Foolish But Noble?

15 March, 2010

Although division has arised in the parliamentary party, Fine Gael announced over the weekend plans to launch referenda on a number of issues if elected in the next national election – including the abolition of Seanad Éireann. The Irish Times carries full details.

Given the enormous patronage power that the Seanad offers to the Taoiseach and the rest of the political establishment, this is either an extremely foolish move by Enda Kenny or a truly noble one. The question is: will the public reward him enough to balance the internal political opprobrium?

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Breaching Stalemate in Northern Ireland

3 February, 2010

The Irish Times reports on the continuing failure to reach a settlement on devolution in Northern Ireland. Given the critical importance of these talks though, it may be prudent to give into the demands of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and radically revise the current policy on parades.

The DUP have very little incentive to agree on a date for devolution currently, especially given the upcoming elections in the UK. It is politically impossible for their leader, Peter Robinson, to concede this issue without looking extremely weak – unless he can sell it to his people with a minor victory. The other parties to the talks need to accept these political realities.

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The Ninety-Five Reforms

17 December, 2009

It seems on first inspection that the trade unions miscalculated by announcing their concessions on public sector reform before the pay cuts were certain not to have been instituted. By going public, they cannot avoid either complying or suffering serious public disdain.

The ‘concessions’ would have the effect of hugely improving the quality of public service provided to Irish tax-payers, and create incentives to eliminate the culture of mediocrity which has subsisted for so long.

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Signaling Theory, IKEA and Public Sector Strikes

3 December, 2009

The Irish Times explains why today’s planned public sector strike was cancelled. In the media, there was plenty of discussion over how the public sector workers were going to spend their strike day.

Last week, it was widely reported that there was a mass exodus from the city to places like IKEA. This irked many members of the public, but some felt it was reasonable to use the time productively. Why does the trip to IKEA damage the strikers’ cause?

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How To Lose Friends and Alienate Tax-Payers

23 November, 2009

The public sector strikers might as well be protesting against the recession, as though such a beast could be tamed by opprobrium. They seem to be confusing the dire economic circumstances facing the state and public finances, with some discretionary government policy that can be reconsidered.

Quite simply, the government has to cut back on public sector pay, and quite significantly so. According to the Department of Finance, the Irish government has suffered a €26 billion deficit in expenditure over revenue thus far in 2009. Next year, it could be worse.

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Why Fees Aren’t Free

9 November, 2009

The decision by the Irish government to repeal the reintroduction of fees has been met with joy by students around the country. But ‘free fees’ promotes inefficiency and propogates inequality, by not imposing the true cost of education on students.

Those who criticised the reintroduction of fees claim that students couldn’t afford to pay them, and that access to education would be limited as a result. Unfortunately, inequality in educational opportunity may stem from differing financial conditions – but free fees does nothing to stop this. As long as wealthier families can gain an advantage through spending (either through private tuition or grind schools), they will do so.

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The Importance of Property Rights

27 October, 2009

Afghanistan FlagThe New York Times discusses the diversity of revenue streams which support the Taliban in Afghanistan. In recent months, US forces have begun to express doubt over whether a policy to damage the opium trade will really hurt their finances.

Surprisingly, lessons can be learned from Peru’s experience fighting the drug trade and the ‘Shining Path’ guerilla movement in the early 1990s. In that case, the forces aligned against the government drew their power from an unlikely source.

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