Saturday, June 13, 2015

On Russia: A Response to Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Not a joking matter.
MEP Luke Flanagan voted against the recent resolution in the European Parliament censuring Russia for its violations of Human Rights, breaches of International Law, and destabilisation of its neighbours. In speaking against the motion, he cited the Nice Treaty re-run as an example of the EU's disregard for National Sovereignty, as he saw it. The EU has no right, in his view, to lecture anyone on sovereignty.

First of all, this was not a vote on sovereignty, save insofar as it had been denied the people of Eastern Ukraine. It was a vote of censure, an expression of sentiment in foreign relations. If Mr Flanagan is of a view that the EU has given up any entitlement it may have claimed to have a view on foreign government behaviour, then he is in effect denying it any strategic position at all. Furthermore, if he really believed in his position, he would have abstained; for in voting no he was effectively making a counter claim, and therefore expressing a judgement on Russia.

What he instead chose to do was to court publicity. Brussels is a long way from home for a Roscommon politician. It's hard to get noticed. Try telling that to the dead and the disappeared of Putin's Russia, to the bereaved thousands of families in Ukraine, to the threatened of the Baltics. Luke Flanagan has a position of extraordinary responsibility. It's time he grew up and did his job.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nationalism in Ireland in 2015

A debate has begun in Ireland on how the country should celebrate Easter 2016, one hundred years after the Easter Rising.  Thus far it has taken the shape of an external-relativist debate, particularly in relation to the UK; and a peace-violence debate, and whether violent uprising should be celebrated, especially given the question about what it actually achieved.  The official launch video in November was almost universally panned for seeking to look to the future (with the British Queen's visit seemingly the starting point) and almost completely ignoring the Rising itself, and the proclamation of independence.  I have some sympathy with the designers of the video; if we look deep enough into the dark past of history, there is some danger that the country may fall back into it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Undue Control of Media in Ireland

Denis O'Brien (left) and Alex White: What are
the Media Mergers Guidelines really all about?
Communications Minister Alex White has published the department's 'Media Mergers Guidelines' an initiated a consultation therein.  Much public attention has shifted to Mr Denis O'Brien, whose empire has recently extended to include the top two non-RTE national radio stations as well as a significant (though according to the courts non-controlling) stake in Independent News and Media.  It has been suggested that perhaps Mr O'Brien's acquisition of Today FM in particular would not have passed a new 'undue control' test that the department proposes to introduce. Whatever the wrongs and the rights of it, it remains unlikely that the BAI would ever seek retrospective enforcement, and force a breakup of the O'Brien empire; for one thing, such a process would outlast any Chairman so brazen as to initiate it, so one is bound to wonder what the point would be.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Post-2016: A Dáil in Chaos?

Was it for this etc.?
Much recent commentary on the rise of independents has begun to extrapolate current trends into and beyond the next general election.  Pat Rabbitte said he feared for the very future of politics.  It does indeed seem as if we are in for a period of political turbulence.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Rural Ireland Deserves Better

Rural Ireland: Not bad if you're a sheep.  Because sheep
don't need broadband, roads, services, healthcare...
The Irish Times are hosting a commendable section dedicated to rural Ireland and its concerns, and solicited comments from Labour's Ann Phelan, Minister for Rural Affairs.  We'll stop this donut effect, she said, making sure large supermarkets don't locate outside town centers. Other than that, she's not promising anything because she says "I probably have a maximum of 18-21 months to do something.”  Her main focus she says is on job creation; there is no budget (save that from other departments) with which to directly fund projects.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stephen Donnelly: Ireland's Ralph Nader

Nader was vilified and heavily criticised
at first, but his book transformed the car
industry in America.
The first Chevy Corvair launched in 1960 was a roaring success. Jack Kennedy was President, Elvis Presley was on the radio, and America was fighting the Communists in the dark corners of Eastern European cities. It was a sleek designed power grunt of a machine, with swing-axle suspension. That meant that it needed a significant tyre-pressure differential between rear and front tyres, which resulted in a dangerous amount of over-steer. In lay mans terms, that means that when you turn the car left, the wheels turn much more left than you had intended. There was a significant danger of 'tuck-under', where the left front wheel in a left turn could essentially flip under the car, causing an accident.  Many people died as a result, though the car industry was unperturbed - driver error, was the response. If you drive at a safe speed, you're fine.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Next Anglo-Scale Crisis Will be in Data Protection

Billy Hawkes has his work cut out for him
I've argued for some time that the problem in Ireland is not one of light-touch regulation, but of culture. The failure that led to such catastrophic circumstances was not down to Lehman Brothers, or the Global Meltdown, or Anglo, or the Financial Regulator, but culture. A culture that said 'go on sure you'll be grand,' a culture that basically said take what you can get away with, so long as you don't get caught, a culture that told politicians - jovially - that the only thing, the *only* thing they had to protect was their seat.  That caused an abdication of leadership and responsibility, an absence of ownership, and a complete abandonment of the principles of the nation. So we are - as they in Leinster House so wearily put it - where we are. The implication of that phrase, of course, is that we do not learn from our mistakes, we forget about the past, and we fix the problem we are faced with rather than contemplating the uncontemplable - that we are fundamentally wrong about all sorts of important stuff that's really hard to fix.