Water’s going on? Party and European referendum support trends; Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI (19/20 April)/Sunday Business Post-Red C (29 April) polls

Adrian Kavanagh, 20th and 29th April 2012

A series of polls point to a drop in support for the two government parties in the wake of the Household Charge and Water Charge proposal controversies with Sinn Fein and the Others grouping appeating to be the main beneficiaries and likely to make significant seats gains should these results be replicated in a general election contest, based on my constituency level analysis. This anaysis, relating to the most recent of these polls (Sunday Business  Post-Red C poll) would estimate party seat levels as follows: Fine Gael 69, Sinn Fein 29, Fianna Fail 26, Labour 20, Green Party 0, Independents and Others 22. Polls on the European stability treaty point towards weak leads for the Yes side and towards an increased likelihood of the referendum being defeated at the May 31st vote.

The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI (20th April) and Sunday Business Post-Red C  (29th April) polls point to a significant gain in support levels for Sinn Fein and the Independents and Others grouping, with a decline in support levels for the two government parties, Fine Gael and especially Labour. These polls see Sinn Fein reclaim the position as the state’s second most popular party, a level it had achieved in Red C polls taken earlier this year.

The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings, relative to the last such poll in October 2011, as follows: Fine Gael 33% (down 3%), Labour 13% (down 6%), Fianna Fail 14% (down 1%), Sinn Fein 21% (up 6%), Green Party 2% (up 1%), Independents and Others 17% (up 3%). On the basis of this constituency level analysis – 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 72, Labour 22, Fianna Fail 15, Sinn Fein 31, Green Party 0, Independents and Others 26.

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

  FF FG LB SF GP OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 23% 37% 11% 21% 3% 5%
Cavan-Monaghan 13% 30% 3% 45% 1% 7%
Clare 20% 43% 11% 0% 2% 23%
Cork East 14% 35% 21% 24% 1% 4%
Cork North Central 12% 23% 17% 31% 1% 17%
Cork North West 21% 47% 10% 17% 2% 4%
Cork South Central 24% 33% 13% 18% 3% 9%
Cork South West 20% 47% 10% 16% 2% 5%
Donegal North East 12% 24% 6% 43% 0% 14%
Donegal South West 14% 14% 3% 53% 1% 16%
Dublin Central 12% 18% 18% 27% 2% 24%
Dublin Mid West 10% 28% 21% 25% 4% 13%
Dublin North 14% 32% 20% 0% 10% 23%
Dublin North Central 11% 36% 16% 12% 1% 23%
Dublin North East 9% 27% 23% 26% 2% 12%
Dublin North West 9% 14% 27% 43% 1% 6%
Dublin South 8% 35% 13% 6% 8% 31%
Dublin South Central 8% 21% 23% 28% 2% 18%
Dublin South East 10% 35% 18% 8% 8% 21%
Dublin South West 8% 25% 23% 35% 1% 8%
Dublin West 14% 26% 21% 14% 2% 23%
Dun Laoghaire 14% 37% 24% 0% 5% 21%
Galway East 15% 40% 9% 13% 1% 22%
Galway West 17% 28% 8% 13% 2% 31%
Kerry North-West Limerick 8% 34% 12% 39% 1% 7%
Kerry South 11% 31% 8% 0% 1% 49%
Kildare North 13% 33% 21% 13% 2% 19%
Kildare South 19% 33% 20% 14% 2% 12%
Laois-Offaly 21% 30% 5% 22% 0% 22%
Limerick City 18% 41% 14% 19% 1% 6%
Limerick 19% 51% 13% 0% 1% 16%
Longford-Westmeath 17% 37% 19% 17% 1% 9%
Louth 11% 25% 11% 41% 4% 7%
Mayo 13% 61% 3% 14% 0% 8%
Meath East 16% 39% 15% 19% 1% 10%
Meath West 13% 39% 8% 34% 1% 4%
Roscommon-South Leitrim 11% 34% 6% 20% 0% 29%
Sligo-North Leitrim 17% 32% 6% 27% 1% 18%
Tipperary North 13% 22% 13% 13% 1% 37%
Tipperary South 11% 32% 7% 9% 1% 40%
Waterford 11% 34% 13% 21% 1% 20%
Wexford 16% 33% 14% 13% 1% 24%
Wicklow 8% 35% 11% 21% 2% 23%

Based on these constituency estimates, and using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats in a constituency, the party seat levels are estimated as follows:

  FF FG LB SF GP OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 1 3   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 1 2 1 1    
Cork South West 1 2        
Donegal North East   1   2    
Donegal South West       2   1
Dublin Central   1 1 1   1
Dublin Mid West   2 1 1    
Dublin North   2 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   2 1     1
Galway East 1 2       1
Galway West 1 2       2
Kerry North-West Limerick   1   2    
Kerry South   1       2
Kildare North   2 1     1
Kildare South 1 1 1      
Laois-Offaly 1 2   1   1
Limerick City 1 2   1    
Limerick 1 2        
Longford-Westmeath   2 1 1    
Louth   2   3    
Mayo 1 4        
Meath East   2   1    
Meath West   2   1    
Roscommon-South Leitrim   1   1   1
Sligo-North Leitrim 1 1   1    
Tipperary North   1       2
Tipperary South   1       2
Waterford   2   1   1
Wexford 1 2 1     1
Wicklow   2   1   2
STATE 16 71 18 33 0 28

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, 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 1 3   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 1 2 1 1    
Cork South West 1 2        
Donegal North East   1   2    
Donegal South West       2   1
Dublin Central   1 1 1   1
Dublin Mid West   2 1 1    
Dublin North   2 1     1
Dublin North Central   1 1     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   2 1     1
Galway East 1 2       1
Galway West 1 2       2
Kerry North-West Limerick   2   1    
Kerry South   1       2
Kildare North   2 1     1
Kildare South 1 1 1      
Laois-Offaly 1 2   1   1
Limerick City 1 2   1    
Limerick 1 2        
Longford-Westmeath   2 1 1    
Louth   2 1 2    
Mayo 1 4        
Meath East   2   1    
Meath West   2   1    
Roscommon-South Leitrim   1   1   1
Sligo-North Leitrim   2   1    
Tipperary North   1 1     1
Tipperary South   1       2
Waterford   2   1   1
Wexford 1 2 1     1
Wicklow   2 1 1   1
STATE 15 72 22 31 0 26

The Sunday Business Post-Red C poll puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings, relative to the last such poll in October 2011, as follows: Fine Gael 32% (down 2%), Labour 14% (down 1%), Fianna Fail 17% (up 1%), Sinn Fein 19% (up 1%), Green Party 2% (NC), Independents and Others 16% (up 1%). On the basis of this constituency level analysis – 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 69, Sinn Fein 29, Fianna Fail 26, Labour 20, Green Party 0, Independents and Others 22.

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

  FF FG LB SF GP OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 28% 35% 12% 18% 3% 4%
Cavan-Monaghan 17% 30% 3% 42% 1% 7%
Clare 24% 41% 12% 0% 2% 22%
Cork East 17% 33% 23% 22% 1% 4%
Cork North Central 14% 22% 18% 28% 1% 16%
Cork North West 25% 45% 10% 15% 2% 4%
Cork South Central 28% 31% 14% 16% 3% 9%
Cork South West 24% 44% 11% 14% 2% 5%
Donegal North East 15% 24% 7% 40% 1% 14%
Donegal South West 17% 14% 3% 50% 1% 15%
Dublin Central 14% 17% 20% 24% 2% 22%
Dublin Mid West 12% 28% 22% 23% 4% 12%
Dublin North 17% 31% 21% 0% 10% 21%
Dublin North Central 13% 35% 17% 11% 1% 22%
Dublin North East 11% 27% 25% 23% 2% 12%
Dublin North West 11% 14% 29% 39% 1% 6%
Dublin South 10% 34% 14% 5% 8% 30%
Dublin South Central 9% 21% 25% 25% 2% 17%
Dublin South East 12% 34% 20% 7% 8% 20%
Dublin South West 10% 24% 25% 32% 1% 7%
Dublin West 17% 25% 22% 12% 2% 22%
Dun Laoghaire 17% 35% 25% 0% 5% 19%
Galway East 18% 39% 10% 12% 1% 21%
Galway West 20% 27% 9% 12% 2% 29%
Kerry North-West Limerick 10% 33% 13% 36% 1% 7%
Kerry South 14% 30% 8% 0% 1% 46%
Kildare North 15% 31% 22% 12% 2% 17%
Kildare South 23% 31% 21% 12% 2% 11%
Laois-Offaly 25% 29% 5% 20% 0% 21%
Limerick City 22% 40% 15% 17% 1% 6%
Limerick 23% 48% 14% 0% 1% 14%
Longford-Westmeath 20% 35% 20% 15% 1% 9%
Louth 14% 25% 12% 37% 5% 7%
Mayo 16% 59% 4% 13% 0% 8%
Meath East 20% 37% 16% 17% 1% 9%
Meath West 17% 38% 9% 31% 1% 4%
Roscommon-South Leitrim 14% 33% 7% 18% 0% 27%
Sligo-North Leitrim 20% 31% 7% 24% 1% 17%
Tipperary North 16% 21% 14% 12% 1% 35%
Tipperary South 13% 31% 8% 9% 1% 38%
Waterford 14% 34% 14% 19% 1% 19%
Wexford 19% 32% 15% 11% 1% 22%
Wicklow 10% 35% 12% 19% 2% 22%
STATE 17.0% 32.0% 14.0% 19.0% 2.0% 16.0%

Based on these constituency estimates, and using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats in a constituency, the party seat levels are estimated as follows:

  FF FG LB SF GP OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2   1    
Cavan-Monaghan 1 2   2    
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   2 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   2 1     1
Galway East 1 2       1
Galway West 1 2       2
Kerry North-West Limerick   1   2    
Kerry South   1       2
Kildare North   2 1     1
Kildare South 1 1 1      
Laois-Offaly 1 2   1   1
Limerick City 1 2   1    
Limerick 1 2        
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1      
Louth 1 1   3    
Mayo 1 4        
Meath East 1 2        
Meath West   2   1    
Roscommon-South Leitrim   1   1   1
Sligo-North Leitrim 1 1   1    
Tipperary North   1       2
Tipperary South   1       2
Waterford   2   1   1
Wexford 1 2 1     1
Wicklow   2 1 1   1
STATE 24 67 17 32 0 26

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, 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 1 1 1 1    
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1 0 0
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   2 1 1    
Dublin North   2 1     1
Dublin North Central   1 1     1
Dublin North East   1 1 1    
Dublin North West     1 2    
Dublin South   3 1     1
Dublin South Central   1 2 1   1
Dublin South East   2 1     1
Dublin South West   1 1 2    
Dublin West 1 1   1   1
Dun Laoghaire   2 1     1
Galway East 1 2       1
Galway West 1 2       2
Kerry North-West Limerick   2   1    
Kerry South   1       2
Kildare North   2 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 1 1 2    
Mayo 1 4        
Meath East 1 2        
Meath West   2   1    
Roscommon-South Leitrim   1   1   1
Sligo-North Leitrim 1 1   1    
Tipperary North 1 1       1
Tipperary South   1       2
Waterford   2   1   1
Wexford 1 2 1     1
Wicklow   2 1 1   1
STATE 26 69 20 29 0 22

The main trend evident based on these figures is the estimation of a significant increase in Sinn Fein seat numbers, especially relative to the level achieved by that party in February 2011. The trend of higher Sinn Fein support levels, especially relative to the 2011 General Election and indeed the party’s poll ratings in polls in Autumn 2010, is further underpinned by these poll figures and these can be traced back to the aftermath of the Pearse Doherty win in the Donegal-South West by-election of November 2010, with the general trend in the party’s support levels in polls held since then being a general upwards one. In some ways an increase in Sinn Fein support levels is to be expected, given the economic climate in which the government parties are operating in and given the level of toxicity still associated with Fianna Fail a year after that party left power. But the party has also been making an impact in terms of the performances in the Dail and the media by party members such as Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald. In addition to the 29 seats predicted based on The Sunday Business Post-Red C poll results for Sinn Fein, there would be a number of other constituencies where further Sinn Fein gains would be possible on the basis of a further small swing to the party, including constitiuencies such as Cork North West, Cork South West, Galway West, Mayo and Wexford, while on the basis of these estimations they would be in line to win two seats in constituencies within their stronger regions. There is a limit to the extent of further gains suggested on the basis of the party’s weak support base amongst the urban middle class consittuency, with the party not estimated to be in contention in constituencies such as Dublin South and Dublin South-East with this model even on the basis of a national poll figure of just under 20% for the party. Until Sinn Fein can attain some degree of a foothold within middle class areas they are unlikely to be in a position to win the same level of seats won by Fianna Fail or Fine Gael in those parties’ heydays. That said, should the party support levels increase further and Fianna Fail support levels rebound over the next four years back up into the low 20s then the prospect of a Sinn Fein-lead coalition government (with Pearse Doherty or Mary-Lou McDonald as Taoiseach) involving Fianna Fail and the United Left Alliance deputies as junior coalition partners could become a live prospect.

Support levels for the Independents and Others grouping is up by three percentage points relative to the level recorded for this grouping back in October 2011 and it would be expected that the ranks of the different parties and personalities that make up this grouping would be significantly added to if these figures were to be replicated in a general election. The main factor to note about this poll rating is that it is very much in line with recent Red C polls, suggesting support for this grouping as consistently sitting in the high teens over the past few months. The implications or meaning of the increase in support relative to the general election cannot be easily deciphered however, given that this is such a broad church, taking in parties and personalities across the wide spectrum of Irish politics, taking in “business-independents” and “Fianna Fail-gene pool” independents but also a number of left-wing and community independents and smaller parties.

The drop in support in the Ipsos MRBI poll for the government parties of nine percentage points relative to the October 2011 poll must of course be viewed as significant, but also needs to be considered in light of the fact that the period between the new Ipsos-MRBI poll and the previous one covers a much longer period of time than that existing between Red C polls, taking in events such as the Budget, the controversy over the Household Charge and, more recently, the controversy over the proposed Water Charge. The previous poll would have been taken at a point in time when support for Labour would have been exacerbated by the positive context of the Higgins presidential election campaign so it is perhaps not too suprising that this party experiences the most significant drop in support in this poll. It is also worth taking this in the contest of the less dramatic shifts in support for the government parties in the Red C poll, which covers a shorter period of time (one month).

What is more worrying for Labour, possibly, is the spike in support for Sinn Fein. The reduction in seat levels estimated for Labour in this analysis no doubt reflect the drop in party support as measured in the poll, but it also reflects the increased competition factor arising from the Sinn Fein surge meaning that Labour lose out on seats in constituencies to Sinn Fein that they might have had a hope of clinging on to if Sinn Fein support had not been as its current high level. The poll figures (and seat estimates) are perhaps as depressing for Fianna Fail as they are for Labour and it is also interesting to note – as pointed out by Marc Coleman on Twitter who notes that the combined core support for these parties now falls below the fifty percent level –  that the combined support levels for the three traditional “main parties” (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour) amounts to just sixty percent of the total voters, leaving the other forty percent of voters opting for Sinn Fein, the other small parties and non-party candidates.

Should the seat estimates based on The Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll figures pan out after the next general election, the the government parties would continue to hold a majority (albeit a somewhat reduced one, largely due to a significant reduction in Labour seat numbers) in Dail Eirean with seat numbers for a Fine Gael-Labour coalition estimated at 94 seats (89 seats in the case of the Red C poll) – giving a potential coalition involving these parties a comfortable majority of 22 seats (12 seats for the Red C poll) in the Dail – and an alternative Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail coalition alliance estimated at 46 seats (55 seats in the case of the Red C poll). Given the fact that a Fine Gael-Sinn Fein coalition would be highly improbable, the only other likely two-party coalition option would involve Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, with these parties combined seat levels based on these figures estimated at 87 seats (95 seats in the case of the Red C poll), giving a potential coalition involving these parties a majority of 8 seats in the Dail (or 24 seats for the Red C poll). With an estimated 14 left-leaning deputies to be elected from the Independents and Others category (and a seat estimate of 12 seats for the Red C poll) and with people like Catherine Connolly predicted to be added to the current Dail cohort, an alliance of the Left involving these, Sinn Fein and the Labour Party would be expected to muster 67 seats (61 seats for the Red C poll), somewhat off the level required for a Dail majority but a good bit closer than would have been the case relative to the combined seat numbers for this grouping at the February 2011 election and in more recent polls.

Finally, a short commentary on the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll figures (19th April) for the European stability treaty referendum which is to be held on May 31st.  This estimated the Yes vote as standing at 30%, the No vote as standing at 23%, Undecideds as standing at 39% and 8% saying they do not intend to vote in the referendum. This must offer some degree of caution to the Yes campaign, given the size of the Undecideds bloc and also given the degree to which these figures compare unfavourably to Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll levels for the different sides at similar stages (or rather slightly later stages) of the first Nice Treaty referendum and first Lisbon Treaty referendum campaigns. Less than one month before the June 7th vote for the first Nice Treaty referendum in 2001 an Irish Times MRBI poll published on 19th May estimated the percentage likely to vote Yes as standing at 52%, vote No as standing at 21% and as being Undecided, or rather having No Opinion, as standing at 27%.  However in the referendum vote on 7th June 2001 the No side went on to win with a margin of 53.9% to 46.1%. The result of this contest was perhaps as much, or even more, to do with the abysmally low turnout (34.8%) for this contest and the level of the Yes vote (up to 62.9%) at the second Nice Treaty referendum on  increased in line with an increase in the voter turnout level (up by 15.1%) at that contest, with 98.8% of the increase of 458,265 voters between the two referendums being added to the Yes vote. Voter turnout could not be used as a factor (turnout was at a relatively healthy 53.1% level) to explain away the win for the No camp in the first Lisbon Treaty referendum, which pointed to a growing detachment within Irish society from Europe in the latter stages of the Celtic Tiger era while also reflecting voter confusion on the issues and the success of the “If you don’t know, vote No” approach taken by the No campaign. Less than one month before the vote took place on 12th June 2008, an Irish Times MRBI poll published on 17th May estimated the percentage likely to vote Yes as standing at 35%, vote No as standing at 18% and as being Undecided or having No Opinion, as standing at 47%. In the actual vote the No side went on to win by a margin of 53.4% to 46.6%. The trends in this Lisbon Treaty poll are uncannily similar to the Irish Times /Ipsos MRBI poll of April 19th 2012, most notably the fact that the size of the Undecided/No Opinion vote in the 2008 poll is exactly the same as in the more recent poll, although the extent of the Yes lead over the No side was somewhat larger in Lisbon Treaty poll. If shifts in support for the different sides over the folllowing weeks of the European stability treaty referendum campaign was to break in a similar manner  to that of the first Lisbon Treaty campaign then the No side would be expected to gain a comfortable win on May 31st by a margin of around 63.2% to 36.8%. Of course, it is by no means certain that the Undecided grouping will break in favour of the No side to the extent that it did in the first Lisbon Treaty campaign but these poll figures do point to the need for signficant caution on the part of the government parties and the Yes campaign as this contest – which is likely to be characterised as a competition between Fear and Fury – is very much there to be won or lost. Similar mistakes and similar levels of complacency as those that characterised the first Nice Treaty and first Lisbon Treaty campaigns will no doubt mean that we will be back voting on this treaty sometime in 2013, albeit probably on a Saturday!

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10 thoughts on “Water’s going on? Party and European referendum support trends; Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI (19/20 April)/Sunday Business Post-Red C (29 April) polls

  1. Damien Loscher, Head of IPSOS/MRBI, speaking on Morning Ireland to-day, accepted that the vote of 17% for others (excluding Greens) is very high In AN OPINION POLL. In a general election there are many local candidates who attract minority votes without hope of election. These votes artificially inflate the vote for others in a general election. Typically the vote for others falls back in opinion polls outside election time. But now the vote for others is above the General election figure of 15.4%
    The details of the poll demonstrate growing political polarisation in Irish society as austerity bites more deeply. Fine Gael is strongest among the wealthier sections with the working class moving strongly to Sinn Fein and further to the left.

  2. Even though they are of some interest, I sometimes wonder what posts of this nature are doing on a blog labeled ‘Political Reform’. I suppose the interesting thing, as Eoin O’Malley, one of our editors here, indicated in an op-ed in today’s IT:
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0420/1224314969808.html

    is that Labour blew its chance to re-shape the configuration of irish politics after last year’s election; and is now paying the price – and may pay a steeper one.

    They may say they were responding to the desire of voters to have a stable government, but the most likely reason is that some backsides had been aching for 14 years to be planted in ministerial chairs.

    As Eoin writes, they could have opted for opposition and forced Micheál glic to adopt a reverse ‘Tallaght Strategy’. Some of the Independents might have also signed up to support a minority FG government. This would not have been a problem. Governance now is like a child learning to ride a two-wheel bike with stabilisers attached because the Troika is providing the steering and the stabilisers. The current combination is making governance very difficult for itself and this is for two reasons.

    First, in the absence of a properly functioning parliament, of effective local governance and representation of the collective interests of consumers, there is no institution or forum to mediate between the government and citizens. Ministers are always in the line of fire – and rightly so, since they won’t allow the necessary refroms. Secondly, both FG and Labour are cancelling each other out in terms of both good and bad policy ideas each side might have. So we get the lowest common denominator that will assist, or, at worst do least damage to, their re-election prospects.

    It is a bit like Sir Humphrey advising Jim Hacker that, for the Church of England, the Queen is indispensible; God is an optional extra. In this case, doing everything to ensure, for the first time, a two-term FG/Lab government is indispensible; the fate of the country and the economy is an optional extra.

  3. I have a degree of sympathy with Paul Hunt on the matter of political reform. Labour and Fine Gael said that they were committed to fundamental political reform during the election campaign. Many well-intentioned people were misled by this including some eminent political scientists. But I doubt if any experienced political activist (including those who were making the promises) was misled. The expectation that Fg/Lab while imposing austerity on the majority of the population would provide opportunities for the general citizenry to exert counter-pressure on the government through new political structures was always highly improbable to say the least. Indeed it was so highly improbable that the only place it would be given credence was in a university!!
    Eoin O Malley is of course far too gentle in his criticism of the Labour Party. While the Labour Party has contested elections on a no coalition basis(1969,1943), it has never refused an invitation to join a coalition government after an election. There was no reason to expect that “the office-holders party” would change its nature in 2011.
    Incidentally, the current Irish Labour Party, is not the party formed by the Irish TUC in Clonmel on the proposals of Connolly and Larkin in 1912. The party then formed was a 32-county party which was the political arm of the Trade Unions. The current party is confined to the 26 county area and despite affiliations, the trade unions do not control the party.
    By far the biggest political Labour movement organisation in Clonmel at the moment is the Workers and Unemployed Action Group which is opposed to coalition with conservative parties and is a component of the United Left Alliance. WUAG holds 5 seats on Clonmel Borough Council while the Labour Party holds one seat.

  4. Yet again I’m left wondering why FF is placed first in the list? Is it denial of reality about the position FF now holds or a lack of IT skills?

    A more pertinent question to ask the public is what exactly did they think the new government was going to do?

    For example those who are now whinging about Labour – did they really think Labour was going to ‘reform’ the public sector where it gets most of its support?

    Is anyone really surprised at how quickly FG revealed itself to be completely out of touch with the reality most people struggling to stay financially afloat face day to day?

    Also, for all the talk from within the political bubble that Joanie is doing herself damage, I think Mr Gilmore will actually find to his cost that Ms Burton is actually far more in tune with ‘normal’ people than someone like him who mananged to go from the far far left over the right (Labour ceased being a ‘socialist or left party long ago and who can’t resist the urge to patronise people about water charges and property taxes and how they ‘must’ do this or that.

    Hopefully the Irish voting public will finally face reality and vote no to the Fiscal Treaty. It won’t cause an election and the chattering classes will go into meltdown but a vote yes or no won’t create or save a single job and piling more debt onto unsustainable debt is no way to fix and economy as isn’t that the whole point of the Treaty – to give us access to the Bailout 2 when Bailout 1 fails instead of stepping back and accepting Bailout 1 failed because too much of it went to the banks and not into a stimulus and job creation.

    Hopefully the people of France are about to deliver the first body blow to the right wing ‘austerity for the people but not the political class’ mantra and we can bring some sense to reform with the private sector taking on its share of the burden.

  5. Re: Independents and Others now at 17%
    Is it not time we finally found out exactly who the others are in these sorts of polls? Or does this group not even warrant being named in such polls, when the Greens get mentioned for having 2% I think it’s only just that what ever other parties are lumped under others category also now start to get recognition. Not sure if ULA or People Before Profit are officially political parties as yet but they are a political movement and as such surely now they deserve to be counted as a separate unit from many of the independents who are not of the same left leaning political ideology.

  6. Paddy,

    Thanks for that update on the ILP. Most folk do not remember the ‘all Ireland’ genesis, and that partition marooned the ILP from the majority of its mass, natural, electoral support. The rest is history as they say.

    Gilmore and his advisors made a catastrophic, strategic political blunder by going into coalition. If they had been genuine about political re-structuring they would have achieved it by only offering parliamentary support for a minority FG government (or a FG-FF coalition) – provided they did the ‘business’. But the ILP – in aggregate, did not want to do the ‘business’ any more than the others. “Office before policy”, as they say.

    If our Nationalist Socialist party (SF) can keep their political noses clean … … things might get interesting! Michael M has been given a political lifeline for FF; but does he have the political bottle to take a slashhook to the party overgrowth? He does not have much time.

    I am preparing a dissertation on Coalition government formations in Ireland since 1948. I’ll let you know how I get on. Seems like it will be some fun.

    Best regards, Brian

    ps. Never thought we would meet again like this! Funny old world.

  7. It’s rare to encounter such usually disparate voices here singing, broadly, out of the same hymn-sheet. So, as usual, I’m going to have to go all contrarion.

    Paddy, I wasn’t a bit surprised about the optical illusion spun by almost all the political parties and the subsequent lack of substance. What annoyed me was the extent to which the media, opinion formers and the pol sci heads lapped it up. The refroms required are profound, but they, in large measure, are a restoration of institutions and procedures that have been progressively emasculated and the resoration will have to be gradual and incremental and be compatible with the way people live in this era.

    In your area of interest I would argue that there should be statutory provision for trade union representation of workers in all work places. But this should be matched by statutory provision for the representation of the collective interests of consumers. We need major structural reform of the sheltered sectors – private, semi-state and public. We need resourced and empowered local govfernance. And above all, we need a properly functioning Oireachtas. The is a mighty challenge. But, with the protection provided by the Troika from the vultures in the international bond markets, Ireland has a once in a generation chance to progress these reforms.

    And Desmond, the fiscal compact is an attempt by the EU to reduce the power these vultures in the bond markets have over sovereign governments. This will be achieved by redcuing the amount of sovereign debt in circulation and making it as low risk as possible. And all governments will have to stay back as afar as possible from the edge of the fiscal cliff where these vultures will pick them off. Smaller more open effectively regional economies will have to tay back even further to provide the fiscal space to deal with external shocks.

    It would be wonderful if the EU’s Grand Panjandrums were to deal with their dodgy banks, but they don’t have the stomach for this. The Faustian pact with banks has been 30 years in the making. It will take a long time to unwind and it’ll be a long and bumpy road with fixes, fudges and fiddles until it is sorted. But ti will be sorted.

    With a bit of political will and bit more honesty from the political classes Ireland could recover and thrive. But Labour and FG are simply cancelling each other out – similar to ’82-’87 – and the sole focus is on re-election.

    Brian, good luck with your endeavours.

  8. Is there more to this than FG/Lab mutual emasculation? Labour is not really that different to mainstream socialist parties in other countries. Many people have come to see them as a sort of more palatable right, making politics vague and indistinguishable. It seems there is a process of first whispering and then, ultimately, giving up on any real risk-taking policies as leading members of socialist parties get closer to power. There are exceptions (notably Nessa Childers) but what is the real soul of modern socialist politics?

    • Shane,
      You raise a very wide question which cannot be adequately dealt with on a blog. The general political approach or ideology of the Irish Labour Party and that of the large European social democratic parties is the same. They are not “socialist” in any real sense in that they do not advocate common ownership of industry and banks etc. as the German social democrats , British Labour etc once did.
      The difference is that the Irish Labour Party always operated in a stunted economy whereas the others operated in developed and powerful imperial economies where historically there was significant room for social reform within the framework of the market economy.
      Irish labour after its brief revolutionary period has always subordinated itself to conservative parties through coalition. It was always able to partially recover from participation in these governments. However, being in coalition on this occasion following an economic catastrophy and being under the direction of the TROIKA may actually destroy the party. This possibility is rendered more probable by the existence of significant political alternatives such as Sinn Féin and the United Left Alliance. However Sinn Féin is on a path to coalition with conservative parties (recently reaffirmed after the poll). If it persists with this it will also be wiped out as evidenced by the fate of Clann Na Poblachta after the 1948 coalition.

  9. IRISH GOVERNMENT DRAFT LEGISLATION TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION.
    Add to Article 29 the following sections:
    7.
    1. The State may consent to be bound by the British-Irish Agreement done at Belfast on the day of 1998, hereinafter called the Agreement.
    2. Any institution established by or under the Agreement may exercise the powers and functions thereby conferred on it in respect of all or any part of the island of Ireland notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution conferring a like power or function on any person or any organ of State appointed under or created or established by or under this Constitution. Any power or function conferred on such an institution in relation to the settlement or resolution of disputes or controversies may be in addition to or in substitution for any like power or function conferred by this C
    onstitution on any such person or organ of State as aforesaid.
    3. If the Government declare that the State has become obliged, pursuant to the Agreement, to give effect to the amendment of this Constitution referred to therein, then, notwithstanding Article 46 hereof, this Constitution shall be amended as follows:
    i. the following Articles shall be substituted for Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish text:
    “2. [Irish text to be inserted here].
    3. [Irish text to be inserted here]”.
    ii. the following Articles shall be substituted for Articles 2 and 3 of the English text:

    “Article 2

    It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.

    Article 3
    1. It is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island. Until then, the laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws enacted by the Parliament that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution.
    2. Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.”
    iii.
    the following section shall be added to the Irish text of this Article:
    “8. [Irish text to be inserted here]”.
    and
    iv. the following section shall be added to the English text of this Article:
    “8. The State may exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction in accordance with the generally recognised principles of international law.”
    4. If a declaration under this section is made, this subsection and subsection 3, other than the amendment of this Constitution effected thereby, and subsection 5 of this section shall be omitted from every official text of this Constitution published thereafter, but notwithstanding such omission this section shall continue to have the force of law.
    5. If such a declaration is not made within twelve months of this section being added to this Constitution or such longer period as may be provided for by law, this section shall cease to have effect and shall be omitted from every official text of this Constitution published thereafter.
    STRAND ONE
    DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS IN NORTHERN IRELAND.
    1. This agreement provides for a democratically elected Assembly in Northern Ireland which is inclusive in its membership, capable of exercising executive and legislative authority, and subject to safeguards to protect the rights and interests of all sides of the community.
    The Assembly
    2. A 108-member Assembly will be elected by PR(STV) from existing Westminster constituencies.
    3. The Assembly will exercise full legislative and executive authority in respect of those matters currently within the responsibility of the six Northern Ireland Government Departments, with the possibility of taking on responsibility for other matters as detailed elsewhere in this agreement.
    4. The Assembly – operating where appropriate on a cross-community basis – will be the prime source of authority in respect of all devolved responsibilities.
    Safeguards
    5. There will be safeguards to ensure that all sections of the community can participate and work together successfully in the operation of these institutions and that all sections of the community are protected, including:
    (a) allocations of Committee Chairs, Ministers and Committee membership in proportion to party strengths;.
    (b) the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and any Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland supplementing it, which neither the Assembly nor public bodies can infringe, together with a Human Rights Commission;.
    (c) arrangements to provide that key decisions and legislation are proofed to ensure that they do not infringe the ECHR and any Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland;.
    (d) arrangements to ensure key decisions are taken on a cross-community basis;.
    (i) either parallel consent, i.e. a majority of those members present and voting, including a majority of the unionist and nationalist designations present and voting;.
    (ii) or a weighted majority (60%) of members present and voting, including at least 40% of each of the nationalist and unionist designations present and voting.
    Key decisions requiring cross-community support will be designated in advance, including election of the Chair of the Assembly, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, standing orders and budget allocations. In other cases such decisions could be triggered by a petition of concern brought by a significant minority of Assembly members (30/108).
    (e) an Equality Commission to monitor a statutory obligation to promote equality of opportunity in specified areas and parity of esteem between the two main communities, and to investigate individual complaints against public bodies.
    Operation of the Assembly.
    6. At their first meeting, members of the Assembly will register a designation of identity – nationalist, unionist or other – for the purposes of measuring cross-community support in Assembly votes under the relevant provisions above.
    7. The Chair and Deputy Chair of the Assembly will be elected on a cross-community basis, as set out in paragraph 5(d) above.
    8. There will be a Committee for each of the main executive functions of the Northern Ireland Administration. The Chairs and Deputy Chairs of the Assembly Committees will be allocated proportionally, using the d’Hondt system. Membership of the Committees will be in broad proportion to party strengths in the Assembly to ensure that the opportunity of Committee places is available to all members.
    9. The Committees will have a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department with which each is associated, and will have a role in initiation of legislation. They will have the power to:
    • consider and advise on Departmental budgets and Annual Plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;.
    • approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of relevant primary legislation;.
    • call for persons and papers;.
    • initiate enquiries and make reports;.
    • consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by its.
    10. Standing Committees other than Departmental Committees may be established as may be required from time to time.
    11. The Assembly may appoint a special Committee to examine and report on whether a measure or proposal for legislation is in conformity with equality requirements, including the ECHR/Bill of Rights. The Committee shall have the power to call people and papers to assist in its consideration of the matter. The Assembly shall then consider the report of the Committee and can determine the matter in accordance with the cross-community consent procedure.
    12. The above special procedure shall be followed when requested by the Executive Committee, or by the relevant Departmental Committee, voting on a cross-community basis.
    13. When there is a petition of concern as in 5(d) above, the Assembly shall vote to determine whether the measure may proceed without reference to this special procedure. If this fails to achieve support on a cross-community basis, as in 5(d)(i) above, the special procedure shall be followed.
    Executive Authority
    14. Executive authority to be discharged on behalf of the Assembly by a First Minister
    and Deputy First Minister and up to ten Ministers with Departmental responsibilities.
    15. The First Minister and Deputy First Minister shall be jointly elected into office by the Assembly voting on a cross-community basis, according to 5(d)(i) above.
    16. Following the election of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the posts of Ministers will be allocated to parties on the basis of the d’Hondt system by reference to the number of seats each party has in the Assembly.
    17. The Ministers will constitute an Executive Committee, which will be convened, and presided over, by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
    18. The duties of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will include, inter alia, dealing with and co-ordinating the work of the Executive Committee and the response of the Northern Ireland administration to external relationships.
    19. The Executive Committee will provide a forum for the discussion of, and agreement on, issues which cut across the responsibilities of two or more Ministers, for prioritising executive and legislative proposals and for recommending a common position where necessary (e.g. in dealing with external relationships).
    20. The Executive Committee will seek to agree each year, and review as necessary, a programme incorporating an agreed budget linked to policies and programmes, subject to approval by the Assembly, after scrutiny in Assembly Committees, on a cross-community basis.
    21. A party may decline the opportunity to nominate a person to serve as a Minister or may subsequently change its nominee.
    22. All the Northern Ireland Departments will be headed by a Minister. All Ministers will liaise regularly with their respective Committee.
    23. As a condition of appointment, Ministers, including the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, will affirm the terms of a Pledge of Office (Annex A) undertaking to discharge effectively and in good faith all the responsibilities attaching to their office.
    24. Ministers will have full executive authority in their respective areas of responsibility, within any broad programme agreed by the Executive Committee and endorsed by the Assembly as a whole.
    25. An individual may be removed from office following a decision of the Assembly taken on a cross-community basis, if (s)he loses the confidence of the Assembly, voting on a cross-community basis, for failure to meet his or her responsibilities including, inter alia, those set out in the Pledge of Office. Those who hold office should use only democratic, non-violent means, and those who do not should be excluded or removed from office under these provisions.
    Legislation
    Minister.

    26. The Assembly will have authority to pass primary legislation for Northern Ireland in devolved areas, subject to:
    (a) the ECHR and any Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland supplementing it which, if the courts found to be breached, would render the relevant legislation null and void;
    (b) decisions by simple majority of members voting, except when decision on a cross-community basis is required;
    (c) detailed scrutiny and approval in the relevant Departmental Committee;
    (d) mechanisms, based on arrangements proposed for the Scottish Parliament, to ensure suitable co-ordination, and avoid disputes, between the Assembly and the Westminster Parliament;
    (e) option of the Assembly seeking to include Northern Ireland provisions in United Kingdom-wide legislation in the Westminster Parliament, especially on devolved issues where parity is normally maintained (e.g. social security, company law).
    27. The Assembly will have authority to legislate in reserved areas with the approval of the Secretary of State and subject to Parliamentary control.
    28. Disputes over legislative competence will be decided by the Courts.
    29. Legislation could be initiated by an individual, a Committee or a Minister.
    Relations with other institutions
    30. Arrangements to represent the Assembly as a whole, at Summit level and in dealings with other institutions, will be in accordance with paragraph 18, and will be such as to ensure cross-community involvement.
    31. Terms will be agreed between appropriate Assembly representatives and the Government of the United Kingdom to ensure effective co-ordination and input by Ministers to national policy-making, including on EU issues.
    32. Role of Secretary of State:
    (a) to remain responsible for NIO matters not devolved to the Assembly, subject to regular consultation with the Assembly and Ministers;
    (b) to approve and lay before the Westminster Parliament any Assembly legislation on reserved matters;
    (c) to represent Northern Ireland interests in the United Kingdom Cabinet;
    (d) to have the right to attend the Assembly at their invitation.
    33. The Westminster Parliament (whose power to make legislation for Northern Ireland would remain unaffected) will:
    (a) legislate for non-devolved issues, other than where the Assembly legislates with the approval of the Secretary of State and subject to the control of Parliament;
    (b) to legislate as necessary to ensure the United Kingdom’s international obligations are met in respect of Northern Ireland;
    (c) scrutinise, including through the Northern Ireland Grand and Select Committees, the responsibilities of the Secretary of State.
    34. A consultative Civic Forum will be established. It will comprise representatives of the business, trade union and voluntary sectors, and such other sectors as agreed by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. It will act as a consultative mechanism on social, economic and cultural issues. The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will by agreement provide administrative support for the Civic Forum and establish guidelines for the selection of representatives to the Civic Forum.
    Transitional Arrangements
    35. The Assembly will meet first for the purpose of organisation, without legislative or executive powers, to resolve its standing orders and working practices and make preparations for the effective functioning of the Assembly, the British-Irish Council and the North/South Ministerial Council and associated implementation bodies. In this transitional period, those members of the Assembly serving as shadow Ministers shall affirm their commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means and their opposition to any use or threat of force by others for any political purpose; to work in good faith to bring the new arrangements into being; and to observe the spirit of the Pledge of Office applying to appointed Ministers.
    Review
    36. After a specified period there will be a review of these arrangements, including the details of electoral arrangements and of the Assembly’s procedures, with a view to agreeing any adjustments necessary in the interests of efficiency and fairness.
    Annex A
    Pledge of Office
    To pledge:
    (a) to discharge in good faith all the duties of office;
    (b) commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means;
    (c) to serve all the people of Northern Ireland equally, and to act in accordance with the general obligations on government to promote equality and prevent discrimination;
    (d) to participate with colleagues in the preparation of a programme for government;
    (e) to operate within the framework of that programme when agreed within the Executive Committee and endorsed by the Assembly;
    (f) to support, and to act in accordance with, all decisions of the Executive Committee and Assembly;
    (g) to comply with the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
    CODE OF CONDUCT
    Ministers must at all times:
    • observe the highest standards of propriety and regularity involving impartiality, integrity and objectivity in relationship to the steconstituencyship of public funds;
    • be accountable to users of services, the community and, through the Assembly, for the activities within their responsibilities, their steconstituencyship of public funds and the extent to which key performance targets and objectives have been met;
    • ensure all reasonable requests for information from the Assembly, users of services and individual citizens are complied with; and that Departments and their staff conduct their dealings with the public in an open and responsible way;
    • follow the seven principles of public life set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life;
    • comply with this code and with rules relating to the use of public funds;
    • operate in a way conducive to promoting good community relations and equality of treatment;
    • not use information gained in the course of their service for personal gain; nor seek to use the opportunity of public service to promote their private interests;
    • ensure they comply with any rules on the acceptance of gifts and hospitality that might be offered;
    • declare any personal or business interests which may conflict with their responsibilities. The Assembly will retain a Register of Interests. Individuals must ensure that any direct or indirect pecuniary interests which members of the public might reasonably think could influence their judgement are listed in the Register of Interests;
    STRAND TWO

    NORTH/SOUTH MINISTERIAL COUNCIL
    1. Under a new British/Irish Agreement dealing with the totality of relationships, and related legislation at Westminster and in the Oireachtas, a North/South Ministerial Council to be established to bring together those with executive responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government, to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland – including through implementation on an all-island and cross-border basis – on matters of mutual interest within the competence of the Administrations, North and South.
    2. All Council decisions to be by agreement between the two sides. Northern Ireland to be represented by the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and any relevant Ministers, the Irish Government by the Taoiseach and relevant Ministers, all operating in accordance with the rules for democratic authority and accountability in force in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Oireachtas respectively. Participation in the Council to be one of the essential responsibilities attaching to relevant posts in the two Administrations. If a holder of a relevant post will not participate normally in the Council, the Taoiseach in the case of the Irish Government and the First and Deputy First Minister in the case of the Northern Ireland Administration to be able to make alternative arrangements.
    3. The Council to meet in different formats:
    (i) in plenary format twice a year, with Northern Ireland representation led by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Irish Government led by the Taoiseach;
    (ii) in specific sectoral formats on a regular and frequent basis with each side represented by the appropriate Minister;
    (iii) in an appropriate format to consider institutional or cross-sectoral matters (including in relation to the EU) and to resolve disagreement.
    4. Agendas for all meetings to be settled by prior agreement between the two sides, but it will be open to either to propose any matter for consideration or action.
    5. The Council:

    (i) to exchange information, discuss and consult with a view to co-operating on matters of mutual interest within the competence of both Administrations, North and South;
    (ii) to use best endeavours to reach agreement on the adoption of common policies, in areas where there is a mutual cross-border and all-island benefit, and which are within the competence of both Administrations, North and South, making determined efforts to overcome any disagreements;
    (iii) to take decisions by agreement on policies for implementation separately in each jurisdiction, in relevant meaningful areas within the competence of both Administrations, North and South;
    (iv) to take decisions by agreement on policies and action at an all-island and cross-border level to be implemented by the bodies to be established as set out in paragraphs 8 and 9 below.
    6. Each side to be in a position to take decisions in the Council within the defined authority of those attending, through the arrangements in place for co-ordination of executive functions within each jurisdiction. Each side to remain accountable to the Assembly and Oireachtas respectively, whose approval, through the arrangements in place on either side, would be required for decisions beyond the defined authority of those attending.
    7. As soon as practically possible after elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, inaugural meetings will take place of the Assembly, the British/Irish Council and the North/South Ministerial Council in their transitional forms. All three institutions will meet regularly and frequently on this basis during the period between the elections to the Assembly, and the transfer of powers to the Assembly, in order to establish their modus operandi.
    8. During the transitional period between the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the transfer of power to it, representatives of the Northern Ireland transitional Administration and the Irish Government operating in the North/South Ministerial Council will undertake a work programme, in consultation with the British Government, covering at least 12 subject areas, with a view to identifying and agreeing by 31 October 1998 areas where co-operation and implementation for mutual benefit will take place. Such areas may include matters in the list set out in the Annex.
    9. As part of the work programme, the Council will identify and agree at least 6 matters for co-operation and implementation in each of the following categories:
    (I) Matters where existing bodies will be the appropriate mechanisms for co-operation in each separate jurisdiction;
    (ii) Matters where the co-operation will take place through agreed implementation bodies on a cross-border or all-island level.
    10. The two Governments will make necessary legislative and other enabling preparations to ensure, as an absolute commitment, that these bodies, which have been agreed as a result of the work programme, function at the time of the inception of the British-Irish Agreement and the transfer of powers, with legislative authority for these bodies transferred to the Assembly as soon as possible thereafter. Other arrangements for the agreed co-operation will also commence contemporaneously with the transfer of powers to the Assembly.

    11. The implementation bodies will have a clear operational remit. They will implement on an all-island and cross-border basis policies agreed in the Council.
    12. Any further development of these arrangements to be by agreement in the Council and with the specific endorsement of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Oireachtas, subject to the extent of the competences and responsibility of the two Administrations.
    13. It is understood that the North/South Ministerial Council and the Northern Ireland Assembly are mutually inter-dependent, and that one cannot successfully function without the other.
    14. Disagreements within the Council to be addressed in the format described at paragraph 3(iii) above or in the plenary format. By agreement between the two sides, experts could be appointed to consider a particular matter and report.
    15. Funding to be provided by the two Administrations on the basis that the Council and the implementation bodies constitute a necessary public function.
    16. The Council to be supported by a standing joint Secretariat, staffed by members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the Irish Civil Service.
    17. The Council to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings.
    18. The Northern Ireland Assembly and the Oireachtas to consider developing a joint parliamentary forum, bringing together equal numbers from both institutions for discussion of matters of mutual interest and concern.
    19. Consideration to be given to the establishment of an independent consultative forum appointed by the two Administrations, representative of civil society, comprising the social partners and other members with expertise in social, cultural, economic and other issues.
    ANNEX
    Areas for North-South co-operation and implementation may include the following:
    1. Agriculture – animal and plant health.
    2. Education – teacher qualifications and exchanges.
    3. Transport – strategic transport planning.
    4. Environment – environmental protection, pollution, water quality, and waste management.
    5. Waterways – inland waterways.
    6. Social Security/Social Welfare – entitlements of cross-border workers and fraud control.
    7. Tourism – promotion, marketing, research, and product development.
    8. Relevant EU Programmes such as SPPR, INTERREG, Leader II and their successors.
    9. Inland Fisheries.
    10. Aquaculture and marine matters
    11. Health: accident and emergency services and other related cross-border issues.
    12. Urban and rural development.
    Others to be considered by the shadow North/ South Council.
    STRAND THREE

    BRITISH-IRISH COUNCIL
    1. A British-Irish Council (BIC) will be established under a new British-Irish Agreement to promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands.
    2. Membership of the BIC will comprise representatives of the British and Irish Governments, devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, when established, and, if appropriate, elsewhere in the United Kingdom, together with representatives of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
    3. The BIC will meet in different formats: at summit level, twice per year; in specific sectoral formats on a regular basis, with each side represented by the appropriate Minister; in an appropriate format to consider cross-sectoral matters.
    4. Representatives of members will operate in accordance with whatever procedures for democratic authority and accountability are in force in their respective elected institutions.
    5. The BIC will exchange information, discuss, consult and use best endeavours to reach agreement on co-operation on matters of mutual interest within the competence of the relevant Administrations. Suitable issues for early discussion in the BIC could include transport links, agricultural issues, environmental issues, cultural issues, health issues, education issues and approaches to EU issues. Suitable arrangements to be made for practical co-operation on agreed policies.
    6. It will be open to the BIC to agree common policies or common actions. Individual members may opt not to participate in such common policies and common action.
    7. The BIC normally will operate by consensus. In relation to decisions on common policies or common actions, including their means of implementation, it will operate by agreement of all members participating in such policies or actions.

    8. The members of the BIC, on a basis to be agreed between them, will provide such financial support as it may require.
    9. A secretariat for the BIC will be provided by the British and Irish Governments in co-ordination with officials of each of the other members.
    10. In addition to the structures provided for under this agreement, it will be open to two or more members to develop bilateral or multilateral arrangements between them. Such arrangements could include, subject to the agreement of the members concerned, mechanisms to enable consultation, co-operation and joint decision-making on matters of mutual interest; and mechanisms to implement any joint decisions they may reach. These arrangements will not require the prior approval of the BIC as a whole and will operate independently of it.
    11. The elected institutions of the members will be encouraged to develop interparliamentary links, perhaps building on the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body.
    12. The full membership of the BIC will keep under review the workings of the Council, including a formal published review at an appropriate time after the Agreement comes into effect, and will contribute as appropriate to any review of the overall political agreement arising from the multi-party negotiations.
    BRITISH-IRISH INTERGOVERNMENTAL CONFERENCE
    1. There will be a new British-Irish Agreement dealing with the totality of relationships. It will establish a standing British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, which will subsume both the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council and the Intergovernmental Conference established under the 1985 Agreement.
    2. The Conference will bring together the British and Irish Governments to promote bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competence of both Governments.
    3. The Conference will meet as required at Summit level (Prime Minister and Taoiseach). Otherwise, Governments will be represented by appropriate Ministers. Advisers, including police and security advisers, will attend as appropriate.
    4. All decisions will be by agreement between both Governments. The Governments will make determined efforts to resolve disagreements between them. There will be no derogation from the sovereignty of either Government.

    5. In recognition of the Irish Government’s special interest in Northern Ireland and of the extent to which issues of mutual concern arise in relation to Northern Ireland, there will be regular and frequent meetings of the Conference concerned with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters, on which the Irish Government may put forconstituency views and proposals. These meetings, to be co-chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, would also deal with all-island and cross-border co-operation on non-devolved issues.
    6. Co-operation within the framework of the Conference will include facilitation of co-operation in security matters. The Conference also will address, in particular, the areas of rights, justice, prisons and policing in Northern Ireland (unless and until responsibility is devolved to a Northern Ireland administration) and will intensify co-operation between the two Governments on the all-island or cross-border aspects of these matters.
    7. Relevant executive members of the Northern Ireland Administration will be involved in meetings of the Conference, and in the reviews referred to in paragraph 9 below to discuss non-devolved Northern Ireland matters.
    8. The Conference will be supported by officials of the British and Irish Governments, including by a standing joint Secretariat of officials dealing with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters.
    9. The Conference will keep under review the workings of the new British-Irish Agreement and the machinery and institutions established under it, including a formal published review three years after the Agreement comes into effect. Representatives of the Northern Ireland Administration will be invited to express views to the Conference in this context. The

    Conference will contribute as appropriate to any review of the overall political agreement arising from the multi-party negotiations but will have no power to override the democratic arrangements set up by this Agreement.
    RIGHTS, SAFEGUARDS AND EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
    Human Rights
    1. The parties affirm their commitment to the mutual respect, the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community. Against the background of the recent history of communal conflict, the parties affirm in particular:
    • the right of free political thought;
    • the right to freedom and expression of religion;
    • the right to pursue democratically national and political aspirations;
    • the right to seek constitutional change by peaceful and legitimate means;
    • the right to freely choose one’s place of residence;
    • the right to equal opportunity in all social and economic activity, regardless of class, creed, disability, gender or ethnicity;
    • the right to freedom from sectarian harassment; and
    • the right of women to full and equal political participation.
    United Kingdom Legislation
    2. The British Government will complete incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), with direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the Convention, including power for the courts to overrule Assembly legislation on grounds of inconsistency.
    3. Subject to the outcome of public consultation underway, the British Government intends, as a particular priority, to create a statutory obligation on public authorities in Northern Ireland to carry out all their functions with due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity in relation to religion and political opinion; gender; race; disability; age; marital status; dependants; and sexual orientation. Public bodies would be required to draw up statutory schemes showing how they would implement this obligation. Such schemes would cover arrangements for policy appraisal, including an assessment of impact on relevant categories, public consultation, public access to information and services, monitoring and timetables.
    4. The new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (see paragraph 5 below) will be invited to consult and to advise on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights, to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, drawing as appropriate on international instruments and experience. These additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem, and – taken together with the ECHR – to constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Among the issues for consideration by the Commission will be:
    • the formulation of a general obligation on government and public bodies fully to respect, on the basis of equality of treatment, the identity and ethos of both communities in Northern Ireland; and
    • a clear formulation of the rights not to be discriminated against and to equality of opportunity in both the public and private sectors.
    New Institutions in Northern Ireland
    5. A new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, with membership from Northern Ireland reflecting the community balance, will be established by Westminster legislation, independent of Government, with an extended and enhanced role beyond that currently exercised by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, to include keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness of laws and practices, making recommendations to Government as necessary; providing information and promoting awareness of human rights; considering draft legislation referred to them by the new Assembly; and, in appropriate cases, bringing court proceedings or providing assistance to individuals doing so.
    6. Subject to the outcome of public consultation currently underway, the British Government intends a new statutory Equality Commission to replace the Fair Employment Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission (NI), the Commission for Racial Equality (NI) and the Disability Council. Such a unified Commission will advise on, validate and monitor the statutory obligation and will investigate complaints of default.
    7. It would be open to a new Northern Ireland Assembly to consider bringing together its responsibilities for these matters into a dedicated Department of Equality.
    8. These improvements will build on existing protections in Westminster legislation in respect of the judiciary, the system of justice and policing.
    Comparable Steps by the Irish Government
    9. The Irish Government will also take steps to further strengthen the protection of human rights in its jurisdiction. The Government will, taking account of the work of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution and the Report of the Constitution Review Group, bring forconstituency measures to strengthen and underpin the constitutional protection of human rights. These proposals will draw on the European Convention on Human Rights and other international legal instruments in the field of human rights and the question of the incorporation of the ECHR will be further examined in this context. The measures brought forconstituency would ensure at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights as will pertain in Northern Ireland. In addition, the Irish Government will:

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