A lot not done, a lot still to do

Read more about: Fianna Fail, Referenda, Social Policy, Women's Rights     Print This Post

Micheál Martin as Minister for Health & Children, in the Dail on 25 October 2001 to push through the legislation for the 25th Amendment to the Constitution –

The purpose of the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill is to provide a secure and effective constitutional basis for a legislative approach to the protection of human life in pregnancy. The proposals are designed to ensure that women can continue to receive all necessary medical treatment during pregnancy, while at the same time ensuring maximum protection of the unborn and maintaining a clear prohibition on abortion.

The mechanism proposed is that a referendum will be held to approve the insertion into Article 46 of the Constitution of the text of proposed amendments to Article 40.3 of the Constitution. These are (i) a new subsection 4º in Article 40.3 to provide that the life of the unborn in the womb will be protected in accordance with the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act, 2002; and (ii) a new subsection 5º in Article 40.3 to provide that any future proposal to amend or repeal the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act, 2002 will have to be approved by the people in a referendum … The new law will, therefore, define “abortion” in a way that clearly excludes such ethically legitimate procedures from being termed an abortion for the purposes of our criminal law. Doctors may provide any medical treatment which, in their opinion, is necessary to safeguard the life of a pregnant woman. The doctor’s opinion must be formed in good faith and there is an explicit requirement that regard be had to the need to preserve unborn human life, where practicable. It is important to emphasise that doctors, when treating a pregnant woman, make every effort to safeguard not only her life, but that of her baby. This will not change after the passage of the Act.

Questions for the current leader of Fianna Fail given the context of the Savita Halappanavar case: do you still believe that legislation to cover what doctors can do in the case of life-threatening pregnancies needs to be embedded in the Constitution, and do you believe that the formula you outlined in 2001 for guiding such treatment is still relevant?

Don’t type controversial opinions

Read more about: Communication, Democracy, Oireachtas, Referenda, Social Policy     Print This Post

On 12 October 2012, a process by which an opinion column written by opinion columnist Kevin Myers on the opinion pages of the Irish Independent newspaper had been hauled before Ireland’s statutory Press Ombudsman came to an end. The Press Ombudsman ruled that opinion columnist Kevin Myers had used his opinion column on the opinion pages of the Irish Independent newspaper to express opinions not supported by “facts.” Specifically Myers had made various disparaging remarks about the links between the legalisation of homosexual activity and gay marriage and various societal ills to which Myers was of the opinion that these measures had contributed –

The ombudsman found the newspaper had failed to “distinguish adequately between fact and comment”, and the breaches were “capable of causing grave offence”.

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The politicians’ ‘gutless’ failure to legislate on abortion is no longer acceptable

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The political message of protestors on Kildare Street on Wednesday night last was clear: Irish abortion policy is a shambles, and the blame for that shambles rests at the gates of Leinster House.

Whatever the outcome of investigations into the circumstances that led to the death of Savita Halappanavar in University College Hospital Galway, the failure of successive governments since 1983 to legislate on abortion is no longer acceptable. The problem is not just that all parties, and party leaders, shied away from legislating following the 1992 X case ruling. As highlighted by the judge in that case, nine years after the constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to life of the unborn, there was no legislative framework to provide it with meaning or effect. So it’s not twenty years of inaction we have to complain of. More like, thirty years on, as a result of political cowardice, appaling uncertainty persists. Inevitably, and tragically, a case would arise which would light a fire under the pusillanimity of our political elite. Continue reading ‘The politicians’ ‘gutless’ failure to legislate on abortion is no longer acceptable’ »

A casualty in the War on Reilly

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Content gone from the Irish Times digital front page on Tuesday. The link is busted too. The not-quite-a-correction looks out of context without the original material. Sometimes a feeding frenzy leads to indigestion.

Shortall Resignation: The Government needs a Doctor? Oh God no, not James Reilly!

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 “This government is sick”, writes Miriam Lord in today’s Irish Times.

Does it need a doctor? Not James Reilly, surely, who’s continuing his stint as lightning rod for the daily litany of woes besetting the government, of which Roisin Shortall’s shock resignation as Junior Minister in his Department is just the latest twist?

Roisin Shortall’s resignation is a matter of regret, and not just for Joan Burton who, taking Leader’s Questions in the Dail today, expressed that sentiment. It’s regrettable to all of us that a junior minister with responsibility for establishing primary care centres felt she was left with no option but to resign her position. Continue reading ‘Shortall Resignation: The Government needs a Doctor? Oh God no, not James Reilly!’ »

Personal insolvency, the ECB, and the shallowness of much political debate

Read more about: Economy, Housing, NAMA     Print This Post

If you had tried to follow the debate on the bill reforming personal bankruptcy in Ireland, what would you have learned over the last few weeks? From the opposition you’d have learned that awful Alan Shatter wants to take away people’s wedding rings, and from Alan Shatter you’d have learned that we had a massive problem of bling weddings in the boom and by God they’re not keeping those rings. The whole thing was ready made for Liveline, and no doubt whoever got the last chance to Talk to Joe would have a major influence on the eventual public attitude to the bill. That may be par for the course in Ireland, but in this case the departure of the popular understanding of the bill from its substantive effect is striking. For while the bill is well on its way to being viewed as an essentially Dickensian framework in the popular media, according to the just released opinion of the ECB on the bill, it risks being a disaster for the financial sector and the mother of all loopholes for medium-sized property speculators.

Continue reading ‘Personal insolvency, the ECB, and the shallowness of much political debate’ »

Politburo or Poltroons? It’s hard to characterise what the government strategy signifies for the lives of citizens any more

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Finally back to the Dail this week, the government is under pressure on a number of fronts, and not just in terms of the inevitable power wrangling between the big spending departments over the contents of next December’s budget. This post takes a brief look at a couple of those areas and question the approach taken by the Ministers directly responsible, and by extension their colleagues in the Cabinet who ostensibly endorse their actions.

Is it a sort of Politburo that we’re dealing with, or a collection of poltroons who, devoid of any imagination or strategic direction, are ineffectually muddling their way through in hope that it will all work out alright in the end?

Continue reading ‘Politburo or Poltroons? It’s hard to characterise what the government strategy signifies for the lives of citizens any more’ »

We need to talk about Brian

Read more about: Economy, Fianna Fail     Print This Post

The Irish Times is building on the foundation work of Gavin Sheridan and Karl Whelan and has determined that there are three letters from the ECB to Ireland in the critical October-November 2010 period. The odd thing is that none of them correspond to the date cited by Brian Lenihan in his BBC Radio 4 interview with Dan O’Brien, as coming on 12 November. The IT conjectures a bit:

The decisive conversation with Mr Trichet followed on November 12th, and it is possible that this arose following a fax or email reinforcing the points made on November 4th. In an interview with Irish Times economics editor Dan O’Brien, conducted after Fianna Fáil had lost power, Mr Lenihan was adamant that a communication from Mr Trichet had arrived on November 12th.

There is an obvious further conjecture: that Lenihan never read the November 4th letter, and the ECB became aware of this and felt the need to follow up a week later. Amongst the speculation that missing week was the possibility that Lenihan was considering a Fianna Fail leadership coup against Brian Cowen.

It probably didn’t affect the ultimate outcome, but the notion that internal party matters were distracting Ireland’s government from dealing with the financial crisis remains an uncomfortable backdrop to the How Did We Get Here question.

Filling a blank

Read more about: Corruption, Fine Gael, Progressive Democrats, Scandal, Tribunals     Print This Post

Credit to Vincent Browne: on what would otherwise be the silly season, and apparently on his holliers, he has been stirring the pot in his feud with Denis O’Brien via his column in the Irish Times (also on politico.ie). Today’s salvo is mostly devoted to DOB’s role at Independent Newspapers, but VB leaves out a tantalizing detail. One incident in his account relates to events discussed on Prime Time  on 26 October 2010 (one has to figure out this date from a couple of sentences in VB’s article). The event in question — not explained by VB — was the Moriarty Tribunal’s decision to retain a certain eminent Senior Counsel to question exactly one witness (see about 25 minutes in). That eminent Senior Counsel was Michael McDowell, who wrote recently about an unnamed friend who had been threatened with legal action over statements made about Denis O’Brien — that friend being Vincent Browne.  So anyway, enjoy the look back at the Prime Time episode (an unrelated poignant detail from the same episode being the focus on Brian Lenihan RIP). There’s lots left in this story!

No apology from debt default Minister for Stubbs Gazette debacle – but Government unfazed

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“15 months ago, when my Government came into office, we made it one of our top priorities to restore Ireland’s international reputation,” The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, told an international medical conference at the National Conference Centre in June.

Kenny and his Government tend to take every opportunity to bang the drum on the reputation issue and their collective determination to restore it internationally in every aspect. Yet they now appear unfazed by the spectacle of one of the most senior members of the Cabinet, Minister for Health and Fine Gael Deputy Leader, Dr. James Reilly, being cited in Stubbs Gazette for debt default and failure to comply with a High Court Order to discharge that debt.

 It’s unprecedented. It’s embarrassing. It potentially creates a tagline that will follow the Minister and his colleagues – The ‘Stubbs Gazette Government’. It doesn’t do much for Ireland’s international reputation – or with the citizens of this state – to have a minister in situ who is in breach of a High Court order. In short, it’s unacceptable.

Continue reading ‘No apology from debt default Minister for Stubbs Gazette debacle – but Government unfazed’ »

Old election promises constrain government’s capacity to perform – but they brought it on themselves

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As the Dail rises for its summer break for the second time since Fine Gael and Labour took office, the seismic election of February 2011 now seems like a long time ago. It isn’t of course. It’s only 14 months since this government took power with the biggest parliamentary majority in the history of the state. In its early months it was  bolstered by the goodwill of most citizens  coupled with relief amongst many that the political stranglehold of the Fianna Fail party for several generations was finally broken with the ‘soldiers of destiny’, and the Green Party which they’d brought down with them, destined for the political boneyard. Continue reading ‘Old election promises constrain government’s capacity to perform – but they brought it on themselves’ »

Fear of economic consequences led to ‘Yes’ vote on Fiscal Treaty – European Parliament Survey results

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Below: the main findings of a survey of 2,000 citizens conducted on behalf of the European Parliament on why Irish voters cast their ballots the way they did in the referendum on the Fiscal Treaty. The survey report is available on the EP website.


Continue reading ‘Fear of economic consequences led to ‘Yes’ vote on Fiscal Treaty – European Parliament Survey results’ »

Frankfurt has noticed

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Germany’s man at the ECB, Jörg Asmussen, during a tough speech in Athens today:

It is difficult to ask voters in a country where average public sector wages are around €1000 per month, like in Estonia or Slovakia, to lend to a country where those wages are on average around €3000. The same holds true for emerging countries outside the euro area who participate in the financial assistance for Greece via the IMF. Some of those even went through very painful but ultimately successful adjustment programmes themselves; take Brazil for example.

Fact: Average earnings per week in the Irish public sector are around €900 (source: CSO employment costs survey). Whether that’s “fair” or “meaningful” is a separate row. The news is that the ECB thinks that it’s high for a country dependent on the kindness of official creditors.

No, Finland did not say NAMA was a good idea

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Bloomberg News story on Ireland’s lessons for Spain –

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said on June 11 that Spain should split up some lenders, with some loans dispatched to a bad bank, as Ireland did.

Actual quote from Finnish PM via Bloomberg News 3 days earlier –

“The unhealthy banks should be brought down or some banks should be possible to chop up” so that the healthy parts continue and the rest ends in a so-called bad bank, Finnish Prime MinisterJyrki Katainen said in an interview in Norway today. “There must be a possibility to restructure the banking sector because it doesn’t make sense to recapitalize banks which are not capable of running.”

Ireland spent 2 years, in tandem with NAMA’s existence — insisting that it couldn’t shut down or chop up its banks, and instead that the only option was to keep putting money into them. Indeed, Patrick Honohan recently acknowledged, although it didn’t get enough attention, that the infamous guarantee was itself an obstacle to restructuring the banks.

There are lessons for Spain from Ireland, but they amount to doing the opposite of what Ireland did, not some variation on it.  It also indicates a need to be wary of Prime Ministers with an unseemly focus on attending soccer matches.

Referendum open thread

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Obviously there are quite a few places where the result is being discussed but for the sake of completeness we’ll open a thread here. I was struck just now to see on RTE Norah Casey (being interviewed by Miriam along with Mary Lou) to say that we need a convene a new style of think tank with “business leaders, farmers, retail, and professions … and maybe a few economists.” Apparently that’s a representative sample of Ireland.

If NAMA was a bank

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Whether we vote Yes or No on the fiscal treaty referendum, we’ll still have a shambles of a property market when it’s over. With the Central Bank recently publishing new data about the weakness in residential mortgages, its useful to look at one of the key drivers of the property market i.e. valuations.

Continue reading ‘If NAMA was a bank’ »