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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 […]

An Chéad Dáil Éireann

Democratic Programme We declare in the words of the Irish Republican Proclamation the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be indefeasible, and in the language of our first President, Pádraig Mac Phiarais, we declare that the Nation’s sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation’s soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation, and with him we reaffirm that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare. We declare that we desire our country to be ruled in accordance with the principles of Liberty, Equality, and Justice for all, which alone can secure permanence of Government in the willing adhesion of the people. We affirm the duty of every man and woman to give allegiance and service to the Commonwealth, and declare it is the duty of the Nation to assure that every citizen shall have opportunity to spend his or her strength and faculties in the service of the people. In return for willing service, we, in the name of the Republic, declare the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the Nation’s labour. It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland. The Irish Republic fully realises the necessity of abolishing the present odious, […]