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Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour and Class – inaugural seminar series September 3, 2015

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ICHLC Seminar Series 2015-16

More information here.

And those problems facing Labour? September 3, 2015

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Many thanks to the person who forwarded this analysis from the Southern Star’s Archon.

A SELF-EVIDENT truth is seeping into the collective brain of the Cloth Cap Brigade and Fine Gael. Poll after poll is confirming that the Labour Party is b..lixed – a phrase congenial to the taste of the linguistically gifted writers of the Indo/Sindo.

Fate, you see, has come knocking at Labour’s door. Languishing at 6% in the polls, the prediction is that the party will not return a single TD in the next general election. They’re in a doomsday situation.

Horrific as the prospect is, West Cork Biblical evangelists (our readers!) can take heart in the fact that what’s happening to Labour is an inspirational moral lesson: eventually every politico gets his just deserts!

If the reader might permit us to indulge in a little Bible bashing, here is what the plain people of Éire now sayeth: ‘Woe to the politico by whom the offence cometh. Our Promised Land doth lie battered and bruised but vengeance will be ours. Hence, behold the licking of chops in expectation of the Big Day when the righteousness of a righteous electorate will not save Labour from the awfulness of its transgressions.

‘And the people will proclaim: let us not praise those servile agents of physical toil who sinned in the house of the Blueshirt for it was the Labourites who were wise but turned to godlessness. It was they who acted wickedly towards the covenant of promises that first brought them to the Temple of Kildare Street.

‘And it was they who plumped for the property tax, the water tax, this levy and that levy; and as enforcers for the impious fat cats they became despised of all men. It is Labour, then, that must suffer the blast of the people’s wrath! Hallelujah and pass the voting card!’

So, as the people enthusiastically gird their loins to cast Ms Burton, Alan Kelly and pals into the Vale of Tears (along with the sulphurous remnants of the Workers Party), the omnipotent ruler of the Blueshirt universe, Enda himself, has put an early election on the front burner.

He’s been encouraged to do so by the adviser-buckos, consultants, counsellors, touts and tipsters now emerging from the woodwork and warning that the longer he waits to call a general election the more Fine Gael will suffer at the polls.

Like the rest of us, Kenny can see the writing on the wall. But the sixty four thousand dollar question is how to cobble together a pact that would maximise a Labour transfer vote to help Fine Gael cross the 50-seat threshold. The danger is that were the electorate to see what’s afoot, it would be stricken with a serious bout of projectile vomiting.

Yet, rumour of another FG accord with Labour is rife in political circles (pubs!), as is the necessity for Kenny’s ‘amici curiae’ to exude a quiet confidence when promoting the legend that a two-horse FG-Labour team could win the election despite what the polls are saying.

We know it’s nothing but a confidence trick, but for Labour it’s their Last Chance Saloon. Ironically, if the proletarians are to benefit from any sort of patronage while wandering through a barren political landscape like lost souls in Hell, they’ll have to get the vote out for Fine Gael!

Of course, once the election is over, Fine Gael will not be coalescing with a pulverised Labour Party. Question is: with whom will they seek coalition?

Could Enda do business with Mickey, the flawed leader of a stagnant party? Yes! In recent polls FF hit a possible 36 seats.
Have no doubt but the F&Fer camp will be Kenny’s first port of call. After all, the two right wing parties are practically indistinguishable. Equally, if he had to, he’d break bread with the ragtag bunch of independents and others (polling at 42).

But not with Sinn Féin, which is cementing its 28-seat expectation. Establishing political relations between the General O’Duffy boys and the Republicans would be a bridge too far.

In the meantime, FG is hoping that a fattening of the electorate, increased capital spending (housing, social welfare, health) and flaithiúil-style Lotto lolly doled out to every sporting club, charity, women’s group, crèche, and arty-farty organisation in the land might swing it for Kenny. All beefed up, needless to say, with outrageous promises, tall tales, cock and bull stories, and brazen lies.

Let’s be clear about this. The delightful support and encouragement that Cork mini-minister Dara Murphy displayed to an auld Cork Corpo butty Joe O’ Callaghan by appointing him as his publicly-funded chauffeur had nothing to do with political patronage.

The lucky transporter, a failed FG Dáil aspirant and former Lord Mayor, simply was the best man for the job. Besides, according to Murphy, with wages amounting to a measly €631 a week the position was not exactly commensurate with the ambitions of a high flyer! Indeed!

Murphy earlier raised eyebrows when he employed his wife Tanya as his personal assistant. However, it goes without saying that she, too, was the best person for the job because she knew more about hubby’s work than anybody else!

Of course, there’s nothing unusual about FG-Labour TDs behaving like employment agencies. Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett employed his daughter Jacqui, Brendan Griffin hired wife Róisín as well as cousin Tommy, Andrew Doyle took on sister Eithne, Bernard Durkan son Tim, Arthur Spring brother Graham, John Wall son Mark who is also a county councillor, Willie Penrose brother Johnnie.

Seán Sherlock employed sister Una, Paudie Coffey wife Suzanne, Peter Fitzpatrick daughter Grace, Kathleeeen Lynch husband Bernard (a former WP activist who was also the best person for the job on the grounds that ‘not everybody could do it’).

As for Minister Ciarán Cannon, in charge of the aptly named Skills Department, he slotted the missus into a secretarial job while making his brother-in-law a chauffeur.

And, of course, the redoubtable John Perry gave the job of parliamentary assistant to wife Marie after Dame Enda dumped him as minister for small businesses. The one-time minister defended his decision on the grounds that she had been filling the position for seven months previously ‘on a voluntary basis’.

In all, 25 of our 166 TDs, about 15% of the Dáil, have employed relatives to carry out administrative and other duties. Taoiseach Kenny declared some months ago that it was not a wise thing for politicians to employ family members. He made no mention of political cronies.

Letter writers to the press have suggested the time has come for Kenny to publish a list of Oireachtas members and Irish MEPs who employ people closely connected to them, and the roles they perform.

Yeah, responded the cynics. Great idea, but do pigs fly!

More on the British Labour contest September 3, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Most interesting piece in Private Eye in relation to some recent polls used by anyone but Corbyn (ABC) commentators to suggest that politically anti-austerity policies were pure poison. As it notes Patrick Wintour in the Guardian noted that polling by Jon Cruddas for the independent inquiry into the recent election defeat arrived at a finding that 56 per cent of those asked agreed:

We must live within our means, so cutting the deficit is the top priority.

As PE notes, the question has been criticised for being leading and as it says ‘employing a dubious analogy between national and household budgets’. But it notes as well that the findings were accepted uncritically by ABC camp, with Wintour going as far as to argue that the Tories won not in spite of austerity but because of it. Perhaps so, but some would wonder whether a weak and unpopular leader and the departure of Labours voters in Scotland to what was perceived as a more muscular left wing alternative had at least something to do with it.

But of even greater interest is who did the polling. The Campaign Company, no less.

PE suggests that:

[their boss] is hardly a disinterested observer… David Evans… [was[] a party organiser for the campaign that returned Tony Blair to Doewning Street in 2001… and in 1996 he wrote an internal report calling for a ‘radical overhaul’ of the party: ‘Done correctly it will empower modernising forces within the party and marginalise Old Labour’.

Another analysis on the election which came to much the same conclusion as the Campaign Company was BBM Campaigns. PE proposes that ‘two former LP campaign diretordds, Alan Barnard and John Braggins’ are members, both of whom were prominent in the 1997 campaign that saw one T. Blair arrive at Downing Street.

Of course, that’s not the end of the matter. All those worthies can be entirely neutral. But one does have to wonder about that question that was used in relation to framing austerity, doesn’t one.

Meanwhile, in another report or two further signs of what many of us would consider political degradation in the BLP. PE says that Yvette Cooper’s campaign is ‘being run from offices donated by a landlord who is fighting a BLP council’s attempt to create a licensing scheme for landlords’. That, they say, would be Anwar Anssari. And Caroline Flint is, again according to PE, being supported by lobbyist Sovereign Strategy, and has given her the use of an office. PE notes some interesting clients of Sovereign Strategy, but to me it’s not that that is the particular problem so much as the interface between private companies and corporations and the internal activities of the BLP – and the sense, the clear sense, that for those engaged in these processes these aren’t problems at all.

What do others think?

1998 report on the launch of The Immigration Control Platform in Ennis September 3, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.
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Though this might be of interest a 1998 report of the launch of The Immigration Control Platform in Ennis.
afaicp1

afaicp2

Alternatives to the ‘traditional’ parties? September 3, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Pat Leahy takes the opportunity this weekend in the SBP to critique Right2Water. And he’s not entirely wrong when he notes that it’s not just water:

…but that they are seeking a different type of government, a changed economic paradigm to the one pursued by the present government and, really, a new type of politics. Indeed, Irish Water has always seemed not just an issue in itself, but the trigger for a more widespread disaffection with the government.
These fed-up, reform-minded voters, though still a minority, are vastly more numerous than before. Moreover, the polling and the associated focus group research, I am told, suggests many of them supported Fine Gael and Labour at the last election, but are now frustrated with the coalition because they don’t believe they got the change for which they voted.

Indeed so. He argues that the ‘change’ can mean different things to different people, but he suggests that broadly speaking these include:

Full employment, housing for all, a better education and healthcare system, and many of the other goals set out above – these are worthy and sensible objectives shared by a great many people. And while there are certainly arguments about whether the best way to achieve them is to nominate them as “rights”, lots of people agree with the desirability of the objective.
But what their achievement – and the achievement of other broadly social democratic goals – requires firstly is a political strategy that delivers power, and then a plan in government to realise them.

Fair enough. I don’t think that’s very contentious as an argument. But then he posits this:

That’s what grown-up politics is about. But there is practically no sign of that among most of the people who espouse these objectives – instead there is a rhetorical competition based on lofty aspiration and unfunded promises.
These sound great, but in the real world, that’s not enough. C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre.

Is that entirely the case? He continues:

It’s the same with the political organisation required to achieve power. Instead of coming together, politicians offering reform continue to scatter.
Look at the number of groups on the broad left, or those who are committed to economic and political reform – Shane Ross’s Independent Alliance, the Social Democrats, many individual independents, People before Profit, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, and now the Right to Water campaign. Even if you take the radical left – People before Profit and the Anti Austerity Alliance – out, the picture is still uselessly splintered.
They pay lip service to many of the same aims, but they all make the achievement of those aims less likely because what they have been hopeless at doing is formulating a viable political strategy. As a failure of leadership, it is pretty comprehensive.

There’s an element of truth in this. But…there are problems and real divisions in respect of how people should organise for power and influence – albeit probably the latter is the best that most can hope for. How does an Independent Alliance coalesce successfully with ‘Social Democrats’. Or Right2Water with them? Or whoever? Once one starts to argue this in terms of concrete linkages it becomes clear that – for all that one might wish or think it otherwise, there are objective reasons why they will not, and perhaps cannot, work together.
Let’s turn it around a little. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and RENUA and indeed in their day the Progressive Democrats were all, however imperfectly, positioned on the centre and centre right. Few outside the left would argue that they should coalesce. Sure, perhaps they should, but we know that history, circumstance, tradition, attitudes are all such that even where programmes are very similar, indeed all but indistinguishable, there would be division. Even if 90 per cent similar issues such as attitudes to nationalism, or certain economic approaches, would make merger difficult if not impossible.
If that is true of those parties then why not even more so of smaller groupings. And the ones he lists are very small gaining only a handful of percentage points each in the polls to date.
And there’s another point. I wonder is it actually the reverse of the dynamic he proposes. There are plenty of options, but – bar Sinn Féin, people aren’t coalescing around any of them. In a way this is no surprise, is it? This state has never seen a strong large left of centre force, let alone one that was further left. The absence of the LP hasn’t altered that entirely – though SF appears sui generis to some extent. If that was the case when FG and FF were predominant, and the LP a minor party, why should it be different now?
Of course it would be optimal to have a single unit. But let’s not ignore the fact that Shane Ross is not someone with identical, or even very similar politics to Catherine Murphy, likewise with Tom Fleming and so on. It would be fantastic to see a coalescence around a short list of shared principles. But that is simply unfeasible.

Leftlistastic: 10 ‘Best’ Irish left politicians! Past or present… September 2, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This is wrong, wrong, wrong… but… why not?

That post-conflict resolution? September 2, 2015

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The thought struck me, and I raised something along lines last week, is there anyone who seriously thought that in 2005 PIRA ceased to exist entirely? Is there genuinely anyone who seriously thought that some minimal defensive capacity was not retained by that organisation? Because this last week or so we’ve been treated to analyses that seem to be based upon those two assumptions. And it is the near toxic mixture of credulity and cynicism that feeds into those analyses that seems to me to be most irritating.
Let’s ally that to a different point, and one made many times over the years, that it wasn’t weapons that were the cause of the problem, but the willingness to use them for political ends. Is there any evidence that any significant force in the North has that willingness?

I’m no great fan of Tom McGurk but he does ask an excellent question in relation to the IRA.

On reflection however, surely the most absurd notion of all floating around last week was that with Sinn Féin in government in Belfast, and a possibility for government in Dublin next year, and with the party’s all-Ireland political project succeeding beyond its wildest imaginings, it should have decided to start murdering people. Does that really add up?
This hare was originally let loose at a PSNI press conference, when a spokesman – in carelessly blunt terms – suggested that the Provisional IRA were involved in two recent Belfast killings.

But logic in regard to the situation has been marked by its absence. There’s been far too much rhetorical sleight of hand. Gerry Moriarty in the IT last week provided a good example in a question and answer on the IRA.

And did the IRA kill McGuigan? It depends whom you believe. PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has said IRA members were implicated, along with dissidents and criminals, in a new group called Action Against Drugs. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin have said the murder was carried out by “criminals”, not by the IRA, because the IRA cleared the stage 10 years ago.

He continues:

Who is correct? Adams, McGuinness and Sinn Féin are on their own in their assessment. Unionists accept the word of the chief constable. “Why would we believe Gerry Adams when he was ‘never in the IRA’?” was a comment heard regularly during the week.

But then:

So the IRA is back in action? It’s much more nuanced and complicated than that. Hamilton was careful in his assessment of the state of the IRA. He said that although IRA members were involved in McGuigan’s murder, their actions were not sanctioned by the IRA leadership.

Note that he only makes the distinction two questions on between the IRA as an organisation and whether it sanctioned the murder, and IRA members possibly carrying out the murder unsanctioned. Some might think that was a significant distinction and significant enough to be made immediately because it makes his answer to the question ‘Who is correct?’ then seem to be coat-trailing at best. If nuance and complication exists perhaps it would be better to engage with it immediately rather than obfuscate for two paragraphs.

He then continues:

There’s an IRA leadership? Careful now. Hamilton would not use the term “army council”. He said an IRA “hierarchy . . . enabled the leadership to move the organisation forward within the peace process”. He also said the IRA “does not exist for paramilitary purposes”, that a primary focus of the organisation was “promoting a peaceful, political republican agenda” and that the IRA was “committed to following a political path and is no longer engaged in terrorism”. He also accepts “the bona fides of the Sinn Féin leadership regarding their rejection of violence and pursuit of the peace process, and I accept their assurance that they want to support police in bringing those responsible to justice”.

But that raises the question as to who said there wasn’t an IRA structure? Again the IMC was clear in 2011 that the IRA remained extant albeit directly entirely towards political ends. This was published openly and was there for all to read. Perhaps the media could shoulder some of the responsibility for its general disinterest in matters Northern if the public was unaware of this? A burden that should be shared with political classes both in Dublin and London who disinterest.

It’s this bait and switch approach, the pretence that the IRA wasn’t meant to exist, or that members of an organisation carrying out acts are identical to the organisation itself carrying them out or sanctioning that is so deceitful in the narrative.

And yet, if one draws back a little way and as the dust settles quite a different picture emerges. Perhaps because the implications of all this have come a little clearer and the sense that indulging in such rhetoric has allowed events to slip a fair way out of control (by the way, when Peter Robinson comes across as measured and statesmanlike one knows for certain one isn’t in Kansas any more).

And if one is cynical about all this – and particularly the framing, well, this from Pat Leahy won’t make them less so:

However, both Irish and British government sources believe that politics, and impending elections north and south, are at least as much a driver of the current crisis as security developments.
British sources say that, in their assessment, “nothing has changed”; the IRA is not back in business.
“There is no belief in any part of our system that we are seeing a return of the IRA,” said one source.
The Irish government broadly holds a similar view, despite the strident comments made by Tánaiste Joan Burton last week.

Here is where the issue is obviously one which has been allowed to get away from those deploying such rhetoric. Strident comments are all very well, but as has been demonstrated, they have an effect. The problem is, as noted here previously, the idea this will impact negatively on SF is one that seems unlikely given previous examples of such controversy.

Leahy argues that:

For Sinn Féin supporters, anything thrown at Adams and his party is a desperate attempt to stem their rise on the part of a terrified Southern establishment. And there has certainly been an energetic media campaign last week, not just against Sinn Féin, but against anyone who might be considered “soft” on republicans – the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan was particularly criticised.
Even if that is true, however, it still leaves reasonable questions for Sinn Féin, which are unlikely to go away as the election approaches. It is hardly credible that senior Sinn Féin members, up to and including the leadership, don’t know which people were involved in the two recent murders, as well as previous killings such as those of Robert McCartney, Paul Quinn and others.
It would certainly be astonishing if they didn’t know people who knew a lot about them.

There’s an element of truth in that. And yet, there’s also overstatement. Hearsay isn’t evidence. It is unlikely in the extreme that anyone likely to commit a murder would be so foolhardy as to allow a ‘senior SF member’ to glean information about activities that would lead to a conviction. As McGurk asks in a slightly different context – ‘Does that really add up?’

Moreover those who should indeed ask reasonable questions have been unable to do so – or at least do so in a manner and with a tone that was in the slightest bit effective – in the past. At almost every opportunity SF’s rivals have instead launched overblown attacks. The absolute nadir was the Dáil debate some while back where instead of focusing on the supposed issue everything was brought in whether relevant or not. In part one has to suspect that that is because this is a murky area, that it is difficult to pin down people in one organisation for the activities of those connected to a second organisation – activities which have not been sanctioned by that second organisation. It’s that dislocation that is proving so problematic, so difficult to push through to a clear outline of issues.

But that is the nature of the dispensation in Northern Ireland and on this island as a whole. This was, as noted elsewhere this week, always likely given the manner in which the armed conflict was brought to a halt.

What is most telling is that almost everyone, Elaine Byrne in that paper in a different article (of which more soon), Tom McGurk, Pat Leahy, all believe this will do no harm to SF. And one could add that it is unlikely, given what Leahy says, to be allowed to lead to institutional collapse. And so one has to ask, what exactly is the point?

Henry McDonald, of all people, in the Guardian yesterday makes a very cogent, if slightly overblown, point, which is that:

It is now over to the UUP’s rivals in the Democratic Unionist party to make the next move at Stormont. The debate inside the latter, the bigger unionist force, will be ferocious and the grassroots pressure to follow suit will be enormous. One thing is certain so far though; it would be the richest irony of all if the death of a former IRA gunman who killed to destroy the state of Northern Ireland ends up with unionists abandoning a political arrangement that has secured the union for the foreseeable future.

Ironic indeed.

Unintended consequence September 2, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The release of the Fennelly Report reminds me a little of the Stormont dispute/debacle. There’s the same sense of something that could spin uncontrollably into entirely unforeseen territory. And so it is that the immediate response is that no one looks too good on foot of it, but that there’s nothing to damage the government.

That’s now.

It will be useful to see where matters stand in a week or a month in relation to this.

Right2Change September 2, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in The Left.
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I notice Right2Change have set up their own Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as some regional ones too. So Right2Change is the potential electoral vehicle of Right2Water.
From their Facebook page

You have a Right2Water, a Right2Housing, a Right2Health and a Right2Change this country. Let’s discuss the policies you want implemented, not the ones being dictated to you!
The Right2Water Trade Unions began a consultation process a number of months ago about the types of policies the people of Ireland want implemented. We facilitated two major conferences and a submission process where 10 policy principles were identified. Water, Health, Housing, Jobs & Decent Work, Education, Democratic Reform, Debt Justice, Equality, a Sustainable Environment and National Resources. Stay tuned for more…

Will they register as a party and field their own candidates or will this be a badge that can be used by candidates?
I presume at this stage PBP, AAA and Sinn Fein won’t be standing as just Right2Change candidates, but does is create a unifying banner. A banner where other sections of The Left and those that agree with the Right2Change Agreed Principles , be it Clare Daly in Dublin Fingal or an Independent in Mayo, can stand as a Right2Change candidate.
Presumably too AAA/PBP (and whatever alliance that evolves from those talks) and Sinn Fein can stand with the Right2Change banner also.
Interesting to see what direction it takes.

What you want to say – 2nd September 2015 September 2, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
56 comments

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

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