Direct provision is wrong, but it does not justify racism

Dunnes Stores AA plaqueBrendan Ogle: On Saturday,  I was to speak at the 35th Anniversary of a stellar event when we Irish stood up against racism. It was when eleven young Dunnes Stores workers in Dublin refused to handle South African goods to highlight the then system of apartheid in that country. They ended up being on strike for two years and nine months, gaining both national and international attention for this great cause. Nelson Mandela praised the workers for their actions stating that their action, in far-away Ireland, kept him going through many of his difficult days in prison. The workers won their strike, eventually forcing the Irish government to ban all South African produce from entering Ireland. What an achievement it was.

As I considered these events on Thursday a debate was taking place on RTE radio’s ‘Liveline’ about race. Some of those taking part were at pains to describe it as being about something else – direct provision – but it was about race alright. We were told that the Government wanted to move twelve (that’s 12, not 12,000) asylum seekers or refugees to Achill, temporarily, and the island had awakened from its autumnal slumber. There was ‘a vigil’ at 2:30 in the afternoon. We Irish love our vigils. The candles at this one would want to be made of good stuff though, because the point of this vigil was ‘to get information’ about the plans to house the twelve needy people. We were told that there were ‘no amenities’ by a few of the people who live there, presumably with amenities. Some also made the point that in the original proposal that among the twelve there would be ‘too many men’, but nobody made the case for what particular bit of ‘men’ might be an issue.

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Address at launch of ‘Personal Journeys in an Unequal City’

Brendan Ogle Buckingham fire station 270619On my own behalf and on behalf of Unite, I couldn’t have been more pleased than to have been asked to say a few words at this event last night: the launch of ‘Personal Journeys in an Unequal City’, held in the Fire Station Artist Studios on Buckingham Street in Dublin’s North Inner City.

Here’s what I had to say:

When I first got to read ‘The Systematic Destruction of the Community Development, Anti-Poverty and Equality Movement by Patricia Kelleher and Cathleen O’Neill last Autumn it was a real wake-up call. This seminal work described how the 1980s and the 1990s saw the emergence of a vibrant state-funded community movement. and how this has been displaced since 2002 with what Cathleen and Patricia describe as ‘a shift from participatory democracy to neoliberalism’.

The book being launched tonight, ‘Personal Journeys in an Unequal City’, carries the reflections on this period – and what has happened since – of eleven people with such a breadth of experience in the community sector that a permanent record of the work done, the successes, the failures, the changes and the challenges is essential.

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Elections 2019 – All is by no means lost for a broad left front

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The recent local and European elections need to be reflected upon, in terms of where we are at in the hoped for delivery of Ireland’s first progressive Government.

To save time, we need not fall into the trap of overly complicating what such a Government would do, or how that progression would be defined. A progressive Government would enact policies and address issues in a way which re-distributed wealth top down for a change. It would reduce inequality, not increase it. It would put public good above private interests. And so, Ireland’s first progressive Government would be entirely different to the current Government, and radically different to the even worse Fine Gael/Labour administration from 2011-2016.

The policy platform with the principles that such a Government would follow already exists. These principles are not radical, unless seen from a far right perspective, the perspective of most political and economic commentary in Ireland. The ten principles at issue are neither extreme, nor unworkable. On the contrary, they provide the basis for a broad popular front that would bring real reform to our tax base, our public services, our environmental outlook and our failing democratic structures. As recently pointed out – in ‘The Journal’ no less – the Right2Change policy platform contains all the ideas and principles that could bring much needed unity among those who seek it on Ireland’s dysfunctional left. If we stop arguing with each other and shooting ourselves in the foot that is. Continue reading “Elections 2019 – All is by no means lost for a broad left front”

Vote4Change this Friday!

Brendan Ogle: On Friday we go to the polls in local and European elections, and Unite members do so on the back of an exciting and radical 2019 Irish Policy Conference last week. In addition to two exciting new initiatives in the areas of mental health awareness and a community-based sporting initiative, the Conference was packed with motions about workers’ issues, equality issues and a political alternative.

It would be dishonest to pretend that the non-emergence of an electable progressive Government in the Republic following a decade of brutal austerity is not beyond disappointing. One would have expected that the nationalisation of billions of Euro of private banking debt, running down of our public services, the health disasters and the ideologically created and maintained housing emergency battering the working class would have led to some ‘class unity’ politically, and a coming together of a real ‘left’ at last. And if that isn’t enough to bring us together, does the onset of far-right intolerance and hate speech not require a unified response?

Unfortunately however, it seems we are as far away from Ireland’s first left government as we ever were.

In Unite, however, small steps are being taken, and through Unite in the Community we now have a dedicated branch – the Tom Stokes Branch – aiming to continue to pursue the ten Right2Change policy principles. From your Right2Water to your Right2Jobs & Decent Work, or your Right2Sustainable Environment, these policy principles hold within them the ethos and direction for any progressive Government seeking to make Ireland a better country for everyone.

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We underestimate the rise of the far right at our peril

Unity over divisionBrendan Ogle: Almost inevitably the day that Britain will not leave the European Union (EU) has arrived. Westminster is in chaos and our nearest neighbour is in the midst of a constitutional crisis. A general election there may not be far away. Maybe the contempt the Irish establishment has shown for the very idea of Jeremy Corbyn as British PM will be tempered by the thought of Boris Johnson in Downing Street.

But, intriguing as these questions may be, there are more fundamental matters at hand. The far right is on the rise across Europe, and in the coming elections up to a third of seats could well go to these extremists. In Italy, Austria and Sweden serious far right movements have arisen and taken – or come extremely close to taking – power. The Brexit debate itself was disproportionately influenced by UKIP, while France has long had a strong National Front. During recent visits to Germany, I have been surprised to see in practice just how quickly the AfD has arisen and become influential, particularly among the working class. These events do not happen in a vacuum.

The EU itself, and the stifling consensus that sustains it in its current form, is directly responsible for creating the conditions within which these threats are arising. Moreover, the complete failure of a progressive left to form a continent-wide movement insisting on fundamental EU reform adds to the impending sense of crisis.

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Book review: A Force for Justice – the Maurice McCabe Story

Maurice McCabe bookBrendan Ogle:  ‘The Final Verdict’ edition of Michael Clifford’s book A Force for Justice – the Maurice McCabe Story is jaw-dropping. Throughout its 370 pages, Clifford paints a picture of the dreadful Ireland we all fear exists, but had hoped doesn’t.

It does.

If you think you know the full details of the sustained abuse of Maurice McCabe from news clips and headlines, you don’t. The complete dysfunction of the police force in Cavan/Monaghan and beyond is described in great detail in the book.

Drunk Gardai turning up at suicide scenes, sexual assaults by bullies on a bus going un-investigated, the savage beating of a female taxi driver by a beast who was allowed to go on to commit murder, patrons of a night club being run over in a car park, oh yes, and piss put in a vinegar bottle in a fish and chip shop.

All of these extreme acts of criminality were mismanaged by Gardai, and Maurice McCabe was having none of it. And when he spoke out to highlight it, as he was duty bound to do? Garda management were having none of him.

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The answer is public housing

Public housing‘Dublin’s landlords would rather put their properties on Airbnb than rent to local families’

These are the first words in an article published in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper this morning.  That’s ‘The Guardian’, in Britain. Sometimes it takes an outside eye to really contextualise the current housing emergency and the extent to which Fine Gael, as the party of the property and landlord class, is using this emergency to profit that class.

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Brexit and the need to democratise Europe

Europe GhentBrendan Ogle: This week’s developments in relation to Brexit have brought the interaction between Britain, Ireland and Europe centre-stage again. The European Union’s approach to these matters sometimes doesn’t get the same notice here as that of our neighbours in the United Kingdom.

Last week I attended a Conference in Ghent, Belgium,where I spoke on this matter. In my address, I spoke about the need for real dialogue about a fairer, better Europe and how the absence of such a dialogue is creating the space for the rise of the Far Right. My speech is reprinted below:

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The Systematic Destruction of the Community Development, Anti-Poverty and Equality Movement

Unite are delighted to accede to a request to publish this paper for information and discussion. While the paper itself is not a Unite paper it is a very necessary contribution to a vital debate on the ideological changes in how our communities are supported and developed in the neoliberal era.  Please click here to download The Systematic Destruction of the Community Development, Anti-Poverty and Equality Movement (2002-2015) by Patricia Kelleher and Cathleen O’Neill.

The withdrawal of state support and funding for community empowerment and capacity building, which began in the 1990s, reached its peak with massive cuts to the sector following the 2008 crash. The words ‘never waste a good crisis’ could well be applied to Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour in Government imposing the savage cuts to community groups, activists and supports on the back of the fiscal emergency they created and embedded. In our communities that emergency continues today.

Unite applauds the work of Authors Patricia Kelleher PhD and Cathleen O’Neill MA in researching and producing this report and analysis.

Paper available for download here.

Alienation

Brendan Ogle UniteBrendan Ogle: The outrageous comments by Peter Casey in recent weeks targeting travellers and those on welfare need a considered response.

With the rise of neo-fascism from Washington to Rio, from the AfD in Germany to the far right in Britain, we in Ireland cannot be complacent. The instinct of some to target their anger at the impact of neoliberalism on their lives at those suffering disadvantage – that instinct to cast blame downwards instead of upwards – is dangerous and needs to be challenged.

As part of this necessary discussion, Unite are pleased to reproduce this seminal speech by Glasgow Ship Yard worker Jimmy Reid.  Jimmy Reid was a member of one of Unite’s predecessor unions, and his 1972 speech to students in Glasgow University was subsequently published in full in the New York Times.

It is a salutary reminder that thought and enlightenment are necessary to overpower intolerance and greed, and that we will all suffer alienation if we are not very careful.

Enjoy the read:

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