Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Farewell the Senate?

Posted by Jason O on Jan 3, 2011 in Irish Politics

Am I the only person who finds the whole Seanad abolition thing to be quite funny? Just imagine how much Inda is now hated by Senators, and indeed how much this thing is now hurtling down a hill with the people who originally pushed it looking on aghast.

I have never believed that Seanad abolition was a strongly held belief by Inda. I think he mouthed it off to have something to say at an FG dinner, and it suddenly caught on. I always reckoned that when push came to shove he’d instead put to the voters a piss-poor half-arsed reformed Seanad which they would reject (after FG ran a Mickey Mouse Yes campaign that is only supposed to look like a campaign, and FF ran a Vote No we-need-proper-seanad-reform-like-the-sort-we-never-did-in-14-years-in-government campaign) after which Inda would announce that the Irish People in their wisdom have chosen to retain the Seanad in its current form.

Yet Fianna Fail jumping on the bandwagon, that was new, and means that it might actually happen. I love FF’s chutzpah on this. They don’t believe in it either, but reckon “Feck it, we won’t give him the satisfaction”.

In the middle of all of it are senators who want to remain senators, and have suddenly found the ground vanish from underneath them. The sad thing is, abolishing the Senate and leaving us with the Dail we have now is probably a bad idea. Ironically, the Senate, with Norris and Ross and Bacik and a few others is the only place that non-geographical issues get a real hearing, almost entirely because of the university senators. Yet that is not enough of a reason to keep a whole house of parliament.

Watch now as senators prostrate themselves, choking back tears like a five year old being dragged out of Smyths’s emptyhanded, begging for someone to listen to their plans for reform. The same plans they spent a lifetime blocking. If the Senate had been reformed a few years ago, even by the (by today’s standards) modest reforms of the last reform report, we would not have this issue. But the smart alecks in the Senate stalled change, calling for “further debate” and “consensus”. Now they may be about to get a whole heap of consensus delivered by the Irish People. To the face. And it is very, very hard to have any sympathy for the great majority of them. 


British Eurosceptics may suddenly find themselves bit players.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 3, 2011 in British Politics, European Union, Irish Politics

Dan O’Brien, in last Friday’s Irish Times here, finishes his piece with an interesting possible glimpse of the future: “The choice facing Europe…would be to allow the euro (and the European banking system) to collapse or to take a large leap towards further political integration in the form of fiscal union. Europe may well find itself in 2011 having to choose between a meltdown of apocalyptic proportions and taking a very large step towards European statehood. It is unthinkable that the former would be permitted, so the chances of the latter are not inconsiderable. Euro federalists may have their hearts’ desire in 2011, but hardly in circumstances for which they would have wished.”

As someone whose heart leaps at such a proposition, and respects Dan’s analysis, I have to say that I’m sceptical. A fiscal union needs the consent of a lot of people, especially the German people, and the question has to be how you give them that reassurance that they are not taking possession of a fire-saled continent whilst convincing the rest of the Eurozone to give the Germans the power to feel secure? It’s a mammouth task. Yet, as Dan points out, the alternative, the very money in our hands ceasing to work, as it were, is a nightmarish possibility.

I can’t speak for other countries, but would the Irish vote Yes to creating a form of SuperEcoFin in a referendum? There will be some who will immediately advocate that Ireland attempt to blackmail the rest of the Eurozone in return for an restructuring of the IMF deal, but given that the collapse of the euro will be the outcome of a No vote, I have a suspicion that such a rich pot would be too rich for most Irish gamblers, and that they would vote for fiscal union. Ironically, you could have the surreal situation where the possibility of Ireland leaping from a burning Eurozone into Sterling could transform overnight Sinn Fein into a European federalist party, especially if Tory MPs start suggesting that Ireland in Sterling could print its own “Oirish” version of the pound as Northern Irish and Scottish banks do already.  

But what is also interesting is that Britain, outside the Eurozone, will nevertheless probably have to give consent to the changes sought to the treaty, provided Britian is exempt. Even the most thickheaded of eurosceptics will surely not want to see the euro collapse in disarray for fear of the effect on Britain. But it then leaves them in a curious position, where Britain, after hundreds of years of a policy of preventing a dominant power emerging on the continent, will awaken to find a European state with a population of 330 million people sandwiching the UK into the North Sea. Ooops!     

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