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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Beware social liberalism allied to economic conservatism

Brendan Ogle UniteIn a TV debate with Joan Burton recently, the former leader of the Irish Labour Party made a point that is of interest in terms of how politics is conducted in Ireland, and elsewhere, today. The debate was about the direction of Irish politics and where a real alternative to address inequality and deprivation might emerge from. But that is for another day. For now, what interests me about this particular debate is something Ms. Burton said towards the end of it.

I had set out some of the issues that I think need to be addressed to build an alternative.  I had also set out my view of the way in which Fine Gael and Fianna Fail governments, throughout our history as an independent state, have looked after the few at the expense of the many. While agreeing on the importance of the issues I set out, Ms. Burton bemoaned the fact that I thought the Labour Party could not deliver this alternative. In fact she, quite legitimately, listed a range of social reforms that the Labour Party have supported going back decades. She spoke about divorce, contraception, the equality referendum and even Repeal, and held them up as issues that the Labour Party have gotten behind as evidence of that party’s worth and usefulness. It would be churlish to debate the extent to which this one party played a role in these changes. That would be a largely subjective analysis anyway. Whatever about that, I readily acknowledge that these issues hold within them evidence of real progress on what I call ‘social’ issues. Changes in these areas, and public support for those changes, is social liberalism in action.

Just how significant progress on these issues is was demonstrated to me at a recent event in Ballymun in which I participated. This was a ‘cross community’ event with representatives of communities in Dublin and of Northern Ireland’s unionist community. It was striking to note how the new right to gay marriage here, and even having a referendum on repeal of the 8th Amendment, is very far ahead of any similar legislative or constitutional changes in the North around LBGTQ rights, abortion rights and a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. Yes, despite decades of often repressive and even abusive social conservatism here, we are indeed moving forward and seeing real progress in some of these areas and potential progress in others. This is positive stuff.

But what about change in our economic direction? It is clear that changes in the area of personal rights like these are absolutely no indicator of fundamental change in how society is structured economically, and in whose interests it is so structured. In that respect, not only are we not making progress, but we are going backwards at considerable speed. While social liberalism has seen slow but steady progress over the last number of decades here, economic conservatism ‘rules ok’!

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