“One should not allow the perfect be the enemy of the possible”

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last Tuesday, the chamber debated the Electoral Amendment Bill 2011. There are important proposals that being brought forward, such as a lower spending cap for Presidential elections, and a maximum delay of 6 months for by elections. I spoke in favour of the Bill.

I welcome the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2011. It constitutes an important advance and as other speakers have noted, it forms a single element of a highly ambitious programme of reform the Government has set out to achieve and introduce. It is important that Members bear this point in mind.

One of the most important measures that has been agreed in the programme for Government is the establishment of a constitutional convention. I heard Deputies Pearse Doherty and Éamon Ó Cuív making a number of points earlier that I thought had great validity such as, for example, a suggestion about a list system. In addition to a number of suggestions from other speakers, such a change could only be dealt with or addressed through constitutional change, which is the reason it will be extremely important for the Government to turn its attention as quickly as possible, hopefully later this year, to establishing the constitutional convention once it has got through the more immediate proposals regarding constitutional change and the referendums that already are on the blocks. It is only when such a constitutional convention is established that it will be possible to consider all these issues in the round. It will be possible to consider matters more widely.

Electoral reform and the electoral system for the Dáil is one of the priority items in the programme for Government the constitutional convention is to address. It will provide the opportunity to deal with questions such as whether there should be a list system, the broader question of elections or perhaps the establishment of a permanent electoral commission. In itself, that measure would not require a constitutional change but broad questions on what electoral system it is best to have or how best to elect people to this Parliament can be addressed in the context of a constitutional convention. I hope such a convention is brought forward as early as possible in the autumn.

Nevertheless, simply because one states it is necessary to have a broader debate on such issues and on how to have constitutional change, this does not mean there are no measures that can be taken now. One should not allow the perfect be the enemy of the possible or the more immediately achievable measures such as those contained in this legislation. It contains three discrete items, each of which can and should be dealt with at this time and which should not be obliged to wait for the broader programme or agenda. The question of by-elections manifestly should be dealt with as quickly as possible and it is good the Minister has brought forward this measure so quickly. The Government may consider itself to be under a certain amount of pressure on foot of the High Court decision but notwithstanding that, it still is commendable that the Government has brought forward this proposal as quickly as it has.

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Govt rejects Labour call to hold Dublin South by-election

June 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yesterday in the Dáil, Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore put forward a motion seeking to move the writ for the Dublin South by-election.  The seat vacated originally by the death of Seamus Brennan in July 2008 had been filled by George Lee before his resignation.  Apart from Mr Lee’s relatively short tenure, the seat has been waiting to be filled for almost two years.

Speaking in the Dáil chamber, Eamon Gilmore highlighted that between 1997 and 2002, the government waited no longer than one year to hold a by-election.

“Various governments have, in the past, been tardy about calling particularly by –elections, but this is the first government to have adopted a policy that all by-elections should be delayed for as long as possible and I have no doubt that if they thought they would get away with it, they would delay them indefinitely.”

Responding on behalf of the government, Chief Whip John Curran stated that now was not the right time for the by-election.

“Along with significant the economic challenges the country faces, the Government and the House are in the middle of an extremely busy legislative programme.”

Deputy Gilmore pointed out to the Chief Whip that if the writ was moved, the by-election would be held during the Dáil recess and not affect the normal work of the Oireachtas. 

The Motion was defeated by 71 votes to 66.

More :: Click here to read Eamon Gilmore’s speech
More :: Click here to view the full debate including the government response
More :: ‘Chief whip says Dáil too busy for byelection’ (Irish Times)

Alex in the media

February 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last night, I appeared on The Week in Politics on RTE One. Minister Mary Hanafin and Olivia Mitchell TD were also on the panel to discuss NAMA, the resignations of George Lee and Deirdre de Burca and the potential date of a by-election in Dublin South.

You can view the programme again by clicking here.

Yesterday, I also appeared on The Wide Angle on Newstalk.

You can listen to the show again by clicking here and selecting ‘The Wide Angle’.

Thanks

June 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

Eamon Gilmore TD greets Alex at the Count Centre at the RDS last Saturday

Eamon Gilmore TD greets Alex at the Count Centre at the RDS last Saturday

On my own behalf, I would like to thank everyone who has given help, assistance and support to the campaign in Dublin South over the past number of months.

Labour had a fabulous election across Dublin and the rest of the country, all of which bodes well for the future. In Dublin South, we gained a seat in Stillorgan and held our other three seats comfortably. I would like to congratulate Aidan Culhane, Lettie McCarthy, Richard Humphreys and Paddy Cosgrave on their wonderful results, and also Veronica O’Doherty and Aidan O’Sullivan who ran great campaigns.

Obviously, I was disappointed not to have succeeded in winning the by-election, especially after all the dedicated hard work and commitment shown by so many party members and supporters. However, I was delighted to have secured well in excess of a general election quota. Our success in doubling the vote to 10,000 first preferences proves that a Dáil seat is now well within our grasp in Dublin South.

Finally, my thanks to the visitors to The White Board and alexwhite.ie. Stay with the sites as there will be plenty more from the Seanad in the coming months.

More :: To see more photos from the RDS at the weekend, please visit Labour’s Flickr page by clicking here.
More :: See Alex’s interview after the result on the RTE website. Click here and go to 1hr 12mins

A Fair Deal for a Fair City

May 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

Dublin ManifestoYesterday saw the launch of Labour’s Manifesto for Dublin on the Millennium Bridge. I joined Deputy Leader Joan Burton, Dublin Central by-election candidate Ivana Bacik and some of the many Labour Councillors to launch what I believe, is a new vision for Dublin.

This city of ours has enormous potential. A quarter of the Irish population live in the capital. Tourists continue to flock to the city and in the sunshine of today, it can be a cultural mecca.

Yet, the city has suffered under the 15 years of Fianna Fáil-led governments with bad planning, bad resources and right now, a bad unemployment problem. Our plan for the city, like the rest of our campiagn, is about jobs, jobs, jobs.

We must get our city back working again. Something as simple as stimulating and supporting small and medium enterprises in the city can be the precursor to an increase in employment. Labour also proposes that a council apprenticeship scheme be set up, which not only will retrain and upskill workers, but contribute to the work of the four local authorities in upkeeping the city and county.

Dublin Manifesto 2But the manifesto also addresses some issues which will serve to improve the lives of Dubliners. As a cyclist, I find the city’s streets a nightmare at times. Labour proposes to prioritise safe, uninteruppted 24-hour cycle lanes that will increase safety.

We will also reverse the current cuts to Dublin Bus services.

This manifesto seeks to address two fundamental matters in Dublin: to get Dubliners back to work; and to improve the lives of all Dubliners, right across the city. Labour councillors have worked hard in order to improve this city, but for a real difference we need to change nationally. A strong Labour in the Dáil can only be better for our capital city.

More :: Read ‘A Fair Deal for a Fair City’ by clicking here (PDF)

The Time is Right

May 26, 2009 § 2 Comments

Launch of Cherishing Children

May 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

Cherishing ChildrenThis afternoon, the Labour Party launched ‘Cherishing Children’ – our new manifesto for children. As the Party Spokesperson on Children, I attended the press launch with Leader Eamon Gilmore and our by-election hopeful in Dublin Central, Senator Ivana Bacik.

In these economically difficult times, it is very easy for a government to pull investment away from those who need it most – our children. What this policy document does is outline a core Labour belief that investment in children is fundamental to a better economy.

According to the OECD, Ireland is at the bottom of the league for early
childhood education, with only 2 per cent of three year olds in statesubsidised pre-school. This compares to 100 per cent in Italy and France.

3563532686_bfea3cd5eeThe Labour Party fought the 2007 General Election with a commitment that if elected, we would introduce one year of free childhood education for every child. Although Minister for Children Barry Andrews announced in the last budget the introduction of such a scheme, it’s implementation has been haphazard and with 7 months to go until the scheme is launched, we still have not been given the full details of the scheme. We don’t know the curriculum. We don’t know if they have enough staff to cope. This is worrying for parents and providers.

If the country is to be economically vibrant again, investment in children is essential. One of the focuses of ‘Cherishing Children’ is on how the boom that we had never guaranteed an improvement in a child’s well-being. We built homes and new towns, but not the schools to cope with the surge in population. Only last week I visited Holy Trinity NS which spent €125,000 last year on prefabs. On Friday I will be attending St Colmcille’s Junior School which has been waiting reconstruction despite the fact it was promised by Fianna Fail in the last general election. I’ve raised their situation in the Seanad previously:

This government has withdrawn funding for school books, has reduced investment in playgrounds and has deemed building footpaths an optional investment. They withdrew support for the Cervical Cancer Vaccine. Cherishing Children seeks to place children at the heart of Labour policy at local level, at national level and at European level. We will seek to reverse the decision on the Cervical Cancer Vaccine. We will seek to replace anti-social behaviour at nighttime with sport and recreation. We will support the setting up of a pan-European missing children’s hotline.

Studies have shown that if the State invests in children, they will receive multiples of that investment back in tax, less social welfare and a successful knowledge-based economy. Labour strongly believes in this.

More :: Click here to read ‘Cherishing Children’ (PDF)
More :: See more photos from the launch on the Facebook page

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