Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dual Sovereignty over the North - How it might look

Below is a piece we received from Sean Swan. It arose out of a discussion around the passing of Thomas MacGiolla .

Sean raised the issue of the failure of republicanism to deal with, what he sees as the realities of Unionist Identity. He proposed some form of dual sovereignty for the North. He was asked to put some meat on his idea of how such a system would operate in the North and as a result he sent in the piece below as a comment.

However, I felt it would be interesting to post this in its own right and allow people to discuss it.

His ideas are below.


The heart of it (dual sovereignty) would have to be an NI parliament which is internally sovereign over NI, which can set the tax rate, make laws etc. BUT this parliament would exist as only a devolved, not a federal, parliament – its existence, sovereignty and powers would only be devolved from Dublin and London. Its acts would have to be signed into law by both Dublin and London to have legal effect. In the vast majority of cases that would be a mere technicality, but it would be an important reserved power in cases of any potential discrimination. All taxation raised in NI would stay in NI plus it would continue to receive a subvention from Dublin and London in proportion to the GDP of both states. As to foreign policy, it wouldn’t have one. NI would absolutely not be a sovereign state for any external purposes. That would be the province of the national governments. It would make sense to maintain NI as a demilitarized zone in relation to either the British or Irish army except in the case of invasion by a foreign power (not a likely event for the foreseeable future). ‘Designation’ would be dropped, but the D’Hondt formula for allocating seats in the executive would stay. NI would become part of the Republic while remaining part of the UK, but the relevant tax rate, currency, laws, etc would be decided by the NI parliament. NI would continue to send MPs to London but would also return TDs to Dublin – though in both cases a good argument could be made for reduced representation for NI TDs and MPs compared to what exist for southern constituencies in the Dail or English constituencies in the House of Commons.

Ending ‘designation’ and granting the NI parliament the right to raise taxes, make all laws pertaining to NI, etc, would make the emergence of left/right politics more likely. Here’s the bit nationalist won’t like – no future referendums on the constitutional status of NI. That’s the only way unionists would agree to joint sovereignty which they currently see as simply a staging post on the way to a united Ireland. That does not mean there could never be a united Ireland. That could still evolve out of the situation. Britain’s actual sovereignty over NI could fade over time if it was never exercised, whatever the technical status. This is what happened in Canada where the British North America Act remained on the statute, but despite this actual British control over Canada faded to nothing. Of course this lacks the appeal of an ‘instant karma’ situation where tomorrow the British government says they are kicking NI out of the UK (which is what ‘Brits out’ would amount to) or a referendum in which there’s a 50.1% vote in favour of a united Ireland. But the trouble with the ‘instant karma’ situation – apart from anything else – is how the unionists might react to this ‘doomsday’ scenario. How does UDI or repartition, a rerun of 1912 (remember that unionists were happy to let 3 counties go when it became clear that they couldn’t run a 9 county Ulster) sound? Like a nightmare. Nora will argue that a smaller ‘rump’ NI would not be economically feasible. I think that’s possibly wishful thinking. Firstly NI is not economically feasible now – though it goes on existing. Secondly there’s no minimum size for economic feasibility (particularly in the context of the EU) and it’s a mistake to imagine that economics trumps everything. North Korea is, compared to South Korea, an economic disaster – but there’s still no united Korea. The Republic was an economic disaster in the 1950s, but it didn’t lead it back to the UK.

Sean Swan

Diary of Jim Wyse who is on hungerstrike at the Green Isle plant in Naas.

Jim Wyse is still on hunger strike at the Green Isle plant in Naas and he has now been joined by former Offaly All Ireland footballer John Guinan. As mentioned previously Jim feels he has not alternative but to take this action.

Jim has been keeping a diary of his experience and this is being posted on the TEEU website

Below are his entries to date and I will try to put up new ones as they appear.

Also there is a Rally in support of the Green Isle workers and the TEEU have issued this statement:
We are asking you to support the rally being organised by Kildare Council of Trade Unions on Saturday, February 27th to show solidarity with Jim and his colleagues in the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union. It starts at 12 noon in the Storm Cinema car park, Naas, and will be followed by a march to the Green Isle plant.

Day 9

Green Isle Hunger Strike Diary – Day Nine

I didn’t get much sleep last night. We were up until 3 am talking to the company and I had to get up early again to go to the doctor for my check up. He said everything was okay.

He took my blood pressure, checked my heart and took some blood samples for tests. He couldn’t see anything wrong with me but is sending them away to be on the safe side.

I am down about a stone. I haven’t lost much weight over the past day or so. I think whatever was going to go fast has gone and what’s left is going to go much slower from now on.

There was a lad in from the This Week programme on RTE this morning talking about doing something for Sunday. He was going off to see the company afterwards.

There was another lad from a group of An Post workers who want to do something and are planning to come to the march tomorrow. I think a Start Labour write-in campaign is getting underway for people to contact Northern Foods, the parent company.

I hope to get the head down this afternoon and catch up on a bit of sleep.

.......................[ Back to Top of page].....................

Day 8

Green Isle Hunger Strike Diary – Day Eight

We went back up to the Caravan after the Press Conference in Maudlins and had some press photographs taken. There were the usual visitors, family and friends to see how we were getting on.

Two lads called from my native village Coilldubh to make a video for a local history project. I was asked where Coilldubh is. It’s between Celbridge and Edenderry, and it was a Bord na Mona village built in the late 1940s. They’re good lads and very interested in what’s going on.

This morning I was okay, but in the afternoon I seemed to lose energy and there was a bit of a reaction in my stomach, a bit of nausea. I felt a bit of hunger come back as well but it went away again.
I arrived for talks with management about 1pm, but there was no one here so I went to have a nap. I actually feel better now for it.
There have been talks this evening but nothing much has happened. The company doesn’t seem in any hurry, but then they never are.

.......................[ Back to Top of page].....................

Day 7

Green Isle Hunger Strike Diary – Day Seven

I’m starting to feel the effects of the hunger strike now to be honest. I feel a bit drowsy, woosie. They say you get highs and lows and today I woke up feeling low. I’m still feeling low now but I’ll feel better tomorrow.

A cup of hot water helps but the salt is a penance.
My body is beginning to operate in a totally different way. It may be that it is beginning to switch over to feeding off the fat reserves.

I didn’t feel I was answering questions as well as I could at the press conference today but I’m told it went well. The company is beginning to come out and try to smear us with all sorts of innuendos but we wouldn’t have been out here for six months on the picket line or gone on hunger strike if what they said was true. All we have ever asked is that act fairly. I have no problem if people are brought through a fair procedure and dismissed for misbehaving but that is not what happened.

Management also say we have no support in the factory but people coming out are stopping and chatting to us on the way home. They are afraid to join us and I don’t blame them. Some people do live in fear in there, especially those on work permits. People have mortgages to pay and loans and families to support.

I don’t know if there will be any talks before the rally on Saturday. We are available to meet them at any time.

At least I have John Guinan here to talk to tonight. I know his family will be worried now that he has joined me on hunger strike, but I also know that it will make my own family feel a little bit less anxious to know there is someone else here with me.

The only question is who gets the large bed. He’s a big fellow.

.......................[ Back to Top of page].....................

Day 6

I've lost nearly a stone but I am feeling fairly good today. I reckon I have about another half stone to spare as far as the weight is concerned.

I slept very well last night but then I was wrecked after the ruckus the previous night and the meeting with management. That did not get very far and we've had no word back from them so far today.

John Guinan, who is joining me on hunger strike tomorrow, called by again today to have a chat and Ciaran Tyrell, a TEEU activist in Wicklow called over to see what they could do to help raise public awareness.

The other shop steward here at Green Isle Foods, Declan Shannon, says he is getting in a lot of calls offering support.
We are looking forward to the press conference in Maudlin's tomorrow to get an opportunity to put our case across. It is right beside the Storm Cinema in Naas, which is handy for any journalists who want to know where the rally is starting from on Saturday.

Some of the family and lads are worried at the rate I'm losing weight, so I might get a medical check-up on Thursday to keep their minds at rest. But they know I am here for the duration. Everything else is in the hands of Green Isle Foods and their owners in Leeds, Northern Foods. They are the ones calling the shots and it looks like it's a case of out of sight out of mind.

.......................[ Back to Top of page].....................

Day 5

I woke up last night about 2 am. A guy who had some drink on him was pulling down some of the signs. We had a few words with him and he left, but we had to repair the signs.

It meant I didn't have a proper night's sleep before the meeting with management today.

John, who is going to be next on the hunger strike, spent the night with me. I talked to him about it and told him what to expect. I think he is psychologically ready for it. He has discussed it with his wife and is talking to the children tomorrow.

I went up to the house before the meeting with management to have a shower and tidy up. We didn't make much progress with them. We reported back to the lads and they agreed there was no basis for a settlement yet.

There were a lot of visitors to the caravan this evening by people who missed me during the day because I was at the talks.

I am really tired tonight. I should sleep well.

.......................[ Back to Top of page].....................

Day 4

The press conference at the TEEU offices in Dublin broke up the day for me. Declan Shannon, my fellow shop steward at Green Isle Foods drove me up.

My body moved down a gear today but I still feel fine.

I told journalists I would be getting a medical check up after ten days, or when I lost more than ten per cent of my body weight; whichever comes first. But I also made it clear that whatever the outcome of the medical there was no question of me stopping my protest. That won't happen until we have a result from the talks, something we can bring back to the members.

They also asked me why I was the first member at Green Isle Foods to go on hunger strike. I told them the hunger strike was my idea and I couldn't very well come up with an idea like that and not do it myself.

We had been out six months and if we didn't do something soon everyone would have been broken eventually. That's a fact.

We knew from dealing with the company that talks alone wouldn't do it.

.......................[ Back to Top of page].....................

Day 3

Green's Isle Hunger Strike Diary - Day Three
Last night wasn't too bad as I was at meetings until 2.30am today so I wasn't cold. At least the company is talking to us now.

I had to be up early for Newstalk but the traffic would wake you anyway. I could have done with a bit more time on the programme to explain the issues properly. I hope it was okay.
A guy came in to talk to me for about an hour this morning about the dispute. He lives locally but runs some sort of EU Blog. He says he will have to talk the company as well to get their side. He seemed very interested in our case. He said he would be putting something out shortly and that the blog goes to some key people in Europe.

I am feeling good physically but the energy seems to go very quick when I have to do anything. I am travelling up to Dublin tomorrow for the Press Conference at the TEEU offices.

.......................[ Back to Top of page].....................

Day 2

After's a quiet start I had a busy night, meeting with management, through the good offices of Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan and Labour TD Jack Wall. Management said they mean business but after the events of the past six months I am not ending the hunger strike until we have a deal that is signed, sealed and delivered.

There are no ill effects at this stage but the craving for food has gone. I don't feel the urge to rush out any more and grab someone's bag of chips. I was told it would be like this and now that I have stopped thinking about food I can concentrate on the issues.

I have books here to read but I haven't had a chance to open them, there are so many callers and phone calls.

Kfm are calling me now. It looks like my interview with the local station is become a daily feature.

.......................[ Back to Top of page].....................

Day 1

It's just over 24 hours since the start of the strike. I was hungry this morning and I'm even hungrier now; but it's nothing more than a lot of people put up with on a fast for charity. A burger would be nice.

There was an odd incident at start of the hunger strike yesterday afternoon. A courier arrived with four large pizzas to be paid for on delivery. Hopefully it was a one-off stunt.

A lot of people dropped by to have a chat, including two lads from Sinn Fein up from Wicklow for a meeting and some Coca Cola workers who were on strike.

There were union meetings last night until nearly midnight. At least it helped to keep my mind off food. My son Jamie stayed overnight. It took us a while to get the balance right between using the heater and the number of quilts we needed on the bed to keep warm.
We got up about 7am today.

I''m drinking water most of the time. It is fairly tasteless so I sometimes heat it on the gas ring for a change. It helps me keep warm.

I did an interview with Highland Radio this morning and a journalist called with a photographer from the Sunday Tribune to hear why I was on hunger strike.

My brothers Pat and Martin called up to see how I was getting on. My wife Anne is with me now.

Day One Over

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shifting Sand - economic mismanagement is catching up on this govt.

Recently I commented that the Govt. had managed to create a sense, at least, of stability but that it was in danger of seeing its story on the economic crisis and how best to handle it start to spin out of control with the likelihood that this would provide some new opportunities to challenge their economic prescriptions.

Well so much for stability. Some fairly boorish action in the Leinster house debates about o’Dea (he of Limerick regeneration project fame) demonstrated that the Govt. believes the old Brian Cowen approach of barracking down all challengers will keep on working. That will likely be a big mistake.

But what about the unravelling of the Govt. economic narrative which has been so carefully built up to centre around debt reduction and bond holder appeasement at all costs, even at the cost of a more thoughtful response. Any signs of that story line slipping?

Well, firstly, for me a reasonable fear was that Fianna Fail would perform the usual trick of holding on long enough so as to be able to sell themselves as having stabilised the economy and sown the seeds of recovery. Setting up the bond holders, an external force, as the main protagonists and describing the crisis as externally created would have allowed this possibility nicely.

However the best laid plans oft go awry. Patrick Honohan the newly appointed Central Bank Governor is proving himself to be independent of his appointer (and from what I can gather of him it is not unexpected) which is not helping the govt.

In a speech to the British Irish Parliamentary conference Honohan has been talking about the similarities between the Irish and British crises. For the govt. it represents another shift away from their version of events and further creates a tone of public discourse where alternative economic policies can be offered without immediately being dismissed simply because they are not from the govt. I think specifically of the €4 billion magic number for budget cuts last year. The govt's cuts agenda, their economic story, was the yardstick by which all others were measured. They were in control and its that level of control which allowed a successful steering through of the budget.

But that control continues to weaken. Straight of the bat Honohan highlights the key issue stating

“the crisis has served to expose strikingly similar pre-existing vulnerabilities in our economies – not shared by most others in Europe – which would sooner or later have led to trouble even if it had not been for the global meltdown”.
Well Governor Honohan please have a word with the Min. of Finance and an Taoiseach who will strongly disagree with that. You see Governor the crisis is solely a product of external agents and events. Well Honohan is having none of that and punctures that myth as well in no uncertain terms. As he himself says his speech is not about “questioning the largely-home-grown nature of the Irish credit bubble”

He specifically highlights the “wide-ranging imbalances created by a credit-fuelled property boom”, “growing dependence of the financial sector on wholesale market-funding, increasingly in the form of foreign borrowing” and the over reliance on transitory tax revenue to fund expenditures.

And what might have created such imbalances. He suggestion is that its directly as a consequence of Govt. tax policy:

Tax incentives for developers and homeowners have long been a feature of the Irish taxation system and must have contributed significantly to the oversupply of houses which now exists, especially in parts of the country where underlying demand is likely to remain weak for many years to come.

We’ve examined the impact of imbalances as a consequence of a credit fuelled property boom and poor tax policy before and its a costly mess that can be squarely laid at the feet of this govt. Honohan points out

"Even before the global crisis metastasized in September 2008, Irelands fiscal position was coming under pressure, not just because of an accelerated expansion of spending in the previous few years, but especially because of the sharp fall in tax revenues which began soon after the property prices started to turn down."

How poor the govt tax strategy of relying on windfall taxes is demonstrated by the collapse of the tax tale from 24 per cent of GDP in the first seven years of the new millennium to 20 per cent of a greatly reduced GDP by 2009. In his words there was an "excessive reliance on revenues related to the value of property transactions."

For Patrick Honohan, Governor of the Central Bank of the Irish state there are some clear culprits as to who is responsible for this situation.

And if the two Brians think that this is just a one off bad report then they had better not read the Davy report just published which highlights the wasted wealth of the boom years as reported by Taft

That and add in the Docklands report as highlighted by Mary Lou and it seems like some sand is beginning to shift under this govt.

We have waited a while for the mismanagement of the economy to catch up with the govt. Finally it seems the general discourse may be starting to focus on the real villans in this piece.

That should allow SF sufficient room to carve out its own niche by providing a progressive analysis rather than being forced to explain its economic policies on the govt. terms

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shopsteward, Jim Wyse, Begins Hunger Stike at Green Isle Foods

Our island has a tragic history of hunger strikes and once more an individual feels he has no other way to get his voice heard by those in power than to refuse to eat food. Le's hope this dispute is resolved quickly. The below piece is taken from the ICTU website


Jim Wyse, the TEEU shopsteward at Green Isle Foods, began his hunger strike at the company's Naas plant at noon today (Feb 17) in protest at management's refusal to accept Labour Court proposals to settle the six months long dispute.

"I don't mind what I have to do to resolve this", he said, "but I do mind how it is affecting my family. They are supportive but they are angry as well that it has come to this. They've put up with six months of hardship, as have the other families involved. Now they are facing into this as well."

Asked how long he thought he would be on the protest, he said, "I'm not expecting a quick result. The history of this dispute so far is that the company will drag things out again".

He said he appreciated the efforts local TD Bernard Durkan had made over the past few days to assist by contacting the company and the strikers, "but we're not getting our hopes up". His wife Anne and daughter Rebecca were among the supporters who turned out for the start of the hunger strike. Jim will spend the hunger strike on the picket line in a caravan.

Jim's wife Anne Wyse said it was "crazy people have to resort to a hunger strike to get the company to listen to them". His daughter Rebecca said she fully supported her father in what he was doing but that she was "very, very angry he is having to take such a drastic step when the Labour Court and everybody else has offered a solution to the company".

Declan Shannon is the other shop steward in the dispute and he was not hopeful of an early breakthrough either, although he said that Bernard Durkan had met with both sides separately yesterday. His wife Ann Shannon, who was on the picket line today, said that the attitude of the company directors appeared to be that the men could stay outside forever.

"The have been outside the gate for six months now through the worst winter in 40 years and they have been here every single day", she said.

Technical Engineering and Electrical Union General Secretary Designate, Eamon Devoy, said, "The union is four square behind our members. The Labour Relations Commission, the National Implementation Body and the Labour Court have all put forward initiatives we accepted, as we did the final Labour Court recommendations but the company has shown no willingness to engage in the search for a solution."

The men are seeking the reinstatement of three colleagues who were dismissed for alleged misconduct and for the company to honour existing terms and conditions for the remainder of the strikers. The Labour Court recommended that the company either pay the men €40,000, €60,000 and €80,000 respectively for unfair dismissal or reinstate them. The company has declined to do either. Nor has it been willing to engage with the TEEU or even allow it to represent the men when they were being dismissed.

Congress granted the TEEU an All-Out picket against Green Isle Foods. Its products include Goodfellas and San Marco pizzas, Donegal Catch, a variety of savoury filled pastries, potatoes and other vegetables.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


One down!
Fifteen to go.
Set up the next cabinet minister we are only getting started.

Problem Solved?

The Govt. could be forgiven for thinking that things were starting to improve for them. The recent bounce in the opinion polls and a fairly deft treading on water over the last few months saw them apparently pull through a difficult period.

And although today they did have the embarassing situation of defending a perjurer they did seem to be stabilising a bit.

The reason for that stability I contend is their success in defining the debate on the economy so narrowly. Successful economic policy today is not defined by how many people are in employment, wealth creation etc. but by how much our borrowing requirement can be reduced. The only criteria for success is the often arbitrary opinion of the the sovereign debt market.

And how successful they were in defining that as the yard stick of success. The budget, the McCarthy report, savage and sectional in their targeting went through without any real opposition.

The issue of budget deficit was a substantive one and no party could shy away from it, certainly SF did not and sought to tackle the structural deficit in a non-deflationary way. Sustantive as it is its not the only issue to be handled.

When Brian Lenihan went on RTE yesterday to state that Ireland was out of danger and commented we had found our own solution to our problems he was to some extent stating the truth. Indeed we have managed to avoid the situation whereby we undergo soverign default. But at what cost to our medium term economic prospects and societal cohesion. And while no one is arguing against avoiding an unsustainable deficit many are arguing against the deflationary measures of the Govt, even from the pages of the Wall street journal. And what about Michael Casey the former chief economist with the Central Bank and currently board member of the International Monetary Fund who commented that:

Our Government and the EU Commission have sold out to the rating agencies, none of whom cares about unemployment or emigration.
For a govt. which has defined our economic problems as being under the control of foreign lenders and money markets this is a worrying shift back to real world concerns.
The govt. have skilfully turned fear of default into one of its success criteria and having avoided such a default and created the illusion of stability it has managed to stabilise its own position in the polls. However I suspect that rather than this marking a come back for the govt. they now face a new danger. The narrative of fear surrounding debt default is receding and the more Lenihan claims we are out of the woods the weaker it gets.
Its been a successful diversion but with nearly half a million unemployed its becoming less possible for the govt. to sideline the issue.
Ultimately the govt. will have to face the issue of job creation. And job creation will not be easily managed or manipulated in the media since the govt. record is extremely poor on this issue.
According to Forfas in the years 98 to 08 less than 4000 net new jobs were added by foreign and irish-owned firms in the international tradable goods and services sectors.

Yet in retail, constructions etc up to half a million jobs were created. Likewise
in 2006, 83,000 new jobs were added to the economy but yet direct job creation in the export sectors was less than 6,000.

Clearly the capacity of the Irish economy to create jobs on its own is tiny, or is it more that the capacity of the economy to create jobs has been simply ignored. Considering that in 2007 the Irish invested €13.9 billion in European property deals but the Irish-owned business sector got under €200 million in venture capital investment is it surprising.

The SME sector has been sorely neglected by the govt. over many years and these difficult times are showing how. The number of corporate insolvencies in Ireland has soared to 1,406 in 2009, according to

The govt. would love people to think that with the cost of Irish debt stabilising that they have saved us.

Yet we now have an economy that has very little demand in it and very little investment (now at 1998 levels) - the 2 pillars that created most jobs in the tiger era. People are saving like crazy and shops and construction are flatlining. But at the same time the lack of vision of the govt. is now catching up with the neglected SME sector and jobs are being lost.
Brian Lenihan may be happy thinking that its problem solved. However there is only so much treading water this govt. can do and as the debate switches away from bond spreads to job creation and the need for real reform on the structural deficit then the govt. will be once more vulnerable on the economic front.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting caught at the Horse Fair. Why its tough to be a Green these days.

The reputation of politics in the mind of Irish voters is low .
But I think the Greens have just managed to drag it a bit lower. The sheer naked hunger for position and sense of entitlement as displayed by former senator deBurca is striking a new low; not because there are no other politicians as venal but because Senator deBurca seems to have even lost any notion of being embarassed by such a sense of privilege. This is approaching Pee Flynn territory.
Senator deBurca and the Greens went to do a deal with Fianna Fail, the master horse traders, and all they got for their money was an old mare fit for the yard. They got caught and there is no going back. They tried to secure a job for their candidate simply because she was their candidate.  
DeBurca claimed the Greens only agreed to support Maire Geoghegan Quinn as Ireland's EU Commissioner in return for her getting a sinecure, sorry I mean job, in the Commissioner's cabinet.
Well the Greens promised:
  • A proper waste strategy for Dublin and instead we have an incinerator and several court cases;
  • They promised transport reform;
  • They promised they wouldnt breath the air on planet Bertie but instead became the famous FF mud guard;
  • They promised about Tara etc etc.
And what about the half million on the register. Are they not entitled to a job as well Deirdre. They cant horse trade their way into a fancy position though.
This seems to be a case of what goes around comes around and I have little sympathy for her.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

No good thing ever came from the crooked timber of partition.

John Quiggin, who is listed in the side column of links is a well known Australian economist who often writes on a blog called Crooked Timber.

At the moment, as noted by Paul Krugman, John is writing a book on Zombie economics. Basically the trust of the book is going to be ideas that should have been canned by history are proving really persistent and instead of staying buried are rising again.

The neo-liberal, chicago school or free-market crazies who made such a mess of things have seen the world economy steered away from disaster by huge govt. interventions. Something which they thought should never happen.

Perversely it seems the success of the Keynesians priming the pump is actually giving the neo-liberals room to survive and regroup.

As Krugman says "Now that we seem to have avoided a full replay of the Great Depression, a large part both of the economics profession and of the political establishment seems ready to pretend that none of it happened."

In sth Ireland though we have no such debate. Instead Fine Gael are keen to try out the same old ideas as FF . Fianna Fail is proposing a deflationary solution thats sucking life out of the economy (look at those tax returns) and Fine Gael spent months telling everyone how they were going to cut jobs in the public services. Michael Taft notes "the effect of cutting 17,000 public sector jobs - as measured in the ESRI simulation in its working paper 287 - is fiscally irrelevant but economically damaging. By the 4th year, the borrowing requirement falls by only 0.1% of GDP but the GDP falls by 0.7% (the effect on the domestic economy is even worse - at 1%). However, the effect on consumer spending (-1.1%) and employment (-0.8% or about -15,000 jobs) makes the cut extremely damaging."

Recently this type of Fianna Fail-Fine Gael approach was labelled a death spiral for the country in the Wall Street Journal of all places.

In America the debate is oscillating between two schools of thought. Here there is only one school of thought with two parties pushing it. Whoever will win the next election will lead to little change as many have long known.

George Lee for all his faults eventually saw this and decided he couldnt stick with Fine Gael. He couldnt stick with a party pushing deflation just like Fianna Fail. He should have spotted it earlier but sure no one is perfect.

If Lee wants to do the country some service then he can start to show how Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are the two sides of the one coin pushing a deflationary death spiral.

Welcome the real world George.

You have just joined the growing group of people who know that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail offer no useful solutions to our current problems.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The strange quiet surrounding the passing of Thoams McGiolla

Below is a piece received from Red Rebel.


Strange how An Phoblacht failed to mention the death of Tomas McGiolla except for an article by Micheal MacDonnchadh on the founding of the paper in 1970 which briefly mentions him.

McGiolla went from being a right wing Catholic of privileged farming background in the 1940s to leading a Stalinist Party to ending up a bitter old man who had fallen out with his erstwhile comrades one by one or sometimes six by six throughout his political life. His journey from being an alleged member of a Catholic Secret Society called Maria Duce, to his joining the IRA in the 1950s, to his Presidency of Sinn Féin in the 60s and the turn to the left, to the Leadership of Official Sinn Féin, to Sinn Fein the Workers Party with its Stalinist Democratic Centralism, to the Workers Party and to his betrayal by those who left to form Democratic Left and who now run the Labour Party, is a fascinating story.

The recent book by Hanley and Millar, The Lost Revolution, throws a lot of light on this journey but it is by no means the full story and a previous book by Sean Swan called Official Irish Republicanism (sic) 1962 to 1972 fills in some of the gaps. The Workers Party became the most successful Socialist party ever in the 26 Counties (having 7 TDs elected to Leinster House) before its inherent contradictions, its secret cadres and its military fund raising, amongst other reasons, led to disagreement and disintegration.

The statement by ex-member Eamon Gilmore now leader of the Labour Party highlighted by Conor Foley in a letter to An Phoblacht this week shows the political amnesia, the u turns, contradictions and animosity that McGiollas followers suffered from faced with the National Question.

The Stickies weren’t wrong about everything. Indeed in my view they were right about a lot of things especially on the economic situation of the 26 counties, the promotion of workers rights and the need for a Socialist solution, but I think they failed to understand the colonial nature of the 6 county problem and the depth of Loyalist sectarianism.

When they turned away from confronting the Loyalist Statelet and began to try and reform it they eventually floundered. Lessons for us all there maybe?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Government fails to meet need despite oversupply of properties

Here is an article from Eoin O'Broin from this weeks an phoblcaht

Government fails to meet need despite oversupply of properties

There are more than 100,000 households on local authority waiting lists in the 26 Counties while 300,000 homes lie empty across the state. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Official government figures claim that only 56,000 households are on the waiting list. However this figure is from April 2008.

Since then the recession has caused a dramatic increase in the numbers seeking social housing.

Last December, The Irish Independent published new figures obtained from the Department of the Environment which estimated that the housing list was closer to 100,000 households.

Even this figure is an underestimation, though, as the statistics exclude many categories of households, including those deemed by local authorities to be living in overcrowded or materially unsuitable accommodation, or people in transitional housing programmes.

In January the National Institute for Spatial and Regional Analysis (NISRA) released an estimate of the number of vacant homes in the state. Combining a number of sources of data they have estimated that there are 302,625 vacant homes, not including holiday homes, across the 26 Counties.

NISRA have also produced an interesting analysis of the relationship between house building and population growth, county by county.

Their study estimates that from 2006 to 2009 the supply of houses in the state outpaced projected population growth by 154%.

For example, in their study NISRA estimated that Dún-Laoghaire Rathdown would need an additional 538 units to meet its projected population growth from 2006 to 2009. However during that period an oversupply of 7,139 units of accommodation were built. That’s an oversupply of 1,224%!

Dublin City Council had the largest oversupply in terms of actual numbers, with 15,363 units representing an oversupply of 401%. Cork County came second with an oversupply of 11,018 or 115%. Limerick City had the largest percentage oversupply in the state, with a massive 1,252%. Only Galway City came close to matching supply and demand, with a 2% oversupply.

Despite this oversupply of housing, in each of these areas housing waiting lists also increased during the same period.

If the Irish Independent figures published last December are correct, then local authority waiting lists have increased by 130% since 2005.

The newspaper’s figures estimated that the waiting lists in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown included 4,406 households; in Dublin City included 6,108 households; in Cork County included 4,880 households; and in Limerick included 1,468 households.
In each case, the number of vacant homes identified by NISRA significantly exceeds the number of families deemed by the Department of Environment to be in need of local authority housing.

The reason for this situation is very simple. During the Celtic Tiger housing supply was determined primarily by market forces, central government tax incentives, and developer-led planning decisions at a local level.
Little if any consideration was given to strategic planning based on social need.
Central and local government failure explains why there are hundreds of thousands of vacant homes side by side with hundreds of thousands of people in need of housing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Moral hazard or moral turpitude in the hotel industry.

Last week the labour court was hearing how it was necessary for the irish hotel sector, and other hospitality sector companies to cut minimum wages in order to increase their survivability.

Their survivability is something that interests us of course. We want to see strong economic activity in the country, companies paying decent wages and keeping the local and national economy ticking over and folks in jobs.

Many folks in Ireland and of course the media will meekly accept that this is bad but necessary. But rather than tackle the usual Govt. spoon fed line that There Is No Alternative (TINA) to shafting these ordinary people I'd like to focus on another common phrase these days - moral hazard.

one defintion of moral hazard is:
Moral hazard occurs when a party insulated from risk may behave differently than it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk.

Which means if I know you'll bail me out every time I fall flat on my face then why should I change my behaviour and cop on.

Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not take the full consequences and responsibilities of its doings, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it alternately would, leaving another party to hold some responsibility for the consequences of those actions.

Less careful than it otherwise would! Leaving another party to hold some responsibility! Could this in anyway be similar to whats happened to the minimum wage workers. Is it possible that they are carrying the can for others mistakes.

Sinead Pentony in an excellent post on the progressive economics site TASC looks at the issue of hotel insolvency and examines an important twist on the minimum wage issue being discussed.

Peter Bacon of NAMA fame has reviewed the south Irish hotel industry and found a mess - (As an aside its interesting to note how Bacon is the go to man for reports it seems – NAMA, reports for the car industry, for the Hotel industry etc etc.)

The hotel sector is insolvent basically. But this is no recent swing of events. Its not one bad year that’s turned the tide on a healthy sector. No quick plaster of a minimum wage cut will do here. Far from being a bad patch the report makes apparent that the hotel sector has much bigger issues. By the end of 2008 there were a total of 59,000 hotel rooms in the south of which 15,000 should be closed down urgently. In other words there is gross over capacity. How could this have been allowed to happen? More on that later.

Not only is there gross over capacity there is also an estimated €1billion in debt in the industry which is not secured by assets. This was clearly an industry out of control. What could have driven such insanity or is it case of “we are where we are” and somehow or other this just magicked out of thin air.

Well the report highlights a couple of reasons why this happened. Firstly tax breaks for the hotel sector created significant over-supply of hotels. Hotels whose viability was questionable from the outset. According to Bacon the stock of new hotels has been seriously insolvent since 2005 and in every year since 2002, new hotels on average have been insolvent from the year of their construction. Clearly there was no useful strategic vision for this sector and that falls into the Govt’s. lap. Tourism is a key aspect of our economy and here as elsewhere they failed to provide positive direction and leadership

The report also highlights the sorry nexus with the financial institutions and banks. The report suspects banks are keeping afloat a large number of insolvent hotels so as to avoid any write downs of their loan books. The banks want to keep open these walking dead hotels because they “need … hotels to remain open for seven years to allow investors to avail of capital allowances and to avoid the creation of a tax liability due to a clawback”. In order to ensure the developers continue to enjoy the advantage of tax breaks which created about 25% unneeded room capacity and landed the sector with €1 billion in unbacked loans the banks are going to take it easy on the hotels and developers and let the zombie hotels keep on going..

The upshot is that hotels with a fighting chance are being forced to compete against “zombie hotels” who are remaining only to ensure previously granted tax breaks are enjoyed. The whole hotel sector is now paying the price and saveable jobs are being put at risk. And whats worse there is suspicion that the solvent hotels are not being lent sufficient credit because the zombies are more important to the banks.

How to solve this dilemma? The Bacon report recommends the next financial act allow these zombie hotels leave the sector without having to pay back the tax incentives.

As Tasc notes :
Essentially, the Report is recommending that developers who took advantage of tax breaks to build hotels that were never going to be viable should not be subject to the clawback of those capital allowances - because they won’t have an incentive to close these hotels but rather, keep them open for the seven years, which will further undermine the hotel industry.

This is the moral hazard described earlier. The rules are bent later in the day to help the developers who over supplied the market. And who will bend the rules. The Govt. that put in place the policies that caused the over supply in the first place.

The estimated amount of hotel related capital allowances which remain to be claimed or have already been claimed, and which potentially could be clawed back by the Revenue, are estimated at over €1.5bn.

The Govt. was instrumental in driving the build up of significant over –capacity without, demonstrably, any clear plans for the tourist sector with the end result that the entire hotel sector is a mess.

So whats the plan? The first step is to cut the minimum wages of those working in the hotel sector which brings us back to our definition of moral hazard. The hotels, developers and Govt. walk away from the problem about as happily as they can and someone else, the minimum wage workers carry the can for a total lack of strategic vision by the govt.

The debate in the background is about wages destroying our competitiveness. Yet nary a peep about the lack of purpose to Govt. planning, the introduction and abuse of distorting tax allowances and what may well be another bailout of developers. All of which have cost us hugely and are the real problem.

There will be no increase to Irish competitiveness while the issue of gross mismanagement and either lack of strategic vision or maybe simply corruption is tolerated in southern Ireland.

So let the Media propose reducing the minimum wage down to zero if they want for hotel workers! Maybe then we could have a debate on what the real problem is and what will help our economy re-establish itself.

Will minimum wages cuts make up for the blind work that brought hotels so low?
Will it wipe of the €1billion in unbacked debt?
Will it make south Ireland a country that invests wisely, plan for the future and structure its growth in a sustainable way?

As David McWilliams said today “The country needs to be fixed, not patched up”.

Hacking the minimum wage is a patch and a patch designed to leave those who have really destroyed compeitiveness off the hook.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

US cannot afford it's Empire

Received this from Roger Cole of the Peace & Neutrality Alliance


The US cannot afford its Empire. President Obama has asked the US Congress for $3.8 trillion for the fiscal year 2011 to run the Empire, only
33% of which will be paid for by taxes resulting in a $1.3 trillion deficit. This at a time when more US citizens according to Prof. Warren of Harvard are going bankrupt than getting divorced and the middle class of the United States is being destroyed.

According to Winslow Wheeler of the Center on Defence Information the annual cost of running the military-industrial section of the Empire is well over $1 trillion a year. The simple realist fact is that the US Empire is destroying the lives of its own people to maintain itself. It is also destroying the lives of the people who live its vassal states like Ireland where the cost of guarding its de facto US Airforce base at Shannnon Airport is nearly €10m to date. The simple realist fact is that those of us on the Peace & Neutrality Alliance by opposing Ireland's participation it these wars are the only people offering an alternative to the massive economic crisis caused by this neo-liberal militarist ideology that has dominated the corporate media for decades. On the 14th of February 2010 PANA will be supporting the Shannonwatch BLACKHEART vigil at Shannon Airport. We will be holding a conference on Wednesday 10th of February at 11.00am to encourage the med! ia to give the event coverage prior to the event.

It is nearly 7 years since PANA, the NGOPA and the IAWM organised a massive demonstration against the war and Ireland's participation in that war. Yet at the last election Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Labour Party all made it crystal clear they supported the war and Ireland's participation in the war thus endorsing the neo-liberal militarist agenda that has caused Ireland's economic meltdown. Only a clear and decisive break with this ideology will restore peace and economic stability, starting with the termination of the use of Shannon Airport in the war and the withdrawal of the 7 Irish soldiers taking part in the occupation of Afghanistan.

Roger Cole
Peace & Neutrality Alliance

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fás: New Board - Same Old System.

This is an article received from Red Rebel.


The new Fás Board appointed by Mary Coughlan shows once again how the system of capitalist cronyism is perpetuated while the public is duped by the Government and the media into believing that reform is taking place. Phrases such as ‘accountability and transparency’ ‘new slimmed down Board’ and ‘root and Branch reform’ abounded throughout media reports which reflected Government spin and led to very little comment or questioning by a compliant media.. Ok so the Board was cut from 17 to 11 members. There will be rolling membership (which I presume means that there will be changes in membership during the lifetime of the Board) allowing the Minister make even more appointments. The new act makes the FÁS Director General accountable to the Oireachtas. It bans directors and staff of FAS from any involvement on matters where they have a conflict and also provides protection for whistleblowers who report serious wrongdoing in the organisation. Sounds lovely but the reality may prove to be a little different. First of all this is just another Government appointed Quango. The Quangos' combined annual budget was €13bn in 2006, according to a Think Tank for Action on Social Change report, and it's sure to be even more now. This is more than the projected total Government budget deficit of 9.4 billion euro for the year.

So lets take a look at who is on the Board. The new Chairman of the Board, Michael Demspey from Wexford is a former senior director of the mulit-national Bristol Myers Squibb, and a board member of BIM . He will have a fellow St. Mary's CBS old boy at the FÁS table as a newly appointed board members is Tony Dempsey, a former Fianna Fáil TD from Wexford. Martin Hogan ( innovation manager at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology) and of course a member of the Green Party is also there as is Donegal Fianna Fail supporter Margaret Sweeney (CEO of Postbank Ireland). This is the same Margaret Sweeney who pocketed a tax-efficient exit package of €529,315 plus pension contributions of €250,000 and her €25,000 Mercedes, bringing the total to over €800,000 from Aer Rianta in 2004 after less than a year in the job. Seán Gallagher, Managing Director, Smarthomes Limited;Board Member, InterTradeIreland and sometime TV personality. Emer Gilvarry Solicitor; Managing Partner, Mason, Hayes and Curran.Ms. Annette Hughes, Director, DKM Economic Consultants; Member, Euroconstruct; Member, National Competitiveness Council.. Séan Ó Longáin, Barrister; Former Chief Executive Officer, County Donegal Vocational Education Committee. r. Brendan J. Murphy, resident, Cork Institute of Technology. The usual Golden Circle of the Cream of the Country. Good at creaming it more like as friends of the establishment.

There is no appointee representing workers, the disabled or the unemployed. The Board is also in breach of the Government’ own Equality Legislation of a minimum of 40% female representation with only 3 women appointed. It is about time these Quangos were done away with and an executive of full time workers appointed from within the organisation under the direct control of a Minister who would have to appear with the executive before an Oireachtas Committee every year to account for their performance.

Thatcher to Blair to Brown - The failure to address inequality.

This link was received from a reader of the site. He stated ....

This document which relates how Britain has not changed that much since those dark days of Thatcher and her Neo Liberal Chicago school of Econmics. For more information on that era please refer to Naoimi Klein's excellent book: The Shock Doctrine.

Since 1997 Britain has had a Labour Party in power, but a Party that has ignored it's core policies and is unfrotuantely drifting away to the right and is now probaly more to the right that what the Tories were in 1979.

I-re call the first effect of that bitch Thatcher age about 9 when the Free Milk was cut from our school in Newcastle , Co Down and then on, her continued attack on working class people.