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Out of the mouth’s of innocents and Ministers of Transport… January 27, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

What an interesting statement Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey made to the Parliamentary Society of former Oireachtas members where he argued that the “Our State and semi-State organisations are not scrutinised nearly enough . . . particularly in relation to their service delivery to citizens.”

You’d never think he was actually in a Government that had been in power through thirteen years. But what of this?

The Minister said Ireland’s electoral system made it inevitable that TDs would “betray their calling” when re-election was a priority. “Any time a public representative abandons their own judgment to serve as the representative of a lobby group or objective they don’t actually believe in, they’re betraying their calling.”

A lobby group they ‘don’t actually believe in’…



Former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox said the Republic, which was now experiencing its third major economic and social “catastrophe” since the 1950s, was failing its people.
A preference for short-term pragmatism over long-term vision had led to this, Mr Cox said.
“We may need a new electoral system . . . but I would argue that it should be part of a wider and deeper project . . . what we need is a new Republic.”

Nope. This one would do fine if it simply lived up to its own rhetoric.

WP statement on impasse in Northern Ireland. January 26, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.


John Lowry, Workers’ Party General Secretary, commenting on the current political impasse in Northern Ireland, stated: “The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland are looking on in disbelief as the DUP and Sinn Fein go to the brink threatening to pull down the Assembly & Executive in what has become a sectarian tug of war between the two parties. Whilst the completion of devolution is undoubtedly important, the fact that it has come to this demonstrates the inability of unionism and nationalism to realise the ambition of a transformed Northern Ireland that so many people had hoped for.

“For some time now it has been clear that tribal sectarian politics remain the order of the day. The Assembly & the Executive have failed to win the support of citizens, and for many people the Assembly and Executive are irrelevant. This at a time when people are still hurting from the economic recess and crying out for positive action to address the issues – unemployment, housing, debt, cuts in public spending and of course cementing of sectarianism.

“There is a responsibility particularly on those who describe themselves as being on the left to provide a clear alternative to unionism and nationalism. We, in the Workers’ Party, will continue to work with others in the search for an electoral platform which can offer hope not only for a new and different Northern Ireland, free of sectarianism but also who can address the urgent need of those who are losing their jobs, are under threat of losing their homes and are faced with a school system which is in crisis. It is time for socialists to unite in our common interest” concluded Mr Lowry.

Thanks to MS for forwarding this…

Crisis in Der Linke? January 26, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in European Politics.

Today’s Guardian reports reaction to the withdrawal from political life of Oskar Lafontaine. It speculates on what this will mean for Der Linke the Left Party, suggesting that it will result in closer ties with the SPD. The Left Party has been held up as a model around Europe of the sort of closer cooperation that is necesssary among the left, and how it can get results. I don’t have a whole lot to say on this, but thought some of our regulars might, especially on the suggestion in the report that this development threatens to result in the break-up of the party.

UPDATE: The editorial takes a harsh line on Lafontaine.

Meanwhile, back at the Seanad… Week 1, 2010 January 26, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
1 comment so far

They’re back after Christmas… and so we peer once more into the world of the Seanad, eagerly anticipating whatever wisdom will be cast our way. Some interesting exchanges in the Seanad this week. It’s funny. The snow, the crisis which gripped the nation for three weeks, goes unmentioned. Instead… well, read on…

First up there’s a big welcome, as only the Seanad can provide, for Paschal Mooney, who returns like the prodigal son to an old stomping ground…

Senator Donie Cassidy:    As Leader of the House and on behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, I welcome and congratulate Senator Paschal Mooney who, as we all know, was born, bred and reared in his native Drumshanbo, County Leitrim. This is a proud and memorable day for him, his wife, Sheila, and their children as he takes his seat in Seanad Éireann having been elected once more on the Agricultural Panel. As we all know, he was first elected to the Seanad in 1987 on the Cultural and Educational Panel and went on to contest successfully five elections. During that time he was Fianna Fáil’s spokesman in the Seanad on foreign affairs and a member of many joint and House committees which he represented ably and well. He is also a past member and chairman of Leitrim County Council and County Leitrim VEC. Most recently he served as chairman of Fáilte Ireland North West.
Drawing on his vast wealth of knowledge and experience gained over many years in public life, Senator Mooney made a major contribution in respect of a wide range of topics discussed in this House. I have no doubt he will be equally vocal in his contributions to the 23rd Seanad. On behalf of everyone present and all those who have known Senator Mooney through the years, I warmly congratulate him. I look forward to working with him in the remaining two and a half years of this Seanad.
An Cathaoirleach:    I call Senator Fitzgerald.
Senator Frances Fitzgerald:    Are we taking the Order of Business?
Senator Donie Cassidy:    I will announce it now.
Senator David Norris:    That would be a great idea.
An Cathaoirleach:    I thought the Leader had announced the Order of Business.
Senator Donie Cassidy:    There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.
An Cathaoirleach:    In view of the fact that so many Members had indicated a wish to contribute, I thought the Leader had already announced the Order of Business.

And there’s more…

Senator Frances Fitzgerald:    I join the Leader in congratulating Senator Mooney on his re-election to the Seanad. Those of us on this side of the House wish the Senator all the best. We look forward to working with him. We know he has a strong record of hard work in the House and he is welcome back.
Senator Paul Coghlan:    Hear, hear.

And more again…

Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin:    On behalf of the Green Party, like everyone else, I welcome the return of Senator Paschal Mooney to the House. As a fellow Connacht man, I am delighted we are beginning to redress the imbalance.
Like other Senators, I call for a debate on Haiti because it is very important. Our troubles with snow and floods pale into significance relative to what is going on there. I ask the Government passionately to give any assistance it can. It has been put to me by various people that our Defence Forces could look at helping out in that jurisdiction, if requested, in so far as this is possible.
I also support the call for a debate on media very strongly, given the way things are going in this country in relation to politics, since I believe the media are unhelpful at the moment in that regard. It would be quite something to have a live debate on RTE television and radio from the Seanad, so that we might get our points across unedited. Quite often, the difficulty with media is that we are talking about spin and the segmenting of the things we actually say. It would be important to get matters before the public, live and directly, rather than having debates edited all the time.
I would welcome a debate on head shops as being of importance, although I am not going to talk on this. I would very much welcome a debate on drinking water as well. I have two brief points to make in this regard. Under the present Government there has been unparalleled investment in the treatment of drinking water in Ireland, despite what people believe, and I very much welcome that. Drinking water is the basis of life and it is crucial that it is available for the people. I would stress, however, that water in flooded areas and in rivers cannot be confused with clean safe drinking water. It is not the same thing, despite that people continually ask why we cannot have enough water in our reservoirs, given that there is so much lying in puddles throughout the country. Water does not just jump into the reservoirs and enormous investment and work is needed to ensure it can be safely distributed. When people make such comparisons, they can be somewhat disingenuous.
I welcome that the banking inquiry is taking place, and that is crucial. The Green Party has been solidly behind that from day one and we are delighted that this banking inquiry will now go ahead.
Senator Paudie Coffey:    That is the high moral ground.
Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin:    I am getting to that, Senator. There are three portions to this banking inquiry. The first, which is very important, is the scoping of this inquiry, and it is crucial. We do not want to see the banking inquiry going down the same route as the Flood, Mahon and other tribunals which have taken years, including the conclusions to the beef tribunal.
Senator Paudie Coffey:    We all want that.
Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin:    That is not the format we want. Many Members of the Opposition are talking about this particular inquiry as if the scoping has actually happened and as if the terms of reference are in place. They are not. That is going to take place over the coming time and it is important that people do not prejudice the scoping.
The second portion is the commission of inquiry and if people refer to the legislation governing the commission, they will find that there are particular regulations in place in that regard. It is important we look at those and the Green Party is very committed that as much information as possible should come into the public domain. In fact, all the information from the inquiry has to come into the public domain. Members of the Opposition are incorrect who say there will be no public element to this at all. There will, of course, be a public element to this.
Senator Paudie Coffey:    Is the Senator happy with it?
Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin:    We are working strongly to ensure public transparency and accountability will be maximised from this inquiry and we continue to work for that.

So that’s alright then.

But rumours reach my ears that the GP is not entirely pleased at the way the banking inquiry issue has gone, when they feel it was they who first called for one. As to the form of said inquiry… well…

Anyway, back to Paschal Mooney…

Senator Joe O’Toole:    I also wish to be associated with what the Leader and Senator Fitzgerald said in congratulating Senator Mooney on his re-election, welcoming him into the House and wishing him well in his restarted career. I wish him the best of luck in that. I hope he can bring some reform to his party’s policies in certain areas and I look forward to that.

Senator Alex White:    I join the other voices in welcoming and congratulating Senator Mooney back to Seanad Éireann. I wish him every success – I hope he will not take this personally – in the short time he will be here.
Senator Donie Cassidy:    He is not going to Europe yet.
Senator Alex White:    I congratulate him and his family on his achievement.
Senator Joe O’Toole:    Absolutely.
Senator Alex White:    I hope everybody’s stay here will be just as short as Senator Mooney’s. That was not a personal remark directed at him.

Senator John Ellis:    I welcome Senator Mooney back to the House and congratulate him on his election. We have had the honour of representing County Leitrim for more than 20 years. While the region is not represented in the Dáil, it has two representatives in the Seanad to fight its cause. I also take the opportunity to congratulate Senator Mooney’s family. They were involved in politics a long time before I became involved in County Leitrim. I have no doubt that it is heart warming for his wife and family to see him returned to the Seanad. When speaking to him yesterday, I mentioned that it must be a source of comfort to attend a count knowing what the result would be.
Senator Paul Coghlan:    Nice one.
Senator John Ellis:    It is true that Seanad by-election counts do not have much space for what might be described—–
Senator Cecilia Keaveney:    Slippage.
Senator John Ellis:    —–as people who are in the mood to watch a political blood bath and the casting of political sweat, as we have all witnessed.

But it’s not all about Mooney… Oh, wait. Yes it is…

Senator Paul Coghlan:    I wish to be associated with the warm words of welcome for Senator Mooney. He always contributed well here and we look forward to witnessing him continuing in that vein. I also wish to be associated with the words of welcome for his wife, Sheila, and family.

Even if some try to make some very… interesting points…

Senator Fiona O’Malley:    I welcome and congratulate Senator Mooney, a Senator once again. It is nice to see him in the Chamber. I hope he enjoys what I hope to be two more years of a full term or, indeed, two and a half years.
On the banking inquiry, we need to establish the terms of reference but it is interesting to hear everyone getting into such a lather of sweat over it when the terms of reference have not yet been decided. I hope that, collectively, we will all come to agree those terms of reference. We need to keep in mind the objective of such an inquiry.
Senator Donie Cassidy:    That is correct.
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    The impression one gets here is that some want to see some politicians out skewered on a spit. That will not serve any purpose. We do ourselves an injustice if we allow such an inquiry to take place.
I have heard different people say there is nobody better than Professor Patrick Honohan, who was just appointed to his new role, to have that independent overseeing.
Senator Paudie Coffey:    What is the big secret then?
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    When that is decided, people then change their mind on it. What we all need to do for our country is ensure we continue to have the confidence of the international banking sector, which was certainly the case after the budget last month. What the country needs is a robust banking system. Yes, we need an inquiry, but, by God, let us have a good one that will help us to build a better banking system for the country. Let us not play politics with the issue. We will have an opportunity to have a political dimension when there is an election. Time and again one hears it suggested the people do not want it. The reality is that the Government was elected and continues to enjoy the support of both Houses of the Oireachtas. Until that changes there will not be an election and the parties in government will continue in office.
Senator Donie Cassidy:    Hear, hear.
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    On that note, there is a little good news, although it goes to show that good news stories never make the news. Last week we heard our very fine Minister for Health and Children inform the country of a development. Unfortunately, at an earlier stage she had to postpone screening for cervical cancer for young girls but it is now being introduced.
Senator Maurice Cummins:    Only for first years.
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    Better than that—–
Senator Nicky McFadden:    It is only for first years.
An Cathaoirleach:    No interruptions, please.
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    What she got for the country was value for money.
Senator Nicky McFadden:    What about second years?
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    She put it up to those providing the service and stated they would not be able to provide the service—–
Senator David Norris:    Hear, hear.
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames:    What about the value of a life?
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    I am surprised at the Members heckling me.
An Cathaoirleach:    No interruptions, please.
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    The Minister saved the country a fortune. It is more like her we need who will not simply say “Yes” at any price.
Senator David Norris:    The Senator is right.
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    One negotiates; in that way one will have a better public service for all the people. I am just sorry the Opposition did not take the opportunity to applaud her. I hope we will have the same level—–
Senator Frances Fitzgerald:    Actually, we did.
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    There was a report in the health supplement with The Irish Times yesterday that indicated how much more expensive screening was in Ireland than in other places. The Minister stated to the pharmaceutical companies that they should give the vaccine to us at the going price in England. It is high time we achieved such value for money.
Senator David Norris:    Hear, hear.
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    More of such tough negotiators as her is what we want.
Senator Cecilia Keaveney:    Hear, hear.
Senator Nicky McFadden:    What about second and third years?
An Cathaoirleach:    Members, please. There should be no interruptions.
Senator Fiona O’Malley:    It would be lovely to hear the Opposition applaud the Minister. That is my final point on the matter. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence.
In the last session the Leader promised that we would have a debate on the issue of domestic violence. It is early days but I again call on the Leader to make it one of our priorities. I realise many are expecting to listen to such a debate which I hope the Leader will arrange in the very near future.

And I leave you with this gem…

An Cathaoirleach:    Before the Leader replies, I would like to welcome Senator Mooney back to the House. I congratulate him, along with his wife Sheila and their family, on a successful election. I wish him well for the future and I know he will make a major contribution to this Seanad. I call on the Leader to reply to the Order of Business.
Senator Donie Cassidy [Leader of the House]:    Senators Fitzgerald, O’Toole, Alex White, MacSharry, McFadden, Leyden, Bacik, O’Malley, Coghlan, Quinn, Hanafin, Healy Eames, O’Reilly, Wilson, Cannon, Callely, Coffey, Carroll, McCarthy and Ó Brolcháin all expressed views on the challenges facing the Government regarding the continuing banking issues. We all know that the global downturn created the banking issues.
Senator Paul Coghlan:    We do not.
Senator Frances Fitzgerald:    No.
Senator Donie Cassidy:    The big question, which I only heard from one Senator, concerns what the Government and banks are doing to keep funds going for small and medium enterprises. The credit line is urgently needed. This is the first sitting day of the new year. We broke a record last year by sitting for 100 days. This is the Upper House and I want to hear meaningful and positive discussion. We must stop this head-hunting. Let us help the Government and assist the Irish nation. There is a lot of bluster going on here for almost two hours.
Senator Paul Coghlan:    The Senator is a master of it himself.
Senator Frances Fitzgerald:    I am very surprised. That is a disgraceful comment.
A Senator:  The Leader should give over. He is patronising us.
Senator Donie Cassidy:    I am pleased that the value of the 55 minutes which this motion is down for today shows its worth. It focuses Members on the issues. The banking issue will be discussed next Tuesday and we can discuss it every week from then on if we want to. It is scheduled for discussion here next Tuesday. I am informing Members so they can be well prepared. Unless banks start lending money to SMEs, however, thousands of people will continue to be unemployed in the early part of this year, as Senator Wilson said in his contribution. In the interests of assisting our people, we should bring pressure to bear on banks and governments. Money must be in circulation because if not, thousands more people will be unemployed. Senator Mooney has outlined to the House the importance for every citizen of having something to do every day. Over 400,000 people are unemployed.
Senator Frances Fitzgerald:    Let us have the debate today.
Senator Donie Cassidy:    From this day on, I want to hear the energy and experience of all Members of the House being reflected in their contributions. They have made their point about the banking inquiry, but solving the matter is far more important. When solved, we can have open inquiries. There are two inquiries taking place, including one very serious one under the auspices of the Garda Síochána. There must be due process. I have no doubt that everything that could be done is being done. The Minister for Finance assured the people in this regard yesterday.

I’ve got to admit, I like this A. Senator, quoted above.

And so we leave this hallowed place, concerned – let it be said, for those Senators who arrived through the NUI… for what will they do in the future? Is that a chill political wind rising on the horizon? Perhaps there will be answers next week. Perhaps the debates will engage with them.


Minister Gormley should be put up on a pile and burnt – eh, what’s that you say? January 25, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

Reading the Irish Times today one might have been forgiven for wondering just how deep is the animosity of some politicians towards the inoffensive John Gormley…

DEPUTY LEADER of the Green Party Mary White has severely criticised local councillors for a history of “catastrophic” planning decisions.

The TD for Carlow-Kilkenny, and a former member of Carlow County Council, criticised councillors in the county who had “helped fuel the boom and bust”.

She claimed that “a careful look at the voting record of Carlow County Council will show councillors from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour consistently voted for unnecessary re-zonings” including re-zoning land “on a flood plain”.


Her remarks followed publication of comments by councillors published in the Carlow Nationalist newspaper. The paper reported that Opposition party councillors last week complained that Mr Gormley’s draft new regional planning guidelines were “anti-rural” and would prevent any new houses being built in the county for six years.

Fine Gael Cllr Pat Deering accused Mr Gormley of “trying to control the population”.

His Fine Gael colleague Cllr Michael Abbey said: “Fianna Fáil needs to have a word in the ear of the Greens before they destroy rural Ireland.” The Tullow-based Fine Gael Cllr Pat O’Toole said “Minister Gormley should be put up on a pile and burnt.”

Woah there Cllr. O’Toole! Now I know John Gormley isn’t exactly flavour of the week with many on the left, but to hear this from a Fine Gael Cllr… well… putting him on a pile and burning him… I think most if not indeed all of us would balk at that.

There’s got to be an environmentally sustainable gag in there, at the very least…

But here’s a really funny one. If I go to the Carlow-Nationalist and the original article I read that Cllr. O’Toole is… well in one way a little less incendiary and in another way…

“Minister Gormley’s report should be put up in a pile and burnt”, argued Cllr. Pat O’Toole, chairman of the council’s economic development planning and cultural strategic policy committee.
The minister is out of control. We visited the Dáil recently to discuss this and it was obvious that they weren’t aware of the implications of this at all. This is the idea of one man and a couple of henchmen [hmmm… John Gormley? Henchmen? Hmmmm – wbs]… he should be told to get down off his high horse. What sort of bullshit is this?” Cllr. O’Toole fumed.

Left Archive: New Communist Party, Britain Out of Ireland! c.1987 January 25, 2010

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, New Communist Party.


As part of our continuing series (or is it a sub-genre of the Left Archive?) of leaflets from British left political formations regarding Ireland here is a fascinating example. The New Communist Party was forged in the heat of a split within the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1977. As the CPGB factionalised between ‘Leninists’ and Eurocommunists Sid French [incorrectly named by me as Sid Smith in the original piece – wbs], founder of the NCP was expelled. That latter party has remained extant to this day, positioned within what can best be described as an ‘orthodox’ Communist position which has seen it see off factions who were too pro-Soviet and others who might be described as insufficiently so. That, according to wiki, it’s most significant rupture was over support for Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London in 2000 perhaps provides an insight into a grouping which has never run for electoral office itself but always provided de facto support for the Labour Party. Worth noting that it has been a participant at various International Conference of Communist & Workers’ Parties meetings over the past decade or so, albeit its attendance appears to have tailed off.

What is evident in this document is some difference from the CPGB and CPI approach to Northern Ireland.

The document takes as its starting point the strike on British radio and television media on August 7 1985 as a protest against the censorship of a BBC ‘Real Lives’ documentary on the North by the government due to an interview with ‘an elected representative of the Irish people, Martin McGuinness’.

It suggests that:

‘In truth the IRA, and the Republican movement of which they are part, are simply people struggling to free part of their country from foreign military occupation, and their whole country from foreign domination. Just as in the Second World War resistance forces fought the German occupation of Europe, so today in Ireland the IRA is fighting the British occupation of the six counties’.


The military campaign of the IRA is a response to, not the cause of, the British military occupation. It is a response to the violence and repression directed against the Republican movement and the nationalist population as a whole in the six counties. In 1969, when the increased deployment of British troops to the six counties began, the violence was coming from the Unionists. The Provisional IRA had not even been formed.

Interestingly on page 9 it quotes Desmond Greaves from a CPGB pamphlet written in 1969. Perhaps more interestingly on pages 29 – 32 there is no analysis of Republicanism of whatever variant when discussing the late 1960s and 1969 in particular. There is mention of ‘forces at work within the Labour movement here in Britain who profess to be supporters of Irish freedom, but whose position is nothing more than what might be described as labour imperialism.

It continues:

The position of all genuine progressives must begin from an understanding that Ireland first of all must have the right to self-determination and real independence. Post independence developments and the method of reunification can only be conducted by the Irish people as a whole once Britain has gone…

And furthermore…

Yet the Militant Tendency (otherwise known as the Revolutionary Socialist League – operating secretly within the Labour Party) argues for the creation of a party of labour, uniting Protestant and Catholic workers as a first step to achieving a united Ireland. Secondly the Campaign for Labour Representation in Ireland actually argus for the British labour Party to be organised in the occupied six counties, (This particular campaign is basically tied up with the Irish political party, the Workers’ Party).

There’s more, and it’s well worth reading. Note that in the “Recommended further reading” are An Phoblacht, Irish Democrat and Irish Socialist and Unity.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week January 24, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in media.

In third place, and not just because he has shamelessly copied Eoghan Harris’ diary style for his column, Shane Ross. I could have gone for his bad boring references to Jack O’Connor’s beard, but this is worse

Dempsey is in the news this morning (“waffling” in the words of Michael O’Leary) as our lunatic air traffic controllers try to blow Ireland off the economic map singlehanded. Dempsey is merely rattling his sabre at the Luddites among the air traffic controllers who are refusing to operate new technology.
Dempsey should do more than make noises. If overpaid minorities in key posts hold Ireland to ransom they should, as O’Leary said, be sacked. At a time of economic emergency, we cannot afford to indulge hands-off ministers who tolerate industrial blackmail in the air and out of control spending on railways.

In second place, Alan Ruddock, who has discovered that he and others who spent so long praising the economic miracle and wonderful economy had in fact missed something important. But not the need for a diverse economy that actually produces things and isn’t dependent upon corruption, property speculation, and credit. Nope, it’s that actually he was wrong, and the unions were ruining the economy, even as he and others were singing its praises from the rooftops.

That lack of scrutiny meant that the unelected social partners could impose their narrow, self-interested agendas on the rest of the country. It is hardly surprising that those agendas contributed so much to the malaise that has afflicted Ireland for more than a decade. The competitiveness that drove the early years of the economic boom was frittered away by social partnership, as a succession of national wage agreements fuelled Irish inflation. The cosy complacency of partnership saw public sector boards used as baubles for union and business leaders and robbed public sector bodies of innovative and brave leadership.

In first place, Eoghan Harris. A piece that starts with the need for Haiti to have order brought to it by the US military, ends like this.

But these selfish smuggies are small beer compared with more powerful groups who are perceived to be doing deadly damage to the Irish economy. The Government must now plan to give the body politic permanent protection from threats of disorder by blackmailers like ESB engineers, air traffic controllers, and any other group with the power to punish the public.

What does this mean in practice? I suspect it won’t be too long before the Senator is advocating limitations on the right to strike.

This week, nearly any sentence from nearl any columnist would have done the job though. It really was the worst load of tripe I’ve seen even from the Sindo.

“Tony Blair’s great legacy has been to achieve Margaret Thatcher’s ambition” January 24, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in British Labour Party, British Politics, The Left.

Depressing story in the Observer quoting the research of Professor John Curtice, who claims that the result of nearly a decade and a half of New Labour has been to shift the electorate to the right, the aim of Maggie Thatcher. Curtice documents how far attitudes towards key economic policies have shifted. In the mid-1990s, half the population believed government policy should be used to redistribute wealth downwards. That has now fallen to less than a third. In 1997, 46% of people believed unemployment benefits were too low; that figure is now under 30%.

The findings suggest people have become less concerned with inequality since Labour came to power – and less supportive of efforts by government to reduce it, according to Curtice. In fact, the proportion who want to see tax and spending increased is the lowest it has been since the early 1980s – during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

These figures reveal the stark facts of how the left has been losing the battle of ideas in the UK for the last three decades. Some of the most basic principles of the welfare state and of left-wing economics seem to be the preserve of a minority, even if a significant minority. I suspect if we were to break these attitudes down by age, the results among the generations that have grown up under Thatcher and Blair would be even worse. If it were just a case that the left was losing the battle of ideas over the idea of redistibuting wealth, tax and spend, etc among the general population that would be bad enough. But the fact is that the left itself has turned away from the centrality of economics, as we discussed here and then here last August. Essentially, the Labour Party in both Britain and the Republic has become a liberal party, concerned primarily with issues of formal legal equality and cultural politics, but stripped of any serious commitment to reshaping the economy or using the immense power of the state to combat the inequality of life chances produced by the capitalist system. In fairness, health remains one area where there is a real commitment to equality (at least in Britain), and we see sporadic attempts in education, though mostly centred on access to Oxford, Cambridge and other elite universities. We’ll see how the Labour Party in the south deals with the calls to reintroduce third level fees that seem to be moving up the agenda when it is in coalition after the next election, which seems inevitable now. Not wanting to reverse the main legacy of Democratic Left may count for something; or it may not.

All of which I think is a large part of why the left is having such little success in exploiting the current crisis of capitalism. In the UK, Labour is divided on whether to adopt more egalitarian language of the playing fields of Eton variety or move to the right, while the Liberal Democrats have moved markedly rightwards as well. Even in NI, the Alliance Party has been moving to the right, as the fact that their European election candidate defected to the Tories. The left in the Republic made some gains at the last set of elections, but Fine Gael were the big winners. It seems to me that the public mood in the south has shifted further to the right since then as well. Whether through incomptence and/or spinelessness at the top, or through an insufficiently militant membership, or some combination of all these (delete as appropriate), the challenge that was coming from the trade unions has been significantly weakened. The Labour Party is trying its best not to scare the horses. As the recent departures of Christy Burke and Killian Forde show, PSF in the south is also facing pressure on the question of whether to move to the right or not, while in the north it is (assuming the Executive survives) one of the main players in a regime that is about to implement significant cuts. There’s really no need even to mention the Greens as part of this discussion. As for the media, I don’t think any of us expected anything other than we have got – an aggressive campaign in defence of neo-liberalism.

The parties further to the left must take their share of blame for the lack of an upswing, even recognising their smaller resources. Praise for Michael Taft has deservedly been pretty much universal on the left, and the TASC Progressive Economy blog has made a positive contribution too. The parties themselves, however, have not reacted well enough in terms of the economic debate, so that Taft has sometimes looked like a lone voice. While there have been some policies laid out – such as the insulation scheme advocated by several parties – designed to revitalise the vital construction sector, where is the party with, for the sake of argument, a detailed programme for developing the technology sector in the public interest using the power of the state? Perhaps such a policy exists, but if so I am unaware of it. The various parties have been holding meetings and publishing on the situation too, but on the whole, I think it is fair to say that the the transformative left has not developed its economic policies as concretely as it might have, and we have certainly not got our message out very widely among our target audience. Too many think There is No Alternative – or that the only alternative is Fine Gael. We are not doing enough to rectify this, to combat the effects of now two generations of a political culture that denegrates the possibilty of progressive economic change.

Among both the causes and the effects of the attitudes described by the Observer report are depoliticisation, and the attendant demoralisation. We can see this all around us – the decline in the membership and activities of political parties, the fall in trade union membership, the declining importance in politics in popular culture, even the virtual disappearance of student politics as understood over the last few decades. Again, the left cannot change this on its own, but we must find more effective ways to combat it.

All in all then, I’d say that the Observer report on the Professor’s findings chimes fairly well with the reality of politics across these islands. And more’s the pity. The left needs to find its voice once more, to go beyond the cultural politics in which too much of it has become trapped, to find the confidence to offer bold economic policies that step outside the lines set by the dominant ideology, and the focus to produce them. That means a change not only in the priorities and activites of left parties, but probably of us as individuals on the left too. Answers on a postcard to every left political party in the country.

CPI Meeting in Clondalkin on Crisis on Monday 25th of January January 23, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Friends of Charlie Donnelly Benefit Night January 23, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left.

Friends of Charlie Donnelly Benefit Night
Friday January 29
Teachers’ Club
Parnell Square

“There’s a Valley in Spain called Jarama,
It’s a place that we all know so well,
It is there that we gave of our manhood,
And so many of our brave comrades fell.”

Among the heavy casualties taken by the poorly-equipped Republicans in the bloody battle at Jarama to save Madrid from Franco’s fascist army in February 1937 was Charlie Donnelly, the young poet whose remains lie in an unmarked grave near where he died.
On February 27 – 73 years to the day after he fell shortly after uttering the immortal line “Even the olives are bleeding”, the Friends of Charlie Donnelly will gather at the site of the battle to erect a cairn to his memory and to the memory of all those from the famed ‘Connolly Column’ who gave so much to defend the rights of the Spanish people.
The cairn, which will be built by The Friends of Charlie Donnelly, will consist of stones taken from the 32 counties of Ireland to symbolise the unity of purpose of those who died in common cause in the fight against tyranny.
Despite battling seemingly insuperable odds, at Jarama the Republicans fought the fascists to a stalemate – a victory in itself considering the forces stacked against them.
To help defray the cost of the memorial cairn, a benefit night will take place on Friday January 29 at 8pm in the Teachers’ Club, Parnell Square, Dublin. Tickets are priced at €8 at the door and can also be reserved in advance.
The night will comprise music, poetry and song but, more importantly, it will give like-minded people who appreciate the continuing significance of the Spanish War of 1936-9, an opportunity to meet up, have the craic and celebrate the spirit and legacy of people such as Charlie Donnelly.

For further details or to reserve tickets beforehand, contact:
Eddie O’Neill
087 271 2864 (m)
eddietyrone@gmail.com (e)

Many thanks to SM for forwarding this…

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