It’s not so simple, Simon
The HSE’s refusal to fund the free delivery of therapeutic drug Respreeza to Irish alpha-1 sufferers is more complex a story than is being presented, writes Ellie O’Byrne.
The villains of the piece are Simon Harris (Ireland’s Health Minister) and the HSE (the Irish public health service). A small group of sufferers of a protein deficiency, Alpha-1 antitrypsin (or alpha-1), who live with terrible lung-related symptoms and a high risk of developing further illnesses like emphysema, were given a very expensive drug free of charge for years. Now the drug company has discontinued the free access, and the HSE won’t pay for their treatment.
It seems fairly cut-and -dried. We’re a compassionate nation, and no-one wants to see someone denied a life-improving medical treatment. No-one should suffer the symptoms of a debilitating disease, when there is a drug that can improve their condition. To callously abandon families in need is despicable.
Although the patients had been campaigning for years, the end to the treatment, which is a weekly procedure, still seemed cruelly abrupt. “Next week, what’s going to happen?” patient Orla Keane asked, while receiving her final treatment during a TV3 interview on the 28th of September. Publications jumped on the news story, printing pictures of Alpha-1 sufferers protesting outside the Dáil, with placards reading “It’s Simple, Simon.” But maybe it’s not. Maybe fingers need to be pointed elsewhere.
Respreeza, the drug in question, is manufactured from human blood plasma. It costs an estimated €100,000, VAT inclusive, to treat a patient for one year. Each week, an alpha-1 sufferer is administered several 1000mg vials of the precious drug, depending on their body weight, in one IV sitting. There’s no cumulative benefit: the patient must continue taking the drug weekly to receive its effects, which are preventative rather than curative. It halts lung destruction rather than reversing it. 84% of patients say that they do feel benefits and that it improves their quality of life, some say enormously.
What is curious is that nobody is questioning the motives of the drug company who stands to profit enormously if the government is forced to cave in to public demands.
There are 2,000 alpha-1 sufferers in the Republic of Ireland, according to the Irish Thoracic Society. If each of these was deemed eligible for the treatment, what would manufacturers CSL Behring stand to gain?
Ex Vat, each patient requires an estimated €84,000 of the drug per year. Consider the long game: because the drug hasn’t yet been trialled for under 18s or over 65s, a patient treated for each of the 47 eligible years of their life could require €3,948,000 worth of the life-enhancing plasma protein. Rolled out to every sufferer, 2,000 such patients would be worth a staggering €7,896,000,000 to the company over their lifetimes. And that’s just Ireland.
Rates of alpha-1 are particularly high here for genetic reasons. 20 Irish patients were granted a “compassionate access scheme” by CSL Behring when their clinical trials of Repreeza ended in 2010.
In business, you have to speculate to accumulate.
Having been given nearly seven post-trial years of glorious respite from their symptoms for free, it’s only natural that the patients would want to continue to access their treatment. Entirely predictable. Slim chance for the government to come out looking good in cost negotiations with the manufacturer, especially when patients are living with a ticking time-bomb of symptoms: The HSE will be held over a barrel by the weight of public opinion. Compassionate access, then, or cynical manipulation?
It’s not like there’s no international precedent in the pharmaceutical industry: see last year’s US Epipen scandal, when manufacturers Mylan placed a 400% mark-up on their life-saving adrenaline auto-injector. They have a captive market: people suffering from anaphylaxis will certainly die if they encounter an allergen when they’re not carrying one.
“We absolutely raised the price and take full responsibility for that,” Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said, speaking at the Forbes Healthcare Summit last December.
Or go a little further back, to the Obama administration’s 2013 campaign against cheap generic AIDS medications produced in India. That’s right. Against the advice of public health experts (who warned that AIDS relief programmes in developing countries would be devastated if they couldn’t access Indian generics, which had reduced the cost of treatment from $10,000 to just $365 per patient each year) and under pressure from lobbying by Pfizer to protect their asserted Intellectual Property rights.
For make no mistake, the Respreeza issue is an issue of Intellectual Property, and the dangers of allowing vital medicines to be patented at all. As mentioned earlier, its raw material is human plasma.
How many family members of alpha-1 sufferers donate blood?
How many of them would be willing to, if a state-run laboratory were able to work up a generic version of the drug?
Have we even explored all options for sourcing plasma to produce a generic alternative? Until 2010, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) was paying €140,000 per year to dispose of Irish plasma, on the basis that there was a small risk of vCJD, the human form of mad cow disease, being transmitted in some plasma products, and buying in plasma products from other countries.
Since then, they’ve been selling off Irish donated plasma to two companies who use the straw-coloured blood component for testing, not for therapeutic purposes, for the grand sum of €800,000 per year. Does the vCJD risk still stand? The IBTS press department have confirmed that it does, and that this arrangement is still in place.
We are a compassionate nation. But our compassion must be far-sighted. There are many devastating ailments and many patients requiring life-saving care in our health system. In this instance, if we over-simplify the story and get emotionally manipulated into pointing the finger in one direction, we the risk of lessening our health service’s ability to provide for others we also care deeply about.
The HSE would put €168,000,000 (ex-VAT) in CSL Behring’s pockets to treat 2,000 Irish alpha-1 sufferers in Ireland for one year. A generic alternative could provide for the needs of alpha-1 patients while allowing the savings to be put to use to treat other patients in need.
No-one is denying that the protesting patients, each with their own heart-rending story to tell, require care. No-one is denying their sense of anger and injustice. But maybe it’s being misdirected. The government’s culpability really lies in failing to fight legislation that facilitates pharmaceutical profiteering run rampant, at an international level. The battle is a larger one, and it should have been fought on our behalf all along…because these patients don’t have the time.
Ellie O’Byrne is an Irish freelance journalist. She holds an MA in Journalism and New Media from CIT and teaches on Griffith College Cork’s BA in Journalism programme. Her interests include arts and culture, education, housing and healthcare. Her contact details are on her website: www.thereadonlyfiles.wordpress.com or she can be contacted via twitter @ellieobyrne1
CCRC to meet with Brendan Mc Conville Legal Team
KRW Law, who believe Brendan Mc Conville suffered a miscarriage of justice, have described their meeting with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in Birmingham next month as “a very significant development”.
Solicitor Darragh Mackin, explained that Mc Conville’s case was submitted to the CCRC as KRW Law have “real serious concerns as to the safety of the conviction” and they “believe that there are a number of issues that remain effectively unaddressed”. Following failed appeals the law firm felt they “had to pursue the avenue via the CCRC”.
Based on the complexity and exceptional nature of this case, KRW raised the possibility of a meeting at the very start of the application in 2016. In recent weeks they received correspondence from the CCRC stating they feel it “appropriate and advisable to have a meeting at this stage”.
Mackin said the legal team “warmly welcome that development and are encouraged by that development”. He went on to say that they “would not feel it appropriate or usual to seek a meeting with the CCRC in ordinary circumstances”, however, given the issues that have arisen and the complexities of these issues, they felt it appropriate to seek a meeting.
Justin Hawkins of the CCRC made it clear that this meeting is “not a milestone”. Hawkins stated that it is not an indication of any kind of outcome but merely part of their review process. He went on to say that the CCRC meet applicants when they think there is a need to do so yet they do not always think there is a need to do so. They meet if they think it is “worthwhile and necessary to progress the case”.
Speaking on behalf of the Mc Conville family, Brendan’s wife Siobhan, said that they are “delighted” with this development and “hopeful of it’s outcome”.
Mc Conville, along with John Paul Wootton, was convicted of the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in March 2009 and sentenced to 25 and 14 years respectively. Stephen Carroll was the first PSNI officer to be shot dead since the IRA ceasefire 20 years ago. The attack was claimed by the Continuity IRA.
They were both convicted in March 2012 and were unsuccessful in their appeal in October 2013. Furthermore, Wootton had his sentenced increased to 18 years in September 2014 and they were refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in London in May 2015. The two men have become known as The Craigavon Two. At this stage no meeting has been arranged with John Paul Wootton’s legal team.
The CCRC is an independent body set up to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Homelessness Protest in Dublin City Centre
A protest to highlight Dublin’s homelessness and housing crisis was held in Dublin city centre on Saturday 9 September. The protest took place against the backdrop of homeless people dying on the streets of the capital and the number of declared homeless in Ireland exceeding 8,000 people for the first time ever. Almost 3,000 of these are children.
The most recent of these deaths occurred at the end of last month outside a popular fashion store in the city. Indeed one of the first homeless deaths to be reported in recent years, before Christmas 2014, took place just metres from where Saturday’s protest ended at the front gates of Dáil Éireann, the seat of the Irish parliament.
In the immediate aftermath of Jonathon Corrie’s death, a variety of measures were announced and sums of money promised yet two and a half years on and the crisis appears to be worsening. Some homeless organisations are even expecting this figure to rise in the next year.
Republican party Saoradh, organisers of Saturday’s protest, began at Apollo House where the month long homelessness action took place at the end of 2016. Saoradh were one of the participants in that protest movement, calling itself Home Sweet Home, and they have been active on other campaigns since.
One such campaign is a poster campaign where Saoradh members attach posters to vacant homes with the message ‘Give This Home to a Family’. The campaign hopes to draw attention to the countless vacant properties around Dublin while so many remain homeless.
Tracy Duggan of Saoradh said that there were an excessive number of vacant properties for every homeless person in Ireland. Ms Duggan was even more concerned by these street deaths as “we aren’t even into the winter yet”. Census figures from 2016 show that there are as many as 198,358 vacant properties. This figure excludes holiday homes. The vacancy property rate in Ireland at 12.8% is more than double what it should be “in a functioning housing system” according to the Simon Community.
Speeches made at the end of Saoradh’s protest claimed the Government were not motivated to do anything about the problem as many TDs in Leinster House are themselves landlords. This claim is borne out by the Oireachtas registry, which shows that one in four TDs receive income from property. This number does not include TDs who hold shares in a variety of businesses. It must also be noted that it appears as if a large number of TDs, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, have no declared interests in anything at all.
The Government response to the crisis thus far has been to establish committees and to promise an increase in the supply of homes. The Department of Housing claims that their plan, Rebuilding Ireland, will “accelerate all types of housing supply – social, private and rental.”
The plan “seeks the delivery of increased volumes of social housing over the coming years (47,000 units by 2021) and places a focus on delivering long- term housing solutions for homeless households.”
Time will tell what the real outcome of this latest initiative will be yet that may be time that some homeless people, as we approach the colder time of the year, do not have. The vacant property rate in Ireland has marginally declined in the last five years, however, the number of homeless is tragically going very much in the opposite direction.
An English opinion about Ireland being as valid as an Irish one is Warped Equality and Disrespectful.
Gemma Tipton raises some valid points in this article. The greatest of which probably comes down to:
“The key question about the validity of different perspectives is more to do with intent and imbalances of power, and it’s usually pretty clear when something is intended to demean, diminish and oppress. It’s also clear when the aim is to silence, damage or control”
This goes for all sides. So when an English/British/White person comments on what the English/British/White people did to the Irish/Black people/Vietnamese, is their intention to demean or are they really airing an equal opinion? If their intention is to demean then it is of course invalid. However, even where the intention is to speak out or to finally contribute something constructive then that opinion is merely valid and nothing more. It is not equal to the voice of the oppressed. Did you really expect equality and admiration for having inflicted so much damage and now, faced with the inevitable, you say ‘ehm…so terribly sorry about all that…her’s a few pound for you…now F..Off”. Are you serious?
And why the call for equality and why now? Where was your voice when the Irish in Belfast, Derry and Armagh were being burned out off their homes by their British loyalist neighbours and murdered by British terrorists? Likewise Black people in South Africa and the southern US states? When the Vietnamese needed your ‘equality’ during French and then US oppression, where was it? Why did you only raise your voices when the conflicts and wars were being wound down so you could look like a champion of the downtrodden?
And where then are your voices today to speak up for Muslims in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and beyond? The Palestinians in Gaza and The West Bank could do with this equality of opinion as could Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton (The Craigavon Two) currently in Maghaberry prison serving a murder sentence despite no evidence placing them at the scene or linking them to the shooting.
Are you talking about that? Are you interested in equality or are you yourself trying to “silence, damage or control” the voice of others?
Maybe your narrative is currently gaining momentum because those you speak for, those who did wrong in the past – the English, the British and all White people – are feeling the pressure of having to answer for their past crimes. Crimes against Irish, Black and colonised people who are now off their knees and demanding justice? Justice that would mean English/British/White people taking responsibility for their horrible oppressive past?
Are Linda Nash and Helen Deery, protesting at the Free Museum of Derry against the placing of British soldier names against the names of those gunned down during Bloody Sunday 1972, seeking to demean the paratroopers who gunned down their loved ones? Or are they peacefully protesting the disrespect being shown to the dead protesters and their loved ones by placing the names of armed professional soldiers beside the names of local residents gunned down for expressing their democratic right? Is this to achieve some warped sense of equality?
Were the Mau Mau wrong to seek justice for the torture exacted on them? Should they not have waited for the opinion of the ‘equal’ English/British/White person first? Or Indians who suffered under British rule? Or…? The list of western persecution and crimes is too long to list here.
As is the case in Glasnevin’s remembering of 1916 I ask; What is wrong with here?! The apparent ‘vandalism’ of this wall may indeed have been ‘callous’ but does anybody really want to know why they did it? Why the need to remember those who died beside those who killed them? Is it not an absolutely bizarre and an insanely unique Irish Stockholm experience? Much more important than being ‘equal’, remembering the dead on all sides, must be respectful. So remembering them side by side is the complete opposite, regardless of your colour, creed or nationality or some belated desire to finally be heard.
Bizarre Parades Commission Decision to Restrict Anti-Internment League Parada August 2017.
Community relations more important than freedom of expression
The Parades Commissions (PC) determined that the Anti-Internment League (AIL) should not march through Royal Avenue Belfast city centre on Sunday 6 August 2017 and should terminate at North Queen Street instead. This is due to the risks posed by “…public disorder and the potential adverse impact on community relations.” An admirable decision you may think, until you examine it more closely.
Let’s just for one moment, if we may, ignore the fact that Belfast is the city that most AIL marchers call home and look at the cold facts of the PC determination.
The PC state that the “right of peaceful assembly, underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, while important, is not absolute” and that the potential risk posed to public order and community relations “…outweigh the significance of the claims for freedom of assembly along the full route of the organiser’s choosing…”.
Really? The ECHR and UN Conventions on human rights aren’t absolutely important? I’d have thought that was their purpose? However, never mind all that Human Rights stuff, the PC go on to say, in a media statement issued by Stakeholder Communications, that the risk was particularly high “…around the Peters Hill/Brown Square interface…”.
However, this interface comes after Royal Avenue which leaves no reason for terminating the march before Royal Avenue. Furthermore this was the same route taken by the AIL in 2014, which passed without any incident from the AIL side despite AIL marchers being attacked with missiles and verbally abused by loyalists lining Royal Avenue while the PSNI stood with arms folded.
Subsequently the disturbances at AIL marches, noted by the PC in their determination and media statements, in 2013 and 2015 had little or nothing to do with the AIL march. The disturbances and violence in 2013 that resulted in the AIL march being re-routed was instigated by loyalists and resulted in 26 PSNI being hospitalised. The public order offences witnessed in 2015 occurred long after the parade had dispersed and did not involve any of the marchers.
Contrast the PC’s approach to this one single republican march being prohibited from entering Belfast city centre with the countless Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist parades that march through Belfast, Derry and many other parts of the north. The vast majority of those classified as sensitive, as can be seen from the PC’s table below, are Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist.
Sensitive parades being those that “…have the potential to raise concerns and community tensions.”
The PC claim to assess each parade “…on its own merits.” However, their determination on the AIL parade clearly and explicitly considered the fact that two loyalist parades (Loyalists People’s Protest and Northern Ireland Against Terrorism) had also submitted notification to march on the same day, at the same time and to take the same route through Royal Avenue. This is the opposite of considering a parade “…on its own merits.” This is considering a parade on the merits of other parades, its participants and their potential for causing violence.
The PC claims that imposing restrictions on all three parades is “…necessary, proportionate and fair.” Is it fair, however, to impose conditions on a parade that marches to commemorate a specific event? An event with huge emotional significance for that community? An event that resulted in 100s of their community being arrested, imprisoned without trial and physically abused in police custody. As this event commenced on 9 August 1971 the AIL could only march on Sunday 6 August and ensure as little disturbance to the normal business of Belfast city centre.
The two loyalist parades, however, are not commemorating any event and, according to the PC, notified of their intention to march with the sole purpose of opposing the AIL. The Loyalist People’s Protest has, according to the PC, “a history of protesting against republican parades”. Their intention therefore is to protest the organisation that is marching. This is their sole purpose for marching. They have no purpose to march unless the AIL march.
The determination we have here from the AIL is nothing short of bizarre (lets refrain from the Kafkaesque cliché). The PC did, in reality as well as in effect, restrict the AIL from marching because loyalists were marching. But the loyalists were only marching because the AIL were marching. This is not just a vicious circle or the stuff of a Joseph Heller novel – it is utterly bonkers and without sense. It means in effect that “we are restricting your march because your counter marchers may cause trouble and you might insist upon your democratic rights”!
The logic then follows that whenever the AIL or any republican group decide they want to march, they have to accept these nonsensical restrictions based almost exclusively on the fact that as loyalists announce a counter march. If this logic is allowed prevail, republicans will be permanently shut out of their own city. Is this in keeping with the shared future we are supposed to be building?
The Loyalists People’s notification to march stated that they expected around 10,000 people. A figure that the PC dispute as “the attendance at recent protests is around 100 people at most”. The NI Against Terrorism group notified late, 28 July, and failed to state how many would show. All of which, according to the PC, cast serious doubts on their ability to organise such a demonstration never minding the fact that this group consist mainly of the extreme right wing anti Muslim group from the UK known as Britain First.
Similarly the AIL state a figure of 5,000 potential attendees, which is in excess of the numbers that have previously attended but nowhere near as exaggerated as the figure submitted by the Loyalist People’s Protest or the “unknown” figure submitted by NI Against Terrorism groups.
The PCs concerns over these numbers were justified, particularly in the case of the two loyalist parades as their combined figure on Sunday 6 August 2017 came to around a mere 80. A far cry from the 10,000+ predicted. The AIL’s figure was also much less than 5,000 but somewhere in the region of 1,000-2,000.
So the needs and potential for violence of 80 protestors, a number of whom do not live in Belfast or anywhere on the island of Ireland, take precedence over the needs of the 100s of AIL marchers, residents of Belfast and the commemoration of such a traumatic and emotional event. How on earth can this be “…necessary, proportionate and fair”?
WHAT BENEFIT WOULD A GOLD MINE BRING TO MID ULSTER, THE SPERRIN MOUNTAINS AND CO. TYRONE?
Spanning from Derry in the west to the shores of Lough Neagh in the east, The Sperrin Mountains in Co. Tyrone are the North’s most extensive mountain range and listed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Having put past conflicts to bed, The Sperrins may be facing renewed conflict: An international mining company against a small farming community. Dalradian, a Canadian gold exploration company, is exploring the AONB for $3.5bn worth of gold.
Locals are concerned about major disruption to their way of life and Dalradian’s proposed use of cyanide in the mining process as it separates gold particles from extracted ore. This leaves the potential for a repeat of the cyanide leak at the Baia Mare gold mine in North Western Romania in January 2000, where cyanide leaked into local rivers, poisoned drinking water and killed over 80% of the fish population.
Spokesperson for a local opposition group, Cormac Mc Aleer of ‘Save Our Sperrins’, says he has grave concerns about the use of cyanide and the “lack of experience and of expertise among the relevant environmental monitoring/enforcement statutory agencies”. Mc Aleer claims the “lack of transparency that have emerged with Dalradian have exacerbated those concerns”. Dalradian disagree claiming they have “informed and engaged with the local community and stakeholders through a variety of means” since 2009 and currently have “a Community Engagement Team on site”.
Mc Aleer is concerned for the local environment given the proximity of the proposed mine to family homes, schools and the rivers Foyle and Ballinderry. Friends of the Earth’s James Orr has also expressed concern.
AONB status is there to “protect and enhance natural beauty whilst recognising the needs of the local community and economy”. Given budget cutbacks and fears over Brexit, the concern is that the needs of ‘economy’ may outweigh those of ‘community’ so attempts to create jobs may be welcome. However, as neither royalties nor taxation stay local, this may neither protect nor enhance.
Local Councillor Sorcha Mc Anespy is skeptical of Dalradian jobs claims of “over 400 well-paid jobs” where “a miner would earn around £40,000 per year”. In any case the region does not appear to need any further employment as local businesses complain of difficulties in finding staff and nearby Mid Ulster has comparatively low levels of unemployment. Dalradian claim that in building “Europe’s leading gold mine” they will create “at least 350 permanent jobs during operations”.
Councillor Mc Anespy was one of the many candidates in recent assembly elections who signed a pledge to “…oppose gold mining with its toxic processing plant, poisonous waste dumps and tailings in the Sperrins Area of Outstanding natural Beauty (AONB)”.
She claims Dalradian “weren’t totally upfront and honest about what they wanted at the start”. Dalradian currently operate on an exploration license, which means they are permitted to remove ore from the site for the purposes of “analysis, test, trial or experiment”. Their license does not permit the sale of extracted materials. However, the Crown Estate, who receives 4% royalties on all gold mined, denied this in local media when it was revealed that Dalradian shipped 15,000 tonnes of ore to the USA. The Crown Estate said Dalradian “has permission to sell any gold”.
The future of the proposed mine depends on the outcome of Dalradian’s planning application, which they submit in the coming months. During the last Assembly, Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard announced this application should be subject to an independent public inquiry. We await the outcome.
SPY IN THE IRA?
BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight’s “Spy in the IRA” is a very strange “investigative” piece as I don’t think I learned a heap from it. Firstly it was billed as being about this guy “Martin” yet 70% of it was dedicated to the already publicised Denis Donaldson. That story is 10 years old now. It also;
• Glossed over the fact that the IRA had informants in British security services and in all sections from the army to the PSNI and the prison service.
• They claim that British secret services brought down the IRA yet the war lasted for 30 years.
• The other alarming claim, that they had compromised most of the IRA Army Council, asks more questions of them than the IRA. I mean, if they had infiltrated it to that extent why didn’t they use that influence to bring about a more immediate end of war? It doesn’t add up.
• It also tells us that Bobby Storey was head of intelligence yet previous investigative pieces tells us that it was ‘Stakeknife’. Again, this doesn’t add up.
• The reason this guy “Martin” gives for becoming an informant (“I just couldn’t take the war anymore”) is somewhat flippant to say the least and then after Donaldson’s death he ‘just left’ with a mere handshake. Somewhat suspicious.
I have no doubt that several IRA members were British informers just as several British were IRA informers. It happened on both sides. Both Irish and British media gave little coverage to the fact that there had been a Sinn Féin spy ring at work as much as they did to the police raiding Sinn Féin offices, if you get what I mean. Wanting to disrupt Irish Republicans but at the same time not wanting to admit that their intelligence network was sophisticated and militaristic and it had compromised British security very deeply. This would be an admission that it was espionage and therefore warfare as opposed to what they wanted it labelled as.
I believe this investigative piece took some elements of truth and bent them in order to sow seeds of doubt and in order to sully what people had done. The thinking being – “it doesn’t really matter if we have infiltrated, as long as people believe we have then, the job is as good as done” – Probably to compensate for the fact that they did not succeed as much as they would like you to think, on the intelligence front, so they are probably not succeeding today either.
Viewers in the UK can also watch it here
In 1916 Centenary Year, shouldn’t we ask – Were “The Troubles” in the North of Ireland “a War”?
A recent article on the blog Slugger O’Toole titled Why the Irish can’t “get over” ‘The Troubles’ raises a number of great questions. It is also relevant to centenary year as a number of political commentators have claimed that Jubilee celebrations in 1966 acted as a catalyst to the conflict that started some three years later. Tenuous claims, rebutted below, but claims nonetheless.
In asking the above question, the writer draws comparisons between the conflict in the north of Ireland and other conflicts around the world. Conflicts such as World War 2, Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda and Yugoslavia. It claims that these places experienced far worse conflict than the north, in terms of numbers dead, tortured and property destroyed, yet they have managed to “get over” their past and even flourished. The Olympics in Tokyo, just 19 years after the atomic destruction of two of their cities as well as the rapid economic and technological expansion of Japan, is used as examples.
Quite an unfair comparison really given that Japan was completely destroyed and humiliated and then rebuilt from the ground up by the USA and its allies after the war. This was not the case nor was it necessary in that respect in the north of Ireland. Furthermore World War 2 was open warfare and the conflict in the north of Ireland was hidden guerilla warfare. It is also unclear as to how Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Rwanda have since faired.
The comparisons to World War 2 as a whole is inappropriate. World War 2 was broadly speaking fought in the UK and mainland Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia. Where that war was fought, particularly in Europe, they haven’t ‘got over’ it either. World War 2, and offshoots of it, is still hotly debated in Berlin –
Also, a significant part of the English population cannot let go, despite being on the “winning side”.
However, the writer, Samuel Thompson, raises valid questions. He asks whether the argument is perplexed by the fact that we are unable to define what happened between 1969 and 1997. Nobody can clearly state, accept or admit to the fact that we may have experienced a “…low intensity civil war, an armed insurgency against British Rule or a law and order problem?”
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy said that “War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities”. Is this what happened? There is a very strong, and possibly undeniable, case for agreeing with this as a definition for what happened in the north of Ireland.
Therefore, describing what happened there from 1969 to 1997 as “The Troubles” is wrong. It’s misleading. Shooting, bombings and torturing cannot be euphemistically referred to as “Troubles”. The British Government lead this euphemistic charge through Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Roy Mason. He introduced the policies of “Normalisation” and “Ulsterisation”. Normalisation attempted to criminalise Irish Republicans while Ulsterisation attempted to leave matters in the hands of locals in the north to police. Both of these policies failed as the British army and SAS were deployed, so the conflict with the IRA was neither criminal nor local.
Finally, in rebutting claims that the 1916 Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1966 lead to the conflict, the following must be considered:
- Gerrymandering across the north of Ireland six counties
- The B Special and Loyalist attacks of Republican neighbourhoods which lead to;
- The Battle of the Bogside in Derry and the arrival of British army troops.
- Not to mention attacks by British terror paramilitary groups, such as the UVF in 1966.
I dare say these tragic events had a lot more to do with the start of the 1969-1997 conflict that a bit of pomp and ceremony up O’ Connell Street.
Too much has been revealed for anyone to believe it was a simple sectarian conflict. Too much has been produced and written by experts, over the last 30 years to believe that it was so. Like so many other conflicts in the world it was dirty and local divisions were more likely exploited to serve another agenda. What was that agenda is another question that needs to be asked.
When we openly discuss and “get over” what happened in Ireland between 1969 and 1997 as well as what lead to this, maybe we can make build a present that everybody can live in. This may also mean that all sides will have to face up to what they did and face possible prosecution for war crimes – this excludes nobody. A final question therefore must be – Are we ready to “get over” it?
10 things that tell you “Northern Ireland” is not in the UK
In November 2013 a radio colleague (a student intern from Italy) interviewed Loyalists marchers (Orange men) at the stand off at Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast. Twaddell is an area in north Belfast where Loyalist marchers, loyal to the British Queen, have been camped since July 2013. They refuse to vacate this camp until they are allowed to march through an Irish Republican neighbourhood in whatever fashion they deem necessary. The Parades Commission in “Northern Ireland”, appointed to make decisions on such matters, refuse them permission yet the marchers vow to camp there until they get permission.
Among a number of points the protesters relayed to my colleague, was that they were “…I am born in part of the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland…I am as British as someone in Derby…”. (at 9 mins)
This Loyalist protestor may want to consider the list below which shows that, while this place called “Northern Ireland” may be a part of the UK to some, it is not in any way like Derby.
ONE – MONEY used in “Northern Ireland” cannot be automatically used in Derby because their bank notes are not legal tender in England.
TWO – IRISH GOVERNMENT BODIES from the south are directly involved and consulted on a number of regional, political, NAMA and business issues in “Northern Ireland”. The Irish Government is not involved in decision making in Derby or other parts of England.
THREE – CITIZENSHIP – Anybody born in “Northern Ireland” has the automatic right to be an Irish or British citizen – again this is not the case if you are born in Derby another part of England or any part of the world. The Irish passport also has a map of the full island of Ireland printed inside it.
FOUR – LAWS of Derby and the UK do not automatically apply in “Northern Ireland”.
SEVEN – GREEN The colour unites north and south in sport and more recently in St. Patrick’s day celebrations. Although…Derby also celebrates…so on this one they have a point…
EIGHT – DEMOCRACY – The voting system in “Northern Ireland” assembly elections is the same as it is in the south. The north also uses a Proportional Representational STV. Not so in Derby.
NINE – TAX – The taxpayer in the south of Ireland contributes towards the funding of different bodies in “Northern Ireland”. Not sure if Derby has ever benefitted from the Irish taxpayer?!
TEN – BORDER & PASSPORT – No physical border or checkpoint between the south and north of Ireland and no need to carry a passport – if you travel to Derby by Ryanair you need one – no border that is, apart from the “peace walls” (see cover image) that still divide the pro-British residents from their pro-Irish neighbours in “Northern Ireland”.
35 years since Bobby Sands Election – The 1981 Hunger Strike, Reaction and its Legacy
On 9 April 1981, with 30,492 votes, Bobby Sands won the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election following the death of Independent Republican MP, Frank Maguire. He defeated the Ulster Unionist Party candidate, Harry West.
Despite Sands’ historic victory, he would not of course take his seat in a British Parliament. Primarily as an abstentionist opposed to British rule and institutions in Ireland and as a prisoner in the H-Block, this would not be possible. His election would raise awareness for the political campaign he lead in prison.
Sands was an IRA volunteer who had been imprisoned by the British in the H-Block since 1977 (officially known as Long Kesh and knick-named The Maze), south west of Belfast.
He commenced the Hunger Strikes in the H-Block in 1981, which was the culmination of a five-year campaign against the British removal of political status from IRA and INLA prisoners in 1976. The Hunger Strikes sought to secure political status for IRA and INLA prisoners. Their campaign had five demands.
- The Right not to wear a prison uniform.
- The Right not to do prison work
- The Right of free association with other prisoners
- The Right to organize their own educational and recreational facilities
- The Right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week.
All five demands were realised by Republican prisoners but they came at a heavy price. 66 days after commencing his hunger strike, on 5 May 1981, Bobby Sands died. An estimated 100,000 people attended his funeral and it is deemed to have been one of the biggest Irish Republican funerals ever. Irish Times Journalist Ed Moloney said “It was immense. That’s about the only word to describe it.” Nine other IRA and INLA members would follow Sands to their deaths before the five demands were realised.
An International outpouring of grief and anti British demonstrations and actions were to follow Sands’ passing. Mario Biagi, a Democrat Congressman from New York said British policy in the north of Ireland was “morally bankrupt”. Protests were held in Paris, Milan, Ghent, Australia and Greece. A protest in Norway lead to Norwegian protestors throwing an object at and almost hitting the visiting English Queen Elizabeth 2. The European Parliament decided to debate the Hunger Strike, which British MEPs attempted to block.
The official Russian news agency Pravda, described the Maze Prison as a concentration camp and New York Dockers boycotted British ships for 24 hours. Streets in Paris, Havana, Connecticut and Tehran were named after Bobby Sands. In a 2012 documentary on British Loyalists, some of his former enemies paid tribute to him also.
After his death, Sands’ seat was taken by republican candidate Owen Carron, who won an even larger majority. In the 1981 southern Irish general elections, two Anti H-Block candidates also won seats.
Political commentators have since argued that Sands’ election was the time when Irish republicans, who favoured the use of armed force against British rule in the north of Ireland, saw the benefits of the ballot box. However, as the IRA war against the British was to continue until 1997 the combined use of politics and armed force lead Sinn Féin’s Danny Morrison to coin the phrase the armalite and the ballot box.
There is little doubt that the IRA and Sinn Féin saw the benefits of a combined strategy to overthrow British and Unionist rule in the north of Ireland. While the IRA war did not remove British rule from the north of Ireland some, such as former hunger striker Tommy Mc Kearney, at 3.30 minutes in the podcast interview below, feel it broke unionist domination.
On this 35th anniversary since his election it is still very much a part of modern Irish Republican folklore. Countless documentaries and films have been made about it, most notable being a film called Hunger , produced by Steve Mc Queen and starring Michael Fassbender. Another documentary is due for release later this year called Bobby Sands: 66 Days, which is based on Bobby Sands prison diaries.
It is sure to be controversial as the predictable voices will slam it while others will rave about it. Another point of controversy is his legacy. As an IRA volunteer, Bobby Sands fought for a united Ireland. That has not been achieved.
What is certain is that since that time Sinn Fein’s electoral popularity has increased. They took their first and only seat in Dáil Éireann in 1997, compared to 23 seats in 2016. North of the border they share power and hold ministerial positions and they are potentially the largest party there yet still there is little sign of a united Ireland. One can only wonder as to whether this is what Bobby Sands, his comrades and many many others gave their lives for or whether any of their ideals will be realised.
10 Reasons why The 1916 Rising was justified and necessary
- The 1916 Proclamation supported Irish Independence – those who opposed it supported an empire and the slaughter of millions.
- Home Rule, even if it were honoured, was not an alternative. It proposed the creation of an Irish assembly, subordinate to London, and circumscribed powers to protect Protestants.
- “The Rising was undemocratic”…say monarchists…
- “Ireland would be better off under the British today” NONSENSE. Ireland today, is effectively under German and US control through finance, legislation and industry. Irish society does not resemble that of the USA or Germany, in any meaningful way. AND, only the south-east of the UK is what you might call prosperous.
- “India achieved independence without violence” – HOGWASH – Millions were still slaughtered by the British or allowed die , as they were during the Bengal famine. Even with independence, India remains in the British Commonwealth, Ireland does not.
- People in Dublin lived in squalor,Catholics could not practice their faith during penal times, northern Catholics were Gerrymandered and beaten out of democracy, which was the ultimate trigger to the conflict in the north of Ireland – NOTHING AT ALL to do with the 50 year celebrations in 1966.
- “It legitimizes the Provisional and Dissident IRA”. The Provisional and Dissident IRA never fought in open combat – although the fact that everybody accepts the Provisional IRA leadership in Government in the north of Ireland, and as a legitimate political force in the south should be ignored…MORE NONSENSE
- It was indeed the British, through their Auxiliaries and Black and Tan criminal gangs, that used terror tactics in Ireland not to mention the war crimes carried out in the rest of their empire.
- Those negating The Rising quote the conditions of a “just war” as laid down by Thomas Aquinas. The fact that this theologian lived and preached during the mid 13th century wouldn’t concern anybody?
- And quite simply…remaining with an Empire, that;
- Murdered millions worldwide and stole their resources
- Allowed millions of Irish people to starve to death or emigrate during the famine of the 1840s
- Forbade Catholics from practicing their faith and from voting
- Allowed British loyalist militia murder and butcher
- Support dictators, such as General Pinochet among others…would never be an option.
Irish Accepting British Awards
I have always found the accepting of these awards to be interesting quandary from a number of points of view.
- ON THE ONE HAND you have to ask – Why shouldn’t an Irish person accept this award as they would accept an award from the French, Brazilian or whomsoever Government?
- BUT THEN if he claims to be Republican he cannot accept awards from any monarchy (British, Spanish etc).
- AND if he is an Irish Nationalist he certainly cannot accept any award from any British institution as long as they (as an Irish nationalist would see it) occupy part of his country – unless of course his version of nationalism is a united Ireland under British rule?
- THEN OF COURSE there is the humanitarian points of view – Have the British (again like so many other Governments) atoned for their crimes in Ireland and other parts of the globe?
I guess all of this has to be considered before one ‘compromises’, ‘moves on’ or ‘makes gestures’. Surely one should never compromise a principle that is dear to them? And surely it should never be asked of either? What do you think?
In 1916 Centenary Year, shouldn’t we ask – Were “The Troubles” in the North of Ireland “a War”?
Two-Tier Policing & Justice System in the North of Ireland
2015 ANTI INTERNMENT LEAGUE MARCH (Photo Credit: Peter Kearney)
The 2015 Anti Internment League’s (AIL) march against what they perceive as present day internment in Ireland, took place in north Belfast at 2:30 pm on Sunday 9 August. This march opposes “the unjust imprisonment of Republicans via internment by remand, revocation of license and miscarriage of justice to stand as one in opposition to this British policy in Ireland”. It also coincides with the official introduction of internment in the north of Ireland on 9 August 1971.
However, this year’s march did not get far – only managing to travel 500 metres from Ardoyne Avenue to the junction of Old Park Road and Rosapenna Street. It was at this point that it was stopped by a cordon of PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland), in space-age riot gear, armed with shields, batons and guns while standing between a line of heavily fortified land rovers. This line was backed up by several other PSNI land rovers to the rear and at least one water canon truck.
This years march brings to light that a two tier system of policing and justice may well be in place in the north of Ireland.
This AIL parade was to be the only republican parade of the year to march through Belfast city centre yet it was refused full permission by the Parades Commission (PC). Each year and several times per year, Orange Order (OO) parades march through the city centre while violating the PC conditions and they march in a sectarian manner.
Furthermore, as witnessed at the recent 12th July march in Ardoyne (also in north Belfast and quite close to where the AIL commenced their parade), a member of the OO attempted to murder his republican neighbours by driving a car into a crowd of on-lookers. He injured two, hospitalising a teenage girl in the process. He was released on bail soon after being arrested and appearing in court. Contrast that with the imprisonment of Irish Republicans (in particular, those Republicans who opposed the current political arrangements in the north), for months and sometimes years on end, with no court appearance and based simply on the word of a police officer. This is a mere snapshot of how justice and policing is administered in the north of Ireland.
The Parades Commission (PC) ruling that this march would be blocked unless it was in and out of Belfast city centre by 1:30pm was an impossible task. Especially when organisers had already decided to begin at 2:30pm. Hence the march was blocked.
So why did the AIL not march in accordance with the 1:30pm arrangement? The march would have gone ahead, with full PSNI protection, and for the second year in a row Republicans would have marched through Belfast city centre. This could have demonstrated a gathering of momentum for their movement. Furthermore, should the parade go through again in coming years it could eventually lead to the climate being as it should always have been – both Republicans and Loyalists fully respecting each others right to march and live in their own city.
However, march organisers claim they had already accommodated the PC by moving the march from a busy shopping Saturday to a quieter Sunday. They also moved the time of their march to 2:30 to accommodate the Ballymurphy Massacre march taking place in Belfast that day. Republicans may indeed argue that the need for this parade is based on the fact that they already move too much. Therefore asking the PC to accommodate their 2:30 start would not be unreasonable.
As this journalist witnessed, this march was a peaceful march. Furthermore the marchers have no history of violence on such marches and it was billed as a ‘human rights march’ by organisers. In fact, on more than one occasion, it is these marchers who have been subjected to violence and abuse from British Loyalist groups who have targeted the march in the past and they appear to have continuously done so.
PRESENT DAY INTERNMENT
The AIL believe that since internment was officially reintroduced in Ireland in 1971 (as it had been in de facto use since at least the 1920s), that it has never been fully revoked. While internment in Ireland today may not be as brutal or obvious as it was in the 1970s, like the ‘The Hooded Men’ – they claim it still exists through use of remand, revocation of license and miscarriage of justice.
The AIL are Irish Republicans who oppose the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), follow on agreements to the GFA, the British presence in Ireland and Sinn Féin’s participation in these. Internment was reintroduced by the British in August 1971 in Ireland to arrest and imprison, without trial, anyone they believed to be in the IRA. In fact many of those arrested were not even current members of the IRA. Internment served only to harass and persecute the Republican community and to swell the numbers of the IRA.
Today, the AIL believe, that both the British and Irish administrations in Ireland are implementing internment by remanding Republican activists in prison on spurious charges. Republicans are later freed, without any charge, but with severe limitations placed upon their freedom. These restrictions include, prohibiting them from speaking to the media or expressing their opinions publicly.
Republican activists believe the intention is to remove them from the political sphere and to weaken republican activism and protest against the GFA and British institutions in the north of Ireland. Stephen Murney and Dee Fennell are recent examples.
Additionally, Republicans have been interned through the revocation of their license, which granted their release from prison under the GFA. Revocation of this license returns them to prison. One such case was that of Marian Price, even though she had never been released on license but on royal pardon – Marian Price Case Martin Corey is another such example.
It is on this basis that these Irish republicans march against what they perceive as internment. They do so as close to 9 August as possible, to commemorate the date the British Government reintroduced internment without trial in Ireland in 1971.
Miscarriage of Justice
One further and arguably more sinister way in which internment is implemented, according to those in the AIL, is through miscarriages of justice. The most publicized of these cases is that of Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton – The Craigavon Two – #JFTC2
Jailed for the killing of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in March 2009, campaigners believe the evidence against them is flimsy and their imprisonment unjust. And despite the continued concerns about the conviction of the Craigavon Two – Fresh Concerns for the Craigavon Two – they remain on the inside.
These are the main reasons the AIL believe internment is still being used as a tool by the British authorities in Ireland against those who oppose their presence.
These points were raised again at this years march as they had been at previous marches. In recent years, the 2013 AIL march was marred by British Loyalist violence and was re-routed as a result.
The 2014 rally was relatively peaceful yet it was still attacked by British Loyalist protestors as it passed through Royal Avenue in Belfast city centre. The PSNI, again in full riot gear, stood and watched Republican marchers while standing with their backs to the Loyalist mob on Royal Avenue, that threw missiles, bangers and other projectiles at the marchers.
The PSNI made no attempt to tackle Loyalist protestors or prevent them from attacking the passing republican parade.
When this years march was blocked by Robocop styled PSNI riot squad, there were already countless PSNI land rovers policing the area before, during and surprisingly afterwards. What was also surprising was the shut down of Belfast city centre. As my taxi driver said “it’s like the 70s in the city centre”.
Notwithstanding the heavy and semi militarised police presence the parade was peaceful. Organisers had called for this beforehand and had asked those with non-peaceful intentions to stay well away. Organisers even removed one of their marchers, holding the Irish tricolour, who had made his way onto the bonnet of a PSNI land rover in the police cordon.
Once marchers arrived at the police cordon, the announcement came over the loudspeakers, as was posted on police signage (see signage on right), that the march could proceed no further. This met with chants and boos from the crowd but this was to be the height of the disturbances.
Shortly afterwards speeches were made by one of the organisers and a Donegal Councillor, Micheal Colm Mac Giolla Easbuig, from the Gaeltacht region in Donegal. Immediately after these speeches one of the organisers announced that this was the end of the march and they would now be dispersing. He asked that everybody do so peacefully. Everybody followed suit.
Shortly afterwards I noticed, as I conducted my final interview of the day, that an eerie silence had descended around us as all participants had dispersed. Both my final interviewee and myself were among the last people left in the area. After this interview I went on my way and walked for about 10-15 minutes before getting into a car to leave. We drove around for some time, as most roads were blocked with traffic leaving Ardoyne, so we had to return to Old Park Road to drive to the Falls Road, where I had parked my car.
It was now at least one hour since the march had ended and some time had passed since everybody left the Old Park Road/Rosapenna Street junction. It is therefore surprising that the police still remained. The bands and marchers had long since dispersed so their presence was no longer required. Why did the police remain there for so long after the march had ended and people had dispersed? Why were they still so heavily armed? Did this in any way contribute to provoking a response from local youths?
When I returned to the Old Park Road area at that time, I witnessed some stone and missile throwing at the police which, by Belfast standards, was hardly noteworthy. What was noteworthy was the heavy police presence, the armory they carried and the deployment of a water cannon truck. I could see little justification for such a presence, particularly as everybody had left at that time.
Contrast that with the scene just 5 minutes away, at the Twaddell interface. A mere handful of police stood without riot helmets, shields or batons in front of the Loyalist mob gathered there. However, Police land rovers swooped into the Twaddell area as they learned that the Republican marchers were heading towards the shops opposite Twaddell. The shops area is in a predominantly republican area. Land rovers swooped in to prevent marchers marching in their own area and on their own streets with a much watered down police presence to block Loyalists.
Despite the peaceful nature of the march this is how one Dublin media outlet reported on it. A similar approach was taken by Belfast outlets
It is worth noting that roughly 60% of all parades held in the north of Ireland are OO or OO related. The vast majority of these are contentious yet still they march through city centres and republican neighbourhoods. Little is done about their PC breaches – Parades Commission report 2012 and flash points such as Drumcree and Twaddell are still tolerated.
Everybody has a right to march through their own city centre and through their own neighbourhoods. As I witnessed at yesterday’s Anti-Internment march, the police presence at that time was unwarranted and could have been provocative. A pregnant woman was manhandled in the most brutal fashion into the back of a police land rover and the city was put into a military styled shut down.
While not as brutal as in the past, it would appear as if a two tier police and justice system – one rule for Irish Republicans and another, much more lenient one, for the pro British community – is in force today in the north of Ireland. And this time, it appears to have the approval of certain Republican parties.
How Irish System is Exploiting Au Pairs
The traditional image of an Au Pair in Ireland was a 19 year old French girl who came here to learn English. She would live with an Irish family, for about six months, and everybody would get along famously. It was ideal.
That ideal is in ruin and has been replaced by an exploitative reality. As demonstrated by the recent Mohammed Younis case, the Irish system appears reluctant to protect the vulnerable.
Childcare costs in Ireland are the highest in the EU and account for 35% of the average family income compared to an EU average of 12%, according to the OECD. Families are facing economic difficulties they never faced before. They simply cannot afford the cost of €3,000 per month (for three young children) for professional childcare.
Families therefore need a cheaper alternative and, at around €600 per month, the traditional yet unprofessional Au Pair is making childcare affordable for a number of Irish households. The traditional Au Pair is being exploited. Exploited in the family home and the Government is doing little about it.
The profile of the Au Pair changed from being almost exclusively European teenagers to include young women in their mid-20s from Latin America.
Their treatment was written about as far away as Venezuela, in the on-line journal El Universal. That journal documented the negative experience of one Venezuelan Au Pair, whom this Journalist spoke to. The Philippine Government even took the extraordinary step of banning their citizens from taking such jobs in Ireland and the EU for a period of 15 years.
Failings of the system
It is estimated by the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) that up to 10,000 people work in the home in Ireland, yet it is not exactly known how many work as Au Pairs. One of the reasons it is not known is that legally, Au Pairs do not exist and there is no register. They do not exist and they therefore do not have any legal protection.
However, Citizens Information define an Au Pair as, “…a young person who is treated as a family member in exchange for certain services…it is a voluntary arrangement between a private household and a private individual”. Au Pairs are not employees, or ‘Domestic Workers’, and should not be treated as one.
However, they point out that simply “…using the term ‘Au Pair’ does not mean an employment contract does not exist”. Using the term ‘Au Pair’ does not exempt a family from legislation or employers’ duties nor does it allow them to use an Au Pair to do the job of a Domestic Worker. A Domestic Worker is employed to carry out various duties in the home and, unlike Au Pairs, they have full legal protection.
Calling someone an Au Pair while using them as a Domestic Worker, is exploitation. According to my investigation, highlighted in the following two case-studies, exploitation is widespread in Irish family homes.
Case Study One (face to face interview)
Angela (not her real name) from Brazil, worked as an au pair in Cavan town from 7:30am to 10:30pm, four days per week, and minded three children. In addition to her bed and board she was paid a mere €120 per week. She had no written contract.
To complicate matters, one of the children required medical attention three times a day and Angela did not have any medical expertise. The mother worked as a nurse yet played little part in raising the children. Angela did everything from playing with the children, watching movies with them and making dinner for the whole family four days a week.
Even when Angela finished work she would still continue working in her free time. She also washed the clothes of the family, including their underwear. She was there to be au pair and to improve her English, yet she ended up cooking and cleaning, looking after the children full time and doing extra babysitting hours which she did not get paid for. She was effectively a Domestic Worker. She was exploited.
Case Study Two (face to face interview)
Maya – Venezuala (not her real name) came to Dublin in June 2014. She was told that she would just look after children and that she would get €150 per week for 45 hours work. The previous au pair had been paid €200 per week. There were three children.
On holiday in Bulgaria, Maya looked after the children at all times and when they returned to Ireland matters got worse. She needed to return to school to fulfil her visa requirements, however, her family told her she could not as she had to work full time.
Maya had to clean and vacuum the entire three storey house and iron everybody’s clothes.
On one occasion she was told to bring the child into the city centre for the day. She was given €5 to cover all costs so she was out of pocket and not reimbursed by the family.
She experienced psychological abuse by the mother as she told her off about coming home late and often asked “why are you moody today?”. Maya felt she was getting into her head.
The mother used scare tactics when Maya asked for a contract and a pay increase. She said it would mean more tax and she was warned never to tell anybody she worked for them.
In November 2014, Maya felt she could not continue so she decided to leave. When she informed the mother of this she “went crazy” and attempted to make her feel guilty. Maya did not tell the mother the real reasons for her departure as she needed a reference. Finally the mother said “if you what to leave, you can go now”! Maya was forced to move out with immediate effect and nowhere to live.
The smallest child demanded a lot of attention and was aggressive, punching Maya on two different occasions. If the child woke up in the morning it was Maya, not the parents, who went to her. The final straw for Maya was when the 13 year old daughter told Maya that she had to leave as “my mother doesn’t care about you”.
Maya and Angela’s cases were typical of a number of Au Pair stories I heard.
Best International Practice
Swiss and German systems, are seen as the benchmark of good international practice in the Au Pair industry. This is how they compare to the Irish system.
- 4 paid weeks holidays per year.
- Families expected to contribute towards the Au Pair’s German language course.
- Treated as a normal employee.
- Au Pairs receive a written contract.
- Once they pass their probationary period they cannot be dismissed without one month’s notice.
- Families must contribute toward the social and health insurance of the Au Pair.
- The Au Pair is also entitled to sick and unemployment benefit.
As there is no legal definition there is no legal requirement. These are mere recommendations based on the requirements of the Irish National Au Pair Association (INAPA).
- 2 weeks holiday per year.
- No requirement that families pay for a language course.
- Dismissed at a moment’s notice.
INAPA, who represent the Au Pair industry in Ireland, claim to be “continuously raising the standards for the Au Pair industry in Ireland”. They recommend a 35 hour working week, plus babysitting, for Au Pairs. They claim the Au Pair programme is culturally and linguistically based. The case studies would reject this.
INAPA make no commitment on sick pay and claim that being sick for more than four days could mean “…the Au Pair returns home and her allowance is suspended”. Their dismissal policy is ambiguous stating, “an Au Pair can be dismissed from her role with immediate effect if there is an allocation of abuse of the children in any way”. This policy goes on to state that, upon dismissal an Au Pair would receive, “…paid notice, but if there is inaccurate information provided on the application, this cannot be guaranteed”. INAPA were unresponsive to my many requests for clarification of this policy and other related queries.
From talking to Au Pairs in Ireland, the MRCI and researching various Au Pair websites, I discovered that the average weekly pay for an au pair in Ireland ranges from €85 to €150. This is for a 30 to 35 hour working week. In addition, Au Pairs are asked to work at least two evenings (8 hours) babysitting. Babysitting is almost always unpaid.
Au Pairs get free bed and board. This is valued at €54.13 per week according to the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This means that, on average, Au Pairs receive €139.13 per week, which equates to €3.24 per hour. This is much lower than the lowest possible minimum wage rate in Ireland of €6.92, which any employee in Ireland receives in their first year of employment after turning 18. This rate increases to €8.65 after two years in employment. I did not discover any increase in pay among the Au Pairs I interviewed.
Almost every Au Pair agency in Ireland, that this journalist investigated, could be seen to freely advertise ‘Au Pair Programmes’ as 35 hour working weeks plus additional babysitting hours. These were agencies affiliated to the INAPA. This is despite the European Committee for Au Pair Standards (ECAPS), a committee established in 2006 to define Au Pair standards in Europe, recommending a maximum 30 hour week which includes babysitting hours.
According to Eurostat, the average working week in Ireland is just over 38 hours. These workers are legally entitled to 4 weeks holidays per year and are fully protected by employment legislation. They work the same number of hours as Au Pairs yet they get twice the holidays and substantially greater pay.
Protection for Au Pairs and the role of NERA
NERA inspectors, appointed by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, carry out inspections of all workplaces to ensure compliance with employment related legislation. This includes workplaces in the family home. However, inspections are rare. Since 2011 they have just carried out 143 inspections in the home involving domestic work and have only recovered €6,800 in unpaid wages. In all of these cases the family were given prior notice of their arrival. In fact they only visit families who have already registered with Revenue. There was no evidence to sugest that they attempt to visit unregistered houreholds.
NERA did not comment on this nor why they have only followed up on wage payments and not on other contractual obligations of families using working people in their home.
None of the Au Pairs I spoke with are aware of the existence of NERA.
When this journalist contacted political parties there appeared to be no interest in the plight of Au Pairs. Political party concerns are on child protection and the economic needs of families, not on Au Pairs.
The Government responded by saying that, as there is no legal definition of an Au Pair there is nothing they can do. This is alarming and could lead to a repeat of the Mohammed Younis case. Mohammed was exploited by his employer and awarded €91,000 by a Rights Commissioner. Initially the High Court then ruled against this, in August 2012, as he was an undocumented worker so they held his contract could not be recognised. However, in the last week the Supreme Court upheld the original dceision. As a number of Au Pairs in Ireland are from outside the EU, the same fate could just as easily befall them.
Peadar Tóibín of Sinn Féin, Clare Daly and Roisín Shortall have all raised the matter of Au Pair exploitation in the Dáil, yet it has so far fallen on deaf ears and stimulates the standard “…there is no legal definition…” response.
Where to from here?
Au pair – meaning “at par” or “equal to”, indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals
If Au Pairs fail to be legally recognised or an effective inspection system implemented, exploitation will continue. In the meantime, NERA need to be pro-active in inspecting all houses that use home employees of any description, to differentiate between Domestic Workers and Au Pairs and take the necessary action. In the absence of such practice, the Au Pair will be anything but “at par”.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY MARKED IN IRELAND
November 2014 – Grafton Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was marked on Dublin’s Grafton Street last Saturday 29 November. This gathering was organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) to raise “awareness of Israeli injustices being perpetrated against the people of Palestine”.
Members of the IPSC were joined by the Resistance Choir on the busy shopping thoroughfare. On display was a mock-up of the so-called “apartheid wall”, which, according to the IPSC, “cuts Palestinians in Jerusalem off from their families, friends and colleagues in the occupied West Bank”.
In 1977, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Indeed it was on that day in 1947 that the Assembly adopted the resolution on the partition of Palestine. As designated by the UN, this day encourages member states to continue to “give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the Day of Solidarity”.
Despite being one of the bloodiest in the region in recent years, 2014 is also International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Palestinians in Gaza in July. The military wing of Hamas launched a series of rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza.
Over 2,000 Palestinians and 71 Israelis were killed in this conflict. The UN and human rights groups reported almost 70% of the Palestinian casualties were civilians compared to just five of the Israeli deaths.
As Mosques and Synagogues are attacked in the West Bank and stabbings occur in Jerusalem, this long running conflict shows no signs of abating.
The IPSC commemoration included a model of the ‘Dome of the Rock’ which is located next to the sacred site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Palestinian Muslims under the age of 50 are currently prevented from entering this Mosque by Israeli police. Israel claims to have closed the Al-Aqsa compound to “calm tempers after police shot dead a Palestinian accused of trying to kill a far-right Jewish activist”.
Chairperson of the IPSC, Martin O’ Quigley, reported a good response from passersby. He said that since the most recent assault on Gaza “Irish people’s awareness as to what is happening there is a lot stronger”. He adds “unfortunately it was paid for with the deaths of 2,000 people”.
He goes on to say “we have a petition asking Dunnes Stores not to stock settlement produce”. He believes settler produce, produced on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, should be banned automatically in the EU as it is grown on “stolen Palestinian land”. Furthermore he believes “our Government are doing nothing to support the Palestinians and support Palestinian rights”.
Irish Palestinian activist and Palestinian native, Fatin Al Tamimi, said “we are here to highlight the issue and to create awareness of the wall and what is happening in Jerusalem at the moment”. She claimed that “Israel is demolishing houses and kicking people off their land”. Furthermore she claims, “Israeli settlers are entering the Al Aqsa Mosque, with help of Israeli police, in their shoes”. She believes this is done to “humiliate people”.
Mr. O’ Quigley wants to put pressure on the Irish government and the EU “to end the preferential trade agreement with Israel and the EU”. Quigley is outraged that “Israel benefit from a trade agreement, which has a human rights clause, when they constantly abuse the human rights of the Palestinian people”.
Similar events were held in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Belfast with the overall purpose of showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. The Israeli embassy in Dublin were contacted in relation to this article did not respond for comment.
SWORDS RESIDENTS SAY NO TO WATER CHARGES
NOVEMBER 2014 – SWORDS, North County Dublin, Ireland
An estimated 5,000 Swords residents marched against domestic water charges last Saturday. With the first water bills just two months away, residents and representatives were adamant they would not pay.
The march, which started at the Pavilions roundabout, ended outside Fingal County Council offices where elected representatives and community activists addressed the crowd voicing strong opposition to these charges and pledging not to pay.
The campaign against water charges intensified when Irish Water was incorporated in July 2013 and began installing water meters in residential areas. In September this year, Irish Water distributed application forms to each household requesting they complete these forms to pay for water.
Local TD, Clare Daly, told marchers “if the sleepy suburbs of Swords are on the march then we have rebellion in the air”. When interviewed afterwards, she said she is calling on people not to pay and talk of a flat rate payment is a sign the government is “clambering around trying to desperately save face”. She believes Irish Water will be disbanded as “in its present state it’s totally toxic”.
Sinn Fein Councillor, Phillip Lynam, tore up his Irish Water application form, as he addressed the crowd, saying “I’m not paying”. When interviewed, he outlined his party’s stance stating, “it is a personal decision on the person if they are willing to pay or not to pay” yet said he was not encouraging non-payment. He also said his party “stands by people who can afford to pay and the people who cannot afford to pay”.
Barry Martin, from People Before Profit claimed Irish Water “is a scam” and we have already paid for our water. Swords community activist, Ann Farrelly, claimed the Government wants to privatise water and make profit from it.
While the mood at the march was upbeat it was also militant with chants of “no way we won’t pay” and “from the river to the sea, Irish water will be free”. Residents voiced their opposition to domestic water charges also with a number reporting they had not and will not apply.
Two men from Swords told me they oppose water charges because it is “the last straw that broke the camel’s back”. They say they cannot afford to pay and want water charges abolished as water is already paid for through taxation.
Another resident, who described herself as a “public person”, feels water charges are “one step too far”. She believes “we are already paying for our water” and wants water changes abolished. She said she expects “big changes after today”.
A couple from River Valley said they objected to water charges as they “pay the wages of a private company”. They believe most people have not applied and the government does not have the manpower to pursue those who will not pay.
A lady from Applewood said she felt “sick of being charged left right and centre for everything we do” and she is “refusing point blank to pay water charges”. She has not applied to pay for domestic water and she will not be doing so.
The march was organised by Right2Water, who claim to be the national campaign to abolish water charges. They believe “water is a human right” and “supply of water should not be dependent of income levels”.
Irish water will start charging from 1 October this year and have asked people to apply before the extended 30 November deadline. Right2Water protesters have vowed to continue campaigning against these charges until the Government abandons them and have plans for a major rally in December. Opposition to domestic charges have been underway since the possibility of paying for domestic water was first raised in 2009 by the previous coalition government.
IS THE DUP RACIST AND UNFIT FOR FOR OFFICE?
How much longer can Sinn Féin tolerate being with the DUP in public office? And why have neither the partitionist, pro-British southern Irish media nor, most disappointingly of all, Anti-Racism Network Ireland, have anything to say about this. Martin Mc Guinnes has already labelled Campbell’s comments racist.
Campbell claimed his comments were meant as a joke. That could very well be true but add to this his party’s record on intercultural and equality issues and you will soon conclude that this explanation runs a little thin. Add to this his performance on UTV Live (see below).
His party colleague, Jim Wells, recently appointed as the new Health Minister of the 6 Counties, slandered the entire Republican community of West Belfast – http://www.republicanunity.org/rnu-denounce-jim-wells-attack-on-the-people-of-west-belfast/ .
DUP party leader Peter Robinson’s derogatory comments about Muslims and his position (and that of his unfaithful wife Iris) on equal rights for homosexuals are equally notorious – http://www.thejournal.ie/gay-marriage-peter-robinson-cake-1769353-Nov2014/
Whether you think Campbell’s comments are racist or not is your decision. I think it’s irrelevant how we label it as the comments unfortunately speak for themselves. But before you decide, do the test. Take out the word Irish and put in the word Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic or your own language and see how you feel?
And see how you would feel against the backdrop of being constantly derided and attacked by people like Campbell. People who have the support of key players in the system to bail them out. As long as we decide to support the system we currently have, people like Campbell and the Robinson family will never have to face full responsibility. If they did I am quite sure they would not abuse with such confidence and loutishness.
Take a look at his behaviour in the 8 minute interview – http://www.u.tv/…/91645f44-7b98-4204-b630-5c3d36dc8bdd which certainly no labelling. Campbell’s behaviour was nothing short of thuggish, school boy bullying. While the interviewer stood idly by, Campbell pretended to fall asleep as Ruane responded. He also repeated the comments that Martin Mc Guinness has labelled racist.
How or why Caitríona Ruane adopted the reserved position she did, is anybody’s guess. Why was she not vociferous in the defence her language and culture as opposed to the head shaking and eye rolling she engaged in?
Most appalling of all, yet sadly not surprising, was how interviewer Paul Clark let Campbell off scot free and ended with the drabbest and most banal of Journalist questioning – ‘Do we not have more important things to de discussing?’ Is culture and respect not important? At best it’s poor journalism and at worst it takes the side of Campbell and his commentary.
In any other part of a civilised and free world this would not be tolerated. Make your own mind up about him, his party and whether this is attitude should be tolerated any longer.
SF have reported his comments to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s speaker’s office, Northern Ireland’s Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission. It remains to be seen what the outcome there will be.
Campbell has already been reprimanded by being barred from speaking in Stormont for just a single day. Sinn Féin have also called for an apology from Campbell – http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/32111 – I am wondering what will happen should it not be forthcoming and how much longer Sinn Féin will tolerate the DUP as partners.
IRISH REPUBLICANS AND THE COURTS
Nowhere in the article does Dessie Ellis (Sinn Féin TD) mention the words ‘kangaroo courts’. This is journalism 2014 in Ireland.
Regardless, the article will be seized upon by the usual two groupings.
- Anti-Shinners – hate Sinn Féin (SF) because they believe SF have dropped Irish Republicanism and forgotten about a united Ireland.
- Anti-Shinners – hate all Irish Republicans for being Irish Republicans, opposing British rule in Ireland and wanting a united Ireland.
Group 2 will always pursue these kind of stories. Group 1 should not allow themselves be used by Group 2.
This story, along with the recent reports from SF’s old and current enemy, that Dessie Ellis was linked with 50 killings and so forth is nonsensical. It is about as newsworthy as reporting “Baker bakes his 50th cake”. Bombing and killing is what revolutionaries and soldiers do. This is part of the horror of war.
Irish people need to wake up to the fact that 1969 – 1997 was war. What did people expect? To fight an enemy that used highly trained commandos, armed murdering militia, undercover military units, shoot to kill and so on with words?
How SF and the IRA are reported to have dealt with sex abuse is deplorable. It is sickening. If the reports are in fact true. Yet did people expect the IRA to report it to their local RUC station? They operated as a military organisation fighting an enemy. Why would they recognise the authority of that enemy?
However, this episode asks many interesting questions of SF and other Irish republicans. As they did not and do not recognise the legitimacy of the claimed Governments, is it not a nonsense to expect them to ‘face trial’ for this or any other matter?
If, on the other hand, Irish Republicans do recognise the legitimacy of claimed Governments, they have no choice but to face trial.
Surely this would then ridicule the cause they pretend(ed) to stand for?
INTERNMENT – IT’S NOT GONE AWAY YOU KNOW
An anti-internment march, organised by the Anti-Internment League (labelled as ‘dissidents’), was held in Belfast city on Sunday 10 August 2014.
DISSIDENT – a person who opposes official policy, especially that of an authoritarian state.
This march was not only organised to commemorate the introduction of internment in Ireland in the 1970s, it was organised to highlight the continued use of internment in 2014 and in an era of power-sharing between Irish republicans and British loyalists.The march was described as a “Human Rights parade to oppose the continued use of internment, by remand, miscarriage of justice and revocation of licences by the British Government and the 26 County Administration.”
What is the march about and why was it called?
Chairperson of the Anti-Internment League, Mr. Dee Fennell, explained it was about mobilising people “to oppose the continued use of internment by both the British Government here in the 6 counties [north of Ireland] and by the 26 county [south of Ireland] administration”.
The same march was marred by violence as British loyalist protestors rioted to stop the march and, in particular, to stop it marching up Royal Avenue in the city centre in 2013. In rioting, British loyalists injured over 50 PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) and forced it to be re-routed. Many were expecting violence again this year.
What is Internment?
The Anti-Internment League believe internment takes three forms;
• Internment by remand – whereby Irish republican activists are charged with secret evidence and removed from the streets and political causes they contribute to.
• Internment through Revocation of Early Release License – the British Secretary of State, for the Six Counties, can return any early release prisoner to jail without a full and clear explanation.
• Internment through Miscarriage of Justice – Irish republican activists that have been convicted in a Diplock court by secret and contaminated evidence and paid perjurers. In the 26 counties, the word of a Garda, above a certain rank, is enough to convict someone of membership of a “subversive” organisation.
The detention of Marian Price and Martin Corey as well as the conviction of the Craigavon Two (Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton) are examples of modern day internment.
Alban Mc Guinness, of the SDLP, believes Martin Corey’s detention is “internment without trial” due to the lack of evidence and absence of due process.
Gerry Conlon of the Guilford Four, had been a tireless justice campaigner for the Craigavon Two as has Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six. Similarly the ‘Free Marian Price’ campaign had broad cross party and cross community support.
How does it happen?
Fennell believes people can be jailed purely based on their political beliefs. He feels “it is an injustice that any republican is currently imprisoned in the context of a continuing occupation of our country” Unfortunately, nobody knows why people have been jailed as little information is forthcoming from the PSNI or Gardaí (Police in southern Ireland). Those arrested and their families receive the bland explanation of ‘national security’.
As it is widely believed that internment has resulted from MI5 gathered secret intelligence, there is a great amount of mistrust amongst Republicans of the current power sharing executive and pressure is mounting on Sinn Fein (Sinn Fein are the largest single political party in the 6 counties, a partner in the government and the main Irish republican party).
Is it only Irish republicans who are being targeted?
“Basically, if you’re opposed to the state you’re at risk of being interned…internment has been there since the inception of the northern state, just the manner in which it’s being used has changed…” claims Mr. Fennell.
Des Dalton, President of Republican Sinn Fein, believes internment is “…far from a matter of history”. One of Republican Sinn Fein’s members, Martin Corey, was held “…without charge for three years and then finally released and placed under a form of internal exile…where he was actually not even allowed return to his home town of Lurgan”.
Dalton believes it is evident that “…the British state are still maintaining…” the same methods used in the past. It is because of the continued use of these methods, he believes, that it is important to question “…this attempt to sell the big lie, that there is normalisation, that the 6 county state is a normal democratic state – that that lie is challenged”.
Until such time as such methods are ended, Dalton believes that we will not have normality nor the basis for a democratic and just peace and there can be no moving forward “…to any kind of a just and lasting settlement in Ireland…”
He believes there is a deliberate targeting of people, who served lengthy sentences in the past, to send a message to those now questioning the current process “…you open your mouth, you’re back to jail…” This attempt to silence and frighten people, Dalton believes “…has to be challenge, it has to be faced down”.
Parades Commission determination
The Parades Commission (PC), a public body responsible for placing restrictions on parades it deems contentious or offensive, gave the march permission to go from Ardoyne Avenue in north Belfast, up Royal Avenue in the city centre, to finish in Andersonstown in the west.
The PC also gave permission for two British loyalist counter demonstrations, who objected to this march being allowed through Belfast city centre. It was as a result of similar loyalist counter demonstrations that violence erupted at last year’s anti-internment march.
The two counter demonstrations requested permission for 1,100 people which the PC flatly rejected. Permission was eventually given for 400. Without notifying the PC, British loyalists also gathered at the bottom of the Shankill Road, approaching the city centre.
Prior to the march, a number of Irish republican activists were expecting violence as they believed the main issue for loyalists was “…having Fenians [old name for Irish republicans] march through the city centre…” and making use of what is a shared space – the city centre. To add insult to last year’s injury, British loyalists still insist on marching through Irish neighbourhoods and singing sectarian songs outside their places of worship.
Local Republicans, in north and west Belfast, were expecting loyalist protestors to do all possible to prevent the march happening as per its plan. This was highlighted by the fact that the PSNI said they could not guarantee the safety of those taking part. A comment which, some believe, was intended to intimidate Republicans into staying at home.
The March into Belfast city centre
Despite loyalists attacking the march with missiles and minor explosive devices, taunting with sectarian slogans and singing and creating an intimidating atmosphere by blowing horns, the march went through the city centre as planned – one of the few Irish republicans marches to achieve this.
While march organisers asked their participants not to react to loyalists taunts, Republican marchers retaliated with taunts of their own. There was proactive waving of arms, hands and flags, countless vulgar gestures as well as a returning of the missiles thrown at them. Whilst leaving Royal Avenue, Irish republican marchers had to move at speed as some believed objects were being thrown from the roof of a nearby building at the marchers.
Clearly British loyalists came prepared with these small explosive devices and horns. This rubbishes any idea that they were provoked, as stated by their leaders on the day. Loyalists could be heard jeering and booing before Republicans even got onto Royal Avenue.
As Republican marchers entered Royal Avenue, the heart of their own city, British riot Police, in full riot gear, were already facing their shields and bodies towards the Irish Republican marchers, with their backs to the loyalists who were throwing missiles and yelling abuse.
The behaviour of the British loyalist, mob is in stark contrast to counter demonstrations held by Irish republicans during their marches. In fact a number of Irish republican counter demonstrations were called off.
An ill informed quote in the following link, apparently from a Belfast city tour guide, is one of the many aspects this parade highlights and is fighting against. It highlights that internment is unfortunately not yet history. It highlights how quickly people wish to move on even though the past has not yet been dealt with. And it highlights people’s main concerns – an absence of business and profit.
Furthermore the march highlights that not all is well in the 6 counties and no amount of wishing or talking it away will make it any different. What we witnessed on Sunday 11 August was 4,000 people, march through Belfast city centre to peacefully voice their opinions and discontent, despite British loyalist violence, taunts and abuse.
Discontent also with the Sinn Fein leadership for having lead them into a power-sharing agreement that has, thus far, failed to deliver the United Ireland it promised and failed to unite the Irish and British communities in harmony. Both communities still live apart, know very little about each other and relations appear to be worsening.
Irish Republicans entered this process freely and after a 30 year conflict where, one of the world’s most fortified armies could not defeat them. An army once numbering as high as 27,000, that used 300,000 soldiers during the conflict as well as members of the SAS, to assassinate Irish republicans, and the undercover MRF, used to assassinate innocent Catholics with the intention of enticing republicans to retaliate against their Protestant loyalist neighbours.
An army that predominantly patrolled, harassed and monitored a population of less than 700,000. Irish Republicans entered a process they believed would deliver a United Ireland. The near future seems to be one of continued recognition of British rule in the 6 counties and punitive measures for anyone who speaks out.
Sinn Fein claims this recognition is temporary as they call for a Border Poll to decide the future of the 6 counties. Their opponents, however, see a Sinn Fein getting comfortable in suits and with titles, devising 10 year plans and ultimately accepting the authority of a British state.
How successful Sinn Fein’s attempts to hold and win this poll will be, nobody knows. What we can be sure of is that, in the absence of a sincere attempt to unite Ireland and all its communities, Irish dissident republicans will not have gone away either.
THE FACTS – DISAPPEARED OR SIMPLY RE-LABELLED?
First published December 2013
Labelling ‘war’ as ‘crime’ and ‘revolutionaries’ as ‘terrorists’ depends completely upon who takes charge of the facts. Yes I am sure there are several UN definitions of what ‘War’ is and what is required before it can take place and all of this must comply with regulation XYZ from the Geneva Convention and so forth.
Fact is, if someone feels fear or the need to defend, there is no written document in the world that will stop them taking action.
Does a parent carefully peruse Bunreacht na hÉireann (Irish Constitution), as a burglar is making their way through their baby’s room, to establish whether they are a burglar or not before tackling them or dialling 999? Did the Poles check Adolf Hitler’s credentials as he entered Gdansk before they decided to defend themselves?
On the flip side, did the US and The UK/Britain/England (whatever term they use to avoid responsibility and detection) wait to get clearance from the UN before entering Iraq?
In all of the above, it’s an emphatic NO. Whether through fear or self-defence, human beings will take whatever action is necessary to defend themselves or to protect what they feel is theirs.
No amount of labelling or relabelling will change this so attempts at doing this are devious and even clichéd. But worst of all such attempts seem to be part of a malicious agenda.
The southern Irish media employ this agenda when it comes to ‘war’ in Ireland. They do so in line with the age old British tactic of demonising descent. Divide and conquer in another form.
According to British authorities and their Irish ‘Government’ lackeys, the IRA/British war, from 1969 to 1997, was not in fact a war. It was only a bit of ‘Troubles’. How quaint. Nothing to see here folks, it’s all quite normal. We’re not like those savages in the Middle East. We are civilised mature Europeans. None of that going on here.
Unlike Iraq of course, which they believe is a war while the rest of the planet knows it is not.
In fact, according to the southern Irish media, what happened in the 6 Counties from ’69 – ’97 was instigated by some trouble making Taigs (for God sake will they not keep their heads down and shut up, things are grand) against some boisterous Orangemen (sure don’t you know what they’re like, why don’t you just keep away from them).
Well things weren’t grand. And those boisterous Orangemen were only boisterous because they had full protection, no matter what they were involved in, from the British Government. The Irish Government was reluctant and too scared to say or do anything. The furore over the arms trial and the Dublin-Monaghan bombings put paid to that sort of talk. The Brits knew our leaders would always take the line of least resistance and would in fact lock up their own people when attacked from outside. They were right. The Irish Government did not let their bosses down.
Well the Orangemen are still boisterous but the tide has definitely turned. The desire and ability of the British state to cover up for Orange thuggery is waning and will wane further still. The reality of southern involvement in Northern affairs has finally dawned. So too has the southern Euro on the Orange Order who have availed of funding through the ‘Europe’s Peace Three programme’. So too have the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Of course these are points that go unnoticed in the southern Irish media. The southern Irish media who rightly report on expense scandals south of the border yet ignore the fact that a sectarian, sexist organisation and police force avails of Irish taxpayer funds north of the border.
Instead the southern Irish media present endless examples of how members of the IRA are ‘criminals’. Forgetting of course that the IRA’s very existence, as it is deemed ‘illegal’ by the state, had already made them ‘criminals’. If you oppose the state, what difference does it make how they label you? If they deem your organisation illegal, did you really think they would stop there? Why does that piece of irony go unnoticed?
Has it also gone unnoticed that Tone, Emmet, Collins and all that went before were also ‘criminals’? If you rise up against a group of unjust people (the State), does it not stand to reason that they will continue to behave unjustly? Is this not the reason you stood up against them to begin with? The labelling and relabelling is therefore predictable and irrelevant.
Then we come to the most tiring of all arguments – the ‘old’ IRA (good) and the ‘new’ IRA (bad). Yet nobody can demonstrate clear differences between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ IRA. Why? Because there are no differences.
Of course they will tell you that the ‘new’ IRA are involved in drugs, racketeering, robbing banks etc. Even when there is insufficient evidence to support all these claims. The Northern Bank robbery being one such example.
Even when there has clearly been involvement of British agents in such acts. The Little-johns being one such example.
The IRA/British war is thankfully long over. However, the southern Irish media are still waging theirs. Such was the case in Darragh MacIntyre’s ‘The Disappeared’, aired on RTE in late 2013.
A title, also part of this labelling campaign, which attempts to place the IRA alongside the right-wing Thatcherite dictator, Pinochet among many other such delightful characters.
MacIntyre’s piece shamelessly exploited the emotion of hurt families who tragically lost loved ones. Tragically lost during a war, which RTE relabelled ‘The Troubles’.
Of course their colleagues in the BBC took a slightly different approach when Panorama looked into the British Government death squads in Ireland in the early 1970s. Death squads that randomly killed several civilian Catholics. I chose to label them as random as the vast majority of those they gunned down were not members of the IRA.
One of these death squads was called the MRF. Panorama endorsed the work of the death squads by allowing the ‘brave’ members of these death squads to sum up the investigation. One member of the death squad said “I am proud of what I did and I would do it all again in the morning”. Another ‘brave’ candidate dismissed his killing as necessary in a “dirty war”. Panorama did not challenge this and were happy to leave their investigation on this chirpy note.
These ‘brave’ men said they were apparently proud of what they did yet, only three of the eleven they contacted agreed to appear on TV. These three ‘brave’ souls all disguised their faces and used voiceovers to disguise their voices. One of the remaining eight ran for cover when the BBC went to visit him at his home in Australia.
Undoubtedly the families gunned down by these ‘brave’ British death squads are also hurt and have also experienced great pain – physical and psychological. Yet Panorama did not exploit this in the same way or to the same extent as MacIntyre did. Indeed it was the exploitation of their pain upon which MacIntyre’s message rested.
Without exploiting their pain MacIntyre would have to relabel this ‘crime’ as ‘war’ and then, of course, he too would have to investigate the British death squads.
As MacIntyre’s piece said, the punishment given out to informants “…is the same the world over…”. So what then makes the IRA executions so different?
Fact is, IRA executions are sadly like so many others the world over – no better and no worse. In this light executions all around the globe must be condemned in the same way and with the same intensity. Sadly they are not. Sadly Catholics who defend their neighbourhoods are ‘terrorists’ and British and American soldiers who kill and maim thousands all around the world are ‘heroes’.
The deliberate killing of any living being, without just cause, is always completely wrong. Likewise what just cause do informants have to pass on information that will also lead to killing? Their actions put the lives of their own community in danger and in fact they do their work in the full knowledge that their community will be harmed by death.
Of course RTE and the southern Irish media are aware of this. They are deliberately altering the narrative and succumbing to the British policy of normalisation. They are playing their own game which, unfortunately for them, is outdated and falling on deaf ears. Fortunately access to factual information is available for anyone who chooses to go looking.
Listening, watching and accepting the word of the mainstream is no longer an excuse, laziness is no longer an excuse, not having the time or the money is not an excuse. The facts are freely available whenever you chose to read up. The only issue is, whose facts will you read and what labels will you chose?
KEN MAGINNIS REVELATIONS – WAR OR COLLUSION?
First published July 2013
I can’t believe what I heard on the recent RTE doc ‘Thatcher – Ireland and the Iron lady’. Though that is as much a reflection on my own political and media naivety as anything else.
You also have to take into account that RTE, a collaborator in British foreign policy in Ireland, will only produce political programmes that do not cause upset to the British establishment.
Hence this doc omitted the fact that the IRA outlived Thatcher’s reign, her army admitted, in 2007, they could not defeat the IRA, she operated a shoot to kill policy, and led a military and media slur campaign against the IRA, that completely failed, the IRA won the Hunger Strike in getting all 5 of their demands.
This doc listed the ‘falklands’ (Malvinas) War as one of her high points.
However, most alarmingly in this doc was the admission of Ken Maginnis (former Ulster Unionist Party MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone who is now ‘Lord’ of something or other). He admitted to passing on the names of IRA activists to Thatcher. These were the activists that wiped out 8 British soldiers on a bus in Ballgawley Co. Tyrone August 1988.
These activists were subsequently ambushed by the SAS and, as Magennis described it, “that was the end of that particular team”. No hesitation in admitting it, no remorse and indeed no sorrow from Maginnis.
Was this point of no significance to RTE or any other Irish journalist? Clearly not.
That being said, in some ways I am torn over his admission myself. Just as I am torn over so many other matters that happened during the conflict in Northern Ireland since its foundation in 1922. A conflict that turned to war between 1969 and 1997. That war is now over but the conflict still continues.
Labelling of any other kind, of the conflict in Northern Ireland, is farcical at best. At worst it is compliance with the typically devious British policy of ‘normalisation’. A policy that failed to criminalise heroes.
A devious policy, which Irish politicians (Fine Gael’s Garret Fitzgerald amongst others) and media were keen to buy in to, for fear a United Ireland might de-stable the free state. Just as well the policy of partition ensured such stability down here!
They embraced British policy and resisted the possibility of treating these Irish men and women as freedom fighters. A possibility that would have heaped further pressure on the British Government to behave like civilized human beings and ultimately leave this island for good.
Why RTE et al resisted this possibility will be dealt with at a later date.
Yes, the Irish media and certain political parties bought into this wholesale and employ it to this day. It is a tactic that includes the pursuit and demonisation of the strongest Republican in the field. It is, as Ivan Yates (the failed and bankrupt Fine Gael business man) once said on Questions & Answers (another failure), “…keep Fianna Fáil to the bottom with the exception of Sinn Féin…”
For this reason they pursued Sean Gallagher in the presidential elections instead of Martin Mc Guinness. Tells you something doesn’t it?
To elaborate further on Maginnis’ (Ken) revelations, we could of course get into a nauseating debate on ‘What’s the difference between the IRA of Bobby Sands and that of Michael Collins? For the time being at least, I will simplify my response with one word – NONE! Both were honourable. Both achieved freedom and justice for Irish people at different times.
And it is on this last point that the debate hinges. Because if you believe the campaign of Sands and his fellows activists was not honourable then Maginnis was wrong to hand over the names to a head of Government. The names should have been handed over to the police. Maginnis should now be arrested for collusion in murder with the highest authority in the British government. Maginnis and those he collaborated with, should therefore finish their days in prison and disgrace.
Yet, if you believe the IRA lead an honourable campaign, then he was right to hand the names to Thatcher and the SAS assassinations that followed were legitimate.
Following that logic, Thatcher was always wrong to label the IRA as ‘criminals’. If they were criminals then treat them as such. Don’t send SAS and British army killers after them and don’t concede to their demand for prisoner of war status – all of which she did.
After all Thatcher and her collaborators (in Irish politics, the Irish media and all other fans of Orwellian double speak) said, there was no honour in their campaign. The problems in Northern Ireland were problems of security – they said. There was no war – they said. Their actions told a very different and very real story – a story of war.
How many criminals are pursued and shot dead in cold blood by the SAS? To the best of my knowledge both they and their army counterparts are used only in war. Not even during the civil war with the miners, were they used. At least not openly.
So it is clear that the conflict in Northern Ireland, from 1969 to 1997, was a war. A war between the IRA, Britain and British collaborators. In this light the killings carried out by all sides are as legitimate as killings in any war. So drop the Orwellian double speak.
In the context of a war, Maginnis was right to hand over those names. Right in terms of attempting to secure a British victory, even though that attempt would end in utter failure. And the result of his actions, which we as Irish Republicans must accept, are the same as the assassinations in Gibraltar, Loughall and elsewhere. These we must accept as legitimate casualties of war and propaganda is a useful tool of war.
Maginnis’ actions are proof that the IRA were indeed involved in a war with the British, in which all is fair.
This in turn legitimises all IRA activities of the time. Something Maginnis, Thatcher and their collaborators, as their tool of war, must always deny.
SHATTER RE-WRITING HISTORY?
WHO’S AFRAID OF 1916? – BY: Tom McGurk – ORIGINAL – Daily Mail Sat, 11/05/2013.
As Alan Shatter moves to ‘demilitarise’ the 1916 commemorations, one leading writer asks why it is that we seem so afraid to celebrate the military nature of the revolt which gave us our freedom: it’s time, he argues, to accept the Rising for what it was – warts, guns and all.
PEOPLE passing through Arbour Hill in Dublin last Wednesday might have been confused about what was happening.
They would have seen an entire regimental colour party from the Defence Forces, followed by the Army band, marching into the Church of the Most Sacred Heart. Then, from the long line of motorbike outriders and limos parked outside, the President and the Taoiseach emerged.
What was going on, passers-by must have wondered, because while evidently there was some major State event happening, where were the crowds? Here was the full ceremonial party of the State, legislature, judiciary and Defence Forces all dressed-up and in their Sunday-best (on a Wednesday) and seemingly nobody had told anybody else about it? Bizarrely, it seemed that here was a State event with more dignitaries and soldiers of the State present than actual citizens of the State.
What was happening was, of course, the official commemoration at the graves of (some of) the executed 1916 leaders on the 97th anniversary of the Rising. One could hardly blame any observer for thinking that it was all being handled like some afterthought, a national event out of sight and out of mind.
Significantly, given the controversy it subsequently aroused, it is useful to remember that the event was hosted on behalf of the State by Justice, Equality and Defence Minister Alan Shatter.
However, the lack of public involvement was only the beginning of the many questions left hanging in the air.
Certainly, some citizens would have known about the occasion because this newspaper had, that very morning, reported that the Minister has allowed significant changes, involving the Army, to be made to the traditional format of the ceremony; an Army colour party would no longer be present inside the church at the Mass and ceremonially saluting at the Eucharist. Apparently there was even an attempt to remove the Army generals from the front row of the church but that was resisted.
So why was this ceremony being demilitarised, especially by the Minister in charge of the Army? It wouldn’t be the first time this Minister has exhibited a poor knowledge of the history and traditions of the country.
WHATEVER Mr Shatter’s intentions were in changing the format of the commemoration, the reason the Defence Forces were given such a significant role in the State’s commemoration of 1916 has a significant historical background.
Essentially, the format of this ceremony – ongoing since 1924 – was dictated by the post-Civil War crisis. Back then the new State was continually seeking a wider acceptance for the legitimacy and the role of the Defence Forces in those difficult years after the Civil War.
So, symbolically linking them to this particular ceremony dedicated to the 1916 leaders was part of that, while sending, at the same time, a message which illustrated the continuing paramilitary tradition.
There were many armies at one time, all calling themselves the army of Ireland. After all, this was what was called the ‘Free Staters’ army’ and it had defeated the Republicans in the bloody conflict that followed the signing of the Treaty.
This week, the Minister also sought and got changes in the religious ceremony itself. Where once it was an all-Irish Requiem Mass, this time it was mostly in English and with a significant multi-faith ritual. Again the original type of service had historical roots: post-Civil War, the Irish language restoration project and the significant power of the Catholic Church were also being thrown behind the new State.
Significantly too, the association of the executed leaders with Easter and their deeply Catholic deaths all invested the Catholic Church with a direct link to the Rebellion that few historians of the period can find. In fact, the Catholic hierarchy were historically opposed to the Republican tradition and especially to the notion of armed insurrection. But post-independence, the Church, just like the State, was keen to be on the right side of the executed 1916 leaders.
On Wednesday, the eulogy at the Catholic Mass was given by the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson. Mr Shatter seemed to have him on his toes too.
In his contribution, Dr Jackson warned that ‘this generation of Irish people should be cautious of those who politically manipulate and exploit the legacy of 1916 and surrounding events’. (Presumably, in the circumstances, he wasn’t referring to Mr Shatter.) The Archbishop continued with perhaps a clue to what Mr Shatter and the Government are intending when he said: ‘History develops a new function, that of releasing new energy in a tired and repetitive world, porous to exploitation by those who know that old fears and old symbols still sell and who still suppress those who can think otherwise and think for themselves.’ I think a reasonable translation of this gobbledegook is that the sooner we accept that the past in Ireland needs to be reinvented the better.
There were other symptoms too of the State’s – and in particular this Government’s – unease with the whole 1916 business.
The Presidential wreath was laid in memory not just of the executed leaders but for all those who died around the events of 1916. Presumably, that also includes the 116 British soldiers who died putting down the Rebellion.
So what’s going on here and why can’t what has worked for the State in the past be left alone to work in the future? I t’s three years to 2016 but if last Wednesday was anything to go by, I suspect the 1916 revisionist script rewriters are already burning the midnight oil.
But why? What are they afraid of? Us or the unvarnished facts of our history? Why is there such nervousness about that 2016 date looming like some dreaded and dangerous family occasion? In an important new study, just published, entitled Fatal Path, about violence and democratic politics between Britain and Ireland from 1910 to 1922, Ronan Fanning, Professor Emeritus of Modern History at UCD, quotes eminent historian Bernard Lewis on revisionism.
LEWIS says: ‘The purpose of changing the past is not to seek some abstract truth, but to achieve a new vision of the past better suited to the needs of the present and their aspiration for the future.
‘Their aim is to amend, to restate, to replace or even to recreate the past in a more satisfactory form.’ The Fanning book is fascinating in that it deals with exactly the current disquiet in relation to this State’s lead up to 2016.
He argues that it is time that even historians recognised how the threat of physical force triumphed in Ireland between 1912 and 1922 and how British parliamentary democracy crumpled in the face of it. Minister Shatter’s changes to the traditional 1916 Commemoration occasion may owe something to the dead hand of political correctness, but there appears to be a larger agenda at work. Particularly with a younger generation in mind, a sort of bowdlerised historical hybrid is being created by the State. Given the extensive agenda of historical commemorations due from now until 2022 (the end of the Civil War), are we yet again witnessing another official version of State history being produced? Is the curse of yet another divisive history, so often the legacy of the post-colonial state, to be ours again? But what I don’t understand is the nervousness, their concern for us. Do they really think that some 80 years on as an independent State, it is still not safe for us to be left loose with our own history.
The contrast with the UK could not be more vivid. Take its November Remembrance Day. It unifies the entire nation and brings all political and religious shades to the same spot. It fortifies the British sense of nationhood and national homogeneity and creates a national moment of unity and continuity that enriches the nation.
Quite simply, on the Sunday closest to November 11, at 11 o’clock in the morning, millions of British people at home and all across the world know exactly what they are remembering, who they are commemorating and (perhaps just as importantly) who they are as a people.
But, while in the UK history is an immovable force, here in Ireland the sands are always shifting. And so this time around it is – Who’s Afraid of 2016? The 1916 Rising has always created a crisis for democratic politicians because it was a defining political event devoid of any democratic mandate and in the immediate aftermath, deeply unpopular with the vast majority of the Irish people, then years along the constitutional path to Home Rule.
iN retrospect, the subsequent British executions of the leaders may well not only have snatched an extraordinary victory for the Republicans from the jaws of defeat, but it also bequeathed a hugely difficult legacy for Irish constitutional politics ever since. Political power had come out of the barrel of a gun and 30 years of Home Rule politics were swept away.
So how do you celebrate 1916 without accepting the seminal importance of the physical force tradition in Irish history? Dress it up however you like, PÃ¡draig Pearse and company declared a Republic on Easter Monday 1916 without first checking it out with any of us around at the time, and then the shooting started.
Furthermore, the War of Independence that followed was started without any democratic mandate from the newly elected first Irish democratic parliament.
The IRA may well have been the army of the Republic but that title was self-styled and never conferred by the DÃ¡il. Even then the politicians were uncomfortable with the shadow of the gunman.
In the years since, the political classes have sought to hide these realities. There was, of course, the threat it constituted to what might happen in the North, and down South the tradition of paramilitarism persisted.
But if you ask me, it is time we were finally allowed to grow up and learn the inconvenient facts of our birth. Why should a Government that has already proved its inability to teach economics now be able to teach history? 1916 had no democratic mandate because crown colonies don’t enjoy proper democracies in order to grant mandates to revolutions. (Come to think of it, wasn’t that why 1916 happened in the first place?) The War of Independence was fought by tiny numbers in about ten counties and was not universally supported. So much so that when the Civil War came, the vast majority of the population had actually turned their backs on armed insurrection.
In fact, the constituency for armed politics has always been tiny in Ireland; had the Unionists of 1912 not taken up guns, the Nationalists might never have.
Our grandparents no more liked guns than we do. But for all that, to continue to ignore the significance of armed politics is to ignore the facts of our national birth.
If anybody needs to grow up now it’s our daft politicians who are trying to rewrite history. We’re just fine with it – warts, guns and all.