Interesting election item

Given Bertie's recent (and revealingly partitionist) comments about Sinn Féin "imports" from the Six Counties helping out with Mary Lou's campaign, I was amused to note, on my way down the Cabra Road this evening, that the car driving people around to put up Fianna Fáil posters had northern-registered plates.

The posters themselves are worthy of comment, too. A picture of Bertie, beneath which are the words:
So not only are FF not attempting any vote management, again, but even here in what should be Mary F's strong patch, she's relegated to their third choice candidate. Given that almost nobody puts Brady in with even the slightest hope it's looking like a fairly straight contest between us and the Greens for that fourth seat.

PDs play the race card

The Minister for Justice has this morning published his long-awaited Immigration Bill.

It's a huge piece of legislation which doesn't so much overhaul the current unfair, inefficient, non-rights-based regime as put it on a statutory footing (in such a way as to nonetheless leave him an unacceptable amount of discretion in many crucial matters). There is absolutely no chance of it clearing the Oireachtas before the election - unless the Minister intends rushing it through with little or no debate, something I don't think even he would have the neck to do.

So why publish it now? Clearly there is one reason, and one reason only: to use it as part of his election manifesto. To tell voters that if they return him and his party colleagues to office, this xenophobe's charter will become law. It is campaigning on the issue of immigration and thus effectively, unavoidably, playing the race card - something that violates at least the spirit of the anti-racism protocol that all 26 County parties signed up to before the last elections.

Shameful. But not in the least surprising.

Another election, another Martin Ferris arrest

I've just heard the news that Martin Ferris has been arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

My first thought is that the timing of this is awfully curious. Remember this? When did that happen? Oh yes, just before the last general election. The circumstances of the latest arrest would certainly lend themselves to a stitch-up: a random check, at a roadblock near his home. And the Kerry Gardaí do have something of a track record here; see also this case.

I won't be defending Martin if it turns out that he was over the limit. There's never an excuse for drink driving, and SF have been critical enough of the Fianna Fáil politicians who've managed to get away with it, like Jim McDaid driving the wrong way down the N4, and GV Wright mowing down a nurse.

But frankly, I wouldn't put anything past the Garda Síochána. Especially at election time.

Looks like an election is imminent

The Government has today tabled a motion to extend the Offences Against the State Act for another year. The OASA doesn't expire until the end of June so there's absolutely no need for them to table this motion now ... unless they aren't planning for the Dáil to be around much longer to put it through. (Edit: they've now scheduled it to go through next week.)

I've nothing new to say about the OASA that I haven't already said before. It needs to go.
In the latest episode of the long-running saga of Ireland's slow progress toward modernity, it seems that parents are being asked to produce baptismal certificates [free registration required] to get their children enrolled in their local school, where said school is run by the Catholic church (as over 90% in this State still are) and is oversubscribed (no figures, but that number seems to be increasing too, thanks to the widespread and ludicrous policy of building housing estates first with schools to follow later - often years and years later).

Anecdotally, some non-believing parents are even having their children baptised, for the sole reason that doing so is the only way to secure a place in the local school.

Readers from other countries should understand that this is not a case of social climbing parents just trying to get their kids into the best school. In large areas of this State, the local Catholic school is the only school. If there is no place for your child in it, there is nowhere else in the vicinity for the little munchkin to go.

This is ridiculous.

Church officials are defending the policy on the grounds that these are, after all, Catholic schools, and since the Church is running the schools, it has the right to decide who can attend. But that's just not good enough. The extent of the Church's control over education in this State means that Catholic schools are, de facto, State schools. They are even called "national" schools. Their teacher salaries are paid for by general taxation. They are not just some minor private enterprise operating on an optional basis with the right to minimal government interference.

The Minister's response to this crisis (no link, sorry; I heard it on the radio) has essentially been to wash her hands of it. The affected families have little recourse under State law, as both the 1937 Constitution and the relevant legislation were effectively drafted in such a way as to protect the Church's right to decide how the majority of our children will be educated.

But when the reality is that children are being discriminated against because of their (or more accurately their parents') religion - and that some parents are even being forced to "convert" their children in order to secure an education for them in their home communities - it is plain that a serious human rights violation is taking place. If the State won't do anything about it, the parents should go to the ECHR. My general misgivings about the European Union notwithstanding, as long as we're going to be a part of it we may as well take what benefits we can get from it - and anything that helps drag this country kicking and screaming into the 21st century is definitely a benefit worth taking.
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