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Standard and Poors opine on the democratic decision of the people of the Irish state… hmmm March 31, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economics, Economy, Irish Politics.
10 comments

Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but I can’t help but find something a bit inappropriate in the report, on the front page of the IT as one might expect, that:

Agency says Ireland may need ‘new faces in Government’

And it continues:

Frank Gill, speaking a day after the agency lowered Ireland’s credit rating, also said Ireland had a “very low” chance of defaulting on its debt during an interview with Newstalk radio this morning.

Mr Gill said a change of Government may be required in an effort to stabilise the debt to gross domestic product ratio. That ratio may rise to above 9.5 per cent, according to the Government, more than three times the European Union limit.

Yes. Well, unless I’m much mistaken I was under the impression that the EU was cogniscent of that fact and had accounted for us running a much greater than usual debt for a limited period of time.

But it’s the first comment which is, in a sense, breath-taking. Who precisely are Standard and Poors to be making intrusive comments about the democratic choices of the irish people? You may have noticed that contributors to the Cedar Lounge have been, and appear to be likely to continue to be – what’s the term… oh, yeah, harshly critical of the Government. But that Government remains the democratic choice of the Irish people as expressed through the last election, still not quite two years past. Now, it may be that an election is necessary. But I’d like to think that it would be as a result of circumstances intrinsic to the political processes in this state. Not noises off.

And the source of these statements is one I’d treat with a certain scepticism at the best of times.

But then, why the surprise?

Consider that the Irish Times last week argued that:

Ultimately, however, it is what the Government decides in the emergency budget on April 7th and how it balances tax rises and expenditure cuts that matter. Success or failure there will be measured both by the reaction of the public and, critically, by the judgment of the bond market.

If those are the criteria by which a sovereign democratic state is meant to operate where the bond markets appear to be elevated to a level equal to, if not (critically) greater than, the ‘public’ where exactly are we again?

That was the day, that was the hour, that was… not a National Strike! March 30, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economics, Economy, Irish Politics.
41 comments

What an interesting piece of choreography we’ve been treated to this past week. That’s not to suggest that it’s a purely cynical piece of work, but rather that a whole host of players have been attempting to find leverage from relatively (although not equally) weak positions. Although feel free to regard it as… well…a purely cynical piece of work.

First up I’d somewhat dismissed the pieces in the Irish Times early last week about how unions were less than overwhelmingly in favour of the upcoming strike. But the news that Impact failed to achieve the two thirds majority necessary to initiate action is useful as an insight into the dynamics at work at this point in time within the union movement. I don’t want to overstate this, but clearly the media barrage about the public sector would have appeared to have some effect. And there is a clear lack of enthusiasm for too overt action. Anyone who has spoken to other union members on the ground will have noticed that support was patchy. Far from non-existent, but with a sense that the exercise was somewhat futile, particularly given the mood music coming from off-stage.

In part I wonder is that because after the CPSU stoppage a week or so back the level of vitriol poured on them, who many might have thought would have been regarded as getting a more sympathetic hearing due to the self-evident fact they were a section of the public service that is demonstrably less well-paid, was considerable.

Then there is the way in which the banking element of the crisis has receded somewhat into the background as the Budget looms larger in the general public imagination. ICTU was blessed that the Saturday Rally was at a time when anger directed at the banks was at an absolute height providing not merely cover, but also support for the actions. And that support was exemplified not merely by feet on streets but by a broader societal agreement shook the Government.

Although the subsequent foot dragging on the part of ICTU and the rather ambiguous statements from Begg and McLoone, particular in recent days, make it appear as if this is all a great game and the object of it is to reenter partnership as swiftly as possible. And correct me if I was wrong, but my sense was that the strike wasn’t about restarting talks as much as making a point about the levy and other aspects of the government handling of the crisis.

Reentering partnership would be an easier sell if there was any sense that, above and beyond the rhetoric emanating from the Government, partnership had a real meaning. But since both Government and employers appear to come to the table with their own set of proscriptions one could be excused some lack of confidence.

Of course the Government is also in a weakened position too. The threat, and worse the actuality, of a strike encompassing however imperfectly the public and private sectors (and while it is true there was a degree of attrition in terms of support there would still, had it gone ahead on yesterday, have been private sector union members involved), would be dismal news for them as they attempt to shore up the failing economy.

And for all the bluff and bluster coming from Ibec their position isn’t too hot either. A successful national strike, successful in the sense that it did encompass all sectors, would dent the attempts to split workers across the state.

But how the disposition of forces stands in the wake of the stand down is much less clear cut.

Has the Government blinked, or was it ICTU? The hand-waving we’re now seeing would make any observer confused. Martin Wall, Industrial Correspondent of the IT, last week argued that:

…it can be argued that they (the unions) did not sufficiently capitalise on the momentum of the march and that the strategic decision to go for the day of strikes highlighted the lukewarm attitude of many members towards industrial action in the current climate.

On the other hand, the unions will point out that the campaign on the day of strikes did lead to many private sector employers engaging with them on the national pay deal, and that the campaign succeeded in persuading the Government to go back into social partnership talks.

I’ll be honest, I think that calling it off without more concrete proposals from the Government is problematic. And yet, more positively, I can’t also but help to think that we’ve been given a handy demonstration of how much power the union movement still retains. None of us should have any illusions that there is enormous political potential here. At best a strike would serve as an educative moment, that organised labour retains societal heft whatever the sputterings of the more bilious commentators of the centre and right, and that that societal heft is such that neither Government nor private sector is able to unilaterally impose its will. But that, in this day and age, is no small thing in itself.

Was that lesson learned this last week? Did not holding it yesterday advance the cause or not? We’ll learn more at the Budget. And if not there’ll be plenty of time for recriminations.

Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland: National Committee Formed March 30, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Human Rights, Ireland, Justice, Seán Garland, United States, Workers' Party.
1 comment so far

The Irish Times reports important developments in the capaign to Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland. A National Committee has been formed, with internationally respected trade unionist and peace camapigner Chris Hudson as Chair and former President of The Workers’ Party and ex-TD and former Lord Mayor of Dublin Tomás Mac Giolla as Secretary.

Chris Hudson is now a Presbyterian Minister in South Belfast, but before that he was an official with Communications Workers’ Union in Dublin. Hudson has a strong track record of opposing violence and promoting human rights. He played a key role in the peace process, helping persuade loyalists to abandon violence, and acting as a go-between the Irish government and loyalists, including at several dangerous points where the process may have failed. I don’t know this for sure, but it seems to me that his involvement is a recognition both of the work of Seán Garland and The Workers’ Party in standing up for Peace, Work, Democracy and Class Politics over several decades, the humanitarian issues raised by Seán Garland’s age and health, and concern at the ludicrous nature of the accusations, and the vindictive and underhanded way in which Garland has been pursued by the Bush regime discussed here.

The Committee has already been in discussions with a large number of people north and south, and has secured support from senior figures in the Óireachtas (as noted here) and public life on both sides of the border, and across the political spectrum. Its stated aim is to “stop the extradition of Seán Garland to the United States, on political, humanitarian, legal and moral grounds”. Over the next weeks and months, public meetings will be held, as part of a broader public campaign, added to the lobbying of public figures and institutions.

Internationally too, the campaign has been stepped up. On March 11th, Greek Communist MEP, Comrade Athanasios Pafilis, raised the issue in the European Parliament, asking

Does the Council condemn the inadmissable arrest and political persecution of Seán Garland as an infringement of democratic rights and freedoms?

Over 50 Communist and Workers Parties have signed a statement of solidarity. The statement includes the following

We condemn this blatant attack on a leading member of The Workers’ Party of Ireland who has pursued a struggle against imperialism for almost 60 years. We express our solidarity with The Workers’ Party of Ireland and with Comrade Seán Garland in the fight against extradition to the US.

We demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of these extradition proceedings on political, legal and humanitarian grounds and call on all communist and workers’ parties and progressive organisation to send messages of support to The Workers’ Party at wpi@indigo.ie and the Campaign to Defend Seán Garland at defendseangarland@gmail.com

My sentiments exactly. Although I would call on individuals reading here to give their support to the Campaign, to get involved, and remind people of the petition, which can be signed online, or printed off for distribution.

The Irish Left Archive: Workers Weekly, Workers Association, British and Irish Communist Organisation, January 1975 March 30, 2009

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), Irish Left Online Document Archive.
33 comments

cover

workers-weekly-1975

Here is Workers Weekly, a publication of the Workers Association, also of the British and Irish Communist Organisation. This dates from January 1975. As with the previous example in the Archive it is a four page typewritten production. Pedants will note that there is no consistency with the previous masthead.

This edition is exercised about the then recent Provisional IRA ceasefire and argued that:

“The Provisional IRA is now closer to defeat than at any time since they began the war against the people of Northern Ireland.”

The document is explicit in its political analysis:

Having abandoned violence at least temporarily – the Provos will be forced to attempt to pursued their objectives by political means. But the basic objective of the Provos – Irish unity – is incapable of being pursued by political mans. The realisation of Irish unity would not advance the objective material interests of any significant section of Ulster society. The only case for Irish unity that can be made is a case based on myths and legends and myths and legends will not attract many voters…[the Provisional IRA] possess neither the ability nor the guts to face reality and to participate in realistic politics in Northern Ireland. They have nothing to contribute to the working out of a new constitution for the Government of Northern Ireland as a province of the United Kingdom.

And then in a rather dubious piece of political forecasting it continues:

The working out of such a constitution will be the central issue in Ulster politics in the immediate period ahead and any political group which has nothing to contribute to this debate will quickly become irrelevant. Clearly the Provo’s have no future in Ulster politics.

Elsewhere it critiques, or rather criticises Peoples Democracy. There’s a unique take on internment and then a further critique of the SDLP and a poor piece of political prophecy which argues that:

…for Paddy Devlin [of the SDLP] to talk about two ‘traditions’ being given equal expression in the Northern Ireland state is a logical and political absurdity. They stand in totally mutually contradiction and they are not resolved by some sort of artificial creation which purports to allow the expression of both. In such a situation either one or the other will be expressed, not both.

And finally, turn to Page 4 for an attack on the ITGWU.

Saying the right thing at the right time? …Eamon Gilmore’s speech. March 29, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
1 comment so far

One of the major problems of political life in this age where everything is available almost at an instant is the sense of familiarity, even dullness, of policy proposals. Take, for example, the idea of a third tax rate for high earners as mooted at the Labour Party National Conference yesterday by Eamon Gilmore. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the idea. Nothing at al as it happens. The small problem is that voices across the political spectrum are articulating this position.

For example, a mere two or three weeks ago Stephen Collins and Deaglán De Bréadún were writing in the Irish Times that in preparation for the emergency budget the Cabinet were weighing up various possibilities:

An increase of at least 2 per cent in the lower and higher rates of income tax is expected in the budget but Ministers will have to decide whether to introduce a new top rate of tax which has been widely advocated.

It goes, perhaps, deeper than that. In the contemporary environment the choices available to politicians and political parties are constrained both by ideology (or lack of it) or by prior experience of applying them however well or ineptly.

So, despite being a welcome change from the Labour Party platform of 2007 with it’s near risible tax cut to 18% on the lower band, which gave Collins et al such satisfaction, there is something a little unsurprising about:

We will publish our pre-budget statement next week, and our tax proposals will include a third rate of income tax for the highest earners.

And I wonder is that familiarity responsible for this, as reported by Simon on Irish Election. 17% for Labour. Still very good, but not quite the stellar heights of previous polls. And worth parsing it out later as to why the decline in their fortunes and the resurgence for the government parties.

More satisfactory, by far, is the following:

But when we pay more tax, and deep down we all know we have to, then it must be progressive and on the taxpayer’s terms. The Government must end, in this budget, the practice and status of tax exiles.

Although I’d have liked the emphasis to be on progressive across the scale, rather than focusing on tax exiles. In fairnes while that’s something he doesn’t say explicitly, he appears to implicitly when he continues:

We will only get out of this mess, if we work together, as one Ireland.

Not by scapegoating nurses, teachers or gardai, or by targeting vulnerable groups like special needs children.

But by insisting on better value for money in the public services and having clear bottom lines.

That means that no-one who makes an honest effort to pay their mortgage should lose their home.

And there’s a lot more in that speech to indicate that Gilmore, and one assumes Labour, have at least some understanding of nuance when it comes to political activity. Not least when he argues that:

That means that €16 million is a small price to pay to vaccinate teenage girls against cervical cancer. That means that now is not the time for cuts in education. Labour would reverse the cuts in special needs classes. Reinstate the school book grants for our schools. Lift the cap on Post Leaving Cert Courses and keep universal access to third level education.

And also heartening to hear:

There has to be sacrifice, yes, but terms and conditions apply.

Indeed they do.

Now, the political implications of all this appear to mean that we are hurtling back to the embrace of the usual partner in this particular dance… how else to read the following?

The time has come for fundamental reform. Twice in a generation, Fianna Fáil has brought this country to the edge of disaster. Twice too often. It is now time to say ‘Never again’.

But in a way, Fianna Fáil isn’t the problem, or at least is only part of the problem. I could as easily posit a political system where all, almost all, collude in the chimera of low taxation as the panacea to our woes across two decades is also to blame. Or to put it a different way, don’t confuse the symptom with the cause. Fianna Fáil, as ever, has been the instrument of our near destruction, but it could have been otherwise.

And there’s a contradiction in all this. If Labour is asking all to play their part, is making submissions to government, then it makes it more difficult for them to attack government in a way that doesn’t sound… well… peevish.

Someone asked me to do a little thought experiment recently, enquiring as to what I thought the future would have been like had Fianna Fáil and Labour stayed in government rather than collapsing to usher in the Rainbow. It’s worth thinking about briefly. Had both parties developed a modus operandi worth its name we might have been spared successive FF/PD coalitions. We might have seen some interesting developments had DL had to sink or swim on its own (and let’s not even consider the effects on SF in that context). We might have seen FG and PD grow closer as they tried to carve out space on the right.

A lot of might have beens. But is it unreasonable to enquire as to whether our present situation would have been worsened by, say, a decade of FF/Labour government?

End of thought experiment. It never happened, we are where we are.

Again, and as usual, there is much to like in Gilmore’s speech. As the man who appears to have almost single handed brought it back from the brink of irrelevancy into a key player in the unfolding events of this period of time he has done remarkably well. He’s even managed to oversee some structural changes, which while I’m uncertain will assist in his endeavours, and arguably narrow the range of voices within the LP will no doubt play well with the media. Or as the IT notes:

Earlier, Mr Gilmore received a boost when an overwhelming majority voted to adopt a report proposing a new party constitution which will give greater power to head office in the choice of election candidates, bringing in a new administrative structure and redefining the relationship with the trade unions.

Ah, the much vaunted ‘reform’. Well, we’ll see how that plays out. There’s little doubt that the suspension of the strike tomorrow did Labour no harm at all this weekend. Was that, even in part, a favour? Who knows? Well, whoever, they’re not telling.

Interesting too to note a full-throated endorsement of Lisbon (with a mild caveat). That too will make for interesting times.

But beyond that, and I don’t want to diminish its effects, it is good that at least one voice is pointing out the bleeding obvious…

Let us be clear that the greatest false economy is to pay people to do nothing.

That means we must fight harder to keep the jobs we have. Who says that when a Dell or an Ericsson or an SR Technics decides to up sticks and move their plant abroad, that their Irish employees must inevitably be made redundant?

And also:

We are not going to solve this economic crisis unless we put jobs at the heart of everything we do. That is why Labour has been putting forward proposal after proposal, to save jobs, to create new jobs and to restimulate our economy.

That should up the poll rating by a few points. And perhaps make people think.

Go go go go go massive UFO*… More from those UK Government Files. March 28, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Pseudo-Science.
18 comments

You may recall some time back a piece on the CLR which dealt with recently released files from the British government on UFO’s. As a complete sucker for UFO’s (which I hasten to add I’m also a complete sceptic about) and for archives, what happier combination could there be? One story in particular was of striking issue, which dealt with… well, I’ll requote the relevant sections of the post…

Then what of omissions? File DEFE-24/1940/1 on Page 114 details photographs taken of a UFO in Scotland in August 1990. Apparently ‘six colour photographs of a diamond shaped UFO and a Harrier jet were taken by two men. The pictures were given to the Scottish Daily Record who passed them to the MoD.’

Spookily… ‘however, the file does not contain the photographs’.

As interesting is the accompanying text of a ‘Loose Minute’ cc’d to the head of Sec, DD GE/AEW, DDPR (RAF).

1. ….Such stories are not normally drawn to the attention of Minsters and the MoD press office invariably responds to questions along well-established lines emphasising our limited interest in the UFO phenomenon and explaining that we do not have the resources to undertake any in-depth investigations into particular sightings. On this occasion however, the MoD has been provided with six photographic negatives of an alleged UFO by the Scottish Daily Record and has been asked for comments almost certainly for inclusion in a forthcoming story. For this reason it is felt that US of S(AF) should be made aware of the background and the line adopted by the DDPR (RAF) in responding to the newspaper.

2. The photographs, which were received on 10 Sept, are alleged to have been taken near the A9 road at Clavine, north of Pitlochrie on the evening of 4 August. They show a large stationery, diamond-shaped object past which, it appears, a small jet aircraft is flying. The negatives have been considered by the relevant staffs who have established that the jet aircraft is a Harrier (and also identified a barely visible second aircraft, again probably a Harrier) but have reached no definite conclusion regarding the large object. It has also been confirmed that there is no record of Harriers operating in the area at the time at which the photographs are alleged to have been taken. The negatives have now been returned to the Scottish Daily Record.

it continues:

3. In consultation with DDPR (RAF) it has been agreed that the attached lines to take should be used in responding to the Scottish Daily Record. These are consistent with the position adopted in the replies to the many public and occasionally parliamentary enquiries on the subject of UFOs.

And this instruction on lines it transpires is on a typewritten sheet with the following on it…

SCOTTISH DAILY RECORD – PHOTOGRAPHS OF UFO

DEFENSIVE LINES TO TAKE:

- Have looked a photographs, no definite conclusions reached regarding large diamond shaped object.
– confident that jet aircraft is a Harrier
– Have no record of Harriers operating in location at stated time/date.
– No other reports received by MoD of unusual air activity or sightings at location/date/time.

IF PRESSED

Who in MoD studied pictures?

- All sighting reports (including on occasion photographs/drawings etc) received by MoD are referred to the staff in the departments which are responsible for air defence of UK who examine them as part of their normal duties.

Other reports of UFOs from Scotland?

- UFO reports from Scotland are rare.

Sort of begs a fair few questions – doesn’t it? For example, if confident that the jet is a Harrier, does that imply that the photograph is ‘real’? Or that the diamond-shaped object is ‘real’. And what of the non sequiter about “UFO reports from Scotland are rare”. So what? But it’s the incuriosity about the sighting which is so odd. Do they take it seriously or not? Was it a photographer who mocked up in a cusp of Photoshop age some Harriers and a fake UFO? Or what?

…………

But lo! Strangers things on earth and the heavens… etc. The photograph has been released in the latest tranche. Or at least a photograph.

You can find it here.

and the file location is here.

And here it is.

ufo

In the precis of the files it’s noted by the following:

p37 – 38
Image (poor quality photocopy) of a large diamond-shaped UFO hovering over Calvine (Scotland) and what was later identified as a Harrier.

That latter surely has to be a masterpiece of understatement… “…later identified as a Harrier”.

Is that really a Harrier in front of the image. How big is the original photograph? How much has this been blown up in size? What of other aspects of the background that aren’t visible in the image as shown here? Whatever the truth I’m certain that this is all rather more prosaic than interstellar or interdimensional travellers.

There’s been a fair bit of talk that many sightings could be of covert US surveillance aircraft, and in particular the long-rumoured Aurora hypersonic aircraft which – so it is said – has been operational for decades now. And in this instance the almost blase attitude is remarkable. Which makes the notes reproduced in the file of the continuing investigation into the sighting all the more intriguing when they suggest that the…

“…sensitivity of material suggests very special handling”.

You’ve got to love that.

* Apologies to the Golden Horde for rewording their lyrics.

This weekend I’ll be mostly listening to… The Lime Spiders… March 28, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
4 comments

The Lime Spiders. An Australian 1980s garage rock band. I heard them sometime around 1987 on a psychedelic/garage rock sample cassette put together with a magazine by some fans in Kilbarrack. It was quite a sampler. Bands like The Crystal Set, the New Christs, The Fleshtones, the Chesterfield Kings and so on were on it. Much of it was US based, some of it Australian and even The Clean and The Chills made an appearance.

I liked the Lime Spiders. A punky raucous racket informed by metal but not overwhelmed by it. A lot more garage and psychedelia than one might expect. Something a bit silly about them too, but they seemed to know it (let’s just say that it doesn’t do us any good to delve too deep into the sexual politics of the songs). Although, that said, perhaps the lead singer Mick Blood (a man who kindly could be said to have a voice that sounds like he gargled with a razor blade each morning) should have thought of another surname… They never did hugely well, although one of their tracks graced the soundtrack of Young Einstein. Which somehow seems fitting. I bought everything I could of theirs either in the laughably termed Virgin ‘megastore’ down on the quays by O’Connell Bridge (they had fantastic reduced price sales on cassette tapes from ’87 onwards for a couple of years) and then later their last album on CD in London.

As seems near-inevitable these days they’ve reformed, which may be no bad thing. Anyhow, here is a sampling of tracks…

Weirdo Libido, with surely one of the most curiously awful videos of all time. I mean what point are they trying to make here?

And the descending riff in the song… hmmm…. always reminds me of… don’t laugh… Joy Division.

Just One Solution – again, WTF?

My Favourite Room – good kids always love their homes…

Jessica – not the way I’d try to break into the pop mainstream.

Volatile – classic riff…

That Irish Nationwide Fingelton pension plan… Nice work if you can get it… March 27, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economics, Economy, Irish Politics.
5 comments

Fair dues to Róisín Shorthall, Labour TD and Spokesperson on Social Family Affairs, who makes a very important point that should not be lost in the current situation when she writes in the Irish Times in response to a piece by Vincent Browne on ‘balance’ in the Budget, that:

I wasn’t on The Week in Politics on Sunday. I was, however, on Questions and Answers the following night, where I made the point that it was indefensible that Michael Fingleton was getting a €27.6 million pension to which he probably didn’t contribute, while at the same time a public servant on €20,000 was being asked to pay a pension levy on his or her pension. Equally, I said it was disgraceful that the taxpayer probably funded several millions of Mr Fingleton’s pension as a result of Government policy allowing big tax reliefs on pensions for the rich.

There are two core issues she raises here. Firstly that the sort of pension in the commercial sector which Fingleton took is open to massive subsidy from the public purse, and as she notes, due to the fact that these pensions are provided for mid and higher level employees/employers in the main they are skewed in terms of coverage to the better off who can avail of the higher rate of relief on their contributions. Relief is such a neutral term, isn’t it? But it does of course cover the basic truth that those are monies that would otherwise find their way into the public coffers.

Secondly she points to the basic injustice of those on 20,000 euro wages being asked to pay a further levy on their pension (I have no problem, incidentally, with a graduated progressive levy that encompasses all state employees and who knows, perhaps the Budget will bring one in).

There is a further injustice. What of those who benefit from neither public nor private pensions but are reliant on the state pension. Well, as it happens the state (contributory) pension is the best I can look forward to in the future so, what princely sum is given to those of us who will be fortunate enough to make it to retirement age (66 – no early retirements here or golden handshakes while you’re in your mid 50s). Here are the figures from citizens info website.

Rates
State Pension (Contributory) payment from January 2009:

PRSI Contributions
Column 2: Rate per week
Column 3: Increase for a Qualified Adult (under 66)
Column 4: Increase for a Qualified Adult (aged 66 and over)

48 or over €230.30 €153.50 €206.30
20 – 47 €225.80 €153.50 €206.30
15 – 19 €172.70 €115.10* €154.70*
10 – 14 €115.20 €76.80* €103.20*

€230.30 a week. Which is a grand total €11975.60 per annum. There are some additional benefits available (although those such as free travel look to be on shaky ground). But that is the size of it. Now, I don’t wish to be morbid, but say taking these figures from the CSO to be more or less applicable for today, the average lifespan of a male is 75.1, and more happily for females 80.3 (or perhaps not, dependent on quality of life in our wonderful welfare state). So let’s round it up to 76 and 81 and you’ll see that the overall average expenditure on a state pension for a man is €119,756 and for a woman is €179,634. http://www.cso.ie/newsevents/pr_lifetable0103.htm

Let’s consider once more that presumably non-contributory pension Mr. Fingelton received. We know that it is open to tax relief at the higher rate, but I’d be hesitant about suggesting that over 40% of the sum was effectively paid for by the state. So let’s take Róisín Shorthall’s less categorical ‘several millions’. Indeed, let’s take

It’s not that simple, there are other factors, but nor is it that difficult either. If we take a nominal figure, say €2 million we can see the remarkable fact that you could fund the average state expenditure for a male pension 16 times in that figure and a female pension 11 times. But of course that isn’t the figure that tax relief was availed on. It is probably a quantity many times higher. And the overall €27.6 million is the equal of 153 women and 230 mens pensions.

Now 230:1 strikes me as excessive. Actually 23:1 strikes me as excessive.

Still, there are always those who will defend this situation, or attempt to make it seem less stark than it is.
Step forward:

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan [who] last night revealed the pension pot of Irish Nationwide boss Michael Fingleton is “substantially less” than initially thought.

Mr Lenihan signalled Mr Fingleton’s pension plan had been hit by the dive in stock markets values.

Mr Fingleton (71) sparked an avalanche of controversy this week after it was revealed he would receive a €27.6m payment when he steps down from the helm after 38 years’ service.

And it was revealed €7m of this could be tax-free because private sector workers can take 25pc of their pension tax-free when they retire.

But last night Mr Lenihan attempted to dampen down the controversy by suggesting it had been hit hard in the wake of plummeting stocks.

He’s been hit hard? He has? Hit hard is working your ass off across a lifetime to spend your last decade eking out an existence on a basic of €230. That’s the living definition of ‘hit hard’, and with all due respect to the Minister, to even approach the term, let alone use it, indicates a near Olympian detachment from the reality that perhaps the majority of people in the state that he is a representative of live in. And remember, Lenihan, so it is said, is part of the more leftish inclined group within FF.

Menwhile note the €7million at 25pc. I’m trying to work out whether that is inclusive or exclusive but either way taking recourse in my trusty Excel spreadsheet it will hardly be a surprise to see that 39 women and 58 men could be funded in their pensions.

Is any man or woman worth that? Is the task they undertake of such epic proportions that they, of necessity, should have sums that stagger the imagination passed across to them. And what of the opposite dynamic. How does such generosity and self-indulgence operate in terms of diminishing those of us who will never ever come close to this sort of wealth? What does it say about how little everyone else is valued – their lives, their experiences, their worth as people?

A final insult to add to the injury?

It is believed that even if the fund has dropped to €15m because of the crash in equity values, Mr Fingleton could take €3.75m out of it tax-free.

Jesus wept.

Straight outta the Seanad! A former leader of the Progressive Democrats… the National Strike… Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin is given a real Seanad welcome back after the Late Late Show and… er… the musings of a Senator on crime and punishment. March 27, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
6 comments

Let us cast an optimistic eye over the Seanad… For the inimitable Senator Harris scroll immediately to the end of the piece and read the last paragraph of so… for a former leader of the PDs, well, just read on… for the rest it’s in the middle! The Pearse Doherty piece is just before the end, and I’d be interested in peoples thoughts on it. I haven’t bothered to assign party affiliation. I think you’ll find it unnecessary… and… who can tell the difference?

Senator Donie Cassidy: The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re 2009 allocation of the horse and greyhound racing fund, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; and No. 2, Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2009 — Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1, with spokespersons having 15 minutes, all other Senators 12 minutes, and on which Senators may share time by agreement of the House.

Senator Frances Fitzgerald: This afternoon I pay tribute to our great sportspeople——

Senator David Norris: Hear, hear.

Senator Frances Fitzgerald: ——who brought such pride and joy to this nation over the weekend. The Irish rugby team won the Grand Slam, ending a 61 year wait for such glory and giving us more than a few heart-stopping moments in the process. The whole country was clearly delighted and it was wonderful to have such a reason to celebrate. I also congratulate my constituent and Palmerstown resident Bernard Dunne on his superb achievement.

An Cathaoirleach: We are having questions to the Leader on the Order of Business. I do not want to turn this into——

Senator David Norris: Come on. It is an historic occasion.

An Cathaoirleach:
We all support the sentiments expressed.

Senator Frances Fitzgerald: I am sure the Cathaoirleach does.

An Cathaoirleach: On the Order of Business.

Senator David Norris: If it was the GAA it would be a different matter.

Hmmm…

Senator Frances Fitzgerald: I am sure the Cathaoirleach would not expect me to refrain from commenting on those wonderful sporting achievements that have brought so much pride to the country.
Turning to the Fine Gael team, I welcome my new colleague, Senator Ciaran Cannon, the former leader of the Progressive Democrats, who has joined Fine Gael today.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Hear, hear.

Senator Frances Fitzgerald: It is a credit to the leadership of Deputy Enda Kenny and the strong team he has built that Senator Cannon is joining us today, and it is a vote of confidence in an alternative Government and the alternative economic policies of Fine Gael and Deputy Kenny.

Senator Nicky McFadden:
Hear, hear.


Senator Donie Cassidy:

I wish our colleague, Senator Cannon, happiness on the opposite side of the House. I understand he is the only party leader since I entered the House to have served on both sides in one term. This is a marvellous achievement, which would possibly qualify for entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Given that we all come from the same background, I wish to strike the right note in wishing him health and happiness. I hope the Fine Gael Party looks after him as well as the Government side did.

Senator Maurice Cummins: We certainly will.

Senator Donie Cassidy: I also hope he gets what he wishes for, albeit not at the expense of the Government side.

And so to the crisis…

Senator Joe O’Toole: The country faces a national day of industrial action next Monday. This is unnecessary and does not need to happen.

Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Joe O’Toole: It is a direct result of the uncertainty about figures and objectives referred to by Senator Fitzgerald. The Government must explain to the social partners what it is doing, what its objective is and what the problem is.
This industrial action is unusual. It reflects anger and uncertainty among workers across the country. It is different from industrial action that seeks to reverse a Government decision or change a policy position, it relates to people not feeling part of the decisions made by the Government. ICTU tried to put forward a ten point plan that it could use to engage with the Government — even Senator Butler on the Government side said it should be discussed. This must be done and I appeal at the eleventh hour to the Government to engage with ICTU and the social partners to clear the way so this strike does not go ahead.

{and here is an interesting admission from one who might be thought to know]

No one at leadership level in the trade union wants the strike. It is a response from people to the way they have been treated. The social partners need something they can champion and explain to their members and we will then be able to move forward, united as a society. That is the objective and the Government has the opportunity to do it. It is easier to prevent this difficulty now than to pick up the pieces afterwards. Rather than look at what might happen next Monday during the strike, we should focus on preventing it. The leadership of the trade union movement has a clear view that this can and should be prevented with movement by Government to demonstrate its objectives.

Senator Eugene Regan: The Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen. The victories on the sports field and Bernard Dunne’s victory in the WBA super bantamweight title fight were also good for the country. It just shows what we are capable of. We are all agreed that the most severe economic crisis is confronting the country. We have gone through the process of denial, which is common with economic bubbles. There is denial that the problem exists, eventually there is an acknowledgement of the problem and then there is a search for solutions. At this stage it is a question of implementing some immediate solutions and the budget is the focus of that. Speakers have referred to the national strike on Monday, 30 March, but it is simply insane and should be abandoned unconditionally by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The reality is the unions are still in denial. This is not a criticism of the unions, their members or those concerned at the severity of the cutbacks and the pension levies. I accept there are people in the public service at the lower end of the pay scales who have been badly affected by the pension levies. However, we have to find solutions and everyone must play their part.
The trade union leadership, which is part of the problem, is out of step with its own members. [Highly questionable, or at least not in the way he proposes] That can be judged by the reaction to some of the industrial action that has taken place to date. The leadership is certainly out of step with the country. We are trying to find solutions in this and the Lower House. The unions should play their part in this and abandon unconditionally the proposed industrial action for next Monday. The Government should not be arm-twisted with some secret deal done to secure a reversal. The trade union leadership must rethink this strike and abandon it. That would be in the public and its members interest.

Which is interesting, because…

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: I am very heartened by Senator Regan’s comments and welcome them. I have been a trade unionist all my life. I have held union office and served on the picket line when necessary. However, I believe next Monday’s general strike is wrong.
I feel especially sorry for the trade union leadership. They have been endeavouring to give leadership and bring home the message of the seriousness of the economic situation. This was evident on last night’s “Questions and Answers”. Right across the political divide, it was clear people were saying we must all pull together if we are going to arrive at a solution to the current recession. One young woman in last night’s audience struck a chord with me. She said she had lost her job and is now living on €200 a week. Many of those who will go on strike next Monday have a job, job security and pension rights.
Whatever frustration brought about the necessity for this strike in the eyes of those who want it, I believe they should reflect on this. The damage they will do to any hope we have into the future will be immense. Above all, it will send a message outside of this island to prospective investors, the very people we are endeavouring to woo back into the country, and those already based here, whom we are endeavouring to keep on our side. I am not against bridge building. If there were a possibility of the social partners coming back to the table in a formalised manner, so that should be. I do not believe anyone should suggest at this stage that it is right to proceed with a general strike and to cripple the economy, particularly when so many people have lost their jobs and many more face such a prospect.

So, the union leadership is both ‘out of step with its members’ and ‘ attempting to give leadership and bring home the seriousness of the economic situation’. Okaaaay.

What next?

Senator Shane Ross: What would a prospective investor outside Ireland — we have to impress these people at the moment — make of the Irish people going on general strike when faced with the greatest economic crisis they have ever come across? What is proposed is complete and utter economic madness and suicide.
I agree with Senator Regan that the trade unions must make an unconditional declaration they will not have a strike of any sort next Monday. At least they can wait for the budget. Everyone knows they will have an input into the budget. Everyone knows talks go on with the social partners before and after budgets, whether they are open or secret, and there is huge influence.
What in the name of God are the unions attempting to do in trying to destroy the fragile economy of this country next week? I do not understand this. The airports will be closed. What message is that going to send to people outside Ireland? Aside from who would invest in such a country as this anyway, when they see we are going on general strike and the country is strike ridden, they certainly will not do so.
The proposed strike is national vandalism. I appeal to the unions to call it off today and not to start playing brinkmanship with this. The only people who will be destroyed are their own members. More jobs will be lost as a result of the action to be taken next Monday. The economy of the country will suffer and it is in no situation to do so.

And so to a cogent appreciation of the legislation around union activity. Or wait – do I mean a misunderstanding of its operation?:

Senator Larry Butler: I appeal to the social partners and the unions to call off the absolute madness that is proposed. They cannot even get two thirds majority support for it in the unions. If necessary, they should be injuncted to ensure that the regulations and rules are adhered to. I have long been a supporter of the social partnership. It has been an important part of the social structure in recent years. It is right to have a social partnership but it is not right that the social partners should dictate to the Government how budgets should be structured. That is the job of the public representatives in both Houses.
I support my colleague, Senator Ó Murchú, who gave a fine definition of what we should do and the responsibility of the trade unions. Indeed, Senator Regan made a fine contribution today to common sense, which should——
When somebody says something right, I believe in supporting it. Senator Regan struck a very important note today in that regard.

I appeal to the unions to take a patriotic approach to this, an approach like that to the great win on Saturday. That was a team effort. The current situation cannot be overcome unless there is a team effort. The unions could do a great service to themselves and the people they represent in this regard. They should also think about the people who are losing their jobs each day in the private sector. The unions and the social partners have not yet woken up to this. It is a serious situation and I appeal again for the strike to be called off. If necessary, a court injunction should be sought against the unions because they do not have their two thirds mandate for a strike. I thank the Cathaoirleach for giving me time on the Order of Business.

And here…something a little more constructive…

Senator Dan Boyle: Like other Senators I, too, call for the strike planned for next Monday not to go ahead. I do not believe it serves any useful purpose and on those grounds it should not proceed. If it takes an intervention to stop it from going ahead then that intervention should be sought. If it takes a formal restoration of the social partnership process then that too should be given every consideration. In restoring the social partnership process all the social partners need to be aware we are in an era where difficult and unpopular decisions will have to be made. If that were to precipitate a decision not to proceed with a strike on Monday, it would be the beginning of a process in which we as a nation need to engage.

I also join in the calls made by other Senators for a debate on the banking system. I am aware we are having a debate on Thursday on pre-budget statements but the news that came out of the Joint Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs today was very disturbing. There is ongoing concern at the events in Irish Nationwide. While I have made several comments in recent weeks on the resignation of the chair of that board, the revelations about the interaction of Irish Nationwide with Anglo Irish Bank, and the news about the €1 million bonus payment and the €27.6 million pension pot that exists for the acting chief executive who has continued in office in that organisation for no reason whatever, I am surprised there has been so little political comment from other political parties in this Chamber. If we are serious about bringing about——

Meanwhile…

Senator David Norris: I welcome the presence of Mr. John Drennan in the Press Gallery on what I think is his third visit in a long, distinguished and somewhat acerbic career as a political analyst ——

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames:
Hear, hear.

An Cathaoirleach: It is not appropriate to the Order of Business to welcome anybody to the Press Gallery.

Senator David Norris: I hope his newspaper group will show a sustained interest in this House from now on.

An Cathaoirleach: Has the Senator a question appropriate to the Leader?

He does… sort of.

Senator David Norris: On the issue of the proposed strike, I am glad to be a member of three trade unions, IFUT, the NUJ and Equity and support the trade union movement. However, on each occasion I have voted against this strike. Senator O’Toole may well be correct that the trade unions are angry, but an angry response is not necessarily a rational one. I have heard of people cutting off their noses to spite their faces, but in this case they are cutting off their faces to spite their noses. The proposed strike is excessive action.
I also criticise employers because it is clear unions are being provoked by employers who are making use of the difficult financial situation to cut back and not pay legitimate wages. People are also provoked by the behaviour of people like Mr. Fingleton. I understood Irish Nationwide was a mutual society, but if that is the case, Mr. Fingleton’s idea of mutuality and mine are quite opposed. I understand the €28 million pot was described as a group insurance scheme. His definition of “group” is also unusual, because it appears to be confined entirely to himself. This is very provocative when so many people are losing jobs.
A number of property speculators who have driven this country into the mess we are in have indicated publicly they are not in a position to pay their debts or even the interest on their borrowings. Meanwhile, a 37 year old single mother of two was jailed last week for a month for non-payment of €5,800 to one of the financial institutions. Where is the equity in that? Is it any wonder people are angered? I share the anger of the trade unions, but I try to hold on to my rational intellect. The picture of Ireland this strike will project outside the country is disastrous.

Senator Jim Walsh: The point I want to come to is that the programme dealt with the economic circumstances in Latvia which was rescued by the IMF. The IMF, as a condition of its support, sought and received a 35% decrease in public service salaries. When the IMF rescued Argentina, the number of people working in the public service was halved and the salaries of the other half were halved. If we do not join together to meet the challenges that exist, this will be the outcome for everybody. The unions, as partners within the social partnership structure, will have to accept that they have contributed to the problems to some extent and therefore have a responsibility to resolve them in a way——

An Cathaoirleach: We cannot have a debate now.

Senator Jim Walsh: ——that does not bring the whole economy down.

A former union member speaks…

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: I am outraged at the thought of a national general strike next Monday. As a former member of IFUT and of the INTO, of which I am now an associate member, I am greatly disappointed with the misguided and poor leadership shown by teachers’ unions. They have been encouraging teachers to strike when fewer than 50% of them voted for a strike in the ballot. [if the rules allow it, as they do in elections to our representative bodies...] This point needs to be made in the context of our economy, which is haemorrhaging jobs, and of how we present ourselves to the wider world from which we want to borrow money. We are putting the examinations of our pupils under threat and receiving calls from parents who are saying the proposals are having a demotivating effect on the students.
The Government must take responsibility. I am touched by the fact the House is united on this issue.

And an actual trade union member speaks:

Senator Ivana Bacik: I echo the words of Senator O’Toole about the proposed strike or day of action on Monday. We are all in agreement that it is unnecessary. Even though I speak as a committed trade unionist, many of us are very unhappy about the way it looks and many in the public sector are understandably reluctant to be seen to be withdrawing labour at a time when so many of their friends, relatives and colleagues in the private sector are being made redundant. It is something I hope will not happen. I think it is within the power of the Government to engage with the trade unions as ICTU has sought to engage with the Government by putting forward what seemed to many to be an eminently sensible ten-point plan a few weeks ago. ICTU has been seeking to engage with the Government, and IBEC has also been sending signals that it is willing to engage. It is incumbent on the Government to engage with the social partners to ensure the day of action does not go ahead. I agree it should not go ahead and I hope it does not. There has been a real failure by Government to engage with the social partners, especially on the ten point plan. All of us wish to see a plan of engagement and a coherent structure emerging regarding what we can expect, instead of lurching from one mini budget and financial crisis to the next. It is vital that the Government engages on this matter.

A former leader of a national political party speaks:

Senator Ciaran Cannon: I agree with the comment about an increasing disconnect between the membership of our unions and union leadership. That is very much the case. From speaking to a number of union members in Galway in recent days, my experience is that they are utterly ashamed of the positions adopted by their leadership. While listening to a radio station yesterday evening — I cannot recall which one — we got a frightening and particularly sickening insight into the mind of one such union leader — I will not name him — who commented on the very responsible decision taken by the members of IMPACT not to proceed with the strike next Monday. He sought to usurp the will of the members of IMPACT by suggesting methods by which the decision could be got around. His comment at the end of the interview was particularly appalling, that he did not expect the members of IMPACT to pass pickets staged by other unions and that he still hoped they would be able to achieve major disruption on Monday. If that is the mentality that exists within the leadership of our unions, I have very serious concerns for our future. I ask the Leader to take a very strong unequivocal and unified message from this Chamber — I know that he will do so — to the union leadership that the strike on Monday serves no one’s interest, least of all that of union members.

Oh dear.

Senator John Ellis: I echo the sentiments of other Senators with regard to the proposed action next Monday, which is totally unnecessary. More deliberation and consultation would lead to a much better result. The proposed action on Monday is an attempt to force the Government’s hand prior to the budget which will be introduced in the following week. If we are to have fairness, cuts must be introduced across the board and no sector should suffer more than others. [Okay. So how to reconcile that with the following?] We all accept that higher income earners are able to take more punishment and will probably have to pay more taxes. The view among some people that everyone but themselves should be hurt in this process is wrong. While I accept it will not be easy, everybody will have to take some pain.

Finally…

An Cathaoirleach: Allow Senator Doherty to continue without interruption, please.

Senator Pearse Doherty: The House should also recognise that 65% of IMPACT members voted for strike action and the ballot did not deliver the 66% required for strike action to proceed. Let us not twist this issue and try to blame the executive or leaders of trade unions for the decision forced on union members by the Government. I call on the Taoiseach to stop his attacks on public and private sector workers.

An Cathaoirleach: Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Senator Pearse Doherty: Government Senators called on people to be patriotic. The most recent occasion that we heard such comments was when 30 attacks were made on the education sector and front line services. The solution to the national strike planned for Monday lies solely in the hands of the Government.

Senator Donie Cassidy: After Friday night, we all know where Senator Doherty’s loyalties lie.

You might think that a strange remark, and you might be right. The previous Friday Senator Doherty was but one amongst a galaxy of Senators on the Late Late Show. And what might have he said that was so contentious?

Seems innocuous enough to me, even sensible. But…

Senator Pearse Doherty: I have no problem defending the approach I took on Friday night to the role of this House.

Senator Donie Cassidy: I do not speak from both sides of my mouth. I know where our people were in 1916.

Senator Pearse Doherty: What is that comment supposed to mean?

What indeed? A very good question indeed. But answer there is none. For the Cathaoirleach ignores the question and continues straight into…

Senator Donie Cassidy: Senators Fitzgerald, Regan, Norris and John Paul Phelan congratulated our sportspersons on their wonderful and uplifting achievements. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party and Senators from all sides, I wholeheartedly congratulate the national rugby team and Bernard Dunne on their remarkable successes…etc…

Sorry, did I say finally? Not at all…I’ve got to relay this gem from one of our Senators:

Senator Eoghan Harris: In the same way that the Government must plan ahead in a phased way to deal with the economic crisis and reassure the public that there is such a plan, the same obligation to plan is on the Government regarding other crucial aspects, such as public order and safety. I am referring to the criminal justice system. The recent rape and murder case in Galway raises serious questions about the equity of keeping the full context of crimes from a jury. I am not a criminal justice lawyer and I do not know how this can be done. However, there must be prudential situations about which it would be a good idea for the jury to know — at least, before sentencing — or be allowed to comment in some way when the verdict is brought in. I do not know how it can be done but it is disgusting that this person can get away with that without the jury knowing it.

On a recent visit to New York I was struck by three aspects of the criminal justice system there. First, the speed of the police response to incidents on streets was enormously fast. I was on the lower east side of Manhattan, which is not the most salubrious part of New York. Second, there were very few such incidents. It is shocking to think that during the entire week I was in New York there was not a murder in Manhattan, while it would be normal in Dublin. Third, I was also struck by the severity of their criminal justice system as regards white collar crime. Bernie Madoff is in a cell with lights on 23 hours a day. He gets one hour of recreation and the New York Post is given to him one month late. We do not have that kind of severe system.

No, it’s much more severe than that… our prison inmates are probably given the Sunday Independent free of charge on the day of print.

Now what was it that Pearse Doherty was saying again?

Police Charge More over NI Murders March 27, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Northern Ireland.
3 comments

While it rapidly became obvious that the Real and Continuty IRAs enjoy extremely little support for their recent murders of the two soldiers and one policeman, it was also clear that the murders had the potential to cause a political crisis, or spark a new bout of killings. Thankfully the strong words of condemnation from all sides, especially Martin McGuinness, and the statements from Dawn Purvis of the PUP and Jackie McDonald of the UDA that loyalists would not return to violence in response, confirmed that the political institutions remained intact, and that a cycle of tit for tat violence was to be avoided. Nevertheless, this remains a dangerous situation. Although the anti-agreement terrorists enjoy negligible support in the country as a whole, it is clear that in a small number of localised areas, they have secured significant support, especially among disaffected young people. This was visibly illustrated by the TV pictures of a PSF MLA being assaulted by angry youths opposed to the peace process over an internment bonfire. The fact that a 17 year old has been charged with the murder of Constable Carroll, and that a 21 year old has been charged with witholding information suggests that the police certainly believe the recent violence involved some who were barely out of nappies when the first ceasefire was called in 1994.

In these volatile circumstances, it was extremely important that the police acted in a sensible manner. One thing that might have turned these tragic events into a more serious crisis would be the police behaving in a heavy-handed and stupid way that would alienate people and increase support for those violently opposed to the GFA and the PSNI. Almost certainly, those behind the murders were hoping for just such an outcome. The police certainly acted quickly. They met with resistance and minor rioting in the early days of the investigation, but the trouble soon died down, despite repeated attempts from the political groups supporting the terrorists to compare the policing operation to some of the worst excesses of security force operations during the Troubles.
Searches near the murder scene of Constable Carroll resulted in the discovery of several weapons, and two people being charged with the murder, and a third with withholding information. Around a dozen arrests were made in respect of the two cases. However, the fact that the police held so many for nearly two weeks without charge caused a great deal of unease and discontent among nationalists, with Alex Maskey and others calling for people to be charged or released after 7 days. Ultimately a legal challenge resulted in the remaining people being released on the orders of the High Court.

However, Colin Duffy, who had a conviction for a PIRA murder overturned and charges unsuccessfully laid against him for the PIRA killing of two policemen, and was one of a number of people who had been refusing food in custody in protest at their detention, was immediately rearrested. He has now been charged with the murders of the two soldiers and a number of related charges. His lawyers had been told that the police had arrested him on the basis of intelligence rather than any other type of evidence. There is no doubt that this exceptional set of circumstances has in the eyes of many the character of a police vendetta against this man, an appearance that will only deepend in the case against him collapses.

So, have we seen a case of efficient and effective policing in procuring charges in two very difficult cases, or have the police shown that they remain far too likely to abuse or ignore due process in the pursuit of suspects, and have they played into the hands of the dissidents by giving them a propaganda coup? It’s hard to say. Clearly the people charged are to be presumed innocent. Regardless of whether they are guilty or not, the police operation seems to have prevented further attacks, and some weapons have been taken out of circulation. The rioting remained fairly small-scale and localised, and at a distance – it being hard to say if you are not on the ground in the areas concerned – it looks like they avoided further alienating large numbers in the community by heavy-handed searching. But. And there are a number of ‘buts’. The holding of people for so long without charge looked bad, and raised serious human rights concerns among many. These concerns were exacerbated by the immediate re-arrest of Colin Duffy, and it is possible that the speed with which he was subsequently charged was an attempt at damage limitation. But given his history, it is going to be extremely hard to shake the perception of old scores being settled. That he was singled out looks bad, and will give credence to those who wish to argue that the reform of the police has been inadequate, or that they are irreformable. This is certainly the line that has been pushed by the 32 CSM and RSF (see this account of yesterday’s RSF press conference for details).

But, on balance, though the police have used up some of the goodwill or trust of nationalists they have acquired, I think that most people will retain the attitude they held before these events. And the dissidents should look carefully at the public reaction. Although there have been concerns over the length of time people have spent in detention without charge, the attempts to stir up memories of the prison struggles and hunger strikes of the past did not succeed in mobilising support, as with the various protests tried in recent years by sentenced prisoners in the north. The lesson may be that the police could be more sensitive to public concern, but it is also that the dissidents remain as isolated as they were before these murders, if not more.

UPDATE: The police told the court this morning that they had a “full dna profile” of Colin Duffy on the tip of a latex glove found inside a Vauxhall Cavalier used by the murderers.

UPDATE 2: His family say he is prepared to starve himself to death in protest at his arrest and detention.

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