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After the Regency Hotel redux. February 9, 2016

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As someone said, caught in the crossfire…

A Garda checks for evidence at Poplar Row where a man was shoot dead. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 8/2/2016

A Garda checks for evidence at Poplar Row where a man was shoot dead. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 8/2/2016

You have to wonder at the logic behind so much rhetoric we have heard today in the wake of the Regency Hotel murder and the subsequent murder – which by the way occurred just over 200m from my front door and the proximity of which gifts me with no greater insight than anyone else.

Take the call from the Garda Representative Association head:

Mr O’Brien called for the return of high-powered machine guns and the regional support unit in the Dublin Metropolitan area.
“The RSU is a regional support unit, they are a constantly armed unit, they’re around 24/7,” he said.
“They are ready to respond to incidents like this.
“We are also looking for the immediate introduction of the MP7 submachine gun.
“And the return of the Uzi until the MP7 is introduced,” he continued.
“That was taken away in 2012 and hasn’t been replaced.

No harm having an RSU, but how precisely does the introduction of the MP7 or the Uzi assist, how would it have assisted in relation to the murder on Monday night? Truth is it wouldn’t, not in the slightest. After all, how eager is anyone to have what could well be prolonged gun battles on the streets of Dublin?

Nor does the relentless efforts by the media to suggest that what we’re seeing is Chicago style gang wars helpful. One need in no way to disagree that what happened over the last day or two was very very grim and disturbing while also not having any need to see this as comparable with gang wars in the past. It’s not like and like (and just on the supposedly ‘professional’ aspect of the Regency – getting caught on camera was a curious way to go about it).

Then there is the Special Criminal Court. Shane Coleman takes great pains to point out the supposed damage all this is doing to SF – while having to concede that Adams might actually, y’know, have a point (and that Pearse Doherty might, y’know, have another when he says that PIRA decommissioned – something that one doesn’t read every day in the Independent).

But… ignoring the part articles like the one he pens contribute to the broader framing of the issue he attempts implicitly to suggest that the very suggestion of a problem is in and of itself enough to justify the coverage. Which is an utterly bankrupt position to my mind.

Sure, they’re taking Shane Ross to task over not voting for the SCC. But kudos to many of his colleagues in the Independent Alliance and Catherine Murphy for standing fast to the idea the SCC is simply inappropriate in this democracy. And it is. Tony Gregory voted consistently each year against it at times when gang violence was actually much greater. The idea that it is impossible to organise these affairs securely is curious. The idea that those involved in non-jury trials might be somehow immune too is even more curious.

None of this is to be taken as a suggestion that there is no problem, or that it doesn’t have an impact. Ask people that 200m from where I live and closer how they feel after that murder. Ask anyone. But as noted in the post earlier today, there is something performative about much of what we are hearing in the media and from politicians – in large part because it is so difficult, as we all know, to prevent those who are intent on murder and who are equipped to do so and willing to commit it from carrying out their objectives. And all the stuff about the SCC or the finger pointing about who is insufficiently eager to strip away jury trials is really of a piece with the ‘do something, anything’ school of political response.

Which just isn’t good enough.

The now customary lash at the British LP leadership… February 9, 2016

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…appears to be now necessary for each and every column Nick Cohen writes. Now some might read this latest one in the Observer which seems to distinguish between refugees and ‘economic’ migrants with raised eyebrows well before we get to this:

Putin must look with satisfaction while his client’s armies drive refugees into the European Union and threaten to destroy its founding principle of freedom of movement. He must look with even greater pleasure on the far-left clique that has taken over the British Labour party and is so enamoured of Russian imperialism it cannot bring itself to utter one squeak of protest, not even for form’s sake.

And:

All of them are encouraging the rise of far-right parties, which, by a happy coincidence for a Kremlin whose bombers are driving refugees into Europe, are as wiling as the leaders of the British Labour party to bend the knee to Putin.

But his last column had this:

I have said many times that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters will believe any lie told against this country, however outrageous, and go along with any enemy, however fascistic.

Before that again he wrote this – which as noted here was a gross misrepresentation:

The worst of the left is worse than the establishment. Jeremy Corbyn regarded Hilary Benn’s defence of the Kurds’ determination to fight the slave masters of Islamic State as “jingoism”. At least the Foreign Office has never sunk that low. Indeed, many political thinkers believe that its refusal to acknowledge Kurdish statehood is a moral position in itself.

And so on and so forth.

Still, an odd turn for him in regard to the substance of his latest column even by these increasingly curious standards.

Tax avoidance… February 9, 2016

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There’s a pretty stunning figure in this piece by actor Greg Wise on investigations he and Despatches on Channel 4 did into tax avoidance recently.

First he notes:

HMRC [Revenue and Customes] doesn’t report on the scale of aggressive tax avoidance. They don’t want stats to show how shoddy they are.But it does trumpet the numbers of prosecutions for evasion. HMRC chose a random figure of 1,000 a year. And then beat that number of prosecutions. Yippee. But we’re dealing with a taxpaying population of about 30 million. HMRC puts the figure of the “shadow economy” at 10% of our total tax received. So, aiming to prosecute 1,000 people really is less than useless…

But then there is this:

We are desperate for cash in this country. We need to put as much as we can into the public purse. But even the government’s own figures puts the tax gap (the difference between what is owed and collected) at £34bn. That’s a lot of money. Even if only a small part of that were collected, we would have no need for the cuts.

But wait, perhaps someone doesn’t want those billions collected…for:

A company desperate for sales growth wouldn’t cut its sales force, would it? That would be counterintuitive. But our country, wanting tax-collecting growth, is slashing its tax-collecting agency.

And:

…poor old HMRC is being eviscerated – its workforce pretty much halved. And impossible for the likes of us to see an Inspector face-to-face, so we go through the ignominy of calling their helpline and listening to a 3-week-trained operator reading from a crib-sheet. Everything is farmed out to the lowest-cost option now.

Class war, I think it’s called.

After the Regency Hotel… February 9, 2016

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It struck me when it happened that the shooting at the Regency Hotel at the weekend was the sort of event that people love to project their own beliefs onto. So it was that some news reports suggested this might be a boost to FG if it pushed hard on ‘law and order’, or to FF if it critiqued FG for its lack of ability in same.

Then the Independent chimed in with a rather gratuitous suggestion that the AK-47’s carried by those involved were like those acquired by PIRA. But not gratuitous enough for Enda Kenny and FG…

Taoiseach Enda Kenny called on Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams to make a statement on media reports that AK47 weapons used in the attack “may well be very similar if not of the same cargo that came in from abroad with the Provisional IRA a number of years ago”.

And by the by, while Adams statement on the Special Criminal Court are pretty chaotic in terms of coherence he’s not far wrong in terms of seeking trial by jury. Though it’s interesting to see the rhetoric ramping up – “On Monday, Tánaiste Joan Burton described Mr Adams as the spokesman for the IRA and the Republican movement”.

Then Continuity IRA  jump in to claim responsibility? As RTÉ notes:

The validity of the claim is difficult to assess. A code word was used and the BBC’s Northern Ireland Home Affairs Correspondent, Vincent Kearney, is an authoritative journalist on crime and security issues.

And:

[Gardai] believe that two gunmen attackers may not be from Ireland and may have arrived from the UK or from mainland Europe.

Investigators have been making international inquiries through Interpol, Europol, and through Garda liaison officers in the the United Kingdom and Spain.

There’s something deeply problematic about the way in which that event is seeing so many attempting to make political capital from it – or perhaps it is more the way they are attempting to do so. And never more so after the news overnight that there has been yet another shooting connected to these events – the victim of which ‘was known to the Garda, but for mostly minor crimes. He was not a gangland figure, was not regarded as violent and was not believed to be criminally active’. 

A credible path to government? February 9, 2016

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Odd what Pat Leahy writes in the SBP this weekend. Yet it is part of a discourse that Fine Gael, in particular, are very very keen to put about. Writing about Billy Kelleher, Director of Elections for FF, and how he has been ‘castigated… by his own sid for e’s estimate that that party may win 35 seats, he suggests…

This is fantastic hypocrisy, everyone of his colleagues privately agrees with him. Of course they do, it would be nonsense not to – it is a matter of electoral arithmetic. FF will win seats in nearly all of the 29 constituencies outside Dublin and could take two seats in a small number of them. It is competitive in perhaps half a dozen constituencies in the capital. And that’s with things going well. So, 35 or so seats it is.

He continues;

Michael Martin is asked the question at every press conference, not because of Billy’s estimate, or because the media are out to get him. He is asked it because the tyranny of numbers, allied to his own coalition choices, means he cannot demonstrate a credible path to government. That is likely to matter more in the last week of campaigning than the first.

Yet, I don’t know what else Martin or FF could do. They have to hope that they gain momentum, perhaps that across three weeks they might add on an extra five or so seats, perhaps if FG or LP suffer some catastrophic shock, more. It doesn’t mean that they would win an overall majority. That would be vastly improbable. But they might do well enough to get ahead of FG. That’s also improbable, but it’s not entirely impossible, or not quite. And moreover by consolidating their vote they potentially depress the SF vote. That’s hugely important too.

Furthermore, while FF leading a government doesn’t seem very likely – SF probably aren’t foolish enough to jump in as the smaller partner at this point (though five more years in opposition might change things), the alternative coalition’s path to government seem hardly less plausible. On the current figures and projections, and this is echoed widely by almost all analysts, they are ten to twenty seats short, even with the LP in tandem with them.

That too may change. But the cold reality is that neither FF nor FG/LP seem particularly well positioned at this point in time to offer anything like credible paths to government, and complaining that FF is trying to bolster its position seems somewhat beside the point.

More election media February 8, 2016

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Many thanks to the person who forwarded this – very much appreciated…

“The Labour Party”

Dear Friend,

Having brought the country from crisis to the fastest growing economy in Europe, it is time to plan for the future.

Today we launched ‘Strong Economy for a Decent Society – Labour’s plan for economic and social progress.’ Labour will not play with the economic recovery. We will continue to manage the recovery responsibly and fairly. We are creating over 1,000 jobs a week and will ensure there is a job for everyone who wants one by 2018.

We will also ensure that low and middle income earners benefit most from the recovery. We will reduce the USC and will abolish it for people earning up to €72,000.

This simple graph shows how Labour’s tax plan is focused on those on low and middle income earners. Please share it with your friends, family and colleagues to show how we are standing up for working people.

Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter

What makes Labour different, is that we don’t just believe in a strong economy for a strong economy’s sake. We believe that a strong economy is the foundation on which we build a decent society. That is why we are proposing that for every €1 in tax cuts, €3 is spent on the services that families and communities need. This is more than any other main party in this election.

To achieve this, we need your support. Only by voting Labour number 1 on 26th February can we ensure that we have a strong economy and a decent society.

Thank you,

Brendan Howlin TD
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

February Socialist Voice from CPI February 8, 2016

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Layout 1

Available online at: http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/index.html

New challenges and new opportunities for working people
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/01-election.html
The current election campaign and the election of a new Dáil present new challenges and opportunities for the working people of Ireland.
Working people have experienced prolonged attacks on their living standards, on social welfare benefits, pensions, and public services, as well as the imposition of water charges.

When competition is king
Eoghan O’Neill
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/02-competition.html
Within the European Union and the United States and other advanced capitalist regions they say competition is king. Competition is what gives the modern market economy its legitimacy. It’s taught in second-level and third-level educational institutions, in departments of economics, business, and law

Islamic State and crocodile tears
Alan Hanlon
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/03-isis.html
Hillary Benn, the British Labour Party’s shadow foreign secretary, made a striking statement in the House of Commons in the debate on British intervention in the civil war now taking place in Syria. He compared the situation to that of the Spanish Civil War;

Bímis dílis d’idéil 1916!
Tomás Mac Síomóin
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/04-1916.html
I mbliain seo chomóradh Éirí Amach 1916 cluinfear moltaí á dtabhairt go fuíoch ag boic na bunaíochta do laochra na Cásca. Ach tá ard-chuspóirí na laoch céanna tréigthe, is faoi their, ag na boic chéanna le fada an lá. Ní chluinfear teagasc sóisialach Shéamais Uí Chonaíle á mholadh óna mbéala siadsan, ar ndóigh. Bíodh spléachadh againn ar chuid de cháipéisí bunúsacha ghluaiseacht na saoirse le méid na feille seo a thomhas.

EU membership: a challenge for the serious left
Tommy McKearney
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/05-eu.html
It is being reported that some Scots intend voting Yes in the British referendum dealing with Britain’s membership of the European Union. Apparently their decision is based on the rather shaky principle that if a significant number of English people wish to leave, they will vote to remain.

Rebel without a pause:  Bob Doyle (1916–2009)
Jimmy Doran
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/06-bob.html
The centenary of Bob Doyle’s birth occurs on 12 February. He was born into poverty in North King Street, Dublin, and the eventual break-up of his family led to a life of foster care and orphanages, where he suffered hunger and regular beatings.

Das Kapital Mark 2?
Bernard Murphy
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/07-piketty.html
Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge (Mass.): Belknap Press, 2014; €25.

Thomas Piketty’s Capital In the Twenty-First Century, published in English translation in 2014, made the New York Times best-seller list. In the book Piketty, a professor of political economy at the University of Paris, details the enormous accumulation of capitalist profit and the origins of the state-supported financial oligarchies in advanced capitalist countries over the last thirty years.

Seán Murray’s life, seen from Britain
Nick Wright
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/08-byers.html
Seán Byers, Seán Murray: Marxist-Leninist and Irish Socialist Republican (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2015)
Seán Byers’ biography is remarkable not just for its account of the singular nature of Seán Murray’s role in Irish politics but for its focus on the specifically Irish conditions which shaped his revolutionary politics.

Letter from (near) Havana
Seán Joseph Clancy
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/09-havana.htmlIn recent days more than seven thousand Cuban migrants stranded at the Nicaraguan border in Costa Rica and a further two thousand at the Costa Rican border in Panama have started to continue their overland and air journey to the United States.

Reclaim the Vision of 1916—a Citizens’ Initiative
International Poetry Competition, 2016
Theme: “The Vision of 1916: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”
Inspired by the strong connections between poetry and the Easter Rising—often known as the “Poets’ Revolution”—we are proud to announce that our International Poetry Competition, 2016, is now open for submissions.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/10-poetry.html

Murky… the latest reports on the conflict… February 8, 2016

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It’s very difficult to know what to make of the following from last week.

According to The Irish News, classified documents stolen during a break in at Castlereagh RUC Station in March 2002 show the Ardoyne IRA leader at the time was a police informant who tipped off his handlers about the planned bombing on the Shankill Road on October 23rd, 1993
The IRA intended assassinating the leaders of the UDA who were meeting in a room above Frizzell’s Fish Shop but the bomb went off prematurely, killing eight civilians along with a member of the UDA as well as one of the two IRA members planting the bomb.
The individual is apparently still alive – though the IT reports that he was ‘stood down’ by the Army Council in 2002 after they discovered ‘ad been working as a double agent for almost a decade’.

As Martin McGuinness notes:

…it would be naive to think that in conflict situations such as The Troubles that state security agencies did not try to recruit informants from all sides of the conflict.

It doesn’t really look good for anyone. British state forces with foreknowledge of a potentially (and ultimately actually) devastating attack that involved huge loss of civilian life. The IRA infiltrated to the degree that said operation was able to be leaked. And the sense that this has been known more widely for some time now. Who leaked it and why now is another intriguing question.

Of course it may not be true – but as The Broken Elbow notes (and in doing so asks some very pertinent questions) here on this particular issue there are patterns of behaviours that were seen in the North.

It certainly points towards the reality – that many are aware of already, but curiously seems largely unrecognised in the public discourse – of state actions and interventions in the conflict that were at the very least deeply troubling.

Does it never end? February 8, 2016

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John Horgan has some reasonable points in this piece here in the IT about the aversion to left/right labels on the part of the larger political parties. But this just is simplistic.

Of course, when you have some supposedly socialist parties opposed to some forms of asset taxation or to charges specifically designed to finance local services, and some parties at the other end of the ideological spectrum wrapping the red flag around a sprinkling of progressive policies, the electorate has some reason to be confused.

But his own political home, the LP, for many years believed precisely that!

And there’s nothing particularly ‘socialist’ in believing that charges should be used to finance local services. Anything but – indeed he should at least have some appreciation of how flat charges impact on those with lower and median incomes. It’s actually a more centre right approach as against the view that central taxation should fund same (and perhaps particularly in a small polity like this).

It’s often difficult not to get the sense that those in or of the Labour Party who subscribe to such an approach live rather comfortable lives with little sense of what it’s like for many many more.

Another thought in regard to this is the lack of focus on VAT in discussions on taxation. Ameliorating that which increasing personal taxation for those on higher incomes would go a long way to assisting those

Millenarian optimism is not an option, except for the unimaginative advocates of gesture politics. We deal with the world as it is in order to make it more like what we want it to be and hope it can become.

It doesn’t appear that the world he would want to be is all that different from the world that is. Ironic in a piece that seeks a more ideological politics.

When he becomes the story… February 8, 2016

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…that’s a problem for the Labour Party, isn’t it?

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has denied he is derailing the Labour Party’s general election campaign.
Senior party sources have raised concern about the party’s deputy leader and the constant controversy surrounding him.

All this, at least in part due to the publication of claims at the weekend of death threats – and allegedly ‘dissident’ death threats too. And his response? Why he is but a simple Minister, just doing the best he can, and mighty proud of it too…

He said: “If I’m asked the question, I’ll answer it. I have a portfolio, I’m a Minister of government and I’m deputy leader of a party and I’m very proud of it.

And then… promises, promises!

“I’m going to be in politics for a long time and I’m going to be in the Labour Party for a long time.”

Yikes.

Entertaining in a way that he’s apparently being spun against from inside the ranks.

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