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That new left formation? February 26, 2015

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

All the talk of a new left slate that would either work with or in parallel with Sinn Féin is very interesting and it’s heartening to see some of the unions actually pushing towards a more functional involvement. Moreover it makes sense, even if there are odd contradictions. For example, it’s hard to determine whether this is meant to be a big tent project that encompasses SF and Inds and some small parties, or the latter working in parallel to SF. I’ve heard and read both being posited as potential approaches. Hard too to see all those forces lashed up in a sort of Syriza redux formation – not least because some of their Greek referents were outside Syriza and ran against, or in competition, to it. Still the local is everything, so perhaps there’s space there for flexibility.

The Phoenix piece on this, under the guise of a profile of Pearse Doherty, this last week admits that ‘A SF dominated Left Alliance government may turn out to be a chimera and a political proposal too far’. And it’s difficult too to quite get the measure of where the proposal is coming from. Is it from SF, or is it from elements of the left of SF? I’ve heard people argue from various perspectives that it is one or the other. Or is it that some of the unions are functioning as a bridge?

Shane Fitzcarraldo’s comment reproduced on the CLR last week gives a good outline of one rationale behind this, though the following really caught my attention:

A slate of the left-of-Sinn Fein which could agree key principles (abolish Irish Water, water and property taxes, repeal the 8th Amendment, for a wealth tax, end the tax haven regime in its totality, opposition to the sectarian Good Friday Agreement carve-up in the North, etc.), but would give supporting votes to a Sinn Féin minority government which ruled out coalition with the right and had a programme for government that broke with neoliberalism, would be a once-in-a-century earthquake in Irish political life.

There’s two clear problematic aspects there. First is it entirely clear that SF would seek to repeal the 8th? Secondly is it tenable that SF would be in ‘opposition to the sectarian Good Friday Agreement carve-up in the North’. The rest is pretty much boilerplate stuff that I suspect with some finessing SF wouldn’t find much of an issue with.

On the other hand. On the other hand. Given all the positioning on the centre right in relation to potential formations and alliances it makes sense for there to be some effort on the left to pull forces together, and even in the short term there may be a significant utility to this in terms of increasing transfers. I hate to bring up a certain three letter acronym, but the ULA served a purpose in generating an excitement and energy around the then potential left candidates. So perhaps we’re looking at a much more constrained ULA redux, with or without SF’s explicit imprimatur.

And it is, of course, possible that the idea – again with some somewhat more progressive unions working as a catalyst – has occurred to all involved more or less simultaneously.

As to the overall idea? The Phoenix suggests that it can only work with FF as a constituent element, which on the numbers makes sense but surely would be too much for some of those involved. ‘On a rough calculation that sees FF with 35 seats, SF 30, Left Independents 10 and the LP perhaps 10’. And argues that that would have the necessary 80 plus seats for government.

Who would the left Independents be? No mention of RBB, but Collins, Daly, Healy, someone they call Gallagher, McGrath, O”Sullivan, Pringle, Wallace and a couple more from a new intake post-election. If all those went in so I suspect would Murphy and Halligan, and possibly even Donnelly.

So many problems though. Would the LP sign up? Would some of those on the Ind side want to work in tandem with others or with FF? Or with SF? Or vice versa – the FF ranks aren’t exactly a hotbed of left Republicanism, are they?

And would those represented by Fitzcarraldo agree to what was not exactly a government ‘ruling out coalition with the right’, or one likely to ‘break with neoliberalism’, at least not much.

Still, it’s an idea.

An Phoblacht out now, including… February 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
1 comment so far

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Time to go Taoiseach

John Alderdice writes in Uncomfortable Conversations – Letting go of old ways of thinking

Michelle Gildernew and Fermanagh & South Tyrone– A special place, a special legacy

1916 centenary programme of events launched

Creating common ground ahead of Dáil election – Another View by Eoin Ó Broin

International Women’s Day: No peace without women, says Megan Fearon MLA

Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Mise agus mo Dhia

Belfast’s famous black taxis – ‘Hacked off’ and still fighting for equality

The DUP’s anti-LGBT ‘Conscience Clause’ – Rainbow Project Director John O’Doherty

Van Morrison and Belfast school days shared by Robert Allen

Put our money in our hands – Fiscal devolution for the North – Conor Murphy MP

Irish state reveals its contempt for Irish language rights

The good news for the left… and troubling analysis as regards the referendum for marriage equality. February 24, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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In my last post I pointed up the mixed news for the left, that despite everything it remains remarkably marginal in terms of electoral support, with the far left likely to get up to ten or so seats, perhaps more but not many more, very possibly less. The social democratic left (and by the by the definition of same and the boundaries with the far left is a little permeable) is in ragged order but again can expect to return seven or eight TDs. Perhaps more. None of this terrible, far from it. To have that number of TDs after a long period where the ‘left’ was represented by Tony Gregory and Joe Higgins alone is excellent, but the problems are self-evident.

But what of the good news? As a bloc, in the RedC/SBP poll, smaller parties and others remain in rude good health in comparison to some years back. A good 1 in 3 of voters are tending that way. And Richard Colwell of RedC notes an even more important aspect of that:

Support has been relatively steady at this level since October last year, and before that had been on a relatively consistent upward trend.

That’s the key, the fact that support is consistent across a long period of time. This doesn’t mean that it won’t falter. Anything but. But it does mean that more of that vote is likely to be retained by the small parties and Independents than not. And that’s great news on the level of individual candidates.

In the same piece Colwell looks at the referendum. RedC carried out polling that looked not just at headline support for marriage equality but also asked people secondary questions as regards issues that might impinge directly or indirectly. Given the reality that these issues will be raised the exercise has some validity, even if it is irritating in the extreme that the central question is being diverted in this way.

…the reality is that over a third of those who had claimed they would support the referendum, still have reservations about gay couples adopting. It is entirely plausible to suggest that those with reservations around issues that will be used in the campaign are not sure to vote in favour of it, and as such only 48 per cent of voters can actually be described as “secure” Yes voters.

That is not bad. Colwell notes that the headline figure is even better… but…

While overall the great majority (77 per cent) agree that they will vote to support the change to the constitution, in line with most recent polls that ask about vote intention directly, actually only 59 per cent agree strongly that they will do so, with 18 per cent only agreeing more tentatively.

And:

This view was further emphasised when we raised the issue of whether voters – despite saying they would vote Yes in favour of the referendum – had any reservations about the idea of same sex marriage. An even higher proportion of voters (42 per cent) who had previously suggested they would vote Yes, claim to still have reservations with the basic concept of the referendum.

Colwell suggests that:

Once this analysis is taken into account, and as an extreme measure all those with reservations about same-sex marriage and gay adoption are taken out of the Yes camp, the proportion “certain” to vote Yes at the referendum collapses from the highs of 77 per cent to just 44 per cent of all voters.

This may be overly pessimistic, but it’s fairly clear there’s a sustained effort in the media to shape the narrative – and the recent Bill has seen considerable evidence of same. Certainly no room for complacency.

‘An attack on rural Ireland’ February 23, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics.
17 comments

Difficult to disagree when one reads the latest round of Bus Éireann cuts in rural routes.

It’s astounding how the fabric of rural life seems simply not to matter to the government. One comment in the article linked to notes that this comes on top of bank, post office and Garda station closures. And not only them…

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association president John Comer said resentment was building rapidly in rural areas at “the relentless and intensive stripping-out of services” that had taken several decades to put in place. He said it now seemed that rural populations were expected to sit quietly and simply accept the disappearance of their State transport facilities in the same way as their schools, post offices, Garda stations and district departmental and veterinary offices had already disappeared.

What is the state about if it simply pulls back provision? How are communities to develop, to grow, to even simply communicate with one another. We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about ‘austerity’ being over but John Comer above gets to the heart of the matter. The achievements of decades have been and continue to be rolled back by developments like this – and what, by the way, of the environmental costs, pushing those who can afford it yet further into car usage.

The report in the IT notes that:

Quoted in one report, Bus Éireann chief executive Martin Nolan said if the Government wanted smaller towns and villages on commercial routes to be serviced, it would have to provide a subsidy.

Why was it necessary to honour a despot? – Archon February 23, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
5 comments

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this, Archon’s latest column…

Why was it necessary to honour a despot?

ON January 23rd last, following the death of the second-worst dictator of recent times, our Taoiseach Enda Kenny ordered that the Irish tricolour be flown at half-mast above Arás an Uachtaráin and other Government buildings.

The signal honour was for the deceased King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, whose subjects are responsible for exporting Sunni Salafi jihadism and for funneling support to terrorist factions, such as ISIS (the savages who burn prisoners alive), Al-Qaida, the Taliban and other barbaric groups like Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Somalia’s al-Shabab.

In an uncharacteristic frank admission, Hilary Clinton admitted in 2009 that Saudi Arabia constituted the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist networks worldwide.
Nevertheless, the Irish nation publicly mourned the Saudi tyrant who turned a blind eye to the activities of religious-fascist murderers, despite the fact that in a properly-functioning civilised society he would have spent his days securely detained in an asylum.

In honouring the despot’s memory, Kenny was fully aware of the torture being inflicted on Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, who had just received the first 50 of 1,000 lashes for running a website promoting the freedom of speech; and that four days earlier a Burmese woman, Layla bint Abdul Mateleb Bassini, was dragged screaming through the streets of the holy Muslim city of Mecca to where King Abdullah’s executioner was waiting to hack off her head.

Religious ideology

Beheadings, as well as crucifixions, stoning, amputations and torture are central to Saudi Arabia’s notion of ‘justice’. Last August, Kenny’s chum approved the decapitation of 22 people in the space of 18 days. Some of those executed had been convicted of minor ‘offences’ such as adultery, apostasy and witchcraft.

It is not difficult to make a comparison between Saudi cruelty and the ISIS killing of innocent hostages, especially when Saudi religious ideology, Saudi money and Saudi support contribute to the growth of ISIS. Indeed, about 2,500 Saudi terrorists are active in the killing fields of Syria and in Raqqa, the Syrian town that is the ISIS capital, all 12 judges who run the Sharia law court system are Saudis.

Perhaps Kenny’s reason for paying homage to the ruler of a cesspool had something to do with his controversial trade mission to the Saudi capital Riyadh during which he praised King Abdullah for his ‘leadership in terms of moderation’? Certainly, it did not cross the Taoiseach’s mind that there might be something out of kilter in the old reprobate’s (he had 30 wives) ideology of hate towards Christians, Jews, Shi’ites, and other Muslims who did not embrace his Wahhabi interpretation of Islam!

Or maybe Kenny was confused by the duplicitous role played by Saudi Arabia. On the one hand, the country bankrolls terrorism abroad, particularly ISIS, while on the other, it officially denounces ISIS as the country’s public enemy number one.

The West tolerates the deceit because of the importance of Saudi oil and because the kingdom is a key purchaser of US and British weapons. Saudi is a hugely important market for the British arms industry.

Last year Britain exported £1.6 billion of military hardware, while 200 joint ventures between the UK and Saudi companies were worth $17.5bn. In 2011, the U.S made the biggest arms sale in its history to Saudi Arabia. It was worth $60.5 billion.

Je suis hypocrite

And who can forget Kenny’s Paris attendance at the ‘Je suis Charlie’ rally in defence of freedom and tolerance? Beside him trotted Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to France, Mohammed bin Ismail Al-Sheikh, whose country was busy suppressing free speech. Was Kenny aware of the irony?
Whatever the answer, a moral dilemma remains for our Taoiseach and his government. It’s this: Britain and the US are reluctant to put pressure on the House of Saud to stamp out terrorism and, indeed, they may have strong realpolitik arguments to justify their cowardly and ignoble silence. But there is no obligation on the Irish government to keep its gob shut.

Ireland’s failure to speak out presents Kenny in a terrible light, and his government as an outfit that doesn’t stand for much.

Threat to Ireland?

Against such a background, it is hardly reassuring that there are 30 Irish jihadists currently fighting for ISIS. Some commentators suggest the figure could be double that.
In the light of these jihadists returning to Ireland, questions are being asked how domestic extremism is likely to be combated. The government says it will introduce new measures that will see 10-year jail sentences for anyone convicted of promoting Islamic terrorism in this country. In tandem with this hard-line approach, European countries (including Ireland) will share passenger information from all air and seaports.

Although Gardai believe the majority of Irish fighters will not come back as religious maniacs and are unlikely to bring their jihadist violence with them, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is taking no chances. She recently revealed that Gardai were closely monitoring the activities of a small number of Islamists who ‘would try to facilitate extremism’.

The Gardai also intend putting in place a Danish model that allows officials to seek out Muslims disillusioned by the horrors of what they witnessed, and to help them reintegrate into society.
Psychological counselling and treatment for post-traumatic stress will be offered and, in conjunction with family members and local community leaders, scholars will help the ex-terrorists reinterpret Islam as a religion of tolerance.

The disillusionment of those who went to Syria to bring down the Assad regime springs from the degeneration of their ‘heroic summer war’ into a vicious sectarian dogfight – of Sunni Muslim against Shi’ite Muslim.

Complicating matters further is the clash between Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra. Although both were adherents of Salafi jihadist ideology, ISIS could not tolerate al Queda’s leadership and a bloody civil war broke out between the groups, resulting in the deaths (so far) of over 3,000 extremists.

An important duty

Two years ago Dr Ali Selim, a theologian at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, in Clonskeagh, made a grotesque comparison between those going to fight in Syria’s civil war and the Irish Republicans who joined the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. The Irish Times (February 27, 2013) quoted him as follows: ‘Many of them (the Irish Jihadists), before they leave here, say “Make prayers for me; I want to be martyred,” because they understand that, in Islam, martyrdom is the way to eternal life. If they die as martyrs, they will be held in high esteem.
‘If they survive and come back, they will also be held in high regard, because they performed a very important duty.’ His comments shocked Ireland.

An enormous amount of blood has flowed under the bridge since then and it is debatable if such an opinion remains in vogue, even at the Clonskeagh Islamic Cultural Centre. Which is for the better!

Not so fast! That emerging Fine Gael ‘narrative’ over austerity February 23, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.
21 comments

According to Henry McGee Fine Gael have a pre-packaged explanation for why their approach to ‘austerity’ has been correct…

For several years now, critics of the compliance path pursued by the Coalition, and Fianna Fáil before it, have railed that it lacked the bottle to face up to Frankfurt or Brussels. In recent months, Sinn Féin has ramped up this argument. Gerry Adams claimed his party would have put in the hard yards – and all-night negotiations – to come back with a better deal.
Until now, such theories were not tested because they lacked laboratory conditions.

But…

Until now, such theories were not tested because they lacked laboratory conditions.

And then:

But then Greece happened. Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis found to their cost last week their force was not so irresistible after all. Syriza’s gambit has backfired on them and, by corollary, has backfooted anti-austerity parties here.

Except there’s one small fly in the ointment…

Still, [Michael Noonan] did concede the Government never directly asked for debt write-down – the circumstances surrounding this admission are sure to be tested.

Ooops.

Statement from the CPI. February 22, 2015

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

21st February

The crowing from the establishment and its tame media about forcing a climb-down by SYRIZA over the Greek debt and the continuing austerity programme barely disguises the complete contempt that they have for the people.

It matters little whether one thought that SYRIZA would inevitability have surrendered to the demands of the European Union or had hoped they would stand up and challenge it and defend the Greek people and blaze an alternative direction from within the European Union and oppose the IMF. Those who are anxious to advance the people’s interests need to reflect more seriously about what these past few weeks have demonstrated.

One of the lessons must be that the treaties governing European Union have in effect outlawed not only a radical people-centred solution but have effectually outlawed even tame Keynesian policies, and that the controlling forces are determined to solve the crisis of capitalism at the expense of the working people.

A second thing is clear: that people can vote at the national level for whoever they like, but this is not decisive, as the European Union will impose TINA (“There is no alternative”) and the economic and political straitjacket of what is in the interests of capitalism.

The debt is still the weapon of choice to be used against the people; democracy has been trumped by the overriding needs of European monopolies and the big finance houses and banks.

Those in Ireland who still labour under the illusion that the European Union can be transformed into something that it is not, need to look long and hard at the events of the last few weeks. The blocking minority that is built in to the EU decision-making process means that the big powers—those with real economic power and therefore real political power—can block anything that is not in the interests of the monopolies and finance houses.

The Irish government, once again demonstrating its abject servility towards imperialist powers, did nothing to support the Greek people apart from expressing a vacuous sympathy, and voted to defend the interests of the ruling class.

Those who continue to peddle the illusion, whether here in Ireland, in Greece or in Spain, that they can solve the people’s problems within the confines of the European Union and controlling mechanisms such as the euro are only leading our people down a blind alley. There are simply no solutions to be found to debt or austerity within the European Union.

The struggles of the Greek people have exposed the true class nature of the EU and its institutions. They have shown that it can be resisted – a lesson that needs to be learnt by working people throughout Europe.

From the Communist Party of Ireland.

Seat projections after the RedC/SBP poll February 22, 2015

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

Adrian Kavanagh has already crunched the numbers on this weekend’s poll from RedC/SBP and suggests this potential outcome in relation to seats.

Fianna Fail 33, Fine Gael 47, Sinn Fein 31, Labour Party 4, Green Party 1, Independents and Others 42.

This from the following percentages:

FG 24% NC, LP 7% -2, SF 21% +1, IND/Others 30% +2%,, FF 18% -1%,

158 is the number of seats (bet neither FG nor the LP are sorry to bid farewell to the extra 8 at this point), 80 odd is what is needed for a bare majority.

And what do you know, FG/FF have 80! FG and LP have 51. FF and SF have 64.

For all of the rhetoric emanating from the FG Ard Fheis about their best buddies in Labour, Varadkar’s statement that the government was stronger with Labour being in its own way a masterpiece of ambiguity, it appears vanishingly unlikely that the two will be working together in any real sense post 2015/2016.

More later…

“operate the nuts and bolts ” or “the swashbuckling parade around Europe” February 21, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
3 comments

Stephen Collins knows which he likes better, even if he has to admit:

The coming months will show which was the more effective way of getting a better deal for their people.

Still no reason for him not to hope that…

That may give voters in Ireland attracted by the charms of the Syriza supporters like Sinn Féin, Paul Murphy and Shane Ross some pause for thought.

Or it may not, he also suggests that:

One of the paradoxes of 2014 was that anger with the Government appeared to increase as the recovery began to manifest itself and a surge in support for Sinn Féin and Independents developed.

I’m not sure that’s actually correct. A glance at the polls from 2011 onwards would lead one to the impression that there has been a clear decline in both FG and more precipitously the LP’s support. That decline has been, in both instances, evident. So no great surprise that others would increase support as well. And so it’s not just 2014 but well before it that that has been in play. That the outward expressions of anger have seemed to increase is perhaps a function of the nature of the Irish Water debacle which has the ability to reach into literally every community around the state. That doesn’t mean that every community will react similarly, but that’s a lot of people to be antagonising. And while it remains to be seen whether some of the heat has gone out of the issue, we’ll know better at the next large scale protests, it would be unwise to assume even if it has that that doesn’t have electoral impacts further down the road.

Divergent narratives on Greece February 21, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, The Left.
9 comments

This from Slate…

…despite some stern posturing from Germany on Thursday, Athens even seems to have won some concessions.

and this from the Guardian.

A deal that allows the eurozone policymakers, the International Monetary Fund and the government of Athens to keep talking next week is the first stage in a clampdown on anti-austerity sentiment.

Which is more accurate will, presumably, become clear over time.

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