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And speaking of punk and women… February 6, 2016

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…and Rubella Ballet… here’s Zillah Minx’s documentary (edited by Sid Truelove) ‘She’s a Punk Rocker’…

“Punk women changed the public face of female. It was very empowering for universal women. The story of punk could almost be a women’s liberation story”. Caroline Coon.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Rubella Ballet. February 6, 2016

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Okay, I have to admit before a couple of weeks ago I had no real knowledge of Rubella Ballet. This is my bad and I’ve no explanation for it. I’m very partial to that area where post-punk and goth rubbed shoulders – groups like Southern Death Cult, Siouxsie, some PIL, Killing Joke, early Cocteau Twins, Joy Division (natch), Sad Lovers and Giants and many more worked a patch of the musical terrain that was suggestive of, without being overwhelmed by, the darkness (I’m not averse to the darkness either though looking back at the posts in this slot on the site over the years few enough goth bands have made it through). What’s particularly strange is that they have a track on one of Mick Mercer’s excellent Gothic Rock discs which I got in the mid-1990s and I’m curious in retrospect as to why I didn’t follow them up then.

Anyhow, be that as it may, Rubella Ballet was part of a loose conglomeration of anarcho-punk bands along with Poison Girls’ (early members were related to them), Crass and others. Their line-ups across the year were a thing of wonder with luminaries such as Annie Anxiety and others passing through their ranks. But It’s fair to say that the core of the line-up solidified with the arrival of Zillah Minx as vocalist who with drummer Sid Ation/Truelove (also of Flux of Pink Indians) have kept the show on the road with occasional breaks ever since. Singles and EPs were put out on Poison Girls’ XNTRIX label initially before starting their own label.

Their first album proper ‘At Last, It’s Playtime’ appeared in 1985 with ‘If…’ its successor appearing a year later. A third arrived in 1990 at which point they broke up for the rest of the decade only reforming ten years later and since then remaining a going concern.

Rubella Ballet while still deeply political projected an image that was notably different, opting for day-glo/fluorescent punk image in their clothing, a sort of inverse of much post-punk/goth. And in a way the focus on politics points up another difference with goth as well. Anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist, pro-environmental and feminist they’re a world away from some of the tooth-grinding selfism of that genre. And also with what appears to be a nice strand of scepticism running through it.

Interestingly though, the sound was inflected by post-punk and aspects of goth – all twisty melody lines, staccato and/or chiming guitars albeit often mid-paced – a genuinely fantastic rhythm section, all propulsive drums and basslines (listen to the former on Mummy as it powers the song along). False Promises is punk rooted (as is the pretty great Blind Ambition). Arctic Flowers likewise, with layers of sound building to an anthemic – in the best sense of the word – chorus.

But there’s more, there’s a sort of restlessness with obvious forms and a willingness to experiment. It’s odd, listen to some of the musical backing and it has both a poppy and power pop element – Dream Dreamer is a good example. Add to that hints of funk and it makes their songs truly enjoyable (perhaps inevitably given that later they were to get into rave in a big way under different names). Perhaps it is an odd word to use, but there’s an uplifting quality, an airiness to these songs that the gothisms of the guitar and bass and drums enhance, and all this despite Zillah Minx’s voice being described as ‘steam-roller flat’. If that was intended as a criticism of her vocals then it’s way out of line – there’s a directness and range in her delivery which just dovetails perfectly with the music.

Difficult to find the original albums, but they were remastered by the group in 2010 and with the addition of snippets of dialogue, including Gordon Brown’s infamous ‘We saved the world…’ speech. It makes for a fascinating update to a sound that was already – for all that it touches on other influences – pretty unique. While the tracks below are taken from their 1980s incarnations it is well worth keeping in mind that the group has continued to release music into the 2010s (and a more local aspect – Sid Truelove produced Paranoid Visions 2012 album – Escape from the Austerity Complex… small world).

Every Second Counts

False Promises

Money Talks

Arctic Flowers

42f (Live)



Blind Ambition

Plastic Life

Never say never February 5, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

From RTÉ:

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ruled out making any deal with independent Michael Lowry in establishing any future government.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Kenny said he would “not have any dealings with Michael Lowry or any other independent” and his proposition was for a return of the Fine Gael/Labour government.

Well, good luck with that. What I find puzzling is having heard it on good authority from those close to a number of Independent TDs is the talk – and quite openly too – of feelers put out by the Taoiseach’s party in regard to a post-election situation. Of course the reports I’m hearing could be complete rubbish. Or…

Pensions… yet again February 5, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Reading the IT comments section I came across this from the indefatigable Michael Hennigan of FinFacts. It really does underline how hollow the rhetoric about pension provision in this state is and how expedient attacks on public sector pensions.

60% of Irish private workers have no jobs pension while there is a 100% coverage and special pension provisions for politicians, and 100% coverage for public sector workers. Last year pension payments rose for former politicians and it’s not surprising that the poor pension coverage is not a priority.

Hennigan, is no person of the left, and implicit in his take appears to be some of that criticism of public sector provision. But the facts he has assembled do more than some service for all citizens. And the points he makes as regards any potential change are spot on.

A change in the low coverage in the private sector is dependent on people who have no fears of being short of money when retired — politicians, senior civil servants, permanent journalists in the main media outlets, and three members of the Pensions Authority, including David Begg, the former trade unionist and central banker, who was recently appointed chairperson.

As someone who worked in the private sector outright for twenty odd years and received no occupational pension there (and now works on contract in the PS) I’ve seen at first hand how private enterprise avoids, in the main, providing for ordinary workers – while ensuring managerial staff and directors are looked after.

What Hennigan records is a massive and systemic failure on the part of private enterprise to offer pensions to workers.

Ireland’s business spending on pensions was at 0.9% of GDP in 1990; 0.8% in 2000 and 0.8% in 2011. The UK business ratio was 4.6% in 2011 and the US ratio was 4.5%.

Essentially private enterprise has largely sub-contracted out pension provision to the state. One could argue that this was yet another effective subsidy for business. And there’s this that Hennigan records:

The OECD reported in its Employment Outlook 2015 that the percentage of the Irish workforce on low pay — defined as the share of workers earning less than two-thirds of median earnings — at 23.3% in 2013 was the second highest after the US level of 25%, among the 34 member countries (27 are developed countries). Belgium was at 6.0% and New Zealand was at 13.7%.
The high level of low pay in the Irish economy distorts the level of relative poverty of pensioners as prior to pension age, some of the workers are poor.

Fairly damning, no?

And so it begins… thinking the unthinkable on a reverse Tallaght Strategy… February 5, 2016

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Someone has clearly been looking at the polls, considering the projections, working out the permutations and done the math.

Dermot Ahern is expressing a personal opinion when he suggests Fianna Fáil should support Fine Gael from opposition on a case-by-case basis. That was the clear message from Fianna Fáil frontbenchers this morning.

But really, how else does this bird fly if the polls hold reasonably steady. The task for FG of getting 60 plus seats and for the LP to even hold 10 is so vast and the difficulties in making up the extra 10 or so, just to have a bare majority, what other choices are there?

And look at Adrian Kavanagh’s projections today on foot of the most recent poll:

Fine Gael 28% (down 2%), Independents and Others 25% (up 2%), Fianna Fail 21% (up 2%), Sinn Fein 19% (down 2%), Labour Party 7% (NC). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fianna Fail 35, Fine Gael 58, Sinn Fein 25, Labour Party 4, Independents and Others 36. 

Just by way of comparison consider the last Irish Times/IPSOS/MRBI poll to see how fluctuations, actually relatively small fluctuations at that, in the share impacts on the parties fortunes.

Fine Gael 30% (up 12%), Independents and Others 23% (down 2%), Fianna Fail 19% (down 1%), Sinn Fein 21% (up 2%), Labour Party 7% (down 1). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fianna Fail 32, Fine Gael 61, Sinn Fein 32, Labour Party 3, Independents and Others 30. 

A 2% drop for SF and they lose seven seats in this model. A 2% increase for Ind/Others and they gain 6 seats. And yet it’s all within the MOE. And – it hardly needs saying – results on the ground are going to be a fair bit different even if the parties retain the broad levels of support found in these polls.

Sure, caveats aplenty apply, but, look at the overall trend, consider other polls with different figures i.e. a lower SF level etc, and one still finds the same problem. And indeed in this it’s worse for FG/LP. 62 seats? 79/80 being the bare minimum in a chamber with 158 TDs.

And what’s the alternative?

More bad news for the Coalition February 5, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Hot on the heels of the poll results yesterday – there’s more polling from the IT/IPSOS MRBI. This time it is on sentiment. But it’s not unuseful.

The scale of the electoral challenge facing the Coalition is revealed by the finding in the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll that 63 per cent of voters want to see a change of government.
Asked if they would like to see the Government re-elected or have a change in government, 63 per cent opted for a change, with 30 per cent saying they would like to see the Coalition re-elected.

And there’s this:

There was a huge variation across the party spectrum, with 84 per cent of Fine Gael supporters wanting to see the Government re-elected but only 57 per cent of Labour voters wanting it to continue.
Supporters of Opposition parties and Independents wanted to see a change.

And while the categories used in such polling tend to be marketing ones, this is suggestive:

There was a significant difference in class terms, with a majority of those in the AB category wanting the Government to be re-elected.
Across all other social categories there was a preference for change, and that mood was particularly strong among the poorest DE voters.

Of course there’s change and there’s change. And there’s this too…

Despite the desire for a change of government, some 64 per cent of people expressed the view that Fine Gael would actually be in power again in some combination or other after the election.
From the variety of options offered, 42 per cent of voters said it was likely Fine Gael and Labour would be in government either on their own or with the support of others.
Another 22 per cent said it was likely Fine Gael would be involved in some other coalition combination, with 9 per cent believing this would involve Fianna Fáil.

This Week At Irish Election Literature February 5, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

Fiscal Space. .. the Final Frontier….


A leaflet from Terry Kelleher who is running for The Anti Austerity Alliance People Before Profit in Dublin Fingal.

A leaflet from Independent Councillor Catherine Connolly who is running for a seat in Galway West.

A leaflet from Independent TD Michael Lowry

A leaflet from Niall Ó’Tuathail who is running for The Social Democrats in Galway West

Who are the TDs who signed the ICTU charter… and who are those who did not… February 4, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Isn’t this interesting, and many thanks to the long time friend of the CLR who forwarded the link:

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ charter for fair conditions at work contains commitments to support measures such as a living wage, currently estimated at € 11.50 per hour, fair hours of work, rights to representation for workers and collective bargaining, respect, equality and ethics at work as well as an undertaking that these would also apply to employees in companies which receive publicly-funded contracts.

So who signed it…

The charter was supported by all members of the out-going Labour, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil parliamentary parties.
TDs who are members of the Social Democrats and the Socialist Party also backed the charter.

Right enough. And who didn’t?

Predictably, though kudos to those who did…

The vast bulk of members of the out-going Fine Gael parliamentary party have declined to back a charter drawn up by the trade union movement setting out what it described as fair conditions for workers in the workplace.
The charter was supported by five Fine Gael TDs and senators, Pat Deering, Frank Feighan, John Paul Phelan, Terry Brennan and Hildegarde Naughton. None of the others signed up to the document.


Members of Renua also decided not to sign up to the five-point charter as did a number of independents.

Independents you say?

Among the independent members of the out-going Dáil who declined to sign up to the charter were Mick Wallace, Michael Fitzmaurice, Michael Lowry, Noel Grealish, Michael Healy Rae and Shane Ross.
Two MEPs, Luke Flanagan and Marian Harkin did not sign up to the charter.

And check this out…

Ms King denied the trade union movement was seeking to intimidate politicians to sign up to the charter in the run up to the election.
“It was a very simple process. We set out our campaign points and asked each individual Oireachtas member to give us their view and sign out pledge. In the case of some they did and others they did not.”
She said all had a free choice.

What sort of chumps would think it incorrect in a democratic society to ask TDs to clearly place their views on the record?

Working lives… insecurity and redundancy February 4, 2016

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The second last day of the Dáil and Joan Collins raised an issue of considerable concern and was met with – evasion.

Independent TD Joan Collins clashed with Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton in a row over contracts of employment for 530 Xtra-vision employees, 1,000 Tesco workers and employees contracted as ESB meter readers for the past 50 years.
Calling for directors who create such shelf companies to be barred for life from ever being a company director again, Ms Collins said the State will have to pick up the bill for Xtra-vision workers who have been left “high and dry”, because the company had done the same as Clerys, Connolly’s Shoes, Paris Bakery and La Senza.

And she said:

Increasing numbers of “rogue employers” are behaving like the owners of Clerys department store by setting up shelf companies and leaving workers with only statutory redundancy.

Richard Bruton’s response was a ‘staunch defense’ :

[of] the Government’s record on worker protection, including two minimum wage increases, protection for temporary agency workers, the restoration of employment regulation orders and agreements, and the introduction of collective bargaining legislation.

And gave this particularly excellent example of deliberately missing the point:

Mr Bruton acknowledged “there are sectors that still face challenges” including the video sector which had had “real problems”.
But he stressed that protections were in place both in employment law and the insolvency and redundancy funds to meet those needs.

Except, except Xtravision workers won’t get any more than statutory, and as Collins noted Tesco workers were told their contracts would be ripped up – and if they hadn’t been unionised…

In other words the protections are painfully inadequate. If you’ve time it’s well worth going back through Dáil debates from this last five years on worker protection and reading the mealy-mouthed and at times outright antagonism to the very concept of same from FG TDs – and others by the by (some FFers didn’t distinguish themselves in their over attachment to market ‘flexibility’ etc).

And as for working lives? What of this from last week?

Operators answering Ireland’s 999 calls will have to ask for management permission to use the toilet under a new policy introduced at Conduit Global, which operates the emergency call service.



very worker is also prohibited from using the toilet for an hour of each working day.
In addition, no toilet break can exceed seven minutes in duration, to a maximum of 19 minutes per 12-hour shift.
If a worker needs more time, they must seek specific permission from line management and breaches can give rise to what the union described as “severe disciplinary action”.

Then there’s the wage structure there:

…management sources noted that every operator in Conduit working on the ECAS – including CWU members – received a 10% pay rise in November 2015, backdated to July 2014. 
They noted that the 10% increase also applied at additional allowances and bonuses, including night and weekend allowances, linguist remuneration, and if they were lead operators. 
They also noted that there is an additional 10% bonus when Conduit operators hit their quality targets.
They claimed when those rates were combined, the staff were earning more than the living wage of €11.50 an hour sought by the union. 

Erm… let’s get that right. If they hit certain targets and combine various elements they get more! If?

Thankfully there’s a union involved. But here’s another aspect on this tale:

In 2009, the contract for the Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS) was awarded to BT Ireland, who then outsourced it to Conduit Global.

I find this approach puzzling. Why award a contract to a body that then outsources the service?

Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI Poll February 4, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As noted by JRG in comments, there’s a poll. Another poll.

Fine Gael, 28 per cent (down two points); Labour, 7 per cent (no change); Fianna Fáil, 21 per cent (up two); Sinn Féin, 19 per cent (down two) and Independents/Others, 25 per cent (up two).

No projections as of yet and all within MOE in regard to other recent polls but one has to ask how FG/LP could possibly cobble together a government based on those figures.

Some thoughts in comments here…


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