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Signs of Hope – A continuing series September 18, 2020

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

Arms Crisis… even more… September 18, 2020

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Here’s a review by Brian Hanley of Michael Heney’s The Arms Crisis of 1970 – The Plot That Never Was, mentioned yesterday in a post. The conclusion of which is that:

[the] book is a readable and at times forensic account of the minutiae of arguments and counter-arguments around the Arms Crisis. But those seeking an understanding of why the North provoked such upheaval in southern politics will have to look elsewhere.

September issue of Socialist Voice September 18, 2020

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The September issue of Socialist Voice is now available online: https://socialistvoice.ie/


Capitalism is the virus

1st September 2020 by Jimmy Doran

The global coronavirus pandemic has exposed the crass nature of the capitalist system. In the early days, the so-called developed world hijacked, stole and diverted entire shipments of personal protective equipment; America purchased the entire global stock of the important covid-19 drug Remdesivir; more than a thousand people on the […]

The end of the neoliberal social contract

1st September 2020 by Dónal Ó Coisdealbha

A strange thing happened in OECD countries between the 1970s and 2008: economic growth rates that looked poor on paper compared with the 1950s and 60s seemed to be boosted dramatically by a massive subsidy, somehow hidden from all national accounts statistics. That subsidy, it turns out, was cheap labour […]

Covid, care homes, and direct provision

1st September 2020 by Raymond Ó Dubhghaill

Covid-19 continues to wreak its ill-effects around the globe. Here in Ireland, as in many capitalist countries, the most vulnerable in society have been hardest hit by the virus. In addition to the scandal of the meat-processing plants in the midlands, which saw the pro-business, anti-worker 26-county government “lock down” […]

Power to the working people

1st September 2020 by Tommy McKearney

Robert Owen, the nineteenth-century philanthropist, was by any standard a decent sort of bloke. He believed workers should be treated compassionately and that they deserved a reasonable standard of living. In fact he went a step further and attempted to build ideal societies in different countries, including one at Ralahine […]

Capitalist agriculture and the culling of small farms

1st September 2020 by Ewan MacDonald and Graeme Power

Capital accumulation is one outcome of the irrational motor that drives our economic system. This is no less true for the agricultural sector than it is for industry. As capitalist production advances over time we witness a greater and greater accumulation of capital in fewer and fewer hands. Let’s consider […]

Housing for students

1st September 2020 by Belfast branch of the Connolly Youth Movement

In 2019 there were 37,859 applicants on the social housing list in the north of Ireland. 26,387 of those were deemed to be in priority need of housing, described as housing stress; 74 per cent of those were considered officially homeless. These grim statistics are compounded by the fact that […]

Venezuela’s struggle against covid-19

1st September 2020 by Paul Dobson

How can it be that Venezuela, a country that is so terribly battered by an imperialist blockade, nearly a decade of underinvestment, frequent examples of bad decision-making, wide-reaching corruption and technical brain drain, in addition to recent neo-liberal and anti-worker economic policies, including privatisation and asset-stripping, is managing to keep […]

The IRA and the Nazis

1st September 2020 by Brian Hanley

In July 1940, after the fall of France and with a German invasion of Britain seeming imminent, the IRA leadership explained their attitude to the war in a public statement. In it they made it clear that if German forces arrived in Ireland they would come “as friends and liberators […]

Schools should reopen when it’s safe to do so

1st September 2020 by Jimmy Doran

Covid-19 did not cause overcrowding in schools, but it has exposed it. Schools are reopening with up to thirty people in a confined space for extended periods. There are almost a million children, teenagers and teachers in four thousand schools. In the two weeks before reopening, more than a hundred […]

A voice raised against war

1st September 2020 by Jenny Farrell

■ Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (1928) The First World War was described as “the war that will end war,” so great was the horror of this new, diabolical stage of industrial annihilation. We know today that, without seriously addressing the causes of war, or the […]

Respect Belarusian sovereignty!

1st September 2020 by Dorian Ó Seanáin

It’s a familiar story: Western imperialist forces are orchestrating another coup in a sovereign state while the bourgeois media in Ireland bombard us with sympathetic coverage of anti-government protesters and the “democratic opposition,” whose ranks are brimming with the most vicious reactionaries. Behind the scenes, the United States and the […]

Discussion – Defend the NHS

1st September 2020 by Lynda Walker

Articles 1 and 2, “Health of a Nation” (June and August) violate democratic centralism. Both are public attacks on CPI policy. I wrote a 2,500-word article criticising the inadequacy of article 1; article 2 is no better. Between congresses and coming up to congress it is protocol that we discuss […]

o: Communist Party of Ireland <cpofireland@gmail.com>

Dublin Central at the next election September 18, 2020

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Latest issue of the Phoenix has some good stuff in it, not least mention of the powerplays taking place within FF in Dublin Central – a constituency known to all too many of us here! It focuses on Mary FitzPatrick who has four times contested for that party and four times failed. But she’s been nominated to the Seanad, so perhaps things are looking a little rosier than they used to. Though what a shocking fall for a party in a constituency that had returned two FF TDs at the height of Bertie Ahern’s reign.

So what of the disposition of forces as the Phoenix sees it?

If the political chess board nationally and locally remains roughly as is, then Mary Lou McDonald will bring in a second Shinner (ousting the Social Democrats’ Gary Gannon) if an election is held any time soon. FG’s Paschal Donohoe and the Greens’ Neasa Hourigan would also very likely retain their seats.


Fitzpatrick will require a Lazarus-like revival of her party to succeed, but at least she won’t have to contend with Bertie’s boys next time out.

Interesting that they see Gannon in a more exposed position than Hourigan (though she has been cleaving a leftwards path since arriving in the Dáil). At the election earlier this year he came in fifth on first preference votes, some way behind FitzPatrick. The GP vote jumped (though IIRC the constituency boundaries changed in the meantime) from 2.7% in 2016 to 12.3% in 2020. The SF vote was a massive 35%. Poor old FG coming in second were on 13.3%. And FF on 10.3%. The SDs were on 9.3%.

Still, I’d think it’ll be a while before an election. Much could change. Much could stay the same.

Irish Left Archive Podcast: Discussion thread… 1 – A tradition of working class self-education September 17, 2020

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Every week we’ll revisit one of the Irish Left Archive podcasts and find a quote that is particularly striking. Starting this week with Laurence Cox on Podcast 2 (available here).

And we’re lucky in Ireland it’s an extreme case – about 60% of 18-21 year olds go to third level but also we have a huge tradition of working class self-education so when I was going to college the people who had books in their houses were not the property owning middle classes they included working class people and not only those from a political tradition. The idea that reading and thinking is somehow a privilege is daft.

I saw that myself, I’m certain all of us did. That has to have had an impact politically, but how does that phenomenon of working class self-education it hold up in the contemporary period?

Geopolitical aspects of the pandemic… September 17, 2020

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I’d been wondering about what would be the geopolitical outworkings of the pandemics – because there will be same without question. Interesting to see the stresses manifesting in a perhaps unexpected location, that being Australia.

A torrid row over Australia’s state border closures has pushed the country’s prime minister to tears, sparked bitter recriminations among rival regional leaders and even talk of secession.


Travel between the nation’s independent-minded states and territories has been mostly banned since Covid-19 hit Australia in March.

But an unhappy federal government is increasing pressure on premiers to open up, sending the argument into overdrive.

This next is telling:

Australia began life as six self-governing British states and territories that agreed to form a federation around 1900.

Rivalry between those regions had persisted, usually on the sports field and in lighthearted jokes, but coronavirus has made regional sentiment more pronounced, and more popular.

Many premiers advocating state lockdowns have seen their public approval ratings rocket.

West Australia’s centre-left premier Mark McGowan was cheered on as he pilloried the “Pinot grigio-sipping” commentariat in Sydney, near where he was born, for telling him to open up.

West Australia, he insisted, will remain “an island within an island”.

I suspect secession remains a remote possibility, but the very fact that Australia is experiencing these stresses is indicative of the pressures that polities experience in the face of the crisis.

Where else are such impacts, or any impacts likely?

As Dublin heads into further restrictions, framing the pandemic… September 17, 2020

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Got to love the framing for the latest news that further restrictions are likely in Dublin – at least the framing in the IT. The story that announces that on mobile and on the front page of the IT has a photograph of a closed pub. That this is was a near inevitability, that restrictions would increase given the virulence of the pandemic and the manner in which it has been allowed to spread seems to escape them. As do the implications for a return to anything close to what once was known as normality.

How bad is the situation in Dublin? Very bad.

Public health experts are today expected to recommend new restrictions for Dublin to limit the spread of coronavirus, as fears grow that infections are heading out of control.

Last night, public health experts expressed a high degree of alarm at the current rate of infection, with one saying he was “more concerned than at any point in time since late April”.

The National Public Health Expert Team (NPHET) will meet today to decide its advice to Government, which is likely to be conveyed this evening.

And tellingly:

“If the numbers continue as they have been, this is only going one way,” said a Government source.

Some senior figures in Government were highly critical of the failure to take heed of NPHET’s advice last week and restrict travel from Dublin. A letter from acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn to the Government last Thursday warning that Dublin was a “disease reservoir” was only published yesterday.

But it would take someone unable to read media, understand statistics and numbers, not to realise that this was what was happening, and not for the last week, or two, but for months now.

Needless to say though, as the report continues, some folk in government know the real problem:

There were also recriminations in Government yesterday following the launch of the Living with Covid roadmap, which was beset by confusion.

And it’s not just Dublin:

…incidences were growing at broadly the same rate across the whole country.

Dr Glynn told the briefing the situation has deteriorated nationally over the past week. “Along with Dublin we have seen particularly concerning trends in Louth, Waterford and Donegal. It is now absolutely essential that people action public health advice and act as if they or those close to them are potentially infectious.”

Speaking of framing RTÉ has a headline that:

‘Quite typical’ to see rise in Covid-19 cases after rules are relaxed – WHO

But you have to read the piece to see the meaning of that statement.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Margaret Harris said unfortunately we have seen across Europe that people did not get the message that you need to continue with the change in habits to suppress the virus.

She said private gatherings are one of the worst scenarios where people go back to close physical contacts and being in crowded settings.

She said they are asking everyone to understand that stopping the transmission of Covid-19 is in their hands, and warned that if too many people get ill then hospitals become overwhelmed very quickly.

In Their Own Words: Personal Accounts of the War of Independence: New online night class September 16, 2020

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Speaking of the Arms Crisis September 16, 2020

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There’s a review in the current/last edition of History Ireland of The Arms Crisis of 1970: The Plot that Never Was by Michael Heney. The book argues that Lynch had a ‘hidden policy’ of supplying arms to nationalists in the North ‘in emergencies’ for ‘defensive and humanitarian purposes’ should a civil war break out and the British Army not protect that community. An interesting tacit acceptance that no Irish Army could project its power very much north of the border at the time.

But a point is made in the review by Thomas Leahy that resonates with me. In it he argues that the Arms Crisis was effectively an ‘attempt by Lynch to protect his government’. But that…

…it also implicitly signalled to beleaguered nationalists in the North that the Irish State would do exactly what Lynch said it would not do in August 1969; stand idly by. Heney explains that his sense of desertion contributed to a sizeable minority of northern nationalists turning towards the IRA. Perhaps this is the principal (even if unintended) legacy of the Arms Crisis.

I’d tend to agree. A power vacuum had opened up – or become manifest. The state in the North had proven itself entirely unable to protect nationalist interests at crucial junctures. The South was disinterested or deeply anxious about any involvement. Political means forward seemed blocked in various ways, whichever options posited stymied by events such as the UWC strike, etc. Small wonder that a tranche of people decided to look towards those asserting their rights, in whatever manner they could. And this has made me deeply sceptical of the Harris school of chiding, and worse, nationalists who could quite reasonably say they were effectively abandoned by the South and whose options were remarkably limited.

A disrupted retail sector… September 16, 2020

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This piece here by Conor Pope in the IT is interesting if only for what it doesn’t quite address as much for what it does. For example. He writes about how the retail sector took a massive hit during the lockdown. He writes:

All shops, save for those deemed essential, were forced to close for months and then when they were eventually allowed to reopen, have had to limit the numbers who could come through their doors.

As if that wasn’t challenging enough they also had to introduce all sorts of consumer-unfriendly measures while, in the background, lurked the virus that has caused all the upheaval.

In the background? One would wonder how much in the background. Be that as it may:

In such a climate it is hardly surprising that many people decided the shopping palaver and the risks associated with crowds – even controlled ones – wasn’t worth it, preferring instead to take their business online.

It is also becoming clear that while Covid-19 was the spur that pushed people into the online world, many are now there to stay while many are also very keen to shop locally as an act of solidarity.


A survey published last month jointly by the Irish domain registry company IE Domain Registry and Digital Business Ireland found that 74 per cent of shoppers surveyed have been put off by the queues, capacity limits and social distancing requirements encountered during the pandemic.

The Tipping Point report also found that when – let’s say when, rather than if – Covid-19 is brought under control, 48 per cent of consumers surveyed say they will do the bulk of their shopping in physical stores while 11 per cent will continue to do most of their shopping online. The remaining 41 per cent will opt for a combination of both.

A lot depends on whether remote working/working from home continues. It’s easy to shop online if one is at home at a given hour to receive whatever has been dispatched to one. But if there’s a more general return to workplaces that obviously changes matters.

Without question shopping online is quite useful. And the report above notes that there’s a fairly strong loyalty to ‘locally-owned’ businesses – in other words providers of services and goods in this state. While international businesses initially took up much of the slack subsequently Irish ones have carved out a broader niche. That’s no great surprise. Time alone would dictate that the latter would be in a better position to send goods more quickly. The report suggests, though, that as matters normalise older trends will come to the fore with locally-owned businesses beginning to lose out again. Of course much then depends upon what defines normal and whether matters return to the status quo ante. Scepticism on that point might not be misplaced.

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