Tag Archives: Independent Alliance

Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) at The Last Jedi premiere (December 2017) in Dublin

This afternoon.

Via The Irish Examiner:

The Longford-Westmeath TD said he will be standing in the next election as a stand-alone independent, as opposed to the umbrella of the alliance.

Mr Moran said if he is re-elected he may join a new political grouping in the new Dáil.

Mr Moran was a founding member of the Independent Alliance, spearheaded by Mr Ross and Finian McGrath, but it has been dogged by internal squabbling.

Poor relations within the group led to the departure of Sean Canney, the junior minister, from its ranks in 2018 over the sharing of a ministerial role with Mr Moran.

It currently has four Ministers: Mr Ross, Mr Moran, Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath and Minister of State for Skills John Halligan

Boxer Moran leaves Independent Alliance (Irish Examiner)

Rollingnews

 

Finian McGrath and Shane Ross of the Independent Alliance  this morning

“A source contacted me, a short time ago, and I stress it’s one source but it’s quite senior within the Independent Alliance. Basically saying, that they’re not backing her and that she needs to go. So that to me seems to be pretty clear as to the Independent Alliance’s stance, albeit not publicly but privately, indicating that this has reached the end game…”

Hugh O’Connell, political correspondent of the Sunday Business Post, on Today with Sean O’Rourke in the past 20 minutes, discussing the fall-out of the emails published last night in relation to Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Listen to Today with Sean O’Rourke here

Previously: Getting Their Story Straight

Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan

This afternoon.

Ireland’s main banks are expected to release statements in relation to the tracker mortgage scandal.

Ahead of this…

RTE reports:

The Independent Alliance has called for tougher measures to deal with banks on the issue of tracker mortgages.

The Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan called for an independent body to deal with compensation, because he said the banks ‘can not be trusted’ in that regard.

He also called for a criminal investigation to take place because he said the banks took money fraudulently from people.

It has to be investigated and there should be a criminal investigation”, he said.

The Minister for Transport Shane Ross said the Independent Alliance is of the view that the banks have “gone rogue” in a market that is not operating properly.

“They don’t have morality, they don’t respond to moral suasion and we’ll support any tough measures taken by the Minister for Finance today and playing hard ball with the banks”, he said.

Call for tougher measures to deal with banks over tracker issue (RTE)

Pic via Ailbhe Conneely

Journalist Carol Hunt. 11/12/ 2015. Picture by Fergal Phillips.seanad2

From top: Carol Hunt; Seanad chamber

Once more unto the breach.

Journalist and Independent Alliance Seanad candidate Carol Hunt writes:

“Have you lost your mind?” is a question I frequently get asked these days. Occasionally a person might inquire solicitously, “Is it some sort of addiction that you could get therapy for?”

What they’re referring to is the fact that after a gruelling five months which started off with no money, no team and very little knowledge of how to go about planning a general election campaign, and ended in a fairly respectable vote outcome in the constituency of Dun Laoghaire (the only one to buck the trend and end up with 3 Fine Gael TD”s out of 4), we’ve decided to keep going.

What can I say? Running for election was perhaps the most positive, interesting, enlightening and humbling experience of my life – so far.

I initially decided to run because, for the past seven or eight years, I’ve been writing about the growing inequality gap in Ireland, the choice of our last government to introduce five regressive budgets in a row, the fact that the most vulnerable people in society ended up paying the highest price for the crash.

And so, after months of saying, repeatedly, that “somebody should do something”, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and enter the election. It was hard work, it was expensive but, and this might sound corny and if so I apologise, it was a privilege. I would recommend running for office to everyone in the country. It’s an eye opener.

Two days after the election count – broke, tired but very glad that I had made the decision to go for it – I got a call from a colleague in Leinster House advising me to run for the Seanad. Dear God, I thought. I’ll be divorced – by my children if not my husband – and we’ll have to sell the house.

But it made sense. I had a brilliant campaign manager and a small but dedicated team, who wanted to keep going, and as I had been to the forefront in the campaign to retain and reform the Seanad and make parliament – rather than just government – answerable to the democratic process, it seemed like the right thing to do.

But what did it entail? This is where the fun started.

First up, we had to get a nominator, a seconder and eight other signatures on one form. All had to be graduates registered to vote in NUI Seanad elections. I put the word out. “Not a problem”, was what I heard back from many friends who were NUI grads.

But yes, there was a problem. It’s quite extraordinary the amount of graduates – that is, people who have third level qualifications – who don’t know that they aren’t automatically put on the register to vote for the Seanad.

These include my husband, my campaign manager, my sister, most of my friends, my hairdresser, my dentist …. you get the picture.

And as we only had 48 hours to get the names – on the one form, which meant I had to physically proffer it to each individual for signature – this was going to be harder than it seemed.

Myself and my campaign manager did it with an hour to spare. Dr Jane Suiter nominated me, Professor Sabina Brennan seconded me and I managed to get 8 other assenters who were registered.

We felt like debt collectors who have a time limit to get the cash to the boss before being threatened with knee-capping. We met people in pubs, called to houses that we’d never been to before, one woman jumped into the back of the car, signed then jumped out, and I even spent time waiting, with some other dubious looking individuals, outside criminal court number one, down by Heuston station – all to get to the magic number ten.

There are three seats to be filled on the NUI panel. I was advised to try for this one as two of the incumbents are retiring (Fergal Quinn and John Crown).

Obviously I wasn’t the only person to think this would be a good idea. Counting on my fingers as the chancellor of NUI read out the names declared and accepted for candidature, it came to thirty. THIRTY. For three seats! Two really, if you consider that Rónán Mullen will most probably retain his.

Many of the other candidates are people I would love to work with: New, passionate about human rights and social justice, genuinely interested in reform and fairness. Some are has-beens who think they have a divine right to public office, jobs for the old-boys club and all that.

But what I would really love to see is as many people as possible using their mandate and voting for their preferred candidate for the Seanad.

Only if the public take it seriously and those who can vote, VOTE, can we hope to implement the reforms the Seanad – and our entire parliament – so desperately needs.

Get the word out. Do you have a vote? Are you registered? Ask your family and friends. It’s time to vote to change the way the Seanad works – by using the vote that you have and changing the people who get elected to it.

Follow Carol on Twitter: @carolhunt

Picture by Fergal Phillips.

Independent Alliance candidate Carol Hunt canvassing in Dun Laoghaire

The threats of chaos from Fine Gal and Labour are too late.

What people are saying on the doorstep would make you weep.

Carol Hunt writes:

You’re not supposed to cry when you go canvassing. It doesn’t look good. Particularly if you’re the candidate. You’re meant to have a bright, open smile, a warm demeanor and a cheerful manner when you present yourself at a person’s doorstep.

Which is all very well, but what happens when you hear, not one, two or three, but a veritable avalanche of tragic stories from the people who open their doors to you?

What do you do when a woman tells you about her son who died by suicide, because there was no care available for him when he presented in distress?

How do you react when a couple shake their heads and ask what was it all for? Their children and grandchildren forced to emigrate, themselves struggling to remain in the family home that was once their pride and joy, now just a reminder to them of all they have lost.

What does one say when tired, frustrated mothers tell you they have no hope that their disabled child will ever get the help they so need and deserve; when elderly retired people, who worked all their lives and paid exhorbitant tax rates, reveal that they can pay their electricity or their property bill but not both, and that they’re living in fear of Revenue taking every penny from their pensions.

How do you react when you hear, over and over again, stories from people – ordinary people, of all ages and classes – who are truly suffering, who have been, not just let down but ravaged, destroyed, chewed up and spat out by the system, tell you the most personal stories about their lives?

What you don’t do is cry. And so last weekend I found myself walking away from a door and unable to knock on the next one. At least not until I could compose myself. Not until I could ensure that I wasn’t going to erupt into a volcano of emotion at the whole bloody injustice of it all.

A woman had told me her own story, that of her son and her family and their awful tragedy – which could have been averted if only our public services were fit for purpose. This was not a story in isolation. The morning had been dominated by tales of tragedy, and by angry, frustrated people explaining to us why they had no belief, no trust and no faith in the current political system.

Our public services are in chaos. Mental health services, in particular are not fit for purpose. The squeezed middle – those hundreds of thousands of families, couples and individuals who seem to pay for everything but qualify for nothing – are raw from the scalping they have received.

Elderly people wonder how a government can get away with taking their pensions and leave them terrified about the future. Parents pray that their disabled child is deemed bad enough to qualify for some level of treatment and care. So many homes, so many hurt people with different stories to tell us. And boy, do they want someone to listen to them.

Initially we wonder why? Why are these people – who have never met us before in their lives – opening up to us, showing us their wounds? Eventually we understand. Because no one else is listening. Because they know what the government will say to them – they’ll list off all the reasons they have to be thankful for the wonderful work FG and Labour are doing on their behalf, and then they’ll tell them to stop whinging.

“Keep the recovery going”? Vast swathes of middle Ireland have seen no recovery, thank you very much, just more bills, fewer services and a disenchantment with Irish democracy that has never been so articulately or so passionately expressed before.

Some people tell us that will never vote again, that there is no point, they are just too sick of the whole charade of lies and broken promises. Most people tell us that they are voting independent and yes, I admit, initially I was surprised at the number of people who told me this.

But hell hath no fury and all that. The sense of betrayal is enormous. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour; voters count them off their fingers and spit out insults. Fool me once, they say, but not again. And yet the mainstream media and politicians seem surprised at the trend toward Independents.

Enda Kenny is complaining that “sometimes I find that people find it difficult to see any good anywhere anytime”.

I dare him to come and say that to the faces of the distraught victims of his austerity programme I’m meeting every day. I dare him come and tell mothers of children with disabilities or elderly people who cannot get a hospital appointment, that they should stop whinging and count their blessings. Fine Gael and Labour are now trying to terrify people with threats of chaos if they aren’t voted back in.

What they don’t understand is that so many people are already living with the chaos meted out to them by previous governments.

What they do not understand is that even those who have not suffered so much – who perhaps have felt some of this infamous recovery – are shocked at the treatment of other Irish citizens; of the sick, the disabled, the homeless, of vulnerable children. Ultimately, what they don’t seem to understand is that most Irish people are not complete self-serving bas***ds.

Who knows, this time we actually get our democratic revolution. Until then, I’ll keep listening – and try not to cry.

Carol Hunt is an Independent Alliance candidate for the Dun Laoghaire constituency. Following Carol on Twitter: @carolmhunt

Pic: Paul Sherwood

90203429Journalist Carol Hunt. 11/12/ 2015. Picture by Fergal Phillips.

 

From top: Children and parents of Portobello Educate Together demonstrate outside Leinster House for the need of a new multi-denominational school; Carol Hunt.

Legislation which contradicts the constitution is being used up and down the country in order to discriminate against children on the basis of religion.

Carol Hunt writes:

A quick legal lesson – In the hierarchy of Irish laws constitutional law always supersedes legislative law. That’s pretty easy to understand, isn’t it?

The highest law in the land is our constitution and all other laws are derived from it. That’s why the President can refer a piece of legislation to the Supreme Court if they’re not sure that it’s in line with the constitution.

Which is why I’m confused. And seemingly, so are a lot of other people in the country – particularly parents who are trying to get their children places in their local schools.

You see, Article 44 of our constitution guarantees religious equality for all Irish citizens. In particular, it states:

“[3] The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the grounds of religious profession, belief or status.”

That’s pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?

It means that the State, and one presumes, state-funded organisations that are providing services on behalf of the State, cannot discriminate against people on the grounds of their religious beliefs. One would assume that includes children also.

Children are people too, and they are entitled to the full protection of the law. In fact in Ireland even unborn children are entitled to their own, state-funded legal team. Which is why so many of us are confused. Because legislation which contradicts the constitution is currently being used up and down the country in order to discriminate against children on the basis of religion.

Under 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000 schools under religious patronage can give preference to children of the relevant denomination in the enrolment process. In short, what this means is that state-funded schools can refuse to enroll local children if their “religious values” are at odds with the ethos of the school.

In addition, Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools 1965 insists on an “integrated curriculum” of religious values which makes opting out of religious instruction impossible.

What this means in practice is that, if you want to get your child into a local primary school – nearly 97% of them are under Catholic patronage – you will need to have them baptised into the Catholic faith and they will have to attend religious instruction in that faith, during school hours.

As the mother of two, non religious children, I have experience of the frustration and anger parents can experience when your child has no school to go to. Of when your child is refused admission to their local school because they haven’t got a piece of paper saying they are a member of the “right” church.

I’ve spent hours, days, months – what sometimes seemed like eternity – investigating the issues involved, studying the constitution and legislation, writing letters of complaint and appeal and eventually, of desperation. In short, I begged.

One of my children managed to gain admittance to a local school without a baptismal cert – for which we were very grateful, and consequently accepted the hours of catechism in a religion she didn’t belong to with placid tolerance. The other eventually got a place in an Educate Together school – a very long bus journey away, but well worth it.

More and more Irish parents – of all religions and none – are coming up against the baptismal barrier.

Last month, our Minister for Children, Dr. James Reilly, told the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child:

“Our school system evolved from the religious orders themselves and so it’s not surprising that we have such a preponderance of denominational schools with 95 per cent of primary and 70 per cent of secondary schools of a denominational nature.”

This isn’t quite true though. The National School system introduced in 1831 was a non-denominational one meant to bring together children of all faiths.

The original objective was to “unite in one system children of different creeds”. But then the churches put pressure on governments to allow them to take over and discriminate on the basis of religion.

Seemingly, that’s all about to change though. The government told the UN that “the ongoing Patronage Divestment process creates greater primary school choice for parents”.

Which would be great – except for the fact that it’s not true.

Only two schools so far have been successfully divested. The Catholic Church is clinging on with gritted teeth to its power base in the country, and the government seems loath to confront them on it.

This has to change. We live in a democracy – not a theocracy. And by allowing this religious discrimination to continue we’re making a mockery of our constitution.

Carol Hunt is an Independent Alliance candidate for the Dun Laoghaire constituency. Follow Carol on Twitter: @carolmhunt

Pics: Rollingnews, Fergal Philips

Gaelscoil Phadraig

A demonstration by pupils and staff at Gaelscoil Phadraig, Ballybrack, Co Dublin

A candidate for the Independent Alliance argues that all schools, like their pupils, are not equal.

Carol Hunt writes:

Sick of hearing it yet? The phrase; “cherishing all the children of the nation equally” has been bandied around for decades now, usually when we try to persuade ourselves that we don’t actively target children for abuse or neglect, but that sometimes bad things happen and sure, we’ll say an act of contrition and try to be better in future.

It’s long been argued that the architects of the Irish Proclamation didn’t specifically mean ‘children’ as such, when they included this line – they meant people of all faiths and none should have equal rights before the law in our shiny, new Republic .

Which is probably just as well. Because when it comes to “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”, you’d have to admit that we have failed spectacularly. In fact, you’d be forced to concede that the very opposite would seem to be deliberate government policy for quite some time now.

We’ve long known that Enda and his entourage suffer from a rather pernicious strain of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AWS); an illness which makes one’s perceptual reality distorted, where one doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not.

Currently they’re sending members of the Defence Forces around every primary school in the country, armed with tricolours and copies of the proclamation, telling all the children how lucky they are to be living in a Republic which “guarantees… equal rights and equal responsibilities to all its citizens.

Except of course that it does nothing of the sort. The number of young children suffering deprivation in Ireland doubled between 2007 and 2014. But it’s one thing to cite statistics, it’s another to see blatant discrimination right in front of your eyes.

A couple of weeks ago I met a young mother, Grace Byrne from Ballybrack [Co Dublin]. She asked would I come to a protest organised by the teachers, parents and young students of nearby primary school, Gaelscoil Phadraig.

“If we can call it a school”, she added. The teachers were brilliant, she said, the curriculum excellent, the pupils loved it it but…they had no building.

Twenty years the pupils of this school had spent in pre-fabs, despite innumerable promises from politicians of getting a new school.

One mother points to former Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, and says; “she had the nerve to stand on my doorstep years ago and promised we’d have a new school. My husband wouldn’t come today [to the protest] because he was afraid of what he’d do if he saw her here again, looking for votes.”

I saw the pre-fabs. Some of them were damp, they had mould growing in them.They were a health hazard. Two floors were collapsing. Seriously. They were a danger area.

There was nowhere for the children to play safely. The children – enthusiastic, excited – stood around a tiny square with crayoned posters in their cold hands, singing “Twenty-years-a-waiting”.

The teachers are passionate and devoted to their students. They had, miraculously, won four green flags from An Taisce, despite having no school garden.

They wanted a library, a school hall, a place to safe and healthy place to learn. Is that too much to ask? Seemingly, it is. And despite the blatant disadvantages the school suffers for some reason it doesn’t qualify for DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) status [Dept of Education system for ‘identifying levels of disadvantage’].

They were assessed  for it during the Celtic Tiger and  just missed out. There’s been no assessment since although they’ve begged for it and a nearby school with same demographic gets it.

The next day I’m in another school just a few miles down the road. There is a new bright assembly hall, a big extension; gorgeous playing fields; a full library; warm, dry, well furnished rooms; lots of space and light and everything young students need and deserve to be educated in, to grow up in.

The children are the same though; enthusiastic, excited, hungry for knowledge. The teachers are just as passionate and dedicated to their young charges as those I met the day before.

Anyone who has the nerve to assert that we don’t practice blatant discrimination in the treatment of our children in this country obviously needs to get out more. Or at least that’s what I used to think.

But then I was told by the parents and teachers of Gaelscoil Phadraig that local politicians are very much aware of the dire conditions their young pupils have had to suffer over the past two decades. Many promises were made but none kept. There has been excuse after promise after excuse.

And still no school. Why is this? Is it because it’s not just children who are more equal than others, but also that there are voters who are more equal than others. Citizens who can be relied on to use their vote to retain the status quo are far more valuable to established parties than those who may choose to use it differently.

All voters are not equal you see. Consequently neither are their children. Or their schools.

Carol Hunt is standing as an Independent Alliance candidate in the Dun Laoghaire constituency in the forthcoming General Election.

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This morning.

Independent Alliance candidates, and the group’s Charter For Change, are announced ahead of the forthcoming general election.

Meanwhile…

And…

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Pics: Gavan Reilly

Independent Alliance

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Sunday Independent writer Carol Hunt on the plinth outside Leinster House this morning as it’s announced that she’s standing for the ‘Independent Alliance’ in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Meanwhile…

Related: The reason why I’m thinking of running for Ross (Carol Hunt, Sunday Independent, March 22, 2015)

Pic: TJ_Politics