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CPOI Statement: National Day of Action against water charges October 31, 2014

Posted by guestposter in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Statement: National Day of Action against water charges

On the eve of the National Day of Action against water charges. The Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) called on working people across the country to come out and support the National Day of Action called by the trade union led Right2Water Campaign and to attend any local protest in their area this coming Saturday 1st November.

The General Secretary of the CPI, Eugene Mc Cartan stated that water charges are the direct result of the imposition of the odious bank debt on the Irish people by the EU/IMF. The introduction of water charges means the commodification of a very basic human right that of access to clean drink water. The commodification of water in the form of charges can lead in the direction of privatisation.

He further stated we need to develop the debate beyond the question of double taxation to one of the nature of a society that would turn a fundamental right – safe clean drinking water – into a commodity for making profits for corporations.

By raising the argument around privatisation the issue is no longer an individual persons or family decision to pay or not pay water charges but rather it becomes a societal or social struggle which can only help develop a social and class consciousness and collective resistance to exploitation.

The CPI believes that in parallel with the resistance to water charges the demand for a constitutional amendment needs to be raised.

“We need to raise the political demand for an amendment to the constitution enshrining public democratic ownership over water. That it can’t be privatised without the direct consent of the people. Defeating the government on the water charges is possible, but experience teaches us that they will regroup and come back again and again to impose charges and privatisation.

An amendment to the Irish Constitution guaranteeing the public ownership of all water resources, is the only real guarantee of preserving the people’s ownership of this vital resource, preventing privatisation by this or any future government.

He also pointed out the crass opportunism of the Green Party and its opportunistic call for a constitutional amendment. Pointing out that the Fianna Fail – Green Party Coalition Government voted in the United Nations in 2010 against the UN resolution which declare access to clean safe drinking water to be a basic human right.

They supported and sign the “Programme for Ireland” or the aggression pack against the Irish people with the ECB/EU/IMF. One of the central proposals in that “Programme” was the introduction of water charges.

This is an important fight which can provide the opportunity to raise the wider political debate about the nature of capitalism and the control and domination by the EU.”

It is not enough to be angry about the extra expense of the water charges, the people needs to consolidate its ownership of this vital recourse. We need maximum unity of all those who oppose water charges and calls on all militant working class activists and community groups to rally in united resistance.

The defeat of water charges will also be a defeat for the mantra of – There Is No Alternative (TINA). The working people need a victory and the struggle around water can deliver that.

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An appeal to (right-wing) authority… October 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
7 comments

From Pat Leahy’s book ‘The Price of Power – Inside Ireland’s Crisis Coalition’

…this little gem. Writing about the latter days of 2010 and the aftermath of the ‘bailout’ and the ‘four year plan’ he notesL

Fintan O’Toole, probably the country’s leading newspaper commentator, called for the government to be replaced by a ‘short-term technical administration (led by non-political people of integrity and competence) – an idea that appears to require the suspension of the constitution, by an authority O’Toole did not make clear.

Odd that. That point about the constitutional implications of same is well made, nothing like a quick fix – eh?

But if ever it demonstrated how so often centre leftish approaches seem to just fold up their tent at the first hint of real trouble and run for cover to the centre right (which has no such illusions about the exercise of power and the ideological aspects of same) it is near perfect. Of a piece with that was O’Toole’s solo (none) run at the subsequent election with that group of all the talents – which surely was quite an example of supposed political activity.

In some ways the capitulation to the right of generation after generation of social democrats is a part of that – the idea that there’s something ‘above’ politics. It’s genuinely depressing how unmoored some appear to be to their supposedly fundamental approaches. And I wonder is there a broader dynamic at work which is worth considering, is it a function of the hegemony of the orthodoxy?

The National Museum and while we’re at it remember those ‘solutions’ to the crash? October 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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One line of argument during the early period of the crisis was that ‘all we had to do was go back to 2005/2004/2003 (delete as applicable) levels of public expenditure’? It sounds easy, doesn’t it? And yet demographic and other changes made it near enough impossible. Take the news that…

The National Museum of Ireland was last night considering radical proposals to deal with a funding crisis, including closing of some of its sites from January or introducing entry charges.

The reason being:

The museum is due to receive funding of €11.3 million in 2015, equivalent to its 2014 allocation. However, it is understood the museum believes this will be insufficient to cover its running costs and services next year.

Ah, it’s just 2014 levels, eh? Surely they should be able to make do… Well, not quite:

Since 2008, exchequer funding to the organisation has decreased by 40 per cent. Over recent years it has drawn on its financial reserves to address funding shortfalls. However, these reserves are now considered to be exhausted.

Could it be staff? Down from 210 to 145 since 2008. And there’s this:

It is understood that the museum will require a further €650,000 next year to maintain its current services but that otherwise its budget will not cover operational costs over and above fixed expenditure items such as wages, rent and security costs.
The museum is seeking further funding to cover liabilities, including costs associated with the collapse of a staircase in the Natural History museum in 2007 and to cover potential retirement costs.

All those ‘simple’ solutions. No solution at all. And as for the idea of requiring entrance charges… let’s hope in that at least the Oireachtas – it requires both Houses to approve it – does the right thing and increases funding rather than provide a literal barrier to entry.

This Week At Irish Election Literature October 31, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.
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From the 1997 General Election Campaign a leaflet from The Dublin Spartacist Group

From the 1973 Assembly Elections “Spoil Your Vote..And Spoil It Early” From Republican News

A “Don’t Fall For Their Lies We Can Beat The Water Charges” Leaflet from “Right 2 Water Sligo”

More unintended consequence after the referendum on Scotland and independence October 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
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…or perhaps not. A new poll suggests that in Scotland there may be significant losses for the Labour Party as the SNP increases support substantially. And the knock on effect is that that may dent Labour’s prospects come the next British General Election.

The dramatic poll for STV said the SNP could win up to 54 Scottish seats and said Labour’s popularity was its lowest level since 2007, only a month after Labour had spearheaded a victorious referendum campaign against independence.

The poll put the SNP at a record high of 52% in Westminster voting intentions and Labour at just 23%.

It’s not just the referendum, there’s also this:

In a mark of the damage caused by the bruising resignation of Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont last week, when she accused Miliband of treating her party like “a branch office”, Miliband said his party had already been though a “tough week” and implied it would get worse.

Of course there’s a way to go to the next election, but…

With the Ipsos Mori poll for STV implying that the SNP would win 54 Westminster seats – a ninefold increase on the six seats it currently holds – losing scores of crucial Scottish Labour seats would be a potentially fatal blow to Miliband’s hopes of winning an overall majority at Westminster, since UK-wide polls suggest Labour and the Tories are neck and neck.

It’s difficult to blame the Scottish electorate. Some like to see the flow of support to the SNP as ‘nationalism’ incarnate, but I tend to see that as a shallow reading of the situation. When contextualised with the support for devo max options in polling the support of the SNP suggests that the dynamic both at the referendum is more one of disenchantment with both Labour and the Tories (the latter being all but wiped out in terms of representation at UK level in Scotland). Given that the SNP pushes a mildly progressive line (though with some pretty gaping flaws) it’s hardly surprising that many might prefer that over a Labour Party that appears transfixed with fear at the idea of articulating anything more than the mildest most anodyne centre (with the emphasis on centre) left ideas, and even then resiling from that. Add to that a sense that they are makeweights for a British Labour Party that is incapable of making headway under its own steam, and Scotland and the Scottish must suffer due to that incapacity, and it’s hardly surprising there’s a detachment from it. Indeed it’s also important to note the demographics of this. Prospect recently had some intriguing thoughts on why outright federalism is unfeasible in the UK, in large part because of the different weights of population in England, Scotland and Wales. Simply put England is too big, Scotland too small, and Wales too small again. So any simple federal arrangement simply results in English predominance. Given the actual distinctions between those areas (different legal and other systems) it’s hardly surprising that that would rankle.

UK Polling Report has an interesting take on this:

[polls] have been suggesting a strong showing for the SNP since the referendum. Today we have a proper, bespoke Scottish poll by Ipsos MORI and if anything it shows the SNP doing even better than the crossbreaks suggested. Topline voting intentions in Westminster with changes since the general election are CON 10%(-7), LAB 23%(-19), LDEM 6%(-13), SNP 52%(+32), GRN 6%(+5).

And…

This would, to say the least, be rather a radical turnaround from the last general election. I don’t think swingometers offer much guidance in the case of really extreme results (a uniform swing would be mathematically impossible on this results – for example, there are about 9 seats in Scotland where Labour got less than 19% in 2010, so couldn’t lose 19% this time round…. but for the record on a uniform swing these figures would result in the SNP winning all but two seats in Scotland.

Well, who can tell? The politics of this subsequent to that sort of an outcome are fascinating. As is the question as to who might be pleased with such outcomes…

Increasing pay and productivity? October 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
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Very intriguing piece here in the Observer this last weekend where Katie Alan argues that ‘Median wages per hour – the hourly pay received by the typical British worker – have been growing below productivity since the early 1990s, and markedly so since the early 2000s’. And she points to this being a UK and a US dynamic. And, naturally, in such a circumstance there is rising inequality with ‘the benefits from any efficiency improvement have disproportionately flowed to funding pensions and rewarding executives’.

However she suggests that:

One solution to this problem of low and falling pay that is not talked about enough is simply to pay more at the bottom. How do you that before productivity rises? You do it so that productivity will rise. This sounds too easy to be true, but the living wage movement is providing a growing number of examples of where higher pay has bred higher productivity, rather than vice versa.

And that there’s strong empirical evidence that this is an actual phenomenon. She points to a raft of examples, including, entertainingly enough KPMG… who…

..says it cut the cost of running its buildings by introducing the living wage along with more flexible shifts and more holiday for cleaners and other staff. Turnover dropped and workers were happy to take on more responsibility.

Never! Though the thought strikes that for those at the other end of the pay curve higher rates are supposed to both reward work done and act as an incentive to future work. So why wouldn’t it operate at both ends? And in between.

It’s too logical, it’ll never catch on.

Sinn Feins troubles … Forcing The Civil War Parties into Coalition? October 30, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.
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I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that were the current issues afflicting Sinn Fein have happened when they were in Government in The Republic that that coalition Government would have fallen.
Imagine the site of the opposition leader greeting Mairia Cahill in Leinster House, whilst the Taoiseach tells us that the issue is an internal Sinn Fein matter. Sinn Fein might get hit slightly in the polls but it would be the senior coalition party that loses a lot more support. In a way it’s the opposite to the dynamic where the smaller party like the Greens gets obliterated due to their time in Government, it is the senior coalition partner that could suffer the most.
The polls over the past while have indicated that Government formation may not align along familiar paths, Fine Gael and Labour won’t get the numbers, Fianna Fail and Independents won’t either, FF or FG and a smaller party unlikely too.
Politics can of course be fickle but the current events involving Sinn Fein and Mairia Cahill (and whatever else may come out of it) must surely mean that Fianna Fail , Fine Gael or Labour could not go into government with Sinn Fein after the next General Election.The Maths of course may well dictate otherwise but the potential of some form of scandal erupting is surely too much. Imagine the glee in the media who would only be too glad to carry stories damaging Sinn Fein. (The other complication is that the Fianna Fail membership will have the final say on any Coalition deal involving Fianna Fail).
So with Sinn Fein still vulnerable to scandals and probably untouchable by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael…… The Maths may well end up forcing the Civil War Parties together.

Those ‘rumours’ about Irish Water October 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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A TD writes… about Irish Water. And who is it, but Pat Rabbitte in the SBP. He’s quite a way with him for defending stuff which others won’t. For example he offers a boilerplate outline of Irish Water’s genesis.

The government decided to establish [he notes ‘at the prodding of the troika – wbs], in public ownership, a utility to conserve, treat and supply water. Huge investment will be needed to dig out or refurbish the network in many parts of the country. The exchequer doesn’t have the money, so Irish Water will have to raise that investment off the national accounts. The alternative is to seriously worsen the deficit or raise taxes on people who go to work.

I like that last. But I wonder just what is the aversion to raising taxes? What new horror does it unleash?

He offers a soupçon, as it were, of sympathy…

For many families another charge is a charge too much. They are already struggling to make ends meet. What is heightening the opposition to water charges, however, is the fear of the unknown. The fears of such families are being exacerbated by uncertainty and lack of clarity. There are so many questions that arise where people just don’t believe that they have received clear or definite answers. They are entitled to certainty and clarity and it is the duty of government to ensure that they get it.

Some of us would think that the ‘charge [being] to much’ was… well… enough, and that ‘fear of the unknown’ on top of it was fairly irrelevant. If ‘many families’ can’t pay then they can’t pay. For them he offers no respite. Instead he’s off on a line – now familiar from the government and media proxies – that the ‘bonus culture’ of Irish Water is what raises peoples ire, rather than y’know, the actual charges.

Misrepresenting the remuneration system has become another weapon to undermine the company. Every second day there is a new “revelation” that stokes fear and opposition. The supposed €188 per hour callout charge is especially effective.
Since when did any water authority in Ireland come out to fix a leak on the premises? If there is a leak right up to the stopcock, that is the responsibility of Irish Water. After that responsibility, as has always been the case, rests with the householder who does what has always been done – get a plumber.

I’m a bit puzzled as to how this is a misrepresentation, there is indeed a €188 callout charge for fixing leaks (on their side of the meter). There’s also the following from the Journal:

The price would also include a €282 out of hours call-out fee, with an extra €141 an hour. It would also see Irish Water charging €220 to test water pressure and €17 for a special meter reading.

These are pretty scarifying figures and what about ability to pay? He continues:

The budget sought to address the affordability issue. However, water charges have become totemic for all the ills of society and for all the perceived failings of government. The company’s preoccupation with executing the huge challenge entrusted to it has not been reflected in the quality of its engagement with the public. The government has allowed a vacuum to develop.

But the odd thing is how little exercised he actually appears to be about the affordability issue – to coin a phrase. It’s just not on his radar.

Still, an interestingly apocalyptic note for him to strike at the end:

The new minister, Alan Kelly, seems smart enough and tough enough to take the issue by the scruff of the neck and deliver a water system fit for purpose. That would be an achievement to be proud of. If he fails, it won’t just damage his reputation – it could be the beginning of the end for the government.

Will it, will it indeed?

A revealing aside… October 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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…about Israel in today’s reports about the war of words between the US administration and the government of that state.

Responding to the remarks late on Tuesday night, Israel’s far-right economics minister, Naftali Bennett, used his Facebook page to call for Washington to renounce the comments: “If what was written [in The Atlantic] is true, then it appears the current administration plans to throw Israel under the bus.
The prime minister is not a private person but the leader of the Jewish state and the whole Jewish world. Such severe insults towards the prime minister of Israel are hurtful to millions of Israeli citizens and Jews all over the world.
“Instead of attacking Israel and forcing it to accept suicidal terms, it should be strengthened. I call on the US administration to renounce these coarse comments and to reject them outright.”

That’s a most interesting contention/confusion in regard to a Republic with a President – even in a context where executive power is vested in the PM, and I think it speaks volumes about deeply problematic dynamics within Israeli politics and beyond and about the nature of relationships that are expected to be extant between the state and Jews outside Israel on the part of some within the state. I’d almost say that it is a central part of the problem – an attitude whereby what the government of Israel does is in essence indivisible from the best interests of the Israeli and Jewish people.

Who wants to put together a government in 2015/16? Harder than it was two weeks ago… October 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
10 comments

Adrian Kavanagh’s figures for the most recent polls make some reading. Let’s put aside all the stuff as to whether a 3% fall in support for SF indicates a ‘slump’, as the SBP puts it (whereas a 2% fall for FG doesn’t) – or the fact that while Adams has lost popularity he remains just 1% behind the most popular politician, and consider what his projections suggest. He notes that on the SBP/RedC figures:

Fine Gael 26% (down 2%), Sinn Fein 20% (down 3%), Fianna Fail 18% (NC), Labour Party 8% (NC), Independents, Green Party and Others 28% (up 5%).

From which he projects:

Fianna Fail 33, Fine Gael 48, Sinn Fein 29, Labour Party 7, Independents and Others 41.

The Sunday Times/Behaviour & Attitudes poll is remarkably similar.

Fine Gael 25% (up 1%), Sinn Fein 19% (NC), Fianna Fail 18% (NC), Labour Party 9% (down 5%), Green Party 3% (up 1%), Independents and Others 25% (up 3%).

From which he projects:

Fianna Fail 34, Fine Gael 48, Sinn Fein 28, Labour Party 8, Green Party 1, Independents and Others 39.)

I could easily be wrong, but it seems to me to be some time since we saw two polls by different companies so close to one another. What to make of it?

The all important figure is 80 for even a bare majority in the Dáil. And on this on the SBP and the ST figures suggest it can’t be done other than with FF and FG. Forget about SF and FF or SF/FF and LP. Doesn’t work (IEL has had some interesting points to make on whether there’s a hope that others will work with SF with Adams in the picture. Maybe, maybe not, a lot depends on how matters proceed in regard to the most recent controversy). A minority FG administration? Maybe but on 48 it would be rightly screwed. A corralling of some Independents/Others into government supporting alliance. Those of us with not terribly long memories will recall 2007 and one B. Ahern’s efforts in that direction with Finian McGrath amongst others. Let’s just say things didn’t end that well – perhaps if the boom hadn’t crashed they might have. Perhaps not. But in any event, not a happy precedent. External support from FF in the national interest? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Other than that it’s back to the people time.

Thing is the rupture between said people and the larger political parties appears enormous. Note that in recent weeks support has gone towards Ind/Others, not FF. SF may, or may not – the figures are unclear – have suffered damage. But either way that rupture deepens. Of course we’ve months to go but nothing yet to suggest that there’s any real means of bridging the gap. I think FG and the LP may be resigning themselves to the thought that gratitude is unlikely to be forthcoming from citizens for their approach. Strange that – eh?

And what of that potential Dáil, if a minority government or an FG/FF administration took power with a large and fractious bunch of Ind/others looking on – and most likely SF there too. Who benefits in that scenario? Particularly, and this cannot be ruled out, the situation actually improves or they’re able – as they are already trying to do – to fudge water and other charges? Does it become a situation where 2015/16 is the one to go into government in order to cement power for a good two terms?

And what does that hold in regard to tempting the traditional parties to work together as never before?

Finally, as ever we see long established patterns of party support maintained. Labour at an abysmal vote share and projected number of TDs. What sort of LP would that be? How could it repurpose itself and in what context? A minor, very minor, party of government? But to what end? For Fianna Fáil a not entirely dissimilar range of questions, an improvement but not much of one all things considered. A smattering of urban TDs and some fresher faces, but still one big ‘B’ team all things considered politically. And how to position itself, slightly more left, further to the right? A government party, but in a minor key? That talk of two elections to true recovery ringing ever louder in their ears, but… problematically, no sign of any appetite on the electorate to give them much of anything that might indicate at that recovery.

And Sinn Féin, beset not by the direct issues relating to the conflict – armed struggle itself seemingly not as great a problem in retrospect as some might have imagined, but having to fend off all that went with it, the legacy of armed struggle and the structures and response that that engendered. There’s no doubting – and some of the more measured contributions to the discussion in the last week or two have made this point – that there’s a very certain sort of hypocrisy at work in this state in relation to the issue of sexual abuse and crimes, but there’s also no denying that the issues raised across that week or two in relation to the IRA has been deeply troubling for many. Politically it would seem the impact has been much lesser than might have been thought of.

And the Others/Independents, the last best hope of the Irish electorate – at least as a bloc – in these polls either the largest or equally largest bloc of support. Of course even to state it in those terms is to see the contradictions in operation here. There’s no cohesion, they are of left, centre and right. They are pretty much whatever the voter(s) want them to be. That is their greatest strength in the run-up to the GE. And it may well prove their greatest weakness subsequently if that government formation proves next to impossible.

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