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Abuse allegations in British politics… July 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Society.

The allegations relating to child abuse and politicians in the UK is a further reminder of a culture of something close to impunity that surrounds such matters in almost every context in which they manifest themselves. We have seen the same in relation to the Catholic Church, other religions, television entertainers and so on. What appear to be men who either individually or with others act with no check, and no sense that they can be checked.

It’s notable how cautious the UK media coverage of the latest child abuse scandal in that state, one that centres on the political area. Andrew Rawnsley was particularly so at the weekend in the Observer. But only to an extent. I was struck by the following:

Well, I like to think I am always on my guard against hysteria. But we can’t put it all down to over-fevered imaginations. There is now too much evidence of sexual predators getting away with it in that era airily to dismiss the idea that it was also happening in the precincts of parliament. We already know – the case of the late Sir Cyril Smith – of one vile perpetrator. I’d be surprised to discover that there was a vast paedophile gang with tentacles gripping every nook and cranny of Westminster, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it is shown that there were cases of offenders among MPs whose criminal depredations were hushed up by whips and other party managers for the usual self-serving reasons.

Rawnsley suggests that the institutions of state and society have been hammered by one sort of scandal or another across decades – interestingly the answer one LP politician gave to the question as to whether there were any that still had ‘public faith’ was the Queen. Not an optimal situation of state cohesiveness.
But this circles closer and closer to the actual politics of the day. This piece in the Guardian doesn’t name the person allegedly involved, but it makes it clear that there appears to be a significant issue.

And the Mirror at the weekend pointed to another problem, that the response to allegations was very likely characteristic of dynamics we’ve seen closer to home. Though I need hardly spell out one massive possible aspect of political fallout if the allegations of abuse and cover-up hold up.

I don’t often quote Norman Tebbit approvingly, but he’s spot on here:

Tebbit said: “At that time I think most people would have thought that the establishment, the system, was to be protected, and if a few things had gone wrong here and there that it was more important to protect the system.”

And there it is – despite the gravity of the crimes committed when word seeped out – as it almost inevitably did in whatever given context whether clerical abuse, television or political, not least because of the scale of that abuse, the immediate response was to say and do nothing for fear of ‘damaging the system’. That the fact this could happen within the system and that it would – inevitably – come to light appears to have escaped those who grossly compounded the original crimes. Though, perhaps given the historical record and the time it has taken for many many of those who were abused to get some measure of justice one could make the argument that sense of impunity was near enough based on a cold and callous appraisal of the reality of the time and long after. These men simply weren’t going to be caught then.

That they have is a testament to incredible courage on the part of those who were abused and were willing to put themselves through genuinely appalling processes to see justice. And it only takes a small trip across the internet to see how some simply refuse to accept that these men were guilty.

One other telling aspect to the Savile, Harris and Clifford revelations, reading the responses on the Guardian and elsewhere in comments, on the news of their predation, is a sense that Savile is seen as ‘creepy’ while there’s a sense of disappointment at Harris. I don’t for a second want to suggest people are attempting to exonerate the latter’s actions, more it seems that they find it harder to integrate the information about him with their previous perceptions of him. And so in a single comment we read about people ‘saddened by his downfall’ and how ‘Savile was a different business’.

And yet, the distinction between the two is minimal in functional terms. Both were sexual predators who abused again and again. That the scale of Savile’s crimes is so great doesn’t for a second alter the fact that any one of his crimes was a crime, just as any one of those committed by Harris was a crime. Both left a trail of destruction in regard to the lives of their victims.

But to me Savile and Harris actually seem quite similar, both had external personalities that appear largely to have been shells, or perhaps constructs is a better term. And those were, despite Savile’s propensity for hinting at his nature, taken at face value by the media and those who interacted with them on the public level.

On a human level it is natural not to want to believe that abuse has taken place, but we see a similar dynamic in way in relation to attitudes – if not quite disbelief – a sort of unwillingness to face up to the simple fact that most abuse is carried out by those who are close or related to those being abused (the Liam Adams case most obviously comes to mind in that regard – and that is another case with political implications). And that disbelief has been extant both within families and with those who interact with families.

Either way the allegations from the UK point to depressingly familiar attitudes at the time and afterwards. I’d like to think that this couldn’t happen today, and perhaps it is less likely… but…

1913… meet 2013 August 29, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics, Society.
1 comment so far

A piece from Joan Burtons latest newsletter with praise for her from The Irish Mail on Sunday …. Labour Ministers publishing praise they got from The Mail on F****n Sunday!!

Old Student Union Manifestos… including Brendan Doris, Joe Duffy and Mark Little May 22, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Education, Society.

The Student History Ireland project has some wonderful sets of photos and documents up on Flickr
The most recent addition is a selection of old Student Union Manifestos… including Brendan Doris, Joe Duffy and Mark Little which is well worth a look.

A Left-friendly email service provider? October 15, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Community, Ethics, Internet, Other Stuff, Society, Trade Unions, Workers Rights.

Hi Folks,

My main email account has been with ireland.com since the 1990s. Today they sent an email to say they are closing the service in less than a month (so the domain can be transferred to Tourism Ireland).

I could simpy transfer everything to my back-up gmail account, and may do that simply to ensure that I have the data. However, I was wondering of any readers of CLR know of a Left-friendly email service provider?

So, what would be Left-friendly? My ideal would be one run as a co-op, and I wouldn’t mind paying for that, but I’ve no notion if there are any or if any I might find thrpugh an internet search are secure or reliable. My second preference would be one run by a company that recognises unions. (When I got my first mobile phone, I checked with the CWU to see which providers recognised it and/or other unions. The initial reply gave me a list of companies where the union has members, but I did get an answer the specific question a few days later. I don’t know how often the union gets a query like that.)



Dear Account Holder,

The Irish Times and Tourism Ireland today announced a digital content cooperation agreement to promote Ireland as a tourist destination. The agreement spans a number of areas, including the sale of the ireland.com domain name to Tourism Ireland. Tourism Ireland will use the ireland.com url to attract more web traffic and enhance the promotion of Ireland overseas.

As a result, we wish to inform our @ireland.com email subscribers that the service will be discontinued from November 7th, 2012. From midnight on this date, you will no longer be able to send or receive messages. You will, however, be able to access your account until December 7th for the purpose of transferring any data (i.e. emails, tasks, documents, appointments and/or contacts) currently saved on your account. We are writing to advise you of this change and to ensure the transition to a new service provider is as seamless as possible.

To aid the transition, we have provided a step-by-step guide and FAQs on ireland.com and a helpline has been established to assist wherever possible. The helpline will operate between 8am and 8pm weekdays on telephone 1890 876 666 or 01 685 6999 or email customerservice@digitalworx.ie .

We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to our valued customers.

John O’Shea

Head of Online, The Irish Times

Deep Concentration July 23, 2012

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Society.

Twenty boxes seized and over 350 interviews later. Today sees the first banker charged since 2008.  No doubting some parts of the saga are extremely complex but what little progress we glean from the drip drip has been unsatisfactory to put it mildly. There are several explanations ranging from all out conspiracy to a simple familiarity with how this country has always worked, though the two may not be exclusive of course. The Maple10 was only one of the wider golden circles surrounding finance and politics and the troubles of Irish banking have tentacles all over the state, public and private.

Back in January Al Jazeera did a program on the collapse and in it, as well as phonecalls and warnings about talking down the economy, Margaret E Ward talks about a subtle “control of thought” she found in Ireland. That is “rather then six, we have two degrees of separation”. For example you’re not just talking about the head of AIB but the Uncle of someone you work with and so on. As it stands there is currently only one degree between the former Anglo CEO, the main government party and a very large part of the press. The er, debate on media ownership should be part of a wider one bringing in various appointments, dynasty seats, legal and consultancy firms working for both sides and that revolving door that throws up conflict of interest so often.

When uncomfortable connections are questioned the reply comes that “Ireland is very small” rather then this is part and parcel of the inequality that prevails.  There are some interesting examples of once all powerful boardrooms turning on each other when it hits the fan and individual self-preservation becomes priority. We cannot be sure of the validity of some Sean Quinn’s comments over the weekend but an already extraordinary situation looks like it is heading down unpredictable road. Quite possibly a  dangerous one for those one or two degrees from Anglo Irish Bank.

Which is quite a few.

What should be the Garda priorities? July 4, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Crime, Inequality, Justice, Society.

An Garda Síochána is conducting a public consultation as part of its preparation of a three-year strategy for 2013–2015. Have a look at how they frame the discussion with the first question in the consultation [the Gardaí use drop-down boxes with the numbers for ranking, but they don’t transalte to CLR’s website]:

An Garda Síochána has limited resources and is faced with a wide range of demands. In your opinion, what priority should An Garda Síochána give to the following policing areas? (Rank in order of priority – 1 being most important and 10 being least important. Each number can only be used once.)

  • Drugs (including importing, selling and taking drugs)
  • Public Order (for example, tackling drunkenness or rowdiness as well as anti-social behaviour)
  • Hate crimes (for example, targeting someone based on their race or sexuality)
  • Ensuring road safety (for example, preventing serious and fatal collisions, young people racing around in car etc)
  • Violent crimes (such as assaults rape, sexual assaults, and domestic violence)
  • Property crime (such as burglaries, thefts and robberies)
  • Criminal damage (for example, damage against your property, vehicle or graffiti)
  • Fraud (for example, computer and telephone scams or someone else using your identity without your knowledge)
  • Financial crimes committed by those working in businesses and large corporations.
  • Human Trafficking (for purposes of labour or sexual exploitation)
  • Now, even leaving aside the question of precisely how the responses to a public consultation will affect the choices the Gardaí make for priority areas (if, oh, 400,000 responses tell them they should make hate crimes based on race or sexuality the first priority, and the next highest priority is in the 100s of responses, will that put it to the top of the list?), isn’t that opening question just weird?

    Financial crimes presented as a separate category from fraud. And young people racing around in car — is it different when middle-aged people do it? All of the compenents of the drug trade lumped together without distinguishing those with power in the trade from those without. Anti-social behaviour — when it is not a deliberate political action — would seem to me to always be wrong, but drunkeness — if I don’t get rowdy or drive a vehicle — might not be, but the Gardaí have put them in the same category.

    I would like to know how they rank crimes where there are large numbers of potential and articulate “direct” victims (public order and property crime, for example) against crimes where the victims may indirect (the gardaí’s ‘financial crimes’) or smaller in number (hate crimes) or vulnerable (trafficking). And how do you rank any of the crime categories against the more-than-just-crime issue of road safety?

    I live in an area where the Chief Superintendent has gone beyond the legal requirements for county-based Garda Joint Policing Committees and holds quarterly meetings with residents’ associations and other local community groups in each of the areas covered by the individual stations across the Division. And he takes seriously the two questions of listening to concerns raised and reporting back. [Complaints about dangerous parking outside seven schools in the school rush-hours resulted in this response at the following meeting: They had checked the issue at all schools, and in two cases they agreed that the situation was dangerous, but in the others, just an inconvenience for a short period. They met the two school principals, and a letter went out to all parents at the two schools. A week later, some garda shifts were changed to have officers in place at both rush hours — that week, the gardaí spoke to drivers who tried to looked like they intended to park dangerously, told them to move on, and reminded the parents of the letter. The following week, the officers started issuing tickets, and 70 were issued in a month.]

    At one of the meetings last year, the Superintendent presented statistics on garda activity in the station’s area. Among the data on speeding traps set up, speeding offences detected, drunk and disorderly outside pubs, burlaries, damage to property, etc. were two tables on drugs operations. One operation was implemented by the local drugs squad, and targeted local dealers. The other was an operation implemented by ‘beat’ and community gardaí and was targetted at the buyers. Up went a table showing the number of stops and searches in public spaces in the hunt to catch users with stock for their own use. That number over a year was in the high hundreds — I think it was between 700 and 800. But the total number of detections was in two digits. I made myself unpopular with a pair of questions: First, was it an effective use of resurces to stop and search so many people with so little crime detected for it? Second, what mechanisms did they have to ensure that the stops and searches did not work to alienating young men from the disadvantaged estates in the station’s area?

    The current Garda national questionnaire does provide space to expalin your views, although some of the options you get appear to depend on the choices you make in previous questions. It would seem to be a bit difficult, but possible, to use the survey to present the kind of conerns I raised at the meeting. But I am minded to ignore some of the questions and say what I want to say anyway.

    And in fairness, it is refreshing to get the opportunity to say that financial crimes need a bit more profile in the Gardaí’s work, although I am deeply uncomfortable having to rank that ahead or behind concerns like human trafficking or hate crimes.

    If you would like to add your views, mosey on over to http://www.garda.ie/Controller.aspx?Page=9358

    “More people are now dying by suicide than on Irish roads” March 29, 2012

    Posted by Tomboktu in Recession, Society.

    This evening’s BBC Radio 4 news programme The World Tonight had a taped piece about suicide in Ireland, and how the recession has led to an increase in it. It begins at about 16 min 35 seconds into the programme:

    The introduction:

    As the financial crisis continues to strike across Europe, one of its impacts as well as a loss of jobs and livelihoods is an increase in the number of suicides. In Ireland, the problem is particularly marked compounded by historical sensibilities and a feeling of shame about the issue that refuses to go away.

    A quote from the piece:

    International research suggests that for every 1 percent rise in joblessness, there is 0.7 percent rise in the number of suicides, and Ireland’s own figures have borne that out. The year after the big crash — 2009 — at least 520 people took their own lives. That’s 25 percent up on the year before. The latest official count is only for part of 2010, but it suggests a continuing increase. And experts say many more unexplained deaths mean the real toll could be much higher.

    More people are now dying by suicide than on Irish roads, and among young men, suicide is the biggest killer. That’s not unique to Ireland, but the social taboo factor is particularly strong here, in a country where suicide was a crime less than 20 years ago.

    The full programme is here.

    The President used the ‘s’ word February 23, 2012

    Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Class, Community, Culture, Economy, Ethics, European Politics, Inequality, Ireland, Neo-conservatives, Political Philosophy, Social History, Society.

    The archived speeches on the site of the President, http://www.president.ie go back only as far as 1997 (Mary McAleese’s inauguration speech), and even in a group that consists of nine members, a sample of two is not a good representation. That said, it is worth noting that this week, President Higgins caused the words socialism and socialist to appear on that site for the first time, by using them in a speech yesterday on Tuesday in London.

    When the L.S.E. was founded in 1895 by the four leading Fabians, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw and Graham Wallas, its founders were convinced of the power of education in not only lifting their fellow citizens out of poverty but also of such citizens understanding, participating, and in time, offering an alternative form of society, one that would be egalitarian, democratic, tolerant, one which would extend and deepen democracy in every aspect of life. Such an achievement would also constitute, they felt, the establishment of socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

    He also said

    the great founding texts of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Croce and others

    and, quoting Frederick Powell,

    “Privatisation is the road back to autocracy, in which a hollowed-out state is bereft of anything meaningful to attract the support of the citizen – especially the marginalised, excluded from the mainstream of society.”


    Standing in support of unregulated markets, of unaccountable capital flows, of virtual financial products, are scholars who frequently claim the legitimation provided by a university. The university is at times put under pressure to demonstrate its utility as the seat of the single hegemonic model of society and economy that prevails.

    I believe universities are challenged now not only to recover the moral purpose of original thought, emancipatory scholarship,


    Weber, of course, could not have envisaged the consequences of the journey intellectual thought would make from reason to rationality, but then on to calculable rationality, and finally, in our own time, to the speculative gambling that is at the heart of so much global misery with its view of those humans who share our fragile planet, not as citizens, but as rational choice maximizing consumers.

    We are in such a winter as Weber foretold. For example, we have arrived at quite widespread acceptance by policy makers of a proposition rejected by the majority of serious economic historians, that markets are rational. This, on occasion, leads, in the extreme, to the suggestion, absurd and all as it may sound, that it is people who are irrational, the markets rational


    The mid-twentieth century constituted an atmosphere where social capital emerged and social democracy mediated conflict. The twentieth century saw too a public debate about the role of the State, the rights of the individual and social policy, of the balance between these areas.

    In succeeding decades political philosophy and social theory gave way to issues of administration analysis of the role of the State faded and gave way to applied studies, in an administrative sense, of the State’s actions.

    A discourse based on solidarity interdependency, shared vulnerability, community, gave way to a discourse on lifestyle and individual consumption. A society of citizens gave way to a disaggregated mass of individual consumers.


    There is not, for example, any better future for economics as a subject and discipline than as political economy within a system of culture.

    Wow. That won’t go down well on Merrion Street.

    See the video here: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=1362

    Solidarity Books, Cork – Spring Talks April 2, 2011

    Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, Social Policy, Society, The Left.
    1 comment so far

    Starting this Tuesday, the 5th of April, Solidarity Books, 43 Douglas Street, Cork is hosting another round of Talks. An excellent line up of topics and speakers as can be seen below. There’s a link to the PDF at the foot of this post if you want to download it and print it out to circulate.


    Stand Up April 1, 2011

    Posted by Tomboktu in Film, Inequality, Ireland, Society.
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