Author Archives: Eamonn Kelly

From top: Propoganda for one of the Soviet Union’s Five Year Plans; Cabinet members at the Project Ireland 2040 launch at the Institute of Technology, Sligo last week

Eamonn Kelly writes:

The five-year plans of the Bolsheviks were partly designed to deflect criticism from the ruling party. Later Stalin finessed this by simply killing the critics.

To introduce a 20-year development plan as Fine Gael have done is partly genius, since many of the present critics of the party’s policies are likely to be either dead or in nursing homes by the time the 20 years rolls around and everyone is finally permitted to say, “Well, that didn’t work!”

The idea combines early Bolshevik thinking of using the long-term plan to deflect criticism, but by extending the term of the plan it also gives a nod to Stalin’s propensity for silencing criticism, but with a more civilized approach by arranging for the passage of great swaths of time itself to be the executioner of opposing voices.

I know it’s a bit strange to be lumping Fine Gael in with the Bolsheviks, especially given the taoiseach’s contempt for what he calls hard-left politics, but these are strange times and everything is not always as it seems.

Because what Varadkar’s Fine Gael and the Bolsheviks have in common is a propensity to engage in wide-ranging officially sanctioned deceits designed to mislead the public.

In the Bolshevik’s case this was done to ward off a counter-revolution, in the Fine Gael case it is being done simply to ward off criticism that might undermine their hold on power. In Russia it was called censorship, in Fine Gael it’s called “controlling negative narratives”.

The thinking behind all this may be sincere. Perhaps the taoiseach genuinely believes that he is tackling head-on the native Irish propensity for negative thinking by trying to push through more positive thinking models, marrying positive thinking with economics, like they do in the US.

But you have only to look at the US to know that while positive thinking economics might be good for certain sectors of the economy, the top 1% for instance, it tends not to be so great or positive for blue-collar workers, most while collars workers, the poor, the destitute and everybody else really who isn’t either a tech billionaire or a movie star.

But whatever the degree of the taoiseach’s sincerity on the subject of positive thinking as a generator of economic recovery, the fact remains that, like the Bolsheviks, Fine Gael are investing public money in a team to control the news and the perception of the government, in order to hold onto power. And like the Bolsheviks are using the concept of a long-term economic plan to deflect criticism.

Varadkar has also to date targeted a minority social group for scapegoat treatment through the welfare cheats campaign, which he personally led, voluntarily making himself the official face of intolerance of the poor in direct contravention of an EU directive which his party have failed to implement: namely, to add discrimination on grounds of socio-economic status as a protection during austerity.

But if this right were implemented, the smirking minister with the welfare cheats sign would be on the wrong side of the law, as would the entire JobPath employment activation programme, which is predicated precisely on discrimination against those on welfare, or the poor, or those of low socio-economic status; something the then minister for social protection, now taoiseach, was fully aware of when he set out to pit low-paid worker against the unemployed, by scapegoating the latter as the cause of high taxation.

The number of artists who were also transferred into the JobPath system could also be viewed as a direct attack on the imagination of the culture, the system essentially degrading artists into a pool of menial labour from which two private companies hoped to profit.

This is not quite the gulags of the Soviet Union, but the results in silencing oppositional viewpoints are very similar, and much easier to defend, since the economic argument can always be raised as a justification for silencing art in the name of recovery.

What joins Fine Gael and the Bolsheviks is naked political power and the willingness to bend laws or neglect their implementation to retain power. The use of the long-term economic plan seals the similarity, despite the politics being, on the face of it, on the opposite sides of the spectrum.

There is little difference between Varadkar’s PR team running paid “advertorials” in the national press in order to combat what it terms “negative narratives”, and the Bolshevik’s all-encompassing control of the news in the soviet states, except in terms of degree.

Both are ultimately concerned with silencing opposition, and both justify repressive actions on the grounds of economic progress.

While Fine Gael’s form of control is not bare-faced censorship, they are quite open about their intention to silence dissent as being merely “negative”, and government control of the main organs of news creates a form of censorship by omission, with the concept of “advertorials” now merely adding to the flavour of a government-controlled Tass-like Agency in our midst.

The Fine Gael party’s secret weapons are “progressive” Varadkar as their public face, and the “religion” of positive thinking, which they hope will be enough to appeal to a majority of the electorate, enough to consolidate their grip on power. The twenty-year plan is perhaps a direct appeal to millennials.

But the wild introduction of that 20-year plan also seems to suggest that Fine Gael are not at all confident of success in the next election, where arguably all their focus truly lays, despite all the bumph of 2040. In other words, Fine Gael appear to be privately entertaining a few negative narratives of their own.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer

Leo Varadkar at a recital of Christmas carols by Department of the Taoiseach’s staff choir this afternoon

Eamonn Kelly, responding to comments from his post on homelessness on Friday (What Shall We Freeze?), writes:

I can see the role of supply and demand in the whole homeless crisis, as some of the comments have pointed out, but I find it a bit tragic that we appear to be so helpless against market forces. I don’t think we are. I think the government chooses to believe we are helpless and uses this impression as an excuse to do nothing.

They don’t do anything about imposing some kind of rent freeze. They don’t do anything about building social housing. They throw us all on the mercy of the market, standing over a system that is seeing Irish people dying on the streets of Dublin. And they are doing nothing to prevent this.

If there was a will to prevent or deal with homelessness there would be no homelessness, but there is no will. And that was most apparent at the dismal turnout for the Dail debate on the issue. No ideas are put forward.

For instance, off the top of my head, as some kind of recompense for providing tax avoidance loop holes for multi-national companies, you could factor in a deal that they build social housing or worker housing, like industrialists did in the 19th century.

Something like this could be done if solving homelessness was a priority at political level.

But it’s not just the government to blame for this neglect. It is, apparently, the majority of Irish people supporting these policies with their silence.

It seems that a consensus has  been quietly arrived at that we can afford to “lose a few” in pursuit of economic recovery. And besides, the new Taoiseach is kind of trendy looking. That’s progress too, in a way.

And the media too, in a wrong-headed approach to increasing economic confidence they are exaggerating the recovery. That 10.5% I mentioned in the original article, as trumpeted by the Irish Times, had become, by the RTE News at 9, “just under 12%”.

The effect of these exaggerations, as one commentator pointed out, is to attract emigrants back into a system that literally can’t accommodate them, returning due to a falsely raised hope of a recovery more advanced than it actually is, piling even more pressure onto the creaking system.

Lots of people are doing really well from the upsurge in private rents. It’s not just anonymous international vulture capitalists driving this. It’s “ordinary” Irish people too.

It’s so cruel and heartless, and justified in the main on prejudicial thinking, that sometimes it crosses your mind that the entrenched Irish establishment is made up mainly of those who survived the famine.

When I framed the question in the title of the original piece, What Shall We Freeze? I didn’t have a ready answer. I was being a bit cute. But an answer came to me hours later. What shall we freeze? Our hearts. We must freeze our hearts for the sake of the economy’s health. It’s the only way forward.

Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all. May you never have to make your bed out in the cold.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer

Previously: What Shall We Freeze?

Earlier: Not Just For Christmas

It has been said before that there is a kind of denial of class division in Ireland. But everyone knows that there is a class system, a lower and upper and so on, though the insistence appears to be that there are mainly “normal people like us”, who are annoyed for the most part by “skangers”, “scumbags”, “posh fuckers” and the “super rich”.

The socially unfortunate are explained away by seizing on a kind of Catholic throwback understanding, part karma and part divine retribution, which amounts to the judgment that they “brought it on themselves” by, usually, “not working hard enough”.

The new homeless fall into this category, a kind of secular damned, suffering the torments brought about by original economic sin of borrowing too much, and, presumably, “not working hard enough.”

The various prejudices that hold the whole thing together are supplemented by selective readings of the news. Stats are particularly good for propping up the illusion that everything is hunky dory. Just don’t contrast stories from different ends of the spectrum or they’re likely to ignite and blow up in your face.

Take today for instance, December 15th 2017.

The Irish Times had a story reporting over 10% growth in GDP, with the strong pick-up due to “personal consumption”. If you want to support the system, Leo’s Ireland, and pat yourself on the back for being of optimistic outlook, you’ll seize on that reported 10.5% growth figure and think no more about it.

But if you read down through the article you’ll find that the figure isn’t as solid as it might first appear to be, due to difficulties in acquiring accurate measurements of GDP. By the end of the article the true figure for GDP growth is somewhere between 6.5% and 10%, maybe.

Goodbody analyst Dermot O’Leary is quoted as saying:

“the headline GDP growth estimate of 10.5 per cent year on year is not a realistic gauge of the pace of growth in Ireland in Q3 2017…”

That the article leads with the headline “Irish economy surges to double-digit growth,” is a fair indication that the Irish Times believes that this is what we should believe. But the headline is an inaccurate exaggeration of the true story, almost tabloidy, so, proving that in mean times even the formerly urbane may become a little calloused.

Meanwhile, over in RTÉ, Fr Peter McVerry was also quoting figures to Cathal MacCoille on Morning Ireland, the dialogue reported in Broadsheet. Fr McVerry was calling for a rent freeze, describing the current housing crisis as “beyond crisis”. He warned that within months all available hotel accommodation would be used up.

He said:

“In January this year, there were 410 families in emergency accommodation. In July, there were 659 families in emergency accommodation. The numbers are just going up and up and up. And I would describe the situation,

it’s like a boat that’s drifting, it’s drifting towards the rocks and there doesn’t seem to be any engine that’s trying to drift it away from the rocks and there doesn’t seem to be anybody in charge. The problem is just getting worse and I see no measures being taken to try and address that problem in the short term.”

Fr McVerry added:

“The primary cause now of homelessness, of 90% of the new people becoming homeless is the private, rental sector. Their rents have gone through the roof. People can no longer afford them…”

Wait! Didn’t the other article in the Irish Times say that the GDP was up due mainly to personal consumption? From the times article:

“The latest quarterly national accounts show gross domestic product (GDP) accelerated by 4.2 per cent in the third quarter alone amid a pick-up in personal consumption…”

Hmm… Could these stories be connected?

Fr McVerry said that he and others have been calling for rent freezes for over a year now, but these calls have been ignored, and while rents have increased dramatically, rent supplement from the department of social protection has decreased.

He said:

“The rents, nationwide, in the last three and a half years have gone up by an average of €50 per week. In Dublin they’ve gone up by over €90 per week on average and the rent supplement has been reduced by 28% – there is just no correlation now between the rent supplement and the rents that are being demanded by the landlord.”

Fr McVerry added that Alan Kelly, Minster for Environment, Community and Local Government had promised a rent freeze last February:

“…he said he was going to do it – he actually said he was going to introduce emergency rent freeze. We’ve heard nothing since.”

If there were some correlation between increasing rents and “surging GDP” due to “personal consumption”, a rent freeze might mess up the surging GDP, effectively freezing the recovery.

This leaves the government really with a choice on what to freeze, like so many economic housewives. Given that many of them are landlords we shouldn’t be too surprised that they often choose, by neglect, to freeze the homeless. Sure, they probably deserve it anyway. If they’d worked harder when they had the chance they wouldn’t be homeless.
They’ve only themselves to blame.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, someone shared a Christmas card from President Michael D. Higgins. The president’s Christmas Message was:

“To give protection, food and water to those who are fleeing war, oppression or starvation is a matter of fundamental, universal human solidarity. The refusal to do so goes beyond that remarkable phrase coined by Pope Francis – ‘the globalisation of indifference’, as indifference is slowly turning into mistrust and hostility.”

If the sentiment of that rubs you up the wrong way, there was consolation to be found further down the news feed, where someone shared a clip from the Dáil debate on homelessness, with Richard Boyd Barrett quoting the Taoiseach as saying “There is no such thing as a free home.” Which stands as a nice contrasting Christmas message to Michael D’s perhaps dated sentiments.

As you can see, with careful selectivity, the news always has something for everyone.
I was a bit inspired myself by the Taoiseach’s quote, and I made up a Christmas card meme (top) in keeping with the sentiments and priorities of Leo’s New Ireland.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer


From left: Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy TD and Damien English TD at the Housing Summit in the Custom House, Dublin last September.

We all know about the €5million the Taoiseach set aside for a PR team. It is generally assume that they advise the Taoiseach on his “look”, but it likely goes a little deeper than that. To paraphrase a Tom Wait’s song, you can’t help wondering “what are they building in there?”

In November 2017 the Taoiseach suddenly took another tack on the subject of homelessness. He decided to downplay it, to describe it as normal, to as good as deny its existence.
This was taken up by others in the government. There was outrage on the internet, but it seems to have burned itself out. Maybe that too was an idea. To be outrageous and burn off the outrage.

An idea that featured in the sudden re-evaluation of homelessness as “normal” was the term “negative narrative”. I first heard it in a quote from Damien English. In the context in which the phrase was used by Fine Gael, and in the new “beliefs” about homelessness that the phrase appeared to inform, the implication appeared to be that homelessness was a consequence of negative thinking and behaviour.

Homelessness was being presented, in a sense, as the result of a failure to think positive.

This seems exactly like something a PR team would dream up. It’s quite good too when you look at it. By attaching the concept of positive thinking to the homeless crisis the aim of the 5million club appears to be to tap into those Irish people, a sizeable minority, if not possibly the majority, who genuinely subscribe to the idea of positive thinking as a progressive strategy for improvement and change.

Positive thinking is seen by many Irish people as a corrective to Irish begrudgery, and is enthusiastically championed by people who genuinely wish to shuck off their inherited Irish pessimism.

The phrase “negative narrative” is essentially a mechanism, which could conceivably be attached to any number of issues, ensuring more or less the same outcomes, i.e. blame the victim for having created the problem.

This time it is homelessness, next time it may serve similar functions attached to some other issue. Such a phrase can imply, across the board, that all problems ultimately are a failure on the part of those with the problem to practise positive thinking.

But, might this be true? Would social conditions improve if everyone thought more positively?

Studies have shown that the concept of positive thinking is very similar to religions in the manner in which it promises positive returns for certain rituals and practises. It is for this reason that the belief system, which is essentially what it is, is often regarded as a cult. The system has garnered a host of critiques, mainly in the US, questioning its claims. It’s no accident either that President Trump is a big positive-thinking aficionado.

But Trump, like Fine Gael, often cynically uses the concept of positive thinking to deny uncomfortable truths, much as Fine Gael appear to have cynically used the concept to downplay the severity of the homelessness crisis.

But positive thinking, when allied to politics, has been described by some critics as “political gaslighting”. Kitty S Jones describes in the web blog, “Politics and Insights” how the Tories in 2015 used the concept of positive thinking to discredit jobseekers when George Osborne installed cognitive behaviour therapists in job centres to “support” people.

The insinuation being that the causes of unemployment are “psychological rather than socio-political” and that the jobseekers simply weren’t thinking right. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is designed specifically to modify so-called negative thinking. Still, there is a potential growth market in this, creating employment for cognitive therapists “fixing” poor people’s attitudes.

On top of the cynical use of the concept for political ends, an article in the New Yorker in 2014 by Adam Alter cited studies that appeared to demonstrate that even the concept of positive thinking was questionable as an effective agent for the improvement of anything.

“The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking” cites several studies that appear to show that positive thinking may actually be detrimental to positive outcomes, for reasons that are similar to talking up a plan so much that you’ve talked all the energy out and the thing never gets done.

One of the more popular and scathing books on the subject is Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America” (Review here).

She takes issue with some of the main tenets of the belief system, the idea of shutting all “negative” people out of your life; the idea that the poor make themselves poor by not thinking “rich”; and that most cruel and disgusting idea, the notion that cancer sufferers create their own cancer through negative thinking.

All these questionable ideas from Positive Thinking are quite similar to Eileen Gleeson’s assertion that the homeless create their own homelessness through “bad behaviour”. Similarly, Damien English’s use of the phrase “negative narratives” seems also to be pitched in the spirit of positive thinking as a progressive cure-all.

It is likely that the Taoiseach’s 5million club have identified the popularity of positive thinking in Ireland – it could even be that the concept has filled the vacuum created by the decline in church participation – and have set out to cynically exploit the popularity of the belief system to deny the existence of homelessness.

In much the same way as the Trump administration use denial, often flagrantly, in the face of direct evidence to the contrary, in order to discredit all opposition and “equalise” irrationality with common sense perceptions. But the key strategy appears to be, in the Irish case, to hook into those in the middle ground who subscribe, with genuine good intentions, to the concept of positive thinking as a progressive tool for change.

Taken to absurdity, the concept could be invoked to claim that all political opposition is simply negative thinking in action. Maybe the government could install a team of cognitive behavioural therapists in the Dáil to try and modify the thinking of the left Alliance in order to arrive at a more agreeable political consensus.

Maybe instead of giving food and support to the homeless, which Eileen Gleeson suggests is a bad idea anyway, why not just give them copies of “The Secret”, and let them positive-vibe their way out of the hotels and off the streets?

This amalgam of right-wing religious type cultishness, based on a belief system that identifies a righteous elect and excluded defectives responsible for their own misery through “wrong thinking” is about as dangerous a mix of irrational bullshit as any government or ruling elite could possibly conceive of.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer



From top: Ivan Yates and Dr Rory Hearne on last night’s Tonight Show on TV3; Eamonn Kelly

I caught some of the Tonight Show on TV3 last night, hosted by Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates in a discussion with Brendan Ogle, Rory Hearne, Sabina Brennan and Ursula Tipp, which asked, Is Ireland still an unequal society?

Without getting into the nitty-gritty of this or that debating point, what I was left with was a sense that the “experts”, including the hosts, were essentially using ridicule to defuse the leftist arguments put forward by Rory Hearne and Brendan Ogle; throwing their hands in the air and asking how such unpragmatic arguments might perform in government and, as Ivan Yates even stated, labeling Left views as “idealism”.

Figures were thrown around, argued about, fogged and fudged, but all in all the general view appeared to be that the Left were always arguing and that if the wealthy were not given tax-breaks they would not be here, and so on; the idea being that the current game plan is the correct one. But all this seemed to me to be missing the point, so I might as well make the point since it is clear that it is not being seen.

It’s a question of priorities. For instance, if preventing homelessness were a priority there would be no homelessness. But it’s not a priority. The Taoiseach’s salary raise comes from the same pool that might have gone towards putting a roof over someone’s head. But he has chosen to give himself the raise. That’s priorities in action. It’s very simple.

It has been agreed by government and by the majority of people in Ireland that we can “live” with a bit of homelessness in the name of recovery. Similarly, we can “live” with trolleys in hospital corridors, with rolling back worker’s rights, with escalating emigration and so on, in the hope that these sacrifices will eventually bring about the recovery.

The consensus being that the weak and the poor must carry the burden of sacrifice in austerity, while the powerful and the wealthy must get first dibs at the trough, because they have the expertise to bring us into recovery, a view that many people doubt since it was them and their ilk that brought the country to its knees in the first place.

And we can see that the way they are choosing to sow recovery is by sacrificing the poor to the various schemes they dream up.

What the Left were being jostled into accepting is that they should just shut up and get with the programme. But too many people are hurting and there comes a time when all that you have left to refuse is your silence. That is the position of many people at the moment.

Refusing to be silent about the injustices being perpetrated in the name of austerity, while those at the top enjoy “recovery” in the form of raises and tax-breaks even before any form of recovery has been ensured.

There are almost no sacrifices being made at the top. Corporations have more rights than citizens, the banks are fiddling the books again, and the Taoiseach has very kindly given himself a generous raise starting in January,

in contrast to the miserly raise for pensioners starting in the summer which will be next to useless after inflation. Landlords are enjoying a goldrush, and it seems that the priority of the state is to facilitate the profits of the top 10% who have 50% of the wealth, while making those at the bottom carry the burden of the sacrifice.

Ivan Yates produced the old prejudice that the workers are supporting the pensioners, and had to be reminded that VAT plays a huge part in the tax take, much of it coming from fags and booze, a fact he must be aware of.

But the broader point he was making was that the continued existence of welfare support disproves any argument that Ireland is unequal. He didn’t respond when it was pointed out that removal of welfare support would immediately plunge 50% of the Irish population into total poverty.

Equality, in Ivan Yates view, appears to be, choosing not to condemn half the population to starvation.

Matt Cooper’s proposition of how politics works is that people get a chance to vote and their representatives play it all out in the Dáil, seems to be accepting of a democracy of no public engagement between elections.

That casting a vote is the only democratic engagement made by the public and anything else is just getting in the way.

The impression given – now admittedly maybe he was asking “dumb” questions on behalf of some imagined “dumb” viewer – but the impression given was that he appeared to believe that casting a vote is and should be the only political engagement by “ordinary” people on the grounds, I guess, that their “masters” know better.

This is where expressing a counter view is vital. Whatever about arguments concerning pragmatism and what would you do if you were in government and so on, the role for anyone of a Left persuasion is simply to question the cosy consensus.

Not to present a counter view is to be complicit in the silence that supports the self-serving machinations of the elites.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.

Watch last night’s Tonight Show here

Related: Dr Hearne; How Another ireland Is Possible

From top: Seetac/JobPath office in Cabra, Dublin; Eamonn Kelly

Last Monday, the Dáil debated the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill.

Arguing against the bill, which ‘provides for the publication of the names of people engaged in social welfare fraud’, Catherine Murphy of the Soc Dems addressed the case of a father of two referred to JobPath last year.

Eamonn Kelly writes:

Earlier this week in the Dáil, Catherine Murphy TD talked about JobPath and how a man was pressured by Seetec staff to attend sessions as part of the JobPath service.

But attendance at JobPath sessions conflicted with the times of genuine casual work the man already had, putting the job he already held in jeopardy.

The job was also being threatened, along with the reputation of the man, by Seetec staff contacting and badgering his employer to sign documents which would ensure that Seetec could claim the work the man already held, as being a ‘success’ for Seetec, for which the DSP would pay a commission once they received the documentation.

When the man, trying to protect the work he already had, refused to attend some of the sessions with Seetec, he was then pressured by Seetec staff in to to signing documents declaring he was present at the sessions he had not attended.

If he refused to sign the documents, Seetec would recommend to the DSP that the man’s already partial welfare payment be cut or stopped.

The man, realizing that he would be participating in a fraud by signing the documents, leaving himself open to prosecution, pointed this out, to which a Seetec staff member is reported to have said, “Don’t worry about it.”

The man was told that he had to sign the documents to ensure his welfare payment. The man signed the documents.

So here we have a clear case, cited in the Dáil, of Seetec staff using the threat of loss of payment for non-compliance with all requests they make, in order to pressure a Jobseeker into participating in a white-collar fraud.

A case that also shows Seetec staff interfering in a job already created, in order to claim it as their own and claim a commission. In doing so, directly threatening a job already in existence, while also revealing a jobseeker as a welfare dependent to an employer who may or may not find this acceptable.

In the case cited by Catherine Murphy the employer in question was sympathetic to the jobseeker. He also had become so fed up with being harassed by Seetec that he too signed forms which could then be used by Seetec to claim commissions from the DSP for a job they did not create, while also implicating the employer in the fraud.

The case was reported directly to the Taoiseach who described the incident as a ‘complaint’, and implied that it was an isolated incident. He then said that he couldn’t speak on individual cases and that it would be better to bring the matter up with the minister for social protection.

He cited the JobPath satisfaction survey, claiming that many people were ‘happy’ with JobPath, implying again that this particular ‘complaint’ was an isolated incident.

So, in the Dáil, a TD reported directly to the Taoiseach about abuse of powers by officials acting on behalf of the DSP, who were pressuring a Jobseeker into signing documents to support fraudulent claims and pressuring an employer to sign documents claiming that Seetec had created the job the employer had created, implicating both the employer and the Jobseeker in a fraud.

There has long been a suspicion that JobPath manufactures stats in order to prove its own worth and effectiveness, and here we have evidence of Seetec staff manufacturing false documentation to massage the stats to prove Seetec’s worth and effectiveness.

It’s fair then to question the actual job-creation results that they report, along with the satisfaction stats cited by the Taoiseach.

Were those figures manufactured too? Were they too acquired by threatening penalties for non-compliance?

Catherine Murphy’ suggests that the manner in which Seetec staff pressured the jobseeker into signing the documents, was routine. That they then pressured the employer to also sign documents to support their fraud, demonstrates an audaciousness that should be of concern.

The entire nature of the case cited by Catherine Murphy TD suggests that this is not just an isolated incident, or a ‘complaint’, but is the way JobPath is run.

The fact that JobPath is described as a service, and billed as such, must mean that it can be judged in terms of the type of service that it is delivering to the consumer.

Asking people under duress if they are ‘happy’ with the ‘service’ is not quite the same as assessing whether or not a service to the public is delivering what it claims to be delivering, or whether or not it is a service that is in any way damaging to the public.

A consumer and a private citizen being press-ganged into participating in a fraud can hardly be described as a very customer-friendly type of service.

In this regard, Catherine Murphy’s revelations have cast grave doubt on the value and credibility of the entire JobPath ‘service’.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.

Previously: JobPath And The Reality of ‘Employment Activation’

From top: Leo Varadka at the Dublin Pride festival last month; Eamonn Kelly

After Enda Kenny became Taoiseach, the liberal left immediately launched into a social media campaign of ridicule and invective against him, using memes and comments and so on, and not holding back in the least in terms of insult.

In contrast, there has barely been a whisper of dissent against Varadkar.

It occurs to me that people may be afraid to criticise him for fear of their criticism being misconstrued as closet homophobia. (Either that or the liberal left are all for the right-wing Taoiseach).

I was accused of homophobia in a comment on one of the JobPath articles in Broadsheet. It took me a while to figure out where on Earth the person had drawn such a conclusion from, and I went over the text with the proverbial fine-tooth comb, but could find nothing incriminating.

Then I remembered that the Taoiseach was gay. I responded with something like, ‘Oh, I get it, the Taoiseach is gay, and I’m criticising him, so therefore…’

This response was then seized upon by a third party who said something like, ‘Thanks for reminding us of the Taoiseach’s sexuality. Makes me wonder what your agenda is…’

This is a classic lose-lose situation.

It seems that the election of a rabidly right-wing but forgiveably gay Taoiseach has had the effect of hoisting the liberal left by its own petard. I’m sure Fianna Fáil must be taking careful note of this puzzling turn of events.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.


Previously: JobPath And Class Discrimination

JobPath And The Reality Of Employment Activation

JobPath: The Great Social Proetection Swindle


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From top: Fr Peter McVerry; Eamonn Kelly

Eamonn Kelly writes:

In today’s Irish Times Fr Peter McVerry takes the Taoiseach to task for implying that homelessness does not exist, that what we call homelessness is really only a kind of aspiration for better homes. That those who complain of homelessness are really saying that they’d like nicer places to live.

Here’s the quote from the Taoiseach that Peter McVerry angrily takes issue with:

“There are 90,000 people on the housing list but very many, if not most, have houses and apartments. However, these are houses and apartments that are being provided to them through rent supplement or the private rental sector and they want different houses or apartments that are more appropriate to their needs.

It is important to recall that, of those 90,000 on the housing list, the majority are in houses or apartments, just not the permanent homes they would like to have and which we would like them to have.” [Leader’s Questions, July 12, 2017]

So, according to the Taoiseach, the homeless have houses and apartments, but they are simply being fussy and want better ones.

And since he is the Taoiseach, and leader of the free world as we understand it here in this soggy corner of Europe, the Homeless Crisis has now been officially downgraded to the much more manageable Fussiness Crisis.

A crisis where taste is not, unfortunately, being matched by reality. Something a good bucket of paint and a joss-stick might solve. A problem that a simple shift in mental attitude might dispel.

Fr Peter McVerry’s article produces enough hard evidence and figures to show, just in case anyone was in any doubt, that we really do have a homeless crisis and not just a “Fussiness Crisis” as the Taoiseach appears to be suggesting.

The article includes a graphic incorporating figures from the central statistics office that clearly show there are 6,906 homeless people in Ireland, 73% of them in Dublin. According to the Taoiseach, and this now exists in the Dail records, “very many of these, if not most, have houses and apartments.

Where I come from, this is called a bare-faced lie. But I come from a relatively humble working-class background and I’m maybe not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a bare-faced lie and some complex housing/social policy thingy that someone like me might not be fully capable of grasping.

The Taoiseach’s suggestion that there is no homelessness also implies that rough-sleepers and kids living on fast food and crisps in hotel accommodations, as reported in the Irish Times yesterday, are only figments of the collective imagination, like some kind of mass delusionary experience.

The idea also appears to suggest that the work Fr Peter McVerry and people of his ilk have been doing all these years, against increasingly ambivalent odds, is also delusional in its assessment of the problems they are addressing every working day of their lives, and the political policies that appear to be creating these problems.

There was an old joke in working class Dublin to describe tough neighbourhoods. You’d say “They ate their young in that place!” This came to mind when I noticed yesterday’s census reports that 1 in 4 homeless people are under the age of 18, and that the largest homeless age group was children under 4 years of age.

People may soon be saying of Ireland. “Sure, they ate their young in that place.”

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.


From top: Mountjoy Prison: Eamonn Kelly

Writer Eamonn Kelly’s investigation of job activation schemes in Ireland prompted him to look at the prospect of another foreign import: prisons for profit.

Eamonn writes:

I remarked in one of the JobPath articles that we here in Ireland enjoyed an advantage in being able to assess the effects of particular trends in Britain, with a two or three-year time lapse before they landed here.

The advantage of foresight we enjoy by looking at developments in social policy in the United States can be counted in the decades.

A story that recently emerged from New Mexico contains a salutary warning for us here in Ireland in our current blind rush into the privatization of public services.

Last week, an article about a US detention services provider called CoreCivic, (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), the second largest private prison operator in the United States, described how the company found itself short of prisoners at one its facilities in Torrance County, New Mexico, after legislative reforms began to dry up the supply of convicts coming on stream.

The company were demanding that the government come up with 300 prisoners within 60 days, or it would close the facility, resulting in 200 job losses.

The company, which has been providing prison services in the area for almost 30 years, and which has been repeatedly sued for various offences, including “sexual harassment, sexual assault, deaths, use of force, physical assaults, medical care injuries and civil rights violations,” is now essentially holding the government to ransom to provide prisoners for its private prison system.

While looking into that story, I came across this article from France, that more than concurs with the thrust of my suspicions concerning the puzzling “criminal” question that was put to Irish Jobseekers in November 2015, as reported in the Irish Sun. (I know, not exactly the paper of “record”).

I hypothesized a scenario that showed there might be a profit motive in casting the unemployed as criminal, which I explored in my article “The Investment Potential of Criminalizing the Poor.

The French article begins:

“More than a third of prisons in France are partly run by private companies. The trend towards privatizing the prison system, which began three decades ago, is gaining in momentum.

A handful of companies are capitalizing on this very lucrative market, providing services that include catering, receiving visitors, building detention facilities and organizing prison labour…”

The French, as the article shows, currently pay almost €6 billion a year to private contractors for such services.

Both Working links and Seetec have strong backgrounds in detention services, through contracts with Sodexo Justice Services, which provides prison services around the world, including the 34 French prisons mentioned in the article quoted.

Rehabilitation services was the main business of both companies awarded the JobPath contracts in Ireland, which may explain the tone and attitude of the JobPath service, where unemployed people are treated as “guilty” of being unemployed and in need of rehabilitation, in an atmosphere with more than a whiff of incarceration about it.

With all the signing in and out, the policing of time, the questioning of character and integrity, the deliberate parole officer style relationship, it is as if the main thrust of the JobPath model is in grooming Jobseekers into becoming accustomed to prison-like protocols.

This is not quite the “training” that many people might regard as being conducive to the development of grassroots entrepreneurial zeal.

An entrepreneurial spirit that might, if it were cultivated and invested in, help lift the economy with local enterprise, rather than us always having to depend solely on the Big Apple’s of the world to hire us as poor, hapless economic eejits.

Instead, we fund a system apparently deliberately designed to destroy self-motivation and personal initiative, in order to create people in need of “help” and “rehabilitation”, who can then be serviced by private corporate interests in exchange for public funds collected and set aside by the community for the provision of social protection.

The model is a kind of economic vampirism, and may, for you lit students out there, cast some light on the sudden popularity of vampires in recent decades that, as far as I can tell, appears to have originated in the US.

Could be a decent subject for a thesis: is there a relationship between the trajectory of blue-collar wage cuts and the rise in popularity of vampire fiction?

In New Mexico, a spoksperson for CoreCivic said,

“The city of Estancia and the surrounding community have been a great partner to CoreCivic for the last 27 years . . . a declining detainee population in general has forced us to make difficult decisions in order to maximize utilization of our resources.”

That quote encapsulates an aspect of the approach I remarked upon in Part Four of my JobPath series: the gaining of public approval for the private company’s operations.

Here the community are described as a “great partner” in the system. The other part of the concept, gaining the “agreement” of the subjects to participate in the system, in the case of JobPath this was acquired by coercion, as shown in Part 5 in the series, has long since evolved in the US system into simple management of prison populations, with stringent Federal legislation, such as the three strikes law, providing plenty of raw material to the private prisons system.

Ironically, it was as a result of reforms in the justice system in the Obama era, that the supply of “raw material” to the private prisons began to dry up, leaving the private company in New Mexico having to make “difficult decisions” to ensure its own economic survival.

Difficult decisions like, blackmailing Torrance County to provide them with more prisoners, threatening job losses for failure to comply.

Journalist Steven Rosenfeld writes,

“This is a perfect snapshot of what’s upside-down with privatization: the lack of economic opportunities and politicians who genuflect at providing jobs, regardless of the larger social implications, pushing law enforcement into the dirty business of ramping up arrests and convictions so private firms and shareholders can make more money.”

The town of Estancia, New Mexico, now finds itself in a dilemma. If it does not come up with 300 fresh prisoners for the private company, the company will close the facility as unprofitable.

If this happens, the town will lose 200 jobs and an estimated $700,000 annually in commerce, while the surrounding Torrance County would lose $300,000 dollars in tax revenues, and will also be left with the problem of accommodating the 700 Federal prisoners that the private facility currently caters for.

Torrance County, New Mexico, desperately needs an “investment” of 300 fresh prisoners.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.

Pic: Rollingnews


From top: Dublin unemployment queue; Eamonn Kelly

Writer and activist Eamonn Kelly this week concluded an investigation into job activation schemes in Ireland.

Many thought he lacked positivity..

Eamonn writes:

I noticed that one of the criticisms leveled at my articles about JobPath was that they were “negative”.I’m aware that there is a view that negative thinking is destructive of “good” ideas, to the extent that some overly-enthusiastic positive-thinkers appear to believe that negative thinking needs to be stamped out in the name of progress.

The concept of positivity is one that is held dear by Irish people who regard themselves as “progressive”, and is a common badge of honour sported among the artistic elite in Ireland, and often regarded as a necessary antidote – or even as a challenge to – traditional Irish “begrudgery”.

The underlying assumption being that begrudgery and negative thinking are the same thing. Which they’re not. One is destructive envy; while the other, critical thinking, seeks ultimately to be constructive.

There is a strain of positive thinking abroad in Ireland that originated in the US, and it is not as wholesome as its smiling presentation might suggest. If this were a self-help manual we might dub this particular strain of positivity as Toxic Positivity.

The US journalist Barbara Ehrenreich wrote two books on this type of positivity: “Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World.” and “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America.” Their titles alone shed light on the problem inherent in certain basic assumptions concerning positive thinking.

Ehrenreich shows how positive thinking has its roots in corporate America, where it mingled with US-style Christianity, to produce a strain of delusion that leaves people believing they can think themselves rich by smiling and adopting a positive mental outlook.

The downside to this idea of course, is that you can also “fail” to think yourself rich, by falling into negative thinking, a kind of Corporate original sin that causes not only poverty, but also cancer and brain tumours and all the other awful maladies that life can throw at people.

This idea, that people are architects of their own misfortune through “wrong” thinking, is a very convenient fiction for the various power entities that rule the world.

At its most cynical, and even darkly comical, a corporate spokesperson might claim that people who were say, poisoned by arsenic in the sugar brekkies, have only themselves to blame for not thinking “correctly”. (The spokesperson might be right. They should be eating natural oats.)

The concept is genius really, because it also contains an in-built guilt system that gnaws away at some unfortunate people who may truly believe that if they had thought more happy thoughts, in a more consistent manner, that their lives mightn’t have turned out to be quite so miserable.

But the basic, wildly magical assumption that you can think yourself rich, and that you can think the world into being a better place, by affecting constant contentment, is a travesty of the knowledge that imagination, perhaps more than any other human trait, has the power to shape reality.

Such a power is of course dangerous to certain entrenched powers.

The toxic positive thinking model, appears to deliberately set out to destroy these “dangerous” imaginative and creative attributes, offering a more childish positivity, one that results in the creation of good and obedient workers who smile and smile and smile, toiling away in non-union working environments, suffering decreasing wages year on year, and longer working lives and decreasing pension benefits.

But they smile on, smiling as big as they can, in the vain hope that their forced positive mental attitude will somehow change the awful world their corporate masters are imposing on them.

This kind of positivity has been sold so effectively that it is now almost a religion, and one of its mortal sins is, you’ve guessed it, negative thinking. Once an attribute is considered a type of “sin”, it really needs to be watched closely, particularly in Ireland, simply because we were so deeply indoctrinated by the Church over so many generations that we’re likely to be a little over-sensitive to things like sins and sinners and judgements and commandments and so on.

This is perhaps why it has been so easy to convince the public that the unemployed are economic sinners deserving of being penalized by the JobPath system.

Given the prevailing unquestioning acceptance that positive thinking is a social “good”, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a scenario where a law might be passed designed to reprimand people for expressing negative opinions, on the grounds that such opinions might be undermining a perceived national or regional success story.

Orwell anticipated this in “1984”, and called it “thoughtcrime”. The political intention of the authority in “1984” was to destroy opposition at source by destroying imagination.

The strategy was to simplify and reduce language, destroying its richness and its complexity, reducing concepts to one-word or one-phrase simplicities, depriving the imagination of the tools to think.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.

Previously: JobPath: The Great Social Protection Swindle

JobPath And Class Discrimination

JobPath And The Reality Of Employment Activation