Interesting note re the Greens' ministries

I was just looking over the list of Junior Ministers in the new Dáil and something struck me that I hadn't noticed before. See Tony Killeen? Minister of State under Gormley and Ryan with "special responsibility for Environment and Energy". There isn't a Junior Minister with special responsibility for Heritage, for Local Government, for Communications or for Natural Resources; it's only the Environment and Energy that a Fianna Fáiler has been put in charge of.

Is it any coincidence that those happen to be the two portfolios that the Greens would have wanted those Departments for in the first place?
Following on from my post on Saturday, I thought it would be a useful exercise to list all the Private Members debates initiated by Sinn Féin in the previous Dáil:

* The organ retention scandal
* Enshrining neutrality in the Constitution
* Restoration of the northern Assembly
* Enshrining the right to housing in the Constitution
* No confidence in the Minister for Health (Martin, at the time)
* Rural development
* Childcare (note that this was several months before the Meath by-election, in which the Government was reportedly "surprised" that this was an issue)
* Special Needs education
* Privatisation of Aer Lingus
* Reunification
* Establishment of a Department of Labour Affairs
* Drugs
* Part V of the Planning and Development Act (the developers' "get-out clause" for social and affordable housing)
* Domestic violence

If we hadn't tabled these motions, would another party have taken the initiative? Would there have been any debate on these issues? Maybe, in some cases. Probably not, in some others. Definitely not in a couple. And that's not even to mention the myriad of issues that we (and sometimes we alone) raised at Leader's Questions, Priority Questions and in the course of Second Stage debates.

The point here is that the loss of speaking rights for our TDs isn't just our loss. It means that fewer of these issues will be discussed in Leinster House. With us and Gregory silenced, Higgins and Healy gone, and Finian and the Greens bought, Labour will be the sole voice of the left(ish) in the Dáil - and their own poor showing relative to Fine Gael's means it will primarily be the latter who benefits from the demise of the Technical Group. Partisan Labour supporters and SF opponents may celebrate our exclusion, but it can hardly be seen as a good thing for progressive politics in this state.

An interesting rumour from across the pond ...

... has former Georgia Democratic Congressperson Cynthia McKinney going forward as the Green Party candidate for president, with Cindy Sheehan as her running mate. I hope it happens. It'll be amusing to watch Gormless & Co's attempt to claim ideological congruity with this ticket, as they sit in a government that the would-be USVP has accused of being "complicit in war crimes".

Actually, quite apart from that, I'd love to see this happen. I'm still allowed to vote in US federal elections, and it would be a nice change from having to hold my nose and vote for the lesser evil, or for some Peace and Freedom Party no-hoper you've never heard of (come to think of it, I've never heard of most of them either - even when I lived in California), or to just not be arsed because they're all crap. This would be one American presidential campaign I could really get behind.

Three pictures

Meg Walsh

Rachel O'Reilly

In February of this year, Sinn Féin introduced the following Private Members motion:

"That the Dáil,
recognising that:
— the grave threat to life and limb and to the mental health and quality of life of women, children and men posed by domestic violence is undermining the fabric of our society and our belief in equality;
— an estimated 1 in 5 Irish women experience domestic violence at some point in their lives;
— of 126 women violently killed since 1996, 81 were killed in their home and just under 50% of victims whose cases have concluded were killed by their partner or ex partner;
— in 2003 on average more than 23 incidents of domestic violence were recorded by Gardaí each day compared with an average of 11 other assaults recorded;— more than a third of all calls to the Women’s Aid national phone help-line went unanswered due to inadequate funding in 2005;
— women are 70% more likely to be raped, severely assaulted or murdered after they access the legal system and attempt to leave their abuser and therefore victim safety and offender accountability must be at the centre of every intervention; and
— there is an unjustifiable shortage of refuges and other front line provisions;
believes that:
— an effective sanctioning system is essential if the incidence of domestic violence is to be reduced and therefore law enforcement bodies and agencies involved in the administration of justice must prioritise the prosecution of domestic violence crimes on indictment where possible rather than simply as breaches of orders;
— the variation in Garda practice across the state and within stations is a serious problem and can impede women from making complaints or even undermine the cases that are brought forward, and therefore the existing Garda policy on domestic violence and practice must become subject to monitoring, support and supervision to ensure it at least achieves the level of response expected and set down by that policy;
— consideration should be given to the appointment of a Commissioner within An Garda Síochána tasked with ensuring domestic violence is treated as a serious criminal matter, and domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse crimes should be named as crime priorities in the Garda Annual Policing Plans;
— greater investment should be made in specialised training and ongoing in service training for Gardaí given the distinct nature of crimes of domestic and sexual violence;
— guidelines should be introduced detailing criteria for the granting of safety, protection and barring orders, as should regular information seminars for the judiciary on the dynamics and impact of domestic violence, the latest international research into effectively stopping domestic violence, and responding to the needs of victims, children and offenders;
— all key agencies, including the HSE, Probation Service, Courts Service and Housing Authorities, should be obliged to develop and implement, in conjunction with the expert agencies, a domestic violence policy and training to govern their work;
calls on the government to:
— make the necessary provisions for the introduction of an effective and consistent sanctioning system;
— publish and schedule time for legislation amending the Domestic Violence Act 1996 as a matter of urgency, including amendments to:
— remove the restrictions caused by residency requirements;
— list the name of the agency/practitioner responsible for taking sworn information, for serving orders and/or summons and providing evidence to the court regarding the response of the respondent;
— provide for the immediate communication to the local Garda station of the granting/extension of an order for priority entry onto the Pulse system;
— provide for applicants for orders to automatically be given a copy of their sworn information;
— provide for the immediate seizure of any firearm legally held by a person against whom an order has been granted; and
— clearly specify the data protection provisions governing the sharing of information by agencies;
— re introduce and resource a role for the Probation Service in family courts producing safety reports and risk assessments to inform judges’ decisions;
— ensure the supervision of child access where necessary to protect against further abuse;
— make provisions for the extension across the state of the inter agency work model developed by the NDVIA and the systemic changes achieved by them in the pilot areas of Dun Laoghaire and Bray District Courts;— prioritise and guarantee core funding to frontline services including refuges, outreach, counselling, court accompaniment and transitional housing on a multi annual basis to allow for the strategic development and delivery of services; and
— introduce measures to overcome language difficulties and other barriers, including the prospect of deportation, experienced by immigrants, ethnic minorities and others attempting to access services and protections."

Believe it or not, this was the only debate on domestic violence in the life of the 29th Dáil, despite our justice and equality spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh regularly calling for one.

The Government, unsurprisingly, defeated our motion, replacing it with their usual self-congratulatory muck about how much they had already done and promising to do more - just not as much more as we were calling for.

One wonders whether those promises would have been made at all if not for our motion. With SF effectively gagged in the 30th Dáil, we won't have the opportunity to initiate another such debate, and little opportunity to "remind" them to stick to their promises.

In the meantime, we can only hope that justice will be done for Rachel, Meg, Siobhán, and all the other women killed or maimed while the Government is busy patting itself on the back for its meager achievements.

They're definitely taking the piss.

Conor "Kebabs" Lenihan as Minister of State at the Department of Justice with special responsibility for integration.

I'm going to wake up tomorrow and this is all going to turn out to be one long, surreal dream, right?

Are they taking the piss?

The Green Party has indicated that it will not be seeking to re-route the M3 motorway away from the Hill of Tara during the next five years... [Eamon] Ryan said the decision to construct the motorway alongside the Hill of Tara was a decision of the last Government and "this is a new Government".

From here.

Sometimes, I don't even feel the need to add my own comments... some things just speak for themselves.

The Greens' first sellout

In 2002 the Green Party repeatedly protested and called for a change to Standing Order 114, which denies speaking rights to parties of fewer than seven members.

A motion has just gone through the Dáil which would grant speaking rights only to parties with at least seven members. Anyone care to guess what position the Greens took?

Many more similar instances to follow, no doubt.

News from Kildare Street

Joe Higgins's office, in the corridor with the Shinners, Greens and Tony Gregory, has been vacated. It is now being occupied by ... Jackie-Healy Rae.

My God, what a depressing five years we have ahead of us.

A short note on the Greens' deal

It will probably go through, but it doesn't seem to me like they've got much out of it. No scrapping of co-location. No end to US troops at Shannon. No M3 re-routing. So what are they getting? Carbon tax - a fairly minor concession, in the grand scheme of things. More spending on education - won't begin to address the problems endemic in the Irish system. Local government reform - desperately needed, but the kind of changes that would make a real difference would do so at Fianna Fáil's expense and does anybody think for a moment they would let that happen?

I hope those within my own party who had hoped for us to be in the Greens' position now are learning a lesson from this. The kind of radical changes we propose are never going to be agreed by an FF or FG-led government - it would be turkeys voting for Christmas. The prospects for an alliance of the left may seem bleaker than ever after this last election, but ultimately I can't see any other road to real change in this country.

Paisley Jnr in sensible comment shock

I've finally got around to reading that interview with Ian Paisley Jnr and, while his comments about gays and lesbians are every bit as vile as reported, I was surprised to find a bit of sense rarely seen in Irish politicians - north or south, republican, nationalist, unionist or other. Asked about segregation in schools, Baby Doc said:

Believe it or not, I went to an integrated school. I believe parents should have the choice, but I believe that if you want to have the choice of a religious, exclusive school then you should pay for that choice - it should not be paid for by the State... I understand that the churches have a huge input into all this, but I think the churches need to stand back and the sooner the better.

I continue my long wait for Sinn Féin to adopt such a sensible, progressive position.

Incidentally, toward the end of the interview Paisley Jnr also refers to the problems that could arise in the event of abortion law liberalisation in the South. Is he bothered by the potential deaths of Irish "babies"? Does he worry that it could encourage similar moves north of the border? No, his specific issue is solely to do with the existence of different laws in different parts of the island. Er, isn't that part of what unionism is all about?
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