ireland

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Video: right-wing extremist Ben-Gvir rants Israel will never allow Palestinian statehood

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 8:27am in

Racist Israeli security minister chooses Islam’s second holiest site for petulant outburst after Ireland, Spain and Norway declare Palestine a state

Far-right Israeli security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir chose to taint Islam’s second holiest site with his presence for a deranged rant after three European nations all recognised Palestinian statehood.

Ben-Gvir raged that the site ‘belongs only to the people of Israel’, despite the Al Aqsa mosque being officially under Muslim administration by agreement between Israel and Jordan, before ranting that ‘we’ will ‘never allow any surrender that includes even a declaration of a Palestinian state’:

The bad news for the petulant settler-colonist is that Palestine has no intention of surrendering – while support for Israel’s apartheid regime is disappearing fast worldwide, as people wake up to the murderousness of the occupiers.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

US, Israel rant as Ireland, Spain, Norway recognise Palestinian statehood

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 7:50am in

Netanyahu and Biden governments in meltdown again as three countries bypass US veto and declare Palestine a state

Norwegian, Irish and Spanish governments declared Palestine’s statehood

The US and Israeli governments have reacted with fury to announcements by three European governments, at the same time, that they are recognising Palestinian statehood. Ireland, Norway and Spain have all now formally declared Palestine to be a state.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu – probably soon to be declared by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be wanted for war crimes – raged that the three nations were giving ‘Khamas’ a ‘reward for terrorism’. A Biden government spokesman claimed that the US condemned the recognition because it had been granted ‘unilaterally’ rather than through negotiation – ironic and deeply hypocritical considering that the US vetoed a recent application by Palestine to the UN Security Council motion for full membership of the UN. Several leading pro-Israel politicians called for the ICC to be ‘punished’, with a couple admitting that if Israel is held to account for its war crimes, ‘you know they’ll come for us next’.

Well done Ireland, Norway, Spain and, especially, the people of Palestine. Shamefully, there is no prospect of the UK following suit with either the Tories or what now passes for the Labour party in power after the newly-declared general election.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Making Sense of the Missing 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 9:00pm in

Clair Wills has long been among the most supple and illuminating explorers of the intertwined cultural histories of Ireland and Britain. She works in the intersections between social experience and literary representation, giving as much weight to supposedly ordinary lives as to momentous political events and artistic movements. That Neutral Island: A History of Ireland During the Second World War (2007) captured the moods and tensions of a strange period. The Best Are Leaving: Emigration and Post-War Irish Culture (2015) and Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Post-War Britain (2017) have opened new ground in the understanding of migrants, both as they see themselves and as they are seen by others. Her new book, Missing Persons, pulls on the threads of her own family’s stories and silences to unravel a dark history of loss and forgetting.

Fintan O’Toole: You’re best known as an explorer of public history, especially of Ireland, England, and migration. But Missing Persons is an intensely personal book about your own family history. What made you decide to enter such intimate terrain?

Clair Wills: We could also put it the other way round, that the public histories I’ve written over the years were attempts to understand personal experiences—though not, of course, my own. I was interested in how Ireland’s neutrality during World War II was experienced by individuals day-to-day, or how it felt to arrive in Britain as part of the great movement and violent displacement of peoples after the war.  

It’s true that in Missing Persons I wanted to excavate a more private history. At the heart of the book is the life (and death) of a person who went missing from my family: my first cousin Mary, who was born in an Irish Mother and Baby Home in 1955 and brought up in an orphanage, and whom I never got to know. I found out about Mary when I was in my twenties, when it was too late to meet her, although she was only seven years older than me.  I spent decades trying to come to terms with the fact that she had been kept secret from the rest of us. Initially I thought the story I had to tell was Mary’s story, and that of her mother—I felt it as a kind of duty, to do justice to the people who had been shunned by the family and forced into institutions. It took me a long time to understand that in fact my story concerned the people who did the shunning. Central to this is my grandmother, who refused to accept my cousin as part of the family, and never saw her son (Mary’s father) again. I wanted to understand how a woman I knew very well when I was a child, a woman I loved, could have consented to a system that to us, a few generations later, seems immeasurably unjust and cruel.  

So it’s an intimate history—literally so in that I’m investigating illicit sex and extramarital pregnancy—but it’s also public. My family was not unusual. Tens of thousands of women and girls were sent to Mother and Baby Homes over the decades, and hundreds of thousands of people shunned them and their children. My grandmother’s views on the importance of respectability and legitimate inheritance were typical. When Missing Persons was published in Ireland in January, I did some media interviews, which nearly always started with a request to tell people about my grandmother, and I ended up feeling that this line of questioning was getting it wrong. I started responding, “My granny is your granny,” and although the interviewers looked a bit surprised, to their credit they got the point: that this is a personal book but it’s about a common, almost universal, situation in which some people were allowed to belong in families and others weren’t, and not only in Ireland.

Your family’s secret lives intersect with public history in Catholic Ireland’s institutional systems for dealing with what it regarded as wayward female sexuality. Can you explain what that system was, how it worked, and why Ireland has only come to terms with it very recently?

The network of institutions that developed to “manage” sex and the consequences of sex included the notorious Magdalene laundries, Mother and Baby Homes, County Homes, orphanages, and Industrial Schools (homes where children were taught “industry,” which for girls like my cousin Mary meant mostly being trained for domestic service). These institutions were run by religious orders (mostly Catholic, though there were some Protestant homes—James Joyce’s story “Clay” is partly set in one of them), but they were funded by the Irish state. Basically they were a cheap way for the state to provide a range of social services, as the nuns didn’t get paid for their work. And those services were all built around forms of incarceration. The Mother and Baby Homes provided a way of tidying the problem of illegitimacy behind closed doors. 

Between Irish independence in 1922 and 1998, when the last of these institutions closed, they were home (at the lowest estimate) to 56,000 unmarried mothers, ranging from twelve-year-old girls to women in their forties, and at least 57,000 babies and small children. There were similar institutions in the United States, Britain, and many European countries; nowhere else were they still in use as late as the 1990s. The proportion of Irish unmarried mothers who were admitted to these homes in the twentieth century was probably the highest in the world—but that is not the only Irish anomaly. Irish women also stayed longer in these homes than women did anywhere else, with the longest stays occurring in the 1940s and 1950s. 

In 2015 a commission was set up to investigate the homes, following the discovery of the bodies of nearly eight hundred babies and small children that had been deposited in a septic tank on the grounds of a former home in Tuam, County Galway. There is a lot to say about the commission, how it operated, and what it found, but I’ll mention the finding that caused the most outrage, which is that the primary responsibility for the treatment of women and children in the homes “rests mainly with the fathers of their children and their own immediate families. It was supported by, contributed to, and condoned by, the institutions of the State and the Churches.”

Even if this statement were true, it gets us nowhere. The attempt to parcel out blame for the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children, either to the institutional system or to families, is a misunderstanding of the nature of this history. What needs to be explained is why people consented to the system. That is what I’ve tried to think about in the book, through the figure of my grandmother and other members of my family: Why did this system make sense to them?

My own feeling is that, outside of legal claims for reparation and redress, “responsibility” is not a useful word to bring to this history, because it quickly falls into binary arguments about blame and guilt. I’ve tried to think in terms of a wider category of “answerability” or obligation. In this wider sense I am answerable to this history. I got to belong when my cousin didn’t; I have suffered the loss of my cousin, but I also benefited in complex ways from her absence. I think that people feel relatively comfortable when I say that I feel responsible for, in the sense of answerable to, this injustice. But not always when I suggest that they are too. That claim would go something like this: You, Fintan, are accountable for what happened. My granny is your granny. Not everyone wants to go there.

One of the things you explore in the book is the way people in a society like that of Catholic Ireland can both hate a system and believe in it at the same time. How did people manage that?

We could be teasing this out for a very long time. The deference to homegrown Catholic authority after independence, a kind of fatalistic acceptance of one’s lot, a genuine belief in the sinfulness of the body—there are lots of reasons. But I don’t underestimate the terrible experiences of loss and pain that families went through by consenting to the system. I became very interested in how sexual secrecy operated in the period before independence. There were all sorts of ways that an unplanned pregnancy could be “managed” informally in late Victorian and Edwardian Ireland—abortion and infanticide, obviously (and it’s worth pointing out here that juries were very reluctant to convict when these came to trial), but also shotgun weddings, informal fostering out, babies brought up by an aunt or a grandmother. 

I think that keeping sexual secrets in this period was a way for women to look out for one another—they had so little autonomy, so little control over their own lives. In the book I wonder whether these habits of secrecy, developed in a period when the authorities and their institutions were associated with alien rule (the police force, the workhouses, the County Homes, and so on), left people with few defenses against the new Irish Catholic institutions that came into operation after independence. Suddenly here was your local priest, or your aunt the nun, or your friends and neighbors saying, the Mother and Baby Home will keep your secret for you. It must have seemed the sensible thing to do, to give up your daughter or your grandchild to the institutions, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t incredibly hard.

We naturally think of remembering and forgetting as opposites, but your book suggests that this is not really so, that much of life is lived somewhere in the liminal spaces between them.

Yes, I think that’s true. The book is about how a kind of violence gets covered over, or disavowed, and remembered at the same time. The church-state institutions that were set up to contain the poor, the sexually wayward, and the mentally ill weren’t in themselves secret, but they were in the business of secrecy. The Mother and Baby Homes and orphanages thrived in the 1950s and 1960s as a way of keeping sex and pregnancy hidden, and the women and children were collateral damage. The system was highly visible, bureaucratic, and officially sanctioned, yet barely talked about, and that contradiction shaped families too, and the way people understood their own experiences. “Whatever you say, say nothing,” the knowing injunction memorialized by Seamus Heaney in a different context, applies here too. In order to uncover how people in my family thought about illicit sex, illegitimacy, and institutions, I ended up following the tracks laid down in family stories and anecdotes. There were so many stories that petered out or that ended in gaps and ellipses and “said nothing.” I tried to interpret those gaps—the missing bits—as places where the past was both preserved and disavowed.  

I’ve been thinking about this history for years, but I only really began to grasp it during the pandemic, when I spent many hours talking on the phone, and sometimes in person, with my mother (who is now in her early nineties). She was cut off and lonely under lockdown rules, and talking about her past became a way of being close to her, even of taking care of her. The tangle of stuff remembered and forgotten had become a kind of burden for her, I think—because the victims of this history aren’t only the people who went missing, but also those who were allowed to belong, and who carry the shame of the violence done in their names.

Your family history seems to contain a contradiction. On the one hand, it goes back a very long way in only a few generations. Yet on the other, it’s full of holes and silences. What are those silences, and how did you become attuned to them?

I wanted to call the book “Making Sense of the Missing.” That was my working title, and I meant two things by it. How did my grandmother and the others who were involved in disappearing my cousin make sense of what they were doing? Where did the sense of shame and the need to keep illegitimacy secret come from, what was the work it did for families? The fact that my family functioned despite, and maybe even because of, its missing persons, the fact that it made enough sense—this is part of my inheritance, and the inheritance of a great many people of my generation. 

So I was also asking, how can I make sense of this now, as the inheritor of that history? I’m part of the historical archive—the remembering and forgetting is in me, whether I like it or not. In the book I try to interpret the gaps and silences and holes in my own understanding and in the stories that were handed down to me. That includes thinking about my own reaction to getting pregnant when I was a student in the 1980s. In fact, one of the things I discovered while writing the book is that not only does my family stretch a long way back in only a few generations (my great-grandparents were born in the 1830s and 1840s), but in every generation we’ve had children outside of marriage. I’m rather proud of that.

In a wonderful phrase, you say of your mother’s life that “history became geography” when she emigrated from Ireland to England. In what ways does migration shape the sense of family identity that you’re exploring?

I think it’s central. The scattered family has long been part of Ireland’s sense of itself. That’s why the rhetoric of the close Irish family is so strong—it’s a reaction to the fact that children were always saying good-bye, often never to be seen again. In the book I trace the movement of my grandfather’s siblings from West Cork to Boston and Peabody and Marblehead in the 1880s and 1890s. (They worked as servants and in glue factories.) And then in the next generation his children went to England. So few people got to grow old in the country where they were born. One of the questions I try to think about in the book is whether that long history of dislocation prepared families for losing their children to the institutions. There was a kind of fatalism to it.

And then there is the impact of poverty. I mean both actual poverty—having to leave home in order to survive—and the shame of that poverty and wanting to overcome it, to distance yourself from it. My grandmother was born in 1891; in her teens she was working as a live-in servant for local farmers, and her older siblings had all gone to America. When she finally got her own home in her early forties she became absolutely wedded to the idea of the family’s respectability. “Respectability” is almost a dirty word nowadays, suggesting a prim and narrow worldview, but it may have been the only kind of dignity available to her. I’ve tried in the book to learn to respect it, ironically enough.

You write of the stories your mother told about the family and all their vivid details, but you also end up bluntly saying that you don’t believe her when she claims that her mother had another baby who disappeared from the record. Was it hard to write that?

I am somewhat ashamed to say, no! I’m not accusing my mother of lying, but of only half-knowing what she knew. When she was a young teenager she worked out that her mother had been pregnant before she was married, in 1920, when she was twenty-eight years old. But she couldn’t talk about it with anyone, least of all her mother. She was hearing all kinds of rumors and half-told stories, and she knew other secrets were being kept from her. She knew there had been a family rift sometime in the 1910s, and she tried to figure out the reason for it. The idea that her mother had fallen pregnant in her teens with another baby, long before she was married, was a story she created to try to make sense of the secrets that were being kept from her. So my mother’s stories may be untrue in a literal sense, but they capture another kind of truth. They register the shame that her mother was having to overcome—not only the shame of sex before marriage, but, perhaps even worse, of having married a Protestant, in 1920, in the middle of the Anglo-Irish war. Can you imagine!

“Legitimate” and “illegitimate” were the horrible terms used about children who were born inside or outside of wedlock. But they also hover over your own sense of belonging in the book—are you “legitimately” Irish? Did writing the book help you to answer that question for yourself?

I talk in the book about the worry I had, over many years, that this story wasn’t mine to tell. I was brought up in England, and my father was English (though he was completely in love with everything Irish, including and first-above-all my mother). My sisters and I were raised with a very strong sense of our Irishness (and my three sisters all live in Ireland now, a kind of reverse migration), but I felt very strongly that the story of my cousin didn’t properly belong to me, though I couldn’t leave it alone. In the end I came to realize that my “illegitimacy” in relation to this history might be exactly what would allow me to uncover the layers of secrets and half-understood stories. 

Then again, I’ve always been interested in the typical. I don’t think I’d ever be able to write a straightforward biography because it would depend so much on thinking about what was unique about someone’s life. I guess this goes back to your question about public and personal histories, and how I don’t really think of them as all that different. I love all the things that are typical about my family, from the numbers of my grandparents’ siblings who emigrated to Boston in the 1890s (the majority of each laboring family’s children), to the thirty-acre farm bought in 1932 just at the time when politicians were extolling thirty acres as the ideal farm size for the new nation, to the five out of seven siblings who emigrated to Britain in the 1950s, to the extramarital pregnancies, the Mother and Baby Home, the County Home, and the Industrial School—my family did the classic things, around the same time everyone else was doing them. And to cap it all off, the most typical thing about my family was that it was not at home—nearly everyone lived elsewhere. So not being legitimately Irish, not quite belonging, is how I might be most Irish, in fact. Perhaps it’s just a rhetorical homecoming, but I like it anyway.

England, for the generations of Irish people that encompass much of your family history, is, as you put it, “both enemy and savior.” Did this doubleness reflect the experiences of the other migrants you wrote about in Lovers and Strangers, your previous book?

When I was writing Lovers and Strangers I became very interested in the temporality of migration, in what it means “to live by way of memory and anticipation, until the two of them become indistinguishable,” in John Berger’s plangent words, so that part of you is always trying to get back to the thing you’ve left behind. And then the country you’ve left changes without you there (or in the case of parts of postwar Poland, for example, simply disappears), and so when you do return you are displaced a second time. Emigrants end up living in two time zones, or at least that was true of postwar emigrants, in an era before the Internet and mobile phones. In the last part of the book I wrote about the impact of this doubled time on the children of immigrants, who have to manufacture a relationship to a past in another country, though it’s no less real for being made up. A Sikh immigrant who arrived in the midlands in the 1970s, the scholar Darshan Singh Tatla, wrote to me saying that was the moment in the book that most resonated with his own experience. 

The experience of migration has these shared, almost universal, aspects, but it is also historical. I often go back to a comment by Raymond Williams in his brilliant book The Country and the City (1973), where he says that we have to be able to account for both the persistence and historicity of concepts—one without the other is no use. That might lead us to consider how the current legal structures around migration, including detention, state pushbacks and the practice of “bordering” (forcing refugees and migrants back across international borders, or sending them to a third country, and refusing them the right to apply for asylum), are rooted in a long history of encounters between the migrant and the settled, the idea of the metropolis and the periphery, the modern and the archaic. But they are always being remade for the present—and right now in obscenely unjust ways.

One of the things I found so brilliantly expressed in Missing Persons is the complexity of the motivations that are wrapped up in the keeping of secrets. There’s shame, of course, but there’s also a kind of thrill, a sense of power.

Recently a friend was tempted to tell me the identity of the well-known figure with whom she was having an affair, and I had to leap in to interrupt her: “No, don’t tell me!” I’ll never be able to keep the secret. I’m a terrible gossip. It’s not an honorable trait, but it has its uses—and my mother was aware of it when she started telling me the family’s secrets. She knew I was going to talk, and the fact that she knew is one reason why I could write the book in the end, despite the feeling of illegitimacy.

So, although I can keep what I’d called “serious” secrets, I’m not discreet. But I recognize the value of secret-keeping. It’s not all about shame—maintaining reserve is one way that people living in small communities can continue to live with one another, for example. And yes, I think there is a kind of power associated with secrets, but also a form of care. When my mother kept the secret of my grandmother’s premarital sexual life she felt she was looking after her—even though my grandmother didn’t know she knew, so it was an unacknowledged form of care. Maybe this has partly to do with a society that makes use of the confessional; there’s a power in telling secrets but also a power in keeping them, and the figure of the priest is a good reminder of that.

But secrets outlive their usefulness, and they become more dangerous in their posthumous incarnations. My family kept the secrets of sex and pregnancy and childbirth for a mixture of reasons, some of which were good. But there is no sense in keeping those secrets anymore. We will never make sense of the missing if we don’t talk about them; we will never accept our own accountability unless we address this history. I guess I’m saying, you have to know when to betray. The book is a betrayal of a family contract. I can’t deny that.

The post Making Sense of the Missing  appeared first on The New York Review of Books.

Video: Belfast’s huge pro-Palestine mural

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 1:47am in

Irish city stands in solidarity with the people of Gaza

A huge mural showing solidarity with the people of Gaza against occupation and genocide now stands in Belfast. The beautiful artwork, filmed by JT MacLochlainn, consists of a series of panels depicting the suffering and spirit of the Palestinian people, emblazoned with a ribbon containing the poem by Prof Refaat Alareer, the Palestinian poet murdered, along with several family members, by Israel last December:

Alareer’s full, achingly evocative poem reads:

If I must die,

you must live

to tell my story

to sell my things

to buy a piece of cloth

and some strings,

(make it white with a long tail)

so that a child, somewhere in Gaza

while looking heaven in the eye

awaiting his dad who left in a blaze–

and bid no one farewell

not even to his flesh

not even to himself–

sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above

and thinks for a moment an angel is there

bringing back love

If I must die

let it bring hope

let it be a tale

In October last year, as bombs fell on Gaza, Alareer paid tribute to the fans of Celtic who were raising flags and banners in solidarity. The Scottish football club is supported by many Irish Catholics, who well understand occupation and oppression under centuries of English rule and who have shown resolute solidarity with the Palestinians as another occupied people. Celtic fans paid a moving tribute to him after he was murdered in a targeted Israeli attack and have continued to show support for Palestinians, despite attempts by the football club’s administration to discourage them.

Ireland remains a nation divided, with Belfast officially the capital of Northern Ireland and part of the UK, despite limited devolution.

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Ireland knows what genocide feels like – and how long the impact lasts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 12:38am in

The National newspaper in Scotland, for whom I am a columnist, has reported today that the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister), Simon Harris has said today that:

I had a good conversation with the president of Israel. We had a firm and respectful conversation.

It is my job as the Taoiseach of this country to speak up for the Irish position, to speak out on behalf of the people of Ireland.

The Irish position in relation to the Middle East, in relation to Gaza, in relation to Israel is very straightforward and very consistent.

We need to see an immediate cessation of violence, we need to see unimpeded and unhindered access to humanitarian aid because there is a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes.

We need to see a two state solution. In order to see a two state solution and to help bring one about you have to recognise the very existence of two states.

In the coming days Ireland intends to do just that.”

I warmly welcome this news because I am quite sure he is right.

He was most especially right to say this when attending an event to mark what many still call the Irish famine of 1845 to 1852.

This was not, however, a famine. They are natural and unavoidable disasters. This was an avoidable crisis that London could have prevented by simply allowing Irish grown wheat to be used by those suffering as a result of the Irish potato harvests.

But London did not allow that. It imposed a genocide that cost maybe a million lives and led to maybe another million emigrating in the short term and a great many more in the long term. The population of Ireland has still not recovered. And the history has not been forgotten.

Ireland knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of a genocide. That is why it should be and is taking a leading role on Gaza now.

I am proud to be an Irish citizen, as I have been for many decades.

On an island still tormented by the Troubles, Britain’s Legacy Act is making things worse | Fintan O'Toole

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/05/2024 - 5:00pm in

Keir Starmer has promised to revisit this contentious law. When that happens, he needs to do three things

Fifty years ago, on 17 May 1974, my father, a bus conductor, was out on strike. That day, the Troubles arrived with a vengeance in my home town of Dublin. Three bombs exploded at different points in the city centre during rush hour. Because the buses were not operating, there were more people walking along those streets than usual. Twenty-three of them were killed and another three later succumbed to their injuries. Another bomb that exploded 90 minutes later in Monaghan, on the southern side of the border, killed seven people.

In 1984, when I was trying to write a piece for the 10th anniversary of the bombings, I called to the houses of some of the bereaved families. No one wanted to talk to me. They felt betrayed, abandoned, already forgotten. They had no trust in anyone. Marie Sherry, who was injured but survived, later described how, in the weeks and months after the massacre, she would ask her mother: “‘Mum, any news on those people who did the bombing? Was anybody charged?’ There never was news. There were no names. Nobody was charged. I lived my life thinking, ‘These guys are walking around. They could be sitting beside me in the cinema. They could be on the bus.’”

Fintan O’Toole is a columnist with the Irish Times

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Unite boss Graham ‘not amenable’ to Irish law, tribunal hears in Ogle discrimination case

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/05/2024 - 7:29am in

‘Extraordinary position’ taken by general secretary in bid to avoid testimony and cross-examination could result in prosecution

Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham has taken the ‘extraordinary position’ that she is not ‘amenable’ to Irish law, lawyers acting for senior trade unionist Brendan Ogle have told a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) tribunal. Unite’s lawyers had first used the term during February’s session of Ogle’s discrimination case against Unite, when Ogle’s barrister Mary Paula Guinness BL raised the topic of WRC adjudicator, former UN prosecutor Elizabeth Spelman, issuing a subpoena to compel Graham’s appearance to give sworn evidence. Graham’s lawyers have subsequently confirmed her refusal to appear voluntarily.

Last Friday, the employment tribunal held a hearing, in Ogle’s Employment Equality Act 1998 complaint against Unite, of Ogle’s request for Graham, who is usually based in London, to be compelled to appear in Dublin for questioning under oath.

Ogle is claiming that Unite discriminated against him by sidelining him on his return from treatment for life-threatening cancer – and that he was told that the issue was that Graham ‘recognises loyalty’ from those who supported her in Unite’s 2021 general secretary election. Ogle, like many Irish figures and branches, supported Graham’s rival, Howard Beckett.

Graham’s lawyers argued that there is no need for Graham to appear because Unite will send a subordinate, Ogle’s former colleague, Tom Fitzgerald, to refute Ogle’s claim.

Sharon Graham has previously cancelled appearances in the Republic, avoiding members’ anger and scrutiny over the union’s ‘disgraceful’ treatment of Brendan Ogle. The situation caused such outrage in Ireland that union members picketed Graham’s long-delayed visit to Dublin, Unite’s Community section condemned it as ‘disgusting’ and a whole sector branch threatened to disaffiliate.

The tribunal had given Graham until 12 April for Ms Graham to respond to Ogle’s lawyers’ request to attend the next set of hearings at the end of this month, after which Spelman would hear legal argument the request for a formal summons. Graham did not respond. If a subpoena is eventually requested and issued, refusal to comply is a prosecutable criminal offence under Ireland’s ‘Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018‘.

Guinness, representing Ogle, told the tribunal that it is clear that Graham has “relevant information” in the case:

This is a general secretary who is general secretary over Unite in Ireland; it appears if we are to rely on the respondent’s submission that she has instructed her representatives that she is not amenable to Irish law.

She described the refusal as an “extraordinary” position, referring to Graham’s recent attendance at policy conferences in Dublin, Unite’s status as an active union in Ireland. and Ogle’s separate High Court defamation proceedings against Graham, her right-hand man Tony Woodhouse and the union, in which Graham is scheduled to appear, adding that:

She is general secretary of the whole union, including the union in Ireland. They have a head office here, her authority is exercised – it would be an unusual situation if she was to say she is not amenable to Irish law…

[Unite’s rulebook giving the general secretary sole power to change the responsibilities of union officers] all links in to the fact that in their submission they say this change arose after [Graham’s] election as general secretary.

Unite is the UK’s second-biggest union and one of only a handful of UK unions also active in the Republic of Ireland, with thousands of members in several sectors. Its lawyers claim that the WRC has no jurisdiction to compel Graham to attend.

However, if a summons is issued and Graham refuses to comply, she could face potential arrest if she returns to Ireland and a possible prison sentence and large fine under the Employment Act.

Adjudicator Spelman said she would communicate her decision on the summons in writing to both parties before the next set of hearings begins on 27 May.

In other news, Brendan Ogle announced this week that he will stand in as an independent candidate for Dublin in Ireland’s European Parliament elections in June.

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‘Ireland is No Longer Immune to the Far-Right’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/04/2024 - 9:39pm in

The far-right movement has been gaining political ground electorally across Europe for decades. There are few events in recent history which better exemplify the disastrous risks posed by such ideologies than the fall-out from Brexit, following years of slow corrosion in UK regional politics.

Amid increasing occurrences of political self-sabotage, a notable outlier has been Ireland: a nation of emigrants, and a country that appeared by many metrics almost immune to anti-immigrant sentiment. Until now.

Burning buses, riots, threats to political representatives, arson – all betray a worrying trend of violence and intimidation fuelled by far-right anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Over the course of five years, more than 26 buildings suspected of housing asylum seekers have been subjected to arson attacks, most of which have occurred within the past 18 months. In November last year, some 500 rioters rampaged through Dublin, looting and setting fire to vehicles as well as attacking police officers – nothing short of thuggery. 

Typical of far-right movements across history, self-appointed representatives of the so-called real, 'native’ population weaponise socioeconomic deprivation and political alienation by circulating disinformation and mistruth. As if read from the pages of the 20th Century populist handbook, these figures claim vehemently that every societal ill is caused or inflamed by immigration. No job opportunities? No housing? Long waiting lists for healthcare? Migrants are the eternal bogeymen.

Last year 13,227 people sought international protection in Ireland, down 400 from the previous year – Ireland accounted for just 1.3% of the EU total of asylum applicants in 2022. It is estimated that migrants contribute 3.7 billion to the Irish economy every year through taxes, immigration fees, and work permits. 

The potential for far-right agitators to influence national politics has been largely dismissed by Ireland’s major political parties.

Fringe far-right parties have emerged including the Irish Freedom Party and the National Party, neither of which have managed to achieve a single elected representative. However, with both local and European elections set to take place in June, fringe politicians will be hoping for a breakthrough – and both the media and major political parties are doing little to counter the potential threat.

Placating anti-immigrant protests by adopting their language or making ad hoc ill-considered statements about changing Ireland’s immigration system, leading political parties appear complacent and rudderless about the potential far-right breakthrough.

To date, the far-right in Ireland has not coalesced around one personality or party – Ireland doesn't have a Nigel Farage, Giorgia Meloni or Marine Le Pen. Yet. Plenty are auditioning for the role. 

While serving as a growing vector for public disorder, the far-right in Ireland is splintered into intersecting groups with varying priorities. Anti-immigration is often the central pillar but a cursory interrogation of the 'Ireland is Full’ hashtag on social media will reveal a mismatch of anti-choice, racist, anti-trans, and COVID-denying accounts. 

As with other countries experiencing a growth in far-right support, Ireland is also subject to outside interference, with US and UK far-right social media figures and personalities parroting anti-immigrant content about Ireland across the internet.

Put simply, Ireland is no longer immune to the far-right. It has been infected by the same anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been corroding democracy on a global scale.

How do you stop the spread of the far-right? Tackling issues of inequality would be a good start as these leads to political marginalisation, providing fertile ground for the far-right to take root.

The 2022 survey on income and living conditions demonstrated an increase in the number of those living in consistent poverty, those at risk of poverty, and those in enforced deprivation in Ireland. Homelessness is at a record high despite more than 166,000 properties languishing vacant in the state. 

Evidence demonstrates that those impacted by poverty during childhood are more likely to experience income poverty and deprivation in adulthood; 89,000 children were living in poverty in 2022 – a more than 40% rise since 2021.

The Irish Government must tackle the growing inequality in Ireland through a multi-pronged approach, flooding areas of deprivation with increased resources for educational attainment, counselling, infrastructure, services, and opportunities. This approach should be coupled with national plans to address the housing crisis, labour market, and poverty. Ireland needs a social safety net capable of protecting those who are most vulnerable.

When it comes to disinformation and misinformation, it is essential that the Irish Government provides readily available and accessible information on immigration – an information campaign launch is well overdue.

In the long-term, digital literacy has to become a key focus in education in order to equip the next generation with the skills necessary to identify fake news and deepfakes. We are in the era of AI, the wider effects of which can be neither fully understand nor predicted yet.

With elections in a little over six weeks, the Irish Government and political parties are on the back foot with dwindling time to gain ground. An Ireland Thinks poll in February revealed that 35% of those surveyed would consider voting for a party or candidate with anti-immigrant views – and it appears they will have plenty of candidates to choose from.

In the past week, Ireland has experienced more protests, a minister’s personal home was covered in threatening anti-immigrant signs, six people were arrested in violent scenes on Thursday night, and a debate centred on immigration carried out on national radio opined “Is our Government ‘at war’ with its own people?” – a grotesque appropriation of language of war when the world is witnessing the daily slaughter of innocent people and children in Gaza.

Ireland is a nation of emigrants with generations of citizens forced to flee due to war, famine, and more recently the recession. To be anti-immigrant in Ireland is to be ignorant of one’s own history.

If the far-right succeeds in its aims in June – whether that’s gaining elected representatives or fundamentally destabilising the political agenda in Ireland – it will be a blight on Ireland’s history and a catalyst for further division. Those of us directly impacted by the sociopolitical failings of the UK, and the ongoing damage caused by Brexit, know only too well where this path may lead.

Unite Brighton & South Coast passes no-confidence motion in ‘shameful’ Graham

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2024 - 8:02am in

Betrayals on ‘anti-racism, Palestine, harassment and dignity at work cited by furious members

Unite SE6246 Brighton and South East Coast branch has passed a motion of no-confidence, with no votes against and only two abstentions, in the union’s general secretary Sharon Graham. The motion cites Graham’s actions on anti-racism, Palestine, harassment and dignity at work – and the branch members’ ‘dismay’ at them.

In full, the motion reads:

Emergency Motion – Sharon Graham’s Leadership of Unite

This branch views with dismay recent actions by Sharon Graham and instructs her to abide by union policy on anti-racism, Palestine, harassment and dignity at work. We note:

  1. The ongoing disability discrimination case brought by former senior officer in Ireland, Brendan Ogle, against Unite. It is estimated that legal fees alone will exceed £1m, money paid for out of members’ subscriptions.
  2. The collective grievance from the National Officers’ Group at the high handed behaviour of Graham. They allege that workers are being banned from their workplace and/or suspended for raising a grievance. They state that:

Threats of legal action for raising a grievance cannot be ignored or endorsed…. For any worker to exhibit the courage to voice their concerns about their opinions of inappropriate behaviour against them or others is a right not to be denied. If it is to be crushed or swept away simply because the employer is more powerful and we do nothing about such unfairness in the workplace then who are we standing up for?

  1. The banning from Unite premises of Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie about the weaponisation of ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party.
  2. A new feature-length documentary ‘ON RESISTANCE STREET’, has also been banned. It is an examination of the role which music has played historically in the fight against fascism and racism. The excuse for this is an Executive Committee decision in September 2023. According to Sarah Carpenter:

Unite should not use its premises or resources to show or promote any external films or other content that does not relate to our industrial agenda to support the pay, terms and conditions of our members and/or support existing Unite policies. In this context the Union should be especially careful to avoid appearing to endorse any material which causes unnecessary offence to members.

The reason that Corbyn – The Big Lie was banned was not to offend Zionists. It would appear that this film has been banned in order not to upset fascists or racists.

Historically the trade union movement has taken pride in political education. Industrial action went hand in hand with political action. Without the latter workers are left at the mercy of a capitalist system that has no hesitation in using the state to reduce their rights.

Graham’s tenure as Unite boss has also been marked by a string of other allegations, which have never been denied.

The refusal of Graham to mobilise against the genocide in Gaza or take part in the national demonstrations is shameful. We demand that Graham adhere to union policy on Palestine.

This Branch has no confidence in Sharon Graham and calls for her to resign or be removed.

Proposed         Tony Greenstein

Seconded        Sheila Hall

In an email to Unite’s acting regional secretary for the south-east, copied to the notifying him of the motion, branch secretary Tony Greenstein wrote:

I won’t say I have pleasure in attaching a resolution of no confidence in the General Secretary but nonetheless it is my duty…

…We wish this resolution to be placed before the Regional Executive and all other relevant committees in the region including the Area Activists group. We also want it discussed by the union executive.

Because of the seriousness in passing such a motion, I will add a few comments…

…The final straw for some of us was Graham banning the showing of an anti-fascist/anti-racist film on Unite premises and the explanation for this by the former Regional Secretary for the South-East, Sarah Carpenter that:

‘ the Union should be especially careful to avoid appearing to endorse any material which causes unnecessary offence to members.’

This can only be taken to mean that Sharon Graham doesn’t want to offend racists and fascists ‘unnecessarily’. Such a position runs counter to everything this union has hitherto stood for. Sharon Graham is an utter disgrace.

Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie was also banned because it might give offence – in this case to the Zionists who are now supporting the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

Graham has not only done nothing to oppose what Israel is doing in Gaza but she has actively tried to prevent others doing anything. She has ditched policy on Palestine undemocratically and unilaterally, with the compliance of a feeble and deferential Executive.

Her recent statement targeting anti-war groups and activists and giving explicit support for the production and transportation of weapons to Gaza that have so far killed 14,000 children, and thousands of women and civilians is unconscionable.

Any General Secretary worth their salt would be taking steps to ensure that no weapons whose destination was Israel were manufactured and failing that would call upon dockers and other transport workers not to handle them, as she did with Russian oil recently.

When I think of the support that General Secretaries of the T&GWU, which was one of the founders of Unite, gave to the peace movement and anti-racism – people like Frank Cousins and Ron Todd – then Sharon Graham’s behaviour is shameful.

Jack Jones, another former General Secretary, went to fight against the fascists in Spain in 1936. Sharon Graham has banned an anti-fascist film for fear of upsetting fascists. For such an action alone she deserves to go and the Union Executive should have the courage to face her down rather than accepting her dictats.

I won’t mention the other matters such as her behaviour towards the staff and Brendan Ogle.

Suffice to say that if Sharon Graham thinks that anti-racism and anti-fascism has nothing to do with her ‘industrial agenda’ then this demonstrates that she understands nothing about how racism is used to divide the working class.

Sharon Graham’s tenure as Unite boss has also been marked by a string of other allegations – which neither she nor the union has denied – including destruction of evidence against her husband in threat, misogyny and bullying complaints brought by union employees. She is embroiled in a defamation lawsuit and a discrimination tribunal case brought by Irish union legend Brendan Ogle for the union’s treatment of him and comments made about him by Graham and her close ally Tony Woodhouse.

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Sortition for a Steady State Economy?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/04/2024 - 11:37pm in
by Gary Gardner

ancient statue of a person blind-folded

Blindfolded, the more to be trusted? (Tim Green, Wikimedia)

In my frustration over humanity’s sluggish response to the urgent issues of our time, I find a bit of hope in an idea championed by the philosopher John Rawls. He had a simple and appealing suggestion for shifting people’s preferences in the direction of the common good.

Rawls proposed that anyone deliberating about public matters start from behind a “veil of ignorance.” In this position, legislators and other public actors are unaware of their place in society. They don’t know their level of wealth, their race, religion, social status, or sexual orientation. As a result, they don’t know how proposed policy choices would affect them.

Instantly, the veil drives decision-makers toward positions favoring the common good, mutual benefit, and equal opportunity. Behind the veil, what’s best for oneself is what’s good for all. Rawl’s suggestion is like parental guidance to kids salivating over a freshly baked pie: “One cuts, the other chooses.” Suddenly both kids’ interests align.

The challenge is to operationalize the veil of ignorance in policymaking. We can’t climb into the minds of legislators and erase their identity and interests. But we can use an indirect strategy: revive the ancient practice of sortition.

Donning the Veil

Sortition is the process of choosing our governing class by lottery rather than election. In a sortition system, all eligible citizens have essentially an equal chance of serving in a governing capacity because they are chosen by lot. The idea is unorthodox, to be sure, but it’s not crazy: Most U.S. jurisdictions use lotteries to choose juries. Average citizens seem to perform competently in judging their fellow citizens in criminal matters.

Moreover, sortition is arguably the most democratic form of governance. David van Reybrouck, author of Against Elections: The Case for Democracy, quotes no less an authority than Aristotle to make the case. “The appointment of magistrates by lot is democratical, and the election of them oligarchical,” Aristotle wrote. Van Reybrouck agrees. He writes that the choice of election-based democracy in the past few hundred years was a deliberately anti-democratic move engineered by elites. By designing governing structures to serve the interests of the economically powerful (like white, male property-owners in the early USA), electoral systems served as a buffer between the majority of people and the policymaking process.

picture of a gray stone block with slots in it

A kleroterion, used for random selection of officials and jurors in Athens (Museum of the Ancient Agora, Wikimedia)

The government of ancient Athens was populated nearly entirely by citizens chosen through sortition. A stone device called a kleroterian was used to choose citizens for service. Chosen citizens served in one of the four main organs of governance: the Council of 500, which prepared the governing agenda; the People’s Assembly, a 6000-person body that adopted policies; the People’s Court, another 6000 or so people who pronounced judgment at trials and assessed the legality of laws; and the Magistracies, 600 or so people chosen by lot plus 100 elected by the People’s Assembly, which administered decisions.

Given the large number of positions across Athens’ governing institutions, the odds of eventually serving in office were high. Van Reybouck estimates that 50 to 70 percent of Athenian males over the age of 30 had once sat on the Council of 500. High levels of participation (at least among non-enslaved males) created a strong civic culture among citizens that reduced dramatically the distance between policies made and people affected. Athenians knew what it meant “to govern and to be governed,” in the words of Aristotle.

Another key feature of Athens’ citizen-governors is that they rotated through governance positions, many serving in all four of the major governing institutions. Rotations could be short. An extreme example is the People’s Court, whose membership changed daily, with lots drawn each morning among those present. Frequent change of officeholders reduces the potential for a concentration of special interests.

Sortition Rising?

Today, governance by lottery is rare, and is more likely to advise policymakers than to produce legislation. But sortition is having a moment, and arguably a real impact on policy, even on major issues like the climate crisis, environmental degradation, and yes, economic growth.

Ireland offers an inspiring case. In 2012 the national government began a process of convening citizens’ assemblies to discuss national policies and amendments to Ireland’s constitution. Since then, the government has called several other assemblies. Analysts credit each assembly with driving changes in policy on matters of consequence including marriage equality and voting rights.

The 2022 citizens’ assembly, focused on biodiversity, was highly representative. It opened eligibility to any adult resident of Ireland, not just citizens. And in contrast to the first assembly in 2012 when a third of participants were selected by political parties, all participants in the 2022 biodiversity assembly were randomly selected individuals.

Here’s how the selection process worked. Organizers sent invitations to 20,000 randomly selected households asking them to consider becoming an assembly member. More than ten percent of the 20,000 households expressed a desire to participate, a rate higher than the 3–5 percent typical of citizens’ assemblies internationally. From these, organizers applied demographic criteria to a random sorting process to arrive at the 100 assembly members.

Three maps of Ireland, side-by-side, showing the the geography of invitations, applications, and membership of citizen's assemblies in Ireland.

Mapping the recruitment process for citizen’s assemblies in Ireland.

The 2022 biodiversity assembly made 73 high-level recommendations and 86 sector-specific recommendations, publishing the vote totals for each. It recommended that constitutional amendments granting citizens the right to “a clean, healthy, safe environment” and to “a stable and healthy climate” be placed before the people of Ireland as a referendum.

Perhaps most startling was this remarkable recommendation: “State should advocate for a shift in emphasis in EU and international economic policy away from GDP expansion as a goal in itself and towards the goals of societal and ecological wellbeing” (emphasis added).

There it is: the kind of visionary policy seldom seen in parliaments, congresses, or other elected bodies. This bold and far-reaching recommendation emerged organically after just nine months of deliberation among ordinary citizens. The ball is in the government’s court to follow up.

The outcomes of the Irish citizen assemblies suggest that people free to speak for themselves and deliberate with compatriots embrace ideas that otherwise don’t get a hearing in modern representative democracies. And they seem to settle on common-sense recommendations.

This is partly because assembly designers structured the groups to preclude special interests from influencing the deliberations. Organizers made public all submissions used in the assembly process (typically expert presentations), and they live-streamed sessions to the public. Moreover, assembly members would not face voters in a future election, allowing them to focus on the issues at hand.

Climate Policy by Chance

Beyond Ireland, citizen assemblies have weighed in on climate policy. A 2023 study compared recommendations of citizen assemblies to commitments found in the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) of ten European countries and the European Union as a whole). The researchers focused on the prevalence of “sufficiency proposals” in the citizen assemblies and NECPs of each of the eleven jurisdictions.


Could sortition deliver a right to repair? (Kumpan Electric,Unsplash)

Sufficiency proposals are regulations and incentives that aim for absolute reductions in consumption and production through behavioral changes (rather than technological ones). Examples include policies to reduce living space per person, curb meat consumption, ban environmentally damaging goods, and reduce materials demand by increasing the repairability of goods and discouraging the use of disposable products. Because sufficiency proposals do not embrace notions of green growth, they are likely to be consistent with steady state economies.

Citizen assemblies recommended sufficiency measures at a much higher rate than NECPs did, 39 percent to 8 percent. Moreover, assembly members voted in favor of sufficiency measures by majorities of at least 90 percent. And the citizen assemblies bore policy fruit. Remember the 2023 decision to ban short flights in France? That came about after a citizens’ assembly recommended it.

Other citizen assemblies in France and the UK have focused on climate recommendations, and on the reforms to the food system. And the assembly idea recently went global, at the COP26 climate conference in 2021. Participants for the Global Assembly’s core group were chosen from randomly selected population centers, with proportional representation by region.

They spent 11 weeks in late 2021 deliberating the question, “How can humanity address the climate and ecological crisis in a fair and effective way?” The assembly produced a Global Declaration, which avowed that “Nature has intrinsic values and rights” and called for legally binding measures to protect nature from “ecocide.” The group’s vision is to make the Assembly an annual gathering, with ten million participants by 2030.

The Fine Print

No modern democracy has handed over national-level governing functions to randomly selected citizens as the Athenians did. It is fair to question whether average citizens are up to the challenge of making highly technical policy and legislative judgments. But the Irish and other European cases offer encouragement that sortition can, at a minimum, provide sound guidance on issues of national interest. And it provides elected politicians with political cover for issues they consider too sensitive to handle, like marriage equality, sufficiency measures, and even growth.

In any case, societies could adapt and test sortition at progressively greater levels of responsibility. Sortition proponents identify at least eight potential contributions that sortition can make to the political process, including providing advice, as in the European cases. Governments could also use the tool to create watchdog groups that provide ethical oversight of the legislative process. Or they might apply the watchdog function to the executive branch to ensure that bureaucratic rules are faithful to the original intent of legislation.

image of a brown lottery ticket from 1776

An early lottery ticket. What if the prize were a seat in Congress? (Ephemeral Society of America)

We might imagine other ways to deploy the power of random chance to better reflect the popular will. For example, it might help to build common ground among legislators. Suppose all conservative legislators were required to spend a three-month internship at a soup kitchen or social service agency. And imagine progressives interning in a small business. A lottery system could determine assignments. Wouldn’t legislators emerge with a more broadly shared knowledge base for discussion and debate during their terms?

Or suppose positions of power were rotated among leaders. This could be similar to the rotation of the presidency of the Council of the European Union, but with a twist of randomness. Imagine the UN Security Council being enlarged to 15 members from the current five, with members chosen by lot every few years.  Would broader representation yield more decisive resolutions on the mega-crises of our day?

Seeking the Greater Good

The notion that chance could be a constructive addition to governance architecture may seem far-fetched. But a former state senator from California, Loni Hancock, once captured sortition’s inherent appeal. “The idea of a lottery is at first thought absurd, and at second thought obvious.” Sortition seems to tickle the same ethical muscle as Mom’s “one cuts, the other chooses” ruling. It also evokes the “Do unto others” guidance broadly embraced by the world’s major faiths. Something in humans recognizes and longs for basic fairness.

To be sure, creating the veil of ignorance through sortition requires extensive thought and testing. But the experience with sortition in Europe to date is enticing. Sortition can deliver sound advice to elected officials. It might also go further and yield a truly representative set of legislators, an end to the influence of special interests in lawmaker selection, and an expanded space for expression of the common good. All of which could jumpstart action on the megacrises of our time.

How about it: Shall we leave the establishment of a steady state economy to the pro-growth “representative” democracies?  Or should we sort it out ourselves?

Gary Gardner is CASSE’s Managing Editor.

The post Sortition for a Steady State Economy? appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

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