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A Peculiar Society? Ireland, 1970s – 1990s March 5, 2015

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Many thanks to the person who sent the above. Programme here:

Programme_Peculiar_Society_2015-03-04 Final version

ISPC Israeli Apartheid Week… March 5, 2015

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Who’s the base? Business is the base! March 5, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
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Speaking of the SBP editorial, one can’t accuse it of not knowing its base:

Slowly, surely, there has been a growing clamour among unions and employee representative groups for employers to undo the purges of the downturn and restore pay and conditions. The government has established a low-pay commission to examine the appropriateness of the minimum wage, while the state is also in the process of bringing back a watered down version of social partnership. The CSO is already reporting the first increase in ordinary salaries for four years, as the jobless rate dropped close to 10 per cent.

And:

Many employers now feel that they are being pushed into pay rises they simply cannot afford. As the European Commission pointed out in a significant report last week, Ireland’s public finances remain on a knife edge, and the government is in danger of missing agreed deficit targets. Put bluntly, the economic recovery remains extremely fragile and could be undone by significant wage hikes.

How odd to compare and contrast with the rhetoric from elsewhere in the paper about the ‘recovery’ and how it is undeniable and so on.

Those water protesters – eh? March 5, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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The SBP editorial is in fine form this last week as it complains that ‘water protestors are out of touch’. It berates Labour for having an anti-water charges position in 2011 given that the troika had insisted on them as part of the bailout.

But imagine that the government had decided to duck such a difficult decision. It is safe to assume that the water system with its 19th century pipes, creaking water treatment plants and raw sewage discharges into our seas and rivers would continue to decline even further.
In such a scenario, water shortages would be inevitable, EU fines would be even heavier and the ability to attract further water-intensive multinationals such as Intel would be severely restricted. Labour and Fine Gael would be rightly condemned for failing to plan for the future.

But why is that the way matters should proceed? Why shouldn’t the government have done what the government had done previously, which is fund water supply out of general taxation? And frankly, given the contortions in respect of the current incarnation one has to wonder how some face-saving approach couldn’t have been crafted regarding reimbursements or so on in relation to the supposed inevitability of the troika’s demands.

The editorial complains about the leakage and suggests that people would be marching in the streets over that eventually. Perhaps so, though I’m not convinced. That may be a bad thing, but it’s difficult to blame people for addressing causes that impact on them more clearly and financially than otherwise.

Do the anti-water charge protesters gathered in Killarney recognise any of this? Or are they lulled by a sense of Irish exceptionalism – that we can somehow fix our water system while being virtually the only country in the EU which does not pay any water charges?

This point too, that somehow because water charges are found elsewhere that means they’re self-evidently the correct way forward, is unconvincing. Moreover one doesn’t find the SBP arguing for a large range of other measures that are found in much of the EU – certain forms of union recognition being a good example, simply because they’re the norm. Anything but, as we know. Irish exceptionalism cuts many ways.

Still, it’s when it goes further that there’s a sense of just how, well, parochial much of the complaints sound:

Regardless of this, the anti-water charge protesters are entitled to voice their opinions. They are also entitled to vote for change at the ballot box in the next general election. But a minority of anti-water charge protesters have shown no respect for the democratic process.
Councillors have been prevented from leaving their meeting in Fingal in Dublin and prevented from holding one at all in Cork. Tánaiste Joan Burton has been hit with a water balloon and trapped in her car for two hours. President Michael D Higgins has been the target of abusive comments.

The two hours was unnecessary, but… really, this riot and revolution this is not. Not in any meaningful sense. A water balloon is evidence of ‘no respect for the democratic process’? That’s risible. There’s no end of theatre in protests on all sides. But the rather banal truth is that no one is going to get intentionally, or most likely accidentally, hurt in these. That would be a short-cut to their being delegitimised, and everyone knows this. There’s no question that it can be inconvenient (though curiously hauliers and others making inconvenient protests don’t attract the same level of criticism or the stuff about… well, read on), and there’s also no question that rhetoric has been heated, absurdly so in many instances, the stuff directed at Higgins was fairly pointless and irrelevant – and counter-productively so in some small number. Nor is there any real sense that – in relation say to Council meetings, that there’s any real impediment upon them. They progress as usual almost all the time.

Water meter installers have been attacked, insulted and followed home. This is not peaceful protest – it is mob rule.

It really isn’t. Firstly the writ of the state continues to run across the state. The forces of the state are able to implement their will. So on and so forth. It might be mob rule if the state became ungovernable, but is there any evidence of same? Of course not.

The editorial does give a few lashes to the government about Irish Water before returning to its favoured theme:

But there is no getting away from the fact that the water service is not going to be improved without water charges. The current rate is among the lowest in Europe, due to the government U-turn prompted by last year’s massive protests.
When they put away their forest of placards after the Labour conference in Killarney, the anti-water charge protesters should think long and hard about moving on to a more worthy cause.

I think that that sums up the sheer detachment some are in a position to feel in relation to all this. The protests are symptomatic of a broader anger and anxiety about austerity – explicitly so.

Late in the day, one would have thought… March 4, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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Clare Labour TD Michael McNamara is to introduce a bill in the Dáil tomorrow to allow for the termination of pregnancies in cases involving fatal foetal abnormalities.

He’s not wrong on one thing:

Mr McNamara said he supported the party’s position but he added the onus was to legislate for the current situation.

But as if to forestall the inevitable (and justifiable) criticism:

Labour rejected independent socialist Clare Daly’s bill on numerous occasions as it believed it was unconstitutional.

Mr McNamara said his bill was more restrictive.

Well. Late in the day? Too little too late more like. And a whiff of a certain something too, come to think of it. What’s the term, expedience, self-serving… something like that.

Truth in the news… March 4, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
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This strikes me as utterly misleading. A report in the Guardian today on support for UKIP amongst Generation Y.

The headline?

Election 2015: support for Ukip among Gen Y voters doubles in a year

And the subhead?

Think younger voters don’t like Nigel Farage? Think again – Ukip is polling nearly as well as the Green party and is almost level with the Lib Dems

It starts:

Support for the Conservatives among younger voters born after 1980 dropped by a fifth last year, according to polling data provided to the Guardian by Ipsos Mori.

And continues:

However, the principal beneficiary of the fall in Tory support has not been Labour – traditionally the most popular party with 18-34-year-olds –but Ukip, which has seen its own poll rating among younger voters more than double in the past year.

So what stunning range of support does UKIP have?

While the Conservatives’ support fell from 20.5% to 15.6%, Ukip has seen support among so-called Generation Y voters increase from 2.4% to 5.5%.

That’s right. 5.5%. The Guardian suggests that:

Significantly, Ukip is polling close to the Green party, among an age group where the party would expect to do far better.

And how much is that support for the GP?

Support for the Greens, who are led by Natalie Bennett, has nearly doubled over the last year, from 3.7% to 6.9%.

But much more prosaically we discover that:

Labour also has seen its support tumble, according to Ipsos Mori, with its share going from 33.9% in 2013 to 26.2% last year

So let’s get this right. UKIP and the GP between them barely have 11 or 12 %. The Tories are on 15.6% and the LP on 26%.

I think we can safely suggest that Generation Y isn’t exactly seduced en masse by the the charms of UKIP.

That ‘rate of inequality’… a social democrat writes. March 4, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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I was almost entertained by Pat Rabbitte’s sterling defence of Ireland as having a ‘rate of inequality below the average in the European Union’. Almost because it’s so self-serving on his part… It comes as part of a counter-critique to Eoin Ó Broin who wrote in the SBP the previous week about the topic. Rabbitte can’t resist a few digs at SF:

While Labour pins its hope on tackling inequality by getting as many people as possible back to work, Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin in this paper last Sunday sees inequality as a pathway to electoral advancement for Sinn Féin. The evidence suggests that Sinn Féin has done well from austerity.

Well, no more or less so, presumably than the LP did in advance of 2011 from its anti-troika stance (and just on that David McKittrick in Prospect Magazine on the rise of SF notes that it’s not its policies on the North that has gained it support but its broad anti-austerity approach. There’s a lesson there for that party). But of course one must immediately forget any such unpleasantness.

Anyhow, in order to rebut Ó Broin’s thoughts yet further he writes;

I agree with Ó Broin that “inequality is not an accident”, but a “direct consequence of policy choices”. But he conveniently overlooks that because of policy choices made by this government, Ireland is a more equal society than the average EU member state.
There are two ways of measuring inequality. The first is to look at the distribution of income generated by the market – in other words, the income people have before they are taxed or receive welfare payments. The second measure of inequality is what people have in disposable income after taxes and welfare transfers. Clearly the second measure is the truest test of how a country tackles inequality, because it shows the extent to which a country taxes those with wealth to redistribute it to those with none.

Which leads him to this:

In Ireland, the distribution of income generated by the market is quite unequal. But it is utterly transformed by the impact of the Irish tax and welfare system. After the impact of taxes and transfers is taken into account, the rate of inequality of disposable income in Ireland is below the average in the European Union.

Now on reading that the thought struck me that that’s all very fine but he’s talking about a state which lacks many of the props of other European states that have – for example, functioning health services or other broad social supports which impacts disproportionately on those on lower incomes, and on the disposable part of those lower incomes (Michael Taft points to France for evidence of same…). And funnily enough I’m not the only one to think that. Read TASC’s ‘Cherishing All Equally’, their report released a short while ago and they explicitly note that:

Lower taxes and higher disposable incomes do not necessarily make people better off, as a greater number of goods and services have to paid for as out-of-pocket costs rather than provided as public services. Unlike public services, the prices of private goods and services are rarely subsidised, which can make them more expensive. In addition, lower tax revenue for public services leads to a wide range of costs and fees being imposed in addition to taxation, such as GP fees, schoolbook costs, road tolls, waste charges and water charges. While there are arguments in favour of some charges (especially if kept to a low level), the overall system in Ireland is too heavily weighted in favour of fees and charges, which makes it regressive for people on low incomes who often cannot afford them. (pp78 TASC)

And moreover:

Although people on low to average income levels pay relatively less tax and social insurance than most of their European counterparts, the combination of fees for public services and the range of goods and services that have to be purchased privately takes a greater proportion of people’s disposable income. In many cases, this system takes all of people’s incomes without meeting all of their basic material needs. (pp78 TASC)

In other words Rabbitte is incorrect to focus on disposable income after tax as if that’s the final word in the discussion.

But then one has to have at least a part suspicion that he’s being, shall we say, economical with the facts on all that when one reads him immediately after the thoughts quoted above present us with the following trope:

In other words, there is less inequality in Ireland than in the average EU member state because of the policy choices taken by government to protect people against poverty. This reflects the impact of one of the most progressive income tax and social welfare systems in Europe.

How many times must it be pointed out that the progressive nature (in the technical sense of the term – something that other LP TDs on occasion haven’t actually seemed to understand is a technical term, not a value judgement) the income tax system is rendered much less so when placed in context with the entirely non-progressive (in a technical sense) nature of VAT etc. Indeed, speaking of other taxes as we were only a moment ago above, he could take a look at the new charges including the LPT (which has a nod towards progressive taxation, but only a nod) and the water charges which doesn’t in the slightest, and with no less an authority as Sean Barrett – and no friend of the left he – arguing that it is a de facto poll tax. Nor is the line about the supposed ‘most progressive income tax and social welfare system’ necessarily stand up even on its own terms. TASC again:

It is also important to note that Ireland’s high progressivity score (as measured by the OECD) is a result of having low taxes on low incomes rather than particularly high taxes on high incomes.
The OECD’s measurement of progressivity does not take account of many tax credits and reliefs available in Ireland (other than the basic personal credits) and, as such, they represent nominal and not real tax levels.

Oops. But he lingers not at all on any of the unpleasant implications of anything like that. Nor, indeed, do any of the LP cheerleaders sent out over the last week or so to tell us how marvellous the current government is and how we live in all but a utopia when it comes to tax and welfare which presumably could hardly be improved at all. Yet again I must remind myself that some of these folk were once Marxists. Or at least they said they were.

From there we’re into boilerplate complaints about Fianna Fáil’s iniquities and how the people- the bastards! – aren’t recognising Labour’s adherence to ‘increased social welfare spending’, indeed he explicitly mentions that ‘Of the cumulative €30 billion in budget adjustments since 2008, about €20 billion has been allocated to reducing the deficit, but almost €10 billion has been allocated to increased social welfare spending’. Very good, but how much of that was the inevitable outcome of greater expenditure required due to massive unemployment? We are not told.

And then there’s this:

What is not in dispute is that those measures, unpalatable as they may have been, worked. The employment figures are testament to the success of the government’s economic and jobs policies. The next election will be fought against a background of a strongly growing economy. But will the dividend come in time to benefit Labour?

I know, given the week that is in it there’s been a lot of stuff about the LP on here, but more and more the logic of what he and others say is such that one has to wonder what particular special element does he think that party brings to the table? Because at best he presents an apologia for a very mild softening of an FG approach. And at worst? Well, what’s the point? The sense of defeat, of a throwing up of the hands in the face of what are admittedly huge problems, or perhaps worse, a sense that they must be tolerated, even accepted, so that we must take unquestioningly the idea that Ireland is now such an epitome of social and equality policy that anything the hated Shinners might say to the contrary is simply mischief making, is surely signal of something that is almost detached from politics as most of us would understand the term?

Their masters voice… March 4, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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IBEC wants lower taxes in next Budget.

Whatever you say sir:

Recovery allows for income tax cuts, says Tánaiste

What you want to say – 4th March 2015 March 4, 2015

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

‘Margaret Thatcher and the BBC’s Irish Troubles': Irish Studies Seminar at NUI Galway, Thursday March 5th March 3, 2015

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The next Irish Studies Seminar at NUI Galway will take place on Thursday 5 March when
Prof Robert Savage will present ‘Margaret Thatcher and the BBC’s Irish Troubles’. Margaret Thatcher was one of the most dominant yet divisive political figures in post-war Britain.

As Prime Minister she introduced massive cuts in public spending, challenged then crushed the powerful coal miners union, led a successful military campaign to win back the Falkland Islands and confronted the IRA during the 1981 Hunger Strikes.

Throughout her tenure as Prime Minister her relationship with the BBC was fractious and marred by seemingly endless controversy. Margaret Thatcher was determined to win the ‘propaganda war’ unfolding in Northern Ireland and was convinced the BBC was undermining her efforts to defeat terrorism by providing its supporters the ‘oxygen of publicity’.

As violence continued to bedevil the province she grew increasingly upset with her government’s inability to control the contested narrative of ‘the Troubles’. This lecture will consider how a number of broadcasting controversies led a frustrated Thatcher Government to introduce formal political censorship in 1988.

Robert Savage is Associate Professor of the Practice of History at Boston College. Manchester University Press will publish his new book, The BBC’s Irish Troubles: Television, Conflict and Northern Ireland in May. He is also the author of A Loss of Innocence? Television and Irish Society 1960-1972, (winner of the 2010 James S. Donnelly, Sr. Prize for Best Book in History and Social Sciences from the American Conference for Irish Studies), Sean Lemass: a biography (2014 and 1999), Irish Television: the Political and Social Origins (1996) and Ireland in the New Century, Politics, Identity and Culture (editor and contributing author, 2003).

The seminar will take place at 4.00pm in the seminar room at Martha Fox House, Distillery Rd and we look forward to seeing you all there.

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