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The Real Irish American Story Not Taught in Schools

Irish Disgrace Over Apple Tax Scam

Ireland and the Apple Tax Scandal: The Entire Political Establishment Colluded with Apple in an Act of “Economic Treason”

England’s Irish Slaves

Last-minute efforts to form a government in Ireland before parliament resumes

The Real Irish American Story Not Taught in Schools

Ireland: Obesity, the “Western Diet” and the Global Food Challenge

Ireland and the Privatization of Water: Anti-Water Charge Campaigners’ Victory

Irish bus workers strike for 48 hours

The Real Irish American Story Not Taught in Schools

Irish police clamp down on water charge protesters

Thousands march against water charges in Dublin and other Irish cities

Pseudo-left groups mislead protests against water charges in Ireland

New agreement opens assault on welfare and public sector in Northern Ireland

Ireland opens parliamentary inquiry into banking crisis

Protests mount against water charges in Ireland

By Jordan Shilton

11 December 2014

Tens of thousands marched in Dublin Wednesday, against the plans of the Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition to introduce water charges.

Missiles were thrown at police on Kildare Street, the site of one of many barriers in the city centre manned by riot police designed to contain a protest involving up to 100,000 people.

The government unveiled plans in early October to introduce user fees for the use of water across the country. It was a measure agreed by Dublin as part of the bailout programme concluded with the troika of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union (EU) and European Central Bank (ECB) in 2010. Although the bailout programme formally came to an end last year, troika representatives still visit Dublin twice annually for oversight missions.

The initial plans proposed to charge families up to €600 annually. The announcement met with broad public hostility. On October 11 and again on November 1, tens of thousands took to the streets in Dublin and other cities to protest. Two weeks later, on November 15, Tanaiste (deputy Prime Minister) Joan Burton was detained for more than two hours by an angry crowd of around 800 as she attended an event in a Dublin suburb.

The political elite responded furiously to the protests, denouncing them as violent and threatening. One backbench Fine Gael MP compared protesters to supporters of the extremist Islamist group Islamic State, before retracting the remark in the face of widespread outrage.

In a bid to placate public hostility, environment minister Alan Kelly presented a new charging plan in mid-November with reduced fees. However, the plan will still see a family paying €260 annually and a single person €160, and these prices will only stay fixed for four years. This plan could ultimately turn out to be unviable if the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat deems that it will not raise enough money to finance Irish Water. As a utility, Irish Water must raise at least 40 percent of its revenue from non-government sources.

Protesters fear the proposal is part of a drive to entirely privatise water provision, which is supplied in Ireland by its 32 local authorities. More fundamentally, the protests have been provoked by the sustained drive to make working people pay for the economic crisis, which began with the virtual collapse of Ireland’s banking system in 2008.

Since the previous Fianna Fail-led government organised a multi-billion bailout of the country’s bankrupt financial institutions, every major party has backed devastating austerity measures resulting in thousands of job losses in both the public and private sectors, wage drops of 20 percent and more, billions in budget cuts for essential services, and tax increases. While politicians now talk of recovery, the latest figures show that over the past three months alone, average annual earnings are down by €700.

The discrediting of all of the major political parties is fuelling concerns within the ruling elite over the protests. Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour, the three dominant parties, now command less than 50 percent of public support. The greatest drop is for the current government. Having received 36 percent of the vote in 2011, Fine Gael now enjoys backing from just 22 percent of the electorate, while Labour has tumbled from 19 percent to 8 percent.

Sinn Fein now obtains around 20 percent of the vote, meaning that around 30 percent give their backing to “independents”—smaller parties or local politicians who usually were former members of the major parties.

The official leadership of the protest movement is doing all it can to divert the opposition back into official channels. Right2Water, a campaign group with branches in almost every part of the country, is led by five trade unions: Unite, the Commercial and Public Services Union, Communications Workers Union, the Plasterers Union of Ireland and Mandate. In a statement on November 22, SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union), Ireland’s largest trade union, declared it would join protests but is not formally affiliated to the group.

These are the same trade unions that worked hand-in-glove with successive governments to impose devastating cuts to wages and public services. Two public-sector pay agreements, Croke Park and Haddington Road, have seen the elimination of billions in pay for public-sector workers and the maintenance of a strike ban since 2010. The unions never lifted a finger to organise any genuine opposition to these brutal attacks.

The unions know that mass opposition could quickly escalate beyond their control if it is not confined to applying pressure to Fine Gael and Labour. As a petition circulating by Right2Water states, “We are calling on the Irish government to abolish water charges and respect our human right to water.”

A revealing example of the protest leadership’s orientation was its invitation to a delegation from the Detroit Water Brigade (DWB) to attend a “national people’s assembly” outside parliament following the demonstration yesterday. The DWB worked closely with the Democratic Party and boosted illusions in the ability of the Obama administration to put a stop to the thousands of water shutoffs being implemented in Detroit.

A crucial role in the campaign is being played by the pseudo-left Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party. Both have made no criticism of the official protest leadership and make vague appeals to “people power.” The perspective of pressurising the government to change course represents a regurgitation of the politics advanced by the same pseudo-left forces in previous popular protests, such as the demonstrations against the household charge and the property tax. The lack of any political perspective to guide the mass public opposition resulted in the government being able to enforce both deeply unpopular measures.

Workers must break from the trade unions and pseudo-left groups and take up a political struggle against the entire ruling establishment. The struggle for a workers government committed to a socialist programme is the only way free access to water and all other essentials for a decent standard of living can be secured.

Ireland on the Coattails of NATO

Global Research, September 07, 2014

NATO-Wales-summitby Shannonwatch

It will probably surprise many people to know that at least seven Irish Government officials, including one military officer, attended events related to the NATO Summit in Newport, Wales this week. It didn’t get much coverage in the mainstream Irish media, probably because the government told them not to cover it, but it’s something that should be highlighted and challenged.

In answer to a question from Clare Daly TD, Simon Coveney who is our Minister for Agriculture and other stuff that the government doesn’t think is very important (food, the marine and defence), explained that Ireland was invited to attend two meetings at Newport, one for contributors to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and one for Defence Ministers from what are called “Partner” countries.

He went on to explain that in accordance with “usual practice”, an invitation was extended to the Taoiseach [Prime minister] to attend a meeting “on the margins of the NATO Summit between NATO Heads of State and Government and non-NATO countries that contribute to the ISAF mission”.  This meeting took place on Thursday, 4 September and Ireland was represented at it by a senior official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

A total of four officials from DFAT attended the Not-Quite-NATO-But-Would-Like-To-Be meetings which were held “in advance of the Summit” (lest anyone think they had anything to do with the Summit!). And Minister Coveney, along with three officials from the Department of Defence (one military), attended the Defence Ministers meeting.

The Minister went on to give the following by way of reassuring explanation for why Ireland was at the NATO get-together:

“Ireland’s relations with NATO are conducted within the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and Partnership for Peace (PfP), which we joined in 1999. Our continued participation in both of these foras enables us to continue to develop the capabilities of Ireland’s Permanent Defence Force for peacekeeping, conflict prevention and crisis management operations under UN mandates, thus improving the quality of our contribution to UN missions and to UN-mandated missions led by regional organisations such as the EU and NATO. The EAPC is a forum for consultation involving all PfP participants on a wide range of issues, from peacekeeping to women, peace and security to disaster relief.”

Before getting into peacekeeping, women, security and disaster relief, here’s a reminder of what PfP and EAPC are all about. The following succinct description is taken from the Swedish government offices website (emphasis added here):

“PfP was created in 1994 as concrete military and confidence-building security cooperation in Europe. PfP is a practically oriented programme for cooperation between NATO and non-NATO countries in Europe, Central Asia and southern Caucasus. For some countries the partnership has been a preparation for NATO membership. For other countries, such as Sweden, it has instead been the prime instrument for developing the military and civil interoperability that countries must have in order to be able to contribute to international crisis management and peace support operations.”

EAPC, which was set up in 1997 is described as

“… the political framework for PfP cooperation. It is a forum for consultation on various issues between NATO and Partner countries. EAPC and PfP are not independent institutions but are linked to the NATO structure. The basic principle for this cooperation is voluntary participation, which means that each individual Partner country decides the extent of its involvement in this cooperation.”

So back to Minister Coveney’s newset favourite topics of peacekeeping, women, security and disaster relief. PfP and EAPC’s big brother NATO has engaged in a series of military actions around the globe that has not only impinged upon the sovereignty of other nations, but has proved to be a serious threat to them all. Their 2011 air strikes in Libya, for example, were responsible for dozens of civilian deaths including women, children and other non-combatants in an externally instigated civil conflict according to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report. The human rights organisation charged NATO with failure to investigate its unlawful attacks, and with ignoring the civilian deaths.

Much of what we read about NATO gives a different impression – like the article by Ellen Hallams and Benjamin Schreer which was published in the supposedly independent Chatham House’s International Affairs journal. It claims that the air strikes were “instrumental in protecting civilians and ousting the Qadhafi regime” but neglects to mention the civilian deaths from the air strikes. But the article does reveal the true purpose of NATO. It describes its role as one of “burden-sharing” from a US perspective, noting that projected US defence cuts of up to $1 trillion over the coming decade will inevitably lead to greater expectations of their European allies. US leadership of NATO is culturally and structurally deeply embedded within the alliance it claims. As such, the only role that NATO and the satellite structures like PfP and EAPC play is to further US imperialist interests globally.

Finally, one wonders if Minister Coveney has talked to anyone in Libya about peacekeeping and conflict prevention. Has he asked the women of Afghanistan or Iraq, where thousands have been forced to change religion, and have been abused and murdered as a direct or indirect result of invasion by the US and its NATO burden-sharing allies, what they think of their efforts in support of women, peace and security?

We suspect not.

However since Minister Coveney is a member of a political party that has discussed opening accession talks with NATO, we imagine he may have been quite happy to be at the party in Wales. He may not have been very focused on the lucrative arms trading that has become a feature of NATO membership and “partnering”, but there are plenty of companies here that are. And we suspect that he would not have objected to the part of the NATO Summit Declaration that says they agree to “reverse the trend of declining defence budgets, to make the most effective use of our funds and to further a more balanced sharing of costs and responsibilities”.

Our Fine Gael/Labour government is more than happy to “share responsibilities” with NATO. But the evidence from polls conducted in recent years indicates that the Irish people are not. It goes against their humanity and their experience of oppression. It puts them on the side of aggression and it makes them complicit in the death and suffering of too many people.

And thats why we need to highlight and challenge the government\media message that its ok to want to be with NATO.

Bodies Of 800 Children, Found at Former Irish Home For Unwed Mothers

Irish government creates police unit to target social welfare claimants

Ireland: Letters promising immunity for IRA fugitives revealed in Downey prosecution

By Jordan Shilton 

17 March 2014

Following the collapse of the trial of John Downey, prosecuted for his alleged role in the Irish Republican Army’s (IRA’s) 1982 Hyde Park bombing in London that killed four British soldiers, details have emerged of letters sent to almost 200 on-the-run republicans by successive British governments.

The letters state that no charge was outstanding against the individual for crimes committed during the so-called troubles—the British occupation of Northern Ireland. In the course of the trial, it was shown that Downey had received one of the letters, prompting the judge to throw out the case.

Government officials sought to pin the blame on the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for issuing the letter in error to someone who was already wanted for prosecution. In reality, agreements were struck by leading officials in the British and Irish governments with organisations on both sides of the sectarian conflict not to pursue criminal charges against those involved in paramilitary activity. Along with the close to 200 on-the-run republicans who received letters, agreements were struck with Sinn Fein and loyalist groups to secure the release from prison of hundreds of paramilitaries immediately after the Good Friday power-sharing agreement came into force in 1998.

The claim by Democratic Unionist (DUP) leader Peter Robinson that he had never known about the deal with the IRA fugitives cannot be taken seriously. His outraged reaction was largely aimed at grandstanding before hardline unionists in the run-up to local elections in May.

He threatened his resignation if the British government did not establish a public inquiry into the issuing of the letters. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat government responded by agreeing to hold a judge-led inquiry that will meet in secret, have no power to compel witnesses to appear, and will make recommendations by the end of May on the administrative aspects of the programme out of which the letters emerged. The resignation was immediately withdrawn.

The coalition is determined to keep concealed the criminal practices of the British state in Northern Ireland, which the amnesties helped conceal, such as Bloody Sunday in 1972, when 14 peaceful protesters were killed by the British army.

Former leading military officials have now declared that no further attempts should be made to prosecute soldiers if “terrorists” had been granted an amnesty. The Telegraph quoted Col. Richard Kemp, who served in Northern Ireland, as saying, “It would be entirely wrong to try troops accused of murder or unlawful killing when the terrorists have effectively been given a get out of jail free card.”

In reality, in spite of an inquiry lasting over 12 years and costing around £190 million, the findings of the Saville inquest in 2010 amounted to a cover-up of the British government’s role, and there is no indication that any charges of those involved are being contemplated, or for the numerous other examples of collusion by the British state with loyalist death squads.

The government is determined to keep a lid on any further damaging exposures. As Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, commented, “We don’t want this to escalate into a full-blown political crisis in Northern Ireland, however much we totally understand the strength of feeling around this.”

Sinn Fein representatives agreed, with deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness urging that the political and legal structures in Northern Ireland, which entrench sectarian divisions among the population, be upheld. “This is a time for steady leadership, this is a time for calm nerves, this is a time for solutions to the present scenario,” he claimed. Pledging his ongoing loyalty to the power-sharing structures following a meeting with current Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, he added, “I will never resign.”

Notwithstanding the limited terms of reference of the inquiry proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron, however, it still has the potential to undermine the fragile political set-up in Northern Ireland by the Good Friday agreement based upon power-sharing arrangements at Stormont.

The concession to Sinn Fein on the issue of the on-the-runs was part of a broader agreement reached by the Labour government of Tony Blair. The IRA in return agreed to decommission its remaining stockpiles of arms and accede to the British government’s critical aim of fully integrating Sinn Fein into the structures of the Northern Irish state—through its recognition of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and cooperating in the Stormont regional administration with the then-leading Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).

Lawyers for Downey warned that his prosecution could call the peace process into question. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, security editor Tom Whitehead commented, “The court was warned that prosecuting John Downey for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing would have put the entire Northern Ireland peace settlement in jeopardy. It would have shattered faith in the key commitments given by the British government as part of the Good Friday Agreement that would have had far-reaching ‘ramifications’.”

This message was backed up by Peter Hain, former Northern Ireland secretary in Tony Blair’s Labour government. He wrote in the Guardian that Downey was “prosecuted in circumstances I still find astonishing.”

In a Telegraph article, he warned what was at stake: “Resolving the issue of the ‘on the runs’ was absolutely essential in order to make progress in Northern Ireland. Without that, I do not think we would have arrived at the situation when, on my watch on July 28, 2005, the IRA declared a historic end to its war. Or the subsequent decommissioning of the IRA’s arsenal. Or, crucially, Sinn Fein’s agreement in 2007 to support policing and the rule of law, with the backing of IRA cadres, which opened the door to seven years of relatively stable shared government by bitter old enemies” (emphasis added).

In fact, the agreement created a political system whose structures maintained and fostered religious differences based upon the provision that power would be shared by parties designated as representing rival “communities”—British loyalist (Protestant) and Irish Republican (Catholic).

As the latest events illustrate, the Stormont administration remains extremely unstable and has done little to resolve the conflicts that produced decades of violence.

The concern of figures like Hain is that the current dispute could undermine the ability of the DUP-Sinn Fein administration to push ahead with much-needed reforms to promote foreign investment in Northern Ireland and create a ready supply of cheap labour. This includes reducing the region’s reliance on the public sector, and moves to cut corporation tax significantly. The manipulation of sectarian differences plays a crucial role in this process, provided they are kept within certain boundaries.

Tensions have risen in recent months after the failure of long-running talks led by US diplomat Richard Haas aimed at reaching an agreement over issues of the past, parades and the displaying of flags. The talks broke down on New Year’s Eve 2013, and, in the wake of the latest revelations, the Ulster Unionist Party announced it was no longer willing to participate in future talks. The talks followed persistent and often-violent street protests in Belfast over the flying of the flag of the Republic of Ireland at Belfast City Hall.

Overcoming sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland, and mounting the necessary unified struggle against the Stormont regime and its backers in London and Dublin, can only be achieved by the development of an independent socialist perspective in the working class.

Poverty skyrockets in Ireland as the ruling elite gets richer

By Dermot Quinn and Emily Doyle 

6 December 2013

Sixteen percent of the Republic of Ireland’s population, 734,120 people, now live in poverty.

Since the financial and economic crisis engulfed the country in 2008 there has been a huge redistribution of wealth from the working class and poorer sections of society to the very wealthy ruling elite. Successive austerity budgets introduced by the ruling Fine Gael/Labour coalition and the previous government led by Fiana Fail have impoverished whole sections of society who depend on social protection.

To alleviate some of the worst aspects of the vicious social spending cuts introduced in the last five consecutive budgets, a huge number of impoverished families have turned to relief from one or other of the 40 religious charities, even though state funding to charities has been cut by over 30 percent.

The Dublin Archdiocese charity Crosscare is now involved in supplying food to 10 different charities throughout Dublin, which is distributed to the growing number of poor and homeless in the city. Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, last week appealed for food from shops and large food outlets, stating that “demand for basic items is outstripping supply.”

The charity expects to have distributed 750 tonnes of food by the end of this year, 50 percent more than last year.

The Catholic charity Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) is now making 400,000 home visits a year to families who are struggling to survive as poverty increases. SVP Vice-President Tom MacSweeney stated, “The families we visit are not just those on social welfare, they include people in low-paid employment, the self-employed and people in employment with debts that they cannot handle. The cumulative impact of austerity measures to date on individuals, families and communities has been devastating.”

The increasing gap between the super-rich and the majority of the population is rooted in the crisis-ridden capitalist system, in which the working class has borne the brunt of bailing out the banks after the financial and housing crash of 2008. In total, the spending cuts and tax hikes implemented amount to more than 20 percent of Ireland’s economic output.

The most recent figures from the Central Statistics Office show that without social welfare and other state support, 50.7 percent of the population would be at risk of dire poverty.

In an attempt to boost profits, the government with the collaboration of the unions has played a leading role in facilitating a long-term strategy by employers to depress wages.

Since national wage bargaining was ended indefinitely in 2009, a significant minority of employers have cut basic pay levels while requiring employees to work extra hours with no additional pay. The result is that those in low-paid or insecure employment earn a wage that is not adequate to cover the basic costs of living for themselves and their families. The number of people earning less than €11,000 a year has continued to grow since 2011 to a staggering 733,000 people. This means that almost three quarters of a million people in employment are experiencing “at risk of poverty” conditions.

With youth unemployment having remained at 30 percent for the last four years, the majority of the half a million people who have emigrated since the recession began are young people. The slashing of dole rates for those under 26 in the October budget has created a reserve army of young people now being forced to work on “jobbridge” schemes for as little as €50 (US$68) a week.

Cuts to supports like child benefit, household benefits, medical cards and education as well as the property tax have left many families with little or no disposable income. A 500 percent increase in prescription charges over recent years and the fact that over 10,000 people have been cut off the medical card this year have left thousands of older people living in fear and struggling to survive. The youngest suffer too, as five children a week become homeless while the number of families becoming homeless has doubled in the past year.

At the beginning of November there was widespread anger over the treatment by the Health Service Executive (HSE) of a child from Cork, which exemplified how health service cuts are forcing young families into poverty. Jackie and Ray Connolly were refused a renewal of a medical card for their five-year-old daughter Katie, who suffers from Down’s syndrome, asthma, juvenile arthritis and a heart condition. Katie’s mother Jackie had already suffered a pay cut earlier in the year and was facing mounting care costs for her daughter. The family organised a protest outside Cork city hall on November 9,, which was attended by around 40 other children with Down’s syndrome and their parents who have lost their discretionary medical cards in recent months.

“Katie needs her medical card to access community care services within the HSE, so what are we to do now?” Jackie asked. “If Katie does not see a doctor her condition could worsen. She has a compromised immune system and is susceptible to various ailments.”

The Irish Examiner reported in October that there were now more than 1,000 people a month losing their discretionary medical cards, with a total drop of nearly 10,000 in the first eight months of the year. The cards entitle their holders to free health care services.

The government plans to make a further €666 million in cuts to the health service and €230 million to the social care budget in 2014, as part of the €2.5 billion (1.5 percent of GDP) cuts introduced in the 2014 budget. According to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report, published on November 21, Ireland has experienced the worst drop in health spending per capita across the European Union. The drop in health spending between 2009 and 2011 was 6.6 percent, second only to Greece with 11.1 percent.

By contrast, the wealthiest 10 percent have never had it so good. This section of the population have actually grown their wealth by 8 percent since 2008. They sit on top of a divided and crisis-ridden society, with one eye on the state and political establishment that genuflects before its every need.

According to the 2013 Sunday Times Rich List, the number of Irish billionaires has doubled since the economic crash. The richest 300 of the country’s billionaires and multi-millionaires saw their wealth grow by almost 6.3 percent, or €3.9 billion, last year. The wealth attained by the wealthy elite in Ireland has now grown to a staggering €66 billion. Another review of the wealth of the super-rich in 2013 in the Irish Independent revealed that there are just 105 people with net assets of €100 million each. Denis O’Brien, owner of Telecom, is the richest billionaire on the list with a net worth of €3.8 billion.

Irish unions complete sellout of Dublin Bus workers

By Jordan Shilton 

9 November 2013

The vote last Wednesday by drivers at Dublin Bus organised in SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union) not to take strike action against management cuts was a devastating verdict on the rotten role played by the trade unions.

After Dublin Bus announced a date of November 17 for the implementation of measures designed to save close to €12 million annually, SIPTU balloted its members, who make up around half of all drivers at the company, on industrial action. A majority of 72 percent opposed taking action.

The vote reflects a growing awareness among workers that the union offers no means to combat the attacks of management. It followed the rejection of the latest government-brokered offer by SIPTU members on October 25. The remaining 50 percent of drivers, organised in the NBRU (National Bus and Rail Union) accepted the proposal, which includes pay cuts and changes to working arrangements.

The company vowed to press ahead with the cuts package, claiming that an overall majority of 55 percent of all drivers had accepted the deal. It received the full backing of the government, with Transport Minister Leo Varadkar declaring that the Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition would stand behind the company in the event of further protests by workers.

In line with its role throughout the dispute, SIPTU worked to impose the cuts on its members and block any opposition from the workforce. This was summed up by the decision to hold a new strike ballot following the drivers’ opposition to the latest offer, even though the original vote for strike action in August was still valid.

The union justified this by claiming that significant alterations had been made to the cost-cutting plan, and that, in the words of SIPTU President Jack O’Connor, a further strike ballot would allow the “democratic will” of the workers to be expressed. As SIPTU’s traffic committee put it in a statement announcing the strike ballot, it had been arranged “due to the changed and serious nature of the circumstances that are now in existence.”

With unparalleled cynicism, one of the major factors that SIPTU claimed had changed was the fact that NBRU drivers had backed the deal, which undermined “the requirement for maximum unity” in any work stoppage.

In reality, it is the union bureaucracy which has been working tirelessly to divide the workforce from the moment the three-day strike broke out in August. The work stoppage had a major impact on the transport system in the capital, affecting an estimated 70,000 passengers per day. Most concerning of all for the unions was the fact that the strike won significant sympathy from other sections of workers, who recognised that the Dublin bus staff were facing the same attacks on their pay and working conditions the government has imposed across the entire economy since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008.

Responding to this broad sentiment in support of the workers, Varadkar warned the unions and employers not to allow talks over a deal to drag on due to the threat that a larger social protest movement could develop.

The unions duly obliged, finalising a deal with management which they presented to their members. To foster divisions, the ballots were organised on different days for each section of workers. By the end of August SIPTU and NBRU had managed to compel all workers at Dublin bus to approve the multi-million euro savings programme apart from the drivers.

The unions responded to the ongoing refusal of the drivers to back the deal by collaborating with the government to force through the measures with the threat of the bankruptcy of the company. A special committee composed of David Begg, head of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), a representative from the employers’ association IBEC and government officials was formed, which appointed two arbitrators to produce a final offer.

The oftfer that emerged and was voted on late last month kept in place all of the cuts demanded by management and offered nothing to the workers. The commitment to allow the intervention of an arbitrator if the cuts were not reversed after 19 months is not worth the paper it is written on, since such a role would likely be played by the Labour Relations Commission, the very body that helped draft the initial cuts package.

SIPTU’s decision to call a new strike ballot had nothing to do with opposition to the cost-cutting package, but was aimed at concluding the union’s betrayal of the workers. Under conditions in which NBRU members had been intimidated into backing the deal with the threatened winding up of the company, the SIPTU leadership calculated that drivers in SIPTU were isolated and would not back a strike on their own. Moreover, the repeated attempts by the bureaucracy to shut down the dispute since it broke out meant that none of the workers had any confidence in the ability of the union to organise a genuine struggle in defence of their interests.

Deeper cuts are already being prepared even before the current package has been fully enforced. Accountancy firm Deloitte has been hired to propose how Dublin Bus could be salvaged in the face of its financial problems, which have been exacerbated by the slashing of government funding over the past few years. Among the options being considered is empowering the government to impose cuts unilaterally or placing the firm in receivership, which would allow it to abandon contractual obligations to workers and restructure its operations.

This latter option would act as a further major step in the privatisation of public transport. The National Transport Authority has already tied the cuts at Dublin Bus to the opening up of 10 percent of the market to private providers from 2016. The reorganisation of the firm’s operations could prepare the way for a much larger portion of its current operations to be outsourced.

This has been the goal of the government for some time. Since 2008, the subsidies for public bus services have been drastically cut, including support for national bus operator Bus Eireann. This is part of a broader strategy to sharply reduce public services to pay for the multi-billion euro bailout of the financial elite.

NBRU General Secretary Dermot O’Leary claimed that the unions would oppose privatisation, asserting, “The government’s responsibility in providing a public bus service for the citizens of the state should not be abdicated at the altar of a policy driven by the desire to place profit ahead of service.”

O’Leary’s posturing is thoroughly dishonest. It is the role played by the unions in demobilising opposition to the cost-cutting plans that has cleared the way for the assault on and privatisation of bus services.

The only viable basis upon which workers’ opposition can be transformed into a movement capable of resisting these attacks is through a political and organisational break with the trade unions. Workers must build their own action committees to assume control of their struggle and appeal to broader layers of the working class for support to defend their jobs and working conditions.

The Bank Guarantee that Bankrupted Ireland

By Ellen Hodgson Brown

November 03, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  The Irish have a long history of being tyrannized, exploited, and oppressed—from the forced conversion to Christianity in the Dark Ages, to slave trading of the natives in the 15th and 16th centuries, to the mid-nineteenth century “potato famine” that was really a holocaust. The British got Ireland’s food exports, while at least one million Irish died from starvation and related diseases, and another million or more emigrated.

Today, Ireland is under a different sort of tyranny, one imposed by the banks and the troika—the EU, ECB and IMF. The oppressors have demanded austerity and more austerity, forcing the public to pick up the tab for bills incurred by profligate private bankers.

The official unemployment rate is 13.5%—up from 5% in 2006—and this figure does not take into account the mass emigration of Ireland’s young people in search of better opportunities abroad. Job loss and a flood of foreclosures are leading to suicides. A raft of new taxes and charges has been sold as necessary to reduce the deficit, but they are simply a backdoor bailout of the banks.

At first, the Irish accepted the media explanation: these draconian measures were necessary to “balance the budget” and were in their best interests. But after five years of belt-tightening in which unemployment and living conditions have not improved, the people are slowly waking up. They are realizing that their assets are being grabbed simply to pay for the mistakes of the financial sector.

Five years of austerity has not restored confidence in Ireland’s banks. In fact the banks themselves are packing up and leaving. On October 31, reported that Danske Bank Ireland was closing its personal and business banking, only days after ACCBank announced it was handing back its banking license; and Ulster Bank’s future in Ireland remains unclear.

The field is ripe for some publicly owned banks. Banks that have a mandate to serve the people, return the profits to the people, and refrain from speculating. Banks guaranteed by the state because they are the state, without resort to bailouts or bail-ins. Banks that aren’t going anywhere, because they are locally owned by the people themselves.

The Folly of Absorbing the Gambling Losses of the Banks

Ireland was the first European country to watch its entire banking system fail.  Unlike the Icelanders, who refused to bail out their bankrupt banks, in September 2008 the Irish government gave a blanket guarantee to all Irish banks, covering all their loans, deposits, bonds and other liabilities.

At the time, no one was aware of the huge scale of the banks’ liabilities, or just how far the Irish property market would fall.

Within two years, the state bank guarantee had bankrupted Ireland.  The international money markets would no longer lend to the Irish government.

Before the bailout, the Irish budget was in surplus. By 2011, its deficit was 32% of the country’s GDP, the highest by far in the Eurozone. At that rate, bank losses would take every penny of Irish taxes for at least the next three years.

“This debt would probably be manageable,” wrote Morgan Kelly, Professor of Economics at University College Dublin, “had the Irish government not casually committed itself to absorb all the gambling losses of its banking system.”

To avoid collapse, the government had to sign up for an €85 billion bailout from the EU-IMF and enter a four year program of economic austerity, monitored every three months by an EU/IMF team sent to Dublin.

Public assets have also been put on the auction block. Assets currently under consideration include parts of Ireland’s power and gas companies and its 25% stake in the airline Aer Lingus.

At one time, Ireland could have followed the lead of Iceland and refused to bail out its bondholders or to bow to the demands for austerity. But that was before the Irish government used ECB money to pay off the foreign bondholders of Irish banks. Now its debt is to the troika, and the troika are tightening the screws.  In September 2013, they demanded another 3.1 billion euro reduction in spending.

Some ministers, however, are resisting such cuts, which they say are politically undeliverable.

In The Irish Times on October 31, 2013, a former IMF official warned that the austerity imposed on Ireland is self-defeating. Ashoka Mody, former IMF chief of mission to Ireland, said it had become “orthodoxy that the only way to establish market credibility” was to pursue austerity policies. But five years of crisis and two recent years of no growth needed “deep thinking” on whether this was the right course of action. He said there was “not one single historical instance” where austerity policies have led to an exit from a heavy debt burden.

Austerity has not fixed Ireland’s debt problems. Belying the rosy picture painted by the media, in September 2013 Antonio Garcia Pascual, chief euro-zone economist at Barclays Investment Bank, warned that Ireland may soon need a second bailout.

According to John Spain, writing in Irish Central in September 2013:

The anger among ordinary Irish people about all this has been immense…. There has been great pressure here for answers…. Why is the ordinary Irish taxpayer left carrying the can for all the debts piled up by banks, developers and speculators? How come no one has been jailed for what happened? … [D]espite all the public anger, there has been no public inquiry into the disaster.

Bail-in by Super-tax or Economic Sovereignty?

In many ways, Ireland is ground zero for the austerity-driven asset grab now sweeping the world. All Eurozone countries are mired in debt. The problem is systemic.

In October 2013, an IMF report discussed balancing the books of the Eurozone governments through a super-tax of 10% on all households in the Eurozone with positive net wealth. That would mean the confiscation of 10% of private savings to feed the insatiable banking casino.

The authors said the proposal was only theoretical, but that it appeared to be “an efficient solution” for the debt problem. For a group of 15 European countries, the measure would bring the debt ratio to “acceptable” levels, i.e. comparable to levels before the 2008 crisis.

A review posted on Gold Silver Worlds observed:

[T]he report right away debunks the myth that politicians and main stream media try to sell, i.e. the crisis is contained and the positive economic outlook for 2014.

… Prepare yourself, the reality is that more bail-ins, confiscation and financial repression is coming, contrary to what the good news propaganda tries to tell.

A more sustainable solution was proposed by Dr Fadhel Kaboub, Assistant Professor of Economics at Denison University in Ohio. In a letter posted in The Financial Times titled “What the Eurozone Needs Is Functional Finance,” he wrote:

The eurozone’s obsession with “sound finance” is the root cause of today’s sovereign debt crisis. Austerity measures are not only incapable of solving the sovereign debt problem, but also a major obstacle to increasing aggregate demand in the eurozone. The Maastricht treaty’s “no bail-out, no exit, no default” clauses essentially amount to a joint economic suicide pact for the eurozone countries.

… Unfortunately, the likelihood of a swift political solution to amend the EU treaty is highly improbable. Therefore, the most likely and least painful scenario for [the insolvent countries] is an exit from the eurozone combined with partial default and devaluation of a new national currency…

The takeaway lesson is that financial sovereignty and adequate policy co-ordination between fiscal and monetary authorities are the prerequisites for economic prosperity.

Standing Up to Goliath

 Ireland could fix its budget problems by leaving the Eurozone, repudiating its blanket bank guarantee as “odious” (obtained by fraud and under duress), and issuing its own national currency. The currency could then be used to fund infrastructure and restore social services, putting the Irish back to work.

Short of leaving the Eurozone, Ireland could reduce its interest burden and expand local credit by forming publicly-owned banks, on the model of the Bank of North Dakota. The newly-formed Public Banking Forum of Ireland is pursuing that option. In Wales, which has also been exploited for its coal, mobilizing for a public bank is being organized by the Arian Cymru ‘BERW’ (Banking and Economic Regeneration Wales).

Irish writer Barry Fitzgerald, author of Building Cities of Gold, casts the challenge to his homeland in archetypal terms:

The Irish are mobilising and they are awakening. They hold the DNA memory of vastly ancient times, when all men and women obeyed the Golden rule of honouring themselves, one another and the planet. They recognize the value of this harmony as it relates to banking. They instantly intuit that public banking free from the soiled hands of usurious debt tyranny is part of the natural order.

In many ways they could lead the way in this unfolding, as their small country is so easily traversed to mobilise local communities.  They possess vast potential renewable energy generation and indeed could easily use a combination of public banking and bond issuance backed by the people to gain energy independence in a very short time.

When the indomitable Irish spirit is awakened, organized and mobilized, the country could become the poster child not for austerity, but for economic prosperity through financial sovereignty.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her websites are http://WebofDebt.com, and

Max interviews journalist and anti-bondholder bailout activist, Diarmuid O’Flynn about taking a stance against bailing out unsecured bondholders in Ireland.

Keiser Report: Gutter Debt

Max interviews journalist and anti-bondholder bailout activist, Diarmuid O’Flynn about taking a stance against bailing out unsecured bondholders in Ireland.

People of Ireland begin Criminal Proceedings against Banks


An organisation which says it represents 1,000 members of the public lodged a summons with the High Court yesterday morning making a number of allegations against Bank of Ireland, including gross negligence and breach of contract.

While politician and banker salaries and pensions are protected and golden handshakes are the order of the day for retiring civil servants and financial regulators, extra taxes, cutbacks in services and attending the funerals of family members and friends who could no longer cope with the stress and strain is now common place for many Irish people. Read More

Posted October 16, 2013

By Stephen Rogers

The group, which calls itself People of Éire, said the plenary summons lodged on behalf of a young Cork couple will be the first of a number against financial institutions to be lodged over the coming weeks.

People of Éire said the cases “will seek to expose a number of issues surrounding the economic collapse of Ireland. The cases will deal with a number of different areas, including the damage to the rights of the borrower, the breach of regulatory requirements, the breach of acts and statues relating to company law and financial reporting”.

It also said it expected “numerous criminal complaints relating to individuals within the banking sector will be filed with An Garda Síochána”.

According to Claire Cullinane, one of the founders of Debt Options Ireland, which is a leading body behind People of Éire, said more than 500 people accompanied Macroom couple Patrice and Roy Keating, who are in their 20s, and their 14-month-old daughter Erin, to the High Court yesterday to lodge their summons.

She said that the two-page summons alleged, among other things, breach of trust, gross negligence, non-compliance with the code of conduct of the Central Bank, breach of consumer protection code, breach of accounting regulations, failure to disclose a liquidity or insolvency problem in a timely manner, and breach of contract.

Ms Cullinane said the crowd stayed in the car park to show as much respect for the court as they could.

“The whole High Court stopped,” she said. “All the windows opened in the courts and all the barristers and solicitors came out on the steps and listened and supported us.”

Ms Cullinane said the movement had started out of the need for people to support each other.

“For some, they are in trouble themselves,” she said. “The trouble there is some people cannot even read the paperwork anymore because they have become so overwhelmed.

“For others, they are dealing with illnesses such as cancer, heart attacks, and they are afraid of the paperwork running away on them. Local people in their area go in and help them go through whatever it is they need and then some people want to go through the whole way to taking a summons in the High Court and have a justifiable case to do so.

“Others are just happy to be able to breathe again. There is no judgment, it’s whatever people need.”

Ms Cullinane said she set up a training programme to help lay litigants and people in trouble.

“A part of my resumé would be as a therapist and I was seeing more and more people needed all kinds of therapies to deal with stress, but unfortunately they did not have the money to go to therapists,” she said.

“Part of the work I have done over the years is train international governments on stress management and creative thinking. It was time to put the boots on, get walking, and go out to the people rather than waiting for the people to come to me.

“Up to now, everything has been free. Everything within Debt Options is free because lay people were helping other lay people. Now it has moved forward because we have professional solicitors and barristers so everybody has come in as part of the company.

“The new body, People of Éire, has a donate button and everybody all over this country, and even emigrants abroad, can donate anything they want to the fund.”

Strikes and protests break out in Ireland despite sabotage by trade unions

By Jordan Shilton 

5 October 2013

As the Fine Gael/Labour coalition prepares another austerity budget in Dublin, protest actions and strikes have broken out among sections of workers.

On September 22, teachers organised in the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) announced their rejection of the Haddington Road Agreement, a plan negotiated with the unions to impose €1 billion in budget cuts in the next two years.

In the first use of the emergency powers granted to the state during the negotiations over the Haddington Road deal, teachers in the ASTI will have the cuts imposed upon them unilaterally. In addition, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn threatened them with redundancies if they continued with their opposition to the government’s cost-cutting programme.

The ASTI’s 17,000 members began a work to rule on Wednesday, which involves refusing to attend meetings out of school hours for parents, withholding substitute cover for absent teachers, and refusing to complete administrative tasks. Union officials, anxious to prevent an escalation in the struggle, have threatened the government that strike action may be taken in future if they remain unwilling to enter negotiations with the ASTI.

Government officials, including Prime Minister Enda Kenny, have ruled out any talks on the deal.

Meanwhile, the dispute over long working hours in the health sector for doctors is ongoing. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) called off the first day of action planned for September 25, but was forced to set a new date for the one-day strike on October 8. This followed the collapse of talks with the Health Service Executive, which the IMO blamed for failing to listen to its concerns.

Doctors voted overwhelmingly for strike action to oppose working patterns that see some working up to 100 hours per week. Shifts of 24 hours are the norm at many hospitals.

The main demands of the union were for an end to 24-hour shifts and an introduction of the European Working Directive, which forbids a working week of more than 48 hours.

Strike action could also be taken at the state energy firm ESB, following an announcement on September 22 that workers were to be balloted by the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) and Unite. The dispute relates to a €1.6 billion black hole in the company’s pension scheme, and the decision of management to change the scheme from a defined-benefit to a defined-contribution plan.

Management refused to acknowledge any liability for any decrease in the value of the pension fund, which has suffered over recent years due to underfunding from the company and the economic crisis. The unions involved in the ballot indicated that strikes could go ahead in early November, and that power supplies would be disrupted, as the action would involve all workers at the company.

These attacks on workers are rooted in the economic crisis, which has devastated Ireland since 2008, and the deliberate policy of the ruling elite, which has sought to shift the full burden of the bailout of the banks on to the backs of working people. Education and health have been two of the areas of public spending most affected by the more than €30 billion cuts enacted by successive governments—a figure that equates to approximately 20 percent of the Irish economy.

In 2012, an emergency health budget was rushed through parliament on top of the cuts announced in the main budget, after it emerged that the government would miss the targets set down by the European Union to cut spending. A further €500 million was cut. From 2012 to 2015, fully 8 percent of total health spending is to be eliminated.

Cuts to education have seen the starting salaries for teachers drop sharply and schools starved of resources. Studies have been published revealing that teachers have witnessed a massive rise in the number of their pupils coming to school malnourished or in a poor state of mental or physical well-being.

The next round of attacks to be unveiled by Finance Minister Michael Noonan on October 15 in the 2014 budget will intensify the destruction of what is left of public services. Up to €3.1 billion of spending cuts and tax hikes are being sought.

The sole reason for the lack of strikes and protests by workers in the face of this onslaught has been the role played by the trade union bureaucracy, which has collaborated fully with government policy. In 2010, they all signed up to the Croke Park Agreement, under which the public sector workforce was cut by 10 percent while the unions imposed a strike ban. The signatories included the ASTI, the IMO, the SIPTU and Unite, none of whom did anything to defend their members from the devastating consequences of government austerity.

They have felt compelled to call strikes now in the face of the mounting anger among their members at their repeated betrayals. The first ballot on the new public sector pay agreement was decisively repudiated by a large majority of teachers, nurses, doctors and other public servants. Even after the bureaucracy managed to force through the Haddington Road Agreement at the second time of asking, with threats of the unilateral implementation of cuts under the state’s emergency powers, which the unions helped implement, teachers in the ASTI maintained their opposition to the deal.

The ASTI leadership is now pursuing a deliberate policy of isolating the teachers. They concluded an agreement with the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which also represents some secondary school teachers, to prevent teachers from changing their union affiliation. The agreement prevents any members of the TUI, which has already accepted Haddington Road, from joining the strike, and ASTI members from leaving to join another union. Not a single appeal has been made by the ASTI to other teachers or school staff, students or their parents, all of whom confront the same attacks on their jobs and livelihoods.

A similar approach has been adopted by the IMO towards the doctors’ strike. In spite of the drastic cuts to health services that affect all health care workers, the IMO has sought to limit the dispute to the single issue of overtime for doctors. The union’s main aim has been the restarting of negotiations with the Health Service Executive, and it has reassured the government that after its day of action on October 8, subsequent protests will be confined to individual hospitals.

The union bureaucracy is determined to block the development of a movement within the working class that challenges the government and its vicious social attacks. They are fully integrated into the structures of the state and have proven willing accomplices in the attacks on working people since the onset of the crisis. They have not raised a word of protest at the expansion of authoritarian state powers that are being used to impose the demands of the ruling elite on working people.

Any genuine struggle against the destruction of wages, working conditions and social services, whether led by doctors, teachers or any other section of workers, can only go forward in a decisive political break with these organisations, and the formation of independent strike committees to coordinate their struggles. The political basis for such a turn is a socialist and internationalist programme.

Priory Hall housing scandal impacts Irish government

By Dermot Quinn 

2 October 2013

As the Irish Dail (parliament) resumed business at the end of September Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced that the government will now take action to help the former residents of the disastrous Priory Hall development.

Kenny was not specific about what type of help will be forthcoming, but he has been forced to intervene in what has become an ongoing scandal that encapsulates the corrupt nature of Irish capitalism, its state, and banking institutions.

The Priory Hall apartment complex was built in 2007 by developer Tom McFeely at the height of the housing bubble, which directly contributed to the financial and banking crash one year later.

The 189-apartment complex targeted first-time buyers and newly married couples. Situated in North Dublin, it was one of a number of new developments advertising apartments at exorbitant prices. Bankers and developers got rich while the political establishment and local politicians turned a blind eye to the shabby building methods and shortcuts used in the construction of apartment complexes and housing estates, which placed the maximisation of profits above the needs of the residents that were about to move in. Little or no regulation meant that it was left up to the developer to ensure the materials used in the constructions were up to standard.

When the 249 residents of Priory Hall, Donaghmede moved into their homes in 2007 they began to notice paint peeling off the walls and cracks appearing in the ceilings and floors. The main balconies were badly constructed and plastered. The basement car park flooded and dampness and mould began to affect the electrical wiring.

It then emerged that McFeely had disregarded fire regulations and the apartments were a fire hazard and a threat to the lives of residents. In 2009 this forced Dublin City Council, which had bought 26 of the apartments for social housing, to evacuate a small number of the tenants. The council ordered McFeely to carry out repair work on the complex, but he refused to foot the €7.3 million bill and was declared bankrupt by the Supreme Court.

In October 2011 the remaining 180 residents were given 48 hours notice to evacuate the apartment complex. When the judgement was made by Justice Nicholas Kearns, he demanded that a fire engine should remain at the development in case a fire broke out before the residents moved out.

Residents found themselves living in temporary accommodation, but still harnessed by the banks and forced to repay inflated mortgages on their apartments. Lives were destroyed.

On July 15 Fiachra Daly, a resident, took his own life. In a recent television interview his partner Stephanie Meehan said the pressure from the banks, the failure of the state to intervene, and the nightmare evacuation of the residents from Priory Hall was the main reasons for his suicide. She explained that even though she and her children had been evacuated from the apartment complex two years ago, she had received a letter from the KBC bank demanding €17,000 in repayments after his death.

The brick wall of financial dealings the residents have come up against testifies to the ongoing corruption which dominates Irish society. Homebond, the building insurance agent for the apartments, cancelled its block insurance as soon as it became clear the residents were to be evacuated. The main banks involved, AIB and Bank of Ireland, postponed some monthly repayments after the residents were evacuated from Priory Hall but the residents were left with mounting interest rates on the loans. The residents have up till now refused to pay mortgage repayments for apartments that now lie derelict and uninhabitable.

Enda Kenny’s right wing Fine Gael/Labour government has left the residents of Priory Hall in a deplorable situation for the past two years, faced with mounting debts and immense emotional pressure. It was only on September 16 this year that Environment Minister Phil Hogan instructed his department to initiate “dialogue” with the banks, the residents, and Dublin City Council.

The on-going housing crisis has been devastating for families and individuals. Prior to 2008 sub-standard housing became the norm rather than the exception. Since the banking crisis and the economic meltdown, so called “ghost estates” have appeared as developers have went bust, leaving houses half completed and with little infrastructure for the basic needs of residents. The use of the pyrite mineral in housing foundations in order to cut costs has exasperated the crisis, causing cracks and crevices in walls and—eventually—houses to sink and come apart at the seams. The use of pyrite by developers is estimated to affect some 20,000 homes in Ireland.

On September 27, the Priory Hall scandal took on a bizarre twist when it was reported that over €200,000 had been found in the bathroom of McFeely’s former luxury mansion in Ailesbury road in Dublin. The house which was valued at 15 million euros in 2007 had been sold on by the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) when McFeely went bankrupt two years ago. The money was found by a plumber renovating the house.

McFeely was a former hunger striker and member of the Irish Republican Army. For Irish workers now suffering continued depredation, this will come as no surprise.

The one big lie propagated by republicans is that the whole Irish people are in the one boat. According to republicans the interests of the nation state must take precedence over the class interests of workers. Notwithstanding the heroism and self-sacrifice demonstrated by McFeely and others at the time, the republican and nationalist politics expounded by Sinn Fein was rooted in an attempt to advance the interests of the small and medium business classes among Catholics suffering discrimination.

These layers ultimately sought to overcome their exclusion from personal advancement under the Protestant loyalist ascendancy on which the six counties in the north was based and to achieve the privileges enjoyed by their counterparts in the south. Even though nationalist organisations such as Sinn Fein often used fake left-wing rhetoric which attracted young people and workers, these organisations were never interested in breaking with capitalism but in securing a place for themselves within the ruling elites.

McFeely first gained a reputation in 1976 as a member of the IRA after a shoot out with the Royal Ulster Constabulary when he was charged with attempted murder. Sentenced to 26 years, he became a senior organiser in Long Kesh prison.

In October 1980, along with a group of other Republican prisoners, he began a hunger strike in an attempt to force the British government to grant them the status of political prisoners. He was released from the Maze prison in 1989.

His release coincided with the beginning of the process which would see Sinn Fein and the IRA make their peace with the British and Irish establishments and their incorporation into mainstream bourgeois politics. McFeely himself made the transition from IRA militant to property developer. Beginning with investments in smaller housing schemes, he was a key player in the inflated property market by 2000.

Irish unions prepared to enforce new round of austerity

Ireland seeks ongoing financial support after end of bailout

Ireland: Bankers joke about their €7 billion bailout scam

Obama: Hypocrite Of The Century Irish Lawmaker Calls Obama A War Criminal

Irish government to impose austerity until 2020

IMF to have power over Irish healthcare spending

Irish Labour Party in deep crisis

Irish public sector workers reject austerity package

Banks threaten to increase repossessions as Irish mortgage crisis deepens

By Jordan Shilton 

1 April 2013

Details have emerged in recent weeks of the full scale of the debt crisis confronting households in Ireland. The large quantity of mortgage debt, which totals €17 billion for owner-occupied properties alone in a country of just 4.5 million people, equating to €3,777 per person, is creating concerns about the potential for a renewed financial collapse.

A report from the Central Bank of Ireland stated that over 140,000 households were in some form of mortgage arrears. Including the buy-to-let market, the total outstanding debt stood at €25 billion. The report showed that more than 23,000 households had been in debt for at least two years and that the total overdue payments were at least €3 billion. Some 11.5 percent of households were in arrears by more than 90 days.

Almost one quarter of mortgages are either in arrears or have been restructured due to the inability of borrowers to pay. Many homes are “under water”, meaning that they are worth less than the mortgage taken out on them, since property prices have halved since the economic crisis began.

A massive property bubble prior to 2008, brought on by the speculative activities of the banks and encouraged by low tax rates, contributed significantly to the financial collapse five years ago. Since then, the austerity policies implemented by the political elite have shifted the burden of the crisis onto the backs of working people.

The last five years have seen spending cuts and tax hikes totalling €28.5 billion, and much more is to come. The latest deal agreed between Ireland’s international lenders and the government in February will see working people pay for the bailout of the former Anglo Irish Bank over the next 40 years.

Concerns remain that the large levels of mortgage debt could provoke another financial collapse, particularly as the economy across Europe goes deeper into recession. Projections for the domestic economy this year suggest that it will see zero growth.

Bank of Ireland, the only major financial institution not to have fallen under majority state control, reported pre-tax losses of €2.16 billion earlier this month. It has cut 5,000 jobs since 2008. Over €3 billion of its mortgage lending, which totals €28 billion, is more than 90 days in arrears.

Some commentators have warned that the deepening crisis may compel the state to intervene and assume responsibility for the debt, not only at Bank of Ireland, but also at Allied Irish Bank and Permanent TSB. Losses for 2012 at Allied Irish were even worse at €2.8 billion. At Permanent TSB, one in five mortgages are in arrears.

In spite of the Bank of Ireland’s poor figures, executive pay rose sharply in 2012. Bank CEO Richie Boucher saw his pay and bonus package rise by over €12,000 to more than €840,000. Joe Walsh, a former Fianna Fáil government minister ostensibly appointed to the bank “on behalf of taxpayers,” enjoyed a pay increase of 14 percent.

In contrast, yet more sacrifices are being demanded from the working class. Leading banking officials responded to the latest mortgage figures with complaints over the low repossession rate of homes, and warned that they would be taking a more direct approach in future. A Bloomberg report described what was being prepared as “the biggest wave of foreclosures in the nation’s history.”

John Moran, the Secretary General of the Department of Finance, summed up the views in government when he declared that the rates of house repossessions in Ireland were “uncharacteristically low.” He continued that banks would soon be able to “move forward” in dealing with problem mortgages.

Matthew Elderfield, Deputy head of the Irish Central Bank stated, “Various factors have temporarily restrained lenders but it is an unpalatable fact in light of the severity of the crisis that repossessions must be expected to rise significantly.”

The Central Bank, which will oversee new government regulations to tackle the crisis, has said that banks must propose “sustainable” solutions to 50 percent of those with mortgage arrears by the end of 2013. In addition, the bank wants 75 percent of all customers with outstanding debts to have complied with new agreements by the end of 2014.

The government legislation will help facilitate the banks’ attempts to claw back mortgage arrears from workers struggling to make ends meet, with provision for repossession for those unable to make repayments. There are also plans to remove a legal loophole that has prevented a number of repossessions from going ahead.

The government proposals also include powers for representatives of the banks to impose income restrictions and limits on living standards on those in arrears. This could include compelling individuals to give up health insurance or even childcare. State-appointed “mediators”, who will be tasked with debt negotiations between mortgage holders and the banks, will be granted the power to determine “reasonable living expenses,” and rule out any spending deemed to be a “luxury.”

The government is calling for more “engagement” by the banks, in order to separate the “strategic defaulters” from those borrowers who genuinely cannot afford to pay. This distinction is completely fraudulent and is an attempt to conceal the brutality of the approach being proposed. The reality is that thousands of people across the country no longer have the means to meet basic living costs, let alone keep up with mortgage payments.

According to a survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions, 1.8 million people—a third of the population—have less than €100 left each month after “essential bills” are paid. Slashing of wages across all economic sectors, the implementation of a series of new taxes and levies to pay for the banking bailout, and thousands of job losses, with unemployment rising to over 14 percent, have all contributed to the growth of mass poverty.

On top of this, the government will introduce a new property tax at the beginning of July on 1.8 million households across the country.

Ireland’s international lenders in the European Union (EU), European Central Bank, (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) all support these measures against homeowners. In its latest review of Dublin’s bailout programme, the IMF hailed the government’s encouragement of the banks to increase home repossessions. “Building on the strong budget out-turn for 2012, sound budget execution remains critical in 2013, including continued vigilance on health spending and a successful introduction of the property tax,” the IMF wrote.

The callous indifference to the impact such measures are having on working people is in line with the policies being dictated by the troika across Europe. Similar austerity programmes are being followed in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Cyprus.

The banks have seized the opportunity to massively expand repossessions. On March 16, the Irish Independent reported that instead of the 200 homes it had repossessed last year, Ulster Bank may aim at assuming control of 1,000 in 2013.

Ireland’s top trade union bureaucrat warns of a “tipping point”

By Steve James

15 March 2013

Since 2001 David Begg has headed the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). He is also a non-executive director to Aer Lingus. Between 1995 and 2010, he was a director of the Irish Central Bank. As such, Begg is not only a wealthy representative of the Irish capitalist class but also one of its leading strategists.

As head of the ICTU, he assumes direct responsibility for policing the working class and imposing the savage austerity measures being demanded of Ireland by its international creditors.

He is, therefore, more aware than most that social tensions, stoked by five years of relentless cuts, are reaching unbearable levels.

Earlier this month, Begg told theDaily Telegraph, “The Troika [the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund] has done more damage to Ireland than Britain ever did in 800 years.”

“It is like being in an awful World War One conflict where the generals have expended a million lives to gain a yard of ground, yet nothing will change their mind in the face of all the evidence,” he added.

He commented bitterly, “When we meet the Troika, we tell them that austerity is not working, and they tell us that it is. It is a dialogue of the deaf.”

Begg’s comparisons, with both the centuries of British rule in Ireland and the European battlefields of World War I, are appropriate. They also show that Begg is fully aware of the historic character of the social counter-revolution being imposed across Europe by the financial oligarchy, of which Ireland, along with Greece, is a testing ground.

But Begg fully intends to continue his dialogue of the deaf with the troika. His concern is that the level of social calamity is close to setting off mass opposition far beyond the capacities of the trade unions to control and suppress. Begg warned, “What will happen when people eventually realise that they are trapped in a spiral of deflation and debt? We may reach the tipping point.”

Begg made his remarks in the aftermath of a chaotic deal reached with ECB and the Irish government to extend repayments for Ireland’s €64 billion worth of debts over the next 40 years. The agreement set out the liquidation of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the successor to the bankrupt Anglo-Irish Bank, and ensures generations of austerity.

Prior to the deal, Begg and the ICTU appealed to the ECB and the EU for some limited alleviation of Ireland’s indebtedness. Speaking on the day of a 50,000-strong demonstration in Dublin called by the ICTU early in February against the bank bailouts, he complained, “It is as if Ireland had fought an economic war and is now burdened with penal reparations.”

Begg’s perspective for the demonstrations was to use them to place some pressure on the ECB to encourage debt reduction. He warned the EU negotiating team of his concerns. He told them he had come to realise that “absent the option of current devaluation,” then European monetary union served to impose “the entire burden of cost adjustment… through a reduction in labour costs.”

Each Irish citizen, Begg continued, was “paying an average of €9,000 to fix a problem which cost every other member state’s citizen just €192.”

This was, he went on, because the ECB had insisted that preventing an Irish banking collapse was essential to protecting Europe itself from a Lehman Brothers-style banking disaster. As a result the Irish government issued a blanket guarantee on deposits of Ireland’s six most compromised institutions.

Begg’s pitch was that the bank guarantee had avoided an immediate series of collapses across Europe, and that Ireland should now get a payback. He went so far as to issue a veiled threat to the assembled EU mission heads that Ireland might leave the euro and join a sterling zone.

He asked them to consider “if indeed the eurozone does move towards ‘ever closer union’ and if Britain moves in the opposite direction, where will we stand?”

Ireland is “Britain’s sixth largest trading partner but we don’t matter to any of the other big European economies.” Events, Begg continued, are “pointing towards a critical juncture for Ireland.”

He concluded by calling for a revival of “Social Europe,” meaning one resting on collusion between the employers, governments and the trade union bureaucracy, a “mutualisation of debt” across Europe and limited efforts to revive the European economy.

The ECB and the Irish government all too predictably responded by ignoring Begg and concluding February’s debt deal.

In response, Begg and the ICTU dutifully acceded to a new Croke Park no-strike agreement, to impose yet another wave of pay cuts on public sector workers.

For Begg to complain of imperialist-style dictates emanating from the troika to the British Daily Telegraph, the famously Conservative and euro-sceptic paper, does not mean that Ireland is on the brink of quitting the euro. But it does point to the historical bankruptcy of the Irish national project as a means to address the interests of the working population.

For most of the twentieth century, the Irish bourgeoisie manoeuvred between Britain, the United States and the European Union and its forebears. This allowed it a semblance of independence that was in reality entirely dependent upon its role as a representative of imperialist commercial and political interests.

For their part the Irish trade unions were instrumental in subordinating the interests of Irish workers to the Irish ruling class, US and European industrialists, speculators and bankers—all while professing their own “republicanism” and waving the tricolour. Particularly since the 1990s, vast profits were made on the basis of a succession of export, financial and property booms.

All this lies in ruins. Working people in Ireland are again being told they have nothing to look forward to but decades of debt and austerity, or emigration. Since the onset of the financial crisis the economy has gone through an “internal devaluation” of between 15 and 16 percent of total labour costs. Internal consumption has fallen by 26 percent. House prices have fallen by over 50 percent, entangling hundreds of thousands in impossible debts.

On the basis of this generalised want, certain sectors of the economy have recovered. The export-oriented economy will generate a small surplus, while the low corporation tax rate of 12.5 percent continues to attract US transnationals, such as Google, who channel their profits through their Dublin offices. Despite the crash, the bank guarantee, paid for by Irish workers, helped defend the reputation of a financial sector that is responsible for huge assets globally, not a cent of which benefits working people.

There is no national way out of this crisis for working people. Nor does maintaining the alliance with the European Union or the United States, or reviving links with the much-hated British imperialism, offer a way forward.

Workers in Ireland are posed with taking charge of their own destiny through the fight for a workers’ government in Ireland and the unification of their struggle against social misery with those of working people across Europe and internationally. This inevitably means a break with the rotten apparatus of the trade unions and all of the myriad nationalist parties and the building of an Irish section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

Irish debt deal means decades of austerity to cover bank bailout

By Jordan Shilton 

13 February 2013

Ireland’s Fine Gael-Labour coalition announced an agreement with the European Central Bank (ECB) last week, ostensibly designed to remove the “promissory note” payments to bail out the failed Anglo Irish Bank.

In reality, the debt reorganisation means that the Irish population will take on responsibility for paying an even greater proportion of bank debt, which will be extracted through decades of austerity.

The debt restructuring agreement exchanged the yearly payment of €3.1 billion (US$4.2 billion) of “promissory notes” for long-term government bonds. The government had been due to make these payments over the next 10 years to the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC)—the entity charged with managing the assets of the old Anglo Irish Bank.

Ending these payments required the liquidation of the IBRC, which was arranged by the state through a marathon night of parliamentary votes last Wednesday and early Thursday. The measure will cost at least 850 workers their jobs and will see the state assume full responsibility for the remainder of IBRC’s debts.

In addition, the length of time over which the government in Dublin will repay the bailout has been increased. With interest included, the sum that will be paid to bondholders will almost double. As the Wall Street Journal bluntly stated, the agreement means that the population “will spend the next 40 years paying for losses run up by a failed private bank.”

The move is a devastating indictment of the austerity policies dictated by the “troika” of the European Union (EU), European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and willingly implemented by the entire political establishment since the outbreak of the crisis in 2008. More than €28 billion have been eliminated in government spending—close to 20 percent of GDP—through cuts to basic social services and tax hikes.

Similar measures have intensified the economic crisis across Europe.

Ireland’s economy is stagnant, with an unemployment rate approaching 15 percent. The bank bailout has taken a terrible toll on the living standards of working people, costing an estimated €9,000 per person.

The pessimistic outlook for the euro zone as a whole has contributed to the grim projections for developments in Ireland over the coming period. The debt-to-GDP ratio is anticipated to reach 120 percent next year.

Investors have meanwhile seen profits rise exponentially. A recent Financial Times article estimated that Irish state debt had generated profits of 56 percent during 2012.

It is widely accepted that Ireland’s debt position is unsustainable. The €85 billion bailout programme led by the EU, ECB and IMF approaches its end in the autumn of this year. The latest decision was taken with the aim of averting a state default but has done little to alleviate such concerns. Although the spreads of Irish state debt dropped somewhat on financial markets after the agreement was announced, leading to speculation that the government may seek to issue new bonds this week, none of the credit rating agencies altered their outlook on the country.

At least a further €32 billion in debts accrued from the 2008 bank bailout remain untouched as a result of the latest deal. According to EU officials, there is no prospect of Ireland being able to seek recapitalisation from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), as retroactive payments are seen as unacceptable by several EU members, including the Netherlands and Germany. The Irish Examiner noted the comments of a German government spokesman that “Germany rules out completely retroactivity, and we are not alone in this.”

The chaotic manner in which the debt restructuring was announced reflects the mounting tensions within the EU as the economic crisis deepens. The ECB refused to confirm that it supported the agreement. The bank’s chief, Mario Dragghi, merely observed last Thursday that the governing council “took note” of Ireland’s actions. The existence of the proposal had been revealed only 24 hours earlier by a leak to Reuters after a meeting between Irish finance minister Michael Noonan and the ECB.

The story prompted an emergency cabinet meeting in Dublin at which the liquidation of the IBRC was decided. Both chambers of parliament sat throughout the night, with the Dáil (lower house) voting the bill through at 3 a.m. while the Seanad (upper house) assented to the proposal at 5 a.m. Thursday morning. Such was the rush to adopt the legislation that many lawmakers noted that they had no time to read the 58-page document, and it was acknowledged that some of the provisions contained within it may breach the Irish constitution.

The government sought to implement the legislation for the liquidation of the IBRC and announce the deal before the European and US stock markets opened on Thursday. Another major consideration at work in rushing through the deal was the broad opposition within the Irish population to bailing out the banks. In spite of a campaign by the main parties and the media hailing the deal as a great success, around 50,000 people took to the streets in cities across Ireland on Saturday to protest against austerity measures and the bank bailouts. The numbers would have undoubtedly been higher were it not for the widespread discrediting of the trade union bureaucracy, which called for the demonstrations.

Jack O’Connor, head of SIPTU, which is one of the largest trade unions, did his best to confuse workers over the real nature of the debt restructuring. Speaking at the Dublin rally, he stated, “The jury is out on this deal. We anticipated a lower turnout because of it, but went ahead as planned because people clearly want to know what these agreements actually mean for them day-to-day.”

In his speech to the Dáil unveiling the deal, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny attempted to claim that it represented a step towards economic recovery. He declared, “It secures the future financial position of the state by reducing the burden on Irish taxpayers arising from the bailout of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.”

Claims of a lightening of the burden on taxpayers are false. On the contrary, plans are under way to intensify austerity measures. The coalition is currently in negotiations with the unions to secure a further €1 billion in spending cuts before 2015. Kenny warned the unions that there could be “no sense of easing back on the situation facing us” in the aftermath of the debt restructuring.

Central Bank governor Patrick Hanohan dismissed any talk of altering course. Responding to the suggestion that if the debt burden had been reduced, then austerity could be implemented more slowly, he said he “certainly did not have in mind any sort of budgetary consequences.”

Alan Barrett of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council was more explicit. Any talk of easing off on austerity was unacceptable, he argued, stating that politicians would continue with “plan A”. “They will have people like the Fiscal Council to answer to; the European Commission will have an input; and the Council has been arguing that our debt sustainability, even with this, is far from secured,” he warned. “There may be an argument for using some of the extra billion to accelerate the pace of adjustment.”

Deadly human cost of Ireland’s austerity measures

By Jordan Shilton 

1 February 2013

Billions of euros in social spending cuts are having tragic consequences for working people in Ireland, while demonstrating the callous indifference of the political establishment to the widespread misery created by its policies.

Earlier this month, the bodies of John Glennon, age 67, and Debbie McEvoy, age 63, were found in a Dublin apartment. They had frozen to death as a result of the cold temperatures. A post-mortem confirmed that both had died from hypothermia.

Investigations quickly revealed that the flat, located in a sheltered housing complex, had no heating system. The energy firm Bord Gais released a statement confirming that Glennon’s gas supply was cut off in 2007.

Several weeks earlier, a homeless man was found frozen to death in the entrance to a Tesco supermarket in the town of Wicklow. Paul Doyle, 33, had been sleeping rough for over a year while on a waiting list for supported accommodation.

Commenting on his fate, a support worker at a homeless charity based in the town said, “He was a very nice man who was just caught up with all the issues that come with being homeless. It’s so tragic. He’ll be sorely missed by everyone at the centre.”

More than five years after the outbreak of the economic crisis and the launching of an austerity drive that is fully embraced by all sections of the Irish ruling elite, broad layers of the population are no longer able to obtain many of the basic necessities of life.

There has been a sharp rise in male suicides. A recent report noted that 525 suicides were recorded in 2011, of which almost a third, 165, were by young men. The Irish Sun wrote, “The recent spike in suicide rates among young males in both Northern Ireland and the Republic coincides with the economic downturn and increasing levels of unemployment.”

Unemployment is currently pushing 15 percent and will rise further as the government is negotiating with the trade unions in order to secure redundancies in the public sector. Moreover, the economic situation shows no signs of improving, prompting the European Union (EU) to warn in its latest report on Ireland’s progress under its bailout programme that austerity measures will have to be intensified.

The €85 billion package agreed with the troika—the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2010—has allowed the financial elite to amass vast wealth at the expense of working people.

The cuts begun by the Fianna Fáil-Green Party government and continued by the current Labour-Fine Gael coalition have forced many into poverty. Key services upon which the most vulnerable sections of the population rely have been eliminated or cut to the bone.

A survey by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), the organisation for primary school head teachers, showed that one in five teachers had witnessed school children going without food. The same study pointed out a rise in violent behaviour and depression among school children as families struggle under mounting financial burdens.

Healthcare has suffered particularly harsh budget reductions. Deteriorating care is compounding long-standing health inequalities. Figures from the Irish Cancer Society suggest that cancer rates amongst those living in poverty are twice as high as among more affluent layers.

Last year, with the health budget heading towards an “overspend” according to troika targets, health minister James Riley unveiled an emergency cuts package of €250 million on top of the reductions made in the 2012 budget. At the time, estimates suggested that a further €1 billion, or 8 percent of the overall health budget, would need to be eliminated by 2015.

These steps did nothing to satisfy the demands of the financial elite. The latest EU assessment of Ireland’s bailout programme continues to put emphasis on the need to slash health spending, especially the wages paid to health workers.

The government, in collaboration with the trade unions, will oblige. Current negotiations on public sector “reform” have suggested that 40 percent of all cuts in a new version of the present Croke Park agreement between government, employers and unions, totalling more than €400 million over three years, will take place in the health sector. This will be part of a plan to save a further €1 billion by 2015, on top of the estimated €6 billion in austerity measures already scheduled for the 2014 and 2015 budgets.

To grasp the impact of these figures, it is necessary to keep in mind Ireland’s small population of 4.5 million.

The blueprint for Ireland’s public services is Greece, where the troika, with the full support of the Greek political establishment, have imposed devastating social cuts to pay for the bailout of the financial elite. Basic services such as healthcare, education and social support are no longer available to whole sections of the population, producing a re-emergence of preventable diseases and unnecessary deaths. Athens increasingly resembles a city in the third world, with people relying on charities or non-governmental aid organisations for their daily needs.

Ireland’s health system and social services are already approaching the breaking point. The Irish Herald noted that some junior doctors in hospitals across the country were working up to 71 hours per week, sometimes for 36 hours on one shift. This was provoking severe exhaustion, stress, feelings of depression and even suicide, with a resulting detrimental impact on patient care.

Dr. Anthony O’Connor told the Herald that two doctors he had formerly taught had been driven to suicide by the working conditions. There was a “silent epidemic of undiagnosed, untreated depression amongst our colleagues,” he stated.

O’Connor explained the impact of working under such conditions for him personally, commenting on the aftermath of one particularly stressful shift, “Luckily I never felt suicidal, but I remember that morning thinking it might be nice if I was involved in a medium-sized accident where I broke a leg or an arm to get me out of call for a few weeks.”

Ireland: Short Strand – part of the world crisis

Written by Seamus Loughlin Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The UVF attacks on the Short Strand area of Belfast over the last days and the clashes between Catholic and Protestant youth demonstrate that despite the claims of the various ministers at Stormont, the underlying tensions and conflicts in the North have neither been resolved nor overcome.

The Short Strand area has often been the site of conflict passing periodically from a state of psychological siege to a physical and sometimes bloody siege, not just recently but going back to the 1920’s. Reports on the recent events indicate that shots were fired from both sides.

The trigger for the recent events seems to have been the rerouting of an Orange march that was planned to pass through Ardoyne prompting a loyalist riot. But there has been low level sectarian activity over the past period also. The Short Strand is an easy target surrounded by overwhelmingly Protestant areas in what used to be the industrial heart of the city.

The loyalists claim that Protestant rights have been denied, but the truth is that it isn’t the Catholic workers and youth to blame. It is the crisis of capitalism that has eaten away at East Belfast over decades. Shorts Bombardier has shrunken away, Sirocco has gone. The whole area has been deindustrialised and now the Protestant workers are in the same situation as the unskilled Catholic workers who were historically excluded from many of the skilled jobs in the area. In some ways the situation is worse, as the loss of the industry and the jobs that went with it has been felt more in the Protestant areas.

The Good Friday and St Andrews agreements resulted in the carve up of political power in the North between two main camps, neither of which offer any way out of the blind alley. Existing tensions have been fuelled by the economic crisis, while many workers on either side see no tangible benefit from the debates and posturing at Stormont.

Tensions have risen during the economic crisis and in the absence of a clear political alternative, many are pulled towards sectarian groups egged on by some politicians or towards the so called dissident republicans. Loyalist attacks such as these give the still armed republican groups the opportunity to point to the decommissioning of weapons as evidence that Catholic communities have no means of self defence.

In the Short Strand, that argument can gain ground. At the end of June 1970 the Short Strand was attacked by overwhelming numbers of loyalists. The defence of the area, which was led by Billy McKee a founder of the Provos, was instrumental in developing the position of the Provisionals in Belfast. The defence of St Matthew’s Church has acquired an important place in the history of the Provisionals. However, Billy McKee himself who is now 89 was recently interviewed in the Irish News where he distanced himself from Sinn Féin (SF), while coming over as a devout mass-going Catholic with no regrets regarding the armed campaign and the bombing campaign of the early 1970’s. This must be very worrying for the leadership of SF, as it indicates that there is fertile ground for the “dissidents”. Billy himself would probably have been out last night if it wasn’t for infirmity.

At the same time, yesterday’s reports claimed that while the UVF attacks have been linked to the march through Ardoyne, there are tensions within the leadership of the UVF which may also have contributed to the events. The run up to July 12th is likely to see further conflict. Once again last night gun shots were reported.

Unemployment, low wages, poor housing and lack of opportunity for the youth saps the life out of communities. While we can point out the reasons why tensions between Catholic and Protestant can be exacerbated because of the impasse in society, we can’t leave it at that. There are no solutions to the problems of workers and youth from either side on the basis of capitalism and within the narrow boundaries of the North of Ireland.

The crisis of capitalism – which is particularly severe in Ireland – has produced mass, united, working class struggles across Europe. In the South we have seen unprecedented mass mobilisations in the recent period. In Britain the workers are beginning to flex their muscles, as the March 26 demonstration and the coming June 30 strike action confirm. The same issues that affect workers in England, Wales and Scotland, from the raising of the age of retirement, to cuts in education and healthcare, also affect workers in the North of Ireland.

It is because of this that the present resurgence of sectarianism can be cut across by united working class struggle. But there is no guarantee that this will be the only perspective. The latest sectarian conflict in the Short Strand area of Belfast confirms what the Marxists have always maintained: that so long as capitalism survives in Ireland it will bring recurring crises, with growing unemployment and social degradation, the breeding ground for sectarian strife.

As James Connolly wrote in 1914:

“Such a scheme as that agreed to by Redmond and Devlin, the betrayal of the national democracy of industrial Ulster, would mean a carnival of reaction both North and South, would set back the wheels of progress, would destroy the oncoming unity of the Irish Labour movement and paralyse all advanced movements whilst it endured.

“To it Labour should give the bitterest opposition, against it Labour in Ulster should fight even to the death, if necessary, as our fathers fought before us.”

Connolly’s prediction is very clear and given the history of the last 40 or so years is very accurate. Connolly fought for a United Socialist Ireland which he saw as the only guarantee for the rights of the Protestant minority in the North at the time. He understood that only in a socialist Ireland could the rights of both Catholics and Protestants be respected. That remains as true today as it was then. There is a huge political vacuum in the North that needs to be filled by a mass socialist alternative. There are no short cuts to building such an alternative. The impasse of world capitalism, however, has shown the potential power of working people in the Middle East, North Africa, Greece and Spain, every night on prime time television. The North of Ireland is not excluded from that process.

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