“That situation has changed.”

As Mick mentioned yesterday, the inability of the 4 Sinn Féin TDs to secure support for their demand to change the Dáil Standing Orders, in order to permit them to form a technical group – not even the support of Finian McGrath – is indicative of the new political situation the party finds itself in. And, also yesterday, the party’s leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, tried again.. only to be reminded by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that the party’s problem was the lack of Sinn Féin TDs, not the Standing Orders.[subs req]

The Taoiseach said Mr Ó Caolain “will just have to accept, as I would have to in similar circumstances, that his party has four members. He can no longer expect the concessions his party received when it was part of a larger group. That situation has changed. His best bet is to be nice to the chief whip and hope he will allow him additional speaking time.”

, ,

  • jpeters

    such a flap over what is after all a procedural issue. How would the Dail get anything done if all the minority interests where allotted speaking time equal to that of the main opposition and government groups.

    SF if they have a strategy at all in the south should be concentrating on their constituancy work rather trying it on in a chamber were they are so marginal

  • kensei

    “such a flap over what is after all a procedural issue. How would the Dail get anything done if all the minority interests where allotted speaking time equal to that of the main opposition and government groups.”

    Yeah, because 7 members is a majority interest and the Dail is packed with all these wee groups at the moment. It’s just smart politics on behalf of FF.

    Anyway,

    “will just have to accept, as I would have to in similar circumstances, that his party has four members.”

    He’s cute, like.

  • jpeters

    ‘the Dail is packed with all these wee groups at the moment’

    thats my point the voting system in the south is bound to produce groups like this and same groups will inevitably fall foul of standing orders whether you think this is a FF plot or not

    a small party has to put itself in a position were it can find ready allies in the chamber and so be able to to make itself heard

    speaking rights aside SF for whatever reason has managed to alienate itself even from the left. Constituancy politics is the only way forward that and reformulating the message to attract the voters never mind the other parties/grouups (though i hope to god they dont have the gumpton to do either ; )

  • kensei

    “thats my point the voting system in the south is bound to produce groups like this and same groups will inevitably fall foul of standing orders whether you think this is a FF plot or not”

    I don’t believe it is an FF “plot” (though it certainly is smart politics from them). I just don’t think it is particularly healthy for democracy.

    “speaking rights aside SF for whatever reason has managed to alienate itself even from the left. Constituancy politics is the only way forward that and reformulating the message to attract the voters never mind the other parties/grouups (though i hope to god they dont have the gumpton to do either ; ) ”

    No, basically no one wants a growing SF. The Left don’t want it in case they nick a bit of the Left vote. FF don’t want it in case they nick a bit of their Republican vote. So, they block SF speaking to try and limit growth. It’s good politics, and it’s what I would do. Just spare me the idea there is any higher purpose behind it – there really is no logistical reason behind it in the current Dail and the idealistic view would be to encourage more parties to get more participation and more churn of ideas.

  • jpeters

    ‘Just spare me the idea there is any higher purpose behind it’

    wouldn’t dream of doing that in a place as idealogically barren as the south!

    I do believe there is practical considerations behind the speaking rights issue as well as smart politics.

    Chumming up with other independants is the only smart politics left to SF in the current dail

  • This is basically the same thread as yesterday’s lead thread on the same subject. Surely this has been debated to death…?

  • kensei

    “I do believe there is practical considerations behind the speaking rights issue as well as smart politics.”

    Not in the current Dail. There is only SF and one other independent outside the main coalitions.

    “Chumming up with other independants is the only smart politics left to SF in the current dail ”

    There is only one that isn’t in government.

  • The Dubliner

    Kensei, it isn’t “smart politics” by PSF, is it? It isn’t smart for PSF’s TDs to emphasise how politically impotent they are, is it?

    We all know that they were ‘black-eyed’ by the electorate and not only failed to increase their number of TDs but actually succeeded in reducing them, so emphasising the practical effects of their electoral rejection to those who will enjoy their difficulties and to, more pertinently, those who may now regard their vote for PSF as wasted? If they earnestly felt some democratic principle is violated by Standing Orders, then why didn’t their regard for that ‘principle’ surface in opposition to the relevant procedure prior to their becoming ‘victims’ of it? They could have opposed it at any point in their history as TDs, but perhaps they didn’t do so because they calculated that any smaller challengers that may arise on the left would be ultimately restricted by it, working to their advantage? It is just self-serving expediency and damage control masquerading as principle. They look like screaming drama queens at this point.

    Anyway, such are the vagarie of parlimentary politics; and I haven’t heard a single convincing argument that the problem lies with Standing Orders and not with the unrealistic electoral ambitions and the inability to adjust to new realities of chastened fringe parties.

  • I would be really curious to see how different the discussion would be on this issue if it wasn’t Sinn Féin, but the Greens say, that were involved. I suspect we would be hearing a lot more about people’s rights being respected.

    I don’t think Sinn Féin should get, and I don’t think they’re asking for, the same amount of time as Fine Gael and Labour, but they do have a point about the Dáil Standing Orders.

    In order to get the ‘Party Leader’ allowance you only need one TD to qualify as a party, which is why Joe Higgins was able to claim it. To be entitled to be considered for Committee positions, you need to meet a quota of two TDs to be considered a party.

    But where speaking rights in the Dáil and the ability to question Ministers comes in, you need seven.

    Parties should be assigned their speaking time in proportion to their strength. Sinn Féin have four TDs out of 166. They should get an equivalent amount of time and speaking rights.

    No more. No less.

  • jpeters

    kensei

    im talking outreach not actual decision making, this dail is a dead end for SF,
    outreach to other politians and the electorate perhaps the same as was attemted with the unionists ; )
    there are issues here of SF failing to connect with RoI society at large.

  • kensei

    “Kensei, it isn’t “smart politics” by PSF, is it? It isn’t smart for PSF’s TDs to emphasise how politically impotent they are, is it?”

    We are right at the start of the Dail, and they have already took a great deal of punishment. Might as well try and push for it.

    “Anyway, such are the vagarie of parlimentary politics; and I haven’t heard a single convincing argument that the problem lies with Standing Orders and not with the unrealistic electoral ambitions and the inability to adjust to new realities of chastened fringe parties. ”

    I’ll ignore the anti-SF ranting. As for the “it’s opportunism” bit. Of course it is; it’s irrelevant. I would hope they continue to support change even if they are unaffected in a future Dail though.

    Even setting aside the democratic principle that by silencing representatives you are silencing a section of the people, it is bad because it inherently favours the large parties and acts as a barrier to the development of smaller parties as it allows the bigger parties to sideline them. Logistics is an issue; but there are there ways around than the nuclear option. I’m for opening debate rather than closing it, myself.

  • If they earnestly felt some democratic principle is violated by Standing Orders, then why didn’t their regard for that ‘principle’ surface in opposition to the relevant procedure prior to their becoming ‘victims’ of it?

    It did. SF called for this rule to be changed in our submission to the Dáil Reform Committee in 2003.

    But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

  • Mick Fealty

    Frank,

    I was talking over your proposal with a friend earlier this evening. His objection to it was that if that were to be the case, then the official opposition’s rights to speak would have to be reduced quite dramatically to allow for the proportionate scaling up of rights for FF.

    It does seem arbitrary to set a number on the size of an opposition party has to be to offer speaking rights. Yet if you remove it altogether, that could mean that independents, as sole representatives of their own political interest, might expect their moment in the sun too.

    Like the massive committee system before 97, a maximal solution appeals to the inclusiveness principle, but it would likely make the legislative process even more unwieldy than it currently is.

    Even in NI parties find themselves excluded from discussions in which they might otherwise feel they have an important stake; precisely because they are too small. The Alliance party for instance, which is proportionately much larger than SF’s southern parliamentary representation, will not be involved in the Executive’s decision on the number and distribution of new councils. Why? Because they don’t have enough seats to sit inside the most inclusive government on the face of the planet.

    The question that should be asked of this Dail issue should be set in-the-round, rather than rashly answered on the basis of whether you think Sinn Fein should or should not have the right to speak. The fundamental question is should standing orders be amended to four or less as a minimum qualification. Closely followed by: if so, why? And then: what are the unintended consequences or, indeed, otherwise unforeseen advantages?

  • Mick Fealty

    Wednesday,

    Have you got a link. When I Google it, I’m getting loads on the party’s position on Seanad reform but nothing comes up on its submissions to the Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform.

  • The Dubliner

    “Even setting aside the democratic principle that by silencing representatives you are silencing a section of the people, it is bad because it inherently favours the large parties and acts as a barrier to the development of smaller parties as it allows the bigger parties to sideline them.” – Kensei

    You can’t give everyone equal speaking time in a debate; even allowing 3 minutes for each speaker, that works out at 8 hours and 15 minutes. Reality of time limitation knocks your “democratic principle” argument on its head. Ergo, time must be divided according to criteria, one of which is the group size. Bigger parties get more time specifically because of the size of their mandate, as is right and proper. What else do you find unfair about
    Standing Orders
    – is it just what PSF squeal about?

    “But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.” – Wednesday

    I generally try not to. But as rants go, it was a rather modest effort. What did they argue against in 2002, since Standing Order 116 is amended as of 2007?

  • The Dubliner

    “Even in NI parties find themselves excluded from discussions in which they might otherwise feel they have an important stake; precisely because they are too small.” – Mick Fealty

    Which is why a Standing Order that allows small parties to link up with others to form a group of the required size (seven) is a very fair solution. One could probably argue a good case that it should be set higher and not lower – if one actually wanted to exclude PSF (as their victim complex compels them to assume).

  • kemsei

    Don’t selectively quote Dubliner, it irritates me no end.

    “You can’t give everyone equal speaking time in a debate; even allowing 3 minutes for each speaker, that works out at 8 hours and 15 minutes.”

    “Logistics is an issue; but there are there ways around than the nuclear option.”

  • Cruimh

    “Don’t selectively quote Dubliner, it irritates me no end.”

    isn’t selection imherent in quoting ken ?

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    Frank added considerable value to this conversation by suggesting a ‘way around’. Any comments on that option? Or indeed others you might see?

  • The Dubliner

    “Logistics is an issue; but there are there ways around than the nuclear option.” – Kensei

    As Michael Winner says, “Calm down, dear.”

    How can it be a matter of “logisitics” when it is a matter of “democratic principle” that all TD have speaking rights? If the group size is reduced from 7 to 5, then others are still excluded and the “democratic principle” is still violated by the “logistics”, isn’t it? Contradict yourself much?

  • kensei

    “Frank added considerable value to this conversation by suggesting a ‘way around’. Any comments on that option? Or indeed others you might see?”

    I would have said some measure of proportionality but I wouldn’t have suggested exactly proportional as Frank described. There are any number of ways you can do it without compromising the authority of the official opposition. My favoured option would probably be something like – they are entitled to a certain number of questions per month, to use as they please. It gives the chance to limit time while allowing the party to pick the issues.

    “How can it be a matter of “logisitics” when it is a matter of “democratic principle” that all TD have speaking rights? If the group size is reduced from 7 to 5, then others are still excluded and the “democratic principle” is still violated by the “logistics”isn’t it? Contradict yourself much?”

    Yeah, because we all live in a black and white world where we can one accept one thing or the other. Gridlock is not particularly good for democratic debate either. So, you can accept that it is democratic principle but be concerned that the implementation of that would be counter productive. Principle beyond reason is absurd. It’s about finding a balance, and at the moment I think it’s skewed.

  • Harry Briscoe

    kensei “Even setting aside the democratic principle that by silencing representatives you are silencing a section of the people, it is bad”

    SFIRA silenced Bradfod and Fox, elected Protestant politicans both, permanently. Now that was B__A_D, or wrong as SIRA’s mouthpieces say. SFIRA were terrible Dail performers. They cannot speak well and should confine themselves to the Dail bar. Morgan and Ferris are convicted criminals and O’Caolain should retire and take care of his ticker. Guess he needs the industrial wage though. O’Snodaigh, like his family, is a mixed up Prod.

  • The Dubliner

    Fair enough, Kensei. However, the curtailment of speaking rights due to being a member of a group is quite limited – it doesn’t mean that non-grouped TDs can’t speak or ask questions. The practical limitation relates to the matter of presenting Bills and moving motions. It’s more neuturing than silencing.

    You will always have a situation whereby the limitations of time translate into practical limitations on the power of individual TDs to legislate, debate, etc. There must be a group, it must have a size, and setting the size to seven is more than fair. The obvious solution to the “logistics” is to get three more TDs elected. 😉

  • The Dubliner

    Correction: …due to [b]not[/b] being a member of a group…

  • kensei

    “There must be a group, it must have a size, and setting the size to seven is more than fair.”

    This is where we disagree; there really doesn’t. In terms of presenting bills or tabling and amending motions, I think my suggestion would still work, just a matter of getting the numbers right.

  • Kensei,

    when SF demand Alliance be given a seat on the policing board (a privillege given to the one seat PUP on a ‘non-political’ basis) and the review of local councils, I’ll take their complaints in the Dáil seriously.

    Until then, it’s just a super-whinge for narrow partisan advantage. Sorry.

  • Mick, sorry, I don’t have a link.

    It should be pointed out that SF are not asking for “equal” speaking time. Labour do not even have equal speaking time – under the current Standing Orders Fine Gael have a great deal more than they do and if SF were to be granted time as well, we accept that it would be even less than that. For all the slippery sloping going on here, it would be entirely workable to give us one or two Private Members slots a year, one or two Priority Questions a week, one guaranteed speaking slot in every debate.

    Dubliner I don’t understand your question. I thought I had answered it.

    Incidentally, it’s interesting that the Greens used to complain about the Standing Orders until they were no longer affected by them; Labour and Fine Gael have never been affected by them and have never complained about them; and yet we are the ones being slated here for taking “partisan advantage”. Ho hum.

  • kensei

    “when SF demand Alliance be given a seat on the policing board (a privillege given to the one seat PUP on a ‘non-political’ basis) and the review of local councils, I’ll take their complaints in the Dáil seriously.”

    I don’t represent SF. If Alliance weren’t so insufferably useless and wet, I would have no problem giving them a seat on the PB. Though I don’t think it’s quite the same in terms of democratic principle.

    “Until then, it’s just a super-whinge for narrow partisan advantage. Sorry.”

    Of course they are complaining because it offers partisan advantage. It is tangential to the point.

    The problem with here is: any time SF is mentioned, madness takes over.

  • I don’t represent SF. If Alliance weren’t so insufferably useless and wet, I would have no problem giving them a seat on the PB. Though I don’t think it’s quite the same in terms of democratic principle.

    Thank you for hanging your double standards out on the washing line where we can all see them. It’s a problem when it affects SF because they, like you, are Republicans; it’s not a problem when it affects Alliance because we aren’t Republicans. Same old, same old, ken.

  • kensei

    “Thank you for hanging your double standards out on the washing line where we can all see them. It’s a problem when it affects SF because they, like you, are Republicans; it’s not a problem when it affects Alliance because we aren’t Republicans. Same old, same old, ken.”

    Well Sammy, that was just a wee joke. Youse are wet and useless, but I wouldn’t mind an Alliance person on the PB. You feel important, everyone else has another place we can ignore you, everyone is happy. As I said I am generally pro- more voices.

    But it isn’t the same. SF TDs are democratically elected to represent their constituents in the Dail. Impinging their ability to do that is a serious matter. The PB is a quango. So, no, it isn’t quite the same.

  • Cruimh

    Oh dear Ken – how dare you not take the APNI seriously! Don’t you realise that they are the ONLY people in the world who have the answers to all our problems ? 😉