Tag Archives: Ireland

Buck US-EU trends – let’s shift Ireland leftwards

Driving home on Thursday, crossing that ridiculous border that divides this small island into two failed states, with my sterling in one pocket and my euros in another (another ridiculous division), it flashed into my mind that I had been in a concentration camp for 48 hours, but not the sort that we associate with that term.

I was very fortunate to have been included in a political school sponsored by Unite the Union with full participation by those other great and enlightened Right2Water unions, Mandate and the CWU, and superbly organised and delivered by Trademark Belfast.

Crammed into 48 hours was a series of presentations by specialists, mainly academics, on fundamentally important issues arising from neoliberalism that confront the people of this small island and the wider world. These were: Free Trade and Globalisation; the Future of Work; Sustainable Economies; Media, Hegemony and Ideology; A Broken Economy; Debt or Democracy – Public Money for Sustainability and Social Justice; Commercialistation of the Public Sphere.

Each presentation was followed by full participation by the inmates of the concentration camp in teasing out these issues and possible solutions. That is where concentration was required, and no escaping it since we were voluntary prisoners on a small island in Lough Erne.

‘We’ included leaders and officials of those Right2Change trade unions, Independent for Change TDs and councillors, community activists, Trademark facilitators, academics, and, until they had to dash back to Dublin to deal with the aftermath of that perverse judicial decision on Apollo House, Brendan Ogle, Dean Scurry, Terry McMahon and Glenn Hansard of Home Sweet Home.

We had presentations and discussion, but of equal importance was the out-of-school democratic engagement/discussion by all on ‘where we are, where do we want to get to, and how do we get there?’. We know where we are – in the shit created by the political class, and where we want to get to – a republic of equals founded on fundamental rights and based on justice and equality and solidarity and ownership and control by the people. But how to get there?

The consensus was that the means to that end lies in encouraging and facilitating the bottom-up people’s movement that was brought into being by the Right2Water campaign and enhanced by the public response to the Home Sweet Home initiative with further progress likely to emerge from public campaigns on other serious issues that beset the people (other than the 20% political class).

What means could be used to make the necessary progress towards that end? Like James Connolly and Jim Larkin before them, the leaders of Unite, Mandate and the CWU, Jimmy Kelly, John Douglas and Steve Fizpatrick understand that the solution lies in the first place in political education and secondly in the provision of information to counteract a propagandist right-wing media hegemony that exists without real challenge by progressives. That understanding of the proper role of trade unions, which goes beyond the central task of representing workers and into the area of creating political change from rule by an ‘elite’ to rule by the people for the benefit of all, separates these and a few other trade unions from other less visionary and less progressive trade unions.

Neither Connolly nor Larkin were prepared to concede the media landscape to the right-wing capitalist class, and so they published their own left-wing newspapers. There is now serious intent to explore the creation of a new online newspaper with a progressive ethos and proper journalism to fill the vacuum of ideas and information necessary to create a genuine fourth estate. More on that later, hopefully of a positive nature!

In terms of political education, there was agreement by all on the necessity to continue the excellent work done during the Right2Water/Right2Change campaign by Trademark and the unions in providing very easily understood presentations to local groups across the island, so that anyone who attends one of these will be able to understand and gain a perspective on the forces at play in the world and on this island, and how we might defeat them and their nefarious ideology.

Over the past two years I have got the sense that the tide is turning, that more and more people are ready to embrace the chance of themselves forging real political change from which will flow economic and social change. I have waited a lifetime, like many others, for that to happen. It could just be that moment in our history when the crack that lets the light in widens. Remember the Berlin Wall moment in which, in a matter of days, a seemingly impregnable structure was torn down? These moments come, but they have to be fuelled and then seized upon.

That is what this 48-hour session seems to me to have been about. Let’s find ways to help people to change their lives for the better, and let’s do it by coalescing with each other and in doing that, as Rory Hearne wrote yesterday, “by keeping that common heart beating we will find a way forward”.

Much of the western world is turning sharply to the right. We have no need to go there since we have been stuck in that cul-de-sac since the foundation of the corporatist state in 1922. Our opportunity is to turn left and to correct the ills created by malign governments representing only political class-capitalist interests.

So let’s keep that common heart beating strongly, and don’t be diverted by fools or knaves who pretend to be on our side while trying to tear us down.

¡Adelante! Forward! Ar Aghaidh Linn!

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State 1916 Commemoration: insulting the living and the dead

The hugely successful 19th century Irish theatrical impresario Dion Boucicault once said, “What the audience wants is spectacle, and by God I will give them that”.

That same thinking seems to have formed the basis of the state’s supposed commemoration of the 1916 Revolution.

“Let them have spectacle” is the new “Let them eat cake”. By God, spectacle is what they got, those who could see the giant screens, excluded as they were from the theatre that was O’Connell Street and the GPO. The barriers preventing them from being close to the action might well have borne signs stating “No riff-raff”, since that was what was intended.

O’Connell Street and the GPO were to be the exclusive preserve of the Irish political class, the self-styled ‘elite’ – politicians, both former and current; judges and lawyers; senior state functionaries; corporate kings and bankers; other wealthy individuals; and of course the propaganda wing of state, the media. In an attempt to attach some credibility to proceedings, relatives of 1916 revolutionaries were allowed to apply as supplicants for tickets from some committee or other, or not – a position some of us chose to adopt.

In my case it is because it stretches credibility beyond its limits to have dictating the nature of the state commemoration a prime minister (‘acting’ since the recent election) who has attempted since coming to office in 2011 to submerge the commemoration of the seminal event in modern Irish history, the 1916 Revolution which led to independence and self-government, in a sea of other often minor-by-comparison commemorations, a decade of them no less. Imagine, the state’s launch video for the 1916-2016 commemoration did not have a single image of a 1916 leader but featured a singer (Bono) and a queen (English)!

But the acting prime minister’s party, Fine Gael, has previous form. It is the 1930s iteration of the counter-revolutionary party Cumann na nGaedheal, whose central mission was to obliterate, via the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and a brutal civil war, the Irish Republic fought for in 1916 and sustained up to 1921. It morphed into Fine Gael in 1933 when the remnants of Cumann na nGaedheal joined forces with the fascist Blueshirts. Fine Gael has never moved from that counter-revolutionary corporatist-fascist ideology. During its kleptocratic five-year term since 2011 it forced the most swingeing austerity, often on the most economically vulnerable in society, while transferring huge amounts of wealth to the already wealthy.

In stark contrast, the Proclamation of the Irish Republic promised universal suffrage, religious and civil liberty, equal rights and opportunities to all citizens, to pursue prosperity and happiness for all, in a resolutely anti-sectarian, sovereign republic, owned by the people. Those ideas and ideals are anathema to Fine Gael values, and to those of its equally right-wing alternative, Fianna Fáil, as history shows.

And so to the commemoration (even if we can only see it on a screen).

In the first place, this ‘centenary commemoration’ was a month early. Instead of holding it on the actual anniversary, 24th April, the government chose to stick with tradition and hold it on Easter Sunday, thus tying it to a Christian religious feast. The revolution actually began on Easter Monday, not Sunday, 1916, but hey, let’s not be pedantic about that. Its association with Easter down through the years has been a handy way of associating the Catholic church with the revolution that that church opposed tooth and nail.

Being monarchic in its structures and practices, the Catholic church has always been antagonistic to Enlightenment secular republicanism and to the concept of the egalitarian and democratic republic.

That is why the counter-revolution played into the church’s hands, allowing for the creation of a state that combined Catholic theocracy with plutocracy and oligarchy, the so-called Free State. By creating a false official history, propagated in Catholic schools, the republican basis of the 1916 Revolution was extinguished in favour of one that presented it as having been a Catholic nationalist rising, not a progressive revolution.

That must have made it easy for the one clergyman called on to read the prayer during yesterday’s event. The Irish Defence Forces’ Head Chaplain is, of course, a Catholic priest. He delivered a heavily politicised prayer which very inappropriately at an event marking 1916 slyly referenced the Troubles. We can take that to mean the recent Troubles. Besides that, it was as if all present in O’Connell Street and beyond the barriers in Riff-Raff Street were Catholics, rather than people of all religions and none.

But worse than that, the absence of even an ecumenical prayer instead lumped all of the dead revolutionaries in together, as if Protestants, Jews, Pagans, Atheists, Agnostics, etc., had not formed part of the revolutionary forces along with Catholics, which of course they did. What of it that the inspiration for 1916 came directly from the United Irishmen of the 1790s, all initially of the Protestant faith, or that the 1914 gunrunning into Howth and Kilcoole was almost entirely a Protestant enterprise from start to finish? A Catholic prayer will be good enough for them, and they should count themselves lucky.

What does that say, in this centenary year, to the Protestants of Ireland, north of the border as well as south of it? We know that the Irish Republic of 1916 was proclaimed as a 32-county Republic belonging to all of the people. And we know that if the border is to be obliterated that we must negotiate with northern Protestants, not all of whom are unionists, as well as northern Catholics, not all of whom are republicans or Irish nationalists. But this state refuses to honour Protestant patriots of 1916 in an appropriate way – by acknowledging their existence or their immense contribution. That reveals the ingrained partitionist mindset that delights in a Catholic state on one side of the border and a Protestant state on the other. But this is the 21st century, time moves on, attitudes change, what seems fixed in stone shifts. That, though, doesn’t apply to Fine Gael, and only to a slight degree with Fianna Fáil.

The Proclamation was read. Yes, it was uncensored. Those passages which address issues that have real relevance to the plight of so many of our people today – sovereignty, equal rights and opportunities, happiness, prosperity, control of national resources – were read in full, without the slightest evidence of even a solitary embarrassed blush among the serried ranks of the political class. Perhaps they have inbuilt auditory filters, or perhaps sociopathy is part of their make-up.

Of course the acting prime minister couldn’t resist one more stab in the back for the revolutionaries of 1916. Rather than allow the customary wreath to be laid at the GPO in their honour he had to continue with one of Fine Gael’s much-contested methods of diminishing the men and women of 1916, something that smacks by now of extreme Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In directing the president, Michael D Higgins, to lay the wreath on behalf of the people of Ireland, the acting prime minister added ‘for all of the dead of 1916’, thus including the British forces who were sent to suppress the revolution by all means including murder of civilians and the levelling of the heart of one of the great cities of Europe using artillery.

By that action, the acting prime minister destroyed the notion that this was a commemoration directed at the men and women of 1916, and rendered it into nothing more than a very expensive fraud, a sham, a charade. No other prime minister in the history of independent Ireland has plumbed those depths, has offered such a gratuitous insult to the men and women of 1916 or to the hundreds of thousands of citizens who had assembled in Dublin to honour those men and women. The acting prime minister should be driven from office for that one act.

As for the defence forces, they were great. Most of us admire the role they usually play in the world as peace-keepers, less so the drift in the direction of active involvement with NATO and with US invasions of people with whom we Irish have no argument but have much empathy for their suffering. The same applies to the units from various first-responders too. No criticism is intended of any of them.

No, this is about the failings of the political class, and the failure of the government led by Fine Gael to demonstrate any respect for the revolutionaries or the cause of independence and a proper, modern, enlightened republic that they put their lives on the line to achieve for our benefit and not theirs.

And this is about the insults the government and the political class including the media offered in the run-up to and on what purported to be a 1916 centenary commemoration, to both the living and the dead.

What the audience didn’t need was the sight of the political class making a spectacle of itself. But perhaps we did need to see that, in its ugly naked elitism.

Couldn’t happen in a true republic. So let’s create one. That is the best honour we could pay those men and women of 1916. And it is the best thing we could do for ourselves and the generations still to come.

 


Left must refuse to let political class off the hook

It seems that the electoral system is the problem, now.

Feverishly flailing around to identify a culprit for its own abject failures over decades past to allow a genuine democracy to flourish, instead manipulating public opinion to keep two rotten parties in power, the political class is pointing its accusatory fingers in every wrong direction so as to shift the blame for that failure onto the Left, and onto the citizens.

PR is a problem, some of them say. Independents are the problem, others say – and that we need to adopt some European model or other that requires independents to register with a political party! I kid you not.

Some other clown started talking about the need for a d’Hondt system, without bothering his arse to discuss that with the one TD who has more knowledge of that system than the entire southern political class combined, the great untouchable beast, Gerry Adams.

Others have adopted the ridiculous position of shifting the onus onto the opposition, and more precisely onto the Left, as if Sinn Féin and the AAA-PBP are the ones who must suspend principle and mandate, and not the fraudsters of the Right, for whom priniciple and mandate have never mattered once power is at stake.

Never mind that Sinn Féin and AAA-PBP have been the target of sustained assault by the propaganda arm of the political class, the media, in whose interest it is that the status quo is maintained intact, and to whom ethics and other journalistic requirements such as fairness and balance are simply a nuisance and an irritant to be avoided in pursuit of their own selfish and anti-democratic ends.

Never mind the insults and the injuries, the lies and dodgy half-truths relentlessly pursued to skew debate in favour of the Right – with the ultimate victim not being simply the parties of the Left but the people themselves, the citizens, the voters.

Whatever the people say is right when it suits and wrong when it doesn’t. And when it’s wrong, then let’s set up a situation where the people must vote again until they learn to get it right – as the political class sees it. Lisbon, anyone? Maastricht, anyone?

The Left is being unreasonable, these political class clowns and fraudsters say. But that is what they have consistently portrayed the Left as being, unreasonable and therefore unworthy of power. But now they want the Left to exercise power – on behalf of the political class and so as to put back in control the parties of the Right, the very parties who bear responsibility for this current mess, and all previous messes.

Short answer to the political class, and particularly the parties of the Right and their propaganda arm, the media – “Shove off”.

Shove off, go back into your bunkers, switch on your brains, think about what you have done and what you have constructed and the trust you have deliberately destroyed to maintain a rotten crooked system.

Now you go figure. And when you have learned the meaning of that word and that concept ‘Democracy’, and the other concepts that come with it – the Fourth Estate, dignity and respect, fairness and balance, and truth, then come back and speak to the Left, not as a temporary fix to the problem that is entirely of your own making, but as a valid force in Irish democracy (if only we had such a thing).

And let the Left hold firm, and let the Left not indulge in in-fighting, because at this moment of real power to engineer change by forcing realism on the political class, sowing division will be simply unforgivable.

Hold your council, button your lips, talk between yourselves, stay calm, let the Right stew. There is no rush.

This process is part of the revolution.

 


General Election result positive for Left

Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three.

One. It was always an impossible ask to replace an entrenched two-and-a half Right-wing party regime with a progressive government in one fell swoop, but the creation of a Right2Change movement to draw allies together and directed towards a bedrock of principled rights-based policies has demonstrably worked even in the face of an antagonistic hegemonic political class propaganda machine.

Two. We now have concrete evidence that the electorate is on the move and that a sufficient proportion of voters are open to persuasion, if only the means of effective persuasion are there. That means that the valiant efforts of Right2Change to open up new lines of communication that bypass mainstream media both in public meetings and via social media, and in the distribution of a progressive newspaper packed with exciting and accessible ideas on the ground and online, have been validated. We need now to imagine the potential effect on the electorate if that magnificent effort is sustained and enhanced.

Three. It may be that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will at last be forced to coalesce, leaving the ground open for a progressive opposition for the first time ever. The clearing out of the reactionary detritus within a discredited Labour Party will likely force that party to return to the Left under a new leader as part of a progressive opposition. The potential for a radically different opposition to anything that has gone before to offer a coherent progressive alternative for government, is there to be exploited. That would mean that at the next election the capacity of a corrupt propagandist media to rubbish progressive ideas would be greatly diminished, particularly if the Right2Change movement vigorously challenges and exposes the anti-democratic nature of State and corporate media.

If the progressive Left maintains discipline and resolve, acts intelligently and in a principled way, keeps a strong presence on the streets and in communities, holds onto those policy principles as the basis of a just and equal society, then I have no doubt that we can put in place a progressive government at the next election.

What an achievement that would be!

But fundamental to success will be the continuation and enhancement of the involvement of the progressive unions via Right2Change.

I would urge all Right2Change activists to make that a priority, and to rally around the movement.

That is the best guarantee that our dream of a progressive government and the creation of the true republic will come to pass.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.


Full commitment to Right2Change vital – GE2016

So, the 2016 General Election is underway.

We could spend our time reading the bones of electoral history since 1922 to try to foresee the future, or we could scatter those bones to make a different future.

That is what the Right2Change initiative allows us to do. But it only allows us to do that if we fully buy into what that initiative is about, what its potential can be in effecting radical ideological change, and how voters can be brought to engage with its promises and to vote accordingly. But we cannot expect voters to believe that this initiative can work if we don’t believe it ourselves.

Right2Change is not a badge of convenience. Those who have signed up to it – have pledged to it – cannot be half-in and half-out when it comes to its central theme of a set of easily understood policy principles.

They are principles, not mere aspirations. And a pledge is not a promise you make at election-time, to discard later.

No person, group or party that self-describes as progressive, socialist or republican and is part of Right2Change can have any reservations about the fundamental rights of those who live here to water, jobs and decent work, housing, health, debt justice, education, democratic reform, equality, a sustainable environment, and ownership of national resources including public works and services. All should willingly agree on those basic rights, or else redefine themselves and withdraw any pledge made – which includes a commitment to work to create a progressive government with those same principles as its policy priorities.

Those individuals, groups or parties that have refused the second part of the pledge for their own reasons are at least being honest about where they stand. They are not, of their own volition, part of the Right2Change movement. That is unfortunate, but lets move on.

Individuals, groups or parties that have signed up to the full package, the policy principles and the intent to form a progressive government should that be possible, now need to fully engage in selling two ideas to the voters; that the combined numbers of Right2Change candidates are capable, if supported, of producing 79+ TDs and that such a progressive government will work in their best interests by creating a fair society based on equality, democracy and justice.

To support the first of those ideas there must be a sense of solidarity among Right2Change candidates. The practice of using the Right2Change banner or logo, and of referring to Right2Change and to the principles, is an important part of that idea. It is not hard to see that that practice is not universally applied. That must change.

To support the second of those ideas, the past springs to our aid. We need to constantly refer to the grave damage that has been done to society in general, and to so many individuals and families, most notably by the outgoing government and its Fianna Fáil led predecessor. While we must use our economic arguments well, it is with the suffering and the waste of human resources and the hollowing out of society that the great mass of people will empathise.

There can be very few among us who have not had some close encounter with the ravages of austerity and neoliberalism – from the suicide epidemic to the housing crisis or health service failures, emigration, under and un-employment, poor wages and salaries, poor child-care services, lack of care for the elderly, sub-standard education for all but the rich, and the list goes on and on.

We will not win votes from hardcore supporters of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour, and other status-quo parties, so let’s not waste time and energy on those. But they are not the majority, and it is to the majority that we must make our appeal.

Right2Change supporters need to enter into the fray in a positive mood. Of course, we might not be successful on this occasion. But if not, we will have introduced a set of enlightened principles into the debate, and we will have shown the people that there is not just one ideological position at play.

If we don’t succeed in putting in place a progressive government then we can put in place the best opposition the people have ever seen, with an increased possibility of success next time out. Putting that opposition in place depends on the commitment and integrity of all Right2Change parties, groups and individuals to the policy principles and the urgency of creating real change and holding power to account, which must rule out a coalition of convenience for the sake of short-term power on the part of any Right2Change party or individual.

We do not know the inner workings of the minds of the mass of people coming out of a period of so much oppression and so much suffering and so much destruction. No opinion poll or focus-group can mine that sort of information. But we can work to show that there is another way that is eminently viable and that it will benefit the great mass of the people.

Things will be different, yes. But they will be far better.

But only by voting Right2Change.

 

 


Take It Down from the Mast

There is, to my mind, something very obscene about the State organising a flag-hoisting ceremony at Dublin Castle, supposedly to mark the beginning of the 1916 Centenary year, while the same State routinely thrashes the public services and the public works that so many citizens depend on – often for their lives.

This charade is nothing but a necessary PR exercise mounted on the instructions of two parties, Fine Gael and Labour, which have been forced by the weight of public opinion to appear to be engaged with honouring the seminal moment in modern Irish history – the revolution of 1916.

How could two avowedly counter-revolutionary parties, with another counter-revolutionary party, Fianna Fáil, waiting in the wings, credibly honour those whose vision of a real republic has been deliberately thrashed by those same parties?

It is impossible. More than that, it is a disgusting display of contempt by self-serving hypocrites for the ideals and the idealism of 1916 and the subsequent revolutionary period, and contempt for the people those ideals were supposed to serve – the citizens of Ireland and those who have come to live among us and are part of us.

Those three parties, representative of a political class slaked with lust for power and wealth, have ensured that a third of our people endure dreadful conditions of need and insecurity and unhappiness – from visible poverty including homelessness and literal starvation of children, to unemployment, emigration, chronic illness both mental and physical, early death caused by rampant suicide and undiagnosed or untreated illness, and the list of dreadful conditions goes on and on. But no tangible evidence of concern from the political class.

Today, we see thousands of our people wading through rivers to reach their water-logged homes in an attempt to rescue something of value to themselves. They will continue to wade, through false promises made in the coming election. It has always been thus, since the counter-revolution of 1922.

Meanwhile, those three parties have ensured that the pockets of the wealthy – the political class – are stuffed with our hard-got money. It has always been thus, since the counter-revolution of 1922.

As a 1916 relative I am seemingly entitled, in a way that other citizens are not, to be present at State ceremonies to do with 1916.

I reject that spurious entitlement. I refuse to participate in these charades. I refuse to give cover to those who hate the very idea of the Republic while attempting to secure public approval for their vile project of continuing to administer a grossly unequal and unjust State while pretending to draw on history for their existence.

As a 1916 relative I disown the spurious ‘Republic’ of Ireland. I am a citizen of the Irish Republic – I have been since my first conscious political thought as a child and will be to my last breath.

Today I am filled with disgust.

Tomorrow I will be filled with hope.

Revolution begins in the imagination.

Now we have to imagine.

Imagine the Irish Republic.

Then work now to put it in place.

For the happiness and prosperity of all our people.


Clarity, Trust and Cooperation required for Left victory

It would have been helpful if today’s explanation by the Socialist Party of its position on supporting a Left government had been issued much earlier, and in this detail.

Writing in the Irish Times today, Socialist Party TDs Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger say – “The Anti-Austerity Alliance wants to be part of a left government that can mark a fundamental and radical shift away from a society dominated by the profits of the 1 per cent to one where the needs of the 99 per cent and the environment come first. Such a left government will have to exclude Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour as they would clearly act in a coalition to block any significant change taking place.”

They go on to say – “If it is possible after the next general election to form a government without the traditional establishment parties, the Anti-Austerity Alliance will discuss with others to see if a left programme for government can be agreed.”

Further, regarding Sinn Féin, they say – “Unfortunately, we have major doubts as to whether Sinn Féin would agree to such a programme. As one of the architects of the “Fresh Start” agreement in the North, it has demonstrated that it is willing to implement austerity, agreeing to welfare cuts and 20,000 job losses, while also cutting corporation tax. In the North, they are based on one community and the party’s actions deepen sectarian division.”

And this – “In the case that no left programme for government can be agreed, but a government could be formed without the establishment parties, our TDs will vote in the Dáil to allow the formation of that alternative government.”

It should go without saying that any group within the broad Left can have reservations about any other group. However, to stand aside from the first real opportunity to be part of bringing down a 92-year corporatist-fascist regime, in any combination of the three parties of permanent misgovernment – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour, on the basis of a mistrust of another Left party or group, represents for me a failure of imagination, a failure of ambition, and a failure to grasp the dynamic of a broad Left campaign and the dynamic that would become apparent should that campaign be successful to the point of entering into government.

Sinn Féin has committed to the Right2Change policy principles, repeatedly. Prominent spokespersons for that party have constantly said that Sinn Féin’s preference is to be able to form a progressive government with other Left parties and groups and independents. The best way to avoid any other scenario is to work hard, together, to make possible the election of enough Left TDs to form such a government. If that is achieved, Sinn Féin will be as tied to the rest of the Left as they will be to Sinn Féin, and the formation of a government and the prioritising of policies will of necessity be a joint decision.

It is very unlikely that anyone on the Left would want to collapse such an arrangement if it showed itself to be a genuine advance towards a far better society and state. That includes Sinn Féin.

Murphy and Coppinger worry that “Its recent talk about coalition with Fianna Fáil and Labour will cause concern among those who look to Sinn Féin to bring about change. If Sinn Féin truly wanted to see an end of the rule of the establishment parties in this country, it would rule out coalition with them and instead declare for an anti-austerity government based on non-establishment forces.”

As I see it, Sinn Féin is engaged with trying to win over loose Fianna Fáil votes to bridge a vote-transfer gap that has been a problem in the past, and my view is that that, and an effort to show how useless Fianna Fáil with its stand-alone stance would be to potential FF voters, is the reason for letting the notion hang out there that maybe, if, possibly, Sinn Féin would coalesce with Fianna Fáil so long as Sinn Féin was the senior party.

Sinn Féin strategists are renowned for knowing their power-base, and planning for the medium term and long term. They will be very well aware that many Sinn Féin supporters from outside the party would walk away from the party at any sign of an alliance with Fianna Fáil, and that that break would in many cases be permanent.

The best way for the broad Left to make certain that any alliance with Fianna Fáil doesn’t happen (Fine Gael being several bridges too far and Labour being probably of no consequence post-election) is to create the far better option by winning enough Left seats, thereby creating the ideal scenario for Sinn Féin – a decisive break with the past 93 years of counter-revolutionary government and a fresh start for the people of this country, and to do that in the centenary year of the 1916 Revolution. It is only within a progressive government that Sinn Féin can achieve that.

Using Sinn Féin’s position in the Six Counties as a marker of its stance in the Twenty Six, is specious. The comparison doesn’t stand up given the carefully fostered, deeply sectarian history of the past 200 years and the control that London exerts over all aspects of life in the Six Counties. To pretend that the Stormont Assembly and Executive represents government in the real sense of democratic control is wrong and disingenuous. The forces that operate on Sinn Féin, or the DUP from its side, some internal to the Six Counties and some from London and to a lesser extent Dublin, and that render compromise compulsory and not voluntary, are not replicated south of the border. Here, our democratic deficit and our social and economic problems are of a different nature.

Opposition to Sinn Féin comes from a very diverse set of actors – Loyalists, Unionists, anti-Sinn Féin republicans, British Tories, the southern political class and counter-revolutionary parties and the mainstream media across Britain and Ireland – north and south.

That opposition or suspicion may be based on valid or imagined reasons – imagined reasons can be just as potent as real reasons in fueling opposition. Some of it is ideological, or party-political, or about control, or protecting a political patch, or about differences in strategy around the Peace Process and the ending of armed confrontation, or about the armed confrontation that lasted for three decades and/or about the social or personal fall-out from that, or about that most potent force – identity.

And then there is that body of citizens south of the border alienated, perhaps forever, from Sinn Féin, for a variety of reasons. These include Fine Gael and Renua supporters, and some Labour supporters.

Add to that the suspicions of the Socialist Party, the Workers Party and various independent socialists and republicans.

But here is one indisputable fact – without the presence of Sinn Féin as part of a progressive movement we are consigned to suffer yet another corporatist-fascist regime, and the ones who will suffer that most are the ones who simply cannot afford having to endure any further punishment.

It is for that reason that many on the Left have put aside their differences with others so as to advance the prospects of real political change and progress in the Twenty Six counties.

This latest statement from the Socialist Party, expanding on previous ones, and offering more clarity and some modification in stance, is welcome. It would be good if Sinn Féin responded to allay fears, and even better if direct discussions took place between the two parties to clear the air. Unnecessary misunderstandings weaken the Left and strengthen the Right.

It would be advantageous to the Left campaign if the Socialist Party could go further and play its full part in a concerted effort to end the tyranny of the Right and to put in place a government that would rule for the benefit of the masses and not for the beneficiaries of our never-ending kleptocracy, the political class.

Imagine the progressive republic. Imagine the boon that would be to a majority of the people of this failed state. We have one golden opportunity to put it in place.

Go the extra mile.


Borrowing From History To Win General Election

In Irish War News, published from the GPO on 25th April 1916 one day after the start of the revolution and the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, Patrick Pearse wrote:

“We have lived to see an Irish Republic proclaimed. May we live to establish it firmly, and may our children and our children’s children enjoy the happiness and prosperity freedom will bring”.

The Proclamation, which most of our people respect and take ownership of, is the template for the progressive republic that would bring happiness and prosperity to the people.

If the left correctly portrays a progressive policy platform for the upcoming election as the natural development of the fundamental ideas in the Proclamation, particularly paragraph four, those progressive policies will be more easily and widely accepted throughout the country, even in traditionally conservative areas.

The reactionary parties on the other side cannot credibly borrow from 1916 and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic to bolster their case. The record of their resolute opposition to establishing a true republic over the past 93 years of shared power makes that unbelievable, and their failures masked by their empty rhetoric would have to be high-lighted by the left.

The left also has to reach beyond the language of theoretical socialism to garner sufficient democratic support to defeat neoliberalism and its local proponents of cynical austerity, and to create the conditions for true happiness and sustainable prosperity for all.

That lesson can be learned from the Corbyn campaign across the water. Communicate directly and in straight-forward language. Present the ideas in terms of practical beneficial consequence to the greater number of people of all classes other than the greedy class. Play in a sincere way to the essential decency and fairness and generosity of spirit and intelligence of the great majority of people.

And empower the people. The left must commit to the idea that the progressive republic is owned by the people and must spread that message, and that ownership of the republic will be vested in the people through a constitution which they will have final approval of and the capacity to refine over time as they see fit.

At this moment of ever-increasing engagement by the people with the principles behind the 1916 revolution, it would be foolish in the extreme to spurn the opportunity that brings to the left for potential success and real change in the interest of the common good.

Any election is based on a war of words and ideas. And every election involves the use of propaganda – communication that seeks to influence opinions and attitudes – by all sides.

The forces of reaction – Fine Gael and Labour, and Fianna Fáil – will have the propaganda services of mainstream media at their disposal. The left must resort to alternatives, particularly social media and public rallies and meetings, to counteract that. Again, the Corbyn campaign shows us how effective that can be.

The upcoming battle between progressives of all stripes and the forces of reaction will be hard-fought but winnable, and every intellectual and propaganda weapon on the progressive side must be brought to play. In that, the emotional attachment that so many have to the Proclamation and its progressive vision is, as the centenary looms, a very strong card to play, more than a match for the Joker the other side will try to pull from their sleeve.

The prize is worth fighting for. The revolutionaries knew that, and so must we.

The Irish Republic. The people’s progressive republic.


Operation Mizen, The Irish Stasi And The Risen People

I remember well, others will too, that 30 years ago our political class – politicians, media owners and operatives, professionals, the wealthy, the clergy, senior civil servants and senior army and police officers, etc., would regularly point to the East German Stasi state security service, and proudly remind us plebs how lucky we were to live in a democracy and not under an atheistic communistic dictatorship.

‘Operation Mizen’, the organised surveillance of anti-water-charge activists by the state police is straight out of the Stasi handbook. The Stasi handbook is remarkably similar to the Fascist handbook when it comes to state ‘security’. State ‘security’ in either handbook does not mean the security of the people. It means the security of those people who form the political class and the suppression, vilification and, where expedient, the incarceration of those who challenge political class authority.

Irish anti-water-charge activists do just that, not just the nominal ‘leaders’ but any who actively resist the imposition of taxes and charges that are not based on a democratic mandate of any sort but are imposed in a dictatorial fashion, that is, in a way that can only be described as anti-democratic. We challenge the authority of that 20% of the people who can be dubbed ‘the political class’, and with whom all power resides, they think.

We challenge the authority of that 20% because we believe in the value of democratic control, of legitimate authority derived from the people and exercised on our behalf, and we know that none of those conditions exist in this state. We challenge that authority based on all of the evidence we have to hand of sustained egregious corruption, gross incompetence, and tyrannical behaviour of the political class, and its use of coercion, manipulation, dishonesty, misappropriation of public monies, jobbery and nepotism, corruption of the courts and judicial procedures, its refusal to prosecute proven bribers of public office holders and those office holders themselves, and its in-our-faces kleptocracy.

We dissent from all of that. We are, therefore, dissidents in the true sense of that word, and we are proud of that. We take the only ethical course of action in the face of such corruption and tyranny. We say NO! to all of that.

We will not be monitored by a home-grown Stasi. We will not be ruled by Fascists. We will not be robbed by the political class, including its oligarchs. We will not have our essential services or our national resources privatised. We will not have the concepts of law or justice perverted for the use of the few against the many. We will not countenance, any more, the victimisation of oppressed groups in our society – the poor, children, the sick, the aged, women so that society is deliberately divided and exploited for the benefit of the few and the impoverishment of the many.

We who dissent stand together. We put aside petty differences in the common good. No Stasi-like police operation will stop us, or divide us. Those politicians who established that police-state and participated in that kleptocracy and established that anti-democratic tyranny, and we know who they are, will feel our breath on their necks. We are coming to get them.

We are the Risen People, and we are on the move.


Broad Left Policy Platform Essential – Now

We will have a General Election in the next few months, no later than April 2016 but very possibly before the end of this year. With signs of a dramatic shift in public attitudes that election represents the first opportunity since quasi-independence in 1922 to fundamentally change the politics and the ideological basis of government in this state, and to create a better society for all.

Instead of capitalising on that opportunity we are still, at this late stage, witnessing a war of words between socialists and republicans and within both socialist groups and republican groups.

For some in either camp it seems far more important to hurl abuse or to issue weasel words against prospective allies than to work assiduously on a set of ideas to present in common to the people in the hope that they will take the opportunity as rational autonomous citizens to radically transform the sort of society we live in for the better.

What ideas are there that should be capable of finding broad agreement on the political left among socialist groups and republican groups, and between socialists and republicans? As a socialist-republican straddling those categorisations, here are 15 policy areas that I think should be relatively noncontentious.

1 Adequate, affordable, secure housing as a right, where necessary through public provision.

2 A single-tier publicly funded, secular and excellent education system with no provision from the exchequer for private fee-paying schools with exclusive enrollment policies. Religious instruction outside school-hours. Ending the university-controlled points system for third-level entry. Free third-level or vocational education/training subject to contractual obligation to work within the state for any three of first five years post-graduation with debt-related penalties for non-compliance.

3 The right of all children to adequate housing, nourishment and provision of health and care according to need, guaranteed by the state.

4 The right of workers to employment, or to further education or training as required, including those who wish re-enter the labour ‘market’.

5 A living wage, the ending of oppressive zero-hour contracts, workers’ right-to-organise and right-to-negotiate guaranteed by the state.

6 Full equality for women including pay-rates, personal autonomy and dignity including reproductive rights. Repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Provision of supports for mothers and carers commensurate with their contribution to society for that work.

7 State ownership of essential services, natural resources & physical infrastructure. Constitutional provision for public ownership of water and protection of Mother Earth.

8 Empowerment of communities, starting with disadvantaged communities – rural and urban. State support for community initiatives to achieve personal and community empowerment.

9 Strong laws against public and private corruption with strict sanctions. Ending political appointments to judiciary. Curbing legal costs for citizens. Equal access to civil courts regardless of means. Refocusing criminal justice system and penal system. Taking politics out of policing in favour of civic obligations.

10 Realigning taxation system to shift burden towards wealthiest. Ending tax-exile status, tax loopholes and tax-havens. Enforcing Corporation Tax.

11 Properly codifying the state’s position on neutrality, opposition to war, concentration on international and intra-national conflict-resolution and peace-keeping. Adherence to international codes on prevention of torture, refugees, humanitarian obligations, etc.

12 Proper commitment to reunify the people of the island through concerted, direct, rational dialogue with the objective of creating a fully representative all-Ireland parliament based on equality, respect and civil and religious freedoms.

13 Greater local and regional democratic control as appropriate. Making government fully accountable to parliament and the people. Creation of a democratically elected upper house to speed legislation and as a counter to excessive power of parliament. Installing a publicly accessible online register of lobbyists and a publicly accessible tendering system for state acquisitions, both updated daily.

14 Regulation of media in terms of ownership and the public’s right to essential information, fairly and accurately delivered. Active fostering of ideological diversity in media in the public interest. Insistence on journalistic ethics in the public interest. Higher values of Public Service Broadcasting a requirement for state media.

15 A commitment to expedite a widespread public consultation process towards creating a new constitution for a genuine republic.

Written-up in a little over an hour, this list could be contracted to be a 10-point or 12-point plan, or expanded to include further ideas. Of course, it may be that socialists would take issue with some elements of the list, and republicans with others, although it is hard for me to see where that would apply. But that is what sober discussions should be able to tease out.

The upcoming election should not be about disputation between potential allies but about disputation between conflicting ideologies – on the one hand the over-arching ideology of the state’s ruling parties since 1922 and on the other an ideological alternative that is being demanded by upwards of 50% of prospective voters in the next General Election.

Meanwhile, on the ground, grassroots political activists and mobilised communities are developing their own ideas. Leftist parties of all stripes would do well to understand the price they will pay if they fail to reach agreement to provide an alternative to the hegemonic tyranny of the right by providing a different road-map that would make a better-functioning society possible.

As paragraph four of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic points out, the republic is not just about the prosperity of the people, but about their happiness too.

And who, other than the wealthy, is happy with the state we live in – the political state, and the psychological state?

Stop sniping, stop hurling insults, sit down and discuss. And show us the list. We want to be able to vote for something worthwhile.

Like the prospect of a decent future.


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