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Numbers… one of a continuing series July 9, 2020

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From the Guardian:

The number of far-right prisoners convicted for terror offences in Great Britain climbed by a third last year to their highest recorded level, and accounts for more than one in six of all terrorists held in prison, according to official figures.

And:

The Home Office data shows that 44 “extreme rightwing” prisoners were in custody for terror offences across Great Britain, up from 33 a year ago. Three years ago, the figure was nine and no higher than five before that.

Whereas:

Islamist extremists still form the largest category of terror prisoners, but at 183 last year the overall number has remained roughly flat since 2018 – meaning the proportion of far-right terror prisoners has increased to a record 18%.

‘The Old World is Dying and the New World Struggles to be Born.’ Call the midwife, Ireland needs a new left party. July 9, 2020

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Thanks to Shane Faherty for allowing this to be reposted. Much appreciated. Originally posted on

Modern Distortions Culture, society and history, at the beginning of the month.

 

In keeping with the spirit of our times, on Tuesday I watched an online ‘meeting’ with Paul Murphy TD of RISE (formerly of the Socialist Party/ Solidarity) and Brid Smith TD of People Before Profit. It was a virtual version of the public meeting that most of us on the left know, but may not necessarily love.

I wanted to know whether the new party being mooted was a runner and what form it would take. Paul’s organisation RISE have been making overtures to members of the Green Party who may be disillusioned with their party entering government with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. He argues that they should leave the party and, along with other groups on the left, launch a new party. Similarly, People Before Profit released a statement proposing the formation of a new left party. Another small group called Independent Left, many of whom are former PBP members, released a statement welcoming the move. The elephant in the room in all of this is that Rise and People Before Profit are part of a parliamentary grouping called Solidarity – People Before Profit. Solidarity have said nothing on all of this. Solidarity and People Before Profit operate a marriage of convenience for electoral and parliamentary purposes. Until last year, they were evenly matched electorally, with 3 TDS and just under 30 councillors each, based on significant gains made at the previous local and general elections. The local elections of 2019 reduced the numbers of councillors for each party. There were gains for Sinn Fein and the Greens, and this was an indication of things to come.

Background of Solidarity – People Before Profit

At the core of both Solidarity and PBP is another party. In essence, each of these parties is a party launched by a Trotskyist party to have a slightly broader appeal. Detractors often use the term Trot as a slur, but essentially a Trotskyist is just somebody who wishes the Soviet Union had been communist. PBP was launched by the Socialist Workers Party in 2005. The SWP had a long history of launching front organisations and everybody laughed at them. Surprising, however, PBP gained some traction and has many members who are not members of the SWP. In 2018 the SWP renamed itself the Socialist Workers Network in recognition of their role inside PBP. The SWP was part of an international organisation called the International Socialist Tendency. Most Marxist parties are members of international organisations, which reflects the view that socialism must be international.

The Socialist Party launched the Anti-Austerity Alliance out of the anti-water charges campaign. They later rebranded the AAA as Solidarity, in order to reflect a broader political remit. Initially Solidarity had many members who were not members of the Socialist Party, but this doesn’t seem to be the case any more. The Socialist Party was part of an international called the Committee for a Worker’s International (CWI). In 2019 there were a number of acrimonious splits in the CWI when the Socialist Party of England and Wales, a moribund and grey skinned organisation which was the tail that wagged the dog of the CWI, took umbrage at the Socialist Party of Ireland adopting a number of correct and successful positions. The awkward thing about the CWI was that a lot of member organisations were in countries that were former parts of the British Empire and the SPEW was used to bossing them around. Not so much international solidarity as cultural imperialism. The majority of sections sided with the Socialist Party of Ireland and in a bizarre twist of events, the minority faction kept the name CWI while the majority became the International Socialist Alternative, which is a much better name in fairness. A handful of Irish comrades inexplicably remained with the CWI and called themselves Militant Left.

Separately but simultaneously Paul Murphy left the Socialist Party and Solidarity and took a small group of people with him. They called themselves RISE and came to constitute a third component of Solidarity – People Before Profit. In the 2020 general election, PBP retained their three seats. Paul Murphy retained his seat as did Mick Barry of SP/Solidarity. Shockingly Ruth Coppinger lost hers. Sinn Fein and the Greens gained seats in her Dublin West Constituency at the expense of Solidarity and Labour (good riddance to Joan Burton though). Ruth Coppinger was a fantastic TD and activist who played pivotal role in repealing the Eighth Amendment and numerous other campaigns. The loss of her seat was bad not just for Solidarity but for the country.

Following his departure from the Socialist Party, Paul Murphy has cooperated more closely with People Before Profit, in particular since the last general election. That he and PBP are jointly launching this initiative without the Socialist Party is not surprising, although it is disappointing.

I am a former member of the Socialist Party

I am a former member of the Socialist Party and still support the party. I don’t agree with them on everything. I don’t agree with Paul Murphy on everything. I don’t agree with People Before Profit on everything. I do, however, agree with all of them on enough that I could be in the same party as all of them. Provided that party was democratically run and had clear and accountable structures and processes.

I wish parties on the left would spend as much time trying to keep members as they do trying to recruit members. There are thousands of people out there who are former members of the Socialist Party/Solidarity and SWP/PBP. These people joined for a reason and they left for a reason. You can’t dismiss their departure as a lack of ideological purity or commitment. You need to listen to your members. If people don’t feel their voices are heard inside an organisation they leave. The internal democracy of Irish left parties is deficient, but more than that, a culture tends to pervade where those who express an opinion that is different from the leadership don’t have their opinions heard. Instead it is explained to them why they are wrong. Let’s call this cadresplaining.

One point of difference I always had with the Socialist Party was that I never felt they did enough to bring about a new broad-based left-wing party, although they always claimed this was something that they believed in. Their argument was that such a project was doomed to failure unless the conditions were right. In the past 30 years we have had every set of conditions imaginable and yet somehow a new party has not magicked itself into existence. There comes a point where you must re-examine your strategy. That I hold this view won’t be news to anybody in the Socialist Party who knows me. However, I feel now more than ever that now they need to take the initiative and be proactive in launching a new party.

The new left – right divide in Irish politics           

We have heard a lot of talk about the sweeping changes in Irish politics. What is clear is that there is now a left – right divide in Irish politics that never existed before. That Fianna Fail and Fine Gael were not even able to assemble a simple majority between them is incredible. We may not have gotten a decent government this time but we are witnessing the death of the traditional two party system. The Labour Party, the traditional third wheel and fake left option are nearly obliterated as a result of their history of supporting austerity governments. The Greens have willed themselves out of existence by using their resurgence to prop up the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael government. It seems they have not only forgotten what happened the last time they went into government, they have forgotten what happened in the election afterward. Still, the number of votes they received shows people are concerned about environmental issues, and this on its own is not a bad thing. The opposition to the government then is Sinn Fein (a party which has attempted to evolve from being the political wing of an armed group into being a big tent left nationalist populist party), the Social Democrats (a party that models itself on Northern European social democratic parties without learning any of the history) and Solidarity – PBP. There are also a large number of independent TDs encompassing a broad range of views.

Sinn Fein surged in the last election, not because of their past but in spite of it. They ran on a left-wing programme and, even if everyone on the left knows they are not serious about implementing it, it resonated with voters and won them support. The Soc Dems also experienced a growth in support, but it was a long time coming and not quite as surprising. The socialist left must not only point out the failings of other parties, we must show we are better than them. And the socialist left has done this. With Repeal, with water charges and a myriad other campaigns the socialist left has shown it can have a profound impact on discourse and has succeeded in shifting the conversation in Ireland firmly to the left. It is not good enough that other parties are then able to take advantage of this groundwork. The socialist left has proved its capabilities in adversarial situations, now we must prove our capabilities in imagining and constructing a new political, social and economic reality.

What is necessary to succeed

A new left party must put forward a clear and unified message and fight a unified campaign. The arguments on minor points of policy can be had inside the party. With open and fair debates and democratic processes we can hash these topics out and come to agreement on a clear programme. The United Left Alliance of 2011 was a missed opportunity for the left but there are lessons to learn. There were no democratic structures and members of the ULA who were not members of the component organisations of the steering committee had no say in the organisation. Clare Daly’s gravitation away from the ULA and the Socialist Party opened up fissures for which there was no recourse for a resolution. Any new party has to have new structures and new leadership. If the Socialist Party don’t join the new party it will just be an expanded PBP and this would not be ideal. This could lead to its failure or alternately, it could be a roaring success and the Socialist Party will find themselves eclipsed.

The Socialist Party is right that a new party is meaningless if it only comprises the usual suspects. A new party must attract thousands of new members to be successful. But in order to do this it must first exist. The Socialist Party must engage with PBP and Rise and any other groups or individuals to launch a party that is pluralistic but socialist and secular. That sets out a clear anticapitalist programme for elections but also engages in grass roots struggles. That fights against racism, sexism homophobia, transphobia and all forms of bigotry. That fights against the destruction of our planet for the sake of profit. That situates all of these struggles in the fight for socialism. There is a definite space here for Solidarity – PBP to launch a new party and potentially win thousands of supporters. They have an advantage in that they are already in the public view and have been the clearest voices advocating socialism in Ireland. A party launched by Solidarity – PBP  could win back former members of its constituent organisations, defectors from the Greens or Sinn Fein, perhaps some left wing independents and their supporters, those who already identify as left but are not in any party and more importantly young people and workers who have never been politically active as they never felt any party represented them.

Jeremy Corbyn’s success in winning the leadership the British Labour Party and Bernie Sanders campaign for the Democratic Party nomination show that where a clear left-wing position is articulated it can win massive support. However, they also show that where the right is strong inside a party they would rather surrender power and ruin the party than hand control to the left. The media of course were complicit in attacks on Sanders and Corbyn in particular, but each was limited by trying to work inside a party where there was massive resistance to change.

In Britain or America it is nigh on impossible for a third party to break through as people fear that voting further to the left will throw their vote away and benefit the right. Ireland has an electoral system that encourages pluralism, even though we did have a de facto two party system for years. The left are not tied to a larger party in order to guarantee success. Proportional Representation Single Transferable Vote means that people have nothing to lose by voting left as, if their first choice does not win, their vote goes to their second choice etc. In addition, the fact that coalitions are commonplace means you do not have to convince people you will win the most seats in order to justify them voting for you. You just need to make it clear who you would and would not go into coalition with and under what circumstances. A new Irish left party could act as a magnet for left wing support in the manner Corbyn or Sanders did, but be unencumbered by having to work inside a compromised establishment party. Elections are only part of what is necessary in order to defeat attacks on the working class and ultimately win socialism, but engaging in them is an important part of the struggle.

However, there are a range of parties looking for support on the left. If the socialist left look like they are more interested in long winded debates on minor points of policy than attaining power, you can hardly blame people if they decide to hold their noses and vote for Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein after all looked serious about taking power. Yes, only socialism can deliver the changes necessary to satisfy the material demands of the many, deliver equality to the oppressed and halt the destruction of the planet. Other parties who claim to be left promise change but will always capitulate to the demands of capitalists, but if we haven’t looked like we are serious in winning support for socialism, we can only blame ourselves when we fail. It is time that the socialist left gave the Irish people the option of a cohesive left-wing party and this has to happen soon. By the time the next election comes the space will have closed if the left aren’t organised Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats will have taken their support.

I hope a new left part comes into existence, because that is the party I want to join. If, like me, you are an independent socialist who would like to examine ways to make this happen please feel free to get in touch.

Non-compliant… July 8, 2020

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The psychology of the pandemic is intriguing, isn’t it? Take the last batch of CSO figures a week or so back:

Some 59.9 per cent of respondents rated their compliance with Government advice on staying safe, including on social distancing, as “high” in June, down from 80.6 per cent in April.

Compliance fell across all age groups, with the largest drop among those aged between 45 and 54 – from 78 per cent in April to 51.5 per cent this month. The smallest decrease was in the over 70s group, where the rate fell from 83 per cent in April to 71.4 per cent.

But:

At the same time almost half (47.7 per cent) of respondents are “very” or “extremely” concerned about other people’s compliance, with women most likely to be so concerned (52.0 per cent compared with 43.2 per cent of men).

The youngest respondents, aged 18 to 34, were most likely to have “extreme” concern about how others are observing the rules (19.9 per cent) and this decreases up the age groups.

Odd too the attitudes to health impacts on oneself or others.

Younger respondents were most likely to worry about someone else’s health, with 23.3 per cent of 18 to 34-year olds “extremely” concerned, compared with 11.9 per cent of those aged 55 to 69.

Concern about personal health during the pandemic is decreasing – though not among women. Some 25.8 per cent of men and women reported being “very” or “extremely” concerned about their own health in April, but this fell to 21.3 per cent in June. The proportion of men concerned fell from 28 per cent to 17 per cent, but among women it increased from 23.7 per cent to 25.4 per cent.

Of course that could be explicable by the sense that the overall danger is less than it was in late March and April. But clearly the sense of a need to remain compliant with guidelines is now detached from the sense of a future threat of a second surge, and that’s telling.

Then there’s the world of work…

Almost a fifth (18.5 per cent) of respondents were “very” or “extremely” worried about their employer’s ability to provide a safe working environment when they return and this was far more pronounced among women (24 per cent) than men (12.7 per cent).

For myself, still remote working and likely to do so for a while yet, I’d actually be cautiously positive about my own workplace. But I’d be seriously worried about other people’s.

July edition of Socialist Voice July 8, 2020

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The July edition of Socialist Voice is now available online.

A range of areas covered including:

Sacrificing workers to get their economy open by Dorian Ó Seanáin

National liberation: The United States and Ireland by Seán Ó Maoltuile

New “Programme for Government”: a new three-party government with the same old policies by National Executive Committee, CPI

Book reviews, commentary and more.

Dog whistle? July 8, 2020

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This was drawn to my attention by FW, the photograph of the stage at Mount Rushmore where President Trump gave a 4th of July speech that was received with less than whole-hearted enthusiasm.

As was pointed out to me, there’s something oddly ante-bellum about the look of it. Perhaps it is the white stars on a blue field, but also the decorative pillar-like lines that frame them.

What you want to say – 8 July 2020 July 8, 2020

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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Contempt and pity… July 7, 2020

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Thought this by Kenan Malik in the Observer is well judged. He writes about how:

…[in the late 1960s] the Tory leader, Edward Heath, drove through the north-east of England. “If I lived here,” he remarked to a friend, as Dominic Sandbrook recounts in his book White Heat, “I wouldn’t vote for Harold Wilson. And I wouldn’t vote for myself either.” “Who would you vote for?” asked his friend. “Robespierre,” Heath replied.

But he notes that:

It’s a reminder that many of the themes that dominate British politics today – the cleavage between London and the provinces, the chasm between the working class and the elite, the contempt and pity for the “left behind” – run deep into our political history.

I can’t look at Dominic Cummings without seeing that admixture of attitudes. And similarly with many Tories, though Cummings famously doesn’t consider himself a Tory and has never been a member of the party.

One can overdo the issue of disconnects between ‘elites’ and the working class, both terms being open to prodding at to destruction. But Malik notes too that this last week:

…the academic research initiative The UK in a Changing Europe published a study showing how both Labour and the Tories are out of touch with their voters, though in different ways. Tory MPs are well to the right of the electorate on economic matters. Tory voters are closer to Labour MPs on such issues than to Conservative ones.

Labour MPs are far more liberal than the electorate when it comes to social values. On some questions, Labour voters seem more conservative than Tory MPs.

This “values gap” has engaged much debate in recent years, especially in response to Labour’s faltering fortunes. The party, many argue, needs to rein back its cultural liberalism, seen as the mark of the metropolitan elite, and adopt a more conservative tone to attract back its lost voters.

But if that seems to suggest a tilt back to ‘traditional’ approaches on social matters by the left… well, Malik suggests caution. As he notes already Britain is socially ‘highly liberal’. Rather he notes:

The debate about social values today is really about two distinct kinds of issue. The first relates to questions of history and identity, such as the controversy over statues. The second, the issues at the heart of the “values gap” report, are concerns linked to a sense of community – crime, discipline or patriotism, for example.

And while he posits this in the context of statues…whereby those who are for equal pay and against racial discrimination but against removing statues can hardly be easily termed ‘illiberal’…to me this seems very familiar by looking a little further back, perhaps to some supporters of the BLP in the past who would be a broad mix of different attitudes and approaches – patriotic, support for police, etc, and yet in favour of economic policies arguably well to the left of where the centre of gravity is today and has been for decades. This isn’t contradiction so much as different dynamics intertwining. For Malik the change is one of ‘values’ rather than material issues, with class politics moving from the latter to a role of class division underpinned by the former. That it is in that former area that people now position themselves. Yet that too is a simplification I would hazard. Material conditions remain hugely problematic. Where does one start in listing them? Perhaps another way of looking at this is that the very real deprivation, sense of alienation and so on that is evident in the UK (Malik for example doesn’t mention ten years of Tory austerity, though he should) is sidelined by those for whom emphasis on ‘values’ is on occasion an expedient means of ignoring them.

That too is part of a process of contempt and pity.

Wishful thinking July 7, 2020

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Was reading a number of pieces in the media that exhibit a newfound caution about the pandemic and the reopening. Perhaps that is due to the scenes in Dublin at the weekend, perhaps due to the rising cases in a variety of places that have ‘reopened’ – one thinks of Catalonia, Australia (this from there about how a cigarette lighter was part of the process of introducing a second wave is chilling), and now Israel where comprehensive lock-downs have been reintroduced in the face of the sheer tenacious hold the virus exhibits, as well as a propensity to spread rapidly. None of this was a surprise, none of it unexpected.

Now, one will read that:

People who go to pubs and fail to keep social distancing, as witnessed in some parts of Dublin over the weekend, could force the Government to delay the full reopening of pubs on July 20th, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned.

And:

“As you know the full opening was to take place on July 20th … it could be delayed if they don’t behave. We will get advice from the public health officials but we are worried about it,” he said.
“Some of the scenes that we witnessed are very worrying because social distancing was not being complied with at all during a number of the inspections and the opening hours weren’t being adhered to either.”

That last is near-risible. Of course they weren’t being complied with. And in a full re-opening? At least Martin seems to grasp one essential truth:

“The only way we can get the economy back is if we keep the community transmission of the virus down. We don’t need a second wave – a second wave would be a disaster for the country in terms of the finances.”

Though a better framing would be we can’t get the society back if we don’t keep community transmission of the virus down.

And finally the last week has brought caution about international travel.

“We have to put public health first. That is the overarching issue.
“Today the Cabinet will meet and make a formal decision on travel. We had a Cabinet sub-committee on Covid on Friday. The public health advice is extremely cautious now in relation to opening up for travel.”
He said the Government is drawing up a green list of countries, which the government believes it is safe to visit, but he cited the example of how volatile the issue is as evidence by recent surges in the US and Catalonia.
“We have countries that would have made the safe list two weeks ago wouldn’t make it today so the overarching objective is to suppress the virus and keep it down. There is a fear international travel could reignite the virus.”

But perhaps his framing of the issue is deliberate – a shot across the bows of industries that are demanding reopening despite the fact that it will be the state that pays the bill for an ensuing second wave.

Mr Martin said it was vital that Ireland continues to suppress the virus as a second surge would be disastrous for the country given that it has already cost the state something in the region of €25 billion plus in terms of supports.

What is telling, though, is the manner in which the media has tended to report matters in the past month and a half. It was as if psychologically many in it seemed unable to fully appreciate the scale of what has and continues to happen and therefore had decided that simple efforts of will could somehow change matters. That this was dovetailed with business interests is perhaps no surprise either.
Take Jennifer O’Connell’s piece late last week where she clearly suggested that teachers are the equivalent of health care workers.

Teachers should be given PPE, and those who are medically vulnerable should be allowed to stay home and teach remotely.
In reality, there are lots of sectors getting on perfectly well by applying common sense to social distancing, and none of them have magical immunity either. Healthcare workers didn’t threaten to strike when they had to go to work in a place where social distancing isn’t possible – they put on their PPE and went straight into the frontline. Hairdressers strapped on their visors and masks and got enthusiastically back to work this week. Home care workers, GPs, public transport drivers, retail workers have been working throughout.

The problem with the argument, such as it is, above is that all the areas she namechecks (putting aside the sheer absurdity of comparing HCW’s with teachers or others, given the very specific nature of their role and the environments within which they work), such as hairdressers, are practising significantly altered workplace routines designed to prevent or minimise social contact. O’Connell however appears to believe that that same approach shouldn’t apply to teachers and that schools should return as normal – that after all is the import of her appeal to ‘reopen schools to all students every day’. But that’s precisely the problem. One cannot practice social distancing in that context of full reopening.

I hold no brief for teachers. I’ve seen some fantastic work in relation to contact with school children during the crisis from many, some not so fantastic work from others. Nor am I convinced by the concept of ‘blended’ teaching. Having seen that practice up close I’m not sure it functions well at primary or in some secondary level contexts. I’m keen for the creature to return to primary school. But not necessarily today or tomorrow. Six or seven weeks in the future, all being well more broadly, sounds about right. Of course this is not to ignore those for whom the current context is hugely difficult where childcare may be an impossibility. And the resources to mitigate that issue need to be in place.

But I have two problems with O’Connell’s argument. One is that it is one that weakens the rights to health and safety of all workers by leaving teachers in a worse position than the categories of workers she reverences. That none too exemplary effect played out across the economy – and it will be – is not one that I’d like to see.

The other problem is that her argument seems one that ignores the basic reality of what we are all experiencing – an unprecedented crisis. And in that sense it appears to dovetail with the point I make above re the sheer lack of ability amongst some to realise that everything is going to be different – possibly for many years to come.

Martin at least makes a solid argument that there can be no return to schools if there’s a second surge. And indeed he prioritises that former:

“To me, the two immediate priorities on the Covid side are to get our schools safely open and get as many schools fully open as possible, and that will take up a lot of effort over the next number of weeks,” he said.
“If, for example, there was to be a spike over the next number of weeks, that could jeopardise that objective.”

But perhaps we need someone in government, a Taoiseach would do, to come out and say some home truths about the situation. That everything is going to be different. That there is unlikely to be a return to the status quo ante.

That if there is a surge the constraints we are currently experiencing will likely persist and ones that have been loosened may well return. And this will happen again and again, short of significant controls on entry to this state, and/or the quashing of the virus in the community. That point about Australia and the renewed outbreak in Victoria?

[the] outbreaks have stalled the reopening of state borders, undercut plans to create travel bubbles with other countries, and forced 300,000 people back into lockdown…authorities said that people in the 10 worst-affected postal codes would be confined to their homes, except for essential travel, for the next four weeks in an effort to stop the virus’s spread. International flights have been diverted from Melbourne, a city of almost five million people, and an inquiry has been opened into breaches in quarantine protocols. Officials continued door-knocking and blitz-testing efforts, warning that if residents did not comply, the whole state of Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous, could be affected.

As noted in the IT:

Before the Victoria outbreaks, the country was recording just a handful of new cases each week, and it had begun easing restrictions with the goal of reopening the country by the end of July.

Yet just this morning we have a remarkably vague piece in the IT from Dr Jack Lambert, professor of medicine and infectious diseases, Mater and UCD School of Medicine, that argues against controlling inflows into the state…apparently in no small part on the grounds that curtailing travel abroad by the Irish on holidays amounts to damaging mental health.

Avoiding international travel whenever possible is always good advice. But to tell people to cancel their summer holidays and only take holidays in Ireland is a step too far. Will preventing travel result in us suppressing Covid-19 when we have ongoing circulation of the virus in Ireland in those who have never travelled?

But that’s not like and like, given that suppression of the virus in Ireland has been so relatively successful compared to all other European states. The piece continues by titling towards a sort of almost libertarian right argument:

Some of my colleagues have used the term “leisure holiday” to mean something that is “bad” – but “essential travel” as acceptable. It is not that simple. We all have personal freedom and with that freedom comes personal responsibility

Go on:

I need time away and a holiday myself (it’s been tough for us all) and I would do everything at all stages of my Scottish holiday to conduct “Covid prevention” safely. People are travelling, and we should be ensuring safe travel, not chastising those who wish to travel and deciding what is okay and what is not. It is the personal responsibility of every Irish citizen who chooses to travel to make sure they do so safely.

And:

So what are the consequences if we continue with lockdown and isolation? Our mental health will suffer, our economy will suffer, and our non-coronavirus-related health will suffer. We cannot afford to delay further, we must make the best decisions based on the new reality. Our airports need to reopen and scale up safely, our airlines need to restart and all of the services that support the travel industry need to restart. We need to do it cautiously, both inside and outside Ireland. So face coverings, hand-washing and social distancing when possible are the new mantra for the immediate and maybe long-term future.

But this seems a strange analysis given how the virus entered Ireland in the first place. And again as with the examples quoted above it seems oddly blind to the realities of the virus and a pandemic. Simply put there are things that are now luxuries, possibly not to be returned to for quite some time. And it seems a doubly bizarre analysis, particularly in relation to the economy and the urgings that things ‘restart’ given the very latest examples of states going back into shutdown due to increasing cases. It appears that ‘living with the virus’ and trying to achieve a normality doesn’t actually work.

The constraints of the past three months and the gains won have been hard fought and can, as evidenced by Australia, be lost again all too rapidly. Loosening restrictions is justifiable and necessary but at a pace that matches the medical advice.

There’s a piece in the IT entitled ‘how can rural towns recover after Covid-19’. We’re nowhere near ‘after’ yet. That’s a message that needs to be stated again and again.

Afternoon grilling… July 7, 2020

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Today’s the day. Micheál Martin faces…

…his first round of questions in the Dáil today when the House resumes this afternoon.

Presumably not quite the day he envisaged even a week ago given that:

Later this evening, Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen will make a statement in the Dáil outlining the circumstances around the ban for drink-driving he received in 2016.

This by the way is appalling and no surprise to see some of the usual suspects at the heart of matters:

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman says he has become the victim of a “far-right social media pile-on” by groups using misinformation to play on concerns about child protection issues.
Speaking following a week of social media attacks on his views around the age of consent, and accusations of associating with an alleged “paedophile apologist”, Mr O’Gorman said the protection of the most vulnerable remained his “central” focus as a politician.

And he has more than a point when he argues:

…there was a definite homophobic element to the abuse he was receiving and that his predecessor Katherine Zappone had been subjected to similar attacks for being gay and because she didn’t have children. The Green Party Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu has also been subjected to online attacks around race, said Mr O’Gorman.

Social distancing and alcohol… July 6, 2020

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Who would have thought it? What a surprise!

Drunk people are unable to properly socially distance, the chairman of the British Police Federation has said as pubs reopened in England for the first time since lockdown.

John Apter said it was “crystal clear” revellers would not adhere to the one metre plus rule as restrictions were eased yesterday.

Not that scenes in Dublin were exactly heartening at the weekend.

The lack of social distancing in large crowds socialising over the weekend on Dame Lane in Dublin city centre presented an “ugly image” for the city, the head of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has said.
The problem was “separate” to the reopening of pubs that can operate as restaurants, and related to “street drinking,” Donall O’Keeffe, LVA chief executive said.
Video footage circulating on social media showed a large crowd socialising and drinking on Dame Lane, with some playing live music, and little adherence to two metre social distancing rules.

Some might say that the reification of pub ‘reopenings’ by the media and business interests in the past month or so has a lot to do with it.

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