2010… December 31, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Le Gach Dea-Ghuí don Athbhliain.
If you were the Minister? December 28, 2009Posted by Tomboktu in The Left.
A few months ago, a comment was made here about the achievements and failings of the Labour Party the last time it was in government, between 1992 and 1997. Now, a post on that topic would be a dead certainty to generate plenty of debate probably without actually adding much to the sum of human knowledge. I mention it because not to ignite that debate, but because my thoughts on that comment at the time and since lead me to what I think is a more useful question: what should a minister from the Left seek to do the next time they are in government?
So, first my memory of the thrust of the comment: that Labour’s achievements in the 1992-1997 governments were predominantly in social policy areas and not enough in economic policy.
It may be the curmudgeon in me, but my initial mental response was to be unimpressed with the character of the achievements that Labour was being credited with. Yes, Mervyn Taylor did introduce a series of changes to marriage law that pre-empted the re-use of arguments that had led to the rejection of the previous attempt to the lift the constitutional ban on divorce. And yes, Brendan Howlin brought in the amendment that meant you no longer needed a doctor’s prescription to get condoms. Mervyn Taylor also introduced the two key planks of the equality legislation (although the referrals to the Supreme Court by President Robinson meant it was left to his successor from Fianna Fáil, John O’Donoghue to steer the final versions though to become law). It cannot be denied that these are in essence significant achievements of Labour the last time they were in government.
However, I suggest the achievements might not be as complete or significant as some would claim. The definition of ‘success’ or ‘achievement’ in that work was limited to changes in law. To use the language of policy-makers, success was defined in terms of ‘outputs’ rather than ‘outcomes’.
To illustrate the difference, consider some of the situations that continued after the statute books were changed. Prohibiting harassment of gay students in our schools (in the Equal Status Act) has not led to it ending — nor as I posted recently, did it lead to any action to deal with the problem. Permitting the unprescribed sale of condoms did not necessarily made them accessible everywhere to everybody who wants or needs them — initially through refusals to stock in many places, and on an ongoing basis through cost.
That was my initial thought. When I wondered if it was a fair assessment, I did conclude that the reforms Labour set itself met the ‘SMART’ criteria presented in some management training: specific, measurable, achievable (or ‘ambitious’ in some versions), realistic, and time-bound. But the ultimate outcome may not have been what what was desired.
When I turned my thoughts to the redistribution or the economic agenda, I wondered if we on the Left have similar clear objectives. There are plenty of statements of what we’re against, and lots of broad ‘feel good’ aims or statements of outcome that is to be achieved with not enough about the outputs that will be delivered to achieve those outcomes. There is also the fact that the content of many ‘front end’ specific objectives or demands change more rapidly in the economic sphere than in some areas of the social policy sphere. A demand to lift the ban on divorce remained as valid (or invalid) in 1989 as it did in 1979; a demand at that time to increase the unemployment benefit by, say, £5.00 per week would now be outdated, and not just because the currency has changed.
Iin addition to wondering if we have clear objectives for economic and distribution systems, I also wondered whether it is possible to have such objectives. The social policy objectives Labour championed in the 1990s are discrete: it would have been possible to prohibit discrimination against Travellers or people with disabilities without also making condoms available without a prescription. I don’t know if changing the systems of importing, producing and exporting goods and services or of changing the systems of property ownership, pricing and transfer, work and pay, social welfare, tax, and public services can be broken down into discrete single actions with defined outcomes in the way the ‘liberal agenda’ can be.
I think the cabinet and its members do three key things:
- change laws (although constitutionally that task is done by the Oireachtas, in our system it typically implements the government’s proposals),
- decide on the taxing and spending of public funds, and
- in their capacity as as the most senior director of organisations that deliver some services, shape or set further non-spending rules and policies.
That list of three role is narrow in its focus. Ministers do have other key roles. Important among those is seeking to shape public opinion (which Brian Lenihan has been successful in doing in relation to fiscal policy) and negotiating in various bodies (a task it might be said — unfairly — that John Gormley failed at in Copenhagen). But I think that the link between outcomes and outputs in those roles is less certain. If I were taking a seat at my first cabinet meeting, I think my mind would be on the first three roles, for those are (usually) within the control of a minister.
I would probably be at a loss if I were given an economic portfolio in that imaginary cabinet and wanted to identify meaningful and realistic objectives. I could set out to change the tax laws to penalise companies that do not share profits or to make co-ops or mutual society models more attractive for entrepreneurs. Maybe I could find some change in how executive pay is set to reduce the inequality between the top and the bottom. I would definitely want to make the right of workers to collective representation effective in all employments. But, somehow, I doubt any of that would lead to serious changes to the economic injustice that exists in Ireland.
What three or four specific policy objectives would you steer through the system if you were appointed to the cabinet?
Christmas week from the Irish Election Literature Blog… December 24, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
AK – and thanks as ever for all his work – has put together a selection for this week… some really good stuff here…
Paul Kane ‘Framed by a Supergrass’ -Anti Extradition Leaflet. Kane was one of the 1983 Maze escapees. Leaflet shows the way Fianna Fail spoke out of both sides of their mouth re the North in the 80s.
Benny McElwee of Sinn Fein poster with the ‘Smash Stormont’ slogan, from 1982 Stormont elections. Vote 1 McElwee and 2 Danny Morrison.
Dermot Tobin of The Workers Party 1989 Wicklow, includes DeRossas message to the electorate and the Workers Party Proposals which included a public jobs scheme.
Catherine Murphy Flyer from 2005 Kildare North by-election
and then …..
I put a comment on a previous post about this gem…
Last but not least a fascinating leaflet advertising ‘Berties Walkabout’ from 1993. If you thought these were impromtu affairs… think again.
A ballot paper etc from the 1973 Border Poll which was boycotted by the Nationalist population.
This Weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Twinkranes December 24, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Okay, it’s a late entry for the year, but… this is good good stuff if you like motorik, progressive and such like. Twinkranes are Irish from Dublin… as it happens I once met briefly and in passing their drummer vocalist. Which is so entirely irrelevant I’m not sure why I mention it. Other though than to say I wasn’t introduced to him by his “band name” of Blonde Fox (although as band names go it’s a fair sight better than Bono Vox). Anto… so I was told.
I heard Being konG some years back and thought it was pretty good, if not indeed great, that an Irish band was producing material like this which seems miles away from the usual well worn grooves. Their recently released album Spektrumtheatresnakes lives up to that standard.
What I like most about it is that it sounds convinced. This isn’t messing around, it’s no pro forma exercise (as Robert Christgau might put it) in arid experimentation for its own sake, it’s melodic, angular, sincere….it’s get in there and do it.
Much to like here and certainly it seems to be a good fit with much else that has occupied the weekends in the last year or so… roll on 2010.
fizz nor feedback 7″ version.
high tekk train wreck
Some thoughts on the Cedar Lounge Revolution… December 23, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
2009 has probably been the most event filled year since we came on-line. Plenty of news. Perhaps too much and given that there was no General Election that’s saying something. Unfortunately a number of our valued contributors were unable to continue to post due to other commitments.
The Left Archive, many of you will be interested to hear, has enough material to see us well into the future. We’ve scanned sufficient documents to see us through to mid 2010 and there’s been considerable assistance in the shape of documents scanned by others to see us further. But there’s always a need for more, and particularly from smaller formations, from gaps in the historical record and so on. 1970 was a significant year in Irish history, and nowhere more so than on the left. We hope the materials posted in the Archive will reflect that. Again our thanks to anyone who has contributed materials and pieces.
Many thanks to AK at Irish Election Literature Blog whose weekly contribution is enlivening the material here.
And also thanks to our newest contributor Tomboktu for a range of posts that have broadened the CLR remit. That’s an important point. There’s always room for more posts and contributions are very welcome from any or all of you. We’ll look at them, see if they fit within the ethos and more than likely post them up.
Thanks most importantly to those of you who posted or commented here this year in the spirit of the CLR. That spirit is best described by reference to our moderation guidelines, one of courtesy and respect for others opinions. That’s been fundamental to this enterprise, not least because the nature of this enterprise, first and foremost a pastime (yep, let’s call it like it is), a means of communication between like minds, a means of putting material from the left into the public domain and to some limited extent a forum for the expression of views mostly from the left. Thankfully it’s just one amongst quite a few sites of a similar outlook.
It’s not important in the scheme of things except to the people who use it. But that’s us, and to us it’s very important, a labour of love, something that is a resource (we hope), a collective effort. You can disagree with everything we stand for and yet, we think, respect that collective effort. And that demands that those who come here treat it and all here in that spirit. If we want a discussion let’s have it. If people want Politics.ie they know where to go. Eagle has a brief message at the end of each comment box… ‘Comment – be civil’. It’s good advice.
Despite one thing and another we’ve managed to retain our light touch moderation and – we think – give a strong defense of our approach and philosophy and mostly in a good humored way. That’s no small thing. Our principles aren’t diminished by opposing critiques. We’ve heard nothing in the last year that has fundamentally altered the trajectory of our beliefs, beliefs shared with those other sites of a like mind, and we’d be worried if anyone here had.
One of the real pleasures of being co-organisers here has been the opportunity to make contact with a range of people on the left and further left over the course of the years. It’s good to know we aren’t alone, particularly in truly difficult times – one need only see how the CDP schemes are being gutted and talk to anyone involved to know that for all the cant about pragmatism those who can least afford it are having cuts forced upon them where they are least acceptable – that there is a strong and principled left still extant despite everything and that is worth something. Progressives of all stripes and none will always get a respectful hearing here… that’s the purpose of the exercise.
So, any changes in 2010? We’re toying with the notion of going back to the original model of slightly longer posts – like the series New Myths of the Peace Process – in between the snappier material. But we’d also be interested in the opinion of others on that score. And any suggestions for improvements across any of the areas this post discusses – Left Archive, contributors, topics, moderation, approaches – would be gratefully accepted in the comments below.
The next Left Archive will be posted up on the 4th of January and there’ll be some discussion posts along the lines of ‘gifts for progressives’ here and there to keep the site open and tide us over Christmas (and some more from AK to wrap up the year on the Irish Election Literature front) but we’ll be taking a break from anything too weighty – events permitting – until the New Year…
Again, many thanks for your support and participation – and many thanks too to everyone else, you know your sites, who’ve made this an educational and entertaining year for us. Sorry if this sounds overly reflective and solemn… that’s not the intention… just we’ve had a few issues we wanted to clear the air about and it’s hard not to sound either too casual or too serious…and any comments you have on improvements, fire away…
Gifts for progressives – Part 2: And over to you… December 22, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Okay. We’ve a little under three shopping days to Christmas. So, work with me here, any suggestions in addition to those of Brian Hanley for gifts that are suitable for those of us on the left? Books, DVDs, whatever. Cheap and cheerful preferably. What are your five or ten items that fit that bill?
Now there are some ideas that strike me… a recent history of a still contemporary Irish political party, History Ireland subs, a nicely entertaining SF novel by a guy called Adam Roberts entitled Yellow Blue Tibia which has some – ahem – unusual theories about just why Stalin was so Stalin-like (to be honest it’s not at all left wing, but set in 1986 and including Chernobyl, alien invasion, the Soviet Union in the throes of the arrival of Gorbachev and Mormons it’s sort of there)… I’m currently working through Robert Harris’s Lustrum set in Rome during the time of Cicero and well worth a look at for anyone jaundiced by power politics then and now… Anyhow, I’m sure others can do better than that…
A seasonal guest post from Brian Hanley…
Readers of the Cedar Lounge Revolution seem to enjoy stories about splits, factional disputes, bitter rivalries and occasional violence: If so then Henry Martin’s Unlimited Heartbreak: the Inside Story of Limerick Hurling (Collins Press) should be right up their street. It was certainly the most enjoyable read of the year for me.
In Dublin’s Stephen’s Green there is a fountain dedicated to the ‘Save the German Children’ campaign. I’ve occasionally wondered why there was such a campaign and what motivated those who set it up and consequently I found R. M. Douglas’s Architects of the Resurrection: Ailtiri na hAiseirghe and fascist ‘new order’ in Ireland (Manchester) very illuminating. Based on an exceptional primary source, the personal papers of Gearoid O Cuinneagain, the founder and leader of Ailtiri na hAiseirghe, Douglas makes a very strong case for the attraction of fascist and anti-democratic ideas in the Ireland of the 1940s. He also suggests, and I tend to agree, that early news about the brutality of Nazi rule in Europe made little impact on public opinion here.
Staying with the Second World War, I saw the French film Army of Crime this autumn. Not to be honest, the greatest movie ever made, but certainly a great story about the role of immigrant fighters in the resistance in Paris. The occupation authorities made much of the ethnic origins of what they labelled the ‘army of crime’ many of whom were Eastern European Jews, Spanish and Italian anti-fascist refugees or Armenian communists. After I had seen the film I thought Tommy Tiernan might benefit from repeated viewing of it (and why is it that twenty years ago comedians who made fun of immigrants, Gypsies and Jews were usually called racist but now they are considered cutting edge?) Anyway, Army of Crime did inspire me to seek out The Resistance: the French Fight Against the Nazis (Simon and Schuster) by Matthew Cobb, which provided a warts and all overview of the role of the Resistance in all it’s varieties. It also opens with a great quote from Resistance veteran Pascal Copeau:
‘A word to young historians- when we read your studies about our underground world, they appear a bit cold. Without wishing to be pretentious, you should not be afraid of dipping your pens in blood: behind each set of initials you describe with academic precision, there are comrades who died.’
A lot of discussion on Irish revolutionary politics talks about the importance of the ‘Fenian tradition.’ An interesting collection of essays was published this summer, edited by Fearghal McGarry and James McConnel entitled The Black Hand of Republicanism: Fenianism in Modern Ireland (Irish Academic Press) and while not agreeing with all the conclusions presented within it, the book paints a very vivid picture of a fascinating movement.
As I write the Catholic Church are ducking and diving in order to avoid the consequences of decades of abuse while several more horrific cases of sexual violence are in the news. I intend to read Diarmaid Ferriter’s Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland (Profile) over the holidays, if only to try and gain some perspective on all of this.
Finally I’ve always thought that Ken Loach’s films which were political with a small ‘p’ worked more than his polemics (hence Kes was a lot better than Hidden Agenda). So I really enjoyed his Looking For Eric this summer, which brought back a lot of good memories and featured a few familiar faces. Unfortunately those memories are now tinged with sadness as a good friend and comrade from those days died suddenly during September. Slan Dave, you won’t be forgotten.
The Community and Voluntary Sector – programmes under attack… December 21, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
Thanks to John O’Neill for the following taken from From Liberty On-line
COMMUNITIES UNDER ATTACK
The Community and Voluntary Sector has been once again been attacked by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government in its latest budget. The true cost of economic mismanagement and bank bail-outs is now being felt by communities which gained little from the so-called Celtic Tiger.
Workers and projects such as childcare, drug rehabilitation, community employment, elder care and community development have already suffered budget cuts this year. Once again Brian Lenihan has decided to attack communities rather than tax those who can afford to contribute most.
Among the many cuts, it is proposed that 31 Community Development Programmes are to close their doors by the end of January 2010, with up to 290 job losses.
On top of already slashed budgets, Drug Task Force funding has been cut by 11%. Many projects will not be able to survive this reduction. Furthermore, Department of Education funding for drug rehabilitation projects will be reduced by 32% in 2010 and completely removed in 2011.
Community Employment (CE) and Job Initiative workers, already on low wages, will see their pay drop by up to 5.5%. CE training and education grants are expected to be cut in the New Year.
Local Partnerships will see their budgets cut by 11% in 2010, threatening jobs and services. Youth Facilities will also be cut by 10% next year.
These cuts are not abstract numbers, but will mean job losses, fewer services and communities abandoned.
In the absence of SIPTU activists and members organising, protesting, lobbying over the past twelve months there is no doubt that the cuts to the Community and Voluntary sector would have been much greater. However, our work cannot end here. We need to continue to build a fighting union that can defend jobs, projects and communities, not just against these cuts, but those that the Government will try and introduce in the next budget.
Bosnian CDP (Dublin)
Community Tecnical Aid (Dublin)
Connemara Community Radio
Inner City Renewal Group (Dublin)
Partners CDP (Dublin)
Pavee Point (Dublin)
Piece Project (Dublin)
Blayney Blades (Monaghan)
Clonmel Travellers Development
East Clare CDP
Equal Access (Tallaght)
Forum CDP (Connemara)
Greater Blanchardstown CDP
Independent Mothers Project (Waterford)
Kilmore West CDP (Dublin)
Link Cherry Orchard
Matt Talbot Community Trust (Dublin)
North West Inner City Women’s Network
Sherkin Island CDP (Cork)
Southside CDP (Drogheda)
VISTA CDP (Dublin)
West Tallaght Resource Centre
Women of the North West (Mayo)
There are 31 all in so there are two missing from the list above. SIPTU has organised a meeting for projects affected Monday 21st December at 12 noon in Liberty Hall, Dublin 1
Daragh O’Connor, SIPTU Organiser
Just reading that list is it possible to see a more targeted attack on areas of social need and on the frameworks used to deal with that need? Choices were made to maintain taxation at this Budget at previous levels. Expenditures were cut. And here’s the result. But that’s not ideological. No, not at all.
Listowel December 21, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Such an expression of sympathy for a convicted sex offender in a court, as seen in Listowel, where the victim is present speaks of some sort of disconnect between the reality of what happened and the perceptions of those expressing sympathy. This inability to come to terms with the nature of such crimes seems near-inexplicable, particularly now when the veil of secrecy around them is much less than it used to be, this inversion of sympathy whereby the victim can be bypassed both literally in the courtroom and figuratively – one thinks of the comments of Fr Sheehy, and in particular his thought that ‘the victim didn’t seem to him to be traumatised or particularly nervous’ which locks straight into a discourse of minimising these crimes and the effects of these crimes and – of course – into an older and pernicious dynamic as regards gender balance of power.
Sheehy seems entirely gormless in his approach, and it is hard to understand why he was unable to find the ability to step back from these events until he removed himself from the picture. His misfortune, on top of his sheer idiocy in shaking hands and sympathising (sympathising? – even to say it makes the oddity of such actions come clear) and then exhibiting a tone deaf understanding of why others might be genuinely outraged by such actions, is that he provides a sort of explication redux of a greater disconnect between Church and society at the very point where it is the simple inability of the many in the Church to comprehend why their actions and inactions were wrong is laid bare by the slow slow journey towards resignation by a number of Bishops.
But this isn’t about the Church. It’s about the response of a broader group of citizens who just don’t get it. If Listowel points up a sometime disconnect between sexual crimes and perception of those crimes there is one basic truth. The crime stands. All the outpourings of sympathy and support mitigate not one iota the reality of the original offense. How could they?
Fundamentally this is about taking responsibility both for ones own actions and – as far is applicable – the actions of those one seeks to support (the Irish Times editorial at the weekend made the valid point that this undercut directly the decision of the jury). That crowd in Listowel forgot or ignored that latter point. Implicitly and arguably explicitly they disregarded their greater responsibility to the victim than the perpetrator. By their actions they compounded the hurt and dislocation of the victim and they did it in the most provocative way possible. And in doing so they compounded the hurt and dislocation of other victims elsewhere who might wonder what justice is served if the courtroom itself potentially becomes a forum for their further isolation.
That may scan as sanctimonious, but sometimes language is unable to step up and deal with events like this. They quite literally beggar belief.