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Dublin Opinion
Life should be full of strangeness, like a rich painting

offsite link ALWAYS THE ARTISTS: WEEK THREE OF THE BANK INQUIRY 23:11 Thu Jan 22, 2015

offsite link FIANNA FÁIL AND THE BANK INQUIRY : SOME INITIAL OBSERVATIONS 21:04 Mon Jan 12, 2015

offsite link PETER NYBERG BANK INQUIRY EVIDENCE, 17 DECEMBER 2014 18:05 Sun Dec 28, 2014

offsite link For Some Vicious Mole of Nature: Making Sense of The Irish Bank Crisis 21:07 Fri Dec 26, 2014

offsite link THE DEEPER GAME BEHIND #IRISHWATER 10:26 Fri Dec 05, 2014

Dublin Opinion >>

Human Rights in Ireland
www.humanrights.ie

offsite link Health, Gender-Based Violence and the Right to Reparations in Ireland. Sat Jan 24, 2015 16:06 | Máiréad Enright

offsite link Mental Disorder and Punishment in Criminal Law ? Seminar Wed Jan 21, 2015 14:22 | Yvonne Daly

offsite link Protection against Cross-Examination by the Accused in Sexual Offence Trials ? The Criminal Law (Sex... Wed Jan 21, 2015 06:30 | Sinead Ring

offsite link Update on the Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project. Fri Jan 16, 2015 09:00 | admin

offsite link Seminar 5th Feb 2015 (Trans)Gender Recognition in Germany: The Role of the German Courts Thu Jan 15, 2015 08:30 | Liam Thornton

Human Rights in Ireland >>

NAMA Wine Lake

offsite link Farewell from NWL Sun May 19, 2013 14:00 | namawinelake

offsite link Happy 70th Birthday, Michael Sun May 19, 2013 14:00 | namawinelake

offsite link Of the Week? Sat May 18, 2013 00:02 | namawinelake

offsite link Noonan denies IBRC legal fees loan approval to Paddy McKillen was in breach of E... Fri May 17, 2013 14:23 | namawinelake

offsite link Gayle Killilea Dunne asks to be added as notice party in Sean Dunne?s bankruptcy Fri May 17, 2013 12:30 | namawinelake

NAMA Wine Lake >>

Conor McCabe - Fri Jan 23, 2015 03:31

"Shadows never go away.
Might be you don?t see them,
but they?re always clinging to your heels."

A Song of Ice and Fire

When I was a child in primary school my way of dealing with Irish class was to find a word in the question that matched a word in the text and hope for the best. The sentence I would find would be the one I'd read out. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. But, it was a plan, and it helped me get through the hour.

In the absence of any understanding of the grammar, of the way the words actually relate to each other, you grab what you can and try to make sense of the situation.

In terms of the bank guarantee and bailout, and the different narratives that are being thrown out there, we can't really do this - we can't just pick out single words, single events, and use them to make our story. We need to have enough of an overview of the dynamics at play in order to make sure we don't stray from the path as we go forward.

In other words, we need to understand the grammar that holds it all together, and one of the objectives of the bank inquiry is to fulfill this role.

It helps, of course, to have witnesses that understand this, and with Professor Patrick Honohan last week I'm not sure it did.

On paper the purpose of Honohan?s appearance before the Bank Inquiry Committee was to discuss his 2010 report, which looked at the regulatory and operational failure within the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator?s office. On the day itself, however, the proceedings were dominated by talk of the 2008 bank guarantee ? the decision itself and supposed cost.

Honohan initially said that the net cost of the guarantee would be somewhere in the region of ?40 billion. When he was challenged on this he revised the figure and, indeed, the parameters, acknowledging that his figure wasn?t for the guarantee alone but for the subsequent bailout. Even with this, Honohan had not factored in added costs such as interest repayments. The moment he gave the definitive-sounding figure of ?40bn, though, he had handed the journalists the following day?s headline.

He followed his ?40bn with another brash statement ? that Brian Lenihan had been ?overruled? by a more senior politician with regard to saving Anglo Irish Bank. It was obvious that the ?more senior politician? he was referring to was Brian Cowen.

Michael Taft - Fri Jan 23, 2015 03:15

If five percent of the population suddenly fell ill to an unknown disease a national emergency would be called.  Government agencies and health professionals would be brought together under the direction of an emergency cabinet committee to first diagnose the disease, come up with a cure and then deliver it.

Well, we have such a disease ? and it affects not five percent but 30 percent of the population. It is not unknown -   It is the economic and social disease of deprivation.  The CSO released the 2013 Survey of Income and Living Conditions and the data on deprivation is truly alarming.

Deprivation 1There are now 1.4 million who are categorised by the CSO as living in deprivation.  There are well over 400,000 children living in households suffering from multiple deprivation experiences.  Since the start of the crisis, these numbers have more than doubled. The disease is spreading.

You are classified as ?deprived? if you unable to afford or experience two of the following items:

 

Two pairs of strong shoes * A warm waterproof overcoat * Buy new (not second-hand) clothes * Eat meat with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day * Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week * Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money * Keep the home adequately warm * Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year * Replace any worn out furniture * Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month * Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment

This is not a welfare phenomenon.  Over 22 percent of all those experiencing deprivation are actually in the working force ? well over 300,000.

Deprivation 2

The number of people experiencing in-work deprivation has more than trebled since 2008 - more than one-in-five working today.  Over a third of one-income households are in deprivation.  But a substantial number of two-income households also find their living standards marred ? one-in-six.

Clearly, having a job is not necessarily a pathway out of poverty.

Rónán Burtenshaw - Mon Jan 19, 2015 11:22

Joe Brolly wrote an interesting article on the commodification of sport in this week?s issue of Gaelic Life. It?s a topic that crops up frequently as a critique of capitalist culture, from the Against Modern Football movement to combat the pricing of working-class fans out of the game, to controversies over the proliferation of performing-enhancing drugs in elite sport, to debates over whether college athletes should unionise in the United States.

Brolly, a former Derry footballer turned RTÉ pundit, explores it in the context of the amateur GAA and specifically men?s gaelic football. His thesis is that the increasing commercialism of the GAA leadership is driving the sport towards professionalism, instilling a will to win that is sapping the love of the game from the players and producing private bodies which are enriching the few at the expense of the many.

What he?s describing is similar to a process philosopher Georg Lukács called ?reification?. This is where human relations or properties are transformed into human-produced things, given a value independently of and surpassing people themselves, and eventually coming to govern our lives. This distorts human relations, forcing us to interact with each other in terms of things rather than as people ourselves, producing a commodity fetishism. The pre-eminence of economic relationships over social relationships also causes a generalised condition of alienation, where we feel divorced from the work we do, the parts of life we enjoy, each other and even ourselves.

Interestingly, Brolly?s analysis reminds us that these processes do not happen in isolation or simply as economics. They are effected by the latent culture. So, in the GAA, commodification is buttressed by existing ideology like the ?doctrine of club and county? and ?strong community expectation? which produce a ?loyalty? to the organisation and make deviating from its line difficult.

Ideology plays an important part in the GAA, which as well as being one of the largest amateur sporting organisations in the world has also, as an institution, often been on the side of conservative forces in Irish politics. In certain respects sport has a similar social function to religion, bonding communities, giving them rituals to share and establishing a sense of tradition ? even if anyone who has attended Catholic mass would tell you sport?s entertainment value is a good deal higher. But any organisation of that kind that lasts under capitalism will have the GAA?s contradictions ? partly playing a role in reproducing the system, partly providing ordinary people relief from its hardships.

And so on the one hand you have an organisation of over a million members, operating on a communitarian ethos, rooted in local communities, with a genuine sense of ownership for the grassroots, and at the same time its assets are over ?2.5billion, many fans are priced out of its biggest games, its former leader sits in the European Parliament with Fine Gael and its most notable moment in 2014 was when it tried to force through a series of multi-million dollar concerts against the wishes of a working-class urban community.

Brolly?s description of the merits of the GAA, an organisation that teaches us ?the joys of community and the great satisfaction that comes from collaboration and hard work?, echoes what Liverpool greats said about their sport in the past.Bill Shankly said that football was about ?everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards?. John Barnes said that ?for 90 minutes, regardless of whether you are Lionel Messi or the substitute right-back for Argentina, you are all working to the same end.? Both compared this ethic explicitly to socialism.

Eddie Conlon - Mon Jan 19, 2015 11:10

Popular desire for political change has become a feature of the current campaign against the water charge. This charge is the last straw in a litany of bank-bailout  impositions; and many want an entirely different set of socio-political priorities. Recent months have also shown the power of the mass movement to bring change. The movement now needs to drive home the advantage by making the charge unworkable through mass non-payment and continued mobilization. But this in itself is not enough to create the radical political alternative that would implement the significant change that many in the campaign, and across society, desire.

Such change would require a new left party ? committed to a socialist alternative. The imperative for socialism has never been greater given the disastrous impact of the financial crash on working people and impending environmental meltdown due to the failure of the market system to curb fossil fuelled growth.

Is a new left party on the political horizon at present? Clearly not. The closest recent approximation to the start of such a party was the United Left Alliance. While we acknowledge its failure, we think there are some lessons from the ULA experience that can help us today.

At the time when ULA TDs were elected there was little mass challenge to the government: dissatisfaction was expressed through the election and there was no mass movement behind the new political formation. So there was no big growth in the ULA.

But other factors also influenced the difficulties in the ULA. There was insufficient trust between the leaderships of the two main political groups; there was unease at working together in a common organization, while having differences. There was also a failure to prioritise the ULA and build it as a functioning organisation.

But the political conditions for such a formation have changed for the better: there now exists a powerful mass movement against the water charge and other austerity measures ? albeit quite fragmented. It has created the conditions for a political alternative to the Troika parties and to Sinn Fein, which is prepared to go into coalition with the Troika parties ? with the inevitable political accommodations that preserve inequality such as we have seen Labour and the Greens implement.

Based on the experience of the ULA, we think that any new left formation cannot be based solely on an amalgamation of the current small parties but would have to draw in activists who have mobilised in recent months and who want real change. Relations between these parties are not great at present: witness the electoral competition in the European elections and Dublin South West. But a commitment to develop common work against the water charges and a common electoral project involving many new activists could generate positive working relations and create the momentum and trust required for the construction of a new, anti-austerity political formation after the election.

Michael Taft - Mon Jan 19, 2015 10:54

?Old people don't need companionship. They need to be isolated and studied so that it can be determined what nutrients they have that might be extracted for our personal use.?

- Homer Simpson

The Irish Times published the highlights of a paper produced by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DEPR) purporting to show the latest crisis awaiting us ? the crisis of unsustainable public pensions.  DEPR produced some numbers:

  • The number of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase from 570,000 in 2013 to 855,000 in 2026.
  • Spending on the contributory and non-contributory State pension schemes already account for ?4.93 billion, or 25 per cent, of the total cost of social protection services.
  • The State could have to provide annual increases in funding of nearly ?200 million up to 2026 just to keep pace with the growing elderly demographic.  This means a 50 percent increase in spending on state pensions by 2026

These look like truly scarifying numbers ? 50 percent increase in the number of pensioners and 50 percent increase in pension costs.   No wonder the newspaper headline read:

?Cuts to state pensions ?must be considered?

What can we do, short of setting up a kind of Hunger Game for the elderly?  Thankfully, DEPR has some ideas:

  • Cut the weekly pension by ?8.50 per week
  • Scrap the ?10 weekly top-up for people over the age of 80
  • Bring forward the scheduled dates for raising State pension eligibility
  • Abolish the free TV licence.
  • Means test fuel allowance for new recipients of the Department of Social Protection?s household package of benefits.
  • Abolish free travel passes for spouses and companions of the elderly

Or we could take another route:  increase PRSI contributions and/or cut back on expenditure in other areas (health, education, etc.).  Thankfully, DEPR is on top of things, laying out the painful but necessary reforms (i.e. cuts) necessary to sustain our public pension system.

What does all this add up to?  Rubbish.

Gavan Titley - Thu Jan 15, 2015 23:47

It is possible to mourn human loss without embracing everything those humans did.

It is possible to mourn human loss while being openly disturbed that certain deaths are never mourned, and the reasons for that.

It should be possible to discuss the political consequences of an act without having to dissociate that discussion from the politics of the act itself.

It is possible to speculate as to motivation, causality, experience, relations and histories without condoning, or being accused of condoning, an act.

It is possible to defend a right and also to enact it in criticizing the way in which that right is enacted, and reductively understood.

It is possible to oppose an assault on free speech, while also insisting on the hypocrisies, inequalities and elisions that undermine the idea that free speech is a cornerstone of ?the West?.

It is possible to value politically the freedoms you have without understanding them as deriving from exclusively Western ideals, or as evidence of civilizational superiority.

It is possible to understand the political value of ?the right to offend?, while opposing the political deadness of the contemporary duty to offend.

It is possible to defend a universal right to free expression, while noting the strange contemporary relativism that has little interest in the content, context and consequences of what is expressed.

It is possible to recognize the intentionality of an expression without accepting that this defines its meaning or significance.

It is possible to insist on the importance of context without assuming that there is but one context.

It should be possible to recognize the importance of context without writing dissenting voices and evident antagonisms out of that context.

It is possible to oppose oppressive institutional and political uses of religion while not contributing to the ways in which presumptive religious identities are racialized.

It is possible to be critical of positions derived from faith while not succumbing to the kind of identity politics that depends on treating faith as a failure of the mind.

It is possible to grasp that the lack of secularism, in one context, underpins oppression, and that a surplus of secularism, in another, extends it.

It is possible to approach racism as a political effect and not as an individual moral failing.

It is possible to critique racism without the reductive certainty of categorising racists and antiracists.

It is possible to understand that political actors can act against particular forms of racism while simultaneously extending others.

It is possible to affirm that ?Islam is not a race?, while still contributing to anti-Muslim racism.

It is possible to hold onto the diversity of Muslim populations while recognizing the ways they are collectively racialized as Muslims.

It is possible to grasp that effects matter more than intentions, and thus that what is presented as antiracist may be received as having racializing consequences.

It is possible to wear your values on your sleeve, if you wish, and still reject monocausal explanations.

It is possible to advance a grinding form of communitarianism while criticizing the appeal to community.

It is possible to insist on the living legacies of colonialism and the hierarchies of the racist state, while recognizing that this does not determine the political agency of  ?extremists?.

It is possible to oppose both antisemitism and anti-Muslim racism, and not to present them relationally as a zero-sum game.

Michael Taft - Tue Jan 13, 2015 13:10
Everyone in Ireland, regardless of their political orientation or party-political affiliation, should be hoping Syriza wins the upcoming Greek election and forms the next government. Why?  Because their proposals on public debt would be a major boost to Ireland and the Eurozone as a whole.   The headline to Denis Staunton?s excellent article said it best:
?Why Ireland should support Greek plan to write down euro-zone public debt?
Leave aside your ideological predispositions.  Even Wolfgang Munchau of the Financial Times believes Syriza and Spain?s Podemos are the only parties talking sense about European debt. Syriza is proposing a European Debt Conference ? similar to the one held for Germany after World War II.  And the broad proposals they will bring to the Conference are based on this this paper written by Dimitris P. Sotiropoulos, Yiannis Milios and Spyros Lapatsiora.  In short:
  • The European Central Bank (ECB) acquires a significant part of the outstanding sovereign debt of the Eurozone countries ? reducing national debt levels to 50 percent of GDP.
  • These bonds would be converted to zero coupon bonds with a 1 percent discount
  • The countries will buy back the debt when the ratio of those bonds falls to 20 percent of GDP
The impact for Ireland would be dramatic.  In one fell swoop our public debt would be more than halved - reduced from 108 percent of GDP to 50 percent.  This would cut interest payments by approximately half, saving ?3.7 billion.  Imagine what we could do with that ?3.7 billion every year ? increase investment, improve public services, and boost social protection income (even cut taxes if that is your political perspective).  Whatever, this money would constitute a major stimulus programme for Ireland. It would have a similar effect throughout the Eurozone.  All countries would benefit (with the exception of Estonia, Latvia and Luxembourg; their debt is already below 50 percent).  Over ?4 trillion of Eurozone debt would be removed.  With the massive interest payment reductions, the Eurozone would receive a similar stimulus boost.  This would be the best way to escape the looming deflationary crisis. The authors also hold out the prospect of a further boost, by presenting a slightly different alternative scenario to the one above:  interest payments would be suspended over the first five years and rolled up into the zero coupon bonds. Giving Ireland and the Eurozone a free pass on interest payments over the next five years would have an even more stimulatory and economically-galvanising effect.
Michael Taft - Tue Jan 13, 2015 12:57
2015 will be all about making ends meet; or rather, not making ends meet.  Gone are the drama days of the last few years ? NAMA, bondholder debt, collapsing employment and output, bailouts and Troikas (unless the EU decision-makers are determined to accelerate the European deflationary spiral; then we could have drama aplenty).  It?s not that these issues have gone away ? but they are now embedded, hidden, in what can be called a ?new normal?.  And this means we are entering into an excruciating and potentially protracted period of grinding things out; day by day. So many commentators talk about the economy in recovery but ?people not feeling it yet?.  I suggest there is a better way of looking at it.  The boulder has fallen down the hill ? that?s what the gravity of recession will do; that, and austerity pushing it down faster.  Now people are pushing the boulder back uphill ? it?s a big boulder and it?s a big hill.  And people are supposed to be ?feeling it??  They are supposed to be grateful?  Hmm. We have discussed other indicators ? deprivation, food poverty.  These are harsh benchmarks that affect a significant proportion of the population.  But there is another indicator, referred to as ?soft?, which gives a more representative picture of this phase we are entering:  making ends meet.  It is called soft because it is not calculated on the basis of percentages of the median wage (relative poverty) or even a survey of people?s concrete experience (deprivation indicators).  It is based on asking people ?are you having difficulty making ends meet? ? a highly subjective question that doesn?t define ?difficulty? or ?ends?.  It is left to people to determine that. The EU asks such a question in the annual Survey of Income Living Conditions.  They break it down by degrees:
  • Households making ends meet with great difficulty
  • Households making ends meet with difficulty
  • Households making ends meet with some difficulty
This is the result:

Making Ends Meet 1

Tom O'Brien - Sun Jan 04, 2015 22:38
This week I am delighted to welcome Sean Michael Wilson to the show. Sean Michael Wilson is Scottish comic book writer, who now lives and works in Japan. In the last couple of years, Sean Michael has released a couple of explicitly political graphic novels: 'Parecomic: The Story of Michael Albert and Participatory Economics' 'Fight the Power! A Visual History of Protests Among the English Speaking Peoples' He has also recently wrote a post for the Forbidden Planet Blog on how an anarchy-based economic system would benefit the creation of comics, and all art in general. We discuss the creative process of the comic-book writer, the emergence of the adult comic-book genre, the Walking Dead and it?s Hobbesian view of the world, why Hollywood does not do anarchy, progressive politics in comics, socialism and the world of art, and the need for revolutionary jokes. You may also be interested in a promising new podcast that has just been launched by Amogh Sadu and C. Derrick Varn called ?Symptomatic Redness?. It features a really good interview Amogh did with me earlier in the autumn, where I give my opinions on all things economic and political, and slander all my previous guests. You can listen to the interview here. Here is where you can get your hands on Sean Michael's Work: Here is Sean Michael's blog: You can find Sean Michael's Forbidden Planet blog post here. The music on this show was: ?The Order of the Pharaonic Jesters? by Sun Ra and his Arkestra ?Turning Japanese? by the Vapors ?wrapping the green flag around? by The Dubliners ?Such A Waste Of Mind? by Faron Young ?Bring Me Sunshine? by Morecambe and Wise You can find the Sligo Anarchist here.
Seán Sheehan - Tue Dec 30, 2014 16:49
Visual Art Review:  Rembrandt The Late Works (The National Gallery, London) Rembrandt: The Late Works, Jonathan Bikker et al (Yale University Press) Rembrandt?s Universe, Gary Schwartz (Thames & Hudson) Rembrandt is one of those names, like Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, that have ascended to a higher almost ethereal sphere and the person behind the name can only be lauded and lavished with imprecise praise. Shrink-wrapped and simplified for posterity, they are Famous and Exemplary and we are not invited to look too closely at their situations and achievements. Everyone knows Martin Luther King had a dream and that he was a good guy but that?s about it. And we know Rembrandt was a really great painter but not so sure what his greatness consisted in. The exhibition at London?s National Gallery (until 18 January), and two books on the artist, go some way towards taking the man off his pedestal and helping us see what is astonishing about his work. Good painters are uncanny at playing with the movement of light and colours and Rembrandt is no exception in this regard but not all good painters can depict facial expressions with honesty, compassion and sublime skill. Rembrandt is the unrivalled master when it comes to faces. His abiding concern with capturing moods and emotional states as registered by posture and parts of the body, especially faces and hands, helps explain why he painted his own body some eighty times. Vanity, as you see when stepping into the first room of the National Gallery?s stunning exhibition, doesn?t come into it. The room has four self-portraits in oil and one etching, completed between 1659 and 1669, and they will bowl you over. A day later I found myself in snooty Knightsbridge and a street mostly dedicated to high-end hairdressers and beauty parlours, one of which offered a ?bespoke permanent make up service?. Rembrandt is the natural antidote to any such endeavour. He paints himself as he is: limp skin, slack jowls, wiry grey hair, drooping eyelids and a W.C. Fields-like nose. The self-portraits were painted during the years in which his common-law wife, Hendrickje, and his son Titus died, a period of grief compounded by his finances nose-diving into bankruptcy. When he died himself, aged 63, he was buried in an anonymous rented grave.

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