US Election Outcome – President Elect Donald Trump – What lost Clinton the Election

US Election Outcome – President Elect Donald Trump – What lost Clinton the Election

As you all know by now Donald Trump is President Elect of United States of America after winning what can only be said as the ugliest and most divisive campaigns in history.  Donald Trump’s path to the White House began back in June 2015 when he announced his Candidacy for the Republican nomination. He started as rank outsider, nobody giving him a chance. His announcement to kick off the campaign was controversial like the rest of his campaign would be. His comment in reference to illegal Mexican immigration to US was the beginning of the many controversies he would be involved in. He said “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with [them]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.  As the campaign went on he dispatched many experience Republican candidates with ease. This was aided by his views and positions on illegal immigration, the building of a border wall on the Mexican border along with his proposal to ban Muslims from the US, all of which resonated with the conservative Republican primary base. By early July Donald Trump was the clear front runner for the Republican Nomination and went on to win nomination. On the other hand Hillary clinton find it difficult to shake independent socialist Bernie Sanders in the Democratic nomination race. She found it difficult to bring in the same crowds as he did. She eventually won the hard fought nomination despite the belief she would easily get it.

Following winning the nomination’s and after the conventions both candidates had bounces in the polls. But for the majority of the campaign Hillary had the lead in most polls. Throughout September and October, Trump faced serval controversies,the most infamous bringing the release of the Accesses Hollywood tape and his remark about grabbing women by the P*ssy. This was followed by several claims involving his sexual misconduct and claims of him sexual assaulting several women. This hammered home by Hillary clinton during the debates, Trump was able to land blows to clinton also in the debate primarily involving the clinton foundation but it all seemed like she was odds on to become the first female President.Then reports of the FBI investigating her over her email scandals and a letter from the FBI director  saw what many would have seen trump’s campaign rise from the ashes into a neck and neck race, But as the polls opened and even when they closed most believed Hillary was well on her way to the White House but if like me you were watching the results early on it could be seen that the polls were wrong, very wrong and what had been expected to be early call for a clinton victory turned into a long night as state by state fell to Donald Trump.

We know the result but how did he win? In much of the liberal media, pundits and commentators said it racism, sexism and one even saying it was last stand of white supremacy in the US. I as a socialist do not believe that the majority of white Americans who voted Trump are racists or misogynists. This in most cases is democrats scapegoating white voters for the failings and rejection of the democratic establishment. There is of course a small minority of white americans who bought in on the racism being exposed by trump, some like David duke feeling there was opening of white supremacy but there wasn’t if there was, he’d be elected right now. No what lost clinton this election was a terrible campaign, she never got the same enthusiasm from democrats especially young democrats that Bernie Sanders was able or get crowds like Donald trump. Well at least not without help of big celebrates like Beyonce or Jay Z who the crowds were really turning up to see. This also added with the anger of so many working/middle class people at the political establishment at the moment, this anti establishment support guided Trump on his way to White House. But the most striking and important reason why clinton lost due he bad campaign was turnout. Democrats lost around 6.8 million votes from 2012 republicans lost less than 2 million.

When you compare campaigns, Trump despite controversies had a simple message and slogan ‘Make America Great Again’. It can mean different things to different people and resonated with many people through out the country. Clinton’s slogan ‘I’m With Her’, it doesn’t tell anything but implying you should vote for her because she’s a woman, its a long way from Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ and ‘Change: We Can Believe In’. I don’t believe that America wasn’t ready for a female President and Hillary in any other campaign would win. But in a election season where anti-establishmentism was so high, her the out and out establishment candidate aided by the DNC to win the nomination despite what polls said didn’t stand a chance. Democrats will now look to see who to blame or throw under the Bus but the failure of this election is down to them alone. It should have been an easy score with an open goal instead it’s red card and at least of two years if not four years or longer of Republican control of the United States as one person said last night, The ‘US is a Republican country’ this despite the chugging demographics.

We now have four years of Trump but Trump is not the one we should fear, Mike Pence is, the incoming VP, A man whose thinking is from a different time, his views on abortion and the LGBTQ community can only be described as extreme as they come, could very well play a major role in the four years and thats if Trump stays the course for four years and with Trump he could easily get bored in a year or two a leave the day to day running to Pence. No we can only sit back and watch what seemed like could only be fiction a few weeks ago will become a stark reality come January 20th.

* A note on one part of the election, many liberal’s and democrats accuse Republicans of sexism towards clinton (which of course there was) but it went both ways i must say the one person who never signed up to be a politician or a Politician’s wife Melania Trump has come under intense attack but some democrats who only believe its sexism if it comes from a republican.  * also i might improve on this blog tomorrow

Advertisements

Final US Presidential Debate: Clinton V Trump

Final US Presidential Debate: Clinton V Trump

Last night was the last US Presidential Debate before the election, I don’t know about anyone else but throughout the other two debates, I wasn’t sure where either candidate stood on the issues, any of them, well except Trump and his wall that Mexico is going to pay for.  Clinton as we know edged out Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination with out ever setting the crowds alight with enthusiasm like Bernie did. The WikiLeaks reports suggest that the Democratic hierarchy did everything in their power to help Clinton beat Sanders which saw the resignation of Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wassermann Schultz. Clinton was successful in defeating Sanders but struggled to pull away from quite possibly the most divisive US presidential nominee ever in Donald Trump. Donald Trump over the course of his campaign to win the Republican nomination has demolished some of the biggest names in American politics including Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

 

But as we all know in the last few week Clinton has helped pull away from Trump in the polls due to the release of tapes of him talking inappropriately about women. This added to several women publicly accusing him of sexual assault. That’s not to say Hillary hasn’t been in trouble herself, we all have heard about the email scandal and Benghazi. However Clintons troubles have largely been ignored by many in the US media, this mainly due to how partisan and biased the US media is they ignore Hillary’s troubles while highlighting Trumps or highlight Hillary’s trouble and dismiss Trumps troubles. Both of these candidates it can be said come with the most baggage of any other Presidential candidates in History and make Richard Nixon look like an alter boy. But one of them will be president, now onto last nights’ debate.

 

Just like in the previous debates they hit each other with pot shots, neither really explained their policies and more often not just attacked each other personally. However we did get some idea on what their policies will be if they are elected. In the case of Trump in terms of the Supreme court in which in the next presidential term would see at least one or two appointments to court possibly three which could and would shift the courts spectrum on way or the other, making the court increasingly liberal or conservative. Trump declared if elected he would put pro-life judges in the court that he said would limit abortions in the US and possibly overturn the Rowe v Wade judgment which constitutionally which expanded women right to abortions. Trump has also said before that he was in favour of punishing women who had abortions. In this case a Trump’s presidency would extremely bad for women and would be a backward step for women rights. But this policy scores big with the Christian right in the US who would like the judgment overturned, if overturned abortion would be illegal in several states almost immediately. Clinton said she was opposed to this and stated that she would appoint justices that would overturn citizens united judgment which allows big corporations spend as much as they want in election campaign’s as long as the money is not given directly to a candidate. It also treats the corporations as people under freedom of speech. Many have argued for it to be overturned to take big business money out of politics.

 

The second issue, that we got some idea where the candidates was on foreign policy, in which Clinton accused Trump of a puppet of Russian President Putin (I don’t think that has happened before in a Presidential debate).  Trump denied that he had anything to do with Putin, said he didn’t know him but did say that he believed that Putin had outsmarted Clinton when she was secretary of state and that he had outsmarted Obama and Clinton’s successor John Kerry.  Trump stated that he believed that Iran Nuclear deal was wrong and that the Iranians had outsmarted the US and that he believed that Iran was taking over Iraq. Trump repeatedly said that the US needed to take back Mosul (the Iraqi city under control of ISIS). Clinton again said that she’d put a no fly zone over Syria but did not elaborate how she was going to do this. This policy that she is potentially dangerous one which could bring the US in direct conflict and confrontation with Russia. It would almost certainly be vetoed at the UN security Council as the Russia’s remember that the no fly zone aided the rebels directly in Libya and led to the overthrow of Col. Gaddafi. They will not allow this to occur in Syria. The last issue that that was raised was the economy, Trump did rather better in this area compared to others but neither candidate expressed clearly how they were going to improve the economy. Trump repeatedly name countries with better GDP than US and said the US was being outsmarted by these countries and that trade deals like NAFTA were bad for the US. He also said that he would repeal Obamacare. Clinton stated that if elected she plans of having a stimulus package to help grow the US economy.

Overall the debate was entertaining but like the previous two lacked in-depth in terms of specific policy discussion and descended into personal attacks on each other. the only winner of the debate was Chris Wallace of fox news who moderated the debate much better than those who had the role in previous debates. But at times the candidates ended up talking over each other. The political commentators and pollsters will say Clinton won the debates because of the way she handled herself but this is the view of Washington elite who are out of touch with ordinary Americans. The more they say she is going to win, more chance people in particular those Hillary soft supporters stay at home. Only months ago in the UK the pro Brexit side was in the same position as Trump and everyone ruled them out even their own leader somewhat conceded just after the polls only for it turn that they had won. This race will only be won when every vote has been counted. At the end of it all, neither of these candidates gives any hope and representative of an America in decline.

Russian involvement in Syria: Why they are Fighting, Who are they fighting and what could the outcome of the Civil War be?

Russian involvement in Syria: Why they are Fighting, Who are they fighting and what could the outcome of the Civil War be?

In the last few weeks we have heard a lot about Russia’s involvement in the Syria Civil War on the side of the Syria Government led by Bashar al Assad. In particular we heard in the media report several times in the that period about Russia’s bombings of hospitals in the rebel held parts of the city of Aleppo. But why is Russia involved and who are they fighting?

The Russian connections with Syria stretches back to early in the Cold War. In the mid to late 1950’s, Russia then the Soviet Union gave up 300 million dollars in economic and military assistance to Syria which began a long lasting relationship between the two nations. the Soviet Union continued to support after Syrian Revolution of 1966 and in 1971 signed agreement with then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad father of current President Bashar al-Assad which which allowed the Soviet Union open a navel base in Syria which gave them a permanent presence in the region and continues to be Russia’s only base outside of the former Soviet Union. The friendship between the two nations continued and at the outbreak of the Civil War, Syria was Russia’s closest ally in the region.

The Russian involvement in the Civil War at beginning was political voicing support for the government led by al-Assad and vetoing western backed security council resolutions at the UN. At the same time, they were also providing as contracted with Syria, Weapons and ammunition which totaled in 2012 in the region of 1.5 million dollars. Since then the Russian’s have continued supplying the Syrian military with not just weapons and ammunition but also aircraft and missile systems. In September 2015 Russia involvement in Syria stepped up when they began carrying out air strikes in Syria at the request of the Syrian government. The first airstrikes hit the city of Homs and Hama, the main strongholds of the Syrian opposition.  The early targets of the air strikes was the free Syrian army and Chechen islamist fighters. The Russians also since beginning its involvement in Syria launched attacks on the Islamic State positions. The Russian involvement in Syria has been criticised by the western countries some of whom, 17 to be precise no longer recognise the Assad Government as the legitimate government of Syria instead supporting the  Syrian National Council made up of several groups. The Russian involvement it can be said is a selfish one, the aim being, keeping their ally Basher al-Assad in power, but the same can be said for the western involvement which want to remove Assad and to have more western friendly leadership. Their bombing of Hospitals is wrong and should not happen however the western’s media hypocritical anger at the bombing of hospital’s by Russia but yet stay silent, ignore or talk their way around the US bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan or the numerous Israeli attacks on hospitals, schools and UN compounds in Gaza and other Palestinian areas.

Now we turn to the question of who exactly are the Russia’s bombing and fighting in Syria. First there is afore mentioned main opposition which is the Free Syrian Army. The Free Syrian Army or the (FSA) for short is an umbrella name for dozens of units and organisation which is the FSA label. The FSA at the early stages of the civil war was the main fighting force against Assad government and hailed as a moderate force in Syria but has now all since  faded in recent times with many journalists including Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn each respectively saying that

‘FSA had fallen to pieces and their fighters had defected to al-Nusra Front or ISIL or retired to the countryside maintaining a few scattered checkpoints, and stated that the US government had already admitted the disappearance of the FSA’

and

‘The Free Syrian Army was always a mosaic of factions and is now largely ineffectual’

Then there is Jabhat al-Nusra which is an ISIS faction which since 2015 is part of the Army of Conquest that is a joint command name for several islamist Syrian rebel factions. Al- Nusra is know well for using child soldiers and has also been accused of using chemical weapons in Syria. The group has also carried out attacks on soldiers deployed in the Golan Heights on behalf the UN. In one incident they kidnapped around 45 Fijian soldiers and another incident they surrounded Filipino soldiers which had to be rescued by Irish peacekeepers. This group has been allied at times with factions of the so called ‘moderate’ FSA and strangely enough for an islamist groups they have connection’s with Israel which even included wounded Al-Nusra fighter’s being treated in Israel before sent back over to Syria to fight again this despite being designated by the UN and several countries as a terrorist organisation. It has also has been reported that this group receives aid form Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Another group which the Russians are bombing in Syria is Jaysh al-Islam, this is another Islamist group which is also allied with the FSA and al-Nusra front, the group is also at war and is opposed to Islamic State. The group which is reportedly funded by Saudi Arabia has in its arsenal a SAM system which was used to shoot down a Syrian Air Force plane and they have captured two Syrian Air Force jets however they have used neither of them so far. The group has been a referred to as a terrorist group by Russia, Iran and Egypt. The groups have been known to use captives as human shields. The group also in April 2016 admitted using chemical weapons against Kurdish militia and civilians in Aleppo. The Russians aided the Syrians in killing their leader in December 2015 since then the group has conflicts with groups with in the Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta of which it had been apart of, this group has become extinct due to the death of Jaysh al-Islam leader.

These three examples are mere few compared to the dozens of groups fighting in Syria, many of not most whom are against the regime of the Bashar al-Assad. Many of the groups fighting against Assad have only one thing in common and that is the common enemy of Assad.  In my opinion there is several outcomes of the Syrian Civil War, one outcome is the Russia’s are able to sufficiently keep Assad in power and force most rebel groups to agree peace deal that would leave Assad in power for the time being and replaced over a period of time (unlikely). A second outcome would be if western powers are successful arable create a democracy with a small d like is Libya which control parts of Syria but not all of it and would eventually end an another Civil war. A third outcome would be a another dictator who may or may nor be friendly to either the Russians or US but I’d have my doubts if the west would allow another anti western dictator take power, however that is not say a military dictatorship could take over similar to Egypt aided by the west if it was the only alternative. A possible outcome could easily be the break up of Syria with several new states being created. Possibly a Kurdish homeland state could be possibly created together with the possible breakup of Iraq who faces similar problems to Syria, but it would be unlikely for this to happen as it would be opposed Turkey and possibly other countries in the region. There is probably a dozen more scenarios and outcomes being thought up of by the Russians, Americans, Brits, Saudi’s and other powers `and vested interest but in the end I doubt if the people of Syrian will get peace. The civil war has lasted for five years and will last for who knows how much longer. Islamic state is being defeated slowly but surly but even with an overthrow of the current regime nothing holds the various militant groups together. This civil war may end in the years to come but how long until another one starts?

New Politics and Budget 2017

 

New Politics is Bullshit

Over the past 7 or 8 months since the election we heard time and time again about the so called ‘New Politics’. What is this new politics? The new politics of where Fine Gael pretends to be in government with the independent alliance and Fianna Fail pretends to be in opposition. The problem with this new politics is its attempt for the establishment parties of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to have a tangle hold on both government and opposition at the same. The new politics is really a Fine Gael government being driven by Fianna Fail whilst all the pretending its not. This partnership between the two biggest parties is the real coalition and its not for the benefit of the people. These parties have misgoverned the country for 90 odd years. Boom to bust and scandal to scandal. We had the ‘good times’ which where squandered and destroyed by a property bubble created by Fianna Fail and developers and cheered on Fine Gael who would have done the exact same if in government. The biggest lie we as country have told ourselves over the past few decades has been that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are different, they are not. They are the two sides of the same coin. In the early years of the 26 country state the difference between the two parties, was what side of the civil war they were on. But that has long been an issue for them. Their economic policy are not that different with Fine Gael a little bit more fiscally conservative than Fianna Fail and Fianna Fail being a little bit more socially conservative. This still exists to this day. The voters are already see that as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael transfer to each other more often than not. The difference is as make believe as unicorns.

The ‘New politics’ is the buzzword for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to protect their own self interest which is ‘power’ so they can protect their rich buddies. Over the course of the economic crisis caused by the economic elite both inside and outside of Ireland. During the crisis we have seen the weakest and vulnerable in our society suffer the most. We have a housing crisis, a health care crisis and a mental crisis among other things. But throughout this period the well off have survived pretty well and relief that budgets could give just like todays, they have been the main benefactors not those who are homeless, the carers or our nurses and Gardai or any other workers who have had their wages cut deep over the last 8 years. The ‘New Politics’ were the same backroom deals of old. We have seen attacks on the main opposition party Sinn Fein with both FF and FG attacking them for not taking party in government formation talks whilst ignoring the fact that it was they who excluded Sinn Fein from these talks. Throughout the entire general election campaign, FF and FG both said they would no enter a coalition with Sinn Fein both saying ‘Sinn Fein were not fit for government’. Those tables turned fast when the formation talks where done. This attack continues today when FG Michael Noonan refused to debate one on one Pearse Doherty, wanting instead to have a cosy chat with FF Michael McGrath. It wouldn’t much of discussion on the budget, if it was two parties which put the budget together were just on, giving each other a pat on the back for pulling a fast one.  Fianna Fail for the past 8 months not been in opposition but in government on the side. They have put what they want into this budget under the veiled threat of bringing the govt down whilst also giving FG enough wiggle room to save face.

This was a bribe budget with an election more than likely in the next few months when it suits Fianna Fail and the polls look good. There is no ‘New Politics’ but the politics of old clinging on for dear life. The ‘New Politics’ budget has the same failures of old to benefit the well off. It does not tackle our housing problem, FF and FG are so out of touch they believe its demand problem when we all know its supply and the only way to tackle it to build affordable homes through social housing. There is no ‘new politics’ but there can be, There needs to be realisation that there is alternative to FG and FF. New politics will only exist when there is government not being led by FG or FF a government without them completely. But this needs parties of the left more than anyone else to work together and stop fighting. It also means some parties need to be realistic and understand that the system is not going to collapse just because you want it to. New Politics is possible but not with Fianna Fail or Fianna Gael, Labour can also be included in that for that matter if they continue they way they have been for the last decade or more. We need a new politics which puts the people’s needs above the special interests and wealthy elite. We need a new politics which truly follows the words of  proclamation of the Irish Republic 1916 which says ‘The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally’.All the children of the nation young and old need to looked after not just the special interests. If theres only one thing you can take away from the budget and to remember on election day, They may give some of the nation an extra fiver a week or in the case of under 26’s 2.70 but remember they gave themselves an extra five grand. 

Seanad Éireann Reform (plus a brief rant about Ronan Mullen)

risingofthemoonblog

Problem’s with the Seanad

So what’s the problem with the Seanad? Where to start? Well first why I am i writing about reform of the Seanad. I was prompted to write about the Seanad because the first thing i saw on twitter this morning was Senator Ronan Mullen trending. The reason why he was trending connects to my first blog post earlier in the week on repealing the 8th amendment.  He once again no for the first time won’t be the last said something that upset a lot people. Since his election to Seanad Éireann in 2007 on the NUI panel, he has never been too far away from controversy when it comes to social issues whether it be Civil partnerships, Same Sex marriage or the time he tried to link Sandy Hook Massacre to abortion. Ronan Mullen like many of his colleagues is not someone who could be considered as representative…

View original post 2,770 more words

Seanad Éireann Reform (plus a brief rant about Ronan Mullen)

Problem’s with the Seanad

So what’s the problem with the Seanad? Where to start? Well first why I am i writing about reform of the Seanad. I was prompted to write about the Seanad because the first thing i saw on twitter this morning was Senator Ronan Mullen trending. The reason why he was trending connects to my first blog post earlier in the week on repealing the 8th amendment.  He once again no for the first time won’t be the last said something that upset a lot people. Since his election to Seanad Éireann in 2007 on the NUI panel, he has never been too far away from controversy when it comes to social issues whether it be Civil partnerships, Same Sex marriage or the time he tried to link Sandy Hook Massacre to abortion. Ronan Mullen like many of his colleagues is not someone who could be considered as representative of the people. Could he even be considered representative of his constituency of the NUI panel. Lets look at the stats from the last Seanad election. Senator Mullen topped the poll (Fair play to him) gaining 7,362 votes out of 36,293 valid votes. However that figure of 36,293 equals about 35% of the 103,154 electorate. This figure highlights one problem turnout, its quite low but then again this is a postal vote so many people might just ignore it or maybe people just don’t care about the Seanad as it can often been seen as institution out of date with little power to influence anything of great importance. But apart from turnout whats it’s other problems and how the Seanad can be reformed?

Brief History of the Seanad

The current Seanad was created under the Irish constitution in 1937, it is considered as the successor to the previous Seanad that was abolished by a vote of Dail Eireann in 1934 however its actual abolishment was delayed by the Seanad itself until 1936. The Free state Seanad had been created to scrutinise and be a democratic cheek on legislation brought forward by the government and also to provide expertise and give a ‘wide expression of views that may not be in popularly elected parliament’. It was also there to give adequate representation to the southern unionist minority. The Free state was quite successful in terms of forcing the government of the day to accept up to 40% of Seanad amendments to legislation. When the Seanad was abolished the Fianna Fail government was reluctant to retain an upper house, but when they did, it was made constitutionally explicit the new upper house Seanad Eireann would be subordinate to the Dail (Ibid, p17).  The new Seanad was also set up in such away to insure that that government had a majority through the eleven seats for Taoiseach’s nominees. There was also the introduction of university seats, which was a way of insuring there would be a continuing presence of the southern unionist minority. In 2013 there was an attempt to once again abolish the Seanad but the referendum surprisingly rejected by a margin of 51.7% to 48.3 %. Promises of reform since then have not been acted upon.

 

Elitist and  Unrepresentative

Among its many problems, the Seanad often gets accused of being elitist and unrepresentative.  So is the Seanad elitist?  One of tis many problems is that to many people, the Seanad is an elitist institution for politicians who can’t get elected to the Dail or for politicians using it as a stepping stone to the Dail. It’s elitist as only certain people are allowed to vote for the Seanad 11 seats are appointed by the Taoiseach, usually given to notables from certain fields such as charities or to members of the Taoiseach’s party to ensure a majority. Then there is 6 seats elected by graduates of Trinity College Dublin or the NUI colleges each have 3 seats. As said before Senator Mullen represents the NUI colleges. It seems rather elitist that only those with degrees from these colleges should be allowed to vote for the Seanad whilst disfranchising those from the University of Limerick, Dublin City University and all the Institutes of Technology. This is made worse by  the fact legislation could have  changed this since 1979, giving the franchise to all graduates of third level institutions. But every government since then has ignored that. Then theres the the final 43 seats, which are divided among 5 vocational panel’s which are elected only by elected politicians i.e. members of the Dail, Seanad and local councils. The majority of the seats to the Seanad are elected by around a thousand people and these people could have up to 7 votes. So the make up the Seanad is decided decided by around 1000 politicians, 35000 of those lucky enough to get a degree from an NUI college and 16000 lucky enough to get a degree from Trinity College. In total 52000 elect an entire national chamber with 11 seats appointed by one person. This added with that standing for election in the vocational  panels is restricted to those nominated by designated nominating bodies. All this makes the Seanad not very representative and can be considered quite elitist. Despite these flaws and problems, the single biggest issue with the Seanad is the lack of reform and the Seanad itself can’t be blamed for this. The blame for this lies with successive governments who have ignored the calls and reports for reform of the institution.

 

Reform of the Seanad

Since 1928, there has been at least 14 separate official reports into reforming the Seanad. All of these reports have been ignored, even a referendum, the 7th amendment to the constitution which would have allowed by law, the altering of the procedure for the election of six members of the Senate by university graduates. That amendment was made in 1979 but has never enacting disfranchising me for who one is a graduate from UL (soon to be graduate of UCC, so i get my Seanad vote then) but this also the case for thousands of graduates throughout the country from UL, DCU and any of the Institutes of Technology. Not to mention it is completely unfair on those not lucky enough to go University and those who professions do not need a university education. This alone as said before makes the Seanad a elitist institution. So as said 14 reports have being ignored by successive governments. Why were they ignored? No answer has ever really been given. That status quo probably suits many of the establishment parties. Fine Gaels best argument for abolishing the Seanad was it would save money. Not the best argument for abolishing an upper house of parliament. Many of the reports have argued for the university seats be expanded so to represent all graduates of higher level institutions in the state holding a primary degree or an equivalent award at level 7 on in the National Framework of Qualifications. This proposal was made in the report by 2004 Seanad Éireann Committee on Procedure and Privileges sub-committee on Seanad Reform chaired by Senator Mary O’Rourke. This 2004 report also recommended that 2 of the Taoiseach’s nominees come from Northern Ireland, one from a unionist background and other a nationalist. It also recommended that the Seanad be given the role in EU affairs with responsibility for

‘i Assessing legislative and other proposals going before EU Councils;

ii Reviewing draft EU legislation of major national policy importance;

iii Providing Irish MEPs with a domestic forum to discuss EU issues and account for their work; and

iv Developing a medium-term policy framework to address the challenges and opportunities facing Ireland in Europe over the next ten years.’

The report further went on further to recommended that the Seanad ‘should assume the role of principal policy reviewer in the Houses of the Oireachtas, concentrating initially on’

‘i Medium-term economic and social planning;

ii Performance of Government Departments, State agencies and Semi-State bodies;

iii Social Partnership; and

iv North-South Implementation Bodies established under the British-Irish Agreement.’

These proposal would have given the Seanad significant power whilst also keeping it subordinate to the Dail. But as we know with this report like the ones that came before and followed were ignored left to gather dust.

The most recent report into Seanad Reform  was released in April 2015, this report was complied by the Working Group on Seanad Reform which had been set up in 2014. It’s members in included previous chairperson of the committee into Seanad reform former senator Mary O’Rourke, other members included noted journalist and commentator Dr Elaine Byrne and Mr Tom Arnold the Former Chairman of the Constitutional Convention. It was chaired by Dr MauriceManning who  was Chancellor, National University of Ireland, and former Leader of Seanad Éireann. The report was called by some as radical. however the working group was restricted by the terms of reference of making a complete overhaul of the Seanad, as mentioned in the government press release the reforms had to be within the existing constitutional parameters which in practical terms meant

  1. the retention of the vocational concept in the filling of 43 of the 60 seats

2.  the continuation of university representation, though now from a greatly enlarged constituency

  1. the retention of eleven seats nominated by the Taoiseach
  2. he stipulation that all voting be by secret postal ballot

 

However, despite the restrictions to the working group said that the restrictions did not hinder meaningful reform. They found that there were ‘3 fundamental principles which they felt must underpin any meaningful reform’ of the Seanad, these principles were

. Popular Legitimacy – a reformed Seanad must be seen by Irish citizens as having a legitimate voice and role in the political process,

. Adequate Powers and Functions – a reformed Seanad should have distinctive and adequate powers and functions to make a discernable contribution to the parliamentary process

. Distinct Composition – a reformed Seanad should be distinct in its composition and its electoral process should be designed accordingly.

 

The working group using these principles made recommendations concerning the roles and powers of the Seanad, its composition and the electoral process.

 

In terms of the Roles and Powers of the Seanad the working group made clear from the start that the Seanad constitutionally is subordinate to the Dail and that the ‘Seanad’s primary role is to he scrutiny, revision and initiation of legislation. It was intended as a check on Government but not as a road block’ .  They went on further to show what was constitutionally the Seanad’s relationship to the Dail and showing where the constitution limits the function of the Seanad.  The report recommended that the Seanad should play are larger role in ‘revising, reviewing and consolidating existing legislation’. The report states that due to legislation being constantly amended and revised, the body of legislation sometimes become ‘extraordinarily complex and almost inaccessible’. This is where the working groups says that Seanad could play an important role in filtering and modernising Irish legislation and to consolidate core principles of acts which could be lost due ‘complexity of the amending legislation’ The working group further went on to recommend the recommendation made by the 2004 sub committee on Seanad reform in the case of the Seanad being given the role of scrutinising European policies and directives. The report also suggests that the Seanad be given a special role contributing and overseeing the work done by the North-South Ministerial Council. The working group also recommended several other reforms to the roles and functions of the Seanad. These included giving consideration in to secondary legislation, consulting with relevant bodies prior to and during second stage debates, investigating and reporting on matters of public policy interest, considering reports from regulators and other statutory inspectors . One of the more interesting recommendations was to give the Seanad a role in appointments to public bodies, this especially interest in light of the john Mcnulty saga. Some of these appointments are at the discretion of ministers and are seen by as gifts, perhaps giving the Seanad a role in appointing people to public bodies. A suggestion could be that for senior roles in public bodies and state boards be interviewed by members of the Seanad and thus making appointments more transparent.

 

The second important part of the report was looking at the composition and electoral process of the Seanad. Currently as already mentioned nearly all members of the chamber are either indirectly elected on vocational panels by sitting county councillors or appointed by the Taoiseach with the exception being the six university seats split evenly three each between NUI and trinity college Dublin of which only graduates of these universities can vote. In the last Seanad election in 2011 the vocational panel’s electorate was made of 1,092  who could vote up to six times and the combined registered electors of NUI and trinity was 151,317, this means that forty-nine seats in the Seanad was decided by just 152,414   This has led many to accuse the Seanad of being elitist and undemocratic due to small electorate. The question on extending the franchise is one of the main points the working group dealt with. In the report they said that from the outset that their objectives would be

The creation of a Seanad which extended the principle of one person one vote to all citizens on the

island of Ireland and overseas;

– The provision of the direct link to local and regional councils through the retention of an element of Indirect election;

– The enhancement and deepening of the Constitutional concept of vocational representative;

– The modernization of the entire electoral process in line with developments in technology (report of working group on Seanad reform 2015, p26)

 

The working group recommended the introduction of one man one vote and that all citizens have one vote each for which they would be required to register on a vocational panel of their choice. They also recommend the retention of indirect voting for a number of seats arguing that the electorate of elected local politicians gave an important link between National and local politics, the number of seats they recommend for this would ten reduced down from the current forty-three. The report also suggested that the franchise be extended to those wishing to participate in Northern Ireland along with the diaspora, which the group recommends that ‘Irish citizens with current passports living abroad be eligible to register and vote on the Panel of their choice.  The report recommended that the 1979 amendment to the constitution be implemented which would significantly increase the electorate of university panels. The report recommends that the Taoiseach’s nominees remain unchanged. The report recommended that over half of the seats thirty-six in total be directly elected by popular vote including the university seats. Thirteen seats would be indirectly elected by local councillors whilst the final eleven seats would remain being the Taoiseach’s nominees.  As stated in the report the constitution requires that there be five vocational panels and that forty-three senators be elected through them and the no less than five and no more than eleven be elected on any one panel. The working group recommended that eight members be elected on the culture and education panel and Administration panel along with nine each on the Agriculture Panel, Labour Panel and Industry Commerce Panel. The further went on to recommended that in panels which hold nine seats three would be indirectly  and six by popular vote and panels which have eight seats two would be indirectly elected and six by popular vote.

Conclusion

All these recommendations if implement would improve the Seanad immensely and may even improve public confidence in the Seanad and perhaps politics itself (it’s a longshot). But despite all the complaints about the Seanad, it has had amongst members at times some of Irelands finest politicians including three Presidents of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, Mary Robinson and Michael D amongst others. In the case of Ronan Mullen, despite him being easily considered one of the most extreme almost ultra catholic Politicians in the Houses of Oireachtas and quite often just an asshole especially time he reportedly smirked at women telling their abortion stories but he is there for reason. 1. The system provides a avenue for minority voices to be heard (not always a bad thing) where he and other’s would not be elected at a Dail level anywhere in country lets not forget he polled just 5% in the EU elections (not a bad try, but not great as he see’s himself representing a silent majority, they weren’t loud that day anyway). 2. The most important reason he got elected with the most first preferences 7362 out of an electorate of  over 100,000 with just over third bothering to vote. He was elected because so many people didn’t bother to vote, so next time if you have the vote use it. 3. The last reason is so many people stood for election, 30 in the case of NUI in 2016, next time if there is a multiple candidates who believe in the similar cause and is against the conservative politics of Ronan Mullen then join forces and one stand fore election one has much better chance of getting elected than all of you taking votes from each other.

 

  • Some of this, was work I done for an academic essay on the subject. If you do manage to read all of this, surprised and thank you for wasting such amount of time on something I wrote. Let me know what you think and share it !!

 

Citizen’s Assemblies, The Constitution and the 8th Amendment

The 8th 

In the coming weeks, the newest citizens assembly will meet for the first time to decide among other things whether or not to recommend a referendum on the 8th amendment. The 8th amendment has long been either reviled and revered, depending on what side of the fence your on( I’m on the side of repealing it). No one of child bearing age has had the chance to vote on the 8th since its inception in 1983. It’s an issue that many politicians have wanted to keep well away from, and for good reason as shown by the Protection of life during pregnancy act 2013 which saw TD’s from Fine Gael and Sinn Fein and expelled from their parliamentary parties for a time, some in Fine Gael permanently  leaving to form new parties such as Renua (which was an abject failure). The government pre-election promised a Citizens assembly on the issue if re-elected. They kinda where, kinda wasn’t but the Citizens assembly is going ahead. However we will not know for another while what the assembly decides in the case of the 8th will they recommend the wholesale repeal of the 8th, will they recommend to replace with another amendment or will they recommend to keep it (unlikely but you never know with Ireland). The options above i would be in favour of its wholesale repeal and letting the Dail the decide forcing the membership to nail the flag to the mast. Replacing it with another amendment seems the most likely out come if it is recommended, this would be an Irish solution to an Irish problem and in many ways just kicking the can down road for another decade or two until we have another issue with the newer amendment and calls for its repeal to.

The Problem with Citizen’s Assemblies 

The problem with Citizen’s Assemblies in the Irish case is that it just another way of the Government not having to take a stand on the issue. By turning the issue over to citizens assembly, it is attempt to absolve themselves in advance if it goes pear shaped. On one hand the Citizen’s assemblies members will be chosen by a private polling company. That leaves the make up of the Assembly open to manipulation, thats not say the polling company would ever try and influence  the outcome. Also just because the polling company has selected a ‘diverse‘ group of members does not exactly mean its representative of the population as whole and 99 people never well no matter how well chosen they are. A subtle change from the previous citizen sassily i.e. the constitutional convention held between 2012 and 2014 will not involve any politicians, this could be a good thing just leaving it up to ordinary people or is just another way for government not having to take a firm stand on the issues at hand.

A major flaw of the Assembly is just as with the constitutional convention, there is no statutory commitment for the government to put any of recommendations made by the assembly to the people. That flaw has been proven by the constitutional convention as only a handful of the 38 or so recommendations made by that convention were ever dealt with by the only 2 where put before people, The Same Sex Marriage Referendum  the only important recommendation to be put to referendum, which passed by almost 2/3s  and the frivolous referendum on the candidacy age for president which was completely rejected. Whilst many other issues that were recommended for  such as blasphemy law have been ignored by government. Hopefully Public pressure will ensure that the same does not happen with repealing the 8th.

Citizen’s Assemblies and The Constitution

In some ways Citizens Assemblies are great idea, they give the people a way of interacting directly with the constitution and putting forward ideas to change and improve the constitution. Studies have proven that when citizens engage and participate in citizen assemblies it can drastically increase their interest and feelings of efficacy towards the process. However in the assemblies have if you will no teeth, they do not decide what part of the constitution they are looking at, thats decided by government, they have a specific terms of reference and most importantly no matter what way they vote their is no statutory  force to make the government put the assemblies recommendations to the people.

Overall my view is that that 8th should be repealed an not replaced and issues surrounding abortion should be dealt with through law laid down by the daily which would also make people look closely who they elect to the daily. Citizens assemblies can be good but are deeply flawed on many levels due to the membership being decided by polling company and not the people along with the government not legally forced to put any recommendations to the people.

 

*BTW This was my first real go at writing a blog mostly because i was too lazy to do it before. If any one who reads have any recommendations how to improve or any tips at all please let me know. Thanks, hope its not too shit !