Try to Remember, you’re back in September

July 11, 2009

It’s an old song made famous by Nana Mouskouri, but it could well be the theme for the members of the Republic of Ireland’s parliament, Dáil Éireann, which adjourned yesterday for its Summer recess and is not due to sit again until Wednesday, 16th September – some nine weeks from now.

This annual break is taking at a time of unprecedented economic crisis and with it the social crisis of mass unemployment and falling living standards and the prospect of industrial unrest as employers seek to cut wages.

The TDs and Senators are already defending themselves, pointing out that committees will continue to meet for a while and constituency work is an unending task (although not actualy part of the job descritpion as a legislator).

Political activity will also continue with the second referendum on the EU Reform Treaty (aka the Lisbon Treaty) which will be held on October 2nd. The fact that the people already voted to reject the exact same treaty seems to count for little in this á la carte democracy of ours.

There are now over 410,000 people unemployed in the Republic (12%) with forcasts of it to rise to 15% or more. Unemployment has almost doubled in a twelve month period, with 197, 781 people added to the total in the year to June 2009. That is a shocking statistic in a country with a total population of just over four and a quarter million.

Parliaments which take 9 week long holidays during periods of crisis are like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. To some extent it is a relief for the government that they don’t have to face a rowdy opposition in the daily circus that is the floor of Leinster House, even if the overwhelming majority of opposition deputies are welded to much the same policies as the parties in government – i.e. the market economy as king, profit before people, etc.

A disastrous performance for Fianna Fáil, the extinction of the Progressive Democrats and near electoral wipeout for the Green Party should set alarm bells ringing in the heads of every member of the government from the Taoiseach down but they don’t want to hear the bells. They are sick of the cacophony which their clumsy, inept and downright corrupt policies have brought upon them so they are taking a break, heading for the sea or the mountains and taking out Nero’s fiddle to drown out the din. It won’t work.

In fairness to Nero he took his own life. Now I’m not advocating that Brian Cowen and his ministers should do that but it is high time they smelled the coffee and fell on their proverbial swords. For the country’s sakes if not to end their own misery.

Not that I expect too much from the opposition. The blundering Enda Kenny who is even more welded to right wing economics and determined to work for his masters in IBEC, ISME and the World Bank to slash workers wages, sack thousands of state workers and slash even more public services such as hospitals, schools and local authorities.

It also seems unlikely that Enda will be able to form a government on his own so he will need a coalition partner. The Labour Party has had a long love / hate relationship with Fine Gael, it’s middle of the road social democratic policies usually get ditched when Labour and FG get hitched. Eamon Gilmore sounds good in opposition but his party’s track record in government is anything but good.

His speech to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference in Tralee earlier this week set the tone for Labour in govenment. Labour would protect workers rights and wages and introduce legislation to halt the “race to the bottom” and will fight for the Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty – Labour supports the Lisbon Treaty which will actually weaken workers rights but reinforcing court rulings which prote the freedom of circulation of capital and labour throughout the EU and mean that foreign workers in Ireland can be paid the national minimum wage which applies in their country of origin rather than the country in which they are resident and working – the same goes for working conditions and terms of employment. In effect Labour are making promises to the trade union movement which their own policies will not allow them to deliver because if Lisbon is passed in the second referendum there will be more deregulation and more anti-worker legislation forced upon this country by the EU.

Labour are talking the talk on issues like employment and there is merit in their proposals on housing construction and school building or refurbishment schemes – but Labour are also promising to give more money to the private sector for job retention and have little to say about a state job creation initiative.

You will say Yes, you will say Yes…

June 24, 2009

Look carefully at the spinning disc, concentrate on it to the exclusion of all else. Forget all your opinions and thoughts. Your eyes are getting heavy, you are drifting away into a deep trance.  Your eyelids are closing, softly, you drift away.  You are now under my control.

You will vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty, you will vote Yes.

You will vote Yes, you will vote Yes

Dammit you will vote Yes, you will vote Yes…

You will vote Yes you bastard,  now listen to what I’m telling you…

Look you slimey bastard, you’re going to vote Yes or else.  Be warned, I can get very persuasive and nasty you shit…
Indeed, the above just about sums up the Irish governments paranoia on getting the Lisbon Treaty passed in a second referendum which is likely to take place sometime in late September, a mere 15 months after the Irish people emphatically rejected it in a democratic poll in which more than half of them cast their votes.

All sorts of spin are being put on the softening up process.

1. Ireland will be the outcasts of Europe if they vote No again

2. The International Monetary Fund will come in and tell us what to do, including swingeing cuts in welfare, hospital closures, cuts in education and tens of thousands of jobs will be cut from the public sector (aren’t the IMF already telling us to do this?)

3. The Irish recession was caused by our No vote (funny, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen argues that his government had no hand, act nor part in causing the financial collapse and that we were merely being affected by a worldwide recession, i.e. not just the EU or Ireland).

4. The Irish people are basically thick stupid and didn’t know what they were voting on.

5.  The Irish people were mislead by the  extreme left with their propaganda (considering they hardly got a look-in on the airwaves and panel discussions were heavily weighted in favour of the Yes side).

6. We are being petulant or just plain bad Europeans and threw our rattle out of the pram (doesn’t apply to the French or Dutch voters who rejected the same treaty under a different name – the EU constitution)

7. We’ve now identified why Ireland said no and got fabulous guarantees to opt out of the things people were worried about – (we’ve got a meaningless piece of paper to wave at you doubting No voters).

8. Where the hell do you Irish voters think you are, Iran? You can’t vote against your government!

or any of the above.

The fact is that the Irish people are being asked to vote again on exactly the same thing they rejected in June 2008.   Now I didn’t vote for Fianna Fáil in the last election but a lot of those people who did vote for them did so in the belief that they were a “safe pair of hands”.  Others voted for the Green Party in the belief that they would vote to put Fianna Fáil out of office and would solidly oppose such things as further EU integration and militarism, the US military use of Shannon Airport for war games, the dangerous Corrib Gas project and the destruction of part of the historic site at Tara.   I have no doubt many of those who voted for Fianna Fáil or the Greens in 2007 would relish the opportunity to vote a second time on that election – but it won’t happen.   Brian Cowen is quick to quote his “mandate” to stay in power for a full five year term.

Well we too have a mandate Brian.  The Lisbon Treaty was defeated.  It is dead.  You have no mandate to re-run it and your mandate to govern this country was withdrawn in the recent Local and European elections and the Dublin by-elections.

I will be once again voting No to the Lisbon Treaty whenever the referendum takes place. I am pro-European in the sense that I want a Europe of the people’s, not an elitist project run by multinational capital and the military industrial complex.

As James Connolly once said “Go ahead, do your worst. Mayhap we will raise a force that will destroy you”.

Game on.

Real IRA – Unreal Logic

March 9, 2009

The murder of two British soldiers and serious injuries to a number of civilians has come to remind us that while there is a general peace in Northern Ireland there are some people who will never change and there are serious issues in society that need to be tackled.

The claim that the Real IRA was responsible comes as no surprise.  This tiny faction claims the allegiance of the Irish people and the voice of the long dead as its mandate for murder.    Like the Provos before them they are steeped in a self-created and masochistic mythology where they view themselves as the carriers of the true credo of Irish republicanism.   They are in fact nothing more than murdering gangsters.

The people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland voted to put an end to paramilitary violence when they voted in their droves for the Belfast Agreement in 1998.  They rejected 30 years of sterile sectarian murder and firmly put their hands out to grasp peace.

Admittedly the Belfast Agreement has major flaws but it is the only mechanism available currently for democratic governance of Northern Ireland.

One of the major flaws of the Agreement is the fact that it does not deal adequately with the No.1 problem in Northern Ireland – that it is a society divided along religious lines.  Sectarianism is at the root of strife in Northern Ireland for generations and to some extend the Belfast Agreement maintains it rather than seeking to destroy it.    The Northern Assembly itself requires a sectarian quota system for the creation of a government or executive.  There must be a quota of parties which are designated unionist and of parties which are designated nationalist / republican.  This only seeks to perpetuate the divisions.

There is only one community in Northern Ireland – not two.  That community consists of the people as a whole, whether they be Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or any other religion or whether they be agnostic or atheist.    A secular state is a must for Northern Ireland – meaning total separation of church and state and an end to state endowed single religion schools.

Getting back to the gun attack in Antrim last Saturday night there must be total rejection – active rejection of this by communities.  While this group is very small and has little support it is clear that it has some support and more worryingly, a certain amount of “turn a blind” eye.  Such organisations, on either side must be ostracised.   The past is over, let’s move forward into the future.

Jobs demand from job cutter Cowen

January 29, 2009

This morning the Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that Ireland must redouble its efforts towards job creation.  I would not disagree with him on that, but this is the very same Brian Cowen who has already presided over job cuts at Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus and whose public service cutbacks will inevitably lead to more job losses.

Cowen was speaking as he prepared to travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where over 80 leaders of the wealthiest countries in the World are meeting to plan how they can redeem the capitalist economy through cuts in public services and making the poor pay for the mistakes of bankers, economists, governments and big business.

At the risk of repeating what I have already written in a previous post on the economic crisis, it is clear that the leaders of the “West” are sticking together and will seek to prevent a meltdown of capitalism by causing a meltdown of social services worldwide.

Earlier this week I met two young neighbours of mine, two brothers in fact, both of whom received the news last Friday that their jobs in the same firm are gone.  Both are young men in their 20s and one of them already had plans to get married next year.  Now both are on the verge of going to Australia – where they have no guarantee of finding work.  The same scene is being repeated in every corner of the world.  But Australia is not immune from the fallout of the 21st century’s Great Depression.    Down under they are talking of cutting back immigrant visas as jobs are also being lost there in their thousands.  In the past Ireland always had the pressure valve of emigration – this time we don’t even have that – this is a worldwide depression and it is deepening.

Even today I heard a quote from self-appointed economic guru Eddie Hobbs who advised young people at a meeting in Dublin to emigrate. Where to?  What for?  Certainly not to get a job?   Such advice as this our young people do not need.

I would like to ask Brian Cowen exactly where these jobs he is talking about are going to come from.   On a daily basis jobs are being lost in the multi-nationals that have been regarded as saviours by successive governments.  Their profits are down,  labour is cheaper elsewhere where near slave conditions persist and the call to nationalism in the United States and other countries is demanding that the overseas jobs are cut first. 

Have no doubt about it – this economic crisis is the worst seen since at least the 1930s.  Globalisation not only brought about global wealth creation for the few but also a global durntown that is spreading plague-like to every corner of the world.

Brian Cowen’s call for greater efforts at job creation are a Canute like call to hold back the tide.  The government must firstly preserve public sector jobs and then create more jobs.   There are 60,000 people on local authority housing lists around the country – a figure which will grow as people’s ability to meet mortgage payments collapses.  We need a real social housing programme.  Instead of feather-bedding Fianna Fáil’s buddies in the building industry, the state should fund local authorities to begin housing construction by means of building workers directly employed by the local authorities (Direct Labour Scheme).   We need to do the same with schools where we have hundreds of sub-standard schools around the country and many schools relying on ancient prefabricated sheds for education purposes.  

In case this government has forgotten, Ireland has vast natural resources for its size.  Instead of harnessing these for the good of this country and its people the government has given them away – for nothing in some cases – to big multinationals like Shell while our lead and zinc mines are being emptied by other multinationals.  The multinationals also control oil and mineral prospecting so we don’t actually know what resources this country really has.

Brian Cowen is not fit to run this country even in the good times – he is an absolute disaster in these times of crisis.  He will serve only his masters in big business and banking as he has already shown with the banks bailout. It is time for him to go.  Nor do I have any faith in Enda Kenny who has made it clear that he would be even more vicious in wielding the knife, particularly on the public service which he and his party detest because of its annoying habit of proving itself better than the private sector every time. 

Capitalism is rotten to the core.  The answer will not be found in it or any watered down version of it which the likes of Eamon Gilmore would have us adopt.  It is the market itself which is the problem.  The future must be socialism.

Sleepy TDs return to “work”

January 27, 2009

It seems incredible that in the midst of the greatest economic crisis that has hit the Irish Republic since the Anglo-Irish Economic War of the early 1930s that the national legislature is only today (January 27th)  returning to work, having been on its annual Christmas recess since December 18th.

Dáil Chamber - empty as usual

Dáil Chamber - empty as usual

The dysfunctional Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont returned from its Christmas break on January 12th, a full 15 days before the Dáil.  The House of Commons in Britain returned the same day; the German Bundestag has been back in action since January 14th while the Assemblée Nationale in Paris met as early as January 4th.
Doubtless you will hear Dáil deputies telling you about all the work they do in their constituencies 365 days a year, making representations on behalf of constituents, etc, etc.  But the point is that the primary function of the national parliament is that of a legislature.

Time for a Wealth Tax

January 25, 2009

As the Fianna Fáil government with their Green mudflap blunder from one crisis to another one thing is clear.  The rich created the economic crisis – both locally and internationally – but the working class are going to bloody well pay for it.

The government met the “social partners” on Friday on an open-ended agenda where the bottom line is really a public sector pay cut with of a long-term postponement of the national wage agreement – on which the ink is hardly dry.   The business lobby IBEC is leading calls for the scrapping of what was already a paltry pay deal.  There is no question of the people IBEC represents making sacrifices,  just as they didn’t share their fortunes when the good times were rolling.

The term “Celtic Tiger”, once used as a euphemism for the Irish economy,  was always a misnomer.    It was built on a foundation of sand as was soon discovered when 1920s style gambling on the stock markets finally caused the bubble to burst.   Just like the 1929 Wall Street Crash it was those already at the bottom of the pile who were crushed in the collapse.  Oh there were a few headline billionaires losing their shirts but as we well remember the late Charles Haughey  had plenty more charvets in the closet when times got tough in the early 1980s and he solemnly appeared on our TV screens telling us to tighten our belts.

Well it’s time for the workers of Ireland, employed and unemployed, public sector and private sector, to stand together. 

It’s time for a wealth tax and it’s also time to have a new top rate of PAYE tax for those earning over €300,000 per annum.  I suggest 65% for this category.    We must also see to it that those who speculate on land or profit from insider trading go to jail.  They are no better than drug dealers and should face the same sanctions.  The same goes for corrupt politicians and public officials who use their office for personal gain.  The government talks about Patriotism but lets see it put to action. 

We know that won’t happen under Fianna Fáil, nor will it happen under Fine Gael who are even more gung-ho about destroying the public sector.  And the Labour Party have proved every time that they will take power at any price rather than standing by the people of labour – the working class.  Just as the Greens are clinging on to government seats limpetlike, Labour too will put themselves first when it comes to the crunch.

A spectre is haunting Ireland, Europe and the World – if only it can get to its feet and seize the day.  If you are a worker then you are part of that spectre.

Another President, Another Bombing

January 25, 2009

Those who believe that the new President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, is the saviour of the world won’t want you to hear about this.

You see Barack the Peacemaker ordered his first airstrike within a week of taking that Oath in front of the Capitol Building (and again indoors).  He already has blood on his hands.   The target this time – “militants” –   in a remote part of Pakistan.  The first strike was on the village of Zharki in Waziristan where three missiles were fired, hitting two houses and killing ten  people.  The second airstrike claimed 8 lives.      Now I am sure that there will be those who will say “but these were militants, cold-blooded killers”.  Perhaps, but the same has been said about many of the detainees in Guantanamo which is to be closed down on the orders of President Obama who called for an end to secret prisons and torture of victims.   

You see dropping bombs on a village and saying that the people there deserved to die because they were militants isn’t good enough and is illegal under international law.  The problem about the USA under George W. Bush was that it acted as the international policeman of the world, dispensing “justice” where and when it liked.  Obama has shown that he is not going to change that policy, just wrap it up in a  new Blairite packaging. 

Obama is giving a message to the real rulers of the world, the capitalist elite, that he is “a safe pair of hands”.    He won’t rock the boat, but he may change the music and employ some clown like Bono to entertain the masses and proclaim his sanctity. 

Obama’s choice for senior cabinet positions also shows his commitment to the rotten status quo.     Making Hillary Clinton Secretary of State may be seen by some as neutralizing her but it also hands control of US foreign policy to one of the most hawkish of the Democratic Party leaders and someone who wholeheartedly supports Israel’s attacks on Palestine.

Yes, America Inc can sleep soundly in Obamaland.

Welcome

January 25, 2009

Hello and welcome to my new blog Drithleog Nua meaning New Spark in Irish / Gaeilge. 

I am an Irish socialist blogger with plenty to say about the state of my country and the world and have at long decided to launch my own blog for commentary on political and social questions.