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Saor Eire raid on the Hibernian Bank, Droichead Nua (Newbridge) 1968 April 28, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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A piece from The Irish Republican & Marxist History Project

After a raid on the National Bank in Kells, Co, Meath in 1969, Saor Eire issued their first official statement to the press claiming responsibility for the robbery and describing themselves as the Saor Eire Action Group. They signed the statement Michael Price, using the name of the 1930’s Socialist Republican leader and claiming that the money would be used to finance a movement which would strive for a Workers’ Republic……

You can read the full piece here

Brexit woes… April 28, 2016

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Odd, the Brexit camp is in some disarray (the Guardian’s word, not mine) about the Obama visit. It’s certainly not helped their cause, and Boris Johnson (and Nigel Farage’s words too, less reported but just as noxious) afterwards about Obama’s heritage did themselves no favours at all.

I’ve no sympathy for them whatsoever. You want to do politics, prepare for a push-back from those who take a different view. And prepare to hear people expressing opinions you may not like. It’s risible to hear Obama’s opinion being dismissed as if the US had no strategic or other interests in the matter. Indeed the irony of those who reify (and in some aspects correctly) sovereignty denying that to others is entertaining.

And just on all this Tom McGurk in the SBP who does not hide his antipathy to the EU under a bushel and appears to be very much the champion of Brexit argues oddly, that:

If anything the reaction against the Obama intervention has highlighted how deeply personal British voters consider the choice they have to make. They will feel that it’s for them and for them alone to make this choice, and that only people who are British and conscious of their unique culture and history can make it.

Well, again, the point about opinions is that they are just that. No one is denying the British the chance to make their decision. But, given that Obama’s intervention is regarded by many as reasoned and timely and the reaction is as described above I wonder was McGurk indulging in some wishful thinking.

Anyhow, I don’t know what the political effect will be, but the polls (taken before the visit) generally show the Remain camp ahead by a fair distance (the last Ipsos MORI/Standard poll had REMAIN 49% [nc], LEAVE 39% [-2%], DK 12% [+2%]). So, it’s going to be tight and who knows how things will go, but at this point REMAIN is ahead. Fascinating breakdown of attitudes between the two camps:

MORI also asked an unprompted question on what the most important issues were in deciding how people would vote in the EU referendum. Overall the impact on the economy (32%) and immigration (27%) came top, but there was a sharp contrast between remain and leave voters. Among those who want to remain 40% named the economy, followed by jobs (15%), trade (14%) and immigration (14%). Among those who want to leave 47% named immigration, followed by making our own laws (25%), the economy (21%) and the impact of immigration on the welfare state (20%).

BTW reading about the Brexit campaign in the UK I saw a familiar name here…

Meanwhile, it emerged that Gisela Stuart, the co-chair of Vote Leave, had written to the home secretary urging May to exclude the rightwing French politician Marine Le Pen, who plans to come to Britain to make the case for Brexit.

No, not Le Pen, Stuart. She’s an interesting career as an LP MP. And she clearly changed her mind on the EU in the 2000s from pro to anti. No shame there. But a little more curious is her stance in 2004 on the re-election of G.W. Bush, and her membership of the Henry Jackson Society.

An unhealthy obsession with Gerry Adams… April 28, 2016

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Did anyone read Ruth Dudley Edwards piece in the Sunday Independent this last weekend? It was – as is the wont of that paper and its daily twin, an attack on Sinn Féin, and Gerry Adams in particular. I’ve meant to comment on how any even cursory view of their politics stories will almost inevitably offer up a couple of anti-SF stories, and most focused on Adams, every week. Sometimes they are more frequent. That they are near enough all froth, faux outrage over non-events or non-comments or misinterpretations, is neither here nor there. The Independent papers clearly know their target audience. It’s difficult to know whether it reflects worse upon the papers themselves or that audience. I think its 50:50, but others opinions will vary.

None of this is to suggest that Adams or SF are beyond critique or criticism. But the words logical, reasoned and principled surely should inform such critiques and criticism.

Anyhow RDE offers some boilerplate about how Adams has spent his life ‘opposing pretty well everything that came across his line of vision and prevented him getting his way’. Such as?

…the Northern Ireland state, Brits, unionists, Orangemen, the SDLP, securocrats, capitalists (unless they’re American donors), revisionists, partitionists, dissidents, media lackeys and so on and on. Not the IRA, of course, of which he was never a member but for which he has empathic understanding. And not anyone who thinks he’s wonderful.

An odd analysis, one would think if one looks at the fact the peace process was in train perhaps marginally longer than the conflict itself in the North (a bit ambiguous this, but say the conflict was from 1970 to 1996 or so and the peace process from 1990 to date. Again opinions will vary). Or that Adams and others in SF and PIRA came to terms with historic adversaries including…er… pretty much all the above, bar the obvious.

Nor, and this is particularly notable, does she bother to engage with the implacable attitudes of some on that list above. Truly there’s only one original sin in her book.

Anyhow, after such a list it is curiously unimpressive to read where her thoughts take her next. Parochial is the word that springs to mind.

Gerry’s hierarchy of hate-figures list is not set in stone, of course. These days, Micheal Martin tops it. They are engaged in a war for the republican soul which requires a lot of casuistry from both about physical force nationalism, though if Micheal’s difficulty is real, Gerry’s is awesome.

And so we are treated – using the term lightly – to her thoughts on the varying degrees of error of Martin and Adams in regard to republicanism.

As Newton Emerson put it last week in the Irish Times, Micheal Martin was “implying he was more republican but only in the less violent way.”

And then she makes what are actually some thought-provoking points. Not terribly well, it has to be said, but interesting:

All they agree on is that 1916 is sacrosanct. “The anti-nationalist revisionists have been marginalised,” said Micheal. “The arguments of the 1970s and 80s that we should reject the tradition of 1916 are now confined to a small fringe.”
Gerry is with him. “For our part, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein agree that there would be no Irish State, no level of independence and no amount of sovereignty, however limited, for Ireland, but for the revolutionary republican tradition.”

For her this is error piled on error. For some of us her interpretation will be error piled on error.

Where to begin? I don’t quite know what Micheal means by “anti-nationalist revisionists”, but if he’s talking about unionists, then after decades of murder and destruction in the name of republicanism, they are more critical of the violent tradition in Irish nationalism than ever.
If he’s talking about people like John Bruton, Fr Seamus Murphy SJ and a vast number of others who believe the 1916 leaders had no moral legitimacy, we are mostly happy to be citizens of an independent Irish Republic but regret that it didn’t emerge peacefully, as it certainly would have, had the Irish people wanted it.

That last is simply incorrect, though it is a most expedient line if one wishes to deny the legitimacy of 1916.

But we’ve ploughed that ground sufficiently on this site. As to the first, and this is something she appears to share with many, yes, republicanism has changed, but then so has everyone else. Power-sharing was hardly accepted at all by the UUP until the GFA itself, and completely anathema to the DUP until well into the last decade. And it is notable that she sees partition flowing from 1916. But surely she is aware that it was implicit in the home rule agreement that she (clearly) views as a precursor somehow to ‘an independent Irish Republic’? Or perhaps not:

Without the violence of 1916, politicians would have had a chance of reaching a constitutional agreement without bloodshed: because of it, the island was partitioned and the hearts of the two main tribes hardened against each other.

Offered without even an hint of supporting evidence. One is meant to take it as read as being correct.

Anyhow, that’s by the by. The stuff about revisionism is actually more useful.

Anyway, Micheal is talking rubbish about the marginalisation of dissent. There is a far more lively public debate about the legitimacy of 1916 these days than there ever was in the 1970s and 1980s. Just look at the letters pages of the newspapers for starters. Most of our young adults today have not had years of heavy indoctrination, are cosmopolitan and prepared to think critically about their nation’s sacred cows. (Mind you, the patriots-and-Brits take on 1916 that is being fed to some schoolchildren at the moment may be storing up trouble for the future.)

And what of this remarkably partial defence of British rule:

But if Micheal Martin blurs history, Adams simply lies about it. Those who “seek to elevate what has been termed the ‘constitutional nationalist tradition’ in Irish history at the expense of the revolutionary republican tradition… ignore the reality that in the Ireland of 1916 there was no democracy”, he explains, thus blithely writing out elections for parliamentary and local government, a constitutional, not absolutist, monarchy, not to mention free speech, freedom of assembly, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, a public service open to all and Home Rule on the statute book. This is what the seven anti-democratic signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, who were a sub-group of a tiny secret society, set out to overthrow.

Does she genuinely believe that the situation in Ireland in 1916 prior to the Rising was as she describes, that the functional and effective aspects of British rule were as benign as she presents? No word at all how the British state had bent under the pressure from Unionism. Nothing about the entirely skewed form of parliamentary representation, or the appallingly restricted franchise. Or about how Home Rule itself was utterly compromised.

The Brian Hanley talks linked to on this site this week underscore this. In Dublin TCD could elect 2 MPS to Westminster, both Unionist, the rest of the city elected 4. Just 33,000 men (and only men) had a vote in Dublin out of a population ten times that number in the city as a whole. Property, gender and other qualifications ensures the disenfranchisement of many many tens of thousands more men and women in the city. Local elections had similar qualifications, albeit some women were allowed to vote. As Hanley notes, ‘democracy as we know it today did not exist in 1916’. Further, he notes that home rule as envisaged then did not include women’s suffrage. The Home Rule party, Redmond himself, were adamantly opposed to both suffrage and women’s participation in that party.

And I mentioned last week that I find this line about the Irish people as gullible consumers of nationalism or republicanism (of whatever stripe) as hugely insulting. But it’s also in political terms rather stupid. There is no chance of a second Troubles, the context and dynamics are now so radically different that it would take ruptures unlikely to occur in the medium to long term to even bring us marginally closer to such an eventuality.

But I think she is wrong about revisionism of her stripe not being marginalised. Her thesis about 1916, one shared with Bruton and the indefatigable Fr Murphy is not shared by the overwhelming majority of people in this state (and by extension this island). The state itself, subsidiary institutions, cultural formations, all the media – whatever about the space afforded to ‘dissenting’ voices, often a disproportionate space given their numbers, all are as one in being of the opinion that the Rising was legitimate. It goes further. So does the British state. So do other states.

Nor, and this she and those who take a similar view ignore completely, is that legitimacy regarded as mapping onto all else. Their wilful misunderstanding of the dynamics of the 1960s in the North means that they offer an amazingly reductionist view of the relationship between 1916, nationalism and the Troubles. But without ignoring some impact it seems much more logical to suggest that the conflict that ensued was largely a product of those dynamics referred to a sentence or so back. But that’s problematic for them because it means there isn’t a single font of political conflict on the island but multiple ones. Small wonder that the sight of Adams in Dáil Éireann is so troubling to them because that suggests layers of complexity in regard to the histories and relationships on this island (and between these islands given the centrality of SF to the GFA/BA) that make their take on it seem partial and partisan.

That the same, or largely the same, group who have made this the central obsession of their political lives disagree is their choice, they are fortunate that they number amongst them a few who have a relatively high media profile.

Again though, there’s an odd parochialism, and personalisation in her conclusion. She writes:

Gerry Adams will always put his cult before his country. He is aching to be leader of the Opposition, so he can get his snipers in the best position to destroy and demolish everything the Government does and reap the electoral rewards of the anarchy that would ensue.

To his credit, Micheal Martin is putting the national interest first in holding the centre. If he keeps his nerve, while Gerry goes on opposing things for cynical party advantage, at least he won’t be doing it from the best seat in the Dail.

This is it? This is her ‘revisionist’ project in all its glory in 1916? Just about keeping Gerry Adams (and SF – though that seems to be less important than the man) from being ‘leader of the opposition’? It seems small beer for all that effort, all that supposedly existential struggle for the heart and soul (and history) of the Irish people. Doesn’t it?

Inequality: ‘Risk of poverty’ in the RoI. April 28, 2016

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Kitty Holland in the Irish Times makes an thought-provoking, and to many of us unsurprising, point:

After transfers, the “at risk of poverty” rate is higher than in such states as the Czech Republic (8.6 per cent) and France (13.7 per cent).
However, if there was no social welfare system, with all citizens dependent on the wages and the support of family, the at-risk rate would be a staggering 49.8 per cent – topped only by Greece, where the rate before transfers would be 53.4 per cent.

In practical terms:

Consistent poverty rates increased, from 7.7 per cent in 2012 to 8 per cent in 2014.
That translates as 368,440 people in consistent poverty – ie living on an income below 60 per cent of the median and also unable to afford such basics as a second pair of strong shoes, a warm winter coat, sufficient heating to be warm at home or to have friends or family over for a meal once a month.
Of the almost 370,000 experiencing such privation are an increasing number of children. In 2014, one in eight children (11.2 per cent) were in consistent poverty.

Government formation: ‘Deal’ or no ‘deal’ April 28, 2016

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You take your pick…

The IT says it is pretty much a done ‘deal’.

Fianna Fáil may be willing to commit to allowing Fine Gael to introduce three budgets as part of a deal to put a minority government in place.
Advisers from the two parties met on Wednesday to put the finishing touches to a deal designed to allow a Fine Gael-led minority government take office next week.
Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin are expected to sign off on the agreement before it goes to the two parliamentary parties for final approval.

RTÉ is a lot more equivocal.

Talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on the formation of a minority government led by Enda Kenny are due to resume later today.

Party officials redrafted some documents overnight.

Both parliamentary parties yesterday considered the draft agreement on Irish Water agreed by negotiators on Tuesday.

Another former Minister writes… about water April 27, 2016

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Pat Rabbitte in the SBP argues that:

So it was all about water. Water and one-upmanship. Eight weeks of foot dragging and pious rhetoric about new politics. All designed to camouflage the real purpose. It has been a demonstration of the worst of the old politics. Political posturing pretending to offer a choice of minority governments, when in reality what has been going on is jockeying for advantage in preparation for the next election.

There may well be something in that. Though some will smile at the following:

The FG cave-in on Irish Water is a set-back for the party and the country. It is a snub to the LP which politically bore the brunt of the fallout from the original decision.

I’m sure that last was high in the reckoning of FG at this point in time.

What’s fascinating is that Rabbitte confuses political priorities with politics. Or attempts to make a distinction. So he argues that ‘nobody can rationally believe that water is remotely the biggest problem facing the country’ and goes on to praise Irish Water. But surely he realises that it is token of something much broader, the manner of government and the policies of the last two administration during the crisis.
That he cannot or will not see this is educative, is it not?

Again he seems like so many unable to countenance that Irish Water (or any future body) should be funded from taxation. As always I find this inexplicable. He writes;

Revenue raised from assets will be further diminished – by how much we don’t know. Therefore, other services badly in deed of increased investment since the financial crash will suffer.

And on he goes:

For 30 years the trade union movement led a campaign to broaden the tax base and ease the responsibility on the shoulders of ordinary workers and income taxpayers. Introduction of the pretty tax and a charge for water measures designed to broaden the tax base.

Interesting that, for there’s a contradiction there. If water charges were tax measures then why not have them placed on taxable income in a progressive (in both the technical and other sense) manner rather than having them as fixed charges that took no account of income. And how was this measure designed to ease the ‘responsibility’ on ordinary income taxpayers? He does not, cannot, explain that.

He writes:

The EU water directive makes plain that there must be a charge for water.

Ah, so that’s an answer of sorts. But again, why was there no effort even to bring in a modicum of progressivity into the equation?

Anyhow, he does seem to realise that water is merely an aspect of something larger:

The public protests are only partially to do with water. Water happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was seized on by the Trotskyist left who provoked SF involvement and latterly FF boarded the bandwagon.

But apart from confusing the involvement of various forces in a way that suggests his read of matters isn’t quite as correct as he seems to think, he also appears to not understand cause and effect and be blaming the “Trotskyist Left” and SF for actions his own government and its predecessor oversaw! That’s quite some trick.

But then one could alter his words and suggest that what he writes about is only partially to do with water. It is perhaps better seen as indicative of a view point from within the government, and the LP component in particular, that despite experience became so utterly detached from political reality in this state that it mistook certainty for correctness, lack of choice for virtue and resistance and dissent for vice.

Saothar 41 Launch & Lecture – May 12th 2016 April 27, 2016

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Saothar 41  invitation

A former Minister writes about… the EU April 27, 2016

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Michael McDowell, former Minister, apparently now a Senator, in the SBP asks a good question. He says that above and beyond Brexit there are different questions that Irish citizens should be asking. He writes:

The Republic badly needs a balanced debate on the future of the EU. Leaving the EU is not an option for Ireland in the foreseeable future, even if Britain opts for Brexit. But we have little or no real debate in this country about the kind of Europe we want the EU to become.

And he sets himself strongly against EU federalists. He also notes that:

If, as a recent poll commissioned by the IT suggests, the Irish people strongly support the right for Ireland to opt out of further EU integration, can we be content with a domestic political debate on the future of the EU from which the mainstream of Irish opinion, which wishes to remain in the EU but does not favour a federalist EU state – is excluded?

I find myself, unusually given former views on both him and the EU, tending towards his position. A federal EU is not, as the EU is constructed at this time and at this point, a welcome prospect. Further integration is largely unnecessary and would exacerbate the existing democratic deficits without remedying them. Exiting the EU is though a chimera, and something that is politically unsustainable as serious policy in this state. To present that to citizens will merely receive a rapid sharp response in the negative. But to argue that this far and no further without fundamental reform along left lines is not by contrast a bad position at all.

I suspect we will see a multi-stranded EU develop with an inner core which shifts slowly towards integration (though countervailing tendencies are already in evidence). Ireland, this state, is in an interesting position being both part of the eurozone but unlikely to follow that core. The pressures of the coming decades will be illuminating to watch.

Meanwhile, on McDowell himself, entertainingly the Phoenix picked up on something we noted the last two or three weeks, that he has been making veiled predictions about a new centre/centre right or ‘pop-up’ party that would ‘fill’ the space vacated by RENUA (and before them the PDs). The Phoenix suggests that he sees himself as leader of said formation, and that his bid to enter the Seanad is of a piece with this.

Perhaps so, though one has to wonder if the last leader of the PDs who also was in the Seanad found that particular location a blessing or a curse in relation to party building. I think the answer isn’t that difficult to work out.

Speaking of health inequality April 27, 2016

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John McManus in the IT today has a bleak piece asking ‘are we about to bail out the private hospitals’. Well worth a read for a sense of the thinking (or lack of same) in this state that has led to such pernicious outcomes as evidenced in the statistics showing the disparities for treatment times between public and private patients.

Over the last 20 years or more, a huge, privately-owned health infrastructure was built up in Ireland, with government encouragement. The main boost came via tax breaks, the most significant being income tax relief on private health insurance premiums.
Irish health spending is very close to the European average but, unlike most of our peers, one-third of it is channelled through the private healthcare system. The thinking behind all this – if there really was any – was that the private sector would deliver hospital care more efficiently and that better-off people could pay for it via health insurance rather than making everybody pay more tax. It was liberal market economics at its best or worst, depending on your perspective.

And now the private hospitals (which as McManus notes are commercial entity first and foremost whose purpose is ‘to make money’) are suggesting public- private initiatives ‘to help reduce waiting lists’:

…we seem to be heading back into something resembling bank bailout territory – the sort of place capitalists like to go when things go wrong. By signing up to a five-year deal to utilise the spare capacity of the private sector, the State will be protecting the private hospitals from the full consequences of their bad investment decisions and, in effect, bailing them out.

This is the other side of yesterday’s statistics where a system distorted from the off, putting financial aspects ahead of medical need, becomes ever more distorted and now attempts to feed of the distortions its very existence generates.

The Truth? April 27, 2016

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The Sun and The Times rightly getting criticised over their decision not to carry the Hillsborough verdict on page one. Compounded by squirrelling away the report (in the Sun) on pages 8 and 9. The Times later carried a photo on page one of relatives. Fairly remarkable given their lamentable history in relation to the matter from the off.

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