Thursday, 26 May 2016

Ignore failed policy: Internment is not the answer to stopping drug related crime. Liberalising our drugs laws is.

Photo credit -

If you listen to journalists talk on radio or read their columns, you'd get the sense that they really hate this gangland feuding. These 'thugs' who think they're 'above the law' represent an existentialist threat to the 'law-abiding people of Ireland'. But if we look at the media as a monolith, they seem to absolutely revel in it. Nothing greases the wheels of the printing presses quite like a gangland feud. Tabloids can publish the stupidest and most unsubstantiated drivel their reporters can concoct and pass it off as news. 

Just today, the Daily Mirror ran with a front page story about how the INLA were involved in the shooting earlier this week of Gareth Hutch, nephew of crime boss Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch. One source claimed, "The INLA have always been seen as cold-blooded killers - if they are involved expect more killings." They continued, "Most of these fellas are psychopaths. They'll say they have a cause but they'll kill for money." Hmm. They make it sound like the blurb on the back of a B-grade DVD about. Not to be outdone, the Evening Herald published an "exclusive" story on how The Monk has been spotted drinking in a number of inner-city bars in Dublin while his crime empire is being smashed to pieces by the Kinahan gang. They even claim that he was asked to leave one bar because bar staff were worried that his presence might attract Kinahan hitmen. Yeah. Right. They expect us to believe a couple of bar staff are going to tell The Monk to beat it. Allied to these exaggerated and fear-baiting stories, many of these newspapers, including broadsheets such as the Irish independent and the Irish Times, decided to publish a video of Gareth Hutch's death on their websites. Any ethical concerns posting the gruesome death of a man would have posed were emphatically trumped by the level of internet traffic those newspapers expected to attract, I suppose.

Still, most of the voyeuristic coverage has been par for the course. Nothing more or nothing less than we've come to expect when these gangland feuds become national stories. At least, that's what I thought until I read Ivan Yates' column in the Independent today. The article is entitled "Bring back internment and show Kenny, not Kinahan, rules the streets of Dublin." I think that title should be enough, actually. In fact, the first three words, "Bring back internment" should be enough. No need to expound on the idiocy contained within...

Unfortunately there is though. In response to the escalating gangland violence, Ivan Yates wants to arrest people and detain them without trial for an undetermined (he doesn't mention it in the article anyway) amount of time. He wants to violate every human rights treaty we've ever signed, every EU human rights directive or regulation we've ratified and seriously impinge on a precious civil liberty. Here are the most incriminating paragraphs in my eyes -  

The Garda lost far too much of its expertise in allowing a top-tier of management to retire. It could scarcely afford to dispense with such a reservoir of experience and expertise. Somehow, a way must be found to have these senior officers redeployed, if only on a contract or temporary basis.

Secondly, there can be no legal impediment to going after the murderers. If this means a temporary reintroduction of internment to target a specific category of criminal, then Kenny should not be squeamish about doing so. The gangs are staking out their turf, so it is time the State took it back.

The international dimension must not be excluded. It is too easy for Irish criminals to go abroad and amass massive fortunes and live rock-star lifestyles without the law laying a hand on them or their billion-euro assets.
They must not be able to live with impunity on the Costas. Countries like Spain, which is the favoured destination for these killers, must be seen to do everything they can to make even the sunny Costa del Sol a cold place for cash-rich criminals.

There is a proud tradition within Fine Gael of being the party of law and order but the Blueshirts are in danger of falling behind.
So, to reassert themselves as the "party of law and order", Fine Gael are going to have to effectively suspend the law. That makes perfect sense. Back to Yates' argument though, what happens after you intern these criminals? Judging by his comments in the third paragraph, he's not after the small fry hanging around the streets of Dublin, but the big guns who run the operations. Does he suggest interning them? Interning men who are worth millions of euros and can afford the best solicitors money can buy to defend them in court. Would any evidence collected against them be admissible in court if they've been interned indefinitely? And how long should we intern them for? A week? A month? Reintroducing internment would be an absolute legal minefield. 

Because that's the thing about human rights. They're not pick and choose. They're supposed to be insuperable. No matter how detestable, how contemptible somebody is, we all agree, on paper anyway, that they are entitled to some very basic rights by virtue of being human. Article 9 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile." It's become quite trendy recently to shit on human rights, to act like they were some utopian, hideously naive set of rules concocted by some overly idealistic nobodies decades ago. But they were pieced together in the aftermath of World War II, undoubtedly a nadir for humankind. They were supposed to reflect our newfound sense of morality and respect for each other. And while they have been trampled on by almost every state since then, that is no excuse for us not trying to abide by them now, particularly when the introduction of internment would represent such a flagrant violation of them. 

But back to Yates. I must say, I love how he talks about a "reintroduction" of internment. We've never used internment to combat gangland violence so when he's talking about 'bringing back' internment, he must be referring to the use of internment by the British Army against Republican paramilitaries in the early 70s, right? I mean, it's either that or the de Valera government's use of internment way back in the 40s. Let's presume he's talking about the 70s - How did that go again? Oh right, terribly. Scores of innocent men were interrogated and tortured by British soldiers and the action did nothing to stem the tide of violence in the North. As an officer of the Royal Marines put it, "It (internment) has, in fact, increased terrorist activity, perhaps boosted IRA recruitment, polarised further the Catholic and Protestant communities and reduced the ranks of the much needed Catholic moderates"

Now, Northern Ireland in 1971 and Dublin in 2016 are very different places, of course. The Catholic community were already isolated from and alienated by the Northern state and internment merely exacerbated this, or, as former Provisional IRA volunteer Tommy McKearney put it, it made Catholics "so outraged with it and with the sovereign authority in London that a rapidly growing number of its members were preparing for armed insurrection, while many of the less militant were withdrawing consent to be governed". One of the main grievances regarding the introduction of internment was that initially it exclusively targeted republicans and did not target loyalist groups until 1973 (and even then the number of loyalists interned pales in comparison to the number of republicans). Such a situation will not arise were it to be introduced now, naturally. The social and political context is entirely different. But the fact remains that internment inflamed the problem in Northern Ireland and it could well inflame the problem in Dublin too. Advocating for the resurrection of a policy which so blatantly failed seems absurd.

Naively perhaps, I had presumed that Yates would be alone in his advocacy for internment. I was wrong however. Former detective chief superintendent John O'Brien was on Today with Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio 1 this morning and, when queried by O'Rourke on whether or not he thought internment should be introduced, replied;

"Absolutely, I would certainly go there as part of a continuum of measures on an escalating scale from the position we are now where we just can't find a way of putting sufficient bodies on the street to using the anti-gang legislation, to using the parallel offences against the state act where the opinion of a senior officer with suitable safeguards would be sufficient to nominate somebody as a member of a criminal gang because, even Paul Williams is saying, we know everybody who's in the gangs."

"At the end of the day we should be able to put the people we know, and who we are able to demonstrate to a legal standard, are involved in this out of circulation and out of society because if we don't do that, Sean, the killing will continue." 
Amazing, really. I guess the first question I'd ask would be this; if the Gardaí are able to "demonstrate to a legal standard" that somebody is part of a criminal gang, then why is internment needed at all? But what I'd really like to ask O'Brien and any others who point to internment as a solution is this - is there any other country where it has worked? And by 'worked', I mean is there any other country (or city for that matter) where internment has been introduced and resulted in a long term decrease in drug related crime? Any city where it's wiped out drug-related murders? You could introduce internment tomorrow, capture the kingpins behind the Kinahan empire and lock them up and throw away the key but would that deal with the problem of drug related crime in Ireland in the long term? Of course not. The Kinahans aren't some boogeymen, betrothed with some magical evil powers. They're a criminal gang exploiting an unworkable system of prohibition which makes drugs a precious commodity in a captive market. If you wiped them off the face of the earth tomorrow somebody else, or some other group, would quickly replace them. 

So how do you get rid of them and ensure no one replaces them? You take away their market of course! David McWilliams elucidated on this point wonderfully earlier this week (coincidentally in the same newspaper as Yates' article) in an article entitled "There's a very easy way to destroy murderous drug gangs for good." Again, I'll just copy and paste a few snippets of his article rather than reciting it myself - 

Here’s the reality. The war on drugs has failed. What we have now is not the “war on drugs”, but the “war of drugs”, where the profits central to the drug trade are controlled by a small but violent knot of mafiosi whose illicit cash gives them their power. Take the cash away and they’ll have no power.

The war on drugs has failed by any logical economic metric. There are more drugs now available than at any time in human history. Prohibition doesn’t appear to have had any material impact on drug use. The “war on drugs” has driven the price of the drugs upwards, making it a very profitable business. When the business is illegal, contracts are not enforced by law but by brute force and murder.

Prohibition always attracts criminals because the prohibition itself creates the business opportunity. Prohibition drives up profits by driving up the price. This is exactly what we saw in the USA during booze prohibition. Prohibition was a godsend for the mafia.

Similarly today, as the profits rise, more and more people are enticed into the business and deeper and deeper drug networks are forged, starting with the small-time dealer selling locally, right up to the big guy trading internationally.
His critique of our anti-drugs policy is well-worn and not groundbreaking but it is worth repeating again and again and again before something actually changes. What does McWilliams himself advocate anyway? 

When drugs are legalised (and yes, I believe it is a matter of when, not if), the price will collapse, and so will drug-related crime.

Users will no longer need to steal to support their habit. Drug-related crime will fall to the same level as off-licence-related crime. When was the last time you heard about a person being killed at an off-licence for a bottle of vodka or being stabbed for a packet of 20 Marlboro Red?

Legalising drugs would also lead to a dramatic and permanent fall in our prison population. The majority of prisoners in Ireland are there because of drug-related crimes.

The arguments behind legalising or, at the very least, decriminalising drugs have been repeated ad nauseam by authors, academics and even some police officials for years, decades even. From Portugal to Colorado, Uruguay to Argentina, the world is littered with stories successful drug liberalisation policies. Time and time again, decriminalising and/or legalising drugs is proven to be beneficial for crime rates and economies. And time and time again, belligerent policies, like introducing internment for instance, have been proven not to work and actually greatly exacerbate the problem. It's time we took our head out of the sand and started thinking of real solutions. In fairness, we took a step in the right direction last year when then Minister for Drugs Aodhán O'Riordáin announced the introduction of injection rooms for addicts and the decriminalisation of small amounts of controlled substances. But we need to be bolder, we need to be braver. And we need to ignore those who advocate the continuation of the failed 'war on drugs' policies. As Sergeant Colvin said in The Wire, "You call something a war and pretty soon everybody gonna be running around acting like warriors."

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Explaining the Healy-Raes.

Two asses and, erm....

In 1976, an ageing farmer living a few miles from Killarney wanted a medical card. He had just turned 60 and a few years previously had suffered a stroke. Medical cards were a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland back in those days and so he called up his local Fianna Fáil councillor to ascertain how he might go about passing the means test and acquiring one. The Fianna Fáil councillor, surveying the 23 acres of farmland the farmer owned, pointed to the farmer's 17 year old son and told him brusquely, "Dónal, sign the farm over to the young fella and you'll get your medical card." Dónal duly signed the farm over to his son and he got his medical card. That Fianna Fáíl councillor was named Jackie Healy-Rae, Dónal was my grandfather and the "young fella" was my father. 

The point of this anecdote is to illustrate that the localistic and clientelistic nature of the Healy-Raes' politics has existed for decades, generations even. Since Jackie was first elected as a county councillor in 1973, he and his family, have acted as fixers, middle-men between the state and its citizens. Knowingly or unknowingly, they have exploited the "excessively centralised" nature of the Irish political state. It's no surprise Jackie started out in Fianna Fáil and remained a councillor for the party for a quarter of a century. As Dick Walsh wrote in the 80s, "[Fianna Fáil] may not have invented the phenomenon known to political scientists as localism, but its leading members in any county of the twenty-six must be sufficiently experienced practitioners to be able to give lessons in its operation." When Jackie left the party in 1997 and was elected as an independent TD for Kerry South he retained these traits and transported them to the national level. His sons, Michael and Danny, inherited them too. Even as they make hundreds of thousands of euros from county council contracts and own and operate a bar, a post office, a petrol station and a string of residential properties, they're still able to present themselves as salt-of-the-earth, modest Kerrymen. The Healy-Raes are not merely products of Kerry however; they are a product of a highly centralised political system which citizens feel alienated from and disempowered by and a weak and inaccessible system of local government which citizens feel at best ambivalent and at worst hostile towards. 

Explaining their recent electoral success, which saw Michael top the poll and his brother Danny joining him in second place, requires a bit more digging, however. Their popularity in 2016 is unprecedented. Between them, they bagged 40% of the first preference votes in Kerry. Before, when people from other counties slagged me off about the Healy-Raes I would defend myself and my county by pointing out that they scraped in every year, that their popularity was confined to rural pockets of the South Kerry constituency (my native Killarney being innocent of such foolhardiness naturally), and that it was thanks to "backwards culchies in Kenmare and Cahersiveen" that they managed to get elected. And I wasn't entirely wrong. If you look at Jackie and Michael's performances in each general election between 1997 and 2011, they never topped the poll. In 1997, Jackie came second to John O'Donoghue while in 2002 and 2007 he placed third and so did Michael in 2011. This was during the Healy-Raes' supposed golden era. Jackie propped up Fianna Fáil led governments in 1997 and 2007 and in return was notoriously compensated by way of infrastructural development in the county, everything from roads to bridges, from hospitals to roundabouts. And yet, during all this time, they never topped the poll, never came close even. So how is it that they managed to finish first and second in 2016?

It's a puzzler. I mean, the odds seemed so against them on the face of it. For starters, the Kerry South constituency, which they knew so well, was abolished and amalgamated with the Kerry North constituency in 2013 to form a new Kerry constituency. I thought they'd struggle when that happened. North Kerry is different to South Kerry. It's more urban and had two very well-established politicians in Martin Ferris and Jimmy Deenihan. It also has a strong tradition of Labour and Sinn Féin support that does not exist in South Kerry. Allied to all that, the Healy-Raes wouldn't know it very well and wouldn't have the same local expertise (How they bridged that expertise gap I dealt with in this blog back in February). Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Michael hasn't been propping up any governments in the last five years which means he wasn't able to attract much infrastructural investment to the county. No Fianna Fáil sponsored goodies for Kerry people to enjoy and them to brag about and their companies to make money from. So, what happened?

Well, I've got a theory. In the last number of years, themes of rural isolation and economic under-development in areas outside of Dublin have been pervasive in political debate. The basic argument goes as follows; Dublin and its hinterlands gained the most during the good years of the Celtic Tiger and has fared much better in the economic recovery we've seen in the last number of years. Rural Ireland was destroyed by the recession and is being abandoned by young people because it has been abandoned by the government. The closure of post offices, Garda stations and hospitals, as well as the lack of infrastructural development in the form of roads, motorways and broadband bear testament to this. I'm not here to argue the bona fides or the rights and wrongs of that argument but whether it is accurate or inaccurate is beside the point - people believe it to be true and their political choices reflect this. 

The Healy-Raes have tapped into this feeling and exploited the sense of rural underdevelopment better than anyone else. Other politicians around the country such as Michael Fitzmaurice in Roscommon, Michael Collins in Cork and Michael Lowry in Tippearary have done it too but the Healy-Raes have made it into an art-form. From Michael Healy-Rae referring to the last government as the "most anti-Rural Ireland government in history" to Danny's moronic attempt to legalise drink-driving so lonely rural bachelors could go to the pub on a Saturday night, they have made the under-development and neglect of Rural Ireland part of their political DNA. It already was, to a certain extent. Even during the Celtic Tiger Jackie was the cute hoor wangling infrastructure projects off of Fianna Fáíl governments and confounding the "Dublin meeja" in the process. They've always been the representatives of the people who eat their dinner in the middle of the day. However, given just how pervasive the feeling that areas outside of the Greater Dublin Area are not benefitting from the economic recovery, their message resonates even more strongly with people and has widened its appeal to different types of voters to allow the Healy-Raes to pick-up votes in areas they would not have ten years ago. 

Tralee is probably the best example. I really thought the Healy-Raes would struggle in Tralee in particular. It's a big town, very different from their rural South Kerry base, and I thought its voters wouldn't respond well to the Healy-Rae's style of politics. Even though people in Dublin seem to think everyone not from Dublin is a culchie, Tralee is a 'townie' town with a strong republican tradition. They didn't struggle though. Michael picked up 4000 first preference votes there and he was only marginally beaten into second place by Martin Ferris who's from Ardfert, a small village ten minutes from Tralee. (Danny was less successful though that was, of course, down to their electoral strategy of urging voters in North, South and West Kerry to give their number one to Michael and the voters in East Kerry and Killarney to give their number one to Danny). I guarantee you ten years ago Jackie would not have done that. But Tralee is a town that was depressed by the recession and has struggled along in the recovery. Its big rival Killarney was relatively insulated by the economic crash thanks to our famous tourist trade and this has only frustrated Tralee people further. The Healy-Raes political rhetoric on economic under-development and their reputation for getting-things-done clearly chimed well with the voters in Tralee, and they certainly put the hours and hours of canvassing in. Still, it does help things considerably if voters relate to your message and your positions and makes canvassing a whole lot easier.

So how do you solve a problem like the Healy-Raes? They have a Donald Trump style quality to them in that their well-publicised indiscretions seem to have no impact on their popularity with their voters. Their plant hire companies have made millions off of county council contracts while they were sitting on that council, Danny's company has installed water meters for Irish Water while Danny the politician rails against water charges and they've endured a series of embarrassing gaffes from the aforementioned drink-driving fiasco to last week's climate change denying. And yet no one in Kerry seems to care, none of their voters, anyway. Why? First of all it's instructive not to underestimate how little ordinary people pay attention to political affairs outside of election season. I'd wager many of the people who voted for the Healy-Raes simply aren't aware of the hundreds of thousands of euros they make each year from Kerry County Council and the conflict of interest that surely arises from that. I care but I'm a politics student. The punter sitting in the pub or the old lady at mass are less likely to know and, if they do know, less likely to care or understand why it's so damaging. Secondly, when it comes to things like Danny denying the existence of climate change last week, things everyone hears about, people brush it off. They don't vote for the Healy-Raes to act as national legislators or policy wonks. They're much more likely not to vote for the Healy-Raes if they can't get things from them - medical cards, planning permission, that kind of stuff. That's how they're evaluated, not how up-to-date they are with basic climate science. 

So, back to the original point - how to stop them? Well it's not easy and, for my money, not possible in the current political system. Decentralisation of power to local authorities and the fostering of local democracy is the only way. The Healy-Raes are often accused of fulfilling the duties of councillors rather than national legislators. The point everyone seems to miss is that is exactly what voters want - and not because they're irrational or stupid. It's because they know councillors have such little meaningful power that they simply can't get things done for them. Local government institutions are so inaccessible and so removed from the lives of ordinary people too that they simply don't know where to go when it comes to a simple query regarding planning or medical cards. 

The only way to stop them is to give local authorities meaningful power, to give them proper power over their own funding and to release them from the shackles of central government. People do care about national issues but most people live a very hand-to-mouth life and thus issues which are exclusive to their own lives are always going to take precedence over big, national issues. Giving local government the power to deal with people's everyday needs and thus taking away the Healy-Raes' USP is surely the answer. But alas, I don't hold out much hope. The Irish state is not excessively centralised by accident - it was designed that way by de Valera and has been further centralised by successive governments, right up to the last government abolishing town councils. To the big parties, the Healy-Raes and their ilk are but an irritating side effect to this system and not sufficient incentive for root-and-branch reform. The flat caps and paddywhackery are here to stay, lads. 

Monday, 9 May 2016

Fine Gael thought they had the keys to the kingdom. Now they have the weakest government in the history of the state.

"I made this cabinet all on my own."

Politicos love a good narrative. So here's one that was very much in vogue this time six months ago - Fine Gael, after a tumultuous 2014 which saw the resignation of a cabinet minister, a cabinet reshuffle, under-performance at the local elections and which ended with a series of mass anti-Water Charges protests, had ridden the storm. 2015 was a year of steady growth in Fine Gael's poll numbers and exponential growth in the country's GDP figures and tax take numbers. With their five years of austerity vindicated by a resurgent economic recovery and by left-wing upstarts Syriza's fruitless attempts at renegotiating their own austerity programme in Greece, Fine Gael were awaiting the electorate's sweet embrace. 

I might have embellished that account somewhat but it's not very far from the truth. After Budget 2016 was delivered there was an air of infallibility about Fine Gael. They had triumphed. The country was back on its feet and they were going to be rewarded accordingly. As Enda Kenny celebrated 40 years as a TD in November, attention turned to how he was on the cusp of making history in becoming the first Fine Gael leader to be re-elected Taoiseach in consecutive elections. A snap election was contemplated to capitalise on Fine Gael's roaring success. Just before Christmas Frank Flannery predicted Fine Gael could grab an overall majority. Oh what a distant memory that all seems. To paraphrase Brendan Howlin - "Who speaks of overall majorities now?"

Dissecting just what has gone wrong with Fine Gael in the last 6 months seems, on the face of it, to be an easy enough task. They desperately underestimated the continuing resentment towards the government’s austerity policies over the last five years, they desperately overestimated the rhetorical power of their election message(s) (Chaos vs Stability, Keep the recovery going, etc.) and, to compound all that, they endured a brutal election campaign pock-marked by a series of gaffes from senior figures. The awaited electoral embrace never materialised. Enda Kenny is indeed the first Fine Gael leader to be re-elected as Taoiseach for a consecutive term and Fine Gael remain the largest party in the Dáil but, oh, what a Pyrrhic victory it is.

The government Fine Gael have managed to cobble together, it featuring no less than nine independents (and three of them occupying cabinet positions) is, for my money, the weakest in the history of the state. Never has the leading government party been so sparsely populated in terms of Dáil seats, never has a government had to rely on more than four independents to prop itself up and never have we had a Taoiseach elected whom we know will not be leading their party into the next election. 

Never, most significantly, have we had a government so utterly beholden to an opposition party. The concessions Fianna Fáil managed to wrestle from Fine Gael in their negotiations for facilitating a Fine Gael minority government, from postponing the water charges to abandoning plans to scrap USC, must be galling to a party who only six months ago thought they could become Ireland's next natural party of government. The  concessions mean that the programme for government might actually better resemble Fianna Fáil's election manifesto than Fine Gael's. While Fianna Fáil have agreed in principle to abstain or vote against any motions of no confidence in this government, it remains to be seen how watertight this actually is. There's no doubt in my mind that Fianna Fáil could exploit any crisis the government might face, be it in housing, health or anything else, and, with that innocent, "who me?" look Micheál Martin has perfected, topple this government at the opportune moment innocently citing 'the will of the people' as the reason for doing so. Michael McGrath last week boldly proclaimed, "Never again will an opposition party have as much influence as Fianna Fáil will in the current Dáil". It'd be hard to disagree with him.

And what of the independents? They're not propping up this government for free. They've each been given promises, assurances and sweeteners to tie them down. The Sunday Business Post reports that "startling promises" have been made to independents on "housing, homelessness, mortgage arrears and health." When you consider however that this is a disparate (geographically and ideologically) band of independents -  from liberal, South Dublin based Katherine Zappone to conservative, Roscommon based Denis Naughten - it remains to be seen how Fine Gael can keep them all satisfied. From abortion to housing to economic development, many of the independents have opposing views. The whip system ensures that any party backbenchers who oppose a certain policy have a simple choice; comply with the government or you're gone. Most of the time they comply. But there is no leash constraining independents and if they disagree with a policy the government are wants to pursue it makes life very difficult indeed. 

The biggest pitfall for this government then, I feel, is that it will be utterly unable to act decisively in times of crisis. Think back to the last government and the myriad of crises they dealt with. Think back to the Savita Halappanavar case in 2012. Her death during childbirth sparked outrage, public demonstration and a renewed debate on Ireland's hideous abortion laws. This compelled the government to legislate for the X Case and pass the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act which allowed for abortion when the mother's life is at risk (including through risk of suicide). Fine Gael shed four TDs - Lucinda Creighton, Peter Matthews, Terence Flanagan and Billy Timmins - when they defied the whip and refused to vote for the legislation. But it was ok. This was the government with the biggest parliamentary majority in Irish history. By that stage, Labour had already lost Tommy Broughan, Roisin Shorthall and Colm Keveaney while Fine Gael had lost the aforementioned Naughten. They could roll with the punches. They could make an example of dissenters. Fine Gael do not enjoy such a luxury this time. While such trying odds might help foster a siege mentality within the party's TDs, it's the nine independents they have to worry about. What happens if another abortion controversy strikes and the government can't act because certain independents oppose any action? What if the housing crisis continues to deteriorate, homelessness continues to increase and the government is under pressure to increase the supply of social housing but can't because one of the independents faces protests in their constituency regarding their construction?  The last government lost nine TDs over the course of its five years in charge. This government, with nine independents propping it up, needs to lose only one and it could mean lights out. 

Enda Kenny will now have to sit on the government benches with Shane Ross, a man who only a few weeks ago referred to him as a political corpse. When he looks around he'll see Finian McGrath, someone who admits to never paying the water charges and who once propped up a Fianna Fáil led government but left when he disagreed with their response to the economic crash of 2008. Nearby, he might notice Denis Naughten who left Fine Gael in 2011 when they went back on their pre-election promise to not close the A&E at Roscommon Hospital. Opposite him, smiling presumably, will be Micheál Martin. In his back pocket he now has the key to the kingdom. All Martin has to is sit and wait for the right moment, when enough of the government's independent TDs are squiriming and when public pressure is mounting and *puff*, there goes Enda's government. Never before have we had a Fine Gael leader elected as Taoiseach for consecutive terms and never before has any Taoiseach faced such dire odds.