Friday, January 23, 2015

Could the election of Syriza in Greece be Irelands' best chance of a better EU deal?

It is possible that elections in Greece this weekend could have a more positive bearing on the economic future of Ireland than the so-called 'Democratic Revolution' of 2011 which saw Fine Gael and Labour enter government here on the back of a swath of broken promises.

The potential victory of left wing party Syriza in Sunday's Greek elections is of the utmost importance to all those who desire a change of direction in European Economic Policy. Syriza, which looks set to achieve at least 30% of the vote and possibly lead a new government, has the promise of seeking a deal on Greek debt as one of its key policy platforms.

Having worked closely with Syriza MEP's since my own election to the European Parliament last year I have been stuck by the practical, albeit radical, nature of the proposals they wish to implement if successfully elected to government. Contrary to many reports, Syriza are not threatening unilateral default but want Greece’s debt burden to be considered within a broader restructuring of sovereign debt within the Euro Zone.

If Syriza wins the elections it is anticipated that it will immediately use the mandate to call for a European Debt Resolution Conference, with the aim of achieving a write down of all euro zone public debt over 50% of GDP. In this context, Syriza’s proposals will not involve the write down of sovereign debts and will not mean that German Taxpayers will be expected to “bail out” the Greeks or the Irish, for example.

If implemented, Syriza’s proposals would see the write off of €228 billion of Greece’s €319 billion euro debt and repayments stretched over 58 years. A similar deal for Ireland would cut Ireland’s €203 billion debt to €82 billion and repayments would be made over 40 years. Such a deal would dramatically reduce our annual debt servicing bill, allowing flexibility to introduce economic stimulus measures, invest in underfunded public services or to reduce the tax burden on hard pressed families.

There is precedent for such a debt conference – in 1953 the London Conference wrote off half of post-war Germany’s debt and extended the repayment period for the remainder of the debt over a number of decades. This measure, along with the Marshall Plan were essential cornerstones of the development of Germany’s thriving economy. For many, the proposals put forward by Syriza are sensible, credible and reflect the view of many mainstream economists that much of Europe’s public debt is unsustainable.

The European Union was meant to be as much about solidarity as about cooperation.  But when countries like Ireland entered into an economic crisis, partially caused by European policies, solidarity was sorely lacking.  Likewise with Greece - when the Greek people were at their lowest ebb our own Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, made jokes about feta cheese.

Instead of support, the European institutions foisted an austerity agenda on Greece and Ireland (with, unfortunately, the support of domestic governments).

This weekend's Greek elections are seen as a referendum on the Austerity policies implemented across Europe since the crisis began.  Deep public spending cuts and tax hikes have had their toll on the lives of citizens of the bailout states in particular and many are questioning the wisdom of continuing with the austerity regime as only limited signs of economic recovery have been seen across Europe over six years into the economic crisis. It is widely anticipated that support for left parties across Europe will increase in upcoming elections this year as political battle lines are drawn on the approach to economic issues.

The rising popularity of Syriza has sent reverberations through the powerful and elite of Europe. Political leaders, by and large, have unleashed the “fear factor”, hinting at a possible Greek exit from the eurozone and market contagion in an effort to nudge Syriza supporters back into line. These are tactics, which unfortunately are becoming all too familiar in Ireland, and it remains to be seen if they will be sufficient to dampen the growing desire for change among the electorates of member states.

One thing is for certain, should Syriza come to power in Greece, the future course of European Economic Policy could be changed forever and not before time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Another Experience that shows Hospital Waiting Times are Worsening

Despite claims by Fine Gael and Minister for Health James Reilly, waiting times for many Hospital appointments are worsening by the month in some instances.  

Today I had to write to a constituent to tell her that she will have to wait at least four additional months before the pain she is experiencing will be addressed.  This lady was placed on a waiting list to see a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Monaghan General Hospital back in October 2012.

In November of last year I asked my local TD and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin to make enquiries into the expected timeframe for the appointment.  In a written response dated 27th November the HSE stated “the current waiting time for this appointment is approximately eight months.

Upon learning earlier this month that my constituent had received no date from the HSE I again asked Deputy Ó Caoláin to make enquiries.  In a written reply dated 17th May I was shocked to read that “the current waiting time for this appointment is twelve months”!

I know that there are thousands of cases like this across the state.  I am trying to highlight this one because it again exposes the Fine Gael lie that Health services are improving.   Serious questions need to be answered,

How can waiting times for an appointment such as this increase by 50% in such a short space of time?  How can the Minister justify a full year waiting list for patients to meet a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon?

We have been listening to Minister James Reilly since he came into office claiming that the experience for patients is improving by the day.  This revelation shows that this is far from the case for many. 

The reality is that the Fine Gael government has simply taking up where Fianna Fáil left off when it comes to the management of the Health services.  Plenty of spin is forthcoming but behind it all are lengthening waiting times and suffering patients.

The lady in question is obviously devastated that an appointment which she thought was imminent has been put back by at least another four months.

I have asked Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin to raise this matter with the Minister.  His failures will not go unchecked.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Seeking your views on SUSI grant system

Anyone who reads reports of Monaghan VEC or County Council meetings will know that I have been extremely critical of the SUSI centralised student grant system since the moment it was announced by Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn.  The criticism has since come from all quarters, especially over the past seven months.  Student Unions and political reps from all parties have been scathing in response to the difficulties caused to grant applicants as a result of delays and, in some instances, incorrect decisions, by SUSI.  In Monaghan I have been among those who have been articulating the dissatisfaction with the system.

I now find myself as a member of a new SUSI advisory group.

Student grants were previously administered by local VEC’s and County Councils but last year the government appointed the City of Dublin VEC (CDVEC) with the task of managing and delivering all new student grant applications from June 2012.  This system has become known as the infamous Student Universal Support System, SUSI.  

Probably as a result of the complaints received and the enormous level of negative publicity generated CDVEC recently appointed an advisory group.  The group contains a representative from the Department of Education, Department of Public Expenditure, Department of Social Protection, Irish Universities Association, Institutes of Technology, CAO, Union of Students Ireland, Institute of Guidance Counsellors and the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA).  It is this last group, the IVEA on whose behalf I was appointed.  I am a member of the Standing Council of the IVEA which comprises of a member from each VEC and have raised my concerns about the manner in which SUSI operates at a number of it's meetings.

Anyway, the role of the new advisory body is:
- To receive, consider and comment on regular progress reports on the activities of SUSI;
- To advise CDVEC on the concerns, issues and likely impacts of the activities of SUSI;
- To assist CDVEC in strategic planning for the continuing development and implementation of the grant awarding process;
- To consider appropriate communication strategies with all key stakeholders;
- To propose, as appropriate, the establishment of working groups to examine key areas and to follow up and consider the work of such groups in consultation with the project management team.

The initial meeting of the advisory group took place last week.  If one were cynical (and I usually am) we could dismiss the group as a token gesture to deflect criticism. However, I am hopeful it will provide an opportunity to improve the system and to ensure that this years students do not experience the same level of problems as last years.

I have made no secret that I believe that the function of student grants should revert back to a local structure and I had argued that the establishment of the new Education and Training Boards would have provided the ideal avenue to facilitate this.  Unfortunately this is a 'political' decision that can only be made by the government and they have, thus far, ruled it out as an option.

Therefore I am grateful for the opportunity provided by the IVEA to represent the VEC sector on the advisory group.  The first meeting of the body has left me hopeful that it will offer an opportunity to change and improve the current system pending the radical overhaul that we would prefer.

With this in mind I am asking anyone with views and opinions as to how SUSI can be improved to forward same to me.  Also, if anybody has case studies of individual circumstances which highlight the failures of SUSI over the current academic year please pass them onto me as they will be useful to highlight the problems that exist.

The SUSI scheme for the 2013/14 academic year will be open to applicants in May and I am particularly anxious that if any early problems are evident that people let me know. 

If you do have ideas, suggestions or case studies you can e-mail them to me at ‘’.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Council discuss ongoing Cartons Hatchery dispute (by VERONICA CORR)

(The following is the text of a report compiled by Veronica Corr of The Northern Standard and printed in this week's edition of that paper)

Sinn Fein Cllr. Matt Carthy proposed the following notice of motion at last week’s local authority meeting:

“That Carrickmacross Town Council notes that there has yet to be a resolution to the dispute between the owners of Cartons Hatchery and former employees at the Ballybay Road plant and that our previous correspondence to the company was not responded to. We also note that this company has been the recipient of significant State grants in recent years. In light of this, that we call the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to intervene in this matter to ensure its resolution and suspend the payment of taxpayers’ money to the company pending the final resolution of this issue.”

In introducing the motion, Cllr. Carthy said that he was very disappointed that a resolution still hadn’t been reached between former hatchery workers and management.

He added that, by and large, the affected employees were local people, some of whom had given decades of service to the business.

The company had said that the terms of their original enhanced redundancy were based on the sale of the hatchery, which never came to pass, Cllr. Carthy stated. This was another scenario where people who had been let go didn’t get what they felt they were entitled to, ClIr. Carthy added.

However, he said that the difference between this situation and the Lagan Brick dispute, was that Cartons Hatchery workers had received a firm commitment from their former employer, which had been reneged upon.

The Sinn Fein representative was also disappointed that the Minister for Jobs had not intervened. The Minister for Social Protection’s only role was to ensure that statutory redundancy was paid, which it had been, he added

Cllr. Carthy also felt that, under different circumstances, a company with such high financial turnover should be being congratulated by the council - However, he added that a dark cloud was hanging over the hatchery and Cartons, as this was a nasty sore which was impacting on families.

Cllr. Carthy explained that Sinn Fein as a party were appealing to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, TD, not to release any more taxpayers’ money to Cartons until the issue has been resolved.

The Sinn Fein representative told the meeting that in 2010 the company had received €508,406.50 in funding from State agencies, and in excess of €2 million in taxpayers’ money over a ten year period. He described this as “an awful lot, at a time when workers were struggling.”

However, Cllr. Carthy was very happy to see that Carrickmacross Town Council was unanimous in its support of hatchery workers, as they came from all walks of life and held a spectrum of political opinions.

Therefore, he called on his colleagues to join forces to lobby Minister Bruton to intervene and stop payment of taxpayers’ money benefiting the company until a resolution has been reached.

Fianna Fail Cllr. Padraig McNally said that it was “nothing short of a disgrace” that this had been going on for four years now. He also alleged that the fault lay with Cartons regarding the sale of the Ballybay Road hatchery falling through.

Cllr. McNally also stated that he felt that the perspective purchaser of the Ballybay Road site had been genuine in his attempts to seek planning.

He also commented that plans to develop a new hatchery in Lisdoonan had never come to fruition. He said that the owner of the Lisdoonan site and the purchaser of the Ballybay Road hatchery had both been “strung along.”

Cllr. McNally also felt that the Ballybay Road hatchery had contributed indirectly to the success enjoyed by Cartons internationally. Former hatchery employees had waited four years, with no top-up redundancy. Their jobs were long gone and they hadn’t received what they felt they were entitled to, he reiterated. He felt that this was not a good precedent to set, as it might encourage other companies to follow suit.

His party colleague, Cllr. PJ O’Hanlon said that it was very sad to see people, who had given most of their working lives to the aforementioned company, treated in this manner.

The council had no power or control on the issue, but he hoped that Cartons would re-engage with their former employees, who had been left hanging.

Fine Gael’s Mark Clarke hailed it as “a disgrace that employees were getting shafted by a company that was still making money,” adding that legislation needed to be looked at.

Mayor of Carrickmacross Noel Keelan said that it was their responsibility as public representatives to highlight injustice when it occurs. He was also disappointed that the State saw fit to award the company significant grant aid, given that it had treated former hatchery workers so poorly.

Cllr. Carthy proposed the above motion and Cllr. McNally seconded. In his right to reply, Cllr. Carthy, the motion’s author, thanked members for their comments, stating that one of the difficulties former hatchery staff had encountered was getting their side of the story heard by the people of the town and county.

In conclusion, Cllr. Carthy conceded that although the company had made workers an offer since the council last debated the issue, it had fallen far short of their previous agreement. Therefore, Cllr. Carthy felt that workers had been quite right in rejecting it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Want to get a picture on our Christmas Card?

I don't like talking about Christmas prior to December 21st but some things need to be organised a bit in advance. In fact I'm probably leaving this a bit late.

Each year I, on behalf of Sinn Féin in Carrickmacross, send out about 300 Christmas Cards to long time supporters and constituents who we think would appreciate the gesture. Don't worry - we pay for the printing and postage ourselves and don't use state funding or Oireachtas envelopes.

Anyway, we usually use a drawing or photo of a County Monaghan landmark on the Christmas card and this is where you come in:

If you or someone you know is (or wants to be) a budding artist or photographer and would like to be on our Christmas card then send a piece of work and we might use it. You can e-mail it to me at

As I say we usually go for a landmark of some description and that is what we have in mind for this year also. BUT - we're willing to be convinced otherwise - so if you have a better suggestion send it into us and we'll take it on board. We will, of course, credit the artist/ photographer on the card and although we don't have a pile of money we will make a little token gesture of thanks to whoever's work we use.

So, get cracking and send me in your ideas, drawings, photos, whatever you think might like good on our card. We'll be sending the cards for print in the first week of November so we'll need them by Oiche Samhain/ October 31st if possible.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kieran Doherty remembered

Kieran Doherty's Brother, Michael, addressed Monaghan event

On Monday evening last we had a fantastic event in Monaghan Town to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Kieran Doherty, the eight Hunger Striker to die in Long Kesh in 1981.

Monday marked the anniversary eve of Kieran's death and the Co. Monaghan 1981 committee, of which I'm a member, organised a concert and rally in his honour. It was an uplifting tribute. There was music and poetry. Packie McDonald sang a song he recently wrote in Kieran's honour.

There were a number of readings including one by Rose McMahon of a plea written by Kieran's mother, Margaret, back in 1981 which once again brought the harsh reality of the times to life for those of us to young to remember.

(Myself and Michael Doherty with Michael's daughter, Grainne and his wife Betty last Monday)

Of course, numerous mentions were made of the fact that the people of Cavan/ Monaghan elected Kieran Doherty as their TD while he was on Hunger Strike. This always amazes me and makes me incredibly proud to be from this constituency.

In 1981, much like today, the people in Cavan and Monaghan were faced with huge economic pressures, high unemployment and massive emigration. Yet over 9,000 voters gave Kieran Doherty, a lad of 25 years who as far as we know never set foot in these counties, their number 1 vote. There was no personal benefit for them. Those who voted for Kieran Doherty knew that he wouldn't be able to fast track their medical card application or get their road fixed or even raise the issues affecting their daily lives in Leinster House. All they could hope to achieve was the saving of a Belfast man's life and the recognition that his cause was just.

When I think of the gombeens and the chancers that have been elected across all constituencies in the intervening years I am proud to know that people in this constituency were willing to give their vote to what was essentially a 'big idea'. I am also proud that most of those who voted for Kieran Doherty and who are still alive now vote for me and my Sinn Féin colleagues. That is my reassurance that we are doing something right.

I won't go into the history, background and context of the Hunger Strikes. Suffice to suggest that if you don't know a whole pile about this then find out. Read the books, listen to the songs and attend talks or lectures on the subject.

The reason I write this blog is to re-print the words spoken by Kieran Doherty's brother, Michael at the event last Monday. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that anyone video recorded Michael's contribution and the words cannot convey the passion and pride in Michael's voice. His speech was short but powerful and included a quote from Kieran to his parents while he was on his hospital bed dying from Hunger Strike.

Remarks by Michael Doherty:

“I would like to thank everyone present here this evening on this the eve of the 30th anniversary of Kieran’s death after 73 days on hunger strike in the H blocks of Long Kesh, paying tribute and honouring him and his memory, and of course, remembering and honouring everyone who gave their lives for Irish freedom, especially the volunteers from this area.

“The support here this evening from the people of Monaghan/Cavan is very heartening for us and gives all our family great comfort and for this we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

"The people of Cavan/Monaghan never had the opportunity or chance to meet Kieran, but in those last days of his hunger strike he spoke to us about the great people of Cavan/Monaghan and was sorry that he never managed to meet you. You didn’t know Kieran, but he knew you.

“Kieran knew he had a final job to do. He had watched his comrades die before him and said to us a few weeks before he died

“even if I drift into a coma, promise me that you won’t take me off the hunger strike unless the five demands are met. Nothing less will do this time, they must be set in concrete. The British and Maggie Thatcher won’t break me or my comrades. We are not criminals, we are Irish Political Prisoners of War, and we will win in the end — A Defeat is unthinkable after all that has passed. It is not just the 5 demands, the Republican Movement is at stake.”

“The prisoners did win in the end, but made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Kieran is as proud of you all here this evening as you are of him. He would be proud of what has been achieved and of our leaders in this new political phase of the Irish Struggle. Kieran will undoubtedly continue to inspire us all and keep us on the path for a united democratic and peaceful Ireland.

“I and my family would like to take this opportunity to thank Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin for inviting us here this evening and for the tremendous and unwavering support he has shown to us since 1981 and up to this present moment. I would like also to thank the organisers of this commemoration and to everyone who participated in any way. We thank everyone particularly for the kindness and courtesy extended to our family”.

On Monday there were shivers down my spine as I listened to Michael and all I could think was "Tiocfaidh Ár Lá!"

Monday, July 25, 2011

Carrickmacross Councillors Refuse to Make a Stand

FG, FF & Greens vote down Sinn Féin motion

I am used to having motions I propose to Carrickmacross Town Council defeated. When I first elected to that body I was a sole Sinn Féin representative and it wasn't unique for me to fail to get a seconder for some motions. During that council term Fianna Fáil had a majority and so most motions that were critical of the government of the day were doomed for defeat.

So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when a motion I placed on the agenda of the last Town Council meeting was defeated. This is the motion:

"Recognising that families in Carrickmacross are already struggling to make ends meet at present and further recognising that many local businesses have been devastated by the reduction of spending power of the people of the town through job losses, taxes increases and austerity measures; Carrickmacross Town Council notes with concern the governments' proposals to introduce water charges and property taxes. That this council recognises that such a move will deflate our local economy even further and prolong the current recession. We call on the government to desist from introducing these additional taxes at this time."

The truth is, I was surprised with the outcome. I purposefully worded the motion so that not to principally object to such charges even though that is my own position. Rather than focus solely on the fact that such charges will place a severe burden on people that cannot afford them I highlighted the impact that these charges will have on our local economy and on businesses that are already on the brink of closure. The motion simply called for these charges not to be introduced at this particular time.

The motion was defeated. And not just defeated - it was roundly rejected.
The three Fine Gael members Mark Clarke, Mary Kerr Conlon and Teresa Carolan accused me of populism and all the rest and led the charge against the motion.

Fianna Fáil's Padraig McNally and PJ O'Hanlon argued against it and especially advocated the introduction of water charges. PJ voted against the motion, Padraig abstained. The Green Party's Darcy Lonergan and Kristina Jankaitiene didn't speak to the motion but voted against it without providing a rationale.

So that left myself and Noel Keelan, as the two Sinn Féin members, to vote in favour of a motion that was defeated 6-2 with 1 abstention.

Now obviously I know that even had the motion been passed unanimously it would have little bearing on the governments' plans. Indeed since our debate the Fine Gael Labour government have announced that plans are advanced for a Household charge. Support for the proposal would simply have stood as a small message to the people of our town that their local council understood the hardship that many of them were suffering and that we were on their side.

The reason I am surprised by the decision of my fellow councillors is that I know that they know how difficult many of the families they represent are already having it. I know that they know that if such a charge is introduced that it will mean more local shops will close.

Often we hear the charge that Oireachtas members are out of touch, earning huge wages and stuck in Dublin three days a week. However, local councillors are meeting people suffering as a result of austerity measures every day.

But they could not bring themselves to make a small stand against these measures. They will not accept the argument that it is those who can afford to pay more (and they are out there) that should pay more. They will not agree that public money should not be used to pay private banking debt. Instead they agree that everyone should pay the same and if that means that there is less money to pay for groceries or utilities then so be it.

Why is this the case? Well, I have my theories but I cannot say for certain.

Maybe the next time you meet one of them you will ask them.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's Time for Ireland to Mature

She's the commander in chief of an army that has, and continues to, illegally occupy other people's countries.

She personally honours those who have illegally murdered innocent civilians - the most notable being the soldiers who murdered 14 Derry people on Bloody Sunday.

She believes she has a God given right to rule.

She is the head of a sectarian organisation - no Catholic can ever hold her position.

She, or any of her predecessors, have never ever given up a power - any they lost had to be taken by oppressed people.

Yet, it is those of us who oppose her visit to Ireland that are described as backward, immature, living in the past. When Elizabeth Windsor comes to Ireland next month she will witness a slavish knee-bending Irish establishment.

This is not a new departure. When British monarchs visited in the past they were greeted by the same types. This won't be a sign that we have moved on. Rather it will be a sign that within our political system there remains the same backward lackeys that there has always been.

However, there are some of us who are mature enough, forward looking enough and progressive enough to know that there are better ways to spend millions of taxpayers euro in these recessionary times. Some of us will protest at the visit, some will attend alternative events. Most of those who will oppose the visit, I believe a silent majority, will stay at home wondering how to meet next months bills and concerned that at the time when Irish destinies are being sold to International institutions our establishment will have the nerve to bend the knee to someone who still believes she is our supreme ruler in a Garden of Remembrance created to honour the legacy of real leaders who, we know by their words and deeds, despised everything that the British monarchy represented.

It's time for Ireland to mature - It's time we stopped bowing to outdated, regressive regimes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ivor Callely sends me Christmas Joy

One of the most bizarre aspects of being a Sinn Féin Councillor is the Christmas cards and gifts you receive from Senators from opposing political parties. In years past I have received books, ties, pens, DVDs, diaries and chocolates from senators whose parties are in bitter battles with us in a crazy bid for a senate vote. I think the only party from which I never received a senatorial gift was my own. Pearse Doherty, the cheapskate, never sent me so much as An Phoblacht souvenir keyring during his time in An Seanad.

This year (or do I say last year?), I have to say, the numbers of cards and gifts reduced dramatically from previous times.

However I am happy to report that one Ivor Callely didn't forget me (even though he has never met me)! Ivor duly sent me a wee Christmas card in which I think he describes himself as the Holy One of Israel (which may or may not be his current place of residence).

Ivor went a step further in his quest to bid me all the merriment of the Christmas season by giving me a little help with those awkward dates that will arise in 2011 by also enclosing a little calendar. I particularly like his reference to himself as having "Unwavering Energy & Dedication Born of a True Passion for Public Service". It was easier believing he was the Holy One of Israel.

It appears that there is going to be a bit of a debate on the future of the Seanad in the run up to the election and possibly (unlikely) even a referendum on election day itself. Who knows, maybe its days are numbered. Would anyone (apart from senators) even notice?

Well, in a very very very small way, I would. Because, after all, if it weren't for the Seanad and the gombeen who Bertie Ahern appointed to it I wouldn't have had one of my biggest laughs of 2010.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The none-too-popular issue of Father's Rights

The issue of the rights of Fathers, especially those who are unmarried and separated, is one that becomes prominent for short periods of times every couple of years. I have to say, its not an issue that I spend too much concentration on for the most part.
However, in recent weeks, and by co-incidence, the issue has been raised with me by three separate constituents. In one instance a man approached me. He is the father of a three year old girl whom he has seen only four times since he and her mother split up when the baby was around two months. He pays an agreed sum into the mothers bank account each month. The mother now has a new partner and they and the young child live in Munster and good luck to them.
The mothers attitude is simple and probably understandable. The girls father can see her whenever he likes but he must come to her and sort out his own accommodation etc. For one reason or another he has rarely made the trip and when he has he feels like a complete outsider in the child's' life. He has spoken to a solicitor but because he lives in a one-bedroom flat his legal advice is that he won't win the right to have his daughter stay with him. He is on the social housing waiting list in County Monaghan but because there is no legal agreement in place the odds on him being offered a house suitable for his daughter to stay with him are slim.
In the other two cases it was the children's paternal grandparents who contacted me. They love their grandchildren and yet never, and I literally mean never, get to see them. In one instance the father had negotiated the right to keep his child every second weekend. However, on one occasion, at the suggestion of his own mother he let his son stay with his Granny while he went for a few pints. You would think that everyone was a winner. The wee lad was spoilt rotten and Granny was in her element. But, when the boys mother was told what had happened she withdrew from the previous agreement and now the boy and his father have four hours together every second Sunday.
In the third case another Granny approached me. Her son and his partner have just separated. His wife and their two children are living in the family home. He continues to pay half of the mortgage and household bills and after he has paid his own rent he barely has enough to purchase food. Possibly because the separation is a new one and emotions are running high his access to his children is often denied. He is currently (or rather Granny is) pursuing every legal avenue available to resolve the situation.
In each of these cases there are decent fathers who only want to play an active part in their children's lives. Indeed, I have no doubt that in each case the children's' mothers are also decent people who love their children dearly.
I also know that there are many separated fathers who don't step up to the mark in the care of their children and the only person stopping them is themselves. I know many mothers who desperately want their children to spend time with their father but he's never about.
Separated Fathers have responsibilities that they should live up to.
But, they should also have legally protected rights.
As it stands they don't have. In the case of an unmarried separated father their rights are almost nill. They have no say in naming the child - it is most often the case that the mother will give the child her surname without consulting the father (I'm not saying that the child should take one name or another, only that it should be an agreed position in cases where the father wishes to participate in the child's life). In some instances the child is registered without the fathers name on the birth cert without his knowledge.
But these are in fact, only minor issues. The real difficulties arise when a father is denied or given severally limited access to their children. This not only infringes on the fathers rights but also the children's.
There is a gross inequality at play in the current legislation. Last week I wrote to the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, asking him to address this inequality. I am not too confident.
The fact is that most men affected by this injustice are fighting their own private battles and it appears that most are slow to make a public stand on the matter. The place where they should be getting support - i.e. from human rights and equality campaigners - appears to be quite on the subject. I suspect that there are so many areas where women have yet to achieve full equality that some people feel it doesn't merit campaigning for the one huge area for which men are at the receiving end.
The fact is that inequality is inequality no matter who it is directed at and where it exists we each have a responsibility to tackle it head on. It's no less than children deserve.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Presentation to An Bord Pleanála Oral Hearing into North-South Interconnector

Yesterday, Wednesday 3rd June, Sinn Féin made our submission to An Bord Pleanála Oral hearing on the North-South Interconnector. EirGrid & NIE are planning to erect high voltage 400kv power-lines, and associated massive pylons, through the heart of counties Monaghan, Cavan, Meath, Armagh and Tyrone. The An Bord Pleanála hearings are examining the planning application as it pertains to the three counties on this side of the border.

Sinn Féin's position is cystal clear. The current application should be rejected and the project should be undergrounded. There is amble evidence to show that this is feasible, although it is likely to be a more expensive option (how much more expensive is a matter of considerable debate). Our party will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with those communities who are engaged in a mammoth battle with EirGrid and the forces of the state.
Unfortunately the government have assisted EirGrid through the introduction of the Strategic Infrastructure Act which removes local authorities from the planning process on issues such as this. To their eternal shame Fine Gael supported the government in the passing of this legislation. The Sinn Féin TD's voted against as did the Green Party (while in opposition of course; ironically it is a Green Minister, Eamon Ryan, who has the power to direct EirGrid to underground the project but he has refused to do so).

So, yesterday, we took the opportunity to address the Bord Pleanála inspectorate and make our case against the current proposal and in favour of undergrounding. Our delegation was led by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and also consisted of myself and fellow Councillors Jackie Crowe and Noel Keelan. We have also secured the technical support of Simon Allen, an expert in the field of electricity provision and a well respected expert in particularly on the undergrounding of electricity cables.

(Outside the Oral Hearings at the Nuremore Hotel, Carrickmacross prior to presenting the SF submission were L-R Cllr. Noel Keelan, mise, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Simon Allen and Cllr. Jackie Crowe)

Caoimhghín, speaking mostly trí Gaeilge, acted as main spokesperson and dealt specifially with the issue of land valuations and their impact as a result of the development. Noel Keelan spoke of the implications for the tourism development and the visual impact consequences. Jackie Crowe spoke extensively on the health concerns that many people have regarding overhead high-voltage power lines. I spoke regarding the environmental concerns of those of us opposed to the development (the text of my remarks are below). Simon Allen gave a powerful, fact-based contribution outlining EirGrid's failures to properly investigate the prospect of undergrounding the interconnector. He also explained how, scientifically, it was feasibly possible to underground such projects.

I was incredibly proud of the Sinn Féin presentation. It was professional, well researched and based of scientific fact. I hope it has made an impact.

I would like to say that we stole the show at yesterdays hearings. However, that honour belongs to Jim McNally, a resident along the route of the proposed interconnector. Jim made a passionate and detailed case against the project. Put simply he was outstanding - Maith Thú Jim!

It is important to acknowledge the huge community effort that has been invested against the plans of EirGrid and NIE throughout the five affected counties. The companies seriously underestimated the level of opposition they would encounter. At often huge personal cost, financial and otherwise, community representatives have challenged and matched the unlimited resources of the state's apparatus. We can only hope that An Bord Pleanála will do the right thing from a planning perspective and reject EirGrid's flawed planning application.

One way or another, the communities involved can be assured of the full support of Sinn Fein - the only party to have adopted, as policy, the position that all such electricity networks should be undergrounded.

My remarks to the oral hearing:

I wish to begin by thanking the inspector and the board for affording my party colleagues and I the opportunity to address this oral hearing.

I wish to also record my party’s view once again that developments such as this that will, one way or another, have a significant developmental impact on any county, should be subject to the planning process in that particular county. In this case Counties Monaghan, Meath and Cavan will be, in Sinn Féin’s view, subjected to development which will have a significant negative impact across an array of barometers that have been outlined in our submission and those of other organisations. Therefore I want to reiterate our opposition to the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

Nevertheless we are where we are and I am hopeful that An Bord Pleanála will accept the overwhelming arguments that have been articulated by united communities along the entire route of this proposed development, in opposition to the erection of overhead high voltage power lines and associated pylons.

From June 2008 until June 2009 I had the honour of being the Mayor of County Monaghan. In that capacity I visited almost every community in this county at one point or another. I can tell this forum, without fear of contradiction, that there is no issue that unites the people of Monaghan more than this. This is particularly the case in the South and Mid Monaghan areas that would be most directly impacted upon if An Bord Pleanála were to grant planning permission based on EirGrid’s current application.

A question of democracy has arisen. Monaghan County Council has unanimously adopted numerous motions in opposition to this application and in favour of the underground option for the inter-connector; so too has every municipal authority in the county; likewise every Oireachtas member from this constituency has issued statements in support of the local communities. Therefore the question must be asked; can and will An Bord Pleanála override the entire democratically elected opinion from any given county simply on an interpretation of government policy which in my mind, based on the statements of government Oireachtas members locally, is vague to say the least on the issue of underground versus overhead development of electricity networks.

I would like to deal broadly with the potential Environmental Impact of the proposed development.

The EIS presented by EirGrid has been described as containing ‘limited information’ by senior Monaghan County Council planners on matters of such importance as justification for the chosen route of the inter-connector. If the EIS fails to satisfy senior planners with regard to such a central matter then how can it possibly satisfy local communities with regard to wider Environmental concerns?

It is Sinn Féin’s contention that this application contravenes vital aspects of the County Development Plans of the three affected counties in this state. I want to refer to elements included in the Monaghan County Development Plan because that is the one that I am familiar with.

Policy ENV 2 of the Monaghan County Development Plan states that it shall be a priority of the Planning Process to “Protect the landscapes and natural environments of the county by ensuring that any new developments in designated sensitive rural landscapes do not detrimentally impact on the character, integrity, distinctiveness or scenic value of the area”.

Policy ENV 3 states that the Planning process will “Sustain, conserve, manage and enhance the landscape diversity, character and quality of the County for the benefits of current and future generations”.

There can be no doubt that a Pylon network which will literally divide County Monaghan in two will contravene both of these policies. The entire landscape character of County Monaghan will be changed forever. The outcome will be similar in Counties Cavan and Meath and indeed in Armagh and Tyrone if the NIE proposal were to be approved.

You will know from the Monaghan County Council submission that the local authority considers the environmental impact upon landscapes such as Drumlins, Upper Farmland, Lakelands and other uplands to be in many cases significant. In many instances the Sensitivity of Local Landscape affected by this proposed development has been characterised as ‘High’ while the significance of the visual impact of the development has been characterised as ‘Major’ in many areas.

The proposed development will directly and adversely affect the settings of at least eleven lakes and their environs in County Monaghan alone. As well as that, in a number of instances the development is proposed to be located between the road and the lake contravening a further policy, ENV 15 of the Monaghan County Development Plan.

You will have learned from the Monaghan County Council submission that the EIS has failed to properly assess the impact of the proposed development upon bio diversity in the vicinity of the proposed development and consequent mitigation measures have not been included. A statement, which was prepared by council officials (and not elected representatives) states: “It is apparent from the lack of detail provided, in particular for flora and ecology, that no botanical surveys were undertaken on the ground.

And “the habitat classifications provided on the maps and in the flora and fauna sections have not been elaborated upon, and are at a very general level. Cutover bog is often used as a broad term, although most of these sites are mosaic habitats with transition mire and secondary fen vegetation which should be recorded. Lakes are recorded as simply lakes with no reference to their fringing and surrounding habitats.

And: “no species lists for any site are provided. No detail on protected flora is provided”.

And alarmingly: “Some of the detail regarding “status” of sites has been incorrectly transcribed from Monaghan County Council reports, to give a lower importance to sites. For example Corlea Bog, page 99 vol 2B, is stated to have been identified in the Fen Survey of Monaghan “….as a diverse site of high local value. This is a C status.” The Monaghan Fen Survey actually rated this site to be of National Importance, of B status. This cutover bog site (7.7ha) has 3.4ha of transition mire, and a species protected by the Flora Protection Order”.

What does it say about the professionalism of an EIS that a point of such environmental significance could be “mistaken”? This point, as much as any other, in my view, warrants the dismissal and refusal of this application.

But there are other environmental concerns which have been reported to this oral hearing which we in Sinn Féin share. Included among these are issues relating to the noise impact and pollution, lack of information relating to displaced material associated with this development and its impact on waste management considerations, the impact upon surface and groundwater and the lack of a flood risk assessment in the EIS.

I want to put on the record Sinn Féin’s endorsement of the section in the Monaghan County Council submission entitled “comments by elected members”.

In that submission prepared by Monaghan County Council the elected members identified 25 policies in the Monaghan County Development Plan which this proposed development contravenes. 21 of those policies are in the chapter of the development entitled “Environment and Heritage”.

If any individual or organisation in Counties Cavan, Monaghan or Meath submitted an application to their local authority that contravened a single policy they would encounter severe difficulties in the planning process regardless of the so-called ‘greater good’ that they would be accommodating. But if they contravened several policies of a County Development Plan they would be refused in record time. If they had the nerve to appeal to An Bord Pleanála they would, I don’t doubt, again be refused.

An Bord Pleanála should do the right thing according to proper and sustainable planning in this instance. They should reject this development and send EirGrid back to their experts to draft a new application that considers, in a meaningful way, the environmental impact of their proposals. An Bord Pleanála should also, in my view, recommend that EirGrid give serious consideration to the option of undergrounding the inter-connector, as I don’t believe they have thus far.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Israeli Ambassador gets his answer

On Wednesday 27th January I received a phone call from a senior council official. He wanted to know what I would think of the council hosting a reception for the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, at his request. "I think you know what my reaction would be" I replied "I would oppose it and if it were to happen we would mount a protest." I took it from his response that it wouldn't be happening.

Then, at the close of business on Thursday 28th January I received another call from the council - this time to invite me to a civic reception for the said ambassador, Zion Evrony, first thing the next morning. It appears that the Mayor of Carrickmacross Town Council, Mary Kerr Conlon, felt that it would be 'rude' to refuse such a request by a diplomat. Initially I gave Mary the benefit of the doubt. I thought perhaps she didn't understand the record of the Israeli government that Mr. Evrony represents. So I immediately called her and outlined the huge insult that such a reception would be to all of those people in Carrickmacross and further afield who are continually horrified by the actions of the Israeli government, particularly in the Palestinian territories. For some reason she wasn't for turning - she was insistent that the visit would take place despite the fact that she had no mandate from the council to host it.

Considering the short notice it is quite likely that Mary Kerr Conlon believed that there wouldn't be time for Sinn Féin to organise any sort of a credible protest. Thankfully she was wrong. A late night text message ensured that over thirty people were gathered outside of the council offices the next morning. Most of those people were from Carrick and many had taken the morning off work to attend. We were also grateful that a few people made that extra effort to travel. Fellow Sinn Féin Councillors Seán Conlon (Cathaoirleach of Monaghan Town Council), Peter Grimes (Castleblayney) and Sheila McKenna (North Monaghan) all came along. My staunch aunt Ann Kelly and her husband Tom travelled down from Dublin. I was also pleased that a former Workers Party Chairperson of Carrickmacross Town Council Francie O'Donoghue came along to show his support.

Suffice to say that Zion Evrony received the welcome he deserved. A dignified silent protest met him (and about 12 Gardaí who accompanied him) at the road adjacent to the council offices. Myself and Councillor Noel Keelan addressed him at the door of the council offices and informed him that regardless of whatever pleasantries the Mayor intend to greet him with his government were not, in fact welcome in Carrickmacross. I asked him to get in his car and return to his embassy. We then entered the council offices and made a formal, and perhaps heated, complaint to the Mayor and then left the chambers once more.

When the Ambassador was leaving we again informed him that the actions of his government were unacceptable to the people of Carrickmacross. We issued this statement after the protest.

Since then I am told that Zion Evrony wrote to my party leader calling on him to condemn my actions and those of the others who protested that morning. I don't think its a surprise that Gerry Adams did no such thing - Maith thú Gerry!

So then there was the political fall-out. Since the event I have received a fair bit of correspondence from Israeli supporters, mostly Irish. To give them their dues they are a committed bunch that will defend Israel to the last. Some of their comments though show a hatred towards anyone who does not agree with them that is unsettling. We've also had interesting media reports on the protest; This one is typical.

Carrickmacross Town Council met last Friday. I attempted to raise the matter and it took an almerciful shouting match with the Mayor before she allowed me to speak. I proposed that the page in the 'distinguished visitors book' which Zion Evrony had signed be removed. I further proposed that the council write to the Israeli embassy stating that their representatives would not be welcome to return to Carrickmacross Town Council until such time as their government acted in accordance with UN resolutions and International Law.

I was nervous about putting the vote to the meeting in case it failed to secure a majority and in which case the Mayor and her supporters would portray that as a vindication of her actions. However not to have a vote recorded in the minutes and to allow the page to remain in our visitors book would, I believed, forever sully the name and reputation of the council I am proud to have been a member of since 1999.

There are nine members of Carrickmacross Town Council. Obviously myself and Noel Keelan were going to vote in favour of my proposal. And I will be forever grateful to Councillors Catherine Martin and Kristina Jankaitiene of the Green Party and Padraig McNally of Fianna Fáil who all supported the motion. The other Fianna Fáil member, PJ O'Hanlon and the three Fine Gael members voted against.

But the motion was carried. Carrickmacross Town Council has redeemed itself and the Israeli Ambassadors' PR stunt has backfired - Zion Evrony has got his answer from our little town in South County Monaghan.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seán O'Carroll & Patrick Tierney Commemoration; Ardee Co. Louth

(Cllr. Pearse McGeough & myself at the O'Carroll/
Tierney monument in Ardee)
Earlier today I had the honour of addressing the annual Commemoration of IRA Volunteers Seán O'Carroll and Patrick Tierney who were murdered by the Black & Tans on November 30th 1920. The event took place in Ardee, Co. Louth and was proceeded by a march through the town to the monument erected in memory of the two men.

Local Councillor Pearse McGeough chaired the proceedings. Because everyone was freezing I kept my contribution relatively short. Here are my remarks for anyone who may be interested:

Today, like every year, republicans gather to remember and commemorate 2 heroes:
Seán O’Carroll, a native of Celbridge in Co. Kildare who had moved to Belfast at a young age and found himself here in Ardee, County Louth, where he was teaching Gaeilge and Patrick Tierney, a local man rooted in the Ardee community.

In November 1920 Seán O’Carroll was 25; Patrick Tierney was 26.

Reading reports on their lives it was clear that they were relatively ordinary young men enjoying the same pastimes as their peers. But, they were different in one respect – they were IRA volunteers, having recognised the injustice perpetrated on their country by foreign occupation they decided they were going to do something about it. That is what made them heroes.

On the evening of 30th November British forces murdered both men, in separate instances, here in the town of Ardee.

Similar stories are to be found in almost every town in this country and in far too many cases we don’t have to go back 90 years to find the story.

In 6 counties, up until recently, similar methods were used continually by RUC, British army and their agents in unionist death squads in attempts to silence the heroes of the day.

They failed.

And while we have not yet succeeded in bringing about the objectives for which Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney gave their lives we must be confident that we are on course for that victory which has alluded the Irish people for so many generations.

The last 15 years have been difficult. The Peace Process, has in many ways shown the determination of our enemies and opponents. It has tested our resolve. It has sometimes caused difficulties for us personally. But, these difficulties have been nothing compared to what has been caused for our enemies.

Take the issue of policing, for example. A tough decision for many republicans, myself included, was taken. But witnessing the crisis caused with unionism and elements of the British establishment it is clear that the republican leadership (made up of the same calibre of people as Seán O Carroll and Patrick Tierney) took an initiative which has the potential to undermine the solidity of the 6 county state.

Who knows how this current dilemma will be resolved. One thing we know for certain is that if republicans remain united and committed then we will come out stronger than we went in.

Another certainty is that the endgame for partition must be put in place.

Consider the economic crisis that this state is in. And consider the perceived wisdom among so many of those who actually caused the crisis that a major obstacle to recovery is the fact that hard strapped families sometimes decide to do their shopping in an Irish town 40 miles down the road from where we are standing.

Of course, Sinn Féin representatives should be encouraging people to support local businesses where appropriate. But in my own town of Carrickmacross, I know that for years there was never so much as a whisper when busloads of people travelled to Dublin to spend their hard earned cash. But when they make the shorter journey into a neighbouring county in search of value for money their patriotism is questioned.

We know what our patriotic duty is, in economic terms and in every other way. It is to do all within our power to end partition and unite our country once and for all.

Sinn Féin has a plan to achieve this. Other parties tell us that they too want to see reunification. Well, let us see their plans. We have no desire to have a monopoly of the Irish Republican tradition. But likewise we will not listen to election time republicans, who mention the names of the likes of Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney only when it’s in their political interests to do so, without exposing their hypocrisy.

The hardest battles for Irish Republicanism are yet to come. We know the resolve of our opponents. They were at the home of Seán Hughes and his family recently. They united in force to deliver the Lisbon treaty. They are at one in forcing the lowest paid and the less well off to pay the cost of an economic bubble that delivered no benefit to those targeted for cuts.

And they are united in their fear, their hatred and their contempt for Irish Republicanism. They comprise of course of the most reactionary elements of Unionism and the British political and military establishment. But they also include the political, media, big business establishment in this state, just like they did during the tan war when the same elements turned a blind eye to the murders of Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney.

And just like the comrades of Seán Carroll and Patrick Tierney did all those years ago we need to take our opponents on with even more resolve than they have themselves.

That means becoming stronger. It means being rooted in our communities and leading from the front. It means presenting the Irish people with radical yet achievable short and medium term solutions as well as having a broader vision for a new and united Ireland.

Our elected representatives have been carrying out this work. Arthur Morgan and his staff should be especially congratulated for their work in producing comprehensive policy documents including a pre-budget submission and an employment creation strategy document that proves the lie behind government assertions that there is no alternative to cuts in public services and the targeting of the low paid and unemployed.

With the commitment of party members and supporters we need to by-pass the establishment media and get our policies into local communities. We need to create the debate about what kind of Ireland the Irish people want.

It is my firm belief that, at the basest level, the Irish people don’t want a partitioned, conservative, right wing, uncompassionate, corrupt country. Yet many of them continually elect partitionist, right-wing, uncompassionate, corrupt politicians. Maybe its because they haven’t been convinced that there’s an alternative.

Well, that’s our job. Lets show them. Lets make sure that County Louth, just like my own constituency re-elects our Sinn Féin TD's. Lets set the example for other constituencies to do likewise. Lets take power in this state and use that power to demolish the border that is the source of so many of this country’s ills.

Let do this together. Lets create a real, living commemoration to Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney and to the thousands of others who gave their lives to the great cause to which we still aspire.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reflections after Lisbon

So, Lisbon has been passed and, it has to be said, by a substantial margin.

I’m not going to go down the line that advocates of the treaty did when the same proposition was rejected last year which was basically “the people were too stupid to know what they were doing”. I think all democrats must accept the result, dust ourselves off and prepare for the next battle for the hearts and minds of the Irish electorate.

Standing back I don’t think the surprise is that the Lisbon Treaty was passed; rather that is was rejected in the first place and that even on this occasion a considerable 33% of people refused to be sold by a ‘Yes’ campaign that comprised of the collective energies of the entire political, corporate, religious and media establishment. The fact that a sizable section of the trade union movement also endorsed the treaty, while unsurprising, was disappointing and undoubtedly swayed many progressive voters.

The result presents challenges for us into the future. The first, obvious one, is to be ready to expose those ‘lies’ expressed by the yes side in the course of the referendum particularly relating to the economy.

(Looking forward to all the job creation? Don't hold your breath.)

We must also accept the need for independent analysis of all directions coming from the EU and of all decisions agreed by our government at EU level. I feel that a central failing of the No side was our simple acceptance of the ‘yes’ sides’ simple assertion that “Europe has been good for us”. Of course, the EU has been the source of much positive legislation (almost all of which regarding say, women’s and workers’ rights, could have been introduced by the Dáil) and many sectors have received welcome funding. But there is no organisation or body that analyses the role that the EU has played across the board without having a particular agenda.

There are also other lessons to be learned for those of us who campaigned for a ‘No’ vote.

Certainly the Coír campaign was often embarrassing and their poster proclaiming €1.84 minimum wage played straight into the government’s hands as once they were able to disprove one claim they managed to discredit the entire No campaign. Now I know there was a question mark on the poster and I accept that Coír were simply attempting to draw attention to the anti-worker decisions of the European Court of Justice but they should have left that to those people who actually knew what they were talking about.

Libertas, again as a group I have little affinity with, ran a relatively good campaign in fairness. They highlighted those aspects of the treaty which will impact on those sections of society that we, in Sinn Féin for example, couldn’t resonate with. Declan Ganley’s late arrival added nothing to the campaign however other than to excite the chattering classes in the media.

The UNITE and TEEU trade unions deserve great credit. They stuck specifically to the contents of the treaty and made a strong case for a No vote. Unfortunately the decision of SIPTU to change its position (on the back of Fine Gael and Labour promises) meant that the public perception was that the entire trade union movement was in unison in favour of the treaty.

For Sinn Féin’s part it is clear that we simply do not have credibility among a sufficient proportion of the electorate. Clearly the anti-Sinn Féin bias in the media holds a massive sway. Similarly, other than Lisbon itself, nothing unites the establishment political parties more than their hatred for republicans. But we can’t just keep whinging about these things. We have to accept them as a given and move on. The experience in Monaghan, for example, is that when Sinn Féin get a substantial mandate the other parties are less likely to spend their time attacking us for fear of missing out on transfers.

We have to get off our high horse; the reason Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour can direct so much venom towards Sinn Féin isn’t just because we go against the cosy cartel that has existed in this state since its foundation. It’s also because they know they can. We simply aren’t strong enough to combat it.

So, we need to get stronger. That means building a better organisation. It means that some of those people who have left our party in recent years must be encouraged to come back. We also need to attract thousands of new members and accept the fact that not all members will feel comfortable in the traditional cumann structure that the party operates. We need to alter the definition of what a Sinn Féin member is and agree that it will not always be necessary for someone to attend three meetings a week and go leafleting, campaigning etc for the other four evenings to meet the criteria.

We also need to build and support an alternative media. The failure of the Daily Ireland initiative was disappointing. I sincerely hope that somebody, or a collection of individuals, will at some point in the future launch an alternative progressive national daily newspaper. In the mean-time there is a need to increase the level of other means of media such as newsletters and on-line methods such as social networking sites and you-tube.

It is only by building a strong Republican party delivering a strong Republican message can we hope to win the battle for Irish hearts and minds. This is a historic project that will take many years to achieve. It certainly cannot be measured in election cycles or election results although these will always be useful indicators as to the success, or otherwise, of our efforts.

As a first step we need all progressive political groupings and parties, whether coming primarily from a socialist or republican perspective, to work together on issues of mutual concern. They/ We should each start concentrating their/ our energies on the conservative forces in our society, of which there are many. It is draining to see progressive parties and organisations attacking Sinn Féin rather than joining us in tackling the greatest challenges facing our nation i.e. partition, poverty and inequality.

There is a large amount of work to do in the struggle for a United Democratic Irish Republic. A battle was lost last weekend; and the hard work has only started.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lisbon Treaty Re-Run campaign intensifies

Well, maybe the title is a bit misleading. But, certainly those campaigning for a Yes vote are getting their act together quickly. For those of us who dearly want to see the Irish people once again stand up for themselves and reject this bad treaty the very thought of another campaign is draining.

Prior to the last campaign I read the Lisbon treaty. And, even though I can now quote very few of the exact phrases/ sections/ paragraphs etc, you can have your shite if you think I’m going to read it again. I’ll leave that to Eoin O’Broin.

Of course I’ll read the summaries and the analysis and the opinion pieces (most of which incidentally will be written by people who didn’t read it the first time and won’t read it this time either). It just sickens me the contempt that those advocating a Yes vote have and the brass neck on them when it comes to this subject. They are oozing confidence; and perhaps they have every reason. I just hope that we can take those smug, patronising, self-serving smirks off their faces in October.

I may return to this subject again so at this stage suffice to make these short points:
1. The Lisbon Treaty was a Bad Deal last year – It’s still a Bad Deal.
2. The rejection of the Lisbon Treaty had nothing to do with the recession – the no vote didn’t create it and a yes vote won’t reverse it.
3. There is nothing patriotic, or even sensible, about a state giving even more power to a commission or a council of Ministers for which, once decisions are made and directives issued, provide no democratic mechanism for reversing them.

This will be a defining moment for the Irish People (well those in the 26 counties who’ll have a vote). I hear so much about how mature our country has become; how sophisticated we now are; how outward looking the Irish People are seen.
Well this is the opportunity to prove it.
Like any good parent can we, on this occasion, say:
No means No!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Louise Minihan Leaves Sinn Féin

Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan has left Sinn Féin to join Eirígi just five weeks after the local elections. She intends to take her seat with her.

I know Louise very well. I was at the first Sinn Féin meeting she ever attended and probably hundreds after that when we were in Ógra Shinn Féin in Dublin together about ten or twelve years ago. She is God-Mother to my daughter, Mairéad.

I can’t remember ever arguing much with Louise over politics. As I recall we agreed on almost everything. In fact the only time I remember disagreeing with her was in the run-up to the special Ard Fheis on policing. I was opposed to the Ard Comhairle motions. Louise was in favour. Indeed she spoke eloquently in support of our party joining the 6 county policing board to 2,000 plus delegates at the Ard Fheis in the RDS. (Incidentally I was queuing behind her to get up to speak against, when some fella from Cork proposed that the debate cease and a vote be taken; he got the largest applause I have ever heard from an Ard Fheis delegate. Anyway, I never got to give my tuppence worth and of course it wouldn’t have mattered – I’m not that persuasive).

I was gutted by that Ard Fheis decision; it was the only time that I’ve really considered leaving Sinn Féin.

Obviously I didn’t. But if I did I’d like to think that I would never even contemplate holding onto my council seats. They’re not mine. Of course, I’d like to think that some people vote for me because of my own track record and my own community activism but if I wanted to be judged on these alone I’d stand as an Independent. On the three occasions I’ve gone for election I’ve stood on the Sinn Féin ticket and been honoured to do so and have been more honoured to have been elected on every occasion. I have been glad of the huge support I have received from my fellow Sinn Féin members and candidates and I have never asked for assistance from the local organisation which wasn’t provided. It’s their seat as much as mine. And it belongs to the Sinn Féin members in Cork, Armagh, Dublin, wherever as much as it does to the Cumainn in my local area. Because we’re in this together!

About nine weeks ago, I, along with the other Sinn Féin candidates in Monaghan came together to sign our pre-election pledge to the party. Candidates in Dublin did likewise (as in Wexford for that matter, just like the candidates in Strabane did prior to their elections). The pledge basically states that, if elected, we will act honourably and uphold the principles and policies of Sinn Féin. It also states that if we leave Sinn Féin for whatever reason we will give our seats back to the party. Some people don’t give it much credence. Obviously councillors who have left Sinn Féin since the election and held onto their seat didn’t. But to me if I put my name to a document, it means a lot, whether it is legally binding or not. It is my word.

And, as Republicans, if we haven’t our word we have nothing. I will not fall out with anyone who leaves Sinn Féin for political, strategic or personal reasons. But I cannot have the same respect for someone who dishonours a solemn pledge they made to their fellow party members.

Louise was obviously disappointed with the some of the strategic and policy decisions that the Sinn Féin leadership made in recent years. Join the club! I firmly believe that those of us who have issues can and must try everything in our power to resolve them within the party. But I respect those who feel that they’d made the arguments, perhaps lost them all, and then want to move on.

I was at a wedding with Louise a few weeks ago. I had heard certain rumours and asked her straight out “you’re not thinking of going anywhere, are you?” - “Jaysus, no” was the response.

It is clear now that she lied to me. Who cares, no big deal. But the fact is that she more than likely had her mind made up well before the June 5th elections and that means that she also lied to party members and her constituents and I think that that is a very big deal. It also means that she signed a solemn pledge in the full knowledge that she had no intention of upholding it. Perhaps she saw it as an ‘empty formula’ – De Valera would be proud.
(Louise with SF members including Aengus O'Snodaigh just 5 weeks ago)
The people I feel angry for are the local Sinn Féin members in Ballyfermot and the wider Dublin South Central constituency. Their task of holding onto the Dáil seat has just made considerably more difficult. Don’t anyone try to tell me that contributing to the loss of a Sinn Féin Leinster House seat will do anything positive for the cause of a United Socialist Republic.

Louise text me this morning; she said: ‘Sorry I didn’t get 2 speak 2u b4 hand, always valued u as a comrade’.

Comrades don’t do this!

Louise should do the honourable thing – she should give the seat back to the party that the people of Ballyfermot, Drimnagh, Bluebell, Chapelizod & Inchicore gave it to.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ferris Hits Nail on the head

Toireasa Ferris has submitted an artictle in this weeks An Phoblacht which should be compulsory reading for all Sinn Féin activists particularly those who aspire to be leaders.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

First Blog

About four months ago I couldn't be bothered with social networking sites. Years of pestering from friends and family to setup a bebo page were resisted without a second thought.
Then for some reason I agreed. I was on bebo and I was hooked in a matter of days. Since then I joined facebook (without doubt the best in social networking sites), myspace (still haven't a clue how it works) and twitter (no good for someone like me who cannot say in one sentence what can easily be stretched to twenty).

So here, I presume, is the next step - I'm writing a blog. But don't worry; I can't see myself posting too often but I'm going to give it a go. I'm still not sure how this thing works. Does anybody even read other people's blogs unless they have a unique insight into a particular subject or can offer rare pieces of gossip from time to time? Because I can offer neither.

What I do hope to provide is:
1. An outlet for people, especially Monaghan people living away from home, to hear some of the things that are happening around here.
2. Let people know of upcoming events etc. that may be of interest.
3. A little bit of debate etc. on some of the important issues of the day i.e. will Monaghan beat Derry this Saturday; will Sinn Féin regroup and become the potent force we know Ireland needs it to be; will Ireland be a better place now that questions and answers will no longer be on telly? (yes, by the way, is the answer to these particular questions)

So, let me know what you think and especially tell me when I'm being a prick (once a month limit per person though - my ego can only take so much).

Here goes... The conversion is complete - I'm on blogger!