Tag Archives: Paul Murphy TD

From top: Citizens’ Assembly chairperson Justice Mary Laffoy (left) and assembly secretary Sharon Finegan during a presentation on climate change by Dr Connor Murphy (right) in the Grand Hotel, Malahide on September 30, 2017; P{aul Murphy TD

Yesterday, the Joint Committee on Climate Action began public hearings and an examination of the Citizens’ Assembly Report: How the State can make Ireland a Leader in tackling Climate Change

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy is a member of the committee.

Paul writes:.

After the first meeting of the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee, one thing is glaringly obvious. The public, as reflected in the Citizens’ Assembly, are miles ahead of the politicians.

Decisive majorities came out in favour of radical action to deal with climate change: One hundred percent voted for the State to take a lead in tackling climate change; 97% voted for the establishment of a new independent body to ensure that climate change is at the centre of policy-making; and 92% voted that the State should prioritise investment in public transport over road infrastructure.

These and other proposals stand in contrast to the record and policies of the political establishment, including those politicians who spoke at the Committee about the need to ‘educate the public’ – implying that it is a backward public which holds politicians back from taking the action which is needed.

Enda Kenny infamously gave the game away when at the Paris climate talks he declared that climate change simply wasn’t a ‘priority’ for the Irish government.

Under Varadkar, Fine Gael got a new shiny veneer of green. However, the reality remains unchanged, with Ireland second worst in the EU on climate action.

The Science is Clear

There are three essential elements of climate change science. The earth is warming at an unprecedented rate. Human activity is the primary cause of this rise in temperature. The consequences for human society and the natural world will be devastating, unless radical measures of mitigation and adaptation are taken.

The debate on these facts has concluded. We can see this changed reality in the storms, floods, and heatwaves increasing in intensity each year.

However, this reality is denied by the most powerful political figure in the world, Donald Trump, and by a number of TDs.

One of the Committee members, Senator Ian Marshall, seemed to accept that climate change exists, but not that it will have a devastating impact on us all.

He stated that climate change will present “opportunities” for some countries because the melting of polar ice caps would mean an increase in arable land. His conclusion? Ireland didn’t need to try to be a leader in tackling climate change.

It is therefore welcome that the Committee in private session agreed to alter the original work programme to include a session on ‘The Science of Climate Change’. Perhaps Senator Marshall and others might learn something.

Tackling the emitters

Even for those who claim to accept the science of climate change, it doesn’t mean that they are willing to take the action necessary to mitigate it. Doing so means interfering with the right to profit of extremely powerful capitalist interests.

On a global scale, that means taking on the 90 companies responsible for 63% of greenhouse gas emissions.

In Ireland, with agriculture as the economic sector with the highest emissions, agri-business is particularly fearful of a serious approach to tackling climate change. How their interests and the interests of Big Oil will be protected was already clear from the first Committee meeting.

Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin was echoed by many others in emphasising an urban – rural divide, suggesting that investment in public transport is all very well, but would not assist rural dwellers who need cars, and arguing that Ireland reducing its beef export would simply mean increased exports from elsewhere.

This is fundamentally a recipe for inaction. It closely echoes the position of establishment parties on Ireland’s role as a corporate tax haven.

In theory, they agree it’s bad, but nonetheless they emphasise that Ireland cannot tackle it alone and instead point to an international agreement in the dim and distant future as an alternative. In the case of climate change, an international (though inadequate) agreement already exists. The issue is implementation.

Climate change simply cannot wait until all countries act simultaneously. For Ireland to do its part we need to slash emissions from transport and agriculture, the two biggest contributors to our overall greenhouse gas emissions.

That means massively investing in public transport to make it free, accessible, and convenient for the vast majority. and shifting to a sustainable model of agriculture.

Those requirements alone point towards the need of breaking out of the framework of neo-liberal capitalism where profit is king, and instead placing people and the environment at the centre of economic planning

But, fundamentally we can’t control what we don’t own. So public ownership of the major sectors of the economy is key to success.

Minimal change or radical eco-socialist change?

Unfortunately, the approach of the political establishment is to accept the logic of capitalism, in effect taking minimal action and accepting some climate change (some destruction, some deaths) is inevitable to ensure the system’s maintenance.

This was seen in the evidence presented by Justice Mary Laffoy, who chaired the Citizens’ Assembly and Professor Alan Barrett of the ESRI.

A revealing admission about the procedure of the Citizens’ Assembly was made by Ms Laffoy.

The Citizens’ Assembly final report says the following about the wording of a particular question for the Assembly

“A number of suggestions were received from Members …. expressing a view that all future renewable energy projects should be publicly State owned, in light of concerns about Ireland’s energy security into the future and a desire to retain ownership of our renewable energy assets.

The Chairperson explained that this could involve complex areas of European Union law including issues such as state aid rules. …[and] deemed inappropriate that the Assembly should vote on this.” [italics added]

Given that the entire report is a set of recommendations, the majority of which require some change of law, I questioned Ms Laffoy’s decision to block the vote on public ownership.

She said this was the “sensible option” and “we can’t change EU law”. In other words, EU law took primacy over the environment even in the Citizens’ Assembly.

The main emphasis of the ESRI presentation was on carbon taxes. As currently implemented, the ESRI accepted that these are regressive – hitting lower income groups harder proportionally than higher income groups. Most importantly, they have a marginal impact at best.

That is because they are focused on improving individuals’ choices, without taking into account that people’s choices aren’t made in a vacuum, but in a capitalist world where the big decisions that shape their lives have already been taken by corporations and governments.

For example, heavy carbon taxes can be imposed, but without the provision of public transport, someone who has to travel to work has no choice but to continue to travel by car.

None of that is to discount the choices that we all need to make to try to help tackle climate change. But it is to emphasise that we also should make the choice to see this problem as a systemic one.

An eco-socialist exit strategy from the nightmare of climate change is needed. My job on the Committee in the next months will be to try to advocate it.

Paul Murphy is Solidarity TD for Dublin South West and member of the Socialist Party. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy_TD

Rollingnews

JoeOTooleJul16_largeDSC_1298_Copier_

gretta2

peter

From top: Joe O’Toole; Xavier Leflaive, Gritta Nottelman and Peter Peacock of the government’s expert commission on water charges.

“People voted a certain way, Leinster House is not prepared to grasp that particular nettle, so we have to find a solution that will have enough sugar on it to make the medicine go down easily.”

Joe O’Toole on Newstalk Breakfast, June 30, 2016

Paul Murphy TD writes:

Joe O’Toole has been forced to resign as chair of the supposedly neutral expert commission not because he believed its job was to add enough sugar to make water charges, but because he gave the game away.

In his resignation statement, he declared:

“I am comfortable with the fact that I put my views honestly and transparently on the record. It is regrettable that my straight-talking has caused difficulties for others but in that regard I am unlikely to change anytime soon.”

Anybody who pays attention to politics will know that the establishment of ‘independent’ commissions to look into things is the oldest trick in the book. The aim is usually to take heat out of an issue in order to be able to return later to it.

The issue of the expert commission on water charges is no different. The government has faced a mass movement of opposition on water charges – with significant protests, a mass boycott and that reflected in the general election.

The result is a Dail where about 70% of TDs have a mandate to end water charges and abolish Irish Water.

Yet, Fine Gael in particular remains committed to bringing water charges back and Fianna Fáil is far from committed to really oppose them.

So between them, they agreed the proposal of suspension of water charges and the establishment of this water commission to ‘look into it’.

It, as Joe O’Toole let slip, has a predetermined outcome, which will be some form of water charges.

The ‘experts’ will have spoken and we will be told by large sections of the media that it is deeply irresponsible not to go along with water charges.

Who are those experts?

Well many of them are connected to water privatisation.

That includes Xavier Leflaive of the OECD who has previously written that

“Water pricing can be used to signal scarcity and to create incentives for efficient water use in all sectors (e.g. agriculture, industry, domestic)”,

Peter Peacock who is chair of the Customer Forum for Water Scotland, and Gritta Nottelman who works for a private Dutch water company.

This elevation of supposedly neutral experts is of course a part of the technocratisation of politics, what Peter Mair described as the “hollowing of western democracy”.

We have had a thorough debate on water charges over the past years. People engaged in street meetings, in mass protests, in campaigning organisations.

They then spoke – decisively, in protest, in a majority of people boycotting and in the general election.

The problem the government has is that they spoke the wrong way and therefore a way has to be found around them.

Right2Water has agreed a further major national protest on Saturday,  September 17.

This will be an opportunity for a renewed call for the attempts to subvert the wishes of people to end. The so-called expert commission should go.

The bullying from the European Commission should not be heeded.

The Dáil should simply act to abolish water charges and Irish Water and provide for the necessary substantial investment in water infrastructure paid for through progressive taxation.

Paul Murphy is a TD Anti Austerity Alliance. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy/AAA

Earlier: Glug

David+Cameron+Enda+Kenny+Prime+Minister+David+W1Ble1MfEbDl
paulmurphy

From top: David Cameron and Enda Kenny; Paul Murphy

Much of the Programme for Government is lifted from the Tory playbook.

Including the inhuman ‘Fit For Work’ Scheme.

Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy writes:

Writing in the Irish Independent on May 13, John Downing asked ‘how many more bombs’ are hiding in the Programme for Government.

Quite a few as it turns out.

While Fine Gael had to give some concessions on policy, like water charges, in the long discussions to form a government, the final document itself is ‘blue’ through and through.

Many of the policies contained in it are carbon copies of policies which Fine Gael’s sister party, the Conservatives, have been implementing in Britain.

The plans for the health service with the introduction of the hospital trust model and the opening up of the service for privatisation is, in its fundamentals, a copy and paste job of David Cameron’s policies over the last years.

The Tories announced a scheme to link child benefit to school attendance – and voila – there it is in the Irish Programme for government, apparently pushed by ex-Fine Gael TD and now minister Denis Naughton.

One of the most controversial policies the Tories have championed is a scheme which assesses the ability of sick and disabled people to work, the work capability assessment (WCA), and linking this with benefits.

This is part of their broader WorkFare programme which itself has an Irish cousin in the form of labour activation measures like JobBridge, Gateway and JobPath introduced by the previous government.

In the document that forms the basis for government reference is made to the introduction of a ‘Fit for Work’ programme aimed at assessing the ability of sick and disabled people, who are currently out of work and in receipt of benefit payments, to work or engage in labour activation schemes.

This could be one of the bombs that explodes in the laps of Kenny & Co.

Like with JobBridge when we launched the ScamBridge campaign in 2012 to expose the reality behind that scheme, it is time to ring the alarm bells on this Fit for Work programme and call for it to be scrapped.

ScamBridge’s assessment of the JobBridge scheme proved to be accurate – the exploitation that it involved with many scandals coming to light and its comparison with the British Workfare scheme. The mainstream media, trade unions and even that scheme’s champions, the Labour Party, have now turned their back on it and are calling for it to go.

The Fit for Work programme is couched in the same fluffy language as JobBridge – it will provide ‘supports’ for people who wish to return to work providing bridges and pathways.

However, like JobBridge and other activation measures this is really about removing people’s access to benefits and providing cheap labour to business.

The clue is in the name – it intends to declare people who are currently assessed as ill or disabled as being ‘fit for work’ to remove entitlements.

The introduction of this scheme in Britain has had devastating consequences which should serve as a warning for us.

2,380 people who were declared fit for work in Britain were dead within six weeks, that’s 90 a month, after having their payments stopped.

Over 40,000 were dead within a year between 2010 and 2014, many from suicide which campaigners say is directly attributable to the scheme.

People with disabilities and people with illnesses are directed to attend a work capability assessment which is run by a private company. A position of ‘disbelief’ is adopted by the assessor; the onus is on the individual to ‘prove’ their illness or disability.

What has been described as a ‘box-ticking exercise’ then ensues which often ignores GP and medical records.

The tasks which are used to assess someone’s fitness are basic – meaning that for instance someone who has suffered multiple heart attacks or recovering from cancer may be physically able to do a task; however repetition of such tasks in a workplace environment may suffer a relapse or bring on further illness.

For example, in recent weeks the case of Kenny Bailey has come to light. Mr. Bailey suffered a massive stroke leaving him partially paralysed and having had some of his skull removed to decrease the pressure on his brain.

However, having been found to be able to get up from a chair and walk 200 yards unaided he was declared fit to work.

Mental health disturbances or illnesses are all but ignored by the assessors. People suffering from different forms of mental health illnesses such as severe depression, anxiety or aggro-phobia were given a clean bill of health.

The result being that huge numbers of vulnerable people have been left in a position where they had their illness benefit cut off and have been unable to cope with the situation which they find themselves in or know where to go to access the appeals system or other social supports.

For instance in 2014, 44 year old Mark Woods, who suffered from ‘complex mental health conditions’ and eating disorders was found dead weeks after his benefits had been cut.

A letter from his doctor to the jobcentre said that he was ‘extremely unwell and absolutely unfit for work’ and pleaded with them not to cut his benefits because ‘he would not cope with the extra stress…his condition is extremely serious’.

However, he was cut off, as his doctor predicted he was unable to cope and essentially died from malnourishment, weighting just 5st 8lbs at the time of his death.

Money and profits are at the heart of schemes like this for right-wing governments and the companies who operate them.

While saying that schemes are there to help people into work, what they are really about is ‘making work pay’ – not by providing well-paid jobs but by cutting welfare.

The aim is to make social payments so low that no matter what health condition someone is in, they will be better off working, even if it kills them.

Furthermore, not only does it cut the safety net for people now, but it raises the bar by which future applications for welfare assistance will be decided.

People who clearly shouldn’t be working will be forced into low-paid, unsuitable jobs to try to survive. It will brutalise society.

For the companies who are given contracts to run these schemes there are massive profits to be made.

The companies are provided with a ‘reward’ for every person they can get into a job, no matter how unsuitable. There have been investigations into these companies based on allegations that they had defrauded the state by faking results.

One set of serious allegations were made against Seetec by three whistle-blowers. They were alleged to have placed disabled people into companies as free ‘interns’.

However, they then claimed to the Department of Work and Pensions that they had got them jobs, they claimed the ‘reward’ payment and from that gave a ‘wage’ to the disabled interns.

Seetec have recently won the contract in Ireland to provide the services to the government’s JobPath programme.

The use of fit-to-work assessments on disabled people, along with other ‘welfare reforms’, has led to the launching of a UN investigation into whether these types of assessments have broken their human rights.

The bar for the launching of an investigation of this type is that the claimant has to prove ‘severe’ and ‘continuous’ breaches of rights before an investigation will begin.

This investigation is historic because it is the first enquiry of its kind to be launched by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The inquiry will produce its report in 2017. David Cameron has tried to laugh it off. However the launching of this investigation should be a warning to everyone about how serious and potentially fatal this approach is. It should also act as a warning to the Irish government who are going down a similar line.

This horror story is why we have to oppose and force the government to drop the idea of introducing an Irish Fit to Work.

Over the last number of years, with the introduction of labour activation measures like Gateway and JobBridge we have witnessed a move in this direction. Unemployment has been treated as an individual problem rather than a societal one.

Worryingly, in the context of the British experience we have witnessed a drastic increase in the sanctioning of welfare entitlements related to labour activation schemes – sanctions have increased by 1,177% between 2011 and 2015.

This lays the basis for the use of sanctions of this nature against sick and disabled people.

Decency has to apply. If someone is sick they should not be forced to work under the threat of being thrown into abject poverty by having their payments cut.

People with disabilities want to work; it is often they who are actually stopped from gaining a job by employers due to discrimination. There needs to be enforced legislation with serious teeth to punish discrimination in the workplace. Training, education and other supports should be provided by the state to genuinely assist people with disabilities into work.

The approach of using threats, bullying and poverty as supposed motivators to disabled people will not work.

The government has been forced back on a number of issues in recent weeks, they need to be forced back on this one too.

Paul Murphy is an Anti-Austerity Alliance TD for Dublin South West. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy

2910109_orig

Paul Murphy TD (on ground second right) at a sit down protest during a visit to  Jobstown, Tallaght by Tanaiste Joan Burton last year.

Further to the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge over 20 austerity protestors for ‘falsely imprisoning’ the Tanaiste Joan Burton and an aide.

Paul Murphy TD, who may be among those charged following a dawn arrest earlier this year, writes:

The news that over 20 people will be charged with serious criminal offences in relation to the protest in Jobstown is shocking. Reports indicate that a number, including of people, including me, will be charged with false imprisonment – a charge that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. This is an extremely serious attack on the right to protest.

People from Jobstown, who participated in a protest which delayed the Tanaiste for about two and a half hours are now facing the potential of going to prison. How many people does Joan Burton feel should be imprisoned because she was delayed for a couple of hours?

The question has to be asked about why this information was leaked to the media, via a crime correspondent [RTÉ’s Paul Reynolds], before people themselves were told they would be charged. Just as no Garda was in touch with me to question me before my arrest, nobody has been in touch suggesting that we would be charged, or charging us.

This will be a major political trial initiated on foot of political policing. It will be a trial of over 20 people for having the temerity to protest, including delay the Tanaiste, who is responsible for vicious attacks on working class people, including most recently the cuts to lone parents.

If the Labour Party thinks protesters facing potential prison sentences is going to in some way redeem itself in advance of the next election, it will be sorely mistaken. This may only add to the dramatic rejection that Labour will receive, particularly in working class communities like Jobstown, where people now have a deep feeling of betrayal.

The context to this move is clear – one of absolute crisis for Irish Water and the government. 57% of people have refused to pay the water charges, Irish Water has failed the Eurostat test and the government is reeling from this rejection of its water charges. This new attempt to criminalise protest and intimidate people from protesting will not work. It will inspire more to come out for the next national Right2Water protest at 2pm in Dublin on Saturday August 29.

FIGHT!

Paul Murphy (Facebook)

Over 20 to be charged over Burton incident (RTÉ’s Nine O’Clock News)

90370745 9037074990370759 90370760 1925342_1068334793192333_520366297381222465_n

10957760_1068334926525653_829192034274101879_n 1947878_1068345003191312_6238927148844347859_n

10959670_1068338879858591_3750638262198180159_n

10995935_1068350713190741_368694241756471116_n

Last night.

Paul Murphy TD joined Anti Austerity Alliance and Irish Water protesters outside the Department of Justice in Dublin to protest against the arrests of protestors this week.

One of those arrested, 16-year-old Jason Lester, also said a few words…

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 02.07.39

Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland, Baldoyle Anti-Water Meter Task Force and Workers Solidarity Movement Ireland

90370214903702129037021090370216

9037020490370208

This afternoon.

Terenure Garda Station, Terenure Road, Dublin 6w.

The long walk to freedom.

The release without charge of Paul Murphy TD from custody following his arrest this morning for the alleged “imprisonment” of Joan Burton and her assistant during protests in Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin last year.

Earlier: A Sinister Development

Pic: Daragh Brophy

Thanks Frilly Keane

paul murphy

This afternoon

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy becomes topless during a water charge protests in Tallaght, Dublin.

Watch here

Earlier: Meanwhile, In Jobstown

Via Paul Meade