Tag Archives: Eamonn Kelly

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty; Eamonn Kelly

It seems that JobPath will be wound down sooner rather than later.

The first signs of its demise began In December 2017 when a report indicated that JobPath was ineffective in its stated aim of creating employment.

Then in June 2018 the Department of Social Protection (DSP) announced via the minister that JobPath participants could now apply for Community Employment (CE) schemes.

Prior to this the JobPath rule said that CE schemes were not “real” jobs.

Whether this change was to include placements on CE as JobPath “successes” to massage the stats, or whether it was a winding down of the entire JobPath programme and the wider privatisation drive of welfare services was not yet clear.

But then in October 2018 it emerged that 11,000 people who had completed the JobPath programme were re-referred for another go. The figure was later revised up to 15,000.

Questions were raised. Did this mean that Seetec/Turas Nua would receive another payment for the same “customers”?

The Oireachtas public accounts committee looked into the matter and Yes, was the eventual confirmation. Seetec/Turas Nua would be paid twice for unsuccessfully “processing” the same individuals.

Then, in December 2018, that quiet time when everyone’s mind is on Christmas, the taoiseach said in an interview that JobPath may be wrapped up.

He claimed that it had done its job, that there was now almost full employment, full employment that is of people who can’t afford to rent rooms.

But it was clear that JobPath had not done its job. In November 2018 The Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy, told the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee that only 7% of jobseekers who found work while engaged with JobPath were still in employment after 12 months.

But even that measly success rate is open to question.

There are numerous anecdotal reports of people finding jobs without the aid of JobPath, whose employers are then contacted by Seetec/Turas Nua employees to claim credit for the creation of the job in order to charge a fee from the DSP.

The current minister for social protection Regina Doherty reiterated a claim to the public accounts committee that she routinely makes, saying that JobPath is, (or “JobsPath” as she calls it, revealing a perplexing apparent lack of familiarity with her own paperwork) the most successful job activation scheme in the history of the State.

What she fails to mention, and what no one ever pulls her up on, surprisingly, is that JobPath is, strictly speaking, the only Employment activation programme in the history of the state.

“Unlike most OECD countries, Ireland has not yet developed full labour activation policy, but is under increasing pressure to do so.”

So says a paper published in 2010, “The politics of Irish labour activation: 1980 to 2010” by Mary P. Murphy from the Department of Sociology, NUl Maynooth:

According to this paper, JobPath was one of three available models for employment activation in Ireland:

“The Danish model of flexicurity (derived from the two words flexibility and security) aims to enable flexible transitions between work and unemployment: periods of unemployment are cushioned by generous welfare schemes and workers, while unemployed, remain work-active by participating in ALMPs.

The mutual obligations model promoted by the OECD (Grubb et al., 2009) recommends intensification of benefit-control activity for the unemployed and other benefit-recipient groups in a more coercive approach where moderate benefits are used to support compulsory education, training or labour market participation; intrinsic to this model is the political message it sends about the obligations of the unemployed.

The third model, active inclusion for all, is promoted by the European Commission as a holistic strategy that stresses work for those who can work and inclusion for those who cannot work. This is less work focused and avoids punitive conditionality or a narrow focus on getting people off benefits.

Rather, its three pillars focus on adequate income support, inclusive labour markets and decent public services, which strive to provide personal pathways to employment and/or social participation…”

Well, it’s clear for anyone who had even the briefest brush with JobPath that we didn’t get the Danish model. Of the three available models, the more punitive one was chosen by the Fine Gael-led coalition.

It seemed that the intention was simply to dump people off welfare at whatever cost, encouraging a new wave of emigration from Ireland while forging ahead with a ruthless privatisation programme across all public services.

Also, as Leo Varadkar’s welfare cheats campaign demonstrated, there seemed to be a clear intention to divide workers from jobseekers and to arrange a situation where one group condemned the other as dead-weights on the “economy”, as the state has come to be regarded. This in a context where the banks and so on were getting all the breaks.

The model is not unlike neo-liberal models at play elsewhere. Put bluntly, as elsewhere, the approach is basically the legalised pillaging of state resources by an exploitative elite served by an obsequious political class, and usually at the expense of poorer people.

Maybe it’s because the companies who do “punitive”, like Seetec/Turas Nua (Working Links) who had already cut their teeth in Britain tormenting the lower classes, that our government decided to take that option.

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From top: Ryan Tubridy interviewing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the Late Late Show last Friday; Eamonn Kelly

Eamonn Kelly writes:

The problem with Ryan Tubridy’s interview approach is that he appears to be given a list of questions which he rushes through as if he believes that the object of the interview is to exhaust the list of questions. Once the questions are done the interview is over. Phew. Now the quiz!

The problem with this is that all the questions are taken as having equal weight and substance; there is no room to improvise – though Tubridy is far from being Robin Williams in terms of improvisation – and worst of all perhaps, there is no time afforded to the interviewee.

A few weeks back, even Mary Robinson, that paragon of patience, got a bit tetchy with Mr Tubridy’s interruptions; because, quite simply, they demonstrated that he wasn’t listening.

He was looking at his list, desperate to get to the end, so that he could do his more comfortable act of taunting the poor people of Ireland with baskets of bank-notes for a stupid money-drooling quiz.

Gay Byrne, like Michael Parkinson, knew that once you had them talking you let them at it. Mr Tubridy, on the other hand, seems to regard interviewees as obstacles between him and the completion of his list of questions.

The interview last Friday with Leo Varadkar should have been about one question and one question only: the 10,000 homeless people, parked in hotels at the taxpayer’s expense, as sacrifices to the market, in the hope of getting private investors to build houses to save Fine Gael having to go against its right-wing ideological principles by embarking on a believable social housing programme.

Mr Tubridy quoted Micheál Martin as saying that there was an upper middle-class resistance to building local authority housing.

Mr Varadkar looked pained, puzzled and bewildered at this one, denying there was any class prejudice in Ireland. Sure wasn’t he from Blanchardstown and now he’s taoiseach. Case closed. This, by the way, doesn’t count as evidence, since it is merely anecdotal.

Mr Tubridy wasn’t about to launch into a discussion on Ireland’s non-existent class structures, not with a quiz no more than ten minutes off; so, the exploration of alleged class prejudice in Ireland ended with Mr Varadkar implying with a look that maybe Micheál Martin was delusional.

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From top: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) October 2018 fiscal report; Eamonn Kelly

There are a couple of startling contradictions to Fine Gael fiscal policy contained in the Executive Summary of the IMF’s latest fiscal monitoring report: “Managing Public Wealth”.

The first is that, according to IMF economists and measurements gleaned from their global survey, privatisation of public properties is always a sure-fire loss-maker.

Contrast this with Fine Gael’s eagerness to privatise everything as the main plank of fiscal management.

The IMF conclusion was arrived at by using a different approach than that normally used in order to measure a nation’s wealth.

Rather than simply looking at income versus outgoings, the new approach uses a balance-sheet method, taking assets into account; publicly owned bodies and natural resources.

The problem identified by the IMF under the old approach was that it invited governments to focus on debt rather than taking a wider assessment of a nation’s wealth.

The report says:

“Balance sheet strength is not an end in itself, but rather a tool to support the objectives of public policy. The long-term aim of government is not to maximize net worth, but to provide goods and services to its citizens and possibly to create a buffer against uncertainty about the future. Current net worth should be seen in this context.”

Notice that in this assessment, the citizenry in and of themselves are also considered to have a net worth value.

Contrast this with the results of privatisation policy as they have impacted on health and welfare in Ireland during austerity. The casualties speak for themselves.

There may be a visible and measurable short-term gain in privatising public utilities for instance, creating the kind of figure-happy stats that Fine Gael rush to press with, but the overall value of national assets will be naturally reduced.

It’s a bit like burning the furniture to keep the fire going and pointing at the blazing fire and exclaiming, “Are you all warm now!”

The IMF report goes on:

“Similarly, cutting back maintenance expenditure reduces the deficit and lowers debt, but also reduces the value of infrastructure assets, which could cost more in the long term.”

So, cutting public spending and services and contracting out to private concerns will, as many people have already worked out, cost more in the end.

Though again the initial figures will look “nice”. Until, that is, the private contractor settles in and nails everyone to the wall with a price hike, slyly cutting level of service while they’re at it to maximize profits. Before you know it, you’re paying dearly for minimal or even no service.

And you’re stuck with it because the cost of restoring the original public service is prohibitive.

The UK Independent, reporting on this fresh approach by the IMF, said that the UK had

“…undergone one of the most drastic privatisations of any economy since the early 1980s…incentivising departments and local authorities to sell off assets to fund day-to-day spending under the premise that such an approach is necessary to cut the deficit…”

This is a similar approach to the one Fine Gael-led governments have been taking to balancing the books.

The IMF however have now contradicted this approach, warning that focusing on debt “misses large swaths of government activity and can fall victim to illusory fiscal practices”.

… that serve two functions: one, it provides conservative government with selective short-term figures that look like positive gains; and two, it delivers future profits of public assets into private hands.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist

Illusory Fiscal Practises: The IMF Debunking of Privatization (Eamonn Kelly)

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy TD and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

IN a new blog posting, Journalist Eamonn Kelly writes:

Neoliberalism is a cuckoo in the liberal democratic nest.

Once seen in this light you can then alter your approach on how to deal with neo-liberals. For instance, if the ineffectual performances in the provision of social care by the current cabinet occurred in the private sector, which they champion so loudly, all of them would be sacked.

But only an idealistic liberal democrat with a belief in rational argument would argue that the failure of this government to address the housing and health crises is due to ministerial incompetence.

A neoliberal leadership, such as the one we have in Ireland, seeks to destroy liberal democracy from the top down, using all the powers and freedoms of that liberal democracy to do so.

That the neo-liberal takes political office at all is the first deception.

That the housing crisis has worsened under Varadkar is not because the problem is “complex”, as he recently claimed, or because his minsters are incompetent as their critics claim, it is because the neoliberal philosophy that they represent, cannot allow for a public work’s programme to build social housing.

The only complex part of the Irish housing crisis is the part where the Irish people seem to be asleep to the fact that there is a neo-liberal fox in the henhouse; an unelected taoiseach who quite openly represents business and business alone and who stated in the Dáil when asked about social housing that people can’t expect a “house for nothing”.

Judge them by their works, a wise man once said.

Neo-liberalism is a very simple philosophy. It is social Darwinism. [More at link below]

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist

The Exhausting Futility of Arguing With Neoliberals (Eamonn Kelly)

From top: David Mcwilliams in Saturday’s Irish Times; Eamonn Kelly

Eamonn Kelly writes;

David McWilliams’ article in Saturday’s Irish Times about how people who give out about the multi-nationals are a bit backward, a bit “old Ireland” in their outlook.

But what he failed to see is that people who criticise all the breaks the multi-nationals get are really critiquing in a deflected manner all the breaks that the Irish people don’t get when they want to start a business.

Implicit in the multi-national deals and the manner in which successive sycophantic governments clamour to please corporate America is the idea that the Irish people in and of themselves are clueless about business and dependent on someone else making jobs for us.

This despite the fact that the boast of our superior educated workforce is what the IDA always leads with as a selling point to multi-nationals.

But if you’re an Irish person wanting to start a business it is awkward to the point of being punitive in setting it up and running it. And should the business fail the system is designed to whip away the safety net of welfare at the very time you might need it.

It seems then that everyone and everything is invested in and given breaks except the Irish people. Public monies ear-marked for retraining the workforce, for instance, were handed out in the millions to two British companies who provided no retraining for the investment but only a kind of policing of unemployed people.

The message is clear from the top. The Irish people are not worth investing in but are only useful as drones for corporate America who get all the breaks to use us, basically.

I’m not suggesting that we fling out the multi-nationals. That would be stupid. But this is the kind of “stupidity” that McWilliams was suggesting lay behind critiquing the multi-national deal.

What I am suggesting is that we invest in Irish would-be entrepreneurs and local businesses with the same confidence and generosity as we have been affording to multi-nationals.

By not investing in the Irish people you create a self-fulfilling prophecy that local entrepreneurs are unable to create employment. This reinforces the old national inferiority complex that informs the present system of attracting multi-national investment.

So contrary to McWilliams’  view that people who criticise the multi-nationals are somehow “backward”, the truth is that the system engineered by Lemass for a different Irish population made up of mainly farmers and labourers, is still being run as if the people haven’t changed.

A system based on an acknowledgment of a national inferiority complex, a need for creating employment for a workforce of mainly uneducated and unskilled labour and the luring of friends in America to make jobs for us.

Everything about it is dependent. But that’s not us any more. It’s the system is backward, not the people, as McWilliams implies.

The irony of this is that David McWilliams who presents himself as the progressive face of economics appears to be arguing that we return to the “innocence” of the Lemass era and show gratitude towards the multi-nationals.

If that’s not a big-red-flag clue to a post-colonial authoritarian issue I don’t know what is.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer

Corporate Tax And The Yeah But School Of Economics (David McWilliamns, Irish Times)

From top: US Detenton centre near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas; Lissywollen Direct Provision centre, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

In the film version of David Mamet’s 1984 stage play ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’, the salesman sent from head-office to pep talk the sales team announces a new competition: first place wins a car, last place is fired.

The play describes the core principle of what today we understand as neoliberalism as it is practised by the Trump administration and others. In Mamet’s play the representation of the core value of the ideology is simple and brutal and runs like a mantra through the play. It is simply, Fuck You.

Once you see neoliberalism reduced to these two words you begin to see that aspect of the ideology everywhere.

At home it was there when the present taoiseach as minster for social welfare launched the welfare cheats campaign. It was also there when as taoiseach he promised more support for the arts, set up an organisation ostensibly to promote the arts, but then climbed aboard the new vehicle himself, revealing it as a personal PR platform.

In neo-liberalism, the arts are considered worthless, unless they’ve already made fortunes. The worth of all actions is measured on assessment of immediate, short-term financial return. First place wins a car, last place is fired.

This short-term, fast buck, fuck-youness of the system results in what president Michael D. Higgins described last week as “neo-utilitarian mediocrity”, a condition that he has identified as being widespread in the universities, where the neo-liberal ideology of competition and financial bottom-lines is polluting the Humanities at source.

The sinister aspect of the system is the monetising of people as products to be processed, whether it be through the privatisation of social services or the privatisation of prisons.

In a market economy dependent on perpetual growth, where actual jobs are in decline due to automation and environmental limitations to growth, people become the products that are bought and sold. That is where neo-liberalism leads and is leading: towards the mass processing of vulnerable people.

In September 2017 Mark Donatelli, a New Mexico attorney and an opponent of private prison services said to reporter Roz Brown of the Public News Service in Albuquerque:

“…Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department had begun a phase-out of contracts with private-prison companies. When that decision was reversed by President Trump, their stock prices soared…”

There is big money to be made in imprisoning vulnerable people. Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general is said to hold extensive shares in CoreCivic which provides private prison services all across the US.

Donatelli in the same interview went on to speculate that “…the aggressive tactics now being employed by ICE – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency – likely means private prisons will be utilized…” [to detain immigrants.]

Tellingly, however, while private prison services account for only 12% of all inmates in the US, the percentage share for privately-run immigration and family detention centres is 62%, according to a story by David Dayen in The Nation. This throws a whole new light on the arrests of the Mexican immigrant families.

The same publication, The Nation, ran an article in 2016, shortly after Trump won the election, speculating on how Trump would deport immigrants by branding them as criminal. This being the easiest way to “cater” for them with the systems already in existence. This is exactly what has happened.

The criminalizsng of people for profit in a system of democratic and human-rights restrictions depends primarily on selling the idea to the majority of the electorate, persuading them that certain “criminal” types need rehabilitation.

It’s not about solving the underlying problem. It’s about duping the majority into blaming a minority by identifying a scapegoat group as a focus for “improvement”. The inevitable punitive measures that follow can only happen with the co-operation of the majority of the electorate.

I wrote an article a couple of years ago called “The Investment Potential of Criminalising the Poor” that showed how one of the companies who won the Irish contracts to deliver JobPath was bought out by a major investment corporation attracted by the profit potential of the Irish contracts. I subsequently  discovered that US private prisons have the right to sue local government should a certain quota of fresh prisoners not be met.

While researching that article I came across a story about a questionnaire issued by Turas Nua to jobseekers containing a question that asked, When do you next expect to commit a criminal offence?

The incident was not widely reported. It was reported in The Sun but ignored elsewhere. It was mentioned in the Dáil, but the general response appeared to be that it was some kind of clerical error. The odd question was withdrawn, apologies were made, someone said “regrettable mistake” and so on.

But in light of Trump’s deliberate criminalisation of the Mexican immigrants, that “clerical error” seems now more like a move to habituate people to the idea of unemployment as criminality. And that by two companies whose chief business interest is in private prison services from the UK to Saudi Arabia.

This monetising of vulnerable people is what connects the thinking behind private prison systems in the US and elsewhere, and, more generally, the out-sourcing of social welfare services to private companies, as is happening here.

In real terms, public monies that have seen set aside for social welfare purposes are essentially hi-jacked by these private companies for minimal return. This transference of well-intentioned social funds to private investors is facilitated by governments who simply want to write off the responsibility of providing social welfare, content to throw the most vulnerable on the mercy of the markets.

The lowest bidders almost always win the contracts, to offset costs at the outset. The entire “service” then becomes a cost-cutting exercise by the private contractor, to test how far they can strip the service without actually doing too much harm.

Inevitably however, people are harmed and some people die as a result of the inherent neglect of a system designed for minimal service and maximum profit.

It was the deaths in private prisons that prompted the Obama administration to legislate for the phasing out of private prison services and, naturally, the phasing out of private profits, a situation that Trump and his team were eager to overturn and did.

There is a difference only in degree between the imprisoned children of Mexico, their parents deliberate captives to a private prison service in which the US attorney general holds shares, and, at the milder end of the spectrum, (for the onlookers, not for the families involved,) the homeless families of Ireland, held captive in hotels as sacrifices to the hopeful rejuvenation of the private housing market, an arrangement arrived at by neglect of any serious social housing programme by a government ruling party made up of 32% private landlords.

Both sets of imprisoned families are prisoners for the profit motives of more powerful agents. Add to this the migrant families imprisoned in direct provision in Ireland, farmed out to a private company whose interests are best served financially if direct provision remains a permanent arrangement.

All this makes the taoiseach’s recent gesture of accepting immigrants that the Italians don’t want seem like a calculated PR pre-election stunt to enhance the socially progressive image he has been cultivating on the back of the marriage equality and repeal the 8th amendments.

 Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer

Pics: Getty/RTÉ

From top: John Waters; Eamonn Kelly

I had and still have great respect for John Waters. I read a lot of his stuff over the years and found him to be one of the most insightful commentators on Irish culture. One memory I have of him was when he was shouted down on the Late Late Show by the entire audience and Gay Byrne (early 1990s) for introducing an ancestral memory idea that argued that the famine still played a part in how Irish people behaved.

This idea stemmed from Epigenetics, the study of how dramatic impacts on peoples may involve changes to gene expression if not the genetic codes, leading to effects that may persist in a society for generations.

Irish historian Oonagh Walsh believes that the Irish Famine may have lead directly to an increase in mental illness in subsequent generations. The point is, the idea has substance and has since developed legs, as they say, no matter how vociferously it may have been rejected by the Late Late Show audience all those years ago.

The effect has been measured and proven and clearly shows that traumatic events like famine in particular leave a genetic imprint on a people which may manifest in how the society conducts itself later on.

I thought it was a really interesting idea, but what I was really struck by was the vehemence of the resistance by everyone to even the notion of such a thing. There was no exploration of the debate. John Waters was roundly ridiculed by audience and host in such a manner as to suggest, to me at any rate, that he seemed to have hit some sort of raw nerve.

That was all in the past, was the sentiment. That doesn’t matter now. That has no bearing on anything, and so on. Or as Gay Byrne pointed out – I paraphrase – I have never heard anything so stupid in my entire life!

This ancestral memory idea informed my own thinking about the impact the catholic church’s authoritarian innings may have had in Ireland. Particularly its input into Irish education, literally moulding minds. And then the later abuse stories, still ongoing, all amounting to a kind of cultural shock, and how this may also still be impacting Irish culture. Only yesterday (May 17th) there was a news report of a group of now elderly men still seeking state redress for sexual abuse perpetrated by clerics.

In an article here on Broadsheet a couple of weeks back, I suggested that the 8th amendment was the last bulwark of the grip the Irish Catholic Church held on secular Ireland and for that reason it would be progressive, a break with a dark past, to vote Yes to repeal the 8th amendment.

I was curious to hear what John Waters’ take on all this might be when I heard, simultaneously, that he was going to be on Eamon Dunphy’s podcast, the Last Stand, and that he had walked out of the podcast after less than 15 minutes.

But in that 15 minutes he dismissed the idea that the 8th amendment has anything to do with the historical influence of the church in Ireland, making out that those of us who believe this are not with it and are raising phantoms of Archbishop McQuaid still “stalking the land”.

John Waters clearly believes that there would be a kind of abortion free-for-all if the amendment was repealed. This alone is worthy of deeper examination because it suggests that he believes that Irish people need “policing” on moral issues like abortion, and that the 8th amendment protects them from themselves.

A suggestion which is also a kind of unfortunate veiled indictment of the priorities of women, suggesting also that he believes that the removal of the amendment would lead to callous women having abortions out of a kind of secular party-animal convenience.

It was a pity the interview was curtailed because the impression I was getting was that John Waters was using all his considerable powers of argument in an attempt to corral the discussion to narrow it in such a way as to be able argue partial questions in a shrunken arena he seemed more comfortable in.

He dismissed, for instance, an attempted discussion on the morning-after-pill as being irrelevant to the “real” issue which was focused exclusively on the rights of the foetus In fact, it was this attempt by Dunphy to broaden the discussion that precipitated Waters’ departure.

That he left when Dunphy pushed ahead to explore other aspects of the debate suggests that he, like many people, is equally challenged by trying to unravel the complexities of such an emotive and complex debate, a position of helplessness and befuddlement he is probably not used to and appears to resent.

The early impression though was that he was not at all open to considering anything that contradicted his already held view, and that in fact his argument seemed designed to rule out the more complex questions of the debate.

You would wonder then, even if he had stayed for the full 40-minute discussion would he ever have gotten near the question as to what such a human rights restriction, a total ban on abortion under all circumstances, is doing in the constitution in the first place, and the implications of such a ban on the rights of women, a restriction that the UN regards as a clear human rights breach.

I’m aware that John Waters has gone back to his Irish Catholic roots in recent years. I read his book “Beyond Consolation” where he argued that Irelands’ rejection of the church since the 1960’s has given rise to a rampant irresponsible consumerism, so it is clear that he genuinely believes that Irish people are not capable of governing themselves without the authority of the Church.

He argues in the book that the church’s greatest harm was in giving the impression that religious belief is externally imposed, this as a result of the church’s authoritarianism, and that the loss is that Irish people have developed no inner religious authority. That Irish people have missed the basic message that God is inside and not outside.

I don’t know about that. Buddhism, among other spiritual practices and religious observances, is popular in Ireland. But the deeper problem about such an argument is the underlying assumption that the only way to rectify such a spiritual deficiency, if such a deficiency even exists, is to restore an external authority as a kind of spiritual policeman.

This is a bit of a cousin of an argument to the view that former colonial powers should be reinstated in their various colonies as a response to the imperial notion that “the natives can’t rule themselves”, the “evidence” being civil wars and other governing problems that arise when the former authority withdraws.

While “Beyond Consolation” offered a compelling personal story of a return to the religion of his childhood, which is his prerogative, the book also revealed a suspicion of secular Ireland that chimed a bit uncomfortably with the often-restrictive doctrines and beliefs of the discredited organisation.

Whatever his personal reasons for seeking solace in the religion that was instilled in him as a child, it is difficult to escape the conclusion, based on the arguments condemning Irish secular society in “Beyond Consolation”, and then in his often irrational-seeming retorts on the Dunphy podcast, culminating in his dramatic walkout and abandonment of the argument, that his personal re-embracing of the Catholic church may be clouding his judgement on the issue of the repeal of the 8th amendment as it impacts on the human rights of women.

From a personal point of view, it is disappointing to see that the thinker who first raised the idea in my mind that the famine may have distorted Irish society, and who was roundly condemned for his insight, cannot also see that the impact of the Irish Catholic Church and all its private crimes against people may have had a similarly distorting and destructive effect on the culture, albeit not as extreme perhaps as the effect of famine.

For these reasons, my own position is that the only responsible and progressive answer in the referendum is to vote Yes to repeal the 8th amendment, as a vote of confidence in secular Ireland to conduct itself responsibly.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer

Yesterday: The Stand-Off


I always had this sense that the arts were being neutered and framed as “just for kids”, often presented in great big nursery colors as “harmless fun”. A device to get in touch with your inner child.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, as yesterday’s Irish Times article by Una Mullally shows when Dublin City council cancelled a literary event with a repeal the 8th theme. This coming shortly after the painting-over of Yes murals.

No sooner do the arts get a little political than they’re literally shut down.

There is also a short film called ‘Terminal ‘(above) doing the rounds about two women on the ferry to England which RTÉ has decided to shelve until after the referendum.

Now I understand that RTÉ as a public service broadcaster have to be seen to be impartial, but the church are reading the No side from the pulpits.

The Limerick Leader carried a report yesterday of the Yes position being likened to the Holocaust by a well known journalist speaking from a church pulpit; which, when you think about it, is an insult to both the Yes side, the Holocaust, Journalism and pulpits in general.

But what is RTÉ only a secular pulpit? God knows it is often used for that purpose.

‘Terminal’, politely deferred by the national broadcaster until after the referendum, is a valid artistic contribution to the referendum debate.In that respect it is arguably in the public interest to show the film.

Not showing the film at a time of its peak relevance is no different really than the no-sayers driving around in vans tearing down Yes posters.

Show the film RTÉ, for crying out loud.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer


From top: The Launch of The launch of GAA Athletes for a No Vote on Saturday, in Ballyfermot, Dublin 10; Father Ray Kelly on Britain’s Got Talent

There was a time back in the 1980s when I truly believed that Ireland was on a progressive trajectory of cultural change. I had a severe case of optimism back then, cured by a divorce referendum, an abortion referendum and the moving statues phenomenon. Ireland, it seemed, was slow to change.

One afternoon about 10 years ago, I came across a gaggle of drunken rag-week students, all male, ladding it around the town. Something about the familiarity of their Irish features and their general demeanour caused a kind of epiphany.

It occurred to me that the reason why Ireland had failed to take that progressive trajectory is because most people, for the most part, become like their parents, since this is the trajectory of least resistance.

It takes real effort to make a break with the past, and the truth is, most people can’t be arsed.

The macro result is that the culture, any culture, remains more or less the same from generation to generation.

In Ireland this sameyness is helped in great part by emigration and the departure of the majority of adventurous spirits, leaving the dull and the lazy to tend to the culture, with predictable results, like RTÉ programming and Country and Irish music.

Even the much-lauded Celtic Tiger period was essentially more of the same in Ireland except there were better cars and holidays and cocaine, but under the hood of souped Celtic Tiger decadence, things remained pretty much donkey-and-cart Irish in the bars and parlours of the wet old sod.

For instance, during the Celtic Tiger period some obscure saint’s “relic” came to Ireland for a “tour” – it was a splinter of bone I think, a kind of Elvis’ toenail for serious Catholics.  People turned up in their thousands to pay homage to this old dead thing, proving that Ireland had one foot still very firmly planted in the European medieval period. There was a long way to go yet for anything that might look like a progressive cultural trajectory.

Now we have another Groundhog Day-like referendum and the same cast of dubious characters are haunting the cultural landscape with essentially the same regressive doctrines and fear-mongering. It’s a wonder that they’re still here.

The progressive nature and success of the marriage equality referendum bodes well for the advent of an age of cultural enlightenment at last. Though I may be losing the run of myself a bit here and slipping dangerously towards unabashed optimism. And we all know where that leads.

Apart from the complexities of the abortion issue – it is in these complexities that the fundamentalists make the most hay by generating confusion, fear and uncertainty – I personally don’t see this really as being about abortion as such.

Abortion, divorce, same-sex marriage and so on are just the ball in a greater game; diversions from the core issue of all the debates that have plagued Ireland around sexuality.

That core issue is the grip on power the catholic church managed to wangle in the formation of the new Irish state, courtesy of de Valera who used them for some much-needed political stability, but maybe got a little more stability than he bargained for.

We’re still severely stabilised here in Ireland. The latest referendum, like the ones that preceded it, is really a question asking: Are we ready yet to risk thinking for ourselves?

It seems now that the church deliberately set out to indoctrinate the Irish people into a system of social, political and personal control, using the free access to the minds of children they enjoyed in the new state, to deeply embed ideas of shame, guilt, fear and uncertainty regarding questions of sexuality, establishing a kind of totalitarian power over the new state, to provide a foothold in a Europe in which the church was becoming increasingly irrelevant.

The greatest irony of this campaign of oppression, as we all know, was the fact that the church itself provided cover for sexual predators who preyed on children in that church-generated climate of fear and uncertainty, causing cowed Irish adults to turn a blind eye to their activities.

This was the oppression in action. The generational inculcation of fear and guilt and tipping the hat to a clergy that behaved abominably, betraying the trust of an entire people’s mistaken respect, while clerics engaged in activities that included the rape of children and the selling of children for profit, among other “caring” preoccupations that have since been revealed to appall the world.

Two of the legacies of that campaign to oppress the Irish people were the divorce and abortion referenda where the church and its lackeys, and often with help, training and money from fundamentalist Christian organisations in the US, set out to manipulate those old fears and uncertainties embedded in Irish people in previous generations, their goal similarly to achieve social, political and personal control through shame, guilt, fear and uncertainty.

A Yes vote in the upcoming referendum is a Yes to releasing the grip these fanatics continue to hold on the minds and hearts of many Irish people and continue to hold on the Irish constitution itself.

This continued grip on power was achieved over generations through clever and underhanded manipulations, in a campaign of oppression that was designed to trick Irish people into democratically locking these oppressive ideas into Irish law, and by doing so, locking the church’s influence into the secular state.

When you vote Yes, you vote Yes to undoing the damage these shameless manipulators have inflicted on the Irish Constitution. You break their hold on power once and for all.

Nevertheless, they do persist, and the game continues. Yesterday a group of GAA footballers came out to launch a campaign for a No vote on the grounds that abortion is a failure of team-work. They say:

“…the proposal fails the test of teamwork. This is a society of people of many talents, with boundless potential and vast resources. If we work together, we can come up with a better solution than to cast away the rights of our unborn children and call it a solution. We can, and we must, do better.”

Suggestions on a postcard please, I guess.

Talk about simplifying the complex. But since they’re raised the metaphor of teamwork, you have to wonder if allowing a woman to die because the medical team’s hands are tied by the legalities of the 8th amendment is not also a failure of “teamwork”.

The statement also says:

“The proposal the Government has put forward is not inclusive. It specifically seeks to exclude one group of people, the unborn, from our society. It strips them of rights, it declares that they are not on our team.”

As this government routinely does with the homeless, with patients on hospital trolleys, with the disabled, the immigrants, the emigrants, the low paid worker and the unemployed.
It might be a greater demonstration of social concern and practical benefit if the GAA players went campaigning for the housing of the 5,000 homeless children the state also does not include on the “team”.

The statement ends with the brilliantly oblivious,:

“We respect and cherish women. We support them, and we believe that as a society, we have much more, so much more, to offer our women than the death of their children.”

Really? Like what, for instance?

Some right wing Christian think-tank may have put the GAA players up to this. But the concept is spun so poorly that it is likely that the GAA players dreamed it up themselves.
For instance, the core principles they cite are; inclusiveness, compassion, respect, dignity and teamwork.

But realistically each of these comes with a barely concealed gender prejudice and might more honestly be presented as, Inclusiveness (except for the girls.); Compassion (except for the girls.); Respect (except for the girls); Dignity (except for the girls.); Teamwork (Except for the girls.)

Then, just in time for the referendum, to cap it all off, like a fresh gag in a bleak divine comedy, Ireland coughs up, like a miraculous intervention, a singing priest crooning “Everybody Hurts” (they sure do, father) on Britain’s Got Talent.

This is a performance that has been fulsomely praised on Facebook by young Irish people who really should know better. But the strangest thing of it is. When the priest finished
singing there was a deathly silence in the auditorium until Simon Cowell rose to his feet and generated an ovation. Cowell sees money in this and he’s clearly backing the crooning cleric for a big payoff.

This, for those of a medieval mindset, appears to indicate that the singing priest has made a pact with the Devil.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer

Pics:  Rollingnews/ITV


From top: A scene from RTÉ’s What Are You Working For?; Eamonn Kelly

The Phillip Boucher Hayes documentary What Are You Working For? Screened on RTÉ on April 9 demonstrated that the jobs being created in recent times, particularly low paid jobs are not only not achieving what they were supposed to achieve – more funds in the tax net – but are apparently designed in such a way as to deliver neither security or a realistic living wage to those who hold such jobs.

They are in a way McJobs; all appearance and no sustenance.

Early in the programme Boucher-Hayes asked one of the participants, a low-paid retail worker, if she would be better off not working. This is an interesting question and something of a trap in a way, though there is no suggestion that it was intended as such.

To be better off not working alludes of course to the welfare system and the case is then usually made that welfare is too “generous” if some people can only be marginally better off by working.

The participant in this case was working part time in retail, earning €15,000 which left her tax free and also eligible for state supplementary benefit. But the period of entitlement to this state benefit was coming to a close, leaving her in a situation where her weekly earnings did not cover living costs.

This impoverishment of low-paid workers is a familiar scenario in the US where the systems of exploitation of low-paid workers is far more sophisticated, leading to situations where homeless people work full time but remain below the first rung of the so-called accommodation ladder.

It used to be called the housing ladder, but the homelessness crisis has created a new sub-zone requiring a new ladder. Soon we’ll have people struggling to get on the first rung of the deep-black-pit ladder.

The Irish retail worker the RTE documentary, when asked would she better off not working, said that she was earning €15 more for her 15 hours than she would earn if she went on welfare, which she refuses to do because she doesn’t want to take handouts from the state, despite the fact that she is working in a job that doesn’t actually cover living costs.

She went on to say that claiming welfare would set a bad example to her children, and adds:

“They need to have that self-worth to get out there and earn their own money.”

This is a sentiment we would all agree with, and one that is often made by low-paid workers who take pride in asserting that they could not and would not take state “handouts”. It is interesting too that the concept of self-worth is often factored into such sentiments as a quality only deliverable by working in a “job”.

But the idea of “getting out there” and earning “your own money”, while admirable in its fighting intent and moral chutzpah, takes absolutely no cognizance of the realities of finding decently paid occupation in a system seemingly deliberately designed to minimize worker’s benefits and protections.

To have a concept of personal self-worth tied into and dependent on success in such a system seems almost tragic.

These decent, moral qualities expressed by this woman are unfortunately just more sustenance for the dinosaur-like corporate entities roaming the planet. They’ll eat that stuff up all day. It serves them to have moral, honest hard-working people playing by traditional rules and moral codes.

Have you ever heard a multi-national corporation declare that it was too proud to accept state handouts? Corporations take all the handouts they can get and actually have systems in place to trawl the globe looking for state handouts.

They’re no mugs, that’s why they command all the wealth. That’s why we have so many multi-national corporations here in Ireland, and the majority of them are US vampire-like companies who parked their gargantuan arses here, tax free, to avail of state handouts, in exchange for “jobs” they would provide.

But the concept of “job” in this Faustian pact has clearly come to have two separate and distinct meanings for the parties involved.

The state may understand a “job” in the old-fashioned way of an occupation in manufacturing that delivers decent wages to its workers which will filter back into the local economy and into the national tax base in terms of income tax, VAT and so on, with the rising tide lifting all boats and so on. This understanding of “job” is predicated on the assumption that “jobs” are by their nature, well paid, a dangerous assumption as it turns out.

A multi-national company however may view a “job” in an entirely different way. If for instance a company is entering a deal of job provision in return for a tax-free base allowing access to the lucrative European markets, it may create as many jobs as you desire.

But don’t expect them to be “jobs” in the sense you understand the concept. Expect them to be occupations involving the use of the time and labour of local individuals in a setting that looks like the type of setting you assume a “job” belongs in.

A place owned by the employer that provides some service or other and which pays a minimal wage to an employee who is kept there against their natural inclination by the traditional moral imperative of getting out there and earning your own money.

Stick a paper hat on it and presto! It’s a “job”.

But if this “job” doesn’t pay enough to contribute to the tax base and the local economy, as was the case with all of the low-paid jobs featured in the RTÉ documentary, almost 400,000 of them, it is not a “job” in the sense in which you understood when you entered into a tax-exemption deal with multi-national companies in return for the creation of “jobs”.  They’re jobs, Jim. But not as we know them.

Such jobs are deliberately designed to be precarious, particularly jobs created by the US companies who have decades of experience in feeding off workforces as if people are just so many tubes of toothpaste to be used up and discarded.

The effect of engineering precarious employment is to destroy the concept of unions and worker protections and to leave individual workers bearing the costs of creating employment while the corporation takes all the profit.

This creates a situation where the projected tax take from increased employment that was understood as part of the “job” creation deal doesn’t materialise.

Everyone is working, but everyone is losing except the corporations. And that’s the way it is arranged. Workers can never win. It’s like gambling in a casino. The games are rigged. The house always wins.

So, what’s being taken from people, in real terms?

Their time. Their energy. Their skills. Their education. Their autonomy.

Here’s the IDA’s sell of Irish workers to lure foreign companies to Ireland.

International reports rate Ireland’s workforce highly for factors such as educational attainment, productivity and flexibility

These qualities are assets and are being sold on the international market by the government to lure so-called foreign investment.

But if the workers then hired in the deal of tax breaks and an educated workforce in return for “jobs” are then essentially cheated by these companies by being hi-jacked into precarious employments, as was demonstrated on the RTÉ documentary, it is clear that the initial deal is being poorly misunderstood by the deal-makers in government.

It’s a bad deal that fails to achieve what it set out to achieve, leaving Irish people essentially footing the bill for multinational profiteers, whether through low wages and the sacrifice of their skills to the cause of the multi-nationals’ business priorities, or by paying tax for social services some of which will supplement the living costs of the impoverished workers who are simply not being paid enough to live on and must resort to welfare top-ups.

Many short-term contracts create a situation where workers are on permanent call at the whim of the employer. Such a situation has further hidden costs in basic human needs and the effect on family relationships. Plus, you can be sure there are people who are simply not sleeping as much as they should for best health, and not eating properly.

These too are costs paid by the employee that directly enhance corporate profit while incurring health deficits that will inevitably mean future costs on the health service as over-worked people’s health breaks down. Costs which will again be paid by the Irish tax-payer.

All these “assets” are being turned to capital by the multi-national companies invited by a government still essentially exercising the tricks of the Lemass era.

It even could be that this ongoing dependent behaviour on multi-nationals to do our job creation for us has left our governments relatively guileless in the ways of business, and now prone to cutting deals that are damaging in their naivete.

Though I’m not sure the Irish establishment is that naïve. It’s more likely and fits more with anecdotal evidence and personal experience that they simply have no real respect or esteem for the native citizenry.

The way these multi-national companies operate is a bit like strip-mining the human workforce. All the skills, talents, qualifications and experience are turned over to the companies by the government in the interest of “job” creation.

But the “jobs” created are immediately stripped of profit by systems already in place and the workers and all their assets in the form of education and skills is immediately turned into a kind of human pulp from which the companies crush time, expertise, labour and fundamental health into profit for the company.

These profit-harvesting machines create wastelands of people and places, like those desolate US urban spaces you see on Louis Theroux documentaries where junkies roam like zombies until such time as they step foul of the law and are washed and dressed in cotton whites and consigned for life into fridge-like cubicles in privately run prisons where, in their permanent captivity they still miraculously generate profits for private companies.

This pact of tax breaks and selling off an educated workforce to multi-national companies in return for “jobs” is not only a poor deal, it also seems like an ongoing statement of a national lack of self-confidence. An Achille’s heel that is being mercilessly exploited by international profiteers.

All the creativity of a highly educated workforce is being burnt up to serve the production really of multinational company profits, with skilled people being pressed to take “proper jobs” that are often a waste of their talents and that are so poorly paid that they don’t qualify to contribute in any meaningful way to the tax base.

I came across an article recently where someone said of the US job market that wonderful art works are being lost because the artists and musicians are being pressed into low paid employment flipping burgers and so on. The same is happening here because the same principles and the same players are being let loose here too.

The talents and qualifications being wasted in the service of these companies is also a loss of potential real capital, since it has been demonstrated in study after study that the arts are a huge source of income to any country and are of particularly lucrative potential here in Ireland where the native talent is the envy of more culturally sterile but wealthy countries, like Germany for instance.

In the long-term, raw creative talent will not achieve its potential, because its energy and gift is being squandered to serve the creation of corporate profits for minimal benefit, in the name of the creation of an old-hat understanding of “real jobs”.

The waste of native talent in exchange for McJobs is tantamount to a crime against culture. A dated initiative for job-creation that is selling us all out and burning up future potential in exchange for nothing really, except a statistical boast for a government who then claim a raise for a job well done.

If you demonstrated the tax-breaks for jobs deal in a kindergarten with squares of chocolate, the five-year-olds would look on with total derision at the obvious cheat of it all.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer

Top pic: RTÉ