Shatter’s Donation

Our Taoiseach – who cannot seam to string a coherent sentence together most of the time – said, if you can parse it, the following of Alan Shatter’s donation:

“I think nobody can complain about the benefit that the children who are in the care, the subject of attention from Jack and Jill, nobody can complain about it.”

He was of course referring to Alan Shatter donating the €70,000 severance pay he is due to the Jack and Jill foundation.

What’s effectively happening here is that Alan Shatter, a member of the governing party and a cabinet minister until recently, is effectively saying that he doesn’t trust his own partners in Government to spend this money more wisely than he can.

Typical of Shatter’s arrogance. And a damning critique of Kenny.

Atheist Ireland Losing the Plot

I read an article in yesterday’s Irish times about Eamon Gilmore getting legal advise on swearing a religious oath at the up coming Council of State meeting. The article quoted a press release from Atheist Ireland:

Atheist Ireland has today written to Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, to remind him that next Monday, as a member of the Council of State, he will become the first Irish person to be asked to swear a Constitutional oath in the presence of a god that he is publicly on record as not believing in. It is an oath that a conscientious agnostic cannot honestly make.

Whatever he does will create a precedent. Either he will be seen as a politician of principle who will literally go down in the history books of Irish Constitutional law on the issue of freedom of belief and conscience in Irish politics, or else he will perpetuate the idea that swearing an oath means nothing in Ireland as you can do it with a metaphorical wink, and nobody really cares.

This kind of drivel pisses me off. It appears Eamon Gilmore will handle this as I would and as most right thinking people would – swear the oath and get on with the business at hand. The oath is contained in article 31.4 of the Irish Constitution and reads:

Every member of the Council of State shall at the first meeting thereof which he attends as a member take and subscribe a declaration in the following form:

“In the presence of Almighty God I,          , do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties as a member of the Council of State.”

It is, quite simply, a matter of law and a constitutional requirement that Gilmore will rightly perform without issue. The only way to change it is through a referendum and we have much bigger fish to fry in the country than holding a referendum on the wording of an oath.

Gilmore – like I and others – who have sworn oaths and made pledges of a non-secular nature, can separate the religion from the oath. This is how conscientious agnostics make oaths – our word is our bond. After all, an atheist has no deity to swear to or swear in the presence of.

The notion that by refusing to swear this oath, Gilmore will literally go down in the history books of Irish Constitutional law on the issue of freedom of belief and conscience is laughable and ridiculous. By refusing to swear the oath, both believers in Christ and agnostics will simply consider him a fool. A fool making a mountain of a molehill.

Atheist Ireland has lost the plot here – and all I know is what little I knew of them before the Irish Times published the ridiculous article, I only want to know less of them now.

Should We Expect Any Different?

As I reflect on the performance of the Government over the past few months, I feel awash with disappointment. A foreigner reading the newspapers with party and names blacked out would hardly know the Government has changed.

The latest failures of Ministers such as Phil Hogan (what of the seven children he wished to condemn to the halting site?) and James Reilly (pulling such an obvious stroke, blatantly lying about it and then incompetently covering it up) are depressing and maddening.

But what is even worse is the Government backbenchers. I’ve watched politician after politician from the Government parties asked about these failures of character and every one of them have uttered some mealy-mouthed claptrap nonsense to weasel around the question rather than just calling a spade a spade. All too interested in keeping their nose clean to enrich themselves with some committee or future ministerial position rather than being a good, decent honest politician loyal to the people who elected them in the first place.

Should we have expected anything different? Maybe not. But we changed the Government to promises of a better way. Maybe we shouldn’t expect it, but we sure as hell should demand it.


Extended Version

The country as a whole rejoiced at the last general election when Fiannia Fáil were returned to the wilderness of opposition. After fifteen years in Government, their TDs and Ministers had become all too used to the trappings of power. And in the last decade they presided over a boom and budget after budget that dropped the country into its worst ever depression. All the while lining their own pockets.

We looked at a new Fine Gael / Labour coalition with much hope and optimism. But we weren’t and aren’t idiots – we didn’t expect them to change the country overnight. We all know that we’re in for a long hard slog. We did however expect them to be  different from the cronies that went before them. We expected that in a time of great depression, we could look at a new Government that would forgo the trappings of power, leave Parish pump politics to the local councilors – we expected a group of people who would put the common good of the Country as a whole first.

As I reflect on the performance of the Government over the past few months, I feel awash with disappointment. A foreigner reading the newspapers with party and names blacked out would hardly know the Government has changed. Two recent key examples stand out more than others:

  • Phil Hogan: Put aside the complete blunder that he made of the household charge and continues to make with the septic tank registrations; just this week we learned that he assured objectors that a Traveller family would not receive a house they were in line to be allocated and intervened with the local council to try and fulfill this promise. Never mind that his Ministerial office includes responsibility for housing and community – what of the seven children that would have been condemned to the halting site had he been successful? What of the children, Big Phil? So much for Frances Fitzgerald’s promises of “children first” with this Government.
  • James Reilly: I had high hopes and was willing to give Reilly a lot of latitude to try and sort out the mess of the HSE and the health system. But then he pulls one of the most obvious political Parish pump strokes yet and jumps a town in his constituency about 100 places up a list to get a primary care centre. 100 places! He denies it’s a stroke, takes a week to come up with some feeble excuse which is then discredited by a three month old FOI by the Irish Times. Pulling strokes, blatantly lying about it and then incompetently covering it up. His tenure is of course littered with disasters, this just being the latest of many.

Neither of these men deserve a place in cabinet – if even Dáil Eireann. But Enda Kenny owes them both dearly for the part they played in the pathetic coup attempt by other incompetents two years ago. More old fashioned clique politics – who cares if someone is completely ill-suited to Ministerial position; just as long as they have played ball and have served their time.

While the above angers me deeply, what is even worse is the Government backbenchers. I’ve watched politician after politician from the Government parties asked about James Reilly’s stroke-pulling and every one of them have uttered some mealy-mouthed claptrap nonsense to weasel around the question rather than just calling a spade a spade. All too interested in keeping their nose clean to enrich themselves with some committee or future ministerial position rather than being a good, decent honest politician loyal to the people who elected them in the first place.

Should we have expected anything different? Maybe not. But we changed the Government to promises of a better way. Maybe we shouldn’t expect it, but we sure as hell should demand it.