Friday, December 31, 2010

Good riddance to bad rubbish

So Bertie gives the country a final Christmas present by announcing that he won't run in the upcoming general election. While this comes as no big surprise, given that he would loose all his pensions if he stayed on in the next Dáil as an opposition back bencher. Also given that he'd face a tough battle in Dublin Central to get elected, it is good to have closure on the Ahern era.

While he deserves some credit for the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in general, on domestic issues history will not look on Bertie so kindly. The tribunals, the digouts and the lack of bank account show the contempt in which he held the position of Taoiseach and the people of Ireland. The social-partnership scam and other buy-offs like benchmarking and SSIAs have been shown up as the folly that they are.

Adding Bertie to the list of other rats deserting the ship such as Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey is somewhat satisfying. What would have been better would be for him to have run in the election and let the people of Dublin Central have their say by not re-electing him. Hopefully next up will be Mary Harney.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ironic or Hypocritical

In the UN yesterday a vote was passed 93-55 (with 27 abstentions) to re-insert a reference to sexual orientation in a resolution about killing minority groups. The resolution mainly focuses on ethnicity and religion, but originally had sexual orientation as one of the grounds for identifying a minority group. This mention had previously been removed at the behest of various Arab and African nations. So far so good. All progressive actions apart from the 55 dissenters.

But then up speaks Zimbabwe with the most outrageous statement effectively equating homosexuality with bestiality and paedophilia. And without even a hint or irony the ambassador continued "n our view, what adult people do in their private capacity, by mutual consent, does not need agreement or rejection by governments" which seems like a pretty open minded statement. But then he closes out the sentence with an extra clause "where such practices are legally proscribed" which pretty much contradicts the entire first half of the sentence.

Surely legally proscribing something is exactly the sort of rejection of an action carried out by consenting adults in their private capacity that he doesn't see the need for. Now either this is stupidity which makes it ironic or hypocrisy which makes it disgusting. Either which way, Zimbabwe has gone even further down in my estimation - not that it was particularly high in the first place.

For those that haven't seen it here's another African country's take on homosexuality. Funny but depressing as hell.

(Hat tip to Bernard Cantillon for the link to the original article.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

ECHR vs Ireland

Yesterday the ECHR returned a judgment against Ireland on that old issue, abortion. Without going into great detail, mainly because I'm not a lawyer, the court upheld the position of the Irish courts where they said that legislation was required to clarify when abortion is legal in Ireland. The problems arose due to the X case in the early 90s and more recently with the C case.

Personally, I am in favour of a pretty open abortion policy, pretty much on demand up to 24 weeks. It's not like abortions will be made compulsory, those who object on moral grounds can choose to have as many children as they want. If a woman who finds herself pregnant really doesn't want to have a child is it better to follow through with the termination or bring an unwanted child into the world? There are already enough children in poverty, neglected or in state care in this country.

The main downside of this decision is that it brings abortion right back to the front of politics in Ireland. With an election looming, the last thing that we need is for SPUC and Youth Defence to hijack the election. The election has to be about financial issues and political reform and so any focus on abortion is just going to be a distraction. Of course attitudes in Ireland on the substantive issue have softened and the Pro Life campaign might find their message not being so warmly received, especially in the under-40 category.

The other issue is that it will bring the anti-EU and anti-Lisbon people back into play pointing out how this is just Europe sticking their nose into an internal matters and that we had guarantees on abortion. This neatly ignores the facts that the ECHR has nothing to do with the EU and that the ECHR is just reinforcing the judgments of Irish courts.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Another call to patriotic duty?

Tomorrow afternoon we get to hear Brian Lenihan's final budget as Minister for Finance. Of course it's not really his budget anymore as the EU/IMF have effectively provided him with some figures to wrap up in English. We already know a reasonable amount of the contents of the Minister's speech, the details on tax credit reductions, tax bands, PRSI reform and some form of property tax are the items I will be most looking out for.

Depending on what Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae come out with this evening, the most important thing to look out for during the first round of speeches is who exactly is in the chamber. Were Mattie McGrath or John McGuinness to be absent then that sends a strong signal that the election has started. Similarly, Lucinda Creighton's absence can be taken as a sign that the vote will be carried.

It will also be good to hear Michael Noonan giving the budget riposte from the FG benches. One of my favourite memories as a young fella with only a passing interest in politics was Noonan's response to a budget during the 1st Gulf War where he described the various cuts as Scud Missiles fired at the poorest in society. His turn of phrase will be a marked improvement on the humming and hawing of Richard Bruton who despite always homing in on the important figures, never really managed to land proper blows on the Minister.

Finally I hope that RTE do the right thing and finally cover all four of the main speeches rather than cutting away to their panel as soon as Lenihan finishes. The people have a right to see the opposition spokespersons putting their point as one of them is likely to end up being the Minister for Finance in early 2011 who is going to have to implement the mess that the current government leave behind.