Monday, October 15, 2012

Scotland to vote on Independence

Today it was announced that an agreement on a referendum on Scottish Independence has been signed beween the Scottish Government and their English masters. The referendum in 2014 will ask the Scots a straight yes or no question. The exact wording of the ballot is not yet clear.

While this is a matter entirely for the Scottish people there is no doubt that the result of the referendum will have a very significant effect on Ireland. In recent times we have seen Unionist politicians desperately plea for the Scots to vote against independence. Of course this position is not surprising given the fact that a vote in favour of independence would mean a break up of the UK and strike a final blow to the British Empire. It is very difficult to envisage a future Union of England, Wales and a minority in Ireland.

Should Nationalists hope for the Scottish to vote for independence? On one hand the end of an imperialist and opressive Empire built on theft, bloodshed and murder must be welcomed. On the other hand, I am not convinced another English speaking, Independent country with a well educated workforce and fit for purpose fical policy would be good for Ireland. As Enda Kenny stated this week a United Ireland will happen one day regardless of the constitutional position of Scotland.

So what are the chances of Scotland becoming independent? Polls show that support for Scottish independence lies at between 30% and 40%. However, the British Government finds itself in deep recession and struggling with a debt which has long since topped £1 trillion. Deep Tory cuts are inevitable and will be extremely unpopular among ordinary Scots who see the Conservatives as an English party (look at their support in Scotland).

2014 is also the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, when Scottish forces led by Robert the Bruce defeated English invaders. Expect to see this film multiple times in 2014

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fianna Fáil - "The Republican Party"

The advent of the Celtic Tiger in the early 1990s saw the beginning of what became a genuinely booming economy in Ireland. Exports began to boom, there was huge foreign direct investment, tax revenues soared, unemployment declined, emigration ceased and wealth increased.

Enter Fianna Fáil. The party increased spending dramatically. By 1996 competitiveness had began to erode as a result of high government expenditure. Around this time houses were beginning to increase in price sharply and activity in the consturction industry was on the rise. Tax revenues from stamp duty, capital gains tax, income tax from construction workers and vat from increased consumer spending due to higher levels of disposable income swelled the exchequer's coffers. Fianna Fáil's response was to add fuel to the fire. Tax incentives were given to gready developers who were encouraged to build and develope more and more and more. Regualtion of the banks was non existent. At best FF turned a blind eye on the reckless lending of bankers. It appeared that anyone could qualify for a mortgage whether they could afford it or not.

As the property secor began to boom, inflation augmented and tax revenues rocketed. Although the general economy was continuing to perform outstandingly, the extra revenues gained from the property boom brought about huge budget surpluses. Regardless of the fact that tax revenue from construction activity is not sustainable, upcoming elections loomed and Fianna Fáil had the resources to stay in power.

Giveaway budgets threw money at everthing. Social Welfare payments increased to world record levels, public sector pay increased expotentially, the health budget increased dramatically without proportional increases in efficiency. Grants were given out like confetti. The FF led government were spending recklessly. The purpose was to buy elections and stay in power. It worked.

While all this was happening competitiveness eroded dramatically. The growth of the property sector disguised the fact that the underlying economy had began to falter.

Had Fianna Fáil governed responsibly and taken advice from independent advisors and economists, spending increases would have been kept at modest levels, the property sector would have been cooled before the bubble began to form and the Celtic Tiger would still be roaring today.

Fianna Fáil have damaged this country hugely. However the fundamentals of the Irish economy are strong. Competitiveness has largely been restored. Exports are booming again. All that is missing is strong domestic demand. This will not return until the programme of austerity is complete. This may take another three or four years. Once austerity is finished, economic stimulus will be required. A new Celtic Tiger will be reborn. The state of the world economy will dictate the strenght of the new Tiger's roar. When the conditions are right for another Celtic Tiger people should not forget the reason why first Celtic Tiger was tamed.

Fianna Fáil claim to be "The Republican Party". Have a look at their website:

On one section of the website there is a notice of the party's annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration. On another section browsers are invited to browse by constituency. This map shows a bold line meandering through the North of Ireland. There are 18 constituencies missing inside the line. A Republican party would not partition a map of Ireland. A Republican part would not organise on a partitionist basis. A Republican party would contest elections in all parts of Ireland. Fianna Fáil are not a Republican Party let alone "The Republican Party".