Friday, February 26, 2016

The "Progressive" Social Democrats and all the rest

I thought I do one last blog on #ge16 to cover the rest of the candidates on the Limerick City ballot paper.

A "progressive" (aka the regressive-left") is someone who believes in things like the pseudo scientific notion that gender is a social construct, in contradictions like abortion is a human right and in myths such as the gender pay gap. Whereas in fact, gender is determined by biology, abortion is a human wrong and if there is a company in Ireland that is paying women less for working the same hours in the same job with the same qualifications, then they are breaking the law and should be prosecuted.

Declared "progressives" in this election include Sinn Féin, AAA, Social Democrats, Labour and the Green Party, even Fine Gael are calling themselves "progressive".


Sarah Jane Hennelly is the by far the best looking candidate on the ballot paper, but she is more than just a pretty face; she is an articulate and capable woman; I heard speak at the Limerick Spring in 2014 and her performance on TV3's The Peoples Debate was credible. She may surprise everyone by taking a seat. I think she has a chance if she canvassed hard. Unfortunately, she strikes me as a career politician and we already have plenty of those. 

They have an interesting manifesto , obviously I don't agree with all of it and I found it a bit vague in parts such as "End Direct Provision" for refugees, by all means speed up asylum applications but what is the alternative to direct provision? The Social Democrats don't tell us.

They are a newly formed party and seem to be made up of independents and Labour refugees, their leader is Stephen Donnelly:


What got my attention most about this video is Donnelly's apparent lack of knowledge regarding our political system as outlined in our Constitution: "Every election we elect a hundred and sixty six men and women to Dáil Éireann and what I discovered over the last five years is about fourteen of them get to make all the decisions... " he says. The 14 he refers to are the government and they require a majority support in the Dáil to stay in office. He then goes on to talk about changing the system but it is very vague. I'm just a bit shocked that he was so unfamiliar with our Constitution.


What can I say, I don't like the Green Party. Gormely was Minister for Environment when "regeneration" was at its most destructive and he ignored all my correspondence.

I don't know much about James Gaffney except that he was terrible on TV3's The Peoples Debate - he could barely string a sentence together. 

As for global warming, we could certainly do with a bit of it in this country :)


I didn't encounter any posters for Des Hayes.

Hayes was formerly the Renua candidate, but they dropped him after it emerged that he had filed incorrect tax returns.

Hayes claims to be Pro-Life, but he seemed to fudge the issue on TV3's The Peoples Debate because some politicians want to be all things to all people so they can get their vote, so I'm not sure if he is really Pro-Life. The back of his Litir um Thoghchán is vague to say the least:

Hayes also says he'll be a "strong independent voice for Limerick".


Last but not least, Denis Riordan. This will be Riordan's 5th general election. He has not posters or leaflets or a Litir um Thoghchán, he doesn't even have his photo on the ballot paper.

In 2005 Riordan was in the high court seeking to appear on the electoral ballot as 'Independent' instead of "non-party" but he was unsuccessful. He was jailed for a week in 2001 for refusing to withdraw his allegation that three Supreme Court judges were corrupt. He is best known for challenging the results of referendums.

So, that the lot of them covered. I'm off now to cast my vote and in case you're wondering where I got the photo of Riordans place on the ballot paper, my wife had a postal vote as she would be away for the election.

Here's the ballot paper in it's entirety:

Nora Bennis the Catholic Menace

Nora Bennis is the candidate for the Catholic Democrats and I know nothing about that party other than the vague information provided on the back of her Litir um Thoghchán and that they have an unfortunate sectarian sounding name.

Nora is best known for holding protest prayer vigils outside Limerick's first adult shop, Utopia; she gave that purveyor of Jazz mags, blue movies and assorted vibrators so much free publicity that I began to suspect that she was actually a secret share-holder. 

Would Nora outlaw masturbation if the Catholic Democrats swept to power? Who would run the country if all the wankers were arrested?

Seriously though, does this woman have any redeeming qualities? Well, she is Pro-Life and opposed to repealing the 8th amendment to facilitate abortion-on-demand.

I would rather help to elect a government that might strap a water meter to my mickey and charge me for every time I took a piss than help elect one that would allow abortion.

If you found that last statement to be crude and offensive then pity about you, it is nowhere near as crude and offensive as the abortion industry. If you found it funny, well then you won't be laughing after you watch these:

1st Trimester Medical Abortion: Abortion Pills

2nd Trimester Surgical Abortion: Dilation and Evacuation (D & E)

3rd Trimester Induction Abortion: Injection and Stillbirth

There are a lot of self-professed repeal the 8th "progressives" running in this election (Sinn Féin, AAA, Social Democrats, Labour, Green Party); they have the deluded belief that abortion is a human right when it is in fact a human wrong. Life begins at conception and I don't need a Bible to know that the deliberate destruction of any life is wrong.

I don't care if Nora is eliminated in the first count, Nora is my protest vote and she will be getting my No. 1 today.

My No. 2 will go to Willie O'Dea (not that he'll need it) who is also Pro-Life.

How Does Willie Do It?

I was talking elections with a friend of mine yesterday when he posed the question, "How does Willie do does he manage to get elected?"

My friend is not a fan of Willie O'Dea and he can't for the life of himself understand how anyone could vote for the Fianna Fáil incumbent.

Well, the answer is simple - Willie is Limerick's most hard working and accessible TD and that is an undeniable fact.

If you ever had cause to visit his constituency office you will know what I mean; if there is something that Willie can do to help he will do it and if there isn't he will tell you straight and point you in the right direction.

Willie O'Dea was first elected to the Dáil in 1982 and he has been re-elected in every general election since; on 7 occasions he was elected on the first count and in 2007 he received the biggest vote in the country - 19082 No. 1's, which was almost 2-and-a-half times the quota. In 2011 his vote dropped to 6956 and he was elected on the 6th count. I predict that he will top the poll this time round.

But Fianna Fáil wrecked the country, how could anyone vote for them?

I don't exactly agree with that sentiment. We all "wrecked the country" by taking loans that we couldn't really afford to pay back, by buying over-priced houses and inflating the bubble. If Fianna Fáil (and the rest of the parties) are guilty of anything it is of standing idly by.

Besides I am not so much voting for Fianna Fáil as I am for Willie O'Dea.

Willie has a track record of acting independently and of refusing the party whip and out of all the candidates I can honestly say he has done the most for me and the resident's groups I'm involved with. 

Willie joins Ballinacurra Weston Residents Alliance (BWRA) protest outside hall (2012)

Willie takes the BWRA tour of the "regeneration zone":

Many of the answers and results that the Weston Gardens Residents' Association, the Moyross Resident' Alliance and the BWRA have achieved have been because of the representations  that Willie has made on our behalf.

And while I don't always agree with Willie and he doesn't always agree with me, he will always pay me the compliment of a rational opposition and that's a rare thing to find in Irish politics these days.

As an Independent Community Activist I have no hesitation in referring people to his clinics because I know he will do what he can to help them.

However, one of the most important factors for me in this election is that Willie is Pro-Life and when all is said and done, that is all I really need to know.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

NO WAY - AAA (The Cut-Throat World of Limerick Politics)

Right from the start I was of the opinion that the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) was little more than a front for the Socialist Party.

I had attended a few meetings when it was the Campaign Against Water and Household Tax (or something like that) and I was aware that Cian Prenderville was a paid member of the Socialist Party with an annual salary of €35,000, because he told me so.

So when the campaign morphed into a political party I had written them as a front to trick people into voting for the Socialist Party.

Needless to say, I was extremely surprised when Cian rang me in April 2014 and asked me if I would consider running as a candidate for the AAA in the local elections; if it was a front he would hardly be asking me to run for them as we disagree on a few core issues such as abortion and the economy.

I declined and instead ran as an Independent; I was hoping to gain some vital transfers for another Independent, the late Jason Griffin (RIP).

The AAA got 3 City Councillors elected, 1 in each electoral area of the city - Cian in Limerick City North, Paul Keller in Limerick City East and John Loftus in Limerick City West.

I wasn't exactly thrilled for them; they had been elected on a platform of national issues and where I lived needed our Councillors to be more concerned with local issues.

I was PRO with the Ballinacurra Weston Residents at the time (BWRA) and we had invited all the newly elected Councillors to meet with us and take a tour of the area, we were pleasantly surprised by John - he's a genuine man that actually gives a shit about peoples concerns and problems.

John informed me that neither he nor Paul Keller were members of the Socialist Party, so I guess I was way off the mark.

Cllr. John Loftus taking the BWRA tour

I started attending protests and I even made a few Facebook videos in support:



Then last August a row on Facebook between John and a former friend and ex-AAA member made local and national news. 

The row took place via private messages and was over the ex-AAA member posting disparaging remarks on Facebook regarding the AAA street collections. John was out of the country visiting his daughter at the time and had arranged to meet his former "comrade" when he got back; his friend had agreed to a ceasefire in the interim. Then in the early hours of the morning John saw another snide post from his pal and he reacted by sending him the following message, which his pal screen-grabbed and posted all over Facebook, such was his loathing for the AAA.

Now, on the face of it , it looks bad. However it needs to be looked at in context. It was a row between two people that know each other and nothing more. John is a working-class man from Portglasgow in Scotland and those of us that know him are familiar with his use of the vernacular and colourful turn of phrase, but instead of standing by John, the AAA threw him under the bus and demanded that he resign his Council seat.

An AAA meeting was called and John was invited to attend. Apparently, most of those present were members of the Socialist Party and the proceedings had the air of a  kangaroo court. John rightly refused to resign his seat and was expelled from the AAA. I can only wonder if the intention was to replace John on the Council with a member of the Socialist Party.

Cian Prenderville went on local radio to condemn John for making threats and claimed that was no context in which it was acceptable for a Councillor to address someone in such a manner.

There is always a context and in this case it was a private message sent from his personal Facebook account (in anger to someone who knew him well); not acting in an official capacity and not from a Council or AAA account. There was no real threat because there was no real intent. I know this for a fact because I was "threatened" last July.

I encountered three men on the Boreen leading to my home and one of them was spraying graffiti on the road. As I approached them they ran away shouting "Cathal the rat" and "you're dead" while making gun gestures at me. I reported the incident to the Gardaí and I was told that because I wasn't in fear for my life and didn't  believe that they were going to carry out their threat that there was no complaint to make.

The only thing that I found scary about the incident was the fact that these men in their twenties were all fathers of young children.

The AAA have joined forces with People Before Profit for this election and Cian has a good chance of taking the 4th seat even though as a Councillor for Limerick City North he has done little for the people of Moyross and St, Mary's Park. Because of his poor performance as a Councillor and because of his treatment of John, I will be giving him mu No. 8 preference, I may even bump him down to No.10, I'll make a final decision in the polling booth.

I think it's only fair to mention that the AAA, as far as I'm aware, were the only party to canvass Weston, albeit from a van. I haven't seen any other canvassers in the area and no one has knocked on mine or my neighbours doors.

Labour’s Losing Ways

As I walked into town on Thursday morning 2-weeks ago I noticed something strange as I passed the Tait Factory site on Lord Edward St. – there was a flurry of activity from men in hard hats and yellow jackets.  This was unusual because there hasn't been any activity there since last July.

Although, I suppose it isn't really all that surprising when you consider that the project history of this proposed development has been start-stall-stop since its announcement by Limerick Regeneration in 2011 and its approval in 2012 when it was granted planning permission.

As I returned home from town I got answer to the reason for all the activity. I spotted Alan Kelly TD, the Labour Party’s Minister for Environment, crossing the street.  Of course, they must be making another announcement and what could be a better time to do that then the run up to an election.

You can view the history of the development here: cisireland. The new finish date is 15/08/2017; the original finish date (which was announced in 2013) was 16/03/2015.

The plans is to build  79 housing units, 58 of which will be houses and apartments for the elderly, a retail commercial unit and a community facility with a function room, exhibition area, meeting areas and other facilities and at this stage I’ll believe it when I see it

Kelly nodded at me as he crossed the road and I nodded back; he looked dejected and down trodden, I almost felt sorry for him until I remembered our last encounter.

I met him in town in 2010 when he was an MEP; he had taken Kathy Sinnott’s seat in the European Parliament and as a consequence on the EU Petitions Committee.  I had been trying to contact him since his election in 2009; I had emailed him and left messages with his office, but I had got no reply.

Kathy had helped me to successfully petition the EU on issues of an environmental and public health concern and I was hoping that Kelly would pick up where she had left off. He apologised for not getting back to me and said that if I emailed him again with the details that he would look in to it and get back to me. I did just that, several times, I never even got an acknowledgement.

Now I didn't go chasing after him with my phone recording and shouting abuse (I’ll leave that carry on to the nut-jobs) but I did take a picture of his car, which must have cost a bit to get done.

Limerick’s Jan O’Sullivan TD is Labours incumbent; she is the outgoing Minister for Education and prior to that she was Minister for State for Housing. O’Sullivan was first elected to the Dáil in 1997 in a by-election that was held following the death of Labour colleague and mentor, Jim Kemmy TD.

O’Sullivan has been re-elected to the Dáil in the 3 general elections since then. However, she has never been elected by exceeding the quota; on each occasion she took the last seat without reaching the quota because all the other candidates had been eliminated and it is more than likely that she will be eliminated this time round and deservedly so.

As Minister for Education, O’Sullivan has been unremarkable, but as the Minister of State for Housing she was disastrous.  When her appointment was announced I was over the moon – a Limerick TD in charge of housing could only mean great things for regeneration, I thought to myself.

You see, for the first few months of the Fine Gael / Labour governments’ existence I had actually believed all their talk about looking out for communities and all the reforms that would make things more inclusive, but it was all bullshit.

And if I need more confirmation that it was bullshit, O’Sullivan launched the Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation Plan (LRFIP) to invited guests in the Thomond Suite at Thomond Park on 27th September 2013. Very few residents were invited to attend the launch, although all of the speakers stressed how much community involvement and "collaboration" there was with residents in developing it.

This plan green-lined much of the land for private development in the long-term and red-lined many occupied homes for demolition without the agreement of the residents and those of us that were invited had to embarrass the invitations out of O’Sullivan. The whole affair was little more than a PR stunt for O’Sullivan.

I think I’ll give her my No. 9

The Community Centre where I live has a Labour billboard ad featuring Joan Burton.

Now, if I’m harder on Labour than I am on Fine Gael it is because I expected more from them. They claim to care about the working-class, the poor and the disadvantaged and then they screw us over with water meters and let us down completely when it came to “regeneration”

They want to repeal the 8th amendment and introduce abortion –on-demand like the have in Britain and in recent weeks they have been constantly describing themselves as “progressive”, which is “a term that former liberals co-opted when they discovered that their delusional beliefs didn't fit any recognized definition of the word liberal.” And that is a description that suits them.

I’m Not Anti-Republican; I Just don’t Like the Way Sinn Féin Operates

For many of Sinn Féin’s opponents the issue of whether or not Gerry Adams used to be a member of the IRA seems to be their biggest problem with the party.

For me however, Adam’s alleged IRA membership is an irrelevant subject; the IRA is no longer at war, they have verifiably decommissioned their weapons and the Peace Process has transformed life in the North. I believe Adams when he says he was never a member, although I think that it more a case that he was never sworn in as opposed to having no influence over their actions.

I am more concerned with the way Sinn Féin operates.

From 1993 – 2010 I was a member of the National Executive of the Irish National Congress (INC) and during that time I had a lot of direct dealings with Sinn Féin.

The INC was a lobby group that promoted constitutional republicanism through the ideals of “freedom, unity and peace”.

Phoenix Magazine once described the INC as an organisation for “middle-class republicans that baulked at the idea of joining Sinn Féin”, but nothing could be further from the truth. The INC was a liberating space where republicans from all parties came together to discuss our differences and agree a strategy to end political violence and partition. We even had members of Fine Gael involved, until they were whipped out by their party.

A selection of INC campaign leaflets

The INC was a key player in a number of high-profile campaigns such as Repeal Section 31 (the Ministerial that had banned Sinn Féin from Irish radio and television since 1972), the campaign to reopen Border Roads destroyed by the British Army, the Give Peace A Chance campaign, the campaign to Defend Articles 2 & 3 and the Time For Peace- Time To Go campaign

At the time, Fine Gael was in government and the Taoiseach, John Bruton, wanted to delete Article 2 & 3 form our Constitution to appease northern Unionists. Our campaign ensured that public opinion was against holding a referendum, which was just as well because amending Articles 2 & 3 would later become central to negotiating the Good Friday Agreement with the INC, not Sinn Féin, negotiating the amended wording with the Fianna Fáil government.  


In the late ‘90’s the wife and I used to go holidays every August to West-Belfast for the week long festivities of Féile an Phobail. The festival always ended with the annual anti-internment commemoration rally and in 1999 our participation in this event made the front page of the Sinn Féin newspaper, An Phoblacht/Republican News.

Me and my wife, Cindy, on the front page of AP/RN

I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was to be the beginning of a love-bombing campaign to get me to join Sinn Féin.

It was suggested to me on numerous occasions by a variety of their members that I should consider joining the party, that I would be a great asset. The ego massaging switched to outright bribery in 2000 when I “won” a weekend away to Glasgow to see Celtic play.

I had witnessed the draw being rigged and I was taken aback when I was the “winner”. For fun I refused to accept the prize unless it was changed to a trip for two so that I could take my wife. That would be no problem I was told, all I had to do in order to collect my greatly-increased prize was to join Sinn Féin!

I politely declined.


In 2000 I was Vice-Chair and PRO of the INC, Mary Lou McDonald (then a member of Fianna Fáil) was the INC’s Chairperson.  Mary Lou and I were invited to attend a meeting with Sinn Féin party officials to try and dissuade the INC from holding a protest against the civic endorsement of Orange Order sectarianism by Dublin City Council.

Sinn Féin was of the opinion that the Celtic Supporters Club intended to disrupt proceedings and that the ensuing violence would reflect badly on any organisation that was there to engage in peaceful protest. The INC was of the opinion that this was merely speculation and that any violence, if it occurred, would be publically condemned by us. We informed Sinn Féin that we would be going ahead with the protest.

It was after this meeting that I was contacted separately and invited to join Sinn Féin.  I was offered IR£35,000 (we still had the punt) per annum to become a Sinn Féin activist and organiser in Limerick City.

I refused the offer. I had come to the conclusion the previous year that Sinn Féin’s Ard Chomhairle (their ruling body) was not so much Republican and Nationalist as it was Marxist and Communist. More importantly, I am Pro-Life and Sinn Féin are pro-abortion-on-demand, so even if they doubled the money on offer I was never going to join.

I rang Mary Lou to tell her of this development and she informed me that the same offer had been made to her and that she had accepted it; she asked me not to tell the other members of the INC National Executive, as her membership would not become official for another 3-months and that she would announce it then (normally there is a 6-month “vetting” period, but Mary Lou’s membership was being fast-tracked).

Less than a week before the protest I got a panicked phone call from the INC’s Secretary, Sile Carson, informing me that a majority of the  INC's National Executive were now opposed to holding the protest, that Mary Lou had been ringing around and convincing people that it was a bad idea.

I assured Síle that the protest would go ahead as had been unanimously agreed at our last meeting, even if it was just the two of us; members were free not to participate, but any decision to call-off the protest would require another meeting and another vote.

I did my own ring around and convinced everyone to take part. Of course I felt I had no option but reveal Mary Lou’s membership of Sinn Féin to the other members.

I presented Mary Lou with two options, either resign as Chairperson or lead us in protest – she chose the latter and in Dawson St., Dublin on 28 May 2000, Mary Lou made her national and international television debut.

In terms of publicity, it was most successful protest that the INC had ever mounted. Cindy and I had painted a mock Orange banner, which stole the show. As we turned the corner onto Dawson Street the media stampeded towards us.

Cindy and me at the protest with the banner we made

"The bigoted hill-billies "

Some of the INC members and supporters at the protest

INC members Finian McGrath, Mary Lou McDonald
and Tom Cooper at the protest

Mary Lou resigned from the INC shortly after that but she kept in contact; she had been parachuted into the Joe McDonnell Cumann by the Ard Chomhairle as their candidate in the 2002 general election and she was terrified. The Cumann had already selected their candidate and they were not exactly happy about having their decision over-ruled. 

As a means to break the ice, Cindy and I agreed to make a banner for the Cumann for Mary Lou to present to them as a gift and Sinn Féin compensated the selected candidate with an all-expenses-paid  two-week holiday in Spain.

When I refused to help her Cumann with an anti-bin charges campaign they were mounting, because I wasn't a member and it felt like I was been dragged in and because I had other things to be doing, I explained my reasons and I never heard from Mary Lou again.


In 2001 I was Chairperson of the INC when I received a letter from Finian McGrath asking me to use any influence I had with Sinn Féin to stop them from fielding a candidate in his constituency as he believed that this would split the republican vote and allow a “two-nationist” Labour candidate to win.

Finian was a Dublin City Councillor and former Vice-Chair of the INC; he was contesting the 2002 general election and felt he had a good chance of taking the last seat.

Finian told me that he had been invited to join Sinn Féin and run as their candidate and when he refused they told him that they would run a candidate against him and destroy his chances of becoming a TD.

I explained to Finian that I had absolutely no influence with Sinn Féin and I suggested that he should contact Mary Lou; he told me that he had left several messages for her, but she hadn’t returned his calls.

Sinn Féin ran a candidate against Finian; the Sinn Féin candidate polled just over 800 first preference votes and when he was eliminated most of his transfers went to Fine Gael!

Clearly there had also been a whispering campaign against Finian, but despite this he still took the last seat and he has kept it since.


In 2007 I was trying to find out what “regeneration” might mean for Limerick, so I contacted a Sinn Féin Councillor in one of Dublin’s “regeneration” areas. I also made contact with several residents’ groups.

I had several conversations with the Councillor and he gave me some solid advice regarding the sort things to watch out for, such as poor consultation and sub-standard housing sizes in the new houses.

During one of our chats I informed that some of the resident’s I spoke to were less than impressed with him as a Councillor; his response was very enlightening. He told me that he used to be an Independent but that he had been recruited by Sinn Féin with the same offer that was made to me in 2000. He said that he has to send the agenda for every Council to “Head Office” and that they send him back a list of things to say on every issue.

He told me that he regretted joining, but that he was dependent on the wages and if he left he could never make as much as an Independent Councillor.

It would appear to me that Sinn Féin is, like most political parties, very much a top-down organisation with a bottom-up veneer – the Ard Chomhairle calls the shots.


Whether standing up, sitting down or lying on the flat of his back, I don’t care what position the Sinn Féin candidate for Limerick City takes as long as he is willing and able to speak out and act in the best interests of the communities he seeks to represent.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Limericks “regeneration” communities, speaking out and acting in our best interests is something that Quinlivan has failed to do as a City Councillor and I can’t see that changing when he becomes a TD.

In February 2014, Quinlivan voted (along with the rest of the noddies - it was a unanimous vote) to approve the Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation Plan (LRFIP). This plan green-lined much of the land for private development in the long-term and red-limed many occupied homes for demolition without the agreement of the residents.

Moyross - Green-Lined for private development and red-lined for demolition

Southill - Green-Lined for private development and red-lined for demolition

St. Mary's Park - Green-Lined for private development and red-lined for demolition

Ballinacurra Weston - Green-Lined for private development and red-lined for demolition

Prior to this vote all of the City Councillors had been emailed with a submission from residents groups in Ballinacurra Weston that highlighted the many problems with the LRFIP like the lack of proper consultation and real participation of residents in developing the plans, and pointed out issues that were not addressed, such as the CCTV cameras being unmonitored.

And in case they had forgotten, a letter of support for the submission from Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council was left on their desks before the vote took place.

It is really hard to take the Sinn Féin rhetoric about social and affordable housing seriously when a plan like this can go unchallenged by their representative.

Pointing at boarded-up houses in photographs and decrying “regeneration” to the media is great for creating a perception in the public mind that a politician is on their side, but people need to look more closely at what they could have done and said when it really mattered.

Even if Quinlivan had been the only Councillor to speak out against the fantasy that is the LRFIP, it would have at least have made those issues a matter of public record, and who knows, maybe if he hadn't stayed silent, enough of the other Councillors might have been embarrassed into voting against it.

The idea that a proposal to demolish peoples homes without agreement or even informing the residents can be made is simply reprehensible and the fact that none of our Councillors spoke against it is abhorrent.

Even though he chose to remain mute, I have no doubt that Quinlivan will take a seat, possibly the third seat, maybe even the second. 

In 1918 when the original Sinn Féin won 73 out of the 105 seats for Ireland in Westminster on the basis that they would not take their seats and instead form a a parliament of our own, it was remarked by one commentator that Sinn Féin could stand a donkey and it would be elected. That looks to be the case again for this election.

Well I haven't been fooled and Quinlivan's inaction has earned him my No. 11 vote and in case you think that's a type-o I'll spell it out for you – number eleven!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I Like To Wear Blue Shirts, But I Don't Know If I Could Vote For One

For those of you not familiar with the term “Blueshirts” it is the nickname given to the larger of the outgoing government parties, Fine Gael.

The “Blueshirt” label originally belonged to the Army Comrades Association (ACA), an organisation that modelled itself on the various Fascist movements that were popular throughout Europe in the 1930’s such as Mussolini’s Blackshirts and Hitler’s Brownshirts; many in its ranks would go on to fight for Franco in during the Spanish civil war in 1936.

The ACA renamed itself the National Guard and merged with the partitionist pro-treaty party Cumann na nGaedheal in 1933 to form Fine Gael - the nickname has stuck since.

Since its foundation, Fine Gael has never been in government without a coalition partner and the party has only been returned to government for a second term on one occasion (1981–82; 1982–87) and that 6-years in government was its longest stint ever.

Our two incumbent Blueshirts for Limerick City are Michael Noonan TD (left & back) and Kieran O’Donnell TD (front & right).

Noonan was first elected in 1981 and has been re-elected ever since, often on the first count and sometimes topping the poll; he has held various positions within the party, including Leader and he has served in a variety of offices wile in government, his current one being Minister for Finance.

Now, it’s not just Noonan’s good-looks and high profile that gets him elected every time, he is actually a solid worker and his constituency office is a tight ship. He does not ignore correspondence and will always make representations on behalf of constituents when requested to. I can honestly say that most of the replies that my residents’ association got from the Office of Regeneration in the past few years were because of his representations.

I will be voting for Noonan, but he won’t be getting my number 1 (not that he will need it). 

I like to give every candidate a preference and while I'm grateful for the representations on behalf of my community, I am not happy with the government’s overall performance. Limerick Regeneration and water meters are top of my grievances, so I think I might give him my No. 5 or 6, I'll decide on the day.

O’Donnell was first elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011, but this time round he will need every vote he can get to keep his seat. I think that the poster of him with Noonan in the background is his attempt to piggyback on Noonan’s reputation. I have not seen any posters of Noonan with O'Donnell behind him and there seem to be very few posters of O'Donnell on his own.

During my time as PRO with the Ballinacurra Weston Residents’ Alliance I gave O’Donnell a tour of the “regeneration” part of Weston in 2012 and here’s the video to prove it.

Many of the issues that were raised with O’Donnell have since been resolved (no thanks to anything he did I can assure you) and others are still outstanding – no community participation, plenty of anti-social behaviour and the CCTV cameras are still not monitored, although it was announced recently in the Limerick Leader that they would be soon (I wonder if there is an election coming up). I think I’ll give O’Donnell my No. 10.

30 Questions For The 30th Dáil

All of these smiling faces looking down on me from the poles is making me nostalgic

On the 7th May 2007, I made a spontaneous decision to run for the Dáil – the general election was 17-days away and I was like a pig.

I had just left a meeting in Limerick City Hall with the then newly appointed Director of Service for Housing, Mr. Kieran Lehane, where I had been politely informed that he was never going to sign off on plans to regenerate Weston Gardens; the 3 burnt-out houses on our street would become the responsibility of a regeneration agency that would be established in September.

These plans were the culmination of 4-years of negotiation by Weston Gardens Residents Association (WGRA) with Limerick City Council.

The WGRA had secured funding from central government for our regeneration and the plans had been advertised in February and again in March because they were never lodged the first time.

We were eventually told that the new Housing Director had reservations about the plan and had refused to sign-off on them.

It had taken me two-months to get this meeting and despite the fact that I shared Mr. Lehane’s reservations, my proposal to amend the plan accordingly during the Part 8 planning process was rejected

The offer of a grant of €800 to the WGRA to paint the 3 burnt-out houses was of little consolation, but was politely accepted all the same.

“Fuck this” I said to myself as I exited City Hall looking at the posters on the lampposts. I already had serious concerns about this so-called regeneration that proposed to demolish 3,000 homes in four areas of the city and to build twice as many within a 5-year period.

The first person to be informed of my decision to run was one of our sitting TD’s.

Tim O’Malley was responsible for getting me the meeting with Mr. Lehane and he was waiting outside to find out how I got on.

“What party?” he asked

“No party – Independent, I'm headin' in now to put my name down”, I thanked him for his efforts and I stormed off to the Courthouse just across from City Hall to register as a candidate.

I had to come back the following day with a cheque for €500 because they didn't take cash. I was a self-employed contractor at the time and I was in the middle of a job, so I wouldn't have time to be knocking on doors. Besides, I was under no illusion that I had a chance of taking a seat; I just wanted to share my concerns with the city and in particular, the residents of the regeneration areas.

After work I would work on my campaign. The first thing I did was buy a web address and start work on a website, which didn't go live until 19th May (it took nearly 2-weeks back then to set up a .ie address). I designed a poster that was half the size and twice the price of everyone else’s because I wouldn't be ordering in bulk - I got 50 of them printed at a cost of €12 each.

I was the only candidate to provide a direct phone number.

I then put together my “manifesto”, an 8-page newsletter that gave voice to my concerns and views. I delivered 6,000 of them over the 3-days that were left before the election, I covered all of the regeneration areas and wherever else I could get to before polling day.

I had considered doing one of those “Litir um Thoghchán”, you know, those envelope size cards advertising the candidate that are delivered to every household with a registered vote, but the cost was prohibitive: €2,500 for a colour one or €1,800 for black and white.

Litreacha um Thoghchán I have received to date for ge16.

I got a great reaction to my newsletter, with over 50 calls and 100+ text messages from complete strangers wishing me well.

I may have had low expectations, but elections to me are like what sports are to some people, so I was in my element in the count centre. I managed to secure 188 No. 1 votes, over 600 No.2’s and thousands of No. 3’s, I lost my €500 deposit, but I didn't care, I had received one No. 1 vote for every 31 newsletters that I delivered and I was proud of that. 

I congratulated all the winners as they were announced and asked that they would prioritise the deployment of the “minimum of 100 additional Gardaí” recommended by the Fitzgerald Report as the first thing to be done for regeneration.

I'll never forget the reply I got from Michael Noonan: “Let me be and don’t be botherin me” he said as his little goonies elbowed me out of the way. Even that bit of hostility couldn't take from my enjoyment of the event.

My campaign was paid, for the most part, out of my own pocket (my mother sponsored half of my newsletters) and the total cost came to €1,500 - candidates are allowed to spend €45,000 and most of them did from what I could see.

I managed to stay self-employed until 2010 when I had to de-register with the Tax Office and sign on, so I wasn't in a position to contest the 2011 general election and if I had €500 to spare I'd have stuck my name on the ballot paper this time round, but hey "let's keep the recovery going".

The only thing about ge07 that left a bitter taste in my mouth was my treatment by the local media. 

I couldn't get on the local radio for the life of me and the Limerick Post didn't want to know me unless I was buying an ad. However, the Limerick Leader had allotted space to every candidate to answer “30 Questions For The 30th Dáil” and they contacted me and invited me to participate.

The instructions I was given by the Limerick Leader for answering the questions were: 

"As you will see, some of the questions are very concise while others require a little more detail in the answers. Answers however, can be no more than 50 words." 

Before I answered the questions I contacted the journalist responsible and asked if they were strict on the 50-word-or-less rule (that applied unless stated otherwise), as I had noticed that some candidates had exceeded that limit on several occasions. For example, one candidate, Michael Noonan TD, took 80 words to answer the first question when it had a limit of 40.

I was told that the point of the quiz, to see if candidates were able to respond as requested, a test of their ability. With that in mind I followed the instructions to the letter. 

I also saw it as an opportunity to convey my political knowledge and other aspects of my personality to more of the 74,000 registered voters, most of whom wouldn't receive my newsletter through their letterboxes.

I was truly shocked to see how heavily edited my answers and how in comparison to the other candidate’s answers mine took up considerably less space! 

I was livid, but I resolved to rise above and I responded by buying a full page advert in the Limerick Leader, a quarter of which would be my poster and the rest of the space was to be filled by the lead article from my newsletter, “A Tale of Two Cities”. 

I don’t know if it was incompetence or deliberate, but they made shit of my ad as well. All of text was in bold and the font was Arial instead of Times-New-Roman as I had specified. this made it illegible.

I had always believed that there was a media bias against Independents in favour of the parties. However, experiencing it first-hand convinced me that there is. I was never really a contender, which makes what they did all the more petty.

I've highlighted in red the cuts that were made by the Limerick Leader to my answers.

1. Explain, in 40 words or less, why you deserve our readers' No 1 preference.
Not being in thrall to any party, I would represent their interests only. I want to stop the fracturing of families; I will work to ensure that both parents are not forced by economic necessity to work outside the home.

2. Can you identify one thing above all that you are committed to achieving if elected?
Many areas in Limerick have been badly neglected and virtually abandoned by our local authority; one would be forgiven for thinking that Limerick City Council is more concerned in promoting the interests of the business community than those of the people. Reform of local government is a big priority.

3. Describe Limerick in three words.
Home Sweet Home.

4. Now do the same for yourself.
Independent, Republican, Battler.

5. Where did you get your politics - did someone or something inspire your ideology/party affiliation?
My republicanism comes from my late grandma, Kathleen O'Brien (nee O'Rourke). She was a teenager during the War of Independence and told me stories about her time as a Cumman na mBan courier and my grandfather, an IRA volunteer. She told to me her grandmother’s stories about the Famine and the Fenian’s.

6. What seat in your constituency do you see as being under the most threat?
In 2002 Willie O’Dea and Michael Noonan were elected on the first count with a healthy surplus. Peter Power exceeded the quota on the 10th count. Tim O’Malley and Jan O’Sullivan took their seats without exceeding the quota as everyone else was eliminated. The last three seats could be anyone’s.

7. If you were not voting for yourself in your constituency, who would get your No 1?
Tim O'Malley, while I disagree with most PD policies, he strikes me as the most sincere and hardworking of the incumbents. Noreen Ryan, she would inject some much-needed republicanism into Fianna Fáil. Dennis Riordan or Connor O’Donoghue, for their integrity and idealism. I could never decide until the day.

8. Which historical figure do you most admire?
Patrick Pearse and the other signatories of the 1916 Proclamation. The best way to commemorate them is for people to reclaim the Republic by voting for those who will “pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally”.

9. What personal measures have you taken to become 'greener'?
I recycle, compost and use energy saving light bulbs. I live in a second hand home that I restored with my own hands. Essentially, I believe that mending is better than ending.

10. What is the biggest mistake the current Government have made since 2002?
Taking people for granted. Saying that “a rising tide raises all boats” is all well and good assuming that we all had boats to begin with. Quite a few are barely keeping their necks above water! We need an economy that works for everyone and benefits all.

11. What is the biggest mistake you have made in your political life?
Not deciding to stand for election sooner.

12. Would it bother you if there was no united Ireland in 50 years' time?
It bothers me that there isn't one now. Partition distorted the political, economic, social and cultural life of our country and fostered sectarian divisions among our people. Thankfully the Peace Process is bearing fruit; if Sinn Féin and the DUP can share power then there is hope for the future.

13. If you could reduce property prices by 10% overnight would you do it?
Yes, by capping the profit that a developer is permitted to make on a new house. People before profit and Families first, that's what I believe. The concept of a “property ladder” is bad for neighbourhoods; you can’t build a community when people move in with a view to moving out.

14. When was the last time you drank to excess?
I don't normally make toasts, if I were to drink to anything I would drink to prosperity. Joking aside, I have a low tolerance for alcohol, three pints is my limit. I was at a christening last Sunday and had four pints after the meal, I was starting to wobble!

15. What is your proudest single achievement as a political representative?
I'm not there yet! I did campaign for Kathy Sinnott during the 2004 European elections. I was proud to have helped elect a true champion of our most vulnerable: the disabled, the sick and the elderly. She has proved herself to be the most dedicated MEP we have in Munster.

16. Are local hospitals adequately resourced?
No. For example our maternity hospital has two theatres, one for emergencies and one for scheduled c-sections. A friend of mine was recently scheduled for a c-section and had to wait 24hrs and become an emergency before being operated on, because there was only enough staff for one theatre!

17. What is the biggest single issue you are finding on the doorsteps?
I haven't knocked on any doors yet and as a working father I might not have the time to call to everyone. I'll probably just leaflet and not disturb their meals. However, from people I've spoken to in casual conversation on the street, I would say crime and anti-social behaviour.

18. On a scale of 1-10, rate the cynicism of the Limerick electorate towards politicians.
10 in some places. Some of our estates have been surrendered to criminal gangs who decide who can and can't live there. People feel abandoned by the state. Garda Sub Stations should be established in the heart of such areas to house the "100 additional Gardaí" recommended by John Fitzgerald.

19. Do you have any reservations about John Fitzgerald's report on Limerick housing estates?
Some parties are calling for the regeneration boards to be established before the election, despite the fact that Mr. Fitzgerald has clearly stated that firstly "...intensive policing intervention is required in the short to medium term to allow the other interventions an opportunity to work." First things first!

20. Is the decline in farming irreversible?
We are importing poultry from SE Asia and beef from Brazil where costs are considerably lower. Direct subsidies are being phased out making the production of food here less viable. It is unlikely that we will see subsidies re-introduced and such imports prohibited. I fear for the future of farming.

21. How's your Irish? And do you think compulsory Irish in second-level education is still the best way to ensure preservation of the language?
Tá mo chuid Ghaeilge cuíosach lag, mór mo náire. It would be daft to downgrade the status of Irish in our schools when it’s just been recognised as an official language of the EU. The fact that more emphasis is being put on spoken Irish in schools today is welcome.

22. Where did you meet your partner?
I met Cindy on the social scene in Limerick through a friend who was dating her sister at the time.

23. Do you have a sporting hero?
Michelle Smith DeBruin, she won her medals fair and square. I was a competitive swimmer for years and know the sport. Hard training alone can produce dramatic results and she performed on the day. The manner in which an ignorant media pounced on accusations by a jealous competitor was disgusting.

24. What would you say to people who criticise the number of foreign nationals now living in Limerick?
Government policy on immigration is exploitative and racist, preaching tolerance while promoting resentment. Little is being done to integrate and we have enough problems with crime and anti-social behaviour without importing more. It only takes a handful of bad apples to tarnish the public perception of the hard-working majority.

25. Can you see the ratio of male and female TDs becoming more equal over the next 20 years?
I would like to see more women getting involved in politics and people electing them because of their beliefs as opposed to their gender. I don’t believe in tokenism or “positive” discrimination. Imposing a gender balance undermines the advancement of women by denying them an opportunity to compete as equals.

26. What would your luxury item be if you were stranded on a desert island?
A wind up radio, the one with the built in dynamo - no batteries required.

27. Who has been the most inspirational person in your life?
My partner, Cindy. She is an amazing mother and talented artist. We’ve been together 16 years and had our ups and downs, happy and trying times, but at the end of the day she’s always been there for me. She is my rock; I’d be lost without her.

28. Have you had a life-changing moment that stands out?
The birth of my sons, Ógie (Cathal Óg) 5yrs, and Ruairí, 3yrs. Both occasions are still with me. One of the reasons that I decided to run in this election is because I want them to be able to grow up in a safe and secure environment.

29. If you were to undergo plastic surgery, what would you have done?
I don't believe in cosmetic solutions to real problems; either personally or politically. One would be forgiven for thinking that this election is a beauty contest given all the pretty posters. What are they all smiling about anyway? This is a serious business!

30. What opposition politician do you most admire in Ireland?
Michael D. Higgins. He is one of the few idealists left in Dáil Éireann and I think the Labour Party did the country a great disservice by not allowing him to run for President. I voted for Mary McAleese, she's done a good job, but he would have been brilliant.

Animated intro that I made for the splash page of my website.