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Redmond redux August 21, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in 1913, Culture, Irish History, The Left.
2 comments

So much to think about in relation to this issue. According to the Phoenix there are those within Fine Gael itself who are concerned and not best pleased by the former Taoiseach’s solo run on the issue of a commemoration for Redmond. And why would they because they provide a most unwelcome mood music to this decade of remembrance. And inconvenient too given the government’s attempts to chart a course between the various constituencies it seems to feel it must satisfy.

This weekend we saw the unusual sight of Ronan Fanning taking John Bruton to task over the issue in the pages of the Irish Times, and last week we saw Bruton attempting to explain away why Redmond’s actions post-the Larne gun-running of April 1914 – given that Dr Conor Mulvagh described Redmond as “a gun-runner, a back-room dealer and the leader of a private army” on foot of those actions – were explicable. Explicable because they were, according to Bruton set “against the background of certain activities by our brethren north of what is now the Border”. Very good, but implicit to his argument(s) on this issue is that the same events impacting on those who would later provide the core of the 1916 Rising gave rise to actions that were inexplicable. But if such a staunch parliamentarian as Redmond could be swayed to support political militarisation, which is in effect were what he oversaw to a greater or lesser degree, what would those who weren’t such staunch parliamentarians be swayed to do?

The answer to that is the course of Irish history across that decade or two. Still, one has to wonder whether that question was asked at the summer school these exchanges took place at.

It is all of a piece with the response to the stamp commemorating Redmond here, which – inconveniently for some, shows Redmond as a recruiter for the British Army. I’m genuinely amazed at how Bruton sought to minimise the import of that stamp, and how Stephen Collins could mistake it for a parody put about by Redmond’s political opponents. It was, of course, no such thing. But perhaps I shouldn’t be in light of the comments on the gun-running for this is – surely – a perfect example of that dynamic in politics where everything those one supports can be explained away while everything those one opposes is cast in the worst possible light, and in addition when problematic evidence appears it is simply ignored.

Meanwhile, and on the same topic, we have this fascinating further contribution from Stephen Collins which attempts to provide an explanation of sorts for John Bruton’s thoughts on Redmond, and simultaneously provide another for his comments on social welfare and pensions from a dinner in 2013.

Collins posits this in relation to the first:

Bruton’s core point is that if commemorations are about drawing relevant lessons from the work of past generations, then the remarkable exercise of parliamentary leverage that achieved home rule may have greater relevance to today’s generation of democrats than does the blood sacrifice of Pearse and Connolly

That doesn’t, it has to be said, convince me. At best Redmond was a problematic democrat – one who was deeply opposed to women’s suffrage, and along with many Home Rulers appears to have attempted to ignore the events of 1913. Add to that the small but entirely salient fact that he did not seek Irish independence. There’s simply no getting around the fact that his vision was of an Ireland comfortably positioned within the British Empire. That Bruton and Collins appear unable to engage with this point is telling, is it not? It is as if the goal of the movements, and they were plural, and perhaps multiple, at that time, is completely ignored in regard of the process they supposedly bypassed. The process is democracy? Again, given the nature of the British democracy at that point that raises all manner of contradictions and problems.

If Redmond were committed to independence, if all that he had done was predicated on that, well, that might be a different matter. But he simply did not share the vision of an independent Irish Republic.

Yet this is ignored and we are offered counterfactuals where Irish independence was achieved on foot of Home Rule at some point, who knows when? Even that is arguable. There is a counter argument that the fact of even partial Irish independence in the 1920s had a significant effect on how matters developed subsequently in the Empire. Perhaps Ireland might have been locked in to Britain through Home Rule for many decades, too close to the centre to break free, but always seeking to. Can I make a case for a low level war in a Home Rule state by advanced nationalists who recognise the limits of that state, or worse again the potential for cross border strife – for Bruton himself admits that there would be partition, and perhaps from either side. I sure can. Imagine a sort of 1969 to 1994 played out across the 20s and 30s? Or ethnic cleansing from the North? Or…

That’s the thing with counterfactuals, it’s not difficult to envisage better or worse outcomes than reality. Now it’s one thing to muse on them here on this site, but it’s another entirely to be attempting to direct public policy on foot of them at state level.

And as ever that past is filtered through another segment of the past, that of the late 1960s and onwards…

That is certainly a point worth considering, particularly as dissident republicans plot violence and mayhem in the name of the 32-county republic envisaged by the 1916 leaders, despite the overwhelming endorsement of the Belfast Agreement and its core principle of consent by the majority of people on this island.

But this state exists as the out workings of the struggle for that 32-county republic envisaged by the 1916 leaders, not the struggle for Home Rule which now appears as an effective cul-de-sac. No less an authority than Ronan Fanning points to the fact that Home Rule, even as Redmond envisaged it, was never on offer from the British state as a realistic prospect. And it is worth noting that the GFA/BA dispensation specifically allows for a 32-county republic. That is in no way invalidated by dissident republicans. Not in the slightest.

Still, it’s the latest twist, that dinner in New York (a ‘social function’ as Collins rather delicately puts it) held by legal firm Matheson in his honour that is so revealing.

His critics got more ammunition to attack the former taoiseach with the release of a tape recording contain comments he made at a social function in New York last year. In the course of a discussion he raised the issue of how the European social model, its welfare entitlements and pensions were going to be funded into the future as the continent tried to compete with the rising power of China and other developing countries.
There was certainly something off-putting about a group of very wealthy business people being told the governments of the developed world would ultimately have to default on their commitments to their citizens. That, however, does not invalidate the nub of the argument.

And:

Asking questions about the ability of the developed world to fund its spending commitments over the coming decades is surely relevant and necessary to prod the political system into long-term planning.

Wait a second. That wasn’t a ‘discussion’ where he ‘raised the issue’ or ‘asked questions about the ability to fund…’. To determine what he did say let’s return to Gene Kerrigan’s original piece where he notes that Bruton said:

Mr Bruton predicted, “We’re still going to be well off, but other people are going to get richer, and we’re going to be not getting rich as fast.”
And that, he said, “requires a whole lot of difficult adjustments”. American social insurance schemes, “Medicare and Medicaid and social security”, he said, “are completely unaffordable. And will not be afforded. And will not be deliverable. These promises will be broken here in the US. The same is going to happen in Europe.”
He said, “it’s going to happen — those promises are going to be broken.” He emphasised: “And they have to be broken. Because they can’t be afforded.”

There is no question formulated by Bruton. Anything but. This is no raising of issues – those aren’t ‘may not be’s’ but ‘can’t be’s’. Bruton has self-evidently already determined in his own mind what will occur.

Perhaps aware of this difference between what he suggests Bruton is saying and what Bruton actually says Collins here takes a step towards suggesting that that outcome of a society with social protections stripped away is an inevitability, albeit he still couches it as a ‘question’.

Bruton’s critics have not come up with a coherent response to his basic question and instead highlighted that he is currently very well paid as chairman of the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin and draws a handsome pension as a former taoiseach. That is all true, but has nothing to do with the case he is making.

Well, perhaps in a world where one is a cheerleader for lower taxation and lower state expenditure. But that brutish, short and nasty outcome is one that many of us resile against – and Collins well knows the arguments that can be put against it. I guess I could say that it is a bit disturbing to see someone seemingly argue that the withering of even fairly low level state provision of pensions and welfare to little or nothing – nothing, actually, if one takes Bruton at his word, is regarded with such equanimity. But there you have it.

He finishes with this:

Both in office and out of it, Bruton has made a habit of speaking his mind. The latest bout of venom directed at him shows why so many Irish politicians often keep their true opinions to themselves. Playing the “cute hoor” is still the safest option in Irish public life.

Priceless.

26th Desmond Greaves Annual School 2014 August 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, The Left.
5 comments

Greaves Leaflet July 2014 1_Page_1

Greaves Leaflet July 2014 1_Page_2

That weekend poll from the Sunday Times… the latest Reform Alliance stuff and what of others? August 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
7 comments

…First up let’s note the important caveats raised by Liberius and other in relation to the LP figures. As Liberius notes, there’s some adjustments taking place which may or may reflect the reality of voting on the day. As far as one can see the core party support is at or about where it has been with perhaps a very slightly uptick. This would align with other polls taken since Joan Burton took over as party leader earlier in the Summer.

Still and all, consider the figures, as related by IEL on Saturday evening.

FF 18 (-1);
FG 24 (-2);
Labour 14 (+7);
Sinn Fein 19 (-2);
Green Party 2 (unchanged);
Independents 22 (-2)

Note that we have now fairly clearly moved into a period of 3 medium parties – in terms of support (though not, naturally, actual numbers), a Labour Party whose actual level appears to be in or around 10%, plus or minus depending on whether it is a good day for them or not, and that huge chunk of support for Independents and Parties. So that’s three formations in or around 20-25%, that Ind/Other block in the same area and the LP trailing after (obviously it’s not quite that cut and dried, the Ind/Other block being in no sense seamless).

Sinn Féin remains ahead of FF, though well within the margin of error. But mirroring other polls where SF is reaching up towards the mid or higher teens – as it did at the European and Local elections. Fine Gael is weakening. It’s decline was masked considerably by that of the Labour Party, but now we can see how far it has fallen since the GE in 2011. All that talk of it truly supplanting FF is now gone, but then on the other hand so is the talk of FF being erased from the Irish political scene. Remember the question as to what was FF core support? We’ve found it. As we have perhaps found LP core support and that of FG is becoming increasingly apparent.

All that said, we remain most likely 12 to 18 months from an election, and perhaps slightly more given the constitutional parameters as regards the time within which an election can be called. Far from the election of Burton indicating a wish to reposition for a fast exit I would imagine that the LP will remain in situ in government for as long as it can. Why wouldn’t it? The rhetoric of a recovery is now in full flow in the media – albeit shaky. But, as ever, there remain dismal problems facing the Coalition. The Water Charges are approaching rapidly, and it’s fascinating to see how the media discourse about them, and austerity in general, has shifted from cheerleading to a much more sceptical tone. That dynamic will serve to weaken the government, but what will weaken it more is the impact of the charges and other cumulative measures.

Perhaps the one thing about this poll, is that it shows that the overall political situation is actually less volatile than it has been, that the support levels for the parties (bar the outlier that is the LP in this particular instance) are well within predictable bands. But one could argue that on a different level volatility has increased with no clear space for a party to become dominant in such a way as to guarantee it electoral supremacy in 2015/16. Government formation, on these figures, is going to be a nightmare. Even if we take LP support as read in this poll, a massive assumption, the further weakening of FG makes a return of this government deeply unlikely.

I tend to the view that a minority led administration is far from an unlikely outcome next time out. It’s just about possible FF and SF might do a deal, but that’s far from a certainty. An FG/FF coalition would be high risk for both parties. So perhaps better a reverse Tallaght Strategy allowing FG to continue into an unprecedented second term in office, but also allowing FF to remain detached from governing while being ‘mature’ and all those terms which some like to ascribe to political parties that do their duty by the orthodoxy.

The Phoenix noted that some on the right are trying to breathe life into the Reform Alliance, with a cohort – or so it is said – of ex-PDs, socially liberal, but fiscally orthodox, meeting up with Creighton et al. It’s never too late, is no doubt their thought, but perhaps it is. I’m very struck by how no independent councillors supportive of her was elected in her constituency, indeed – and I’m open to correction, I’m not sure any ran in her constituency under her banner. This isn’t a problem restricted to her, others on the left with very high profiles were unable to see candidates openly running as their allies elected, but it does suggest the limits of her political project. Moreover, the length of time now in the run-up to the election is limited. It is possible that given she was elected under a party banner she may be keen to face re-election under same, even if it is a new(ish) formation, but it could also be that she realises that brand Creighton is her single greatest asset and should run as such. What’s very telling, to me at least, is the hesitancy about all this. And that suggests deep uncertainty as to how to tackle the challenges ahead. There might also be the thought that in a post-Kenny era there might be space for her return to FG, as I suspect there would be. As to the others, it’s amazing how their supposed inclinations to rejoin FG are so openly discussed. That too says something, and it’s worth considering that any new formation isn’t going to be much cop if it has only a couple of TDs.

That said, the thought strikes that the developments this weekend in relation to the grim news of a woman denied a termination may well have some impact on that group – and in a number of different ways (just to be clear I’m very aware of the sensitivity surrounding those events, which are appalling, but they have happened within a political context as well). This may not be the best time for the launch or relaunch of a formation, or at least a group of TDs, so closely associated with the issue, or that one very particular side of the issue. Conscience clauses or not for those in the putative formation it may prove problematic. And, there’s a potential issue further down the line, in that those in FG can point to those events that came to light and argue (as Joanne Tuffy of the LP appears to have done) that all is well and nothing is broken and what was the need for the RA to split in the first place? Or perhaps it will function in some other way entirely.

As always much the same is true of any formation constructed from the Independent and ex-LP TDs. But there’s no sign of activity on that front. Still, who knows, the next couple of weeks might bring developments.

The Tories and the NHS… August 18, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, The Left.
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…this piece in the Guardian is of interest, written by a Tory MP professing to wish to ‘save’ the NHS, not least because of the responses. Let me select a couple that give a sense of both the piece and the response:

The person writing this article doesn’t care. She wants to end by finding ways of blaming people, and getting them to blame one another, so she and other, more privileged people don’t have to take responsibility for them.

It’s a gradual process, and the end point is that her chums own the private health services we will all pay double for as individuals.

The question we are all frantically evading is how on Earth we continue to fund an NHS that was devised for a much smaller population

The population of the UK in 1948 was over 50 million, only slightly smaller than it is now. The fact that you have started this piece by getting an easily checked fact wrong does not inspire confidence.

A difference of opinion August 18, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
8 comments

Anyone who purchased the Phoenix this week will have noticed a certain degree of dissension at the top there over the Gaza cover. John Mulcahy defends it while Paddy Prendiville (who was on holiday when it ran) takes it to task, both using editorial pieces to do so.

A sort of 70’s quiz – 2 August 18, 2014

Posted by guestposter in Irish History, Irish Politics, The Left.
15 comments

Many thanks to Brian Hanley for sending this follow up to his earlier quiz on the 1970s. Very much appreciated. Answers later in the week.

1) Which TD was nicknamed ‘Bogside Billy’ after he visited nationalist areas of Derry and Belfast in August 1969?

2) How many workers in the Republic of Ireland were members of British-based trade unions in 1978? (Nearest estimate)

3) Linfield supporters clashed with fans of which League of Ireland team at Dalymount Park in May 1971? (Bonus: name the competition)

4) Five-time All Ireland winner with Kerry, Captain Joe Keohane, stood as a candidate for which party in the 1973 general election?

5) What was the president of the GAA referring to during August 1978 when he claimed that ‘we have had only rare occasions when such incidents as we saw yesterday have occurred. Unfortunately, they have always been associated with occasions when teams from the North of Ireland have played here. I suppose it is reasonable to presume that because of the troubles in the North, actions of this type have come to the fore.’

6) To what event did RTE devote several hours of live-coverage in November 1973?

7) Which left-wing periodical argued in June 1974 that the Ulster Workers Council strike had ‘flushed a lot of things out. They flushed every reactionary and racialist sentiment from the bottom of the scummy hearts of Southern politicians and journalists (including) the editor of the Irish Times, that cut-price Protestant lap-dog…They are squealing because their mean and discreditible ‘national aspirations’ have been heavily stamped on by the Ulster Protestant community.’

8) What chart position did the 1970 England World Cup’s squad’s song ‘Back Home’ reach in the Republic of Ireland?

9) What was Garda sergeant Martin Hogan suspended from the force for doing in February 1976?

10) Former Minister for Justice Patrick Cooney successfully sued which newspaper for alleging that he tolerated Garda ill-treatment of suspects during the 1973-77 Coalition?

Marxism Seminars: Marxism in Practice part 2: Neoliberal Latin America – Lessons for Ireland? August 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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Time: Saturday 23rd August, 6pm.

Venue: Chaplin’s Bar (Upstairs), 1/2 Hawkins Street, Dublin 2
(south side of new Rosie Hackett Bridge)

Continuing the series of political education seminars / discussions, Barry Cannon from NUI Maynooth will be introducing the topic:

“Comparing popular resistance to neoliberalism in Latin America in the 80s and 90s to the situation in Ireland in the current context of crisis.”

Here are a couple of articles by Barry, if you are interested in reading up on the topic beforehand.

http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/CUSyUnHPNnaZPdW5zkdC/full

http://www.e-ir.info/2014/04/08/opposition-in-bolivarian-venezuela-caught-between-conflict-and-compromise/

Look forward to seeing you there.

Dublin Left Forum

Quiz from O’er the Water – No. 2 August 14, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, History, Irish Politics, The Left.
12 comments

Many thanks for this quiz which was set by NollaigO. Answers to follow in a few days time!

Q1 Famously, Napoleon invited the Pope to his coronation as emperor in 1804 but seized the crown out of the hands of the Pope and crowned himself. In which famous venue was the ceremony held and what was the name of the Pope? [Just the regnal name; not the number!]

Q2 On 17th December 1985, 15 MPs of the British House of Commons applied for the Chiltern Hundreds and for Steward of the Manor of Norstead [aka “resigned their seats”].

What caused this?

Q3 Following the establishment of the Irish Free State, three deep water Treaty Ports were retained by the United Kingdom in accordance with the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921. As part of the resolution of the Anglo-Irish Trade War in the 1930s, the ports were returned to Ireland in 1938.

Name the Treaty Ports.

Q4 What is the link in the following 16th century, chronological list:

1 : Peterborough Abbey; 2: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London;

3: St Georges Chapel, Windsor; 4: Westminster Abbey;

5: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London; 6: Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire.

Q5 The origin of the phrase “Your name is mud” is often wrongly attributed to a Dr Samuel Mudd because he sheltered and medically treated a famous fugitive at his home in Charles County, Maryland in April 1865. Who was the fugitive?

Q6 Which famous people were killed by the following assassins:

Prince Felix Yusupov
John Bellingham
Ramon Mercader
Marcus Brutus?

Q7 James Hoban was born in Callan, in County Kilkenny in 1762. He studied architecture at the Royal Dublin Society Drawing School. In 1781, he emigrated and in 1792 he won an architectural competition to design a still world famous building. In 1814 he was appointed to rebuild the building after it had been deliberately destroyed by fire.

Which building and who burned it?

Q8 What was the controversial publication, allegedly written by Gregori in 1924, that enabled Stanley overcome Ramsey?

Q9 The 1912 American presidential election was contested by the incumbent president, a past president and a third candidate who won the election.

Name all three.

Q10 Former Irish Naval Services vessel, Muirchú was withdrawn from service in 1947. The ship then sank off the Saltee Islands while being towed to the scrapyard.

What was the previous name and controversial role in Irish History of the Muirchú ?

Automation – Part 2 August 13, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, The Left.
3 comments

Two weeks ago I was in a hotel in the UK where at the reception there were self-service touch-screen check-in/check-out machines. Ironically there were receptionists hovering around them assisting people who were unfamiliar with the technology – for which read almost everyone as far as I could see. But that last will change as time goes on, just as the self-service units in Tesco or wherever are increasingly used by those shopping there.

And then one reads this in a piece which notes that driverless cars are to be be licensed from next year in the UK. It’s a testing process and reading up on the level that that technology is at one might be forgiven for avoiding them for a while because it is still remarkably primitive (and there are other considerations, wasn’t it the FBI which argued they might in effect be weaponised?).

But then one reads Vince Cable saying this:

“Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.”

And I’d wonder. It seems to me that this period is seeing a stealthy stripping away of yet more jobs (this, for example, is an outlier, but in an industry which has seen numerous cuts in numbers working in it). And the knock-on effects of that dynamic are deeply problematic. One doesn’t have to be a Luddite to see the potential implications, indeed already some economists are working through this, as noted here last year. And suggestions include guaranteed minimum incomes and redistribution, and this from non-Marxist, arguably non-left economists.

Perhaps the talk of four day weeks and so on are a precursor to an admission that societies will be very different in a relatively short space of time, but without genuine democratic control of this process it isn’t difficult to envisage very dangerous outcomes. And one doesn’t have to look very far to see how radically different societies (even those within advanced capitalist states) can be – look again at the appalling situation for millions of US workers in relation to holidays and other rights, and that is today. In a context where working itself is rare…

How bad would it have to get? August 12, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
11 comments

Many thanks to the person who forwarded to me “Where are the Pots and Pans? Collective Responses in Ireland to Neoliberalization in a Time of Crisis: Learning from Latin America”, written by Barry Cannon and Mary P. Murphy of NUIM and available free for download here…

Its central question is why have the much more aggressive responses seen elsewhere during the socio-economic crisis of the last half decade and more not been replicated in Ireland. The abstract gives a real sense of the thrust of the piece:

ABSTRACT Since 2008, Ireland has experienced a profound multi-faceted crisis, stemming from the collapse of the financial and property sectors. Despite enduring six years of neoliberal austerity measures in response to this situation, popular protest has been muted. Using Silva’s [(2009) Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press)] framework of analysis of popular responses in Latin America to that region’s debt crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, this article seeks to investigate why this has been the case. We assess how the crisis is being framed among popular and civil society groups, and whether increased associational and collective power is developing. In doing so, we look at processes of intra-group cooperation, cross-group cooperation and framing and brokerage mechanisms. We then ask, where such processes exist, if they can lead to a comprehensive challenge to the neoliberal policies currently being implemented, as happened in much of Latin America. We conclude that the crisis has not yet reached sufficient depth or longevity to foster a more robust popular response, but propose that analysis of similar processes in Latin America can help us understand better why this is the case, not just in Ireland, but in other countries of Europe experiencing similar situations.

It is an effective overview of the period and the framework used is quite persuasive. And there’s a lot of thought provoking points, not least the following:

Furthermore, as noted above, neoliberalism and free market ideology have largely been internalized by Irish people. Although faith in neoliberal institutions has been badly shaken (Edelman, 2014) progressive groups have had difficulty popularizing ideas about alternatives to austerity, not helped by a largely neoliberalized mainstream media (Mercille, 2014) using narrow, pro-market and divisive framing mechanisms (Cawley, 2011).

And:

Despite unresolved high levels of individual and collective indebtedness, increased deprivation as a growing feature in the middle class2 and extensive political and socio-economic exclusion created by economic volatility, we argue, relative to Latin America, the crisis simply has not been grave enough to cause a ‘double movement’ with sufficient force to provoke a change of course. Meanwhile, the power of indigenous Irish proneoliberal forces augmented by their international allies, particularly in the ‘troika’ of the EC, ECB and IMF, has remained far stronger than that of contending forces.

And as to the left or the TU’s? Cannon and Murphy point too the co-optation of the latter for the most part and

Lack of capacity can be explained by the nature of Irish social power and how it is organized, in particular the state and market structures which constrain and shape such agency and their position in the wider global structure. It can also be accounted for due to more local fragmentary and sectarian tendencies within the Irish Left and the reactive and conservative natures of Irish NGOs.

It also notes some of the most reactionary aspects of the state/government/orthodoxy response to the crisis – for example, massively prioritising cuts over tax increases or the dismantling of the ability of the state itself to properly track the impacts of its own policies on citizens.

If people can read it it would be well worth the effort. It’s not very long and yet it manages to succinctly outline many (perhaps most) of the elements within the socio-political context and their interactions.

If their arguments are correct it raises a further question. How bad would things have to get before we would see the level of dislocation with the political system we have seen elsewhere? Any thoughts?

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