Monthly Archives For October 2012

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James Connolly or The 100th Object in the Irish Times ‘History of Ireland’ series

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The Irish Times has been running a series of articles called ‘A history of Ireland in 100 Objects’ and they’ve announced that the public will be asked to choose the final object in the series.

I would like to propose, as the 100th object and one which encapsulates the entire history of modern Ireland since independence, the miniature figurine of James Connolly on sale in the shop of the National Museum of Ireland.

This figurine of the great communist revolutionary is categorised under the ‘Soldiers of Ireland’ list, mainly of people who fought and/or died for Ireland. The list includes The Papal Zouaves who fought so bravely for the Pope against Garibaldi’s red-shirts; General Richard Mulcahy, who signed the order that led to the execution for possession of firearms of 77 former comrades who were imprisoned during the civil war; Dublin Fusiliers who fought so bravely for the British Empire and Churchill’s dream of breaking the Turkish hold of the Dardanelles; and Patrick Pearse leader of the nationalist Irish Volunteers who fought so bravely for a Catholic Irish-speaking Ireland. Along with them is a colourful figure of a captain of the Bank of Ireland Yeomanry. I have no idea if the Bank of Ireland Yeomanry fought for Ireland, but they no doubt played their part in the class war. I’m surprised the Bank of Ireland doesn’t still have a militia, but I suppose it has the police and the politicians and the European Union on its side.

At least Connolly wouldn’t be completely alone in this mass of bourgeois reactionaries and tools of religion: Countess Markievicz was a socialist too, and makes her appearance in Citizen Army uniform as a ‘Solider of Ireland’. As well as being the first woman elected to the British House of Commons she was Connolly’s friend – though our nationalist histories would rather think of her as a hysterical escapee from the madhouse that was Ireland’s gentry. WB Yeats, of course, did his best to propagate that myth.

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Submissions Not Enough, We Need to Mobilise

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Submissions Not Enough, We Need to Mobilise, writes Jimmy Kelly, the Regional Secretary of UNITE the Union in Ireland. 

UNITE has published its pre-budget submission – ‘7 Steps to Make the Budget Better’.  We put forward proposals that will end austerity, promote growth and employment, raise living standards and put the economy and society on a different path.

The Irish people know that austerity is not working.  They see it in their workplaces, the dole queues, their homes and communities, the hospital wards and school classrooms.  Still, the Government insists on pursuing a futile strategy.  Since the crisis has begun nearly 400,000 full-time jobs have been lost.  Over a million people suffer from multiple deprivation experiences, including over 350,000 children.  Public services have been cut beyond breaking point while supports for the disabled, the elderly and children are being removed.  The domestic recession continues. Hope has emigrated, along with thousands of young people.

We can see who is paying for the crisis. And it’s not the bondholders who took a bet, lost and still managed to get the Government to pay them off.  It’s not the financial institutions, who have received, so far, over €60 billion in public subsidy.  It’s not the highest income earners who have seen their living standards rise while everyone else’s has fallen.  This, alone, tells the story.

It’s time we had a budget that promoted the interests of working people. 

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Work, Time and Precarity: 2nd Talk in Contemporary Capitalism Wed 31st @ 7pm Dubzland Audio and Visual Gallery

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From The Provisional University: 
The second talk in the series on Contemporary Capitalism will take place this Wednesday, 31st October at 7 pm in Dubzland Audio and Visual Gallery (directions here).
 
The talk: ’Work, Time and Precarity’

“We have lost the pleasure of being together. Thirty years of precariousness and competition have destroyed social solidarity. Media virtualization has destroyed empathy among bodies, the pleasure of touching each other, and the pleasure of living in urban spaces. We have lost the pleasure of love, because too much time is devoted to work and virtual exchange.” (Berardi and Lovnik)

Since the 1970s, the deregulation of traditional forms of labour and the emergence of new forms of ‘immaterial’ labour have transformed the conditions under which we work. This is often spoken of in terms of freedom – freedom to move between jobs, freedom to move country, freedom to work from home, freedom to be creative. But this freedom only seems to describe our unequal capacities to negotiate the risks and opportunities of an unforgiving labour market.

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Budget 2013: November 24th is a chance to make our voices heard

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Michael O’Reilly: On December 5th, the Government is set to introduce its second austerity budget – and the sixth austerity budget since the onset of the crisis. €3.5 billion more will be sucked out of the economy, on top of the €25 billion already withdrawn since the end of 2008. Once again, all the signs are that low and middle income groups will bear the brunt of increased taxation and reduced expenditure. And that means that domestic demand will continue its downward spiral – putting more businesses under pressure and throwing more people onto the dole queues.

Budgets are about political choices. In a democracy, political choices are dictated by public opinion – and public opinion needs to be mobilised and vocalised. That is why the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, together with other civil society groups, is asking people to come out on Saturday November 24th and issue a simple demand: No more cuts in 2013.

Today marks the start of a 30-day countdown to the march. During this countdown, we will be publishing ’30 reasons to march’ – one each day until November 24th. There are, of course, many more and we are inviting individuals and groups to visit our Facebook page and leave their own ‘reasons to march’.

Communities up and down the country see the economic and social consequences of current economic policy every day. They know that austerity is killing the patient – and that more austerity will not produce a cure.

Domestic demand has collapsed. Five businesses closed down each day in 2011 – and this year’s figures are likely to be worse. 300,000 are unemployed, and many more are underemployed. Over 1.8 million people are left with less than €100 at the end of each month after paying essential bills. One in ten of us is living in food poverty. One million of our fellow citizens are living in deprivation as measured by the CSO – including over 335,000 children.

And these figures would probably be even starker were it not for emigration: between April 2011 and April 2012 alone, a total of 46,500 Irish people left the country.

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Eamonn Moran – Ireland’s Jilted Generation Exchange, Temple Bar, Mon 29th of Oct @ 9pm

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Eamonn Moran

Ireland Jilted Generation

Exchange, Temple Bar

Monday 29th Oct

All Welcome!

 

People in power in Ireland have abandoned those under 35.

There are 20% less people in their 20's in the country in the last 4 years. In the same period the general population has actually risen.

Unemployment has gone from 4% to nearly 15%. The data I have found is showing that the burden has fallen almost solely on the 15-35 year olds. The % of people working in the 50+ age group has has barely fallen at all.

In a recent poverty risk report people 18-30 are over 3 times more likely to be in the high risk of poverty catagory as those in the 61+ age group.

This talk looks at the the major differences between here and the UK who have similar problems but the scale here is much more stark. I was genuinely dumbstuck by the speed and veracity of the age discrimination grip since the crisis began. This is the untold story of the financial crises.

Is this uniquely Irish ageist protectionism the main reason behind Irelands emigration epidemic?

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The importance of the debate on the IMF’s ‘multipliers’

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It is unusual for ‘academic’ research published by the IMF to find its way into popular media. But this has happened to the latest World Economic Outlook where the IMF deals briefly with the issue of ‘multipliers’ that is, the economic impact of changes in government spending.

The short article has caused an usually high level of commentary among economists and commentators because the data suggests that the multipliers are perhaps more than double the level generally implied by official research and forecasts. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman has commented that the research shows that, ‘the reason for the worsening outlook is that policy makers have gotten the basic economics wrong’. In Britain Chris Giles economic editor of the Financial Times has led a counter-attack by questioning the validity of the research. A string of other commentators have joined the debate on both sides, including a Greek finance minister.

The key point in the IMF research is that the multipliers are much higher than previously thought by leading bodies such as the IMF, OECD and others. ‘The main finding, based on data for 28 economies, is that the multipliers used in generating [IMF] growth forecasts have been systematically too low since the start of the Great Recession, by 0.4 to 1.2….’ Whereas the IMF’s (and others) own forecasts implied a multiplier of 0.5, the actual multipliers may be in the range of 0.9 to 1.7.

It is useful to assess why this seemingly arcane debate has created such controversy and why that is taking place currently.

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Venezuela, Politics and the Art of the Possible

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Adrian Kane, Sector Organiser with SIPTU travelled to Venezuela as an observer during the recent Presidential Election. Here is his report:

The Chavistas started gathering in central Caracas from mid-afternoon on polling day, Sunday Oct 7. The polling stations were not due to close until after 6pm, but the largely young, red-clad supporters of Hugo Chavez were confident that their ‘commandante’ would be returned.  Above the blaring of the Latino rhythms, the cry from the streets that greeted the 2002 coup, ‘Chavez no se Va!, (Chavez isn’t going anywhere) could be heard. I was at a polling station in down-town Caracas as part of an international group of observers, monitoring the Presidential Election. The votes were breaking heavily in favour of Henrique Capriles Rodanski, (the United Opposition candidate) in the boxes from the middle class areas of Caracas but Chavez was ahead in the poorer parts, however, Capriles appeared to have made some in-roads in these areas as well. The key to who would ultimately win the presidency was the degree to which Capriles could eat into Chavez support amongst the urban and rural poor of Venezuela.

The Campaigns

The campaign run by Capriles was a much smarter campaign than that of the previous opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales, in 2006. Rosales campaign was viciously anti-Chavez; one newspaper I had witnessed on that occasion had a split page advertisement purporting to show the choice facing Venezuelan electors under the respective candidates; on the left was a picture of a family under a Chavez-led administration, dressed in military fatigues touting Kalashnikovs, on the right was a family sitting looking studiously at the monitor of a lap-top, a virtual picture of familial bliss. In this election Capriles ran on a centre-left platform. He acknowledged some of the successes under the Chavez presidency, such as poverty been cut by half and extreme poverty by 70%, huge increases in access to health and education for the poor. He promised, however, to integrate ‘the mission model’ for the delivery of social services into the mainstream public service. He promised more industrial development and the end of the oil-for-doctors programme with Cuba, advocating the training of Venezuelan doctors instead. His campaign slogans were more subtle also; Hay un Camino (There is a Way) and ‘14 years is enough’ were prominent on most of his posters and political advertisements.

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Raceocracy: An Interview with Dr. Barnor Hesse – Part 1

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“If you’re going to mobilise against racism as an ideology and want to affirm the importance of democracy, you’ve got to realise that, in terms of its performative immediacy, western democracies promote racial equality and sustain racial inequality.”

In the first part of an interview series Dr. Barnor Hesse, Associate Professor of African-American Studies at Northwestern University, talks to student journalist Rónán Burtenshaw about how the performance of race shapes our politics and governance.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your intellectual background?

I grew up in a politically left-wing family in Liverpool, with a father from Ghana and a mother from Jamaica, and a younger brother also born in Liverpool. My father was particularly influential on my thinking, given his activist experiences in anti-racism, anti-colonialism, trade unionism and Left Labour party politics more generally. Without digressing too much into my background let me say, by the time I was doing my PhD in Government at Essex University during the early 1990s in the “ideology and discourse analysis” program, I had acquired enough intellectual and activist dislocations and concerns of my own to begin questioning the ways in which we have erroneously come to understand the political institution of race in the West and how black politics, has  been socially pathologized and violently repudiated by western liberal democracies, while remaining remarkably under theorized by its practitioners. Add to that gestation the fact that my approach to these matters is heavily indebted to cultural studies, post-colonial studies, African American studies, post-Marxism and post-structuralism, and you have a quick portrait of me as a Black British academic.

Since becoming a professional academic my particular theoretical interests have been focussed on rethinking the meaning and materiality of race as a form of western colonial governance, and trying to provide a more theoretically sophisticated account of black politics as symptomatically oppositional to that regime. The latter was always interesting to me because growing up and living as a person of colour in the west, it is impossible to escape being saturated with white western scholarship, where various lineages of blackness in politics, cultures and histories are pathologized, marginalized or exorcised. Routinely what you find as an black academic or activist, particularly in Europe, is that the intellectual lineages in which you seek to locate yourself are mostly available as raw empirical, statistical experiences or as histories of racist images for white European thinkers to theorise, and that’s assuming black related experiences are even seen as worthy of theorisation in the western academy; often they are not. This was always the difficulty with finding one’s self located in the British academy. Nevertheless I have always been interested in trying to understand the West’s European colonial formation and its politics of race as constitutive of its mainstream liberal democratic institutions rather than exceptions to their rule, which is the conventional understanding.

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Smart Fiscal Consolidation: Why A House-Property Tax Shouldn’t Be Introduced Next Year

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Let’s assume the Government comes up with the best house-property tax ever devised – truly progressive, taking into account all the social factors such as unemployment, low-income, arrears, and mortgage equity (or lack of).  Yes, it’s a big assumption but let’s try it anyway.  If this occurred there is still a strong argument that the Government should not introduce such a tax next year or even the following.  And that is because the economy and hundreds of thousands of households cannot absorb it.  Let’s run through some of the arguments.

First, the domestic-demand recession is expected to continue next year – the sixth year in a row.

As seen, both the EU and the IMF expect domestic demand (consumer spending, government spending on public services, and investment) to fall again next year.  They both estimate that consumer spending will fall, as more people wilt under the combination of austerity measures, falling incomes and unemployment.  Even by 2014, domestic demand will start rising but only marginally.

While under normal growth conditions, a house property tax would be an efficient tax – limited impact on the domestic economy and more efficient at reducing the deficit; relative to spending cuts.  Even so, the impact on consumer spending would be high:  for every €100 raised in a house-property tax, there is a resulting reduction of approximately €75 in consumer spending.  In normal growth situations, the economy would absorb this.  But as we know, these are not normal times.  So what would be the impact of introducing such a tax while the economy is still in a domestic-demand recession?

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How the Shadow Banking Sector is Wrecking the Irish Economy

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Peter Bofinger is someone I've been reading and reading about in the last couple of days as the trouble at mill continues with Ireland’s bank debt, Germany’s stance on legacy assets and Kenny’s rewriting of history to suggest that the Irish government didn't unilaterally provide a blanket bank guarantee before the EU could scramble together an EU wide solution to the immediate banking crisis in late 2008.

According to his Der Spiegel bio Bofinger has been a ‘member of the government-appointed German Council of Economic Experts known colloquially here as the “Five Wise Men” since 2004’. So, as a key adviser to Merkel his opinion carries some weight.

So in the current context it’s worth being aware that Bofinger pointed out in November 2010 that Ireland’s bailout was in effect a bailout of German banks.

SPIEGEL: According to the Bundesbank, German banks with 166 billion euros are the biggest creditors of Ireland, of which nearly one hundred loans to Irish banks. How dangerous is the Irish financial crisis for Germany?

Bofinger: The situation is very threatening. The federal government has a vital interest have to secure the solvency of the Irish state and its banks.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Irish Finance announced discussions on an EU bailout package. Germany should now also save Irish banks?

Bofinger: The rescue of Irish banks also means the rescue of German institutions.The demands of foreign banks to Irish debtors amount to about 320 percent of Ireland's gross domestic product. One has to ask the question of whether the Irish government would ever be able to stand up for such a high debt.

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The Latest Installment In Poverty Denial

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Is there no limit to the extent to which poverty deniers will twist and misrepresent facts to fit their agenda?   If Eilis O’Hanlon’s piece in the Sunday Independent is anything to go by, probably not.  I usually don’t write about Sindo pieces – the day is too short; if the day were a thousand hours long, it would still be too short.  I let Garibaldy do the heavy lifting in responding to Sindo nonsense (he does it with far greater patience than I could).  But O’Hanlon’s piece – mocking people who are experiencing deprivation, labelling them pawns and refusing to face up to the elephant-fact in the room:  that austerity is driving people into despair – this kind of thing should not go unchallenged.

O’Hanlon takes issue with the Irish Times article, written by Kathy Sheridan, about a  family who had gone to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) because they were finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet.  O’Hanlon purports to break down the income and expenditure of this couple as reported by Sheridan, comes to a bottom line and then criticises, in a condescending tone, the couple for spending too much.

The first thing O’Hanlon does is to misrepresent the family's income figure.   Sheridan is quite specific on this:

Now, the family’s total weekly income, including child benefit, is €807 net, according to Mabs.

€807 net a week; when I punch that into my calculator I get €3,497 a month.  You try it.  You’ll get the same figure.  What figure does O’Hanlon get?  €5,080.  An inflation of 45 percent.

The EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions estimates the proportion of the population that experience multiple deprivation experiences by equivalised incomes.  Equivalised incomes attempt to factor in household size. It does this because a single-person household earning €807 a week has a different living standard than a household with two adults and children.

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Noam Chomsky Statement on SV Estelle and Gaza Blockade

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Statement from Gaza Action Ireland

In response to a request by Gaza Action Ireland and the flotilla steering committee, the noted social activist and political philosopher Professor Noam Chomsky last night (21/10/12) made the following lengthy statement in relation to the hijacking by Israel of the SV Estelle and the ongoing blockade of Gaza:

Noam Chomsky said:

“I’m here in Gaza, I’ve been here for several days. I was here hoping to greet the latest boat from the Flotilla, the Estelle. We were waiting at the Gaza port. The boat, like earlier ones, was hijacked by the Israeli navy. They call it Israeli territorial waters, it’s actually Gazan waters or international waters, Israel has no right to those waters. The Estelle was another effort to break the siege, as in some way is our visit. The siege is a criminal act that has no justification. It should be broken and it should be strongly opposed by the outside world. It’s simply an effort to intimidate the Gazans into self-destruction, to try to get rid of them and destroy the society. There is absolutely no justification for it – military justifications are claimed but they have no credibility.

The people on the boat should be honoured and respected for their courage and commitment and for undertaking a brave and important effort to break the siege, the criminal siege, and bring hope to the people of Gaza who are imprisoned, literally imprisoned in the biggest prison in the world. Also to bring to the world the message that we on the outside have a real responsibility to bring these criminal acts to an end.”

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