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Left Surge in the Republic of Ireland’s 2014 Local and European Elections

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This article originally appeared in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on May 27, 2014.

Over the past few days there has been a minor earthquake in Irish politics. Sinn Fein has made a breakthrough into mainstream southern Irish politics, almost doubling its vote to 17% nationally in municipal polls and achieving more than 20% in the European election, with MEP in each Euro electoral district in the South. This was alongside a surge of electoral success from those further to the left and independents.

Overall in the municipal elections in the South, Sinn Fein won 150 seats and the “further left” won around 40.

In the European election, Sinn Fein topped the Dublin poll with a first-time candidate; this was replicated in Ireland South with another first-time candidate winning a European seat for the party, as well as Matt Carthy winning the closely fought third seat in the Midlands Northwest constituency. The success of first-time candidates across Ireland has seen Sinn Fein arrive as a party, lessening its previous dependence on individual local candidates.

The bourgeois parties are attempting to console themselves with the belief that people vote differently on Euro and local elections compared to national elections. There is ample evidence, however, that Sinn Fein and the further left can convert much of their success into Dail (parliament) seats and wider political influence.

An interesting aspect to the Sinn Fein vote was that Gerry Adam’s recent arrest for the 1972 murder of Jean McConville seemed to have no effect on the outcome.

Nationally, the governing Fine Gael Party lost 8.4 per cent of its vote, leaving it at 24%, while the Labour Party, the junior coalition party, lost half its popular vote, to 7%. The Labour Party was decimated in the local councils across Ireland; the party has now no seats on Cork City Council (Ireland’s second-biggest city), and the party has been reduced to eight seats on Dublin City Council (a drop of 17% of the first preference votes). Nationally, Labour has been reduced to 50 seats, which compares poorly to Sinn Fein’s 157.

In Dublin, Sinn Fein won almost one quarter of first preference votes, an increase of 12%, making it the largest party on the council with 16 seats. This vote tallies with the 23% won by Sinn Fein’s Lynn Boylan in the European election, making the party by far the most popular in the city.

On the far left the Socialist Party and its electoral front, the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA), won a very impressive 14 council seats; what is particularly important here is that the block won three seats on the Limerick City Council and three seats on Cork City Council, making it a national rather than Dublin-centric alliance. The Socialist Party also won a parliamentary by-election in Dublin West, meaning that now two of the four seats in the constituency are Socialist Party. This also leaves the party well placed to keep a seat after party stalwart Joe Higgin’s retirement from parliamentary politics in 2016.

The Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and its electoral form, the People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA), also did very well, winning a total of 14 council seats. (The group also made a breakthrough in Northern Ireland winning a seat on Belfast City Council).

Outside of the main blocks, the United Left (a group made up of some independents from the now defunct United Left Alliance), won two council positions and the Workers’ Party won a seat on Cork City Council. The Tipperary Workers’ and Unemployed Group also won a seat. A number of independent left councillors were also elected across the country, some of whom will be key to the future development of left politics.

One sour note on the left was the loss of Paul Murphy’s (Socialist Party) Dublin European seat. In a particularly Machiavellian move, the SWP ran a candidate (Brid Smith) in the European election with the aim of building her profile for the 2016 national elections. This — as widely predicted — split the vote with Murphy taking 30,000 (around 8%) of the first preference vote and Smith taking 23,000. Smith argued that her standing made no difference to the final outcome, but this is a very dubious claim as the few percentage points that most likely would have gone to Murphy may have been enough to keep him ahead of the pack in the transfer race.

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European Elections 2014: 2020 Hindsight

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The results of the European Union’s Parliamentary elections are just in. They are twofold: first, there is a clear disinterest in the European Parliament as expressed by very low voting turnouts and second, of the few Europeans that did bother to vote, many have decided that it is time for a change.

Non-voters in the European Parliamentary elections are the majority in those nations without compulsory voting. The European turnout was 43% with 57% not voting or spoiling their vote. In Germany 48% voted, 46% voted in France, 36% in the UK and 35% in Portugal. There was extreme disinterest in the European elections in much of Eastern Europe: with 24% turnout in Croatia; 23% in Poland, 19% in The Czech Republic; and the Slovakians with a 13% turnout.

Christoph Hasselbach of Deutsche Welle’s Europe desk noted: “As for turnout, the picture is mixed: in some countries more people voted than before, but those votes often went to Euro-skeptic parties.” “All in all”, he added “the general public’s interest in the EU is shockingly low”.

As to the changes in voting patterns, highlights of the wave of political change include the rise of the German anti-EU AfD party (Alternative für Deutschland) which gained their first seats in the European Parliament; France, where Marine Le Pen’s party was the overall winner of 24 seats with more than 25% of the vote; Spain, which now has a new fourth party called “Podemos” with an anti-EU/Troika and an anti-capitalist stance which may have taken many of the PP and PSOE’s 17 lost seats; and the UK where non-finalised counts indicate that the right-of-centre anti-EU party UKiP (United Kingdom Independence Party) has won the election gaining, for the first time ever, more MEPs than either the Tory or Labour parties; finally there is Greece, where the “SYRIZA” far left alliance has come out on top with 27% of the national vote and seven MEPs.

On a national level Europe’s political structure has been reasonably stable since the Second World War and more specifically since the first waves of growth of the Common Market in the 1970’s. This has been broadly reflected in the European Parliamentary party groups since the Parliament began in 1979. Until today the main groups in the European Parliament reflected two broad nation political categories. The centre-left grouping in the European Parliament is the S&D “The Group of the Progressive Alliance of socialists and Democrats” which includes the German SPD, the PSOE in Spain, the French Socialist Party and Labour in the UK, among others. The large centre-right grouping in the European Parliament is called the EPP “The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)”, it includes Germany’s CDU party, the Spanish PP and the UK Tory party. Provisional results at 11:00AM/CET on Monday, May 26 show the S&D lost seven seats since the last (2009) elections falling to 189 MEPs but the EPP did even worse, losing 60 seats to 214 seats. There are 63 new ultra-left-wing MEPs and 63 new ultra right-wing MEPs who have not yet aligned themselves to European party groups. This change is a clear demonstration of the radicalization of European politics.

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New LabourLeaks Website: Exposing Wrongdoing in the Workplace

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There is an independent and anonymous project being launched at the moment called Labourleaks.org and it is calling for contributions from workers, labour, social justice and free knowledge activists alike. These contributions would be given anonymously and securely to protect contributors privacy, using GPG or a similar software.

The site can be viewed here: LabourLeaks.org

The following is taken from the site and outlines the idea behind it:

OK. You know about press leaks: they are as old as the press. You know about the famous/notorious online Wikileaks, this is only seven years old and is one part of the subversive/emancipatory capacity of the web. There are increasing numbers of such leaks, produced by particular groups for particular purposes, for different kinds of public.

Well, we are labour activists, long active both on the shopfloor and online. And we have ourselves had bad experience with company secrecy and ‘managerial prerogatives’: some of us have been disciplined or sacked for exposing information that is essential for ourselves or our fellow workers.

This is why we have created labourleaks.org/.

You may know – as you may have personally experienced – any worker, anyone casually employed, any unemployed person exposing wrongdoings in their workplace (private or public) runs the risk of employer or government reprisals. This is the case, whether one is reporting bullying, corruption, misuse of public subsidies or whatever.

Moreover, with the increasing movement from an industrial to a computerized capitalism, any previous practice or ideal of a balance of power between management and workers is being seriously eroded. Big Brother has always, of course, been denying us essential information, has been watching and controlling us. Computerisation enables Big Brother to do this in ever more sophisticated ways. Corporations, managers and the state agencies have multiple ways of keeping an eye on us.

Cyberspace, however – as Wikileaks has amply demonstrated – also represents a potent counter-power. Whilst they can both keep an eye on us and deny us access to vital information, we can turn the matter around.

And when we make information public, we have democracy on our side – the principle of transparency and public access to matters concerning that public (whether at the level of the workplace, the corporation, the state). We cannot trust any claims of those with power over our jobs, our health and safety, our continued employment, the environment we live in, our right to self-organisation and self expression. LabourLeaks is designed to provide the means for workers – be they full time, contracted, precarious, migrant, the unemployed, men and women, old and young, to make their grievances – and documentation or other evidence that supports this – public.

We further believe that trade unions, works councils, and other bodies that represent us, can only do so effectively in so far as they commit themselves to transparency vis-à-vis the workers represented and the general public, and in so far as their actions are open to public scrutiny. So the making public of how workers’ representatives themselves operate is another major concern for LabourLeaks.

If you have material you want to publicise on this site, send it to us at: submissions at labourleaks.org.

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Ukrainian Marxists and Russian Imperialism 1918-1923: Prelude to the Present in Eastern Europe’s Ireland

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Introduction

Ukrainians were ruled by Russia and experienced the coercive genocidal impulse behind Russian universalist Enlightenment rationalism from the horrors of 1708-12 and the 1820s (Arakcheev’s military colonies), to those of 1919-1949. They accordingly have a tradition of anti-colonialist thought, like all peoples who experienced modernization through domination, that is relevant to today’s events. This should be remembered today, when so many in the European  “democratic” and “anti-Stalinist” left condone instead of condemn Putin’s renewed Russian imperialism and its neo nazi fifth-column in Ukraine. Accordingly this article reviews the little-known Ukrain­ian anti-colonialist Marxist critique of Russian tsarist and Bolshevik rule up to 1923. It summarizes some of the key ideas of Ukrainian Marxist anti-colonialist thinkers noting that they can be placed alongside men like Amilcar Cabral, Tan Malaka, Frantz Fanon and Aime Cesaire.

This article also draws attention to the fact that although there is a Ukrainian Marxist revolutionary tradition behind the current anti-Russian struggle, there is no influential Ukrainian socialist party to speak of. There only exists the old soviet Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), formed in 1918 as a sub-branch of the Russian Communist Party (RCP). This party was overwhelmingly non-Ukrainian in its ethnic composition until the 1950s and has always stood for Ukrainian subordination to and integration with the former imperial power – Russia. Today because of its leaders’ opulent lifestyle and generous financial backing from politically pro Russian oligarchs the CPU is popularly known as the Capitalist Party of Ukraine.  It now supports Putin’s imperialism and the Russian Eurasianist neo-nazis.

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Greek Elections Update: A Small Step for SYRIZA, a Medium Step for Golden Dawn

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The first round of the Greek municipal and regional elections is over. The results, while indecisive, present a number interesting aspects, which give some idea about what may be expected in the second round as well in the European Parliament elections next Sunday. We shall summarize and comment them here.

First of all, abstention was quite high, though not higher than that in the previous, 2010 municipal and regional elections. It ranged between 53% in the city of Athens (it was 57% in 2010) to 35% in smaller provincial cities. This fact shows that the crisis of the political system still continues, without however SYRIZA or any other party clearly benefiting from it.

There was an interesting incident with the exit polls at 7 p.m. Sunday afternoon showing that SYRIZA was heading for a spectacular win in the biggest municipality and district, respectively Athens and Attica. They forecasted a win for Dourou, SYRIZA’s candidate for the Attica district, with a margin of 6-7% against the center-left “independent” Sgouros, and also a small precedence of Sakellaridis, SYRIZA’s candidate in Athens, against the equally “independent” center-left Kaminis. This created euphoria in SYRIZA with its leader, Alexis Tsipras, making some enthusiastic comments. However, these forecasts, which would indeed mean not only an overturn of all polls, but also a triumph for SYRIZA in the decisive battles, failed to materialize. As results began to roll in, it became clear that Dourou’s margin was much lower, of the order of 2%, while Sakellaridis was second after Kaminis, even if marginally. Still, the final result was a very descent one for Dourou and Sakellaridis. Meanwhile, it turned out the neonazi Golden Dawn scored better than in forecasts, achieving two quite positive results: 16,12% of the well known Kasidiaris in Athens and 11,11% of Panagiotaros in Attica district. Both in Athens and Attica the ruling party’s ND candidates failed to make it to the second round.

Had the picture in the rest of Greece been the same, with regard to SYRIZA and ND, than even that result would be a clear victory for SYRIZA. However, this was not the case. In most districts and in the other big municipalities (Thessaloniki, Piraeus, Patra) SYRIZA’s candidates scored well below that, roughly at 15%. The governmental district candidates, on the other hand, apart from the disastrous Attica result (where the ND candidate, Koumoutsakos, took just 14.13%) averaged somewhere between 25-30% (or even more in some cases).

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Dear friends in the Irish Labour Party…

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… I won’t be voting for you. I have voted Labour in every election since I could first vote. I haven’t always given you my first preference – sometimes there were better left candidates – but you’ve always been there in the first two or three, and first more often than not.

Some of my younger friends are amazed that I voted Labour at all, but they weren’t there during the seventies and eighties, when Labour was on the side of divorce and contraception in a Catholic confessional Ireland. In those days Labour seemed to a lot of people to stand on our side in fights that were not easy, given the array of reactionary forces – the Church, the two main political parties, most of the institutions of civil society. In those days the modernisation of Irish social life – still an unaccomplished task of course – seemed of vital importance. We did not notice, or took a long time to notice, that Labour was moving steadily to the right in coalition after coalition. Those with historical blind-spots, like me, didn’t know, or swept aside the fact that Labour had not always been on the side of Labour, and in fact as a trade union member, I was perplexed to discover that Labour was not always on the strikers’ side in industrial disputes. But other forms of struggle seemed so important then, and Labour was by-and large- on our side. What’s more I have always believed in the idea of a broad coalition of the left, hoping that differing parties with differing discourses could or at least should draw together in shared opposition to capital and oppression.

So for a long time I believed that at heart the Labour Party was really a party of labour, of the worker, a left-wing party, and that given the opportunity it would show its true colours.

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What 5 Cents on a Big Mac Would Mean for Hospitality Workers

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Yesterday was International Fast Food Day.  It started in the US where workers in the fast-food industry are staging protests nationwide, seeking a $15 per hour wage (the Federal minimum wage is $7.25 but President Obama is seeking an increase to $10.10 per hour while states and local governments have a higher minimum levels).

The protest has spread internationally and is expected to take place in 80 cities in more than 30 countries, from Dublin to Venice to Casablanca to Seoul to Panama City.

Fast-food workers are some of the lowest paid workers in the Irish economy with poor working conditions.  Average weekly earnings in the Accommodation and Food sector (we don’t have official data for the fast-food sector) were a mere €321 per week in the final quarter of last year.

Unite, using EU data, showed that our hospitality workers are some of the worst paid in the advanced European economies (see Table on Page 18 here).

Their conditions have deteriorated since the start of the recession.  Average weekly earnings in the whole economy fell by 4.6 percent since 2008; in the Accommodation and Food sector, they fell by 7.7 percent.  The low-paid are even more so.

With the minimum wage frozen since 2007, the revamped Joint Labour Committees having less powers than previous (e.g. they can’t negotiate Sunday premiums) and the cost of living, especially rents, rising, hospitality workers are under increasing pressure.

It is often said that since the hospitality sector is so labour-intense, wage increases would have a major impact on costs but this is over-stated.  It is true that wages (and for the purposes of this post I will use Accommodation and Food sector data unless stated otherwise) make up a high proportion of turnover.  They make up approximately a third of total turnover which is high.

However, a wage increase for the lowest paid in this sector would have only a minimal impact on prices but would have a major benefit to the workers, to businesses reliant upon their spending, the economy as a whole and the Exchequer.  Let’s do out some numbers – and this is a very approximate estimation based on one sector.

The CSO data suggests that if every hospitality employee (and this would include managers and professionals in the sector) were to receive a €1 per hour pay increase, it would cost the sector €160 million in personnel costs.  Sounds like a lot but it makes up only 2 percent of turnover.

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Another Crisis? Blame the Workers!

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We have a housing crisis.  90,000 on the social housing waiting list of which 60 percent have been waiting for two years or longer.  The private rental sector is not fit for purpose for many household types (and, in any event, is a highly fragmented, mom-and-pop operation).  There are over 100,000 in arrears and that doesn’t count buy-to-let mortgages.  The planning system is unreformed and we are stuck with inefficient and costly suburban sprawl.  And there is a major supply problem in the main urban areas, especially Dublin, where rents are experiencing double-digit inflation.

So what’s the answer?  Blame the workers, of course.

Prime Time had a feature on the housing crisis followed by a panel discussion.  And what comes up?  The alleged high cost of labour in the construction sector.  There were two parts of these assertions.

Hubert Fitzpatrick of the CIF claimed:

House prices today are approximately 50 percent of where they were seven years ago but the cost of actually building those houses has not fallen by the same extent.  

Economist Ronan Lyons stated:

The Government needs to be very forensic in saying if we have labour costs in construction that are 25 percent higher than in West Germany, why?  Is there a reason for that?  Can we get our labour costs in line with Eurozone partners? 

We have had a spectacular roller-coaster ride in the property market, fuelled by speculation, non-regulation, massive capital inflows and, then, outflows – and we come back to ‘wages are too high’.  You really would weep.

How valid are these assertions?  Not very when you look up some basic facts.

First, it is true that property prices have fallen substantially.  It is also true that building costs haven’t fallen by the same extent.  But during the boom period house prices rose at an exponential rate compared to building costs.

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Between 1994 and 2007, new house prices more than quadrupled.  Construction costs didn’t even double.  If house prices were to fall back in line with the cost of building a house, they’d have to fall even further, by more than a third.   If there are problems in investment returns or margins, it’s not coming from the cost of building a house – of which wages are a significant component.

What about the claim that construction labour costs are 25 percent higher than West Germany?  Here is the latest data from the European Labour Force Survey which measures labour costs per hour.

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What is the Current Phase of Imperialism?

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A new situation requires a new analysis, and each new factor in the situation requires a specific and concrete analysis, placing it and its weight correctly in the overall situation.

In world politics, the new situation is that the US was unable to bomb Syria, it finds itself negotiating with, rather than bombing Iran, and its coup in the Ukraine may not be entirely successful in drawing Russia’s neighbour into NATO’s sphere of influence.

This overturns recent history. The overthrow of the Soviet Union in 1991 was accompanied by the US-led Gulf War. Since that time, the US and its various allies have bombed, invaded or intervened in Somalia (twice), Yugoslavia, Haiti, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Liberia, Iraq, the Maghreb, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Libya and South Sudan. The US has also led, organised or outsourced countless other interventions, overthrown governments and destabilised economies in pursuit of its interests. There has also been a series of coups and attempted coups in Latin America with varied success, and the so-called ‘colour revolutions’ in Eastern Europe to install pro-US, pro-NATO governments, as well as the US hijacking of the Arab Spring.

However, the economic rise of China has warranted a strategic ‘pivot’ towards Asia in an attempt to curb the rise of the only economy that could rival US supremacy in the foreseeable future. Given this absolute priority and the reduced circumstances of the US economy, it has been necessary to suspend new large-scale direct military interventions elsewhere.

This curb on US power has had immediate and beneficial consequences for humanity. Syria could not be bombed and neither could Iran. In these, Russian opposition to US plans was a key political obstacle, especially as the US wanted to deploy multilateral and multinational forces to do its bidding and needed the imprimatur of the UN Security Council. The US response to this blockage has been to increase pressure on Russia, most dramatically with its ouster of the elected Ukrainian government in a coup and its attempt to breach the country’s agreed neutrality by bringing it into NATO.

This curb on US power, however limited or temporary, should be welcomed by all socialists, by all democrats and simply by all those who desire peace. Instead, we have the strange spectacle that some on the left have raised the charge that Russia is imperialist, or that China is, or countries such as Brazil, or India or South Africa are ‘sub-imperialist’!

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Greece on the Eve of Municipal and European Parliament Elections: a Riddle Waiting to be Solved

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The double Greek elections of May 18th and 25th –municipal and regional on 18th and the European Parliament elections together with the second round of municipal and regional ones where necessary on 25th– will undoubtedly influence decisively the course of the country. They will reflect the evident as well as underground trends in Greek social and political life developed in the period after the elections of May and June 2012.

Given the specificity of the situation in Greece, which became during the last few years the workshop and test field for the most brutal neoliberal policies, forged by the Brussels European Union directory and applied by the conservative Greek government of New Democracy and PASOK, Greek elections are perhaps more critical than the respective ones in other European countries. The elections will be a crucial test for the two major political parties, the ruling conservative New Democracy (ND) party and the left opposition, SYRIZA, but they will also be critical for all other Greek political forces. The main issue, which is of great importance not only for the Greek but for the European Left as well, is whether SYRIZA, the stronger left formation presently in Europe, will be able to achieve a clear electoral victory, or if the ruling ND party will achieve a satisfactory result, such as a defeat –let alone a victory– on points. There are, of course, a series of other questions, less critical but not negligible, to be answered in these two evenings, regarding the results of the other parties.

However, with just about a week separating us from the first Sunday, most commentators agree on only one thing: that everything is completely vague and the election night will certainly present us with some big surprises. This impression is further strengthened by recent developments, shortly before and during the election period, which did not give a clear lead or superiority to any party: on the one hand, the Baltakos case undoubtedly cost the government a lot; on the other, some retractions by SYRIZA on the selection of candidates and also on the issue of the Turkish speaking minority in Thrace did not make a good impression. The situation reveals a similarly confusing picture in relation to the other political forces. While some trends do emerge, it is not at all certain how they will crystallize. The prevailing big uncertainty is reflected in most polls so far, which often produce greatly conflicting results for all parties.

In the following, we will consider first the general political scene and its tendencies in recent years. Then we will examine the developments and contrasts in the main formations of the Left, SYRIZA, KKE and ANTARSYA, and the problems of strategy and tactics that have been raised mainly in connection with the country’s relations with the EU, which are also a key dimension of the ongoing political controversy.

 1. The General Political Picture

What impresses one, even at first glance, is the fragmentation and liquidity of the Greek political scene today. This is a feature of the new political system that emerged in the May 2012 elections, replacing the ND and PASOK two-party system which had been dominant since 1977. However, given the partial polarization in the elections of June 2012, one would expect a relative domination of the two major parties, albeit not to the extent of the ND and PASOK before the onset of the crisis. Quite the opposite is true, with a number of 46 parties taking part in these European elections, a great record compared with the 27 of the previous ones.

Certainly, most of these “parties” do not claim a serious political role. They include 4 or 5 far Left groups, which usually elicit a few votes from the elderly and illiterate voters of the KKE, who confuse their ballot with that of the Communist Party. One will find even some fans of John Kapodistrias (the first governor of Greece after the 1821 revolution), two parties with the word “Hope” in their title, a party called “Drachma” (the old national currency before the country’s accession to the euro), the “Rural Livestock Party of Greece”, the “Party of Greek Hunters” (which however usually receives a decent 1%) and so on.

There’s even a party whose title may contain more words than the number of votes it will get in the elections. It is called “Independent Left Renewal, Right Renewal, PASOK Renewal, ND Renewal, No to War, Party of the I Donate Land Business, I Annul Debts, I Save Lives, I’m Saving the Riches of the Greeks, Greek All Workers Labor Movement”. Its completely unknown leader, Miltiadis Tsalazidis, may not be a good politician, but seems to be at least a good humorist…

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By This Time Next Year We Could End Homelessness

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Let’s start with the conclusion: if by this time next year if there are people still homeless, it’s because the Government made a policy choice.  And the policy choice was to tolerate homelessness.

Now, back to the beginning.

The Government will be spending €7.1 billion this year.  It won’t be spent on public services, or social protection or investment.  And there will be no debate on it.  There will be no current affairs programmes, no panel discussions, no commentaries in the print media.  The Government will spend €7 billion this year and very few will know.

This €7 billion is being spent on paying down debt.  It comes from the Government’s considerable cash balances.  At the end of 2013, the Government held €18.5 billion in cash.  This is made up of money that has already been borrowed and revenue from bank investments (e.g. bonds held in Bank of Ireland, etc.).  The Government is taking the €7 billion and paying down Government debt to lower the debt/GDP ratio.  This is how it works:

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As seen, debt at the beginning of the year is estimated to €203 billion.  The Government will be borrowing €8.7 billion.  This results in a debt of €211.5 billion.  Debt is rising – both in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP.  That’s because economic growth is low and we still have a deficit.

However, the Government will be taking €7 billion from their cash balances to write down debt.  This changes the level of debt.  Let’s continue the table above.

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Dublin City Council’s Rosie Hackett Bridge: A Landmark in Decision-Making

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This article by John Baker originally appeared on the de Borda Institute’s website. 

On 2 September, 2013, Dublin City Council voted to name the newest bridge over the River Liffey the Rosie Hackett Bridge. What makes this a landmark decision is that it seems to have been the first authoritative decision taken by a public body in Ireland – and perhaps even in Europe – to have used the voting procedure known as the Borda Count, referred to in the Council’s proceedings as a Preferendum (Dublin City Council 2013a, item 24). This report summarises the process, analyses the results, and discusses some of the technical issues that arise with this method of voting. It concludes that the procedure was well suited to the task in hand.

Background

The process for naming the bridge was referred to the Commemorative Naming Committee chaired by Councillor Dermot Lacey. According to Lacey (personal communication), the committee agreed from the start that it would use an open, participatory process to find a name, and invited submissions from the public. In the course of the process, it received thousands of items of correspondence, including official applications for 85 names. This initial list was narrowed down to about thirty through a consensual process within the committee, starting by eliminating names of people who were still alive or had died less than twenty years earlier, as well as figures who had already been honoured by a public naming. The resulting list was then further reduced by discussion within the committee, leading in stages to a list of seventeen and then ten (Dublin City Council 2013b).

The list of ten was reduced within the committee to a shortlist of five, using a version of the Borda Count vote among the six members in attendance. The final shortlist was put to the full council, where all fifty-one members participated in a Borda Count vote. Details of these votes are given below.

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H2Whoa – What We Don’t Know About Water Charges Could Really Hurt Us

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Keep these people in mind when reading this post:  Mary, a single parent working a part-time minimum wage job as a cleaner in Dublin hotel; John, a long-term unemployed construction worker who manages to get a few days’ work a month; Moira and Barry, she lost her job and Barry lost hours – raising two children and falling further into mortgage arrears.  I’ll come back to them at the end of this post.

The Government has finally announced its plans for water charges.  Minister Hogan was on RTE Prime Time and RTE News and provided the following information:  the average single person consumes 78,000 litres of water a year; they will face an average bill of €138 per year.  By taking water expenditure off the books (i.e. it is no longer considered a Government expenditure, it now belongs to a public enterprise company) the Government will save €700 million per year annually (but not next year, I’m assuming).

Apparently, the Government has done its own surveys – it would be helpful if they released this data so we could get a greater insight into consumption patterns for different household types, ages and income-levels; but don’t hold your breath.  So let’s work with what we’ve got (these calculations are different from what appears in the Irish Times – they use average per capita and family household – but they are close enough; these are all just estimates).

It would appear, from the above information, that a litre of water will cost a little less than a 1/3 of a cent per litre (0.0029).  This is derived from 48,000 litres of water that will be billed (the average single person’s consumption of 78,000 minus the free allowance of 30,000).  This comes to about €2.65 per week.

Now let’s look at some issues.

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