Here’s an extract from an article on Gom’beenism by Conor McCabe, which Rabble published in their great community print magazine and have now provided online. To help keep Rabble magazine in print please support their fundit campaign.
Gombeen (g?m ‘bi:n). Anglo-Irish. Usury. Chiefly attrib., as Gombeen-Man, a money-lender, usurer; so also gombeen-woman. Hence gom’beenism, the practice of borrowing or lending at usury.
The 19th-century term Gom’beenism, the practice of borrowing or lending at usury, is increasingly referenced in relation to Ireland’s domestic economic practices. Conor McCabe takes a look at the history of the Irish middleman and argues that they haven’t gone away.
On Tuesday 3 January 1882 the nobility and landed gentry of Ireland met in Dublin to discuss the future of the island. Among those present was R.J. Mahony, a landowner from Kerry. He stood and said that the recently-passed land act would be the ruin not only of the landlords but of the small farmer as well. He explained that as soon as the landlord class was put out of the way, another would come along to take their place.‘The merchant, the trader, the usurer, the gombeen man,’ said Mahony, were ‘the future rulers of the land.’ Mr. Mahony called these the middlemen, and although he may have had his reasons for defending landlordism, his warnings were not without foundation. Forty years later the middleman were in the ascendancy and set about carving the newly-independent free state in their image – and we’ve been living with the consequences of that ever since.
Just who were these middlemen? In an article published in 1982 Michael D. Higgins wrote that the mainstream image of the period – and the one taught at secondary level – was one of poor small farmers fighting against perfidious, foreign landlords. However, what was glossed over in such a black and white analysis was that there was another struggle – a class struggle – going on, one that involved small farmers and the rancher/grazier families. These large rancher farmers fattened cattle for export, and occasionally they were the local shopkeepers, the arbiters of credit in the community, and the dispensers of loans. It gave them significant societal influence and power. Not all shopkeepers were graziers, of course, but neither one was the friend of the smallholder. The social relations which underpinned Irish rural society were not only framed by land, but by credit: those who needed it, and those who profited from it. And in the north and west of Ireland, it was the Irish entrepreneurial spirit of the middleman and his gombeen cousin that held sway over credit.
Read the rest here.
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Enda Kenny in his apology in the Dail called it a ‘profound indifference.’ He said we were able to put the Magdalene women away because ‘for too many years we put away our conscience.’ He was talking of course about something that had been happening since the beginning of this state and which only finally came to an end in 1996. For Enda Kenny though and most of the audience the idea was that this, the horror that was the laundries, the sin that was the incarceration of innocent women, could all be blamed on the past, that what we were really talking about was 1950s Ireland, about a prejudice and snobbery and false piety that belonged to an Ireland that was now gone. Our ‘indifference’ belonged to the past, our buried ‘conscience’ was now unearthed. For ‘our’ indifference and conscience what we really meant was ‘theirs,’ those from the past. Them not us. Not us, at all.
Which is nice and comforting, isn’t it? As if we were confronting something when in essence we were just blaming it on those who went before. Like being absolved but of someone else’s sins. Still, the history of societies looking the other away, claiming not to have known what everyone really knew, has a sinister history, with even the worst state murders of the last century being characterised by that very thing. Thankfully, we are not within that sphere of inhumanity, but do we even want to share any of those social characteristics? Do we want to be another society that turned away, that buried our conscience, that lived by indifference, that ‘didn’t know’? Because we do know and if we don’t talk about it we are indifferent or putting away our conscience or lying.
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I wish to bring to your attention the numerous incidents of racism that have been in the Irish press over the last 2 weeks. What they amounted to was a public representative, be it a councillor or a senator, as well as a judge using either racist slang or making racist statements in the course of their work. These statements were largely brushed under the carpet by the media despite the long term effects they have on the oppressed groups they targeted. A statement by a Fianna Fail senator last week that he would not get into a taxi driven by an “obvious” non-national resonates quite closely with our own problems with racism in Galway city.
Despite numerous letters to the local media as well as reports categorically confirming that racism against African taxi drivers is rife in the city, the practice continues with more and more non-national drivers reporting incidents of aggravated racial assault and abuse, to the effect now that these men and women see it as normal for them receive racism on a daily basis.
Comments by this Senator only serve to cement such prejudice and make the day-to-day living of an African taxi driver that bit harder. In times of recession and economic crisis, it has been noted that racist attitudes begin to rise due to people lashing out at whoever is the easiest to blame. Surely our political representatives were elected to rally against such attitudes, and not stoke the fires of racism in a bid to represent, and ultimately win votes, from people who play on such racist attitudes, much like the Conservative Party in the UK covers such areas in a bid to make the British National Party irrelevant.
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Ireland Jilted Generation
Exchange, Temple Bar
Monday 29th Oct
People in power in Ireland have abandoned those under 35.
There are 20% less people in their 20's in the country in the last 4 years. In the same period the general population has actually risen.
Unemployment has gone from 4% to nearly 15%. The data I have found is showing that the burden has fallen almost solely on the 15-35 year olds. The % of people working in the 50+ age group has has barely fallen at all.
In a recent poverty risk report people 18-30 are over 3 times more likely to be in the high risk of poverty catagory as those in the 61+ age group.
This talk looks at the the major differences between here and the UK who have similar problems but the scale here is much more stark. I was genuinely dumbstuck by the speed and veracity of the age discrimination grip since the crisis began. This is the untold story of the financial crises.
Is this uniquely Irish ageist protectionism the main reason behind Irelands emigration epidemic?
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Press Release from Anti-Deportation Ireland, including an Executive Summary of the report which is being launched tomorrow…
‘The direct provision system is destroying people’s lives, and the injustice of deportations must be ended’ according to Anti-Deportation Ireland (ADI). The organization, comprised of asylum-seekers from direct provision centres all over Ireland, and their supporters, will launch a campaign and research report in Unite the Union, 15 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, on October 3rd at 11.30am.
The launch comes a week after the death of a Congolese asylum-seeker, Emmanuel Marcel Landa in Mosney, the 49th person to die in the system of Direct Provision since 2000. It also follows the march of several hundred people in Galway city on September 15th to protest against the summary dispersal of 270 asylum-seekers living in Lisbrook House. They were due to be relocated to other centres around the country, despite the fact that many have been living in and integrated into the local community during the last years.
According to Luke Bukha of ADI, the direct provision system ‘takes people who have been uprooted from their homes and who have often suffered terrible traumas and confines them in a system that leaves them without choice and often hope.
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The first of four community stories which together provide an overview of Community Education in Dublin. Part of DCTV’s Beyond the Classroom project produced in partnership with the Aontas Community Education Network and funded by…
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[An open letter to the Government: Signatories are listed below] THE GOVERNMENT’S economic strategy is failing. The Irish recession has been deeper and longer than almost any other in the industrialised world. Consumer spending has…
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