Tag Archives: Bryan On Monday

From top: Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty,  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Buisness, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphries TD  after a special cabinet meeting in The Academy in Dublin last Friday; Bryan Wall

Inequality in Ireland has become so commonplace that any reporting of it is accepted and then quickly forgotten about. We have a health service on the verge of collapse, a housing and homelessness crisis, and an elite indifferent to the needs of the many.

This is the status quo of many societies in the West. It’s no different here. It also explains the attraction that many have for the far right and its various elements. Mainstream politics has noticeably failed to bring about equality and justice.

The far right offers — or at least claims to offer — a different way of doing things; one which will bring greater justice and equality to society.

These individuals and groups are ascendant but they do not pose the threat that the mainstream political right do, at least not yet. The latter hold the economic reins. It is to them that we are beholden and to whom we all have to answer in some manner.

But do not think for a second that the reverse is also true. Political elites claim to answer to the people but this is far from accurate. In many cases they have to be forced to listen. Often this involves the use of mass movements. And on more than a few occasions it involves outright aggression.

What will it take for elites in Ireland to listen?

Will threats to their political popularity prick up their ears? Or would a mobile guillotine on a nationwide tour be more effective? The anger is palpable here, let’s not be mistaken about this.

There are literally thousands of people without a home. And there are many more who will never have a chance to own a home of their own. Insane house prices and a government with no interest in providing housing have left them without a chance of ever being able to afford one

There are even more people on hospital waiting lists. We have unemployed people being sanctioned for daring to be unemployed. Their future is being determined by a privatised welfare system intent on making profit over having any kind of humanistic ethos.

Decency be damned, a profit must be made. This is the society that the political class has created in Ireland. They operate in it as efficiently as a fish in water.

So when a report is released about lone parents and high rates of poverty it can be cast aside. The figures are clearly inaccurate; the report is missing vital context; the economy is doing well; unemployment is down. Take your pick. These lines are trotted out again and again to explain away inequality.

The report in question found that one in five lone parents was living in poverty. Leo Varadkar was quick to resort to a reliable response:

“I do not believe the report that was issued today tells the full picture.”

Varadkar can go on to claim that poverty rates have fallen not caring that a report recently issued by TASC found otherwise.

As mentioned before, it’s not that he’s a bumbling politician. He knows the facts. It’s just that they don’t matter compared to the need for business as usual. Reform, cut, privatise; that’s what really matters. Society is nothing to be concerned about.

In a Thatcherite Ireland only the individual matters to the extent that they can either make a profit or provide one for somebody else. And it’s the latter position that most of us find ourselves in.

The simple harsh reality is that successive governments have overseen a transfer of wealth to the top 1% in Ireland. TASC found that between 1975 and 2009 the top 1% of earners “almost doubled its share of national income”.

Part of this time period, they noted, “coincides with the advent of neo-liberalism, [and] the rightward shift in economic policy.”

In total, TASC found that:

“The bottom 40 percent receives about 22% of national income, while the top ten percent receives almost a quarter.”

Yet, the rate of poverty among lone parents is to be disputed. Reality only extends as far as its usefulness to an elite who are happy to oversee economic inequality. Meanwhile people have to march on the streets in order to try and force the government to do something about the homelessness and housing crisis.

Thus far marching has done nothing. And the longer that peaceful protest fails to deliver the more likely it is that someone will decide that direct action is next logical step. The logic isn’t flawed.

When a white powder was sent to Health Minister Simon Harris’s department no mention could be made of the above context. Nothing about the cervical cancer deaths, the striking nurses and midwives, the failing health service, or Harris’s general role in a right-wing government.  Of course Varadkar calling the sender or senders of the white powder “oddballs” was reported.

Actions like this, as abhorrent as they may be to a lot of people, do not take place in a vacuum. But this is what you’d think if you read the mainstream media’s reporting of the incident.

For now we find ourselves under the foot of an unjust economic system. This same system is implemented by politicians who feel perfectly content knowing that the policies in question cause mass inequality and injustice.

The future holds either more of the same or an explosion of some kind. What that explosion will be is anybody’s guess. But it is unlikely to be a revolution at the ballot box.

We are living in an era where economic stagnation is the best we will soon be able to hope for. Climate change will pound the world and much of humanity into submission. Elites will leave us to drown in the fetid waters that their very policies created. From their sanctuaries they will continue to oversee a world in which profit comes at the expense of basic decency.

Ireland is in no way immune from any of this. We have leaders here who would happily sacrifice us all if it meant even just a bit more power and a bit more profit. For them the ballot box is a valve that releases the pressure that builds up in society. They rely on it to counter any moves for real change.

Some people already realise this or soon will. There are hints of this in Ireland. Only one thing is certain: When a mass of people come to the same conclusion, all bets are off.

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: DUP Leader Arlene Foster in Dublin last Summer following a meeting with the Fianna Fáil Leadership on Brexit; Bryan Wall

Brexit was always going to be a disaster, both for Britain in general and British politics. Led by a group of people who think the days of the Empire were in fact glorious and not laden with misery and death, it’s not likely things could turn out any other way.

Boris Johnson represents nobody but his own ego. He understands world politics through the lens of privilege and historical revisionism. Jacob Rees-Mogg is no better. Privately educated, and intent on reliving the days of British prestige, he could be torn out of the pages of a Dickens novel.

Both played the part of propagandists and historical revisionists. The EU stands in the way of British democracy and freedom. Therefore, the solution is simple: Brexit.

But the solution was not simple and it was never going to be.

Cast everything else aside and focus on the issue of Northern Ireland alone. No due consideration was ever given to Ireland, let alone the north of Ireland. The latter has always been seen as a burden and the former an obstreperous former colony which should really know its place.

Ireland should either rejoin the UK, or remember its “place” and get out of the way of larger more important plans. What if there’s a hard border and a return to violence?

British interests, which are always more important and more rational given the natural intellectual superiority of the Eton-educated, must be given the appropriate leeway.

Violence was always an Irish issue and nothing to do with British occupation, obviously. Johnson and friends want a return to a world where Britain can stride the world and the lessers will bow.

It is easy to laugh and mock. But these are dangerous men with even more dangerous interpretations of history. And what’s worse, they want to return to what they believe was the height of civilisation: A Britain “free” of the EU and trivial things like the Good Friday Agreement.

Brexit is their reenactment of a delusion. In their fantasies, both men sees themselves as bastions of British enlightenment. Reality beckons, but no matter. If they remain firm in their convictions the world will surely twist and bend to meet their expectations and wants.

Meanwhile, the potential consequences for the rest of us have been clear from the start.

This is vivid in a recent interview with a volunteer in Arlene Foster’s constituency office. The woman, a former member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), said she voted for Brexit for the simple reason that she wants the north to return to the way it was “40 years ago”.

It is the media that is making things worse, according to her; not the likes of Johnson and Rees-Mogg. She also says “I don’t even agree with the Good Friday Agreement” because the “protestant sector were done hard by”.

There will never be a united Ireland according to her. It is an independent country and she proudly tells us her grandfather “fought for this country”. Consequently, if there was any united Ireland she says she would “get my uniform back on and I would stand firmly British”.

Thus we have the threat of a return to violence alongside British calls for us to “know our place”. And that is part of the fear of the extremist unionists: That the people they gladly trampled under foot actually have some rights and a legitimate claim to call and campaign for a border poll.

Tensions, at the very least, are inevitable in such a scenario.

Did this even cross the minds of the Brexiteers? Not likely. For them Northern Ireland is a dead weight that should have been cast aside decades ago. Brexit must happen regardless of what Arlene Foster and her supporters think.

The only reason that Foster’s party has been able to dictate to Theresa May’s government is the latter’s vampire-like need for power. Foster and her party are a means to an end for May.

Foster and other unionists seem to live under the illusion that their place as part of the UK is guaranteed no matter what. The Good Friday Agreement and basic demographics prove otherwise.

But the question still remains: What exactly is going to happen?

The only certainty is that a border poll is inevitable. In a wonderfully historic irony Brexiteers, in their desire to return to the halcyon days of the British Empire, have only hastened the collapse of the United Kingdom. Within our lifetimes Irish unity is almost guaranteed.

Perhaps, then, we should be thankful to Messrs Johnson and Rees-Mogg. But in the short-term the damage they are already causing is not to be downplayed. The British economy is suffering, people are uncertain about their future, and hate crimes have risen. Only Eton could provide such wonderful statesmen.

For us, Brexit is just a look behind the curtain. We gaze and wonder at how such intentional ignorance could have gifted the world the terror that was the British Empire. Brexit also exemplifies the feeling we’ve had most of our lives.

British elites and their supporters look down on Ireland and the Irish. We’re an inconvenience off their west coast. Johnson and Rees-Mogg can pontificate all they like. Ireland isn’t going away. And neither is Irish unity.

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: Bernie Sanders in 2016; Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin at the Fianna Fáil party conference at Citywest Hotel Dublin on Saturday night; Bryan Wall

Where is the Irish Bernie Sanders? This is a question that should be on all of our minds. It should be the question. Where is the change that is so badly needed in Irish society going to come from? And where is our equivalent of a political outsider with massive widespread support and appeal?

They won’t be found in the mainstream political parties, including the more left-leaning ones. Labour are traitors and the Social Democrats are dead on arrival. People before Profit and the Socialist Party have the self-defeating tendency, like many parties of the left, to put ideology above moral consistency.

Instead of actually joining with people who engage in political activism and campaigning day in, day out, they insist on entryism at all costs.

If this means denigrating and undermining campaigns that, if successful, would genuinely leave us in a better position for the foreseeable future, then so be it.  I have seen it first-hand. They paint themselves as the victims whilst victimising everyone who doesn’t adhere to their vanguardism.

As for the “big two”, expect nothing but more of the same. Crumbs for the many and lavish meals for the few. Micheál Martin can pontificate as much as he likes about Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar.

But Leo Varadkar is in the position he is in because of Fianna Fáil and Martin’s leadership of the party.

The latter’s criticisms of the government, then, are hollow; an attempt at differentiating one right-wing party from another slightly more right-wing party.

During their Ard Fheis this past weekend, Martin was clear to point out the failings of Fine Gael. He decried their “out of touch and arrogant government.”

Fine Gael, he said, are “incapable of delivering”. Its minister “are passionate about using public money to promote themselves.” Fine Gael, he went on, “simply don’t understand the pressures which people are facing every day”.

You would think then that Fianna Fáil would be on the other side of the Dáil given Martin’s comments. Alas no. “Ireland faces a genuinely historic threat from Brexit”, according to him.

This means Ireland “has to have a government in place if we are to have any chance of limit its damage.” It is for this reason Fianna Fáil “took the step of extending the confidence and supply agreement.”

According to Martin:

It’s a difficult decision for us, but it’s the right decision. And it reinforces the fact that Fianna Fáil is putting the national interest first.

At least that’s what he’d like us all to believe. Brexit is just an excuse for Fianna Fáil to stay in a holding pattern. Current polling does not favour them. And do not underestimate the lure the Taoiseach’s office has for Micheál Martin.

So with all of this in mind, where indeed would an Irish Bernie Sanders come from in the first place?

Sanders should be seen as a uniquely American phenomenon. His policies, if he ran over here, would likely place him somewhere towards the centre of the political spectrum. In America, however, he is as a radical.

This is indicative of the insanity of American politics. Our own version of Sanders would need to bypass the standard party system and not be beholden to any party’s whip. In fact, any change in Ireland must instead come at a grassroots level.

Sanders is as close to grassroots as many in America are willing to go. We, on the other hand, can and should go much further.

But this will not be easy. We have an establishment which abhors change in the form of greater democracy and openness. Any move to make for ourselves a more democratic and equal country is see as radical.

For these same people the most radical thing they are capable of is wearing brightly coloured socks. Politics for them is propaganda wing of business interests.

The scandal surrounding the bill for the children’s hospital is indicative of this. It must be built, no matter the cost.

Why? Because if it doesn’t it might not go over well with a company which has a record of acquiring government contracts and then bleeding the taxpayer dry.

These are the same reasons we were given for the bank guarantee and bailout. The banks have to be bailed out. Why? Because if we don’t it might annoy some of the government’s friends who have a lot to lose if their debts aren’t soaked up by the taxpayer.

Everybody knows what happened as a result. Massive cutbacks, the immiseration of the country, and a massive transfer of wealth.

And now, with the children’s hospital, it has been reported that already cutbacks in other areas of the health service will have to be made because of the ludicrous bill for the hospital. The government line is: Our friends have to be paid, so you have to suffer. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The parties of the right have nothing to offer the mass of people except false promises. To the wealthy they owe their success, and return the favour in the ways expected and well-known in Irish society. As for the far right, they offer nothing but hatred mixed with ignorance of history.

It is not that they should be ignored. But the more immediate threat are the men in suits, not the men who parrot 4chan conspiracy theories. The latter only understand and fear violence. The former, more than anything, fear a truly democratic society which would hold them to account.

So, the Irish Bernie Sanders isn’t any person in particular. It is more of a movement that wants to create a better and more equal society. One where politics is not a facade to cover up the transfer of wealth from the masses to the few. We can each of us be our own version of Sanders in the sense of challenging the establishment.

That is the only way that any progress will be made in Irish society. Martin and Varadkar will continue their game of political will-they-or-won’t-they.

For anyone else who actually cares about creating a better society, they will be doing something productive. They’ll be organising, dissenting, and generally causing a ruckus. We’ll be all the better for it.

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: members of Masi (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) in Roosky yesterday; Bryan Wall

Yet another attack on a proposed direct provision centre in Roosky is indicative of the hate and fear bubbling under the surface of Irish society. It is one thing to feel upset at having a direct provision centre placed in your town or village.

The tendency seems to be that this is done without any consultation with the local population. But it is an entirely different matter to want to firebomb a building that is due to house asylum seekers. This is especially so given that the building had a number of staff in it at the time.

There has been a noticeable uptick in the far right here. Their talking heads are appearing more and more frequently on social media and their talking points are appearing more and more often in the comments sections of websites.

And, what’s more, they appear to be having some success. Anger at government idiocy and greed is being redirected by these same proliferators of hate. Some are likely only opportunists.

Climbing aboard a far-right political movement is just a ladder on the way to social and political influence; at least that’s how they see it from their optimistic point of view.

But others do indeed have nothing but contempt and hate for any person whose skin is not the appropriate shade of white. There is also an overlap in their beliefs between this racial essentialism and the idea that the world is under siege from a malign communist conspiracy.

Asylum seekers, in their minds, are the demographic foot soldiers here to wipe out the white race. Anything to the left of Mussolini is considered “Marxist” is some shape or form.

Marxism appears in scare quotes given the consistent misunderstanding, likely intentional, of Marxism and its various offshoots. Somehow, in their world, Ireland has become a dictatorship of the communist Cultural Marxists.

The same people who will tell you that Leo Varadkar and pals are planning to eliminate the native Irish by means of mass immigration are the very same people who likely think Habermas is a kind of sausage.

Often unspoken, but obvious to anyone who understands the history of Marx and Marxism, in the conspiracy theory surrounding Cultural Marxism is that it is really about anti-Semitism.

It is not simply that the Frankfurt School was just made up of neo-Marxists like Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. They were also Jewish. And with that in mind, we are simply rehashing the 19th century conspiracy theory about Jewish plans to rule the world.

Now, though, it has been updated to include anything which involves fighting for equality and offering refuge to people desperately in need of it. It has become unfashionable (thankfully) to be anti-Semitic.

More insidious forms have to be used. Hence we get the conspiracy of Cultural Marxism. The anti-Semitism is not blatant, but it is there as soon as you understand the history of Marxism.

What does this have to do with Roosky? It is the same playbook.

Insist that there is a conspiracy. One is to colonise the physical landscape of Ireland; the other a move to colonise the minds of people with Cultural Marxism. The solution is simple. Both forms of colonisation can and must be stopped. One by aggressive reeducation and the other by sheer aggression.

What happened in Moville and Roosky is a case of the latter. Any person who does not adhere to this strict dichotomy is a Marxist of some shape or form and can therefore be dealt with accordingly.

The faux Yellow Vests who have emerged here perfectly illustrated that point in the last few weeks. At one of their protests some anti-fascist activists appeared. A number of the Yellow Vest protestors, none too pleasedabout this, made it quite clear that anything anti-fascist was not welcome at their protest.

This, of course, is in keeping with their active support of Ben Gilroy and the support given them by various far-right YouTube personalities. The same personalities who believe that a single figurehead is needed for people to rally around in order to restore Ireland to

Elsewhere a spokesperson for the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) told me that asylum seekers in direct provision are afraid.

MASI believe that it is possible that direct provision centres with asylum seekers already living there will be targeted eventually. This would seem to be the next step in the actions of the arsonists.

As MASI bluntly put it, “They might be plotting more because they are getting away with it.” MASI, of course, are correct. So far no arrests have been made and the Gardaí have not named any suspects.

In the meantime, asylum seekers will have to live in fear as the far right continues its rise throughout Europe. Anti-racism rallies, as uplifting as they may be, are ineffectual against true believers.

The people who are convinced that the world is engulfed by a conspiracy to eliminate white people will not be swayed or frightened by a rally or march. Liberals in Europe and the US have a particular disdain for anti-fascist activists, often calling them just as bad as fascists.

This, of course, is nonsense as well as being profoundly ignorant of history. Presumably these same critics of Antifa could be found in 1923 telling their contemporaries to ignore the loudmouth in the local Bavarian beer halls.

What they fail to understand is that fascism, whether it is nascent or fully formed, does not wince before a well-thought-out criticism.

In fact, it welcomes it as it offers the veneer of respectability to be able to engage in debate. After all, aren’t those who choose violence over debate clearly savages?

Fascism was not smashed with the use of harsh language. It was smashed by those willing to take on fascism directly. It is no accident that our current far right are so terrified of the spectre of anything red. It was the Red Army who largely crushed the German war machine in 1945.

Asylum seekers are a minority of a minority in this country. They want do nothing more than to live in peace. And that is impossible given both the tyranny of the direct provision system, and the fear of an upsurge of far-right violence.

The fire of the far right can only be put out by direct action Until that time has come to pass, none of should sleep peacefully.

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


Earlier: You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?

From top:Minister for Health Simon Harris on RTÈ 1’s Prime Time last week Eva O Callaghan, a student nurse from the Mater hospital and a member of the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation) at the trade union’s march in Dublin city centre last Saturday; Bryan Wall

Whenever people decide that enough is enough, and that their mistreatment at the hands of governments or corporations has become too much to endure, nothing is certain. This is because what was expected can no longer be taken for granted.

The rules that people have abided by up until this point are no longer of any use. Low pay, poor conditions, and increasing amounts of overtime create a tinder box of revolutionary struggle just waiting to exploded.

Our own experience in Ireland in this regard has been somewhat muted for the majority of the state’s existence. Over the last 10 years, however, with the collapse of the social contract — which was tenuous at best — people are no longer willing to stay within the confined lanes of waiting for their salvation at the ballot box.

Unions and mass organising have become more and more important to the lives of many people. They offer a way of resisting that is more than merely voting for the opposite party in an election.

Unions especially are anathema to the powerful in society, which is why they had to be either captured by power or crushed by it. When unions do actually stand up for themselves and their members, the elite are initially flabbergasted but quickly go on the offensive.

Take the recent episode of [RTE 1’s] Prime Time which dealt with the nurse and midwife strike and the children’s hospital construction scandal. Within seconds — literally, seconds — the underlying message was made clear for everyone watching.

David McCullagh, after showing a clip of a nurse on the picket line, said:

“But what are the risks to patients posed by next week’s planned three-day strike?”

The following interview with Simon Harris was more akin to an annoying aunt nagging you for more information at Christmas than a journalist confronting a health minister over his failures and the failures of his department.

In the case of the nurses and midwives, Mr Harris was keen to reiterate the point so conveniently mentioned in the major papers last week.

He said to Miriam O’Callaghan any agreement made with the striking nurses and midwives has to be made “in the confines of the [public sector] agreement”. Otherwise “you’ll have me sitting in this seat next week asking me about a different group.”

And this is the real threat posed by the nurses and midwives. Not their calls for better pay and conditions but the threat of a leading by successful example. In any society run along capitalist lines the workers have to be pliant, underpaid, and expendable. Nothing can be allowed to threaten this.

Hence we have in the media and on Prime Time the repeating of the threat posed to the welfare of patients by those on strike. Pit worker against worker. It is a textbook example of class warfare that could have been lifted out of any 19th-century economics textbook.

One GP, Doireann O’Leary, who is sympathetic with the nurses’ and midwives’ strike told Pat Kenny that “the government’s inaction on this is inappropriate and is really very upsetting.”  The government “seem not to want to resolve this” she said.

Her opinion seems to reflect that of the general public despite the attacks on the nurses and midwives in the media over the last week. The protest in Dublin over the weekend seems to confirm this.

These attacks will likely ramp up alongside increasing obstinance on the part of the government. Their supposed alarm that any capitulation to the wishes of the nurses may lead to an onslaught of similar claims is not what they really fear. Class and worker solidarity is the real fear.

People working together to improve their conditions and society in general is what scares them. That’s because it would involve a redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction. Instead of being redistributed up — which is the only appropriate direction for any redistribution of wealth – it would be redistributed to the people at the bottom, i.e., the workers.

Swathes of money can be found for a hospital whose cost is so obscene as to put it on a par with the worst excesses of dictators and their penchant for all things gold-plated.

The true cost of the hospital was known months ago. But given that redistribution in this case was directed at the right people and companies, it is an appropriate amount of expenditure.

Ensuring that we have a properly functioning public health system with adequately paid staff is not though. If it was funded and run the way it should be then it couldn’t be slowly dismantled, sold off to the lowest bidder, and privatised.

That is the endgame here. Not saving money, or ensuring that the government doesn’t have to deal with other unions and groups asking for more crumbs from the table.

A functioning public health system cannot be allowed to function under the conditions of a neoliberal society. It has to be made as inadequate and undesirable as possible in order to turn the public against it.

Once the appropriate amount of disdain for the health system exists, in swoop the private healthcare providers who will promise to save us all from the nightmare of “socialist” health provision.

Again, this is textbook economic policy. It was carried out with aplomb in the UK with the privatisation of the rail network and it is being carried here along the same lines but in the health system.

People can get in the way of this. Hence the need to shut down the protests as soon as possible; to make people believe that the striking nurses and midwives are a risk to the health of every person who relies on the public health system.

The government portrays itself as the saviour of the health system at the same time that it is destroying it.

Are people falling for this? Not yet, but never underestimate the ability of any government to whip up the suitable amount of fear and hostility when needed. For this reason the nurses and midwives must be successful.

They deserve, at the very least, a level of pay commensurate with the vocation they undertake. And it is a vocation. A person does not work shifts of 14 hours of being constantly on their feet without love for what they do.

Don’t expect the government to sway but likewise, don’t expect the nurses, midwives, and their fellow workers to give in to the greed and apathy of our leaders.

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: INMO members outside the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise; Irish media coverage of the dispute last week; Bryan Wall

With nurses set to strike again later this month, the government finds itself in a difficult position.

Does it acquiesce to the wishes of the nurses and their idea that decent pay and conditions be a prerequisite for being such an integral part of healthcare?

Or does it continue down the well-worn road of ignoring the wishes and needs of the wider population in service of the greater needs of profit and market discipline?

Given the stridency of the government thus far, the latter is the likely outcome.

The status quo must hold. Workers simply asking for a fair income and decent conditions is too much. To give in now might give other workers ideas about their role in society. It might also give them ideas about the value assigned to them by the government and its lackeys.

The media of course has played its own role in all of this. Yes, the strikes are reported on. But often they have been reported on in the context of the effects on patients.

Headlines across the Irish media reflected this adherence to the government’s stance.

This playing to the emotions of people, trying to pit them against nurses is a tactic commonly used. During the water charge protests we had “sinister fringes” who would unleash anarchy. And now we have nurses who are putting the lives of patients at risk by striking.

In the Irish Independent one article led with the headline, “Hundreds of people with an intellectual disability to be affected as nurses escalate strike threat”. This “escalation” would “mean many more vulnerable people will be hit by the strike”.

RTÉ followed suit, and reported in- and out-patient surgeries would be cancelled alongside the closing of injury units and other services.

In the Irish Examiner one could find the same warnings. Not only did they report that services across the board be cancelled but that there would be other unforeseen consequences well into the future.

Opening with the point of view of a Health Service Executive (HSE) representative, the following was reported:

“The knock-on effect of cancelled procedures and appointments due to the nurses’ strike will be felt for some time, the HSE says.”

Further down the article we find out what was actually said by the HSE representative. He warned “There will be a cumulative effect which would be quite significant” if there are further strikes.

The Irish Times was also no exception. Only the disruption to patients was worthy of attention. Of note is the mention of the government’s wish to “re-engage in talks to find a resolution to the current nurses’ dispute.” No word of the sanctions mentioned by Simon Harris or SIPTU.

That honour was left to the Irish Independent who, quoting the Health Minister, wrote that “financial penalties against nurses will be considered”.

According to Harris although the government “‘isn’t in that space today’”, nonetheless, “‘The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will legally consider that in the coming days and weeks’”.

In the same piece the government line that a raise is unaffordable and beyond the realms of consideration given the imminence of Brexit was reiterated.

Also in the Irish Independent was a piece declaring that the government is “not just facing a showdown with nurses — they’ve also got the public sector union leadership breathing down their necks.” If the nurses are successful other unions will “dust[…] off their begging bowls” in a “free-for-all”.

Any idea that the nurses are financially struggling was put to rest as The Irish Times stepped into the fray to offer their own financial interpretation.

Pay for nurses is higher here than in the UK according to the piece. Ireland lags behind in entry-level pay compared to Australia and Canada but overall ranks fifth out of thirty countries in terms of pay for nurses.

In the same piece it is pointed out that the Department of Public Spending calculates the average pay of nurses to be €57,600 per annum.

It is only at the end of the article that it is revealed – almost in passing – that someone earning that amount would struggle to pay rent in parts of Dublin. Two incomes would be needed to afford a rental home. The implications of this, if not obvious, are spelled out quite clearly in the next paragraph.

Unless the high cost of housing is addressed, the author writes, “militancy will only grow, particularly among younger age groups.” It is known that hardship and economic and social unfairness, let alone inequality, breed radicalism; hence, the warning about militancy.

Regardless, the government must stand firm given the influx of “begging bowls” headed its way otherwise. What emerges in the subtext is a rehashing of Michael Noonan’s “we govern for the reasonable” worldview.

All of this is in the name of “journalistic balance”. Some people want fairness in how they are paid and treated, therefore the opposite view must be given due attention for the sake of impartiality.

This does nothing more than mask the suffering of those protesting and the unfairness of a system in which they are under-appreciated, undervalued, and underpaid. What was missing from the piece in The Irish Times was the economic context of the comparison between NHS and Irish nurses.

Nurses in Ireland being paid more compared to nurses in the UK is meaningless. Across the Irish Sea the NHS has been under attack in the shape of market reforms, i.e., privatisation.

Therefore, comparing the pay of Irish nurses to the pay of nurses in a health system that is being dismantled does not support that government’s argument that nurses here are well compensated. In fact, it does the opposite.

Only by holding the financial compensation of nursing staff here to such a low standard can the government and its apologists defend the current pay levels.

Of course the long hours nurses work are of no risk to patients. Neither is understaffing, underpay, stress, burnout, and the toll all of this takes on the mental and physical health of the nurses.

These are part of the system they signed up too. So they should just shut up and deal with it. Accept the crumbs flung their way from the economic table and be happy that they do not suffer the indignity of having to govern the country.

These are not the “missteps” of a government out of touch with the workers. This is a government that knows exactly what it is doing. In a situation like this, militancy is the only appropriate response.

And fearing this, expect an even harder government line to emerge.

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: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro takes part in a military exercise in Valencia, Venezuela yesterday; Bryan Wall

Recent events in Venezuela demonstrate that the US continues to be heavily involved in shaping political events in the region. The idea that an opposition leader could declare himself president without prior approval from the US State Department would be anathema to the mandarins that inhabit its offices.

US history, not only in the Middle East but especially in Central and South America, is replete with interventions, support of dictatorships, and abiding the massacres of civilians. In Venezuela, the former president Hugo Chavez represented an affront to American vying for dominance.

His successor Nicolás Maduro continued with this impertinence by daring to represent ordinary people and not the rich elite. Considering the scale of American violence in neighbouring countries, it is surprising that any kind of socialist government has lasted this long.

Venezuela has not been the victim of outright violence on behalf of American-backed and CIA-trained death squads.

However, it has had to endure years of sanctions and the funding of opposition parties and individuals in an attempt to undermine the successive governments of Chavez and Maduro.

During the coup attempt against the former in 2002, it was discovered that an American-registered plane had landed in order to take Chavez out of the country after his capture by opposition forces.

And similar to recent events, the US government was quick to recognise the new president, Pedro Carmona, who had taken over the role after Chavez was kidnapped from the presidential palace.

What we have seen in Venezuela over the last week, then, is a replay of events from years gone by. This history can be seen not only in Venezuela. The same tactics have been utilised in other countries where the American government has had its interests threatened by democracy and democratically elected leaders.

In Chile, Salvador Allende was seen as a socialist threat which meant he had to be eliminated in favour of a military dictatorship. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas could not be allowed to effectively govern their country given the obvious malignity of their land reforms and socialism.

Therefore, massacres against them and their supporters by the Contras – funded and trained by the CIA – were to be countenanced. In Brazil, the longstanding military dictatorship enjoyed the approval of the US government.

And let’s not speak about the decades of sanctions and terrorism inflicted on Cuba for having the audacity to attempt the implementation of an economic model other than the one that is currently ravaging the globe. What is taking place in Venezuela when we consider the above, is nothing remotely new or unique.

The ideology that informs this behaviour on the part of the US is the Monroe Doctrine. Promulgated in 1823, it declared that Latin and Southern America was to be the exclusively dominated by the US and its interests. All political and military interventions in the region on the part of the US have rested on this racist premise.

Venezuela, with the ascent of Hugo Chavez, represented a slap in the face to the business as usual model of using the region as a cheap source of both labour and resources. Venezuela in particular was utilised for its vast oil wealth.

Historical context such as this tends to be missing in much of the pontificating in the mainstream media about human rights abuses and food shortages in Venezuela. If it was given the attention it deserves, most people would realise that the country did not implode of its own accord due to the supposed failures of state socialism.

Years of continued sanctions, isolation, and the consistent backing of opposition parties and movements in the country has undermined progressive changes made by the respective Chavez and Maduro governments. Instead, the Right-Wing opposition was to be encouraged and funded.

In light of the fact that the US was so quick to recognise the self-declared presidency of Juan Guaidó, it is demonstrative of their continued need to control the region and its leaders.

Having lost some control of the region in recent years to popular leaders, such as  Chavez, Evo Morales, and José Mujica, the US government appears to be attempting to reassert its influence via whatever means necessary.

Part of their tactics to reassert control — and a recurring theme before the US and its allies go to war — is their concern about human rights abuses in Venezuela. This is nothing more than an attempt to cover their real agenda.

The appointment of Elliott Abrams to “help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country” is a testament to this.

Abrams is notorious for his tenure as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs during the Ronald Reagan administration. In this role he supported regime change in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and offered support to CIA-trained death squads.

He was also involved in the Iran-Contra scandal and lied under oath about his role in the scheme during a congressional investigation of the plot.

He would later go on to become a founding member of the Project for a New American Century. This neo-conservative and extremely hawkish group of former government officials and academics, literally wrote the blueprint for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

What lies ahead for Venezuela and its people is uncertain. However, to leave their future in the hands of a man who is, by all reckoning, a war criminal is to ensure the destruction of their society.

Already the self-appointed government of Guaidó has taken the initiative in this regard and has called for assistance from the IMF. Apparently this is to fund his government along with following through with plans to privatise Venezuelan industry, specifically the oil industry.

In plans drawn up before the coup, Guaidó’s opposition detailed that it would aim to introduce a “model of freedom and market based on the right of each Venezuelan to work under the guarantees of property rights and freedom of enterprise.” In other words, a neo-liberal paradise.

For Venezuela to fall once again under the yoke of American imperialism and corporate interests would be a humanitarian disaster. Juan Guaidó and his lackeys understand this.

It is just that profit and cosying up the most powerful nation in history is of much more interest to them than theoretical notions of human rights and economic justice.

Any and all attempts at eliminating, or even lessening the effects of, poverty must be crushed. Otherwise the bottom line would be forced to suffer the ill effects of slightly lower figures.

In 2002, an Irish documentary crew was in Venezuela to film the Chavez government and look into the changes it was implementing when they got caught up in the coup attempt.

The finished product resulted in the great documentary, The Revolution Will Not be Televised. At one point Chavez is filmed telling an associate that the neo-liberals, “They’re the ones who’ll end up destroying the world.”

Chavez may have been correct in this assessment. Right now though, it seems as if they are intent on destroying Venezuela.

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: Venezuela gov handout

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan; Bryan Wall

The government’s policies regarding housing continue to deliver dividends. Not dividends in the social sense in which people will benefit from affordable social housing.

If someone is unable to afford a home, or even unable to afford to continue living in their home, then so be it. The market has spoken and its vagaries must be followed otherwise the very economic principles upon which our society is built will collapse.

At least, that’s the story that stalwart neo-liberals such as Leo Varadkar and members of his cabinet tell us.

They may put on a show of caring for the average person who struggles to pay their bills and afford their rent or mortgage payments, but him and his ilk are completely removed from the reality of everyday existence.

It is bad enough to have to see the poor on the streets from a distance. God forbid that they might have to see them up close and be forced to pretend to care about them.

Despite the rampant propaganda machine that the government utilises on a daily basis, it is clear to see what they really think about economic and social justice in Ireland.

Before Christmas Leo Varadkar suggested that any property tax that is paid should stay in the area in which it is paid. Obviously the consequences of this would be the further immiseration of less affluent areas of the country whilst the more well-to-do areas would see a boost in their services; and this all overseen by the government.

A policy such as this, regardless of the aforementioned propaganda campaign which tries to push the image of a caring and compassionate Taoiseach on us, shows a clear distinction in terms of politically, who matters and who does not.

In more recent comments the Taoiseach reiterated his position, stating that the idea of the wealthy keeping their property taxes in their own area “makes sense to me.”

Going one step further, however, is his Minister for Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan.

Apparently attempting to outflank him from even further to the Right, she has suggested that the wealthy should pay less property tax. She stated that she “would like to see a lower rate in areas with the highest house prices.”

People living in these areas “should be entitled to reliefs as they could be most affected.” With the average price of house in TD Madigan’s constituency currently sitting at just over €600,000, it quickly becomes apparent what any quid pro quo would be if her suggestion is put into practice.

Like her boss, she is cut from the same cloth. She comes from a privileged background and, like Leo Varadkar, was privately educated.

We often scoff at the politicians across the Irish Sea who were educated in Eton, and the ideological indoctrination which takes place there. Apparently we are unaware the same practices are replicated in the Irish context.

So, the intention is for all of this to pay dividends in the form of re-election when the time comes or, in the short-term, the success of their fellow party members in the coming local elections.

Advocacy of and for the middle and upper classes is a requisite for their electoral success. In terms of market orthodoxy, those who can pay for it can lead a good life, in part by ensuring the appropriate political party, and the appropriate people, are in charge of policymaking.

Those who can’t ensure this simply have to count themselves lucky that they do not suffer even more. After all, this is an economically prosperous country we live in.

Our housing policies have been left in the hands of those whose idea of economic misfortune is the creation of massive profits as opposed to obscene profits. How housing affects the majority of people is a non-issue given that it is so beyond the realm of the limits of their empathy.

Others have had to take it upon themselves to try and combat this lack of compassion on the part of the government.

David Hall, for example, the CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, has stated that the government consists of “vulture lovers”, a reference to the various vulture funds that have bought mortgages from a number of Irish banks over the past few months.

The government, he says, has been “cosying up to vultures” instead of ensuring a more equitable housing policy that isn’t dictated by the unwavering pursuit of profit.

Mr Hall has set up a non-profit called i-Care Housing, which aims to keep people who are in arrears in their homes by purchasing them at current market values and then renting them back to the owners.

Thus far nineteen families have been saved from eviction under the scheme, with another 571 having been given granted approval to have their mortgages bought by i-Care.

I recently spoke to Mr Hall regarding the government’s policies on housing. When asked if he thought the government could tackle the housing crisis given its current make-up and the comments made by both Leo Varadkar and Josepha Madigan, he was quite clear.

There is, he said, “No chance they can tackle it.”

Furthermore, the property tax comments show exactly what the government thinks.

Mr Hall said:

“When the most senior politician says money should stay locally and a minister moves to protect the wealthiest it’s game over.”

Like Mr Hall, the housing activists around the country are aware of the same facts and comments as he is. Connolly Youth in Cork are also taking matters into their own hands given the government’s lack of action or accountability.

In August last year the group took over a vacant building in the city. They cleaned and renovated it as best they could, rechristening it as Connolly Barracks.

When I spoke to Alex Homits, the General Secretary of Connolly Youth, he told me that the comments made by Varadkar and Madigan are “merely further flavour and evidence for us to demonstrate that Ireland is run for a certain socio-economic grouping of people; a slim minority.”

Regarding solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis, I suggested that perhaps direct action in terms of occupying vacant or abandoned properties could present a more egalitarian way of providing housing.

Mr Homits told me that this would not be a long-term solution. However, he added:

“direct action serves the purpose of highlighting the housing crisis and challenging private landlords and the state”

It would also serve another purpose: That of “providing short-term housing solutions to those desperately in need.” The only permanent solution, he told me, would be “mass appropriation” and/or “construction of universally acceptable public housing.”

For everyone concerned then, despite the protests and commentary over the last year, the government continues to ignore the issue and instead clampdown on protest and dissent.

Leo Varadkar and his government are very well aware of the anger engendered by them because of their policies and consistent moves to protect the wealthy, the banks, and the vulture funds.

Accordingly, the need for the infliction of violence on their behalf by mercenaries, the Gardaí, or both, is more or less assured.

The evictions at Frederick Street in September and Roscommon in December are just the physical manifestation of economic policies designed to immiserate the many in order to further augment the coffers of the wealthy. To those unable to keep a roof over their heads it is obvious whom the government serve.

Given the current structure of mainstream Irish politics, radical change is unlikely to appear. That is because it would mean challenging the accepted narratives of capitalism and the free market. It would mean that politicians would be held accountable for policies which result in the suffering and sometimes death of their constituents.

Radical change, therefore, is only ever likely to come from the ground up, especially once people realise that they can take their lives and futures into their own hands and out of the hands of those who care naught for them. It will never appear in the hallowed halls of The King’s Hospital or Mount Anville.

A fight for the basic necessities, such as the right to have a roof over one’s head, puts the government and their patrons on the defensive. From here we can position ourselves to tackle even greater injustices in our society.

And when the government responds, all it will ensure is that “The stones they throw will fall at their own feet.”

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: The Shannon Key West Hotel, Rooskey, County Roscommon earmarked for Direct Provision; Bryan Wall

Yet another attack on a hotel that was earmarked as a direct provision centre should make us all apprehensive of what is to come.

Indignation at successive governments mixed with a nativist ideology that sees any supranational interference in the running of the country as an affront to a particular vision of how the country’s government should function is a toxic mix that gives us these attacks.

It also gives us the rise of the Far Right here and the popularity of its representatives.

Throw in the fact that these same people believe that a white genocide of the Irish people is being slowly carried out by the immigration of refugees from the Middle East and you have a pre-political body that is on the cusp of evolving into a fully formed political movement. The parallels from history are obvious and do not bear repeating here.

Given our own national history of emigration it is particularly galling to read comments saying that we are unable or should be unwilling to take in refugees.

One of the common arguments against accepting refugees is that they are not “real” refugees, and are instead economic migrants. As if the millions of Irish people who emigrated over the centuries did not do so for economic reasons.

Even if every person who applied for asylum seeker or refugee status here was an economic migrant, that does not preclude them from having suffered in their countries of origin. Besides, using the term economic migrant is a sterilising term; similar to the kind all too commonly used in economic arguments.

It obfuscates the fact of the matter that real people migrate in order to feed themselves and their very real families. That does not make someone less deserving of being welcomed into our country.

Again, the parallels with history are obvious, most especially our own history. But still we find those who want to say no and turn these people away. Some of the reasons used are the economic, and poorly understood, ones just mentioned.

Others are more vehement in their insistence that Ireland should not take in any asylum seekers or refugees. For them, it is the human face of the conspiracy to Islamise and de-Aryanise the country. People like this cannot be reasoned with.

But there are those who see answers and solutions offered by the Right and Far Right where previously they saw none and whose views are not so fundamentalist in nature.

For these people, governments over the last ten years, along with the mainstream Left in the form of the Labour Party, have failed them. Politics, something they perhaps once thought to be carried out in a reasonable way by reasonable people, has become laden with those seeking to accrue more power in their personal fiefdoms.

Their removal from the concerns of everyday life has created a gulf between them and those in whose name they are supposed to govern. The Right offers people a way to bridge the gulf between politics and daily existence whilst at the same time promising to get rid of those in power whose ideas and policies ensured the despoliation of a large portion of society.

For those who see the Far Right as offering a salve, their rejection of the idea of allowing asylum seekers and refugees a place of sanctuary is almost an afterthought. It is not something that forms a fundamental core of their existence. It is not a centre around which a larger ideology exists.

Instead, their rejection is based on the larger rejection of government policies. The government shows no concern for them so why should they be forced – forced in their eyes at least – to show concern for others who are not Irish.

But there is a commonality between them and those seeking asylum and refuge here. Both have been let down by their respective governments to varying degrees. And both are currently victims of the policies of the Irish government.

That this is not at least one element of tackling the Right and Far Right is short-sighted. A common understanding and experience of state repression, be it economic, military, political, or social, can be a force for binding together communities which up until then have not had much or even any experience of each other.

Instead we are watching as the Right makes inroads in wider Irish society. Their successes are being made on the back of our government showing its disdain for people day on day. With its inaction on climate change, housing, homelessness, and economic justice, the government pushes groups of people further to the margins.

We have government ministers saying that they will not pursue companies for committing fraud because they “don’t want to make employers the bad guy”.

Nurses exercising their democratic right in choosing to strike for better pay and conditions are lambasted by the Taoiseach.

And in a further betrayal of their base, SIPTU (Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union), who are aligned to the Labour Party, have said they will not support the strike.

Their Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell – himself a Labour Councillor – said the strike, by not adhering to the government’s Public Service Agreement in which increases in salaries were agreed to in small increments, will not “deliver what we want to over the short to medium term”.

The mask slipped when in the same interview he stated that if workers decide to strike, i.e., their democratic right, the previously agreed pay increases will be “withheld”. “Government”, he said, “are indicating that to us all the time.”

Hence, the position held by Bell and SIPTU that workers should adhere to the government line regardless of the cost, be it democratic or economic.

Even in their own self-inflicted implosion, Labour cannot but support the line that workers should work until their bosses say so and be grateful for whatever crumbs are thrown their way.

Leo Varadkar’s thinking is more understandable in that he has an actual ideology to which he clings. Labour seek power for power’s sake but the Taoiseach actually has values beyond the shallow pursuit of power.

They may be the values of the free market where workers and unproductive citizens are expendable according to the dictates of companies and economic necessity, but they are values nonetheless.

In this sense then, it is not that the concept that strikes should be inconvenient for governments escapes Leo Varadkar. He is simply insisting that unions should make things more convenient for him and his government as per market logic.

With this in mind, and these are only very recent examples, is it any surprise that parts of the population have fallen into a reactionary stance?

How that feeling is channeled is dependent upon who takes up their concerns and grievances, tells them they are not alone, and that something can be done. The mainstream Left has failed, thereby allowing the Right and Far Right take advantage of the political vacuum.

Perhaps the people who have firebombed the hotels that were destined to house asylum seekers and refugees were motivated by racial hatred. Or perhaps they were motivated by a feeling of betrayal by the economic and political system.

A system which tells them there is one law for the average person and another for employers and corporations.

That tells them violent evictions carried out by a mercenary force backed by the national police force is perfectly acceptable but a counter-eviction of that same group of mercenaries is almost terrorist in nature.

And a system that tells them to play by the rules that we have set at your expense or the crumbs you currently get will be reduced to nothing more than dust. In such an environment a reaction of some kind is guaranteed. How can it be otherwise?

Ensuring that the reaction in question is motived by a sense of justice and not a feeling of hatred is incumbent upon us all.

To gift the Far Right this opportunity is to repeat the monumental mistakes that have been made elsewhere in the world, especially in Europe.

The effects of their institutionalised hatred are blatant. Governments, leaders, and corporations must be held to account, yes.

But to do so at the expense of equality and justice is simply recreating the current system with a different facade where people are still expendable and some matter more than others.

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

Earlier: Direct Response



Pic: RTÉ

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD speaking to the media outside Government Buildings after the first cabinet meeting of 2019 last week; Bryan Wall

The comments made by Leo Varadkar before Christmas were not a mistake made by some gaffe-prone politician. As I wrote previously, he says what he means and he believes what he says.

He is a neo-liberal stalwart whose policies could have been taken directly out of the works of countless neo-liberal ideologues posing as objective economists. For him, the poor are of no concern. Neither are those soon to lose their home to rapacious landlords, banks, or vulture funds.

The slow degeneration of our basic services continues whilst he looks on, occasionally making a comment that is copied and pasted by the mainstream media. A deeper analysis is lacking given the common understanding that one is not meant to question the government, especially its leader.

Consent in this regard is manufactured as to try to parse any of the statements made by Varadkar is to go beyond the acceptable limits of discourse.

What do we find when we place his comments into their rightful context, however?

Perhaps the most potent tactic that capitalism has developed over the previous two centuries has been its uncanny ability to isolate people from each other.

A divide et impera of the general population has been effective in pre-empting dissent for the most part. Division of labour was concomitant with a social and political division. The former could not function without the latter.

One of the best ways to do this is to not only turn people into willing consumers, both materially and ideologically, but is to turn them against each other.

The poor are played up as leeches on the system who contribute nothing whilst the “squeezed middle” toils in order to provide for those who neither appreciate or deserve what they receive from them.

Thusly isolated, the poor can be ignored or removed from sight completely depending on which is more conducive to political success.

Take the government’s initiative on clamping down on welfare fraud that was launched with great publicity in 2017. On the surface it was portrayed simply as a morally upright idea that would also result in the state saving money.

In total, according to The Irish Times, welfare fraud amounted to €38.4 million in 2017. Given that the social protection budget in 2017 came to €19.9 billion – €6.3 billion of which was to service the national debt – €38.4 million is a minuscule number.

Add to this the fact that it was mostly the result of mistakes made by the Department of Welfare itself and we have a non-issue that was given the appearance of systematic fraud in order to make it an issue.

We might ask, for what reason? An answer is obvious given who the government is and who leads it.

To isolate and denigrate those considered as not worthy of care or attention is a common feature of our societies. They can be utilised to shore-up government support in the sense that they are convenient scapegoats for whatever issue is decided upon. In 2017 it was welfare fraud.

Social protections can be made more difficult to access and in some cases cut back given their “generous” nature and those who take unfair advantage of them by committing fraud.

With those dependent on social welfare out of the way the government can focus on supporting and giving back to its own political patrons. This is the real business of government.

Accordingly, when something is said by the government or Leo Varadkar it is to be assumed truthful. So, when the latter claims that we have turned a corner on homelessness and housing it is to be accepted without debate. To question such a statement is deemed uncouth.

But it is nonetheless a signifier in political discourse and how wider society is to be dealt with: What I say is the truth. To deny its truthfulness is to deny reality. And after all, those who deny reality are obviously insane and can therefore be ignored.

So in their proper context, his comments about turning a corner are meant to do nothing more then isolate, and subtly denigrate, those who continue to see homelessness and housing as issues.

And given that they are the major issues of our time, they must be downplayed, ignored, or deflected in whatever manner possible. If this entails the Taoiseach telling journalists that the issue is in the process of being solved, alongside pushing faulty statistics regarding house construction, so be it.

Public relations — or more appropriately, propaganda — does not come cheap. The Taoiseach’s spending in this sense is not unique. Over one million euro being spent by the Taoiseach’s propaganda wing is indicative of his need for a mechanism by which to influence others via traditional and social media.

From here the message is parlayed that everything is on the up and up. What happens when this message is challenged? Denigration mixed with hysteria is another tool in the arsenal of the powerful.

When Pearse Doherty made comments referring to the violence inflicted on the family in Roscommon before Christmas by a mercenary force hired by KBC Bank to evict them, Varadkar was unmoved. Instead, he went on the offensive, telling Doherty that “it doesn’t take long for your balaclava to slip.”

For the Taoiseach, defending one’s self against state-sanctioned violence is beyond the pale. Of course this is unsurprising, but it is nonetheless informative to see such comments made publicly.

Again, it seeks to isolate those who are victims of state-violence, be it structural or physical, in order to better ensure that the market orthodoxy can reign accordingly. In our case it means making sure that the cries of those under the boot of market discipline are cast aside. This is a must if the continuing shock therapy of the country is to proceed as planned.

Isolation is a form of torture. In prisons the hugely negative effects – both mental and physical – of solitary confinement on a person are well-known. Perhaps for this very reason its use continues to be sanctioned. In our own country we are seeing isolation on a mass scale. It has been generalised to the wider population.

When Leo Varadkar insists that things are getting better or that we have turned a corner, he is enforcing isolation on wide swathes of the population.

The poor, the homeless, the mentally ill, and the sick are all isolated from each other, from those who are happy with the domination of the two-party status quo, and from those occupying higher rungs on the socioeconomic ladder. This is not an accident.

How can this be anything but a form of torture? Shock, isolate, and denigrate. These are the policies of the government and its leader that are directed at people who are not commensurate with the needs of the state and its backers.

Any resistance to this can be met with the necessary violence. People sometimes must be reminded of their place in the system.

For a lot of us in Ireland in 2019, our position puts us in a situation where rents are unaffordable, homelessness is rampant and a very real possibility for many, and the healthcare system is collapsing on its way to full privatisation. Combating the immiseration of an entire country is not a simple undertaking.

On the other hand, we have nothing to lose but our chains.

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