Author Archives: Brendan Ogle

Brendan Ogle

This will be the last post I will put up until the referendum is over. At least. This referendum has been difficult for many people, indeed for the country as a whole, but it has been necessary. I will be voting YES!

Everything about this debate is difficult. Firstly, in Catholic conservative Ireland the role and influence of conservative church thinking on the very DNA of the state and its people cannot ever be under-estimated. It permeates everything. It makes this a particularly difficult nation among European nations to discuss this issue.

Secondly the language of the debate is corrupted from the outset. The ‘Pro-Life’ moniker assumes the other side must be ‘anti-life’ even while key advocates of the ‘pro-life’ doctrine itself are responsible for many deaths of women and children, not to mention their abuse and enslavement.

On the other side the ‘pro-choice’ label presumes those on the other side are inherently disrespectful of women’s choices, even though many on the ‘pro-life’ side are women themselves. The labels teach us nothing. They are about spin – often even abuse and accusation – but not substance.

People are Pro-life

I have never met anyone who is anti-life. This is my starting point in considering this issue. I want to see as few abortions as possible. And I believe everybody I have discussed this issue with feels the same. The question isn’t should we have as few abortions as possible, the question is how? And the evidence is that the 8th Amendment has utterly failed in this regard. So what works?

Early in the campaign I wrote an article for Unite which showed how, in Europe, the nations with the most liberal abortion laws have the fewest abortions. In the Netherlands abortion is an actual right yet the country has one of the lowest abortion rates anywhere with 8.6 abortions per 1000 pregnancies.

In Switzerland the law was changed by referendum in 2002 to allow abortion on request in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This new law resulted in less abortions with just 6.8 abortions per 1000 pregnancies. Belgium and Germany have liberal abortion laws and similar statistics.

To put those figures in context the United Kingdom, which has a less liberal abortion regime, has 17.5 abortions per 1000 pregnancies and the annual average worldwide rate is 28 per 1000 pregnancies.

How can this be explained?

Well in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany the combination of enlightened and timely sex education, the free availability of contraception and a health system based on women’s healthcare – rather than church doctrine – reduces abortion rates.

Finally on this point the notion that a No vote will stop abortions and ‘keep them out of Ireland’ is one of the greatest examples of a ‘head in the sand’ attitude it is possible to have.

Abortions are happening. In every county, town, street and community. You know someone who has had an abortion. Surely an enlightened approach that cared for those women and offered real and genuine support has a greater chance of limiting the number taking place? That’s what happens elsewhere in Europe.

People are Pro-Choice

It is a very rare person indeed that wants to deny a couple whose baby cannot survive outside the womb the choice of dealing with that tragedy in Ireland. It is a very rare person indeed who wants to force those people to go to England or elsewhere, and have the remains of their non viable child posted home in a jiffy bag.

Those people do exist but I cannot accept they are anything other than hardcore fundamentalists devoid of human caring. The vast majority want Irish people not to be put through that. If you are one of them only a yes vote will give such parents the choices they are entitled to.

I respect every woman’s choice faced with a crisis pregnancy. I have never had an abortion, clearly, or being involved in such a decision. But as the father of two daughters who knows what lies ahead?

I would not want to, or be allowed to, impose my view of abortion on my own daughters if they ever faced a crisis pregnancy. And, whatever decisions they would make, I would support them. If that is my role, and the limit of my role, within my own family how much less right have I to deny such choices to any other women?

What is it about us Irish that so many of us think we not only have rights to make decisions for ourselves and sometimes with those close to us, but that we can make them for people who we have no connection with whatsoever?

What any woman does when faced with a crisis pregnancy is none of my business. And on Friday I will vote to make it none of my business. That means voting YES!

Constitution Vs Legislation

A lot of people are saying that ‘We can’t trust politicians on this matter’ – OK, I don’t trust politicians either, that’s why I want to change them. But at least they are our politicians and we can aspire to change them. But at the moment, because of the 8th, it is politicians in Britain and countries like the Netherlands that we are ‘trusting’ to provide for Irish women in crisis.

That is wrong.

Our Constitution is a profoundly catholic document approved by the Vatican and dating back to 1937. It was brought about by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid and Eamon De Valera among others and it was a document that declared the victory of the conservative 1922 counter-revolution over the 1916 egalitarian vision of Connolly and the signatories to the proclamation.

The 1937 Constitution effectively emboldened a church controlled state that abused, imprisoned, enslaved, sold, murdered and buried countless women and babies in a state of shame.

It is not the place for modern healthcare for women and babies. Women have been treated appallingly in this nation since it’s inception. Right up to the current day. McQuaid and De Valera did not trust women. Or value women.

On Friday I will go to the polling station as a 50 year old citizen of a more hopeful nation thinking not of the abusers of the past, but of the hopes and dreams for a brighter more humane nation.

As I do so I will think back to Sheila Hodgers, Amy Walsh who has been a heroine in this campaign, Savita who would be alive now if abortion was permitted before she developed sepsis, and to women like Michelle Harte who died and others who may have cancer right now but whose treatment is being put on hold because they are pregnant.

I will think of them, maybe shed a tear for them, and vote that no such abuse ever happens to either of my daughters, or to any other Irish woman, ever again.

Vote Yes Repeal.

Brendan Ogle is writing here in a personal capacity.

Brendan Ogle (Facebook)

From top: Taoiseach  Leo Varadkar with Josepha Madigan, who will run the government’s Yes campaign for the forthcoming referndum on The Eighth Amendment; Brendan Ogle

In a TV debate with Joan Burton recently, the former leader of the Irish Labour Party made a point that is of interest in terms of how politics is conducted in Ireland, and elsewhere, today.

The debate was about the direction of Irish politics and where a real alternative to address inequality and deprivation might emerge from. But that is for another day. For now, what interests me about this particular debate is something Ms Burton said towards the end of it.

I had set out some of the issues that I think need to be addressed to build an alternative. I had also set out my view of the way in which Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments, throughout our history as an independent state, have looked after the few at the expense of the many.

While agreeing on the importance of the issues I set out, Ms. Burton bemoaned the fact that I thought the Labour Party could not deliver this alternative.

In fact she, quite legitimately, listed a range of social reforms that the Labour Party have supported going back decades.

She spoke about divorce, contraception, the equality referendum and even Repeal, and held them up as issues that the Labour Party have gotten behind as evidence of that party’s worth and usefulness. It would be churlish to debate the extent to which this one party played a role in these changes.

That would be a largely subjective analysis anyway. Whatever about that, I readily acknowledge that these issues hold within them evidence of real progress on what I call ‘social’ issues. Changes in these areas, and public support for those changes, is social liberalism in action.

Just how significant progress on these issues is was demonstrated to me at a recent event in Ballymun in which I participated.

This was a ‘cross community’ event with representatives of communities in Dublin and of Northern Ireland’s unionist community.

It was striking to note how the new right to gay marriage here, and even having a referendum on repeal of the 8th Amendment, is very far ahead of any similar legislative or constitutional changes in the North around LBGTQ rights, abortion rights and a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.

Yes, despite decades of often repressive and even abusive social conservatism here, we are indeed moving forward and seeing real progress in some of these areas and potential progress in others. This is positive stuff.

But what about change in our economic direction? It is clear that changes in the area of personal rights like these are absolutely no indicator of fundamental change in how society is structured economically, and in whose interests it is so structured.

In that respect, not only are we not making progress, but we are going backwards at considerable speed. While socialism liberalism has seen slow but steady progress over the last number of decades here, economic conservatism ‘rules OK’!

You don’t really need a very scientific analysis to prove this.

So clear is the growing divide between those that have, and those who can only dream, that a very short trip down memory lane is all that is needed to emphasise the point.

In 1992, when I first threw a mailbag into a train carriage on Platform 2 in Dundalk Station, the Dublin porter who caught it recognised a new face on staff and uttered the now almost implausible words:

‘Well done, you have just got yourself a good stable pensionable job.’

Now, we’ll leave aside any assessment of the CIE pension scheme and how ‘good’ it is, or otherwise, to make a wider point. How many of our young people are now getting good, stable, pensionable jobs?

The next time Richard Bruton and his spin machine make an appearance telling you about all the jobs we now have, just remember that we need them all, and more, because for the first time I can remember we actually have people working three and four jobs who still can’t pay their bills.

I am old enough to remember something called ‘a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’. Economic conservatism has destroyed that quaint notion for most. And that isn’t all it has destroyed.

Healthcare? We had a hospital in Dundalk then too. A busy one, that you got into if you were sick, and waiting on a trolley for a bed was just unheard of. Oh yes readers, before the current phase of economic conservatism commodified everything including our health, we had a public health system that almost worked!

We had roofs over their heads too, all of us. Public and private housing was ample and affordable, and homeless children were just not an issue. Hotels had tourists in them back then, not families with nowhere else to go, ‘living’ four to a room.

Do you want a measure of how economically conservative we now are as a nation? If we want our children to have a steady job, a home, healthcare when they are sick, and a pension when they retire, we are now considered radicals.

Expecting the most basic and rudimentary needs to be met, and even expecting rights – decent work, healthcare and a roof over our heads – is now considered unreasonable and radical, luxuries unobtainable and unaffordable for vast chunks of our population who are not viewed as having any right to expect them.

It is, in fact, the absence of these basics that is now considered normal, even acceptable and to be expected.

That is the triumph of economic conservatism.

So back to Joan Burton? Maybe. But not just her or Irish Labour. No, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are up to their necks in this.

Consider our Taoiseach. He is a gay man who put himself at the centre of the ‘Yes Equality’ debate by strategically declaring his sexuality on the airwaves and campaigning vigorously and openly for a ‘Yes’ vote in that referendum. Good for him. He is socially liberal. And he is now espousing a strong ‘Yes Repeal’ position on the abortion issue.

I agree while him fully on that too. I am socially liberal, always have been, and I think that people should be able to live their lives as they see fit. They should be able to make choices about their bodies, adults should be free and able to express their sexuality as they see fit provided it is legal, to separate and divorce in a breakdown situation, remarry if they choose – as I have myself – and basically make personal choices about how they live their lives.

These choices should be freed from the judgements of others, and not imposed upon by a religious doctrine that they may not agree with through the law or constitution. I am glad that I now live in a country where our Taoiseach shares my view on these issues.

But none of these issues challenge the economic doctrine of neoliberalism one iota.

None of them require Ireland to stop being a sordid little tax haven, or to tax wealth and capital at something like, eh, maybe the European average?

None of them require us to establish a single-tier health system based on the health needs of our citizens, not the profit-driven needs of private shareholders.

None of them require us to abolish effective zero-hour contracts in the workplace and strengthen our labour and union laws, or address the gender pay gap.

None of them require us to engage in a massive programme of public housing construction, the only possible solution to our current housing emergency.

None of them require us to put the needs of our own sustainable small and medium business sectors above the suffocating and unsustainable demands of multi-national speculative capital.

None of them require us to close the gap between the rich and the poor by one Euro.

Socially liberal economic conservatives don’t really care what you do in your private life, you see, and they will often support your right to equality on social issues because they can.

Because it doesn’t challenge their far-right neoliberal hegemony. It doesn’t challenge or threaten a model of economic structuring of society that daily delivers the most obscene economic inequality since slavery, that turns basic needs into pipe dreams or luxuries, and that actually has people dying on our streets for the want of a roof over their head.

Socially liberal economic conservatives may agree with your rights on social issues, but if every economic policy they espouse and impose results in keeping you relatively poor, and further embeds an already unsustainable wealth divide that is leading to social breakdown, whose side do you really think they are on?

Brendan Ogle is a Right2Water Co-Ordinator, Unite’s Political, Education and Community co-ordinator. and blogs every Thursday here

Top pic: Rollingnews

From top: Simon Coveney and Boris Johnson in Brexit talks last November: Brendan Ogle

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

My reluctance does not stem from any lack of interest in the matter, still less from any lack of appreciation of the massive ramifications of current Brexit ‘negotiations’. No. My reluctance here stems from two things.

One is the sheer breadth of the issues and conversations that need to not only happen, but to manifest themselves in a whole series of trade agreements, customs arrangements and treaties. And the second is that, in having that discussion, it is necessary to do so in a way which may seem critical of the parties involved for, to date, the ‘debate’ at a political level has been somewhat surreal.

Let’s begin today by looking at the main positions of the protagonists so far.

They appear to be, in no particular order, the European Union, the Government of Britain and Northern Ireland, the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, and the government in the Republic of Ireland.

The reality however is that this issue will have lasting and profound effects on the people, the citizens, of Ireland, Britain and the European Union. So how well are those people being served in the process to date?

The European Union

I well remember the night of the Brexit count. A knife edge vote that swung this way, then that, and resulted in a very tight, but profound, outcome – Britain had decided to leave the European Union.

The relationship between the European Union and Britain had always been fraught, and not just from Britain’s side either. Many now forget that Britain’s initial applications to join the then European Economic Community (EEC) in 1963 and 1967 were vetoed by France.

Charles De Gaulle explained this by suggesting that the British economy was ‘incompatible with Europe’, and that he suspected that Britain retained a deep seated hostility to the pan-European project.

It was Edward Heath’s Conservative Government that ultimately brought Britain into the project in 1972. An uneasy ‘union’ was born. When Britain voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016, it was but the latest of many trysts that country had had with the notion.

In fact, there has hardly been an election in over 40 years there where Europe wasn’t a massively controversial issue. There had even been a previous referendum that voted to ‘Remain’ in 1975, and of course Britain also refused to join the single currency project.

But whether the European Union likes it or not, the massive continent-wide support for a peaceful alliance of nations creating a social project of mutual benefit to citizens is simply not translating into widespread public support for what is now a militarised economic union pursuing aggressive policies of neoliberalism, and behaving in an increasingly anti-democratic manner.

One would have hoped that, in addition to the understandable frustration at EU level with the downright dishonesty that characterised the Brexiteers’ campaigning, the EU would have found this a moment for necessary critical self-analysis too.

For is there not widespread public concern across much of Europe with the current direction of travel? For example, are people not tiring of an elected European Parliament being routinely ignored by an unelected Commission?

Is the EU not increasingly looking like economic imperialism where banks have simply replaced tanks?

And does the 2008 economic catastrophe and the resultant bullying by the EU of Greece, Cyprus and – whisper it – Ireland not sound some type of alarm about whether a ‘one size fits all’ economic model is not just being used as a big stick to punish smaller, less, powerful, nations?

Put bluntly, is the EU currently developing a deeper union-wide democracy, or eroding it? An EU analysis of these questions and suitable reforms that go beyond ‘brit-bashing’ is surely required as even a minimal response to Brexit.

Britain Votes to Leave

Notwithstanding my criticisms of the European Union, the fact is that Britain did not vote to leave it in order to swing back towards socialism, or an alternative to neoliberalism. On the contrary, much of the ‘leave’ campaign was constructed by the far right using nationalism and race hate as electoral battering rams.

Brexiteers like Bill Cash, who campaigned within the Tory party for a referendum for years and who ensnared a gullible David Cameron into conceding one, are overtly on the ‘far right’ of even neoliberal Europe. They sit on their seats, and in their estates of privilege, knowing that they are well-protected from the economic effects of their jingoistic ravings.

That massive sections of what used to be the working (as in, they used to have jobs and industry to work in) class fell for blunt empty nationalism is a sadly predictable consequence of the hollowing-out of industrial Britain, not only by Thatcher, but by her successor Tony Blair and his ‘New Labour’.

Unfortunately almost two years on, while the EU finger wags furiously, the debate in Britain continues to be conducted in these terms. Just listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg – if you can bear to.

With a Prime Minister now utterly lacking in authority, and a riven Tory party steering the ship of state headlong into a glacier, one can only hope that Labour get into power soon and that their recent sensible positioning regarding the required customs union is a portent that sense may yet prevail.

Here’s an interesting thought. Do you suspect that even Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney now wish to see Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street?

I do.

Northern Ireland

While all this goes on, reports suggest that it is the people of Northern Ireland who will suffer economically more than any others post-Brexit. These reports make no differentiation between Orange and Green. They do not differentiate between those who support marriage equality and those who don’t, or those who want an Irish language act and those who don’t.

And the economic effects of Brexit on the people of Northern Ireland will not differentiate between those who admire Arlene Foster, or those who think she has serious ethical questions to answer about the Renewable Heat Incentive overspend.

The DUP have overplayed their hand. Theresa May cannot deliver an open border in Ireland without a customs union, and the EU cannot agree to one without the other. To suggest otherwise is to conduct the debate in an atmosphere of unreality.

What is more, it is an unreality that everyone is aware of yet is playing along with anyway. And, if the DUP’s ‘real’ position turns out to be that they could well live with a ‘hard’ border despite their protestations to the contrary, that must be seen in the context of Sinn Féin having viewed Brexit in the exact opposite way. Since the day of the vote, they have viewed Brexit as a sort of ‘trojan horse’ for a border poll as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement.

The DUP and SF have so far not managed to work together, even on Brexit alone, in the common interests of the citizens in Northern Ireland as a whole. Such a political consensus has never been more necessary, and it is to be hoped for everyone’s sake in the coming months that it is not as remote as it seems.

Republic of Ireland government

Things are not as good as certain sources would have us believe in the Republic either. To begin with, what was presented as an ‘agreement’ on the Irish aspect in phase one is nothing of the sort. In addition, I can’t get my head around a conundrum which has been on my mind for almost two years now.

What is going to happen if (I think it may be a ‘when’) what emerges is as follows – we either have border-free, tariff-free trade with the EU, or, we have border-free, tariff-free trade with Britain?

But we can’t have both.

What happens when the fantasy notion that everyone in this mess can have everything they want, simultaneously with their neighbours having the exact opposite, dissolves in the smoke and mirrors that it is? We in the South have not had a single discussion that I have heard about that potential outcome.

We haven’t even positioned ourselves between both sides as we ought to have, instead lining up with the EU in a partisan manner which may yet come back to haunt is. After all, if the hard border we are determined to avoid happens anyway, it will be on this island that it will happen.

And, when it comes to installing it and protecting the needs of the EU big guns, don’t be surprised if – just like after the crash of 08 and the austerity that followed – it is the EU which is again punishing us to save the overall project.

Brendan Ogle is a Right2Water Co-Ordinator, Unite’s Political, Education and Community co-ordinator. and blogs every Thursday here

From top: Bertie Ahern in 2008; Project Ireland 2040 launch at the Institute of Technology, Sligo last month; Brendan Ogle

Brendan Ogle writes:

I’m going to say something good about the Irish media here, so note the time and date because it doesn’t happen often.

Insofar as the media has a propensity to become a participant in political affairs here, as opposed to simply reporting and commentating on them, recent developments around the government’s Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) give cause for even more concern than usual.

But it also has to be said that the assiduous work in exposing the manipulation of media for political advantage by some journalists warrants acknowledgment and gratitude from those of us who worry constantly about the state of media in Ireland.

In particular, the work of Hugh O’Connell in, and of, the Sunday Business Post has been really important for the democratic process in recent weeks. Others such as the Sunday Time’s Justine McCarthy and Ellen Coyne, of The Times Ireland edition, also deserve special mention.

Before looking at the SDU and how your taxes are being used by the Taoiseach and Fine Gael to advance the cause of the Taoiseach and Fine Gael, it is important to look at this issue in a wider context.

Listening to the leader of Fianna Fáil in the past week one could be mistaken for believing that the use of the media by those running the country to further their own ends began last summer, and that he and his party had no ‘form’ in this regard. But we know otherwise.

A TV3 documentary ‘Print And Be Damned’ aired in 2013 and in it Anne Harris, formerly of The Sunday Independent, shed light on the disgraceful run up to the 2007 general election.

The events are also set out in an article by the Irish Examiner’s Michael Clifford aptly headed ‘Bertie And The Sindo : An Affront To Democracy’, and they provide an invaluable insight into the shocking and sordid behaviour of then Taoiseach, and head of Fianna Fáil, Bertie Ahern.

At the time Ahern was up to his neck trying to explain wads of cash up his chimney, massive wins on the horses, why a sitting Taoiseach didn’t have a bank account, and much else about his personal and party finances at the Mahon Tribunal.

Then one day he bumped into The Sunday Independent editor Aengus Fanning in the Shelbourne Hotel. It was April 2007, and after 5 years of government and personal scandal Ahern was running out of time, and rope.

There was much interest and speculation about exactly when the election would be but rather than just ask, Fanning took a less direct route with the sitting Taoiseach.

He advised Ahern that The Sunday Independent had a massive file on matters pertaining to Ahern and the Tribunal and that it was ‘explosive stuff’. Would the Taoiseach happen to have any stories that he might supply the paper with? They’d be particularly interested in the election date?

Ahern didn’t respond directly but a few weeks later, on a Saturday – print day for Sunday papers – he called the paper with some news. He was going to dissolve the government and trigger an election, he would be going to Aras an Uachtarain the following morning, but not ‘until after you’re off the press with the first edition’.

By this means the dissolution of the 29th Dáil was announced, unusually, on a Sunday, and it is said even many of Ahern’s cabinet colleagues didn’t know about it before the Sindo announced it. Ms Harris also confirmed that, thereafter, Ahern gave many stories exclusively to The Sunday Independent, something that became obvious to readers over time.

In that election Fianna Fáil managed to return to office thanks to a Green Party coalition. They did so despite the impending and unprecedented financial catastrophe that they had sown in previous years, and the frankly embarrassing revelations about the financial dealings of the Taoiseach that dominated the early part of the election campaign. No matter. Ahern was elected Taoiseach for a third time, much to the approval of The Sunday Independent.

Micheál Martin was a cabinet member (Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment) when this happened and I wondered again last week, did he as a Minister know the extent to which his party leader was manipulating the media for party advantage, or did he read about it over his cornflakes in the Sunday Independent?

So what has changed under Fine Gael?

Well we have a first-time Taoiseach, shiny and new and full of vim. I’m sure he has a bank account, I doubt he puts cash up a chimney, and if he has ever darkened a bookies I’d be a tad surprised.

But he sure as hell seems to share Fianna Fáil’s penchant for using the media for the advancement of himself, and his party. And in his case he is doing it by spending literally millions of Euro of taxpayer’s money telling those very taxpayers how great they all are.

We are being propagandised by government at our own expense.

The SDU was one of Leo Varadkar’s first initiatives on becoming Taoiseach, headed by PR guru John Concannon. The unit has 14 staff and an annual budget of €5m.

From the outset, a suspicious public have worried that the role of the unit is to use taxpayers’ money to ‘spin’ like hell in the interests of Fine Gael and Varadkar, as opposed to providing essential public information about government services in an efficient and cost-effective manner, its claimed role.

That claim now looks very shoddy given the furore created by the manner in which the government strategy plan ‘Ireland 2040’ has been communicated.

Leaving aside the massive reheating of policies and announcements long made and yet to be delivered in the plan, it turns out that newspapers countrywide were paid for ‘advertorials’ made to look like media news and commentary.

Some were even adorned with Fine Gael election candidates, grinning as only election candidates can grin, in key marginal constituencies. ‘Vote for me, look what I’m getting for you’ seemed to be the message. And all paid for by us, the taxpayer.

Varadkar has attempted to defend this by arguing unconvincingly that the unit operates at arms-length from government. He repeatedly states this.

This is unconvincing because, thanks to the Sunday Business Post persisting with questions about the unit, the Information Commissioner forced Varadkar’s Department to release documents that say the very opposite.

One such document, written by John Concannon himself, makes it clear that the effectiveness of the SCU:

‘will be dependent on regular structured access to senior government decision-makers and processes’.

So much for ‘arms-length’! Caught out, Varadkar has now ordered a review of the unit that, hopefully, will lead to its abolition.

Fine Gael have led government(s) here since 2011, despite the fact that in 2016 less than 1/5 of those entitled to vote for them did so. Over 80% of the electorate rejected the party of government.

And Bertie Ahern was elected Taoiseach three times, despite massive issues about his finances,  and cronyism, and following policies pursued throughout his tenure that utterly wrecked a nation. Yet Varadkar is Taoiseach and Ahern is said to have ambitions to be our President!

The media play a key role in these events and the extent to which, even in the digital age, traditional media shape public attitudes should not be underestimated. That media, by and large, is there to defend the vested interests of the rich and powerful. That is why it’s the rich and powerful that own and control it.

In that context the relationship that government – and our Taoiseach – has with the media, and how the communications we pay for are used, should always be distanced, professional and ethical.

When those relations result in media acting as puppets of government or a Taoiseach (whether it is paid or unpaid puppetry) it is, as the Examiner rightly called it in 2013 ‘An Affront To Democracy’.

The Strategic Communications Unit should be abolished.

Brendan Ogle is a Right2Water Co-Ordinator, Unite’s Political, Education and Community co-ordinator. and blogs every Thursday here

Pics: Rollingnews, Engineers Journal