Friday, June 12, 2009

The Stroke Sucks

It is no wonder Ireland is rapidly going down the tubes. We have a situation where the Law is not enforced in relation to standards in public service.
In the recent local elections, East County Galway Loughrea electoral area, Michael 'Stroke' Fahy of Ardrahan was re-elected.

In Ireland the nickname “stroke” is for someone good at “pulling strokes” - that is getting things done in a sly way for family, friends and supporters.

Now Mr Fahy has pulled a big Stroke for himself - In 2004 he resigned from FF when it emerged that he was at the centre of a Garda investigation. He continued to serve as an independent councillor.

After due process and a Jury trial in 2007 the Stroke was finally jailed in respect of the erection of more than a mile of fencing on his land. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison and fined €75,000.
A Jury at Galway Circuit Criminal Court found him unanimously guilty on seven charges brought under the Larceny and Theft and Fraud Offences Acts arising from the erection of boundary fencing on his land under a local authority improvement scheme
At his conviction, the Judge - Mr Groarke - told him that the most aggravating factor was the serious breach of trust by an elected public representative, who had defrauded the very body to which he had been elected to a position of trust.

Passing sentence, Judge Groarke said that while the offences were serious enough in themselves, Fahy had attempted to implicate an innocent man and had shown little concern or remorse.
He had displayed "bombast, bluster and bluff" in the witness box while he gambled with the reputations of honest men.

In an attempt to remove him a motion was entered.
A councillor may be deemed to have resigned his seat if absent from meetings of the authority for a continuous period of six months, and he had spent 7 months in prison - but there is provision within the Local Government Act for the local authority to take into account a councillor's illness or failure to attend "in good faith for another reason".
Jail is hardly a measure of good faith
On September 11 2007 he got another unanimous verdict.
This time the backing of his council colleagues for his bid to hold onto his seat - the defeat of a motion apparently aimed at heading to have him removed from his seat for failing to attend council meetings - a bit tricky when in prison
Around 19 of the councillors of the 30 who were in power of the time have been re-elected
What is wrong with them?
Why are they willing to support a convicted thief who tried to damage honest council staff ?

On Pay???

It actually gets worse.

What makes this whole case galling is that after finally being incarcerated - due to the support of the other elected councillors - the council had to continue to pay Stroke even though he was in jail for defrauding the council
- and could not attend meetings - i.e - do the job for which he was being paid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This was apparently because of the appeal process.

Stroke confirmed he received the payments when contacted by the Irish Independent.
Thats our money - being paid to a convict who is in jail when he was meant to be working for us!

Stroke said he would have lost his council seat if the payments had stopped.

Fahy refused to say whether he was able to provide a service to his constituents while he was in prison. "I've no comment on that," he said.

He received a total of €21,083 in wages, expenses and allowances from the council in 2006.
He received a total of €20,298 in wages and conference expenses in 2007.

Stroke said the conference expenses, which totaled almost €3,700, were claimed for conferences he attended prior to his incarceration.

He said absolutely no expenses were claimed by him during his time in jail - one would hope so.

Of course, on his release – and at liberty on appeal he has fought and won another election, and one assumes he was paid by the council through 2008 and 2009.

Now, we actually have laws against criminals running for office.
Certain people are disqualified from becoming members of a local authority:

People who have been imprisoned for a term longer than 6 months.
People who have been convicted of fraud or dishonest dealings, corrupt practice or acting while disqualified.
(This is for 5 year after end of sentence, not 5 bloody weeks)

People who have failed pay local authority charges. People who have failed to comply with an order of a court to pay money due to a local authority.

Also excluded are members of the European Commission, Parliament or Courts, A Minister of the Government, the Chairman of the Dáil and the Chairman of the Seanad.
Judges, The Comptroller and Auditor General, Members of an Garda Siochana (Irish police force) or a full-time member of the Irish defence forces.

Civil servants such as teachers, health board officials etc. are also excluded!!!

It seems to me if I dont pay a parking fine - I cant run, but even after defrauding tens of thousands, and being convicted he can ?

The reason he could run again it appears is even though he had served eight months when the Court of Criminal Appeal struck down the conviction and ordered a retrial.

So he ran - and won.

Two months after his release he has had his case listed for retrial in Galway Circuit Criminal Court. Although the case has been referred to the Galway courts by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), there is speculation that it will be sent to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on the grounds that it would be difficult to convene a jury in Galway that would be unaware of the original trial.

Friends say that news of the retrial has come as an enormous shock to him. I find that hard to believe.

How much more will this man cost?

Regardless of court costs incurred by the tax payer so far, don’t forget that the Stroke is perhaps the longest serving member of Galway CoCo, he has been in the Council since 1979.
That’s 30 years.Each outgoing councilor is entitled to something in the region of EUR 3500 per year served, so to be conservative – lets say 3000 per annum severance, that’s 90K if not more.

What a Country? Feck that, What a County!

To those 18,292 (58.9% of the district) of you who went out and voted - I applaud you - even if you voted for this guy - and a lot of you did.

But the other 12679 of you who did not, and could have stopped a convicted corrupt politician being re-elected, I have one thing to say -

Ardrahan - You Arseholes, What have you done?

UPDATE 2010===============================
Props to and the boys and gals at

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Apathy and Participation - Questions and Answers (maybe)

Well, yesterday I travelled from Holland to Cork - overnighted and came home to Connemara to vote in European and local elections.

I dont expect others to go to those lengths, but there is a common attitude that if you dont vote, then dont complain.

One thing that was dissapointing was my local polling station is across the road from a pub.
I was tired after so much travel, so after voting I went in for a coffee.

There were a lot of people there, mostly young, getting drunk - had been there all day, and could not be bothered to cross a two lane country road and vote.

I find that very frustrating.

It is obvious that the only long term solution to voter apathy is education.
But at a time when inner cities have a voter turnout as low as 19% there needs to be a more proactive and radical short term solution.

I think there are two ways to improve democratic participation in the short term.

One is to make voting compulary, with a small fine if you dont vote - e.g 50 Euro or something of that nature, I believe this system is used in Austria and Belgium.
One wonders how many people who dont vote 'on principle' would then stay away from the polling stations.

The other method - which I think would be better - is a reward system.

You get far more with a carrot than with a stick.

Every week thousands of people willingly pay money to enter the Irish National lottery.
The vast majority will not recoup their stake - and know this.

From the national lottery several millions are used to help out on public projects like sport, arts and culture.

We average a national vote or election roughly every 2.5 years between local, national, european, presidential and referenda.

So we set aside - say a million Euro from lottery funding for each election, in a program to encourage participation in the democratic process. It costs the state nothing.

All a person needs to do to qualify is turn up at the polling station, take their ballot and do what they want with it. They can vote, they can spoil the ballot, they can put it in the box blank if they wish - but by turning up at the station, they qualify to potentially win by lottery a small prize, say 50 or 100 Euro.

All anyone would need to do is participate, and your name goes in a draw. No one is forced to vote but everyone is certainly encouraged to do so.

I really think that this would raise the turnout to a very high level - your chances of winning are quite high.

Some purists believe that this is bribing the electorate, that it somehow cheapens the process, but it seems our education system has failed to indoctrinate the importance of participation in a democracy - our politicians have certainly failed to inspire.

There have been few figures in recent times who have had that ability, in Ireland the late, lamented Tony Gregory is the only one who springs to mind.

Those who are purists could even decline to be entered for the draw.

So when the politicians speak of participation, and the importance of voting, why dont they do something more proactive about it.

In a cynical sense I do understand that in some ways politicians dont really care about apathy, the people voting are generally politically minded, so it maintains the status quo.

They do not want new, unpredictable voters. Apathy is one of the allies of stagnation.

There may also be a fear in the larger parties that this new dynamic will alter carefully calculated campaigns.

If the turnout in this election is higher than normal, then it is only because of the fact people are so angry at the current administrations failures.

I have spoken with many voters who are voting against the current Government as opposed to voting for the opposition or on local issues.

I think this has been the most negative election I have witnessed.
It is time for a change, but its also the time to change the way we do do things in our democracy.
Radical solutions such as a positive prize fund is one way.

Lowering the voting age to 16 to engage voters at a younger age is another option.

Ireland really needs to look at improving the way our postal voting system works for people working away, the UK's system is far better.

Another thing we could consider is a list system for national elections, breaking away from constituancy politics at a national level.

This essentially means that I could vote for a candidate in Cork if I consider that person to be the best for a job that is done at a national level.

Yes this system has potential flaws, but when one looks at some of the local patronage and cronyism at a local level, it certainly begins to look attractive.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Neutrality undermined by lies and deception

The main thing to remember in the Lisbon treaty/constitution debate in relation to neutrality is that we have a very recent precedent.

The concerns expressed by the No to Nice II campaign, which included the Green Party, in terms of assurances on neutrality were proved to be accurate.

It does seem that when the Greens entered Government they left their principles and beliefs at the door.

One concern about Nice II was that we would become more closely aligned with NATO, or its subgroup PfP (Partnership for Peace)

In 1997 we were assured by FF and FG that voting Yes to Nice II would in no way compromise our traditional neutrality.

We were assured that any change to neutrality policy would have to be agreed by referendum.

And we told ourselves it would not happen anyway.

By 1999, without referendum, in spite of promises made by the leader of the state, we were a participating part of PfP

When running Nice II we were assured the electorate that that Irelands the 1997 Fianna Fail manifesto opposed PfP membership. traditional policy of neutrality would be respected.

Mr. Ahern told us that it would be 'fundamentally undemocratic' to join PfP without a referendum.

Then in 1999 Bertie sent Foreign Minister David Andrews to NATO headquarters and signed us up to the PfP, without a referendum.

By 2002 the parameters of Irish participation within the PfP were further expanded.

The important thing here is that the Government broke a promise made in relation to neutrality, and that received little coverage.

The PfPs stated aim is to develop bilateral relationships between individual Partner countries and NATO, as well as among Partner countries. Without a core standing group, PfP cannot operate independently of NATO.

There is also provision for interoperability of forces. Irelands military equipment is now generally compatible with what could be called NATO standard.

We again have a European treaty being run for the second time with few alterations.

The Lisbon treaty has failed in Ireland in part due to fears about our traditional neutrality.

We are again assured that acceptance of the Lisbon treaty-constitution will in no way alter our independent non-aligned position.

However the Lisbon treaty constitution specifies provision for a European Defense Agency, and Joint Force operations.

The thing is, I dont like being lied to - regardless of our personal feelings on the matter of PfP membership, we were promised a choice in being part of PfP -
In that way we could debate and decide on that choice.

But the choice was made for us and as soon as Nice II went through and FF came to power. FG and to a lesser extent Labour also went along with Nice II and PfP

And are we not going to learn from the past lies?

History is more than just something you read in a book.

It was invented as a tool, an engineered road down which society could advance.

The original Greek definition of the word (ιστορία – historia) is a combination of ‘inquiry, analysis, observation and myth ‘this at a time when myth meant information, not just fairy tales.

The entire point of history to the Greeks was not an exhortation to live in the past, but to live with it, learn from it and live better.

It certainly seems the Green Party has forgotten about the Nice fairy tale FF and FG told us in a land not so far away, and a time not long ago

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