Sunday, March 25, 2012

Collecting the Household Charge

This is an absolute laugh.  Last week, Big Phil Hogan said that he was getting on extremely well with the Data Protection Commissioner.  He went on to say - if I can paraphrase - that should talks break down, notwithstanding their positive current bearing, he would look to legislate in order to get access to home owner address information.  I explained then that such a course of action would likely fall foul of a constitutional reference to the Supreme Court, which if not referred by the President, would have been challenged by any number of campaigners. 

Now we hear that county council workers may be calling door to door to remind people of their obligations. The public service trades unions - a heinous bunch if ever there was one - came out on the Six O'Clock news and said, essentially, that none of their members should participate in this terrible business.  It was bad for the workers (i.e. they should get paid extra if they have to do additional work), and bad for the country, presumably because the union rep on the telly wasn't best pleased with it himself.  It's not clear if the suggestion is to collect the tax, or simply to inform people. But what is certainly clear is that this is all about data protection - the government know all they need to know, they're just not allowed to know it for these purposes.  Hah!

Even though county councils, and local councils, may know the addresses of their people, they are not allowed to know that for the purposes of this tax.  But they can call to people's doors, and presumably in calling to each door inventory those houses that they have called to, by simply walking down the street, and calling to the houses that they see, which is not of course in breach of any law.  Getting into apartment blocks would be fun, of course.

In addition, people can refuse entry.  There is no compulsion to answer the door, nor to speak to them (even to confirm a name) when they do.  The council officials won't be able to write to them because they don't have their addresses (at least for these purposes).  If they could, they'd simply send them a bill - that's why no one is being sent a bill.  Because they don't have your addresses (for these purposes). 

Just now on The Week in Politics, Labour's Joe Costello said that the government will first be chasing people who have registered second homes for the second home tax, because they have a register of those people. I suspect however that it would be equitable to use that information for the purposes of the household charge (as distinct from the second home tax) because the information was clearly gathered in the first instance for taxation purposes.  But I suspect it's also true that they can't use it to chase them down for their primary residences, even if they gave that address as their contact address!  Can you imagine how smiley Big Phil must have been as the Data Protection Commissioner explained this to him (presumably while they were getting on extremely well!!).

In the week that the Mahon Tribunal reported on events of twenty years ago, and when Steve Collins and his family left Ireland because the State could no longer protect them from other lawbreakers, one wonders why it is so difficult to run this country expediently. Other countries tend to have far more effective legal systems where human rights are protected well, but not at the expense of justice.  If the protection of human rights - such as the rights to fair procedures, due process, and good name - results in justice in effect being avoided, then that protection is rendered moot.  We may have the wrong balance in this country, and one suspects - a la Big Phil - that perhaps we have sufficient swagger in government to change that.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fianna Fáil and its Damage to the State

Barely 24 hours after the release of the final report, Fianna Fáil's has decided to ignore the allegation that Bertie's cabinet ministers tried to collapse the tribunal, because a) it's not "a finding", b) no one is named and c) sure, it was only a bit of school-yard name calling anyway.  It's a serious allegation, according to Micheál Martin; but not one that he accepts.  So we'll move on from that, shall we?

Wait a minute.  This is at the heart of the matter.  Let's look at the reasons.  That it is "not a finding" is irrelevant - this is not a court judgement, but it is the considered view of the State through the lens of a tribunal that - as Fianna Fáil so often complained about - left no stone unturned.  That it is in the headline section (under 1.85 and 1.86) is enough.  Is Martin suggesting that because it's not "a finding" that it's irrelevant, and doesn't need to be addressed?  It was clearly the Fianna Fáil members of cabinet - including Martin himself - who were involved, yet he's splitting hairs about what may or may not constitute an attack?  This cannot simply be brushed aside.  Remember when Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh resigned in 1976 when Paddy Donegan called him a thundering disgrace for sending a bill to the Supreme Court?  That wasn't merely a matter of confidence, but an ignorant disdain for the offices of state.  Martin and his colleagues in cabinet represented both the executive and the legislature, and their comments on the probity of the tribunal - an extension of the judiciary - was an appalling indictment on their disregard for Justice Mahon and his colleagues.

Fianna Fáil were in power too long.  They were the masters of the Universe, they were unimpeachable.  They bounced off the tribunals every now and again, but nothing ever stuck. Bertie, the teflon Taoiseach, was a miracle worker.  He carried them through thick and thin, somehow keeping the PDs, and then the Greens onside, and all those independents.  But at the base of it all was an ignorance of law, a disrespect of office, and a treacherous obsession with the spoils of office.  The country became their plaything, its wealth and structures their party fund, and if they could make a few quid on the side, whether that was Jim McDaid practicing medicine, or Ray Burke or Pee Flynn taking donations (not even trying to dress them up as consulting fees!), then so much the better.

All the while, the country was going to ruin.  Fianna Fáil blamed Lehman Brothers, the banks, Europe, the Euro, the Regulator, anyone but themselves.  The problem was that for all that time, since 1997, no one in Government was actually doing their job.  No one was interested in doing their job, least of all their leader,  Bertie Ahern.

By the time it came to Ministers attacking the tribunal in late 2007, the state, the people, the roles they were supposed to serve and the responsibilities they held meant absolutely nothing.  All that mattered was power, office, and the protection of their privileged position. That their actions compromised the rule of law didn't concern them.  That their actions breached the principle of separation of powers didn't concern them.  that their actions undermined the integrity of the state didn't concern them.  Whether Fianna Fáil decide to ban Bertie Ahern or not is irrelevant.  The party has done more of an injury to this state than the IRA and the British Government combined.  The leadership should be imprisoned, and Fianna Fáil should be proscribed as a political party. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Militant Cynicism

I'm wondering if there is such a thing as militant cynicism. The whole occupy movement seems to be based on that kind of thing - "you's are all evil and bad and wrong and we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more!" Now, should that be a chant (and I'm sure better chant writers than me could make it a little more snappy!) one wonders how it escalates. It hasn't escalated, one suspects, because there isn't really an alternative proposition that people can support, as I blogged about yesterday. In the absence then of an alternative, are people just venting because they don't have stuff, or because they're just cynical, in an extension of a kind of teen angst? Perhaps as the world has gotten generally wealthier, particularly in the developed world (Occupy Bengaluru, anyone?) teenagers are hanging on to their angst for longer, perhaps into their twenties. But there doesn't seem to be a point to escalate to, because there's no real philosophical substance to cynicism, and therefore it's difficult to make the leap to militancy (at least for the protesters, whatever about the cops!)

Data Protection - Letter to TDs

My letter sent to my constituency TDs Sean Sherlock (LAB, Minister for Research and Innovation), Dave Stanton (FG), and Tom Barry (FG) today.


As my constituency representatives in government, I would like to register with you my abhorrence of the Minister for the Environment's proposals to cross-reference data from the ESB in order to prosecute his agenda on property tax. I have written to you Dave and Tom before about my concerns on the property tax itself and its equity - this specific concern is about information, and data protection.

Data protection is there for a reason. It is designed to protect citizens against improper or unauthorised access to personal data, or access to personal data that that citizen has not acceded to. It is not some abstract European imposition, nor a seemingly unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. Minister Hogan's dismissive and sarcastic reference to the commissioner (with whom, he said, he was "getting on exceptionally well") was an appalling indictment on his respect for, and ignorance of, the importance of the office. His admission shortly after in the same interview earlier today that he would turn to legislation should it be needed to access the data was an acknowledgement of the true state of the Commissioner's position. Legislating to access this data would be a grave and most likely unconstitutional step.

I am copying you Minister Sherlock not just because you are one of my representatives in government, but because there are ramifications in data protection far beyond simple property tax that impact your ministerial brief. If we are to undermine the authority of the data protection commissioner for so coarse and short-sighted a reason as tax collection, where next do we arbitrarily attack the principle of data protection? What about data based businesses, intellectual property, software, and business intelligence? What about businesses built on data monetization like Google and Facebook, are they next to be compromised? What about the new up and coming technology companies who rely on the protections afforded citizens by data protection in order to support these businesses? We are fond these days of the phrase "moral hazard" - while we are bending over backwards for the Germans in order to avoid one in Europe, we are seemingly blithe to its occurrence at home. Hypocrisy!

A final point in my argument - I don't believe that legislation to circumvent the power of the data protection commissioner would be constitutionally valid, as it would be in breach of a right to privacy, and possibly other rights. It would almost certainly fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights, and in the absence of a derogation from the appropriate provisions, most likely in breach of European Law as well. At least we have Europe to protect us!

Minister Hogan is a coarse, heavy handed, indelicate and ignorant legislator. He needs to learn about law, about rights, and about his duty to the people of Ireland. There are limits to our patience - I have spoken to friends about this, who all agree; other Fine Gael voters are similarly astonished at his apparent disconnection from his voting constituency. I will continue to broadcast my concerns on social media, and try to build awareness for the perils of the Minister's proposed action. Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote just after the French Revolution about Democracy described what he called the "Tyranny of the Majority" - perhaps this is what he meant. Michael McDowell acted in a similarly dismissive way when as Minister for Justice he convicted Frank Connolly in the eyes of Chuck Feeney even though the Judiciary had seen fit to acquit him, because it was politically expedient for him to do so. More generally, it was political expediency that got us into the trouble our country is in right now - more than anything we need leadership - political leadership, moral leadership, and social leadership.

I have registered for and paid my property tax because it is the law, and therefore my duty as a citizen. I think it has been handled cack-handedly from the start, and continues to be deployed without political sensitivity, without planning, and without wit. Whatever the future holds for the property tax, let us not allow this debacle to further undermine the democratic structures of this country, and data protection as an important pillar of our personal rights.

Yours Sincerely,


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guillotining the Bankers: Beyond Democracy?

A subject that's I've been ruminating on a little in recent times has been the inadequacy of this trite quote from Winston Churchill that "democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the others that have been tried." Another quote attributed to him was that the best argument against democracy was a five minute conversation with the average voter. Go back another twenty years and Woodrow Wilson lamented his country's descent to become "[n]o longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by
the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men." Such deep cynicism in such vaunted leaders needs to be heeded. The problem, of course, is in Churchill's first quote in particular - what's the alternative?

Inequality was in many respects at the heart of the French Revolution. But the disproportionate wealth of the ruling nobility and higher clergy only resulted in civil disorder when the wealth of the bourgeoise in particular, and the masses in general, became an existential issue in absolute terms. People were starving, and could not afford bread. That was not a jealousy, or even a relative issue. It was straightforward - the people needed to overthrow the régime in order to survive, and survival is an extraordinary motivator.

There was however another critical factor that contributed to the revolution in France - the existence of a reasonably well thought through alternative. Rousseau and the Philosophes, with their publication of the Encyclopédie in the middle of the eighteenth century, and the other enlightenment philosophers Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu and the rest of them all contributed to a new thinking about individual rights, equality, and society. A model was being articulated beyond religion, and beyond nobility. Reason was gnawing at the populace for years now, nudging them along - kings are just men; priests are just men; both just like us.

Today, we can see the inequality in the democratic structure and it is plain for all to see. Militants argue for civil disobedience, such as non payment of austerity taxes, but few coherent voices can be heard with credible alternatives to the appalling vista of businessmen guilty of despoliating the nation's wealth and creditworthiness playing golf on the Algarve while decent honest men see their family homes reposessed by the Banks their taxes bailed out. What is the alternative system? What is the alrernative to liberal democracy? Just "not paying" the debts incurred by the state - for whatever reason - misses the point. The system wouldn't be changed by such actions, it would merely play out the inevitable, for good or ill, within the structures already in place. Ireland may or may not be better off for it, who's to know. But on the other side of it, in a generation or so, when these difficult days are being forgotten by people who weren't even born at the time of the Celtic Tiger, the same system will breed the same inequality, and the same unfairness.

Perhaps - more disturbingly - it could even get worse. In the absence of a credible alternative, the liberal democratic system itself could be radicalized, pushing right wing extremism to the fore in a restatement of mid twentieth century facism. Inequality could be exacerbated, and the powerful and wealthy could become even more detached from the people. Plus ca change, then!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Choice Architecture and the Sean Gallagher Bias Problem

There's a story about the woman who managed school dinners in Chicago for many years. She had huge amounts of data, and did some analysis on the data to understand what the kids were eating, and how it related to menus and displayed. She began to play around with the menus, and the placing of food in display cabinets where the kids would queue to get their lunch. What she found was astonishing. To a substantial degree, with the data in hand, she could control the daily diets of 150,000 kids in the Chicago scool district.

The story is told in a book called Nudge, by a couple of academics in the field of behavioural economics. The woman had created a problem - now that she understood the value of what these guys call a "choice architecture", she was aware that her construction of that architecture would influence the behaviour of those supposedly exercising their free choice. Several moral and philosophical issues ensued, but you can read the book to find out more.

Fast forward to the RTE Frontline programme and allegations of bias against RTE. Whether they like it or not, RTE as the disproportionately large broadcaster in the state constructs such an architecture. It cannot by definition be unbiased, as the presentation of the candidates will influence the decisions people make. Sean Gallagher in particular understood this - the extent to which other channels were open to him were limited, as he had limited funds. So he concentrated on TV. And, ironically, it was TV that got him in the end.

The only real way to avoid bias in broadcasting is to have genuine competition in the broadcasting market, as there is in the US. There are problems with that system too, of course, as anyone who witnesses the lowest common denominator rush for advertising dollars on US TV will attest to, to the extent that the free market demands the rise of a public broadcasting service, PBS. And that is not a matter for RTE, but for government, and public policy. Few governments have dared to cross RTE in the past - but now, with a particularly strong government, and a particularly chastened RTE, is an exceptional opportunity. The question is whether this government has the leadership, and the awareness to seize what could be a transformational opportunity.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sean Gallagher: Don't Look Back in Anger

A brief tragi-comic interlude then...

Sean "I'm Not Bitter" Gallagher has a new theme tune - an adaptation of the old Oasis classic, "Don't Look Back in Anger" - I just caught the first few words...

Flip back to the Frontline Debate
We were getting on great
The Aras was in play
I said that I didn’t recall
Any fundraisers at all
I thought I’d gotten away

Then a fella sends a tweet into the show
Where it came from no one really seems to know
Out it comes, jaw hits the floor
I didn’t know which way to look
Martin smiled, “your goose is cooked!”
‘cause now everyone thinks I’m Fianna Fáil

And so it's not to be, It’s now Michael D, Could have been me
I know it’s too late, but I don’t look back in anger - Positivity

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Equality and Freedom - Public Goods?

Two guiding principles of democracy - equality and freedom - are prima facie good things, right? Well, not so fast. Reading some Rousseau and Tocqueville recently (as one does, don't you know) it seems a little less clear. Rousseau was a great proponent of freedom and equality, and his ideas were the very fuel with which the French Revolution burned. His discourse on inequality was (and is) one of the great works on the subject, and of course his "Social Contract" with the general will and all that attempted to codify some of the core aspects of an operationalisation of equality in government. Submit yourself to the General Will, and you will have a kind of moral freedom within which to live your lives, he said. In essence, give up your freedom in order to achieve true freedom. All things are relative anyway, but Rousseau's unapologetic optimism perhaps went a little far in this.

Tocqueville fixated on these ideas of equality and freedom. In his great work "Democracy in America", we wrestled with the notion that equality and freedom were not, perhaps, good bedfellows. Maybe they pulled at each other - the more equality, the less freedom...the more freedom, the less equality. Gideon Rachman's recent book "Zero Sum World" spoke about this international view from the Cold War that America's Loss would inevitably be Russia's Gain, and vice versa, a view incidentally not shared by the current Chinese administration, as applied to the more truely globalised world today (though they would say that, wouldn't they!). In the fledgling American democracy at the start of the nineteenth century (it's only a couple of hundred years ago, folks) the concept of the land of opportunity, of freedom and equality, was growing. But the unspoken truth of that America, and of the greater liberal democratic movement generally, was that - if not quite a zero sum game (the welfare state and socialist / charitable / church influence would blunt the edge of commerce) then at least generally men were fighting over a limited amount of wealth. The opportunity - of which this was "the land" - was to acquire disproportionately over others, to acquire power as much as wealth, and therein lies the conundrum. You all have freedom, and you all have equality, but the exercise of that freedom - all things being equal - will have the effect of subjugating others, of creating unequal social structures.

The king is dead, long live the king, as they say.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Work, Labour and The New Economy

There's a big idea creeping up on us, though it's something that has always been there (well, for a couple of centuries at least) and never really gone away. We've just chosen to forget about it. It goes back to the French Revolution, and possibly to the Wars of Religion. It was submerged in the nineteenth century as the plundering of empire accelerated growth in Europe. It reared its head in the early twentieth century and triumphed in Russia, then briefly in America after world war two, and persistently in Europe, underneath the shallow veil of the European Project, it lingers still. Today, amidst our global economic crisis, in our interconnected, smaller world, the labour movement is about to roar once more.

Ever since the abandonment of agrarianism, and the industrialisation of production and work, there has been a tension between the employer and the employee, between the rick and the poor, and a concertina over time as the gap between them has repeatedly shrunk, and grown large again. At each stretch there is a suspicion that perhaps it might snap, that some revolution somewhere will topple the ancien régime and celebrate the ascension of the new King. Today's tensions are represented in the Occupy movements around the world, in campaigns for fairer labour conditions in developing markets, and in both left and right wing extremism, the former seeking greater social justice and fairer resource redistribution, the latter (perhaps more ominously) seeking restrictions on immigration and social welfare in order that those who contribute more are more fairly compensated.

A number of themes persist today that should be understood better. The notion of a full time job is going away - save in the state sector, though even in public service there are fewer and fewer guarantees. Entrepreneurialism - which used to be about starting companies - is now a seriously desirable trait within companies. The reason for this is excessive market demands for growth rates that are insane, and in order to drive and incetivise workers to deliver the kind of productivity that such demands require, companies are isolating departments and leaders with their own budgets tied to performance, in what could be called business pods - where the company gets the benefit of innovation upside, while the employee gets fired (in the form of a budget cut) if the growth rates are not delivered.

At the same time, people are eschewing companies as preferred sources of work. In a sense, it's a little like a return to agrarian structures, within an industrialised, urbanised society, with small, off-net businesses trading data, information, and micro-goods (SIM cards, electronics, etc). One economist estimates that two thirds of the world's workers will be in this kind of work by 2020. I'm going to say that again. By 2020, two thirds of the world's workers will be employed in off-net micro businesses.

The tension - the concertina - seems to be close to breaking point in Hungary. This is partially because people remember with some fondness some of the certainty of pre-1989 life. Sure, you had the hypocrisy, censorship and conformism that the old communist system embraced, but as Le Monde Diplomatique reported recently it was 'a morally and culturally conservative welfare state which had introduced relatively modern living standards, from indoor plumbing to literacy and - usually forgotten - a liberation from enforced deference towards the aristocracy and representatives of an old-style authoritarian state with its scary gendarmes, bureaucrats and military officers.' Memory is a poor historian, and the soft focus makes it seem a happier time. But it is undeniable that the perceived fairness of the current system bears an unfavourable comparison. Today's Hungary is youth-oriented, right wing, anti-immigrant and virulently nationalist. It is also failing. People who can't work are perceived as inferior, as less deserving. The welfare state, if it ever existed post-1989, is crumbling. The middle class is getting wealthier and smaller, while the ranks of he poor and the very poor are swelling. Unemployment is rising.

Where now is the future for work? And - by extension - the labour movement? I am instinctively repelled by trades unions. I don't think that employees should organise themselves to counter other forces in society, as a poorly thought through exercise that fosters corruption. But I am increasingly of a view that the powerful in society - primarily the Government and Corporations, and in some countries the Church - need to be kept in check somehow. Conventional democratic structures - the judiciary, the legislature, local government - are failing to have any impact on the advancement of the power institutions, and therefore on increases in inequality. If people don't work in companies any more, how does labour organise itself? How do citizens line themselves up as the counterweight to civil society's power structures?

I'm going to try to examine some of these themes. We'll take a deeper look at Hungary, a country in Europe and the East, looking both backwards and forwards, with aspects of growth markets and mature. We'll look at India, and South Africa. We'll look at the state of the labour movement around the world. And we'll try and understand from history what some of the options - what some of the labour futures - might be.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Fianna Fáil Are Eating Themselves Alive

I used to write computer code. Occasionally I still do, just to prove that I can. One of the true brain benders is inadvertently sending your code into an infinite loop - which requires at best a violent termination of the program, at worst a complete reboot. The code, of course, thinks nothing of the loop. It's doing what it's told to do, unaware that violent termination is the best outcome. This is what I thought of watching the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis at the weekend - they just can't help themselves. There's a machinery in Fianna Fáil that serves itself, it serves a higher order objective, some ethereal power that all delegates serve, the mystical Erin, the National Spirit, the Republican Ideal. It's been quite a long time since anyone really knew what that actually meant.

In the absence of someone who could actually understand that objective, or - better yet - someone who could update and modernise the idea of Fianna Fáil, the party has been on autopilot. There are processes that "everyone knows"; there are structures that have been there forever. And now, seemingly suddenly, they are falling apart. The rules - around managing conflict, resolving differing opinions, accommodating coalition - have not changed. The problem is that the enemy now lies within.

This happened substantially after Lynch. Until Lynch stepped down, I think Fianna Fáil retained a self-awareness that was rooted deeply in blood. The War of Independence, most recently relived in the Arms trial, was still alive in the people who fought that war. People who were only seventy or seventy five years of age had shot dead British Soldiers in the name of Ireland. And they guided Fianna Fáil, and mentored its leaders.

After Lynch, those veterans and mentors passed away, and Fianna Fáil lost its tether. The realist awareness of why Fianna Fáil existed in the first place disappeared, and in the absence of a modernisation of its raison d'etre, Fianna Fáil through Haughey began to see its existence and power as a right, and as an entitlement; that its fortunes and that of the state were inextricably linked; that as sure as the State existed, Fianna Fáil would be there to defend it. And perhaps in a twisted way they were right - that the demise of Fianna Fáil could only have been brought about by the destruction of the State.

In the absence of vision, and ideal, power itself became the dominant driver. You protect your seat first, all else follows. Bitterness within constituencies was not new for those denied the ticket, but defection - in Donegal, in Kerry, in Galway, and with the PDs - was unheard of. Bertie Ahern, the personification of the new post-Lynch Fianna Fáil modus operandi, was almost a perfection of the Charles Haughey Fianna Fáil animal. He didn't have Haughey's passion, dreams and delusions - Bertie was raw power, unencumbered by even familial baggage, unfettered even by conventional greed. Brian Cowen didn't have time to establish any pattern - he was scrambling even before he began, defending Ahern in the 2007 election, and losing Lisbon within weeks of assuming the leadership in 2008. Three years of pure Hell followed.

T presence of so many former ministers at the weekend's events, including Dick Roche, Mary Hanafin, Mary Coughlan, Noel Dempsey, Brian Cowen, Pat Carey, was a stark reminder of the not so distant past; they were all there. Zero John, who recently announced his intention to stand in the next election, was conspicuous by his absence (did anyone see him?). And then Bertie shows up, Micheal scuttles, Dara disappears, and everyone who has any semblance of a reputation left to protect scrambles for somewhere else to be. Bertie - shock and awe.

His lunchtime strut on Saturday was nothing short of a shot across the bows of Micheál Martin. "Look what happens," he was saying, "when I just show up and saw nothing. Imagine if I started talking?" Mahon will be out shortly. Whither collective responsibility? Where is solidarity, loyalty? Will Micheál just cut him loose, as the columnists are suggesting he must?

Bertie, the consummate party-pooper, smiled, glad handed, and displayed his coffee cup - Bean and Gone, it said. Not quite. Bertie will take the entire party down in order to preserve whatever he considers might remain of his legacy. And, looking over his shoulder perhaps at Iceland, maybe he has more to protect than his legacy. The former prime minister there has gone on trial and could face two years in prison. The new government here has preserved almost entirely apparatus of state that served up the appalling fate that befell us in 2008; and that same structure would abhor the incarceration of its erstwhile leader. So it is unlikely that our structures would threaten Ahern with prison. But some kind of trial is not inconceivable, but please God not another Tribunal!

Dev Óg is another who is circling the carcass of Fianna Fáil for his share. Mary Hanafin will look to re-enter the fray. Coughlin possibly too. Who knows - maybe even the class act herself, Beverly Flynn might reinsert herself into the process after an appropriate hiatus. Each will do what our modern Fianna Fáil creatures know how to do. They will fight for power; they will take no prisoners; and, devoid of vision and ideal, they will destroy themselves. Like that computer code that continues to execute in an infinite loop, they don't see, they can't see, that by doing what they've always done, their fate is sealed. Acquiring a vision would mean an abandonment of their native populism. Ireland - one hopes - is moving on.