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Cruel Inhumane Behaviour.


Man’s inhumanity to man (and to women and children), was never better exemplified than in the last few bloody days, which saw the shooting down of the Malaysian Airliner and Israel’s unpardonable butcheries in Gaza.  The primitive attitudes displayed by allowing drunken “separatists” to prevent crash scene experts retrieve evidence, which includes human bodies, from the site of the crash of the Malaysian airliner, is as sickening as it is inhumane.

       The mental torture endured by the relatives and loved ones of the dead visualising those corpses strewn across the Ukrainian landscape is unimaginable.  Obviously the Russians are hoping to get to the black boxes and other vital evidences so as to prevent the fact of their missile systems involvement in the downing of the airliner.  But this behaviour makes Putin, the hand up the marionette’s glove, that is the separatist movement, look less a modern world leader than an old style Asiatic dictator.

       Whatever about diplomatic manoeuvrings and great power cover ups, or attempted cover ups, which one might expect any country to engage in, the interference with that most basic of human rights, the enabling of human beings to enjoy that most fundamental human decency, the according of the right to bury their loved ones with decency has been trampled on and made a victim of Putin’s clumsy efforts at geo- politics.

       There is nothing clumsy however about the Israeli onslaught on the virtually defenceless population of Gaza. Patiently, with Nazi like efficiency, the Israelis are showering one of the most densely populated areas of the world with high explosives.  Their spokespersons appear on television, sibilant of tone and sanitised in language to talk about “operations”, not the slaughter of children.

       The diseased clarity of the Israeli case: “Hamas must stop the rockets terrifying our people. It is they who are exposing their people to sacrifice. We want only peace” is as cynical as it is inaccurate.

       Of course Hamas should stop the rockets, if for no other reason than that they are militarily ineffective and politically disastrous in that they provide a fig leaf for the Israeli’s campaign of atrocity.

        But this is the part of the play where we, the world audience, come in, the real drama has been building up off stage for decades. What the Israelis have been doing behind their duplicitously sincere media campaign has been ethnic cleansing.

       A state which under the Balfour declaration of 1917 was conceived in the belief that; “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” has instead subjected the Palestinians to systematic ethnic cleansing.  The UN has passed some 45 resolutions condemning Israel’s breaches of human rights to no avail.

Behind the excuses about Hamas is the reality that Israel is coldly, brutally working to make the two state solution to the Palestinian problem unworkable. The objective is to leave the Palestinians without sufficient land on which to found any state.

       Systematically the Israelis have been driving the indigenous population off their lands and filling them with settlers. Israel is not an oasis in an Arab desert of obscuranticism. It is a cuckoo’s nest society in which the intruders hatch new holdings and squeeze out the original occupants of the nest.

       The terrible irony of the situation is the extent to which the abused have become the abusers. The only avowedly anti-Semitic government in the world today is Israel’s – the Palestinians, let it be remembered are a Semitic people.

       The Israelis are making political capital out of the Hamas theology and their futile rocket campaign by coining slogans such as, “Hamas denies the State of Israel’s right to exist. How can we negotiate with such people? These people are only terrorists”.

       What Hamas is doing is wrong and stupid but much of what the IRA did was equally so and yet the wheel turned eventually to the point where the electorate eliminated the moderates and voted for Sinn Féin. In Palestinian terms, Hamas could be seen as an off shoot of a physical force tradition which could be called PLO or Fata one day but evolve into something else as the years pass as did Irish militant republicanism morph from simply three letters, the IRA, into the official IRA, the Provisional IRA, the INLA, the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA and so on and so on.

       But at least in the Irish situation there is a hope of Peace taking hold, of evolution, of economic progress subsuming the militant traditions of both Orange and Green. The Israeli tactics provoke only despair and a thirst for vengeance. Peace will never be built that way.

       If Israel’s had been the prevailing attitude in Belfast, Dublin, London and Washington during the 1990s there would have been no Good Friday Agreement.  The mutually exclusive goals of the Republicans and the Unionists could have been manipulated to stall the Peace Process in its tracks.

       But sloganizing was not allowed to have its way. Washington in particular, played a proactive and a constructive role but while this is being written, Washington, in effect, stands idly by and allows the Israelis to rain death and destruction on the untermensch.  

       To think that a people who endured the Holocaust and indignities like the scourging of the Warsaw ghettos, the dehumanising regime of the yellow stars, could act like this makes one despair of human progress.

       The history of the Israeli settlement in the Palestinian lands has been an atrocity laden tale that has veered downward from that calculated effort at frightening the Arabs from their holdings that was Deir Yassin in 1948, in which some of the founders of the Israeli state used axes as well as hand grenades to dispose of men, women and children from that ill-fated village, to today’s brutalities in the skies over Gaza.

       The Jews are one of the great civilisations of the World but what is being done in Gaza at the moment is a both a defecation on the memories of Jewish martyrs like Anne Frank and Jewish geniuses like Albert Einstein.


Let’s sue the Bastards!


Sun and summer have a fear engendered blog writing inertia in me recently but the codology about the setting up of a banking inquiry has re- energised me to angrily re-enter the blogosphere.

       It is now several years after the infamous banking guarantee, and improbably enough in the mouth of an election which means we are highly unlikely to see the fruits of its deliberations until well after said elections. This is as damnable as it is infuriating.

       Obviously the politicians and the elites believe another Irish saying, well-known to both Church and State: “The people are sheep to be driven”.      

       Several years ago as the scale of the banking disaster and with it the rottenness of the relationships between the various Irish financial institutions, Government, senior officials and in particular the accountancy and legal professions I had a sadly prophetic encounter with a senior counsel, a woman, at a Christmas party.

       Angered by the destruction of jobs, savings and hopes that were beginning to show up in the suicide statistic, I had commented to my friend to the effect that: “these bastards will have to be sued.” She replied evenly with a slight, attractive lisp, (she is of German origin): “there vill be no suing!”    

       Both angered and thunderstruck I asked how she could make such an extraordinary prophecy.  She replied squarely and correctly. “The gardaí dealing with fraud issues are quite good. There unit is efficient but they do not have the back-up they require, they need specialised forensic accountants to make successful court cases possible.”

       Like an ejit, I thought the woman had lost touch with political reality. After all the national debt involved here is of the order of 125 billion, try paying that off four and a half million population Mr. IMF. In the face of mounting public wrath, the idea that the hiring of a few accountants could hold up the bringing to justice of people who have landed Irish society with a debt burden which is unlikely to be met within the lifetime of my great – great grandchildren seem preposterous.

       But my legal friend was a hundred and one per cent correct. At the recent Bar Council Annual Conference, one of the country’s leading White Collar crime experts, Remy Farrell SC broke silence to tell the public about the national scandal involved in the failure of the government to hire vitally needed forensic accountants to combat White Collar crime. 

       Farrell was quoted as saying that The State’s regulatory agencies are so stretched by an “endemic” lack of resources that many reports of white-collar crime are not even being read by the authorities.

 

       He also revealed that it was a “scandal” that investigators were “at breaking point”, with lack of investment enabling large-scale fraud to go undetected and costing the State millions in lost revenue.

 

He made the startling revelation that “there is now one forensic accountant working in the principal law enforcement regulatory body in this country,” Mr Farrell said, adding: “It’s enough to make the tin-pot dictator of a banana republic blush.”

      

       It emerged that the state’s requirement to adequately deal with the situation caused by the crash would require the employment of five of these specialist accountants. It seems that the current resources available to the state have been absorbed largely by the Anglo inquiries alone. An official report cited at the conference revealed that there were two forensic accountants employed by the government but that one has now retired.

       This effectively leaves the citizenry with only one of these vital personnel left to secure justice on their behalf when five are needed.

       Political advisors have been hired and the income guidelines which the average citizen must follow have been breached for top executives of The Heath Service Executive (HSE) but yet a relatively insignificant amount of money cannot be found to turn over the stones and see what scuttles out into the light of day from the financial sector.

       Instead the public are being offered a send the fools further inquiry, which may not even sit for a year never mind extract anything worthwhile from the claws of the fat cats.

       The children of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan are being not merely beggared but mocked.

      


Adams Arrest Threatens Peace Process


Despite my best intentions other writings have been diverting my attention recently and I have not been able to fulfil my promise to keep this blog up to date but recent events have driven me back to the drawing board – I’m referring to the arrest and release of Gerry Adams which had the potential to wreck the peace process.

The threat that this might happen was taken so seriously in Washington that I understand that there was direct communication between the White house and David Cameron to secure his release.   This intervention came about as a result of Irish –Americans influence. Apart from being an important development in itself it highlights the fact that it’s time for Americans to become re-invigorated and become involved again in the peace process. For the elephants in the room during the debacle of Gerry Adams’ arrest  are the dissident republicans and their Unionist opposite numbers  who oppose the  process, They are the beneficiaries of the well laid plot to destroy both Adams and the process he did so much to create,

The arrest would not have taken place had Tony Blair still been Prime Minister in London or had there been a Fianna Fail Government in Dublin.

                       

           But both the present administrations initially supported the action, In fairness it may be, to judge from his later comments, that David Cameron may have come to regard the arrest as a mistake after being briefed on the background, but the reaction of the two Dublin coalition leaders  Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamonn  Gilmore,  was simply to attempt to make politicl capital out of an opponent’s arrest. 

Dublin’s focus these days is not on Northern Ireland but on the scourging of its poor and its tax-payers so as to be thought well of in Europe.

                   It’s time for Irish-Americans to bestir themselves again and mobilise to save the peace process,

                             To give an idea of the forces at work let me remind readers of the provenance of this affair. It goes back to well before 2008 when a book appeared, called Voices from the Grave, compiled by Ed, Maloney, based on an allegedly agenda free oral history project sponsored by Boston College. It appears that the university, at best, may be judged to have acted with very little knowledge of Six County politics and, at worst, as we shall see, under Unionist tutelage…

                In  his introduction, to Voice, Maloney, who is unquestionably both a courageous and a skilful journalist, sets forth the background to the book, which is based on    taped interviews  with some leading figures from opposite side of the Northern struggle, most notably the republican Brendan Hughes who died in 2008, estranged from his former friend Gerry Adams .

                       Maloney’s introduction says that the interviewers  for the programme’s archive have followed the example of the Irish Bureau of Military History, which collected statements  from war of independence veterans.

                                    But the Bureau programme was purely a historical record. It. safeguarded the living by guaranteeing   no publication until the last interviewee  to receive a military pension had died. The Boston operation only stipulates that nothing be published until the interviewee concerned had either died or given their consent. As soon as Hughes died however Voices was rushed into print..

                                  Maloney’s introduction thanks his two researchers Wilson McArthur and /Anthony McIntyre,, for “their individual objectivity and commitment to the truth.”  McIntyre is described as “a Ballymurphy republican and Ph D,”  Maloney does not indicate that both himself, and McIntyre, an ex-IRA prisoner and blanket man,   are two of Gerry Adams’s most prominent and relentless critics.

                     McIntyre left the republican movement after the signing of The Good Friday Agreement. He argued, if I understand him correctly, that it smacks too much of an internal settlement and consistently attacked it, and the Adams leadership, in his (now concluded) on line journal of dissent The Blanket, to which his friend Brendan Hughes also contributed in similar vein. McIntyre has since continued his criticisms in other outlets.                                 

                     .  Maloney, for his part, has produced an earlier book to Voices, A Secret History of  the IRA,  in which it was suggested that Adams could have had something to do with the betrayal of IRA, active service units, such as those which perished at Loughall  and at Gibraltar.

                      For whatever reason, and even before writing this book, and prior to moving to America, where he now lives, Maloney had become persona non grata with the Adams camp and there are no interviews with this side of the Republican family included in Voices from the Grave. Only anti-peace process dissidents are represented.

                      Another significant factor in the book’s provenance is the fact that it and the Boston College oral history project owes much to Paul Bew, now Lord Bew, David Trimble’s former advisor. In his introduction Maloney thanks Bew for his assistance.  What he didn’t say is that – according to the Boston College spokesperson – it was Bew who initiated the project and suggested that Maloney and McIntyre be hired.

               This book then was no mere academic exercise.  Maloney and McIntyre have shed copious crocodile tears on radio and television over the fact that Boston College handed over the tapes of the interviews on which the book was based to the Six County authorities. The pair were alerted before the contracts were signed that under American law they would have to be handed back if sought. In fact a Boston college spokesman has stated that a stipulation to this effect was written in to their contracts. The move to secure the tapes was both inevitable and entirely predictable…

But before there was any question of court proceedings being taken to enforce the tapes hand-over, the Maloney/McIntyre book, based on the words of a dead man, constituted a journalistic hand grenade hurled into contemporary Six County politics.

                        The explosion has not merely taken place during election campaign

, north  and south of the border, it has also taken place in an unusually heightened  period of  loyalist emotion, We have already had the anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant swearing to resist the introduction of Home Rule and this year we await the Centenary commemoration of the Larne gun-running. Taken with the effect of the flags controversy stemming from restrictions on flying the union flag in the Six Counties, Dublin’s lack of initiative, and the failure of the Hass mission, the North already felt as though a continuous twelfth of July snake-headedness was in progress.

                        The black ops swoop on Adams was part of a larger scene—probably masterminded by Belfast and London securocrats—- and it has heightened tensions. The depressing scene needs to be alleviated by the addition of some counter-balancing figures from the Irish American world. The peace process is in trouble.   


Disgustingly Obvious


There is no doubt about it Irish controversies have a distinctly Irish flavour to them.  Where else would you find it necessary for a slew of cabinet ministers to suggest to the officer in charge of the countries organisation charged with preserving the civil peace An Garda Síochána to act with civility.

Of course Commissioner Callinan should apologise for his ‘disgusting’ remark and of course the performance of minister Shatter was deplorable.

To cut out the crap and obfuscation the plain facts of the matter are that the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner have been engaged in verbal warfare with two sets of responsible people who were acting legally and according to their consciences.

Somebody bugged GSOC and we can take it for granted that he, she or it was not for example acting on behalf of the Ballyfermot Boys’ Brass Band. Neither did the two whistle blowers put a foot wrong. But both GSOC and the whistle blowers were blagarded because they had the temerity to do what they were supposed to do, – act responsibly.

The police should serve the people, not the other way around.

My father, who was the first Deputy Commissioner of the Gardaí, died when I was twelve so I cannot claim to have known him very well but I have an abiding memory of him telling me one day that one of the greatest achievements of this State was the setting up of an unarmed acceptable police force in the middle of a civil war.

I believe he was right and that there are many things about the Gardaí about which both the force and the public can be proud but the recent bout of bullying outrage at the notion that accountability is a word that applies to all of us, even those in uniform, is literally Shattering.

All organisations, be it the Church, political parties, an army or civil service, need to be overhauled from time to time and in recent decades, probably from ‘blue flu’ days onward there have been signs that the Garda could benefit from some outside searchlights being shone on the workings of the force.

To give but one example involving myself, I think that the garda inspectorate’s suggestion that there may be laxity in the serving of summonses may be only too well founded.

In veighing one day against the fact that I had been, as I considered, unjustly served with a parking ticket, I was ‘reassured’ by a garda acquaintance of mine that I needn’t worry, he’d see to it that the summons was torn up. A summons mark you not a parking ticket.

He showed me a satchel of summonses and said ‘that’s my job.  I’ll probably be throwing out a rake of these.’ He told me that he didn’t believe in wasting his time getting, ‘a pain in the face’ trudging up through flats only to be fobbed off by ‘some auld one who’ll tell me that she doesn’t know where yer man is or when he’ll be back or if he’ll be back’.

I shunned his infamous offer of course but I’ve often wondered how come that man superiors didn’t check on what summonses found their marks and what not.  

I won’t go back over cases which have been in the news in recent times where had bench warrants been served or greater garda diligence been deployed, people might not have been at liberty to take life, or to lose it.  But one strange talking point that I came across in Donegal puts even the events described in the Morris Tribunal in the shade.  The rumours began after one Jimmy Curran disappeared from the Dungloe district in July of 2003 and were fanned into fresh life in January of 2005 when Sean Duffy was found dead in his home in the same general area. 

He had died from stab wounds, a bolt from a cross bow and there was an axe wound in the back of his head.  No one was ever charged with his murder but it was rumoured that he had been talking about a pending court case against him, making threats that if he went down others would follow. 

Jimmy Curran’s body was never discovered and the rumours allege that he may have been struck by a garda car, and his corpse disposed of with the help of Duffy who was said to have engaged in a variety of activities ranging from horse dealing, undertaking to garda informant.

All of these rumours could be totally unfounded but I found them to be strongly believed in the Donegal area and obviously it would both quieten gossip and allay public anxiety if the Republic did possess an independent police authority which could investigate the affair and issue its findings publically.

The PSNI benefitted and continues to benefit from the reform process initiated by Chris Patten. The current spate of calls for a police authority along the lines of that which functions in Northern Ireland is however only a partial answer. If that were grafted on to the present police landscape all we would get would be a further spate of GSOC type rows. A public airing of the problems of the Gardaí performed in courageous and responsible fashion, like Chris Patten’s inquiry would clear the air for both police and public and provide a climate in which a police authority could not merely be set up but operate efficiently.

 


Haul in the Bloody Bankers


Haul in the Bloody Bankers!

 

Bring the bloody bankers before the Public Accounts Committee! There should be three important steps taken as a result of what can only be described as the spectacularly successful hearings of the Public Accounts Committee.

                           One, the lawyers cant about Dáil Committees being an intrusion upon the work of the judiciary and the right of a man to his good name, should be treated as the self-interested rubbish it is and the PAC should do as it has done in the Rehab and penalty points debacle, insist on the principle that it has authority where public monies are concerned and haul before it eh bankers and everyone else involved in the  greatest, most wasteful  expenditure of public money in the history of the State, the infamous bank bailout.

                             The greedy corrupt, and inefficient decision-takers in law, politics, the professions and the financial institution s who indulged in the orgy of reckless trading that brought upon us a crash that has driven people to kill themselves should be treated as those responsible for  the penalty point s debacle and the misuse of charitable funds held up to public scrutiny and condemnation.

                        Public opinion has c hanged since the lawyers helped to sway the referendum which decided again against giving the people, via their elected representatives, the power to  hearings into the causes of the bank crash. The workings of the public accounts committee have helped the change minds for the better and the change should be acted on.

              I say to the PAC: public opinion is with you, strike now while the iron is hot- bring the bloody bankers before you.

 

              The second point which I refer to in my opening paragraph is that, also arising from the PAC deliberations that there should be a thorough going inquiry into the running of the Garda Síochána. We need something on the lines of Chris Patten’s overhaul of the police in the six counties.

              For some time I have been increasingly annoyed at the annual statements by the Garda commissioner and his cohorts about crime statistics. To listen to the official pronouncements one would think that matters were not too bad, or even in some categories that crime is down.

              This is sheer nonsense. This week for example one only had to listen to Valerie Cox’ reports on RTE radio one about the reign of terror endured by elderly people in county Donegal to wonder did the crime statisticians live on the same planet as the rest of us.

              The plain fact is that crime in the Republic has gone to Hell in a hand basket. When I began work in the Evening Press in August 1954 there were two murders that year. Now one would feel lucky to only have two in a week. On top of that Garda stations are being closed down left, right and centre. No matter what anyone says this must have an effect on the crime statistics.

              The guards like the rest of the community are suffering pay cuts and morale in the force is low. There was too much reliance on overtime within the force and like other sections of the community the Gardaí in the good days were able to get loans without much difficulty. That’s not the case now.

              I remember during a previous recession in the seventies when prison warders were known to take their wives to New York for Christmas shopping until the overtime was suddenly axed, Drastic, but secret action had to be taken by the authorities.

              Lending institutions were visited by government representatives issuing warnings against foreclosures without notifying the authorities first. The Department of Justice wanted the opportunity of quietly helping out with loans rather than rendering the warders susceptible to bribery by the Provisionals.

              It’s high time that the whole question of moral in the force, how promotions are affected, how income packages are built up, what is the state of the equipment and why we can’t be told in plain language why we don’t see more guards on the street should be publically aired.

         I‘ve a particular interest in the police force, my father was the first Garda deputy commissioner and I grew up believing, as I still do that the establishment of an unarmed police force in the midst of a Civil War was one of the greatest achievements in the history of the state, it’s a legacy worth preserving – nobody suffers more than the average decent member of the force from bad behaviour on the part of any of their colleagues.

              If an inquiry would show that there is a genuine need for investment in the force, then let us have it, let there be recruitment, let there be more modern car fleets etc, isn’t it a damn sight better to have a top class police force than to pump billions into bank – and before the year is out remember, we may well have to cough up more billions when the Europeans conduct their stress test on our banks

              Already there has been one ominous straw in the wind Michael Noonan has let it be known that the government is looking for some international bank to come in here and help with lending as the economy improves. That’s a fairly clear indication that despite all the billions expended on them the Irish banks are not in a position to do that lending.

              Finally the third point, maybe last but it’s not least, but the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and the Garda Commissioner Mr Martin Callinan should resign, if this were England they’d be gone already. I’ll expand on this topic along with the significance of a very worrying incident concerning Garda oversight which I was personally involved in. Wait for it!

 


Eat, Drink and be Merry, For Tomorrow…..


Eat Drink and be Merry For Tomorrow….

In the past week I was reminded of how friendship and tragedy, distance and proximity can echo across the world to resound unexpectedly in one’s daily life.

In the same forty eight hours I was most generously entertained by  Nisheeth Ta with members of my family in the best Indian restaurant in Ireland; Rasam in Glasthule, Co Dublin, which for some unfathomable reason has become one of the buzziest and best places to either eat or shop in the Dublin area.

Across the road from Rasam there lies the emporium of a fishmonger extraordinaire, my friend, Peter Caviston, who runs the best fish restaurant, fish shop and delicatessen in the area. Why this tiny strip comprising shops, wine bars and an Undertakers should thrive as it does, staging one of Ireland’s best Bloomsday celebrations annually into the bargain is not easily explained. A few hundred yards up the road the town of Dun Laoghaire is depressingly filled with shops which have either closed or are struggling to stay open.

Presumably the drive and initiative of people like Peter Caviston and Nieesh has a lot to do with it, and these and other worthies of the district have now been joined by some ex rugby players whoa re doing a roaring trade in health foods and have even succeeded in converting me to Goji berry juice!

When the Troika of dire repute descended on Ireland a few years ago, led by the Indian Ajai Chopra, the first place they headed to before consigning Cathleen Ni Houlihan to a diet of bread and water was Rasam.  Nieesh whose wife is Irish is part of an internationally known family of restaurateurs.  He learned his trade in Mumbai in the famous Taj Mahal hotel which was attacked during the 2008 onslaught on Mumbai in which gunmen killed one hundred and sixty four people and wounded hundreds more.

Amongst the dead were some of his close friends and relatives. As we discussed the Crimea over Nieesh’s incredible cuisine I was reminded forcefully by his presence that no longer do events in faraway parts of the world touch us not.  The bell really does toll for all of us.

I can hear it clanging in my ears as this is written because thanks to the initiative of a local Frank Mullins, a former member of an Garda Síochána we are preparing to commemorate the worst domestic fire tragedy in Ireland, which happened approximately a mile from Glasthule in the Village of Dalkey on 9th March 1974.

On that night the mother and family of the Howard family and eleven of their children died in a fire in Carysfort Road, Dalkey.  I can still vividly remember the sight of friends of mine in the local Civil Defence Unit helping to carry out the bodies, through the smoke and the rain. The victims died as much from smoke inhalation as fire. The smoke was generated by smouldering newspapers; the Howards made their living distributing the papers, including The Irish Press, of which I was then the editor.

Over the years their gravestone had become somewhat tarnished by wind and weather and Frank Mullins has organised the refurbishing of their memorial and a mass at which I’ve been invited to address the congregation, which it is hoped, will include the surviving two members of the family who now live in England.

Separate events, separate memories but one inescapable conclusion, we are all human and all mortal.


Scottish Independence Go For it


Whoever thought that the worst nightmare of Belfast Loyalists would be in danger of coming true this year?  But ‘tis true they, and those that think like them are dependent on a TAIG, the loyalist term for a Catholic, to preserve the Union. The Taig, Mr David Cameron of Eton and Westminster has emerged Toff Against Independence Granting (Taig) for Scotland.

Candidly I’ve always believed that the dominant theme in Scotland’s debate on Independence was an unstated one; Oh Lord make me good but not yet. We could go on discussing the symbolism of the fact that a British Prime Minister chose London rather than Edinburgh to deliver his State of the Union message but the point of his recent speech is that we really are getting to the sharp end of the devolution debate.

The ‘not yetters’ have either to make use of that pot or get off it.  I am an unequivocal believer in Independence for Scotland, the unity of Ireland and as much Independence in decision taking as regions emerging from a colonial past can reasonably manage.

I see no virtue in merely declaring independence so that a handful of zealots can do a Mugabe on a once prosperous area and take an oath of poverty which the people not the Zealots have to observe.  I genuinely believe that nationality, the Nation is an extension of the family, the clan and that there is a pride and an energising creativity in being independent which transcends reliance on the crumbs from the rich man’s table in a faraway metropole.

The Republic of Ireland has had its share of calamitous self-inflicted wounds since independence, one of the worst being the recent orgy of reckless trading presided over by government and facilitated by corrupt bankers, civil servants, financial institutions and the professions.

Bernard Shaw’s dictum that all professions are a conspiracy against the people was only too well borne out by Irish Lawyers, accountants and the stock broking fraternity who advised people to invest their life savings in banks run by their pals from whom they knew very well that a day of reckoning was coming but continued none the less to funnel funds into these financial monsters so as to puff both prices and their commissions.

The result has been a tidal wave of unemployment, bankruptcies, emigration and suicide, the rates for which are currently more than fifty percent above pre-crash levels, all this of course has long term implications for hopes for a united Ireland. But the same ability to make wrong decisions which Independence confers also gives a people the right and the ability to correct mistakes and Irish confidence is currently growing by the month as harsh medicine was taken, lessons were learnt and visibly the economy is starting to take off again.

Scotland has a proud tradition of achievement. Scottish soldiers, scientists and engineers have added to the reputation of Scotland in every corner of the globe. I believe that with independence the creativity and economic drive which is now being syphoned off to the south of the border could really make the Flower of Scotland bloom. Who knows some improvement might even be wrought in the standard of Scots rugby.

North sea Oil reserves are almost certainly far greater than the public has been led to believe and the region attracts colossal revenues both from whisky distilling and tourism. Scotland is literally one of the most beautiful places in the world and the number of its visitors can only grow with the expansion of budget air travel.

The Irish Development Authority (IDA) is recognised worldwide as a leader in the race to attract inward investment to small countries. From my friends in the organisation I know that its Scottish opposite number is regarded by the Irish as a formidable rival and though it would give my own people further competition I have no doubt that the stimulus of independence would increase inward investment to Scotland.

Whatever reasonable period of turbulence the country might expect to undergo after independence I have no doubt that the business acumen of the Scots and their tradition of hard work and study would greatly increase prosperity in the wake of independence.

The only caveat I will enter if I may, based on our dreadful experiences in Northern Ireland on the evils of sectarianism is that political and religious leaders and all sides of the independence debate should always be mindful of the need to avoid stirring up ancient religious passions. Sectarianism, the monster that lurks deep in the psychology of both Ireland and England is a destructive flame only waiting to be fanned into life by the emergence of a demagogue like Ian Kyle Paisley

The scots have nothing to fear from independence but fear itself. After all neither Braveheart nor Robert the Bruce were Englishmen.


Will the Celtic Ritz Hotel lower its Rates?


I have been absent from the blogosphere for a little while now and am only remerging now, just when people were beginning to think it was safe to come out because with my usual imperishable optimism I felt I detected an encouraging chink of light from our parliamentarians over the past couple of weeks.

A handful of T.D.s encouragingly selected on a cross party basis, have been giving a good example of democracy at work by their behaviour on the Public Accounts Committee. They braved mutterings from the bewigged gentlemen in the Law Library and their money making machine of the Four Courts, to conduct hearings, albeit in private as a result of pressure, into the penalty points system.

The people now sitting in Dáil Eireann are operating in the wake of an economic tsunami and I have no doubt that in picking through the rubble created by the death throes of the Celtic Tiger that they are trying to do the right thing. The lawyers do not have a monopoly on virtue or on truth. Homer nodded big time when they got it so spectacularly wrong over Louise O’Keefe, that shamefully,  she had to go to the European courts to secure a judgement against the Irish state which refused to compensate her for the sexual predations of a school teacher on the cute whore basis that the State was not responsible for the doings of teachers. That was the churches bailiwick.

For years Louise battled on at the risk of losing her home and the state wrote to a hundred and thirty five other claimants bullying them in some cases into dropping their claims in the wake of the Suopreme court decision because the unfortunate victims were threatened that if they didn’t abandon their actions they would be hit with crippling costs.  That was law not justice. The Irish public are entitled to justice those in high places responsible for the banking disaster should be held accountable.

As a result of the PAC’s activities, dare one hope that the public who are showing themselves increasingly favourable to what the committee are doing may get sight of their findings, through leak or otherwise and the principle that the people should have some say in the way they’re governed was upheld. I wouldn’t hold my breath for anything good coming out of Minister Alan Shatter’s manoeuvre in trying to keep the controversy under wraps by referring it to the Garda Ombudsman.

Hitherto lack of political will has inhibited much initiative from that quarter, public spirited though holders of the office themselves maybe.

The PAC also brought to light the disgraceful situation whereby the Central Remedial Clinic was apparently using public money to pay its executives from funds which people thought they were giving to further the CRC’s good work.

What has to be realised in all this is that the elephant in the room of Irish public debate is the stultifying influence of the lawyers who have had and are having a retarding effect on the public’s right to know. Lawyers were loudly opposed to Alan Shatter’s far from impressive, and ultimately unsuccessful referendum campaign to allow the Dáil to set up committees to enquire into how the hell an act of major economic treason was committed which almost wrecked the economy and drove the population to suicide, emigration or unemployment.

The lawyers argue that the parliamentarians are not capable of conducting such enquiries because they will end up in party political ranker and that these committees interfere with the man’s right to his good name and the independence of the judiciary.

This is a load of rubbish as a practising democrat I believe fervently both in the independence of the judiciary and a man’s right to his good name but the judges are human too and they can get a bit too hot in their leather. The ordinary citizen had no option but to pay up when the Universal Social Charge was introduced in the wake of the banking guarantee and the arrival of the Troika. But a referendum had to be held to amend the constitution before the judges paid up.  They should have given a lead not acted as a retarding factor in the development of a sort of Dunkirk spirit amongst the public.

And it is notorious in the wake of the Banking crash that lawyers, who of course earned vast incomes, are now being pressed quite hard in some cases, to pay back the huge borrowings which the banks in good times conceded to them on foot of their earnings. Small groups of lawyers like those in New Beginning are making commendable efforts to help hard pressed mortgage owners caught in the toils of the banks but the big legal battalions do what they can to help the banks and to frustrate any willingness that the government might show to cut legal costs as the Troika recommended.

In Ireland with certain honourable exceptions that we can all name lawyers have made of the Irish court system a sort of Celtic Ritz hotel – it’s open to everyone.  Perhaps the PAC have begun a process whereby a favourable public opinion may yet make entry to the Irish Ritz, more democratic and less expensive.


Water could start the Fire.


There is an uncanny resemblance between the present Irish Government and the first Cumann na nGael administration of the 1920s. Both took draconian decisions and had the fortitude to see them through even in the case of Cumann na nGael, to the extent of taking the horrific step of executing former comrades.

The present Fine Gael dominated government has not formally killed anyone but there is no doubt that as a result of pressure from the Troika, occasioned in the first place by the depredations of crooked bankers and politicians, that several Irish citizens have been driven to take their own lives in recent years.  And it is in this area that the present government can fairly be charged with showing the white feather.  They have proceeded against the innocent by ways of taxes and cuts from which none escaped but they have not pursued those guilty of reckless trading for their crimes.  I will return to this later.

Like Cumann na nGael, Fine Gael can point to some positive achievements, the former set up a democracy in the wake of a guerrilla war and the Civil War and left behind such legacies as a largely corruption free civil service, a democratically controlled army and an unarmed police force. However as the leader of that government, W.T. Cosgrave acknowledged these were not the sort of achievements to win popular favour in the face of Fianna Fáil blandishments and De Valera’s devicive charisma. Cosgrave was born out in the in the elections of the 1930s onwards and Fianna Fáil held power uninterruptedly for sixteen years .

One can’t see the FFers returning to power at the next election by which time on top of all the cuts in government spending and in peoples incomes which have occurred to date the country will also have felt the full effects of the property tax and water charges. Already these last have raised fears that the good old Irish rip off culture which allowed the bankers, the developers and the CEOs of financial institutions to rape the economy, is still alive and flourishing. The poltroons fumbling in the greasy till have not gone away you know.  For, without an inch of new piping being laid or a trickle of water flowing it has been revealed that the government has apparently spent 50 million euro on consultant’s fees advising on how the new water authority should function.  

Granted that previous administrations particularly Fianna Fáil which presided over the economy during the Celtic Tiger years when money was flowing down O’Connell Street did nothing to ensure that cash was spent on overhauling the cracked leaky pipes which have existed since Victorian times and instead squandered the money on property developments, many of which now lie idle. Granted also that it is monstrously unfair that a generation, already bleeding from the wounds inflicted by the death throes of the Celtic Tiger, should be required to pick up the tab for the hugely expensive operation needed to bring Ireland’s Victorian water supply into the 21st Century.

Nevertheless the reality of the situation is that water may prove to be a highly explosive substance which could blow away much of both the governments stability and Fianna Fáil’s unpopularity at the next elections which lie over the horizon in a matter of months rather than years, even though some economic recovery is clearly underway as a result of government policy.

What could influence the electorate is an injection of something that is now lacking, a sense of fairness. The government has not been seen to move in an organised and large scale way against the white collar criminals who brought about the crash. Only one bank, Anglo Irish is being held to account. But it took several other Irish financial institutions, notably Allied Irish Bank, to rack up the need to bail out Irish banks to the tune of 65 billions.

In addition to the already all pervasive sense of unfairness the public is now contending with reports of key Department of Finance documents going missing or of being so redacted as to be unreadable.  The republics entire financial apparatus was involved to a greater or lesser degree in the disaster which has occurred and whose consequences have to be borne by today’s electorate. And in failing to act decisively to hold the guilty responsible the present administration could find that electorally its achievements are not of the sort to bring victory at the polls.  After all the Irish electorate installed DeValera in power after he had actively helped to ferment civil war less than ten years earlier.   Fianna Fáil might yet get another spell at the helm.


Back to the Future


 

The light is fading on New Year’s Day as this is written, but it is not intended as a song at twilight but as a promise on the dawning of a New Year- I’ll keep the Blog up to date in 2014! After what we’ve been through it would be permissible to open the New Year simply with a salvo directed at the decision takers who have brought such misery on our people. But I feel that there is room for a modest optimism at the impending arrival of economic crocuses to join the floral ones on their way.

There are damn few reasons for optimism, floral or otherwise emanating from Northern Ireland of course. I didn’t expect the recent talks to produce anything.  One of the sharp images I have in my mind from the time of the Good Friday Agreement is of Geoffrey Donaldson driving angrily from Stormont as the Good Friday Agreement neared completion because of his opposition to its contents. I couldn’t see him driving towards a New Year’s Eve agreement with a smile on his face and he’s not the worst of them.  The reality is that in Dublin a Fine Gael led government preoccupied with economic problems and in London a conservative one not too bothered about the north anyway both took their feet off the accelerator of Northern Ireland progress.

London and Dublin should have been at the talks despite Richard Hass’ presence, and that of the attractive Megan O’Sullivan one did not have the feeling that here was the full monty.  We’re in a season of orange commemoration reaching from the signing of the covenant to the Larne gun running and a symbolism of the Loyalist camp at Holy Cross monastery in north Belfast should not be over looked.

The camp is of course an extraordinary provocation to the nationalists of that area whose children had to be escorted to school each day through cordons of chanting loyalists, but if any attempt were made to remove the camp by force what would be the chances of the survival of the monastery itself. They haven’t gone away you know even if Fine Gael and Labour chose to conduct themselves as though they had.

Back to our own economic and psychological state in the republic while I said at the outset and say again that a little guarded optimism is justified I consider it utterly opprobrious that those responsible for the economic treason are still walking about scot free while suicide rates soar, our young people shoal out of the country and able bodied valuable men and women gaze dull eyed a the dole queue and the emptiness of their future. The administrators, the bankers, the politicians and the senior figures in Ireland’s small but terribly influential financial community should be in jail by now not free to make golfing jaunts to the sun or to transfer some of their ill-gotten wealth to their wives.

It’s an open secret that the financial people are in league with the legal profession – important sections of which also invested in bank shares and property busts. Each side props up the other in an outrageous, but hitherto successful, attempt to defeat justice. To paraphrase Padraig Pearse ‘until prison holds these men Ireland will never be at peace’.  

However not to end on a sour note may I wish all my readers a Happy New Year, and one in which the flowers of economic revival really do bloom.