Society

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The Rationalist’s Defence of Injustice

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Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilisation, supposedly replied that he thought it might be a good idea. Taken at face value, we can presume that he was both contemptuous and cynical of the idea of civilisation of any kind existing in the West. Being on the receiving end of Western civilisational endeavours such as the one he experienced in India during his life, he would have been well aware of hollowness of the idea that actions and ideas emanating from the West were inherently virtuous. Indeed, very few people, especially in Ireland, need to be reminded of the great altruism with which the British Empire undertook the task of civilising the world. Although Great Britain is no longer the empire it once was, it continues to play the civilising game along with its master, the United States. Meanwhile, the notion that great powers undertake certain actions for the benefit of the “uncivilised” of the world continues to hold sway, along with the concomitant idea that such actions are inherently virtuous. They are inherently virtuous simply because said actions are being carried out by the U.S. and its allies. Nothing more needs to be said in their defence according to the reigning orthodoxy. Said orthodoxy resides not only in and around the centres of power, and not only emerges from the mouths of the most devoted nationalists and neoconservatives but can also be found in those who are considered to be sceptics and rationalists.

Two of the most vocal types of this are Sam Harris and his former colleague, Christopher Hitchens. Both men had become two of the four faces most associated with rationalism, specifically atheism, and the so-called New Atheism, that emerged more or less immediately in the aftermath of 9/11. In the case of Hitchens, advocating for a non-religious world due to the fact that he deemed religion a threat to humanity became one part of his public persona. The other part was as a cheerleader for the neoconservative movement. Counting amongst his friends Paul Wolfowitz, the former U.S. Deputy Director of Defence in the Bush II administration, Hitchens could be relied upon to decry the evils of religion in the same breath as declaring British and U.S. intentions in the Middle East as righteous. His views did not in any way evolve before his death in 2012 from oesophageal cancer. One year before his death, when asked if he thought the invasion of Iraq along with the subsequent chaos it unleashed was worth the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein, he responded in the positive; the fracturing and destruction of a country, from which it may never recover, was deemed a price worth paying for the regional interests of his acquaintances in the White House.

Although claiming to take a more nuanced view of things, Harris is arguably worse than Hitchens in his support for the British and U.S. interests around the word. Although Hitchens was outlandishly crude in some of his pronunciations, Harris on the other hand relies on the veneer of calm and respectable discourse in order to promote views that are far from respectable. Harris’ position is essentially that Islam in particular represents an existential and ongoing threat to superior Western civilisation and ideals. Therefore, it must be dealt with accordingly by those who have the power to do so. Being unmentionable is that it just happens that the balance of power resides by far in the hands of the U.S. and its closest allies, yet the threat apparently remains. This is half of the premise of Harris’ main point of contention with Noam Chomsky, the other half being that that our intentions are good regardless of the outcomes. In this view, because collateral damage is not intentional on the part of leaders, what we do that causes civilian deaths in the first place is therefore not judged by the supposedly unexpected outcome of collateral damage. The act is judged simply by its intentions. If the intention was to destroy a terrorist training camp via a Hellfire missile, and civilians were accidentally killed in the process, the civilians do not enter into any moral calculation. The initial act was carried out for the correct reasons, at least according to those in power and their supporters, therefore the unintentional deaths of civilians do not enter into any moral calculation of the hypothetical missile strike.

This is Harris’ stance on the nature of U.S. foreign policy, at least as he laid it out in recent correspondence with Chomsky, arguing that the U.S. is “in many respects, just… a ‘well-intentioned giant.’” The Clinton Administration’s bombing in 1998 of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, which resulted in the destruction of roughly half of the country’s medicines, including its entire supply of anti-malaria drugs, was a legitimate act according to Harris. The apparent intention, which Harris takes for granted, was to destroy a chemical weapons factory, with the resulting suffering unleashed on the country being of no concern. What matters are intentions, nothing else. Harris simply takes it for granted that what we do is right and proper simply by virtue of the fact that it is being done by us. Harris presumes, with no evidence, that “Clinton (as I imagine him to be) did not want or intend to kill anyone at all, necessarily.” The more likely reason, which Harris fails to mention or perhaps even realise, is that the plant’s destruction was in retaliation for the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania two weeks earlier. Although a terrorist attack on civilians in the Middle East or somewhere in the West may have the same outcome as the al-Shifa bombing and other similar acts by Western states, the two cases cannot be compared according to Harris conception of intentions. By logically extending his notion of intentionality, our crimes are not really crimes, and deaths caused by us are not really caused by us, a logic that would impress the most committed totalitarian ideologue.

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Issue 124 of People’s News Out Now

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Issue 124 of People’s News out now

The articles in this issue include:  

  • Page 1: TTIP’s way is Europe’s way. Brussels may vet legislation
  • Page 2: Even more of an attack on democracy than ISDS
  • Page 4: MEPs scrap scrutiny on allowances
  • Page 5: A la carte system for GMO imports
  • Page 5: Secret “trialogue” talks to be investigated
  • Page 6: The hidden cost of EU trade deals
  • Page 7: A window on Microsoft’s lobbying
  • Page 7: TTIP negotiations to drag on
  • Page 8: The real alternatives in the Northern elections
  • Page 9: Apple expects “material” financial damage from EU investigations into corporation tax
  • Page 10: The billion euro man
  • Page 11: Fraud and the EU
  • Page 12: The cost to Greece of membership of the euro zone
  • Page 12: Trade union leader warns Juncker that his policies made the crisis worse
  • Page 13: Gotcha

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From Protest to Politics: How Can We Get a New Republic?

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An important question that those opposing the water charges, austerity, growing inequality and those looking for an alternative to the establishment political parties are asking is; what exactly are we looking to achieve and how are we going to do it? There are immediate changes needed such as getting rid of the water charges and Irish Water, reversing austerity and cuts and standing up to Europe (and with Greece) on the immoral debt. There are also more profound changes being sought such as achieving the right to housing, health, education, decent jobs etc for everyone. These will require the creation of a real Republic of equality and a genuine democracy where people are treated with dignity and have a real say in the running of their community, their country and Europe. But the most important change is already happening; that is the active participation and empowerment of the (extra) ordinary citizens at the grassroots who are changing their world by standing up for themselves through protest and political action.

It is becoming clear to more and more people that a government dominated by the establishment parties (Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour, Renua & other ‘fake’ independents) will not achieve these necessary radical reforms. Ordinary people have to do it themselves by creating a government that is made up of the people’s representatives – without any of the establishment parties involved. A people’s government would be anti-austerity, anti-establishment, rights-based, and progressive. Let us learn from previous mistakes and understand that it is not sufficient to be a minor player in government – for real change the people’s representatives must be the government.  To do this anti-establishment and anti-austerity groups and parties will have to convince the majority of people in Ireland (particularly the undecided voters from a wide breadth of societal groups) to vote for anti-establishment candidates. The task then is not just to protest and resist but also to try win the coming general election. In order to win we must believe that we can win and we must plan to win. But winning is not just changing the faces in government, it is bringing about a New Republic – a real democratic transformation by an empowered citizenry.

This means that electing an anti-establishment government is only one part of a process of empowerment of ordinary people to transform Ireland. That process must also take place in communities and workplaces, creating new forms of socially caring and enterprising employment that can make solidarity and cooperation the key values of any New Republic. It also means that election and government processes should be led by the citizens, communities and ordinary people. It should continue the new wave of citizen empowerment from the water movement. This also means that if anti-establishment opposition do not win the coming election at least we will have been further empowered to pressure whatever new government is elected to take these issues seriously. Importantly, it will ensure that a solid foundation is put in place to be the major opposition (in the Dail and on the streets) and to be in a much better place to win in the subsequent election, which could come much sooner than expected, and to continue to protest and campaign on a wide range of issues.

Convincing a majority of the population to support an anti-establishment political alternative is going to be extremely difficult and challenging. Multiple approaches and strategies are required. None of the anti-establishment groups, the trade unions, independents, Left political parties, or the communities can achieve this on their own. Therefore, unity and coherence is required amongst as many of these as possible in order to offer a clear alternative to people in the election. This will show people that we are serious and that there is a credible, serious and coherent alternative that is worth voting for.

That is not to say everybody has to be part of the one organisation or alliance. There is the opportunity for multiple organisations to be part of a new alliance or there might be a number of alliances and parties co-ordinating together. There will be some who do not wish to be part of any of these and that should be respected just as the desire for those who want to work together on this new alliance should also be respected. The politics of new alliances must be inclusive and respectful of each other and the principles or plurality and diversity. If we are not trying to be the very change we want to see in the world then we have failed from the start.

One idea could be to form a new umbrella alliance or political movement like Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain or the SNP in Scotland. This new alliance could be made up of some of the Left parties, new movements, independents, communities, trade unions, and individuals. Let’s call it the Movement for A New Republic for the moment. In the election the people would have a real choice between the Movement or the establishment parties. The Movement for A New Republic would say to the people ‘we are standing for election to become a government of the people that will not involve any of the establishment parties’. This new political movement would aim to represent the ideals and vision of the 1916 Proclamation- in a meaningful way – for a sovereign, democratic, New Republic, New Ireland of equality and social justice, based on the protection of the vulnerable, community and fairness and assertion of the rights of all.

One single major political alliance or movement appears to be a key part of gaining majority public support for a new radical politics in Greece and Spain, rather than lots of smaller groups. The experience of other countries also suggests that the success of new political parties and movements is exactly that – that they are actually new and are not dominated by their past. A new movement that is clearly anti-establishment, standing for the ordinary people against the cronies and elite, made up of leaders that are new (or clearly independent from) to the political system, could gain significant additional support, and therefore, increase the possibility of an alternative government and a new politics in Ireland. This movement should also play a key role in representing the desire for a completely new politics in Ireland for the long term beyond the coming election.

Ideally then the Movement for a New Republic would include the broadest possible alliance from Sinn Fein to Says No Groups, trade unions, independents, communities and socialists, similar to the successful water movement. While there are many differences between these groups – the only realistic way an alternative government is going to be formed is to work together. Anti-establishment candidates should be supportive of each other against the common enemy of the establishment parties. There has to be an end to divisive actions and attacks on each other, and removing dogmatic approaches that alienate potential supporters beyond the ‘true believers’, and an agreement that we want to be in government and not just permanent opposition. There would need to be Movement candidates in every constituency in order to get sufficient TDs to gain the majority to form a government. The media will also be an important battle ground and, therefore, leaders and spokespeople are required who can represent the message of the new movement in a way that connects with the majority of people.

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NCADnotabusiness

Education Versus Neo-Liberalism

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The ongoing events in the National College of Art and Design (N.C.A.D.) speak to a larger and slowly emerging crisis in the Irish educational system. Having endured increases in fees, an escalating dearth of studio space, and an ever more obstinate college bureaucracy and leadership, the students took it upon themselves to offer a list to demands to the college management. The college ignored the requests of the students, even going so far as to pull out of a meeting with the students where their concerns and objections would be voiced in person. The students responded by occupying a room in the college on Tuesday, March 24th, with further similar actions, including public lectures, having taken place in the last few days, and with more actions planned. A petition has also been circulated and signed by a number of Irish academics and graduate students, declaring solidarity with the students and the need for “another model of what higher education might be — one guided by the pursuit of learning rather than the pursuit of profit, driven by radical enquiry rather than bogus metrics”. Events in the N.C.A.D. are a microcosm of what the education system in Ireland is currently enduring. 

Although having to meet certain economic and financial requirements have always been part and parcel of the lives of academics and students, such requirements were not as threatening and all-encompassing as they are now. An obvious starting point for the current attack that the education system is under is the sinking of the economy due to financial malfeasance on the part of banks, civil servants, and governments. In fact, and to my knowledge something that has never been reported on, the education system, particularly third level, was always going to be one of the first areas that would come under attack in order to save the banking system. Reading the transcripts of the MacGill Summer School of 2009, in which over forty Irish intellectuals, government ministers, and elites gathered together to discuss what needed to be done to fix the economy, demonstrates this. Of particular note was the speech given by Dermot Gleeson, the then Chairman of Allied Irish Bank (A.I.B.), and who also happened to have a meeting with the Taoiseach and Minister of Finance on the evening before and night of the bank guarantee. Gleeson, blaming the public as much as the banks for the economy collapsing, pointed out that something needed to be done in order to increase government revenue. He laid out the corrective plan as follows: 

“We need to broaden the tax base by cutting out reliefs which are no longer justified; this is very much preferable to raising tax rates. Property taxes need to be less dependent on transactions and a property tax of some sort, needs to replace stamp duty, at least in part. There may be need for more user charges to fund high quality infrastructure in the form of road tolls, water charges and university fees. A carbon tax needs to balance the demands of climate change and competitiveness. In relation to expenditure we need more difficult decisions while maintaining investment in research and infrastructure. The cost of public services needs to be brought into line with costs in the rest of the economy. Excessive regulation and outdated work practices need to be eliminated. We need to reduce the long term inflation expectation back to the Euro average and we are well advanced on that project…. We need to implement public sector reform with real urgency” [emphasis added].

 University fees are far from the only thing we have to worry about, however. Third level has not only had fees reintroduced in all but name, as per Gleeson’s suggestion, but cutbacks have been made across the system as a whole. In spite of such cutbacks, student numbers have increased, putting the system under even more pressure. An obvious result of such pressure is that it makes universities and colleges more pliable. They simply need the funding and will do what they can to attract such funding.

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The Crisis of Irish Democracy

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The current crisis of Irish democracy is not the one currently being given space in the nation’s mainstream media outlets. Ungovernability is supposedly just around the corner according to some. A “sinister fringe” is engaging in acts of violence. “Marxist-Leninists” are standing in the way of the government and its wishes. Michael Noonan is on record as saying that he and his government “govern for the reasonable people,” and not the sinister fringe of ungovernable Marxist-Leninists in our midst. Reading this, one would imagine that the Red Army of old is engaging in ideological, and very physical, warfare on Ireland. Of course this is sheer nonsense, but the ghost of the “Dreaded Red” is well risen from its grave, courtesy of the necromancers currently inhabiting Dáil Éireann. Such propaganda is a reaction to the citizens of Ireland having had enough of years of austerity measures.

They have taken to the streets, engaged in peaceful protest, and civil disobedience, in order to show their contempt for their treatment by the government. Compared to other European countries over the last few years, Ireland has been relatively quiet on the protest front. The planned introduction of water charges has changed all that. And now, the government and the Irish media, are panicking. A citizenry of a Western and ostensibly democratic state is not supposed to be actively engaged in the democratic process. To do so is to cause a “crisis of democracy”. This is nothing remotely new. During the 1960s and 1970s, people on both sides of the Atlantic demanded equal rights, an end to war, and generally demanded social change from their leaders whom they considered to have failed in their duty to create an equal society in the post-war years. To that end, they engaged in massive demonstrations and civil disobedience in order to achieve their aims. Such activity on the part of the wider citizenry frightened the leaders of the Western world, so much so that it became the basis of a report by the Trilateral Commission.

Published in 1975, The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, examined in some detail the causes and effects of the active citizenry that emerged in the 1960s and early 1970s in Europe, the United States, and Japan. Written by three leading academics for the NGO, it is premised on the idea that a previously apathetic citizenry became more active and therefore undermined the credibility and functioning of democracy. Although the introduction states that the report is “designed to make democracy stronger”, the definition of democracy being worked off is a top-down approach to governance in which the population is preferably apathetic, passive, and stratified. All three authors wondered how to make democracy not more democratic or effective in the popular understanding of the term, but how to enable a return to the previous state of affairs of an apathetic, passive, and stratified citizenry.

A “crisis of democracy” was “a breakdown of traditional means of social control, a delegitimation of political and other forms of authority, and an overload of demands on government, exceeding its capacity to respond.” An “increase of social interaction” resulted in the breakdown of the means of “traditional social control imposed upon the individual by collective authorities, especially the state, and by hierarchical religious institutions.” In turn, this meant that citizens “resist any kind of social control that is associated with the hierarchical values they have learned to discard and reject.” Individuality was seen to have usurped traditional civic values and stratification, and therefore people were more free than ever to choose their jobs, friends, partners, and general future, as they saw fit. At the very least, the wider population had decided that they could make those decisions for themselves without government interference.

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Left Forum Talk: “Cybersocialism”, by Dr Paul Cockshott

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Left Forum Public Meeting: “Cybersocialism”

Left Forum public meeting on the subject of “Cybersocialism”, by Dr Paul Cockshott of University of Glasgow.

The talk will explore questions around how a centrally planned socialist economy could be realised using mathematical techniques supported by advanced information technology.

For anyone who read the novel “Red Plenty” this should be right up your street.

Time: 7:30pm, Tuesday 18 November

Place: Unite Hall, Middle Abbey St., Dublin 1

Facebook event notice

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Women, This State Hates Us.

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&white&
or cead mile failte, are you here for the torture?
&white&
In case you had managed to misremember
how much our country hates us
along comes another woman needing shelter;
because someone transgressed against her
she needs help from us, just for the moment
until all this is behind her,
and do we make her welcome?
Does she get the help she needs? Ah
you know the answer: does she hell-
this country hates the likes of her
this country rapes the likes of her,
we will leave her with her bodily integrity in tatters
while psychiatrists fight it out about her psyche
and noone will ask her opinion
on what’s to be done with her
she is not considered sentient
and our state penetrates her
over and over and over-
&white&
this woman will be incorporated as evidence
in a poisonous debate that skims over how
very many ways the state we’ve built
is willing to degrade us, she will get a code name
and become a touchstone, something (not someone)
that we can talk about in concerned tones
on Marion Finucane and we will shake our heads
and say it’s clear now that our state hates us
as if we hadn’t always known it
as if we haven’t always felt it
as if it hasn’t been the subtext of our paths
through life to womanhood-
&white&
men friends it’s clear now too,
that if you are so inclined you could rape us,
and in all but a few cases you’d serve no sentence
not only that lads but here in our little Ireland
you could impregnate us, force a conception
that we played no part in, then you could
sit back and wait for our institutions
to force motherhood upon us
and they’ll do it- they’ve proved it
even if they have to perforate our mouths with tubes
and force feed us, even if they have to sedate us
then slice our wombs open with surgical knives,
they can and obviously will do it
and deep down we always knew this:
we knew Savita Halappanavar
we knew the Kerry Babies
we knew of lonely deaths on wet nights in Granard
and the A,B, C, and X cases
&white&
and the fortunate amongst us,
the ones with resources know what ferry terminals
look like at night time and how much it costs
to raise a child in all sorts of currencies,
we know whether we are or are not up for it
there should be no shame in that but here, well,
we must keep it secret because of how much
our state hates us, when we make love
we take the risk of ending up in hospital
in a country where if you’re a pregnant woman
‘state care’ is an oxymoron, it’s a shame to say
that as long as we have the capacity
to bear children, Ireland is not a safe place for us;
women, rise up, this country hates us
it’s long past time we changed it
enough is way too much this time.
&white&
&white&
Referendum now – repeal the 8th Amendment.

Sarah Clancy

Image from a video of a protest which took place on Wednesday the 20th of August at the Spire in O’Connell St, Dublin. Courtesy of USI and Paula Geraghty.

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Island of Saints and Sadists: Ireland 2014

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People often ask me why I write such dark books.

You’re such a sunny person, they say.

I say: Look around you, what kind of a country do you think you’re living in?

Here is a tale of the island of Saints and Sadists.

A young woman came to our country for help, for a home, for safety.

We call her an immigrant and it has become a bad word in the way that the simple trade of tinker became a bad word when I was a boy. And sometimes we call them refugees, which is even a worse word. Or fugees. At least we’re not racist about it. It applies to anyone in distress who asks us to take them in.

And she had been raped in her own country and she found she was pregnant when she came into the care of our state and we carried out the usual compulsory medical examination.

And nobody told her you couldn’t have an abortion in Ireland.

And nobody told her that our state has fought long and hard to force women to keep babies until they are born and then our state has fought long and hard to take their babies away from them and give them to decent people who deserve them or to the nuns.

Because our state cares for women. In the way that any decent man cares for his woman. And there are 221 men in our parliament and only 25 women. So that’s a lot of caring.

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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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Bishop Accuses Spanish Women of Holocaust

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I joined the International Women’s Day march in Valencia on Saturday night. Sources estimate between 10,000 and 20,000 people turned out for the event, from my perspective about 40 percent of those marching were men. Valencia is Spain’s third largest city, after Marid and Barcelona, where marches also took place. This day is usually a day of celebration of women in history and society as well as a chance to draw some attention back to the gender inequalities still present in work and pay. However, yesterday’s event also provided an opportunity to demonstrate the anger and exasperation building up around the new anti-abortion law being carried through the Spanish parliament by the conservative Partido Popular.

The proposal would overturn a very recent law (2010) that legalises abortion on demand in the first trimester, meaning that rape or a serious threat to the woman’s health – currently the conditions for abortion in the second trimester – would have to be proven by anyone seeking an abortion. I have read that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of the Spanish people oppose this bill. I’m not sure how accurate that is but the big turnout across Spanish cities for what is normally a fun family event was telling. The day before the protests I attended an assembly of women from the trade union Comisiones Obreras. The hall was filled with about 200 women and was brimming with anger. In one of the opening speeches tribute was paid to a lady called Concha Carretero who died on January 1st this year at the age of 95. Carretero’s story, as I grasped it in my broken Spanish, reminds me of the potency behind the word often used at Spanish protests – indignada.

Carretero, born in 1918, was first imprisoned when Franco’s army entered Madrid in 1939. Arrested after attending a meeting of the Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (United Socialist Youth) on her first night in prison, she was beaten and electrocuted and made to clean up the blood of her fellow captives. Lying unconscious after a beating on the night of August 4th, 1939 her cellmates, thirteen women, were taken and executed by firing squad. Almost a year later, Carretero was released only to be quickly re-arrested. This time she avoided freezing to death when stripped naked and doused in buckets of cold water by exercising all night in her cell. By then Carretero’s father, an anarchist, had been found dead on the street, and her mother, who had suffered a serious injury when a lift fell on top of her while cleaning in the dark shaft, slept unbeknownst to her daughter under the archways of the prison where she was held. Not long after her release Carretero’s husband and father of her first child was arrested and shot by firing squad. Carretero’s crime had been her involvement and work with the Republican army, making clothes and minding the children of men and women on the front during the Civil War. But more than that it had been to dare challenge the might and divine authority of fascist Spain. Going on to re-marry and have five more children, Carretero attended the Almudena cemetery in Madrid every year to mark the anniversary of the execution of her thirteen cell mates, the Thirteen Roses, and every year she called for the “Third Republic”. (Further info here: Fallece Concha Carretero, compañera de las trece rosas rojas, by Gustavo Vidal Manzanares, nuevatribuna.es).

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The Eighth Amendment Must be Repealed

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This week Fine Gael will host the European People’s Party (EPP) Congress in Dublin. Among the expected attendees is Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is currently leading an attack on reproductive rights with legislation that, if passed, would drastically restrict access to abortion in Spain. This would be an extremely regressive move at a time when most European countries are moving in entirely the opposite direction. In France, for example, MPs voted at the end of January to reword the law to state that it is a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. Late last year the French Government also introduced changes so that the cost of abortions will now be 100% reimbursed by the State.

At the same time that the EPP will be meeting, the GUE/NGL grouping in the European Parliament will hold hearings on defending sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Abortion Rights Campaign has been invited to present on reproductive rights in Ireland, and we will use the opportunity to highlight at a European level the grave consequences the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution has had for reproductive rights and maternity services in Ireland.

Introduced by referendum in 1983, the Eighth Amendment equates a pregnant woman’s life with that of an embryo or foetus. Until it is removed, there can be no progressive legislation on abortion beyond the narrow terms of the X case and, arguably, in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. Even after the passing of last year’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, Ireland still has, along with Malta, the most restrictive and punitive abortion laws in Europe. But the reality of abortion in Ireland is that the Eighth Amendment is simply not fit for purpose. It does not stop women from terminating pregnancies; it only serves to make the journey much more difficult. Every single day women travel abroad to access abortion. Others self-administer abortions at home with pills ordered from reputable websites such as Women on Web. If caught, these women could face up to 14 years in prison under last year’s abortion legislation.

Opinion polls have consistently indicated that public attitudes to abortion do not support the imposition of such onerous penalties on women who end pregnancies. Since 1980 over 150,000 women have left the country in order to access abortion, while unknown numbers have found the means to end their pregnancies in Ireland. Do citizens really believe these women should be imprisoned? As much as anti-abortion organisations try to perpetuate shame and stigma around abortion, most reasonable people do not want to see their friends, sisters or partners behind bars because they terminated a pregnancy.

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Uterus Strike

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This is a translation of an article by Beatriz Preciado, originally published in Público on 29th January 2013, regarding the Partido Popular’s anti-abortion legislation.

Locked within individualistic neoliberal fiction, we live with the naive sensation that our body belongs to us, that it is our most intimate property. However, the management of the greater part of our organs is under the aegis of various governmental and economic entities. Of all the bodily organs, it has been undoubtedly the uterus that has been the object of the greatest political and economic expropriation. As a cavity that potentially allows for gestation,the uterus is not a private organ, but a biopolitical space of exception, to which the norms that regulate the rest of our anatomical cavities do not apply. As a space of exception, the uterus resembles the refugee camp or the prison more than it does the liver or the lung.

The body of women contains within it a public space, whose jurisdiction is fought over not only by religious and political powers, but also medical, pharmaceutical and agri-food industries.Hence, as historian Joan Scott points out, women have spent a long time in a situation of “paradoxical citizenship”: if as human bodies they belong to the democratic community of free citizens, as bodies with potentially gestating uteruses, they lose their autonomy and become objects of intense surveillance and political control. Every woman carries within her a laboratory of the Nation-State upon whose management depends the purity of the national ethnos. For the past forty years, feminism has carried out, in the West, a process of decolonisation of the uterus. But the contemporary situation in Spain shows us that not only is this process unfinished, but it is fragile and can be easily revoked.

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EU civil society voice opposition to European Commission green light for fracking

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Press Statement from Fracking Free Ireland

EU civil society voice opposition to European Commission green light for fracking

Some 300 civil society groups from across Europe have addressed their concerns over proposals by the European Commission to issue non-binding guidance for the shale gas industry this week.

In an open letter addressed to EU institutions, some 300 diverse groups from across Europe criticise the Commission’s proposals to issue non-binding guidance for the industry, which pave the way for shale gas exploration. The EU executive body will announce its plans this Wednesday, as part of its 2030 Climate and Energy Package. Pressure from the fossil fuel lobby, as well as from Member States, with the UK playing a leading role, has resulted in the Commission making a U-turn from its previous course to deliver binding legislative proposals, initially favoured by Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik in October.

As new drilling sites appear across Europe, from Barton Moss in the UK to Punge?ti in Romania, groups point to how the current legal situation in the EU does not even guarantee mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments. Lobbying from Member States during recent negotiations on the review of the EIA Directive have resulted in the exemption of an amendment which would have required mandatory EIAs for shale gas projects. With no specific regulations in most Member States and plans for EU-wide legislation now scuppered, communities are at the mercy of an unregulated industry which has left a frightening toll of destruction in its wake in the US.

The Commission’s move also flies in the face of EU public opinion. The results of a consultation it carried out last year reveal that two-thirds of EU citizens believe the shale gas industry should not be developed in Europe at all. When asked which policy option repondents would like it to pursue most, citizens chose the development of a comprehensive and specific EU piece of legislation, while industry opted for guidance.

Legislators seem intent to turn a blind eye to the dangerous realities of the industry despite its own recommendations. A study published by the Commission in September 2012 identified significant gaps in at least eight key environmental directives. The same study confirmed the high risk nature of shale gas activities. A growing body of peer-reviewed scientific evidence highlighting the threats to air, water and human health continues to emerge, along with an ever expanding list of global bans and moratoria, with Dallas, Texas the latest US community to outlaw the industry.

With failure from Brussels to provide protection to citizens, Leitrim County Council voted last week to insert a ban in its County Development Plan, lending a huge boost to plans for a nationwide ban.

To coincide with the Commission’s announcement this Wednesday, citizen groups will also be staging demonstrations in protest

Fracking Free Ireland – Brussels

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