Mark Malone has made this short video with staff and participants of the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at NUI Maynooth about the intention of, and experience with, the course.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
The guest on this years Christmas edition of From Alpha to Omega is David Blacker. David is a Professor of Philosophy of Education and Legal Studies at the University of Delaware. His academic background is in the history of philosophy, and his writings pursue insights from that tradition within the context of contemporary education problems. His essays have appeared in the Monthly Review magazine, and he has just released an excellent new book, called, ‘The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame’, which looks at how the educational world is being affected by Marx’s law of the falling rate of profit. We discuss many of the themes of the book, including: determinism vs free will, base vs superstructure, the ‘Ye Deluder Satan’ Act, student debt and neo-feudalism, radical youth movements, and the utility of a stoic pessimism.
This post appeared originally on William Wall’s Ice Moon blog on the 2nd of November.
This post appeared originally on William Wall’s Ice Moon blog on the 2nd of November.
We hear so much nowadays about the need to find a way to measure how our education systems work. In England, for example, the government has just instituted a major educational reform that will see GCSEs graded in 9 levels to replace the antiquated 8 point scale. What’s even more shocking is that the old system of designating student achievement by letters (G- A*), which everyone must recognise as a way of masking the actual real world function of the metric, is to be replaced by a straightforward numerical system with 9 as the top grade. This new scale will make it easier for bosses to work out who is at the top and who is at the bottom. To say someone got a 9 in English, for example, is a much better indicator of achievement than to say they got an A. Bosses are plain-speakers and like things explained to them in plain language.
However, I feel this change, revolutionary though it is, does not go far enough. There already exists a perfectly good numerical scale that would serve to provide a real world understandable equivalent to a student’s achievement at the end of education and would be much more readily appreciated by bosses.
The ideal real-world equivalent of grading an examination would be to benchmark a student’s knowledge against a currency. So, instead of saying that after x years in the system a student has achieved a ‘pass’, a ‘d’ or whatever, terms that have no real-world equivalent, we could say that he has earned 50c or 55c, etc.
Now we have a proper metric by which to understand the fruits of education. Furthermore because of currency exchange benchmarks in the real world, we have a metric of international equivalence. Our student’s 50c can be measured against an American student’s achievements by the simple expedient of applying the prevailing exchange rate, which, of course, reflects the real world value of education over there. By applying the Reuters spot rate for today, for example, I can tell you that British Pound GCSE value of 50p is equivalent to an American Dollar rate of 67.4. It is no accident that this figure represents the European point of view as regards the American education system – their grade inflation is worse than ours.
After Seamus Heaney’s death, the Irish Times sought contributions from its online readers about what Heaney meant to them. One reader recounted meeting him at a reading at Harvard:
After the reading, I joined the throng that inched its way toward him bearing my copy of Opened Ground. When I finally reached him, to my surprise he looked me over and asked, “Ah, now. what do you do.” Flabbergasted, I told him I was a Boston Public School teacher. His response: “Ah, now, that’s a real job.” He scrawled the words, “Keep going” in my book.
Heaney himself, of course, was a teacher. He trained as a teacher at St Joseph’s Teacher Training College in Belfast, and taught at a secondary intermediate, St Thomas’s, in Ballymurphy, West Belfast. He then trained other teachers at St Joseph’s, and when he moved south, got a job teaching trainees at Carysfort College. His wife was a teacher too, as were his sister and brother.
By becoming a teacher, Heaney was taking advantage of possibilities created by the 1947 Education Act in Northern Ireland. In his superb book of interviews,Stepping Stones, Heaney recognised that neither he nor his brothers and sisters would have gone to university were it not “thanks to the system put in place by that Labour government in Britain.”
This isn’t strictly true: the 1947 Education Act, though introduced in Northern Ireland under a Labour government in Britain, was modelled on the 1944 Education Act in England, brought in by R. A. Butler under a Conservative government. However, it’s certainly true that prospects for disadvantaged young people in Northern Ireland in the 1950s were shaped for the better by the building of the Welfare State that occurred under the Attlee government elected by landslide in 1945, so the gratitude isn’t misplaced.
Nonetheless, Stepping Stones reveals Heaney’s unease at the inequalities that the new system imposed: between those who went on to a grammar school education and those who didn’t. In recalling his time spent teaching at St Thomas’s, a school for the supposedly “non-academic”, he saw how “instead of a school where equal attention was paid to all abilities, there was this favoured upper stream and then the great non-academic flow-through. My job, for the year I was in the school, was to teach English at first-year and fourth-year levels, to two of the exam-oriented classes. And I had a PE class with a group of really low-ability first years, 1G, for God’s sake, in a ranking that began with 1A.”
He said the “school was attempting to inculcate a regime of respectability and conformity, a kind of middle-class boarding-school style, but the home culture and the street culture of working-class Belfast was very different”, and recognised “disadvantaged homes and impoverished conditions generally as a barrier to growth and self-realization”.
For all its drawbacks and inequalities, the education system in the North of Ireland for working class children, sustained by gains won by the labour movement in Britain, compared favourably to what was available south of the border.
It wasn’t until 1966, the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising, that free secondary education was formally introduced in the Republic. But despite its constitutional claim to be a democratic state, the Irish State continues to fund teaching at exclusive private schools. In Enough is Enough, Fintan O’Toole highlights the fact that a fifth of all university students had paid fees at second level in 2008, and that 43% of students at UCD came from either fee-paying or grind schools. The attitude of the current government to education in line with democratic principles can be glimpsed in the fact that the 2012 Finance Bill allowed high earners to write off private school fees of up to €5,000.
Five years after the blanket bank guarantee which led to a €69 billion bank bailout being foisted on the people, the Irish haven't come out in mass protest to demand justice. Jasmin Marston, through a series of interviews with Irish people which was undertaken as part of her research for a MSc in International Relations, tries to find out why.
So where were all the angry Irish? More often in pubs than on the street? Maybe. To explore the reasons of the lack of overt contention I decided to write my thesis on the subject and interviewed some of the smart and active folks from Ireland to get a better understanding.
The factors were summed up by one respondent:
“It is more like a nuclear reaction… our perfect storm.”
The following article is an overview of my research, which included 18 interviews and a plethora of readings, shedding some light on why Ireland has seen only limited amount of protests against the bank bailout and austerity measures forced upon them over the past years.
Fear, hopelessness and guilt
“for men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute” – Hoffer, The True Believer (1951:7)
People in Ireland seems discontented yet, as interviewee 14 put it “anger has been paralyzed by fear” and adds that it’s a fear linked to the level of indebtedness.
In fact, Irish households accumulated large debts to fund purchases of property (which now have fallen sharply in value) during the boom fueled by cheap, available money from Europe. Some 80% of the 200,000-350,000 households estimated to be in negative equity are thought to be first-time buyers. The younger age group is hit particularly hard (people in their late 20’s, 30’s and 40’s), and might have bought into the guilt-laden approach presented by Brian Lenihan (former Minister of Finance) responding to a question of responsibility by an RTÉ reporter with ‘let’s be fair about it, we all partied’ (Lenihan, 2010).
Interviewee 15 states: “a lot of people feel that they lost control of themselves, they spend too much money, they borrowed too much money – I think there is a bit of guilt out there.”
For now it seems people “just desperately hoping that this will pass” said interviewee 1.
“If you believe what [the government] tells you, you can be at peace with things. Because they tell us everything is going to be ok, because we are doing the right thing.” Interviewee 16
A vital part of getting involved, for example in a protest, is the feeling that one’s involvement would matter (Passy and Giugni, 2001), yet often a sense of hopelessness in changing the situation is present in Ireland, echoed by interviewee 17: “if I thought there was a way I could actually achieve something […] I would get involved”.
Wendy Lyon of Feminist Ire on a move by ICTU to deny sex workers a “worker” identity.
Earlier this month, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions did something even its critics may not have anticipated. It took part in a meeting aimed at advancing a campaign to deny certain workers – among the most marginalised in Irish society – the right to a “worker” identity. The meeting was announced in a tweet by the Turn Off the Red Light campaign, accompanied by a pronouncement that “Prostitution is not work”.
This position should concern anyone who looks to trade union bodies to defend access to labour rights. For if sex work is not work, then sex workers are not workers, and are not entitled to the rights that that status conveys. Surely the role of trade unions is to promote greater access to those rights, not to decide who is eligible for them?
ICTU’s stance puts it at odds with the International Labour Organisation, to which it is affiliated. While the ILO is officially neutral with regard to the legal status of sex work, it has explicitly stated that labour rights should apply to that industry. An example is its confirmation last year that sex workers are covered by its Recommendation concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, 2010 (No. 200). This Recommendation, like many of the ILO’s, is stated to apply to “all workers working under all forms or arrangements, and at all workplaces, including persons in any employment or occupation”, and “all sectors of economic activity, including … the formal and informal economies”.
New Zealand, which decriminalised its sex industry in 2003, shows what labour rights for sex workers might look like in practice. Its Prostitution Reform Act explicitly protects sex workers in a number of ways:
- The right to insist on condom use (Section 9)
- The rights applying to workers under the Health and Safety in Employment Act (Section 10)
- The right to refuse any client or service, at any stage of the transaction (Sections 16 and 17)
The Act was drawn up with the input of sex workers, and the research into its impacts has reached remarkably positive conclusions. Most striking are these figures in a 2007 study by the Department of Health and General Practice at the University of Otago (Christchurch) :
Why wouldn’t any trade union see it as positive that so many people who earn their living in a traditionally unprotected sector would now feel that they have rights too? Why wouldn’t any trade union want them to have these rights?
An article on Rosie Hackett and the naming of the Marlborough street bridge by Angelina Cox, Jeni Gartland, & Lisa Connell.
The bridges arching over the sleepy river Liffey project the memories of cherished historical and cultural figures; the Butt Bridge, named after the founder of the Home Rule movement in Ireland; the Grattan Bridge, named after Henry Grattan, an 18th century Irish politician, the Sean O’Casey Bridge, named after the enlightened dramatist, and the Fr. Mathew Bridge, named after Fr. Theobold Mathew, an teetotaller priest from the 18th century. Every bridge in Dublin city centre is named after an important historical or cultural figure and every bridge in Dublin city centre is named after a man.
The practice of naming streets, bridges and other landmarks after cherished historical and cultural figures is an important form of recognition for their contributions. Lamentably, however, women’s contributions to historic struggles for independence, the trade union movement, the arts and culture have not received elucidation in Dublin city’s landscape.
The Marlborough Street Bridge is presently under construction. The naming of this new bridge is a timely opportunity to redress the gender imbalance projected in the architecture and infrastructure of Dublin city centre
The job of christening the bridge falls to Dublin city council which has produced a shortlist of five names; including two women – Rosie Hackett and Kay Mills. Given the bridge is located near Liberty Hall, naming the bridge in memory of Rosie Hackett, who lived and worked in the area, seems most fitting.
Born in 1892, Rosie dedicated her life to the trade union movement and struggle for workers’ rights.
Statement from Galway Pro-Choice
21 years since the X Case Ruling, the Irish Government has finally introduced legislation to provide for life-saving terminations. However, instead of protecting women, it has made the route to their constitutional right to be so arduous that it effectively encourages them to continue to travel abroad even when legally entitled to a termination in this country.
For the first time in Irish law, this Act defines ‘unborn human life’ which was given an equal right to life to that of the woman, as a fertilised ovum from the moment of implantation. Consequently this bill does not offer the right to choose a termination to women in Ireland who are pregnant with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. It makes no provision for abortion in cases of rape or incest, during an inevitable miscarriage while there is still a foetal heartbeat, nor indeed does it serve the needs of women whose health is at risk if a pregnancy is continued.
Orlaith Reidy of Galway Pro-Choice stated:
“Forcing women who are suicidal to face panels of between 3 to 7 medical professionals is such an ordeal in itself that women entitled to a legal abortion here will continue to travel abroad, rendering the legislation ineffective. There is also no provision to ensure those against terminations in all circumstances cannot sit on these decision making panels raising the possibility of a woman not being granted a termination regardless of her case including if there is a genuine risk to her life.”
Savita Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital after being denied a termination of an inevitable miscarriage. The inquest into her death found that had she been granted it when she made the request, she would most likely still be alive today. T.D’s, including five from Galway voted against this legislation as they believe it is too broad and will equate to ‘abortion on demand’. Yet this legislation is so incredibly narrow it would not have saved Savita’s life.
Dette Mc Loughlin of Galway Pro-Choice said:
“Under the bill ‘illegal’ abortion continues to be a criminal offense, carrying a 14 year prison sentence for the woman, and also for a doctor that performs such a termination, putting undue pressure on medics. This will affect only the most vulnerable women; mostly the thousands who order abortion pills online and take them without medical supervision. This will have potentially devastating consequences as women will be afraid to seek the medical care they require.”
Galway Pro-Choice concludes that we now must move towards repealing the 8th amendment (Article 40.3.3 of the constitution) to deliver what women in Ireland need and deserve, and the majority of people in Ireland support. We, along with other groups in Ireland, are calling for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment and will be launching our campaign with a public meeting at the end of the month.