Just gimme some choice

The Irish Times this morning describes the increased vote for independents as an expression of anti-politics sentiment.

Anti-establishment-politician sentiment, certainly, but anti-politics? That depends on how you define politics.

My definition of “politics” is all about choice over policies: citizens in a democracy can choose to fundamentally change their country’s economic and social policies, if that is what they want to do. In 2011 Irish voters voted for change, and got none: the new government faithfully implemented the Troika programme, just as the previous government had done, and presumably would have continued to do had they been re-elected. (And now that they have been let off the leash they are coming up with bubble-era proposals to increase mortgage lending. Not much change there either. And consequently not much real choice.)

Democracy without choice is not democracy. Politics without choice is not politics.

A lot of people in this country, and right across Europe, want real change. Some in Ireland voted for Sinn Féin, the big winner in the election. Some voted Independent. This isn’t anti-politics. It’s anti-anti-politics.

52 replies on “Just gimme some choice”

“He who pays the piper calls the tune”.

Ruairi Quinn on the subject of a possible change to the tune, made the point that it was a balancing act between making adjustments and not losing the confidence of the markets.

The Young Turks of Labour may be about to put this view to the test. That is real politics!

Rather than whingeing about the apparent lack of chocie offered by the current array of parties, would you please offer your services to the electorate. You missed an opportunity to run in either the locals or the Europeans.

Mr Jim Power has a article here in todays SBP, 29/05/2014, or DBP should I say.


“Ireland needs economic growth and sustainable job creation if the wealth to fund our welfare system is to be generated.”

Talk of Argentinian style debt default will not encourage FDI.

We are now witnessing “Flashing Red Lights” from various journalists / commentators in the Irish media….

So in 10 years time… when all is ruin… nobody can turn around and say… “Nobody told us it could end like this”

As I commented here before the 2011 elections, there was no mainstream party that reflected my political choice – a rapid, sharp internal devaluation and a hard line with the EU and related institutions.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail both offered slow, steady austerity and submission. Labour gave us some apprearance of choice, but the reality behind the talk was almost identical to what FG and FF had offered.

I felt disenfranchised by this lack of choice, and continue to feel that way. Clearly, many of those who voted Labour feel the same (although for different policy reasons), and my guess is that this is aggravated by the shell game that Labour played on them back in 2011.

What is the proper response of a responsible voter to this disenfranchisement? Is it to still vote for FF/FG/Labour on the basis that these are the only proper parties that a responsible voter should consider? For me, the responsible home for my vote is pretty much anywhere that serves to bust the consensus. Single party states are anathema to democratic politics, and FF/FG/Labour are, for the moment, not too far off being a single party.

I was elected yesterday to Dún Laoghaire Council.

Thanks to any of you who voted for me.

Labour explicitly supported Lenihan’s 2010 four-year plan in their 2011 manifesto. They made detailed promises they couldn’t keep, but broadly they were openly planning to follow the EU-IMF plan.

The move to inflate the property market again is very disappointing. This quote from Noonan

We need to get property prices up another bit

is proof that little was learnt from the credit bubble. The private rental sector in Ireland is broken and there seems little chance of reform with the troika gone.


Congrats on your election to DLR CoCo. As a constituent who gave you a high pref (not the 1), I look forward to your contribution. Thank you for getting involved in the democratic process as a public rep. It is an interesting time to assume office. Previous councils have been relatively powerless. However, this one has the scope to raise or cut LPT and rates.
Given that every party has promised more services and lower LPT, it will be interesting to see how they square the circle. Which set of promises gets ditched first?

congrats on your election, can you get me a bit of planning permission for the back field.
As to your question, since I do not have any great problems with the choice offered, I see no need to run. We have a full specturm here from varying shades of Chrisitan Democracy, social democracy, trots that look like the tea party, a cult led by old men from Belfast, a rural eurosceptic from a province dependent on Euro largesse who wants more dole but an end to euro largesse. What more choice could we want?

Congrats to Ossian and Kevin. Nothing like putting your muscle where your mouth is!

@ Sporthog: Who is this Jim Power person? Is he as clueless (about our current financial and economic mess) as his comments suggest?

“Domestically, the election results last weekend have resulted in a new wave of politicians who are anti-business and anti-private property, and effectively anti those who work hard to better themselves.”

I fancy he might have some difficulty proving this.

“Furthermore, some of them have espoused Argentinian-style debt default. I cannot see how the policies being espoused could possibly improve Ireland’s economic performance and could in fact drive the country further towards unaffordable social welfare dependence.”

Listen Jim, old chap, I believe that they may be attempting to halt, or even slow down, the deteriorating situation. And until you achieve that, any talk of ‘improvement’ is pointless. And on your ‘unaffordable’ point: well, you got that correct.

“Ireland needs economic growth and sustainable job creation if the wealth to fund our welfare system is to be generated.”

Jim, your stating the obvious. So what have you in mind? Seems you might be confusing wealth with income. No matter. Minor point.


“Those who have worked hard over the last 50 to 60 years must be appalled over the now credible threat to the dismantling of the EU project.”

They surely must be. It begs the question, what is wrong with all those insane people who cannot see the benefit of being economically raced to the bottom, so that the new investor friendly Europe can strut the prowess of its export surplus on the world stage.


Berlin watches France’s eurosceptic upheaval with despair

It is not like German policy has anything to do with the political upheaval in Europe, is it? Poor ordoliberal dears.

That article is too rich. Germany has done so much for France and yet the people are so ungrateful! The Germans continue to live in an alternate reality, totally unwilling to accept any blame for the genesis of the Eurozone economic crisis or the EU policy failures since. In a way it is not surprising – not one political leader in Europe has been willing to say it publicly.

It makes one both sick and angry/

@Kevin O’Rourke

@Tull, actually, I did run in the municipal elections in France in March and got elected

It just needed to be repeated. Wonderful. Incomprehensible but wonderful.

It’s what makes living in Europe so much fun Kevin…So long as it confirms with all the departmental, regional park and communal restrictions, you won’t have any problem Tull!

@ Joesph Ryan, Shay Begorrah,

There are no easy answers… and I agree…. the process of internal devaluation is almost unspeakable. There are a lot of people hurting.

However if we are to remain in the EMU we have to follow the rules.

WRT Ireland, I see our mess as being of our own making. Brussels warned Ireland several times in the late 90’s and into the Noughties about our property boom.

We had Bacon 1, Bacon 2 and there might have been Bacon 99… all ineffectual, partially implemented or not at all.

We had various political parties tripping over themselves with auction politics, Brian Cowen increased social welfare spending by 6Bln / year between 2002 and 2008.

Charlie McCreevey, who probably saw the start of the “Runaway Train” was posted off to Europe, his ideas of Socialism did not fit with de Berts.

Look at many of the institutions in Ireland… Health, Justice a lot a being badly run, Crime is now an important industry, which the Govt regulates and makes a lot of money from it, yet the law abiding part of the public great suffer from.

If we where to float our own currency… we are not in the same league as the USA… which can just print billions and billions, raise it’s own debt ceiling and continuously roll over debt. Eventually the day of reckoning will come for the USA as well, but that is a different story.

DOCM has repeatedly stated that Ireland has get back to the basics, make more than we consume, generate more money than we burn up.

If the Germans can do it…. why can’t we?

“Labour explicitly supported Lenihan’s 2010 four-year plan in their 2011 manifesto. They made detailed promises they couldn’t keep, but broadly they were openly planning to follow the EU-IMF plan.”

Not that many people will have read it, but the first sentence of body text in the 2011 Labour Manifesto says:
“Labour does not accept that the EU/IMF deal provides a workable basis for restoring the Irish economy.”

Credit to Kevin and Ossian for participating in the democratic process.

I did try it once myself before my first foreign adventure in the Middle East.

“Change We Can Believe In” was the slogan that once energised young Obama supporters in 2008 and now the impression is of a president in a time of gridlock who will be glad when it’s all over.

Kenny and Gilmore lacked the vision thing but what is surprising is that these older men and mostly the rest in the Cabinet when they achieved power were too conservative to respond to the crisis with an interest in shaking up failed institutions.

The system continued to operate ever so slowly and in Nov 2012, Gilmore told the Dáil that Mercer had been engaged to advise on how bank pay could be cut.

Can anyone make a decision without a consultancy report?

Six executives of IBRC (the rump of Anglo and Irish Nationwide) earned annual salary packages of €500,000, with 36 other employees being paid more than €200,000 (ex pension costs) – just a few months later the penny dropped that it could be liquidated.

The Irish are very conservative and there is no evidence that the new representatives of angry voters, have any fresh ideas.

In an Oireachtas of 226, how many of them have inspired during the crisis?

Wonder why did Noonan who was new to the Dept of Finance that was useless during the bubble, go along with their proposal for a powerless fiscal advisory council reporting to themselves rather than the Dáil with members and with members appointed by the minister?

It’s revealing that the top lawyers and law firms are as busy in bust as they were in boom and despite a commitment in the original bailout agreement to reform legal services by Nov 2011, it’s still pending – the clientist system gives citizens beyond the elites a sense of access to power but its a sham.

Absent support of collective power people have no influence.

As for how to respond to challenges, there is a chart here which shows the in 2013 literally half the Irish population was on welfare:



“So long as it confirms with all the departmental, regional park and communal restrictions, you won’t have any problem Tull!”

I take that as a “no” then. Your high ethical standards should ensure a short but glorious careeer on the lowest rung of the ladder.


DOCM has repeatedly stated that Ireland has get back to the basics, make more than we consume, generate more money than we burn up.

Economics just does not work like that, and Germany was only able to do it because they lent their savings to everyone else to buy their products. Not everyone can run a surplus and given that most of the EUs trade is still internal every country becoming “export led” was not just ridiculous but impossible. Supply exceeding demand gets you what exactly?

If the Germans can do it…. why can’t we?

The German model can only work if not too many other people are not using the German model.

If the bolsheviks had not despatched Alisa Rosenbaum and her cult,to America in 1925, a year after Lenin died, this wipe out of the American economy may never have happened.

@ MH,

“Can anyone make a decision without a consultancy report?”

You left a bit out…..

Consultancy reports just gather dust on the shelf with all the previous consultancy reports.

“The Irish are very conservative and there is no evidence that the new representatives of angry voters, have any fresh ideas.”

There are some ideas coming through from Irish Research… two particular examples are Trinity College. One recently was a new attempt at the mass production of Graphene… the new nano wonder material.

A UK company Thomas Swan got the license to mass produce.

Another example… going back to 2007 ( I think ) was about a new method of disposal of Styrofoam waste plastic. Not sure who got the license to turn this invention into an innovation. But it was not an Irish company.

Recently up North, two researchers in Queens University have developed a method to make Biomass pellets efficiently via a mobile plant. A company called AEG listed on the London AIM is running with this one.

There are clever, innovative, had working, intelligent Irish people out there, no question of that..

However we require a effective mechanism which captures these great solutions (to global problems) and roll them into new Irish companies, not foreign ones, so as to create Irish indigenous industry supporting Irish workers.

Exporting great ideas for the worlds problems is not the best of ideas… a bit short sighted if you ask me.

@ Shay Begorrah,

I see your point… but I cannot agree fully with it.

I’ve said it before on this forum… . not all of the money which poured out of the Core and into the periphery of Europe was from ‘the Core’.

A huge amount of money is coming from Asia… where there are

1) Large populations of people.
2) Little or no social welfare system.
3) Lots of people at work saving up money for retirement.
4) Retirement savings have to grow.
5) That means they have to find a home to grow in..
6) The money flowed to growth areas i.e. Europe.

There is a reason why there are very high pollution levels in India and China.

That’s because they are making just about everything that can be physically made.

It’s a common complaint to blame Germany as the source of the problem.
However the fact that one half of the planet has zero social welfare and are working like ants, whilst the other half of the planet is regulated to death, huge social welfare bills and high unemployment.

Something has got to give… but my understanding is that the global world is very very unbalanced.

Let me give you an example, I worked on a project where we required a special electrical switch. The UK manufacturer quoted 3000 pounds and six months lead time.

We had the switch in our possession from a Singaporean Company within 24 hours, at a cost of 300 Sing Dollars.

This is the sort of competition Europe is up against.

Unfortunately the latest ‘shellacking’ of the political establishment by the voters, and well deserved it was, only hits part of the established administration of this country. The senior levels of national/local/semi-state etc – aka ‘the permanent government’ – survive intact yet again to continue their deeply conservative, dead-hand, stultifying and largely incompetent practices, benefitting the vested interest insiders, and themselves of course, to the cost of the majority of citizens.
Unaccountable and untouchable – very cosy…..and dreadfully damaging to the future development of this country…..

Kevin, prior to the last Irish general election the then opposition parties, and many political and economic commentators, peddled the line that either or both the MoU and bank bonds need not be honoured – on the basis that Ireland needed simply to get tough with the ECB and the Germanic core of the EZ.

All this and Croke Park etc were to remain untouchable, even if the country had to leave the Euro.

Where the funding would come from was an awkward question and was studiously ignored.

For Labour, CP was their biggest electoral sales pitch.

The hand-wavy idea was to simultaneously get tough with foreign funders whilst, rather than garnering public support for possible necessity of the consequences, publicly guarantee the Irish public there would be virtually no consequences at all.

It was transparently idiotic and a very small number of people attempted to point out to an Irish audience that not only was it idiotic, but that overseas analysts could also work out that it was idiotic, and advise overseas politicians and institutions accordingly.

There was change though. The Troika insisted upon some, CP proved unsustainable and the Labour vote collapsed.

Now we have a very different funding backdrop.

What do you think would be appropriate these days?

Croke Park didn’t “prove unsustainable.” It was simply abrogated unilaterally by the government a year before its expiry. That same government pushed Haddington Road over the line by some well-timed blackmail.

Do you think that €300 million per annum (which the government is about to give away in tax cuts) is the difference between sustainable and unsustainable?

Ernie the only reason it went was because it proved unsustainable in the Irish political and economic context. That was predictable. If it had stayed FG would have been hung and the fact that, theoretically, a harder line on already reduced service provision, and taxes, could have paid for it doesn’t change that reality.

Some senior Labour party politicians have got their 2 years in post out of it all though, and that is of significance to them. There is always the follow-up European posting too…

Anyway, my question for Kevin, and anyone else for that matter is:

Now we have a very different funding backdrop.

What do you think would be appropriate these days?

Here’s how this looks from the public sector workers’ perspective: Croke Park involved extracting all sorts of concessions out of workers in exchange for, among other things, no pay cuts until the agreement was to expire in June 2014. So the gov’t gets all the concessions and then reneges on their side of the bargain: introducing pay cuts and increased hours. And the concessions by workers stay in place, thanks to a compliant labour union leadership and the aforementioned blackmail.

If the Labour party wants to know why it got 7% of the vote, it should start by looking at its behaviour during this shameful episode.

Let’s see …

Fine Gael largest party in The Oireachtas & Government; Fianna Fail largest pary in local government.

Pause …

Think …

Lease a bazooka … (filling in for Blind Biddy in Tripoli, Libya)


the x-minister for pilfering half bags of coal from the disabled, rumour has it, appreciates your support in Kingstown; she’ll sort out that bit of a field for you in due course once her pals are out of Nama!

Ambrose Evans-Ptrichard in cracking form in the Telegraph.

“Europe’s “Fiscal Compact” has set in motion a doomsday machine, requiring states to retrench for year after year by law until their debts are ground down to 60pc, and we are all dead. The best that can be hoped for is 1pc growth in southern Europe through the decade, too little to prevent a lost youth or to halt the rise in combined public and private debt ratios.”

Includes link to a recent Kevin O’Rourke’s article on the subject for the IMF.


Let us not lose sight of what has occurred. The root cause of this social, political and economic disaster is EMU. As Nobel economist Paul Krugman said this week: “Depression-level slumps didn’t happen in Europe before the coming of the euro.”

@ John Corcoran,

Indeed,,, there are many contributing factors to this crisis.

IMO… WRT Ireland…. chief among these factors is the inability of the Irish to financially govern themselves.

Too much populism, too much ignorance, a nation which is unable to take responsibility for it’s own failings.

It’s always somebody else’s fault.

@Gavin Kostick

Ambrose Evans-Ptrichard in cracking form in the Telegraph.

The message should have been received a long time ago. When Ambrose Evans-Ptrichard is to the left of your position you are a right wing lunatic, and the positions of Germany, the European Commission and even the less unreasonable ECB makes AEP look like Fidel Castro. You do not reach a position in a rich polity where 25% youth unemployment is a lesser concern than budget surveillance among the ruling elites without a moral and democratic crisis.

The truly worrying thing is that there is nothing that can be done about it peacefully, Europe manoeuvred itself into a post democratic position in the name of expediency with no idea of what the expediency was meant to achieve except wage competition, a strong currency and more powerful European Union institutions – an industrialists paradise run by monetarist technocrats unswayed by the vagaries of public opinion.

Its been a political success and a practical failure.

It is not over yet. God knows what cruel and ignorant suggestions the European Semester is going to have for us. Possibly a commitment to increasing the EU production of Soylent Green.


IMO… WRT Ireland…. chief among these factors is the inability of the Irish to financially govern themselves.

You don’t think that the scale of the Eurozone crisis makes explanations of the crisis that rely on national failings unlikely?

It was Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the Italy and soon the French. National inadequacy seems to be contagious in the Eurozone.


@Ernie Ball

It was the news about the Soylent Green product that reminded me about the film’s slightly less appetising product of course, it has been decades since I saw the film.


@ Shay,

Well you put a smile across my snout!!!

My comment was “with respect to Ireland”.

But yes good point…. “National inadequacy seems to be contagious in the Eurozone.”

But do we really want to follow the Italians pre Euro….. where a loaf of bread was 2500 Lira?

@Shay, to your list we could add Cyprus, Slovenia and Latvia to bring us up to a round 50% of all eurozone countries. Admittedly, Latvia was not in the eurozone when the crisis hit, but it did operate something approximating to a currency board with the euro, giving it all the disadvantages of eurozone membership.


Ireland has <coughs> some room to improve in the field of governance and we have not adjusted to our place in Europe (almost insignificant) or what that means about managing our relationship with the EU (keeping a safe but friendly distance) or how that means we have to run our government (more flexibly and efficiently than larger countries). I think we can.

You are right the the national conversation about finance in Ireland is simplistic but that is a bigger topic than just selfishness and poor accountancy skills – I can say that It has always made me sad that “tax” is always used negatively. Tax saves your children from burning buildings and keeps lead out of your food, tax means you have parks to sit in, tax put a man on the moon. Tax is one of the ways we do big things together. (and the water tax is not a tax, its a charge)

I also do not have a good response to your point about globalization, competition and costs other than to say I have my doubts about globalization.


to your list we could add Cyprus, Slovenia and Latvia to bring us up to a round 50% of all eurozone countries.

The 50% of the patients taking the medication who are not getting better had undiagnosed preexisting conditions while the one patient who is thriving was just very healthy already.

I say stay the course, many of these patients were going to die anyway!

@ Shay, BCT etc.

I remember a RTE interview on TV, I think it was hosted by Ms Olivia O’Leary…. Mr Norman Lamont was a guest… in fact there were a number of other guests on the show. But I remember it as Mr Lamont was or had been the British Chancellor of the Exchequer.

It was several years ago…before Ireland joined the Euro. My memory is really bad… but it could have been in the early 1990’s or perhaps later on… in the late 1990’s.

The big flap at the time was Ireland’s decision to join the euro, the euro project etc etc. The existence of the euro was still a number of years off.

Mr Lamont had serious reservations about the wisdom of giving up one’s tools of financial sovereignty and he stressed this numerous times during the program. However due to the fact that Mr Lamont was British… perhaps we looked upon his opinion as being anti Euro. After all he would say that anyway… right?

Unfortunately it would appear that the “establishment” of Ireland did not fully understand the straitjacket we were putting the nation into which was the euro project.

We thought we could carry on as before… Irish property prices were rising from the early mid 1990’s anyway… but with the euro introduction.. property coupled with easy access to large credit (either from the core or from Asia) was like putting petrol on the fire.

There were a number of “Cassandras” along the way…but unfortunately we are now in the situation we are in…and sadly we are not the only country.

Now…. money is like water in the desert… very scarce & precious.

If we are going to stay part of the euro club… then we have to abide by the rules…. if we are going to make up our own rules… then we have to make the decision to get out.

But either in or out of the euro… are we going to run the nations financial affairs in a responsible manner?

Because if we are going to be “good boys & girls” then we may as well stay in euroland anyway.

‘Gilmore throws hat in the ring for €250k EU Commissioner job’

‘”It is not an issue of being a candidate, there is not an election or anything like that. It is for the Taoiseach to make the nomination. If the Taoiseach asks me then I would have to think about it. But it is a long commute from Shankill to Brussels,” he said yesterday.’

It is all a terrible effort and obviously the country would like to play its part in changing the old saying ‘all political careers end in failure’ to ‘all political careers end in Brussels’ but if in the end Eamon graciously doesn’t fancy doing us all the favour and the cash isn’t really enough to leave the delights of Shankhill I’d just like to say I’m ready to step in.

Now clearly it might not suit Enda Kenny to have some one with an actual left wing perspective in the job, so I was thinking Sarah Carey might split the post with me for half the salary (plus expenses of course)? What do you think Sarah if you’re reading? Would you put it to Enda for us? I rather think that the two of us debating over everything with blog back-up might possibly do a decent job.

I wonder if it is an attempt to test Pat Rabitte’s observation that the Irish don’t riot?


On a positive note, international cooperation can still work and in the past eighteen months there has been remarkable progress in the battle against international tax evasion and corporate avoidance.

Earlier this month 47 countries including two of the biggest offshore financial centres, Switzerland and Singapore signed up to an OECD framework for the automatic sharing of bank account information.

Today Feargal O’Rourke, who has made a lot of money for his firm PwC selling Double Dutch Irish schemes to US multinationals, is leading from the front with a proposal in The Irish Times for the Government to abolish the offshore tax avoidance companies.

Noonan & Co must be reeling!

Apart from optimists like myself who would have thought that this would happen?

The status quo view was that the veto on EU tax harmonization and gridlock in Washington DC would head off any change.


Never mind the budget – where’s the reform ?????

No sign of vested interest being taken on

The court system is heading for an Italy style situaiton where appeals drag on for years
Basic point of law issues like the Sligo right of way cost millions when a judge could have done a desk review of the arguements
White collar crime: no sign of any serious attempt to get to grips and no resources provided
Anglo case highlighted farcical interpretation of duties of directors and officers

No wonder Sinn Fein is rising – the public are voting to kick the system in the a***

It is amazing to me that so many years after this crisis hit us, the pro’s and con’s of the euro specifically for the Irish economy have not been honestly debated by our politicians, academics and public so that we can decide whether this nightmare is worth continuing. Instead, we have lectures from the uber-comfortable John Bruton that austerity is our lot, get over it. (Why is a former taoiseach living on umpteen pensions at taxpayers’ expense shilling for the financial sector? Why has nobody but me, a stay-at-home mum, even asked this question?) We have a highly indebted population, but given the euro we cannot attempt to inflate away even a portion of this debt. Workers in Waterford are informed that their salaries are 20 percent higher than in New York. How much is this due to a strong euro? If we could devalue our currency by 20 percent, that would be sorted. (yes, I know this would make my petrol more expensive, but you get my point.) The euro was created by men, extremely limited men it now turns out, and surely it can be un-created if need be.

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