Sunday, March 28, 2010

At the Crossroads - an entire political philosophy not just Sinn Fein.

La le Phadraig for me was a bit of a disaster to be honest. I had to stay at home waiting for the cops to send over their forensics team to dust down the back window to our house. Some bastard popped the window and had a root around in our house and took my girlfriend's laptop. So that was a fine holiday alright.

But as I noted I was distracted by burglary. Therefore when I read the article "Sinn Fein - A party at the Crossroads" I did so from a certain perspective - someone who had been robbed a few days earlier.

That article was a robust criticism of Sinn Fein as a left wing party. Criticism is welcome. It can promote reflection, assessment and evolution.

But as someone who had been robbed my concerns at the time were not ideological, marxist, republican or even fine gaeler. I was only interested in looking at this issue through the prism of crime.

I scanned through the Communist Party's website searching for what their policy on crime is. How they propose to manage this very serious issue which has a heavy impact on working class areas. As a victim of crime what message did they have for me.

The only reference to crime was sixty years of imperialist crime committed by Nato. If there are policies on crime or crime prevention then they were not on the site. If there are no policies on crime prevention then why not. How can such a deeply important issue be ignored while 60 years of Nato crimes is highlighted.

This is a serious omission on the Communist Party of Ireland's part. Its a failure to speak directly to a real life, real world need.

However they are not the only ones who have ignored this issue on their site. Searching through the Socialist Party's site with the term crime the first article returned discussed “references to ‘neo-Stalinism’, ‘commandism’, ‘lack of democracy’ and other alleged ‘crimes’". If the thug who stole our laptop also committed the crime of "commandism" then this may be of relevance to us and other victims of crime.

Fair dues to the Workers Party who focussed on the issue of crime in their Drug Crime - A dagger at the heart of the working class document.

And also to Sinn Fein with our 19 page publication on crime and policing

But I did not pen this post to obliquely come around to highlighting Sinn Fein's policy work on crime and policing etc as opposed to others. Nor did I write it to have a pop at the CPI in response to their fine contribution below nor indeed to have a go the Socialist party. Both of which are on the same side as us - progressive left wing politics.

Each and every left wing party in Ireland must recognise that we are all at the crossroads. Each left wing party has its weakness. If we are to either separately or together change society then as an entire political philosophy we must up our game and become more relevant to the society we want to influence. The left cannot talk about the crimes of Nato or the crimes of stalinism yet not mention the crimes that immediately affect our own communities daily. And if we do talk about them then they should be readily accessible on the web etc otherwise we are failing to communicate them which is as serious an omission.

As someone who was a victim of crime I went searching amongst progressive parties to determine who had put together actual policies on dealing with the issues of crime and I did not find much solace.

There were 26,793 burglaries in the southern state in 2009. Where will they seek solace and why?
If they end up voting Fine Gael then how many left wing parties can say they gave those voters a genuine alternative.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ministur for Edukation

"I am not completely incompetent." - Mary Coughlan

Last week when musing over the Innovation policy announced by Cowen I wondered how a man incapable of innovation could launch a policy on that topic.


I have to admit that the big yin has proven all doubters wrong. If innovation is fresh, unexpected thinking then the moving of Mary Coughlan into education is innovative to say the least.


The knowledge economy will be spearheaded by a minister who thinks Einstein came up with the theory of evolution.


A minister who Paul Curley, chief executive of Norkom Technologies, said there was a cringe factor around her on trade visits abroad.

Remember last June former Intel boss Craig Barrett spoke at the Farmleigh summit on Ireland's economic future. He put the boot in and told the govt. to stop pretending we have a world-class education system and face the truth: Ireland is average on education, and average is no longer good enough.

Unless it's the Minister for Education we are talking about in which case average is more than we can hope for and fairly incompetent is what we will get.

Other highlights are Mary Hanafin the minister who we noted refused to honour pensions promised to Farmer's wives (who would have actually worked and earned it) while she herself was building up a 415K pension pot for a job she has not done in decades. She has been bumped out from Social Welfare. Who can have sympathy for her. The cuts she pushed in Social Welfare were the equivalent of the tax breaks given to landlords each year. Yet the poor must pay and the rich may play.

Mary Hanafin still has her pension. Mary Coughlan still has her job.

That's an innovative approach alright.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sinn Féin—a party at the crossroads

Below is a piece sent in fron the Communist pary of Ireland. It is clearly an attack on the party, but despite this it still asks questions that all those in the party need to answer.


The recent ard-fheis of Sinn Féin was a somewhat quiet affair, with not a lot on the agenda to stir interest other than two motions, from Waterford and from Drimnagh, Dublin, dealing with possible participation in a coalition Government after the next general election in the Republic.

The motion from the Drimnagh cumann stated: “This Ard Fheis calls on Sinn Féin not to go into power with other parties in government such as Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, as this would be incompatible with our politics and would damage the party.” But the Ard-Chomhairle put forward an amendment that effectually leaves the door open for participation in a future Government, and this was overwhelmingly carried.

The arguments made by those supporting the two motions drew on experience from previous coalition Governments and the consequences for the junior parties in those Governments. Underlying the debate—not mentioned during it but certainly part of the subtext—was the fact that many members in the Republic are greatly concerned that if the Sinn Féin leadership get an opportunity to join a coalition Government they will do so. The experience of the dumping of central policies just before the last general election is still a painful memory for a large number of Southern members.

The position of the Ard-Chomhairle was that any decision in relation to joining a Government would be taken by a special party conference. Given that Sinn Féin is in effect a Northern party, controlled from Belfast, its priorities are shaped by political developments and the priorities surrounding the Northern situation. The majority of delegates to the recent ard-fheis, as with previous ard-fheiseanna, were from the North. If the opportunity arises to enter government in the Republic, the likelihood of their joining a coalition is very high—simply because the political priorities are determined by that relationship.

What is also obvious from the speeches during the ard-fheis and in media interviews afterwards is that the Northern leadership has little more than a superficial understanding of the political, economic and social situation in the Republic. When it comes to the nitty-gritty of the political and economic questions, they flounder—which is quite understandable, given the nature of the conflict in the North over such a prolonged period and the preoccupation with the peace process.

If the opportunity arises of entering a Dublin Government, a majority at any special conference for taking that decision will be Northern delegates, who will approach such participation from an entirely different set of political priorities.

Yet the agenda of the ard-fheis shows that the majority of motions down for discussion came from branches in the Republic, while those dealing with the Northern situation came mainly from the Ard-Chomhairle, with very few from individual cumainn in the North. There were no significant motions dealing with the social and economic situation in the North, and those that there were were devoid of any real depth.

This reveals a number of possibilities: that there is complete unity on the economic and social strategy of the national leadership; or they have no clear idea of an alternative strategy; or the leadership brooks no criticism of its attitude to government; or if there is criticism it is muted or corralled, in the interest of sustaining the unity of the organisation and a united front against unionism.

Another area that shows how far Sinn Féin has shifted politically was the section dealing with “European affairs.” Motions 11, 12 and 13, all again from the Ard-Chomhairle, show a further diminution of opposition to the European Union. There was no indication of the nature of the European Union and what it represents; there was no challenge to the view presented by the media or assessment of the effect of the Lisbon Treaty. All three motions were full of woolly thinking and pious aspiration. “Bring information on the EU back to different sectors and local communities in Ireland through a programme of outreach . . . Engage on the basis of our progressive policy positions on issues within EU’s competences . . . Promoting democratic change in the EU.”

What is ignored is the fact that the policies of the European Union itself have contributed to the crisis and have a major bearing on the measures that member-states can introduce to overcome the crisis.

The question is, How can you call yourself a republican and support the European Union? Republicanism is about democracy and the sovereignty of states, equality between states as well as equality between peoples, and the centrality of the people in democratic and economic policy and decision-making.

The European Union has been deliberately constructed and is treaty-b
ased to ensure the very opposite, by removing the people from the whole process and actively discouraging their involvement, undermining national democracy and national accountability, making all political and economic decisions subservient to the needs of transnational corporations, and all this backed up and imposed by the main imperialist states at the heart of the European Union.

There is a token throwing in of the idea of using the European Union to “raise the issue of Irish Unity, and other issues related to the peace-process.” It is not clear what “Irish unity” would mean, considering our inability to change or do anything independently of what the European Union will allow and what is possible within an imperialist superstate.

A revelation of the pretence at being some sort of radical party while hiding this from some of those it believes are allies in the struggle for Irish unity is the fact that there was no criticism and no indication of their understanding of the role of the United States in global politics, or its central role in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In relation to the coup in Honduras, the motion from the Ard-Chomhairle “condemns the coup d’état in Honduras which resulted in President Zelaya, who was democratically elected, being removed at gunpoint. This act undermines democracy in the region.”

The coup in Honduras was planned, organised and supervised by the CIA and the US State Department. No calls for President Zelaya to be allowed back; no expression of support or solidarity with the democratic forces now engaged in an intense struggle with the puppet government; no acknowledgement that a number of leaders of the democratic opposition have been assassinated.

From reading the motions and the speeches of leading figures in Sinn Féin one cannot help seeing that it is a party moving steadily to the centre. It is caught up in electoral politics and is prepared to make whatever compromises are required to secure participation in government. It will surely end up in government but with nothing radical to bring to the table.

At this stage, what separates Sinn Féin from the Labour Party is that it still has a commitment to Irish unity; but its attitude to other central questions makes the achievement of that goal unrealisable. As for the rest, the establishment can rest easy.

The question now is, Where will those in Sinn Féin who believe in a radical republicanism go from here?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Laughter Of Our Children

Saw the below piece on Mick Hall's excellent site , who himself got it from The Bobby Sands trust, who got ity from Jafar Alam's site. So why not pass it on yourself.

Blogger, 27-year-old Jafar Alam, a Muslim, based in Toronto, posted this painting on his blog, Divine Breezes, which was inspired by ‘the genius of Banksy’, the British graffiti artist whose real identity remains a mystery.

Jafar writes below the painting: ‘Inspired by the genius of Banksy and the perpetual, revolutionary words of Bobby Sands:

‘“They will not criminalise us, rob us of our true identity, steal our individualism, depoliticise us, churn us out as systemised, institutionalised, decent law-abiding robots. We refuse to lie here in dishonor! We are not criminals, but Irishmen! This is the crime of which we stand accused. Never will they label our liberation struggle as criminal…Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” – Bobby Sands

‘We refuse to lie here in dishonor! We are not terrorists, but Palestinians. This is the crime of which we stand accused. Our crime remains that we were born Palestinian.’

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Innovation task force launched by man who cant innovate.

An Taoiseach Brian Cowen has today unveiled a new plan to help us out of the mess he created - an innovation report. ( lets see how much innovation he supplies at the cabinet shuffle - not a lot I would think)

Whats the great idea? Well it's the Knowledge economy – sure its your only man. The Knowledge economy has assumed an almost gold like currency in the position of public debate. Its only rival is of course green jobs. Both the "knowledge economy" and "Green jobs" are the successors to "competitiveness" which has for so long been a driver of public policy.

Now I am not railing against either the need to build an economy that controls its costs and has high productivity; nor against the utilisation of our well educated population to create jobs and wealth or against the bottom half of our country developing sustainable energy sources etc.

My concerns with such initiatives are two-fold:

Firstly the Irish media is only all too keen to seize such easily processed soundbites and add them as impressive baubles to whatever article they are writing. The upshot is that the debate becomes centered around powerful slogans that dominate and ultimately stifle discussion. Tremendous heat may be generated reporting these ideas but often there will be little discussion on where ultimately we want these approaches to take us.

Secondly I am sceptical that the current Govt. is capable of actually developing and rolling out the ideas in the report in a useful way.

Having failed to develop such initiatives at a time when the southern state was running surpluses then it seems unlikely that the self same ministers will have the ability to provide them when there is a deficit – and its not a question of money but of ability, imagination and vision.

The study wants:

Additional seed funding for start up enterprises and entrepreneurs,

- but can a govt. that oversaw an economy where the Irish-owned business sector got under €200 million in venture capital investment while €13.9 billion was invested in European property deals have any credibility in providing seed funding.

Better co-operation between the jobs creation agencies.

- Yet as noted by the Business post a while back this part of Ireland is "drowning in an alphabet soup: HEA, Hetac, Fetac, SFI, IRCSET, IRCHSS,HRB, EI, Fás, Forfás, NCC, IDA. . . the list goes on". Fas anyone confident about their contribution? This soup of agencies is dished out to political appointees in a system created by the present administration. Can they then reliably reform it?

Finally and briefly I'd like to consider their point on start up funds. In their own words:

Insufficient early stage funding is currently available through the private sector and Enterprise Ireland

The Taskforce recognises that some of the following recommendations have substantial resource implications which cannot be met from EI's existing budget without cancelling other significant programmes, while others would require a change in Government policy regarding the provision of matching funding. We acknowledge the extreme pressures on the Exchequer and recognise the rationale for requiring co-funding in a scheme of this nature. However, we believe that there is a clear market failure at present which may prevent worthwhile start-ups proceeding. For that reason, some flexibility in this provision is proposed.

(my highlights – report pg 67.)

Well NAMA should solve that problem shouldn't it? And an interesting question might be to what extent did the Irish govt. simply allow non-state bodies, like the banks, assume almost responsibility for nurturing Irish businesses and creating jobs. When, as the report noted, the market failed in its assigned responsibility there was a dearth of investment for companies and potential jobs not created.

This situation does not just happen. It's the result of a conscious abdication of responsibility by the Govt. over the last 10 years. Now we are seeing the Irish govt. pick up the financial tab from the banks and also having to reassert control over the areas of responsibility it left to those same banks etc.

How then can we entrust them with the responsibility for solving these issues?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Home possessions set to soar.

Joanne Spain has an article on the Home Possessions crisis on the Irish Left Review. As she notes its an elephant in the room that nobody seems to want to face up.

Sixteen months after the Dublin government committed the state to underwriting the six main banks’ total deposits and loans, and half a year since the introduction of the NAMA initiative - the issue of home repossessions has come to the fore. Billions of euro have been invested in the banks, eleven to be exact. Not a cent has gone into helping people talked by the banks, developers, estate agents and government policy into buying overpriced houses at the peak of the boom.

Most of these people are now sitting in houses with massive negative equity, trapped in extortionate long-term fixed rate mortgages, and saddled with 30-year debts that they are struggling to repay in the current climate of wage cuts and job losses.

All of these people will have been pleased to hear the government announcement at the start of February that it is committed to helping homeowners struggling with mortgage payments. However, the ambiguity about what form this help will take and the fact that the government is not talking about implementing any plan until the summer, is no help. The only ‘help’ on offer for the past year has been a moratorium on repossessions, but that has run out now and only applied to the six guaranteed banks anyway. Almost one home a day was repossessed last year following proceedings by non-guaranteed banks.

Read the rest of the article

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Green isle despute resolved

Green Isle Foods Limited, a major employer in Co Kildare, and the TEEU (Technical Engineering and Electrical Union) are pleased to confirm that the mediation process to resolve the industrial dispute at the company's manufacturing site in Naas has been concluded, with both parties agreeing to be bound by the proposals put forward by the independent mediators.

The agreement will be implemented, and accordingly, all forms of industrial action and other activity will cease with immediate effect. Both parties will be bound by confidentiality under the terms of the mediation agreement.

Both parties acknowledge the efforts and assistance of all involved in reaching agreement, and in particular pay tribute to Mr Bernard Durkan TD and Mr Jack Wall TD who facilitated the independent mediation process.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 14 of Jim Wyse's Hunger strike diary at Green Isle

Day 14

Green Isle Hunger Strike Diary – Day Fourteen

I slept well last night and the health is holding up. Things were fairly good today. I’m beginning to get the few headaches and I find I can’t get up suddenly or I feel dizzy. Apart from that I’m feeling better in myself than I was a few days ago.

I didn’t have any calls this morning but I think John had one from Newstalk. We were over in the hotel for a meeting with the mediators and we met up with KFM, so we did a piece for local radio.

After that it was up to Dublin for the press conference, which seemed to go fairly well. Then we had to head back down here again for another meeting with the mediators at five o’clock.

They talked to us for about 15 minutes. The rest of the time we’ve been hanging about waiting for the company to come back. It is very tiring, very wearing. Whether or not that is the company’s intention I don’t know. We’ll have to see what comes out of tonight’s talks

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 12 and Day 13 of Jim Wyse's hunger strike diary

Day 12

Green Isle Hunger Strike Diary – Day Twelve

We managed to keep a lot warmer last night. I won’t say how we compensated for the cold.
It was bitterly cold last night outside. The temperature was minus five degrees when I went out to warm the car engine this morning.

We slept well, although there is always the odd truck arriving at the plant in the night and then there’s a shift change about 6am.

Despite the good night’s sleep I woke up no more refreshed than I went to bed. It’s not so much that I need to force myself to get up as I feel the need for more sleep during the day.

We went down to meet Green Isle management at 3pm but they are keeping us waiting again. It’s par for the course. They’ve had since 3am on Friday, all weekend and all this morning to consider the proposals.

Common decency and good manners would dictate you don’t leave the other side waiting around like this.

Is it arrogance or something worse? I don’t know.

It is encouraging to hear about all the support coming in. We need all the help we can get. I see the Northern Foods share price is continuing to slide so the bad publicity can’t be doing them any good.


Day 13

Green Isle Hunger Strike Diary – Day Thirteen

It was a good day today. The mini-depression I’ve had since Saturday has gone. I feel very good mentally as well as physically. I feel as well as I did when I started, although I don’t have the same energy.

I saw the Doctor for my weekly medical check up earlier. It was very good, very reassuring. Everything is 100 per cent and the Doctor said I should be good for another week.

The bad news is that the high cholesterol hasn’t gone down. The doctor said there was no reason that it should just because I am on hunger strike.

He is very interested in how I am getting. He hasn’t had a hunger striker before. I’m his guinea pig. He’ll be able to talk about me for years.

There is no downward trend in John Guinan at all. We slept well last night in the caravan. I woke up the odd time with passing trucks for a few minutes but you would do that at home.

I think I’ll skip the start of the talks today. They kept us waiting a couple of hours yesterday. It’s only done to wear us down. I’ll wait this evening until there is something to discuss.

There have been a lot more callers today. It was very busy, strangers a lot of them coming to offer their support. One was from Mandate and there were people up from Offaly . One of my brothers calls twice a day. Once on his way to work and once on the way home to see how I am. He is just pulling up now.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Is it raining Minister Hanafin?

So about 400 folks from farming families are holding a protest outside the Department of Social and Family Affairs in Dublin at the removal of pensions from wives of farmers.

The pension for farm women was given last year, but taken away this year. The logic being apparently sure there only women anyhow and they dont deserve anything arent their husbands farming. So much for independent financial existence for these women.

The IFA have come out and criticised Minister Mary Hanafin for not meeting them. Also a few more people are camped inside the dept. and holding their ground until they get a meeting. Hanafin should climb down form her ivory tower and start talking.

What advice might she say to them?

Probably tell them how the pension age is going up and we'll all have to tough it out.

Alternatively she could suggest that they all become Michael Woods. Remember how he was the sole beneficiary of a change in the law about ministerial pensions. Sole beneficiary to the tune of about 75k.

Or maybe she could point them in the direction of Bertie Aherne or Rory o'Hanlon who scooped 98k and 82k respectively last year.

What ever Mary Hanafin says to those protesting about the loss of granted pensions they would do well those sums in mind. While pension reform is something that must be faced the protestors should remember that Mary Hanafin's pension will beat anything they'll ever see and as long as this govt. is in power they'll keep it that way. Reform is for the little people.

Clint Eastwood once commented in The Outlaw Josey Wales " There's another saying, Senator: Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining. "

Those protesting in the Dept. would do well to bear it in mind when the Minister meets them, as she eventually must.

Day 10 and 11 of Jim Wyse's hunger strike diary

Day 10

Green Isle Hunger Strike Diary – Day Ten

We had a good night’s rest for a change. I slept from 11pm until about 7am. I freshened up and met with some people gathering for the march. John Guinan took me up. He’s the designated driver and minder now.

I met all the family and friends. My four sons and daughter Rebecca were there and all the grand children, brothers, sister, in-laws, nephews and nieces. There was a great crowd of supporters. I met people who came up from Cork, a group of Post Office workers and the crowd of supporters from Wyeth. It was a great march and we were blessed with great weather.

I didn’t feel well enough for walking. Declan Shannon brought me down to Green Isle in the Jeep at the head of the march. There was a security cordon. At that stage I got out and walked down to the gate and everyone else came down. It was peaceful and dignified and we went back for the rally to the main entrance at the gate.
When you see a lot of people like that it gives you a lift, although I was not well enough to speak. John spoke for both us and spoke very well.

We have had plenty of visitors afterwards but I managed to snatch a bit of a nap.

I am down about a stone and a quarter in weight. Everything is good except the energy levels are low all the time now. I don’t think they will get back up while I’m on hunger strike.

Day 11

Green Isle Hunger Strike Diary – Day Eleven

We were up late enough last night and didn’t get to bed until about 1am with visits and calls. Then John and me spent a lot of time chatting. The talk always seemed to get back to food for some reason.

We slept well but I woke up a number of times with the cold. My feet were very cold. That wasn’t a problem before, even though the temperatures were lower.

We found there was a bit of condensation forming and the bottom of the mattress is getting damp. There is a formica base that is trapping the moisture. We are going to have to air the mattress and the caravan today.

It was quiet this morning but we expect friends and family to visit in the afternoon.

Physically I still feel a bit down energy wise, much the same as yesterday. I think this is the way it’s going to be from now on.

I get a queasy feeling. It’s hard to describe but it isn’t normal.

I find I am more relaxed when it is quiet and I am just sitting here. I usually have a lot of things going on in my mind when I’m not active, but maybe this is part of my body adjusting.

Is pro-business anti worker?

Michael Hennigan has a very nice financial news aggregator site called FinFacts. Today he has IBEC in his sights and castigates them for fearing radical reform not because such reform would lead to chaos but simply because they are too entrenched in the old way of doing things to be able to react purposefully in the new economic environment we live. IBEC issued a new business survey result today which shows most Irish companies believe that the Public Service Procurement sector in sth. Ireland is dysfunctional. When asked to rate the process of selling goods and services to the Public sector 56% of companies stated it as poor. And this is no small slice of pie. Last year it was €16 billion euros.

Hennigan describes the Public Procurement process in south Ireland as of the Victorian era with generally no transparency.

Mary Coughlan is apparently trying to do something about this issue. While her commentary on it might be colourful I don't think it will be useful.

It might be more useful if she packed up her bags.

Sinn Fein has been focussing on this issue for quite a while and has called for  procurement exercises to be split so as to allow smaller companies the opportunity to win contracts, safe guard jobs and keep local economies going and its tried to help small businesses get educated on what opportunities exist.
And its clear that they need this help. 55 per cent of businesses were refused bank funding in the three months to the end of February, compared to 42 per cent who were did not get credit facilities in the three months to the end of October. Quite a sharp rise Mar-May 2008 when only 20 per cent of SMEs who applied for funding were refused credit.
So much for NAMA helping small businesses, so much for the govt. trying to develop indigenous Irish firms so as to avoid the over-reliance on multi-nationals.
And so much for ISME and IBEC which have failed to deliver for small Irish business women and men who are going to the wall at a huge rate and who cant get credit but somehow or other are supposed to create jobs through exports.
A friend once mentioned in passing that a left wing party should have nothing to do with businesses, that we should focus solely on the workers and not push policies that are targeted at helping businesses.
Yet these businesses give jobs to our communities and give people the opportunity to live in their own home towns etc. if they wish.
As a left wing party we have to support small businesses. We have to ensure jobs are provided to ordinary people.
Pushing supports for businesses is not a rocky road to neo-liberalism. It's the only road to keeping our communities working and living in Ireland.
None of these supports precludes us from building on and defending workers rights.