Monthly Archives For October 2012

The Venezuelan Elections and The Irish Times

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The October 3rd Irish Times editorial on the Venezuelan elections is just one more in a long series of unbalanced pieces, critical of President Hugo Chavez. Unfortunately, as well being full of unsubstantiated accusations, it is also inaccurate.

In the first paragraph the author describes the economy of Venezuela as “creaking,inefficient nationalised, Soviet-like with corruption and authoritarianism”. With economic growth of 5.6% in the first quarter of 2012 and expected to be at 5% overall for the year, that's some “creak”. The charge of corruption is not substantiated by any proof or attempt at same. Would the IT use the same standards when reporting on Irish politicians?

So far, the major corruption item in the lead up to the election is a video which has emerged of a top campaign aide of Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski covertly accepting 40,000 bolivars (US $9,300) and offering to set up a meeting between Capriles and an unknown businessman.

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Eurozone Crisis: What Next?

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Recently engaged in a round of backslapping, the leaders of Europe suggested that we were turning the corner out of the crisis. In Ireland despite all the evidence to the contrary, the government is still trying to talk up the prospect of a 'deal' on the bank debt. But on the ground, the crisis is worsening, austerity is destroying people's lives and the economies of Europe. In the first of two articles on the future of the EU, Paul Murphy MEP examines the immediate prospects for the eurozone crisis in the next months.

Once more, the markets were temporarily calmed in September. The road forward to a stable eurozone was pronounced to be nearer than ever. The relatively tranquil summer for the eurozone was followed by a series of declared victories – the new European Central Bank (ECB) bond-buying programme; the German constitutional court positive ruling on the European Stability Mechanism; the announcement of the European Commission's proposal for common supervision of Europe's banks by the ECB; and the victory of the Liberals and Social-Democrats in the Dutch elections, despite the earlier good showing for the Socialist Party. The bond yields for the crisis-ridden states fell to relative lows and Commission President Barroso took the opportunity to spell out a longer-term vision of a move to a “federation of nation states” in Europe.

That this was simply the calm before the unleashing of a mighty storm of crisis in autumn and winter across Europe has already become evident. The measures announced represent new sticking plasters on the crisis. Yet again, the fundamental contradictions facing the eurozone have not been addressed. A series of deep crises in different states are likely to emerge in the coming weeks and months, putting into question the continued existence of the eurozone as is once more.

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The System of Allowing Asylum Seekers to Languish in Ireland is the Magdalene Laundries of Our Time

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Gavan Titley has an excellent article in the Guardian which makes a comparison with the Irish state’s responsibility for the conditions suffered by the occupants of Ireland’s gulag system of laundries and industrial schools and the immoral inadequacy of the direct provision system for asylum seekers and the regularity of deportation.

“At present, approximately 6,000 people live in direct provision accommodation centres in Ireland while their asylum claims are processed. Originally introduced as an “emergency measure” in 1999 to speed up asylum determination procedures, over a third have been in this system for more than three years, and waits of seven or eight years are not unheard of. Unable to access education, employment or frequently even to cook for themselves, asylum-seekers are accommodated and fed, and granted an adult weekly allowance of €19.10 (rates that have not changed in real terms since their introduction over a decade ago). For this other population, also corralled and controlled outside of society, it is unsurprising that anxiety, depression and ill health are widespread.

No comparison should obscure the particular forms of violence and suffering that mark different experiences. But the parallels are politically important. Ill health scarred the lives of children in industrial schools – a recent report has documented the appalling conditions and health problems of the children of asylum seekers, who constitute one-third of the population of the direct provision system. According to O’Toole, thousands of people died each decade in the neglectful conditions of psychiatric hospitals – in September Emmanuel Marcel Landa became the latest person to die in the direct provision system, and as Sue Conlon of the Irish Refugee Council noted, “the impact of long delays, lengthy residence in direct provision accommodation and the real threat of deportation may well have been a contributory factor in Mr Landa’s untimely death”.

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The Left Overs of Social Partnership

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In Ireland, after four years of an austerity program we now find the economy is getting worse and not better. Most of society is asking where it all went wrong and what the solutions are. The trade union movement in Ireland appears to be divided on the approach we should take on the economy. Citizens of countries with austerity programs like Spain, Italy and Portugal are protesting and it’s mostly organised and led by the trade unions. But in Ireland there appears to be no will on behalf of some trade unions to take this approach. So why is this?

Did the trade union movement lose its way during social partnership and now finds it very difficult to cut the umbilical cord from the corporatist approach? Some people may even argue the trade union movement were complicit in the financial crisis, in that they had gone a step too far in their relationships with the Government and no one from the trade union spoke out at the time, on the economic and social policies implemented by the government.

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Anti-Deportation Ireland launches campaign against direct provision and deportation

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Press Release from Anti-Deportation Ireland, including an Executive Summary of the report which is being launched tomorrow…

‘The direct provision system is destroying people’s lives, and the injustice of deportations must be ended’ according to Anti-Deportation Ireland (ADI). The organization, comprised of asylum-seekers from direct provision centres all over Ireland, and their supporters, will launch a campaign and research report in Unite the Union, 15 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, on October 3rd at 11.30am.

The launch comes a week after the death of a Congolese asylum-seeker, Emmanuel Marcel Landa in Mosney, the 49th person to die in the system of Direct Provision since 2000. It also follows the march of several hundred people in Galway city on September 15th to protest against the summary dispersal of 270 asylum-seekers living in Lisbrook House. They were due to be relocated to other centres around the country, despite the fact that many have been living in and integrated into the local community during the last years.

According to Luke Bukha of ADI, the direct provision system ‘takes people who have been uprooted from their homes and who have often suffered terrible traumas and confines them in a system that leaves them without choice and often hope.

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They’re Already Cutting Child Benefit

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According to leaks, the Government is apparently ‘considering’ proposals from a Department of Social Protection working group to reform Child Benefit payments.  There is something profoundly manipulative about this debate.  Only one part has been leaked – the overall cut.  It would have been just as easy to leak the entire set of proposals.  Partial leaks usually suggest there is an agenda at work.  Given that parts of the proposals are in the public debate, the Department should now just publish the entire report so we can read, judge for ourselves and be part of the ‘consideration’.

That said, the media reports that the Government is considering cutting Child Benefit is not correct.  The Government is already intending to cut Child Benefit.  They announced it last year, started it last year and intend to continue doing it next year.  So the Government is not considering cutting Child Benefit.  It is considering cutting more Child Benefit.

Last year, the Government announced its intention to eliminate the Child Benefit supplement to the third and additional child.

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The Failed Experiment: Public Private Partnerships in Ireland

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The recent Comptroller and Auditor’s report on the 2011 public service accounts reveals the continuing cost of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Ireland. It provides further evidence that the transfer of risk has been exaggerated and overpriced.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) agreed to traffic-related guarantee payments for the M3 Clonee/Kells and Limerick Tunnel PPPs. The NRA has to pay the PPP company additional money if average traffic levels in any half-year period do not exceed the level of guaranteed traffic in the contract. The Comptroller and Auditor reported significant shortfalls in traffic volumes relative to the guaranteed thresholds in 2010 and 2011 and forecast the additional payment of €6.7m for 2012. Even if traffic continues to increase at an average 2.5% per annum, the government will be paying traffic guaranteed payments for the M3 Clonee/Kells PPP until 2025 and the Limerick Tunnel until 2041! Additional payment could exceed €140m at current prices.

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Statement by Group Occupying Grafton St AIB Branch Today

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‘Austerity’ in Ireland – the transfer of wealth from the majority to the few- is slowly tearing the lives of ordinary people apart. The stresses of impossible debts, unemployment, and insecurity, are eroding the fabric of society in Ireland. Can anyone blame those young people who are emigrating in droves, for leaving in search of some kind of future? The country is being gutted.

Each autumn, the government embarks on a terrorizing rampage against the people. Household taxes, property taxes, water charges, social welfare cuts, cuts to state pensions, cuts to public services, cuts to carers allowances. Measures that make the difference between life and a living death. This horror show has no taboos. To top it all, we are told to be thankful that the punishment is not even worse.

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From the East End to the West: The Political Journey of an Irish Londoner

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Like many families that lived around harbours, my mother’s went to sea. At least three generations of them. And most of them went to sea in Royal Navy ships. On top of that, the Great Depression, coupled with De Valera’s Economic War drove all of my mother’s siblings to England, one way or the other. The two girls went nursing. The three boys joined the navy. Four of them never came back; one went down with the Neptune in a mine-field off North Africa, three of them married and settled and were quite content to stay there, apart from holidays ‘at home’. The fifth came home to die.

This is the story of generations of working class people and poor farmers and labourers in every country of the world since the industrial revolution. I heard the same stories in Naples. In one of the opening scenes of Il Postino the actor Massimo Troisi looks in disbelief at a postcard from America, unable to accept the relative affluence of his cousins there. It could have been shot in Connemara. Recently a Nigerian taxi-driver in London described his home place in exactly the same terms that my uncles used.

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If It Works, Work It

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The Government claims that ‘everything is on the table’.  If so, let’s put the findings of the ESRI paper, ‘Emerging From Recession?’  by John Bradley and Gerhard Untiedt in the centre.  It is an extremely useful paper that provides three future scenarios for the Irish economy with a provocative discussion on competitiveness and new industrial / enterprise strategy. They make a very telling overall point:

‘Although medium-term forecasting is a hazardous activity these days, strategic thinking is even more necessary than it was in better times. Day to day decisions continue to have to be taken under the pressure of circumstances. But good strategy almost never emerges from short-term actions. It needs to be thought out explicitly.’

It is lengthy and deserving of a number of blogs but here I want to focus on their estimates of the benefits of a modest investment programme.

They put a modest investment programme to the test and measure the impact on GDP, employment, and borrowing (i.e. the deficit).  They propose, for this exercise, an investment programme of €2.5 billion spread out over three years (€1 billion in 2013 and 2015, with €500 million in 2015).  It would be made up of 80 percent investment on physical infrastructure with the remaining 20 percent focused on education/training and innovation.

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Corruption and Dishonesty at the Heart of Government

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The James Reilly Affair is nowhere near from over. Róisín Shortall may have gone, but big questions remain. How they are answered will have significant consequences for the Government, the two men at its helm and the parties they lead.

James Reilly has yet to provide a credible explanation for the addition of locations in his own constituency to the primary care centre priority list. Paul Cullen’s article in last Saturday’s Irish Times clearly demonstrates that Minister Reilly’s explanations to date simply don’t stack up.

Róisín Shortall’s matter of fact description of the decision as ‘stroke politics’ on RTE radio last Saturday demands a response from Minister Reilly. Ministers Varadkar and Creighton clearly concur, as do Labour party backbenchers such as Arthur Spring.

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