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That FG junior minister… August 31, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

… sure getting a lot of attention to his pronouncements on issues far and wide on the Independent politics page today… If one scans down the latest stories here…

The Troubles…

‘Come clean on Troubles’ – Minister 
Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan has said all parties involved in the Troubles, including the security forces and the IRA, have a “moral responsibility” to come clean with information they may have on atrocities.

From the same day – entertainment!

‘RTÉ bosses must publish stars’ wages regularly,’ says minister
A government minister has accused RTÉ bosses of trying to “have their cake and eat it” when it comes to the issue of taxpayers’ money.
In an attack on the national broadcaster, Minister of State at the Department of Finance Patrick O’Donovan said the “lack of transparency” surrounding pay “cannot continue”.

And er… the very same day in the same paper… Fianna Fáil!

‘FF voters are alarmed by talk of SF deal’
Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan warns centre under attack
The “ordinary, decent Fianna Fáil voters” – from farmers to fishermen – are deeply alarmed at recent manoeuvres within the party towards a coalition deal with Sinn Féin.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series August 31, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

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

Any contributions this week?

Corporate lobbying? Is there a doctor in the house… August 31, 2017

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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Archon of the Southern Star has some thoughts on former Health Minister James Reilly and some of what he did. Thanks to the person who forwarded this. As always much appreciated.

Dumped from the front bench by onetime pal, Dame Enda, former Health Minister James Reilly’s crash dive continued with the loss of his Dáil seat. He’s now ensconced in Seanad Éireann, that unique institution for parliamentary flops, where he’s largely ignored. Politically, Reilly is yesterday’s man.

And yet, as the minister responsible for protecting and promoting public health, he can be proud of what he achieved, unlike most of his FG contemporaries. He waged war on the tobacco industry and saved lives. His selflessness, however, came at a price.

Here’s why. He enthusiastically advanced an EU directive on plain packaging whereby all cigarette packets would look the same. No longer would they carry logos, graphics, trademarks or bright colours and, in their place, health warnings were to figure prominently. Now embedded in Irish law, the official policy on packaging will come into effect in September.

But, in attempting to achieve that goal, Reilly became a target of economic and political threats from vested interests. At the same time, he had to deal with home-grown lobbyists, some of whom doubled as TV celebrities.

Reilly’s crusade against cigarettes was triggered by nicotine related deaths in his family and by the fact that in Ireland 16 people die every day because of smoking –more than alcohol, suicides, road deaths and strokes combined

In response, the tobacco moguls used every trick in the book to protect the industry’s ability to recruit new smokers and to obstruct him in his role as Ireland’s Minister for Health.

And it’s not that Reilly was unprepared for the fight. In 2013, British American Tobacco, the Imperial Tobacco Group and JT International warned the EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs of measures that would have a negative impact on the Irish economy.

In an extraordinarily-aggressive declaration, the industry predicted an economic calamity if Reilly did not change his tune in regards to his anti-tobacco legislation. Yet leader Enda Kenny, for reasons best known to himself, chose not to take seriously the tobacco industry’s pressure on our Health Minister.

Interesting too (as this column highlighted at the time) that Reilly received a letter signed by 27 MEPs who expressed grave concern at his anti-smoking plans.

All of the MEPs were in the European People’s Party, a centre-right outfit in the European Parliament which, ironically, included Fine Gael. No public disclosure was made as to whether any of the FG MEPS signed the letter.

Nor is it clear why the Fine Gael MEPs failed to support their ministerial colleague. Perhaps one of them might break ranks some day and tell us what their stance was on the vile campaign against their colleague, and why they didn’t rush to his defence?

In the letter, the MEPs said the proposed legislation would open the door to illicit trade, encourage counterfeit products, restrict fair competition, undermine trademark protections, violate international agreements; all of which would result in a loss of investment and jobs. Furthermore, it would set a dangerous precedent for other industries and products.

Interesting too that in 2013 the European Parliament was not in favour of extending the plain packaging of fags to all EU countries. Instead, the directive allowed states to adopt the legislation voluntarily – which Reilly promptly did on behalf of the people of Ireland.

To Reilly’s credit, at no stage in his anti-smoking campaign did he buckle. He held his nerve even when the German Advertising Federation warned the Irish ambassador of devastating economic consequences for Irish companies.

Again, this was in sharp contrast to the attitude of his government colleagues who allowed the insulting threat of deliberately fabricated job losses pass without comment.

Abandoned by his Blueshirt comrades, did any support at all come his way? Yes. People like Dr Ross Morgan, chairperson of the anti-smoking group, Ash Ireland, understood what Reilly was trying to do. He stated that MEPs who represented the interests of the tobacco industry should be resisted at every level.

The Irish Cancer Society commented that ‘claims about illicit trade, job losses and slowing Ireland’s economy were totally without foundation,’ while the Asthma Society of Ireland said children’s health was more important than tobacco profits. The Irish Heart Foundation also endorsed his campaign.

In the meantime, the position of the Irish government continued to be ambiguous. It grudgingly tolerated the implementation of Reilly’s anti-smoking law but, at the same time, Taoiseach Kenny, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter welcomed members of the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee (ITMACC) to a high level meeting whose primary objective was to discuss the valuable contribution the industry made to the Irish economy.

Chief lobbyist of that gang was the late Bill O’Herlihy, the sports commentator who had a long association with Fine Gael and was one of the national handlers for Garret Fitzgerald. O’Herlihy accused Dr Reilly of being ‘messianic’ in his opposition to smoking.

It was clear that Fine Gael’s backing of Reilly was at a minimum level and, indeed, Kenny eventually sacked him. To be precise, he demoted Reilly to the Department of Children which was more or less the same thing.

All of which raises important questions as to why Fine Gael was loath to condemn serious outside meddling in government affairs.

The answer, perhaps, can be found in corporate lobbying – a systemic procedure for facilitating access to decision makers by EU business and industry interests and, clearly, a course of action that Fine Gael tolerates. Seeking favours from government is not as rampant here as in Brussels, where an estimated 25,000 lobbyists operate in return for very large sums of money.

In 2015, during a speech to the World Health Organisation in Abu Dhabi, James Reilly revealed some details of the pressure he had to endure. He said one tobacco company active in Ireland employed 161 lobbyists and spent millions of euros in its effort to disparage the EU directive relating to cigarette-packet legislation.

‘We were lobbied on a scale that Irish politics had never seen before,’ he said. ‘Not only did they attempt to tell a sovereign government that we did not have the authority to enact plain-packaging legislation, they attempted to tell us how far we could progress it through our parliament and insisted that we provide them with a written undertaking – within a matter of days – not to progress it any further.’

Neither Kenny, Varadkar, nor any of the other flunkeys, considered Reilly’s observations on the tobacco industry to be deserving of attention. They ignored him.

In the end, Reilly won but whereas Micheál Martin, when Health Minister, earned international acclaim for outlawing smoking in public places, his FG counterpart encountered nothing but half-heartedness and apathy. His party simply let him down. Deliberately!

The US President August 31, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I like this analysis of Trump from the Weekly Worker in the UK.

This in particular rings true:

General Kelly has his work cut out. Sure, he can fire Scaramucci. When the time comes, he can fire Bannon (who he wouldn’t piss on to put out a fire). He can fire advisor Kellyanne Conway. But he can’t fire the most impulsive, ranting loudmouth on staff – the president himself. He may even – who knows? – go after the leakers, but what would be the point? The fish rots from the head down – we are witnessing the reign of the most indiscreet president in American history. Who needs leakers when you have @realDonaldTrump, publicly denouncing his subordinates and digging himself a new hole every day?

And I kind of like this too:

In the murk of history as it is actually lived, unfortunately, we rarely find the capitalists lined up neatly on one side, and the class-conscious proletariat arrayed as one against them. Otherwise, one suspects that we would be done with the revolution already. Trump’s regime is an extreme example of the inherent difficulty of the task. His base is familiar enough, as the most atomised elements of the (especially rural) working class and petty bourgeoisie unite in supplication to the Master, who will bring rain and sunshine from above – here we have the picture of Bonapartism. Except it is a very funny sort of Bonapartism we encounter, when Bonaparte himself is so obviously constrained and hemmed in at every turn. His cabinet superficially resembles the establishment, lacking only the technocratic wonks, against whom he ran on principle; yet he does not successfully discipline them under his own will. Judges rebel; billionaires declare themselves for ‘the resistance’; faced with the trans business, military chiefs pointedly ask if it is an order. It appears that we are witnessing a botched suicide attempt on the part of the American republic.

Telling August 31, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Reading this from David McWilliams about Conor McGregor and…er… Leo Varadkar, and thanks to BH for the read on it, which attempts to posit that the two represent the new Ireland in different ways, I was struck by the following:

Both men represent an Irish Dream. Both are outsiders, emblematic of our country and its various tribes. As befits the blurring in modern Ireland Leo is the southsider, refined and polished, Conor is the northsider, rough and feral…

Er… come again. Dublin West is on the southside? Really?

And if that’s wrong…

When you sup with… August 31, 2017

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…comes to mind reading Janan Ganesh here who makes one useful point about the current Anglo-American relationship, that being:

Once Britain voted to leave the EU – against her wishes, however quietly asserted – it could not contemplate a rupture with the US president, too. There was something distasteful about the fringe Eurosceptics who cheered Trump’s rise as a vindication of their cause, but something hard-headed as well. If he saw a world tilting from globalist technocrats to sovereign nations, with Britain at the leading edge, the least we could do is humour him for the sake of a trade agreement.
There was no shame in the UK’s mission to profit from the Trump presidency. There is some shame, with eight months of evidence, in the pretence that it is going anywhere.

And Ganesh (who I’m no fan of) makes a further interesting point:

Those Eurosceptics assumed two things of the new president: a coherent view of the outside world and the political wherewithal to impose it on a reluctant American establishment. Time has exposed both as wishful thoughts. His worldview is a farrago of irreconcilable instincts: autarky but also commercial pragmatism; America first but also action in Syria. The mix makes him hard to court, even for diplomats as steeped in ambiguities as the British. His one consistency – the worship of strength – does not help a medium-sized nation with a frail prime minister.
Where there is coherence, it is of a nationalist strain that is not much easier to work with. Brexit’s biggest admirers in the Trump team, says one member of May’s cabinet, are also the keenest to screen America from trade. Where does that leave Britain and its neo-Elizabethan dream of seafaring commerce? You cannot eat a pat on the back.

Of course Trump is not just rhetoric, but so much of what he is about is rhetorical. It’s as if the facade is the reality. Granted the facade, as noted before, mask deeply reactionary (and sometimes not just masks) impulses – and an implementation of a conservative Republican agenda, or two at that.

But then Trumpism is a chimera. There is no body of thought that can be pointed to as Trumpism. He is the ultimate reactionary himself, in a certain meaning of the term, reacting to events rather than shaping them from the off (perhaps that accounts for his testiness in communication, that recognition of that fact).

But this has very real outcomes:

If the first of Britain’s two bets flopped quickly, the second has taken a while. Last week, Pippa Malmgren, an official under president George W Bush who now advises Liam Fox, the British trade secretary, said Trump “does not know how to operate the US government”.
Her bluntness is corroborated by events: his loss of staff, the growing assertiveness of more conventional voices. British diplomats always backed America’s policy establishment to win in the end, if only because – unlike Brexit – the Trump presidency is time-limited and reversible.

And Ganesh argues that this is in a way a positive, if there’s a recognition of the illusions that some have laboured under. That the US is a ‘normal country, not a benefactor’. And there’s something in that. Far too often the ‘relationship’ is couched in terms (and there’s a bit of that on this island too) that seem to propose the US as a sort of international Santa Claus, there to distribute goodies and good will to us. It’s an oddly condescending framework given the realities of the relationships at work. It’s also oddly emotional… as Ganesh concludes…

The largest ethnic group in America are the Germans. If Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, built her Atlantic policy on that fact, we would question her grip on reason. Yet Britain still makes a fuss of lineages that involve a small share of the American population.

A reimagined Republic? August 30, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Thought this series by Fintan O’Toole was very vague – odd for someone who is arguing for a ‘reimagined Republic’ that there wouldn’t be more meat on the bone.
He concludes that:

…the State needs to be at once weakened and strengthened.
Weakened in the sense of being radically democratised by being made much more accountable to citizens and having as many of its powers as possible devolved to genuine local democracies. If the sense of place and community is what we identify as “us”, we need to give it real political form. Why shouldn’t Ireland be at the forefront of experiments in local and community democracy?


But the State also needs to be strengthened in two vital ways. It needs to do something it does not do at the moment, even among its social elites, which is to command respect for its laws. It is far too easy, especially for those with power and money, to treat citizenship as a roll-on, roll-off conveyance, useful for its rights but avoidable in its obligations.
And it needs to set clear and achievable goals for itself – and then stick to those goals with rigour and ruthlessness.

But is this truly the route to a ‘reimagined’ Republic, stronger local democracy and respect for the rule of law by elites? It seems thin stuff. And what to make of this?

In the end if we still want to have an “us” we have to call it into existence through vigorous engagement with ideas about where we want to go. We need a large-scale, structured national conversation in which we decide for ourselves what our republic will look like.

And another telling aspect was the ambiguity as to whether he was talking about a 32 county or 26 county ‘Ireland’.

I’m not entirely against the idea of embracing national myths or a common identity, but I wonder at the ability of states to will this into being consciously. It seems to me that one of the positive aspects about the present is that the concept(s) of Irishness have grown organically. Which isn’t to suggest that they’re unproblematic, but just as the reGaelicisation process faltered and failed to a significant extent despite some political weight (albeit with huge issues as regards to how it would be possible to implement it at the time and after both materially and in the context of democratic states) the idea a national identity is constructed quite this way seems unlikely to me.

Rail subsidies in Europe… This can’t be right, can it? August 30, 2017

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A piece in the Guardian notes in relation to rail fares and services in the UK that:

Research from unions and campaigners has highlighted significant disparities in season ticket costs for commuters. The RMT found a month’s commute on sample routes into London typically cost double a similar journey into Brussels, and four times as much for journeys of equivalent lengths into Rome and Berlin.
A study by the TUC-led Action for Rail highlighted just how savage a bite this takes from commuters’ wages: a season ticket from Liverpool to Manchester or Luton to London eats up 11-14% of average monthly earnings, while German, French, Spanish or Italian equivalents would be in the 2-4% range.

But hold on… these services are mostly public owned, compared to the privately owned UK rail services. Though aren’t we told that that’s not possible under EU competition law (we are, but those saying it are wrong – and oddly those saying it rarely if ever discuss WTO rules on subsidies which function in or out of the EU and which rather like EU rules are nowhere near as imposing as they are made out to be and are easily worked around by those with the political will to do so, that being most EU states). There’s more…

The RDG says that higher public subsidy is one of the main reasons why European counterparts enjoy cheaper fares. Campaigners don’t disagree; they just want more of that here.

More public subsidy? Surely not?

Er… surely yeah.

September issue of Socialist Voice August 30, 2017

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The September issue of Socialist Voice is now available on line.

Brexit: bordering on the ridiculous
Jimmy Doran. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/01-brexit.html
The continuing drip feed from the Brexit negotiations on the future of the border between the two parts of our country, and the inability to do anything about it, illustrate the total lack of sovereignty 
we have as members of the imperial club. We may be members, yet we are outside the talks process. We can lobby on matters affecting us, and look for support from other states; 
that’s about as much input as is available to us. 

Public housing is the only solution
Eugene Byrne. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/02-housing.html
The saying “After all is said and done there is usually more said than done” would nicely sit with the Dublin government at this time, especially in their response to the housing crisis. 

Essential to break with the EU and the euro
Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland

Encouraging signs of growing unity
Tommy McKearney.   http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/04-unity.html
A recent feature in the Financial Times might cause some surprise among Ireland’s eight thousand homeless, or the many others struggling with the spiralling cost of renting even modest accommodation. 

Dublin Bus up for grabs
Jimmy Doran.  http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/05-bus.html
In August, at the end of the tendering process for 10 per cent of Dublin bus routes, two bidders remained: Dublin Bus itself and the British transport corporation Go-Ahead. It’s no surprise that, despite Dublin Bus putting in a very good tender and meeting all the criteria, the private British company got the “go-ahead.” 

The existential crisis of the GAA
Gearóid Ó Machail  http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/06-gaa.html
Now that we’ve literally reached the business end of the annual GAA season, it is perhaps timely to reflect on the trajectory that Ireland’s pre-eminent sporting, cultural and community organisation appears to have ingloriously embarked upon in recent decades.

Thoughts on ideology
Jenny Farrell  http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/07-ideology.html
The ideas that reflect the objective interests of a class are its ideology. The ruling class in any society imprints its ideology on “mainstream” thinking, as expressed in all the official opinions of the state—in politics, economics, philosophy, art, religion, and so on. 

Wolfe Tone oration
Speech by John Douglas, general secretary, Mandate 
at the United Wolfe Tone Commemoration, Bodenstown, 20 September 2017

Comrades, brothers and sisters, 
     Our national freedoms were defined by the United Irishmen in terms of citizenship, the responsibility of the state to its citizens and the responsibility of all citizens to the welfare of each other. Those freedoms were not narrow: they were based on the principles of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, and fraternity. 

United Wolfe Tone Commemoration 
Bodenstown, 20 August 2017  http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/09-bodenstown-2.html
As part of its continuing efforts to build unity among left and progressive forces, between socialists and republicans, the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum called for a united commemoration to honour Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763–1798), the founder of Irish republicanism. 

Some forgotten anniversaries
Shane Quinn.  http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/10-anniversaries.html
Some anniversaries are widely observed in the West, including Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Holocaust Memorial Day, and the atrocities in New York in September 2001. Yet there are other undesirable anniversaries that have largely been allowed to disappear. 

Google censors the internet
Dónall Ó Briain.  http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/11-google.html
Amid all the hysteria about “fake news,” as reported by the corporate and state media (i.e. the actual purveyors of fake news for the last century or more), a significant piece of news about Google, the giant near-monopoly internet corporation, slipped by unreported or, if reported, unexamined. 

A Catalan republic: fact or farce?
Tomás Mac Síomóin.    http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/12-catalunya.html
To be an independent republic—or not? That choice will face voters if the referendum planned by the Catalan regional government for the 1st of October is allowed to take place by the Spanish government. 

Cuba educates medical students from around the world
From Cuban News Agency.  http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/13-cuba.html
Under Fidel Castro’s direction, Cuba has become a “medical superpower,” setting new standards for global solidarity in the interests of human health. 

Human rights advocate or anti-democratic agent?
Graham Harrington.  http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/14-rights.html
Liu Xiaobo, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace for his opposition to the Chinese state, died on 17 July 2017. 
     Since his death, Western media have been publishing the usual laudatory obituaries given to those “human rights activists” who, coincidentally, have views aligning with imperialist foreign policy. 

A fitting account of a great communist
Eoin McDonnell.   http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/15-jimmy.html
The play Jimmy’s Hall, running at the Abbey Theatre, is said to be adapted from Paul Laverty’s film script of the same name, directed by Ken Loach. 
     When the film was first mooted it sent a scurry of excitement around certain sections of the left, and in particular the CPI,.......

Bratacha éagsúla
Gabriel Rosenstock introduces and translates another poem from the Indian subcontinent

Attoor Ravivarma (or Attur Ravi Varma) writes in Malayalam, the language of Kerala, spoken by about 20 million people. 

Poetry ;  

The imperialist world order

Eoghan O’Neill

No sound, sight nor smell do we encounter
Away from the lands where they bring man’s thunder
Propaganda, intervention, mercenary spies

What you want to say – 30th August 2017 August 30, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

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

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