Tag Archives: fianna fail

Stayin’ Alive

I’m going to live forever. Or as good as.

There has been a lot of gloom over the announcement yesterday by Social & Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin that the pension age is being increased, in stages, from the current age of 65 to 68. I took a lot of encouragement, though, from the reasons that she gave for doing it. Mary says:

“It is simply not sustainable that we can afford a pension system based on the current model which allows people to spend almost as long in retirement as they do in the workforce.”

I started work in 1975 and will be reach the current retirement age of 65 in 2022. By then I’ll have been working for 47 years, so Mary believes that I’m going to live on, a drain on the state’s resources (like a human Anglo-Irish Bank), until 2069.

By which time I’ll be 112. I’m in the age group described as middle-aged, but it turns out I’m not even half-way there yet. I’ve so much time ahead of me – I may yet learn to play the piano, may yet finish watching the box-set of Lost (or indeed, may yet start watching it), may yet finish decorating the second toilet (don’t bet on it, it’s been 24 years so far).

I may even manage to post just one post which doesn’t include a spelling mistake that I don’t notice until I look at the published version.

And I certainly will be a drain on the state. Taking it that my pacemaker battery lasts eight years it will be need to be changed seven times. That’s seven hospital visits. And I’ll have to do this as I’ll need to keep as healthy as possible to keep in pursuit of my pension, which will keep being pulled away just as I get there, like a steak on a piece of string used to tease a dog.

You can’t find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow because you never quite reach the end of the rainbow. The same will now apply to my pension.

But at least I’m going to live a long time. Mary said so, and she’s a Government Minister, a former teacher, and has a picture of herself with Bono on her website, so she’s probably quite clever.

Or perhaps she’s just a brainless bat talking Pollyanna-type rubbish to hide the fact (not very well) that once again the Government have found a way to take our money.

As a TD, of course, Mary started qualifying for a TD’s pension after just two year’s service. She’ll get a full Ministerial Pension after she’s been a minister for 10 years. And she’ll get these pensions for many, many more years than that, which is hard to square with her statement above.

Still, I bear her no ill will. In fact, I wish her a long and happy retirement.

I just hope it starts soon.

On The Doorsteps

From Saturdays’ Irish Times:

As if Fianna Fáil general secretary Seán Dorgan hasn’t enough to contend with at the moment, a bogus letter supposedly signed by him has being doing the rounds of websites in the last couple of days. Written on party-headed notepaper, it appears to convey instructions to party workers on how to deal with difficulties faced when canvassing.

Seán Dorgan received a copy of the letter yesterday morning. “It’s not genuine. Clearly, it’s my signature, but nothing else. This is juvenile politics and nothing else. It’s a complete and utter fake and forgery.”

CanvassingHere, however, are the instructions that he really did send out.

1.  Tippex out the words “Fianna Fáil” on your leaflets.

2.  When the voter opens the door, don’t infuriate him by telling him straight out you’re from Fianna Fáil. Tell him you’re a Jehovah’s Witness.

3. If he rails against the bankers, nod sadly and say “I know, they’re fuckers”.

4. Blame everything on the Progressive Democrats – after all, they’re gone now.

5. If he says he has lost his job, don’t say “yes, but more importantly, if you don’t vote for me, I’ll lose mine too”.

6. Any instruction to “shove your leaflets up your hole” should not be followed literally.

7. If he tries to blame Fianna Fáil for banjaxing the economy,  say “you’re right, and as our punishment you should keep voting us back in until we fix it”. This logic is so daft that it might actually work.

8. Keep a car running outside the gate.

Nuclear Fallout

I’ve noticed a growing number of articles stating that Ireland will eventually have to use nuclear energy. Here’s a timetable of how the whole thing will evolve.

March 2009: Brian Cowen announces that the Government has decided to build a nuclear power station. “Like hell we have,” say the Greens, “if you go ahead with this we’ll pull out of the coalition”. “Go ahead,” says Brian, “we’ve a big enough majority without you”. “Seriously?” gasp the Greens, “well, hang on, we’ve thought about it, and we’ve decided it would be better if we stayed in power with you to monitor things from the inside”. “Thought you might,” mutters Brian.

April 2009: 25 politicians from all parties go on a fact-finding mission to Bali. Bali does not in fact have nuclear power, but it does have a very nice beach, and it is prettier than Sellafield.

May 2009: A committee decides in secret where the nuclear plant will be built. The secret is so well kept that a local councillor is able to buy the site from an unsuspecting farmer for €20,000. The following day he sells it to the Government for €2 million.

Before

Before

After

After

May 2009 but later the same day: the site of the plant is revealed to be in the Taoiseach’s home town of Clara. “It is in its shite,” says Brian, and the plans are re-thought (though the councillor is still paid for the site, as a deal is a deal). Venue after venue is rejected for the very good reason that a sitting TD lives there (though nuclear power is perfectly safe, they keep telling us). It is eventually agreed to build it on the Hill of Tara, to piss off the tree-huggers.

October 2009 (well, the Dáil was on holiday): The contract to run the power station is awarded to a company that was formed just two days earlier. The businessman who owns it promptly sells the contract at a profit of €500 million and fecks off abroad as a tax exile, returning every now and again briefly to chide us over what a balls we’re making of his ‘beloved’ country. The new owners, EirNuke, have no experience of running a nuclear power station, as they operate a ferris wheel at Funderland, but they reckon “you push a button, the thing starts up, how hard can it be?”.

The Nuclear Regulator's Logo

The Nuclear Regulator's Logo

November 2009: A Nuclear Regulator is appointed to oversee the running of the industry. It is expected that he will be well able to regulate things, as he too once worked at Funderland (in fact, working for a while with the new owners). His salary is half a million, plus a bonus payable in any year in which the number of nuclear accidents is less than thirty.

October 2024 (yeah, there were protests & stuff, the army had to be called in): The power stations starts producing electricity in a blaze of hype. Such a great job has been done by the PR people that 40 per cent of the country switch to nuclear power the first day. As this leaves many of ESB’s workers with nothing to do, their Union secures a pay rise for them, as their day now seems longer.

October 2024 at 5.30 p.m.: The country is plunged into darkness as the EirNuke lads leaving the station turned off all the switches, since this is what they always did when they were leaving Funderland.

January 2025: The price of oil rises by 10 dollars a barrel. Although nuclear power is supposed to be in competition to oil, the Regulator grants a 12% price increase to EirNuke.

February 2025: The price of oil falls by 35 dollars a barrel. The Regulator grants a 19% price increase to EirNuke.

March 2025: The bottom falls out of  nuclear power, literally. Because the building was built by a cowboy building firm whose tender arrived, not in writing but in used notes, large cracks appear, and the generator falls out through the bottom and into the ground, where it starts to leak. It turns out that the Regulator knew about the dodgy builder, so he is forced to resign with a large hand-out and a full pension.

April 2025: Finance Minister Brian Lenihan (What? Still? Look, don’t ask me, they kept getting 4% in the opinion polls and then when an election would come the public would go “ah, sure, they’re not the worst”) decides to do what was done for the Banks and the Catholic Church, and says that the Government will take the hit for any compensation claims. Since the whole world could potentially be effected this is likely to be a crippling bill for us to face.

All's well that ends well

All's well that ends well

April 2025 still: Fortunately not. It turns out that EirNuke hadn’t been using uranium at all, the generator had been run on red diesel. A spokesman for EirNuke said “red diesel is much cheaper, all you’ve to do is pretend you’re buying it for a tractor and besides, we heard that uranium stuff is dangerous“.

May 2025: The Government decides to scrap nuclear power. Their alternative involves building a giant magnifying glass, and holding it over the country when the sun comes out. Sure what could go wrong?

Divide and Conquer

Today I’d like to point out what a brilliant job the government are doing (no, come back, this sentence isn’t finished yet) in turning us against each other.

Whenever public opinion looks like uniting in anger against those who deserve it (the bankers, regulators, developers, and most of all the Finance Ministers) they find a way of dividing and deflecting that anger toward others.

Take the RTE presenters, for example. Although Cabinet Members have taken a pay-cut, the Government have refused to cut the number of Junior Ministers or Committee heads, and the pay of ordinary TDs and Senators remains untouched, so why would one of these Senators, Fianna Fáil’s Jim Walsh, suddenly demand that RTEs top presenters volunteer to reduce their salaries?

Poor underprivileged Jim

Poor underprivileged Jim

Because right away attention turned to the likes of Pat Kenny and Gerry Ryan. Those who took the cut rose in the public regard, and those who didn’t are now perceived as the bad guys.

Interestingly, Jim said the broadcasters were ‘in a privileged position’.  A Senator’s basic salary is €70,133 and the Seanad sits only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

A week later TD Michael Kennedy suggested that judges could “gift” part of their salaries to the nation.

Michael judges the judges

Michael judges the judges

“It is important now, more than ever, that everyone plays their part in leading us out of this recession and I would strongly urge our country’s judges to step up to the plate and agree on a universal 10% cut within their field,” Mr Kennedy said.

The “everyone” that Kennedy urges to play their part will not, of course, include backbench TDs, since just 11 out of the 127 have offered to reduce their pay. I’m sure Michael is probably one of these 11, though curiously his website doesn’t say so, and since the website does describe him as “Your No. 1 experienced & hardest working public representative in all of Dublin North” he doesn’t strike me as the type who’d have kept this act of selflessness to himself.

What’s important about these comments is not their blatant hypocrisy. It’s the fact that it pits the higher earners and the rest against each other. Ryan Tubridy, Joe Duffy and assorted judges are not responsible for causing any of the current mess, but suddenly it is they who are being pillioried in the media & in the pubs, and the spotlight is switched away from the likes of Charlie McCreevy, or Pat Neary, or Seanie Fitz.

Most brilliant of all, though is the public servants’ Pension Levy. Public and private sector workers are suspicious of each other at the best of times. We regard them as overpaid and overprotected, and they regard us as tax-dodgers who caused the boom by buying yachts and second homes. Brian Lenihan played on this when he had to cut the public sector pay bill.

He could have cut their pay or made some of them redundant, but that would have created empathy for their plight among the rest of us, who are suffering the same things. We might have become more unified, last week’s marches might have been bigger, and the kind of civil unrest we’ve seen elsewhere might have begun here.

So instead he called the reductions a Pension Levy, playing on the fact that the public sector pensions are seen as generous by the rest of us. And when the public sector claimed that the Levy was unfair (and many aspects of it are unfair) we all said “ah shut up, at least yiz have jobs, and a great pension”. Which is exactly what the government knew would happen.

And when the levy protests die down and we start to single out specific ministers again some other Fianna Fáil nobody will be told to open the Dáil window and yell out “what about Martin King off TV3?”

And we’ll all look at one another and say “yeah, I bet he gets paid a fortune, and the weather’s been shite since he started doing the forecasts, he should take a pay-cut till we get our summers back”.

It’s political genius.

If only they were as good at running the country.



Or Maybe Not

Aw look, we've upset him

Aw look, we've upset him

Dermot Ahern, Minister for Not-Buying-Wine-At-Ten-At-Night, says he believes that the Government (with a ten per cent satisfaction rating in this morning’s opinion poll) is unpopular because it’s doing the right thing. In other words, we don’t appreciate them.

No doubt the same was said about the Clock in the Liffey, Dustin’s Eurovision song and Charlie’s Angels II.

Dermot, I hate to tell you this, but sometimes things are unpopular because they are crap.

They Just Don’t Get It

Chicken

Chicken

So Brian’s made his speech about how to save the economy.

A pension levy on public servants. Agreed pay increases not being paid. A reduction in the early Childcare Supplement, with an alteration that it will be restricted to children under five, instead of under 6.

A cut of €95 million in overseas aid.

No reduction in the number of Junior Ministers, though. No mention of the unvouched expenses that all TDs get. No mention of changing the rule on sitting TDs getting Pensions.

No leadership, in other words.

They had their chance to take us on this difficult road with them, but opted instead to send us off along it ourselves, while they stay behind waving us a hearty cheerio.

There’s not a chance the unions will accept this now. To add to all the shit we’re in, we’re now going to face strikes in essential services.

We’re screwed.

Kick Her Out Again

Bertie Ahern’s re-admission of Beverley Flynn into the ranks of Fianna Fáil last year said more about the man that his forthcoming memoirs possibly can.

In Ahern’s world the words “right” and “wrong” have no meaning when it comes to politics. Thus Flynn could sell tax-evading products whilst still a bank employee, sue RTE for having the gall to report this fact, lose her case and then have the same RTE settle for less than half of the €2.8 million legal bill she owed.

A chip off the old block

In other words, you and I paid over €1.2 million in costs incurred because this insufferably arrogant daughter of another insufferably arrogant money-grabber did not like having unpalatable truths told about her.

She had been booted out of Fianna Fáil after the Supreme Court found that she had indeed facilitated tax evasion, but in June 2007 Ahern re-admitted her, with the astonishing statement that “she can have a realistic expectation of holding office at some stage during the lifetime of the administration”.

Brian Cowen was reportedly furious at the time, but needless to say did nothing. Now though, it transpires that she is still claiming the €40, 000 tax-free allowance that she gets to help with her costs as an independent TD although she is, of course, no longer an independent.

Her bare-faced, self-serving argument is that she didn’t get this allowance after she was kicked out of the party in the first place, as she wasn’t an independent on the day she was elected, so this time she’s entitled to it for the full term of the government.

Just one FF councillor has questioned this. The gutless Cabinet have said nothing. The Greens? Yeah, right.

People are demanding leadership from Cowen in the current economic crisis. Here’s his chance to provide some, and to make a statement about morals in high places, and about the future direction of his party.

If she wants this independent allowance, let her have it. Make her an independent again. And make it clear to her that this time she isn’t coming back.

Show some balls, Brian.

The Sound of One Brain Clapping

Fianna Fáil’s standing ovation for Brain Lenihan after his Budget speech reminded me of Stalin, who used to shoot the first delegate to stop clapping at party conferences.

Lenihan brought in a tax payable by everybody, no matter how poorly paid, took medical cards away from over-70s and raised the cost of clothing, toys, electrical goods, etc in the month before Christmas, and they gave him a standing ovation.

Jesus, I thought, is there ANYTHING they won’t stomach?

Then I remembered how they all stood by when Burke and Lawlor were given senior roles in Governments, backed Bertie when his tales to the tribunal grew taller and taller, and how they welcomed Bev Flynn back into the fold (perhaps she’ll be patriotic enough now to pay the balance of what she stuck RTE for).

And I thought, no, of course there isn’t.

Brothers in Arms

Announcing today that the new 1% levy (i.e., tax) would be payable by all citizens, including those not earning enough to actually qualify to pay Income Tax, Brian Lenihan said:

“We realise the solidarity it demands of all taxpayers. But there is too much at stake: we all have too much to lose by not taking action now. This levy will allow all income earners to contribute in a proportionate manner to the restoration of order and stability to the public finances.”

His approach is to try and persuade us that “we’re all in this together, eh chaps?”. It tries to evoke a wartime spirit, in that, while we can’t actually fight the recession on the beaches, we’ll do the next best thing and fight it in the wallets.

It’s nice of him to ‘allow’ all income earners to contribute. The more cynical among us may say that by raising the rate of VAT 4 weeks before Christmas he is ‘allowing’ us all to contribute in any case, but such cynicism would surely be denounced as unpatriotic by the Churchillian Brian.

So here we all are: workers on the minimum hourly wage, part-time workers, schoolkids working in shops at weekends, students working a couple of nights in pubs, trainees on FAS schemes, all chipping in merrily to help get our good old country back on its feet.

And those availing of special tax reliefs and exemptions? Er, well, they’ll be paying the levy too.

In many cases it’ll double the amount they are paying.