Tag Archives: Anne-Marie on Wednesday

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From top: Catherine Murphy, Stephen Donnelly and Roisin Shorthall; Anne Marie McNally

Before he quit The Social Democrats and at a time of enormous growth and change for the party Stephen Donnelly seemed to be stepping back.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

“I didn’t get up the pole for Stephen Donnelly”

This was the message I got from a (male) member of my volunteer group in Dublin Mid-West and brings me on to a subject I feel it would be unfair of me not to address, namely this week’s news regarding the departure of my friend and former colleague Stephen Donnelly from the party I both work for currently and stood for at the last General Election.

While my volunteer was clearly joking, the underlying message is in fact the most important point to remember in what can very often descend into a media bubble about leaders and personalities and individuals.

The bigger picture can sometimes be lost in the midst of all that so it’s important to put it back to the fore. The bigger picture here is that no party, no matter its size can ever be dependent on one individual.

Social Democracy is a movement; it is a project which we’ve said from the get-go will be a long-term project and a constant inching towards a social democratic vision for Irish society.

The same is true of other political projects no matter where along their timeline they may be. If Michéal Martin left Fianna Fáil right now they would surely take a hit but it wouldn’t be the end of Fianna Fáil. Likewise for Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Féin and every other party across Ireland and the world.

That text message was my volunteer telling me that despite the fact that Stephen was a colleague, a friend, an impressive performer, an accomplished parliamentarian and an astute mind, he was not the be all and end all of what we’re trying to achieve here and when my volunteer spent winter evenings dangling precariously from poles he didn’t do it because he was impressed by Stephen Donnelly. 

And nor did he do it because he liked me personally, he did it because he fundamentally believed in the vision that the party; the movement, was putting forward in terms of honest politics, a fair society and a strong economy.

The values underpinning the party are Equality, Democracy, sustainability and progress. These are the things that got people involved in the first place; the things which encouraged people to leave their sofas and brave rainy evenings up poles, knocking on doors and leaflet dropping across Ireland.

Monday was a disappointing day for us. There’ll be many of those in politics and I entered into this, as did my colleagues with our eyes wide open.

The true test is how you weather those storms and move forward. We’ll do that and Stephen will do that, in different ways and in different directions and that’s fine, certainly we wish Stephen well on his journey wherever it may take him.

They say hindsight’s a great thing and that’s certainly true in this case. We’ve used the word ‘disengaged’ quite a bit and that’s because it’s the truth.

At a time of enormous growth and change for the party, Stephen seemed to step back. We’ve used the analogy before of the project being akin to building an aircraft while in flight and that really is indicative of the task at hand.

While we were caught up in the frenetic day to day work required for that task, Stephen’s disengagement was noticeable but I never truly believed his heart wasn’t in it to the extent he’d actually quit.

Stephen said in yesterday’s Irish independent that his ‘departure had been coming for some time’ so I guess his disengagement was, in hindsight, something more than just someone needing to take a breather at an inopportune time.

I can genuinely tell you I’ve no idea why Stephen’s heart left the project so soon after its commencement or why he chose to disengage in the way he did over the last few months.

But whatever his reasons, I can categorically say that there were no rows, no clashes and no drama. We only found out last Sunday that Stephen was leaving for definite. I guess you could channel Gwyneth and say it was, on Stephen’s part at least, a ‘conscious uncoupling’!

For our part the enormous workload hasn’t gotten any smaller by virtue of recent events and so we resume normal service post haste; the daily slog that is the backroom of the shiny face of politics you see in front of a camera; the late night meetings and conference calls and the weekend meetings that just can’t be avoided no matter the personal demands.

Now, we will renew our strength in putting our shoulder to the wheel and as we enter the new Dáil term we do so with a new staff team, an exciting list of political priorities and our inaugural National Conference to be held in Mid-November.

Our efforts will not be employed discussing travails that are par for the course in political life, they will be focused on delivering on the vision of Social Democracy we put forward and which encouraged people across the country to stick a cable tie between their teeth and get up the pole.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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From top: CNBC’s David Faber interviews Michael Noonan  yesterday; Anne Marie McNally

Our most senior finance official can’t see why a company that routes billions upon billions of euros through our country should have a liability regarding that transaction.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

I’m going to go right ahead and assume that by now you are aware of the EU Commission’s ruling that Apple owes Ireland Inc. somewhere in the region of €13 billion in tax liabilities based on profits routed through Ireland from sales in other countries in order to avoid tax liabilities.

Basically, as per the ruling: “if you buy an iPhone in Berlin or Rome you contractually buy it from Apples Sales International in Cork.

In the exceptionally strongly worded ruling from the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, she stated that “Irish tax rulings to Apple are illegal State aid… with effective taxation as low as 0.005.”

Essentially for every one million euro of profit made in 2014 they paid an effective tax rate of 0.005%...it wasn’t just a sweet deal; it was an overdose of sweet akin to falling into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river.

In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, debate raged across Ireland regarding our treatment of multi-nationals with regards to tax. Many pointed to the jobs apple have created in Cork while others pointed to the loss of €13 billion in tax revenue that we could have had.

It appeared that most people lamented the arrangements but some felt they were justified in the circumstances while others disagreed.

In the middle of it all was the reality of an Ireland that is in hock to Europe for generations to come and a society that has spent the relevant years trying to weather the cruellest of cuts – cuts that have left us in the midst of a housing and homeless crisis, a health service on its knees and a rate of child poverty that continues to rise.

Those very real effects from an economy that should have benefitted from appropriate tax revenues cannot be overstated.

The jobs Apple have created in Ireland are undoubtedly important but so too are the 7 out of every 10 jobs that exist in small and medium companies here in Ireland – many of which were forced to go to the wall during the recession when no sweet deals or any type of reliefs were available to them.

But rather than be outraged or contrite in the face of such a definitive ruling, our Minister for Finance and, by extension, our Government immediately declared the intention to appeal the Commission’s ruling!

Minister Noonan is saying we will spend an unspecified but obviously obscene amount of money fighting the decision that we are owed money from a multi-national firm worth hundreds of billions.

In an interview on the American CNBC outlet yesterday afternoon Minister Noonan said: “On the back of my Apple iPhone it says designed in California and made in China” and therefore he couldn’t see why Ireland would tax it.

Really?

The most senior finance official in the country can’t see why a company that routes billions upon billions of euros through our country should have a liability regarding that transaction? Well that’s reassuring, eh?

Though is it really all that surprising? The same man who quite literally rolled out the red carpet and the dancing girls when Donald Trump suggestively cocked an eyebrow in his direction certainly appears to have a fondness for selling ourselves out at the faintest sniff of American influence.

The Minister’s attitude is not entirely different to the Irish Government’s attitude to the US use of Shannon airport (ironically the same airport where Trump’s red carpet welcome happened) for its war efforts in the Middle East: “But shure they’re only using us to route through so we can’t really interfere now can we, and…well, they’re American y’know?”

This laissez-faire, hands-off approach serves no purpose but to perpetuate that old schtick routine whereby we cower in awe of those big important Americans and all the benefits that they can bestow on us lowly auld Irish dimwit cousins.

I’m not denying the existence of many of those very real benefits but we can’t close our eyes and pretend we accrue them without paying very real prices.

The term effective corporation tax rate requires examination. 0.005% may prove effective for Apple but it certainly isn’t in any way effective for us and we cannot continue to kid ourselves that our system is either transparent or fair.

No doubt this is a debate that has only just begun but while we argue back and forth, our Government will commence a legal appeal that will cost us – you and me- a small fortune in order to say we are NOT owed money.

Now if that isn’t a double Irish, I don’t know what is!

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

Top pic: CNBC

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From top: Pat Hickey arrested in Rio; Anne Marie McNally

Nobody in Ireland expected someone like Pat Hickey to be subjected to the full rigours of the law.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

Sport, it evokes visceral reactions in us no matter what our activity of choice.

Even those with very little interest in organised sports will find themselves caught up in the fervour of national support when the soccer team reaches a major championship or our Rugby lads or lasses smash it in the Six Nations or, as the last few weeks have shown us, our athletes head to the Olympics.

This time we got the full gamut of the human emotional spectrum.

We felt tremendously upset when Katie Taylor lost, not just for our nation’s loss of a medal but also for Katie personally, we jumped with passion and screamed in delight at 2am as Thomas Barr surpassed all expectations in the hurdles; we spewed with anger when we saw that the Michael Conlan judges weren’t in fact wearing balaclavas when they carried out their daylight robbery; we glowed with pride when Annalise Murphy and the O’Donovan brothers took silver in their categories and we felt awe as we attached all of our athletes compete on the international stage.

Then a police officer knocked on Pat Hickey’s door and we felt embarrassment. And shock.

There it was…we’d come through the whole spectrum, a hair-raising rollercoaster of human emotion culminating in a severe drop which left us spinning.

The collective gasps, my own included, which resonated around Ireland on the day Pat Hickey was confronted in his hotel room (or more accurately in the hotel room next to his)  by a seriously unimpressed Rio police force, are testament to our psyche as to how we expect ‘important’ people to be handled by the law.

Here was a man in the nip, hiding in a hotel room next to his while his wife told the police at the door that he’d left the country. It plays like a slapstick sitcom scene yet here was one of the most senior sports officials in Ireland as the main protagonist.

The audacity of the Brazilian police to go and arrest someone so high profile, in such a public fashion, was eye-popping to us here in Ireland who are more used to a scandal being handled by a couple of demure political interviews where there’s a bit of hand-wringing and talk about looking at setting up an inquiry which will deliver a report to be considered by politicians who will once more wring their hands.

Even if it gets to a full Tribunal stage sure no action really comes of it, does it? In essence nobody really expects anyone in as senior a position as Pat Hickey to be subjected to the full rigours of the law the way others beneath him might be.

It’s almost like a form of Stockholm syndrome we are suffering from. We know when things are wrong and we call it out but by and large our expectations have been diminished to the point that we are just happy to see something being recognised rather than actually brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

It’s not because we don’t want to see real repercussions it’s that we’ve been conditioned not to expect them.

It’s why someone who has had the gravest of findings made against him by a Tribunal of Inquiry can proudly strut around the Aviva chatting about his funding of the FAI management team or why the other person also lambasted by the same Tribunal has no qualms about putting his name on a ballot paper – and can have thousands of people vote for him regardless!

This week we watched as Minister Leo Varadkar told us that he believes that anyone availing of State services who dares to criticise them publicly should have their most confidential personal details become fair game in the public sphere.

He believes it so strongly that he wants to bring forward new legislation which would enable him to do it.

You see according to Minister Varadkar these are the real issues we need to concern ourselves with, vulnerable people, reliant on State services, daring to speak out and criticise them, or to have the audacity to try to take a bit of control of their child’s future.

These are the people who need to be intimidated and silenced lest they make a mockery of our State.

Ironically the outlet owned by the same person who had such grave findings made against him by Moriarty, had no hesitation in becoming the Minister’s hatchet for this particular punishment beating on the latest vulnerable person who dared to get a bit uppity about their own life on the margins of society.

If only such dogged ‘reporters’ could give the same tenacity to the Moriarty findings, or the Cregan Inquiry into Siteserv we’d be a lot better served.

While in Rio the Brazilian police get on with the job of policing, our lads have, guess what…yup, they’ve set up an inquiry. Cue hands being wrung and costs to the State accruing rapidly.

Ah yeah, it’s another Irish white-collar investigation. We could win 10 Golds in that category, no doubt.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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From top: The Social progress Indicator 2016, Anne Marie McNally

According to the 2016 Social Progress Indicator Ireland is among the top 20 best countries in the world in which to live.

So why aren’t we feeling it?

Anne Marie McNally writes:

Ireland is the 12th best country in the world in which to live.So we were told yesterday. The annual Social Progress indicator – conducted, ironically, in conjunction with one of the largest global finance companies, Deloitte, has placed us 12th based on a number of factors including health, education, equality and opportunity.

If you’ve been following the recent press regarding the difficulties faced by single parents trying to get into education; or the patients languishing on waiting lists or trolleys you might be surprised to see that health and education were two of the factors which raised our ranking to its slot just outside the top 10.

While the social justice campaigner in me wants to point out the hypocrisy of such a high ranking in both those areas I feel it’s only fair to look at things objectively and agree that in the grand scheme of things we have, in theory at least, the foundations for decent public health and education systems.

The premise of a universally accessible publicly funded health care system is there – it has not been realised and it has only recently become centre stage when the majority of the Dáil agreed to Róisín Shortall’s request to set up a specific health committee tasked with establishing a system that actually works on those principles.

And not just one that says it does while effectively forcing citizens to engage in a two-tier system for fear of not receiving treatment when and if needed.

Our education system is similar. On the face of it we have a fantastic education system that can be available to all with hard-work and studious dedication.

Yet time and time again the league tables and attrition rates to third level show us that hard work and dedication is not always enough because by and large the same areas go forth and prosper in that system while lower income areas whither on the bottom of third level admission rankings.

Don’t try and tell me that children from these areas don’t begin their schooling with the same drive and capability for hard-work and dedication as those from more affluent areas yet somewhere along the way a chasm opens up and far too many fall through the cracks.

The system itself may be based on laudable principles but the lived reality of it is very different for far too many.

Equality of opportunity is one thing; equality of outcome is an entirely different thing.

We fared exceptionally well for equality no doubt aided by our fantastic Yes vote in the Marriage Referendum yet at the same time we rank poorly when it comes to personal freedoms and personal rights and choices – I’d hazard a guess that our continuing denial of bodily autonomy to half the population may have something to do with that. Go figure.

The indicators used to measure basic human needs and wellbeing included things such as availability of affordable housing; broadband availability; and quality of the water infrastructure. No need for me to tell you how we fared in those regards -nsuffice to say not good!

Now I’m sure there’ll be those who shout ‘aha – there’s the proof that we shouldn’t be protesting water charges and should just get on with paying our bills so that our infrastructure may be repaired’.

To that I say ‘observe the extreme wastage of public funds that have been squandered on PR operations, golden handshakes, bloated salaries, quango-esque bonus payments and the general ‘two-finger to Joe citizen’ behaviour that has come to epitomise Irish Water and ask yourself where the investment in our infrastructure has been despite the spending of billions on the entity thus far (and that’s not hyperbole – in excess of €1 billion has been spent)’.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Deloitte itself (one of the partners involved in the compilation of this ranking) has earned itself a tidy little sum in ‘consultancy fees’ from the Irish Water enterprise!

The simple fact remains that all these indicators and ranking tables can judge things based on the paper version of our systems or we, as citizens living with them daily, can judge the systems based on our lived realities and the society we have in front of us today.

On that basis I would guess that the majority of us would agree – even if on varying levels- that while yes, some things are good and most things are better than many other countries, we can and we should do better.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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From top: Dick Spring (left) and Barry Desmond launching Labour Party’s General Election campaign, 1992; Anne Marie McNally

In Irish politics, long-term performance is less important than short-term factors

Anne Marie McNally writes:

To support the ins when things are going well; to support the outs when they seem to be going badly, in spite of all that has been said about Tweedledum and Tweedledee, is the essence of popular Government’ (Walter Lippman, The Phantom Public)

Those words were uttered in 1925 over 90 years ago but surely we, as an engaged citizenry, have evolved from such simplistic political actions and we instead base our electoral decisions on a complete overview and a more considered analysis of the long-term performance of those we might consider gifting our vote to.

We’re not simply going to fall for the hype and the fancy spun-out words tapping into the zeitgeist sure we’re not?

We’re going to judge people and their respective parties based on past actions and their ability to stand by their word, aren’t we?

You would think, nay hope, that would be the case. However, recent experiences, and current polls, seem to indicate that that is not in fact the case.

In 1992 when Labour swept to power, political scholars including Brian Girvin commented that despite the strong showing by Labour the result was less a vote of confidence in that party but rather a vote for change.

The same can be said of Fine Gael’s success in 2011 when the electorate quite literally went ABFF (Anybody But Fianna Fáil), most recently in 2016 the desire for change raised its head in its most dramatic way yet – but dramatic only by virtue of the increased choice available outside of the traditional 2.5 party system so long prevalent in Ireland.

But on the margins of that significant vote for change was a decided move back towards the old lover/enemy; Fianna Fáil.

The old adage of ‘better the devil you know’ seemed to resound in many voters heads. It was likely helped along by the fact that their 2011 vote for ‘change’ had resulted in 5 years of a Fine Gael/Labour coalition which had cut to the bone in ways few thought imaginable based on the promises and hyperbole from both parties during the 2011 campaign.

In the absence of any meaningful change despite the many promises proffered throughout the decades, many voters have, it seems, chosen to give Fianna Fáil a pass and ignore previous indiscretions in favour of their current stance as the party holding things together and making things happen.

The same Fianna Fáil who paved the path to the privatisation of education is now sanctimoniously decrying the removal of student grants.

I could list myriad other examples. It’s the popular message of the day and so it’s their message – and that’s fine for a centrist party who seek to tap into Lippman’s hypothesis above.

I don’t mean this as a critique specifically aimed at Fianna Fáil, it just so happens that they are the party benefiting from the electorate’s rose-tinted glasses at the moment if polls are to be believed.

Equally the same criticisms can be levelled at any of the two and a half traditional parties of old Irish politics at various points throughout history it’s just that right now they’re the outs and Fianna Fáil are the ins.

Political academia is divided on this topic but increasingly the theory is that long-term performance is less important than short-term factors and specifically economic issues.

The irony is not lost on me that it was economic issues that decimated Fianna Fáil in 2011 yet just 5 years later they are back on the rise, clearly short-term really does mean short-term!

Personally, I’d rather be someone who will stand by what I believe whether its ‘in or out’ and hope that somewhere along the line the majority of the electorate will choose to reject both Tweedledum, Tweedledee and their little half pal tweedleio based on a bigger picture than fancy rhetoric and campaign slogans.

And instead choose to judge on actions over words.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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From top: Facebook Likes, Illustration by Jennifer Daniel ; Anne Marie McNally

Maintaining a veil of privacy over your personal life – even on social media – has nothing to do with fear of scandal and everything to do with protection and the maintenance of clear lines of demarcation.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

The personal is political or so the saying goes. But is that, or should that be, the case? Isn’t it perfectly acceptable to want to keep some things beyond the scope of inevitable scrutiny that comes from being in the public eye?

Or is there a legitimate expectation that every part of a politician’s (or aspiring politician) life be laid bare as required by the media outlet of the day?

The question I raise concerns itself more with the intimate details of one’s life rather than any public pastimes so before the commentators get carried away telling me that they have a right to know if someone is a member of the KKK or engages in some other type of behaviour which is likely to have a direct impact on their role in the public eye, then yes, I agree – fair game.

My question however refers to the truly personal.

As a woman I am repeatedly asked about my family status, perhaps that’s the same for men but I can’t be sure. When someone asks you directly ‘do you have children’ is it acceptable to say ‘I’d rather not say?’ and if not, why not? The same argument applies to any relationship? So far I have tried, wherever possible to keep my two worlds separate.

Why? I’m not 100% sure to be honest but I do know this, the scrutiny that comes from being in the public eye is not always pleasant and I’m loathe to subject anyone to it who hasn’t specifically chosen it.

I’ve chosen it therefore I’m good with it but would it be fair for me to open others up to the possibility of attention they may not desire?

For a while now I’ve been left with the distinct impression that my evasiveness on those type of questions is somewhat unacceptable and other times I’ve felt judgement for some perceived ‘disowning’ on my behalf.

We’re lucky here in Ireland that we don’t have a tabloid media as feral as Britain’s. As such we’re devoid of the regular ‘scandals’ regarding the personal lives of public figures but that’s not to say we don’t get the gossip type columns where innuendo and subtle clues point to the identity of the person involved.

Then there’s social media where speculation and finger-pointing comes with the territory. That’s one side of the coin but the less salacious, less obvious reason for maintaining a veil of privacy over your personal life has nothing to do with fear of scandal and everything to do with protection and the maintenance of clear lines of demarcation.

I tried to keep my personal Facebook page personal, but the friend requests kept coming and I now have people on there who are more colleagues than friends and so I’ve adjusted the personal content pertaining to others in my life accordingly.

This may mean that you’ll only see photos of me socialising with political friends – it doesn’t mean I don’t spend the majority of my life with those not in my political world, it just means you won’t read about it on Facebook.

During the recent General Election campaign I had a hugely positive campaign and response but there were blips. Unfortunately a woman becoming so visible in public life will always bring slugs from beneath rocks and I had some really nasty emails from clearly disturbed individuals.

I had hate mail from people who wanted me to not exist; I had ‘fan’ mail from delusional men who thought they were in love with me; and I had one or two ‘lovely girl’ emails with embedded rape threats.

I’ve even had one ‘nice’ man go to the bother of sending me an email recently to tell me ‘my lovely bum is too round for politics’ – though he did clarify that statement with the bracketed disclaimer (‘that’s a compliment by the way’) – well that’s alright so, thanks for that.

I brushed those incidents, and other similar ones, off without much of a second thought, I know what comes with the territory but my family and friends did not and so my unwillingness to involve them in that side of my life is not me choosing to pretend they don’t exist.

it’s me refusing to open their existence up to the same level of scrutiny that I’ve signed up for.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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From top: Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2; Anne Marie McNally

Though often chaotic and unseemly, we are finally getting a a parliament where issues are king.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

The first term of the 32nd Dáil has come to an end, marking a pivotal moment in the history of politics in Ireland.

It has been a term where we surpassed the previously held record for the length of time it took to form a Government.

It gave us a Minority Government and a convoluted partnership agreement that’s not a coalition – not in name anyway.

It also gave us the lofty claims of ‘new politics’, the oft-repeated phrase which has become the slogan of the 32nd Dáil.

It’s trotted out by politicians across the spectrum and political correspondents are equally effusive in both welcoming it and deriding it depending on which way the wind is blowing on a particular day.

For all the derision that can be levied at the 32nd Dáil (and Irish politics in general) I think it’s fair to say that ‘new politics’ has critically shifted the way business is done in this bubble of ours in Leinster House.

Gone are the days of Bills floating through the House on a sea of arrogant majority Government backbenchers.

Gone are the looming guillotines ensuring legislation is passed at times convenient to Government despite the protestations of the opposition.

Gone too are the refusals of Government to provide adequate time for opposition business or smaller parties and Independents.

Instead we have, though often chaotic and unseemly, a parliament where issues are king. Suddenly the substance of a particular piece of legislation is the most important thing and not the shade of the party proposing it.

We’ve had opposition support Government initiatives and we’ve had Government support opposition business. There is more time and scope for consensus and agreement. Opposition for opposition sake is increasingly – both inside the bubble and out –being derided as ineffective and damaging.

Fianna Fáil have tabled two pieces of legislation – one on Au Pairs and one on the sale of Local Authority Homes built under the Part V rules. Both Bills were defeated, not because they were Fianna Fáil Bills but because it was generally agreed that both were flawed pieces of legislation. The majority of opposition voted with Government in defeating those Bills.

Minister Simon Coveney’s housing plan has come about as a result of a consultation process he held with all other parties and Independents. We know from the substance of that plan that he listened and took on board some of the submissions made to him.

Similarly, Róisín Shortall has presided over the establishment of the All-Party Committee on Health which the Social Democrats put forward with a stated aim of ‘delivering a universally accessible publicly funded health service.’

This stated aim was almost universally accepted and supported (everyone except AAA/PBP signed up to and supported the motion) and the Committee was created.

Róisín, despite being from a smaller party was appointed as Chair of that Committee with the support of colleagues from every party as it was acknowledged that this had been a Social Democrats initiative and Roisin’s expertise and commitment was best placed to drive it.

Whichever way you look at things, that is an entirely new way of doing business.

The theatre of the shouting and balling across at each other still exists, particularly during the camera opportunities of Leaders Questions etc. but by and large those instances are much reduced.

There is a greater emphasis on getting to the heart of the issue and explaining why you support the legislation/motion or not. There is a sense that the other side is listening to you and prepared to work with you to make things happen. It is healthy.

It’s not all great and the time-tabling is still as crazy as ever with sittings until 10:30/11pm at night while nothing happens on a Friday for example but it is an improvement and when you’re in this dysfunctional bubble that is the Irish political system, you’ll take those improvements wherever they come!

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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From top: Simon Coveney launching the government’s housing action plan yesterday; Anne Marie McNally

Rebuilding Ireland recognises that many of the author’s generation will likely never be in a position to purchase their own home.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

Yesterday the Government launched another housing report-this one called Rebuilding Ireland and to be fair, for the most part it’s good. It’s honest and I believe Minister [Simon] Coveney is a Minister that actually does like to get things done and mostly the right things.

In launching the report he described it as far-reaching and ambitious and that it is.

Indeed quite a few of the proposals in it will be familiar to anyone who has read the Social Democrats manifesto or our housing policy document.

And that’s great. A good idea is a good idea no matter where it’s coming from and once the end result is ultimately delivered I personally am less bothered about who takes the credit or not.

The report recognises that the current homelessness emergency is a very different beast from the homelessness problems that have always been a feature of city living.

It recognises that we now have functioning families going to work on a daily basis from a position of homelessness.

It recognises that we have families sleeping on relatives’ couches and families being split up simply because one relative be can take some while another relative or friend will take the other members of the family.

It also recognises that so many of my generation and the one coming up behind me will likely never be in a position to purchase their own home.

Those people are the ones for whom a Vibrant, sustainable  rental market is necessary in order to provide a housing option where they can have security of tenure, rent certainty and the long-term option which allows them to plan a family life and/or put down roots without ever having to buy.

Many, even if they can afford a mortgage, would prefer to rent if they knew it could provide them with a level of security which it currently does not.

The downsides of the report manifest in a number of ways most notably in its over-reliance on the relatively new HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) scheme which is essentially an outsourcing of social housing to private landlords.

It has been plagued with problems thus far with people being forced to top-up the payment in order to pay the rents asked by the private landlords.

Those people accepting a HAP property lose their place on the housing waiting list and are effectively shunted off into someone else’s property with very little security of tenure. It is not a great environment to encourage the putting down of roots and the subsequent community building.

For too long housing in this country has been viewed in terms of bricks and mortar and property prices. Not enough emphasis has been given to the creation of vibrant, sustainable communities with good social mix, decent tenure mix and property type mix.

Those elements, and the people who feel secure enough to call a place home are what create communities not bricks and mortar.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

Pic: Rollingnews

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From top; Soc Dem leaders, from left: Stephen Donnelly, Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shorthall launching the party’s charity regulation motion yesterday; Anne Marie McNally

it’s time we asked ourselves if vital services should be provided by the State rather than outsourced to charities.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

Last night in the Dáil the Social Democrats tabled a Private Members Motion calling for more robust scrutiny and regulation of the charity sector.

The motion comes on the back of the recent Console revelations which, despite the experience of Irish people regarding a charity ector scandal, still managed to shock us!

But it shouldn’t have shocked us given that we never put in place the framework to ensure there would be no repeat following the previous scandal or the ones before that.

Remember the Rehab scandal? Recall the Central Remedial Clinic scandal?

Yep, they continue to happen and we continue to be outraged for the requisite time then the headlines forget and we all go back to our daily lives.

But how many of us cancel the Direct Debits to various charities as we do? The many great people working and volunteering in the sector suffer and most importantly, the service users suffer.

In the wake of the Rehab scandal, charitable donations to Rehab fell by two million euro. Console has been all but wound up.

Given the negative impact on charitable donations caused by these recurring scandals it is incumbent on us to ensure we, in so far as is possible, rogue-proof the charitable sector so that public faith is restored and maintained.

In 2009 the Charities Act came into law. This act provided for the establishment of the Charities Regulation Authority and within that, the Charities Regulator. Part 4 of the Act provided the Regulator with investigative powers.

All sounds good right?

Well the problem arises when you think back to the 2009 Act and realise that actually the Regulator was appointed until 2013, four years after the Act was passed into law.

Even more astonishingly Part 4 of the Act, conferring investigative powers on the Regulator, was only commenced by the Minister just last week and will come into effect in September. Hardly a model of good governance and regulation in the sector now is it?

There are over 20,000 registered charities and you’d be surprised at some of the organisations that can classify as charities.

Schools and sports clubs, community organisations and myriad other endeavours will often be classified as charities. I previously worked in an organisation that had charitable status.

The organisation I worked within was funded almost entirely by public funds. There were reporting requirements to each funder and there was the necessity for annual audit. Yet within that setting, just as I joined, there was an instance of misappropriation of funds.

The funders moved in, the auditors scratched their heads and everyone was shocked. There was a criminal investigation that has yet to be completed seven years later.

Anecdotally I hear these types of stories regularly. The reaction that I witnessed from the funders and the authorities did not give me confidence of the infallibility of the sector to rogue operators.

And there will always be rogue operators no matter what protocols you out in place but the trick is to have an appropriate framework so as to ensure only the really determined will try to flout the rules and when they do the system is designed to both catch and hold accountable the culprit – in a timely and appropriate fashion.

Separately it’s time for us to start asking ourselves if some of these vital services should be provided by the State rather than outsourced to voluntary and charitable endeavour.

When concerns began to be raised about Paul Kelly in Console as far back as 2006 then again in 2009 and most recently in 2013, he was still in a position to go shopping on the Console credit card in 2016 because the HSE felt hamstrung. If they acted on him they risked closing down the vital helpline provided by Console and they couldn’t take that risk.

We paid dearly for the outsourcing of the responsibility of such a vital service. The entire sector will now pay dearly by way if reduced donations.

It is a progressive step that the Government accepted our Motion last night and with the political will to carry through on the premise of the Motion we can hopefully avoid a future outrage and a restoration of the public trust in a sector which should continue to play a pivotal role in civic society even if we take back responsibility for some vital services.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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From top: Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald (left) and Attorney General Maire Whelan; Anne Marie McNally

On this extremely limited abortion bill they will hide behind excuses such as the can-kicking citizen’s convention or the cowardly and disingenuous assertion that they are following the Attorney General’s advice.

Anne Marie McNally writesL

Tomorrow, the Dáil will vote on a Bill tabled by Mick Wallace – a Bill aimed at providing for abortions to those women and their families who tragically find themselves dealing with a pregnancy diagnosis of Fatal Foetal Abnormality.

It is an exceptionally limited piece of legislation – it only addresses the abortion question within strict parameters of Fatal Foetal Abnormality.

It makes no reference to abortion in the cases of rape or incest.

It makes no reference to abortion provision for those who simply feel they cannot progress with a pregnancy for myriad reasons be they relationship issues, economic reasons, mental health reasons or any other reason a woman may feel that this pregnancy is just not right for her; in her body.

Her choice about her body in her life – this Bill does not make any provision for that.

It is extremely limited you see.

In fact it is actually only an Amendment Bill in that it is seeking to amend the already exceptionally limited Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill (you remember – the one which requires a woman to be judged by a team of medical professionals as suicidal before she will be granted autonomy over her own body).

So this limited Bill is attempting to amend an already limited Bill. Yet it is likely to be rejected when it comes to voting on it tomorrow afternoon.

The limits of my patience on this issue have become far more limited than either of these two Bills.

Did Mick Wallace set out to deliberately give us a piece of legislation that was so limited it would ignore the issue of a woman’s right to choose? No, he didn’t.

He looked at the options available and he tried to relieve at least some of the most horrendous elements of the current ‘head in the sand’ Irish approach to abortion.

The approach that makes you sit in a room and listen while a father tells the story of how a DHL courier delivered ashes to him from Liverpool Maternity Hospital after he and his wife were forced to travel there following a fatal foetal diagnosis.

Or the woman who haemorrhaged on the Ryanair flight home following a procedure she’d had because of a fatal foetal diagnosis.

Mick Wallace’s Bill is an olive branch into the abyss of the raging abortion debate to try and insert some basic humanity. Yet it will most likely fail.

And why will it fail?

It will fail because too many politicians across the divide will make grandiose speeches, and in some cases personal, emotional and passionate speeches but when it comes down to pressing that vote button, they will vote it down.

They will hide behind excuses such as the can-kicking citizen’s convention, or the cowardly and disingenuous assertion that they are following the AG’s advice.

Shamefully, some of them will talk about flood gates and the worst among them will say there is no such thing as fatal foetal abnormality.

As they procrastinate and make their excuses, women and their families will board planes and boats (the lucky ones who can afford to) and they’ll make the heart-breaking journey to the UK or Europe to be shown compassion and to obtain the medical treatment they both want and need.

It is not just scandalous it is also a direct contravention of Human Rights legislation but far be it for that to have any bearing on good auld Catholic Ireland.

We’ll ship them off and pretend we don’t see them as our Oireachtas sits down to vote on Thursday and when the majority have voted against human rights, compassion, medical choice and bodily autonomy, they’ll saunter out of the chamber into the canteen, onto the plinth or off home for the weekend, content with a good weeks work done and never casting a second thought to the impact their vote has had.

While the no voters go merrily about their day, Irish women will have emerged from their procedures in foreign hospitals facing an arduous and heart-breaking journey home to a country that has no respect for them.

A fine Republic indeed.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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