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.

Continue reading “Vote4Change this Friday!”

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.

Continue reading “We underestimate the rise of the far right at our peril”

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.

Continue reading “Book review: A Force for Justice – the Maurice McCabe Story”

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.

Continue reading “The answer is public housing”

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:

Continue reading “Brexit and the need to democratise Europe”

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:

Continue reading “Alienation”

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’!

Continue reading “Beware social liberalism allied to economic conservatism”

Citizens on all sides poorly served in Brexit talks to date

Brendan Ogle UniteI suppose I better write something about Brexit. In fact, in the months to come we are all going to have to focus a lot on Brexit and this blog will return to the issue on many occasions. But I have been somewhat reluctant to write on it to date.

My reluctance does not stem from any lack of interest in the matter, still less from any lack of appreciation of the massive ramifications of current Brexit ‘negotiations’. No. My reluctance here stems from two things. One is the sheer breadth of the issues and conversations that need to not only happen, but to manifest themselves in a whole series of trade agreements, customs arrangements and treaties. And the second is that, in having that discussion, it is necessary to do so in a way which may seem critical of the parties involved for, to date,  the ‘debate’ at a political level has been somewhat surreal.

Let’s begin today by looking at the main positions of the protagonists so far. They appear to be, in no particular order, the European Union, the Government of Britain and Northern Ireland, the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, and the government in the Republic of Ireland. The reality however is that this issue will have lasting and profound effects on the people, the citizens, of Ireland, Britain and the European Union. So how well are those people being served in the process to date?

Continue reading “Citizens on all sides poorly served in Brexit talks to date”