Author: Jeannette Boyne

SENATE REFORM

Think Nationally, Act Locally What is the Senate good for? Ideally, in a bicameral legislature, each house acts as a check and/or balance to the other. In our case, however, there is no check, given that the balance is well and truly tipped in favour of the Government of the day. The Taoiseach gets to nominate eleven Senators, which is a nice head start, but it’s hardly necessary: even though all Bills nominally need the approval of both houses, if the Dáil sends a Bill to the Senate, the Senate can potentially delay its becoming law, but can do nothing to stop it. If the Seanad votes not to pass a Bill, the Bill will lapse after 180 days. However, the Dáil has the power, within those 180 days, to pass a resolution declaring that the Bill is deemed to have beenpassed by both Houses. (oireachtas.ie) The result is a redundant Senate and a dictatorship of the Dáil—or, more precisely, a practical dictatorship of the Taoiseach and (invariably so far) his closest allies. The senate is consequently a metaphor for and a monument to a massive democratic deficit. To abolish it, however, as Fine Gael tried to do, would be to copper-fasten the deficit, while meaningful reform can transform it into a democratic dividend. So, let’s get rid of the bathwater, hold on to the baby, and redesign the bathtub. Start by throwing out the current Senate and all its rules, procedures, and personnel. Ignore the fingernails clinging to the doorframe, reassure them that some of them may be back, tell them they’ll like democracy once they get used to it, and close the door quickly. There’d be precious little in the way of increased democracy in electing representatives to the new Senate on the same constituency basis as we […]

TAX AND SPEND Part three: Anyone for Redistribution?

More equality is better for everybody, including the economy.Social Justice Ireland Right-wing governments are predictably reluctant to impose a wealth tax on their friends. But in a time of multiple crises—not just the coronavirus and its effect on the economy, but also the perennial favourites in health, housing, climate action, and so on—there’s nothing to be gained by endlessly cutting the national cake into ever thinner slices in an attempt to make it stretch further. We’ve been determinedly doing that for four neo-liberal decades, refusing to admit that the national budget isn’t St Brigid’s cloak[i]. And look how well it’s working. In the sixth richest country in the world (according to the International Monetary Fund), Social Justice Ireland estimates that approximately one-in-five full-time workers is earning less than the Living Wage—the average gross salary that will enable an adult in full-time employment to afford a socially acceptable standard of living based on needs, not wants. One child in five is living in a family with an income below the poverty line. One in four is living in a household experiencing deprivation of two or more basic necessities. And 110,000 children are surviving consistent poverty, both living below the poverty line and with persistent deprivation of basic necessities. These stark figures present very serious policy implications for Ireland, not least for the success of these children within the education system, their job prospects in the future and for Ireland’s economic potential in the long-term.  How long more can we afford to ignore these children and their living standards? (Poverty Focus 2019) There are one million people on healthcare lists waiting for treatment for months and sometimes for years. There are upwards of 70,000 families waiting up to 12 years for housing. Focus Ireland report that eight and a half thousand homeless […]

ANGRY COMMONERS

Despite a century of republican independence, the common ownership of Ireland’s wealth promised by the first Dáil continued to find its way into the hands of privileged private interests. Public rights and welfare are now subordinate to property rights, citizens are taxpayers, and workers are human resources. 15-min read.

A VERY IRISH COUP

Shaw said it’s past time to see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’; it’s time to dream of what never was and ask, ‘Why not?’ Why not a first-class, single-tier healthcare system, a first-class single-tier education system, housing for everybody, and a taxation system that makes the rich pay their share? 12-minute read.

BROKEN DEMOCRACY

Self-governing republican freedom is shared among equal citizens, and so is the responsibility for maintaining it. That requires active participation from us all, individually and collectively, taking responsibility for the state we’re in. Our democracy is broken. It’s time we did something about it. 10-minute read.

THE NOT-SO-QUIET REVOLUTIONARIES

In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalising homosexuality supported the ‘Christian nature of the Irish State’ and a two-to-one majority voted for the Eighth Amendment. But by 2018, we had legalised same-sex marriage and repealed the Eighth. 12-min read.

CLASS IN THE CLASSROOM

All other things being equal—Leaving Cert results, for instance—students who attend schools in working-class areas are less likely to graduate to third-level study than those from more affluent areas. Why is that? Two classic studies partially explain the disparity, but it took a pandemic to break it open.