Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sligo stands in solidarity with the people of Gaza

Dozens of people took part in a demonstration on Hyde Bridge in Sligo today (Dec 31) as part of Gaza: A Month of Remembrance, a series of nationwide activities organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).

The events, including today's "Human Chain" demonstration across Hyde Bridge, were organised to commemorate the more than 1400 Palestinians slaughtered during the Israeli military assault on Gaza twelve months ago and to highlight the continuing siege by Israel of Gaza in defiance of International law. Similar demonstrations were held in other towns and cities around Ireland and worldwide.

Amongst those taking part today was Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey who, following the demonstration, called for a boycott of all Israeli goods and the complete severing of diplomatic links with the Israeli regime.

He said: "Today's events were important in ensuring that the slaughter by the Israeli regime of more than 1400 Palestinians in Gaza twelve months ago is not forgotten. However, while that military assault may have ended last January, the state of Israel and its military apparatus continues to impose its inhumane and illegal siege of the 1.5 million people living in this Palestinian territory."

He added: "These people continue to live sealed off from the outside world, in what many people have described as an "open prison".

"The entire economic and social infrastructure of Gaza was destroyed by the military assault last year which was dubbed "operation Cast Lead" by the Israeli regime. Schools and homes were deliberately targeted and destroyed as were the water and sewage systems."

He continued: "Chris Gunness of the UN relief agency UNRWA said earlier this week that Gaza had been 'bombed back, not to the Stone Age, but to the mud age'. He was referring to the fact that the agency was being forced to build houses out of mud due to Israel’s ban on construction materials being allowed into Gaza. More than 60,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed during the month long attack, thousands of which remain in ruins as a result of what Mr Gunness described as 'this senseless blockade'."

"The everyday reality of life in Gaza is that people are dying and will continue to die of treatable illness and disease as a result of a lack of adequate medical supplies and medical care. Earlier this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that more than 10% of children were suffering from chronic malnutrition. This appalling situation arises from a deliberate policy by the Israeli Zionist regime to collectively punish the people of Gaza, in violation of International law, by preventing basic necessities from getting into Gaza in the quantities that they are needed."

"This is unacceptable and must be challenged head on. Its long past time for those leaders responsible for the war crimes committed against the people of Gaza last year, and for the continuing barbaric siege, to be brought to justice."

He concluded: "We must stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to a free and independent Palestine. It's long past time the Dublin government expelled the Israeli ambassador and severed all its links with the Israeli regime. There is also an urgent need for an all-out boycott of Israeli produce and business, as happened with South African goods in the 1980s and which played a significant role in eventually bringing that apartheid regime to an end. We need to make Ireland, an Israeli - free zone."

For further information on upcoming events in the IPSC's Gaza: A Month of Remembrance please click here

The Scandal of Poverty in Modern Ireland

Poverty is by no means a new phenomenon in Ireland.

Despite emerging from a decade of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom, poverty and especially fuel poverty, the inability to heat the home adequately because of low household income and energy inefficient housing, remains a major problem for a large number of people on both sides of Britain’s border.

The recent spell of extreme cold weather, with temperatures dropping to below -10 degrees in many areas, merely serves to highlight the true extent of the effects the recent budget cutbacks will have on working people and the most vulnerable in our society.

Throughout the entire Celtic Tiger era, at a time when the Twenty-Six County administration had wealth of an unprecedented level in the public coffers and while the business class and their political cronies were living lavish and expensive lifestyles, many children often lay awake at night, cold and hungry. Young kids went off to school in the morning without a proper breakfast, in many instances without breakfast at all, and without proper footwear and clothing to protect them from the cold and wet.

For those families on low incomes, it was a daily struggle to keep a roof over their heads, to put food on the table, to heat their homes adequately, to clothe themselves and to try to stave off sickness. For far too many people, that was a struggle they ultimately lost, succumbing to cold and hunger, homelessness, ill-health and even death.

Research compiled by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, published in 2007, showed that, every year during the winter months, almost 3,000 people die due to preventable, cold-related illness. According to the report, fuel poverty directly effects people’s health and the levels of fuel poverty in Ireland were “unacceptably high”.

Child poverty remains a serious issueThis analysis is supported by the Combat Poverty Agency, who made it clear that people “who live in poverty are at greater risk of poor mental and physical health: they get sick more often and die younger than people who are better-off”.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office in the Twenty-Six Counties show that, in 2008, more than four per cent of people were still living in consistent poverty, with almost 15 per cent at risk of poverty. Almost a third of those living in consistent poverty were children.

All the figures above have, almost certainly, risen over the past 12 months as the recession kicked in and are set to rise even further due to the latest budget cuts.

Pay cuts of five per cent on low income workers, cuts in child benefit and social welfare, the scrapping of the Christmas bonus, the introduction of prescription charges, the carbon tax and increase in fuel costs will now result in a sharp decline in the living standards of working people.

It is not as if the administration in Leinster House wasn’t warned of the impact these cuts would have. In the run-up to the Twenty-Six County budget, organisations such as St Vincent De Paul that work on a daily basis with those most effected by poverty, warned them of the effects that any cuts on low income workers and social welfare recipients while at the same time increasing fuel costs would have.

St Vincent De Paul made clear that the effects of fuel poverty are “far reaching, affecting the health of those who are fuel poor along with causing premature mortality”. Noting the fact that two thirds of welfare recipients already needed assistance in paying their fuel bills, they made clear in no uncertain terms that such increased fuel costs and cuts would add to people’s hardship, increase poverty and result in many people going without food and other basic necessities.

Shell to Sea protestéirígí, Shell to Sea and many other progressive groups also pointed out that claims by the business and political class that these cuts were essential and that there was no alternative to them, were, in fact, bogus.

Contrary to Twenty-Six County finance minister Brian Lenihan’s claim that “there is no pot of gold that can be raided from the wealthy that can solve our difficulties”, more than a third of the entire wealth of the southern state lies in the hands of just one per cent of the population, capital that remained untouched by this budget.

Hundreds of billions of euro worth of natural resources, such as oil and gas, also lie under the Irish seabed, the rights to these resources shamefully given away to multi-national corporations such as Shell, by previous Fianna Fáil-led administrations.

Yet Brian Lenihan and his cronies in the Fianna Fáil/Green Party coalition took a deliberate decision not to nationalise these natural resources and not to target the wealthy elite who amassed billions upon billions of euro during the Celtic Tiger era for themselves on the backs of the labour of workers. The very people who are largely responsible for creating the economic crisis in the first place through a mixture of incompetence, greed and corruption, escaped Budget 2010 with their wealth intact.

Lenihan and co ignored the advice of SVP and others working with the poorest sections of Irish society and decided instead to slash the already inadequate incomes of low paid workers and social welfare recipients in order to bail out the banks and protect the extravagant lifestyles of the business class.

éirígí protest against the cutbacksIn the wake of Lenihan’s decision, Saint Vincent De Paul said that the social welfare cuts will increase hardship for families and “push people into debt”. Children’s charity Barnardo’s also supported this viewpoint, pointing out that more than six per cent of children in Ireland were already living in poverty in 2008 and that the latest cuts “will greatly add to the hardship and poverty experienced by children”.

As we enter 2010, the stark reality is that more and more families, and particularly children, will sink deeper into poverty. As increased numbers of people find they are unable to buy sufficient fuel to heat their homes, to buy adequate winter clothing and to provide proper nourishment for themselves and their families, more people will fall ill and die.

The biggest scandal in all of this is that it is all so completely unnecessary – with the political will it would not be allowed to happen. Those families that fall into poverty and poverty-related illnesses and deaths will do so, not by accident or act of god. They will do so because of very cold and calculated decisions taken by those who hold the reins of power, because of those who introduce cutbacks in the full knowledge of the damaging effects these cuts will have.

Every single one of those politicians that voted for Budget 2010 shares direct responsibility for every person that falls ill or dies as a result. For them, their neo-liberal capitalist agenda and their belief in a small minority’s right to amass vast profits, takes priority over the health and well being of workers and those surviving on welfare. To them, the ill and dying are merely “collateral damage” in their quest to attain their ill-gotten gains – a sad indictment of modern Ireland and those who currently misrule it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gaza - one year on

One year ago today (December 27) the Israeli Zionist regime began its military onslaught (Operation Cast Lead) against the entire population of Gaza.

For more than 20 days, Israel pounded Gaza from the air, dropping thousands of tonnes of high explosive bombs, artillery and tank shells onto densely populated civilian areas causing carnage and widespread death and destruction. Following weeks of the initial campaign of air strikes and rocket attacks against the people of Gaza, Israel stepped up their campaign of murder and state terrorism by launching a brutal land invasion. As they entered Gaza, Palestinian homes and property were deliberately and systematically destroyed while Palestinian civilians were used as human shields by the advancing Israeli military.

And while the Israeli's may have ended “Operation Cast Lead” back in January, the lengthy and inhumane siege of Gaza continues. More then 1.5 million people live in this tiny strip of land. They live sealed off from the outside world, with Israel controlling their borders, by land, sea and air, ensuring that the only supplies that enter Gaza are whatever Israel decides to let in.

During that operation Israel deliberately destroyed virtually the entire social and economic infrastructure of the area. Despite the widespread destruction of property in that murderous assault, schools and homes have yet to be rebuilt. Water and sewage systems which were destroyed remain to be repaired also. People continue to die within Gaza due to a lack of medical supplies and medical care, a situation brought about by Israel's deliberate policy of preventing sufficient quantities of basic necessities from getting into Gaza.

In recent days, Gaza has being described as an “open prison” by Dublin Foreign Minister Micheál Martin who was denied access by the Israeli authorities to visit the Palestinian territory. According to John Ging, who heads the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN and the international community are failing to uphold the basic rule of law for the civilian population of Gaza.

To mark the anniversary of this assault and to highlight the continuing siege of Gaza by Israel, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) are holding a month of commemorative events throughout Ireland from 27th Dec 2009 through to 30th Jan 2010. Among the many events that will be taking place are various, vigils, film screenings, rallies and boycott actions.

On December 31st, what is known as the Gaza Freedom March takes place in Gaza itself. Among the 1,000 men and women from around the globe who will bring a close to 2009 by marching side by side with the Palestinian population of Gaza in a peaceful demonstration demanding an end to the continuing illegal Israeli siege of Gaza, will be a number of Irish citizens.

To co-incide with this, the IPSC will be forming “Human Chains” in a series of events throughout Ireland in towns and cities including Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny and Sligo. Similar events will be taking place worldwide as an expression of solidarity to the People of Gaza and to remember the more than 1400 Palestinians killed twelve months ago.

Sligo's 'Human Chain' will take place between 2pm and 3pm on Thursday December 31 at Hyde Bridge in Sligo town centre. All those who oppose the ongoing siege of Gaza and Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people and who support human rights and freedom for the Palestinian people are encouraged to attend. For more information on this and other events in the IPSC's “Gaza: A month of remembrance” please click here

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

éirígí Tír Chonaill launch Christmas campaign against budget cuts

Tir Chonaill éirígí spokesperson Micheál Cholm MacGiolla Easbuig has claimed that the cutbacks imposed by Fianna Fáil and the Greens in the recent budget will see poverty levels escalate rapidly and will result in increased poverty related illnesses and deaths.

MacGiolla Easbuig was speaking as éirígí Tír Chonaill launched their Christmas campaign against the cutbacks. The first step of the campaign was the erection of a number of billboards in various locations in the west of the county. This will be followed by a leaflet campaign in the run up to Christmas.

MacGiolla Easbuig said: "The end result of the latest series of cuts in pay, social welfare, health and education is that poverty levels in this state will rise significantly. For tens of thousands of Irish families who survive on low pay and social welfare, this Christmas and the new year is set to be one of misery and extreme hardship as the effects of these cuts start to hit home."

He added: "There are now more than 21,000 people unemployed in this county as a result of the greed and failures of this administration and their cronies in big business yet they have failed to take any action to help these people and their families. This budget does absolutely nothing to create jobs. Indeed the jobless figures will continue to rise as a result of this budget. For the long term unemployed, as well as cutting their basic allowances they have now taken away the much needed Christmas bonus. For the thousands of people who have lost their job over the past year and who have seen their incomes plummet as a result, this administration has heaped yet more misery on them by now slashing their incomes even further by reducing their welfare rates."

"While the wealthy political and business elite who escaped untouched by this budget continue to enjoy their riches and live lavish and luxurious lifestyles, these low income families will struggle throughout 2010 and beyond to keep a roof over their heads, to heat their homes, pay their bills and to feed and clothe their children. Increased poverty, coupled with yet further cuts in essential health services, will lead to increased poverty related illnesses and deaths. Those politicians that voted for this budget will share direct responsibility for the poverty related illnesses and deaths that are now inevitable."

He concluded: "Fianna Fáil and the Green party may think it acceptable to target the weakest and most vulnerable in society, including carers and the disabled, in order to bail out the banks and maintain the political and business elite in the wealthy lifestyles that they currently enjoy but the majority of people do not. We launched this campaign to send a clear and unequivocal message to this administration. We will not lie down and accept these savage cutbacks. It's time for the fightback to begin."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Water Charges: The Battle Commences

Twenty-Six County minister for finance Brian Lenihan has confirmed the Dublin government’s plans to impose domestic water charges.

This follows an agreement reached last October between Fianna Fáil and their Green Party coalition partners in the renewed programme for government.

Not so long ago, Fianna Fáil ministers were quick to deny that water charges were even on the agenda. It is interesting to recall what former Twenty-Six County minister for the environment and local government Dick Roche had to say on the issue of domestic water charges during the debate on the Water Services Bill, which was passed in 2007. The Act gives local authorities the power to supply domestic water through a metering system and deems it an offence to remove or tamper with a water meter. During the debate on the bill, Roche argued that metering was simply a device aimed at encouraging conservation of water and not, as was argued by others, simply a backdoor attempt to introduce water charges. Roche was emphatic in his denial:

“I would like to discuss the issue of domestic water charges. If I may be excused the pun, it seems that there has been a deliberate attempt to muddy the waters in this regard. I stress that the Bill before the House does not provide for or facilitate the re-introduction of domestic water charges. The Government’s position on water charges is not changed in any way by this Bill... I repeat that the Bill is not a Trojan horse for domestic charges.”

Dick RocheSignificantly, the minister was equally emphatic in his rejection that the Water Services Bill paved the way for the eventual privatisation of the service: “Nothing in the Bill is intended to move water services policy towards privatisation.”

Needless to say Roche’s assurances about privatisation should be taken as seriously as his denial in relation to water charges. The introduction of water charges and the privatisation agenda is part of a wider government strategy as illustrated by the recent savage budget. Lenihan’s declaration of war on the working class was framed in order to satisfy powerful international interests, admitting as much himself in his budget speech:

“The measures we have taken have been commended by international bodies such as the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the IMF and the OECD. They have also won the approval of the international markets.”

The Dublin government sought to reassure international finance markets that they were serious about slashing public spending; driving down wages; cutting jobs in the public sector and opening up the public sector to the private market.

IMFThe poorest and most vulnerable sections of Irish society, such as the unemployed, carers and blind people, were sacrificed in order to satisfy the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the world.

The IMF is notorious for holding some of the poorest countries in the world to ransom. This is done through what are known as Structural Adjustment Programmes, whereby loans are only given on condition that public services are opened up to the private market, wages are driven down in order to improve what economists like to call ‘competitiveness’, markets are entirely de-regulated, and exports encouraged. This neo-liberal policy considers the state to have a minimal role in the economy, except, of course, when it comes to bailing out banks. It is a policy that has proven ruinous for developing countries and one which has driven millions further into poverty. Indeed, former IMF senior economist Davidson Budhoo was forced to admit that IMF policies had created ‘economic bedlam’ in Latin America and Africa.

If one looks closely at the Twenty-Six County government’s agenda and how it is being rolled out, it is clear they are following the direction given by international finance houses and ensuring that the economy is organised in the interests of the world’s global corporations.

The first element of the plan was to cut public spending and public sector wages, which was done in the most ruthless fashion with a 4.1 per cent cut in welfare payments, a €16 [£14] per week reduction in child benefit and the halving of jobseekers’ allowance for young people. Wages for the lowest paid workers in the public sector were cut by five per cent, representing an overall cut of 12 per cent this year, while day-to-day departmental spending was cut by almost €1 billion [£890 million].

With this element of the government plan complete, signalling their intention to introduce water charges was the Dublin government’s message to the IMF that privatisation is on the way. The softening up of public opinion over the coming months should be expected. The noises coming from the Twenty-Six County Department of Finance about cutting pay levels in the semi-state sector and IBEC’s call for a reduction in the minimum wage should also be seen in this context.

'Anything you say Biffo'The propaganda war will begin in earnest. The corporate media and right-wing economists will be mobilised to tell us that water is simply another ‘commodity’ which has an ‘economic’ value and that failure to recognise this has led to wasteful practices. It is these supposed wasteful practices, it will be alleged, that have led to water becoming a scarce resource, and, therefore, the only way to conserve water, we will be told repeatedly, is by turning water into a commodity and to charge consumers for its use. Green Party spokespeople will be trotted out ad nauseam to tell us of their deep concern for the environment (they are the only ones who care, it seems) and to reassure us that only those who ‘waste’ water will be charged a fee.

Once this is complete, the next, ‘logical’ step the right-wing quack economists so-beloved of RTÉ will inform us is to open the water service to the market. All in the interests of ‘competition’ you understand and, of course, ‘cheaper’ prices. It’s all just ‘common sense’ really. For right-wing economists and their corporate friends where the bottom line is profit it is, of course, common sense. Their attempts to convince us that it is, similarly, in the interests of the wider public needs to be resisted as the transformation of water into a commodity is far from ‘common sense’. It is a sign that the capitalist class is desperately seeking to open yet another market in which to invest and turn a profit.

While it is fair to say that fresh water supplies are becoming scarce; this is not as a result of the profligacy of domestic users, rather it is a result of the failed policies of government and the insatiable demand of capitalist industry and agriculture. In fact, domestic users and municipalities account for just 10 per cent of global water use. Meanwhile, a total of 400,000 litres of water is used in the production of one car and it is estimated that the computer industry in the US will use 1,500 billion litres of water and produce 300 billion litres of waste water each year.

The failure of the Dublin government to invest in the maintenance of the water infrastructure across the Twenty-Six County state has resulted in huge amounts of water being lost through leaking pipes. Despite claims in 2004 that over €5 billion [£4.5 billion] would be invested in water infrastructure, the recently published Local Government Management Services Board (LGMSB) report on Service Indicators in Local Authorities demonstrates that almost two thirds of local authorities in the Twenty-Six Counties are losing over 40 per cent of their water through leaking pipes.

Yet, if the Dublin government is successful in introducing charges, it will be domestic users who will be forced to pay for this lack of investment.

Throughout the building boom, the Dublin government failed to introduce building regulations that would conserve water. Currently, the vast majority of toilets in domestic households across the Twenty-Six Counties use at least nine litres of water per flush.

Over a 13-year period between 1995, when the housing boom took off, and 2008, when it crashed, a total of 828,875 housing units were built in the Twenty-Six Counties. Yet, it was not until August of last year that regulations were introduced that require all new buildings to be installed with dual flush toilets.

Protest against water charges in DublinIn 1996 an attempt to foist water charges on Dublin households was defeated by a campaign of mass non-payment. One of the demands of the Federation of Dublin Anti-Water Charges Campaigns was the introduction of building regulations that would install water saving features into homes across the Twenty-Six County state. Had a decision been taken at that time to introduce dual flush toilets, billions of litres of water would have been conserved. The Dublin government’s failure to do and the construction of over 800,000 housing units since then exposes their rank hypocrisy in relation to conservation.

Of course, we will be told by the quack economists that ‘we are where we are’. Much like the actions of the bankers, property developers and stock-brokers who gambled with our futures, they will tell us there is no point in looking back or seeking to cast blame. Already, the corporate media is cheerleading for water charges on the basis that the installation of water metres will create employment. But so would the dredging of rivers, which help to prevent flooding, as would the installation of water gatherers and dual flush toilets, and both are initiatives that would actually assist in the conservation of water.

However, for the Dublin government and the business class, it is market interests that prevail. The imposition of water charges is not about conservation, it is about privatisation and the creation of a new market for international capital to invest. Turning water into a commodity and charging domestic householders for its use is simply a means by which to create a profit. Conservation is the propaganda tool to prise open a market in water.

As it stands, the Water Services Act promotes the involvement of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and section 31.2 of the Act is explicit in opening up the supply of water to the market:

“A water services authority may provide water services or supervise the provision of water services by other persons, in accordance with any prescribed standards, for domestic and non-domestic requirements in its functional area.” (Water Services Act, 2007)

For private companies, profit maximisation is the bottom line and the experience of privatisation of the water supply in England and Wales has proven disastrous. For domestic householders, the Thatcher government’s decision to privatise the 10 local water authorities in England and Wales resulted in high prices for households and a diminishing service; for the private companies it proved a boon. The newly privatised water authorities failed to invest in the water infrastructure, leading to a situation in which over one third of the water supply in some parts of England was lost through leaking pipes. Yet, between 1989 and 1995, there was a 106 per cent increase in water rates and a 50 per cent increase in service disconnections. Meanwhile, company profits soared by 692 per cent and salaries for CEOs increased by 708 per cent.

Suez's international water interestsThat is the reality of privatisation: private profit and inflated salaries for company directors, not conservation, is the driving force. Water has become a major global business. French corporations Suez and Veolia have amassed enormous profits from the privatisation of water supplies, particularly in developing countries. The Suez Corporation is 80th on Fortune magazine’s list of the world’s top 500 corporations. It recently won a €100 million [£89 million] contract to build and operate water treatment facilities in seven African countries.

The battle over water charges is just commencing and the announcement in the Twenty-Six County budget that water metres are to be installed and domestic charges to be introduced are but the opening salvos. This is clearly part of a wider war that the Dublin government has declared on the working class and public services.

Let there be no doubt that privatisation is the real agenda. It ought to be recalled that the imposition of household waste charges, which were championed by the local authority management as part of a recycling initiative, was simply a precursor to the privatisation of bin collections. We were also told that the poorest households would receive a waiver on charges; yet, last week, Dublin City Council announced that, from next year, the poorest households in the local authority area will be charged up to €208 [£185] per year for bin collection.

Within days of the budget, John Gormley, the Twenty-Six County minister for the environment, announced the establishment of a ‘Local Government Efficiency Review Group’. Its terms of reference are as follows:

“To review the cost base, expenditure of and numbers employed in local authorities with a view to reporting on: specific recommendations to reduce costs; - the effectiveness of particular programmes; - optimal efficiency in the way programmes are delivered; and - any other proposals to enhance value for money in the delivery of services at local level.”

The Review Group is to be headed by Pat McLaughlin, a former member of An Bord Snip whose recommendations formed the basis of Brian Lenihan’s savage budget. The McCarthy Report also recommended the imposition of water charges and the slashing of over 17,000 jobs in the public sector.

This is what the latest Review Group can be expected to deliver, which, of course, will be presented as simply being in the interests of ‘efficiency’ and ‘value for money’. Needless to say, the advance guard of right-wing economists and the corporate media will do their bidding over the coming months. The neo-liberal agenda that seeks to drive the working class into poverty while putting tens of billions of tax-payers’ money into bailing out the banks and developers will succeed unless the combined forces of the left, trade unions and working class communities are mobilised in determined opposition.

Meanwhile, in the North, the Six-County finance minister Sammy Wilson and his minister for regional development Conor Murphy have both talked up the possibility of the implementation of water charges and are now using the spectre of these charges as a threat to smooth the way for cuts in other public services. The implication of their recent dire warnings on the size of the British government’s stipend to the Six County state has been that, if there is too much resistance to cuts in the services that working class people rely on, water charges will be introduced in earnest.

As éirígí has repeatedly pointed out, the Fianna Fáil/Green Party budget represented a declaration of war on the working class. The fight back must to begin in earnest.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fight Back Begins Against Savage Budget

Over the course of the last fortnight éirígí activists in Sligo, Dublin, Cork, Wicklow and Donegal have distributed leaflets, convened public meetings, erected banners and taken part in public protests in opposition to the latest savage budget from the Twenty-Six County government.

In Dublin anti-cutback themed public meetings have been held in Quarryvale in North Clondalkin, Fatima in the South Inner City and Cherry Orchard. To date more then ten thousand homes across the city have received éirígí leaflets which detail the main elements of the budget and encourage people to actively oppose the draconian cutbacks.

On the night of the Budget (December 9) several dozen éirígí activists protested at the gates of Leinster House itself – delivering a strong and colourful message directly to those who have declared war on the poor of the Twenty-Six Counties.

At Leinster House

On Saturday morning (December 12) up to thirty people joined an anti-cutback’s protest in North Clondalkin that had been organised by éirígí’s South Dublin Ciorcal Áitiúil (local branch).

Outside of Dublin, in Wicklow, Cork, Donegal and Sligo a number of banners have been erected and thousands more leaflets distributed.

Speaking in relation to éirígí’s campaign of opposition to the cutbacks national chairperson Brian Leeson said, “Brian Lenihan’s claims that the worst of the cutbacks are now over stand in stark contrast to the commitments that he has already given to the European Union and the international banks from whom he is borrowing tens of billions of euros. He has told them that he will cut at least 11 billion euros over the next three years, in addition to the 4 billion he cut last Wednesday. So how can the worst have already passed?


“Others have already stated that Brian Lenihan’s budget constituted a declaration of war on the poor. On one side of this war are those who have amassed great wealth and power and on the other side are the workers that created the wealth, the young, the old, the sick, the marginalised and the poor. It is now clear that Fianna Fail and their allies in the business world intend to use the current economic depression to drive through a neo-liberal agenda that would be unthinkable and un-implemental in ordinary times. What we are witnessing now is an Irish version of disaster capitalism.

“The very future of Irish society is at stake in this war between the rich and the poor, between the apparently powerful and the apparently weak. That which Brian Lenihan has portrayed as ‘necessary’ for economic recovery is nothing short of a neo-liberal wish list. The deconstruction of the welfare state, the defeat of the organised labour movement, reductions in the wages and conditions of workers, deregulation of the so-called market place, the privatisation of public services have long been promoted by those who represent the interests of the elite, both in Ireland and globally.


“We in éirígí understand that that at the end of this war there can only be one winner. And we are determined to make sure that it will be the workers and not the bosses that claim Ireland for their own. Over the last few days our party has made a relatively small contribution to a campaign that must be built over the coming months. For the first time in a generation the stark realities of capitalism are coming home to roost for millions of Irish citizens. The time for moderation and negotiation has past. The time for action is upon us. There is nothing the right wingers and the political establishment fear more than an organised, mobilised working class movement for revolutionary change. We in éirígí are fully committed to making their greatest nightmare into a reality.”

If you are interested in helping or joining éirígí please phone 00353 (0) 86 236 72 98 or email:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Release Maura Harrington

Following the latest arrest and imprisonment of Shell to Sea Campaigner Maura Harrington, éirígí have called for her immediate release.

Brian Leeson

Harrington, a retired school teacher, was sent to Mountjoy Jail in Dublin yesterday [Thursday] after being sentenced to nine months imprisonment in a Mayo court.

The court case related to the cutting of a net beside Shell’s illegal Glengad compound, which cost around €160.

The sentence was initially suspended, but was activated when Harrington refused to sign a bond binding her to the peace, thereby restricting her right to protest against Shell.

Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey said: "The arrest and imprisonment of Maura on Thursday is the latest episode in a concerted and shameful campaign by the state to intimidate and silence opposition to the giveaway of our natural resources to Shell and their proposed pipeline in County Mayo."

"Maura, and all those other campaigners, who have stood up to the bully boy tactics of Shell and the so-called forces of law and order in this state are to be commended for their continuing determined resistance. It is essential at this time that we all step up our activities in support of the campaign and to secure Maura's immediate release from Mountjoy."

Also calling for the immediate release of Shell to Sea campaigner and Mayo resident Maura Harrington éirígí Chairperson Brian Leeson said: “If there is one person alive today who symbolises the Twenty-Six County government’s attitude towards Irish citizens it is Maura Harrington."

Maura Harrington“Maura has been imprisoned several times, dragged through the courts on a number of occasions, been forced to embark upon a hunger strike, assaulted by Gardaí and demonised all because of her determination to peacefully resist a Shell Oil project in her community."

“Meanwhile, the Dublin government bends over backwards to facilitate the greed of multinationals like Shell and the small minority of people in the Twenty-Six County state who own the majority of the wealth.”

Leeson continued: “Instead of jailing people like Maura Harrington, the Dublin government should be listening to her advice and taking back the natural resources that lie in the Corrib Basin. These resources belong, as of right, to the Irish people and they should be exploited for their benefit."

“Maura Harrington is guilty of no crime – she should be released immediately. It would make more sense to reserve her prison cell for one of the government ministers who are currently carrying out anti-social attacks on working class communities across the state.”

Protest at Mountjoy, 10 Dec 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fianna Fáil/Green Party Declare War on Workers and the Poor

The Fianna Fáil/Green Party budget represents a savage attack on the working class of the Twenty-Six Counties. The economic recession has been used as a means to drive down the pay and conditions of workers, to cut welfare payments and to slash public spending in areas such as health, education, housing and transport.

In total there have been cuts of €760million (£687million) in welfare payments, almost €1billion (£904million) in day-to-day public spending, €1.3billion (£1.2billion) in public sector pay and a further €1billion in capital spending. Those who were in no way responsible for crashing the economy are paying the highest price. While Twenty-Six County Finance Minister Brian Lenihan claimed in his budget speech that “The effort demanded of every citizen in this Budget is substantial, but it is the last big push of this crisis”, the reality is that the richest section of society can continue to enjoy their vast wealth, while the poorest and most vulnerable are being forced to carry the burden of the recession.

Banner in Fatima, Dublin

Yet the budget proposed no increase in income tax, no increase in property tax, no increase in corporation tax. Nor was there any proposal to take into public ownership the ‘pot of gold’ that sits off west coast in the form of oil and gas reserves. The protection of the rich at the expense of the least well off is evident in some of the savage cuts imposed in welfare and public sector pay, these include:

  • An across-the-board cut of 4.1 per cent on all welfare payments (except the state pension); those entitled to unemployment allowance, carers allowance, the blind pension, disability allowance, invalidity pension and one parent family payment amongst others will experience an average weekly reduction of €8.30 (£7.50) per week. In addition young people have been singled out for particularly draconian cuts. Those new applicants for jobseekers allowance who happen to be under the age of twenty-one years will receive a payment of just €100 (£90) per week while those between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-four years will receive €150 (£136).
  • Public sector workers earning below €30,000 (£27,000) will have their pay reduced by 5%, with additional cuts for those earning above this amount. This is addition to a cut of 7% in the form of a pension levy last April. Thus the pay of the lowest paid public sector workers has been cut by 12% in less then twelve months.
  • Child Benefit has been cut by €16 (£14.50) per month
  • Medical card holders face the imposition of a fifty cent prescription charge and there is an increase in the threshold for the Drugs Payment Scheme from €100 to €120 (£109).

These are merely the headline figures which were set out in Lenihan’s speech. In addition the budget also sees cuts of almost €1billion in day-to-day spending, most of which Lenihan chose not to announce during the course of his address in Leinster House.

The health budget has been slashed by a staggering €400million. In education a phenomenal €134million is clawed back by cuts in the school transport scheme; the back to education allowance; VTOS allowances and third level student grants. A €4million (£3.6million) ‘rationalisation’ of teacher supports is code for cuts in funding for children with special needs.

A €50million (£45million) cut in the Department of Employment and Enterprise will see a reduction in grants for Community Employment schemes as well as cuts in Community Employment and Jobs Initiative allowances. The €15million (£13.6million) cut in the budget for the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will mean cuts in community development programmes, drugs programmes and funding to the Gaeltacht and for the Irish language.

Cuts of €78million (£70.5million) in the Department of Environment and Local Government will see a reduction in the state’s commitment to social housing, which will result in the state withdrawing from the building and maintenance of public housing. There will also be significant cuts in public transport with a €60million (£54million) cut in the budget for the Department of Transport. In addition to these cuts Lenihan confirmed that domestic water charges will be imposed next year.

The basis for this savage budget was laid out in the McCarthy report published last July, which proposed public spending cuts of €5billion (£4.5billion). The report’s solution to the crisis of capitalism was for the state to slash and burn across the public services: it proposed 5 per cent cuts in all social welfare payments; 20 per cent cut in child benefit; 17,300 job cuts in the public sector; €44million (£39.8million) cuts in community development programmes; the privatisation of public transport, the introduction of domestic water charges; a reduction in the third level maintenance grant; cuts in Community Employment schemes and the Gaeltacht and Irish language.

The report of the so-called ‘An Bord Snip Nua’ pressed for the speedy implementation of public spending cuts which it argued would “minimise the need for tax increases”. Thus the essence of the McCarthy Report has been fully implemented in this budget and the neo-liberal principles of cuts to public spending, privatisation of public services and the deregulation of the market are firmly enshrined in Dublin government policy.

Banner in Ballymun, Dublin

The international financial markets that Lenihan was so keen to impress in his speech will surely take great solace from this. He stated that: “The measures we have taken have been commended by international bodies such as the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the IMF and the OECD. They have also won the approval of the international markets.” Thus some of the most vulnerable people in Irish society are being forced to live on less than €200 (£180) per week in order to keep the IMF happy – a truly rogue organisation that has imposed massive human misery on some of the poorest countries in the world through so called ‘structural adjustment programmes’.

The Dublin government has worked assiduously over the last number of months to ensure that the blame and the burden of the capitalist crisis will be foisted on workers and those on welfare. Over the last year over €60billion (£54billion) has been pumped into bailing out banks and property developers. The establishment of NAMA, the nationalisation of Anglo-Irish losses and the injection of €7billion (£6.3billion) of tax-payers money into Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland has been the government’s response to the failure of the capitalist system.

Propping up a failed system while slashing public spending is the ‘logic’ of neo-liberal economics. At the same there has been a sustained and vicious corporate media onslaught against public sector workers. In addition private sector and public sector workers have been pitched against one another. This strategy ensured that the focus of attention was taken from those responsible for collapsing the economy.

The cheerleading is being led by the Sunday Independent whose owner Tony O’Reilly has good reason to redirect public anger towards workers rather than capitalists. One of his companies, Providence Resources, which owns sixteen per cent of the Dunquin gas and oil reserves, benefits enormously from the government’s oil and gas giveaway.

For over six months the corporate media has demonised public sector workers as it sought to generate support for the bizarre notion that slashing public services and cutting pay and welfare was somehow ‘common-sense’. The corporate media played a central role in creating the conditions for a backlash against the public sector, notwithstanding the fact that 40 per cent of public sector workers earn less than €40,000 (£36,000) and that the level of state spending on public services in the Twenty-Six Counties has been consistently below other European Union states.

In fact at thirty per cent of Gross Domestic Product, public spending in the Twenty-Six Counties is below that of the United States of America. Yet senior bankers, who were largely responsible for bringing the economy to its knees and only continue to operate because the massive state bail-outs, continue to be paid annual salaries of hundreds of thousands of euro.

Throughout the course of the last year unemployment rates have risen dramatically. There are currently 412,000 people on the live register, an increase of 150,000 since November 2008. The Lisbon Treaty referendum was re-run in October, a treaty that codifies the principles of neo-liberal economics into the EU, it was sold to the electorate on the basis that a Yes vote was essential for job creation.

Given the numbers out of work and the fears people had of what the future might hold the Treaty was passed. Since October thousands of job cuts have been announced and it appears is predicted that tens of thousands of more jobs will be lost in the coming months. This budget offers absolutely nothing to the hundreds of thousands who are currently unemployed.

Banner on Suir Road, Dublin

The working class who gained least during the course of the Celtic Tiger are paying a heavy price for the failings of capitalism. The Dublin government’s agenda is clear: private capital will be defended at all costs while the poorest and most vulnerable are forced to live on less than €200 per week. If you are unlucky enough to be under the age of 24 you must survive on between €100 and €150.

For the political establishment in the Twenty-Six counties the poor have always been expendable. In 1924 during a debate on unemployment in Leinster House the Cumann na nGaedheal Minister for Industry and Commerce Patrick McGilligan suggested that: “There are certain limited resources at our disposal. People may have to die in this country. And may have to die of starvation.”

This budget represents the beginning of a much wider agenda. Over the coming three years the Dublin government is proposing to impose additional cuts in the range of €11billion (£9.9billion). If the government is allowed to proceed with this agenda it will involve massive jobs cuts in the public sector; the imposition of domestic water charges and the privatization of a range of public services.

In addition the pay and conditions of workers across all sectors will be slashed and the minimum wage will be reduced. Indeed it won’t be long before the media starts talking up the need for ‘flexible’ work arrangements and the ‘rationalisation’ of the public sector in order to improve ‘competitiveness’.

The only way in which this agenda can be defeated is for workers and communities to organise and mobilise on the streets. This Saturday 12th December the United Alliance Against the Cuts have organised a rally commencing at 1pm on Parnell Square, Dublin. It is vital that workers and communities come together and show this government that the working class are determined to defeat their agenda.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Imperialism by Proxy in Modern Day Ireland

“Más mian linn an tír a athaontú creidim gur chóir dúinn dul isteach arís sa Chomhlathas Briotanach chun é sin a bhaint amach.” [“If we wish to reunite the country I believe we have to go into the British Commonwealth again to achieve that.”]

Éamon Ó CuívSo said Éamon Ó Cuív, the Twenty-Six County minister for community, rural and gaeltacht affairs, in the relaunch of the Irish language newspaper Foinse last Wednesday [November 18].

That any citizen of a supposedly sovereign state would publicly advocate re-entering the structures of an empire that had done so much damage to their nation in the past is startling enough. That a government minister and senior member of the so-called Republican Party would do so is, frankly, jaw dropping.

Éamon Ó Cuív as a government minister in the ‘Republic of Ireland’ has an obligation to defend and uphold the constitutional status quo he was elected into. Yet, here he is, as a member of a self-proclaimed republican party no less, stating his belief that Ireland as a whole should re-enter an organisation of states that has an unelected monarch at its head in order to gain some semblance of national unity.

Ó Cuív has form on this issue; in 1994, the grandson of Éamon de Valera proposed that the Twenty-Six Counties rejoin the British Commonwealth as a sop to unionism.

It would be unimaginable for a serving government minister in any other part of the world to argue for the state he was elected to serve to become subservient to another.

However, neither the Twenty-Six County government, the Fianna Fáil party, nor the media has had anything to say about Ó Cuív’s sensational statement.

For socialist republicans, the origins of such statements are clear. The Good Friday Agreement, the St Andrew’s Agreement and the pacification process that led to them were about normalising the British government’s involvement in Ireland. The dropping of Articles 2 & 3 from the Twenty-Six County Constitution, despite their purely rhetorical value, was about facilitating this normalisation.

For decades, cranks, died-in-the-wool reactionaries and a smattering of southern establishment-type unionists have been proposing measures such as the Twenty-Six Counties rejoining the British Commonwealth. Two decades of normalising the British occupation has given these anti-democratic proposals a veneer of respectability and allows Dublin government ministers to promote them unafraid of any backlash.

In an interview in 1999, the veteran socialist republican and civil rights campaigner Bernadette McAliskey made this point in relation the political establishments, north and south: “I would not even be surprised if some years down the line, we re-enact the Act of Union and we see the south going back into the commonwealth, and they will all be ministers under the crown.”

Protest against the SRR in IrelandIn the Six Counties, however, Britain’s involvement in Ireland remains as abnormal and nasty as ever. As reported previously by éirígí (PSNI Repression on the Rise), the PSNI is stopping & searching an average of 110 people every day under repressive legislation, MI5 spooks are going into overdrive and at least one British army regiment is back on a war footing. Only this week, it was admitted that the Special Reconnaissance Regiment worked hand-in-glove with the PSNI in an undercover operation in Fermanagh last Saturday which culminated in a number of shots being fired by the occupation forces.

At a time when Irish republicans are consistently accused of having no alternative to the status quo, it is astonishing to hear a senior politician suggesting that a meek request to re-enter Britain’s ‘family of nations’ would somehow solve the centuries-old problem of British state repression and divide and conquer tactics. In reality, such a move would be a backward step for democracy and progress in Ireland.

Of course, Éamon Ó Cuív is not alone in hankering after the trappings of someone else’s long-gone empire. On Thursday [November 26], the former governor of the Bank of Ireland, Laurence Crowley, was made a ‘Commander of the British Empire’ [CBE] by the British ambassador in Dublin Julian King.

King said Crowley was ‘honoured’ because he “epitomises all that is good about North-South relations and the close links between the UK and Ireland”.

What Crowley really “epitomises” is an ability among the political, economic and cultural establishment of the Twenty-Six County state not to rock the boat or speak out in the face of partition, a military occupation and the imposition of an apartheid state by the British government in the North.

The common class interests of the Twenty-Six County and British establishments help to smooth over any small differences they may have and allow notions such as joining the Commonwealth to take root.

Laurence Crowley, for example, would have been delighted by this week’s decision by the British Supreme Court to allow banks to continue speculating and profiteering off the backs of ordinary customers in order to subsidise its preferential arrangements for wealthy and business clients.

At a time when another group of Irish reactionaries were trying to protect British interests in Ireland, the socialist republican Liam Mellows noted simply that the Irish Republic stands for the interests of labour and the working class, while the Free State stands for the protection of capital and exploitation.

Those who dream of the ‘Commonwealth’ and royal awards and visits have chosen their side, the rest of us must make the argument for the Republic.