Citizens say hands off our democracy! #seanref #seanad

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Ballot paper from the Abolishment of the Seanad Referendum

It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it’s ours. Today the government got the message loud and clear, hands off our presently dysfunctional democracy! ( see results here )

Among the count day coverage was an interview with a female politician I have huge respect for, Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin. She was talking to Cathal Mac Coille on Morning Ireland while standing in the RDS count centre. At the time, the ballot boxes were being opened and the imperfect tally figures predicted the no votes just pulling ahead.

Mary Lou quite admirably stated that in her experience, and on this occasion, that it was evident that Irish citizens had taken seriously their independence of thought and used balanced judgement in deciding what way to vote. Whether buttering up the no voters or not, Mary Lou has a point. We can be an unpredictable, independent bunch at times, much to the annoyance of PR companies and political advisors who have become accustomed to treating our democracy as a commodity; utilising all too often market research to devise public policy.

In the coming days the biggest losers in this campaign will be seen to be the optics peddlers, over paid marketing types that got the campaign message all wrong ( click here ).

Right behind them will be Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his advisors who have now painted themselves into a corner by threatening not to reform the Seanad if the electorate voted to keep it ( click here ). A position, no doubt, that will fade into the distance as the FG pedalo frantically reverses.

Reverse pedaling in a pedalo

Fine Gael will now have a big gap on their 2016 election manifestos and God only knows what they’ll try and fill it with! Might I suggest they begin work on their policy on tackling suicide, as the existing one ( click here ) runs out next year or perhaps Enda will swallow his pride for the betterment of this country and support some of the new bills on Seanad reform ( click here and here ).

Only time will time, but for the moment it’s back to the drawing board for the government and they’d be well advised to steer clear of the PR & Marketing department and go back to policy making basics.

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Policy for Dummies.

Cherishing the Wealthly

The 2010 study of the Irish Health Behaviour in School – Aged Children (HBSC) is an interesting read, as it provides a barometer on how various government policies and initiatives are reaching and influencing the lives of the nations’ children. More importantly, it illustrates inequalities that go against the hopes and aspirations contained in the Proclamation; that is; to cherish all of the nations children equally.

A quick read through of the report stops suddenly when confronted with the statistic that 21% of children when asked the question, ‘have you ever gone to bed or school hungry?’ reported yes as their answer. That is an increase  from the 2006 report of 17% (still an uncomfortable figure, possibly evidence, for those who need it, that the Celtic Tiger ‘boom’ years did not reach everyone). So when confronted with an answer like that, it begs, the question why? Why has there been such an increase in the statistics over that four year period and what can be done about it.

Over the recent years, with increased financial hardship and Austerity Budgets, families have had less money to cover basic necessities, economising on food bills to cover energy costs and mortgages etc. Even allowing for the fact that a lot of parents themselves would go hungry, before allowing their children to do so, means that these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg, when we look at families as a whole. Sadly, the most vocal people, especially in the media, maintain there is no problem because they cannot see it. These figures tell different, with recent budgets favouring the wealthy, and attacking struggling families. This year’s St. Vincent de Paul pre-budget submission uses the following case study as an example;

Books or food?
Derek contacted the SVP on a Friday evening when his family had €3 to last them until the next week. He had to pay school expenses for his three children which meant the family had no money for food that week.
The SVP organised an immediate visit with food vouchers so that they could eat until their social welfare payment came through.’

 An increase, can be turned into a decrease if there is the will to do so. Around the time of the last budget, this problem had been foreseen by Sinn Féin through their proposed provision of school meals in their pre-budget submission, (p26) which would at least take some pressure of parents, decreasing the risk of children either going to bed or to school hungry. That is one targeted and costed solution for struggling families. 

Nobody believed that rescuing the wealthy of this nation was going to be easy, but surely this is too high a price to pay. I say rescuing the wealthy, on purpose, because up until now that has been and will continue to be government policy unless you change it.