Posts categorized “Europe”

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.


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!

 


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.


Irish mood picks up as sun shines down on Ireland


“This will take an awful lot of hardship.”

“It doesn’t take much.”

Both of the foregoing contradictory statements are true of Ireland’s economy and mood of the moment.

On the one hand there is the demoralizing game of pass-the-parcel being played by the politicians with the report of the popularly-termed An Bord Snip Nua which contains the horrific list of cuts which the economists say are needed to get the economy back on track.

On the other is the clearly observable mood of national cheerfulness brought on by a combination of welcome ephemera which have nothing to do with the economy.

The fine weather, the success of the rugby players and U2’s Barcelona opening are helping to offset the gloomy impact of the incessant flow of news bulletins about job losses and yawning trade deficits.

It is many years since Thomas Davis wrote that there was no nation on earth over whom music had such power over as the Irish. He was writing in an era of famine, but he had hit on an essential truth of the Irish character which has carried them through many a fearsome trial and may do so again in today’s circumstances.

Priceless gift

The race does have a priceless gift of being able to seize the moment if an instant of distraction or of uplift beckons. The sun appears briefly and, from God knows where, people flock to the beaches. A famous horse runs at a race meeting, and the punters forget the dole queues to spend money no-one knew existed.

The gift of laughter and an ability to make music out of spoons and bones helped the Irish to survive the horrors of mining or ditch-digging in disease-ridden swamps. The obverse side of the medal is of course depression and alcohol and substance abuse.

But here, in the now, where I am on the Aran Islands the sunshine is causing the Irish to revert to tradition attitudes. Instead of going abroad for the sun they are flocking to the Aran Islands to enjoy its spectacular beaches and incredible cliffs. In place of Germans and Scandinavians I now meet clouds of cyclists who pay me the compliment of taking me for an Islander and addressing me in half-forgotten, school book Irish.

But for how long will the sun shine? The sportsmen enthral? The day of reckoning can not be postponed indefinitely. And the passing of the parcel will have to stop sometime.

No soft words

The government somehow managed to get the IMF to tone down its recent report on the Irish economy so that while stigmatizing Ireland for creating the most overheated economy in the developed world, at the same time it still managed to sound vaguely complimentary about how it was dealing with the consequential crisis.

However An Bord Snip contains no soft words. It is the day of reckoning. It contains the precise recommendations for slashing welfare and public service budgets which the government hopes will induce the international financial community to keep Ireland afloat.

Various drafts of its real or imagined contents have been well leaked. They range from cutting children’s allowances, reducing the number of Gardai, dropping some 10,000 superfluous civil servants off the State pay roll to removing certain appendages from members of the Cabinet (a particularly well-received rumor this last).

For some weeks now the publication of the Report’s contents has been expected almost daily. But what has been received instead have been circumlocutory official statements to the effect that: “It is expected that the Report will be presented to the Minister for Finance tomorrow.”

‘Riot Police’

So far tomorrow has not come and the statements about ministerial, presentations are being (correctly) interpreted as code for “Jaysus lads. If we publish that any savings we might make will go on paying riot police.”

This is not an entirely unreal forecast. Already the elderly have taken to the streets over the withdrawal of medical cards and at least one section of the trade union movement, the electricians union, has shown its willingness to disregard government urgings for restraint by serving strike notice, not over the now universal pay cuts, but for a wage increase.

The gardai and civil servants unions might well be expected to respond with demands for thousands of job cuts by exercising the nuclear option. Realistically speaking, a government which has already been ravaged in last month’s local government and European elections could be looking at near total extinction in any forthcoming general election.

And, fears for a general election apart, there is the looming question of the re-run of the Lisbon Treaty. It is generally accepted that a central factor in the electorate’s rejection of the last Lisbon Treaty referendum, which made Ireland the sore thumb of Europe, was anger at the government’s performance.

Sinn Fein

But there were other considerations such as fears about abortion being introduced to the Republic, the ending of the traditional policy of neutrality and the unlikely, and un-lovely, shared attack on the Treaty from the left-wing Sinn Fein and the right-wing Libertas party.

Since that referendum the Irish government has managed to secure remarkable concessions on the neutrality and other issues from the European Parliament. Moreover both Libertas and Sinn Fein suffered reverses in the recent European elections so there were strong grounds for supposing that in the Lisbon Treaty’s Second Coming, next autumn, the measure would succeed.

Ordinary common sense would appear to dictate that it would pass, if for no other reason than that there is a general realisation that the Republic of Ireland’s continuation as a sovereign State depends on the support of the European bank, but if An Bord Snip were to trigger a bloody-minded reaction on the lines of the electricians action then anything could happen.

And so the Awful and the Cheerful reign over Ireland at the moment. I’m afraid that as the summer fades into winter that rugby alone, or even the exploits of the great Kilkenny hurling team, will not sustain the national mood. But Davis’s words still hold true and after all the Irish spirit did survive the famine and the awful effects of building the canals through the dreadful, fever-infested swamps of New Orleans.

- First published 6th July 2009 at IrishCentral.com