Irish Media

The Anti-Drug Movement in Dublin

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This article was originally published in Concept, The Journal of Contemporary Community Education Practice Theory, Vol. 5 No. 1 Spring 2014

This article is based on a qualitative research study which I undertook in 2013 with activists, involved in the initial community response to the drug problems in Dublin. In the late 1970s and early 1980s particular working class areas of Dublin’s inner city developed a community drugs problem. A community drugs problem is characterised by a large number of people using drugs in a small area (Cullen, 1991). When the drug problem first presented itself in Dublin, it was concentrated in two main areas of the city, the Hardwick St flats on the North side, and St Theresa’s Gardens on the South side of the city. Initially, the problem began with heroin, which was killing working class children, as young as fourteen and fifteen. Families and whole communities were devastated by what later became known as ‘the heroin epidemic’. Over time the problem has become much worse and now involves poly drug use.

Initially, the people in the areas most affected by drug misuse tried to access help from the state, but soon realised they were not a high priority with state agencies. This realisation led to the formation of one of the most remarkable social movements in Ireland in recent history. The Concerned Parents Against Drugs (CPAD) in the 1980s and the Concerned Communities Against Drugs (COCAD) in the 1990s – essentially these were two phases of the same movement – set out to tackle a problem that nobody else was addressing. This mobilisation was a major achievement by a group of working class activists with limited education and almost no resources. It has been largely ignored in academic literature, and I think this is mainly because it was a working class movement, and class and social inequality have been lost sight of in mainstream social movement studies. This point is argued in depth by contributors in Barker et al. (2013).

I have lived in communities that are seriously affected by drugs problems. My interest in education as an adult grew from trying to understand and deal with a family drugs problem. I was interested in researching the beginning of the drugs problem, and finding out how long-term activists first got involved with the CPAD and COCAD and how they viewed the drug problem from their present perspective, and how their activism had changed over time. For all of my interviewees their involvement was ‘a massive learning process,’ as one of them put it. But did structured community education contribute anything to this? Could it have contributed more? And what lessons can be drawn for today?

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New LookLeft out now!

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New LookLeft out now!

€2 for 48 pages of progressive, news, views and solutions

In Easons and selected newsagents countrywide.

This issue includes:

  • Who Watches the Watchmen: The Gardai, drugs and the working class
  • Look Back in Anger: Brian Hanley on remembering the reality of WW1
  • Conor McCabe on Ireland, the frontline of the class war
  • Sean Garland pays tribute to RMT leader Bob Crow
  • LookLeft talks to Andy Irvine
  • Kevin Brannigan on the struggle to save the home of Irish football
  • Interview with Belfast’s Red Devil: Des O’Hagan
  • Jennifer Silva on Economic Uncertainty and Mental Health
  • Mark Walshe on Making a market out of education
  • Chris Hudson asks Where is progressive unionism?

And much, much more….

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The Power of the ‘Virtual Senate’

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To learn who rules over you, French philosopher Voltaire said, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise, or to paraphrase a little, not seriously criticise. But in 2014 in Ireland surely we can criticise who and whatever we want, isn’t that one of the cornerstones of democracy-free speech, freedom of expression, freedom to write whatever you want within certain legal and moral boundaries, defamation laws notwithstanding.  So who, or what, are we ruled over by. Who then can we not criticise, at least not seriously criticise anyway, not forensically, and least of all not in the papers and media outlets of record; the very same institutions that shape and set the agenda, and even manufacture opinion, and consent, to a largely passive audience.

This is not to say that criticism of a sort does not exist, often it is effective and succinct and written by commentators who are more than aware of the ideological parameters, rather it is to say that criticism when it actually does exist operates within very narrow boundaries of what can be said and printed, not to mention the narrow criteria upon which editorial decisions are made on what can be said, or perhaps even thought.  The more serious type of forensic criticism is filtered out, institutionally, ( obedience, conformity and compliance are not difficult to induce even in self-styled stroppy journalists) and sent packing to dissenting websites such as this one or perhaps to organisations such as Amnesty International, or to specialised human rights blogs for instance.

And so it is with the great behemoths of our day: the transnational corporation. If the Catholic Church or land-grabbing feudal fiefdoms were once the dominant institutions in our lives, then surely now, in the early 21st century, it is Apple, or Exxon Mobil, or Newscorp. They are so all pervasive as to be invisible, most of the time, as the truly dominant institutions must be.

Ideology always works best when it becomes normal, everyday, and commonplace ‘common sense’. For an example of how this ‘commonsense’ doctrine is mediated to us, one of thousands in our ‘newspapers of record’, take this ‘value-free’ economics article, particularly the first declaratory sentence.

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Gas, Gender, and Ideology: Reflections on a Prime Time Debate

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As I sat in the audience of a Prime Time feature on Irish gas and oil (RTÉ, March 11, 2014), I wondered what I was doing there. I’m probably not the first person to ponder their attendance on such an occasion but it was a unique thought for me as I’ve been interested in the topic of Irish gas and oil for over 8 years. I’d also spent nearly 4 years conducting extensive research into the Irish state’s management of its gas and oil as the basis of my PhD in Sociology.

So why was I questioning my participation in the audience? This narrative piece explains why and illustrates how a seemingly innocuous event like a television debate can reveal issues of gender inequality, differing ideologies,  and questions of knowledge and ‘experts’, while problematising how the mainstream media frames discourse surrounding matters of public concern.

My reflection on the experience began with the question of why I wasn’t given the opportunity to participate in the debate. After all I’ve carried out comprehensive research into the subject of Irish gas and oil based on extensive documentary research, case studies, observations and interviews with 30 key stakeholders (including former Ministers, current and former senior civil servants, politicians, oil industry personnel, media, civil society, people affected by the Corrib gas conflict, and trade unionists).  I’d also assisted some of the other speakers with their publications. For example, I co-edited a new book by Own Our Oil (2014), contributed to Shell to Sea’s Liquid Assets (2012), and co-authored Optimising Ireland’s Oil and Gas Resources (SIPTU, 2011).

The lack of engagement didn’t make sense , particularly as during the equivalent of an hour of telephone conversations spanning two days, a Prime Time researcher had made it clear that the editorial team “really want[ed]” me there. While they couldn’t guarantee that I would have the opportunity to speak during the debate, it seemed most likely that I would be asked to contribute.

Indeed, this researcher and I agreed 3 key areas that I would highlight during my planned input: issues surrounding the control and ownership of Irish gas and oil, or  in plainer terms the privatisation of Irish hydrocarbons in exchange for one of the lowest rates of government take in the world; the absence of mechanisms for consultation or developing consent of communities for oil and gas developments; and fragmented and unsuitable permission systems as most evident in the Corrib gas debacle. I’d planned to locate these 3 topics within a broader statement around how the Irish state’s approach to the management of its gas and oil is fundamentally flawed and that the proposed review of Irish fiscal terms by Wood Mackenzie is insufficient to address the deficiencies inherent to the state’s model of hydrocarbon management.

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Lies and Obfuscation Have Been the Name of the Game in the GSOC Bugging Scandal


Lying is ingrained into Irish politics. There is nothing new in politicians lying but in the case of Ireland, it has become so commonplace that instead of anger there is only apathy or indifference to it. In Ireland, both politicians and the average person consider it so par for the course that Pat Rabbitte is able to go on national television and declare that lying in the lead up to a general election is something that you “tend to do”. The case of the bugging of the headquarters of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) is no different in this regard. We have seen government ministers, high-ranking members of the Gardaí, and journalists, lie and obfuscate. The facts are clear and are uncontroversial. The reaction to the revelations have been anything but uncontroversial, however.

First off, Alan Shatter and Enda Kenny were more concerned with the fact that they weren’t informed about GSOC carrying out an investigation into suspicions that their HQ was bugged than the fact that bugging had potentially, and likely, taken place. The government claimed that under Section 80 subsection 5 of the Garda Síochána Act, GSOC were obligated to inform the office of the Minister of Justice of their investigation. Shatter was still claiming this last night in the Dáil. The problem is that no such obligation exists, with the supposed obligation of GSOC to have informed the minister’s office of their investigation being purely discretionary. This position was backed by former Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness on the February 18th edition of Tonight With Vincent Browne. This particular claim continues to do the rounds, no doubt to the government’s advantage, in order to beat the GSOC around the head and inevitably sully their public image.

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Media, Crisis and The Making Of Common Sense

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Why is the vast majority of Irish media dominated with an undoubting and uncritical attitude towards a single theory of the ‘crisis’? What role does it play in legitimising, rather than challenging, the structural causes of growing inequality? And what does this mean for radical interpretations of democracy, public space and the remaking of common sense?

In this Live Register podcast, we’re joined by Julien Mercille and Henry Silke, two academics who have been carrying out separate research relating to the Irish media.

Julien Marcille lectures at the School of Geography in UCD and has recently published research on how the Irish mainstream media have covered the Irish “crisis” from a pro-austerity position over the last five years. Henry Silke is a postgraduate researcher at the School of Communications DCU, who has been examining the political role of the Irish press during the crisis.

We used their research to frame a wider discussion of the real role of mainstream media in Ireland today, exploring how market ideology is central to how mainstream media frames public discourse, very much at odds to the perception of mainstream media holding truth to power.

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The Irish Media – Cheerleaders For Austerity

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This article by Julien Mercille first appeared on the Social Europe Journal on the 17th of December.

A study of Irish press coverage of austerity between 2008 and 2012 conducted at University College Dublin confirms that the media have been relentless cheerleaders for austerity. The case is so overwhelming that it may even surprise proponents of austerity. The full report is available here.

Ireland has distinguished itself among European countries by implementing austerity at the outset of the current crisis, while a number of other governments reacted by first enacting Keynesian stimulus packages, in parallel to bailing out their banks, before turning to austerity. Austerity might be good for elites, but it attacks ordinary people by cutting government spending on social services, health care and welfare. It seeks to make labour more ‘flexible’ by dismantling and downgrading work conditions and protections to give more power to employers over employees. On top of that, it raises regressive taxes like the VAT and encourages privatisation of state-owned enterprises and assets, often sold to investors at bargain prices.

European authorities themselves have announced explicitly, and even proudly, that austerity is used to attack the welfare state and ordinary people. Mario Draghi, the ECB president, declared in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the European ‘traditional social contract is obsolete’ and that ‘there is no escape from tough austerity measures’. He further said that continuing ‘shocks’ would ‘force countries into structural changes in labor markets’. Accordingly, Europe’s population faces repeated attacks from corporate and political elites, a fact noted by the New York Times recently when it observed that ‘Americanized labor policy is spreading in Europe’. It remarked that in 2008, 1.9 million Portuguese private sector workers were covered by collective bargaining agreements, but that the number is now down to 300,000. Greece has cut its minimum wage by almost a fourth, Ireland and Spain have frozen it, and in general labour protections have been reduced in peripheral Europe, so that austerity is ‘radically changing the nature of Europe’s society’. The developments will transform so deeply the social fabric that the chief economist of the International Labour Organisation described them as ‘the most significant changes since World War II’.

Therefore, in order for elites to convince the population that austerity is good for them, or to reduce the intensity of protests against it, a lot of ideological work is needed. This is when the media step in.

Ireland might be a somewhat special case on the European media landscape because all its major news outlets are right-of-centre. While that’s bad for those who want to know what is really going on, it’s good for the Irish and European elites who want a favourable spin on their policies.

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Five Years On – The Media’s Role in Ireland’s Financial Fall


With the five-year anniversary of the nationalising of the Irish banks having just passed us, one would think that at this stage we would have some answers. One would be wrong. Of course, much has been written about the topic in the years since. However, as much as we and the media enjoy blaming the elites of the world for what happened, the media also had a large role to play in the inflating the property bubble which has since burst and the consequences of which have hobbled the country. They toed the party line regarding property prices, and as a result, played an important propagandising role in the country. Whilst over the previous week there have been numerous articles written about the bank guarantee and the resulting economic downfall, as far as I am aware, nothing has been said about the media’s culpability. This is an important omission, but not entirely unsurprising.

Nevertheless, one Irish-based academic has looked at this particular issue. In April of this year, Julien Mercille, of the School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Policy in University College Dublin (UCD), published a paper entitled “The Role of the Media in Sustaining Ireland’s Housing Bubble”. The paper, which got a very limited amount of publicity at the time of its publication, goes into great detail regarding the functioning of the economy prior to the bank guarantee and the media’s role in helping to inflate and sustain the property bubble. As early as 1998, economist David McWilliams was writing about the dangers of a property bubble emerging in Ireland as all of the signs pointed to one. He wrote that, “general credit in the economy is up more than 20 per cent in 1997 alone. A quick glance at property prices suggests that we are definitely entering asset-price bubble territory”. However, such viewpoints were rarely heard in the national media and reasons for this are simple: The centralisation of power, overlapping interests, and clientelism/cronyism. We can see this when we look at the composition of those at the top of the various private and state-owned media in Ireland.

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Dublin City councillors urged to vote for the Rosie Hackett Bridge

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A Bridge for Rosie Hackett Campaign

Rosie is the people’s choice:

Dublin City councillors urged to vote for the Rosie Hackett Bridge

Trade unionists, feminists, sportsmen, academics, artists, film makers, actors, comedians, historians, journalists, civic society groups and politicians are all calling on Dublin City councillors to make sure that after the council vote on September 2, the new bridge between Eden Quay and Burgh Quay is named after Rosie Hackett.

If councillors have committed to support another of the four remaining nominees, we are asking them to give Rosie their second preference.

Jeni Gartland of the Bridge for Rosie Hackett campaign says: “Dubliner, Jacobs Biscuit Factory worker, champion of workers’ rights, founder member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union, a 1913 Lockout activist who also fought for the Irish Citizen Army during the 1916 Rising – Rosie was an ordinary woman who lived in extraordinary times.

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OURmedia Dublin 2013 Conference, June 24-25th, Civic Offices Dublin and DCU

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OURmedia Dublin 2013 Conference

“Dealing With Crisis: Community, Alternative, Citizens', and Social Media in Times of Change”

On June 24-25th

Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council Civic Offices (24th, 9.30am – 9pm) and DCU (25th, 9.30am – 4pm)

The opening event, “What News Does Dublin need? An Exploration of Models of News and Information That We Should Build for Our City”, is organised by the Dublin City Community Media Forum in conjunction with the Community Forum and will examine the news media in Dublin City. Speakers at this session include, Donal Higgins (DCTV), James Redmond (Rabble), and Jack Byrne (NearFM).

The two-day Alternative and Community Media Conference will examine different avenues of media used throughout the world as the pre-conference to IAMCR 2013 and will feature panels on 'Community Media in the Arab World' & 'Community Media for Peace and Development in Cyprus'.

These events are open to the public.

Facebook Page:

Event Page:


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“It does matter to us.” – Hugo Chávez responds to Rory Carroll


What follows further down is a transcript of an exchange between Guardian reporter Rory Carroll and the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, from Chávez’s TV programme Aló Presidente, broadcast 26th August 2007.

I was prompted to look up the transcript when it was referred to by Carroll himself, who has a new book out titled Comandante: Inside The Revolutionary Court of Hugo Chávez, in an interview on Today with Pat Kenny on Friday March 1st 2013. First of all, here is the excerpt from the Pat Kenny show.

Transcript: Excerpt from Today with Pat Kenny on Friday March 1st 2013

PAT KENNY: Now, the kind of weapons that he did use, besides the occasional imprisonment of somebody – humiliation. Heaping humiliation upon people’s heads. I mean, denouncing them on television. And I suggested to you when you came in, like what would it be like if you had Enda Kenny or Bertie Ahern on television for three hours, just mouthing away, commandeering the airwaves, and you said, what are you talking about, three hours? Nine hours. Non-stop.

RORY CARROLL: Yes, yeah. And em, well, speaking of humiliation, my own, I can give you a personal anecdote about that. I was on his TV show, he has a weekly TV show called Aló Presidente, Hello President, and I think I was on episode no. 294. I went in as a journalist, I had lobbied them to let me attend, and he invited me to ask a question. And I did, I asked him about the centralisation of power and risk of creeping authoritarianism, and boy did he let me have it. He proceeded to denounce me and it seemed eternal to me, this was all on live television.

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February Issue of Socialist Voice is Out Now

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February issue of Socialist Voice is out now.

It can also be view here to download, here to read online or below in the embedded widget.

Below is a list of contents.

  1. We must build on Connolly’s legacy
  2. CPI calls for support for the ICTU demonstration
  3. The ICTU’s “better, fairer debt” strategy [EMC]
  4. 2013: the continuing of the great scattering [EMC]
  5. James Stewart (1933–2013)
  6. “Social Europe” for the EU’S privileged [COM]
  7. The truth behind the myth of “social Europe”
  8. Rarefied Davos air fosters elite illusions [COM]
  9. More on monopolies globally [NL]
  10. Poverty and wealth in France
  11. Democracy and the crisis—Part 1 [FC]
  12. Is Ireland a tax haven? [EON]
  13. Another imperialist intervention in Africa [TMS]
  14. Slanted media attack Caribbean socialism [TMS]
  15. Red westerns [AF]

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Winning Back the Public’s Trust

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The public outpouring of self-pity by politicians during the holidays would make you think that it’s a hard life being a TD and even harder being a Minister.

Yes the hours are long and the work load heavy. But with a start off salary of €92,000 per year for TDs, a Ministerial salary of €169,000 per year and a lavish system of expenses even after the reductions announced in December’s budget, clearly the financial rewards are good.

In fact they are amongst the best in the entire world.

Nobody is forced to be a politician. We do it out of choice. Many of us do it out of conviction. And we enjoy our work.

Yet, following the debate through December and January it seemed as though our politicians, particularly those in Government, were the victims of a massive smear campaign by a motley crew of anti-political journalists and abusive social media trolls.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte went so far as to say that all of this negativity was undermining politics itself. What rubbish!

There is no doubt that public trust in politicians and the political process is at a low ebb. But to suggest that this is down to media criticism or negative tweeting is not just nonsense, it is a cynical attempt by some politicians to shift the blame for the problem on to others.

So what is the cause of the growing public mistrust of our political class and the political process?

Back in 2010 public anger was focused on Fianna Fáil. People had come to realise that the governments of Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen were driven by political corruption and economic incompetence.

In the 2011 general election they voted overwhelming for change.

While nobody expected the problems created by politicians such as Michael Martin, Willie O’Dea, Billy Kelleher and Michael McGrath to be fixed overnight, they did believe that the cause of the problem –Fianna Fáil- had been surgically removed from the body politic and a long slow recovery could now begin.

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In Defense of Populism


In his end of year review Sunday Business Post political editor Pat Leahy described Sinn Féin’s opposition to austerity in 2012 as ‘aggressive and populist’.

His description is one that has a broad currency among political commentators.

The charge of populism is rarely complimentary. It suggests a politics of pandering to the people irrespective of the costs. It pits popularity against wisdom and short-term political gain against long-term social and economic sustainability.

When used in this sense populism is viewed as a cynical and dishonest style of politics. It seeks to manipulate public opinion by playing to its desires and emotions. In doing so it reveals a less than full commitment to democratic norms.

Populism is, according to this account, about the pursuit of power for powers sake. At best it is foolish. At worst it is reckless.

Given that populism has such a negative connotation you would expect the rest of this column to argue against Pat’s description of Sinn Féin.

But no, he is right.

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