Tag Archives: Derek Mooney

From top: Maria Bailey TD, Kate O’Connell TD and Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney as Mr  Coveney launched his policy priorities at an event in Dean Hotel in Dublin yesterday; Derek Mooney

The article you’re about to read is not the article that I was originally planning to write. I usually write these pieces late Monday morning, but because I am travelling this week I decided to get the bulk of it written early last Friday.

However, the events of the last few days, particularly the surge to make Leo Varadkar… the leader Fine Gael caused me to reconsider some aspects of that original draft and so what appears below is the original piece with some added reflections.

So, as Eric Morecambe would say of Ernie’s hairpiece, see if you can spot the join.

My original starting point was a casual and basically harmless comment made by Fine Gael Senator, Michelle Mulherin on the Vincent Browne show on TV3 last Tuesday night.

Responding to a barrage of criticism for the inaction of Fine Gael on several issues and specifically the outgoing Taoiseach’s slowness to act, Michelle proffered the excuse that Enda and other ministers were reluctant to act as politicians like to be liked and so naturally avoid tough decisions and unpalatable policies.

To be fair to Senator Mulherin she was merely recycling a well worn trite excuse. It is not as if she had coined the phrase on the spot. Many people use it, including commentators and political observers.

It is offered as a valid and human explanation as to why so-and-so did not do such-and-such, but when you think about the phrase, it is really a back handed insult. The phrase is unfair on politicians and should not be deployed by them, even when under pressure from Mr Browne.

Most politicians I have known and worked with over the years would much prefer to be respected than liked. The politicians who succeed are the ones who we most respect, even when we disagree with them.

They are the ones who express their views and say where they stand, rather than telling you what you want to hear or, worse still, attempt to use weasel words to both run with the hares and hunt with the hounds.

OK, many politicians do the “hail fellow, well met” act and go about back slapping, but that does not stop them from being serious and assiduous in serving the best interests of their constituents and, hopefully, having an input on national policies.

Anyone who gets into politics thinking that they’re going to be universally liked and loved will soon find their illusions shattered. It is not that there is a lot of abuse or nastiness, there may be some from time to time, but it is fleeting, indeed most people who vote for a partcular TD or Cllr rarely ever contact them directly.

There are exceptions, of course. As Frank Cluskey famously observed, there are three types of people who go to a TD’s clinic: one third want you do something illegal, one third want you to do something immoral and the final third are just effin’ lonely.

It works the other way around too. Some years ago a craftsman friend of mine was doing some specialist décor work in Leinster House over the Summer recess.

It was so slow and painstaking that he was still working on it after the Dáil and Seanad had returned. One morning, as he and I went for a coffee, he told me of the a fool-proof system he had developed to correctly distinguish between the politicians and the many officials and civil servants walking along the corridors.

“Just say hello to them” he said, explaining: “If they are a TD or a Senator they will respond immediately and effusively and greet you as a long lost friend”. “They do this”, he added, “as they daren’t take the risk of offending a possible voter by letting them think they did not recognise them, even when they don’t know them from Adam”.

“And what about the others” I enquired. His answer: “if they don’t recognise you, they’ll simply ignore you… especially the pol-corrs.”

If, as the former Deputy and current Senator Mulherin thinks, policians just want to be liked, then how does she explain the ease and speed at which Minister Varadkar has coasted ahead to be within a whisker of already securing the leadership of Fine Gael?

Minister Varadkar has cultivated the image of being a man of many fine skills and qualities, but likability ain’t one of them.

Not that he has gone the full Machiavelli route and decided that it is better to be feared than loved either, but he has (wisely and properly in my view) opted to be respected and regarded for being his own man and possessing a set of firm political views, an intellect and considerable debating skills.

In some ways, particularly when it comes to presentation, Minister Varadkar is the opposite of the Enda Kenny I described in a previous Broadsheet column. While Kenny was at his best when in a crowd of people, his personality and demeanour was dulled by a studio camera, Varadkar’s is sharpened by it. He is better in the formal setting of a TV studio or a debating chamber than in one-to-ones.

This is in contrast with his rival Simon Coveney, who is not usually too comfortable in the formal setting, though Simon’s rally speech to his supporters in Cork last Saturday night was possibly the finest and most impassioned address I have seen him give. The pity is that his campaign team did not think beforehand to arrange to stream it live so that more Fine Gael members could see it.

Both candidates for the Fine Gael leadership are, to their credit, attempting to run on platforms that go beyond the usual: “I’m great, look at my record” approach – though with a record like Varadkar’s that may be the wisest move.

But, leaving my cynicism aside, both men have placed a big emphasis on policy and are looking to political developments elsewhere for inspiration and analysis. They both attempt to set out their vision, though they are somewhat competing ones, with Leo focussing on the “open and closed” visions of the world.

It is very laudable, the problem is that all their work is now clearly wasted.

The Fine Gael Oireachtas members have decided not to consider the competing visions of where the two candidates want to lead their party and decided, instead, to jump on board the bandwagon that they, or the Fine Gael party managers, have determined will suit their personal ambitions best.

In their rush to unify and coronate, the TDs and Senators have forgotten to first stop and think. Perhaps the Councillors and party members will act as a corrective.

Simon’s only last Quixotic hope is that they do and that they manage to persuade some Fine Gael TDs and Senators to quietly change their minds in the secrecy of the ballot box.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

Earlier: Going, You Know, Like, Forward

Meanwhile…

Need more DereK?

William Campbell (right) interviews Derek about Brexit and other STUFF in the latest edition of  his Here’s How current affairs podcast.

Listen here

From top: Michael Bernier addressing the dáil last week; Derek Mooney

Last Thursday, the EU’s chief negotiator in the Brexit process, Michel Barnier addressed the Oireachtas. While M. Barnier’s speech was, not surprisingly, short on detail it still contained sufficient key phrases, including this one:

I want to reassure the Irish people that in these negotiations, Ireland’s interests will be the European Union’s interests. We are in these negotiations together and a united EU will be there for Ireland

to reassure most of the assembled Deputies and Senators that he (and his considerable team of technocrats and negotiators) understand and have Ireland’s interests at heart.

It was a strong performance from the well regarded and highly experienced French politician. To his credit, he not only addressed the Dáil and Seanad, he then sat through some fourteen individual responses from party and groups leaders plus independent TDs and Senators.And he did all this while perched on a seat facing the Ceann Comhairle, just in front of Brendan Howlin and Gerry Adams.

Perhaps this was some bizarre cruel and unusual trial by ordeal set by the Dáil’s committee on procedures and privileges to test his stamina and fortitude? If so, he passed it easily.

Throughout his speech Barnier referred to the importance and significance of the actual negotiations themselves, using the word “negotiate” itself, or a variation on it, about a dozen times, including this important reference towards the end of his address:

“If we put things in the right order, if we negotiate with mutual respect, without any aggression or naivety and are open to finding solutions, there is no reason our strong Europe cannot maintain a strong relationship with the UK.”

The inclusion of the word “naivety” here – along with the word “aggression” – has some significance. Over the past few weeks, and particularly since the announcement of the UK general election, it has seemed that Theresa May and her ministers have been deliberately ignoring the usual dynamics of negotiation.

Speak with anyone with experience in negotiation, be it in labour relations or conflict resolution, and they will tell you how easily things can go wrong when the basic rules and principles are ignored.

They are not that complicated. Negotiations are general seen as either a positive or a zero-sum game and you adjust your approach, as appropriate, to get the result you want.

This requires a lot of preparation – including preparation around two key negotiating process dynamics.

The first of these is “attitudinal structuring” or, in other words, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. It involves getting the other party to start to see things from your point of view, and to begin to change their own attitudes accordingly.

The second one is, “expectation management”. That involves getting your own people prepared for likely outcomes and not running the risk of seeing delivery of any negotiation outcome fail because you over promised and then under-delivered.

On none of these three areas have the UK made any realistic moves. Rather they have insisted on badly playing their already lousy hand of self-dealt cards.

The preparation has been minimal with the boss of the top civil servants trade union bemoaning the fact that May’s government has under invested in the civil service with many senior civil servants are already working six and seven day weeks trying to prepare for Brexit negotiation.

Apart from some the occasional soothing noise from the UK’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, there has been virtually no attempt to “structure the attitude” of the EU towards the UK in a favourable direction. The traffic has been all in the other direction with senior ministers on May’s cabinet hurling insults and accusations across the channel as if they were rehearsing for a black and white episode of Dad’s Army.

What we have seen from the British Prime Minister and her team is a war on two front, not a preparation for a serious negotiation. The first front, is the one across the English Channel (and the Irish Sea) as they see themselves fighting a verbal war for liberation from a despotic and evil EU empire.

The second is the home front, but this front set along the land border with Scotland and the sea one with Northern Ireland, not downtown Walmington-on-Sea.

Where once May spoke of listening to the Brexit concerns and worries of the constituent nations of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and certain parts of Northern Ireland, she now studiously ignores them. It is worth noting that she spent more time electioneering at the Balmoral Show in Belfast last Friday than she had on the ground attempting to get the institutions up and running.

The net result of the hostilities on these two battlefronts is that she has raised expectations as to what she can achieve from Brexit to such a pitch that it cannot be delivered.

Indeed, the stakes are being raised on the other side of the negotiations. As I write this I see that President Macron has announced the appointment of Edouard Philippe as his Prime Minister.

Not only is Philippe a member of the centre right Les Republicains party, a signal of Macron’s outreach to them, he is also – as Mayor of Le Havre – an avowed critic of the Le Touquet Agreement – this could see all those refugee camps move from Calais to Dover and beyond.

While Theresa May has been politically astute in calling the election now and avoiding a more fraught campaign in the immediate aftermath of whatever eventually emerges from the Article 50 negotiations, she has over hyped the rhetoric and overheated the expectations from Brexit.

She has also considerably increased the chances of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. It is why Barnier warns of the perils of “naivety” and “aggression” in negotiations and why it was particularly important for him to do so in the parliament chamber of the EU member state poised to pay the heaviest price for such British folly.

About the only positive thing you can say for this early election is that it may mean that Boris Johnson won’t be Foreign Secretary after June 9th and an actual fully formed and sentient adult may be put in charge of the Foreign Office.
Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

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From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Derek Mooney

“But as I leave you I want you to know – just think how much you’re going to be missing. You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”

With these words, Richard Nixon departed the political scene, well almost. It was November 7th, 1962. He was concluding what he assumed would be his last ever political press conference after losing the race to become Governor of California. Two years earlier he had narrowly lost the Presidency to John F Kennedy.

While Enda Kenny’s departure, when it comes – possibly over the next week or two – will not be as bitter and waspish as Tricky Dicky’s, there may just be the slightest hint of the same sentiment: just think what we will potentially be missing.
Love him or loathe him, during his time as Taoiseach Enda has been anything but colourless or bland. For all his faults and failings, he showed quickly that he realised that one of the main roles of any Taoiseach is re-assuring the public that there is someone with a plan in charge.

He also grasped that this role as the nation’s re-assurer-in-chief requires you to get out and about and meet people as much as possible. In some ways, Enda has spent the past six years doing a passable Bertie Ahern impression.

Nonetheless, it is where we saw Enda at his best. When you meet him in person, either in a one to one chat or as part of an audience, you realise that Enda genuinely enjoys pressing the flesh.He possesses an ebullient personality, unlike either of his two possible successors, and so he comes across as warm and engaging when encountered personally.

This natural ability and skill was also a potential liability. His desire to have something to say to everyone and to do it spontaneously could lead to problems – as our greatest ever Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, famously observed – the danger with such off-the-cuff utterances is “not the little too little, it’s the little too much”.

Hence Enda’s occasional problems with the actualité. We saw it again last week in Canada when he misremembered discussions about human rights in Saudi Arabia and ended up recounting what he now wished he had said, rather than what he had actually said when sitting with the Princes.

One way his team of advisers had come up with to try to curb Enda’s effusive tendencies was to try to keep him to a script. It worked, but only to a certain extent. If they truly wanted him to him under control then all they had to do was to turn on a camera on.

Nothing was more guaranteed to make him appear wooden and staid than a TV camera. Whereas many senior politicians only truly come to life when the lights switch on and the cameras start rolling, Enda was the opposite. He shifted down the gears. Gone was the bonhomie and the spontaneity and in its place a stiffness of both language and style.

It partly explains why he did not like formal TV debates. It was not his strong suit. But this was not just because of the cameras, it was more than that. Enda is not a details man. Nor is he adept at recalling long tracts of script or prepared lines.

This was clear in his head to head party leaders debate with Bertie Ahern in the May 2007 election. During the pre-debate spin Fine Gael had so reduced the expectations for their man that all he had to do was show up and not set the desk on fire for them to claim a draw.

On the night, many pundits were in awe of Enda as he seemed to hold his own for about the first twenty minutes of the encounter. I recall a senior party colleague calling me about fifteen minutes into the exchange concerned that Enda was doing so well, but their worry was short lived.

By the twenty-minute mark Enda was starting to flag, he was running out of rehearsed material. Meanwhile Bertie, who absorbs and retains facts and figures, was just getting into his stride and used the remaining sixty minutes to leave Enda behind.

Another four years in opposition, including a failed heave against him, and a further six years as Taoiseach has improved Enda’s speech giving ability considerably. He delivered one of his best ever speeches in Canada last week. It was considered and reflective and included a section on the concept of “othering” that I mentioned here in a recent article saying:

“It is happening to the degree that the old battles of right and left might well be over, to be replaced by something that seeks, not to unite us, but to divide us, not only among ourselves, but from what they identify and objectify as the Other. They see the people not for who they are as individuals, but as what they are as an ethnic or faith or economic group.”

It was a well written speech, delivered extremely well. At several junctures, he seemed not to be reading it from a script, but rather delivering it extemporaneously. What just about stopped it from being a perfect speech, was the inclusion of the oft made, but inaccurate, claim that his government achieved the whole recovery by itself – conveniently omitting the reality that two thirds of the correctives had been made by the time he arrived in office, but old habits die hard, I suppose.

In a few week’s (or months) time I will miss having Enda to kick around. I may have a few others to miss too from around the Cabinet table. Instead I will have to focus on the possible successors: Simon, the Enda 2.0 or Leo, the anti-Enda.

Remarkably, both come to the threshold of high office with considerably more ministerial experience than Enda did when he won the leadership. But while both have many years more time spent around the Cabinet table, they come without Enda’s experience of political hard knocks. Their political paths have been charmed and uneventful, well they have certainly been devoid of any great track record or achievement.

Both will doubtless enjoy a political honeymoon and may even feel tempted to capitalise on it with a snap election – whether they will have that opportunity may well be determined by just how down and dirty the race to succeed Enda gets and how much damage will have to be repaired before facing out to meet the voters.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

okok-image-macron-le-penderek

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen: rivals in round two of France’s presidential election; Derek Mooney

Emmanuel Macron, the former Economy Minister under Socialist President Francois Hollande and now independent centrist candidate faces off against the second placed right-winger, Marine Le Pen in round two of the French presidential election in two weeks’ time.

Derek Mooney writes:

You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief last night as the first exit poll results from the French presidential election emerged showing Emmanuel Macron as the front runner.

It wasn’t just EU officials and other EU heads of government who were relieved, but also the heads of the polling companies whose predictions turned out to be extraordinary accurate, in many cases within just 1% of the result.

That sense of relief continued into this morning with European stock markets rallying and the Euro rising to a five-month peak with the news that France is likely to have a more centrist pro-EU President Emmanuel Macron.

Only a month ago the polls suggested that Le Pen might emerge as the lead candidate in the first round followed by Macron, with some showing Le Pen as high as 27% and Macron around 25%.

However; the collapse in recent weeks of the socialist party candidate Hamon saw the far left’s Melechon rally and join the leading pack, consisting of Le Pen, Macron and the conservative candidate Fillon, all within 3-4% of each other.

Macron’s youth and relative inexperience became election issues. The first public election that Macron has ever fought will likely see him elected as president. The accusation that “he rose without trace” has been thrown at macron. It is an unfair accusation.

Macron does have some experience having served as economy minister under President Hollande. Indeed, he managed to even reform French labour law, via the eponymous Loi Macron.

As a colleague of mine commented at the time of Macron’s time in office: labour market reform in France is difficult at the best of times and almost possible most of the time.

Macron encountered some stiff opposition from within the Socialist party with about 40 socialist deputies rebelling in protest at his modest proposals to modernise French labour law: including allowing shops to open 12 Sunday per year as opposed to the previous five and making changes on collective dismissals and the provision of a suitable alternative positions for french workers were made redundant.

So great was the rebellion that the President had to invoke a little used article within the French constitution giving the government the power to bypass the National Assembly and push through a law when it didn’t have majority support. It was a rare victory in the history of French labour market reform and allowed Macron to secure a reform measure that was aimed at the opening of the French economy.

For this reason Macron has never been trusted by the Socialist Party but neither he is a Gaullist (now called Les Republicains – interesting aside, the Gaullists were once Fianna Fáil’s allies in Europe). Macron is outside the French party system.

His En Marche! movement is centrist socially liberal and pro-EU with more than a hint of The Third Way/Neue Mitte of Blair and Schroeder.

It is no wonder that Brussels and most other European political leaders are happy to see Macron safely through to Round Two and safe in pole position to win the presidency with about 60/60+% of the vote.

His endorsement by Les Republicain’s Fillon and the Socialist party’s Hamon yesterday sent strong signals to their voters who to back in Round Two – but they will not all follow their advice.

But there is even great reason for EU leaders to feel happy. Marine Le Pen’s strong antipathy towards the Euro and the European Union, not to mention her easy and friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, would have considerably upset relationships in Brussels and sent the EU Commission and Council into a tail spin.

However, as often happens with Brussels, particularly with the current EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, it is possible that the EU may take the wrong lesson from the result and see a potential Macron win as some vindication for a euro-federalist project.

Le Pen’s support much like Brexit and even the Trump win in the USA is partly a populist revival, but it is also a response to globalisation and to the threats to the livelihoods posed by the twin pressures of international labour competition and automation.

Without question, even more than with Brexit, or even with Trump, there are clear elements of racism and xenophobia in Le Pen’s support base, but not every one of Le Pen’s 7.6 million voters is a racist or a bigot.

This will be even more true when she adds to that total in Round Two. By that point, she may have secured another 4 – 5 million votes from those who backed Fillon/Melechon/etc. in Round One. The vast majority of them are just people who are worried and frightened at the prospect of globalisation and see in it a loss of national identity and attachment.

It is a sense that was better expressed by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, during her speech as Tory leader when she said: ‘if you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere’.

Yes, we can see that Le Pen’s coarse appeal to patriotism and love of country does verge on the fascistic, nevertheless she does dissemble her true purpose just enough to allow it to strike a chord with many who do not see nationalism and national pride as a dirty word or concept.

Neither is it one that is entirely incompatible with the modern globalised world, nor a Europe working more closely together. To quote EU Council President, Donald Tusk from his open letter to EU leaders from last September:

“The keys to a healthy balance between the priorities of Member States and those of the Union lie in national capitals. The institutions should support the priorities as agreed among Member States, and not impose their own ones.”

Yes, we should cheer if and when Macron is elected in two weeks’ time. But, when that cheering has died down; let us then take a long hard look at the wider lessons from the campaigns in the Netherland, France, in the UK and later this year in Germany.

Let us see then if it is now time to pause: to stop the treaty changes for a while and to let the changes already made time to bed down and gain a wider acceptance.

This pause may be of even greater importance to us as our closest former ally takes themselves out of the EU.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

Earlier: A Limerick A Day

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From top: SDLP leader Colum Eastwood; Geryy Adams’ tweet yesterday

 

Derek Mooney writes:

OK. I must get this off my chest. I am no fan of RTÉ’s northern editor, Tommy Gorman. It is nothing personal. I know he is a good reporter and is well on top of his brief. It is just his ever so slightly over the top and knowing style of presentation that gets to me.

That said, there are moments when his tendency to go hyperbolic is appropriate. Last night was one of those. Reporting on SDLP leader Colum Eastwood’s Stormont press conference, Tommy recognised the significance of Eastwood’s call to protect the pro Remain vote in Northern Ireland.

He was right to do it. It is significant and may be the first new thing to happen organically in NI politics for a long time.

In declaring that he was “…open to discussions around how we can protect the interests of Northern Ireland and the majority who voted to remain” Eastwood opened the door on creating a new majority in Northern Ireland, one based on a set of idea and policies, not issues of identity and what Dr Cathal McManus has described as “Othering“.

OK, “create” is putting it a little strongly there. Eastwood is not “creating” that new majority. We have the eurosceptic Tories and UKIPers to thank for that.

The new majority in Northern Ireland is the 56% who voted to both reject Brexit and reject turning back the clock to the 1950s. Prime Minister May says the June 8 election to be about Brexit, well then… let it be about precisely that.

Even Gerry Adams agrees.

Within 25 minutes of Mrs May announcing her plans to call an election Gerry had put down his teddy and taken to Twitter to declare this election “another chance 2 vote against Brexit”.

It is. The UK general election is about Brexit. In Northern Ireland it is about doing everything that can possibly be done to avoid a hard Brexit and a hard border.

Remain/Anti-Brexit parties in the North must ensure that it is fought that way – and that means all the Anti-Brexit parties and politicians, not just the ones on one side of the traditional divide.

The Brexit referendum stirred people to vote in numbers that Northern Ireland had not seen in decades. Much to the surprise of many pundits, they stayed motivated and came out in equally large numbers at the last assembly election – even though the choices on offer to them then were more binary.

That is the way the DUP wants to fight this general election. Not surprisingly their main spokespeople have been saying that this election, like the last one and the one before and the one before that one, is all about saving the Union.

Not for the first, or the last, time, Messrs Foster, Dodds and Wilson are wrong. This is not about the union. We know that for two reasons:

  1. Mrs May has told us that it is about Brexit and…

2. If it was about safeguarding the Union and doing what was in the interests of its component parts would the Tory government at Westminster be calling an unnecessary election in the middle of a political crisis in Northern Ireland?

Mrs May and her Tory colleagues (well most of them – I am happy not to lump the likes of Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry etc. in with them) are not too bothered about how this election impacts the North, just in the way that she is not too deeply concerned about how her Brexit folly will impact either community in the North and either part of this island.

What may catch her attention though, is seeing some of the loudest champions of Brexit from Northern Ireland losing his seat in the House of Commons, such as Nigel Dodds, for example.

At the Brexit referendum in June 2016 his Belfast North constituency voted to remain by 20,128 votes to 19,844. A tight margin, but a win nonetheless. At the last Assembly election, the broadly pro remain parties in his constituency secured just short of 22,000 votes while the broadly pro Brexit ones got over 17,500.

I know you cannot presume that every SDLP, Alliance, SF or Green party voter is a definite anti Brexit voter, just in the same way that you cannot presume that every single DUP or UUP voter is a pro Brexiteer, but it is a better than even money bet that Mr Dodds could be toppled and replaced by an independent/non-aligned pro Remain candidate if the pro Remain parties were to put the future well-being of people before short-term party gain.

(NB Profs Garry and Coakley at QUB conducted a valuable piece of research on the political allegiances of pro/anti Brexit voters – it showed DUP voters were 70% Brexit and UUP ones 54% Brexit)

The same strategy should be applied in any constituency with a pro Brexit sitting MP – Tom Elliott in Fermanagh and South Tyrone comes to mind – the pro Remain parties agree to back a single pro Remain candidate.

This works the other way around too. The staunchly pro-Remain South Belfast MP, Alasdair McDonnell represents a constituency that voted overwhelmingly to remain (about 70% on a 68% turnout) in 2016 but, under the arcane British first-past-the-post voting system, he could lose that seat to the DUP if the DUP can secure a pact with the UUP and the pro remain parties cannibalise each other.

What Eastwood is suggesting is a no-brainer. It makes sense for the North and for us here in the Republic too. We need to send a signal from this island that a hard Brexit and hard border is bad for us all here. Our friends in the North, across both communities, can deliver that signal on all our behalf.

Securing agreement on how precisely to make this work among the pro Remain parties will not be easy. There will be difficulties and sensitivities for all of them, not to mention the requirement for some to break an old habit and actually put the bigger picture ahead of their own party’s welfare.

Besides, it is not as if there is not another election coming up again soon in the North when the old petty jealousies can be run out again.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

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From top: Simon Coveney and leo Varadkar; Derek Mooney

 

Former US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld spoke not just of the events themselves but of a government’s capacity to anticipate, and thus prepare, when he offered his Rumsfeld’s Rule of known and unknown knowns…

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know.

There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know.

But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

The latest Irish Water fiasco falls clearly into the first category.

Not only it is clearly a known known, it a well-known known. It was specifically provided for in the Confidence and Supply Agreement hammered out in Trinity College last year between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

There is no sensible or grown-up reason on earth why water charges should bring down this government. Both sides have known this was coming as both sides had agreed the timeline.

This process has been heading to an obvious conclusion from the very moment the committee was established – though why they established a committee with an even number of members that could be deadlocked is another issue.

Whether we like it or not and whether it is fair or not the simple political reality is that the complete mishandling of the whole water meter/charges process by successive Ministers since 2011 means that water charges are dead.

The 2016 general election result showed that.

Contrary to what Minister Varadkar might say across the floor of the Dáil the death knell of water charges was not struck by AAA, PBP, Sinn Féin or any other leftish anti-austerity group, but rather by Fine Gael and Labour designing and implementing a water metering and charging system that cost more to run than it raised in revenue.

To use phraseology that Minister Varadkar may grasp, not one red cent of the water charges collected was used to upgrade the water system.

It was taken up with administering the collection of water charges, charges not even based on the water meters which cost over €500million to install, and the payment of the so-called ‘water conservation grants.

While Minister Varadkar works on explaining the fiasco his government made of the implementation of water charges his colleague and leadership rival Minister Simon Coveney can attempt to come to grips with one key aspect of “new politics” that seems so far to have eluded him: namely, that Fine Gael does not have a majority in the Dáil and so it cannot tell Oireachtas committees what they may or may not decide.

The Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services was established by the Dáil last November, to consider the report of the Expert Commission and to report with recommendations to both Houses of the Oireachtas.

That is what it has been doing over its twenty, or so, meetings and that is what it will, all going well, finish doing tomorrow (Tuesday, April 11).

Perhaps Minister Coveney hopes he can thwart the committee’s report and so get out of the commitment given by Fine Gael in Annex II of its Confidence and Supply Agreement with Fianna Fáil thatL

“the recommendations of the Special Oireachtas Committee will be considered and voted upon by the Oireachtas within a one month period.”

Though he was not charged with its implementation in the last government, Simon Coveney owns Irish Water as a concept and a policy more than any other politician.

He is the one who came up with it back in November 2009 in his New Era policy document which promised €18 billion in investment and 105,000 new jobs.

He not only suggested the name, but also talked about “real economies of scale”. Who knew 2009 was such an age of innocence?

Within months of its launch, Michael Noonan was distancing himself from the grand promises of New Era, telling the Newstalk Breakfast Show on July 14, 2010 that:

“Simon Coveney was the author of that particular policy document and if you look at it, the figure of 100,000 jobs doesn’t appear anywhere in it; that seems to be some kind of public relations add-on that enthusiastic people attached to it.“

Both Coveney the Minister and Coveney the putative Fine Gael leader urgently need a political win somewhere.

His promise that hotel accommodation will no longer be used to house homeless families by July of this year rings hollow with the news that he hopes to achieve it by having the Dublin Region Homeless Executive take a five year lease to convert a disused hotel on O’Connell Street.

I don’t expect the Government to fall tomorrow, but the sturm und drang of the past few days on this very basic and long known known does suggest that the capacity of this Government and its agreement with Fianna Fáil to withstand a known unknown, never mind an unknown unknown is virtually nil.

If I were a screen printer I would be ordering the plastic corriboard sheeting for posters for later this year.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here usually every Monday. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

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From top Gibraltar: Derek Mooney

The Rockies may tumble, Gibraltar may crumble, but a hard Brexit is here to stay.

Derek Mooney writes

The cheering and celebrating of some in the British media in the aftermath of the triggering of Article 50 reminds me of Billy Connolly’s description of the welders and riveters at the launch of a new ship.

Remember those old black and white Pathé newsreel scenes of laughing Clydeside ship-builders lining the quays, cheering loudly and waving their caps ecstatically as the ship they had been working on for months eased down the slipway into the river.

As Connolly observed, once the cameras had gone away the reality slowly dawned on the ship’s labourers they had in fact been waving goodbye to their jobs and their work was done and they were on the dole again.

So it is with Brexit. In the days following Theresa May sending her Article 50 letter we have seen and heard a succession of British commentators, politicians and Ministers, hailing this as a historic moment and the dawn of some new great age.

Indeed, it only took five days for former Tory Leader Michael Howard to go full steam ahead on the jingoism hinting at the possibility of the UK being prepared to go to war with Spain over the future of Gibraltar.

Five days earlier Gibraltar, which voted by 96% as a British Overseas Territory for the UK to remain in the EU, did not merit even one single direct mention in Theresa May’s six-page Brexit letter.

That was a huge error by the British government. It signalled that that Gibraltar was not a major concern. The Spanish saw this and acted. It sought a veto on future post Brexit deals with and, in a very smart move, it went on to say that Spain won’t block Scotland joining the EU, removing a not insignificant argument against Scottish independence.

Howard was not the only one at it. Arch Tory commentator Simon Heffer was calling for a return to imperial measurements. Out with the kilo, the kilometre and the litre and back with the pounds, inches and ounces. Back too with rods, chains and firkins? Why not dump decimalisation and bring back the groat and cock-fighting while they are at it?

No amount of huffing and puffing by any amount of superannuated Tory lords or pundits can distract from the harsh reality that the upper hand in the relationship between the UK and EU passed to the EU27 from the very moment Theresa May signed that letter to Donald Tusk. And that is the way it is going to be for the next two years.

Have no doubts have Brexit is going to be bad news for the UK and going to be even worse news for us. The next 18 months to two years are going to be a time of great uncertainty.

One element of that uncertainty is set to be soon played out in the Irish Courts with the lodgement with the Irish High Court last Friday of papers in a legal case taken by Jolyon Maugham QC along with three Green party politicians from Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

The details of their claim are explained on the Goodlaw Project website but, in brief, they want to ask the European Court (via appeal from the Irish Courts) to determine whether the UK can later choose to withdraw its Art 50 notice to quit, via referendum or parliamentary vote and also what happens to the EU citizenship rights of UK citizens post Brexit as EU Treaties seems to suggest these rights are additional to national citizenship?

These are important questions for us here as they touch on the Common Travel Area and trade between the UK and Ireland (the case also deals with membership of the European Economic Area).

As the Brexit negotiations get underway a whole range of issues will crop up, including some many of us had not considered as impacted by Brexit. One such potential area is data protection and data privacy.

There are strict rules under which companies can send the personal data of EU citizens outside the EU, in particular to the US. This this due to concerns that the US intelligence agencies could have unfettered bulk access to such data – as demonstrated in the Edward Snowden revelations.

Less than two years ago, the European Court of Justice struck down the old “Safe Harbour” system for sending personal data to the US. It did so following a case brought to the Irish High Court by Max Schrems over the transfer of data to the US by an Irish subsidiary of Facebook.

Safe Harbour has now been replaced by what the EU Commissions says is a more robust system called Privacy Shield in which the US authorities guarantee that the personal data of the EU citizens will not be accessed by US security services in bulk operations.

So, what happens to data transfers from the EU to the UK post-Brexit? The UK intelligence and security networks are not averse to a bit of bulk surveillance, especially with the powers they have just been given by the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 – also called the “snoopers charter”.

Will data transfers to the UK be put on hold while the EU and the UK negotiate a UK/EU Privacy Shield… and remember negotiations on this will not likely start until after the end of the two-year Article 50 period.

This could have some ramifications for us here as so many of the companies we deal with on a day-to-day basis, TV, internet providers, shops and grocery stores process our customer data in the UK.

They operate their customer loyalty programmes from the UK. Next time you call up customer service to check on a delivery, see how often you end up with a UK based call centre.

Brexit is a bad deal. Given the number of false promises it has been based upon, it may well be holed before the waterline.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here usually every Monday. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

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From top: DUP negoitiating team and Sinn Féins this morning; Derek Mooney

 

At 4pm today Northern Ireland will once again be pitched into a political vacuum when the Assembly, elected by the people just three weeks ago, fails to nominate a joint First and Deputy First Minister.

Derek Mooney writes:

As I pointed out in a recent article here it is not that long since the two main parties in the North where proudly boasting about how well they were working together. Exactly 18 weeks ago The Irish News carried a joint article from the then First and Deputy First Minister with the headline: First and Deputy First Minister vow to just ‘get on with the work’ with ‘no gimmicks’.

If only their parties had both stuck to that promise. In that article both the DUP and Sinn Féin presented themselves as the twin pillars of progress and duty, unlike those bold people in the SDLP, UUP and Alliance, saying:

“Our two parties [DUP & SF] are now in an Executive facing in the same direction. We made promises to voters that we will keep – taking on the heavy responsibilities that come with elected office, governing in their best interests, tackling head-on the tough decisions. Others decided to duck the challenges and retreat to the Opposition benches. That is a matter for them…. We are in this for the long haul”

How hollow these words now appear. So, what changed the political landscape to take the DUP and Sinn Féin from working together in an Executive “tackling head-on the tough decisions” to being unable to even sit together?

It came barely eight weeks after the joint article. Addressing a Sinn Féin meeting at the Felons Club in Belfast on January 7th, Gerry Adams catalogued all the issues on which Sinn Féin in government had failed, though this clearly was not how he chose to describe it. Just three days later Martin McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister.

The turnabout did not take eight weeks, it took just two and a half – that was the gap between the Felons Club speech and Sinn Féin abstaining on the December 19th vote of No Confidence in Arlene Foster.

Adams used the RHI scandal and the DUP’s inept handling of it to turn the November 21 joint declaration from Foster and McGuinness on its head. He had come to recognise something that voters had already seen – that Sinn Féin in office was not delivering.

Top of his list of failures was the failure to produce a Bill of Rights followed by the absence of an Irish Language Act. There were other issues too; the decision to renege on the Programme for Government commitment on the Long Kesh site; the DUP’s resistance to the legacy and truth recovery mechanisms of the Stormont House agreement; the Red Sky scandal and the Project Eagle debacle.

Remember, Adams was making this speech less than eight weeks after Martin McGuinness had co-written The Irish News article that opened with the line:

Day by day, slowly but surely, politics here is changing. And it’s for the better.

No is wasn’t and no it isn’t. The RHI scandal did not expose the flaws and weaknesses in the DUP/Sinn Féin relationship rather it provided an opportunity for both parties to exploit the crisis and play petty politics to gain advantage over each other. It was game-playing by both, only the DUP showed itself to be a ham-fisted performer.

That said, it took hard line elements in both parties to destroy what little trust was there and so they each have a role and a responsibility to re-establish the trust needed to form an Executive. Another Assembly election will not make this any easier, indeed another election will probably only serve to reward both the DUP and Sinn Féin and

While the slippery road to the last unnecessary Assembly election was paved by the DUP, today’s failure has a few more authors, namely Adams and the British Government with some left over for our own dear government.

Adams’ had no strategic or political interest in resolving this crisis today. This has been his modus operandi for most of his career, well for the latter political portion of it. When things get tough Adams throws all the balls in the air and then lectures others at length about their responsibility to sort it out.

It is what he has been doing for the past few weeks and yet this fact seems to have escaped Arlene Foster and Co., whose continuing response has been to declare that they want a return to the Executive with no pre-conditions, as if the past few weeks have not happened.

There are clearly issues to be resolved, starting with the Irish Language Act and the sensitive area of legacy. To be fair to the DUP these are not areas which they alone can address. The British Government has a great deal of responsibility – but London’s man in Belfast, James Brokenshire appears unwilling to commit and reluctant to engage.

His dithering and hesitancy since his appointment has been as big a contributor to the current impasse as either Foster or Adams. While he may seek out the role of the aloof umpire, he is not – and Dublin needs to firmly remind him of this. Any additional time he intends to provide for further negotiations will be pointless unless he intends to accompany that extra time with some extra engagement and commitments of his own.

The SDLP and Sinn Féin are right that the Irish Language Act was a key commitment in the 2006 St Andrew’s Agreement and it is one signed up to by the DUP, but the commitment was that the British Government would introduce the legislation. Annex B clearly states that:

The [British] Government will introduce an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and Ireland and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language.

The “incoming Executive” referred to here was the one headed up by Paisley and McGuinness.

The issues around legacy are even more complex. The British government has been using a national security veto to hold up progress on getting at the truth as well as being slow to provide funding for historical inquests.

A report by Pablo De Greiff, the UN special rapporteur, took them to task on both points late last year. It warned against using “national security” as a way of avoiding the UK government’s obligations to provide information about the past and called for the Lord Chief Justice Morgan’s plan on legacy inquests to be resourced and implemented.

But legacy is not an issue for one side alone. The UN special rapporteur cites various estimates of the numbers killed during the Troubles, including an analysis of the 3,593 killings between 1969 and 1998 which suggests that: 422 were killed by the Security Forces, 983 by Loyalist para-militaries and 2,001 by so-called Republican para-militaries.

The Irish Government too must shoulder some blame for its passivity over recent days and weeks. It has been too content to play second fiddle to the British and has lost sight of its responsibilities and its duties as the co-guarantor of the Agreement.

While this current impasse may yet be resolved and we may soon see the institutions up and running, we cannot lose sight of how and why we have again come to this point. The Good Friday Agreement institutions were established to show that politics can work.

At some points, they have succeeded, but the weakness now lies with the bodies charged with operating those institutions: the political parties.

Today they have shown that they are the ones who are not fit for purpose.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here usually every Monday. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

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From top: Donald Trump and Enda Kenny; Derek Mooney

While one good speech, even one being posted repeatedly on Social Media across the world, will not stop Enda’s challengers cold in their tracks, it does precisely what it was intended to.

Derek Mooney writes:

The best way to steal a salami, according to an old central European proverb, is to take it one slice at a time. I say “old central European proverb”, but just like Donald Trump’s old Irish proverb I may be mixing or even making it up.

Not that the origins matter a lot. I could just have easily cited the Johnny Cash song “One Piece at a Time” the point here is that “salami-slicing” is well-known and long established political and negotiating principle. You assure the person across the table from you that you know you can’t have everything you want, but if you can just have a tiny bit more on this matter and a tiny bit more on that issue then you will both be well on the way to concluding a deal.

I mention “salami-slicing” as it appears from the outside (and given my own political allegiances, I do mean way on the outside) that this is the tactic that Enda Kenny is employing to frustrate his challengers and to stay in office, dare I say, even in power, for a while longer.

The first slice that Enda stole, and probably the most crucial slice, was his seizing the timing of whole leadership selection process. He saw that his opponents, particularly the pro Leo faction, were gathering pace and could, if not quickly thrown off balance, achieve such a momentum as to roll him unceremoniously out of office.

Enda showed the real and genuine tactical skills that Brendan Halligan mentioned on Sunday’s The Week in Politics and saw that his grip on the office was slipping and the best way to cling on was not to publicly face down his challengers or enter into any public slanging match with them, but rather to take the momentum from them by wresting control of the timing.

That he did. Not only did he change the dynamics of the process, he also gained some time and space for himself and his supporters to regroup.

Now we see him steal slice two of the salami by presenting us, but more significantly the members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, with the image of Enda the international statesman and strong leader.

Not for the first time Enda proposed a major constitutional change when his leadership was in peril. Last time it was Seanad abolition, this time it was Presidential votes for the diaspora and the North.

While the referendum tactic may have misfired, he made sure that his next one didn’t. His “St Patrick is the patron saint of emigrants” speech worked. Not only that, it worked spectacularly well on a global stage. While Enda and his time may just have been aiming for a small audience at home, they succeeded in connecting with a far wider one.

While one good speech, even one being posted repeatedly on Social Media across the world, will not stop Enda’s challengers cold in their tracks, it does precisely what it was intended to do. It is just one more salami slice taken that helps to bolster his position by making some waverers think twice about replacing him.

The British government’s announcement this morning that they will trigger the Article 50 Brexit process on Wednesday week (March 29) also aid Enda Kenny’s mission to stay, just a little bit longer. Indeed, next week heralds two important dates that aid that goal. First, is the aforementioned Brexit trigger date and second, is the deadline for the three weeks of post assembly elections talks.

In New York last week, Enda told journalists he did not intend to announce any retirement plans until the political uncertainty in Northern Ireland was addressed and the EU’s negotiating stance on Brexit is agreed.

According to the EU Council President, Donald Tusk, the latter should take six or so weeks from the triggering of Art 50, putting it into the middle of May, give or take.

Getting the Assembly back up and running is a more difficult formula to calculate. While it is possible that it could be all done and dusted by the March 27, this is Northern Ireland and history tells us that in the North most deadlines are missed.

According the Northern Ireland Assembly’s website:

If the main parties cannot agree to form the Executive by the deadline date of 4pm on 27 March, the law states that the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire MP, must call another election, ‘within a reasonable period of time’. The power to suspend the Assembly was repealed following the St Andrews Agreement (October 2006), so new legislation would have to be passed through Westminster for this to happen.

Speaking outside the White House last week Enda appeared to hint at a third option, a possible extension of the talk time, saying:

“I have spoken very clearly to the British Prime Minister and we are both agreed that there will be no return to direct rule from London”

While an official spokesperson for the British government did try to somewhat distance itself from the Taoiseach’s comments, they did not flat out deny or contradict them saying that it wanted to see devolution restored and “was not speculating on any other outcome”. Though it did pointedly remark that maintaining political stability in Northern Ireland was its responsibility.

In reality, the Executive will return when Gerry Adams determines that he has nothing more politically to gain from keeping the political balls in the air and decides to allow his MLAs elect a First and Deputy First Minister.

So, it could be argued, that Gerry Adams could have more say in how long Enda remains in office than Noel Rock, Pat Deering or Alan Farrell. In the meantime, Enda will try to keep on slicing that salami through April, May… maybe even June… until he realises that there is so little left to it that it is not worth having.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His

12/3/2017 Taoiseach's Visit To United States of America. Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny speaking about an announcement that the Government had taken a decision to move forward with plans to hold a referendum to give the right to vote in presidential elections to Irish citizens abroad, including those in Northern Ireland during his visit to Philadelphia as part of his Saint Patrick's day tour of the USA. Photo Tom Keenan/Merrion Street

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From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Philadelphia, USA yesterday; Derek Mooney

The government’s proposed referendum, if not managed and led effectively, could perversely be turned into a reverse border pol.

Derek Mooney writes:

Enda Kenny’s fascination with his predecessor John A. Costello continues.  Not only is Enda determined to beat Costello’s record for time served as Taoiseach, he now seems to want to eclipse Costello’s penchant from making major constitutional announcements outside the country.

Costello announced his intention for Ireland to abandon the External Relations Act (and effectively quit the British Commonwealth and declare itself Republic) during a visit to Canada in 1948, while Kenny announces in Philadelphia that he intends to hold a referendum to give the Irish diaspora votes in future Irish presidential elections – but only in elections after the next one.

There are many legends about Costello’s Ottawa announcement, including one version that claims he made it when was “tired and emotional” and another that asserts he did it after being offended by the placing of a replica of the Roaring Meg canon used in the Siege of Derry in front of him on the dining table at a formal dinner at the Governor General’s residence. But they are only legends.

Moves to repeal to External Relations Act, which gave the British Crown limited recognition around foreign relations, i.e. Irish diplomats were formally accredited by the King, were already afoot before Costello even came to office. In late 1947 Éamon de Valera’s Fianna Fáil government started preparing a repeal bill, but work on this was halted by the February 1948 election.

At least Costello was able to announce something which he could immediately legislate for and see carried into action within a reasonable space of time. Within eight months Ireland was out of the Commonwealth), in Enda’s case he has just announced plans which may not come to fruition for another 8 years (never mind 8 months) – and only then if they are passed in a Referendum, which is no absolute certainty.

We must wait a few weeks more to see the detail of the Governments proposals on extending voting rights in Presidential Elections from 2025 onwards to Irish citizens living outside of the Republic.

From what the Minister of State for the Diaspora said on Radio this morning it appears that the Government intends to publish a range of options rather than a specific plan, which suggests that this whole adventure may not even be as planned and prepared as Costello’s 1948 one.

According to Minister of State McHugh there are an estimated 1.8 million citizens outside the State and a potential electorate of 1.87 million in Northern Ireland. To put this in context the total electorate eligible to vote at the October 2011 Presidential Election was just 3.2 million (On the day just 1.8m (56%) of them chose to vote).

While it is likely, if not certain, that Enda Kenny will neither be Taoiseach nor leader of Fine Gael by the time the referendum comes around, his shadow will hang over this and let’s not forget that Enda has had a penchant for starting referendums that he cannot win.

Will this be another one? I personally hope not, but I must admit that I am far from thrilled or enthused by what I have heard from the Taoiseach and his Ministers over the past few hours.

Surely such a major constitutional change should be accompanied by detailed research and argument, not followed along by broad range of options for consideration to be published a month or so later.

While I can see some merit in Leo Varadkar’s description of the proposal allowing for the transformation of the Presidency into one for the whole Irish nation, highlighting the fact that Ireland has become a global nation via its diaspora, won’t we also be effectively limiting the Presidency to just a symbolic, ceremonial role?

Though they are not often exercised, the Irish President does have important constitutional functions, are we perhaps diluting those for what it effectively just a gesture?

I also worry about how the referendum campaign make shape up. As we have seen in past campaigns, indeed as Leo Varadkar has observed: referendums are “by and large” never what they are supposed to be about and they can often turn into a votes on “extraneous issues… or decisions being made by the Government, such as cutbacks.”

The government’s proposed referendum, if not managed and led effectively, could perversely be turned into a reverse border poll – with the focus falling not on the wider diaspora or on the positives of giving Irish citizens in the North a formal recognition in our political process – but on worse aspect of the North and the prospect of allowing a load of hard-line DUP voters (and others) have any kind of say in the South.

Public attitudes to the North down here as not always as positive and welcoming as we would have ourselves believe. A recent poll for RTE by Dr Kevin Cunningham’s Ireland Thinks found a very mixed appetite for a United Ireland among voters in the Republic, particularly when it comes to the costs of re-unification. It roughly found that that voters in the Republic split three ways with one third being in favour, one third against and one third undecided.

That said, Brexit has pushed Irish re-unification way up the political agenda for all parties North or South: not as an absolute inevitability, but as an increasingly likely consequence of the economic consequences of Brexit.

Re-unification needs to be seriously considered now, not as some rhetorical wrap the green flag around me slogan, but as a real and viable political option. This is something that needs to be thought through seriously, which is why Micheál Martin’s announcement today that Fianna Fáil will soon publish its 12-point plan to prepare the way for unification of the island is so welcome.

We need to start talking and preparing for unification by strengthening the economic, political and educational links between the Republic and Northern Ireland. While these could help re-unification, even if that were not to come about, they would still be mutually beneficial.

Hopefully Fianna Fáil’s proposals, due in the coming months, will help provide a sound and considered backdrop for the debate on giving votes for citizens North of the border.

For the record, when it comes to votes for Irish citizens outside the jurisdiction my own preference would be to look to Leinster House rather than Áras an Uachtaráin and follow the French model by having a constituency in parliament (either in the Dáil or Seanad) voted for exclusively by Irish citizens living outside the Republic,

in fact I would suggest two such constituencies: one for Irish citizens living in the North and one for Irish Citizens living elsewhere.

As it stands today, while I am inclined to vote what Enda Kenny announced in Philadelphia, I am not so enthused as to go out campaigning for it – on that score, I remain to be convinced.

Over to you Leo or Simon.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here usually every Monday. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney