Posts Tagged ‘Referendum’


 

On Friday October the 4th, 2013, the Irish people are being invited to cast a vote on two constitutional amendments.

The first proposal will ask ‘if you agree to the abolition of the Seanad’..The second will seek permission for a ‘Court of Appeal and other changes to the court system’.

In order to minimise confusion, we shall address the first proposal only, which is the issue of the Seanad, the Upper House of the Parliamentary system.

So let’s begin,

Essentially, the FG/Lab Coalition Government, are leading this charge to abolish the Seanad, on the basis of cost and efficiency. The Yes campaign claim that abolishing the Upper House will save 20 million euro, the No side claim the figure is closer to 8 million euro. Either way, holding the referendum is reportedly costing the taxpayer 14 million euro. However, the cost argument, is neither well founded, transparent, or accurately proven. Neither side has accurately produced figures in a clear accessible documented form, that will allow scrutiny by the very people being asked to cast their voice on a potentially massive constitutional change.

Nonetheless, let’s work with the Government line, that the Seanad is costing the taxpayer 20 million euro year on year. The Upper House consists of 60 Senators:

  • 11 nominated by the Taoiseach
  • 43 elected by five panels representing vocational interests namely, Culture and Education, Agriculture, Labour, Industry and Commerce and Public Administration
  • Six elected by the graduates of two universities: – three each by the National University of Ireland and the University of Dublin (Trinity College)

The No campaign have recently stated that over 500 recommendations, additions, and amendments to Bills, have been conducted by The Seanad since the formation of this current Oireacthas (parliament).

So using the Government (unsubstantiated) figure of ’20 million’ , that means, that each Senator comes in at a cost of 333,333 euro, or that each Bill has cost approximately 40,000 euro.

Alas, to use such mathematical factors would be to miss the point though, for the more accurate figure is the cost to the individual taxpayer. In a workforce of circa 1.8 million people, the Seanad works out to cost the individual taxpayer a very manageable 11 euro per person, year on year. (based upon the Government position of an unsubstantiated, or transparent costing, of the figure of 20 Million euro).

11 euro a year?  The price of a cinema ticket and popcorn? The price of a couple pints? Less than the monthly cost of a TV License? One fifth of one G.P. appointment? The price of a decent 12 inch pizza?  …….and we are being asked to abolish it on a basis of cost?

It is clear the cost argument just doesn’t hold up, when using the highest figure of 20 million euro, which by the way is 0.03 cent per day.

So it must be the efficiency factor then, surely…? Alas, as efficiency is more often than not tied to a cost coefficient this seems to be an argument with little legs to support it.

No,the elephant in the room of spin, (and let’s remember that when it comes to ‘spin’  the Dail (Lower House) appears to be streets ahead in this art, than the Seanad ever has been),  is the role of Democracy in our society.

Is the Seanad a perfect Democratic institution? No, not by a long shot. Is it a Democratic institution? Yes. technically speaking. Is its abolition a Democratic strengthening move? No, it cant be, when its purpose is fundamentally to be a watchdog over the Lower House, as has been proven through its debates, amendments, recommendations, etc..

It’s abolition will bring less democracy, and the Lower House will become less accountable.

The Government proposes to ‘replace’ the Seanad with ‘citizen committees’ when it comes to reviewing Bills, etc. Now, this may appear to be a noble exercise, however, firstly, we haven’t been given any notion of what these committees will cost the taxpayer, secondly, we have not been clearly informed of who will make up these committees, and thirdly, not one member of these committees will be accountable to the public. So we may in fact  be left with the vista of legislation being informed by unelected political cronies,..ergo, less democracy, unaccountable and uncosted.

Reform to the Seanad is definitely required, the removal of Taoiseach appointees, and the direct election by all citizens of the State, are but to name just two, although there are many more other changes to be discussed, albeit, we are not being asked to reform, we are being asked to abolish.

Getting rid of politicians because we don’t like them, cant trust them, have been ‘nailed to the cross’ by them,  or because it is a rare chance to give them a ‘bloody nose’, is not a very good reason to abolish a fundamental house of Democracy, they are reasons to exercise your vote to hold them to account at each election.

To put it into a contemporary context:

In Nairobi this week, criminals killed many innocent people, they holed up for a while, but were eventually removed, dead or alive, however the shopping centre was not bombed into history, just because it was an unsavoury place for a while….. its lower levels and upper levels were kept intact,

 

However you choose to cast your vote on the 4th of October, is your choice, all that is asked is at what price?

As shown, 0.03 cent a day will be your saving, if you choose to abolish the Seanad,

 

But at what cost?

 

Voice

 


And so, in three short days, Thursday the 31st of May 2012, will see the people of Ireland cast their voice upon the ‘Fiscal Stability Treaty’ or to give it is full name, the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union

The Full text of this treaty can be found here:

http://www.european-council.europa.eu/media/639235/st00tscg26_en12.pdf

 

Now essentially this Treaty is designed to….” strengthen the economic pillar of the economic and monetary union by adopting a set of rules intended to foster budgetary discipline through a fiscal compact…” Article 1.1

Within this Treaty, there is mentioned a ‘facility’ known as the European Stability Mechanism, or the ESM for short. This is the body that the Yes side of this debate continually cite as being important to this vote. That is, they say if we don’t pass this referendum, then we will be excluded from accessing funds from the ESM. So what is it?

A Full Text of the ESM Treaty, which we are NOT being asked to vote upon, can be found here:

http://www.ecb.int/pub/pdf/other/art2_mb201107en_pp71-84en.pdf

and a simpler two page Fact Sheet on the ESM, can be found at this link:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ecofin/127788.pdf

 

Having read this Fact Sheet over a couple of times……I have observed two things that make me question, what the YES side of this debate have been saying, and inturn what the NO side have been saying……..and that is, this Treaty will utilise secondary markets if it needs to,

Point 1.

“The future ESM ………..will also be able to purchase bonds of beneficiary member states on primary and secondary markets (articles 17 and 18). 

Now , am I correct in saying, we are being told to vote Yes, in order to ‘apply’ to access funds from a ‘facility’ that has yet to come into existence yet, but if and when it does, it will access ‘secondary markets? And the No side are saying, that we can access these same markets without the confines of the Treaty….?

Either way, the ‘secondary’ markets appear to be available……

Point 2.

What is the primary function of the ESM, as in, do we see one thing, and they another, it states:

“Its purpose will be to provide financial assistance to its members (euro area member states), experiencing or being threatened by severe financing problems, if indispensable for safeguarding financial stability in the euro area as a whole.”

Fair enough some may say, but it is this clause, that raises the question, as to…    ‘financial assistance to its members…….’   To do what with the Financial assistance? Is it purely designed to do this?

“…..Besides loans to beneficiaries, it will provide precautionary financial assistance (article 14) and loans to member states for recapitalisations of financial institutions (article 15).”

 

Now, I dont know about you, but this clause, has me wondering where the people come in the pecking order of this treaty…….I could be wrong, however, we have already seen how ‘financial institutions’ have been ‘recapitalised’ and how this has affected the average household…

 

One thing is for sure. The path ahead for Ireland and it’s people is going to be a very difficult one indeed, regardless of a Yes/No outcome. I just hope that whichever way you may decide to vote, that it is done through solid research, and not through the expert opinion of the high stool of your local bar, this Referendum is far to important to be treated with the usual apathetic disdain of politics, it is not about you or I, it is about the future generations of this nation.

 

The People will decide on this coming Thursday, let’s just hope enough of them care to vote.

 

Voice

 


The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, Enda Kenny,  announced on the 28th of February 2012, that a referendum on the EU Fiscal Compact Treaty will be put to the people.

This decision was based upon the advice of the Attorney General, that is, that if he didnt take this decision, it would be more than likely that a Constitutional challenge would be brought against the Government.  http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0228/breaking41.html?via=rel

So, what is  the Fiscal Treaty?

Basically, it is a document that binds all participating Nations of the EU, to a budgetary discipline that seeks to hold each Nation to restricted public deficits. The Full document (only ten pages)  can be viewed here:

http://www.irishtimes.com/focus/2012/fiscal-compact/index.pdf

Now, keeping public spending under control, on the surface may be a good, decent, and worthy concept, so why is this referendum important to the Irish People?

This is a referendum, and therefore means that if passed will become enshrined in the Irish Constitution. A Budgetary Controlling Treaty, that will dictate how Ireland will run its finances, and that will be ‘set in stone’. It states:

“CONSCIOUS of the need to ensure that their deficits do not exceed 3% of their gross domestic product at market prices and that government debt does not exceed, or is sufficiently declining towards, 60% of their gross domestic product at market prices,”

Some may say, this is a sound idea, but for Ireland, and many other EU nations, this will be at best, incredibly difficult to achieve. Ireland’s current debt to GDP ratio stands at around 107%, yes you read that right, 107%, according to The National Management Treasury Agency:

http://www.ntma.ie/GovernmentDebt/GovernmentDebt.php

“It is important to note the difference between Government Debt, which is the important figure here, and National Debt…a different animal altogether”

And this Treaty, if passed, will mean that Ireland will be committed to reducing its’ current ratio of 107% to 60%.  The most current estimates of Irish nominal GDP are roughly 155 Billion Euro:

Dept of Finance Table 2:

http://budget.gov.ie/budgets/2012/Documents/Economic%20and%20Fiscal%20Outlook.pdf

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) represents the total value added (output) in the production of goods and services in the country.

Ok, so in short, Ireland produces roughly 155 billion euro in goods and services, and has a debt ratio of 107% of this figure, ergo it owes roughly 166 billion.

And therefore the Fiscal Treaty will demand that, if passed, Ireland will need to reduce its debt  to roughly 90 billion  euro based upon current GDP output and 60% debt ratio requirements. In effect it must find/cut 76 billion euro to meet the requirements of the Fiscal Compact Treaty.

Now, either way you look at it, the movement of your euro, surely will be out of your pocket, and not into it.  Effectively a cut of 76 billion Euro, enshrined in our constitution, if people decide to vote for this treaty.

Add in debt repayments to bondholders, Household Taxes, Septic Tank charges, USC, etc,etc,etc…..and you may get the picture.

The Fiscal Compact Treaty? More like the Financial Impact Treaty!

Voice

with special thanks to Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev for his helpful guidance


On the 27th of October the Irish People will be asked to vote for two constitutional amendments, one on Judges Pay, which has been addressed here before (“You Be The Judge”), and two, on granting powers of investigation to the Oireachtas, the Parliamentary houses of the nation.

So let’s take a look at the second amendment.

On the surface the concept seems reasonable enough doesn’t it? The Government being able to investigate matters of public interest? On the surface, it may be reasonable to suggest, that a referendum, is not needed to do this, surely the numerous committees that have existed to date, have had similar powers of investigation. And if passed, any findings, so called ‘findings of fact’ will not be held as criminal convictions.

So what is the purpose of this amendment if all it can do is investigate a person in ‘the public interest’ and ultimately say ‘a la Monty Python….”You’ve been a naughty boy, now Go Away!!!”

Let’s assume that all this is well and good, then we have nothing to worry about surely, or do we?

A few questions have arisen for this voice in regards to this amendment.

Who defines the public interest?……Umm, that would be the Government.

Does this position the Government, in certain cases, above the courts of the land?

If a person has been brought forward before one of these inquiries, and a court process is to follow, how can they honestly expect to receive a fair hearing before their peers?

If the Government has the power to ‘seize’ papers, computers etc….. what happens to this information after such investigation has been held?

What happens, if as proposed by this present government, if the Seanad is abolished, does that mean all of the power of investigation is handed to the ruling party of the land?

Does this mean that someone who is critical of, and perhaps damaging to,  the Government, and speaks out via social media such as twitter, facebook, Blogs etc… can be investigated in the ‘public interest’?

 

There are more questions here, than answers, and it surely is in the ‘public interest’ to have this issue debated far more than it has been to date.

 

Alas, however you decide to vote, I hope you have made your inquiries into this amendment, in the ‘public interest’!

 

Voice.


On Thursday October the 27th of this year 2011, the Irish people are invited to go to the polling booth yet again. Aside from a by election, the majority of the nation will be asked to cast their voice for a new president, and to approve/reject two proposed constitutional amendments.

So let’s take a look at one of the proposed constitutional changes. Article 35.5 …judges pay.

As the majority of the electorate will be informed by the information booklet dropped through their letter boxes, I have decided to use this as my basis of discussion. The leaflet can be found online via http://www.referendum2011.ie/

On page 4 of the leaflet, a sub section of the proposed change to Article 35.5 reads as follows:

3° Where, before or after the enactment of this section, reductions have been or are made by law to the remuneration of persons belonging to classes of persons whose remuneration is paid out of public money and such law states that those reductions are in the public interest, provision may also be made by law to make proportionate reductions to the remuneration of judges.

Now, a question arises for this voice here.

Does this proposed amendment, through its wording, actually set a precedent for the ability of the Constitution to act retrospectively? Has it been done before? Can it be done in the future?

I am no legal expert, but I presume most laws are introduced as a way of recognising a failing from the past, and adjusted, for better practice into the future, not as this amendment is stating…..‘as this has happened, we can do now this’.

Is this the actual intent of this proposed amendment, to place the thin end of the wedge of retrospective law making into the constitution?

It is true, that the constitution states that judges pay cannot be reduced, whilst they are in office, and that they cannot be removed from office, except for certain criteria, so, would it not be better to have a referendum that allows for a ‘Judicial Term of Office’, where Judges will sit for an agreed term and salary, which can be renegotiated upon completion of tenure?

For example, a five year Term of Office at say 100k per annum, once that five year term has expired, a new contract is negotiated, it may be 150k per annum, or 75k per annum, etc, whatever the economic times will allow. And it is the economic times we are in which has supposedly initiated this referendum.

The concept that the Judiciary must be seen to be independent and separated from the government is a virtue well worth upholding, however, the Judiciary are also supposed to be servants of the people, not above, or exempt from the same laws that they uphold for us. Or have I misjudged that…..?

It would be far more constructive, if the Judiciary were brought into line with the majority of the Population, that is, that their positions are contracted with finite terms of salaries and tenure, the same as the very people they serve. Such a concept will not interfere with their ability to perform their duties independently, and if it is suggested that it will, then I suspect they are not independent at all.

Alas, no such proposal is being placed before the people. No, we are being asked to allow the government to reduce Judges pay because, Teachers, Gards, Nurses, and the many other civil servants have had their pay reduced. And it is being based upon, in part, retrospective happenings. And we save how much?

I could be wrong here as regards to the introduction of retrospection, I could be wrong in wanting a ‘Term of Office’ for the judiciary, I could be wrong on believing that as the judiciary serves the people, that they are therefore not exempt, or above the same law of the people, I could be wrong in thinking there is another agenda lying behind this proposed amendment,

Let’s face it, I could be wrong,

However,

“You Be The Judge”

Voice.