Lesley Stock In early 2019, my dad took ill. For some time, after a barrage of tests we had to just wait it out. 

When eventually the diagnosis came, it was devastating. My wee dad had kidney cancer and the tumour was as big as the kidney that it was attached to. During the time that we (mum and I, for I’m an only child) were waiting for the diagnosis, we had noticed that my once very clued in dad, was doing things that were just not ‘him’.

He would be driving home from somewhere, and drive past the entrance to their housing development. He would ask a question a couple of times and when he was told that he’d already been given the answer, would then nod and brush it off as a joke. In May 2019, dad had his left kidney removed successfully and thankfully (at the ripe old age of 79) came through both the operation And recovery.

By this stage however, we started to see dads’ memory deteriorate even more quickly. He couldn’t remember why he had the huge scar on his stomach and when out for a meal, a few minutes after ordering from the menu would ask ‘What did I order?’ Mum made so many excuses for the memory loss, but I knew there was definitely something going on and after much debate with myself, decided to ring the Alzheimer's Society.

If anyone was ever in any doubt about ringing for peace of mind, advice or just to unload, please don’t be afraid to call them. The lady I was put through to, couldn’t have been more helpful and understanding. It was I have to say, an emotional call on my part. I think that perhaps I was also in denial about dad’s condition, but when I heard the words come out to the lady, it all became much too real for me and I crumbled. I shocked myself at the sheer raw emotion that I poured out to this poor unsuspecting advisor, and have to admit I felt quite mortified!! I’m the kind of person who tried to ‘get things done’ in a crisis, but admit I found that phone call one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make. After around 30 minutes of me blubbing and snotting, it was decided that I would ring my dad’s GP and explain things to him.

Now, dad is no stranger to the doctor. He has lived with diabetes for around 20 years and also has vascular disease, as well as then being diagnosed with the renal cancer and having skin cancer, but he is still a reluctant patient and getting him to visit his GP isn’t the easiest of tasks! It posed me another dilemma: how on earth would I convince dad to even see his GP in order to be put through the initial memory test?

I contacted his GP and found him really easy to chat to. I explained the various mishaps and forgetfulness and asked if he could possibly even call him in for a ‘routine’ check. I was so grateful when I agreed to this way of cajoling the stubborn old git to coming in. I mentioned to mum that I had contacted the Alzheimer's association and also the GP and to let her know that she should be getting a call from the doctor. Unfortunately, this didn’t go down too well and at one stage I feared she was going to throw her tea we were enjoying in our favourite café over my head! Denial again….

I have found that being a family member (especially the only daughter) of a sufferer of dementia is a lonely road. My dad was either unaware, or refused to believe that his brain was now not firing off correctly, that there were times the usual lucidity gave way to blank spaces or jumbled messages. As a spouse, my mum I think, didn’t want to admit or believe that the man she had been with since she was 15, this strong, intelligent, kind and hilariously funny man was somehow not quite the same. I think she feared that she would lose him altogether, so if she refused to admit and acknowledge there was a deficit, then it wasn’t true. To me though, ignoring the glaringly obvious wasn’t ever an option. If dad had a condition like dementia, then I wanted it diagnosed and hopefully start treatment before it really started to take the man that had been my rock my whole life.

 ⏩ Lesley Stock is a former PSNI and RUC Officer currently involved in community work. 

Dementia Diaries

UnHerd ✒ This mercenary trade unionist helped make the party middle class. 

James Kirkup

When he was 20 years old, Len McCluskey lied to get money. Having broken his arm playing football at the dock where he worked, he claimed he’d been injured on the job due to his employer’s negligence. This false account to the Medical Appeal Tribunal brought him £250 — about £4,000 in today’s terms.

51 years later McCluskey, now the leading trade unionist of the last decade, shows no regret as he reveals this scam in his memoir, Always Red (published to coincide with the annual conference of the Labour Party he helped to ruin). Indeed, he seems almost proud of getting away with it — his account mentions no comeuppance for the con. That’s fitting for a man whose career in politics and public life has been defined by two things: indifference to the consequences of his own actions, and the power of money.

Other people’s money, that is. Until recently, McCluskey headed Unite, and his liberal use of the union’s funds is a motif of this book.

Continue reading @ UnHerd.

The Man Who Destroyed Labour

Dieter ReinischAnalysis: Paulo Freire's writings enabled IRA prisoners to perform a more active role in the outside republican movement and the peace process than in previous decades and given his influence, he could be considered the peace process's hidden enabler.


19th September marked the 100th birthday of the Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire. The Socialist-Catholic Freire is best known for his radical approach to pedagogy. His innovative education influenced activists and educators around the globe, was also an inspiration for IRA prisoners in the H-Blocks and shaped the peace process.

Paulo Freire was born on 19th September 1921 in the northeast of Brazil. He graduated with a PhD from the University of Recife in 1959. Two years later, he became the director of the Department of Cultural Extension at his Alma Mater. At Recife, he was involved in educational projects dealing with mass illiteracy. During those years, Freire developed and practised his radically democratic pedagogy.

'Educate to liberate'

Freire’s method was not just about teaching literacy; he also understood education as a process of politicisation. Freire was convinced that educating the masses would eventually lead to liberation from the oppressor.

Having been forced into exile by the military dictatorship in 1964, he moved to Chile, where he wrote his most influential book, the Portuguese best-seller Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 

Continue reading @ RTÉ.

Paulo Freire ➖ The Brazilian Educator Who Shaped Prisoners In The Maze


A Morning Thought @ 1200

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Seventy Two

Christopher Owens ♯ “You're not free now but unfolding and you're beautiful in the light/You're not free now, you're not innocent/You're transparent and you're right.” - The Angels of Light.

With the sad death of Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H.Kirk, part of this month’s column will focus on Cabaret Voltaire.

New Horizons 

Military Shadow – Violent Reign 

The Japanese metalpunks return with a 12’. Beginning with ‘Shadow of Fallen Soldiers’ a tribal, mid-paced number which gradually adds a layer of noise on top, we get an EP of two halves: one focusing on the crustier side of the band (with a touch of Thin Lizzy in some of the solos) and the frantic metalpunk which we all know and love. It’s a nice experiment, and taster for the next LP. Bring it on! The EP can be streamed and purchased here. 

Kowloon Walled City – Piecework 

For their first album since 2015’s ‘Grievances’, Scott Evans and co. have given us a record that muses on the resilience needed for the modern world, which is particularly poignant considering Evans’ father died not long before the album was recorded. Musically, it straddles a fine line between crunching heaviness and sparse, lush and evocative melodies. It’s only 31 minutes long but will take you to another mindset. The album can be streamed and purchased here. 

QOHELETH – Warmonger 

Described by the band as an attempt to explore “…the American love affair with violence…”, this release sees the band throw in jazzy beats, scuzzy, noisy guitars, post punk basslines, disorientating patterns and poetry that draws links with religious fundamentalists and the violence of war and everyday life. A tough, abrasive listen that doesn’t throw its listeners a bone but those who get it will appreciate nothing else afterwards. The album can be streamed and purchased here.

Orrin De Forest - Harshcore 98-00 

Remembered for a split release with Jazzfinger, this is a comp that will hopefully trigger a reappraisal of Orrin De Forest. Comprising of two recordings (1998 and 2000 respectively), it’s interesting to hear the progression from a noisy, grindy hardcore band with some experimental edges to something a little jazzier, post rock and (dare I say) screamo. If you’re interested in UK hardcore, you need this. Full stop. The comp can be streamed and purchased here. 

Wish – Adapt or Die 

Made up of members from Malice at the Palace, Diamond Back, Point Blank, and Twisted Dream, this record was conceived and recorded during lockdown. And it’s apparent, thanks to the gnarly, face ripping riffage fused by thrash and hardcore and the breakdowns which just ooze violence and resentment while songs like ‘No Masters’ even delve into G-funk style hip hop! Not exactly reinventing the wheel but an invigorating listen. The EP can be streamed and purchased here.

Golden Oldies 

The Voice of America 

Although Red Mecca is often cited as the finest CV album from this period, The Voice of ... knocks it to second place due to having an atmosphere that manages to be both oppressing and psychedelic (quite a feat, I'm sure you'll agree). Opening with a sample of a policeman setting the rules for his men, followed by some trippy sounding beats and heavily distorted vocals, this is probably the Cabs' most industrial album, with songs referencing control, lost souls in the system and the horror of modern entertainment. Killer cover as well.

   

Hai! (Live in Japan) 

Like most industrial acts, CV thrived in the live arena. Here, they could tweak songs to make them more violent, overload the senses with noise and batter you into submission with a mass of cut up video footage as a backdrop. This live album from 1982 does a sterling job of capturing the Cabs at a crossroads, pushing the heavy funk into the mix while still retaining the experimental outlook. 'Over and Over' feels like an obscene phone call, while 'Diskono' pulsates with radioactivity.

   

The Crackdown 

Their highest charting album, and the first without Chris Watson, The Crackdown is a perfect example of how an alternative act can modify their sound for the mainstream without ever diluting the original message. Mal's vocals are no longer cloaked in distortion, but his whispery, accusatory tone fuels the paranoid vibes of '24-24', 'Crackdown' and 'Over and Over' while the overwhelming sound of earlier years is stripped back for something a little funkier but no less foreboding.

   

Groovy, Laidback and Nasty 

Long regarded as a misstep, retrospective listening finds Groovy...to be an enjoyable house influenced record (produced by house pioneer Marshall Jefferson) that, while admittedly far removed from CV's remit, reflects the E-fuelled positivity of the time. Kirk may have sniped at Mal that he sounded like Phil Collins, and the likes of Al Jourgensen and Steve Albini aghast that CV were seeking to be influenced by people who were influenced by them, but tracks like 'Hypnotised', 'Keep On', 'Searchin' and 'Minute by Minute' are great pop/house songs that have aged better than one would expect.

   

International Language 

Now free from a major label, the Cabs were free to indulge their fascination with the burgeoning techno scene. While Mal's involvement seems to have been minimal, Kirk steps up to the plate with a record that harks back to the psychedelic influences of the early years. Although clearly a trial run for the late career highlight 'The Conversation', tracks like 'Taxi Mutant' (a redo of 1983's 'Taxi Music' from the Johnny Yesno soundtrack which turns the noir influenced original into something that is all encompassing and uplifting) are too good to ignore.

 

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist. 

Predominance 9


A Morning Thought @ 1199

Matt Treacy ✒ The latest Red C opinion poll published by the Sunday Business Post would appear to prove that the silly season theatrics over the Zappone texts seems to have had little impact on the voting intentions of the punters. 


Neither does the government seem to have gained any expected bounce from the easing of Covid restrictions.


Not that the issues raised by the appointment of Zappone, and the light it shone into how nice people get along thanks to other nice people, are not important. Most people, however, probably consider that all parties – including the one they support – will do the same.

It was noticeable, too, that none of the opposition parties questioned the fact that the state ought to create a separate LGBT+ envoy as distinct from a human rights representative. When this issue was raised by Senator Sharon Keogan she was rounded upon from all sides with a virulence which said all you really need to know about the left liberal consensus that dominates political life and opinion in this state.

Sinn Féin, the party now sitting on top of the compost heap according to recent polls, have responded to the “crisis” with yet another in a series of no confidence motions. This one is directed at Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney who found himself in the hot seat once the earlier furore of who had been in the Merrion Hotel was replaced by the furore over the texts.

The motion of no confidence will be taken on Wednesday when the Dáil resumes. It is a tired old parliamentary routine that is often deployed to kick start a new season and give the impression that something exciting is going on. It does have the added ingredient that Taoiseach Micheál Martin can be attacked over his application of the party whip to all Fianna Fáil TDs to ensure that they support the Government.

Sinn Féin have attempted to make capital of Martin, who did lose face over the manner in which the appointment was handled, ordering his TDs to perhaps vote against their true inclinations. Something the Shinners know all about, of course, when they refused to allow their elected representatives to vote according to their conscience on abortion.

All the circus stuff aside, one cannot help but notice that Leo and the other Fine Gael ministers have embraced the no confidence challenge with gusto. Varadkar and others have hit back at Sinn Féin with counter claims of their own, with the clear intent to continue to frame the battle for political power in the state as a Manichean choice between themselves and Mary Lou McDonald’s party.

Which suits both of them, let’s be honest about it. For all that Fine Gael and Sinn Féin occupy basically the same ideological centre left space – a tax rate here and a thousand promised social houses there aside – the polls indicate that the next general election will indeed most likely come down to a choice between a coalition led by one or other of those parties.

Which leaves Fianna Fáil in the invidious position that they will be dependent on the favour of one of the two big parties if they are going to be part of another coalition. It is humiliating of course, but they seem to have gotten well beyond that by this stage. That explains their desperation to maintain the coalition in power, and their best hope is that Fine Gael and themselves with the Greens or other add-ons get more seats than an alternative coalition led by Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin pay lip service to the concept of a “left government”, but it is unlikely that the smaller left liberal and far left parties will win enough seats to deliver that. Even the defection by the Greens would not be sufficient as things stand to elect McDonald Taoiseach. So Sinn Féin will most likely also need Fianna Fáil and/or independents who don’t lean left.

It is of course possible – and certainly the polls (with FF down 9% on the 2020 general election) are ominous for Micheál Martin’s leadership – that the Fianna Fáil vote will be further cannibalised. Indeed, this is already evident in the fact that both Fine Gael (+7) and Sinn Féin (+4.5) have feasted on the seemingly terminal descent into the margins of Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Féin’s concern has to be that the collapse in the FF vote and the sharp decline in support for the Greens is not mainly rebounding to their benefit. The Dublin Bay South bye-election was an indication that there are a substantial number of voters who whatever their antipathy to the government, and above all to Fianna Fáil, will always choose the ABTS (Anybody But The Shinners.)

Not that this will cause them too lose too much sleep. If the successful riding of the straining horses of working-class protest, bourgeois liberalism and conformism can place Sinn Féin in pole position to form the next government, then they won’t care. Nor ought they, because the nature of politics is that the biggest party will always find smaller ones to reconsider their moral objections and do the business. You could almost print that on a Fianna Fáil poster at this stage.

So, it does not require much insight to realise that the order of battle as it stands is perfect for both Fine Gael and Sinn Féin. The rest of them are part of the supporting cast. Crucially, and despite the two parties sharing the same basic liberal consensus on a raft of issues, they are fishing from mostly radically different demographic electoral ponds.

Very few of those voters who identify as Fine Gael or Sinn Féin are likely to switch sides. There are a whole range of cultural and demographic factors why this is so. That was also the case when Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil dominated the political landscape. The Civil War did of course play a part in determining older party loyalties, but between the 1930s and 1980s a much greater predictor of voting allegiance was social class.

Statistician Kevin Cunningham has focused on some interesting polling data that illustrate where Sinn Féin’s appeal lies, and what differentiates them from other parties, and in particular from Fine Gael. That is particularly evident in how supporters of both parties view their economic status. Sinn Féin appeal most to those dissatisfied with their financial position – almost inversely mirroring the attitudes of most Fine Gael voters.

Credit: Kevin Cunningham via Twitter

Hence, not surprisingly, Sinn Féin voters are found predominantly among lower income groups, who favour policies that support greater income redistribution. A replication of that demographic pattern appears not only to be the basis for the electoral polarisation between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, but one that both parties are assiduous in cultivating.

Credit: Kevin Cunningham via Twitter

Interestingly, however, Sinn Féin voters tend not to be as supportive of mass immigration and are certainly not in line with the public utterings of the party leadership and elected representatives.


Credit: Kevin Cunningham via Twitter

As Sinn Féin’s long period in government in the north proves, they are far from being the radical republican “Marxist” bogey that others including some of their own dimmer members might imagine. Their economic policies are standard opposition platforms for middle of the road social democratic parties in any country.

However, it is perception that matters most in the arena of contemporary consensus politics. Irish parties are contesting a pretty narrow and agreed ground and unlike most other European countries there is no plausible alternative outside of that. The polling stats prove that Sinn Féin are playing a shrewd game, and that Fine Gael is equally as shrewd in accepting the new paradigm which they hope will continue to place them as the most likely party of government.

Matt Treacy has published a number of books including histories of 
the Republican Movement and of the Communist Party of Ireland. 

FG And SF Are Positioning Themselves As The Two Biggest Players In The Field

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Seventy One

Caoimhin O’Muraile ✒ Fine Gael is traditionally one of the largest two parties which comprise Dail Eireann the lower house of the 26 county Irish Parliament.

It is the party most associated with the pro-treaty side during the Irish Civil War of 1922-23 – Fianna Fail being the party associated with the anti-treaty forces – and Fine Gael are the inheritors of the pro-treaty party, Cumann na nGaedheal.

The party was formed in 1933 by three component parts, Cumann na nGaedheal, the Army Comrades Association or National Guard generally known as the Blueshirts and the final piece in the Fine Gael jigsaw was the small Nationalist Party. The fascist link comes with the Blue Shirt component part, called such due to their wearing of blue shirts in imitation of Benito Mussolini’s fascist Black Shirts in Italy and Hitler's Nazi Brown Shirts in Nazi Germany. Their leader, a man who admired the fascist leaders of Europe, Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco in Spain after 1939 and the defeat by Franco’s nationalist forces against the elected republican government of Spain, was Eoin O’ Duffy.

It was this early organic link to fascism which plagued Fine Gael for decades, with much justification, and to a certain extent in the minds of many still does. Eoin O’ Duffy himself became a committed fascist after a visit to Italy and his attendance at an international fascist convention in Switzerland, after which the Blueshirts adopted the fascist salute raising the right arm. He even had his own fascist salute followed by a cry of loyalty to the leader, similar to Heil Hitler - Hoch O’ Duffy which somehow does not have the same ring about it.

In August 1933 the Blueshirts under the command of O’ Duffy and supported by Earnest Blythe, an early Protestant member of the first Free State Government and former member of the Orange Order, planned a march in Dublin to commemorate the deaths of Michael Collins [August 22nd 1922] and Arthur Griffith who died in the same year. The new Fianna Fail Government banned the march placing Gardai outside key installations. The march was intended to imitate Mussolini’s march on Rome, 27th October 1922. O’ Duffy raised an Irish Brigade to fight for the fascist General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39, and also offered Hitler during the Second World War an Irish brigade to fight against the Soviet Union. O’ Duffy also offered Mussolini 1,000 Blueshirts to help him crush the tiny industrially backward country of Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) which was only just out of the middle-ages. He was one of the people who advised W.T Cosgrave in 1932 to order a military coup rather than hand power over to the newly elected Fianna Fail Government, Cosgrave refused. 

The Cumann na nGaedheal Government of the Irish Free State made Eoin O’ Duffy the Commissioner of an Garda Siochana but following Fianna Fail's victory in the election Eamon de Valera, leader of the new governing party, dismissed him from his post. He had been the second Garda Commissioner after Michael J Staines, another Cumann na nGaedheal stalwart. This was one of the leading component parts which formed Fine Gael, an open fascist organisation banned by De Valera on 22nd August 1933, eleven years to the day, ironically enough, since the death of Collins. Little wonder many older people still associate Fine Gael with fascism, and it did not stop there with O’ Duffy and the Blueshirts!

Oliver J. Flanagan was a far-right independent TD for Laois/Offaly and became famous for his outlandish anti-Semitic pro-Nazi speech in the Dail. Flanagan on 9th July 1943 urged the government of the day, led by Eamon de Valera, to ‘emulate the German Nazis and rout the Jews out of this country’. He continued, in true Nazi language, ‘where the bees are there is honey, and where the Jews are there is money’ clearly depicting, as did Hitler, that Jewish people were money grabbing thieves and parasites who should be “routed” from Ireland. 

Flanagan’s anti-Semitic rantings continued falling back on some superstitious rubbish known as religion. When referring to acts passed in the Dail which he did not approve of, he would ask; ‘how is it that we do not see any of these acts directed against the Jews who crucified our saviour nineteen hundred years ago, and are crucifying us every day of the week. There is one thing Germany [Nazi Germany] did, and that was rout the Jews out of their country.’ Oliver J. Flanagan, despite his known pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic views which he maintained joined Fine Gael, who welcomed him with open arms in 1952. 

How much of this historical baggage do the modern Fine Gael party still carry? They are certainly traditionally to the right of Fianna Fail, though in more modern times it is very difficult to see any difference, but do they still carry a hidden fascist element? I would doubt it certainly as far as the parliamentary party are concerned, the far-right and bad as they are, are not the fascist right and it is important to know the difference. That said the cumainn across the land may harbour O’ Duffy and/or Flanagan sympathisers. The line between the far-right and fascist right is very difficult at times to differentiate and do occasionally merge and if we look around the world at parties which Fine Gael may have certain policies in common with we see they too have fascist connections in their historical past. For example, the British Conservative and Unionist Party who Fine Gael have been described as having much in common with, have had their share of pro-Nazi baggage. Archibald Maul Ramsay was an anti-Semite and a sympathiser of the Nazi regime and a Scottish conservative and unionist MP! He was a founder of the pro-Nazi “Right Club” with other well-known people including staff from Lord Halifax’s office and members of the British aristocracy. Ramsay, similar to Flanagan decided the British Conservative Party needed to ‘rid itself of perceived Jewish control,’ echoes of Flanagan’s rout the Jews out of Ireland ranting.

Today Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have forgotten their civil war past and, in the case of Fine Gael, their historical links to fascism. They have come together, despite their hidden detestation of each other, to keep Sinn Fein out of government at all costs. These two one-time deadly enemies are now hugging up to each other pretending to be friends to prevent Sinn Fein ever becoming the party of government. What may be interesting in the future is what lengths would these two-faced bastards go to prevent a Sinn Fein administration being formed in the event of that party becoming the largest party via the ballot box? Would we hear echoes of a distant Fine Gael past of Eoin O’ Duffy once suggesting a military coup to stop Fianna Fail forming a government in 1932? Would the two now pretend friends try a similar move to prevent Sinn Fein, even todays diluted version, forming a government? Irish history does have a terrible habit of repeating itself: look at the treaty of December 1921 and the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998. Are we due for another repeat? Time will tell!!

Caoimhin O’Muraile is Independent 
Socialist Republican and Marxist

Fine Gael's Historical Flirtations With Fascism

A Morning Thought @ 1198

Tommy McKearney ✒ Last month Kathy Sheridan, writing for the Irish Times, opined about the dilemma faced by Ireland’s middle class as they agonise over whether or not to vote for Sinn Féin. 


The problem, it would appear, relates to the fact that while the party is promoting progressive policies, it simultaneously glorifies what the writer describes as “killers.”

Sheridan described the case of a well-educated young man who has publicly declared his intention of joining Mary Lou McDonald’s organisation, notwithstanding the fact that Sinn Féin is unapologetically commemorating those who died on hunger strike.

It would seem that there is concern that a section of Irish society that has voted for Fine Gael and its predecessor since the foundation of the state might be seduced by Eoin Ó Broin’s critique of government housing policies. Having spoken fondly for years of how Grandpa used to canvas for Kevin O’Higgins, innocent middle-class youngsters may now elect people who once supported the use of armed force.


Nor is Sheridan alone in drawing attention to the alleged discrepancy between Sinn Féin’s current activities and the policies it promotes. The minister for justice, Heather Humphreys (Fine Gael), recently accused the Shinners of hijacking history and weaponising it for their own political ends. She was addressing her party’s annual Béal na Blá commemoration for the one-time IRA director of intelligence Michael Collins. In a speech that is beyond parody, she told her listeners that she shared a view of history similar to that of the “Big Fella.”

Telling history to suit one’s political objectives is nothing new, nor is the practice confined to any one party or group. Sinn Féin is not the first to interpret the past to its own advantage. However, that is not the real reason why the party is subject to endless accusations and a constant tirade about its ethics, its past, and its internal organisational structures. Its recent electoral successes have drawn attention to something much more profound than spin-doctoring with the facts of history.

Irish society, north and south, is in a process of transformation. Over the course of recent decades the Republic has introduced legislation providing access to contraception, divorce, same-sex marriage, and abortion. Taken in isolation from other events, these socially liberal reforms would not necessarily challenge the status quo. However, other significant happenings have created conditions and circumstances that are making old fixtures difficult to sustain.

The economic crash of 2010 has had a lasting impact. The extent of system shock took the establishment some time to recognise. In the early days it seemed that the population of the 26 Counties was prepared to passively accept the imposition of austerity and the concomitant neoliberalism. For a period it looked as if the working class would stay silent and meekly pay the gambling debts of Irish and European bankers.

Slowly but surely that position changed. First came the grass-roots movement against household charges. Then came the massive, popular and largely successful movement against the imposition of water charges. Significantly, this campaign was reinforced by support from organised labour. Then, in the arena of parliamentary politics, this period has also witnessed an end of the long-standing two-and-a-half-party system as new faces arrived on the scene.

It was the general election of February 2020, however, that underlined the extent to which old certainties have changed. Sinn Féin achieved a remarkable result, obtaining the largest vote for any single party and in the process forcing the conservative parties of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael into a marriage of convenience.

Most worrying for the establishment was the profile of the Sinn Féin vote: young and geographically well spread, seemingly little concerned with the past and motivated by socio-economic and climate issues.

And then came Covid-19 to expose still further the bumbling incompetence of a hapless coalition. Moreover, where the tripartite government did manage a success, it has the effect of raising other questions. There is, for example, the highly efficient, well-run and free Covid testing and vaccination service, something that only went to demonstrate the contrast with the iniquitous two-tier health service advertised so often on the state broadcaster.

Adding to underlying instability is the situation in the North. Changing demographics, perfidious British Tories creating a regulatory border in the Irish Sea and, most recently, having its devolved government preside over the worst Covid rate in western Europe makes for a deeply unsettled Six-County political entity. It remains a reality that major events in the North can quickly have an impact on the South and possibly even more dramatically now that Sinn Féin is such a significant presence both sides of the border.

In the wider sense, this all raises the question whether Sinn Féin poses a threat to the existing economic and power system or whether it merely challenges the current parliamentary hegemony of the two main coalition parties; hence the relentless pressure from different quarters to try to ensure that the party mellows into the type of conformity long practised by the Labour Party.

Time alone will tell how Sinn Féin develops. What is beyond question, though, is the existence of a new, young and as yet unquantifiable element within Irish society. In fact this is a phenomenon not necessarily confined to Ireland. A recent article in the Financial Times viewed this as an almost global reality.*

While only a newspaper article, the Financial Times comment nevertheless raised an issue that is most probably of concern to the establishment here and of interest to many of us who are not part of the ruling class. It noted that many among the younger generation are losing confidence in the bourgeois parliamentary process; instead they are turning to grass-roots activism devoted to a range of causes, such as the above-mentioned socio-economic and environmental issues.

Although still on a relatively small scale, we saw some evidence of this last month in Dublin. A group of activists from Co. Tyrone protesting outside Leinster House against goldmining in the Sperrins was joined by activists from different parts of Ireland. Noteworthy was the number of young people involved and speaking powerfully; equally noticeable was the absence of representatives from any of the main political parties in either jurisdiction. It was grass-roots activism of the empowering kind.

A sign of things to come? Well, why not?

*“Losing the generation game: Could economic setbacks radicalise graduates?” Financial Times, 24 August 2021.

Tommy McKearney is a left wing and trade union activist. 
Follow on Twitter @Tommymckearney 

A Sign Of Things To Come?

Center For InquiryAs America enters its second fall under the pall of the pandemic, there’s mixed news. 
On one hand, most Americans are vaccinated against Covid-19; as of this week about 210 million have gotten at least one vaccine shot. On the other hand the Delta variant is surging—unsurprisingly, almost exclusively among the unvaccinated — cases among children spiking. Making matters worse, complaints about both masking and vaccinations are coming to the fore, with protests and threats of lawsuits over government and/or employers requiring their employees be vaccinated.

Roots of Anti-Vaccination Beliefs

Why do some people doubt vaccine safety and efficacy? One reason is that their effectiveness cannot be proven on an individual basis. For example even people who are effectively vaccinated against a specific disease can still catch it (no vaccination is completely effective, and you might catch a different virus strain than the one you were inoculated against). This can lead people to doubt the usefulness of vaccines: if it’s possible to catch a disease with or without a vaccination, then what’s the point?

Continue reading @ Center For Inquiry.

The Myth Of ‘Forced Vaccination’