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The Art of Bullying

category national | worker & community struggles and protests | opinion/analysis author Friday December 22, 2006 15:29author by Stuart Report this post to the editors

The draft "Code of Practice on Workplace Bullying" lacks teeth

The Health and Safety Authority ( published new draft guidelines on the prevention and resolution of workplace bullying. Interested parties are invited to submit comments and observations to the Public Consultation Phase on the draft by the 16th of January 2007 before the guidelines become a Code of Practice with legal force.

The new Code does not compel the assessment of bullying within Safety Statements, the production of monitoring information about workplace bullying episodes, transparent procedures or objective investigation of bullying complaints. No State authority is nominated with responsibility to enforce effective measures to reduce workplace bullying behaviour.

As such it is a cosmetic measure that can be misused as a charter to bully.

The Problem of Workplace Bullying

"Workplace Bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work. An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but, as a once off incident, is not considered to be bullying."

According to the 2001 "Report of the Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying" (, Overall 7 per cent of persons in the workplace in Ireland record that they are bullied in any six-month interval, with women bullied 1.8 times more than men (9.5 per cent against 5.3 per cent). In absolute numbers of persons, approximately 115,000 persons are experiencing bullying in the Irish workplace, either currently or in the last six months, 52,000 men and 63,000 women. Bullying is a particular problem in the Public Administration / Defence (12.6 per cent), Education (12.1 per cent) and Health/Social Work (10.5 per cent).

The new Code of Practice

The draft Code of Practice provides guidance on identifying bullying, preparing a workplace bullying policy, informal resolutions, mediation and formal processes of investigation and disciplinary proceedings. (Press Release - New code to help deal with bullies at work:

The draft Code of Practice does not require bullying to be included in the employer's Safety Statement; require that people investigating bullying are competent, qualified or have no history of bullying; that investigations are carried out to an objective standard or open to inspection; that employers are compelled to mediate or employ independent investigators; appoint any State authority responsible for overseeing the enforcement of workplace bullying legislation; or that investigations are conducted fairly (nor even of the complaint alleged). Employers may therefore rewrite a complaint, have alleged bullies dismiss it without investigation and discipline the complainant, without outside intervention from any observer or State authority. It is in effect a voluntary guideline and (at worst) an additional trauma to victims of bullying in companies who wish to use it vindictively.

The draft "Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work" is available here: and the Public Consultation form here:

The new Code of Practice will replace the existing "Code of Practice Detailing
Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace" ( which has legal force through Statutory Instrument No. 17 of 2002 ( under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (

The Expert Report on Workplace Bullying

According to the "Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Workplace Bullying" (Press release - and Report - Workplace bullying in Ireland is an increasing problem; bullying is not a "normal" industrial relations issue; existing measures to tackle the problem are insufficient; responsibility for tackling the problem is diffuse; efforts to tackle bullying have had poor results; the impact of bullying on the individual is so severe that strong action on the part of employers and the State is called for.

Despite this, the recommendations of the Expert Group were significantly diluted in the draft code of practice:

The Health and Safety Authority is charged with ensuring that all employers should, not must, assess the risk of bullying and must have in place written policies and procedures to mitigate that risk, but has no role in ensuring that policies are adhered to. As before, diffuse responsibility rests with the HSA, the Rights Commissioner Service, Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court when internal resolution fails. In the all-too-frequent last resort bullying complaints proceed to the High Court to the detriment of both employer and employee.

Most critically, the recommendation that third parties could make legally enforceable findings has been rejected outright in deference to protest from the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (, which also objected to making it a requirement that an anti bullying policy be part of an employer's Safety Statement.

The new Code of Practice fails to clarify resolution for victims; to ensure a higher proportion of early resolutions; to reduce recourse to adversarial processes and associated trauma for victims; or to compel the production of clear and actionable data on trends and patterns in workplace bullying.

Action you could take

To make a submission to the Health and Safety Authority on the draft Regulations got to the Public Consultation:

The closing date for submissions is 5.00 p.m. Tuesday 16 January 2007

Related Link:
author by Stuartpublication date Tue Jan 02, 2007 13:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There is only two weeks remaining to prepare and send written submissions to the Health and Safety Authority with observations or suggestions on the draft code.

author by Stuartpublication date Fri Mar 09, 2007 22:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Before this new code was drawn up, the flame of justice burned bright over at the HSA and Labour Affairs, where bullying was likened to sexual harassment. This is what they promised us in July 2004 (The Irish Times, 5 July 2004):

State body may be set up to examine work bullying

The creation of a new statutory body to investigate alleged cases of bullying in the workplace is being considered by the Minister of State for Labour Affairs, Mr Frank Fahey.

The measure is one of a number under review after a report highlighted serious gaps in the way workplace bullying is currently addressed.

The report, prepared for Mr Fahey by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), found that company owners or managing directors accused of bullying at present investigate themselves.

"There is no onus to get an outside independent investigator so bullying is never found to have occurred," said the report, written by Ms Patricia Murray, an organisational psychologist and inspector with the HSA.

"It is akin to asking sexual harassers to assess themselves when it is obvious they find their behaviour acceptable on their own terms."

Ms Murray said this was one of a number of gaps in the system which meant workplace bullying was not being tackled effectively.

The authority operates an anti-bullying response unit (ABRU), which co-ordinates the State's response to bullying by referring complainants to the appropriate agencies.

However, Ms Murray said that by the time most people contacted the ABRU, they had already left their employment or been dismissed, and there was nothing the unit could do for them.

She said employees in the private sector who were dissatisfied with the outcome of an investigation could contact the rights commissioner's service. However as the service was voluntary, employers were not obliged to co-operate.

In the public sector, there was no right of access to a rights commissioner so civil and public servants "often leave and take civil action for personal injury due to bullying", her report added. "Taking civil action is expensive, and those who cannot afford it have no agency to assist them."

Ms Murray said when a complaint was made against a school principal it was investigated by the chairman of the board of management. As the principal was also on the board, there was a conflict of interest, and the tendency was "not to find against the principal".

Her report suggested that a State body should be established with a remit to investigate cases of bullying.

"There is no State agency, akin to the Labour Court, where cases can be heard, while the parties are still employed, by an independent person in a judicial role which could be accessed by all employees."

Mr Fahey told The Irish Times that establishing such a body was one of the options being considered. An alternative would be to attach the new agency to the Labour Court.

The Minister said workplace bullying and stress were serious problems for victims, but also for the economy through resultant problems such as absenteeism and loss of productivity.

He would be establishing an expert group within weeks to examine the issue.

After it reported he would consult with the social partners before deciding whether amendments were required to the the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill, which was published last month. The Bill is expected to be enacted this year.

Mr Fahey said he also hoped to secure more resources for the HSA's anti-bullying response unit.

NOTE: The Health and Safety Authority's Anti-Bullying Response Unit (ABRU) has been silently closed down, the HSA no longer has any remit to monitor workplace bullying and none of the recommendations made above are implemented in the new Code of Practice.

author by Stuartpublication date Sat Apr 07, 2007 14:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Irish Health and Safety Authority have released the revised Code of Practice on Workplace Bullying (press release and code The new code requires all compliant employers to collect and use statistical data sufficient to record and monitor incidents of workplace bullying, which ideally would be comparable between employers.

The draft code issued for discussion had excluded the necessity to collect statistical data on bullying and said merely "4.5 Monitoring: The policy should include a commitment to monitoring incidents of bullying at work so as to evaluate and improve upon the policy and procedures as necessary at regular intervals."

The final text now includes an explicit statement that data "should" be collected, allowing unions and other interested parties to apply pressure on the content and use of bullying statistics. The final code reads "4.5 Monitoring: The policy should include a commitment to monitoring and recording incidents of bullying at work. Statistics and information gathered from such monitoring should be recorded and used to assist the employer take corrective action or achieve continuous improvement in their bullying prevention policy and procedure."

author by bullied and battered - former nurse in public servicepublication date Thu Feb 21, 2008 15:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There needs to be new and comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that is specifically dedicated to the whole area of bullying which is so rampant at the present time. It is not enoough to have it touched on ,under the health and safety issues, as it needs to be much more specific and focused on this most obnoxious abuse of power. It is my belief and experience that bullying is particularly pervasive in the public sector in ireland and at its most lethal in the nursing profession, where there is a preponderence of women and an almost manic lust for power and control among quite a few nurses. Any workplace today that does not demonstrate clearly it,s position on bullying by the visual use of posters,ongoing and regular training days on bullying awareness and it,s zero tolerance for bullying in any guise along with an updated and clear anti-bullying policy is and should be suspect and held accouontable for it,s negligence. Lastly and most importantly of all - any breach of the policy should incur prompt and deliberate action to halt the spread of futher abuse, and protect the target from from the possibility of long term damage to thier heath and well-being, in other words it is no use if the policy is not enforced when any breaches or suspected violations occur.

There is also a great need for a grievance procedure which should be made known to all employees.

author by former target in hse - former public servantpublication date Tue Jan 20, 2009 17:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have yet to see our employers or legislators take bullying with the zeal and seriousness which is warranted. Until we have 'anti-bullying' posters' on every concievable wall space in our workplaces especially our hospitals, with the appropriate mandatory inservice training days on the prevention, awareness, detection and protocol to deal with bullying, we are only paying lip service to this most pervasive and malignant scourge of all to the irish employee. Until managers, employers, and government tackle this most damaging of threats to it's workforce we are very much at risk in the present hospital working envirnoment, and could pay dearly with our mental and physical health, if proper antibullying strategies are not enforced. WE NEED TO MAKE BULLYING A CRIMINAL ACT AND ENFORCE THE LAW ACCORDINGLY. Nurses have the same obligation to treat all other workers with the due respect and consideration which they should already know to give their patients. I am appalled and shocked by the behaviour of many nurses who through ignorance, arrognace, egotism, malicousness, and plain bad manners treat others with hostility and isolation while they sabotage their targets careers with backstabbing tactics and mob brutality.

author by DISILLUSIONED FORMER NURSEpublication date Thu Jan 29, 2009 17:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am still waiting for full recognition and awareness of the damage and extent of bullying in the workplace especially in the hospital setting. There has to be zero tolerance for this most toxic threat to the health and wellbeing of the employee, and no stone should go unturned to expose it's sinister and often subtle presence. Everybody in the workplace today should and must know that any threat to another person's dignity by them will be severely punished. We need laws to protect the vulnerable employee from vile and sadistic colleagues and other persons who through thier own ignorance, inadequacies, jealousies, and sheer pathological darkness TARGETothers for bullying, and then deny everything when they are caught. These people lie through thier teeth when confronted with thier wrongdoing, so we need strong and consistent policies and a determined chain of command to enforce 'sanctions' when necessary. STOP THE SILENCE AND PROTECT YOURSELF OR SOMBODY ELSE FROM BULLYING TODAY. HE/SHE WHO STAYS SILENT ARE ALSO PERPETRATORS. START WORKSHOPS ON BULLYING IN EVERY HOSPITAL AND LEAVE NO PLACE FOR BULLIES TO HIDE. FIGHT FOR A 'BULLYFREE ZONE' IT IS EVERYBODYS RIGHT. PEPPER THE WALLS WITH 'ANTIBULLYING POSTERS' AND MAKE THEM AWARE THAT BULLYING WILL NOT BE TOLERATED IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM.

author by concerned public servantpublication date Sat Jan 31, 2009 20:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Until an outside body is regulated to investigate workplace bullying there can be no justice in this country for anybody. At the present time an inside inquiry is the only means of investigation available. Naturally this is totally inadequate, and amounts to the most deceitful, morally corrupt, persons on the planet saying, and stating that there was no wrongdoing on their part ,despite evidence to the contrary. This situation is of course totally shambolic, and is akin to having known paedophiles monitor and report on a serious case of suspected child abuse. Perpetrators of bullying in the workplace are the last people we should trust to either tell the truth, or see their behaviour for the damaging,and destructive effect it has on others. According to their own depraved principles the vile behaviour is acceptable. It is like asking a right wing homophobic, devout member of a religous organization to legislate for all persons so that their human rights are equally enshrined in our constitution.

Since it is now well known that many cases of bullying are caused and repeated by serial bullies, this fact should be taken into consideration when seeking justice. This 'inside enquiry method' where nobody owns up to the truth is not only further devastating for the target, but enables the psychopathic bullies 'free rein' to continue their brutality. STAND UP FOR CIVILITY, AND STOP BULLYING NOW BY REPORTING EVERY INCIDENT. NAME AND SHAME IS THE NAME OF THE GAME. BULLIES ARE BY THEIR VERY NATURE THE MOST DECEITFUL, MANIPULITIVE, SELFCENTERED LIARS YOU WILL EVER MEET. STOP UNDERESTIMATING HOW DANGEROUS THEY ARE -- THEY WILL THINK NOTHING OF SABOTAGING YOUR PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL LIFE -- YOU IGNORE THEM AT YOUR PERIL! THEY ARE UTTERLY DEVOID OF INTEGRITY AND HAVE NO CONSCEINCE!

author by Jennifer Rowanpublication date Sat Jan 31, 2009 21:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When you are in the position of having been bullied by a member of the clergy you can fight forever and all the pathetic souls believe him and not the victim of the bullying.

Just because of his title it does not make him a lesser bully than anyone else.

Bullies come in all disguises.

author by Been There Unfortunatelypublication date Mon Feb 02, 2009 17:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Remember that lying and deceit are second nature to bullies. These people would open your eyes to corruption, They operate only to enhance their own agenda, and will stop at nothing to sabotage their target/s personally and professionally. Once you realise how morally bakrupt these people are, your will be in a better position to understand the lethal 'quagmire' which you have been dragged in to, through no fault of your own. You cannot expect civility, or any kind of decency from these people, hence an internal enquiry' is at best an attempt to silence the target further, by pretending that an exhaustive investigation has taken place. In reality all that has happened is that the word of the bullies has been taken as the truth, so in effect your experiences at the hands of these 'degennerates' is deemed to be all in your imagination. This process must change -- institutionalised bullying must stop. investigators must cease protecting, and enabling 'bullies' to continue wrecking havoc with the lives of other people in the workplace. The whole acceptance and culture of bullying must change. The biggest 'scourge' in todays workplace must be deemed to be repugnant and unacceptable. -- and that is bullying in all it's guises, subtle or otherwise. Name and Shame and make these people accountabel for their actions!

author by Lord Haw Haw - quiet life assoc.publication date Mon Feb 02, 2009 20:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In addition to the posting below , all very fine stating the obvious but remember when certain people who have great connections in order to assist
alleged bullying victim , only to discover the abused becomes the abuser ,so really is it any wonder certain people would never consider helping
certain alleged victim ( s ) again, under any circumstances .

author by keep up awareness of bullyingpublication date Thu Feb 05, 2009 16:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anybody who finds themselves in a hostile envirnoment, bewildered and confused as to what is going on, beware! you are more than likely the target of bullies. If you are also excluded from the normal 'camraderie' of your fellow workers, isolated socially during break times, and only given negative attention verbally, or through hostile body language, you need to take action quickly. You are almost certainly the target of a serial bully, who has the help of other like -minded 'sadists' it is imperative that you seek help immediately. This is the hardest step as you may find it increasingly difficult to find a person of enough moral fibre and decency to take your case as seriously as is warranted. Often you will need to go as high in the chain of command as possible, bypassing your immediate 'line manager' (I use the title very loosley as it is often more than they either deserve, or are fit for ) . The manager may well be part of the problem, the cause of the problem, or involved in the fact that the bullying is allowed to go unchallenged. It seem that is okey to have 'bullies' inflict horrendous psychological damage on their targets, so long as nobody ever ever calls it 'bullying'. An honourable manager with any kind of code of decency will not tolerate a culture where bullying occurs and flourishes in the first place. Oh yes folks! one must never use the taboo word -- 'bullying' -- you will be stonewalled with a torrent of fake surprise, while indoctrinated with the knee jerk denial -- 'there is no bullying here' as if denying the obscene behaviour of the perpetrators makes everything allright again. STOP THE DENIALS! EXPOSE THE BULLIES FOR THE SUBHUMAN THUGS THAT THEY ARE! SAY IT LOUD AND SAY IT CLEAR -- ALL FORMS OF BULLYING ARE UNACCEPTABLE AND WILL NOT BE TOLERATED IN CIVILISED AND DECENT SOCIETY WHETHER IN THE WORKPLACE OR OTHERWISE

author by Come and See - Former Bullied Garda - An Garda Siochanapublication date Tue Dec 20, 2011 05:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sometimes you can attract the bullies through mistakes of your own. That doesn't justify the bullying though. The behavior itself has to be immoral if it purposely sets out to harm someone for no good reason. And there is no justification for that; that's just badness, and that is not your fault so be glad of who you are, and what you stand for and hopefully the next time, you will be able to fight your corner better.

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