Dear Joan, or Alex

On July 4th the Labour Party will begin counting votes on who will get to be the new leader of the party. This will hopefully be a fairly straightforward and quick poll, and we will know who will lead the party from its worst electoral defeat.

Add to the new leadership in Labour is the likelihood that there will be a cabinet reshuffle during the Summer.  This, I once hoped would be a cause for joy, but I’m beginning to get a bit cynical now.

You see, Joan (or Alex), people who had previously believed that Labour would stand up for them are sadly disillusioned.  Cutbacks and austerity in health, education and social welfare are being touted as achievements.  Surely they are the exact opposite?  Labour ministers have led the charge to cut back in their own departments in the name of keeping the Troika happy, in the cause of shoring up the gambling debts of Ireland’s elite from the Tiger Era.  Is not keeping rich investors happy the very antithesis of what Labour stood for?

And here’s the thing.  The Troika recently called for the government to keep on track with a further 2 Billion Euro in cutbacks this year.  They announced this in the middle of your leadership campaign.  This, to me, is a clear signal as to who really calls the shots.

To take a note from Minister Quinn’s playbook, it seems that the Troika think Labour’s job is to consult on the cutbacks, not to negotiate them.  So I wonder how much will actually change.

From a teacher’s point of view, I used to hope that a cabinet re-shuffle would rid education of Ruairi Quinn, and that we would have a minister who would listen to teachers, rather than his own fabled advisers. I hoped that we could get a minister who would listen to concerns around Special Needs Provision, around concerns with the JCSA, around concerns with Pupil Teacher ratios; around management of schools, around the proper resourcing of education.  Now I doubt that much would actually change.  Yes, we may get a minster who talks a better talk, but I’m beginning to think that nothing will actually change.

You see, Joan, or Alex.  I think you have forgotten the marginalised in this country.  I think that you have forgotten about just how much hardship has been endured by normal people.

I really hope that I’m wrong.  I really hope that you heard the very clear message given by the Irish Electorate in May.  I really hope that you will finally realise that Austerity has run its course.  Ireland should not be just about balancing the books.  Ireland should also be about the quality of life of all its citizens.  More so for the most vulnerable among us.

Or, to quote Gandhi: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

In very many cases recently Joan or Alex, we have failed this test of greatness.  What are you going to do about it?



The Local Elections

In two weeks time we’re heading for the poles to elect our next round of county Councillors and Members of the European Parliament.

There are a few big changes this year.

  • Town councils are being abolished, and some councils are being amalgamated.  (from 114 local authorities to 31)
  • The total number of Councillors in Ireland will reduce from 1,627 to 950 (a drop of 677 seats)
  • With the property tax being earmarked to go to the local councils, they will have their own funding for the first time in about 40 years.


And what do our Councillors do?

  • Make decisions about how the local budget is spent.
  • This may be on Housing, Roads, Libraries, Amenities (playgrounds, etc)
  • Make policy decisions around various local issues
  • Help people dealing with the bureaucracy of a council

Local councillors can’t make any decision regarding national issues, for example in Education, Health, etc.

So, when we go to the polls on Friday 23rd, what are we voting for?

Well, a lot of us are angry at the way the country has gone, and the narrative goes like this:

‘Fianna Fail fiddled while the whole thing exploded, we voted for Fine Gael and Labour to fix it.  Fine Gael because they promised political reform and Labour because we believed they would keep Fine Gael in check (Just in case too much of the blue-shirt gene started showing)

‘Unfortunately, Fine Gael haven’t reformed politics, there were no report cards on under-performing politicians, and very, very few resignations.  Labour have supported FEMPI and seem to be a bit too enthusiastic in cutting some areas and I don’t trust the shinners I’ve heard there’s a Green Party, but haven’t seen of them recently, they’ve gone extinct, I think.’

The question now becomes what does this have to do with the Local Elections?

For each of us it is this.  Do I vote for the person who will work for my local community/needs/interests or do I work to support a party or a political ideal?  And in this case the political ideal may be to shout to the government that ‘enough is enough’.  Do I vote against the government candidates just to prove a point?  And if so, who do I vote for then?

But, if all politics are local, then is it also important to look at the candidates who have served their communities well, and ask them to keep on doing the same?

I haven’t figured out my own answer to that question yet, but I do need to look at it.  The only thing I am sure of is that Saturday 24th will be a very busy day for the pundits.