fiasco. Yes the ball was handled, yes we now aren't going to South Africa next summer but we're still 20B in the red this year and maybe keeping holiday makers at home next summer would actually be a good idea.

But the highlight of this whole situation is this tweet from Dara O'Briain showing how a story just loves to grow and grow

"Now I've been asked to go on Newsnight to discuss this Ireland France thing. Newsnight! Might get carried away and declare war or something."

The media are almost as bad as the politicians - they want a comedian to appear on a current affairs show to talk about sport. I'm sure he'll give 110%

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

AIB shenanigans

The row about pay levels for bank executives has raised its head in the last few days with AIB's appointment of a managing director. As part of the re-capitalization earlier on in the year, Brian Lenihan capped the pay for top bankers at €500,000. However it appears that AIB was unable to attract anyone from outside the organisation to run the place for such a paltry sum of money.

Therefore, AIB decided that they would have to appoint from within and came up with Colm Doherty as the man to do it. The problem was that Mr Doherty was already earning in excess of the €500,000 cap. After various back and forths it was announced this morning that he will take the job at the reduced rate. Of course it is unclear as to whether bonuses, options and other perks will be extended to Mr Doherty to bring his total package back up.

Of course the real problem with the whole exercise is that we now have AIB being run by an insider - one of the very people who ran the bank into the ground over the last few years and forced the government to step in and prop it up. Is it really that difficult to attract someone half competent to run the company for less than a half million? Half competent would be infinitely better than the current group at the top table since they have shown themselves to be completely incompetent.

To my mind the thing that stinks here the most is the timing. With NAMA jst around the corner, AIB released an interim statement today which has been completely ignored as people focus on the pay dispute. In the section called Asset Quality there is an interesting table showing the breakdown of the €24B of property loans that will be transferred to NAMA. It reckons that €10.5B of those will be impaired by the end of the year. That is almost 44% of their NAMAbound loans in trouble which is hard to reconcile with Lenihan's continued insistance that NAMA will end up making a profit for the Irish taxpayer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

PR-STV making gains

According to reports, the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific, which up until now has been an sovereign monarchy is considering changing to a parliamentary system. A Constitutional and Electoral Commission has been working on the 131-page report for almost a year and have recommended substantial changes to the way in which Tonga is governed.

From an Irish perspective, the most interesting proposal is using the Single Transferable Vote as the method for electing members to parliament. If this happens then Tonga will join us and Malta as the only countries to use this method for parliamentary elections. PR-STV is also employed in various places in the UK, Australia and New Zealand for local and city elections.

The worrying trend here is the population sizes (Ireland 4M, Malta 500k, Tonga 100k). At this rate of decline the next country to adopt the beloved PR-STV system will have ~30k citizens so Monaco or San Marino here we go!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Motions for debate

The Rathmines branch is semi-famous for proposing motions to annual conference that get ignored by the DSE constituency council under some section of standing orders. To be absolutely sure that the CC have to at least consider our proposed motion this year we have started the ball rolling already. At the branch meeting on Monday the following three topics were put forward
  1. Implementation of the Kenny report
  2. Lowering voting age to 16 and extending franchise in General Elections
  3. Secularisation of the education system
The first refers to the report written by Justice Kenny in the early 70s which proposed limits on speculation on land. This report has been ignored by every government since its publication. Had it been implemented in full it can be argued that the property bubble of 1999-2007 would never have happened. While it is still good policy, I'm of the opinion that it is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. I also think that implementing Kenny is already party policy and so a motion on it might be a bit of a waste.

The second motion is in two parts. Firstly it proposes that we follow Austria and parts of Germany in lowering the voting age to 16 and secondly to allow all EU citizens normally resident in the state to vote in General Elections. I have blogged on this before so no need to go into much detail here except to say no taxation without representation and no representation without taxation.

The third motion proposed that the state finally takes control of all eduction that is funded by the tax payer. This arose from two different issues, firstly the additional grants given to minority religious schools, the second to stop the practice of rejecting children from local national schools because they haven't been baptised in the Catholic church in favour of those that have. The debate was fairly heated at times and no wording was agreed on but it looks likely that some motion on this topic will be forwarded to the CC for consideration as the Constituency motion to conference in April.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

RTE Frontline II

Due to being at a branch meeting last night I only got home in time to watch the 2nd half of The Frontline on RTE last night. The author of "The Lolita Effect", MG Durham, was the guest and she lead a debate on the sexualisation of children. While it wasn't cutting edge current affairs it was an interesting discussion with some very good contributions from the floor, especially from the younger members of the audience who brought into focus the unwillingness or inability of teachers and parents to talk to teens about sexual matters.

Unfortunately I seem to have missed the best bit of the show. During the first half, while talking to Mary Hanafin, an angry man in the audience started ripping into Pat Kenny. During his almost three minute rant he said everything that the public have been thinking about the hypocrisy of overpaid RTE presenters demanding cutbacks in welfare. Following Jack O'Connor's trophy house comments last week, Frontline might end being more focused on attacking Pat Kenny than debating the issues.

Friday, November 6, 2009

ICTU Protest today

This afternoon marks the first round of the ICTU protests against cutbacks in the public sector and social welfare. At 2:30 in various locations around the country, Congress hopes that thousands of workers and the unemployed will take to the streets to force the Government into backing down on the proposals to cut expenditure in the budget. At least that is how the unions will try to spin the event. Unfortunately, the main premise of the march is to try to force through a pay increase that was postponed last year for 11 months and now hasn't been delivered.

As a public sector worker, SIPTU member and Labour Party member I feel that I should be 100% behind this protest but the pragmatic side of my brain knows that the stance that Congress is taking is just going to divide the workers in the public and private sectors even further apart. At a time when the state is running a massive deficit it is totally unrealistic to demand more money. If ICTU had any balls they'd call for an all out strike, both public and private, until a general election is called. At least that is a protest that everyone could get behind.

With 90 minutes to go until kick off I'm still unsure if I'll wander up to Parnell Square. Maybe if I can round up a few co-workers to join me then we'll hit the streets.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bus gate changes

Last night Dublin City Council voted 35-11 in favour of removing the bus gate on College Green in the evenings from mid-November to mid-January. The proposal was brought before the Council after the Dublin City Business Association said they had lost over 30% of trade since the measure was introduced. Of course no evidence was provided showing that this loss was due to the bus gate as opposed to say the economic climate and the high prices being charged by city centre businesses for goods and services.

On the other hand, independant research from Deloitte has shown that bus journey times have been greatly reduced in the city centre and that the numbers of cyclists in the area has been increased, in part from the bus gate and also from the Dublin Bikes scheme.

Hard facts like these matter not a whit to the City Manager and the Councillors as DCBA represent the people who pay rates. With DCC almost completely reliant on rates and commercial water for income it is no surprise that when the piper starts playing the Council gets up to dance. Since the next local elections are over 4 years away the Councillors only have to keep business onside and can stick two fingers up at the voters.

The biggest worry about this development is that DCBA will use the upsurge in business brought about by the usual Christmas trade to argue that bus gate should not be re-introduced in January and that it should be phased out altogether. The Council should have stuck firm on the issue and kept the bus gate in place to make the city more accessible and safer for pedistrians, cyclists and users of public transport and left the gouging shopkeepers to wallow in their own misery.

As a Labour supporter it is especially galling to see that only four councillors (Gallagher, Kenny, Quinn and Upton) who voted to keep the bus gate as is. After all Cllr Montegue's efforts with the Dublin Bikes scheme you'd have thought at least he would have voted to keep it as well. Shame on the rest of them for caving into DCBA at the expense of the citizen.