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Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
New Books Worth Reading Mon Sep 19, 2016 23:25 | Seán Sheehan
13 Billion ? Lucky for some? Mon Sep 05, 2016 13:04 | Tony Phillips
Rebuilding Ireland: Long on Promise, Short on Detail Mon Aug 29, 2016 22:20 | Eoin O'Mahony
Brexit and Other Issues: Comments on the Current Situation Mon Aug 29, 2016 21:52 | Brendan Young
Bin Charges: From Private Circus to Public Service Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:38 | Michael Taft
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005
Garda breath tests letter Anthony
A bird's eye view of the vineyard
Syrian War Report ? November 20, 2017: Government Troops Liberated Al-Bukamal From ISIS Tue Nov 21, 2017 02:10 | Scott
The Last Straw Mon Nov 20, 2017 19:45 | The Saker
Part 3 ? Submarine rescue ships with the Russian Navy Mon Nov 20, 2017 04:34 | Scott
Yemen ? Appeal to President Putin Sun Nov 19, 2017 23:02 | The Saker
?Iranian Islamic Socialism? to the rescue of quake victims, again, and I have pictures Sun Nov 19, 2017 20:22 | The Saker
Seán Sheehan - Mon Sep 19, 2016 23:25
You don?t have to be a Corbynista to know that the Establishment does not encourage radical politics of the genuinely socialist kind and that it will do whatever it can to belittle any group garnering mass support for daring to challenge the status quo. In the domain of cultural practice, mutatis mutandis, hugely important figures like Ken Loach and James Kelman are marginalized by the intelligentsia for the same underlying reason.
The political order wants safe middle-of-the-road parties and it matters not a great deal which of the established parties steers the ship of state; the cultural order appears to be liberatory in its warm acceptance of the whole aesthetic gamut but it shies away from Ken Loach?s films and James Kelman?s novels, leaving it to non-British critics and commentators to praise their cinematic and literary achievements. Kelman know the score:
Lifting up the carpet and sweeping out what is underneath has been a trademark of Kelman?s writing ? tastefully dismissed as ?pugilism? by bourgeois supremo critic James Wood ? but Dirt Road cannot be so easily pigeon-holed. It is a story about grief, a terrible family loss that a father and his son have to cope with, but without the emotionalism that characterises humanist fiction on painful topic. It?s a road-trip novel but without the romance or consolation or violence you expect to find in books about journeys across the Deep South.
What makes it special is the language, the way we don?t express our feelings in neat sentences with carefully chosen adjectives and adverbs to nuance our refined sensibilities, the inarticulateness that is part of the expression of anguish and of hope. No living writer does this better than Kelman and Dirt Road quietly explores what it is like to struggle with the awful sense of loss that inhabits the body and mind when someone who was close dies.
Tony Phillips - Mon Sep 05, 2016 13:04
Cork is a pretty city on the river Lee in the south of Ireland where I lived for part of my childhood. Cupertino in the Silicon Valley is the HQ of Apple Inc. As an Irishman and former Silicon Valley software engineer (who is ironically typing this article on an Apple Mac) what is my problem? Doesn?t Apple provide 6,000 Irish jobs? Well it turns out Apple?s small investments in staffing and infrastructure in Ireland are dwarfed by the benefits Apple accrued from a special relationship with the Irish legal and taxation system which it has been milking for billions for years.
Calling out this fiscal black hole has caused a full-blown international political battle, the result of just one decision on one corporation which, as it turns out, was not operating in Cork. This Apple incident is just one such ?discovery? representing just the tip of the iceberg. Since 1960 some Apple products are ?made? in Cork, or, to be more precise, Apple claim that value was added in Cork, what seems to be more important is that Cork also housed certain non-US Apple sales and distribution channels. The recent European commission decision has revealed that Apple?s profits from Cork operations were not recognized in Cork or anywhere on the planet for that matter. The commission cried foul. Apple products share much with that other Cork marvel of modern technology, the Titanic, which though built in Belfast, made its first (and last) trip from Cork just 100 years ago. Experience is a hard teacher.
Eoin O'Mahony - Mon Aug 29, 2016 22:20
In July, the government announced a new housing plan. Called Rebuilding Ireland, it is designed to tackle the current shortage in housing supply. It is an ambitious plan with praise for itself as radical and innovative. In truth, it is neither of these things. This plan was put together after the previous Housing Strategy document of 2014 but states that this is ?having a positive impact, but not at the pace necessary to meet current pressures and pent-up demands.? It is not at all clear how Rebuilding Ireland will address this question of pace. The central problem with Rebuilding Ireland, however, is that it relies on the notion of ?access to a home?. At best this is a poorly worded substitute for the right to a place to live. At worst, Rebuilding Ireland?s underlying vision relies on a flawed model of provision. We have to give the plan some time to produce something tangible but the way the plan is written does not inspire any confidence that the shortage in housing here will be addressed.
The plan is structured under five ?pillars?. These are billed as ?high level actions [which] will support a range of actions across the five key pillars of the Action Plan?. The plan seeks to address homelessness, accelerate social housing, build more homes, improve the rental sector and utilise existing housing. In time worn tradition, these have targets and deadlines for delivery across government departments and local authorities. A few days after its launch, a senior public servant spoke on the radio and bumbled his way through some of these targets testily insisting that there would be 47,000 social houses available by 2021. Considering that local authorities acquired about 1,000 units in 2015 and constructed just 75 in the same year, there are a number of problems with these targets. Chief among these is a reliance on the private rented market and Approved Housing Bodies. Relying on the private and voluntary sector to provide that many units in five years would require an immediate four fold increase in both building programmes and municipal acquisitions. The plan makes it clear that this figure would be supported by ?5.3 billion worth of investment, including accelerated Housing Assistance Payment delivery. As recent high profile cases have shown us, the HAP scheme moves people seeking housing off the local authority housing lists in return for subsidy payments to private landlords. These landlords can evict the tenant if they sell this property later, throwing people back on to some housing safety net which does not yet exist.
Rebuilding Ireland is neither innovative nor radical. One of its guiding principles is a reliance on private providers of housing. This means more money given to landlords, both individual and institutional / financial ones. Why fall back on a model of housing provision which currently does not support people in vulnerable housing situations and which, on other scales, has shown that it can sell property from under people?s feet? One of the reasons identified for an oversupply in the years to 2008 was a reliance on private developer-led speculative building. Developers relied on the continuation of credit to provide home loans to people needing a place to live. More worrying still, the plan promises that it will ?work closely with the ESRI and the Housing Agency to improve understanding of conditions in housing markets around the country?. Such understandings are already available: from the ESRI, the Housing Agency as well as the National Economic and Social Council and a number of other bodies concerned with housing rights. Measuring supply and demand is easily done, right now.
Brendan Young - Mon Aug 29, 2016 21:52
The outcome of the Brexit referendum is a shock to all of the established political parties and to the British ruling class. The long term political and economic impact remains unclear. For socialists, the concern in taking a position in such referendums that are not of our making should be the outcome for the lives and living standards of working class people in Britain and across Europe; and the strengthening or weakening of the political forces fighting for socialist change.
Michael Taft - Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:38
The Minister is set to introduce a freeze on bin charges which would at least give us some breathing space. The following sets out an alternative outline to waste management. This is not a hard proposal; others will come up with better ideas. However, it is clear that the current situation is not sustainable ? from an environmental, economic, and social perspective.
1. A Public Service
Waste collection should be a public service. In the late 19th century great strides in public health came from water, sewerage and waste collection services; all provided as a public good. We should return to this principle. This does not necessarily mean that waste collection would be provided directly by the local authority or some other public agency (but it could ? see below). However, rather than relying on market-forces to provide the service or set the charges, local authorities should re-assert active management and control of waste collection.
Tony Phillips - Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:18
Robert Schuman was a former Vichy bureaucrat who became finance minister in post-war reunified France. He later became French foreign minister, then president of the European Movement, now official historians of European integration call him an ?architect of the European Integration Project?. EU Public Relations officials celebrate Schuman?s declaration (made on the 9th of May 1950) as Europe?s birthday with photos of cupcake with a single European candle[sic.]. The European Parliament awarded Schuman the title: ?Father of Europe?. Two years later he died, in 1963.
Europe, according to Schuman ?will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity [?] to secure in the shortest time the supply of coal and steel [?] which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war?. The 1951 Treaty of Paris formed the European Steel and Coal Community (ECSC) introducing an open market for military raw materials. The ECSC morphed into the Common Market, the Economic Community (EEC/EC) and now the European Union (EU) while adding the regional currency, The Euro; a currency managed in Frankfurt but spent in Dublin and Athens. When the global financial crisis hit Europe, again EU Federalism was mooted as a cure. Where is the debate in Ireland and in the UK on a federal EU? Are we really that insular?
Fast forward to 2016, almost a decade into the EU crisis, and the Anglo-Saxon press in Europe frames its ?Europe? debate between two goalposts (?Brexit? and ?Grexit?), as coined in the Financial Times by German journalist, Wolfgang Munchau.
Brexit is one possible result of Britain?s June 23rd referendum on a UK exit from the EU. The Brexit referendum follows mild-mannered arguments by UK Prime Minister on legislative flexibility (mainly financial safeguards for the City of London). David Cameron?s suggestions for sovereignty loopholes for the UK absenting them from EU financial controls rubbed the other European leaders up the wrong way. Perhaps this is not surprising as EU nations, the UK and Ireland included, are desperately trying to navigate the financial and political fallout of the European phase of the Great Recession.
Grexit revisits Summer 2015, when SYRIZA leaders capitulated to further austerity (and more Sovereign debt) while remaining in the Eurozone countermanding their own referendum decision to reject the third EU offer. Even the IMF recognizes this as a third phase of Extend and Pretend in Greece, kicking the stone down the road till 2016 (afterBrexit).
Globally, European integration, an open EU market, and the survival of the Euro, is debated in the Bank For International Settlements (BIS) and the G20 and the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR). Barack Obama conveyed his opinions to European leaders in his recent springtime visit. Neither Brexit nor Grexit are income neutral for hedge funds. Vulture funds would do well should Schaüble have his way forcing Greece out of the Euro and Brexit offers lucrative fluctuations in Sterling Foreign Exchange futures.
In the German Bundestag and in the other seats of EU power mum?s the word. Brussels and Frankfurt feign business as usual.
UK and Irish newspapers debate European Integration using national balance-sheet arguments on EU contributions and the taxation that pays for this. Taxation without representation is certainly an important issue, but this masks a deeper debate on supranationalism and European federalism. In Dublin?s Fleet Street, border controls and national corporate tax rates form part of a cautious debate on sustainable growth under conditions of high debt. Lucky for Ireland the term Irexit doesn?t quite roll off the tongue: ?Ireland is not Greece? after all.
Instead of debating Federalism in Ireland a parochial debate focuses predominantly on national interests particularly its low corporate tax rates and the choice by US multinationals to offshore their EU headquarters locally. Ireland is English speaking; its trade and cultural ties are North Atlantic, a reflection of its history and its ongoing emigration; locally rebranded ?diaspora?. None of this bodes well if Brexit passes. Ireland?s eastward facing Euroports export to Britain; there is significant cross-border trade with Northern Ireland. The governing coalition fears geographical isolation between Washington D.C. and (a possibly non-EU) Westminster.
Raymond Deane - Wed May 04, 2016 15:50
In 2006 I concluded my review of Reem Kelani's debut album Sprinting Gazelle with the phrase ?I believe it's a masterpiece.? That belief has subsequently matured into a certainty, and the disc has become one of my favourite albums in any genre. A full decade later Kelani's follow-up album Live at the Tabernacle, on Leon Rosselson's Fuse label, could easily have proved an anti-climax. Instead, it complements its predecessor admirably while also being a masterpiece on its own terms.
Kelani refers in the album booklet to ?live concerts? as ?the essence of what my musical journey is all about?. This journey has hitherto also entailed composing, teaching, musicology, and performing in works by classical western composers with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, so it is hardly surprising ? if frustrating for her growing legion of fans ? that she regards recording as something of a sideshow.
The performance recorded here took place at the 2012 Nour Festival of Arts in London (the Tabernacle, Notting Hill), and the double-album eventually materialised thanks to a Kickstarter campaign of which Kelani says: ?In an age in which music is structured according to the laws of the market place, and political narratives are suppressed, nothing is more comforting and assuring than grassroots support which can be neither bought nor sold.?
Concerning Sprinting Gazelle, I wrote that Kelani ?shuns political rhetoric, preferring to allow the music to speak for itself?. This is as true of the Palestinian material on the new album as it is of Kelani's comments both on stage and in the excellent booklet accompanying the recording (I really recommend buying the hard copy, as the whole thing is so beautifully produced). Of course Kelani is hardly apolitical. She is a member of the Anti Capitalist Roadshow, a "collective of singers and songwriters... opposed to the ideologically driven austerity programme imposed by this [UK] millionaire government". Some of the material on the second Tabernacle disc relates overtly to the 1919 Egyptian revolution and the 2011 Tunisian revolution. However, she seems content to allow Palestine's interminable trauma the status of an implicit if unmistakeable backdrop.
So has a political narrative been suppressed here after all? An informative and sympathetic Guardian interview from 2008 clarified that Kelani ?initially struggled to get a record contract here [the UK] because of her [Palestinian] subject matter.? She admits that on the cover of Sprinting Gazelle ?I was very careful...I did not say 'from Palestine'. I said 'from the motherland'. I'm walking on eggshells all the time.? Nonetheless, she asserted that ?[t]here is a message that Palestinians don't exist, so my narrative is... my existence, both personally and collectively ? As a human being, as a woman, as a Palestinian."
By now Reem Kelani's existence and hence her narrative is so firmly established that she could probably afford to kick aside the eggshells, although admittedly the defamatory energies of the Israel lobby are inexhaustible. In the CD booklet Alan Kirwan, curator of the Nour Festival in 2012, writes that ?[a]t the heart of her work is the recurring image of Palestine?, and the album's epigraph ? cited in English and Arabic ? is a defiant quatrain from the jubilant traditional Palestinian song Il-Hamdillah:
This song, which euphorically closes both this album and Sprinting Gazelle, contains lyrics ?collected... from field recordings of Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon and Jordan?. The opening track on Disc I, Let us in! (Hawwilouna!), was ?recorded from a group of Palestinian refugee women, originally from the village of Sha'ab near Acre? (in present-day Israel).
Irish Left Review - Wed May 04, 2016 15:22
DDCI calls on incoming Government to prioritise strict regulation of controversial funds
A new report released today (Tuesday May 3rd) by Debt Development Coalition Ireland highlights the manner in which vulture funds have aggressively bought up large volumes of debt in recent years, and how this form of financial speculation has had hugely negative social impacts both in Ireland and the Global South.
Entitled "From Puerto Rico to the Dublin Docklands: Vulture Funds and debt in Ireland and the Global South" the report shows how the Irish government has actively facilitated vulture funds through both the IBRC and NAMA.
For example, Texas based Lone Star Capital bought 60% of all assets brought to market by IBRC, while 90% of assets sold by NAMA went to US firms, the majority to private equity firms.
DDCI Director, Maeve Bateman, said:
The report?s author, Dr Michael Byrne of the UCD School of Social Policy, said:
The report recommendations include:
Michael Taft - Wed May 04, 2016 11:59
Of course, spending a lot of money doesn?t guarantee you optimal results. But spending too little certainly won?t get you optimal results. So how far behind are we falling? Let?s compare public spending (excluding interest ? this is called ?primary? expenditure) in the EU-15 countries.
I?ll use the method devised by Seamus Coffey who hangs out at Economic-Incentives. He excluded elderly-related expenditure and then compared Ireland with the rest of Europe. He did this because Ireland has an advantage here ? we don?t have to spend as much on pensions and related expenditure because we have a smaller proportion of elderly. In the EU-15, the over 65 cohort makes up 19 percent of the population; in Ireland, this cohort makes up 13 percent.
2014 is the latest year we have data for old-age expenditure. In the following, old-age expenditure is subtracted from total primary spending. For instance, Ireland spent 37.2 percent of its adjusted GDP (adjusted per the Irish Fiscal Council?s hybrid-GDP estimate that factors in the accounting practices of multi-nationals). It spent 4 percent on the elderly, leaving an expenditure level of 33.2 percent excluding elderly-related spending. Figures for European categories are mean averages.
Ireland ranks below all the European averages. What difference would it have made in 2014 in actual Euros and cents?
[Note: some will say that defence spending should also be factored in as other European countries spend more than us. This is true. In the EU-15, defence spending makes up approximately 1.3 percent of GDP; it?s 0.4 percent in Ireland. In any event, defence spending is a policy choice and, in my opinion, shouldn?t be excluded from comparisons. But if you insist, knock off about ?1.5 billion off the numbers above.]
In 2014, it could be argued that we are already a low-spend economy but as I wrote here, the situation could actually be worse. I have reservations about Seamus?s method. Excluding old age expenditure not only removes the demographic driven part of overall spending, it removes policy choices. Most other EU-15 countries spend more on elderly per capita than we do. Second, if we are to adjust for the elderly population, then we should also adjust for youth demographics. In Ireland, under-20s make up 28 percent of the population, compared to 21 percent in the EU-15.
Communist Party of Ireland - Wed May 04, 2016 10:56
The May issue of Socialist Voice is now available online.
As Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael agree to set up another committee to manage the affairs of the rich, water charges and Irish Water have been used as a political football between them. In this centenary year it just goes to show that James Connolly got it right when he wrote: ?If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the Green Flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.
Opinion: Two strategies: Connolly?s (1916) and Sinn Féin?s (2016): D. R. O?Connor Lysaght
James Connolly is presented as the ideological inspiration of the majority of the politically committed in the 26-county Republic of Ireland. Of that state?s four main parties, only Fine Gael would deny him this role, tracing its roots to a compost of John Redmond and Michael Collins. Its rivals, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and Labour, each describe themselves as the keeper of Connolly?s flame.
Tories? attack on doctors is only the beginning: Tommy McKearney
Do you, like me, subscribe to the view that Britain?s Conservatives are an unscrupulous lot, forever searching for new ways to make the rich even richer? With this in mind, and in spite of the absence of documentary proof, it strikes me that the intensely bitter dispute between junior doctors in Britain and the Tories? secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt, is about more than just pay.
Time to get rid of special courts: Paul Doran
With the election now over, the issue of the Special Criminal Court has been largely forgotten?that is, unless you are stuck in one of Europe?s most disgusting prisons, namely Port Laoise, where ?slopping out? is still the practice.
Irish GDP: The great con trick: Eoghan M. Ó Néill
Capitalism has been in stagnation for decades. Economic growth has been sluggish, rarely rising above 2 per cent. Ireland, on the other hand, is once again the poster economy of capitalism. Having cast off the shameful remnants of the ?Celtic Tiger? years and the financial crisis of 2008, Ireland is once again an economic powerhouse, with the growth in its gross domestic product (GDP)