The Gist: Leaders Questions, few answers

The Dáil was back in session today. Like the rest of the world, its work continues. Just very slowly.

The Gist: Leaders Questions, few answers

Oh hey, there you are. I was worried you might have succumbed to ennui and be listlessly pawing at the side of your bedside table in the hope it might just turn into a day at the beach. Just as well nobody connected with this newsletter ever had that dream.

Meanwhile, Tony Holahan produced seismic charts to show Ireland was quietly restarting when we should still be in our houses. In fact, the earthquakes are still happening in Leinster House. This is the Gist.

The Boring Uncle of All Parliaments

Westminster likes to style itself The Mother of All Parliaments, a title well-suited to the institution in that it both ignores the fact that Iceland has the oldest parliament (literally, the Althing) and manages to lay a claim to every other national deliberation chamber in the world, in particular all those formed by breaking away from its control.

Ireland’s Dáil, however, knows its place. It is a place for words. Words of varying quality- some pedestrian, some sublime, some Danny Healy-Rae’s. But the quality always matters less than the quantity. So it was that, after weeks of being starved of the speaking, the opposition leaders got a chance to Say Some Words. And Say them they did. The Leaders’ Questions format basically broke down, under the weight of the speeches delivered. After the words were poured out, the Taoiseach eventually glanced down at his notes, promised to write to them all with the answers and said time was up.

But there was one golden thread through the speeches- the Dáil wanted more transparency. Massive decisions were being taken and they didn’t even know who was taking them any more.

This is going to be trouble, later. (see What’s with the Covid Apps?)

Revenge of the Nerds

Regular readers will remember when the Greens launched their post- election negotiation process. Multi-stranded talks, lasting seven hours at a sitting. You will also remember FF quickly tiring of this sort of detailed policy engagement. As their joint paper with FG demonstrated, they’re more Big Picture guys. Actually planning the details of government is what the Civil Service is for, after all.

But today, Eamonn Ryan struck back with a snappy 17 point response paper, looking for all sorts of detail.

This will presumably have been met with mixed feelings in FF (and, to a lesser extent FG). On the one hand, if the Greens bite, as their leader says he wants to, Michael Martin can start shopping for Mr. Taoiseach mugs now.

On the other hand, they have been given a pile of homework and power may depend on it getting good marks. And I’m not 100% convinced that doing homework is why FF TDs sign up for election.

Covid Apps- Still botched, still critical

The Netherlands scrapped all their proposed Covid App options because none of them were properly designed to meet the privacy concerns from either experts or the public.

We haven’t scrapped ours, in part because unlike the Dutch, we didn’t put in place an expert advisory team that might warn the public the software wasn’t good enough.

The window of opportunity for us to fix the core trust problem at the heart of this likely critical project is closing rapidly.