Analysis/Comment
European Parliament: Vote No. 1 for Diarmuid O'Flynn in Ireland South
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
May 8, 2014 - 6:04 AM

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June 2012: Diarmuid Flynn and residents of Ballyhea and Charleville, North Cork, protesting at the headquarters of the European Central Bank, Frankfurt.

The European Parliament election will be held in Ireland on Friday, 23 May 2014 and we at Finfacts urge voters in the Ireland South constituency to vote No. 1 for Diarmuid O'Flynn who is standing as a non-party candidate.

Across Europe extreme right wing parties are expected to make gains as voters will express disenchantment with traditional parties. In a welcome contrast in Ireland, immigrants are not being blamed for our economic woes by candidates, but this European election, the local elections and the next general election, should be ones of consequence.

When foreign commentators wondered during the international bailout why the Irish were so docile, Diarmuid Flynn was the leader of a unique example of grassroots citizen activism in rural Ireland with a focus on national and related international issues in contrast with the enduring traditional parish pump politics of local demands coincident with the system of limited accountability where the buck seldom stops anywhere that has operated at national level in Dublin for decades.

Change continues to come ever so slowly in Ireland and the election of Diarmuid O'Flynn has the potential to light a fuse that could trigger the upending of the established political order at the next general election.

“I’m not deaf - - I hear the anger, I see the dissatisfaction, and I have to go faster,” President François Hollande of France told his people on Tuesday.

In Ireland the slow-motion governing coalition is running empty on ideas on modernising governance systems and putting the economy on a sustainable course that is not over-dependent on a model where American companies provide Ireland with ready-made jobs.

No change of position among current economic ministers at the top would matter as not one of them has implemented or pushed for significant change.

Of course they would counter with laundry lists of initiatives but when they produced the 2014-2020 economic strategy last December, it was merely a brochure containing a cocktail of platitudes and aspirations to meet the challenges of a changing world -- months later and it is mainly forgotten.

Following the lamentable record of the Department of Finance during the property bubble, the Government had the opportunity of establishing a fiscal advisory council that would be appointed by the Dáil Éireann (Lower House) and report to it similar to the Australian equivalent (which also has a role in assisting non-government parties and members of parliament with fiscal costings).

The Government opted for the Department's choice and Ireland got what is effectively an intellectual ornament rather than a watchdog, with members appointed by the minister and with reporting responsibility to the Department.

In a period of economic crisis, it took two years for the Oireachtas (Parliament) to close a loophole in a 2009 law in respect of buy-to-let mortgages; it's almost four years since a government gave a commitment to the bailout troika on reform of legal services but it remains pending; it took five years to make it easier for generic drugs to be prescribed while the State's drugs bill grew 25% to €2bn. However, generic drug prices in Ireland remained three times higher than in the UK; it will be six years after the banking crash when the Oireachtas at last begins a banking inquiry.

At the MacGill Summer School in July 2009, Enda Kenny, then leader of the Opposition, asked why do we have a budgetary system in place that is unfit to run a corner-shop, let alone a nation of 4m people?

Four years later in July 2013 the International Monetary Fund reported that there wasn't even a common chart of accounts to categorise public spending and "it requires extensive manual manipulation to reclassify data and consolidate out intra-governmental stocks and flows. This increases the risk of  double counting of assets and liabilities across general government units."

Twice in  a generation the Irish economy has been brought to the brink of ruin by international crises that had been exacerbated by local misgovernance.

During the first of these calamities in the grim summer of 1985, local people in the West Cork village of Ballinspittle, close to my hometown of Bandon, claimed to have seen a public statue that represented the mother of Jesus Christ, moving. It brought national and international attention to the village and lots of visitors.

In the grim spring of 2011, in Ballyhea, another Cork village, Diarmuid Flynn, a journalist at the Irish Examiner, became the leader of a weekly protest by local people against the bailout of bank bondholders that had initially been guaranteed by the Irish Government in September 2008 and reaffirmed in the international bailout in November 2010.

The cost of sovereign support for Irish banks was €64bn and about two-thirds of the €32bn that was provided to Anglo Irish Bank, was a bailout of depositors.

Despite the economic crash, the ancien régime remains intact and immutable, with the comfortable safety net of the euro.

There is an opening for a party or movement that would drive change and that shouldn't be mainly dependent on individuals who appear on television.

Sweden and Finland implemented durable change in modern democracies with diverse opinions represented in parliament.

There is an agenda of parliamentary reform that every candidate for Dáil Éireann  should agree on or not before an election.

A fiscal advisory council reporting to the Dáil should be complemented by honest national accounting that would contrast with the current addiction to spin where data distorted by the significant foreign-owned multinational sector is used to mask inconvenient facts.

The price of change is some instability but the cost of inaction would be much higher.

So light a bonfire of the vanities in Ballyhea and across the Ireland South constituency on May 23rd, make a difference and send a message of change to the rest of Ireland with the election of Diarmuid O'Flynn to the European Parliament.

Diarmuid O'Flynn campaign website

Some of the themes in this piece are covered in more detail here:

Irish Media Post-Economic Crash: "Don't interrupt the minister"

Celtic Tiger RIP: Change in conservative Ireland six years after crash

OECD BEPS Project: Ireland should embrace corporate tax reform


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