Author Archives: Bryan Wall

From top: eviction in Falsk, Strokestown, County Roscommon; Bryan Wall

How do we react when we see injustice? Do we stand by the wayside observing and waiting for the outcome before we pick a side? Even the idea that there is a side to be picked when witnessing obvious injustice is farcical.

Or do we intervene?

Not knowing all the facts means that we enter the fray at a certain risk, be it physical or otherwise. Nonetheless, do we leap in hoping that all the facts — the truth — will become apparent in time but that right now some form of reaction is beholden upon us?

These are not easy questions to answer. It is down to all of us as individuals that make that decision for ourselves.

On the other hand, there are times when an injustice is so overwhelming, so blatant, and the perpetrators so self-satisfied in the protection that is afforded them, that we cannot but intervene.

To do otherwise would be to lend a sheen of approval to the injustice that we are witnessing.

The events in Roscommon over the last two weeks may not have been a turning point, but they are indicative of something that is both hopeful and obversely holds a dangerous potential.

A family, having lost their home to a bank, were to be duly evicted. Instead, what we saw in the video that has gone viral was a base display of injustice and cruelty, no matter how apologists in the media and elsewhere try to dress it up.

Gardaí were present and witnessed a man being assaulted by mercenaries, yet chose to stand by the wayside in order for the group to carry on their assault, evict the family, and occupy the house. Did those involved, the bank, the mercenaries, and the Gardaí really expect that nothing more would come of this?

Perhaps they did. That would explain the shock in the media and online when the evictors were themselves evicted last Sunday morning by a large group of — some reports said as many as 70 — people. Personally, I was not shocked and I’m sure neither were many others; merely surprised.

A feeling of shock would be justified on the premise that we did not see something like this coming or that it was unpredictable. Quite frankly then, it was not shocking.

It was surprising, however, in that a reaction or countermove of the kind and scale that took place on the morning of Sunday, December 16 occurred.

This makes the events that took place both hopeful and dangerous. What those inspired by the actions of that Sunday do next will determine the atmosphere in which further steps are taken.

That Sunday morning was a direct confrontation with the forces of rampant capitalism and its foot soldiers.

This has to be dismissed out of hand though as the actions of dissidents or jilted security guards. The idea that people may not be pleased to see their neighbours brutalised whilst being evicted from their family home is a force to be reckoned with.

Add in the general contempt that the government seems to hold the general population in and you have a formula for direct action aimed at both the individuals representing, and symbols of, power.

If the next steps are to involve the denigration of those not appropriately Irish alongside the use of direct action as a panacea for the iniquities of the government and elites, then the Far Right will pose a far bigger threat than they currently do. And this is their goal; the co-opting of the anger and discontent that people feel and channelling it into a cause in which injustice is fought with inhumanity.

It may not be 1933 but the tactics are of that time. Ben Gilroy was recently interviewed on the YouTube channel of a well-known talking head of the Irish Far Right.

The host argued that if the smaller parties of the Far Right, such as Irexit, Renua, and others, “could come together, coalesce together, and get one personality”, which would then offer “something tangible that the people can get behind”, then that would present “an opportunity”.

Mr Gilroy agreed, and related that “one of the top-ranking Gardaí said to me… ‘We’re with you. We just can’t come out publicly and be with you.’”

Mr Gilroy is perhaps exaggerating but a level of discontent does exist within the Gardaí. And like the general public, it is rife for exploitation at the hands of insidious forces.

In the last week, Mr Gilroy has also appeared as a public representative of Yellow Vest Ireland. Last weekend he made a speech during their first protest in Dublin and made yet another just this weekend. In the interview mentioned, he states that he “was asked to promote the Yellow Vest movement”.

Given his association with this version of the Yellow Vests, and his own political background and associates, there is clearly an attempt underway to co-opt the image of the French Gilet Jaunes for ends other than those of justice.

This has not gone unnoticed. The family at the centre of the eviction in Roscommon issued a statement, part of which was clearly referencing the Ben Gilroy version of the Yellow Vests. They asked that any protest not be “‘hijacked’ by any organisation with ulterior motives.”

Furthermore, “they wish to distance themselves from any reference to imitations of the ‘yellow-vest’ or alt-right movements.”

Contempt from the elite directed at the supposedly lessers in society always engenders the creation of political movements dedicated to change. But as mentioned there is the potential for reactionary elements to latch on to this, hence the danger in the early stages of a fomenting discontent.

From here they use the very real pain of the public to attain power by promising them cure-alls. Once they have solidified their power they then proceed to eliminate groups they perceive as corrupted or corrupting.

This duality is inherent in the early stages of any revolutionary moment. Given that social change was never achieved by a softly-softly approach — that it arrives due to disobedience, tumult, and sometimes revolution — it always holds the possibility of corruption or destruction from within and without.

As things currently stand, it appears that the Far Right variant of the Yellow Vests are making headway. And as more evictions are coming, if the Left continues to flounder on the sidelines then the future of Irish political protest seems bleak.

What does signal hopefulness is that there is some awareness of the tactics of the Far Right. One can also be hopeful in that the initial moves on the part of the people in Roscommon were done independently of any nefarious influence coming from purveyors of Far Right talking points.

A movement that directly tackles injustice, takes on the government and its shock troops whilst retaining a core ethos of equality and inclusion is the only widespread movement that must be allowed to come to fruition.

The alternative is a movement with an ever-increasing circumference of enemies to be dealt with inhumanely while claiming to represent the “real Irish”. So this is the question that lays in front of us: Do we want a movement that represents everyone or a movement that deals in nativist absolutes?

How we answer that question will determine the political landscape for a long time to come.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s inaction on the housing crisis has allowed the far right a foothold, argues Bryan Wall

On Wednesday last, Solidarity-People Before Profit debated their anti-eviction bill for the second time. Tabling it during the private member’s session, the bill’s intention is to offer greater protection to tenants and put more legal restraints on those renting out properties.

We have all become accustomed to the tactic of landlords informing tenants that due to needed upgrades and renovations on their accommodation, they have to find other housing.

Oftentimes it is discovered that the accommodation has not undergone any renovations and that this was instead simply an excuse to get rid of tenants who were not paying an apparently appropriate amount of rent.

Personal situations obviously vary, but this tactic has become commonplace. One aspect of the housing and homelessness crisis that could be tackled relatively quickly then is this very issue. Hence the bill put forward by Solidarity-People Before Profit.

According to them, the bill would bar landlords and property companies from evicting tenants because of their intention to sell the property or on the basis of renovations to the property in question.

The bill would also “ensure that if a landlord tried to move a family member in that they must compensate the tenant”. The term landlord would also be redefined in order to take into account the fact that many properties are owned and rented by vulture funds and banks.

Now there would be legal responsibilities placed upon them which up until now they have managed to avoid due to legal loopholes and at the same time afford greater protections to their tenants. All things considered, this would be a step in the right direction in terms of securing a right, of some kind, to housing.

Tenants would now be able to feel secure knowing that they could not be evicted due to the ever-increasing greed of some for even more profit.

During the second stage debate last week, Ruth Coppinger pointed out that “There has been a 75 per cent increase in landlords” in Ireland in the last ten years.

Furthermore, as Paul Murphy pointed out during Leaders’ Questions, “one in four deputies” are themselves landlords. A report earlier this year put the figure at a slightly lower level at one in five, but it is nonetheless higher than the national average, which stands at one in twenty-eight.

In response to the proposed bill, Leo Varadkar claimed the bill “is designed more for publicity than policy”. The bill, he said, is “extreme” and could presumably be therefore dismissed out of hand. Nonetheless, the bill managed to pass the second stage on Thursday by 46 votes to 39.

Outside of his polished public relations-filtered appearances and statements, Varadkar’s neo-liberal ideology is plain to see in his statements during the Leaders’ Questions. For the Taoiseach and his acolytes, public relations is just one half of the economic policies they prefer; the ideological window dressing for the despoliation of the working class.

In the Dáil, however, the unfiltered truth can on occasion make an appearance. In the Taoiseach’s case, anything which would protect those renting is seen as extreme. The landlord class must be protected.

Any government concerned with the rights of those in rented accommodation would have welcomed or at the very least insisted on an open debate surrounding the anti-eviction bill.

Instead it was to be shot down as being too extreme given that it might put a scintilla of pressure on landlords and their pursuit of profits.

Is it any surprise then that people are angry and latch on to any group that gives them answers or hope? Far Right politics has always been an aspect of Irish political life but it has been relatively latent in comparison to continental Europe.

Now, however, we have seen the emergence and rising popularity of numerous Far Right talking heads. An Irish Far Right variant of the Yellow Vest movement has also emerged. In fact, two Yellow Vest movements have made themselves known online. One, Yellow Vest Ireland appears to be a front for the Far Right, either having been hijacked by them or having been set up as a front from the start.

This has been evidenced by the support they have engendered from well-known members of the Far Right in Ireland. A second Yellow Vest group, Yellow Vests Ireland – A United Movement for Social Change, appears to be more in line with the original French Gilets Jaunes.

Ben Gilroy, for example, made an appearance at a protest organised by the former group in Dublin on Saturday where he gave a speech, even though the Yellow Vest Ireland Facebook page has claimed no politicians would be welcome in their organisation.

Mr Gilroy, who is long known for his “freeman on the land” arguments has stated previously that he has “limitless time” for Nigel Farage.

He is also the former leader of the now essentially defunct Direct Democracy Ireland (DDI) party, a right-wing ultra pro-capitalist party who were supported by the right-wing Christian Solidarity Party.

It is not known if Mr Gilroy is the leader of this Far Right deviation of the Yellow Vest movement, but his presence there on Saturday is indicative of the political leanings of the group.

Of course, the Left is partially to blame for the rise of the Far Right. A lack of coherent arguments and moral consistency is a like a plague in some parts of the Left.

An understanding of the economic pain that people have endured for the last ten years has also not been appreciated to the degree it should.

That parties of the Left have not capitalised on the effects of austerity and neo-liberalism is a monumental failure. And now, we are reaping the consequences of that failure.

This is not to say that the Left has not been active in terms of housing and economic injustice. Take Back the City, for example, goes from strength to strength in its highlighting of the housing crisis.

But many people, are nonetheless, attracted to those who claim to have the answers and a solution. At the moment, elements of the Far Right are offering that to people.

Whether the Left wants to admit it or not, the Labour Party was seen as the Left-wing party of Ireland. They were mainstream, well-known, and represented the average person. When they went in to government and betrayed their constituency, it opened up a political gap that the smaller parties of the Left, such as People Before Profit, have utterly failed to take advantage of.

Instead, the Right has entered the fray and offered hope to those who have none and who abhor the current political mainstream.

What this means is difficult to predict.

The anti-eviction bill is likely to not go much further all the while people continue to be evicted violently from their homes by banks, landlords, and vulture funds. Leo Varadkar and his supporters will continue with their current policies of supporting landowners and property speculators.

With the public not being blind to this, the Far Right could very rapidly make even more substantial gains. Suppositions and feeble predictions aside, we continue to lack justice. And injustice, especially when it breeds contempt, is a breeding ground for the Far Right.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Rollingnews

From top: Cows cool off in County Cavan last Summer; Bryan Wall

Late last month the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published a report that once again details the deleterious effects that humans continue to have on the biosphere. The report details the increase of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere which, they state, “have reached another record high”.

In their press release they wrote that “Since 1990, there has been a 41% increase in total radiative forcing — the warming effect on the climate — by long-lived greenhouse gases.” Of this, C02 makes up roughly 82% of this increase.

WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, pulled no punches and was quoted as saying that “Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth.”

Of course, this is not news, especially not to the world’s climate scientists and members of the public who have followed the science reporting on the issue. Nonetheless, his warnings must be heeded.

Our window of time to make real changes is rapidly closing, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently declaring that we have twelve years at most to limit the effects of climate change.

Even limiting warming to 1.5 degrees would still have far-reaching consequences for the planet and us, however. Mass extinctions and die-offs will still take place even if warming is kept to the 1.5 degree limit, just at a lower rate.

Extreme and unseasonal weather will be the norm and droughts and flooding are likely to be commonplace. Warming higher than 1.5 degrees will amplify all of these aspects of climate change. And the fact of the matter is that we are currently well along the path to hurtling past the 1.5 degree limits.

Six years ago the World Bank was warning that an increase of 3.5 to 4 degrees was more likely. This would result in an overall 4 to 10 degree rise in temperature over land, meaning that “the coolest months are likely to be substantially warmer than the warmest month at the end of the 20th century.”

In the Mediterranean, for example, this would mean a 9 degree warmer month of July than the warmest July today. Today, at current rates, it is projected that by the end of the century the temperature will be 4 degrees higher, a massive failure on our part to ensure our survival as a species and the planet.

The world economy will be on the verge of collapse, food shortages will be commonplace given the failure of crops, and millions of deaths due to the increased temperatures will be unremarkable.

This summer saw widespread water shortages here due to the extreme temperatures, a timely reminder that we are not immune to the effects of climate change.

Yet, one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise given the fact that successive governments have been blasé regarding their concern for the environment and climate change in general.

The government’s current Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Mark Ferguson, recently told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change that “no crisis that was ever predicted in human history has come to pass.” He would also ask the committee to “not necessarily demonise oil and gas”.

In his comments to the committee he also made note of the rise of carbon capturing technologies, advocating their use even though their mass viability is decades away.

Also timely was that during the heatwave the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) issued its annual report on the effectiveness of Ireland’s climate change policy.

The CCAC’s press release opened with the statement that “Ireland is completely off course to achieve its 2020 and 2030 climate change targets.” The report also noted that one of the largest contributors to our greenhouse gas emissions comes from agriculture.

Emissions from this area increased by “4.5% relative to 2014”, with the expectation that these levels will continue to rise. It was pointed out that an increase in the number of dairy animals used in farming is responsible for the rise in emissions, with an increase of 25.1 per cent since 2011. Likewise there has been a rise in the number of non-dairy cattle, with an increase of 8.9 per cent since 2011 being noted.

On a similar note, according to a report issued by the World Resources Institute (WRI) last week, “major climate changes will make it impossible to grow certain crops.” What makes this even more concerning is that “Consumption of ruminant meat (beef, lamb, and goat) is projected to rise 88 percent between 2010 and 2050.”

As is referred to in the report, beef, for example, “is resource-intensive to produce, requiring 20 times more land and emitting 20 times more GHGs [greenhouse gases] per gram of edible protein than common plant proteins”.

If people were to limit themselves to roughly one and half hamburgers per week, it “would reduce the GHG mitigation gap [the 1.5 degree limit of warming] by half”. Clearly, then, taking a long and hard look at the content of our diets is something that we all must do and must encourage others to do.

Alas, the farming lobby is notoriously strong and conservative, thus ensuring that any attempts to limit cattle and sheep farming will be met with strong resistance. E

ven the appearance and popularity of non-dairy alternatives has the farming community and the dairy industry worried.

In a recent interview, Zoe Kavanagh of the National Dairy Council declared that the Irish system of dairy production, given that it is based on grass, “demonstrates the highest of standards… in terms of care for the environment.”

She also accused the “rejectors” – i.e., those who promote the use of non-dairy milk and cheeses  – of being “sinister” by “deliberately targeting young impressionable teenagers and scaring them.”

Obviously this “care for the environment” is at odds with the science on emissions produced by the farming industry.

And the truth regarding climate change is, unfortunately, scary. Unless something drastic is to happen in the next few years, we are well on our way to shooting past the 1.5 degree limit that has been agreed to.

Governments have been slow to react and corporations and industries have gone on the offensive in order to negate any green initiatives which may undercut their profit. If anything could be a better example of the psychology of the profit motivation in the late capitalist era it is the fact that companies would rather make just a bit more profit than try to save the planet that they rely on for their very existence.

If change is to happen, it is likely to come from people taking matters into their own hands and advocating and pushing for it themselves.

Cutting down on our dairy and meat consumption can have a huge impact considering it is something that is relatively easy to do.

If we simply defer all decision-making regarding the environment to governments and their patrons in industry and corporations, the status quo will remain and we will have doomed ourselves and our children.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Top pic by Lorraine Teevan

From top: Image obsessed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Bryan Wall

Recent news that the public relations bill for the Taoiseach’s office amounted to €1,794,678 in 17 months should come as no surprise.

Leo Varadkar has been insistent on portraying an image of a dapper, cosmopolitan, and jocular leader; an antidote to the weariness of Irish political life and the wider world.

His choice of socks and attendance at gigs paints him as a young leader who is at one with the people. The demos can rest assured that their rulers understand them. This is obvious given the fact that they share the same sock-wearing habits and attend the same gigs.

It also means that they can rest assured in the knowledge that given the above, their rulers will do their utmost to protect and uphold the interests of their clients, the citizens.

Any economic cutbacks, reductions in funding for housing, homeless services, or the increasing privatisation of the health service, only come to pass regretfully. After all, he cares.

It costs money to care, though. Specifically, it costs money to popularise the image of someone who cares; of someone who fraternises with the masses, understands them, and therefore would do them no harm.

We often forget that the original term for public relations was the word propaganda.

One of the most informative pieces of work on the term was by Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays wanted to take the theories and ideas of his uncle and apply them to mass industrial society.

His reasoning for this was that it was normal for the wider population to be controlled. In fact, they needed to be controlled. Otherwise anarchy would reign.

He opens his book, Propaganda, by writing

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.” Those who “manipulate” society form “an invisible government”.

For Bernays, the members of this “invisible government” are needed – in fact a requirement – for “the orderly functioning of our group life.” In return for order, the masses have had to cede power to their betters in government, invisible or otherwise.

This is not an ideal system, he adds. Much more preferable would be a system in which there were “committees of wise men who would choose” for us everything in society, from our leaders to our clothing.

Alas, this is apparently not the case. Therefore, “society has consented to permit free competition to be organized by leadership and propaganda.”

Bernays was of course writing about America in the early-twentieth-century but his word are worth reading and understanding nearly one hundred years later.

Public relations, or more accurately, propaganda, has become a mainstay of every society. With the advent of social psychology and technological innovation it has become far more insidious than Bernays could have ever predicted.

Communications obtained by Ken Foxe under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation demonstrate how far the government will go to obfuscate and misdirect the public and journalists by utilising the power of public relations advisors.

Governments have relinquished power to formidable public relations firms upon whom they have become totally reliant. The Irish government is no different in this regard.

In a truly democratic society there would be no need for propaganda and the public relations industry. The terms would be misnomers. In a true democracy there is no need to hide information from people, no need to alter their perceptions of reality, and no need to engineer their needs and wants.

But we do not live in a democratic society. We live in a society in which governments implement cutbacks and introduce privatisation initiatives of public goods and services. Things that are of inherent value to the wider population — such as healthcare, water services, and public transportation — are willingly hived off to unaccountable private tyrannies.

This is then sold back to us as an optimisation of services, an increase in competition in the market, or some other such string of public relations buzzwords which have become all too common over the last thirty years.

Public relations taints and undermines any attempts to achieve a genuinely democratic society. Lies become truths and heroes villains.

When Justice Peter Charleton published his report last month regarding the allegations of Maurice McCabe, he took note of the increasing manifestation of public relations among officialdom.

He wrote that:

“It seems that our public life is now to be dominated by spin and that plain speaking is elided in favour of meaningless public relations speak.”

This, he wrote, “is a hideous development”. Such methods “adds to the sense of public distrust in the key institutions of the State.”

The communications revealed by Ken Foxe, along with the comments by Justice Charleton have gone some way to lifting the veil that covers many official pronouncements. If this engenders a “sense of public distrust”, as Justice Charleton fears, then all the better. Liars ought to fear the truth.

Nonetheless, public relations still manages to be an effective tool in the arsenal of the powerful.

As I wrote about previously, the headlines about the supposed “vindication” of former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, along with former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, were an attempt to whitewash and rehabilitate their characters in the eyes of the public.  This was public relations on a mass scale via the mainstream media.

That neither were vindicated was irrelevant. A certain image had to be portrayed and certain parts of the media in Ireland were willing to play along. On the other hand, this comes as no surprise given what we know about the media’s role in propping up the housing bubble.

It is also no surprise given the controversy that erupted earlier this year when it was discovered that Leo Varadkar’s Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) paid for advertisements for the government’s Project Ireland: 2040 plan, that were depicted as articles, in dozens of newspapers. When one glances at them they look and read as articles written by journalists.

Regardless of whether or not the Project Ireland scheme has any essential value, the government’s pushing of these advertisements, and the willing acceptance of them and portrayal of them as articles by journalists, is a fundamental betrayal.

Alternative or non-mainstream media play a role in combating this propagandising of society, hence the contempt it is held in by certain parts of the mainstream. Even so, we still have to deal with Bernays and the legacy of his descendants in public relations.

One example of just how effective this invisible government was and continues to be is the fact that the term propaganda was replaced by the phrase public relations and that this history has been elided.

As Bernays wrote:

“Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public”

. Our own government are consequently, by any calculation, experts in this field.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Rollingnews

From top: The hotel in Moville, County Donegal earmarked for Direct Provision on Sunday morning; Bryan Wall

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a hotel that had been designated as the location for a direct provision centre was set on fire. The hotel, located in the small town of Moville in County Donegal, was in the process of being renovated in expectation of the arrival of roughly one hundred asylum seekers.

It appears that at around 4.30 am something was thrown through one of the windows of the hotel which started the fire. Two people were in the hotel at the time, the owner and his daughter it is believed, one of whom had to be taken to hospital for treatment. No further information was available at the time of writing regarding the cause of the fire.

Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, and Minister of State for Equality and Integration, David Stanton, issued a joint statement in which they “condemned the arson attack on the Causal Mara Hotel”.

Minister Flanagan described the incident as “despicable” and which “could have led to a very serious tragedy.” For his part, Minister Stanton said he “deplore[d] this attack” given that the hotel was “being prepared for accommodation by persons seeking international protection in Ireland.” An arson attack on the hotel was therefore “deeply shameful.”

A representative of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) told me they “condemn this action taken by these people who perpetrated racism and hatred.”

The attack comes on the heels of a tour of Ireland by Far Right activists Damhnait McKenna, Lauren Southern, and Caolan Robertson. All three are well-known for their anti-immigrant views and their peddling of the racist myth of a white genocide being perpetuated by Cultural Marxists.

Ms McKenna is the leader of Generation Identity UK and Ireland. Members of the group have been sent on military-style training in Norway, as was revealed late last year. She claims that the views of her and the groups she leads are not extreme.

On the other hand, the anti-racist organisation Hope not Hate has described Generation Identity as “racist and extreme.” They also point out that Generation Identity “calls for ‘ethnopluralism’, which in practice means separating and segregating people along racial lines.” The overriding principle of the group, according to Hope not Hate, is to defend their “biological heritage.”

Lauren Southern is a well-known provocateur with a sizeable online following and is essentially the voice of the Far Right. She recently made a documentary in which she claims that white genocide is taking place, most especially in South Africa.

She has also supported, and taken part in, the attempts of Far Right groups Generation Identity and Defend Europe to block humanitarian organisations from rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean. In recent weeks Ms. Southern and her film crew posed as journalists and obtained an interview with the Ariel Ricker, the Executive Director of Advocates Abroad.

The interview that was shared online was highly edited and portrayed Ricker and her organisation as coaching migrants to lie to border patrol agents in order to gain entry to Europe.

In response, Advocates Abroad wrote that they were “aware of a video that shows a heavily edited version of an informal conversation that was secretly filmed and without consent.”

Furthermore, they pointed out that the video was “being used for political right wing effect, and misconstrued” to shore up “an anti-refugee and anti-human rights political agenda.” “This”, they declared, “is a shameful act of cowardly abuse.”

For his part, Caolan Robertson works alongside Southern and holds the same views. He previously worked at Rebel Media, the same organisation that Southern worked for before both departed.

He portrays himself as a “film maker” and as a “social commentator”. What he actually does, however, is no different than Southern. That they work together is indicative of this. For Robertson and Southern, anything non-white and non-Christian is deemed a threat that must be stopped.

This means, in their eyes, “defending Europe” from the hordes trying to make it across the Mediterranean. Robertson’s beliefs extend to stating that the homophobic attack on The George in Dublin last year “Was most likely gays desperate to be victims.”

All three have been on a tour of Ireland for the last few days in order to film anti-immigrant sentiment and reinforce the belief that white culture is being slowly eroded and replaced by “outsiders”.

On the day before the attack, Robertson posted to his Twitter account that he was “Filming today in a small town in Ireland that is forcefully moving hundreds of migrants into the only hotel in town, a historic building.”

Their reporting consists of nothing more than poorly disguised racism and Islamophobia. When I spoke to the Garda Press Office they would neither confirm or deny that they were looking into the movements of McKenna, Robertson, and Southern, or that they were aware of their presence in the country.

In the aftermath of the attack, an emergency meeting took place in Moville yesterday afternoon. There the attendees made it clear that asylum seekers would be welcome to the town and no act of violence would discourage that sentiment.

When I spoke to MASI they told me “The new asylum seekers will be welcome by all”.

In spite of this, we must be wary that any welcoming gesture to asylum seekers and refugees will be seen as a betrayal by those on the Right and their mouthpieces online.

Motions to help any group who are not Irish or white is seen as deep disloyalty towards Irish and European culture. Their unintelligible violence will likely erupt again as a result, as will their usual uneducated drivel about Cultural Marxism and white genocide.

For now, anyone concerned about the rise of Far Right movements must be vociferous in their denial of a stage or platform to anybody of the same ilk as McKenna, Robertson, and Southern. If this means denying them entry to the country then so be it.

Their hatred has no place in a multicultural Ireland in which we can all strive for a democratic and egalitarian future for ourselves and our children.

We, as Irish people, have a special obligation to those suffering the effects of natural disasters, famines, and wars, and who are forced to flee their homes. We collectively understand what it means to be under the yoke of an oppressor.

And we know what it means to have to leave our country, our families, and in many cases never return. When we turn away those who most need our help and understanding, we are betraying our history and ourselves.

The Far Right cares naught for this understanding. Their grasp of the world extends no further than someone’s religion or skin colour. Times such as this are dangerous for the potential violence that they hold. Regardless, the Far Right and their apologists must be contained and combated.

We know what the hatred of the Far Right results in. It makes no difference if their ideology comes in the form of well-spoken internet provocateurs. The final consequences will be the same.

As we welcome those in need we must protect them and ourselves from the bile and hatred of the Far Right, their mouthpieces, and the lies they spew.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Top pic via MASI

From top: Nóirín O’Sullivan (left) and Frances Fitzgerald in 2016; Maurice McCabe (centre) with Lorraine McCabe (left) and Katie Hannon during the making of the RTÉ 1 documentary ‘Whistleblower’ broadcast last week; Bryan Wall

The consumption of media and information has always played a vital part in our societies. It allowed us to inform ourselves of the wider world and areas beyond our immediate vicinity and common understanding.

We could argue and debate with others the content of what we had just heard or read, stirring up potential modes of action and behaviour that would later come to define the world we lived in.

In Europe in the 1800s, the coffeehouse played the role of an assembly where people could discuss what they had just discovered via the media of the time. Here the theories of revolution were discussed before being put into action.

Of course, the information that was promulgated and received had to be accurate in the first place for it to be of any value. The media had to be trustworthy and reliable. On the other side, ensuring that the media was accurate, or at least perceived as such, was of value to the media themselves given the drive for profits which underlay their motives.

Whether this balance between truth-telling and the need for profit was ever achieved is highly debatable.

In their new book, the two men behind Media Lens, lay waste to this recurring theme of a trustworthy, objective, and fact-finding media. In Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality, David Edwards and David Cromwell demonstrate how the supposedly different ideologies between the main media outlets in Britain is simply a myth.

If there is indeed a spectrum offering a range of different viewpoints in the media why then, they ask, on so many occasions does reporting of certain issues bear striking similarities in terms of content and tone? The answer is that the content of the mainstream media reflects the interests of power.

Power in the form of the government and power in the form of wealth define the boundaries of acceptable reporting in the media.

What this means, then, is that anything which attempts to highlight certain issues which will directly impact the government and the powerful will have to deal with the full force of the mainstream media being directed against them.

It also means that when certain issues need promoting by the government and the elite, they having willing stenographers in the broadcasting and newspaper industries.

In Britain the most notable target in recent years has been Jeremy Corbyn, who has come in for obloquy right across the mainstream media, regardless of his actual policies and statements.

In their chapter about Corbyn’s treatment by the media, Edwards and Cromwell note that The Guardian, the Independent, The Times, and the BBC, all rounded on Corbyn, and oftentimes with the same kind of language.

In The Guardian, Corbyn’s policies were described as “‘more a matter of faith than a viable programme’”. The Independent declared Corbyn was “‘not the answer’” and that Tony Blair, instead, “‘earned his right to be listened to’”, even though he “‘remains controversial’”; presumably controversial given his role in the illegal invasion of Iraq which has cost millions of innocent lives. For their part, The Times wrote that Corbyn “‘believes Britain has not learnt its lessons from Karl Marx’”, and can therefore be dismissed out of hand.

The BBC, fared no better in spite of their professed commitment to objective journalism. When Corbyn was interviewed by BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg, she was appalled when he said he was “‘opposed to nuclear weapons’” along with being “‘opposed to holding and usage of nuclear weapons’” after she had asked him if he would press the “‘nuclear button’” if he was Prime Minister.

Ms Kuenssberg told him it that “‘it looks to voters like you would put your own principles ahead of the protection’” of Britain, unaware of the irony of such a statement. Corbyn responded by telling her he is somebody “‘absolutely and totally committed to spreading international law, spreading international human rights’”.

To this Ms Kuenssberg asked, “‘And that’s more important than the protection of this country?’” No further comment is needed given the obvious implications of such a worldview.

Ireland does not come in for scrutiny in Propaganda Blitz. Nonetheless, and with even a cursory look, the same patterns emerge when it comes to our own home-grown controversies. Take the Disclosures Tribunal and the publication of the Charleton Report.

In the immediate aftermath of the publication of the report, we were inundated with headlines regarding former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. She was sharing the headlines with Maurice McCabe. Across a number of media outlets the same type of language and reporting was used.

RTÉ reported Minister for Health Simon Harris saying “Ms Fitzgerald was hounded from office and now deserved an apology after being vindicated”.

On TheJournal.ie an article opened with the sentence “FORMER TÁNAISTE FRANCES Fitzgerald has been vindicated by the Disclosure Tribunal”.

In the Irish Examiner, a headline ran “Frances Fitzgerald has been vindicated by the Disclosure Tribunal report published this afternoon.”

The irish Independent also reported the comments by Simon Harris, writing that “Mr Harris said this morning that Ms Fitzgerald had been ‘vindicated’”.

For their part The Irish Times used slightly different language — but the message was the same — writing that “The Tribunal gives a clear exoneration to Ms Fitzgerald”.

Interestingly, in the Charleton Report itself not once is the word vindicate used in reference to Frances Fitzgerald. Instead, it is used in reference to Maurice McCabe, who, as is stated in the report, had already been vindicated by the O’Higgins Commission.  It is also used in reference to Martin Callinan who, the report noted, wished to see his reputation vindicated.

Where it was used by Fitzgerald, however, was in her own resignation statement last year. She said that her resignation “will allow me to vindicate my good name at the Charleton tribunal”.

What the media have done, then, and quite transparently at that, is use the actual vindication of Maurice McCabe to try to whitewash the reputation of Frances Fitzgerald.

Justice Charleton did not vindicate the former Justice Minister, yet the Irish media were more than happy to echo the very same and distinctive word that she herself had used to describe her preferred outcome.

There is also the issue of Nóirín O’Sullivan being appointed to a high-level position with the United Nations (UN) and how that has been reported. Her role in what happened to Maurice McCabe and John Wilson has been ignored in the coverage of her new appointment.

Justice Charleton found that it was “improbable that she did not have an inkling at the very least about Commissioner Callinan’s views”, with her presence when Martin Callinan made the now infamous comments about both McCabe and Wilson to TD John McGuinness also being noted by the latter. Important context like this is missing.

The reporting of The Irish Times was indicative in that it downplayed these serious issues with O’Sullivan by writing that Justice Charleton “rejected one portion of her evidence and found another to be ‘improbable’.”

With the recent documentary about Maurice McCabe that was broadcast by RTÉ we are left, as expected, with many gaps in the narrative. Gemma O’Doherty is left out of the equation completely. This is a considerable elision given her consistent support for Maurice McCabe from the very beginning, her reporting on Martin Callinan’s penalty points being wiped, and the price she eventually paid in terms of her career.

Any mention of this would demonstrate that there is indeed a nexus of power that exists in Irish society between the media and certain important and powerful institutions. This could not be reported on in the documentary, however, given the fact that RTÉ itself forms a part of that same nexus.

As Broadsheet’s Olga Cronin pointed out during a discussion on Broadsheet on the Telly last week, editorial decisions had to be taken in order to maximise the reach of documentary in order to bring it to people’s attention.

In a media landscape that wasn’t influenced by power and the powerful this is perfectly acceptable reasoning. A media landscape like this does not exist though, and the fact that such gaps are intentionally created leaves one to conclude that there are things we are not supposed to know.

Where this leaves us and the reliability of the media is plain to see. The media are willing to downplay, under-report, and twist reality to suit an agenda. What this agenda is differs in degree but never in kind.

Most recently it has been the attempt to rehabilitate Frances Fitzgerald and Nóirín O’Sullivan, thereby misleading the wider public into thinking that justice was done by the Justice Charleton and the Disclosures Tribunal.

Where power exists, those in the media across the supposed spectrum find common cause with it. In this case it is the government line that the truth has been discovered and that we should all move on, and ignore the many unanswered questions that remain, that the media has been intent on pummelling us with.

Their tactics appear to have been successful thus far. On the other hand, their hatred and fear of social media points a way forward for us in that it allows us to bypass the traditional media hierarchy.

As long as this avenue remains open, there is always the opportunity to dissent and find the real truth that is often denied us all.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Pic: RTÉ

From top: Pro-Israel protesters outside the gates of Áras an Uachtaráin during a visit by Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas to President Higgins last September; Bryan Wall

Documents [available to read here] released under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation show emails and letters regularly received by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFA) from a pro-Israel lobby group and its supporters.

The correspondence, which spans a number of years, shows a consistent attempt at pushing a one-sided narrative on behalf of Israeli government interests. It also shows a level of contempt towards the Irish government for their perceived slights of Israeli politicians and various Israeli political decisions and tactics.

Much of the communications originated from a now defunct group called Irish4Israel, an Irish pro-Israel lobby group whose stated aims, amongst others, were to “challenge the consistent political and media bias against the state of Israel” and to “Speak out for Israel when no one else will.”

Other correspondence was received at the DFA from individuals who it is believed were members of Irish4Israel or the Ireland Israel Alliance (IIA).

In one email sent by Irish4Israel in June 2014, its President, Barry Williams, declares that Ireland is “one of the last nations that have to be dragged kicking and screaming to condemn public acts of terror.”

What provoked this comment was the kidnapping of three Israeli teens by a Hamas splinter group. Irish4Israel, he wrote, “strongly condemns this kidnapping and equally condemn your [the DFA’s] silence.”

In another communication sent by Irish4Israel in February 2017, they declare that any motion by the Dáil to recognise the Palestinian state “would constitute a direct intervention by a third party in a conflict.”

In the letter the group also states that all of the peace proposals offered over the years “have been rejected by the Palestinian leaderships” — itself an outright and egregious lie — and imply that raising the issue of Israeli colonisation of Palestinian lands is merely a trick used by Palestinians and their supporters to forestall any peace negotiations. Therefore, any negotiations that take place must do so “without preconditions”.

Also sent in February of 2017 was a vituperative letter condemning the Gardaí, along with the security at Trinity College Dublin. The reason for this was their apparent inability to secure the safety of the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Ze’Ev Boker, after his appearance at a student event was cancelled because of a pro-Palestine demonstration held in response to his proposed talk.

As The Irish Times reported, around forty protestors chanted slogans and held placards outside the venue which seemingly resulted in the talk being cancelled. In the correspondence I received, Irish4Israel accused the DFA of being in violation of various aspects of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Optional Protocols. Ireland was, the group said, in “grave violation” of its “obligations under international law governing diplomatic relations.”

Authored by the Irish4Israel President, the letter referred to the demonstrators as “pseudo-Palestinian activists”, accusing them of “an attack” on the Ambassador’s freedom of speech. Such an “attack” was unacceptable given the fact that “anti-Semitism is on the rise globally lest we forget.”

In a more recent communication, sent in May of this year, Williams and his group draw attention to Sadaka, The Ireland Palestine Alliance and their support of the bill introduced by Senator Frances Black to ban trade with illegal Israeli colonies.

Irish4Israel took issue with the fact that Sadaka were lobbying on behalf of Senator Black and her bill amongst local authorities. The group argued that the bill “is incompatible with EU, WTO law and puts American companies in Ireland at risk.”

What’s more, they argued that by approaching local authorities Sadaka were attempting to “isolate” councillors who are also “caught unaware” regarding the bill.

In further communications in relation to the bill, Irish4Israel wrote “a lot of buzz words and slogans [are] used which lack sound historical knowledge.”

The group also attached a long document laying out what they perceived to be the main legal and moral issues with the bill, one of which was that it “undermines Ireland’s position in the Brexit negotiations”.

When I spoke to her Senator Black told me that although “EU trade policy is common… member states are entitled to seek proportional restrictions when they can be justified.”

Here such a course of action can be justified on the basis of “upholding and respecting international humanitarian law and the Geneva conventions” given that “the settlements are an unambiguous violation of international law, as has been stated repeatedly by the EU, UN & Irish Government”.

When I contacted Sadaka a representative of theirs told me they “undertook this campaign on the basis of our view that banning settlement goods is as much an issue of local democracy as it is of national democracy, as these goods may be on sale locally all around the country.”

This campaign was, they told me, “very successful”, with “motions in support of the Bill being passed in 13 local councils with a further 3 passing motions in support of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement”.

Various other emails were received from individuals presumed to be members of Irish4Israel or the IIA. In one such email the author writes that “Ireland needs to stop this anti Israel bias”. One way of achieving this would “be to stop funding NGO’s [sic] that are anti Israel.” These NGOs, the author declares, “frame themselves are pro human rights” but “are mostly just NGO’s [sic] that wish to attack Israel.”

In another similar email, the author writes that “there seems to be a concerted effort to increase violence in the hope of provoking an Israeli response.” People “never do hear about Palestinian violence” unless the mentioned Israeli response takes place, argues the writer.

In yet another email, sent in January of 2014, the author declared it was “an outrage” that the Irish government had not sent its Ambassador to the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. The DFA duly corrected the mistaken author in its response, noting that a letter of condolence was sent and that the Irish Ambassador to Israel had in actuality attended the funeral.

In addition, the DFA also replied that “it is disappointing in a letter concerned with extending courtesy to a deceased leader in another country, you were unable to do the same in relation to the President of Ireland.”

In a statement issued by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) in response to the documents I received, they told me that it shows “a lack of basic knowledge of what our government is actually doing (and not doing) with regard to the Palestine-Israel issue” on the part of the authors.

The correspondence also shows a “skewed historical perspective that all but erases Palestinians from their own history” and a “basic lack of understanding of international law” according to the IPSC representative I spoke to. Palestinians are portrayed “merely as hate-filled antagonists obsessed with violence”.

Furthermore, the arguments used in the letters are “the same type of arguments consistently trotted out by the apartheid State of Israel itself, and its lobbying groups all over the world”.

As for the documents I obtained, a substantial part of them originated from the Irish4Israel lobby group. The activity of the group has been recently discontinued, however.

Now the pro-Israel movement in Ireland will be “coming under new management” in the form of the IIA according to the resignation letter circulated by Irish4Israel President, Barry Williams, this past summer.

In his letter, Williams bemoaned the “level of anti Israel [sic] activity here, the media and political bias and the general delegitimisation and hostility.” Having decided to “step down from coordinating pro Israel [sic] activism” in Ireland, that honour would now go to the IIA and its leader, Jackie Goodall.

Any donations, equipment, and literature that Irish4Israel still possessed would now be sent to the IIA “to use in the future and to continue its work” according to Williams.

Although the tone of Irish4Israel over the years ran a simplistic gamut from anger to hysteria, the subsuming of them by the IIA appears to be an escalation in terms of pro-Israel lobbying efforts here.

Ms Goodall, who heads the IIA, is a Christian Fundamentalist who describes herself as a “Christian Zionist” according to an article published by The Phoenix earlier this year. Ms Goodall has written elsewhere that Israel is “a beacon of light surrounded by darkness, chaos and confusion.”

She also believes that “our valued Judea-Christian heritage is being fast eroded” by a confluence of humanism, political correctness — “which aims to silence the mouths of Christians for fear of being stigmatised” — and “the aggressive growth of Islam.”

As The Phoenix noted, this represents an evangelical turn in pro-Israel activism in Ireland. This development is in line with the continuing lurch of Israel further to the Evangelical Right, especially over the last few years.

Although the correspondence obtained via FOI legislation reads as arrogant, dismissive, rude, bitter, and downright incorrect at times, the majority of the tone used represents that of a non-religiously orientated lobby group, grating as that may be.

With the absorption of Irish4Israel by the IIA, it is not hard to imagine that we can look forward to pro-Israel lobbying efforts in which the use of language has become even more belligerent, ignorant, and religious in its contents.

Given these facts, and that the head of the IIA considers humanists and Muslims to be the enemy, close attention must be paid to the group and its activities. This is for the simple reason that what is at stake is more than simple propaganda victories.

Any viable future for the Palestinians must not be allowed to be influenced by the Evangelical Right, whose dogma, in their own eyes, outweighs basic human rights and dignity.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

FOI Request, Pro-Isreal Lobby Documents

Rollingnews

From top: Leader of the Labour Party Brendan Howlin (centre) following his keynote address at the Labour Conference in the Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin 4 on Saturday night; Bryan Wall

Over the weekend the Labour Party held its annual conference in Dublin. As is standard, a number of motions were put forward to be debated, amended on occasion, and voted on. Brendan Howlin, their current leader, opened the proceedings.

Asking whether the current government’s record was worse on housing or health, he described them as “‘conservative’ in every sense of the word.” But “Labour”, he said, “is different.”

The theme for the conference being “A New Republic”, it demonstrated “Labour’s vision of a better Ireland”, with Labour themselves being the “party that always strives for a better future for all our people.”

Mr Howlin went on to say that “Michael D [Higgins] represents so much that is good about the Labour tradition” with his “Unflinching commitment to his principles”.

Apparently not being bothered about the monetary cost of such “Unflinching commitment”, Higgins has “genuine concern for the welfare of others, [e]specially the most vulnerable.”

Not wanting to rest on their laurels though, Mr Howlin also declared that the success of the Yes vote in the 8th amendment referendum meant that Labour was “vindicated”.

In the vaunted “New Republic”, “People will be able to afford to buy or rent a decent home”, with Labour “tighten[ing] regulation of private landlords” instead of introducing tax breaks and incentives for them. “Labour”, he says, “has a lot to offer.”

His party “has done so much to advance decent jobs and decent living standards for ordinary people”, and he is “proud of our long-time members who are the backbone of the party”.

These same members “kept Labour going through the hard times”, the only reference he makes towards Labour’s time in coalition with Fine Gael and the disastrous aftermath for the party.

During his keynote speech on Saturday, Mr Howlin reiterated Labour’s principles of fighting for equality and justice.

Labour “will not allow people to suffer homelessness, depression or chronic pain because the services they need are not made available” and that “Labour has consistently championed decency, justice and equality.”

They have “always delivered real social progress” in the areas of greater workers’ rights, women’s rights and gay rights. Labour also reduced poverty and introduced free education. Labour intends to “take back the State” and use it, amongst other things, to “regulate private rents”.

Ending with the rhetorical flourish that Labour offers “Unity, Not division [sic]”, and they will therefore “build a new Republic”, Howlin’s vision is astoundingly, yet unsurprisingly, ahistorical.

Their current policies, out of the appropriate and recent historical context, sound enticing yet Labour’s record when in government was downright appalling. With a functioning memory it becomes difficult for Labour to justify their posturing given the policies they enacted and supported when in power.

Hence they rely on an ahistorical frame of reference to engender success at the polls. Of particular importance, given the current housing and homelessness crisis, is their record on housing when they were in government.

Joan Burton at the time said she was “proud” of her party’s record on housing. At the same time the Simon Community reported “a 20% increase in the number of people seeking help from its services since this time last year [2014].”

In 2015 the Irish Examiner reported that the previous year Alan Kelly, then Labour’s deputy leader, was against the introduction of rent controls.

He believed that such regulation “would run the risk of encouraging a large number of so-called accidental landlords to leave the sector, thus exacerbating the supply problem and leading to yet higher rent levels.”

Kelly also pushed for a tax reliefs that “should help landlords, including relief on borrowings and capital gains tax relief”. In an irony that only politics can provide, the proposals were “shot down” by the then Finance Minister, Michael Noonan.

Almost identical proposals were introduced by Noonan’s successor in Fine Gael just last month. Landlords can now “write off 100% of their mortgage interest repayments on loans used to buy rental property”, along with a four per cent capital gains tax relief. Such background was obviously lacking at the conference over the weekend.

But the history of Labour’s time in government does on occasion pop up. One delegate vociferously told his fellow delegates that Labour “did our best to save the working people from the harm of the neo-liberal policies of Fine Gael”.

Happy to become Christ-like martyrs, the delegate declared “we would do that one more time if we went in to coalition”. Labour, he said, “would sacrifice our movement just to achieve small little crumbs on the table.”

On the other hand, they “would be taking part in the harm” that would be inflicted on ordinary people, which would therefore also result in the further erosion of the Labour Party in Ireland. The party “need to survive in order to defend” the working class.

What the delegate did not ask, nor presumably did any of the other delegates, was does Ireland need the Labour Party? Are they even wanted?

Despite all the self-aggrandising over the weekend, Labour’s recent history is replete with broken promises, contempt for the working class, and an ability to use the language of the Left in order to undermine it.

Labour are political chameleons, who will change their appearance on a whim in order to increase their share of the vote and therefore get back into government. Given the current crises in Ireland, their most obvious political tactic is to set themselves aside from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Here they can pretend they will fix things; if only they had the power to do so.

Their actions when in government a few years ago are to be forgotten about as otherwise their proposed solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis would be seen as deeply hypocritical. And when they bring up their time in government with Fine Gael, they portray themselves as martyrs for the working class.

This cross was theirs to bear alone. By attempting to set themselves up as the only “Left-Wing” alternative to the dominant parties of the Right in Ireland, they are trying to undermine and pre-empt the policies of parties who are genuinely of the Left.

Councillor Dermot Lacey unintentionally verbalised this when he said that “the Extreme-Left… don’t want to achieve things.” What they want, he said, is “to condemn people to poverty so that they can build their campaigns.”

But it is Labour who have condemned people to poverty. And it is now they who are trying to use this to build on their campaign.

It was not Paul Murphy who broke a pledge not to increase university fees. It was not Clare Daly who questioned the phone-purchasing habits of the working class.

And it was not Mick Wallace whose recommendations regarding housing were identical to those implemented by a party supposedly further to the Right than himself. Labour’s call for unity is nothing more than an attempt at rehabilitation via association with genuinely morally upright and consistent movements of the Left.

Seeking power for power’s sake, they are attempting to realign themselves by also using the language of the Left.

For Labour to call for a “New Republic” is obscene. Labour’s policies when in government ensured that equality and justice have become even more difficult to obtain. Besides, they already gifted us a “New Republic” in the form of a society where inequality and injustice are rampant.

Labour have clearly nothing but contempt for actual parties of the Left in Ireland. Any calls for unity emanating from them are nothing but cynical political exercises in trying to regain some semblance of power. Brendan Howlin can quote Karl Marx as much as he wants.

His party showed their true colours in 2011 when they were happy to enter government with the neo-liberal Fine Gael. They may attempt to downplay this but the people should not forget it any time soon.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Rollingnews

From top: President Michael D Higgins speaks on his re-election victory on Saturday at Dublin Castle in front of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and Presidential candidate, Peter Casey (far left); Bryan Wall

Across Europe the rise of movements of the Right has been especially noticeable in recent years. What binds them together, in spite of the geographic distances between them, is a worldview based on a number of recurrent themes.

Distress at the apparent loss of national identity, anguish for the loss of religious belief and institutions, fear or dislike of modernity and the resulting atomisation of society due to the prevalence of technology and neo-liberalism, and an overriding contempt for what they view as a form of coddling liberalism which pervades the industrialised world.

For those on the Far Right, this list of grievances is not sacrosanct but it is nonetheless a basis upon which their actions rest.

Economic conditions for the last decade have proven to be fertile ground for the rise of movements which give a voice to people with these beliefs. Their rise in the polls should come as no surprise yet, like the election victory of Donald Trump, it often does.

How do we explain this surprise?

Firstly, the source of much of the surprise comes from the mainstream media. Content to ignore the proliferation of right-wing movements, the Left often comes in for much vilification and degradation on the part of pundits in the media.

Reading any of the most popular British publications for the last two years would leave one with the impression that Jeremy Corbyn is the next Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx rolled into one. Such an obvious contradiction is not enough to deter his most vociferous enemies in the press.

All the while the rate of hate crimes has risen. Insinuating that Jeremy Corbyn and actual anti-Semites are cut from the same cloth undermines the whole notion of social justice, does damage to legitimate movements of the Left, and only emboldens those on the Right who relish in the muddied waters of confused ideologies.

This latter aspect allows them to brand themselves as “alt-right”; an alternative to, and sometimes ironic undermining, of mainstream institutions such as political offices and the media itself. A label like this allows them to market themselves as an “alternative” to the mainstream, as opposed to using the more appropriate term of fascist.

Others, such as the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) have no such concerns when it comes to their marketing policies.

Most recently, for example, they called on students in German schools to report their teachers for political bias using an online tool that the AfD designed. The bias in question would be “bias against our party”, according to an AfD spokesperson.

Since their creation, the AfD have campaigned on the basis of fighting against immigration, the supposed Islamisation of Germany, alongside restoring German cultural values, amongst other things. Given their policies one would hope that they would not be successful.

But they are just that. In the federal elections in 2017 they won 97 seats which in turn made them the third largest party in the German parliament.

What explains the success of the AfD, and others like them, is they have tapped in to the concerns of many people who feel they have been ignored by the mainstream. It is also explained by the support of people who feel alienated from the Left, or at least what passes as the Left in some quarters.

These concerns, enumerated above, are not always based on the idea of a form of racial supremacy or an authoritarian takeover of society. On occasion, as is the case here, some of their concerns warrant attention if we take them at face value.

Alienation from the Left and social justice movements more generally, is one element in particular on which we should focus our attention. I

n the American case, not every single person who voted for Donald Trump is a racist, gun-toting, misogynist. In the German case, the same applies.

What has made movements of the Right more prolific in recent years has been the previous ten years of economic austerity and hardship in Europe. In America, these hardships have lasted for decades.

And a movement of the Left more concerned with gender-neutral bathrooms and racial diversity in a corrupt political system than with economic realities, lived in and experienced daily by millions, has been a blind spot used by the Right to its advantage.

Social justice without economic justice is meaningless and this has been noticed by the Right who promise both.

Anger at mainstream politics and politicians has been utilised by elements of the Right at the expense of the Left. In Ireland it has often been noted that a Far Right movement has never taken off. There are no easy explanations for why this is the case.

One possible reason has been the dominance of parties of the Right and Centre-Right in Ireland for most of its history which have offered a pressure valve release of sorts. In this sense, a movement of the Far Right has been forestalled given the traditional social conservatism of the two major political parties here.

Nonetheless, there is a sizeable contingent of the population who are apparently unhappy with the current state of Irish society who are finding an outlet in elements of the Right that are not associated with mainstream politics.

When Sam Harris, Douglas Murray, and Jordan Peterson gave a lecture in Dublin in July of this year, they spoke in front of a crowd of thousands.

Mr Harris is a well-known defender of U.S. foreign policy and is a staunch defender of Israel. He is also known for his defence of racial profiling along with his general writings on Islam and the supposed threat it poses to the West.

Mr Murray is a neoconservative and criticises Islam along the same lines as Harris, arguing that Islam poses a threat to Europe in particular and therefore immigration must be stopped.

Mr Peterson, for his part, is beholden to the idea that a postmodern Marxist ideology has infiltrated universities and politics. From here it undermines all that was good about society in the past where it also insists that truth no longer matters.

All three speak the language of the Far Right; lamenting the destruction of aspects of modern society they consider important, a dislike of modern politics and culture, a wish to return to the golden days of the past, the Marxist infiltration of our institutions.

At one stage Peterson had planned to launch a website which listed university departments and courses which were “indoctrinated” by postmodern Marxist views. The plan was eventually scrapped — for reasons other than Peterson’s complete misunderstanding of both Marxism and postmodernism — but it bears a striking similarity to the AfD’s current initiative.

The appearance of these three men here and the fact that it was so well attended should be a wake-up call for many of us.

Despite the liberal facade that now covers the country, there is a sizeable portion of people who are unhappy with the current functioning and structure of society. Spokespeople for the Right are capitalising on this.

What will follow not long afterwards is a political movement of the Right that likewise capitalises on the real discontent that is felt and experienced and utilises the same inroads made by the Petersons of the world. Peter Casey’s result in our own presidential elections over the weekend is a symptom of this.

Yes, his comments about Travellers were contemptible and some of the many people who voted for him likely did so because of these comments.

But many are just as likely to have voted for him given the lack of coherent candidates, the clear bias shown against Gemma O’Doherty in her attempts to gain a nomination for the elections, and the very real and serious questions that were raised, and still need to be answered, surrounding the expenses of the incumbent Michael D. Higgins while in office.

Many on the Left in Ireland were in lockstep with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in their support for Higgins and his re-election. An alignment such as this should have given them pause for thought.

And now that Casey has placed second in the election, their own lack of comprehension of how this was possible is demonstrable of an even more serious problem.

They simply do not understand why people are unhappy, angry, and how the Left’s lack of self-awareness feeds into this.

Support for Higgins by Leftist parties and the hypocrisy this entails should be self-evident. It is apparently not. People voting for Casey as a result of this is currently too much for them to decipher.

This result, then, should be a warning that unless moral consistency is shown alongside an understanding of why people are deeply unhappy with modern society, the Right will continue to win at the expense of equality, justice and those on the Left who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of both.

What we will end up with if this continues is an Irish version of the AfD. With no coherent or consistent response to them or their supporters, their victory is assured and the Left will continue to fail to understand some very basic truths through either incompetence or unwillingness.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Rollingnews

From top: Former Garda Commissioners Martin Callinan and Noirin O’Sullivan in March. 2012; Bryan Wall

With the publication of the Charleton Tribunal’s findings the public can apparently sigh with collective relief.

Maurice McCabe and John Wilson — the latter having been forgotten about in most reporting — have both been vindicated.

Both men risked their careers and health in order to publicise Garda malfeasance and corruption.

Penalty points were wiped, cases improperly investigated, and suspects released on parole when they should never have been released in the first place.In the latter case the person in question went on to commit murder.

Justice Charleton excoriated both former Commissioner Martin Callinan and former Garda Press Officer David Taylor.

The two men, Justice Charleton found, were essentially working together in order to denigrate the characters of Mr. McCabe and Mr. Wilson.

Justice Charleton wrote that “Superintendent Taylor completely understated his own involvement” in the campaign against both whistleblowers.

Mr Callinan’s denial of reported statements he made to various people, in which he called Maurice McCabe a paedophile and rapist, were themselves disbelieved by Justice Charleton.

All in all, the reporting of Justice Charleton’s findings has been one in which the idea that the truth has been ferreted out by a thorough investigatory procedure is accepted at face value.

Therefore, we can all rest assured that the guilty either have been or will be punished.

But is that really the case?

Justice Charleton’s report reads as an inconsistent investigation whose limits were not only set legally, but also it seems ideologically. Scapegoats had to be found and they were.

Martin Callinan and David Taylor provide both. The evidence against both men was too large to ignore and simply too well known by politicians and journalists.

On the other hand, limits as to who could be blamed were clearly set.

John McGuinness TD gave evidence that after a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Martin Callinan had approached him in the chambers and told him that Maurice McCabe and John Wilson were “fucking headbangers”.

He also told TD McGuinness that McCabe “fiddles kids”. In his evidence TD McGuinness also pointed out that David Taylor and, Martin Callinan’s eventual successor as Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan “were present when these remarks were made.”

David Taylor, in his evidence, confirms this. Callinan would the next day meet TD McGuinness in a car park for the now infamous meeting in which he reaffirmed his statement regarding McCabe and Wilson. In his report, Justice Charleton writes that “The conversations as described by John McGuinness TD took place.”

Yet, he also states that “There is nothing to show” that Nóirín O’Sullivan knew anything about former Commissioner Callinan’s comments.

This is despite the fact that two witnesses, one of whom the Tribunal considered to be completely honest in his evidence, placed her at least within earshot of the comments made after the PAC meeting.

It is also despite the fact that on other occasions Justice Charleton says that evidence given by former Commissioner O’Sullivan is, quite literally, unbelievable.

“The tribunal cannot accept her evidence”, writes Justice Charleton, regarding her claim that she did not take any phone calls from her counsel in the aftermath of their cross-examination of Maurice McCabe during the O’Higgins Commission; a cross examination during which Maurice McCabe was described by some as having had his character “traduced”.

Nonetheless, in the report it states that this “had nothing to do with Commissioner O’Sullivan.”

There is, of course, also the issue of missing phones. As stated in the report, “six phones used by Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan during the relevant period” were requested. Only one of those phones was received.

The lonesome phone that she did turn over was used “intermittently”, with her son coming to use it on “a basis personal to him”.

Martin Callinan also used six phones during the relevant period but like O’Sullivan, a number of them were missing.

The Tribunal received only two of the phones in question. As egregious as this may sound, however, David Taylor had previously told TD Clare Daly that phones and SIM cards were regularly destroyed in order to get rid of evidence but this is not linked in the report to the issue of the missing phones.

Instead, the fact that a number of phones belonging to both Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan have gone missing is accepted as is and without much comment on the part of Justice Charleton.

All of this is just one aspect of a report which reads more like an exercise in bureaucracy than an investigation into malfeasance and corruption on the part of some of the most powerful people in the country.

Coincidences abound, questions remained unasked let alone unanswered, and the evidence of witnesses who are considered to be completely honest and reliable is accepted on a basis of when it suits the investigation.

ohn McGuinness is reliable when he gives evidence regarding what he was told by Martin Callinan. When he states that Nóirín O’Sullivan was there when the comments were made, however, this part of his evidence goes ignored.

The furthest that Justice Charleton goes in assigning culpability to Ms. O’Sullivan is when he writes that it was “improbable that she did not have an inkling at the very least about Commissioner Callinan’s views.

Blame needed to be assigned to someone. Martin Callinan and David Taylor meet this description and have been duly sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Of course, I am not arguing that what both men did was not contemptible and slanderous.But there is more to the entire story than just two men who set out to denigrate the characters of Garda whistleblowers.

It appears that a hierarchy of plausible deniability was created in order to protect individuals the further up the chain it went. And the only reason Callinan and Taylor have been duly sacrificed is that they were too vociferous in their methods.

Subtlety is the bedfellow of intrigue. In this regard it was easy to point the finger at these two given their complete lack of subtlety.

Yes, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson have been vindicated but there are people who participated in their vilification who remain unscathed and in some cases unidentified.

In the Charleton Report, the concept of a constructed plausible deniability among the upper echelons of the political and social worlds has shown its purpose and value. In this sense then, for the rest of us at least, vindication has come at the expense of justice.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

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Previously: Legal Coffee Drinker: Charelton Report Conclusions