Friday, April 30, 2010

Shifting the Burden by Eoin Broin

Shifting the Burden

WHO is shouldering the burden of the recession? The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has this month released a report which seeks to answer that question.

The report is called Shifting the Burden: Why the Government wants to load the cost of the collapse onto the less-well-off and why their plan will just make things worse.

It argues that at the heart of Government policy is “a determination to load the full cost of the collapse onto working people and the poor”.
The consequence of this strategy, argues ICTU, “could turn Ireland into a social and economic wasteland for a decade or more”.

In support of their argument, ICTU examine the impact of recent budgets on wages, social welfare and pensions. The report outlines the loss of real income experienced by workers and the unemployed while highlighting those sectors of society who are gaining from the recession.

In 2009, 300 individuals held a personal wealth of €50 billion. Despite this, the total tax take from these millionaires was just €73 million. In the same year, the Budget took €760 million from social welfare claimants in cuts.

In 2009, the share of national wealth going to wages fell by €5 billion while profits from trade, farming and rents are expected to rise by €3 billion.

These figures, and the disparities they highlight, argue ICTU, are the consequence of a Government policy that is determined to lower the cost of labour. And there is more to come.

Shifting the Burden details Government plans to further reduce social welfare payments; cut the minimum wage and other sectoral wage rates; and reduce the size and cost of the public sector.

All of this is being done in the name of restoring Irish competitiveness, and is the key plank of the Government’s plan for economic recovery.

Yet the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), established to advise Government on competitiveness policy, doesn’t share the Government’s concern with wages.
Successive NCC reports argue that costs such as rents, energy, health insurance and childcare are primarily responsible for the economy’s loss of competitiveness in recent years. The Government has brought forward no proposals to address these issues.

In opposition to the Government’s deflationary economic strategy, ICTU quotes Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz who argues that, “In a recession you want to raise (and not decrease) the level of total spending – by households, businesses and government...”

In response to what it believes is the Government’s failed economic strategy, ICTU outlines its alternative which it contends would not only share the burden of the recession more fairly but also address the causes of the recession.
Among the measures proposed are:

Increased investment in job protection and creation
Protecting incomes
Ending social welfare cuts
Protecting people’s homes
Safeguarding public services
Reforming the tax system
Protecting pensions
Enhancing workplace rights
Stronger regulation of the banks
Extending the estimated period of time for economic recovery.

At the core of Shifting the Burden is a call for a significant shift in social and economic policy. ICTU want an end to those policies which privilege the wealthy in society at the expense of equality and long-term social and economic sustainability.

Shifting the Burden can be downloaded here

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Radical irish Lives - Peadar O'Donnell

Peadar o'Donnell was an interesting figure in Irish political circles. More and more he seems to be coming to the fore in terms of being a political touchstone for the left.
 The author William Wall,, has penned a review of the book "Radical Irish Lives - Peadar O'Donnell" by Donal ó'Drisceoil. It was oringally posted in the Irish left review site and is reproduced with William's permission. Its a very good review and is worth reading.

Radical Irish Lives: Peadar O'Donnell by Donal Ó'Drisceoil - Cork University Press

The recent reportage of the teachers' unions conferences would have delighted Peadar O'Donnell, who began his career as an activist in the INTO. The general tenor of the media response was 'how dare these people object to having their pay slashed and conditions of work and contracts interfered with unilaterally'. 'The teacher conference season has exposed deep and fundamental divisions among the unions.' was the Irish Times take, reporting that two out of the three unions had rejected the public service pay deal and that a third had narrowly squeaked past rejection by four votes. So much for 'deep divisions'. O'Donnell, as a trade union activist, and later as editor of The Bell, would have seen it all as typical of a press that is fatally prejudiced against workers.

Peadar O'Donnell was born on a five-acre farm in The Rosses of Donegal in 1893. This in itself would seem to be a remarkable and unlikely beginning for a left-wing radical. That he should begin his working life as a National School teacher in 1913 made it even more unlikely, schoolteachers in those days, if not today, being under so much pressure to conform.

Nevertheless, he would quickly move into full-time organisation on behalf of the ITGU and one of his first successes was the occupation of Monaghan Asylum in 1919. The occupation was, in fact, the first action in Ireland to describe itself as a soviet and the red flag was raised above it. The occupation occurred after talks with the Asylum Committee had broken down on the issue of equal pay increases for men and women. The workers occupied the premises and ran it successfully, electing O'Donnell as governor, and in the end, the Asylum Committee met all their demands. This tendency to adopt radical practical approaches to political problems stayed with O'Donnell. He borrowed his tactics promiscuously - from anarcho-syndicalists, communists, republicans and even, on occasion, from bourgeois politics. The aim of such actions, besides the immediate effect of solving a particular local problem, was always politicisation. He was conscious that involvement in direct action helped to change how people analysed their problems, it radicalised them and shifted their focus from the personal to the communal and social.

Thus began a remarkable and long career of labour and left-wing activism that saw him fight in as an active flying column commandant in the War of Independence, take the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War, be elected to the first Dáil, edit An Phoblacht and later The Bell, help start the agitation against the Land Annuities, and be a founder member of the Republican Congress. A committed Marxist, he worked tirelessly for land redistribution, a cause close to the heart of the Rosses man whose family subsisted on five acres of land and tatie-hoking in Scotland. Until the late forties he was at the heart of the radical left in Ireland and saw it wax and wane, be devastated by the Spanish Civil War and eventually crumble in the face of the new Troubles.

Although he fought in the IRA, he was always conscious of the bourgeois nature of it's leadership and cadres and believed from the outset that the political class that was developing around Dáil Éireann would sell out the labour movement in favour of a bourgeois peace with the empire. That was his analysis of the Treaty, when it came, and his reasons for opposing it were founded in a Marxist critique rather than the objections to the Oath of Allegiance, which motivated many others. The middle-class anti-labour government that emerged in the Free State confirmed him in his opinion.  He wrongly believed, however, that it was possible to organise the farm labourer, small farmer and the industrial worker around common injustices and that such a group could become a powerful political force in Ireland. Despite occasional episodes of solidarity no such lasting movement was to develop. This was, probably, his life's ambition. When, in his latter years, it became clear that such a popular front was impossible, he withdrew into his other life - that of a writer - without ever fully abandoning his cause.

He was a key figure in the attempt to get the IRA, diminished by the Civil War and by the founding of Fianna Fáil, to adopt a socialist programme and plan of action. Again here he was frustrated by the leadership which was sympathetic but believed the struggle for complete independence should come first and the social struggle later. In fact, they believed that the success of the national struggle would bring them to power and allow them to impose social change. This messianic certainty dominated the IRA's thinking until at least the late sixties. And anyway the IRA became an increasingly hostile environment for a socialist activist, to the point where it made a determined effort to destroy O'Donnell's brainchild, The Republican Congress.

This short-lived attempt at unity and solidarity in the left has much to teach us for our present circumstances. O' Donnell's dream was that the left parties and movements would put aside factional differences and dreams of becoming the next government but one, and concentrate on what they had in common. The history of the left in Ireland is little known outside specialist circles, but a glance at this section of the book will show that it was alive and well and considered a very serious threat indeed by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael (which was founded during the period in question). Hunger marches, rent strikes, anti-eviction actions, squatting, resistance to cattle seizures and land evictions, protest meetings attended by as many as 10,000 people at a time, street clashes with the Blueshirts - this was the atmosphere of the time. Ireland, like the rest of Europe was in a ferment of possibilities and social constructs were fluid enough to allow radicals to imagine a different future to the Catholic-confessional petit bourgeois statelet that had been installed by the Treaty. There was a substantial socialist element in the IRA and, particularly, in Cumann na mBan; a communist party; a radical tendency in the Trades Union Congress; numerous ad hoc resistance groups that developed out of the slum problems, tenant leagues, unemployment and small farmer action against the land annuities; and a variety of smaller parties, factions and tendencies, as well as the Labour Party. The latter was viewed with suspicion by the radical left because of various positions it had adopted over the years, beginning with the decision not to contest the 1918 General Election, but to cede the ground to Sinn Féin. But for a brief period in 1934, it seemed as if these disparate groups could make common cause against a Fianna Fáil intent on serving the interests of big farmers and rent-earning landlords. That unity was so brief was not the fault of O'Donnell whose Marxism was eclectic and broad enough for him to embrace with affection even the Anarchists of Catalonia. That factional interests won over solidarity should be a warning to us all, in the light of recent calls for a unified left front to fight FF and FG in the next election, but equally the history of this moment can be an inspiration for those who are intent not on power, but on resisting the hegemony of the jobbing politician, the banker and the developer in this auctioneer's republic of ours.

One aspect of the activism of the period that might be of particular and local interest now, was the agitation over rental property and evictions which led to the Tenant League forcibly retaking property on behalf of homeless families. Now that we're talking about bulldozing ghost estates, maybe the time has come to install homeless families in some of these 'desirable residences' instead of allowing them to stand idle, or be recycled so the developers can build on them again at some future stage.

O'Donnell found himself on holiday in Spain in 1936, in search of a quiet place to finish a novel when the Franco rebellion began. Famously, he had made attempts to make contact with the Communist Party in Barcelona only to discover that the left in the city was almost entirely anarchist and the communists a tiny hole-in-the-corner operation. When the war broke out he was astonished to see the anarchists not only defeat the fascists in that part of Spain, but set about transforming their city in a methodical and orderly fashion into a model of equality and fraternity, organise their principal industries so as to be effective in feeding the citizenry and arming the resistance to fascism, and ultimately fight very effectively. He fell in love with anarchism without ever abandoning his deeply felt commitment to Marxism and would eventually return to Ireland to write Salud!, his own Homage to Catalonia, in the hope of correcting the infantile but effective propaganda of nun-rape and church-burning that had been whipped up by a church hell-bent on fascism Spanish-style.

O'Donnell was, as well as all these things, an interesting and successful novelist. Liam O'Flaherty, a fellow communist, had advised him about a publisher and he had a long and continuing relationship with Jonathan Cape. Most of his novels reflected his political analysis of Irish society, but no more so than the writings of his contemporaries reflected, by their silence or otherwise, their own political stance. Politics is always archived in a text, whether it is a deliberate part of the scheme of the book or simply part of the mental architecture that produced it - this despite the fact that writers often claim their work is apolitical. O'Donnell's work arose out of his personal and political engagements - that the stuff of his life was political is at least part of the explanation for the political structure of the relationships in books such as Islanders, Adrigoole, On the Edge of The Stream and possibly his best book The Big Windows.

There are many fascinating insights here into the wellsprings of O'Donnell's inspiration, as well as, for example, his editing methods (avoidance) at The Bell where he encouraged the young Brendan Behan and James Plunkett, and where he published Patrick Kavanagh's Tarry Flynn in the correct belief that the censors 'would never dare ban a thing I was responsible for.' He was a great encourager of writers, something always to be valued in an editor. There is an account of his good, if occasionally combative, personal relationship with O'Faoláin, as well as a neat and accurate description of Anthony Cronin, whom O'Donnell tried to help and who, in return, would write savage caricatures of him in The Life Of Riley and Dead as Doornails. Ó'Drisceoil describes him as 'representative of the kind of cynicism and individualism that O'Donnell wanted challenged.' Cronin would later become a sort of cultural commissar to Charlie Haughey and help establish Aosdána, the entirely apolitical nature of which would strike O'Donnell as political in the extreme. O'Faoláin always claimed that it was O'Donnell who started The Bell, while O'Donnell responded that it was 'Sean O'Faoláin's creation'. Such mutual generosity is rare among writers and editors. Whoever the founder was, The Bell was a remarkable achievement, a breath of fresh air in the isolationist Ireland of the 1940s.

To continue to document the life and engagement of this remarkable man would take something almost as long as the book itself and would do a disservice to the detail that O'Drisceoil marshals with such scholarly ease. An elegantly written piece of history, it is a marvellous introduction to the forgotten narrative of left-wing agitation in the first half of the twentieth century, and a service to the memory of a man of whom the author rightly says, 'everyone has his own Peadar O'Donnell.' Nowhere does he burden the reader, despite the plethora of acronyms describing political organisations whose very existence has been forgotten for fifty or more years. This is a highly readable and consistently interesting account by a man who understands the left as well as the history. But in summary, let me simply quote the author's own final assessment of the man:

'The failure of his overall socialist republican project to achieve its aims should not blind us to O'Donnells many real achievements, most of which cannot be measured by conventional, state-centred criteria of political success. His trade union work, his campaigns on behalf of emigrants and small farmers, his involvement in the battle against the slums - all of these led to real and fundamental improvements in the lot of many ordinary people. His private generosity benefited many; his encouragement and ability to empower and inspire transformed the lives of countless writers and activists; and it is impossible to know how many people were influenced by his journalism and literature to view the world in a different way.'

William Wall is the author four novels, the most recent of which, This Is The Country (2005), has been described as a 'broad attack on the Celtic Tiger'. He has also published poetry and short stories.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tories spell it out.

With the Tories looking like they are experiencing a bit of a bounce at the moment its topical to focus on them. This light hearted clip about Cameron's vision for Britain isn't so light hearted when you consider the SDLP's spoiler run in FST might be the cause of another MP on the Tory benches.

And here's another funny one but by the end of it all I could think was sh!t another 5 years of the Tories might be on the way. Not much funny about that.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What would a Lib Dem Government mean for Scottish independence?

Naturally the focus of Republicans these last few weeks of the British election has been the building of strength in the 6 counties in order to further the strategy of removing the last part of Ireland from the union and building a new Ireland.

Only 13 miles east the same project is being pursued in Scotland by the Scottish National Party.

The enjoyable SNP Tactical Voting blog is providing excellent focus on the Scottish elections which have so frequently been lost in the London-centric view of the BBC. Amongst some excellent reviews of the various constituencies and the prospects of SNP candidates in their quest for independence is a consideration of what the strategic implications for Scotland might be if the man of the moment in Britain, Nick Clegg, wins big. A Liberal Democrat victory may actually weaken the Scottish pursuit of independence while perversely as noted in the British Times today a Tory victory may aid it.

However that being said it could be that a Liberal Democrat move to link voting strength to seats won would aid the Scottish nationalists who under such a scheme would presumably come close to tripling their no. of seats.

What ever the results in Scotland, Wales or England our project will continue to build its own momentum independent of that but its nice to know that while we work to end the union here we have friends and allies in the Scottish and Welsh govt. doing the same and helping create a context where London more and more readily focuses on itself rather than other countries.

Tapadh leat SNP Tactical Voting for the following consideration of the Liberal Democrat phenomenon:

"So what would a Lib Dem Government mean for Scotland, whether in its own right or with Labour as the minor partner? And in particular, what effect would this rug-pull from under the SNP’s feet mean for independence?

We could, overnight, move towards a Britain that adopted an aggressively pro-Europe stance, a Britain that had sensible policies on civil liberties, a Britain that was intent on scrapping Trident and a Britain that was significantly more serious than has hitherto been on tackling climate change? I know I should stop myself but it’s so easy to get swept up in the tantalising prospect of the next Government not being Tory or Labour. Clegg may not be the political equivalent of Jedward after all but the full Gary Barlow, the long-haul Lionel Ritchie. He could be the everlasting Diana Ross! Imagine that?

I could honestly see support for independence sink to single figures in such circumstances. It would certainly make Alex Salmond’s job significantly harder than it would have been had he been going up against the hated Tories at Westminster. How can you fight against the feel-good political result of the century?

I could even see Alex Salmond opting to retire in the face of this altered terrain. Fight youth with youth and leave Deputy Leader Nicola Sturgeon to pick up the reins and devise a new strategy to heave independence forwards. Let’s be honest, spitting out ‘Lib Dem cuts’ has even less of an impact than the Tory or Labour variety.

Then again, there is a persuasive theory out there that a Lib Dem/Labour coalition may well be the perfect result for Nationalists in Scotland. Five years of cuts, however necessary they may be, will be painful and there is a chance that Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories will be seen as three cheeks of the same bahookey, however biologically improbable that may seem. Were the fairy dust of Lib Dems in Government to evaporate quickly, Scotland may take a new look at independence and see it as an attractive option, even through a process of elimination. The Tory years were painful and the Labour years were wasteful, perhaps a separate Scotland really is the bright new dawn that we’re all crying out for.

That said, if the reasons for Scotland being independent are so that we don’t get taken into illegal wars, so that we don’t gorge on nuclear power, so that we aren’t saddled with nuclear weapons and so that we can get involved with the EU more, those arguments will surely be weakened by a Liberal Democrat Government that shares those views. You would have to search pretty hard for a clear dividing line between an independent Scotland and a Clegg-governed UK.

So, if the unthinkable happens and Nick Clegg is carried over the line on a wave of gregarious goodwill and British bonhomie, there is a real risk (if you choose to see it that way) that Scotland will sink into the warm fuzz of a Liberal Democrat United Kingdom and not look back."

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Politics of Change?

Another good piece from Eoin O'Broin in this week's An Phoblacht.

Eamon Gilmore’s leader’s address to the Labour Party Ard Fheis last weekend makes for interesting reading.

Gilmore told delegates that he wanted a government that would both “change the way the system works and be prepared to change the system if necessary”.

He outlined proposals for jobs creation and committed his party to a programme of political and public sector reform on entering government.

The most widely reported section of the speech was his offer to the electorate to head a Labour-led government.

Jobs was the only detailed section of the speech, with promising proposals including the creation of a Strategic Investment Bank that would fund both infrastructural projects and small and medium sized indigenous industry.

On health and the public sector there was little substance other than a commitment to universal health insurance and the creation of a new Ministry of Public Sector Reform.

There was also a commitment to introduce ‘within weeks of being elected’ a programme of political reform. Again, while short on detail, the promise of a Convention to rewrite the Constitution deserves serious consideration.

So on balance the speech had some good ideas and some nice aspirations. But lurking in the background was an unspoken but obvious contradiction.

It is hard to see how even the most optimistic observer can imagine Labour becoming the largest party in the state in the next election. In 2007 the party took 10% of the vote. In the 2009 European and local government elections they took 14%.
While Labour’s poll rating has them currently on 17%, a doubling of vote share in the space of 12 months would be an achievement of unprecedented proportions.
Of course none of this means that Labour shouldn’t be ambitious or that becoming the state’s largest party is impossible. But it does raise an important question for potential Labour voters, attracted by the ideas outlined by Eamon Gilmore in Galway last weekend.

If Labour fails to achieve its target in the next general election then, having ruled out coalition with Fianna Fáil, they will support Enda Kenny for Taoiseach and take their place in a Fine Gael-led government.

It is hard to see Kenny leading a government that would either “change the way the system works” or “change the system itself”. Rather, it would be back to business as usual, with social and economic policy falling within the broad parameters of the existing right-wing consensus.

On job creation, Fine Gael also have a series of proposals that include the selling off of profitable state companies to fund investment and cutting taxes.

On public service reform Fine Gael want to reduce the size of the public sector by 14,000 and to reduce expenditure across a range of Departments.

On political reform it is hard to imagine Fine Gael making any serious changes to democratise our governmental or electoral system.

Eamon Gilmore is absolutely entitled to spell out what he would do in a Labour-led government. But as a Fine Gael-Labour coalition is the more likely outcome of the next general election, he also has a responsibility to explain how Labour would square the circle of coalition partnership with a right-wing party wedded to maintaining rather than changing what is a very broken system.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Knowledge Econonmy is for you and you but not you.

The knowledge economy is one of the great tropes of modern political discourse. It righfully takes its place as one of the key strategic considerations for all policy makers in how to manage the transiton of the economy. However the knowledge economy does not in and of itself promise a bright future for all. The knowledge economy will only help those who are given the opportunity to skill up to take advantage of it. The new minister for Education might think the govt. is providing equal opportunity to raise all boats but the evidence says otherwise.

There is a continued social inequality in access and entry to higher education among particular socio-economic groups according to the Higher Education Authority/ ESRI’s recent report –“ Hidden Disadvantage, a study of the low particpation in Higher Education by the Non-Manual Group”. While the trend has been for increased particpation in Higher education one social group, the non-manual, is participating less and less in higher education.

So who are the non-manual group? Well they are 1 in 5 of the adult population of the southern state but they are split between intermediate non-manual (i.e Garda Seargeants, Govt. Executivbe officials) and “other non-manual”workers. Its the latter of course who are facing the obstacles. Typically their occupational positions are bus drivers, service sector workers etc. They are a demographic in south Irish society that is experiencing many barriers to participation in Hgher education and rather than seeing their equality of opportunity extended it is instead being restricted.

The knowledge economy or Smart economy has been defined as a strategy of using high value add roles to generate further economic activity. But to whose benefit. Its been well noted that the completion a higher education course contributes to higher earnings over a person's lifespan. While not the be all and end all greater access to Higher Education for all demographic groups will contribute to the process of solving class inequalities "not by making the working class more middle class, but in working at dismantling and sharing out the economic, social and cultural capital which goes with middle-class status".

The average rate of participation in Higher Education in the south is 55%. The Govt. has a stated target of 54% for all socio-economic groups by 2020. Yet the Non Manual group is sliding the other direction - from 29 per cent in 1998 to between 25 and 27 per cent in 2004. And rather than be alarmed at these figures the Govt. instead decided to wield the axe on educational equality of opportunity by cutting funding for school infrastructure, cutting the student maintenance grant by 5%, scrapping the Millennium Partnership Fund, which provides financial assistance for further and higher education students who are experiencing financial difficulties while attending college.

The Higher Education Authority report demonstrates that such an approach will only exacerbate the situation. For students in the non-manual demographic the consideration of cost of education plays a role either due to the direct cost of education or the prospect of lost income by going straight into education. However as the report notes the recent collapse of the labour market will remove the lure to bypass Higher education yet failure to tackle the other factors cotributing to the low participation rate by this social group will result in even greater marginalisation.

The other factors contributing to low particpation rates by the non-manual group are varied but one is key - Socio-economic background :your background determines the forms of cultural, social and economic capital and resources you have which differentially frames the choices you can make.

This means that "Young people from non-manual backgrounds do not possess the cultural capital necessary to succeed within an educational system geared towards the dominant class." i.e if neither your siblings, your parents, your neighbours or many in your learning environment have experienced Higher Education or see it as a viable educational option then you are at a severe disadvantage.

But even having made it to a Higher Education faciltiy as an other-non-manual worker background student the odds are still stacked against you. The other-non-manual group has a drop out rate of 17 per cent compared to the average of about 10%.

And considering for a moment other demographic groups as marginalised we see that the dropout rates are particularly high among those from non-employed backgrounds (three-in-ten), raising questions over the adequacy of supports (financial and otherwise) at HE to assist those from disadvantaged backgrounds in meeting the costs of fully participating in college life and integrating into the full range of student (academic and non-academic) activities. As noted above this will not improve with the cutting of the maintenace grant or the dropping of the millenium partnership fund.

The Govt. will plead lack of funds but its not solely an issue of funds as repeatedly students noted the secondary school phenomenon of the "honours class" being streamed for extra attention with the remaining students getting infrequent or unenthousiastic attention. Career guidance was frequently absent and there was a demonstrable lack of understanding regarding financial considerations among students. The resolution of these issues or at the least a serious contribution to resolvlng them does not require significant sums of money.

Instead of spending money the govt. could consider ways of ensuring that the negative associations created around learning need to tackled from the very start. The cycle of exclusion needs to be broken and once broken that process of change can become self sustaining.

What is Sinn Fein’s policy for increasing particpation by certain demographic groups in further education. In the 6 counties what have we done to push this issue? Well the tackling of the 11plus is a big effort. The fairly twisted practice of sorting kids at 11 years old is surely one of the most restrictive obstacles facing equality of opportunity in the north of this country. Its not proving an easy road to travel but its a worthwhile one. And down here in the other state the party's push for universal childcare, calls for the provision of adult education free to all up to third level qualifications, the abolition of part-time fees and grant part-time students eligibility for maintenance grants; and third level access programmes for schools with a low take-up of places are all solid ideas to change the socio-economic dynamic that is forcing one section of society further and further into the margins.

The danger is that the non-manual workers and indeed other workers will become trapped in a type of structural unemployment - a whole segment of society left behind in the so called knowledge economy and all because nobody was willing to break the cycle of exclusion.

As was noted before here Working class kids aint thick. They just have more obstacles to overcome than most. Its about time some one gave them some support and I cant see Brian Hayes or Mary Coughlan doing anything to help.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shhh. Rewrite at Work - Budgetary Loopholes in the Public Sector Agreement.

As has been noted the new public sector pay deal, which is going through its consultation at the moment, raises as many questions as it tries to answer. Some commentators have suggested that the deal is nothing more than an attempt to mend fences by the Govt. for the purposes of shoring up a weakened voter base. Regretably there may be some truth in that and certainly it would be fairly typical of the govt. to focus more on the optics of the situation rather than to honestly seek a solution. 
Michael Taft, on Irish Left Review, has conducted a review of the agreement and focussed closely on point 1.28:
'The implementation of this Agreement is subject to no currently unforeseen budgetary deterioration.' ,  - which is a get out of jail card as big as you will ever find anywhere.
The one consistent mark of the Dept. of Finance has been its inability to predict budgetary movements with any accuracy. Detioration beyond what they have foreseen has almost become a rule. So is this agreement just a feel good hearkening back to the days of partnership or is there some merit here. There may well be some merit in the agreement but only if the Govt, were to approach the deal in an open and honest manner in the spirit of partnership rather than the spirit of fear. His post it reproduced below.
As Michael Taft notes:
The Government insisted on inserting the following phrase into the proposed public sector pay deal:
'The implementation of this Agreement is subject to no currently unforeseen budgetary deterioration.'

Now the Government is busily rewriting this. Apparently, the agreement is no longer subject to currently unforeseen budgetary deterioration. Indeed, to even refer to the Government's clause is now considered to be irresponsible.

'The department also described as "a red herring" criticisms which have been raised about the so-called "get-out-of-jail" card in the agreement. This states that the implementation of the measures set out in the deal is subject to there being no unforeseen deterioration in the Government's finances. The Government would follow through on all the commitments in the deal except in very exceptional circumstances such as another major financial crisis, said the department yesterday.'

There is a good reason why the Government is busily rewriting the agreement.

For whatever about the 'unforeseen' part, there is little doubt that the budgetary situation is deteriorating. And Ministers are getting a bit touchy about this.

The Government is projecting the deficit this year to come in at -11.6 percent - only fractionally lower than last year. Maintaining this level is crucial both economically and politically; slippage would call into question the very premise of Government strategy. .

Slippage 1: In the last few weeks the CSO recorded GDP levels more than €1 billion below the Government's projections published in December. In addition, on foot of the recent Quarterly Household Report, unemployment figures were revised upwards from - 12.6 percent to 13.4 percent. Out of all this, last year's deficit has to be revised downwards again -from -11.7 to -11.8 percent; admittedly marginal, but downwards nonetheless.

Slippage 2: After the first three months of this year, the Government is already off-target. By March, tax revenue was -3.6 percent below target, down from February's undershoot of -1.3 percent. The Government expected tax receipts this year to be €2 billion below last year's level. In the first quarter alone, tax receipts are already €1.2 billion under target. The slippage is getting slippier.

It's not just that the Government's strategy is coming under internal pressure, it's also getting a wallop of external pressure.

The EU Commission in its most recent statement on Irish public finances has warned the Government that (a) its growth projections are too optimistic, (b) expenditure will over-run, and (c) it will have to engage in 'additional' consolidation measures (more spending cuts/tax increases beyond what the Government has already projected). Even if the Government comes in on target, the EU Commission wants Ireland to 'consolidate' further to bring down overall debt levels.

The IMF also gives the Government similar warnings and argues that the Government must cut spending even further if it is to bring the deficit below -3% by 2014 (the Maastricht guideline).

The final straw on this deteriorating camel comes from the Central Bank. While much attention was paid to their projection that the economy will return to growth by the second half of the year, some of the fine print was glossed over. Namely, that GDP will be well below the Government's projections - by nearly 3 percent by 2011 in nominal terms. This will put even more pressure on the deficit.

All this will lead to 'budgetary deterioration'. How much is hard to say but there are certain symbolic targets. For instance, the Government is projecting a small decline in the deficit this year. If it actually worsens - no matter how much - the optics will be bad. If it goes beyond -12 percent, it will look particularly bad. That this is certainly possible can be seen from the Bank for International Settlement's projection of a deficit of -12.2 percent for this year.

It is doubtful that such a slide would result in the Government tearing up the agreement if it is accepted (though this cannot be ruled out). But what it would certainly mean is that there would be little chance of reversing any pay cuts in 2011.

No wonder that the Government wants to shift the goalposts of the agreement by redefining 'deterioration' as 'another financial crisis' (does Quinn count as such a crisis?). They hope that it will take everyone's mind off the actually existing deterioration and the thin to non-existent chance of any pay claw-back.

It is the ultimate in ostrich-like indifference to the reality around us. The Government may want to find a soft bed of sand to stick its head in - that doesn't mean we have to.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Victory for Irish & US Peace Movement

Press Statement Peace & Neutrality Alliance

In Jan. 09 Ed Horgan, International Secretary of the Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance, was granted a 10 year visa by the Bush Administration. In Jan, 2010 the Obama Administration revoked the visa after Ed had been invited to speak at a conference on rendition and torture in Duke University in North Carolina.

After an intensive campaign by PANA Ed was granted a 3 month visa and will be attending the conference.

This was a victory for the Irish and US peace movement. It was a defeat for those in favour of war and who seek to destroy free speech. A powerpoint presentation of his address in on the PANA website:

PANA would like to thank all those involved in the campaign. PANA believes that the Irish people and the people of the United States have a vested interest in ending these wars and the termination of the use of Shannon Airport in these wars needs to happen immediately. The reality is that it is only by ending these wars can economic stability be restored. Our demand is clear, JOBS AT HOME NO WAR ABROAD.

for more information contact:
Roger Cole, Chair of PANA Tel: 087-2611597
Seamas Rathigan PRO of PANA Tel: 086-8369793

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The end of the line for the SDLP?

The piece below was received recently and is published below.

In January 2009 Mark Durkan MP said in his key-note address to the SDLP “Deep in me is a belief in this party and the people in it. We have it in us to recapture lost votes and recover lost ground”...then collapse. Mark Durkan had his head in the clouds. He was speaking to a party on the road to collapse with no political direction. What kind of a leader steps down at a cross-roads for its party when it is slowly splintering? A weak one. A strong leader would have taken the party beyond the cross-roads then allowed them to build their own future with continued support.

Was he pushed? “If it was a matter of being forced out I offered my resignation a couple of years ago and it was refused, declined,” he said. This doesn’t seem to me as someone who has a “deep belief in this party and the people in it”. The SDLP are finished as a political party. Is there only viable option a merger with Fianna Fail and becoming an all-island party and lose their own identity? This would be an obvious desperate attempt to try and claw back some credibility with Nationalist voters on the question of a united Ireland. and in truth, would Fianna Fail want them?, other than to use them as a stepping stone into all Ireland politics, personally I can’t see any benefits in adopting that” lame-duck”.

MLA Margaret Ritchie is in the frame as one of the fore runners for the role of leader of the SDLP, which in turn suggests a lack of confidence in her ability to succeed Eddie McGrady as south Down’s next MP, yet more signs of a party in disarray?..

Mark Durkan tells us that one of the reasons he is leaving his post as party leader is because he is unable to fulfil a “dual role as Assembly Member and MP”. This view is contradicted by his party colleague, Allister McDonald, the south Belfast MP, who believes the opposite and that he indeed can carry out both roles. Again, opposing voices in an ever dividing camp.

So where does this leave Mark Durkan? Durkan is content to step back from leadership and try to get re-elected to Westminster so he can sit and take a salary for back slapping and tooth-less deals, and ultimately follow in the footsteps of other isolated SDLP members such as Gerry Fitt. I wonder how long he can get away with it before declaring himself an independent in Westminster? Or becoming a life-peer? Baron Durkan maybe?

When the date for the Westminster election is set in 2010 the SDLP may have a new leader but with the same problems. The main one being the rise of Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein are the only party that continually grow electorally and will continue to dwarf the SDLP. With Sinn Feins Martina Anderson continuing her ongoing hard work with her party activists SF have left the SDLP at their heels and this gap will grow and will inevitably lead to the election of Martina Anderson as MP for Foyle. The only choice in my opinion, as her and her party’s hard work ethic, at doors in Derry on a nightly basis with updates of campaign news and views, while others you only see when they want something from you, and not when you want something from them.

Some Durkan supporters say he has a good chance of being re-elected for Foyle next year, but he is not a certainty. As we all know Foyle was a safe SDLP seat under John Hume, but since Hume left, the SDLP position has weakened. In the 2005 Westminster election the gap between the SDLP and Sinn Féin halved, and it is likely that Durkan got some strategic votes from unionists.

Mark Durkan knows the writing is on the wall for the SDLP and would be more than content to sit in Westminster and fiddle as the SDLP burns.

Personally, I look forward to the election of Martina Anderson as Foyles first republican MP and the continued rise of Sinn Fein.

Monday, April 5, 2010

15 years old and murdered.

Its hard to even contemplate whats happened in Tyrrelstown. 15 years old, bright future as a soccer player, a good kid trying to stay out of trouble and just trying to live life to the full.

And then its all taken away in a flash for no reason save his name was Toyosi Shitabbey and he was born in Nigeria.

A shameful day and our prayers and sympathies are with his family and friends.

Dublin Commemoration - Sean Crowe's speech.

The excellent Cedar Lounge Revolution blog has Seán Crowe's Easter speech up in full. Its reproduced below.
Sean highlights that whats happened in the the southern state has been a wholesale protecting of the rich at the expense of the poor. Its been socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor - the rich have all the protection the state can offer but the ordinary people must make their own way and devil take the hindmost.
The Sindo rich list published recently which shows that the richest 300 people in the southern state have a combined wealth of €50 billion just shows how successsful Fianna Fail golden circle socialism has been for the small circle. Its definitely time for an alternative.

Táim brod agus go hán sasta ag caint sa an ait seo i Baile Ath Cliath le an comoradh Eiri na Casc naoi deag is a se deag.

Easter for republicans is a time for reflection, remembering and celebrating what has been achieved in the past.

We remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their lives that we would have the opportunity as a people and a nation to be free and independent.

A time when we honour and remember friends and comrades who have died.

I would like now to remember a friend and life-long republican, Chrissy Heffernan, who passed away on Thursday. We extend our deepest sympathy to her husband Vinnie, her children, grandchildren and to her extended family

Ar Dheis De go raibh a Anam.

Easter is also a time of pride in our heritage.

From the start of the First World War, Liberty Hall displayed a banner draper across the front of the building stating “We serve neither King nor Kaiser, we serve Ireland.”

It was under this slogan that a small band of Irish men and Irish women marched out on Easter Sunday to take on the might of the British Empire.

The 1916 Easter Rising was a beacon of hope for oppressed people all over the world. Both Ho Chi Minh and Mahatma Gandhi refer to our Easter Rising as the start of the inspiration for their own liberation struggles.

The leaders of 1916 had a clear vision that their rebellion was not only about achieving Irish freedom but was also about creating a more equal and just society. It was James Connolly who said:

“The national movement must demonstrate to the people of Ireland that our nationalism is not merely a morbid idealising of the past but is also capable of formulating a distinct and definite answer to the problems of the present and a political economic creed capable of adjustment to the wants of the future.”

That is still true today, more than 100 years later.

Our political philosophy cannot be about solely idealising the past. It has to about tackling the economic problems of today and building a equal and just society.

Dublin was the catalyst of the revolution that was the Easter Rising and the Tan War that was to follow.

Dublin was the centre of trade union resistance during the 1913 Lock-Out.

O’Connell Street where we stand today, has been the scene of the biggest public protests in Ireland, including the trade union PAYE tax marches of the 1980s, the hunger strike protests and the protests against the Iraq War in 2003.

Dublin can be the catalyst for social revolution in 2010

The revolution that is needed to right the wrongs and the decimation of our public services.

Th wrongs including the ongoing attempts to divide workers in to public and private, union and non-union.

A social revolution that will halt the utter waste of talented workers thrown on the scrap heap of unemployment.

It is utterly wrong that ordinary working families and future generations who will have to pay for the casino banking and property speculation of the wealthy.

Do the super rich, the golden circle, the developers, the speculators always have to stay rich while a large proportion of our population always have to stay poorer?

The super-rich get NAMA, bail-out Tuesdays, and billions of taxpayers’ money.

They get the cosy benefits – they keep the villas and hideaways in Spain, the million euro bonuses, the golden handshakes.

Ordinary workers get their P45s and, if they are lucky, a cheque from Social Welfare.


Large flagship industries such as Ryanair and Quinn discourage the formation of unions in their industries. When things are going well it is okay but when things go sour who is there to represent the workers?

It is quite correct to express concern at the potentially huge job losses in Quinn, but it is the workers, not Anglo Irish Bank or the Quinn family, who will suffer yet again.

Who now speaks for the workers?


The Proclamation promised a Republic that would cherish all the children of the nation equally.

The actions of this government has only applied this equality to the bankers.

They have promised to bail them all out equally, even if they have no positive role to play in the Irish economy.

Yes, they treat them all equally


Brian Cowen and his cronies say there is no alternative.

We say here today he is wrong – just as wrong as when he was Minister for Finance.

There is an alternative to the gombeenism that has wrought so much pain on hard-working families.

There are always alternatives.

Sinn Féin has different priorities. Sinn Féin offers a fairer and better solution.

And answering James Connolly’s call, Sinn Féin is the national movement that has the potential, the will and the policies capable of formulating a distinct and definite answer to the problems of the present and a political economic creed capable of adjustment to the wants of the future.

We would start by giving people hope again, by getting people back to work, through capital investment in much-needed schools, public transport and hospitals.

Investing in a jobs stimulus package.

Taking 50,000 young people off the dole

Working together, out of this despair, out of this recession.

Rebuilding people’s shattered pride and confidence.

Building unity in the workplace – in the public sector and in the private sector.

It is about working for Ireland.

Working for all its people, not just the chosen few.

Let’s stop the media dividing workers.

Let’s put Fianna Fáil out of government.

Let’s keep Enda Kenny and Fine Gael out of government.

Let us rededicate ourselves today to build an ‘Alliance for Change’.

Let us recommit ourselves today to building a truly inclusive Republic and making the 1916 Proclamation a reality for all our citizens.

Friday, April 2, 2010

An Phoblacht to take major step forward - Hopefully

It was announced in An Phoblacht this week that the paper will be moving to a monthly format and focusing on a new website to promote republican politcs. This I feel is a welcome move and I hope it will also be a vocal point for on line political discussion.

The section of the article that states

“Republicans also still want a platform for ideas, discussions and debate. An Phoblacht has provided such a platform but we need to build and strengthen that; we need to make it more widely used and known.

Is one I think is of vital importance and one which I hope will lead to the end of this blog.


Paper to go monthly and introduce new website

IN a significant development, An Phoblacht, the voice of republicanism, is soon to be transformed. In the coming weeks the print edition of the republican paper will become a monthly publication and a brand new An Phoblacht website will be launched, including an online daily news service; up-to-the-minute videos featuring interviews; historic film footage; and an archive section with access to thousands of photographs and historic republican material including back issues of An Phoblacht/Republican News.

The newly-designed, monthly print edition of An Phoblacht will be complemented by a range of republican publications, including the republican magazine IRIS, which is to appear quarterly, and the highly popular Republican Legends booklet series.

Speaking about what he described as “a major step forward” for An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin Director of Publicity Seán Mac Brádaigh said this week that in a rapidly changing media world, An Phoblacht needs to move with the times.

“Over 100,000 people now read the paper online. A radical republican political agenda is needed in this country more than ever and we believe it is time for republicans to embrace the new media age and get our message out to as many people as possible.

“Things have moved on from the days when An Phoblacht was really the only outlet in Ireland, North or South, where you could hear the republican message.

What is needed now, and indeed demanded by our readers, is the ability to delve deeper into the issues that affect Irish society. The new monthly format for the print edition will lend itself much more to in-depth features, interviews and political analysis.

“Republicans also still want a platform for ideas, discussions and debate. An Phoblacht has provided such a platform but we need to build and strengthen that; we need to make it more widely used and known.

“Recent years have seen phenomenal growth for Sinn Féin across Ireland. We are in government in the North. We have TDs, MLAs MPs an MEP, a Seantor and hundreds of councillors across the island. That level of growth for the party has affected the conditions in which we operate and means we need to fine-tune all aspects of our publicity operation to better respond to those conditions. There are huge opportunities and challenges there.

“While overt state censorship of Sinn Féin is long gone, the party is still at the receiving end of incredibly distorted and biased coverage in the establishment media. This means that it is just as important as it ever was that we have our own means of getting the republican message out, unmediated and direct.

“An Phoblacht is a very distinguished title with a long and proud history in republican politics. The paper has survived state harassment on both sides of the border, raids, arrests, imprisonment of staff and even assassinations. An Phoblacht is still here and it will continue long into the future. These latest developments bring it bang up to date with the political and media environment of 2010.

“In its new format, An Phoblacht aims to meet the challenges of the modern political media environment and not just survive but grow. I believe that with the active support of republicans throughout Ireland we can do that.”