Fine Gael-Fianna Fail grand coalition the only option?: Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll (18th December 2011)

The Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll (18th December 2011) points to a more than signficant dip in support for the government parties following the budger, with a notable recovery for Fianna Fail building on a strong showing in the Dublin West by-election and Sinn Fein occupying second place in the party rankings. With support levels and projected seat numbers roughly similar for both the government alliance and the most likely alternative government and both somewhat off the level required to ensure a majority in the Dail – party seat levels would be estimated as follows: Fine Gael 61, Labour 13, Fianna Fail 36, Sinn Fein 33, Green Party 2, Others 21 – the likelihood of a hung Dail would be very strong based on these figures unless Fine Gael and Fianna Fail were willing to enter a coalition government. But the main thing to emerge from this poll is what seemed to be unthinkable only a few months ago – the possibility that Fianna Fail will be in government again after the next general election. The poll puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings as follows: Fine Gael 30% (down 7%), Labour 11% (down 4%), Fianna Fail 20% (up 5%), Sinn Fein 21% (up 2%), Green Party 3% (up 1%), Independents and Others 15% (up 2%). Based on assigning seats on the basis of constituency support estimates (simply using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats), while also taking account of the factors of vote transfers and vote splitting/management (based on vote transfer/management patterns oberved in the February 2011 election), party seat levels would be estimated as follows: Fine Gael 61, Labour 13, Fianna Fail 36, Sinn Fein 33, Green Party 2, Others 21.

The constituency support estimates based on the poll figures are as follows:

FF FG LB SF GP OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 31% 32% 9% 20% 4% 4%
Cavan-Monaghan 19% 27% 3% 44% 1% 6%
Clare 28% 39% 9% 0% 4% 20%
Cork East 20% 32% 18% 24% 2% 4%
Cork North Central 17% 21% 14% 31% 2% 15%
Cork North West 29% 41% 8% 16% 2% 3%
Cork South Central 32% 29% 10% 17% 4% 8%
Cork South West 28% 41% 8% 16% 3% 5%
Donegal North East 17% 22% 5% 43% 1% 12%
Donegal South West 19% 12% 2% 52% 1% 13%
Dublin Central 17% 16% 16% 27% 3% 21%
Dublin Mid West 14% 26% 18% 25% 6% 11%
Dublin North 20% 29% 16% 0% 15% 20%
Dublin North Central 16% 34% 14% 13% 2% 21%
Dublin North East 14% 25% 20% 26% 3% 11%
Dublin North West 13% 13% 23% 44% 2% 5%
Dublin South 11% 32% 11% 6% 12% 28%
Dublin South Central 11% 20% 20% 29% 3% 16%
Dublin South East 14% 32% 15% 8% 12% 19%
Dublin South West 12% 23% 20% 36% 2% 7%
Dublin West 21% 24% 18% 14% 2% 21%
Dun Laoghaire 20% 34% 20% 0% 7% 19%
Galway East 21% 37% 8% 13% 1% 19%
Galway West 24% 25% 7% 13% 3% 27%
Kerry North-West Limerick 12% 31% 10% 39% 1% 6%
Kerry South 17% 30% 7% 0% 2% 45%
Kildare North 18% 30% 18% 13% 3% 17%
Kildare South 27% 30% 17% 14% 2% 10%
Laois-Offaly 29% 26% 4% 21% 1% 19%
Limerick City 25% 37% 12% 19% 2% 5%
Limerick 27% 46% 11% 0% 1% 14%
Longford-Westmeath 24% 34% 16% 17% 1% 8%
Louth 16% 23% 9% 40% 7% 6%
Mayo 19% 56% 3% 14% 1% 7%
Meath East 23% 35% 12% 19% 2% 9%
Meath West 19% 35% 7% 34% 2% 3%
Roscommon-South Leitrim 17% 31% 5% 20% 1% 26%
Sligo-North Leitrim 23% 28% 5% 26% 1% 15%
Tipperary North 20% 20% 12% 14% 1% 33%
Tipperary South 16% 30% 6% 10% 1% 37%
Waterford 16% 32% 11% 21% 1% 18%
Wexford 23% 30% 12% 13% 1% 21%
Wicklow 12% 33% 10% 21% 2% 21%

Based on these constituency estimates, the number of seats per party would be estimated as follows on the basis of constituency support estimates (simply using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats),

FF FG LB SF GP OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 3
Clare 1 2 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 2 2 1
Cork South West 1 2
Donegal North East 1 2
Donegal South West 1 2
Dublin Central 1 1 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1
Dublin North 1 1 1 1
Dublin North Central 2 1
Dublin North East 1 1 1
Dublin North West 1 2
Dublin South 2 1 2
Dublin South Central 1 1 2 1
Dublin South East 2 1 1
Dublin South West 1 1 2
Dublin West 1 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1
Galway East 1 2 1
Galway West 1 1 1 2
Kerry North-West Limerick 1 2
Kerry South 1 2
Kildare North 1 1 1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois-Offaly 2 1 1 1
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1
Louth 1 1 3
Mayo 1 3 1
Meath East 1 1 1
Meath West 1 1 1
Roscommon-South Leitrim 1 1 1
Sligo-North Leitrim 1 1 1
Tipperary North 1 1 1
Tipperary South 1 2
Waterford 1 1 1 1
Wexford 1 2 1 1
Wicklow 1 2 1 1
STATE 34 58 13 37 0 24

Amending the model to account for seats that may be won or lost on the basis of a large/small number of candidates contesting the election (e.g. Others being allocated a seat in Laois-Offaly mainly due to the large number of independent candidates who contested this constituency), vote transfers and vote management (e.g. discrepancies between votes won by party front runners and their running mates which would see potential seat wins fall out of a party’s hands), the seat allocations across the constituencies would look more like this:

FF FG LB SF GP OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 2 2
Clare 1 2 1
Cork East 2 1 1
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 2 2 1
Cork South West 1 2
Donegal North East 1 2
Donegal South West 1 2
Dublin Central 1 1 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1
Dublin North 1 1 1 1
Dublin North Central 1 1 1
Dublin North East 1 1 1
Dublin North West 1 2
Dublin South 1 2 1 1
Dublin South Central 1 1 1 1 1
Dublin South East 2 1 1
Dublin South West 1 1 2
Dublin West 1 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1
Galway East 1 2 1
Galway West 1 1 1 2
Kerry North-West Limerick 1 2
Kerry South 1 2
Kildare North 1 1 1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois-Offaly 2 2 1
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1
Louth 1 2 2
Mayo 1 3 1
Meath East 1 1 1
Meath West 1 1 1
Roscommon-South Leitrim 1 1 1
Sligo-North Leitrim 1 1 1
Tipperary North 1 1 1
Tipperary South 1 2
Waterford 1 1 1 1
Wexford 1 2 1 1
Wicklow 1 2 1 1
STATE 36 61 13 33 2 21

What can be noted here is the impact of different parties falling above or below certain “tipping points” at which a drop or increase in their national support patterns results in even larger levels of seat gains and losses. The impact of changed competition levels is also evident – projected Labour seat losses are naturally down to the party’s declining poll ratings especially relative to their support level in the February election, but perhaps are also heavily shaped by the surge in Sinn Fein support in polls evident since the start of the presidential election campaign, meaning that seats they won on roughly similar levels of support in the 2002 and 2007 general elections instead now would be falling into the hands of their main rivals on the left of the political spectrum.

As well as the significant recovery for Fianna Fail and the strong showing by Sinn Fein, the other main point to note here is that the model predicts seats for the Green Party in Dublin North and Dublin South with the party also expected to be well in contention for a seat in Dublin South East as well.

The analysis estimates seat numbers for Fine Gael and Labour at 74, while seat levels for a potential Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail alliance would stand at 69. Seat levels for a potential Left Alliance government, incorporating Sinn Fein, Labour and various left-of-centre independents and small parties (including the United Left Alliance) would come in around the 60 seat level. Ultimately on these seat estimates, the likelihood of a hung parliament involving a minority government supported by a significant array of independent and small party TDs would appear to be the only option, unless Fine Gael and Fianna Fail agreed to end Civil War politics once and for all and enter into a coalition government arrangement. If we end up with a centre-right bloc involving the traditional “two main parties” facing off against a not-insignificant bloc of left-leaning TDs and parties then we can really talk about a political earthquake in Irish politics.

One final conclusion, and this perhaps my final one for 2011, is to note how fluid politics stands in the post-NAMA landscape – the strong trends evident in the polls of 2010 and early 2011 are now being reversed with the recovery of Fianna Fail and the decline in support for Fine Gael and Labour. But perhaps another conclusion might be that ultimately – with the two mains parties appearing to head to dominate the political scence once more (unless Sinn Fein can maintain the political momentum that has driven them since the Doherty victory in the Donegal South-West by-election of November 2011) and with Labour again seen to be holding just around one-tenth of political support – the status quo will right itself despite all talk of earthquake elections. Maybe we can only conclude that when it comes to Irish politics that:

Nothing ever happens, nothing ever happens at all

The needle returns to the start of the song

And we all sing alone like before.

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25 thoughts on “Fine Gael-Fianna Fail grand coalition the only option?: Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll (18th December 2011)

  1. FF have all but destroyed the country FG have understudied FF for the last 14 years. They are going to be the party with Labour who are going to be in power when the Euro fails. For that reason neither FF or FG will form part of the next government.

    Morgan Kelly predicted 18 months ago that within 5 years both civil war parties would be swept away. Already he has been proved correct regarding FF he will also be proved correct regarding FG.

    It is obvious and will become even more obvious to the people that neither FF or FG can mend this broken country.

  2. Since 1969, the results of most general elections here is that the outgoing government failed to be re-elected, the exception being the 2002 General Election.

    Yes, FF has been in power most of the time.

    I suggest that one interpretation of this is that the electorate is not happy (to put it mildly) with many aspects of the outcomes of government.

    Given the failure of the governing elite (during the late 1970s and now again as shown by the EU-ECB-IMF intervention), what will it take for us to insist that we want to change the approach to government because we want to change the results?

    What is going to be the effect of state decline, as public expenditure declines to a level sustainable mainly by resources generated here?

    What effect will this have on the state class – which is much wider than those paid from exchequer funds?

      • I offer the following;
        State class = all those in the workforce whose incomes derive in whole or mostly from the state.

        Those paid directly eg.
        Full time politicians – at national and local levels;
        those employed directly by politicians;
        those who earn their living from political activities, including lobbying eg. PR/Public aaffairs consultants, political commentators
        Civil servants;
        Public servants eg. Gardai, Army, Health and education services, local authority staffs at all levels;

        Other bodies which are mostly funded by state funds eg. IDA, FAS(Solas), HEA, RPA, Bus Atha Cliath, Iarnrod Eireann
        Other bodies the existence of which and whose income is mandated by public law eg. regulatory bodies, IAA,
        Other bodies most of whose income is derived from the state eg. LEADER staff, CE personnel

        Then there is a whole swathe of private sector businesses
        a large portion of whose income depend state activities
        eg. consulting engineers, lawyers, medical professionals,

        (I have asked professional services firms for quotes to do work which involved challenging state – to no avail)

        Arising from the decline of public expenditure eg. infrastructure, I am aware that many professionals have sought and found work abroad.

    • @Donal,

      You raise valid questions that may generate some pressure for change, but, even if these opinion poll results suggest an increasing number of citizens is unhappy with what the Government is doing at the moment, I would contend that the vast majority of citizens is broadly content with this system of governance.

      Ireland probably has the most direct democratic system in the world. Parliament (the Oireachtas) might as well not exist for the period between elections once it has elected a Taoiseach. Ordinary citizens use TDs to seek redress or to gain advantage from the ‘government machine.’ And there is a plethora of bodies and associations to advance and protect occupational or economic interests directly with government. Those who are sufficiently wealthy, powerful or influential deal directly with government behind the scenes. Parliament is bypassed completely and has become totally irrelevant.

      And to copper-fasten this approach, voters jealously guard their right to use any popular voting opportunity between general elections to convey to government any discontent they might be experiencing about its behaviour.

      Without a parliament to adjudicate on competing or conflicting interests or to decide on which interests to advance at the expense of others and to direct governance in the public interest any government is trapped in a battle of wits with some or all voters at all times.

      So, in reality, any restoration of the system of governance to that which existed at the foundation of the state or any meaningful structural economic reforms are simply out of the question. The economy stagnated in the ’50s, but the hierarchies of wealth, power and influence remained intact. Those at the bottom of the pile got out. The same thing happened in the 80s. A shift in economic policy and the bolting on of some quangos injected some dynamism in the ’60s and again in the ’90s, but the system of governance remained unchanged and so, inevitably, the same old pattern is repeating itself in this decade.

      And no meaningful, beneficial change is possible because it would run counter to the settled will of a majority of citizens. There are far more people who believe, rightly or wrongly, they would lose out if reforms were implemented that there are of those who want to see change. And those demanding change are fragmented by ideological baggage and specific policy objectives.

      And I suspect that deep down those economists and political scientists who pronounce, respectively, on economic policy and on political reform recognise this reality and content themselves, respectively, with the analysis of a small open economy at the macro level (thereby avoiding confronting micro-level dysfunction) and the analysis of the political system as if a genuine parliamentary democracy existed.

      I know I have been critical, but I realise now that there is nothing to gained but grief and hassle if one attempts to expose these optical illusions. So it’s probably pragmatic to go with the flow as most people seem to do.

  3. This is the first of a number of austerity budgets under the new FG/Lab government. The change is already significant even before the budgetary measures are implemented and before the continuation of job elimination actually takes place. This will inevitably give rise to further right- left polarisation.Forces to the right of FG could well emerge as foreshadowed by right-wing criticism of the government in the Sunday Independent. Following previous participations by the Labour party in coalition many erstwhile supporters returned to FF. The crucial difference on this occasion is the existence of significant forces to the left of the Labour Party which can grow in support. Much depends on the ability of Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance to gather further support. Already the recovery of Fianna Fail is remarkably limited. Another key difference between the current situation and previous periods when Fiann Fail was in opposition is it’s limited ability to adopt a strong nationalist position. This is due to its abandonment of articles 2 and 3 of the 1937 constitution. As Sinn Fein has an identical position to Fianna Fail on this issue and is burdened with imposing cuts in the north on behalf of the British government, it’s growth could also be significantly impeded. The fact of a quisling government dipping into pay packets and welfare cheques to pay financial tribute to foreign powers will inevitably provoke an anti-imperialist response. This is an extremely fluid political situation.
    Adrian’s fear that the old tweedledum-tweedledee alternation will recur is far too pessimistic and even politically unrealistic in my opinion.

  4. “The fact of a quisling government dipping into pay packets and welfare cheques to pay financial tribute to foreign powers will inevitably provoke an anti-imperialist response. This is an extremely fluid political situation.”

    Indeed, it is. Especially when the “dipping into” and it is a lot more than “dipping into”, is being done to keep Croke Park deal in tact.

    The trade union movement have been totally assimilated into the system not bought not sold just engulfed, assimilated and digested.

    Let’s not muddy the water with imperialist nonsense. Three reports, Nyberg, Regling Watson and Honohan all with their terms of reference restricted, said this was a crisis of our own making. The big winners are going to be Sinn Fein. Labour will get the public servants vote but not much else. Saw O’Connor and Begg and another heading for the Dail tonight probably Noonan wants to have a friendly little chat with them about all the businesses that are going to go to the wall after Christmas.

  5. @ PH: “So it’s probably pragmatic to go with the flow as most people seem to do.”

    No!

    @PH: Hi Paddy,

    “the existence of significant forces to the left of the Labour Party which can grow in support.”

    Paddy, the goddamn Irish Median Voter is centre-right. That’s where Lab has gone to. If the Left go further left on the Left-Right dimension, they will only attract a rump. Go where the voters are or forget it.

    FF may indeed ‘recover’ as they attract back their disgruntled supporters. So, we will be merely back where we started. Up sh*tcreek with a bunch of useless jerks.

    Never, nerver underestimate the treachery of FF or FG if they discover that they will lose power, unless … …, and,

    The Irish Labour party is right-wing as of now. They really wanted power – that bad!

    What did that senator say; “My principles are perfectly flexible!”

    Cheers,

    Brian.

  6. Counterposing the public to the private sector, as Robert Browne does, is totally misleading. Raiding pay packets and benefits,he says, “is being done to keep the Croke Park Deal intact”. There are huge disparities of income and conflicts of interest in both sectors.
    A report in the Irish Times, Dec 6 citing the Revenue Commissioners shows that almost one quarter of public servants earn less than 20,000 Euro per year-just above the minimum wage at 18,000.These have had a pay cut of 15%. On the other hand 2/3 of all those earning over 100,000 per year are in the private sector and the 10,677 super-earners above 500,000 per year on average contains very very few public servants. Irish net personal financial assets have increased by 45 billion since 2008.
    Middle and low income recipients are being deprived to repay debt while protecting the very rich.
    The progressive research grup TASC estimates that “on the benign assumption that Ireland can re-enter the bond markets at 4.7% at the end of the EU-IMF programme” 65 billion in repayments will be made over the next 20 years.
    Robert says the crisis “was of our own making”. The implication is that the entire nation was responsible. Firstly, for every reckless borrower there must be a reckless lender. The evidence is that major European banks were lending recklessly to several countries in the EU.
    The borrowing of 90 billion by Irish Banks between 2003 and 2007 was indeed reckless. The Board of The Central Bank, which is responsible above all for prudence in banking, was populated by representatives of the Irish establishment-bankers, business leaders, Department of Finance officials, a trade union leader and various self-employed professionals. The lending out of the money in a manner which created not only a property bubble but also a shares bubble was cheered on by the entire establishment. The ESRI, ICTU, IBEC, media economic correspondents, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour joined the chorus. Indeed the only business academic to cry halt was Morgan Kelly.
    In the face of all this how can the general citizenry be allocated a share of the responsibility?

    In response to my former colleague Brian Woods (hi Brian), my point is that the crisis will give rise to political polarisation which means that the middle ground will get progressively narrower. The poll is an early indication of this trend. This was the experience in the last comparable period, the thirties. We had the blueshirts at one pole and the revolutionary Republican Congress on the other. Elements of both poles are already in place.

  7. Robert Browne says that the raid on low and middle income recipients is being carried out to keep the Croke Park Deal intact. The attempt to counterpose the public and private sectors is totally misleading because there are such huge disparities of income and conflicts of interest WITHIN both sectors. A report in the Irish Times, Dec 6 citing the Revenue Commissioners shows that almost one quarter of public servants earn less than 20,000 per year-just above the minimum wage at 18,000. These have had a pay cut of 15%. On the other hand 2/3 of all those earning over 100,000 per year are in the private sector and the 10,677 super-earners receiving 560,000 Euro per year on average contains very, very few public servants. Irish net financial assets, which are mainly the preserve of the very rich, have increased by 45 billion since 2008. Not a penny in additional taxation was levied on the incomes and assets of the very rich in the recent budget.
    Robert says that the current crisis is entirely of “our own making”. Firstly, for every reckless borrower there must be a reckless lender. The evidence is that large European banks lent recklessly throughout the EU over the last decade.
    The borrowing of 90 billion by Irish banks between 2003 and 2007 was indeed reckless. This borrowing was supervised by the board of the Central Bank whose main responsibility is to ensure prudence in banking. The Board was populated by representatives of the entire Irish establishment-bankers, business leaders, Gen Sec of ICTU, Department of Finance officials, barristers and members of the self-employed professions. The money was lent out by Irish banks in a manner which generated not only a property bubble but also a bubble in shares. This process was cheered on by the ESRI, IBEC, ICTU, media business correspondents, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour. Indeed the only business academic to cry halt was Morgan Kelly.
    In the light of this, how can the general citizenry be blamed? The information provided to them was grossly misleading. The crisis was not of THEIR making.
    The progressive research group, TASC, estimates in its budget submission that repayments arising from the rescue of Anglo-Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide alone will cost 65 Billion over the next 20 years. This is “on the benign assumption” that Ireland will be able to borrow in the bond markets at 4.7% after 2015!!!
    The truth is that low and middle income recipients are being raided to pay off international lenders while protecting the incomes and assets of the very rich.
    In reply to my former colleague at DIT, Brian Woods(Hi Brian), my point is that political polarisation is taking place and the middle ground is narrowing. The poll shows early indications of this. In the most recent comparable period, the thirties, a similar process occurred. We had the Blue Shirts at one pole and the revolutionary Republican Congress at the other pole. Elements of these poles are already in place to-day.

    • @Paddy Healy,

      “The crisis was not of THEIR [the citizens’] making.”

      This is now becoming the received wisdom – I noticed it also in the introduction to the WTC Report.

      This is total and utter balderdash – and, if it becomes the dominant view, runs the risk of leading Ireland up a blind and dark alley in terms both of economic recovery and of dealing with our EU partners and the EU institutions.

      In free and fair elections (not once, or twice, but three times) Irish voters elected TDs who elected governments (with the TDs on the losing side in opposition) which were responsible for fiscal and economic policy (and accountable to the Oireachtas) and which appointed those responsible for bank supervision and financial regulation – and. who, in turn, were accountable to the Oireachtas. The extent of misgovernance across the board was simply woeful.

      However, unlike the citizens of many other long-established democracies, Irish citizens have demonstrated repeatedly that they are either unwilling or feel unable to consent to resourcing and empowering the Oireachtas to scrutinise government and its agencies properly, to impose restraint on them and to hold them fully to account.

      In any democracy worth its name, it is the citizens who have the ultimate power and authority – and, as a result, the ultimate responsibility. A clear majority of voters replaced the previous government convincingly, but they have left the system of governance that created this mess intact. This is the first major reform of governance required – there are many more to follow. It won’t recover the lost billions, but it will lay the basis for a more effective and equitable economic recovery, help to prevent a repetition of this distastrous misgovernance and provide a clear signal to Ireland’s EU partners that it is serious about governance reform – and encourage much required support and solidarity.

      But, unfortunately, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of this happening. It’s far easier to rant about the follies and iniquities of others – ideally foreign others.

  8. Paddy H: Thanks for reply. Good to see your still ‘in there’.

    If I read Thornley, Chubb, Carty and Garvin correct, Ireland (Free State and later Republic) never experienced the traditional Left-Right policy dimension cleavage. The ILP only got to to be a semi-modern form in mid-50s. Partition cut them off from a Critical Mass of their electoral support. And they faffed around for the next 30 years.

    My guess is, that ILP success in 1973 was due to disgruntled FF supporters (FF has more centre-left voters that ILP) gave ILP a ‘loan’ of some votes. And I strongly suspect the same happened in Feb 2011; FG got the disgruntled FF centre-right votes.

    The most ‘natural’ ILP coalition (they will never be capable of forming a single party gov) was with FF in 1992. The median FF elector is much closer to median ILP supporter.

    ILP – if they had any sphericles would have told FF and FG – to stuff any coalition: go to the Backbenches and oppose. But no. The party elite WANTED office, so desperately, that they agreed to coalition.

    The best we can hope for in Ireland is a centre-right administration that has a genuine “Come to Jesus” moment. They reform Dáil, gives us an Ombudsman with real canines, and an FoI that leaves those ’emperor’s b****ck naked!

    See you around.

    Brian

  9. @ Paddy Healy

    I distinctly remember an interview with Mike Soden ex chief executive of the BoI where he pointed out, it took 222 years for the BoI’s loan book to reach 100bn in 2004. Four years later, 2008 it reached 200bn. That was just one Irish bank! For every borrower there must be a lender, correct! (if we had only listened to Shakespeare, “neither a borrower nor a lender be”) Our Irish banks were accelerating their loan books at break neck speeds, (pushed by BoSI) no longer content to grow their liabilities organically or from business profits re-invested, they borrowed with a vengeance from international money markets and that money was then pumped out into the economy earning bank officials ignored huge risks in order to win huge commissions.

    Let’s not forget, the government was getting roughly 38% to 40% of every new development by way of taxes and when people started to say they could not get brickies, plasterers or labourers the answer was to bring in as many immigrants as possible, NOW! So that the building boom could be fully fuelled. Not to mention the 80 odd tax incentives, sect 23, 50, etc. Not only were our financial people asleep at the wheel the government did not examine sociopolitical and societal ramifications of what was going to happen to a couple of hundred thousands immigrants if these jobs disappeared, as quickly as they had appeared. Which was entirely predictable and has happened. Of course, the majority of these people will remain and they are quite welcome to stay because welfare rates, child supports, rent allowance in our economy dwarf what they might expect to earn in a country such as Poland for example.

    Blair Horan told me his union wanted “their cut” of the Celtic Tiger. In 2002. They went into talks with Bertie in Dublin Castle. The most they wanted was 600million Berite insisted on giving them 1.2bn in the “talks” generous to a fault was our man Bertie the same Bertie who knows down to the last Euro what is going on with his own finances. Jack O’Connor likes to call them “a negotiation” Bertie, when interviewed, about his “achievements”, likes to remind us that he had to negotiate all these damn ‘Social Partnership Agreements’. If someone asks for tax payer funded increases only to have twice the amount they asked thrust into one’s hand, what kind of a “negotiation” is that?? The reality is the Trade Unions have become totally blinkered, totally selfish and totally self serving and they are they have marched their members along the road to armageddon. Croke Park is a huge pyrrhic victory. In fact, pushing the open door is going to prove ruinous in the long term. One issue besides the fact that the private sector cannot support themselves, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General there is a minimum of 117bn of unfunded public sector pensions in the system. To return to the insolvency issue. Who allowed the expansion of the loan books? As a people we were depending on three bodies to regulate what was going on in our financial markets. The Financial Regulator, The Central Bank of Ireland and the Department of Finance. Every single person working in these institutions are employed are paid from the public purse. The Regulator failed. The Central Bank failed. The Department of Finance Failed. It was systemic failure across the entire Public Service regulatory authorities and this failure allowed both the private and public sectors to load up on debt like never before. Now, I know, we have had a few token heads on plates but they heads on plates were for Salome afterwards they quietly faded away to draw the pensions.

    Developers with a blazing yellow or Pink tie and zebra striped shirts believed they could walk on water. These guys will always take as much money as they can possibly get from The bank this is precisely why we needed regulation.

    Why is Justice Peter Kelly not demanding that the relevant people be present in each bankruptcy, insolvency down the commercial courts? Each case should have the bank manager, the recipient of the loan, the Financial Regulator, the Central Bank governor and the Secretary General of the DoF?

    I’ll have to come back to this later as your interesting comment deserves a full and comprehensive reply and I will have to make time for same!!

  10. There is no evidence of excessive spending on public services in general during the boom period. Valid comparisons with countries in EU 15 bear this out.There is evidence of inappropriate spending on tax breaks for the rich.The notion that localism is the main source of political dysfunction in Ireland is quite wrong. The overwhelming feature of the Irish political landscape is that Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are in thrall to the rich. I will return to these themes in the new year.
    Happy Christmas to all

  11. Paddy says, “There is no evidence of excessive spending on public services in general during the boom period”.

    Below is a quote from Dr. Edward Walsh who is retired from the public service but who is a public servant.

    “Government will have to reform and prune a flabby, overpaid public sector, and face down public sector unions in the process.

    The latter has to happen. Croke Park was yet one more incredible deal that the public sector unions managed to extract from a weak and disoriented former government. The new one has yet to show the courage and determination necessary to stop the public sector unions walking away, yet once more, brazenly and unmolested from the ‘ATM machines’ without honouring undertakings.

    For the most part individual public sector workers want to get on
    with their jobs and make a contribution to national recovery, but they are working within an antiquated and dysfunctional public sector. There has been no comprehensive reform of the
    public administration system since it was inherited from Britain. Its
    effectiveness has been eroded over the years by a succession of ministerial decisions that found conceding to unreasonable demands preferable to opposing them. The public sector is rife for the kind of radical reform introduced with such excellent results in New Zealand and Hong Kong.

    Hidden away in Volume 2 of Colm McCarthy’s 2009 report[3]
    are a startling litany of strange payments and concessions to public servants that have been conceded over the years. As a result the terms and remuneration of Irish public servants far exceeds those of their counterparts in Germany.

    Those who are struggling to make ends meet and do not enjoy the remuneration, perks and job security of the Irish public sector look to government to bring about fundamental reform. Failing this, many would be happy to see the Troika insist on an exercise to benchmark and align Irish public sector remuneration and concessions with EU norms.

    There is growing concern amongst the general public as reports emerge of extraordinary public sector work practices and concessions in education, health and most other sectors. The fact that the Labour Relations Commission should see fit to be an instrument of negotiation with FAS workers, who wished to retain some 70 additional days of holidays in the years before retirement, highlights the cocoon of unreality in which the public sector abides.

    In Morgan Kelly’s article in August in the IT he also spoke scathingly of public sector workers including himself being as much as 50% overpaid. These are tow of the most respected academics in the country. So, something is not adding up here at all.

    Happy Christmas all.

  12. Hi Paddy, and best wishes for the holiday.

    “The overwhelming feature of the Irish political landscape is that Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are in thrall to the rich.”

    I’d skip the ‘rich’ bit, and substitute ‘their own current vested interest group/s – it kinda varies with the season. The vested are on the Right of the political dimension, so anyone on the Left is, by definition, a looney loser – in political terms. They might (and probably are) genuinely good persons. That counts for nothing.

    Do you rem that infamous episode in L207 when HdL wrote up ‘teacher = cheater’ and the only one who objected was a non-Irish citizen. I was absent by design, I had a v-bad feeling about that meeting. The most vociferous of HdL critics were silent: cowards all. That Irish politics for you. Lots of cowards.

    Reform, if it ever comes about, will only be grudgingly given. If the Left really want to get into political office in this state, they need a new agenda. 30 indos on the backbenches is only 18% – that’s only half critical mass. Lot of work to be done.

    @RB: Ed Walsh is … well, someone whose opinion you ignore. Soden ?? Jesus wept! Nice guy, pleasant company, but a tad short on the intellectual.

    Brian

  13. @ Brian Woods

    I might ignore his, Walsh’s ‘opinion’ accept it was not given as an ‘opinion’. I think Walsh did extraordinary well to steer the N.I.H.E. in Limerick to where it is today against all the slings and arrows thrown his way of which there were many.

    As for Mike Soden, I cannot say I ever enjoyed his company but I am aware of his faults. However he was simply pointing out the break neck speed of the expansion of the loan book of BoI between 2004-2008 up by a 100bn that is either true or false statement. As for being a tad short on the intellectual? Since when did we need intellectuals to sort out this crisis? If we do, why did we elect three teachers and two ex student union leaders to run the country?

    People in Ireland are funny they always play the man, always shoot the messenger. Walsh and Soden would not be on my personal Christmas Party list but that does not stop me from realizing that what they are saying in correct and I would have no difficulty with them as part of a jury.

  14. Paul Hunt (Dec 21) disputes my contention that the citizens generally were not responsible for the current crisis. This is because “In free and fair elections (not once, or twice, but three times) Irish voters elected TDs who elected governments (with the TDs on the losing side in opposition) which were responsible for fiscal and economic policy (and accountable to the Oireachtas) and which appointed those responsible for bank supervision and financial regulation – and. who, in turn, were accountable to the Oireachtas. The extent of misgovernance across the board was simply woeful.”
    He advocates political reform but confesses that “there is not a snowballs chance in hell of this happening”.
    He despairs because “unlike the citizens of many other long-established democracies”, Irish citizens are “unable or unwilling” to act in their own interest.
    Presumably we should all throw our hands in the air or emigrate.
    The proposition that Irish citizens are any more or less intelligent or competent than citizens of neighbouring countries is untenable. Therefore it is necessary to explore the real reasons that governments which misgoverned woefully were elected.
    Firstly, there is every reason to believe that had the people elected any of the available governments in the 3 elections concerned, the outcome would have been the same. Fine Gael had explicitly accepted the same neo-liberal policies as Fianna Fail/PD. By 2007, the Labour Party had accepted similar policies through the conduit of Blairism. (Remember Rabittes proposal to reduce income tax and to introduce Thatcher-Style education vouchers and the pre-election pact with Fine Gael). Indeed Ruairi Quinn’s budgets in the late nineties were a clear indication of the drift of Labour policy to the right.
    Therefore the electorate had no effective choice!
    Why did the electorate not understand that the main political parties were not just useless but positively dangerous and perhaps abstain in the elections?
    In the years leading up to the 2007 election the entire Irish establishment were telling them that everything was fine- the worst that would happen was a soft landing!
    The main newspapers, benefitting from advertising in property supplements, did not alert the population to the dangers.
    Economists and financial experts employed by finance houses were featured on media on a daily basis telling us that all was well
    IBEC, Trade Union leaders and the Economic and Social Research Institiute, through the National Economic and Social Council, were giving the government a clean bill of health. Any dangers cited were so understated as to be ineffective.
    The Central Bank, whose duty it is to ensure prudence in banking, issued annual reports which effectively endorsed government and banking policy. Business, trade union leaders, eminent self-employed professionals and the Department of Finance were represented on its board.
    Dermot Gleeson, former Chair of AIB, speaking at Magill Summer School in July 2009 cited international consultants reports, including an OECD report, which effectively endorsed government and banking policy. Government and banks were then enabled to rely on these reports in their publicity.
    Importantly, the economic position of the poorer sections of the population was improving in absolute terms during the “tiger” years though the gap between rich and poor was widening. How were the poor to know that their gains would be temporary and were built on sand? All “experts” and establishment figures were telling them otherwise.
    In the final week of the 2007 election, Fianna Fail took full advantage of media and the silence of experts on the dangers. FF did an intensive canvass of the poorer areas of our cities and towns. They had lined up Independent Newspapers on their side. “Your jobs, your living standards will all disappear if the government is thrown out” was their cry. It worked. From experience people had no reason to believe that FG/Lab would be any better-“stick to the divil you know”
    In the light of the above there is no case for claiming that the citizens generally are responsible for the current crisis.
    The real question is why did all Irish establishment figures,inside and outside parliament, cheer on a false boom based on huge borrowing?
    The answer is that they all came from a rich layer of the population which was getting even richer by the day due to the false boom.
    I accept that Paul Hunt is genuinely mistaken in his analysis.
    However, when an entire ruling elite falls flat on its face, its members and their apologists always find scapegoats other than themselves— eg the stupid electorate, the entire public service etc. It is a self-protection mechanism.
    It was ever thus!

  15. The Irish electorate always liked to be bought. For every buyer, a seller and that seller was the Irish electorate. They may have hidden their rewards under the guise of being FF’ers FG’ers or Labour but, the fact of the matte, it was auction politics fair and square and every time they went to the polls, they voted for those offering the biggest goody bag. Ever since George Colley discovered deficit budgets in 1970 right through to the 77 mega, Jack Lynch auction. After each party came the hallucinogenic effects to the point we no longer are a sovereign people.

    Is it any surprise that people who buy their way into power, who never enunciated any goals other than we will give you more than them, turn out to be nothing more than snake oil salesmen and disasters? We are an immature, simple minded people. When I was at university in Limerick and Galway I never came across a single student who wanted to take time out from a module to discuss the direction the country, society should be moving in. It mattereed not whether the subject was economics, psychology, sociology, industrial relations, anthropology you name it, there was never any willingness or desire to discuss any of these topics. Fellow students simply dreaded anything that was not written down in black and white that could not be learned off and regurgitated. We are not a nation of thinkers. Our economists think in economic paradigms, only. Trade unions think how can we get more money, more money work less hours bigger pensions. Our politicians think, how can I buy more votes, do more favours, promise more, be seen more etc. They know we are a lazy people who never want to think for more than10 seconds of what the long term consequences will be for constantly going for the quick fix? We voted for Charlie, Garrett, Reynolds, Bruton, Ahern, all more inept than each other. Doubling and trebling national debts, keeping gravy train running, jobs for the boys, no plan, all happy to retire to better paid jobs with the old “Taoiseach’s job” looking good on the CV. John Bruton set out to have a cup of tea with every governor of every state in America as part of his EU gig, my son collects stamps and I know someone who collects antique buttons, whatever.

    Garret and Bruton even after their stints in office never came up with any coherent view of Irish society just as they never came up with one when they were in office. Reynolds? Ahern, could not come up with a single good idea, his only regret on leaving office? Not building the Bertie Bowl, (it escaped his attention that he has indeed built a rather large economic Bertie bust bowl). Cowen? Disaster? Agreed! So, we have been leaderless, ruderless and feckless and now we have put a man into office who in his ‘address to the nation’ tells us, “if you are one of the people looking for work, you are one of the unemployed” In other words, we are politely FK’d.

    “Why did the Irish establishment inside and outside cheer on a false boom based on huge borrowing”? Why? Because, they are an arrogant, smug bunch of people who have scratched their way to the top. They do not give a damn about the fate of this country, all they care about is money, privilege and pomp. I could give you chapter and verse of people taking holidays at the same time every year, going to go to the same hotel that the Bert would be in, so as to ‘bump into him’ and advance their quango careers. It worked a treat! Inchadonney ditto! The Magill Summer school? All just golden circles for the insiders to bump and grind against more insiders to improve their chances of jobs for the boys and girls. Did it work? Of course, it worked a treat. Accept, they crashed the economy and made smitheereens of it. Surprise, surprise, while so doing they arranged salaries for themselves that would make a prince blush, but these people don’t do blush, these people don’t do scarlet. The names that trip off Paddy’s tongue like IBEC, ICTU (the unions) ESRI, OECD don’t matter one whit, they are self serving bodies who go to work on a monday, invite each other to their black tie events. What conference is coming up? Book me a plane ticket, a hotel, then they take three weeks with secretaries and helpers to “research” topics that are read to other like minded captured delegates.

  16. @paulhunt

    ‘I know I have been critical, but I realise now that there is nothing to gained but grief and hassle if one attempts to expose these optical illusions. So it’s probably pragmatic to go with the flow as most people seem to do.’

    When you cease to be excited, cease to feel a contribution within. Step aside

    Might be added to discussion. That prior to 1916 the level of pessismism was un-shakeable, the apathy was like a carpet of best Irish grass. Within a few short historic years. The British Empire had a wedge pulled out. The wedge, at that was the closest to Britain, closest for arms, troops, tanks, guns, spys usual rudimentary and uncivilised colonial box of tricks. No big ships to launch, no language barrier nothing. Yet all came crumbling down.

    My point is. Much as a detest to make it. Knowing the comparisons. Never underestimate the Irish. Is not a propaganda slogan. Just how it is.

    We can change politics. The alternative will happen anyway if. real options do not emerge. So they must. If those who can think. Who can see. Who can articulate confidently. If such wont cant or are unable to use rational intelligent thought and thinking process to coordinate elements and beginings that exist or are growing from need, into solutions. Then others will. What others do will be equally the responsibility of those who could but did not.

    What you describe is a form of endurance. A ball thrown that has to be caught. Tired of catching it but its coming so have to catch it, same way, same form, same hand or at best a sly switch to keep thrower alert. Till you just get tired.

    What does it compare to? Hardly Roman Empire. I dont mean to be self degrogatory but, I have seen Dail TV!

    Yes there is a thread, a malise in Ireland. At all levels. If you stand back, its a form of shock, a programmed ‘must go on’ but unable to engage energetically in robust normal way. But perhaps this is normal. And is similar to all post colonial cultures and is a period of recovery. Not to allow the rot and vile past or present off, at all. But in how the ‘it’ of defunct politics currently becomes tolerated.

    Either way. Of course it can change. Of course it can be broken up and re-constructed. Yes what that is depends on the greatness and good of those who are around to do it. But accept the unacceptable. There is a world for that, it is not a good one. When one accepts without much ado, though you know its absurd and inferior by any standards.

    Before your jaded soul cries idealism away. History makes up time. And good history is fuelled by idealism. That is the real normal.

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