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 Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?

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PostSubject: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:59 pm

This being the first week without the Fianna Fail tent at the Galway Races, I've been thinking about FF.

Outsiders often complain that Irish politics are incomprehensible. Is this because they ignore that Ireland is a post-colonial state ruled by parties that were part of the national liberation movement that founded the state, and make the mistake of thinking that FF and FG are political parties of the exactly the same social character as the parties of France, Germany or the UK?

The operation of the main Parties here mimics tribal structure, with homage paid to the party bosses, including cash donations and the all important power-giving votes, in exchange for protection and favouritism in getting access to the assets of the State – houses, grants, jobs, tax breaks and so on. This is a system as much maintained by the voters as by the Parties themselves, as TDs that devote themselves to National business at the expense of attending funerals and "doing favours" in the constituency are often heaved out at the next General Election.

When we are complaining about Fianna Fail, should we be looking at Zanu/PF, the ANC or even the Mafia, rather than the Tories or Labour party in England? In my time I’ve been ushered both into the presence of a Mafia boss and into the clinics of FF Ministers – the atmosphere and trappings were not dissimilar in terms of expectation of deference, degree of condescension and pretension to power.

To the victors, the prize: the attitude of Fianna Fail to the public purse is that it is a resource for disbursement to its own supporters, as a reward for past support as well as an incentive to future loyalty. The Tallyman tracked votes to convey the impression that the ballot was not so secret – voters had better abide by their side of the deal. The spoils of the War of Independence include off-shore accounts, islands, Charvet shirts, zoning of land, directorships and houses as well as pensionable posts at rates far higher than the European norm.

Can this system continue into the 21st century, or will european regulation and the failures of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to deal with the economic difficulties we’re facing lead to a sea change in Irish politics?









http://www.watoday.com.au/national/gatto-among-mourners-for-mafia-boss-20080707-330c.html
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PostSubject: Re: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Wed Jul 30, 2008 8:07 pm

The reason the Irish political system is different to other western countries is that Ireland is a small country that was relatively under-developed until recently. For that reason Irish society is less atomized and social networks are stil paramount in politics.

Fianna Fail are pretty much the same as the other parties save that (i) they are a broader church than the other parties, (ii) they are less inclined toward the SF / FG version of prescriptive politics (i.e., telling you which side to butter your toast on), and (iii) they have been more successful at maintaining grass roots interest (for various reasons - power, critical mass, the performance of top individual).

I don't know if the analogy between FF and the Mafia is valid. Perhaps a more correct analogy would be between the Mafia and County Councillors generally of times gone by.
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PostSubject: Re: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Wed Jul 30, 2008 11:32 pm

Zhou_Enlai wrote:
The reason the Irish political system is different to other western countries is that Ireland is a small country that was relatively under-developed until recently. For that reason Irish society is less atomized and social networks are stil paramount in politics.

Fianna Fail are pretty much the same as the other parties save that (i) they are a broader church than the other parties, (ii) they are less inclined toward the SF / FG version of prescriptive politics (i.e., telling you which side to butter your toast on), and (iii) they have been more successful at maintaining grass roots interest (for various reasons - power, critical mass, the performance of top individual).

I don't know if the analogy between FF and the Mafia is valid. Perhaps a more correct analogy would be between the Mafia and County Councillors generally of times gone by.

I think the degree of clientelism is exceptional. Perhaps the small number of constituents per representative adds to their capacity to give personal attention to individual voters.
Gilmartin's tribunal evidence gives an impression of a situation in which the only way of getting a major project developed in Dublin in the 1980s and 90s was through kickbacks.
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PostSubject: Re: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Thu Jul 31, 2008 12:24 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Zhou_Enlai wrote:
The reason the Irish political system is different to other western countries is that Ireland is a small country that was relatively under-developed until recently. For that reason Irish society is less atomized and social networks are stil paramount in politics.

Fianna Fail are pretty much the same as the other parties save that (i) they are a broader church than the other parties, (ii) they are less inclined toward the SF / FG version of prescriptive politics (i.e., telling you which side to butter your toast on), and (iii) they have been more successful at maintaining grass roots interest (for various reasons - power, critical mass, the performance of top individual).

I don't know if the analogy between FF and the Mafia is valid. Perhaps a more correct analogy would be between the Mafia and County Councillors generally of times gone by.

I think the degree of clientelism is exceptional. Perhaps the small number of constituents per representative adds to their capacity to give personal attention to individual voters.
Gilmartin's tribunal evidence gives an impression of a situation in which the only way of getting a major project developed in Dublin in the 1980s and 90s was through kickbacks.

The only way to effectively deal with the clientelistic nature of Irish politics is through electoral reform and that will probably never happen. Dempsey called for reform when he was Minister for the Environment and was kicked from one end of the Dail to the other by the opposition and members of his own party. PR-STV is not conducive to good government and has led to a chronic leadership deficit in this country.

The Irish electorate is also a very unusual beast. Irish votes seem incredibly docile and are almost entirely unresponsive to issues. I believe that situation will start to change in the near future. My guess is that the Irish electorate is naturally inclined towards free-market captialism. Ultimately, when the economy is thriving and the average voter has a few extra quid in their pocket, he/she is happy to overlook deficiencies in other areas. Now that the government is busily dusting off our basket case status I reckon there might be a serious shift in emphasis in the way our elections play out.

If FG had any political savvy left, they would be hammering the government on the economy every single day of the break. The should sideline Kenny, and have one of Bruton, Varadkar, Hayes and Reilly on the news every morning and every lunchtime between now and September. FF are very good at winning elections but Libertas and the referendum campaign generally proved that they are piss poor strategists when it comes to change. When all the conventional wisdom said otherwise, they stuck to the same tried and tested formula and lost horribly. If we had an even mildly competent opposition they would be learning from that experience.
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PostSubject: Re: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:27 pm

unaligned wrote:
The only way to effectively deal with the clientelistic nature of Irish politics is through electoral reform and that will probably never happen. Dempsey called for reform when he was Minister for the Environment and was kicked from one end of the Dail to the other by the opposition and members of his own party. PR-STV is not conducive to good government and has led to a chronic leadership deficit in this country.

The Irish electorate is also a very unusual beast. Irish votes seem incredibly docile and are almost entirely unresponsive to issues. I believe that situation will start to change in the near future. My guess is that the Irish electorate is naturally inclined towards free-market captialism. Ultimately, when the economy is thriving and the average voter has a few extra quid in their pocket, he/she is happy to overlook deficiencies in other areas. Now that the government is busily dusting off our basket case status I reckon there might be a serious shift in emphasis in the way our elections play out.

If FG had any political savvy left, they would be hammering the government on the economy every single day of the break. The should sideline Kenny, and have one of Bruton, Varadkar, Hayes and Reilly on the news every morning and every lunchtime between now and September. FF are very good at winning elections but Libertas and the referendum campaign generally proved that they are piss poor strategists when it comes to change. When all the conventional wisdom said otherwise, they stuck to the same tried and tested formula and lost horribly. If we had an even mildly competent opposition they would be learning from that experience.

Could you expand on Dempsey and the electoral reform issue ? I'd love to see the end of clientalism more than ... I won't say it.

The electorate has a short memory alright and will bend over and take the next one with cherries on top. In the Clare People newspaper this week there is a section on the Shannon Debacle of this time last year and how it has affected tourism. Apparently the AL bookings at the August weekend on the Belfast-Heathrow route are 18% of what they would have been in Shannon. Although we might be told there's an economic slowdown so blah blah blah. Could it be the case that (intentional) lack of political pressure by FF on the AL board of directors last year has done two ruinous things - left Shannon businesses and tourism in the region down a fair old economic notch at least this year while further adding to the stagnation of AL Belfast business that seems to be the case also with routes other than the Heathrow-Belfast one? Should we wait for the next economic upswing to see the benefits of Mannion's business insight on that, who we assume, made his decision based on the free market? There is suspicion down here of course that he did no such thing with regards to the free market.

Ireland has different infrastructural components that lend themselves variously to the free and non-free markets. I think it is impossible for us to have competing train services around the country but it should be possible to have competing bus services for example - the country builds the stations and makes the laws, the businesses operate out of the stations or out of the air slots, or whatever. This pattern can be reflected in the electricity grid, broadband, water systems where there is opportunity for the free market to be let loose but where it might be necessary for a certain amount of government intervention. In the case of Eirgrid I think Ryan is doing it right by letting the free-market at the power stations but keep the infrastructure between the power stations in state hands. This should have been done with Eircom but FF sold it. It may not be the case with the water supply, however. Why the Green Party could push through legislation to have major infrastructural projects fastracked (such as motorways presumably) is a mystery while all those years FF were in government and did nothing. It's my contention that we should have had a Dublin-Limerick motorway 10 years ago and allowed the west of Ireland to avail of the free-market benefits that are only possible with more business and economic activity in general. What happens now with the slowdown ? Tourism down here is down by a third on last year and industry hasn't risen to a level to fill a gap that tourism could leave. Thus we haven't saved our nuts for the winter like wise animals do.

My point is that infrastructure should be non-political and run by planners who advise politicians. I think the Green Party are trying to allow this to happen and it's good for the country. In Ennis, a private developer couldn't build a high-quality estate of houses because the sewerage infrastructure had been neglected by Clare County Council because of the lack of joined-up-thinking. The corridor from Galway through Gort-Ennis-Shannon to Limerick should be an important region for future development and Ennis is at the centre of that and could serve as dormitory town for part of its function, as well as being a gateway to the tourist regions in Clare. Growth requires planning but that planning is being neglected for short-term gain or for the gain of the few with very little community benefit.

Ennis not only suffers from poor provision of such infrastructure that is necessary for growth and development but regularly there are 'boil notices' for the tap water. Limerick main drainage got revamped years ago and most likely because the pressure and money came from Europe. Could a fuller membership of the EU help us out of the planning mess that we seem to be in? It's one reason I would have voted for Lisbon - to possibly bypass the incompetence and short-sightedness of many local and national politicians, the empowered of whom happened to be wearing the FF colours.

Clare is a stronghold of FF and if anything is going to change countrywide then this county might be a barometer of that national discontent. Perhaps the Yes vote to Lisbon was the first strong sign of that.
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PostSubject: Re: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:49 pm

The Irish Times

February 16, 2008 Saturday
This is an extract from a Garret Fitzgerald Piece earlier this year

Why a reformed PR system deserves our vote

BYLINE: Garret FitzGerald

Twice in the past 20 years I have personally proposed the possibility of greatly reducing unnecessary career instability affecting three-quarters of our TDs, whilst also diminishing their constituency workload.

Thus, in 1987 I included in the Fine Gael manifesto a proposal that would have provided an opportunity of securing such an outcome. When Fianna Fáil formed a government in the aftermath of that election, this Fine Gael proposal offered the prospect of a large Dáil majority for such a reform - but Fianna Fáil did not take advantage of that opportunity.

Then, 13 years later, when a reforming minister for local government, Noel Dempsey, proposed the same electoral reform that I had offered in that manifesto, I joined him in a private capacity in recommending that Dáil deputies adopt it. However, when we met the relevant parliamentary committee, our joint suggestion was without hesitation dismissed by all concerned.

What are the key features of the alternative proportional electoral system that our politicians dismissed so summarily?

It would be a variant of the system employed in Germany and a number of other countries, and in our case would involve the election of about three-fifths of the members of the Dáil by preferential voting in 100 or so single-seat constituencies. (This is, of course, the electoral system that we use in all our byelections.)

Such a system used on its own in a general election would very much favour the largest party - which is why our electorate rightly rejected it twice in referendums in 1958 and 1969.

In order to secure a Dáil proportionately representative of electoral opinion under this system, it would be necessary to elect simultaneously, by a parallel electoral system, a second set of politicians from which would be drawn those additional deputies needed to secure for each party a Dáil membership that would be strictly proportional. This is, of course, not provided by the present, allegedly proportional, representation system.

How would that second set of TDs be chosen? In Germany this is done using a list system: in other words, each party puts forward a second list of candidates in order of preference, from which is drawn whatever additional members may be needed to give each party a parliamentary membership proportional to their popular vote.

However, amongst Irish people there exists a strong commitment to local, as against national, representation. And if it were desired to maintain this local aspect of our political system, that could be achieved by drawing these additional members instead from amongst the TDs most narrowly defeated on the final count in the single-seat constituencies.

This would mean that up to two-thirds of the constituencies would end up with two TDs, normally to be drawn from different parties.

(I would personally prefer that, instead of all these additional TDs being thus elected in one or other way from local constituencies, some proportion of them would come from lists drawn up by their parties, as this would provide an opportunity for them to bring into the Dáil a small number of TDs with particular expertise. But that would be an optional extra).

Among the advantages of such a system would be that:

1. It would relieve TDs of the current risk most of them face of being defeated by members of their own parties as well as by opponents from other parties. That would free them to give much more attention to their neglected legislative role and would place them under less pressure to spend most of their time servicing their constituents rather than being engaged in the legislative process.

2. This reduction in emphasis on constituency work, which currently reduces the capacity of the Dáil as a legislative body, would be greatly reinforced by the fact that with 100 rather than 40-odd constituencies, the local workload of each TD would be reduced by 60 per cent.

3. Finally, Dáil membership would be more proportional, and thus more fair, than is the case with the present system, which, as we have recently seen, can leave a party short of up to one-third of the members that its popular vote would warrant.
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PostSubject: Re: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:02 pm

unaligned wrote:
The only way to effectively deal with the clientelistic nature of Irish politics is through electoral reform and that will probably never happen. Dempsey called for reform when he was Minister for the Environment and was kicked from one end of the Dail to the other by the opposition and members of his own party. PR-STV is not conducive to good government and has led to a chronic leadership deficit in this country.

I would have to disagree. A first past the post system would produce FF majorities from now to the end of the century. How would that reduce the likelihood of old boy networks and clientelism? EDIT due to your recent overlapping post. OK not first past the post but still think security is not the problem it is standards. Making them more secure will not in itselfsolve this,

The problem is lack of accountability and a low expectation of standards in public life. Until we the electorate decide that such issues are important, demand change and make it an election issue nothing is going to change. I personally would have liked to have seen Mr Huaghey esquire end his days in a confined space and regarded a state funeral as an insult. If more thought similarly and stopped making excuses for their side then we would get change. My impression of Ireland, as someone who is sort of an outsider, is of a system that works very much on who you know (more so than England!), a country where inside deals are common and ethical standards in many businesses lax. To pull a fast one is par for the course and is applauded. I wonder if this attitude developed when the country was ruled by the Anglos and we haven't adjusted to the fact that we are now pulling strokes on ourselves?
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PostSubject: Re: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:25 pm

Squire wrote:
To pull a fast one is par for the course and is applauded. I wonder if this attitude developed when the country was ruled by the Anglos and we haven't adjusted to the fact that we are now pulling strokes on ourselves?
Laughing that's it, that gave me a laugh.

We need standards as you say but I wouldn't rely on looking for standards from politicians. Any politicians who emerged as roles models get forgotten - good policies get forgotten (Seamus Brennan eroding the Aer Lingus monolpoly) unless we deliberately laud a hall of heroes with John Hume included there among the policy makers who took away section 31 and other great policies of the Rainbow Coalition and possibly some of the policies of the PDs not to mention the better policies and policy makers of FF and FG themselves. Even then people would dwell on the one small bad thing the good man did I guarantee you. You might even be remembered for your nickname or how you look before anything else.

Good ideas take forever to emerge here but the Green Party and John Gormley in particular have made a good stab at pushing through 'objective' policies in the last year and a bit. We need policies that are national and as independent of vested concerns as possible and we possibly need a system where our services can be compared to the services of other similar economies in Europe or elsewhere. We go on holidays and we come back with souvenirs but we leave behind some real experience - why can't more of our towns be more pedestrianised like towns from The Netherlands to Portugal?

I thought you meant infrastructural standards Squire and maybe you did but I think this is what might save us most from the tyranny of ignorance we are often scourged by - if Madrid can have a transport system which cost X, why does a similar system in Dublin cost 3X ? etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:41 pm

Squire wrote:
unaligned wrote:
The only way to effectively deal with the clientelistic nature of Irish politics is through electoral reform and that will probably never happen. Dempsey called for reform when he was Minister for the Environment and was kicked from one end of the Dail to the other by the opposition and members of his own party. PR-STV is not conducive to good government and has led to a chronic leadership deficit in this country.

I would have to disagree. A first past the post system would produce FF majorities from now to the end of the century. How would that reduce the likelihood of old boy networks and clientelism? EDIT due to your recent overlapping post. OK not first past the post but still think security is not the problem it is standards. Making them more secure will not in itselfsolve this,

The problem is lack of accountability and a low expectation of standards in public life. Until we the electorate decide that such issues are important, demand change and make it an election issue nothing is going to change. I personally would have liked to have seen Mr Huaghey esquire end his days in a confined space and regarded a state funeral as an insult. If more thought similarly and stopped making excuses for their side then we would get change. My impression of Ireland, as someone who is sort of an outsider, is of a system that works very much on who you know (more so than England!), a country where inside deals are common and ethical standards in many businesses lax. To pull a fast one is par for the course and is applauded. I wonder if this attitude developed when the country was ruled by the Anglos and we haven't adjusted to the fact that we are now pulling strokes on ourselves?

I can't disagree with anything that you have written but I think you have taken me up wrong on a few points (I probably didn't explain myself very well).

Firstly, I never suggested that a first past the post system was a catch-all solution to the problems in Irish politics. There are many choices other than FPTP or PR-STV.

Secondly I think that part of the applause for 'pulling a fast one' does directly stem from the electoral system that we have. Take the example of Michael Lowry, he resigned in absolute disgrace but in the following election (running as an independent) he topped the poll and has done in every election since then. This is because he was a local boy delivering for Tipp. PR-STV has nurtured this parochial short-sighted approach where even a Minister is a Tipp TD first and a Department Minister and Legislator second. I can't think of any other jurisdiction where this is the case.

The electorate aren't going to care about standards in high office when they still believe that the role of an elected TD (and even a Minister) is to go up to Dublin three times a week to try and get the road out of the County Town upgraded or a few potholes fixed. The Irish electorate have little or no empathy with the suggestion that TDs should be in the Dail to legislate in the best interests of the nation, not the local town or village. I believe that electoral reform and root and branch local government reform, coupled with a hugely empowered Standards in Public Office Commission would go a long way to addressing the accountability deficit that you highlight in your post.
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PostSubject: Re: Fianna Fail - Political Party, National Liberation Movement or Mafia?   Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:16 pm

unaligned wrote:
Squire wrote:
unaligned wrote:
The only way to effectively deal with the clientelistic nature of Irish politics is through electoral reform and that will probably never happen. Dempsey called for reform when he was Minister for the Environment and was kicked from one end of the Dail to the other by the opposition and members of his own party. PR-STV is not conducive to good government and has led to a chronic leadership deficit in this country.

I would have to disagree. A first past the post system would produce FF majorities from now to the end of the century. How would that reduce the likelihood of old boy networks and clientelism? EDIT due to your recent overlapping post. OK not first past the post but still think security is not the problem it is standards. Making them more secure will not in itselfsolve this,

The problem is lack of accountability and a low expectation of standards in public life. Until we the electorate decide that such issues are important, demand change and make it an election issue nothing is going to change. I personally would have liked to have seen Mr Huaghey esquire end his days in a confined space and regarded a state funeral as an insult. If more thought similarly and stopped making excuses for their side then we would get change. My impression of Ireland, as someone who is sort of an outsider, is of a system that works very much on who you know (more so than England!), a country where inside deals are common and ethical standards in many businesses lax. To pull a fast one is par for the course and is applauded. I wonder if this attitude developed when the country was ruled by the Anglos and we haven't adjusted to the fact that we are now pulling strokes on ourselves?

I can't disagree with anything that you have written but I think you have taken me up wrong on a few points (I probably didn't explain myself very well).

Firstly, I never suggested that a first past the post system was a catch-all solution to the problems in Irish politics. There are many choices other than FPTP or PR-STV.

Secondly I think that part of the applause for 'pulling a fast one' does directly stem from the electoral system that we have. Take the example of Michael Lowry, he resigned in absolute disgrace but in the following election (running as an independent) he topped the poll and has done in every election since then. This is because he was a local boy delivering for Tipp. PR-STV has nurtured this parochial short-sighted approach where even a Minister is a Tipp TD first and a Department Minister and Legislator second. I can't think of any other jurisdiction where this is the case.

The electorate aren't going to care about standards in high office when they still believe that the role of an elected TD (and even a Minister) is to go up to Dublin three times a week to try and get the road out of the County Town upgraded or a few potholes fixed. The Irish electorate have little or no empathy with the suggestion that TDs should be in the Dail to legislate in the best interests of the nation, not the local town or village. I believe that electoral reform and root and branch local government reform, coupled with a hugely empowered Standards in Public Office Commission would go a long way to addressing the accountability deficit that you highlight in your post.

I used to think that FF and the clientelist approach prevailed because they resources were so short - say with Council houses, there were hundreds of families all waiting for them, not everyone could have them so it was widely accepted that the prioritisation would be done by councillor favours rather than on the base of need and waiting time. People seem to want to believe that Councillors have influence over decisions even when they dont. The Councillors were a sort of rationaing system.

With more resources to spread around then people began to feel everyone was entitled to get services, and the influence of local politicians I think began to slide a little. Good governance perhaps began to be something more in the minds of voters.
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