jump to navigation

Azerbaijan, corruption, and ex-TD Michael McNamara April 23, 2018

Posted by Tomboktu in Azerbaijan, Ethics, Uncategorized.

I don’t know if it’ll get much attention in the Irish media, but the Council of Europe published a report (219-page PDF here) last night on an investigation into corruption allegations. The investigators were three judges, including the former president of the European Court of Human Rights. The allegations were that members of PACE, the Council’s parliamentary assembly — MPs from the national parliaments of the Council’s member states sent to the Strasbourg-based body — took cash to vote favourably for Azerbaijan in their work in PACE.

One person (not alone, it must be said) who comes out well from the report is the former Labour TD, Michael McNamara, who was one of the Oireachtas members of PACE during the last Dáil.

In his oral evidence to the Investigation Body, Mr McNamara explained that when he had first become a member of the Assembly in 2011, the then head of the Irish delegation had invited him for a lunch in the Palais dining room with Mr Goris. Mr Goris had stressed that Azerbaijan was a country that was outward looking and that wanted to engage more with the world, and that sometimes there was criticism of it, some of which was unwarranted. Mr Goris had suggested that they should go there and see Azerbaijan for themselves, and that they would be provided with business-class tickets. He said that there might be a stopover in Istanbul, and if there was, it would be in a nice hotel, and that there were many nice hotels also in Azerbaijan. Mr Goris had insisted that it would be an interesting opportunity to see Azerbaijan and, perhaps, to dispel unfounded criticisms. However, when Mr McNamara had started asking about the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, Mr Goris had ended the discussion and had never contacted him again. For his part, Mr Goris explained that he had not lobbied Mr McNamara but had simply wanted to advise him to discover Azerbaijan before he started to talk on issues related to that country.


Harnessing the response March 30, 2018

Posted by Tomboktu in Equality, Ethics, Feminism, Gaelic Football, League of Ireland.

[This was originally a response to a comment on IEL’s post  Quite a crowd …….. but the, eh, “gaffer” (i.e. WBS) suggested it be made a post.]

I expect that taking that support [at the gatherings across the Island to express support for the woman who was the victim in the events that led to the trial of Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy, and Rory Harrison] and turning it into practical changes would probably entail the RCC or NWCI or sister organisations organising or coordinating specific actions.

‘Places’ that responses could go next include

  • revisiting trial and prosecution procedures,
  • standards and practices of media providers, including the ‘mainstream’ print and broadcast media and social media,
  • standards and practices of sports organisations,
  • decisions of commercial organisations that sponsor sports organisations,
  • education programmes both in schools and colleges and in other settings,
  • police and medical and social care responses to all forms of gender-based violence,
  • lobbying for political responses to rape and domestic violence and their victims is a range of settings (including, for example, the nature and quantity of support provided to victims of sexual abuse in the asylum system, including where rape or assault occurred outside this jurisdiction),
  • harnessing public support to boycott organisations – commercial, sporting, political, social – that respond inadequately to rape, sexual assault, gender-based violence.

When I was born, the concept of sexual harassment was not a legal concept, but activists lobbied and harried and secured that legal change. That gives me hope to say that there is no reason why that concept could not be expanded, or a new concept introduced (and given legal weight), to prohibit, and to provide effective remedies to, the disgraceful response that occurred on social media, including the comments by the Laois and the Drogheda United players.

I am also reminded that we changed our criminal laws when they proved inadequate to responding to wealth-producing crime to enable the proceeds to be seized, and would be interested to see if the law could be changed to enable sub-criminal sanctions to be imposed in cases of alleged rape, sexual violence or gender-based violence, where the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard could not be met but it is sufficiently clear that unacceptable behaviour was committed.

On the other hand, a challenge just at the moment is that the NWCI for the next eight or so weeks has its eye on the referendum. The RCC would be a suitable leadership organisation for a major national programme of work if it wished to take on that role, but its financial resources might make it difficult for it to do a significant volume of work.

ejh in the LRB January 7, 2018

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Equality, Ethics.

I see ejh, formerly a regular in this parish, has a piece on the LRB blog saying that chess needs “a little more boycotting”: https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/01/05/justin-horton/bad-moves/

FG and free votes July 3, 2016

Posted by Tomboktu in Democracy, Ethics, Fine Gael.
1 comment so far

I haven’t seen the incident reflected in my screen shot below mentioned in any of the discussion on John Halligan’s intentions on how he will vote on Mick Wallace’s bill to permit terminations of pregnancy in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

It’s an extract from a Dáil vote on Tuesday 16 July 1974, and it shows the last-plus-two Fine Gael Taoiseach before Enda Kenny, Liam Cosgrave, voting Níl along side the leader of Fianna Fáil, Jack Lynch.

They were both voting against the Control of Importation, Sale and Manufacture of Contraceptives Bill, 1974, at the second stage, when the Dáil decides if it will accept the bill in principle. The Dáil didn’t, by 75 votes to 61.

The Supreme Court had ruled legislation prohibiting the import and sale of contraception was unconstitutional, and the Minister for Justice had prepared and proposed the bill to bring the law into line with the Constitution.

Two contrasts with today are worth noting:
(1) Fine Gael was prepared to allow not merely ministers, but the most senior cabinet minister, vote against a government bill without penalty.
(2) Unlike the situation with Attorney General’s advice on whether Mick Wallace’s bill is constitutional, there was no doubt in 1974 with the unconstitutionality of the law that the Taoiseach voted to leave in place.

Whose hypocricy? May 17, 2016

Posted by Tomboktu in Council of Europe, Ethics, Human Rights, Inequality, Travellers, Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

This morning’s editorial in the Examiner opines on yesterday’s judgement in the case taken by the Irish Traveller Movement about Traveller accommodation. The headline announces “Relationship made toxic by hypocrisy – Travellers in society“, and you would be forgiven for thinking that the hypocrisy of the State would be questioned in it. But no.

Just yesterday, the European Committee of Social Rights found that local authorities do not provide enough accommodation for Travellers and that many halting sites are in a poor condition. Many halting sites are in a pitiful, unacceptable condition but that raises a question — how did those sites become so dilapidated? What condition were they in when they were handed over to the residents?

Clearly, the writer did not check the documents on the case. Here are extracts from the evidence that the Irish Traveller Movement presented in its complaint (34-page PDF here. The quotation is from pages 30 and 31, and I have removed the paragraph numbers and the footnote references.)

the land used for sites is often not entirely suitable for housing: ‘near industrial estates (Cork and Kilkenny); near a factory (Wexford); near a used or disused dump (Cork North and Clare); by a river (Carlow and Waterford); with sewage and water contamination problems nearby (Roscommon); with unsafe gas levels (Limerick); near a dual carriageway (Cork North) or motorway (Cork South).’ These locations result in rat infestation, flooding and problems with water sanitation. ‘There is at least one death directly related to the dangerous quality of the site: the death of a child, from a rock fall on the site located beside a cliff. That site has been officially condemned but not yet closed and an extended family is still in residence there

ITM reports a worrying trend very recent years in relation to an increase in the installation of CCTV cameras on halting sites. There have been a number of reports of CCTV cameras being installed recording children as they play and looking into caravans, there is concern in relation to child protection issues resulting from the collection of the images of children and unwarranted interference with private and family life.

The threat of fire, aggravated by overcrowding and the presence of a locked height barrier at many of the sites to which families do not have a key, is also notable. While limited numbers of local authorities provide keys to the height barrier to residents a significant proportion do not: ‘While a number of returned surveys stated specifically that in instances where families do not have a copy of the key to the barrier, emergency services had access to a master key. However, another survey said the barrier had been broken by emergency services to gain access, raising questions about the availability of a master key.’

No mention of any of these “not entirely suitable” conditions by the Examiner.

A proposed new crime July 1, 2015

Posted by Tomboktu in Abortion, Crazed nonsense..., Ethics.

Should using the term ‘incompatible with life’ be a criminal offence?

Deputy Mattie McGrath has moved a Bill to make it one, albeit only for certain people in certain contexts.

His Disability (Amendment) Bill 2015 [PDF] proposes to add the following to the law of the land (here, ‘Executive’ means the HSE)

It shall be an offence for Medical staff or employees of the Executive in the performance of their functions to describe an unborn child with a diagnosed disability through the use of the term ‘incompatible with life’; staff who use this term shall be subject to a possible judgment of poor professional performance as outlined under sections 57(1), 93 and 94 of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.

The first stage of the Bill was unopposed when McGrath moved the first stage last month. McGrath said:

Like many phrases that may have once been prevalent in our society, such as “illegitimate” or “retard”, the phrase “incompatible with life” must be eliminated from our public discourse when describing unborn children with severe life limiting medical conditions or disabilities.

The vehicle he proposes to use to make this part of the law of the State is the Disability Act 2005, and an offence under that Act carries a fine of up to €3,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months or both.

He also declared that

We have no interest in criminalising health care professionals. I cannot stress this point sufficiently. We are not seeking to impose penalties or to use coercive means.

If he is honest in that, he is incompetent as a parliamentarian, because introducing a law to make something an ‘offence’ is precisely making it a crime and making criminals of those who engage in it. Furthermore, his proposed law will apply to two overlapping groups of people, one of which is health care professionals, the group he then says he has no interest in criminalising.

I do not know the details of Dáil procedures when a private members’ bill like this one is being moved at first stage, so I do not know the significance of Deputy Joe Carey (Fine Gael, Clare) answering ‘No’ when the Ceann Comhairle concluded the ‘debate’ on the first stage by asking the formula for the procedure ‘Is the Bill opposed?’.

Event: A politically feasible maximum wage? July 16, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Class/Class politics, Economics, Equality, Ethics, Excess.
add a comment

A politically plausible ‘maximum wage’?

16 September 2014

How we can make the ultimate antidote to inequality more than an egalitarian fantasy
Tuesday, September 16, 6-8pm, The Ark, Eustace Street, Temple Bar
Speakers: Speakers: Sam Pizzigati (Currently editor of Too Much, the global weekly on excess and inequality published by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.) and Dr. Mary Murphy (Central group Claiming our Future and Lecturer at NUIM.


The idea of a “maximum wage” — a cap on the annual income any one person can claim — has been around ever since the time of Plato. In today’s staggeringly unequal world, that idea is making a comeback, in everywhere from Egypt to New Zealand.

But could a “maximum wage” ever actually become politically viable? A variety of North American activists think so. In Canada and the United States, their emerging strategy revolves around leveraging the power of the public purse — our tax dollars — against the global corporations now manufacturing inequality at an incredibly furious pace.

These activists are mounting a frontal assault on corporate compensation systems that have individual power suits routinely making more in a morning than most of us can make in an entire year. How far has their new movement come? How far could this movement take us? Join Sam Pizzigati of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, America’s boldest progressive think tank, for an up-close look at a promising new direction in egalitarian public policy.

About Sam Pizzigati
Veteran labor journalist Sam Pizzigati currently edits Too Much, the global weekly on excess and inequality published by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. The New York Times has called him America’s “chief proponent” for the notion of a “maximum wage.”

Pizzigati has explored that notion in a series of books and articles that have appeared on both sides of the Atlantic. His most recent book, The Rich Don’t Always Win: The forgotten triumph over plutocracy that created the American middle class, 1900-1970, traces the influence of income-cap advocacy over the first half of the 20th century.

In an earlier book, the 2004 Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives, Pizzigati helps explain why we need a ceiling on annual income — and offers both a glimpse at what “maximum wage” life might be like and a strategic gameplan for moving ahead in an income-capping direction.

Pizzigati has edited the national publications of four different American trade unions. He spent 20 years directing the publishing program of America’s largest union, the 2.4 million-member National Education Association.

Pizzigati currently lives just outside Washington in Maryland, where he served as a founding board member of Progressive Maryland, a statewide coalition of labor, community, and civil rights groups.

Coltan, Congo and a missed opportunity July 3, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Business, Choice, Ethics, FairPhone.
1 comment so far

You might have seen the article in the Irish Times about a conference at NUI Galway, on the subject of women and leadership in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Apart from a one-paragraph nod towards Mary Robinson’s contribution, the Irish Times reported only about a plenary speech by Thomas Turner, who is a specialist for Amnesty International on the DRC.

Turner has written a number of books on the Congo and the war there. His message for the participants at the NUI conference dealt with campaigns on boycotting electronic equipment like mobile phones and games consoles because of the claims that the coltan, a mineral used in capacitors in small devices, contribute to rape and mass killings. His abstract for the conference is pretty clear on why that simplistic picture is a problem:

The latest such oversimplification, imposed by outsiders, concerns conflict minerals, mass killing and sexual violence. The Congo war is the bloodiest since World War Two, and the country is the “rape capital of the world”. However, there is a magic bullet that can put an end to the atrocities and that is banning “conflict minerals”. In recent weeks, it has been reported that most of the mines in eastern DRC are no longer controlled by warlords or militias, yet the level of rape and sexual violence remains high.

The Irish Times reports:

Mr Turner also cited the Kony 2012 campaign as another example where the public had been confused, with young people believing that if they bought a plastic bracelet they could eradicate use of child soldiers.

And this line that simple steps by western consumers and concerned citizens will not solve the underlying problems is reported in a review of Turnder’s book Congo:

avoiding the purchase of coltan-laden cell phones or mineral-containing gaming consoles is somewhat incoherent and unlikely to resolve the substantive issues

This has been a missed opportunity. I cannot tell if it was Turner or the Irish Times who missed it.

It is valid to point out the inadequacy of boycotts or of clocking up online views of the Kony video (99 million views since 2012).

But offering only criticisms of simplistic solutions is to do a disservice to those who engage with the messy complexities and work within them to try to bring real change. For example, Fairphone, a Dutch social enterprise, instead of boycotting coltan from the DRC has sought to secure sources of the mineral that reflect the concerns of the simplistic activists Turner criticises. And those who follow Fairphone’s work know that they are neither naive nor simplistic. They know full well that in a complex product like a mobile phone there are limits to what an organisation can do. But they also see the work they have done as only a first step.

By not exploring viable solutions and concentrating only on criticising those who are simplistic, Turner or the Irish Times, or both, missed an important opportunity.

Would you want to set up FairPhone? January 14, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Choice, Community, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, FairPhone, Human Rights, Technology, Workers Rights.

Who in their right mind would want to set up FairPhone? Obviously you can check out their site to find out who actually did set it up as a Dutch social enterprise, but would you want to?

Park, for a moment, the ‘fair’ bit and think about what is involved setting up a company to make a new smartphone. Smartphones are complex products, with chips, capacitors, resistors, glass, sensors, casings, displays, batteries, cameras, speakers, antennae, sockets and other bits and pieces that I don’t know about. And you’d need software. You would also need to design all of this, or get people to do that for you, and to set up or find a factory to make it.

If you did do it, you would be going into a market with big brands like Samsung, iPhone, Sony, Nokia, HTC, and so on, so you would need a pretty strong selling point to attract customers from the products offered by those heavy-hitters.

FairPhone June 11, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Community, Economics, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, Human Rights, Technology.
add a comment

[WorldByStorm suggested today that I move this up from a comment to a full post. I’ve uodated it because the time reference in the original is now out of date.]

Last year, I mentioned (in passing) that when I when I first bought a mobile phone, I made a point of buying from a telecoms company that recognises their workers’ union. I did not mention then that I had also done some research to see if I could buy a model that reflected my concerns — where the minerals are from, or union recognition for the people who make the actual phone.

So, I was pleased to see fairphone.com opened their new phone to pre-purchase.

On June 5 they hit their target of 5000 orders in order to go into production, and there are two days left to order one of the first batch.

And at the weekend just gone, they were working on aspects of the design their second phone.

The ethos is summed up in the invitation to the group of designers who participated in that workshop:

FairPhone was created because most people have no idea where the component parts of their mobile phone come from, how they are manufactured, and by whom. Bas: “Mobile phones are part and parcel of a complex economic and political system. We want to make this system visible to everyone. We do that by manufacturing the FairPhone, which unravels that system step by step.”

They recongise that their product is far from perfect — the rights of the workers is not secured through union recognition — but it’s better than any other phone I know of. Worth a look, I would suggest.

%d bloggers like this: