Bismark reputedly said that nobody should get too close to the making of laws or sausages.
On Thursday, on behalf of the StopSOPAIreland.com campaign, I took a trip to Leinster House, to catch a glimpse of the sausage machine at work.
We experienced the minute-by-minute changes of timetables and proposals in relation to the disputed Ministerial Order.
We had originally believed that there would be a full debate that day on the matter. Instead, on arrival, we learned that instead there was to be a tightly structured 8 minute exchange of statements between Derek Keating for FG and Catherine Murphy for the Technical Group of Independents.
To put it at its lowest, this didn’t really seem to meet the needs of the situation.
Nonetheless, there was still the possibility being held out of a further, fuller debate. But when that debate might be- including rather incredibly, whether it would be held before or after the law had been signed- was subject to, um, flux. In all senses of the word.
While we were in the building, we took the chance to bend the ear of any friendly faces we happened upon. They all told us that the issue of the SOPAIreland Order had become one of the hottest potatoes in the Dáil in a bewilderingly short time. One TD told us that, a week ago, this proposal hadn’t had any kind of attention.
“But now…” he said, trailing off.
More than one TD spoke about getting hundreds of emails and what did or didn’t work as a lobbying tactic. Being civil was good. Basing an argument on logic, rather than threats was another point that got the thumbs up. (This was contrasted with what might have worked in the, shall we say, recent past). All expressed dismay at the impact of hundreds (or 50,000) of emails all arriving into an individual’s inbox. “After a couple of hundred, you’re just hitting delete.”, we were told by a TD’s assistant.
I suggested that the TDs offices were probably experiencing the inevitable consequence of the lessening of friction inhibiting communication between constituents and their representatives. Our campaign emails (ie your emails), it was acknowledged, were of a sort not usually seen. “These people, they represent a usually silent group – the people who really know about the internet”, as one other TD described them.
We then decamped to the Visitor’s Gallery, in time to see Catherine Murphy’s opening question to Minister Sherlock. I needn’t describe it for you- here’s the video:
Today started with more Digital Rights Ireland business- of the courtroom kind- before easing off a little. The Minister had rounded off the night before by confirming that he would hold a Dáil debate before, rather than after, the passing of the SOPA law into force.
That he had been unable to confirm that order of events on Thursday gives a little peep into the kind of day he’d been having.
By 4.50 today, Catherine Murphy TD (a former client) was able to confirm that the debate would go ahead on Tuesday evening at 5.30pm and last 50 minutes.
Last week, this law wasn’t going to be published.
Last week, there was no media attention for this proposal.
Last week, there wasn’t any possibility of the matter going to Cabinet to be discussed.
Last week, the idea of a Dáil debate on this Ministerial Order would have been absurd.