Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Questions to ask political canditates for the 31st Dail

What do you see as the main difference between the role of a local councillor and T.D ?

How do you see we can improve the service provided by our elected Dail representatives? Should they work on local issues that should be the remit of local councillors or national issues and policy development?

As a TD what would you like to legislate for?

There currently 6000 people politically appointed to over 800 quangos. How do you believe government appointments to state boards and semi state companies should be undertaken?

What level of funding have you received to support your election campaign? and If elected where you are a standing councillor who have you appointed/named to replace you on the Local Authority?

What is your position or your parties position on the State sellling off state assets and privatising utilities and semi state companies such as the ESB, Bord Gais, Bord Na Mona and Coillte.

Do you believe the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) has worked? And what do you see as the future for banking in Ireland?

This Universal Social Charge (USC) is a tax and does not provide a benefit to those paying the charge.
All individuals are liable to pay the USC if their gross annual income is more than €4004 (€77 a week). This will impact most severely on lower income families. Do you support the introduction of the universal social charge.? If elected will you fight to retain or remove it ?

Do you or your party support the recent reduction in the minimum wage, blind pension and carers allowance and would you reverse this decision?

We have entered a period of major upheaval with rising food prices, a growing world population, climate change, peak oil and increasing pressure on natural resources, what will this mean for Ireland and what policies would you or your party advance to address these issues?

Ireland prides itself as a food exporter, yet nearly half the food we eat in this country is imported. How do you explain that imports of food and drink from the UK to Ireland (pop 4.5 million) grew by 6pc in 2010 to €3 billion (equivalent to the average person eating €1000 worth each year) while our exports to the UK (pop 65million) were valued at €3.5 billion? If current trends continue Ireland’s food trade surplus will continue to diminish. What would you do to protect and expand food production in Ireland? (Note: The rise in imports is due to the power and purchasing decisions of retail companies such as Tesco, Lidl, Aldi. Who control the largest market sector in Ireland, Irish food producers cannot compete with the power of large multiples)

What is your position on education? Do you support the existing Government policy decision that fully qualified teachers should work for free to gain work experience? If so what about other unemployed graduate professionals in other disciplines? And why not politicians?

If our domestic economy continues to decline and we must pay the interest on the IMF-ECB bailout and sovereign debt as a result of the bank guarantee how will the state fund future spending on social welfare, healthcare and education?

The national pension reserve fund was established to fund the future public sector pensions; now that it has been used for bailing out the banks what plans have you or your party for the state to fund pensions in the future?

Social welfare spending accounts for 38% of government spending, the main areas of expenditure include old age pensions, widows, widowers and one parent families, Illness, disability and caring allowance, unemployment support and child related payments. With an ever-increasing older population and higher unemployment the demands on social welfare will rise. How will we fund this service in the future? And where do you see cost reductions or savings can be made?

Ireland spends less on education than most other OECD countries. Funding primary education is vital to ensuring access to education for all our children and laying the foundation for future education, growth and development. Spending on secondary and third level students is double what is spent on primary pupils. Do we need to invest more in primary education? Where can we make savings in education spending so we that our investment is more sustainable and long term?

Do you agree that the state should continue to facilitate and fund children being educated in prefabs and temporary accommodation while hundreds of millions was spent on a failed government decentralisation policy including brand new state of the art facilities for public servants? How would you address this imbalance and injustice?

What reforms would you like to see in how Dail Eireann works?

Do you agree with the abolition or reform of Seanad Eireann?

What we have learned from the past ten years is that a government is only as strong as its opposition. Do you believe that a Fine Gael/Labour coalition with a massive Dail majority and weak opposition is in the best interest of the country at this time? And if so please explain why?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Seanad Accountability and the Finance Bill 2011

At a time when the public and political parties are demanding accountability and transparency in the houses of the Oireachtas and when the very future of Seanad Eíreann is being openly discussed one would imagine that the Seanad would have a full attendance for its last and most important act of the 30th Dail, debating and enacting the Finance Bill.

The Seanad comprises of 60 representatives yet the attendance and voting record of Senators for the Finance Bill show that on Friday the 28th January exactly ten Senators were absent for the crucial vote comprising a remarkable 17% of the Seanad.

On Saturday afternoon for the Final Stages of the Bill nine senators were absent.Throughout the debate and vote the Fianna Fáil-led government side had a majority on all divisions tabled by opposition parties, but almost lost a critical vote on one late recommendation made by Labour and supported by Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and the Green Party which would have seen the Dáil asked to vote on whether to force banks to publish the bonuses paid to bank staff since the bank guarantee was introduced in 2008.

The vote was won by a margin of one in favour of the Government with the support of Senator Ronan Mullen of NUI Galway. What may be of interest to voters is that Senator Mullen voted against the Finance Bill at all stages yet for some reason at the eleventh hour supported the government on this recommendation. How is this possible? Where is the transparency and accountability?

What may also interest voters in the forthcoming election are not just the Fianna Fail, Green Party and some Independents who supported the Bill but the absentees voters our public representatives who were required to be present to enact or reject what was one of the most important acts of legislation in the history of the State, one that will have untold consequences for the people of this country. In particular Senator’s Fidelma Healy White, FG Galway West, Paul Coghlan, FG Kerry South, Labhras O Murchu, FF Tipperary, Pat Moyan, FF Laois Offaly and Senator Marc MacSharry, FF Sligo who were absent for all stages of the Bill.

So now the Finance Bill is introduced and we may never know what bonuses were paid to banking staff during the period 2008 to January 2011, thanks in part to some opposition Senators not being present for the crucial vote.

Transparency and accountability indeed.