Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Interview with Cllr. Laura McGonigle of Fine Gael

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Laura McGonigle, is 26 and was co-opted onto Cork City council to replace Deirdre Clune TD after Clune took a seat in Cork South Central at the last general election. This is Laura’s website/blog, her Facebook and her Twitter. Here are the answers to some questions I asked of her.

Laura McGonigle

Laura McGonigle

Why politics and why Fine Gael?

Why politics – because there’s no point sitting at home complaining and not doing something about it. You can’t improve things by doing nothing.

Why Fine Gael – Because I don’t trust Fianna Fail. I got involved in politics for the 2002 General Election, which was probably Fine Gael’s darkest hour. I think in the weeks after that I knew that Fine Gael had been the right choice for me. Fianna Fail had been re-elected with almost an overall majority, but within weeks they were rowing back on their election promises – the electorate had been codded.

Every year in advance of a General Election, Fianna Fail pull a trick out of the bag to buy the electorate. Their politics isn’t about what’s best for this country; it’s about what is going to keep them in power.

Also because my father told me I’d have to live in the shed if it was anyone other than Fine Gael.

Young and a woman, surrounded by old (poltical) fogeys, what’s the reaction been by those old fogeys?

They keep their distance!

Seriously, most Councillors in City Hall just do their own thing. If you get too caught up in what everyone else is doing, you become paranoid and the job will pass you by.

But some of them like to call me “dear” and try to antagonise me that I’m still wet behind the ears!

What do you class as a win for you in local politics?

Getting a job done. People may disagree on this, but local politics are local. We’re not legislators and we’re not going to change the world. But I get phone calls everyday of the week from people who believe that their concern is monumental and to solve their problems or to right a wrong is what we are here for. It’s not to attend every funeral and letter opening.

Got any stories of how local politics has helped a local?

Local politicians aren’t going to be able to change your life dramatically, but as many people know it’s the every day things that count and that’s what we’re here for.

Local politics is about helping people access their entitlements. I have assisted people with everything from filling in forms to apply for their pension, helped people get information on their entitlement to public housing and I’ve helped young couples get a foot on the home owning ladder by explaining how the social and affordable housing schemes work and helping them to decide which scheme makes most sense for them to apply for.

What’s the most pressing thing on the doorsteps recently?

There is palpable anger out there. I’m meeting people who’ve lost their jobs, whose houses have dropped in value and most of all who really feel like all their hard work over the last few years in just going down the drain because the Government won’t stand up and take charge of the situation. The Government and its Ministers are paid to make tough decisions and they’re shirking their responsibilities.

Should there be more accountability and transparency when it comes to expenses?

Of course there should! It’s your money!

Why do you think less people seem to care about politics then they did 10 and 20 years ago? How do we change that?

Politics under FF and Ahern in particular has sidelined the interaction between politicians and their constituents. Social partnership took what were political and market forces and gave unelected unions and employers (social partners) the opportunity to dictate. With politics being much more important now, with the nationalisation of banks and the decision by Government to take an active role in the economy to alleviate people’s suffering, we are likely to see people much more interactive with government and their politicians as a consequence.

As people have less, they will look more at their politicians and grade them more honestly as opposed to looking for the spin or the “nice guy” quality

We need to examine ways to make politics more accessible to my generation, show how it is very relevant to them in their lives. This means looking at ways of taking politics away from branch meetings and so on and moving towards a more campaigning type of politics where you can engage with people on issues as they arise rather than forcing people into the strictures of a branch when the reality is that their time is limited and they will allocate it to what matters to them.

Should the Senate be removed since the public can’t choose or vote for those in it?

The Senate was never meant to be popularly elected but corporately. Each section of society from trade unions and labour, to agriculture, to local authorities were all meant to give the Houses of Parliament a more agenda based outlook rather than representing people based on geography.

Much call in recent time to remove the County and City Council voting block, as this is seen as castrating the radical and vocal qualities that the Senate might actually have.

No to abolition, yes to reform and to widening the franchise. Allow more people to vote in each constituency, be that labour, agriculture, colleges, etc etc

Should the office of the President be given more powers?

Sure why not. Allow her to make the Taoiseach’s nominations in the Senate.

Also, allow her to say what she thinks is appropriate to say with out having the Government vetting all her speeches.

Mary Robinson and Mary MacAleese have both shown that the Presidency can play a very valuable role in stimulating debate in society and representing Ireland overseas.

Enda or Chips?

Chips – curry chips from KC’s in Douglas! (Sorry Enda! I like him, I just wouldn’t eat him!)

Is the Garret Fine Gael a totally different to the Enda Fine Gael?

Completely different. Enda and Garret are two entirely different leaders. Garret always lead from the front and Enda is seen very much as a Chairman of a party. Fine Gael under Enda Kenny is a progressive party that believes in the same principles that have guided us for quite a long time. A fair society, promoting enterprise and reward, recognising that while we have rights we as citizens also have responsibilities. The times in which both men led the party were challenging in their own ways. Garret had enormous social issues to deal with in addition to the economic challenges of the time. Enda leads the party at a time of economic challenge but with a very different societal landscape in terms of the challenges that we face.

What can be done on a local level when it comes to business support?

There is lots of support for local enterprise – whether it’s the chamber of commerce, local enterprise boards or Enterprise Ireland. I work for an Enterprise Ireland sponsored company and their advice and assistance has been second to none.

I had a question down to the City Manager at last week’s City Council meeting, asking if small businesses in the City would be allowed to defer payments on their commercial rates if they find that they are in serious financial difficulties.

Ultimately no business in Cork should be forced to close its doors, because of rate arrears. In the same vain – businesses shouldn’t be forced to reduce employee hours or let staff go because of their liability to City Hall.

And this has been agreed to.

Tell us about a local politician not from your party that you admire/respect.

Máirín Quill – a member of Fianna Fail, the Progressive Democrats and now a non party Councillor. From dealing with Mairin in Cork City Council, she has always been objective in what she tries to achieve and always has Cork as her priority.

Interview with Adam Douglas, Green Party Candidate for Fermoy

Monday, March 16th, 2009

I recently did an email interview with Adam Douglas from the Green Party. Questions and answers below. I should have more of the younger candidates from a few other parties in the next while here too. Politics needs more younger people contributing by standing for election as well as voting for politicians. People under 30 appear to be invisble in real politics.

Adam Douglas Green Party Fermoy

Why politics? Isn’t it only for the anoraks? Or is that just the Youth and College Wings?

I think Politics has got a naturally bad perception, as reflected in a question like this, and this is understandably the case. But one must realise that Electoral Politics, the winning and not winning entailed in it, can be simplified to a Game. It just so happens that those worst suited to be effective Politicians often seem to be best at playing the Electoral Game of accruing public support to get seats in various Chambers. That’s Why I’m determined to buck that trend for the betterment of Politics, by meeting people and highlighting faults Whenever I can.

How much of a novelty factor has your age been? Do you get the respect you deserve from people in local politics that are double or even triple your age? How in tune with the younger population are these old fogeys? (My term not yours obviously)

I can’t deny it’s had some novelty value, however much I’d like to! The fact is that many of the radio and other appearances I’ve had (including this) would probably not have come About if it wasn’t for the level of attention the age factor’s Grabbed. But despite this I’m determined as ever that it doesn’t either become or overwhelm my campaign.

With regard to the respect issue, I’ve attended a number of local council meetings since my campaign started, and whatever disagreements I may Share with others on policy issues, I must thank them All for the level of seriousness they’ve treated me with.

On the third issue, I would argue that they are completetly out of touch, but I would like to state that this is not a fault of their ages in any way. There is nothing conceivably stopping an 80-year Old being completely in sync with an 18-year Old. Councillors will naturally look out for as many voters as they can, but as long as there isn’t an expectation that the 18-24 age group will even turnout to vote, then there isn’t Gonna be too much attention Paid to their concerns. If Apathy in my age group disappears, then the things I spend a lot of time fighting for, such as a new cinema for the town, will suddenly get more of a look in. That’s why voter registration will be a key issue for me in the weeks before the supplementary list is finalised

How does a youngfella from Fermoy, going to college in Dublin juggle campaigning to be a real world politician too? If you get in, how will you do it?

I’d imagine my traditional ‘I’ll deal with that if comes to it’ response won’t suffice in this instance! More seriously though, as I once told someone Else, it’s All About Good time management. I’m fortunate to have a mixture of facilitating factors. Firstly, a full-time course that is very light on lectures and second of All, the fact that I don’t seem to find long journeys as much of a Chore as others, in fact they give me a great opportunity to get on top of work outstanding. Ultimately, It’s easily Achievable in comparison to Mary Lou McDonald’s situation in running in a European and By-Election at the same time in June!

How much of a difference is there with local council politics and that of the Universities?

I think to even compare the two would be very harsh of upon local councils, as much as they are bereft of lots of the powers of comparable bodies on the continent. Uni Politics is a Powerless popularity contest at the end of the day.

Once Again it comes back to the Point that if Students (Predominantly 18-24 Age group) voted for the meaningful positions then their concerns would be Addressed in Dail Eireann, in City and County councils and Ultimately, through the Pressure that brings, by university management.

How do you get a win in local politics? What is classed as a win? Is there enough power or control in local councils to change the lives of people?

Politics in a PR System can’t be a zero-sum Game. A win for me will be taking a seat, even if that’s ninth out of nine. For certain candidates expectations will be a lot higher for historical reasons of Pride.

I certainly think there is considerable leverage to Change people’s lives for the better, whatever I may have said Above. Planning is a big one, and in Ireland there has been a fierce Shortage of it!

What are the important things people want addressed of late as you go door to door and what of them can be addressed on a local level?

Parking Charges in the town, the flood & traffic mgmt Plans for Fermoy, and rising unemployment in the area are the ones Absolutely central to people’s minds at the moment and understandably so. If councillors are smart About these, they can get things done, but they still need Govt help at the end of the day to be Allowed to Proceed fully.

We need Greater independence of funding mechanisms so that more decisions can be taken by Elected Local councillors. A lessened dependence on exchequer funding can be Achieved through motor tax, aswell as a levy on second properties. Water Charges will Also have to be looked at in the near future I’d imagine.

Is there an education process with the electorate to let them know where the local issues end and the national ones are addressed?

To some degree there Should be, but I wouldn’t underestimate people’s knowledge of where decisions are made. People are rightly confused when they vote for a local candidate and see his/her decisions hampered by national decision-makers, and by extension when they vote for national candidates and they see their decisions being usurped by directives from European Union institutions.

Do you think being a Green in more rural locations is tougher than maybe in more urban areas? Many Greens come from affluent urban areas than the rural locations or is that just a myth.

I’m afraid there’s no myth About it, we do have more success in cities. Although recent opinion Polls Show our support evening out more and more in terms of Dublin versus the rest of the country. It’s Also key for me to dispel the notion that the Policies of the party would be detrimental to rural Ireland. In fact, we have the strongest record in terms of any party in advocating sustainable rural development

Should there be more accountability and transparency when it comes to expenses?

Without a doubt. The money Claimed by so many TDs and councillors at a time when the country is near to Going under with debt is simply disgusting. But we need to be talking About more than just vouched receipts. The actual number and value of expenses must be Shrunk rapidly and All loopholes must be Closed. And don’t Get me started on committees & Ministers of State!

Should people 30 years out of synch with people under 25 be the ones to come up with ways of getting this demographic out to vote? How can this demographic be enthused or angered enough to X the spot on a ballot paper?

As I said Above, there’s nothing necessarily stopping them, Although I feel someone more their age would stand a better Chance of displaying the relation between Politics and everyday life that’s so badly missing. It’s a difficult question to answer, I suppose the end of the Celtic Tiger will focus young people’s minds on the question of why the Good times have come to an end and possibly encourage a bigger turnout

Is the Senate value for money, is it democratic since it’s populated with mates of whoever was the Taoiseach at the time?

It’s neither value for money, nor democratic, and Should be scrapped if anyone had any sense. New Zealand functions fine with just one Chamber. There’s only About half a dozen senators I have anytime for at All

The Internet really didn’t impact at the last general election, is it making any inroads at the locals this time around?

With every Election, the Internet Grabs a Greater role in Electioneering. The Problem for the medium, and as a consequence my own website, is that the Proportion continues to Grow at too Slow a pace to have a major impact. I hope I’m wrong though!

Tell us about a local politician not from your party that you admire/respect.

One of my own TDs in fact. Sean Sherlock of the Labour Party (Cork East). He seems to be every bit as hard working as his late father. Always happy to make a representation on any issue, and to work to a positive end on it. Also well on top of his portfolio where Agriculture’s concerned

Photoshop moment

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Martin Cullen references are optional.

Minister Martin shares his technique

See original pic here.

Noel Dempsey no likey fearless leader.

Noel says so

Even pay machines are at the Obama Lark

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009


Change is Possible

Actually political parties will need the onliners more and more

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

After Fianna Fáil’s total screwup last week over Joe Rospar which had them state this

He was also keen to stress that the party took the iniative in inviting bloggers to a talk by Obama’s New Media guy, when they could have just confined it to pol corrs.

you’d think they’d learn. To me and others that line is read as “we didn’t have to invite you”. With their symbiotic relationship with the media, Fianna Fáil and all the other equally useless and backwards political parties might have survived on this alone when it came to communications but it’s not going to be so in the future. Bloggers and Twitterers reacted in seconds to the Rospars event, something which as it built, Fianna Fáil couldn’t slow or direct or what they’d prefer: control.

Photo owned by Duy© (cc)

And their beloved political corrs are getting their news from Suzy Byrne at the Ard Fhéis. In the age of a slow news cycle you could afford not to be open. In an age of only a few people being able to access the eyes and ears of thousands, you could afford not to be open. You could manage the news. The media could manage the news. In the world where everyone has a net connection and is sharing information with each other, you’re going to be open or you’re going to be dead. It’s going to be very interesting in the next few years for even the best truth jugglers to keep the act up. Deception is an expensive and fatiguing business and leaves trails. Watch as people will falter and crash. Publicly.

A good thing done by Fianna Fáil this weekend was inviting people who blog to the Ard Fheis, a bad thing was dumping them in the press area and thinking that was it. Media organisations brief their newbies about Ard Fheis’s yet Fianna Fáil missed a huge chance to develop a relationship with these bloggers if they had down them about and told them how things work in FFland. It’s a different world if you’re not a hack who puts Jackie-Healy Rae before Jesus or someone paid to smile politely as a councillor acts like a dick.

Sunlight is the great cleanser yeah? If Fianna Fáil really opened up and gave access to the public and worked with them they’d not have much leeway to pull as many stunts and crimes as they’ve done. They built an environment that allowed wholesale crookery and thievery and while most of the Irish public didn’t care as they too took advtantage, the teacher is still partially to blame for the unruly class. Other parties need to fully open up too.

Graffiti wall
Photo owned by Damian Kettlewell for Vancouver-False Creek (cc)

Fantastic coverage by Mark Coughlan, Gavin Sheridan, Eoin Bannon and Suzy Byrne.

Another thing not to do is run an event about blogging and snub bloggers who are there. These politicians will have to work and converse with the bloggers who could have met them on their turf.

Without being too harsh, if political parties don’t end their love affair with their beloved traditional media and cop on to where people are going and forming opinions online then some new political entity will swoop in and take over. At best political parties, even the “open minded” ones are Hilary Clinton in mindset and at worst John McCain. There is a huge space right now for someone with enough initial cash to get a lead and then build up enough of a war chest to obliterate the traditionalists. That sounds like someone I’ve heard of.

People seem to think that it was a Democratic Party win in America when it wasn’t, Obama stayed the hell away from the headless main party and Washington itself. Instead Obama and his army of supporters are populated with a lot less hacks. People used to not playing politics. It must surely scare the hell out of the parties here (if they look out at the real world) that within months they and their supporters could be obsolete and with so many pissed off Irish people, 2009 and 2010 is when it has the greatest chance of happening.

Based on the lessons learned from the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, here are some tips for the other parties:

  • Invite bloggers. Don’t care if they hate you or not.
  • Brief them and be open with them. They’re nervous too.
  • Have them meet and greet the decision makers and influencers in your party.
  • Don’t lecture them, converse with them. Take their instant feedback on board. Ask for it.
  • If the traditional media get pissy cos bloggers are getting access to your people, remind them that these bloggers aren’t salaried to be there.
  • Don’t start a bloody blog or Twitter account or Facebook Page just for the local elections. All these are about building longterm relationships, not shortterm ones.

Nice guide from Suzy on suggested Dos and Don’ts.

Brian Cowen sends me an email

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Got two emails tonight, one from Brian Cowen:

Dearest Gracious Friend,
I am Brian Cowenagai, son of proud King Bertierobber, do not be surprised I am writing to you. I am the holder of greatest wealth from my proud King which he minded for friend builders of giant palaces. My proud King was removed by rebel forces and now I hold money but the rebel forces know me and my 34 proud chins so I will need your helping. In return for a banker bonus of 200Million euroses, you will mind 7Billions of money that is currently in a giant trunk of friend minding it….

Brian Cowen watching for those on stage left
Image stolen from the FF website. Where the name of the image was: brian_cowen_ard_fheis_hero.jpg

And then I got this 419 scam email:

Dear friend,

I’ve just come off stage at Fianna Fáil’s Ard Fheis, where I’ve outlined the difficult measures we’re having to take to help return the country to growth. I was frank about the scale of the problems we face, but I’m optimistic about the ability of the Irish people to meet these challenges through the hard work and ingenuity we’ve always shown. We’re a resilient and creative nation and we’ll meet our challenges together.

You’ve heard from me, now I want to hear from you.

I’m asking each of you to submit a question for me, which I’ll answer as many as I can via video right here on the new Fianna Fáil website. Submit your questions at:

To better serve you, and to help lead us out of this recession, I want to hear what you thought of my speech, the questions you might have about some of the important measures I’ve announced and your ideas about how Fianna Fáil can set Ireland back on the road to growth and renewed prosperity…

Seriously? Dear Friend? What an asinine email. How about including the “important measures I’ve announced” in the damned email besides telling people to go to the website? Of the 1000s of emails sent, the dropoff rate is going to be savage. Email marketing 101.

Via the Pin:

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Silence is Golden

Almost almost

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Still not back to normal. Right after the Blog Awards I’ve had to travel for work to far flung places like Dublin, Galway and Cork. Should be back to normal sometime Thursday.

Meanwhile grab an amazing chance to hear one of Obama’s Online strategists talk in Dublin today.

Boom: FF trails Labour in latest Irish Times poll, FF 22 down 5

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Irish Times poll:
FF 22 -5,
FG 32 -2,
Lab 24 +10,
SF 9 +1,
Green Party 4 no move,
Govt Approval 14,
Disapproval 85


Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Via Stevie G’s blog. The PROC Posse do the Cork GAA carcrash. Non-Corkonians might not get some of the references. A mix of Star wars and Downfall: