Thursday, August 27, 2009

Corporations, donations, democracy and Lyin'air.con

I dont feel comfortable when multi-national corporations use their money and influence to promote their own agenda in a country.
Multinational corporations may be 51 out of the top 100 GDP's in the world, but they have lttle 'national' identity left.

Corporate requirements can override the democratic decision making progress of  sovereign nations.
We have seen so often the result of the need for corporations to make money takes presidence the most basic human rights and environmental considerations.

We have seen recently in the US how large corporations such as health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies use professional lobbyists to manipulate public opinion and fight universal health care - a human right - by spreading half truths and confusing the basic issue.
The United States, the worlds leading economy is the last developed nation to not have a national health service.

But from the sick denied healthcare in the US to the increased privatization and degrading of private healthcare in Ireland we know the results of the neo liberal economic model, and we will look at this in relation to Lisbon next Thursday.

Indeed, one of the major supporters of the Lisbon treaty in Ireland, Brendan Halligan, already runs a lobbyist company, CIPA (former employers of Andrew Byrne of Generation Yes) who allegedly act on behalf of the tobacco industry in the EU.

This neo-liberal economic trend is global, bank bail outs, toxic debts nationalised, from the child labour sweatshops producing garments to the logging of the Amazon, from the suppression of dissent in Nigeria to the open strip mines in Argentina.

Corporations are not evil, they are simply amoral. Their primary consideration is to make as much money for shareholders as possible.
That is their job.
Reduction of labour costs by using children in the third world where it is allowed or the bypassing of environmental considerations by outsourcing to countries where laxer controls allow for reduced costs all contribute to that increased profit margin and share value.

Several multi-national corporations with operations in Ireland such as Microsoft, Glen Dimplex and Intel have thrown their weight behind the second Lisbon referendum in Ireland, the last democratic obstacle in the way of its implementation.
Intel, Dimplex or Microsoft could cut labour costs in the morning by transferring production to Eastern Europe or other countries, which they no doubt will do unless Irish workers accept reduced pay and conditions.

They tell us that a more efficient EU would sustain economic growth nationally as well as promote international trade.
I agree – but at what cost. I have long said I have no objection to the European Union, provided it is for the benefit of the People of Europe.

Along with them, Ryanair have come onside in the campaign for a Yes vote – so lets deal with them, at least Ryanair is Irish.

The Chairperson of PANA, Roger Cole said the Ryanair announcement was not a surprise to him. He has said previously that limits must be placed on the amount that private companies could spend in a referendum or election campaign.

This is particularly needed in our democracy in light of the BCI decision not to give equal treatment to both sides of the debate.
It is not reasonable that the Irish media give such coverage to money was being spent by bodies such as Libertas on a No campaign, but have little to say about similar sums of money being spent by companies such as Ryanair and Intel to promote a Yes vote.

The Standards In Public Office Commission, the independent body which oversees spending in elections and referendums, confirmed yesterday there was no spending limit for individuals and companies.

This essentially means we could have a company from the US, the UK, Germany, Russia, China, Algeria or North Korea coming to Ireland and spending vast amounts of money advocating a Yes vote with few restrictions or control.
A spokesperson said the commission, in its annual report, had called for a redefinition of what constituted a “third party”, subject to limits on spending in a referendum campaign.
It argued that the definition should not be determined on the basis of whether an individual or group had received a donation, but should focus instead on how much they spent. They should be regarded as “third parties” if they intend spending over a certain threshold.

Mr Cole said the Irish people had rejected the Lisbon Treaty last year in a democratic vote. “Now they are being forced to vote again on exactly the same treaty…these same firms.....who have a vested interest.....can spend billions of euro bullying the Irish people into submission.”
Well, at least not all of them want to charge us to use a toilet.
An EU court in 2008 backed Ryanair in a battle with state aid regulators on how far small airports can use public money to attract low-cost carriers.

The ruling from the European Union's appeals court allows Ryanair to keep a very sweet deal, a discount of more than €4 million that it received from the Belgian Walloon regional government to help run flights out of the state-owned Charleroi airport.
The Walloon Region gave Ryanair a half-price deal on landing charges that are usually fixed by regulation and promised to compensate the airline if it lost money on any changes to airport charges.
The airport would also help fund Ryanair's costs and pay it €1 per passenger for ground handling — rather than the €10 it charges other airlines.
In return, Ryanair pledged to base two to four aircraft at the airport and turn each around at least three times a day. The deal was for 15 years.

EU regulators ruled in February 2004 that parts of the Ryanair contract were illegal state aid and must be changed, which Ryanair appealed in an EU court.

But recently an EU Court said the European Commission was wrong to demand Ryanair refund the sum in 2004, and antitrust regulators had made a technical mistake when deciding the payments were an illegal state subsidy by not checking whether private investors would also have offered Ryanair low fees to start using the airport.
Mr. O'Leary now says the court decision also makes meaningless other EU investigations into claims that Ryanair received illegal subsidies at eight other airports in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Slovakia

Co-incidentally, it wasonly after the Court ruling Mr. O’Leary announced he favored Lisbon and would campaign for it. The treaty is being supported by Ryanair to the tune of €500,000.

There is also the fact that Mr. O Leary has long wanted to take over AerLingus - his main rival on the Irish market.
This would lead to a monopoly, as stated in the EC ruling of 2007.

But the more recent court favourable judgment on the indirect subsidies from in Belgium seem to have given Mr. O Leary a reason to support the Lisbon Treaty
Ryanair - Shafting you at home

Ireland is an Island nation. It is vital to the national interest that we have frequent and economic air transport to Europe and the rest of the world.

Aer Lingus was our national airline, but increased privatization encouraged by the EU with regulations on state subsidies and competition is causing problems.

According to the Irish Times August 27 2009 AerLingus is planning a review of its business after reporting a sharp increase in losses due to downward pressure on fares and a highly uncertain outlook.
Aer Lingus losses after tax in the six months to the end of June had widened a massive 242% to €73.9 million on revenue down 12.2% at €555 million.
This is an operating loss of €93 million compared with a shortfall of €23.4 million for the same period a year earlier.

Aer Lingus were guilty in the past of extremely high prices when they had a monopoly on Irish flights, so this made flights very expensive. The arrival of Ryanair competed with this, leading to a reduction in prices. We have learned in Ireland in particular that free and fair competition in the airline business is good.

Ryanair has become the dominant force in Irish aviation, publicly promoting free markets and attacking any subsidy given by governments to state airlines, regardless that they may be needed for strategic reasons.

Ryanair strongly oppose any government interference in their business, as long as they themselves are not the beneficiary, this is a dual standard.

Despite a very public commitment to consumer choice, competition and a free market Ryanair already owns almost 30 per cent of AerLingus (about 4% more than the Irish Government) and said in a statement in 2008 it wanted a “merger of the two airlines into one strong Irish airline group under common ownership”

In December 2008 Aer Lingus rejected a Ryanair €748 million takeover bid, saying the offer significantly undervalued the carrier.
This is probably true in the current economic situation.
In December 2006 Ryanair withdrew its first €1.48 billion bid for AerLingus, due to an investigation by the EC.

The EC has been concerned that the takeover would reduce consumer choice and increase fares. In June 2007, the European Commission announced their decision to block the bid on competition grounds saying the two airlines controlled more than 80% of all European flights to and from Dublin airport.

Despite its dedication to neo-liberal economics, Ryanair is happy to create a monopoly and accept state subsidy, directly or indirectly.

By providing financial support to ensure the Lisbon treaty goes through in its current format, Ryanair and other corporations like Microsoft and Intel place decision making further from the democratic process.
With the money involved they also ensure that their lobbyists have access to or even places with the unelected decision making committees.

To make sure that government remains of, by and for the People, we need a treaty that enshrines democracy answerable to us - not special interest groups and their lobbyists-whether their influence is sought or unsought - it is a danger Eisenhower warned against.

The adage of Tacitus still holds true - that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Again, as always – thanks for reading.

Even if you don’t agree with me – I hope you give some thoughts to the points made

And please let others now about these blogs.
Citizen Simon - out

Free Blog Counter

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Disgard Giscard d'Estaing

We are looking at a Lisbon Treaty. Let’s take a look at one of its principle architects, Valéry Marie René Georges Giscard d'Estaing.

Today’s France, a democratic and republican nation, Europe’s first, was born out of the revolution of 1789, when the people stood against an unaccountable, expensive and ineffective system of governance.

Among those were killed in the struggle for liberty and equality was a good man, Vice Admiral Jean Baptiste Charles Henri Hector, Comte d'Estaing.
In 1922 a Monsieur Giscard added "d'Estaing" to the family name because of a rather dubious and distant connection.

Monsieur Giscard "d'Estaing’s" son Jean Edmond married Mademoiselle Marthe Bardoux – herself a great-great-great-granddaughter of King Louis XV through one of his many, many mistresses, Catherine Eléonore Bernard.

In a more amusing look at family history we consider Louis XV "le Bien-Aimé" ("the Beloved") was popular at the beginning his reign.
But he died amongst the most unpopular kings of France.
His lack of morals, inability to effectively reform France and the Monarchy, and the most dismal humiliating diplomatic failing in French history – the loss of North America and India - lost him the affection of his people.

Louis XV was notoriously promiscuous. Now, every man needs a hobby, and he certainly did it with elan. Some mistresses like Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry are as well-known as the king himself, and his affairs with three Mailly-Nesle sisters are documented by the formal agreements into which he entered.
In his later years, Louis XV kept several young mistress’ at a time in secluded living quarters known as the Parc aux Cerfs ("Deer Park"), one of whose inhabitants was the daughter of Daniel O' Murphy - Marie-Louise O' Murphy de Boisfaily, immortalized in a magnificent painting by Boucher.

Another Irish connection was the first person to adversely affect the Kings popularity. Monsignor de Fitz-James, premier aumônier, refused to give absolution unless the king renounced his mistress’. The confession was publicly announced, tarnishing the monarchy. Nevertheless, Louis XV soon returned to his adulterous ways.

The descendent of one of those trysts – a Great-great-great-great-grandson was none other than the man who was the principle architect of the Lisbon Constitution – Valéry Marie René Giscard d'Estaing - His name is often shortened to "Giscard" or even "VGE" by the French media. A less flattering nickname is l'Ex

Giscard was elected to parliament in 1956 with the conservative CNIP. They broke with the Gaullists in 1962 due to the euro-skepticism of President Charles De Gaulle; to hold onto power Giscard supported De Gaulle’s euro-skepticism, refused to resign and founded the Républicains Indépendants (RI). Relations with the Gaullists tensed when Giscard d'Estaing was dismissed from the cabinet in 1966 the group became a political party Fédération Nationale des Républicains Indépendants (FNRI)

In the 1969 presidential campaign, VGE supported the winning candidate Georges Pompidou and returned to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
He was seen as part of a new generation of politicians emerging from the senior civil service, the technocrats.
Giscard fought socialist Mitterrand. Supported by his FNRI and benefiting from the divisions in the Gaullist party and defeated Mitterrand with only 50.8% of the vote to become Président de la République in 1974.

In 1975, he invited the heads of government from major economic powers West Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA to form the Group of Six (now the G8) major economic powers.
This select gang, promoting Reganite/Thatcherite unregulated market policies have in recent years bought the entire world to the brink of economic meltdown in recent years which does not engender confidence in Giscard’s long term view.

He supported the corrupt Mokhtar Ould Daddah, a man who in 1961 bought a one party system to Mauritania and was reelected in uncontested elections in 1966, 1971 and 1976.
Giscard ordered fighter jets to deploy in Mauritania in 1977. They propped up the Mauritanian army – mostly forcibly conscripted black Africans from the south of the country. The jets bombed and strafed the camel trains of Polisario freedom fighters in their struggle against military occupation. Daddah was eventually deposed.

They say you are judged by the company you keep. Most disturbing is VGE's involvement with the Bokassa regime of the Central African Republic (CAR) whose rich soil has uranium vital for France's nuclear energy and weapons programs.
There is probably a piece of CAR on the bottom of the Pacific near Mururoa.
The Central African Republic is also rich in diamonds – and blood.

Giscard supplied the regime of his "friend and family member” Emperor Bokassa I with financial and military backing.
His Highness frequently took Giscard on hunting trips in Africa
A former corporal in the French army Jean-Bédel Bokassa came to power in 1965 overthrowing his cousin David Dacko with the support of Alexandre Banza, an intelligent, ambitious and capable army captain.

In 1968 Banza tired the new President's extravagant spending. Bokassa murdered him.
Le Monde reported that Banza was killed in circumstances "so revolting that it still makes one's flesh creep….Two versions concerning the end circumstances of his death differ on one minor detail. Did Bokassa tie him to a pillar before personally carving him with a knife that he had previously used for stirring his coffee in the gold-and-midnight blue Sevres coffee set, or was the murder committed on the cabinet table with the help of other persons?
Late that afternoon, soldiers dragged a still identifiable corpse, with the spinal column smashed, from barrack to barrack to serve as an example

In 1972 Bokassa declared himself President for Life of CAR but not content with this in 1977 and with an incredibly expensive imperial coronation ceremony Corporal Jean-Bédel became Emperor Bokassa I.
At over 20 million dollars the coronation consumed one third of the impoverished CAR's annual budget and all of France's aid that year.

Despite growing concern about human rights abuses Giscard sent a battalion of troops to secure the ceremony; lent aircraft to the Emperor’s government, and even assigned French Navy personnel to support the orchestra of the land locked state.

Giscard’s fraternal feelings for Bokassa were perhaps eroded after riots and a massacre of children. Between 17 April and 19 April 1979 elementary school students were arrested for protests against wearing the expensive, government-required school uniforms that were only sold by a company that belonged to one of his 17 wives. Around one hundred were killed.
According to Amnesty International's report, Bokassa was personally involved with some of the killings beating some of the children to death.

A coup using French troops returned Bokassa’s deposed cousin to power later that year.
Rumours still abound that he ate body parts from opponents himself.
Even if these allegations of cannibalism are untrue, there is plenty of evidence of the extreme brutality of Bokassa's rule. Political rivals were murdered or tortured, and he certainly fed opponents to lions and crocodiles in his personal zoo.

In a related incident, 1979, Giscard was reported by the Canard Enchaîné to have accepted diamonds as personal gifts in 1973 from Bokassa — who fled the coup to France with looted millions from the Central African Republic's treasury, but was still given asylum under rules concerning service in the French military.

Official gifts legally are property of the Republic of France, not the office holder.

In 2005, perhaps inspired by his friend the Emperor, Giscard and his brother with support from the local municipality, purchased the castle of Estaing, Aveyron - formerly a possession alleged relative Admiral d'Estaing. A number of major newspapers in several countries questioned their motives and some hinted at self-appointed nobility and Grand Pere’s usurped historical identity.

I suppose that the other, actual, ancestral pile, Versailles, was not on the market.

In another delusion of grandeur in 2003, Giscard took a seat on the Académie Française; critics pointed out that he had written only a single novel, Le Passage, of dubious quality – this acceptance is particularly inappropriate when one remembers the seat he took belonged to the Senegals magnificent poet and President Leopold Sedar Senghor, one of Africa’s most important intellectuals and leaders.

Louis XV took time out for the first drawing and quartering seen in France for 147 years, and the last example of this barbaric practice in France.

Although Giscard said he had "deep aversion against capital punishment" he did not commute several death sentences during his presidency. As with his ancestor he oversaw the last executions of a type in France, this time using the guillotine.

The controversial case of Christian Ranucci, convicted of murder, raises doubts. Giscard refused to commute the death penalty only ten days after the case's arrival to his office, much quicker than the usual clemency process.
A book by respected journalist Gilles Perrault disputed Ranucci’s involvement in the crime. In 2005, other new claims were made that Michel Fourniret, a serial killer who murdered at least 9 girls had something to do with this case and could have been the real murderer.

By not abolishing the death penalty he kept France as the last country in the EU to apply it. The death penalty finally abolished when socialist Mitterrand defeated Giscard in 1981.

After his 1981 defeat by Mitterrand, he retired temporarily from politics.
In 1984, he regained his seat in Parliament and won the presidency of the regional council of Auvergne.

A la Vladimir Putin Giscard hoped to become prime minister of France after the re-election of Mitterrand with the theme of "France united", but he was not chosen for this position.

In 1995 Giscard suffered a humiliating defeat when he was defeated in a bid for the mayoralty of Clermont-Ferrand.

Following yet another defeat in the regional elections 2004, he decided to leave partisan politics and to take his seat as a de jure member of the French Constitutional Council as a former president of the Republic.

Some of his actions there, such as his campaign in favor of the Treaty establishing the European Constitution, were criticized as unbecoming to a member of this council, which should embody nonpartisanship and should not appear to favor one political option over the other.
Indeed, the question of the membership of former presidents in the Council was raised at this point, with some suggesting that it should be replaced by a life membership in the Senate

Giscard has generally been seen as a proponent of greater European Union (except of course when it was politically expedient support a Euro-skeptic government and retain power)

From 2002 to 2003, a period when he could not get elected Mayor of Clermont-Ferrand or to the local council he served as President of the Convention on the Future of Europe.
In October 2004, the European heads of state, gathered in Rome, approved and signed the now democratically rejected European Constitution based on a draft strongly influenced by Giscard 's work at the Convention.

Giscard told MEP’s that the Lisbon Treaty is essentially the same as the rejected EU Constitution.
"What was [already] difficult to understand will become utterly incomprehensible, but the substance has been retained… Why not have a single text?
The only reason is that this would look too much like the constitutional treaty. Making cosmetic changes would make the text more easy to swallow

Giscard wrote in The Independent of London in 2007
"The difference between the original Constitution and the present Lisbon Treaty is one of approach, rather than content ... The proposals in the original constitutional treaty are practically unchanged….Why this subtle change? Above all, to head off any threat of referenda by avoiding any form of constitutional vocabulary”

In an interview with Le Monde in June 2007, he stated that
"public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals we dare not present to them directly"

Regardless of the peoples choice he is determined on pushing through HIS Lisbon treaty/constitution - by hook, crook or title

In February 2009 Giscard told the Irish Times that the Irish should hold a second Lisbon Treaty referendum in late April, or early May – and not October, as this would occur
“at the moment when the new European Commission will be chosen for a five-year term...Until the Irish answer, people will not know whether it is to be 17 or 27, so there will be confusion”
The basic problem here is that there is no confusion.
We the people want 27 commissioners, one for each EU member - Giscard still wants only 17. Despite the promises that we have received on a commissioner Giscard maintained his long-held objections to each member state having a commissionership.
We also want a clearer treaty dealing with the issues that concern us, not what a technocrat believes is of concern to us.

Giscard in the same interview using the normal untrue Yes campaign scare tactics he implied that the EU big states will combine together and sideline all EU small member states if Ireland rejects the treaty a second time.

He admitted that
“the process was a difficult one in terms of democratic support”
This much is true, and despite the comprehensive rejection by French and Dutch citizens in 2005 Giscard continued to actively lobby for its passage in other European Union states.
In the LSE in 2006, he said that:
"The rejection of the Constitutional treaty by voters in France was a mistake that should be corrected."
Judging by the department map of the result, that would have taken an enormous correction, so Sarkozy ratified it without going to the people.

Giscard has also said
“It is difficult to ask citizens to approve a text that they cannot fully understand”.
The problem for him is that most of the Irish do.
The Irish are amongst the most politically astute and aware people in Europe.
In the last European Parliament elections 2009 Irelands turnout was nearly 59%.
The EU average was 43%, France had below 41%

Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said in June 2009 “Everybody says we do not know enough about Europe…..I can tell you in my humble opinion that the ordinary people of Ireland know a damn sight more about the intricacies of the European framework than nearly all the members of the other 27 states”

Giscard has been rejected by the French as a leader. Despite democratic rejection by the French and Dutch of his constitution, and the rejection of the treaty by the Irish which he himself states is de facto the same document he continues to push it - we need to ask why?

Giscard is a spent force in French politics. He cannot even get elected Mayor of a minor French town or the local administration.
This is his last chance at a lasting legacy. The Lisbon treaty is as much a vanity project as his Castle and his membership of the Académie française and as vain as the coronation of his “friend and family member” Corporal Bokassa.

L’Ex’s commentary about the Irish political process is as illegitimate as his name or his Great-great-great-grandmother, and it’s not welcome.

The Irish are the only nation in the EU holding a referendum on the treaty – despite Giscard’s stated desire to head off this democratic danger to his vanity project.

In 1745 at a terrible cost Irishmen played a vital role in saving Louis XV and France from the Austro-Hungarians Hapsburg Empire and its allies at the Battle of Fontenoy. The banner above under which they fought for France, Louis XV and Ireland says In hoc signo vinces is the rendition in Latin of the Greek phrase en touto nika, meaning "in this sign you will conquer".

In a bizarre twist of fate we find ourselves in the position of defending French democracy from a descendent of the Hapsburg aristocracy, the current Elysee Palace resident Nicolas Sarközy (de Nagy-Bocsa) whose father was a Hungarian aristocrat.
This is a man who pushed through the Lisbon treaty despite the democratic decision of the French People.

Perhaps we need a new flag for the Irish in the defense of the French people?

Giscard may have wanted an April/May election – that would suit me. We have a tradition of summer revolt. In May 1798 the Young Irishmen rose, in July 1848 the Fenians rebelled, and in April 1916 the Easter rising took place.

This year maybe we Irish will have an October Revolution.

Free Blog Counter

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Trying to join the dots - IIEA, CIPA, Ireland for Europe and Generation Yes

Financial ties between unaccountable groups and Government bodies are of concern to me.

Not only have we had - as I wrote about last time - the supression of dissent by the BCI, we also have a tax free and unaccountable charity in reciept of hundreds of thousands of tax euros and the rapid promotion of an 'independent' youth group who support the drive to force through a yes vote.

According to the Phoenix magazine the power behind the Yes to Lisbon Mark II campaign is a former (appointed) MEP Brendan Halligan (73)
As General Secretary of the Labor Party in Ireland he bitterly opposed EEC membership in 1972.

He has since metamorphosed into the Chairman of the Institute for International and European Affairs (IIEA), which receives hudreds of thousands of Euro from government departments and state funded bodies yearly.
Among the Members of the Comite d'Honneur of the IIEA are Bertie Ahern, Charlie McCreevy, Albert Reynolds, Pat Cox, Ray Mac Sharry and the bauld Pádraig Flynn

Following the failure of the Irish Alliance for Europe(the one that came up with the wrong result) it has been apparently decided that the next vote on the same issue will keep politicians in the background and that personalities from civic life — youth, women etc — would front the campaign.

There were efforts to find interesting celebrities like soccer players and U2’s manager, but it was soon realized by the Yes campaign that many such people were usually unable to answer half-serious questions about the EU or the complexities of the Lisbon Treaty.

Enter Andrew Byrne, former president of Trinity students’ union, and one of Halligan’s employees at his consultancy CIPA, who helped to set up Generation Yes.

A former member of the European Youth Parliament (a glorified youth club set up for secondary school students) he contnued to volunteer for the EYP and was responsible for bringing the group’s national conference to Dublin in 2007. Meanwhile, he attended plenty of talks and meetings of the IIEA.

Andrew Byrne had joined the Green Party and chaired the Trinity branch of the Young Greens during the senior party’s switch from an anti to pro-EU stance.
Andrew got himself onto the senior party’s national executive, where he now rubs shoulders with the now pro-European Green leadership.
This was a reversal in Green policy as traditionaly they had been against the threat to nutrality, workers rights and believed in more, not less, democratic oversight and accountability.

In autumn 2008 Andrew, Bart Storan (his students union election campaign director) and Claire Tighe (his deputy president) – started work on Generation Yes.
To raise funds for Generation Yes they fired out a hundred or so letters to like-minded souls outlining what they intended to do, some of which must have included Brendan Halligan, Pat Cox, Brigid Laffan and a clutch of other faces from Halligan’s IIEA.

Brendan Halligan – who knew Andy Byrne well from his attendance at various IIEA talks and meetings – needed someone to work on a few Euro-related projects.
It’s hardly surprising that by November 2008, around the same time as he was working on Generation Yes, Andrew Byrne found himself in Brendan Halligan’s employ at CIPA(Halligan’s lobbying company, which worked on behalf of the tobacco industry)

Interestingly, in echoes of the controversy over whether Declan Ganley’s staffers were employed by Libertas or Rivada – Andrew Byrne claims he was not employed by CIPA but by Halligan personally.
Obviously the multi-national tobacco corporations are not the people our clean, green and keen Mr.Byrne wants to be associated with.

While the media were rigorous in their pursuit of Libertas’s funding, they have shown no appetite for applying similar rigor to Brendan Halligan’s pro-EU bodies, particularly in relation to their murky funding arrangements (largely public funds coming from government departments).

Indeed, The Irish Times, Independent News and Media, and RTE have all been listed in the past as donors and corporate members of Halligan’s IIEA.

The Generation Yes team - who seem to want to appear completely disconnected from the politicians - along with other Yes campaigners have met the minister for Europe Dick Roche and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) at Iveagh House to plan their campaign.
This is not independent action, this is co-ordinated support.

In December 2008, Andy attended his first meeting of a group that included Halligan, Pat Cox and UCD professor Brigid Laffan, all were keen to devise a campaign strategy that worked and Andy was involved in the creation of Ireland for Europe.

When Andrew Byrne had to choose between Generation Yes and Ireland for Europe Pat Cox suggested he go forward for the position of chief of operations and he cruised in, leaving Generation Yes to Bart and Claire and others.

Not a bad move for Andrew Byrne, who has very quickly ascended to the vanguard of the Euro movement and the Green Party.

Ireland for Europe is a much grander affair than Generation Yes, and a much bigger challenge for Andrew.
Large ads in the Sunday and daily newspapers suggest that it’s very well funded, too.
He is involved in a far more impressive organization now, so he doesn’t have to worry unduly about Generation Yes, who still maintain their Leeson Street Office – donated by a business man (?) and their use of IBEC for printing, meetings etc.

Andy Byrne of Generation Yes may find he has less work to do than he anticipated, but he won’t be too bothered; he’s already made his bones with the Greens and the Euro Mafia.

When The Phoenix asked Ireland for Europe about their funding situation, they trotted out the same old line about donations being received “in accordance with the Electoral Acts”, “treated with absolute confidentiality”, compliance with the Standards in Public Office regulations, etc, etc.

It’s a line Andrew Byrne has learned as well and he was less than forthcoming on the subject of who provided the Generation Yes offices on 39 Lower Leeson Street – right to privacy of donors, you understand.

Incidentally a quick whois search on Aug 11 2009 reveals that is owned by Generation Yes Ltd, contact person Andrew Byrne

Now - back to the funding of the IIEA, a think tank and a registered charity who pay no tax.
They used to publish detailed accounts but ceased doing so after the Phoenix published a series of articles about the extent to which the Institute was funded by the public.

In April of 2008, due to the McKenna judgment the IIEA was reported as saying it could not take sides in the Lisbon referendum as it is a registered public charity (it pays no taxes) and is in receipt of hundreds of thousands of tax-payers money.

In times when there are meant to be public service cutbacks like in hospitals, when we are borrowing 50M per day according to Morning Ireland, one has to take a closer look at the financial set-up at IIEA.

Repeated demands for scrutiny of the institute’s finances are normally met with a blank silence.
Recently TD Finian McGrath demanded answers in a series of parliamentary questions to all fifteen government departments that have been funding the institute for nearly 20 years.

Mr. Halligan’s financial MO is to secure annual membership subscriptions from nearly all government departments and state agencies.

In total, the IIEA received over €820,000 in 2006 with much of this coming from public funds.

In the early 90's, government departments to become corporate members of the IIEA, in most cases donating an annual sum of £1,000.

Inflation would account only partially for the 500% circa increase in this stipend by 2008.
According to twelve of the departments that responded to McGrath, each now donates an annual sum of €6.000 to the IIEA.

In January 2008 the Dept. of Arts, Sport and Tourism, under Seamus Brennan, decided not to renew membership “as part of an effort to reduce the department’s administrative costs”.

Halligan, well known to the Department of Foreign Affairs (They’ve funded his IIEA for over 15 years) was more than compensated for this decision by donating €32,626 (over five times the corporate membership) to the institute in 2007.
This was made up of payment for the Communicating Europe Initiative and €23,626 for consolidated versions of the Lisbon Treaty.

Then there are the plethora of tax funded government entities such as the Higher Education Authority, the local Government Management Services Board, the NESC and dozens of other taxpayer-funded organisations.

Just why the DPP, the Attorney General and the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas should be funding Halligan’s super quango is beyond me.
And subscribers to the VHI may be equally curious to know why it is listed as an ongoing contributor to the institute.


The IIEA, a self-governing body, tax exempt and unaccountable registered charity, intended to be independent of political, economic and social interests is certainly not living up to its charter.
According to its website, the Institute represents no sectoral viewpoint and expresses no corporate views of its own. Views expressed in the Institute's publications and at its conferences, seminars and briefings are those of the authors and speakers

Despite this, and the McKenna ruling, since the Lisbon defeat, the IIEA has been busy preparing arguments in favour of

a) a second referendum and
b) the need for a Yes vote this time round.

In a lengthy tome sent to all Oireachtas members and hundreds of other decision makers (157 pages costing €20 a copy, courtesy of the taxpayer) the charitable institute warns of catastrophe should Ireland fail to ratify the Lisbon Treaty next time round.

The IIEA, despite its official, and legal, political neutrality is unashamedly pro-Lisbon and has produced literature and propaganda in favor of Lisbon and employed people to promote the Yes agenda at great cost to the tax payer.

IIEA literature has said if government did not decide to seek ratification, the document argues, “the damage would be irreparable” for Europe itself, while the implications for Ireland “range from the disastrous to the catastrophic”.

Halligan went so far in his scare tacticw as to speculate in a letter to the Irish Times on July 10 2009 that a No vote would result in our being excluded from the EU -which is something that cannot happen.

Using the usual scare tactics the IIEA has said the electorate votes No a second time, then Ireland might have to leave the EU; Irish farmers would lose out on CAP funding; we would lose all regional and any other EU funding; we might have to leave the euro currency and all foreign investment would be threatened.

All are untruths, if we say No it should force our elected representitives
But as Eddie Vedder says, drilling for fear makes the job simple.

These scare tactics propagated by the IEAA and associates, which we the people are paying for are simply untruths and lies.

We need to vote No to get a better and fairer deal for ourselves and our fellow European citizens.

Our elected representives should use the chance to pause and reflect and build the kind Europe that We the People really want – a democratic collective of nations for peace and prosperity who respect each other, not to repackage the same rejected and unwanted treaty that denies peoples democratic voice.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read - let others know about the blog, even if you dont agree with me I hope you at least consider the opinions and vote.

Citizen Simon out

Free Blog Counter

Monday, August 10, 2009

Balance of coverage - Freedom of the Press

An independent and free media are cornerstones of a modern and open democracy.

Traditionaly on matters of referendum in the state, both sides of a debate are given equal time and funding on a question put to the people, as constitutional changes are different to politics as usual.
But a Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) conference who are meant to ensure this balance and fairness in state media have been told the rules are a "charter for every awkward squad".

The rules have now been changed. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The BCI are meant to be an independent statutory organisation responsible for a number of key areas of activity with regard to television and radio services in Ireland.
Part of that is to ensure fair and balanced poltical coverage - for that reason this decision is unacceptable.

The constitution, the contract between the elected and the electorate, and referenda on that contract are the cornerstone of our democracy.
Any changes to the constitution must be debated openly and fairly.

Just because the result is not to a Governments liking does not them the right to suppress debate and dissent.
Part of democracy is that the Government must listen to dissenting voices who do not promote violence or hatred.
Reduction or restriction on airtime by the states broadcaster is supresson of debate.

Dont forget the 1948 European councils declaration of human rights included article 10, that Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority

In Ireland the state through a licence fee partially covers the cost of our public broadcaster RTE.
Perhaps it is a question of 'He who pays the piper calls the tune'

Broadcasters are no longer required to allocate exactly the same amount of time to both the Yes and No campaign when it comes to editorial coverage.
It now appears each political party will be given equal time.

Considering the fact that a great deal of opposition comes from groups such as PANA and the Peoples Alliance who are not in political parties, this will skew coverage.

The only parties that oppose Lisbon are Sinn Fein and a independents.

The Greens have sacrificed their morals and independence in a desperate bid for political survival.
I find this very disheartning, but with Andrew Byrne on the executive, it seems the party has changed.
Despite their traditionally strong stance on non-alliance and workers rights the current Greens elected or appointed to the Dail and Senate put their personal political survival before the grass roots of the party and the good of the Nation.

Our reminants of Civil War politics, a discredited and unpopular Fianna Fail and an uninspiring Fianna Gael - tweedle dum and tweedle dumber, or two cheeks of the same arse - are also backing this re-run of the same referendum with the meaningless garuantees given by Brussels.

Having lost the debate on the treaty the Yes side now are creating a skewed pitch so they can make unfounded, misleading and alarmist claims about a No vote being a vote for withdrawal from the EU or withdrawal from the Eurozone.

But it is an example of media manipulation by the Government which disturbs me.
We have seen examples of this before, and discussed them on this blog.

We have seen how disproportionate coverage of the idiot Justin Barrett was used to smear the No campaign in the second Nice Treaty.
In the first Lisbon Treaty Declan Ganley had unproven allegations over funding thrown in his direction, however, if you throw enough shit at a wall - some will stick, regardless of the truth.
Similar questions about Andrew Brne in CIPA were never really explored.

There is no official public funding for groups in a referendum campaign, although questions remain about Generation Yes,CIPA, Ireland for Europe and the IIEA.
Lack of funding is a severe disadvantage for less affluent groups.

To balance this, airtime on public stations has normally been split evenly between both sides of the argument, which helps groups with low funds which wouldn’t be able to buy a great amount of airtime.

In past referenda this protocal was followed, RTE took great care to give both camps the equal amount of airtime, but it was often perceived by observers that members of the Lisbon No-Camp were treated with less respect by the hosts than the representatives of the Yes-Side.

The Questions and Answers program was a great platform for debate, but this is not scheduled prior to the Lisbon II vote.
This is hardly surprising when Dr. Paul Anthony McDermott, probably the country's most eminent constitutional-law expert, said on Q&A that the 'assurances' gotten by Cowen were worthless

McDermott on assurances when they were 'leaked'- June 15 2009,null,230
Strangely in the show notes he is not listed being on the panel for the epsiode, hence the RTE google application search does not find it.

Also worth seeing McDermott on a second referendum - November 17 2008,null,230

The budget of the Referendum Commission is public, and Government spending on the campaign should be monitored by the press.
However, editorial policy in the Irish Times and Independent are pro Lisbon.

The use of taxpayers’ money for the Yes campaign by the government in Lisbon 1 was unfair as the No side didn’t have access to public funds.
We will look more at funding and media manipulation in the near future

Free Blog Counter