Author Archives: Dan Boyle

From top: Commuters in Dublin; Dan Boyle

The most recent unemployment statistics saw a return to the type of figures that existed pre 2008. That in itself is very welcome. I don’t hold with the view that these statistics are somehow contrived, or are laced with political spin.

The Central Statistics Office is a credible, neutral organisation. Its presentation of data has to conform with Eurostat rules. The trend is that more people are engaged in positions of employment.

Despite that, what we measure in relation to work, is often deficient.

We measure the number of work positions but not specifically the number of man hours worked. There is little precise information on the amount of wages accurately being paid. There is no measurement being taken on the degree of job security that exists.

Significant groups of people are not include in these statistics – students, those engaged in employment schemes, and many thousands who are in receipt of pre-retirement dole.

Against that, the way employment data is collected is very wide, but it isn’t particularly deep. The statistics cover the age range 15 years to 74. This includes some meant to be in full time education, and others who otherwise should be well ensconced in retirement.

42,000 people, year on year, have acquired employment that previously was beyond them. That is welcome. When we look at secondary sources of information, the implication created by this movement, isn’t necessarily that rosy.

When we look at income taxes receipts, a different picture starts to emerge. Year on year these have increased by €82 million. This gives an average tax liability of under €2000 for each new entrant to the workforce. This abstracts to average wages that would be somewhat under the average industrial wage.

If we had access to the wage increases given to those already in the workforce, this would further reduce the figure we could attach to what average wage new workers are receiving.

Further proof is the disconnect that is occurring, since the start of this year, between income tax receipts and universal social charge receipts. USC receipts are increasing at a far slower pace than those of income tax.

Because of the income threshold that applies before payment of USC is required, we can surmise that many of the new jobs being created, must be paying wages in or around this threshold.

One CSO statistic we should question is the assertion that wages in the public sector are considerability higher than those in the private sector. The CSO admits that no accepted international comparator for this statistic exists.

There are many factors that distort direct comparison. There are very few part time jobs in the public sector. Invariably these are mostly found in the private sector.

What we can work out is that many of the new jobs created are part time, low paying, and are lacking in security. If we are honest with ourselves, we should admit that this glass isn’t even yet half full.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Rollingnews

From top: Jobstown protest; Dan Boyle

Recently I met up with the woman who ran my constituency office. We meet far too infrequently these days. There’s often a lot of catching up to do, and many memories to reignite.

Those memories, for the most part, have been good. Recollections of characters whose personalities often frustrated us, but always entertained. Few of these people brought with them any political benefit, but that rarely mattered. We had determined that whoever came to the office we would try to help, however we could.

She was excellent at her job. I couldn’t ask for a better representative for whenever I wasn’t there. Nor could I have gained anyone more expert in those areas where we would get frequent requests – health, social welfare or housing.

Of course the memories weren’t always idyllic. Towards the end of our time in government, she became the receptacle of the public anger, and frequent abuse, for things that were not, at all, of her making.

On one occasion that anger, or use of that anger, turned into a physical threat for my Secretary. A group of Social Justice Warriors (I can’t remember which posture politics collection it was) decided one day to occupy my office. They chose to do so on discovering I wouldn’t be there.

I was elsewhere at a Green Party think-in (phones off and on the table), when events started at my office. A gang of four or five invited themselves into the building, proceeding to intimidate my secretary.

Outside of their general ignorance, they had an extremely poor understanding of who a public person was, or indeed what a public place was. My secretary felt threatened and certainly felt imprisoned, during what ended up being a six hour ordeal.

I continue to feel guilty about my negligence to her, as her employer then, in ensuring that she operated in a safe work environment. I decided not to contact the Gardaí, feeling that drawing attention to this would have been to justify the action in the eyes of the perpetrators.

I now regret not having done so. There are many legitimate reasons to protest. There are similar number of ways to engage in protesting. This flexibility should not presuppose that any form of protest, using whatever form of trite sloganeering, in whatever location, is always acceptable.

I recount this experience so that it can be contrasted with events, that have followed in the aftermath of the Jobstown trial.

There’s no denying that the response of the State in this trial – the investigating and arrest procedures of the Gardaí and the direction by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution – was completely over the top. Nor can it be argued that a certain level of vindictiveness accompanied this decision making.

The purpose of protest should be firstly to identify inequity. To highlight the failure of those with the means and resources to tackle such inequities. Ultimately the aim should be towards eliminating such inequities.

Those who engage in posture politics seek to freeze their protest at the intermediate level. Ending inequities removes the need for permanent protest.

It also eliminates the ego driven nature of some organisers of protests, where their self perception sees themselves as enemies of the establishment, but the establishment often views them as useful idiots, used to deflect more serious damage being caused to the body politic.

The questions we should be asking isn’t whether protest is legitimate, but whether it is effective.

Neglected communities in our society have seen their labour, their access to opportunities and need for resources undermined. These days it is their anger that is being abused, and not for their betterment.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

From top: Unionist Clubs of Ireland Anti-Home Rule poster, c1912; l Dan Boyle

 

In Britain, two general elections had been held within a short time period of each other. The party in government had sought a stronger mandate. The attempt backfired badly, with that party returning to the parliament in a minority situation. Government would only be possible, if support could be gained from an Irish party.

The year was 1910. The party was the Liberal Party, which would never again win a majority of seats in the British parliament. Its lifeline was provided by the Irish Parliamentary Party, led by John Redmond, leader for almost two decades since the regicide of Charles Stewart Parnell.

The price sought for the Irish Party’s support would be the introduction of a third Home Rule Bill.

After these elections, the main opposition party the Tories, chose a new leader. The job fell to a candidate who was without a large support base in the party, who was thought of as a compromise candidate. He was Andrew Bonar Law, who had an Ulster Scots background.

Already under the Tory tent were prominent Irish Unionists Edward Carson and James Craig. This Tory leadership developed and used tactics, meant to undermine the Home Rule Bill, which over the following century created the conditions that have caused the unnecessary deaths of thousands of people on the island of Ireland.

Under Law’s leadership, spurred on by his unionist friends, Tories talked up the position of Ulster, as being deserving of a special status.

Direct Tory support was offered to initiatives like devising and signing the Ulster Covenant; and the establishment of the Ulster Volunteers, leading to the gun running at Larne.

Each of these measures would/should have been considered treasonous, but because of the support of the main opposition party, they were thought of instead as actions that were necessary in defence of the realm.

The political intent of Law and Irish Unionists was less than certain. The definition of Ulster itself was proving difficult to agree.

Different amendments to the Home Rule Bill suggested the four counties with the largest unionist majorities could opt out. Edward Carson preferred the actual nine counties of Ulster, but no unionist majority existed for that arrangement. The six county formula was settled on, when it assured there would be a guarantee of an overall unionist majority between those counties.

The Home Rule Bill became law in 1914. The Great War intervened. Ireland was set on a course that has determined our political history since.

As leader of the Tories, Bonar Law, also had to deal with perennial Tory preoccupations of free trade and Britain’s relationships with the rest of the World. He stood down as party leader having disturbed much, but achieved little.

Lloyd George’s coalition government continued post war, overseeing the Treaty of Versailles and the Anglo Irish treaty. The coalition fell over a desire for ‘normal’ politics.

Contesting the election would be two Liberal factions and two Tory factions. This allowed Labour to become the main party of opposition for the first time in its history.

The main Tory faction turned again to Bonar Law to become party leader. This saw him become Prime Minister. Due to ill health he would only serve 211 days in office. For this he would receive the soubriquet of the Unknown Prime Minister.

His story is interesting to the extent that the themes that predominated then, continue to do so today. Tory obessions on trade and Britain’s role in the World seem to be as wearily cited as ever.

The willingness of the Tories to lean into Irish politics to vampirically sustain itself, regardless of the consequences, as a political tool to be used whenever desperate times require, remains unchanged over 100 years on.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

From top: Grenfell Tower in West London; Dan Boyle

A political argument has already been lost, when a protagonist states that an issue shouldn’t be ‘politicised’. To politicise an issue is to cause embarrassment, even to evoke shame.

There are times, however, when shame, guilt, and responsibility, not only need to be evoked, but also constantly need to be put before those whose actions (often lack of action) have created crisis and havoc.

Those who have died so needlessly at Grenfall Tower in West London, those who will endure such horrible injuries, and those who have lost family and other loved ones, have to be seen as more than victims. Collectively they are human sacrifice on the altar of political expediency.

The Conservative Party controlled Kensington and Chelsea Council sees public services as a distraction, from its real business of business itself. A more ugly exponent of the mantra of New Public Management, would be difficult to find.

Spend less. Tax less. Where possible commodify. When necessary avoid activity that promotes a common good. Insist, whenever possible, on the necessity of individual responsibility. Create new structures, and with such structures put in place new bodies, to which responsibility without power can be ascribed.

This council treats its residents like shareholders. Householders are supplied with a statement of account, which in the most recent year saw the council making a ‘profit’, rewarding each householder with £100 cash back.

The implication of this reward is that at all publicly provided needs were met. Of course they haven’t been. The ability of residents being bribed with their own money has been bought at the expense, of the use of cheap materials, and with many deep cuts to basics services.

These are cuts made with callous indifference, knowing that those most affected – the poor, the unemployed, ethnic minorities – provide little shareholder capital for a Tory council in the richest borough in Britain.

Irish local authorities have tended to ape policy changes in the UK. While Irish councils are structured differently, and carry significantly less powers, than their UK counterparts, worrying signs of these attitudes have begun to be seen.

If any kind of hope can be gained from such an awful event, it should be to act as a wake up call to stop travelling down this road, or to think it a route ever worth taking.We can only pray that those who have argued that a Michael O’Leary business model, best provides for Irish social services, will now shut the feck up.

The metrics for good performance in Irish local government should be in the meeting of needs as they exist. It should be in acquiring, and never apologising for acquiring, the resources necessary to meet such needs.

Those with least require most. Meeting such needs should be the prime purpose of local government. To demean such needs, while virtually criminalising those who require services, will only bring us events like the London conflagration.

Never again with never again.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

From top; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaves Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday after receiving his seal of office from President Higgins; Dan Boyle

Yesterday, June 14th, 2017, Leo Varadkar became the fourteenth head of government of the Republic of Ireland/Irish Free State.

Being caught up in his own history, he was probably blissfully unaware, that the day was also the tenth anniversary of when the Green Party became part of an Irish government.

While not being directly comparable, there are parallels that apply to anyone whose accesses power at a higher level. Chief among these would be two factors, those of opportunity and chance, factors which impact on the ability to achieve.

The opportunity of achieving office only has value, if the chance that accompanies it is favourable. Chance is that combination of circumstance and durability. Neither you get to choose. Neither can ever really be controlled.

You are either an agent of continuity or an agent of change. Pretending to be a bit of both only hastens an end to opportunity.

How capricious, how ephemeral, politics can be, can be seen from noting who else held office where, this time ten years ago.

In Stormont, the Chuckle Brothers were still only rehearsing their new routine, after their respective parties, Sinn Féin and the DUP, became kings of their castles.

In Westminister, Tony Blair was about to hand over to Gordon Brown who had brooded over that office for several years.

In Paris Nicholas Sarkozy had been President of France only for a matter of weeks. In Washington, George W Bush still had eighteen months of his lame duck term to serve.

The only constants are Putin in Russia and Angela Merkel in Germany (then only eighteen months into her first chancellorship).

If Leo achieves the six years in office that Enda Kenny has, he will have done very well. His first priority will be to use the time he has to buy more time. Failure to do so will consign him to the club of short term Taoisigh, with members like Albert Reynolds, John Bruton and Brian Cowen.

On a personal level I wish him well. Given our policy differences, my expectations wouldn’t be high, but that should never be a reason for wishing him, or anyone, ill. He is competent enough, confident enough, and as far as can be ascertained possessed of a sufficient integrity, to make a fair fist of the job.

I hope he is lucky, without being too lucky. His predecessor carried huge reserves of luck with him, even if he achieved little with the use of his good fortune.

He will soon be disabused of whatever expectation he has held about his office. The power bubble, he will become absorbed into, is a sealed vacuum which becomes detached from the reality and routine of everyday life.

Politicians who reach a high point in their career, run the risk of becoming further and further detached. Surrounding themselves with political friends and advisers, who have become similarly afflicted, only helps to increase their isolation.

To avoid becoming an actualised Pac Man, avoiding regular asteroid showers, our new Taoiseach should give a lot of thought towards doing most things differently. That should buy him a bit more time.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Rollingnews

From top: US president Donald Trump; Dan Boyle

Last Friday, I joined the liberal loser chorus queuing up to pour disdain upon Donald Trump. His well signposted announcement that he intended to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord on Climate Change, was the hammer on the knee most of us had been looking for.

My contribution was to tweet the headline of the Berliner Courier newspaper. It read Erde an Trump: Fuck you! Beautiful language German.

He hadn’t surprised. His tiny world view exposed, whether to anger or ridicule, hasn’t been tempered in any way. He is what it says on the tin, albeit a vacuously empty tin.

Like a child with his hands over his ears, making compensatory noise to drown out being told what he doesn’t want to hear, Trump will say and do what he wants.

He cares little about consequence. Despite his obsession to build a particular wall, his political goals are to tear down walls. Those walls of hope, fairness, and justice, those unacceptable impediments in Trump World. His instinct is to demolish them to have them replaced with his garish casino type alternatives.

His disdain, his disgust, for the environment was immediately re-inforced with his decision to appoint, Scott Pruitt, as Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, a serial litigant against the previous administration’s attempts to enforce basic environmental standards, is the ultimate in fox in the henhouse appointments.

Pruitt sat smugly on his hands as the budget for environmental protection in the United States was reduced many, many times beyond decimation. The web sites of environmental agencies were denuded of content.

The demands have gone further. Not only was the publication of data on climate change being actively discouraged, the seeking of data itself was being defined as verboten. This being the ultimate Orwellian affectation.

This type of behaviour, this abhorrent barbaric behaviour, has been designed to bring froth to the mouths (and not just from our lattes) of we self styled guardians of the Earth.

At least that would be one impression. Some venting is necessary. Environmental campaigners won’t lack for anything to complain about while Trump is in office.

But maybe, just maybe, environmentalists should learn to embrace Trump in all his awfulness.

Campaigns highlighting the need for greater public awareness, could be organised on The Donald’s whims. Instead of hiring researchers and public relations people, environmental NGOs would merely need to mirror whatever The Donald tweets, knowing that the opposite will always be the apposite.

Trump is the Anti Christ that every movement needs to define what it is and what it needs to do. We should wink knowingly as we roll our eyes, that someone with such an appalling lack of awareness is there to be, the polar opposite of where we on this planet need to be.

He is the inverted talisman of our time. He is our villain. He is the master of the Ignorverse. He is Our Donald.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

From top: UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn; Dan Boyle

It didn’t seem possible, at first, but the British General Election has gotten very interesting indeed. Let me give praise where it’s due, Jeremy Corbyn has had a very good campaign. A campaign in which every most likely option still sees him winning.

It has been the little things that have seen him succeed. Someone has got to him, and has made him understand, the importance of the superficial in politics.

That’s something, as a conviction politician, he seems to have worked against his entire political life. The dark jacket has replaced the tweed. The beard is neatly trimmed. But it is his tone of voice that has been winning over many.

Again, and I know it’s also superficial, how you say something in politics is often more important than what you say. His calm authoritative tones are helping to overcome many of the negatives that have been foisted on to him.

He is being helped by the implosion of Theresa May, in being seen as a credible leader. She has come to be seen as lacking in strength, stability or reason, May is being exposed as being the opposite of what she and her party have portrayed herself as being. She, and they (the Tories) are exposing the entitled elitism that is at the heart of their rotten core.

Corbyn, and Labour, may also be gaining from incumbent negativity, which should be factored in most election situations these days. In every election there is reaction against whoever is in office or holds power. In recent times holding office has become more difficult to maintain. Anyone who comes up with a narrative that opposes the prevailing narrative, will gain electorally.

The British Labour Party manifesto pushes all the right buttons in this regard. It is refreshing that British voters have such a distinct choice between two clearly different political propositions.

I still have reservations about Corbyn. I’m with him that the issue of achieving social and economic equality, is the dominant issue of our times. I am with him that the security myth needs to be exposed, that the waste of billions, in whatever currency, towards the dubious goal of finding better ways of killing each other, is nothing other than obscene.

Where we diverge is his dogmatism, and that of his supporters, that wealth creating mechanisms are by their nature wrong. Too many progressives turn their backs on markets, seeing the realisation of profit as being crimes against the people.

We do, of course, need a debate as to what constitutes wealth. We should not, however, see the creation of wealth itself as a problem. It’s how wealth is distributed that must remain our central concern.

I would still prefer Corbyn over any Tory alternative. That alternative of only being interested in wealth creation for the sake of a privileged elite.

I continue to find it hard to forgive Corbyn for his languid performance during the Brexit referendum. Still I would prefer him over May, to be negotiating with the European Union.

When the results arrive I will still be looking first at the results of the Greens, who I think are also having a good campaign. I expect the SNP to still remain dominant in Scotland. Regarding the rest of the election I will be cheering with others. Go Jeremy Go!

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Top pic: Press Association

From top: Former Anglo Irish Bank Chairman Seán Fitzpatrick leaves court yesterday; Dan Boyle

The first ever bulky report placed in my cubby hole, in the mail room of Leinster House, was from the Director of Corporate Enforcement, then Paul Appleby. It was an investigation into the activities of Ansbacher Bank (Ireland) Ltd.

Many of the details had already been leaked. The central allegations had been aired over several years. Even so the collective airing in one document of such a huge financial conspiracy, continued to shock and did nothing to alleviate public concern.

Over 200 people, supposedly prominent in Irish life were named. To be historically accurate and fair, few of these were directly involved in politics, none currently involved then. The nexus of labyrinthine financial mechanisms, created by Des Traynor, centred around the Guinness and Mahon bank and the boardroom of Cement Roadstone Holdings.

There was meant to be some satisfaction in the €120 million in unpaid taxes and fines that were collected. What never happened was any prosecution of any of the people involved.

Over the subsequent years, The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, through the tenure of several directors, has tended to be underresourced. This led the office to concentrate on smaller fry, having neither the resources nor the willingness to take on the bigger offenders. In Ireland the bigger the fraud, the less the likelihood of it being identified and, as such, of it ever being prosecuted.

Like most I look askance at the verdict passed on the Seán Fitzpatrick trial. I won’t quibble with the legal technicalities, I freely admit I lack the capacity to do so. Nor will I indulge in the hang ’em, flog ’em, throw ’em in the brig (I realise the order is nonsensical. That’s the point!) cravings that we all indulge in.

Seán FItzpatrick is ethically guilty of huge breaches of trust. He moved enormous sums of money between financial institutions, aimed at protecting his acquired wealth, and to create an impression that the institutions concerned were more financially sound than was actually the case.

In doing so, he undermined the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands. He was part of a group of a small number of people, whose actions helped put the economy of this country onto life support.

I am more saddened than angered, that these obvious wrongs cannot be legally recognised. That as a State we seem to lack the capacity, either through indifference or diffidence, to properly investigate or securely prosecute.

Our ongoing frustrations not only exonerates those who have failed us, it means we fail future generations for whom what has happened, can so easily happen again.

If it takes a new legal code, a new Constitution, or new methods to select a judiciary better grounded in moral imperatives, then we should be prepared to ask such questions. To continue to accept this form of Justice as She is Spoke, demeans us as a Republic.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Rollingnews

From top: Leinster House; Dan Boyle

Traditional decision making immediately casts aside those whose views haven’t convinced. Engagement should be more than a one off process.

Dan Boyle writes:

In the sadder half hours of my life, I listen British political programmes on BBC4. Earlier this week I heard a Labour Party MP (the who is irrelevant) state that “the people are always right’.

Are they?

‘The People’ is a collective expression of us as individuals. None of us as individuals is ever always right. Why should our collective expression acquire a quality of absolute wisdom?

Especially if when making such decisions, we are always divided, often deeply so.

That Labour MP was merely repeating what many believe to be a fundamental truth, a truism grounded in ‘common’ sense. That phrase, for all its homespun attachment, has in its overuse become an oxymoron, rarely ever being common or sensible.

Is this to question the central tenet of democracy? I don’t believe it is, but it is to question the fallacy that a decision, once made, is an absolute for eternity.

Every decision made should be subject to review, analysis and ongoing criticism. Neither does this mean that, on being made, decisions should be treated dismissively. All such decisions are valid at the time and in the context they have been made.

Those who have lost such arguments are not necessarily wrong, what they have failed to do is be able to convince at that particular time.

What we should be doing is giving consideration to weighted majorities, with built in review mechanisms. This, I believe, will help better decisions be made, while also getting such decisions implemented more quickly.

Traditional decision making immediately casts aside those whose views haven’t convinced. Engagement should be more than a one off process.

In the early days of The Greens in Ireland, we experimented with consensus decision making. It was deeply frustrating, a charter for those whose self-identity is wrapped up in their ability to create havoc. Those type of activists now have more comfortable political homes in which to indulge their persistent negativity.

But naysayers are not the only result of consensus decision making. For all it frustrations, it also gives space to some thoughtful, but minority views, that question the speed and direction of decisions. In ‘straight’ decision making, the views of such individuals tend to get steamrollered over.

The motivations behind any decision should always be questioned. The who benefits and why always kept to the fore.

Any victory should be seen as temporary and transient. Being on the right side of an argument, does not and should not, equate with being on the right side of history.

Democracy is a process not an end in itself. Too often we consider the who whilst forgetting the what, and more particularly the why. We should decide to do something about that. But how?

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


From top: Stephen Fry on the ‘Meaning of Life ‘with Gay Byrne; Dan Boyle

‘Christ you know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me. ‘

The Ballad of John and Yoko – The Beatles

Among my guilty pleasures is a predilection for table quizzes. At a recent quiz the question was asked as to what was the last song The Beatles recorded as a single only release. Mentally leafing through my record collection (vinyl records), I worked out it must have been ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’.

Technically only John and Paul were involved in its recording. George and Ringo must have been recording the B-side (the other side of the record!), George’s ‘Old Brown Shoe‘, a better tune as it happens.

A number of years earlier Lennon had got himself and the group into hot water, with his claim that The Beatles had become ‘Bigger than Jesus’. This led to bonfires of Beatles records in the US, and with that an increase in record sales in order to add more fuel to the fires. Lennon never said that The Beatles were better than Jesus, despite Jesus never having cut it as a recording artist.

The reaction to the ‘Ballad of John and Yoko’ was far more muted. Some US radio stations refused to play the song, due the use of Christ as an exasperation and the allusions to crucifixion, which were felt to be gratuitous. Formal bans seemed to have escaped the song. In Ireland it reached number one.

Ten years later, the Monty Python film ‘The Life of Brian‘ (largely financed by George Harrison) was banned from being shown in Ireland. The Irish film censor was Frank Hall. He was best known for his RTE television series ‘Hall’s Pictorial Weekly’, Ireland’s version of surreal comedy.

Earlier in his career, as an RTÉ reporter, he had interviewed The Beatles while they were in Dublin, striking quite the condescending tone. After his death it was revealed he had had a long running affair with Ireland’s favourite agony aunt, Frankie Byrne.

I include these details to support an argument that any prohibition on what people should say, hear or see, in relation to matters religious, is at best right wing virtue signalling, but at all times is an attack on basic freedoms.

In government the then Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, re-introduced a Defamation Bill that had originally had been introduced in 2006. His predecessor, Brian Lenihan, had withdrawn the bill to allow for further consideration. At that stage the bill was solely concerned with libel.

When re-introduced Ahern (at the behest of the Attorney General), brought in a new section on Blasphemy. The argument of the Attorney General was that the law surrounding blasphemy had been left in limbo since a 1965 court case, and needed to be legislated for.

The ‘offence’ would be covered by a number of caveats, making any prosecutions improbable under this provision. I despised this ‘Irish solution to an Irish problem’ approach. I spoke against the provision in my contribution to the Seanad debate, citing the ‘Jehovah‘ scene from ‘The Life of Brian’.

And yet I voted for the bill, feeling obliged to do so. The nature of being in government throws up many such compromises.

Did I like it? No. I squared my conscience by knowing that the law passed was unworkable, and that no prosecutions would ever follow. I was also given an assurance that a referendum on the constitutional provision on Blasphemy would soon follow.

I find the liberal angst heaped on Defamation Act to be largely irrelevant. The issue remains the constitutional provision. Get rid of that and we all can talk more freely.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Top pic: RTÉ