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Anglo: Not Our Debt Campaigners Alarmed at ECB Pressure

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Debt Justice Action – a coalition of community, trade union, global justice, academic, faith-based and other groups that hosts the Anglo: Not Our Debt Campaign –  has described as “alarming” media reports that the Irish government is being pressured by the European Central Bank to quickly sell on to the private sector the government bonds it issued to replace the Anglo promissory notes in 2013.

Spokesperson Niamh McCrea said that any such sale would “make an already bad deal even worse”.  She said, “The debts run up by a bank like Anglo, which is under criminal investigation, should never have been taken on by the Irish people through the promissory notes, and those notes should not have been turned into sovereign debt, as the government did last year, extending the repayment period but with no write-down of the debt”.

Andy Storey pointed out that as the bonds are currently held by the Central Bank of Ireland, any interest paid on them stays with the Irish state, but that “if they are sold to the private sector, as the ECB is now pushing to happen quickly, then the same class of creditors and bondholders whose gambles were made good by the Irish government will end up making yet more money by raking in the interest payments due”.

Ms McCrea called on the Irish government to “for once, resist ECB pressure and insist that the bonds remain with the Central Bank with a view to negotiating the write-down of this odious and illegitimate debt”.

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The Garda Inspectorate Report is Just One Small Part of More to Come

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In April of last year, former Irish Independent journalist, Gemma O’Doherty did something that no journalist appropriately indoctrinated is supposed to do: She dared to question the received orthodoxy. The dogma in question related to prominent figures in Irish society having penalty points and Fixed Charge Notices (FCNs) cancelled. O’Doherty discovered that the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, had penalty points of his own cancelled and dared to approach him about it. Not long afterwards she was brought in front of an internal committee of Independent News & Media (INM), the company which owns the Irish Independent, and reprimanded for her approaching the Commissioner. By August she was made compulsorily redundant. Her former boss, Stephen Rae, also happened to have penalty points cancelled and was the former editor of Garda Review magazine, “the professional voice of the Garda” according to its website. This is just one part of the larger story surrounding the penalty points scandal which has been slowly coming to a boil over the last two years. The only reason that the cancellation of penalty points has been thrust into the public sphere is because of the actions of two whistleblowers; retired Garda John Wilson and Sgt. Maurice McCabe.

There has been much obfuscation on the part of certain elements of the media and amongst the political echelon. The two gardaí have been labelled as “uncooperative” and “disgusting”. Character assassinations of this kind are nothing new and neither are the reasons for their characters being attacked. They, like O’Doherty, also dared to tell the truth and challenge the status quo. Wilson related that he first became aware of the level of the cancellation of penalty points in 2012 when one of his colleagues was transferred to a particular district in order to “clean it up”. There were numerous problems there relating to discipline, lack of proper investigatory procedures, and in general “shoddy practices”. Wilson’s colleague contacted him and informed him that he felt isolated and unsupported by his superiors. It was this colleague of Wilson’s who informed him of “strange patterns in the penalty points system”, with “clusters” of cancellations being found. What this meant was that the same people were having penalty points cancelled on multiple occasions. Wilson decided to do his own investigating and began “mooching around” the PULSE system in order to “garner full knowledge” of what was taking place. He soon discovered that the cancellation of penalty points was widespread, i.e., countrywide. What’s more is that the same type of “clusters” described above were also discovered around the country.

Wilson then decided to make a complaint to the garda Confidental Recipient regarding a small number of the penalty point cancellations. The person in question contacted the offices of various government ministers, including the Taoiseach’s, in which he made it clear that there were serious allegations being made regarding corruption in the gardaí. Concurrent to this, Sgt. McCabe wrote to the Taoiseach in July, August, and September outlining his concerns with reference to the cancellation of penalty points. From here the Taoiseach passed the issue on to Alan Shatter who in turn contacted Garda Commissioner Callinan about the issue. Not long afterwards, Callinan appointed Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney to head-up a report on the subject. This report was apparently preliminarily completed within one month, in November 2012. In the meantime, months had gone by and neither Wilson nor McCabe were contacted. Wilson, fed up waiting, then approached TD Clare Daly with his findings. One month later in December of 2012, Sgt. McCabe was visited by Chief Superintendent Mark Curran who had arrived at McCabe’s station in order to issue him a directive from the Commissioner. Callinan claimed that McCabe was a directed to cooperate with the investigation being carried out by O’Mahoney. The transcript of the conversation, which was surreptitiously recorded by McCabe, says otherwise. McCabe was ordered to “desist searching PULSE” and from handing over information regarding the penalty points issue to a third party. This interdiction also included handing over the relevant information to the garda Confidential Recipient and the Taoiseach. It was mere weeks later when Daly was arrested on suspicion of drink driving, a suspicion which turned out to be completely unfounded. By the time Assistant Commissioner O’Mahoney’s report was finalised in March of 2013 neither Wilson or McCabe had been contacted by the report’s author.

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The Case of the Elusive Paid Job

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I’ve heard a great deal recently about economic recovery and job creation. Ireland’s unemployed should be optimistic, and if we’re not, well, who’d want to hire us with that attitude? All we need to do is ride it out, keep a positive outlook and before we know it we’ll all be upstanding citizens again, able to pay our bills without the weekly humiliation of social welfare. I’d like to believe that, but I don’t see any evidence of it: all I see in the jobs pages are some high-tech, highly specific positions in large multinational companies, jobs that require qualifications and languages that very few Irish people possess, and an enormous, unshakable, mass of Job Bridge Internships.

Yesterday I looked up one of the main recruitment sites and put “Cork” and “admin/PA/secretarial” into the search engine. I got five results for paid jobs (not Jobs Bridge), four of which were: “Finnish Customer Service Associate”, “Polish Accounts Assistant”, “Logistics Administrator with Turkish or Hebrew” and “German SAP Rep”. The outlook is similar whenever I search for vacancies. I’m under no illusion, I fully understand the requirements of EU free movement of workers, and I don’t deny the right of any person to take up work in another EU member state, but I cannot see how these jobs are going to filter through to the vast majority of unemployed people.

The system implies it’s our own fault; Irish people didn’t learn the right skills, we should have been able to predict the future. We’re told that we’re living in a globalised world now, and it’s up to us to stay “relevant” to ever-evolving labour market requirements, requirements that now, seemingly, we are surplus to. We are in over-supply: cheap, expendable and easily substitutable.

The Irish unemployed, it has transpired, must be happy to do Job Bridge Internships. After all, we are the great unemployable, why wouldn’t we be satisfied to work a full week for our dole? We deserve it for not learning obscure languages or qualifying in high-tech areas that didn’t exist five years ago. Every second job advertised, that doesn’t require unreachable and prohibitive levels of experience – from cleaner and meat-counter assistant to teacher, solicitor and scientist – is a Job Bridge Internship.

When I was in university it was common for students to work in retail or as waiters or waitresses part-time to fund their studies. Now almost every low-paid casual job is a Job-Bridge that requires the lucky participants to be on the Live Register for three months, so I can’t see how students could possibly hope to work. It’s not just students: so many people I know in their late twenties and early thirties, people with post-graduate qualifications and years of work experience, have not only done Job Bridges but have had to compete with other similarly qualified people to get them. When I hear of a friend getting an actual, paid job, it’s like a miracle, and even then it usually comes down to personal contacts.

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Friday Stat Attack: Ireland Holds the Record for Longest Domestic Recession in the EU

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Some commentators are celebrating our ‘recovery’.  Some have even said that we have recovered relatively quickly, after a dramatic fall.  Here we go again – rewriting history, distorting the current situation.

Ireland holds the record for the longest domestic demand recession in the EU.  And the really bad news is that we may not be out of it yet.  The following table breaks down the length of consecutive domestic demand recession that EU countries have suffered since 1960.

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Almost all EU countries have, since 1960, suffered at least a two-year domestic demand recession – with the exception of France and Malta (though data only goes back to 1996 for the island).  Some domestic demand recessions have been harsh – Estonia’s two-year experience saw a fall of over 30 percent; some have been mild – Poland’s two-year experience saw a fall of less than one percent.

Ireland – along with Spain and Greece – have the longest consecutive domestic demand recession:  six years.  And in the tradition of breaking the tie, let’s count the number of years that domestic demand fell since 1960:

  • Ireland:  12 years
  • Greece:  10 years
  • Spain:  9 years

With 12 years where domestic demand fell, Ireland wins on points.

Indeed, Ireland wins the double:  longest domestic demand recession and the highest number of years where domestic demand fell.  Since 1960, Ireland has spent 23 percent of the time suffering from falling domestic demand. That’s the cup.

But, surely, this is nit-picking – what with all that recovery going on.  So don’t worry about it.

Enjoy the weekend.

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Launch of ATTAC Ireland, 5/6 April

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Disarm the Markets: Launch of Attac Ireland with a public talk by Esther Jeffers (University of Paris VIII and European Attac Network) and IFSC walking tour with Conor McCabe.

Where: Room 4-027, Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street, Dublin 2

When: Saturday 5th April, 2pm.

Attac is an international movement working towards social, environmental and democratic alternatives to neoliberal globalisation. Founded in France in 1998, it fights for the regulation of financial markets, the closure of tax havens, the introduction of global taxes to finance global public goods, the cancellation of debt, fair trade, and the implementation of limits to free trade and capital flows (see www.attac.org).

5th April marks the launch of the Irish chapter of Attac. Attac Ireland is delighted to welcome Esther Jeffers who will speak at the event. Esther is a lecturer at the University of Paris VIII and a specialist on shadow banking and finance in the Euro area.

Esther’s talk will be followed by an open meeting for anyone interested in becoming involved with Attac Ireland. This meeting will provide an opportunity for people to learn more about Attac, and to discuss how Attac Ireland could be developed to challenge financial power and injustice through education and activism.

These events will be followed on Sunday morning 6th April, with a walking tour of the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) by Dr Conor McCabe (UCD School of Social Justice). Time tbc.

Follow Attac Ireland on Facebook

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In Ireland, the Jobs River Flows Uphill

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There’s a lot of confusion out there.  IBEC found the recent fall in consumer spending ‘puzzling ‘ – what with all the increase in employment.  Others have found it strange, too – strong employment growth but falling consumer demand.  Shouldn’t the big increase in employment translate into higher consumer spending and domestic demand?  What’s going on here?

Well, it’s only puzzling if you accept that employment grew by 60,000 over the last year.  However, once you lift the lid on the numbers and find that the 60,000-growth number in the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) is a statistical quirk, then it starts to make sense.

First, let’s note the CSO’s warning about interpreting trends in employment growth during the period they are realigning their sampling base with the 2011 census.  This realignment ensures that their Quarterly National Household survey sample is aligned with the population.  They do this after each census.

‘After each Census of Population the sample of households for the QNHS is updated to ensure the sample remains representative. The new sample based on the 2011 Census of Population has been introduced incrementally from Q4 2012 to Q4 2013. This change in sample can lead to some level of variability in estimates, particularly at more detailed levels and some caution is warranted in the interpretation of trends over the period of its introduction.’

Now let’s look at the employment numbers.  Between the 4th quarter in 2012 and 2013, employment grew by 60,900 – or 3.3 percent (not seasonally adjusted).  However, self-employment grew by 33,400, or 11.5 percent.  So, self-employment made up 55 percent of all employment growth.  Is this realistic?  No.

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That Tory Recovery in Perspective

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This post was originally published on Socialist Economic Bulletin on Tuesday the 18th of March.

This week George Osborne will announce his latest Budget. The specific measures in this Budget were not published at the time of writing. But it is a fairly safe assumption that he will boast that the economy is on track, and that there is a recovery. This is simply an exercise in redefinition.

The economy grew by just 1.9% in 2013. This is following a period of historically slow growth, the deepest recession in living memory and the weakest recovery on record. Yet many commentators and not just explicit supporters of austerity seem to believe this means we are automatically on track for a genuine recovery with all that means for growing jobs, rising real pay and improving living standards.

Unfortunately both the celebrations and the optimism are misplaced. Of course this does not mean that the economy will never grow again. It is even possible that growth will be a little better in 2014 than it was in 2013. But after most recessions the economic rebound is usually fairly strong. After a very steep recession the recovery should be very strong. That is not the case currently.

Annual growth in GDP of just 1.9% in 2013 is the best since 2007. But that is really a measure of the crisis of the economy and how badly policy has failed.

Prior to the current crisis, in the 20 years to 2008 the average annual growth rate of GDP was a little under 3%. In the same 20 year period from 1988 to 2008 only 3 years have seen worse growth for the British economy than last year’s 1.9% and all of those were associated with the recession under the Tories in the early 1990s (the ERM crisis).

So, a growth rate associated in the past with crisis is now redefined as recovery and heralded as success. Crisis is redefined as success; stagnation is now growth.

Current growth rates also remain well below the previous trend. That means the gap between where we are and where could or should have been is actually getting wider. It would take many years of sustained growth above that 3% rate in order to close the gap between the actual level of GDP and its previous trend. No major forecasting body suggests anything like that is going to happen over the next few years. The chart below shows the trend growth of Britain’s GDP in from 1988 to 2008.

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They Partied. We Pay: Public Meeting, Connolly Books, Sat. 29th of March @2pm

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We All Partied?

They Partied. We Pay.

Public Meeting

Sat 29th March, at 2pm

Connolly Books
43 East Essex Street,
Temple Bar,
Dublin 2

The Communist Party of Ireland would like to invite you to the first of our new series of public talks.

The first talk will deal with the establishment false claims that we have left the bailout and put behind us the “Programme For Ireland.”

Nothing more than spoof and spin.

Speakers:

Dr. Conor McCabe
(Author and Editor of Irish Left Review)

Gareth Murphy
(Trade Union Left Forum)

Kathleen Lynch
(Professor of Equality Studies, UCD)

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The Cuban 5: Obama is On the Wrong Side of History

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Here’s a true story. It’s about a Chicago born US citizen who has dedicated his life to fighting terrorist attacks against his country. It’s about a man that left his wife and 1 year old daughter to infiltrate renowned terrorist groups who have planned and executed many bombings and killed innocent victims, including tourists. This man worked assiduously and brilliantly in this anti-terrorist endeavour and put his life at risk to save others on many occasions. As well as providing evidence to the US state forces that helped catch and jail drug dealers and crooks he was a major part of a unit which presented a very thick file to the FBI about embedded terrorists on US territory. His reward?

He, along with four fellow members of his intelligence unit, were turned upon by a highly politicised US judicial system in South Florida and jailed by the USA, in his case for 15 years. He spent the early part of his incarceration in a solitary confinement unit usually reserved for the most violent prisoners and yet the man has never been accused of, let alone found guilty of, any violent act. Confused? Well the story is true, current and, if you are the man’s colleague Gerardo Hernandez – sentenced to two life terms and 15 years – an outcome that involves freedom in his lifetime is not planned. When I tell you that Rene Gonzalez and his four colleagues were working for Cuban intelligence to protect Cuba from terrorists based in Miami perhaps you will be less surprised. But you should be no less appalled.

There is something about sitting in the English Law Society in London’s Chancery Lane listening to this case that makes it’s facts all the more remarkable. That the facts were last week put to an International Commission of three esteemed Justices from France, South Africa and India is a good thing, for international justice has miserably failed these men to date. That the evidence includes contributions not only from the participants and their families, but from people of unquestionable international diplomatic and legal renown must surely mean that the USA will soon see sense and free the Cuban 5. We will return to the evidence later but for now, what is the case, and the International Commission about?

First let us imagine a small island of 14 million citizens just 90 miles from the Florida Keys and the southernmost coast of the world’s only remaining superpower, at least in the traditional sense. This island, Cuba, went from being a Spanish colony to an American plaything and, eventually the playground of the mob and America’s leading gangsters. Cuba was the mobs Las Vegas before Las Vegas was developed. All that changed in 1959 when Fidel Castro led a peasant revolution that, to the surprise of the watching world, drove the mob, their prostitutes and their drugs back across the Florida Straits to South Florida and Miami. Castro then declared the revolution to be a socialist revolution, some would say communist, and began to forge alliances with China and the Soviet Union, right on America’s doorstep.  Those that stayed and backed Castro have remained remarkably loyal in very trying circumstances. These circumstances include a US blockade that has stymied the Cuban economy, is denounced every year in the United Nations but which America’s UN veto allows it to maintain without UN sanction. Those that left, especially those who left in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, remain hate filled and bitter towards Castro, socialist Cuba and the revolution which they are determined to overthrow using whatever means is necessary. Despite their efforts Castro’s revolution has outlasted eleven US Presidents.

It is in this context that terrorism against Cuba has been a fact of life almost since the very start in 1959. While Castro’s victory at the Bay of Pigs and the infamous missile crisis of 1963, when Khruschev and Kennedy brought the world to the nuclear brink in a game of bluff, have been written and reported on voluminously the small island’s fight against ongoing terrorism is a lonely and often silent one. And while it would be wrong to blame the US as a nation for this terrorism, the fact remains that the terrorists live, fund raise and plan their acts from South Florida and have done so for over fifty years. It is probably the case that most readers have not heard about this terrorism against Cuba, about the long list of hotel bombings, crop poisonings including precious tobacco plants, infrastructure sabotage efforts and the never ending and bizarre attempts on Fidel Castro’s life that range from exploding cigars to beard poisoning agents.

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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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From Alpha to Omega Podcast: #047 The Failure of Capitalist Production

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This week I am delighted to have Prof. Andrew Kliman back on the show to talk about his latest book – ‘The Failure of Capitalist Production’. The book is a brilliant example of empirical economic research, and shows us how relevant and insightful Marx’s work still is, in helping us understand the workings of our capitalist economy.

We discuss the empirical evidence in the US that supports Marx’s Tendential Fall in the Rate of Profit, the stagnation of capital accumulation, and the role of the IT revolution in the state of the economy. We also talk of the Great Depression, how it sowed the seeds for the renewal of the global economy, and what is behind the growing inequality we see around us today.

You can find Andrew’s book on sale here: (I very much recommend buying a copy!)

And his blog is here.

Enjoy!

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Moments of crisis: Aer Lingus seeks millions from SIPTU over strike threat

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Sam Nolan, veteran socialist and trade unionist and long-standing Secretary of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions has post this personal message on Facebook today (14th March). I have commented on it below.

“Moments of crisis happen at certain stages of history. Such a moment is now upon the trade union movement. The threatened move by AER LINGUS to sue SIPTU for financial damages for a strike that did not take place is such a moment. This move is a threat to the future activity of every trade union in the country. There must be a sharp militant response from CONGRESS affiliated unions as well as a legal challenge. Labour in government must decide which class it represents.”

My comment:

There has been surprising little reaction from the unions, the left and even the blogosphere (or my sector of it) to the announcement that Aer Lingus was suing SIPTU over a strike that did not take place.

The action by Aer Lingus, for damages, breach of contract and, in at least one report I heard, conspiracy, has all the marks of the pre-1906 open season on trade unions. As the day wore on the need for someone authoritative in the labour movement to take a stand and make a clarion call was ever more pressing. It is no accident that it is Sam Nolan that has stepped forward and it is fitting and fortunate that it is he who has. Not only has he stood in the front line for decades but he has the respect and authority in the trade union movement to be taken seriously and to be heeded and followed.

When Sam Nolan says it – “Moments of crisis happen at certain stages of history. Such a moment is now upon the trade union movement” – you know it is not stock left rhetoric. It is not some hamburger merchant that is suing, it is the national airline, backed by the airport authority and also by the biggest anti-union outfit on the continent, the William Martin Murphy of 2014.

It is time for SIPTU and ICTU to fight before there is nothing left to fight for – or fight with. And fight with street mobilisation and industrial action, not just in the courts or with press statements which omit that the Labour Party is in government and, in this case, that the government is on the board of the union-busting company. I hope unions, union committees and Branch and Sector Committees can take up his call without delay and that, if there is a delay, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions can repeat its recurrent role of being the focus and the catalyst on crises facing the labour movement.

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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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Friday Stat Attack – War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, Recession is Recovery

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RTE’s David Murphy described the Quarterly National Account numbers as ‘really good’.  Professor John Fitzgerald said the numbers showed a ‘reasonably robust recovery’.   We are told the actual numbers  aren’t all that important– the ones that show economic growth actually declining in 2013, the ones that show that the decline in the final three months of last year was the worst quarterly performance since 2008.  Don’t mind any of that downer stuff.  Like the following chart.

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Domestic demand comprises consumer spending, investment and government spending on public services (excluding exports and imports).  This makes up 75 percent of GDP.  It is one of the better indicators of the domestic economy, but by no means the only one.   Another great advantage is that it is not as sensitive to multi-national accounting activities as other indicators.

So what does the above chart show?

A flat-line for the last three years.

Stagnation.

Six years of a domestic demand recession.

It goes up a bit and a down a bit (slightly more down), but never strays too far from the flat-line.  Domestic demand fell in three out of the last four quarters.  Since the Government took office, it has fallen seven out of eleven quarters.   In the final three months of last year, the fall in domestic demand was the most severe since 2011.  ‘Really good’?  ‘Robust’?

Some commentators pointed to rising GNP.   The problem with using GNP is that it is determined by international flows; if a company keeps profit here, GNP goes up; if they export it, GNP goes down.  Whichever the company does has little impact on the domestic economy.  So GNP went up last year – but it was not based on rising domestic activity.

RTE news last night, as part of its coverage of the CSO economic numbers, featured a successful café.  The owner claimed that patrons have started spending a little bit more – which I’m sure is true (the business opened its third outlet).  This anecdote was used to portray the entire economy as starting to grow through higher consumer spending.

But the CSO reported that consumer spending fell last year.  It fell faster than the year before – 2012.  It fell three times more than the year before.  Nothing on that in the RTE report – that would cut across the constructed narrative of an improving economy.

Sigh.

Have a good St. Patrick’s weekend.  Have a better one than the economy is having.

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