As Taoiseach, Micheál Martin’s negatives still far outweigh his positives

This column appeared on Broadsheet.ie on November 30th 2020. While I am not yet predicting there will be a heave against Martin sometime in 2021, all the indicators are starting to pint in that direct – not least because not moving against the current leader can only mean Fianna Fáil’s support continuing to languish in the mid to low teens nationally and, more worryingly, in single digits in the greater Dublin area.

Pic via: https://www.thejournal.ie/martin-fires-opening-salvo-in-fianna-fail-leadership-battle-69059-Jan2011/

Ever want to know if the Sunday newspapers are running a political poll, then check to see if the Taoiseach is down to do some high-profile media events early that week. If he is, then there is a strong likelihood there is a poll coming.

Maybe I am just cynical. Nonetheless it does seem that the Taoiseach’s TV and Radio appearances seem to coincide with the days on which REDC/Sunday Business Post are collecting responses to their polls.

This may help explain why the Taoiseach was so keen to have Minister McEntee wait until next Tuesday to answer Dáil questions on the Woulfe Saga. This was not his view back in 2017 when he was the one asking the questions about judicial appointments. What a difference three years and a seal of office can make

Continue reading “As Taoiseach, Micheál Martin’s negatives still far outweigh his positives”

What’s The Story With Malta?

This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on November 23rd. In the context of the EU’s Rule of Law pursuit of Hungary and Poland, I examine how ingrained corruption has become in Malta, particularly within the Maltese Labour party. There is a clear case for adding Malta to the list, and insisting that it implement major reforms before any more EU money is provided.

https://www.daphne.foundation/en/

One of the downsides or having such easy access to British news, particularly the BBC, is that we assume Brussels to be as fixated on Brexit as the Brits imagine. As Brexit dominates the headlines here and the UK we suppose that everyone in Brussels and across Europe is as focussed on Brexit as us. They are not.

It is not that the other EU capitals don’t take the looming Dec 31st deadline seriously or are not straining to avoid a hard crash out. They would prefer see a no deal Brexit avoided, as much for Ireland’s sake as their own, but they have long since accepted that Brexit is happening. So, all that is left to resolve is the manner of the post Brexit relationship. Brexit will not be reversed, so there is no point in EU heads of government expending any further political capital on it.

Their attention therefore moves to more pressing matters, so where Brexit still dominates the headlines here, news broadcasts and papers in France, Germany, Spain and Italy feature stories about the deteriorating relationships between Hungary, Poland and the rest of the EU.

Continue reading “What’s The Story With Malta?”

A Leaked History Of Leaking

This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on Nov 9th, the day before the Dáil was due to debate the opposition motion of No Confidence in Leo Varadkar on foot of the #leakgate #leotheleaker controversy

The Tánaiste in the Dáil on Nov 3rd 2020

I’m sure many of you were shocked as I was to learn last Friday that Sinn Féin doesn’t have confidence in Leo Varadkar.

Seriously, who’d have thought it?

Who’d have imagined that the main opposition party, a party that sees the future of Irish politics as a polarised race between itself and Fine Gael, would not have confidence in current Fine Gael leader?

As I explained in my first piece here last week there is no doubt that the Tánaiste has not gone far enough in his apology or his assurances about how he conducts the business of government. Some of the explanations he offered on Tuesday (November 3rd) were so juvenile and feeble that it was shameful to see them sent out alone without a guardian.

Many who will vote confidence in Varadkar in the upcoming confidence motion will do so with no more trust or confidence in the man now than voters had in him last February.

Continue reading “A Leaked History Of Leaking”

Putting A Shared Island In A Shared Seanad

This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on Nov 16th. Here I propose that the two Seanad Éireann vacancies be filled by nominees representing the two traditions in Northern Ireland. this is something that should have happened when the Taoiseach named his 11 nominees to the Seanad back in June, but didn’t. That was a major mistake, but he now has the opportunity to correct it and prove that his Shared Island project is not just about words, it is about actions.

Taoiseach Michael Martin who gave an address on the Shared Island initiative at Dublin Castle 22nd Oct 2020. Photo: Julien Behal / RollingNews.ie

A few weeks ago An Taoiseach Micheál Martin delivered a major speech to an online audience. At almost any other time the speech would have been seen as important and significant, but it did not receive a great deal of attention coming as it did between Leo the leaker, the Mother and Baby Home saga, Woulfegate, not to mention the process of moving to level 5 Covid 19 restrictions.

The speech, on a Shared Island/Ireland, was delivered live to a wide and diverse audience, north and south. It was a fine speech, though – not for the first time – Martin managed to detract from his speech and trampling over his own publicity, with a far from adroit performance at the event’s question and answer session. As Sean Lemass famously observed, it’s never the little too little that hurts in politics, it’s the little too much.

So, instead of the media focusing on the news that the Irish government was establishing and funding a substantial unit to work on developing major all island projects, it came away transfixed by Martin’s inability to unambiguously state that Fianna Fáil is committed to Irish Unity.

Continue reading “Putting A Shared Island In A Shared Seanad”

Challenging the pro #Trump #Fakenews

During RTÉ Radio One’s Late Debate show coverage of the US election results, I challenged #Trump supporter and American Greatness editor Chris Buskirk on his bizarre assertion that the violence we have seen on US streets over recent months has been caused by anti-Trump groups alone. His claim that shops and offices in Washington, New York and other big cities were being boarded up beacuse they feared violence by anti-Trump protesters has been proved untrue in recent days with the arrest of several armed pro-Trump supporters at various count centers – AP News.

Pic via Arjen van der Horst on Twitter, taken in Washington DC 5 days before polling day:

A week of important questions… and hopefully some answers

This week’s column is a bit longer than usual as it looks at two separate topics that are only connected by timing. This piece appeared on Broadsheet.ie yesterday (Monday Nov 2nd) as two columns. The first was on the allegations of leaking that beset the Tánaiste:   https://www.broadsheet.ie/2020/11/02/derek-mooney-best-practice/ and the second as an eve of polling day assessment of the US presidential election with a guide to the key states to watch out for on the night: https://www.broadsheet.ie/2020/11/02/a-referendum-on-trump/

NB  Since I wrote this column Prof McDonald has revised his estimate of the total voter turnout to 160.2 million (67%)

Store windows in downtown Washington DC being boarded up last week in anticipation of violence as the results emerge – Pic via Arjen van der Horst on Twitter

Late last Friday I pulled together some quotes and stats in anticipation of today’s column being just about the US presidential election. Then came Saturday morning and that Village magazine exposé. So, while today’s piece will still consider the U.S. election, I will first address the domestic elephants in the room.  

The allegation that Leo Varadkar leaked a confidential government document to a friend is serious. Very serious. To describe the leak as “not best practise” is akin to Sinn Féin saying three £10,000 office grants ended up in their bank accounts “in error”. Using passive language does not make it better.

If anything, it makes it worse. It is like a poker player’s tell that shows the miscreant knows they did wrong, no matter how much they tell themselves otherwise.

To their credit – and this is not a phrase that flows easily from my keyboard – Sinn Féin have tried to deflate their problems with resignations from four party officials, including a Senator and an MLA.

Continue reading “A week of important questions… and hopefully some answers”

Less Justice and more just us… aka the continuing Justice Seamus Woulfe saga

This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on October 5th and follows the publication by of the review into Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the infamous Clifden #golfgate event. The review included a transcript of the interview Mr Woulfe had with the author of the review, the former Chief Justice Susan Denham – I look at some of the juicier remarks made by Mr Woulfe and wonder if these are indicators of his supreme judgement?

FILE PHOTO Archive (LtoR) Charles Flanagan TD and Chief Justice, Mr Frank Clarke and Seamus Woulfe SC

An accused youth is slouched in the District Court dock, noisily chewing gum. “Tell him to stop masticating” says the judge to the court officer. Dutifully, the officer marches over to the accused and says: “The judge says for you to get your hands out of your pockets” 

Sorry. Wrong old joke.

Another accused, an old lag this time, is standing in the same District Court dock. “Do you plead guilty or not guilty”, asks the judge. “Do you mind if I listen to the evidence first?” comes the reply.

This joke kept popping into my head as I read extracts from the testimony Mr Justice Woulfe gave to former Chief Justice, Susan Denham. The transcript of his testimony appears as an appendix to Ms Denham’s report.

Ms Denham had been asked to “review” Mr Woulfe’s attendance at the now infamous Oireachtas golf society dinner in Clifden. “Review” appears with inverted commas as Mr Justice Woulfe and his counsel were keen to stress (taking up about 8 of the 140 page transcript) that the process was a review and not an inquiry, an adjudication or a determination of anyone’s rights.

Continue reading “Less Justice and more just us… aka the continuing Justice Seamus Woulfe saga”

Nothing special about taking good advice

This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on Sept 28th. It stems from my Sept 23rd appearance on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne discussing pay increases for TDs, the appointment of special advisers for 10 junior ministers and how this news was playing out as it came on the same day as the government announced a cute in the rate of PUP for many of those put out of work by Covid-19. You can hear the discussion here:

The Irish Examiner also reported on our discussion:

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40053431


On Wednesday I appeared on RTÉ Radio One’s Today Show with Claire Byrne. I had been invited on to discuss TD’s pay and the cabinet decision to give 10 junior ministers their own special advisers.

You’d have thought that this was something better discussed, if not defended, by a loyal Fianna Fail backbencher. Oddly there didn’t seem to be too many of them around on Wednesday to take the call. So, yours truly made a coffee, sat by my phone and waited to head bravely into the breach and make the case for special advisers. Joining me To debate the issue were Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty, TD and the former Independent TD and junior minister, John Halligan.

Continue reading “Nothing special about taking good advice”

Biden will win. #Bigly. Trump is going down… but not in a way he’d like!

This column appeared on Broadsheet.ie on Oct 12th 2020. Here I take my courage in my hands and predict – three weeks out from the official US Presidential polling day – that Joe Biden will win the presidency… and win it comfortably.

This is less based on polling, though national polls continue to show Biden with a clear 7 – 9 pt lead over Trump, and is more predicated on the evidence from the Trump side that it knows its man is beaten and is now focused on challenging the authenticity of the result. The Trump campaign is spending billions so Trump can sit in his Maralago golf resort this time next year and tell himself: I didn’t lose, I was robbed!


When trying to forecast an election result a few weeks out from polling day political pundits protect themselves by saying well, this would be the result if people were voting tomorrow, but there are still a few weeks to go and anything could happen.

But, when it comes to this American presidential election, people are voting tomorrow, just as they were voting today, yesterday, last week and even back to mid-September.

According to Vote.org, 27 States are already voting in person and/or have totally mail-in ballots. 9 out of the 50 States have been open for early voting from six weeks before the November 3 polling date, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia and New Jersey. Early voting started in California a week ago.   

Over 9 million Americans have already voted, this is 8 – 10 times as many as voted this early in 2016. In five states the number of ballots already returned is more than 20% of the 2016 turnout.

Continue reading “Biden will win. #Bigly. Trump is going down… but not in a way he’d like!”

Facebook threatens to quit the EU? As if…

I wrote this article for BEERG‘s weekly newsletter on Sept 23rd. The Newsletter goes to approx 1,000 senior HR professional across the EU and US.

I have been deeply involved in monitoring the development of the data privacy and protection issue since first working on the early legislative passage of the General Data Protection Regulation through the European Parliament and Council. This article features a link to an article I wrote for the EurActiv news-site in late 2012 on the complexity of GDPR’s employee data provisions.

I have added some extra paragraphs in this version that are pertinent to the Irish domestic situation and – not for the first time – I finish an article with my favourite LBJ saying/quote

This was the week when the stark reality of the Schrems II judgement became clear. When the rubber hit the road.

In last week’s BEERG Newsletter I portentously observed that the already complex position around Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) and other methods of transferring personal data to the US was about to become more complex. Little did we realise how quickly that would happen.

The Irish Data Protection Commission made a preliminary move to halt Facebook’s use of SCCs to cover the transfer of data from the EU to the US. Facebook has some 400m+ user in Europe. Facebook went to court.

Within days, the text of Facebook’s affidavit to the Irish High Court appeared online. Its contents fueled headline speculation in respected broadsheet newspapers and reputable media outlets that Facebook was threatening to quit the EU unless its concerns were addressed.

Continue reading “Facebook threatens to quit the EU? As if…”