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Planning an Interview with Dick Roche

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 13th, 2009 at 06:00:08 PM EST

Cross-posted from the TH!NK ABOUT IT Euroblogging site.

Dick Roche is the Minister for European Affairs and a member of Fianna Fail, the main Governing party in Ireland.  In that capacity he is responsible for coordinating the European dimension of all of the Irish Government's policy and legislative initiatives including the proposed second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

He has agreed to an interview next Tuesday which I hope to document on this blog.  I am currently planning the interview and would like to enlist your help in coming up with some good questions - particularly from a European angle, or from the perspective of your own country.

Obviously much of the interview will be ad lib in response to how the conversation flows, but I would like to have a list of questions prepared in order to ensure I don't miss the opportunity of asking a relevant question.  So here are some of the questions I am thinking of asking.  Please add some further suggestions in the comments!


  1. Minister, there is an old joke that the difference between Ireland and Iceland is one letter and about 6 months.  In recent weeks we seem to have been making strenuous efforts to catch up with Iceland.   The Irish Economy is expected to decline by 6% this year and next, unemployment is expected to rise to 17% next year, and with the current budget deficit is expected to come in at over 10% of GDP this year and next - over 3 times the Maastricht Growth and Stability Pact limit.  How do you think this will impact on the European Elections in Ireland?

  2. The recent Sunday Business Post Red C poll put Fianna Fail at 23% of the vote - a historic low - which compares to the 42% you received in the last general election in 2007.  If that poll turns out to be accurate, Fianna Fail could be  fighting for the last seat in each of Ireland's 4 Euro constituencies.  Do you think it is possible that Fianna Fail might lose a seat in one or more constituencies?

  3. The fact that Sean O Neachtain, Fianna Fail sitting MEP in Ireland North West has withdrawn due to ill-health means that Declan Ganley of Libertas is now the only candidate based in Galway, the main city in the region.  Given the tendency of people to cross party lines to support local candidates, do you think Ganley now has a realistic chance of being elected?

  4.  Fine Gael (the main opposition party) have nominated a very strong second candidate in Ireland South in Sean Kelly, a former high profile President of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).  Does that give Fine Gael a chance of a second seat in Ireland South or will the last seat go to Labour or the sitting Independent MEP Kathy Synnott?

  5. Labour have nominated Nessa Childers, a daughter of a former Fianna Fail cabinet minister and President of Ireland, and also a former Green Party Councillor, for the Ireland East Constituency.  Do you think her name recognition and association with both Fianna Fail and the Greens puts her in the ideal position to take the third and last seat there from Fine Gael?

  6. There are 4 sitting MEPs in the  Dublin Constituency which is being reduced to 3 seats for this election.  This means at least one sitting MEP has to lose out, and the pundits seem to be predicting that the last seat could be between Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein.  Wouldn't it be extraordinarily embarrassing for Fianna Fail to lose to Sinn Fein and have no seat in the Nation's Capital?  Could such a defeat threaten Brian Cowen's leadership of the Party?

  7. Fine Gael and Labour, the two main opposition parties, make much of their membership of the two largest groups in the European parliament, the EPP and PES respectively, whereas Fianna Fail has been a member of the much more marginal UEN group and is talking about joining the liberal ALDE group.  Does this not undermine Fianna Fail's credibility as the leading Irish party in Europe particularly as Fine Gael got 5 seats to  your 4 at the last election?

  8. Is it not a little surprising, just when you are thinking of joining the Liberal ALDE group, that the Fianna Fail Minister for Justice should bring in an amendment to the Criminal Justice Act in which he proposes to bring in a new crime of Blasphemous Libel? Is this not bringing us back to the 1950's, or the divisive referendum campaigns on Divorce and Abortion in the 1980's?  Some people (myself included) have suggested that Fianna Fail might be trying to distract attention from the economic situation, and that you tried a similar diversionary tactic ahead of the last European Elections when you proposed controversial reforms of immigration and asylum laws to shore up your conservative and nationalist base?

  9.  Many people deride the European parliament as a home for retired national politicians or people who couldn't otherwise make it in national politics.  What distinctive contribution did the Fianna Fail members of the last Parliament make, and how would you see them influencing policy and legislation in the next parliament?  What are your main policy priorities in the EU?  Why was their no EU Stimulus plan to tackle the global recession?

  10. Lastly, a question on the Lisbon Treaty.  I know it's not directly an issue in this election, but a second referendum is widely expected to be held next October.  Why do you think people who voted NO the last time around, or indeed didn't vote at all, should vote YES this time around?  What do you say to those who complain that Ireland is being bullied by the European Elite to keep voting until it produces the "right" answer?

Obviously the above questions have a strongly Irish focus.  If you are interested in his views on Enlargement - on the accession of Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, or Iceland to name but 4 possible applicants, or on any other European topic, please let me know.

As usual any recs or ratings on Th!nkaboutit very welcome.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed May 13th, 2009 at 06:03:41 PM EST
Isn't he from the party that said that Ireland was closer to Boston than to Berlin? If that's the case, "given that Washington's policies over the last three decades or so have just precipitated the worst financial crash since the South Sea Bubble, do you still think that it is prudent to associate with Boston rather than Berlin?"

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 04:15:33 AM EST

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 04:26:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Roche is Fianna Fail, Harney of the PDs was the Boston cheerleader.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 04:30:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that comment was by Mary Harney, leader of the Progressive Democrats at the time.  It speaks for itself that that party is now defunct having disbanded after achieving about 3% of the vote.

But yes, Fianna Fail were very closely associated with the building industry, developers, and a "light touch" approach to regulation particularly with regard to the Financial Services Centre which attracted somewhat dubious financial investments from all over the world.

My problem is that such a question would divert the interview into an entirely different "anglo-disease" type discussion, when the whole focus of the interview is supposed to be on the EP elections.

Obviously the consequences of such policies can be seen in the Irish economic collapse and Fianna Fail is being largely blamed for that collapse - hence its spectacular decline in its polls.

However neither I nor Dick are economic experts, so that interview is probably best conducted at another time by Jerome or Chris!

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 04:38:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just caught this while prepaing my own story for preparing questions for MEP candidates. I note that your questions are primiarly focussed on Ireland - is it possible to put in a few of the questions we're also developing for EU MEP candidates?
by Nomad (Bjinse) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 06:21:25 AM EST
Frank, on TH!NK ABOUT IT you say, in a reply to a similar point re European-scale questions (with examples from Ralf Grahn) that you don't think Roche would want to answer such questions.

I'm not proposing we should believe we can bully candidates into answering whatever questions we want, but don't you think a candidate really should be willing to talk about Europe and not just home politics?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 06:55:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Technically he is not a candidate but he is in charge of the Lisbon campaign (and is also a very good waffler).  I can ask him all those questions (and I will if I have enough time) but my fear would be that I will get a lot of fairly non-committal answers because he is not in the business of giving Lisbon opponents sticks to beat him or the Government with.  

I'm trying to maximise what I can get out of the 30 or so minutes I will have with him and he can stonewall with the best of them if he doesn't want to get embroiled in a particular issue.  So my focus was more on asking questions he might be prepared to engage with.

But hey - I asked for suggestions and am very glad to get them - and will amend my strategy accordingly.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 12:59:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please let me know what they are and I will try to include them!

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 01:00:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fianna Fail has been a member of the much more marginal UEN group and is talking about joining the liberal ALDE group

It appears that that's a done deal:

Fianna Fáil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the European Parliament, Fianna Fáil was a leading member of Union for Europe of the Nations until 16 April 2009, but joined the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party on that date and will sit with them after the 2009 European elections.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 06:51:32 AM EST
Thanks for this correction - I wasn't quite sure of the date - there has been a process of courtship going on for quite a while.  Apparently the Fianna Fail Leader of the UEN group - Brian Crowley - was fighting the move because he would lose his privileges as a leader.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 01:04:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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