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A thought on the “Yes Equality” campaign? February 19, 2015

Posted by Tomboktu in Bunreacht na hÉireann, Human Rights, Inequality, LGBT.
10 comments

Two of the principles that the ‘Yes Equality’ coalition — the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, and Marriage Equality — have decided they will follow in the campaign on the referendum on marriage equality are (a) they will run a positive campaign and (b) that the referendum is not about children, as the question of children is being dealt with by the Children and Family Relationships Bill (which is to be published today).

It will be a difficult task. Their opponents are using negative campaigning and have insisted that the Children and Family Relationships Bill is at key part of the issue.

And by negative campaigning, I don’t mean merely critiquing the case for marriage equality, but insinuating stereotypes about gay men.

Last weekend’s RTÉ Radio 1 programme Saturday with Claire Byrne dealt entirely with the Children and Family Relationships Bill. It is a long and complicated piece of legislation (the most recent draft that has been published before today is 123 pages long — PDF here) and it covers a myriad of possibilities in how a child might be conceived and raised. One of the participants in Saturday’s programme was Bishop Kevin Doran. During the programme, Claire Byrne asked him to identify the substantive problem he sees with the Bill.

The core of his argument, and the Roman Catholic church’s, is that, when the genetic mother and father are not in a position to raise the child, it is preferable for a child to be brought up by a man and a woman. He picked one — and only one — example to elucidate why he thinks this is important:

Let’s just put it very simply. Take a young woman of 14, 15, 16 years of age growing to maturity and her two parents are two men. They may be the most loving, caring people in the world, but how can they respond as two men to the human, personal and feminine needs of a young woman growing up?

When he finished, the host, Claire Byrne, responded: “OK. There are probably some men who feel quite offended by that if they are bringing up a child, say a female child, on their own”, before turning to another panelist.

His opponents on the programme were three TDs: Alan Shatter, Róisín Shortall and Sean Fleming.  Bishop Doran and the other “anti” panelist on the programme, Ben Conroy of the Iona Institute, were vigorously challenged about a different claim that lone parents are less than ideal when it comes to adoption, in particular by Sean Fleming whose father died when he was in school and whose mother raised him and his siblings alone.

However, none of the TDs challenged the homophobia in the bishop’s comment, none of them challenged the bishop’s assertion that two gay men would unable to respond to their daughter’s ‘feminine needs’ when she reaches puberty. And it is a theme Bishop Doran has returned to this week when he delivered a speech to a meeting in Sligo on Tuesday evening:

It is certainly possible for two men to parent a teenage girl, but few would suggest that is the ideal.

Bishop Doran’s attacks are crying out for a “mini Panti moment”. The next time he is on radio or television, the bishop needs to be asked what exactly is it about two men, and two gay men in particular, in contrast to a widower, that is less than ideal when it comes to raising a daughter? How does he think widowed fathers deal with the onset of menstruation in their daughters? Does he think that two gay men raising daughters are shunned by their sisters, leaving their daughter without an aunt who can take her niece to get her first bra? Indeed, does he think heterosexual fathers with wives ought to ignore their daughter’s ‘feminine needs’?

I do not know if the Yes Equality coalition declined an invitation to take part in Saturday’s programme or were not invited, but they have been notably silent this week while the suitability of two gay men to be parents has been attacked in the debate about the Bill that will, among a myriad of other things, make that possible for the first time in Ireland. However, the explicit homophobia in the broader debate needs to be challenged, even if that means modifying a commitment to be positive and an intention to focus only on the referendum. However much GLEN, Marriage Equality and the ICCL may not like it, the question of children is now part of the debate. We saw on Saturday that we cannot depend on straight allies to expose the homophobia, but if it is left unchallenged, it will damage the Yes campaign.

It’s not just the referendum – “Our little private gesture” January 9, 2015

Posted by Tomboktu in Inequality, LGBT.
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“Our little private gesture, like Schrödinger’s cat, is altered simply by being observed”

The planned marriage referendum: Some sense in the Dáil October 10, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Bunreacht na hÉireann, Inequality, LGBT Rights, Marriage equality, Uncategorized.
14 comments

Yesterday in the Dáil, Michael McNamra made an interesting contribution to the debate on a bill amending the Civil Registration Act. At last somebody has asked this rather obvious question,

Another issue is impediments to marriage. This is an amendment to the Civil Registration Act 2004, which was the first legislation to note that being of the same sex is an impediment to marriage. The Government tells us there will be a referendum on this but I question the need for that. Can we not simply legislate for the issue? It will be a divisive and hurtful campaign for many people and it may not be necessary to engage the public in a referendum. After all, we Members of the Oireachtas are paid to be here and the Constitution says we are legislators, although Departments are the de facto legislators and we merely apply the rubber stamp. Do we need a referendum? I am led to believe a former Attorney General said a referendum is required on this in an opinion supplied to the Government. I have not seen this opinion nor has anyone else because no one sees the opinions of Attorneys General. Can an exception be made in this case? Is there a reason such opinions are not made available? Should such opinions be made available as a matter of course? If it is a matter where the State is being sued and there is a potential liability to the State, the Government will not wish to show its hand by publishing an opinion. Surely, however, opinions relating to matters of public importance that require the time and expense of a referendum could be published. Very few people want a referendum on this issue if it can be legislated for. That is certainly the case for most of the gay people who want to marry and to whom I have spoken. Why is it not possible to legislate for this?

I am aware of cases relating to this topic such as Murray v. Ireland and a high-profile one involving Senator Zappone. In Murray v. Ireland Mr. Justice Costello of the High Court and once of this House said the Constitution makes clear that the concept and nature of marriage, which it enshrines, are derived from the Christian notion of partnership based on irrevocable personal consent. It is clear, then, that the judgments refer to the Christian notion of marriage in the Constitution and on this basis the court found it was acceptable for Ireland to refuse to recognise same-sex marriages from abroad. There is a world of difference, however, between saying it is acceptable for the Oireachtas not to recognise same-sex marriages and saying it would be unlawful for the Oireachtas to legislate to recognise same-sex marriages or allow same-sex marriage in Ireland.

It is clear the notion of marriage in the Constitution is based on a Christian notion of marriage, but that does not mean civil marriages are unlawful in Ireland. Even divorce is lawful in Ireland since the constitutional referendum on that issue. Our notions of what provisions of the Constitution mean constantly evolve. Many people accept that gay marriage is part of the right to have a family, that the security of family life should apply to heterosexual and homosexual people equally. I question the need for a referendum on this issue if it is possible to legislate for it.

The Economist on Piketty May 6, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Books, Capitalism, Economics, Inequality, Journalism, Marxism, Taxation Policy, The political discourse, The Right.
55 comments

I bought the Economist because the cover said it has an article about Piketty. (Reading articles about his book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, is quicker than reading the book!)

The headline on the actual article is weird: “Bigger than Marx”. That is true neither of the physical heft of the book nor, if everything I have read about it so far is valid, of the contents.

And then the content of the Economist’s review: 13 paragraphs: two are neutral; four approving; seven critical of the book. The Economist cites five critics of his thesis or aspects of it and zero supporters.

Not that I’m terribly surprised at their overall view, but they might have been subtler. Or maybe I should applaud their transparency.

Basic Income Ireland 2014 Summer Forum April 28, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Equality, Inequality, Uncategorized.
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Basic Income Ireland invites you to our

2014 Summer Forum

A half-day conversation about Basic Income.

Date: Saturday 7 June 2014

Time: 1:00 to 5:00, with informal discussion afterwards

Venue: Carmellite Community Centre – 56 Augier Street, Dublin 2

No charge. Donations/membership subs will be accepted on the day.

Registration: Please register in advance at http://www.basicincomeireland.com/basic-income-2014-summer-forum-signup.html

A Basic Income is a payment from the state to every resident on an individual basis, without any means test or work requirement.

It would be sufficient to live a frugal but decent lifestyle without supplementary income from paid work.

The idea of Basic Income is being advanced world-wide as part of the solution to the issues facing today’s world.

Come join us to discuss the Basic Income solution and to plan activities for the coming 12 months.

Programme

1:00-1:45 Welcome and light lunch

1:45-3:10 Recent developments in Basic Income internationally

Keynote speaker: Yannick Vanderborght, one of the leading figures in the new wave of basic income activists. Professor of Political Science at Saint-Louis University, Brussels; Chair of Regional Coordination Committee of Basic Income Earth Network; co-author with Philippe Van Parijs of L’allocation universelle (2005) and co-editor of Basic income: An anthology of contemporary research (2013) and other books on basic income.

Yannick will speak on transnational cooperation in the campaign for basic income and on recent developments in the theory and politics of basic income. Followed by a participatory discussion.

3:10-3:30 Tea and coffee break

3:30-5:00 Advancing Basic Income in Ireland

Brief presentation and participatory discussion

Afterwards: social gathering in The Swan, Aungier Street.

Further information on basic income is available at basicincomeireland.com and on Facebook – Basic Income Ireland and Twitter: @basicincomeirl.

Register now: http://www.basicincomeireland.com/basic-income-2014-summer-forum-signup.html

Further information: Basic.Income@nuim.ie

Please circulate this notice to your friends and contacts.

Direct Provision: An Open Prison March 13, 2014

Posted by doctorfive in Community, Inequality, racism.
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Working poor August 2, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Capitalism, Economy, Inequality.
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Here’s an article from the NYT from 2004
by David Shipler who wrote “The Working Poor: invisible in America” that looks at some of the perhaps less obvious ways that poverty functions – health issues, health/appearance issues, the nature of work that is available, how family relationships impinge, and so on and so forth. It seems to me to be particularly good at point how there are something analogous to a cascade of problems, with each individual problem perhaps unconnected to another, but collectively and cumulatively each operating to further pull a person down.

And there’s one very telling paragraph which points to the primacy of the workplace, but also its effective reification above criticism… the main focus of the story Caroline, found that she was unable to juggle rotating shifts and homelife looking after her daughter. So she was getting grief from schools and social services for neglect but…

Perhaps the most curious and troubling facet of this confounding puzzle was everybody’s failure to pursue the most obvious solution: if the factory had just let Caroline work day shifts, her problem would have disappeared. She asked a supervisor and got brushed off, but nobody else — not the school principal, not the doctor, not the myriad agencies she contacted — nobody in the profession of helping thought to pick up the phone and appeal to the factory manager or the foreman or anybody else in authority at her workplace.

And the article is explicit about this:

Indeed, this solemn regard for the employer as untouchable and beyond the realm of persuasion unless in violation of the law permeates the culture of American antipoverty efforts, with only a few exceptions. The most socially minded physicians and psychologists who treat malnourished children, for example, will advocate vigorously with government agencies to provide food stamps, health insurance, housing and the like. But when they are asked if they ever urge the parents’ employers to raise wages enough to pay for nutritious food, the doctors express surprise at the notion. First, it has never occurred to them, and second, it seems hopeless. Wages and hours are set by the marketplace, and you cannot expect magnanimity from the marketplace. It is the final arbiter from which there is no appeal.

That is as true in this state as it is in the United States.

“Income Inequality: Evidence and Policy Implications” March 25, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Inequality, Taxation Policy, Uncategorized.
2 comments

Emmanuel Saez does not propose replacing capitalism, but within its terms, this is a useful lecture that could do with an airing here.

Living from hand to mouth July 10, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Capitalism, Inequality.
9 comments

I’m an Ulster Bank customer and naturally I’ve been on the phone or in the branch over delayed wages. (Luckily the Mortgage is with them so they couldn’t take it out.)
An aspect of the Ulster Bank crisis that hasn’t garnered that much attention was how it also revealed the vast numbers of people barely surviving financially from month to month. The panic that any delay in wages caused people. The knock on effect to the direct debits for everything from Mortgage repayments to childcare. How structured many peoples finances were by necessity. How little wriggle room people have financially.
This of course is reflected in the Irish League of Credit Unions’ ‘What’s Left?’ survey

The survey is quoted in todays Irish  Independent under the headline
“Harsh reality of austerity: 1.8m have less than €100 left each month” (When did the Indo start talking about Austerity?)

MORE than 1.8 million people are struggling to survive on €100 or less a month after bills are paid, a study showed.
Four out of 10 adults have borrowed to pay a household bill in the last year, with the most desperate 10pc using a moneylender, it revealed.

The Campaign Against Household and Water Charges also had an article on the survey

Where they stated that

The Irish League of Credit Unions’ ‘What’s Left?’ survey showed that 602,000 people have absolutely nothing left when they pay their bills, that half of households struggle to pay their bills on time and that 40% of households have had to borrow to pay their bills over the last 12 months.

In this context, how does the government possibly believe that it can impose property and water taxes which will amount to over €1,000 per household? People’s incomes have been slashed by a combination of austerity measures and stealth taxes. They have had enough and cannot take the imposition of any more financial pain.

The survey makes sad reading. The stress people are under is immense…. and things don’t appear to be improving.

Profits Before Pay February 20, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Business, Economy, Employment Rights, Inequality, International Finance.
2 comments

This evening I listened to an interesting and informative programme in BBC Radio 4’s Analysis series, ‘Profits Before Pay’. The audio is available here.

The programme blurb from the BBC web site
It may come as no great surprise that many of us have experienced a wage squeeze, while the cost of living has gone the other way, since the financial crisis of 2008. However, as Duncan Weldon, a senior economist at the Trades Union Congress, points out, wages for most people in the UK began stagnating years before the crisis.

We tend to think of the early 2000s as a time of relative wealth: house prices were rising, credit flowed easily, the government introduced a generous tax credit scheme and people generally felt better off. But Duncan Weldon argues these masked the reality of what was going on.

Work done by the think tank The Resolution Foundation, which focuses on those on low and modest incomes, shows that there was almost no wage growth in the middle and below during the five years leading up to 2008 and yet the economy grew by 11% in that period. Others also point out that the share of the national income which goes into wages, as opposed to profits, has been decreasing since the mid-1970s. The argument is that less of the economic pie is going into the pockets of ordinary workers.

What is also clear is that a disproportionate amount of the economic wealth has been going to those at the top. The earnings of the richest few per cent have increased rapidly in the UK since the 1980s and that pattern accelerated in the last ten years. In the United States that process began earlier and has been more extreme.

Some economists argue that this is not a problem in itself as taxation, for example, helps to re-distribute the money to the less well off or those with disadvantages.

In Analysis Duncan Weldon asks why wages stopped rising in the years before the crash and what was the driving force for the squeeze?

And a feature item posted by the BBC based on the programme
(more…)

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