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Reopening Schools In Ireland

By People Before Profit

The issue of reopening schools in Ireland has been pushed front and center over the past week, with establishment mouthpieces all over the media demanding the full reopening of the schools in September. People like Dr. Ciara Kelly who appeared on the Tonight Show last week with well known former right wing Fine Gael politician Ivan Yates to vilify teachers, accusing them of “not wanting to pull their weight” or wanting preferential treatment to other groups of workers. This is the same person who called for cancellation of the leaving cert exams while at the same time calling for primary schools to reopen in June!

Just as happened with the nurses, gone is the applause for teachers who worked around the clock providing online courses while many also homeschooled their own children. Now they want to turn the public against teachers and their unions in order to force a full return to school so that big business can get back to making big profits regardless of the risks involved.

People Before Profit understand the anxiety that workers and small business have about getting back to work as soon as possible this is why we pressure the government to continue to fully support workers and small business throughout this pandemic. But this must not be achieved at the expense of people’s lives.

By trying to blame teachers as the obstacle to reopening the schools these right wing media hacks are obscuring the real issues involved, namely that the state refuses to invest in making schools safe for teachers, students, their families and their communities.

Teachers as much as any other group in society want a return to school, they have children suffering social isolation too. Working in isolation trying to relate to students online is demoralising and labour intensive, especially with inadequate digital resources.

And what are these stubborn selfish teachers unions demanding that is so outrageous to the establishment? Well there is the hiring of extra teachers to reduce class sizes to allow for social distancing! Oh now isn’t that terribly selfish of them and to think that students might benefit from a lower teacher pupil ratio, which by the way is currently one of the highest in the EU!

Then there is mandatory temperature checking, what!? How dare they? And wait…. they’ve called for mandatory wearing of face masks to be provided freely by the state – oh the cheek of those pedagogical pests! Never mind the fact that masks are mandatory on public transport!

The government published their “interim recommendations” document last week which completely goes against the public health advice and WHO guidelines for social distancing and the use of PPE. Inferior social distancing of “1 metre if possible” is to be applied in classrooms, masks are not recommended and neither is regular temperature checking.

Teachers unions have rightly rejected this reckless policy to fully reopen the schools without key safety measures in place. Many teachers and students are vulnerable or have family members who are vulnerable to Covid-19 and they have a right to be protected. It is vital to bear in mind that a second wave will be even more deadly in terms of lives lost but also more devastating in terms of social and economic hardship. A cautious and safe reopening of schools is paramount to preventing this second wave.

It looks like the teacher union leaders are prepared to take a serious stand on this. In a response to People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny’s question “What will classrooms of over 30 students look like in September?” Kieran Christie the General Secretary of the ASTI replied “They’ll look empty because our members won’t be there without adequate safety measures”. This is a good sign and we would encourage all teachers to join a union and get active inside it to build resistance from below to protect yourselves and society at large.

But why is the state taking this high risk approach? There are two main reasons, firstly the state refuses to meet the costs of making schools Covid-19 safe for teachers and students. This new right wing stitch up government will never tax the huge wealth of the top 5% or the corporations, vultures, developers, or banking elites to protect ordinary working people. They will in fact force the cost of the pandemic onto workers.

Compare this to the ease with which the state forked out €115 million per month to private hospital owners like Denis O’Brien and Larry Goodman while the new Health Minister Stephen Donnelly refused to release the details of this deal.

Secondly, the Irish state is acting directly on behalf of IBEC, the bosses union and lobbyist in chief for the Irish capitalist class who are under the competitive compulsion of the global market. The Irish elites are afraid of losing out on their share of global markets if they don’t get the economy up and running alongside their competitor nations. So, in the final analysis the profit motive is driving this reckless policy of reopening the schools unsafely.   

Once again the problems caused by the pandemic have highlighted the complete inability of the chaotic profit driven system to meet the needs of working people. It exposes the class biased nature of the state and has deepened the inequalities already existing in society.

If we are to avoid a second more deadly wave of the virus we need to mobilise the productive forces of society to reopen society safely, this will mean public ownership and democratic control of all facilities capable of producing PPE, thermometers, and vaccines. Instead of mass unemployment the state should be hiring workers directly and investing directly in public services. All private hospitals should be taken into the public system and run for medical need not profit on the basis of an all Ireland National Health Service.

But let’s not kid ourselves to realise this will take a massive working class revolt on the streets and in our workplaces. We call on all working people to support teachers and students in leading this struggle.     

The post Reopening Schools In Ireland appeared first on People Before Profit.

No To Israeli Annexation Of Palestinian Land

By Eoghan O Ceannabhain

People Before Profit unequivocally condemns the Israeli Apartheid state’s proposed annexation of 30% of the Palestinian West Bank.

This latest act of Zionist violence and oppression against the Palestinian people has clearly been given  the green light by the US and President Trump in his misnamed ‘peace plan’ proclaimed earlier this year. It marks a significant escalation in the ongoing genocidal policy of occupation and ethnic cleansing inaugurated by Israel in the Nakba of 1948.

By further drastically reducing the size, coherence and viability of the territory even nominally in the hands of Palestinians this illegal annexation makes an absolute mockery of any notion of a future independent Palestinian state or so-called ‘two state solution’. It reinforces the point long made by People Before Profit and many other opponents of Zionism that the only road to justice and freedom for the Palestinian people lies through a single democratic secular state based on the defeat of apartheid and Zionism.

Netanyahu’s planned annexation is so outrageous and such a flagrant  violation of international law that even long standing loyal allies of the Israeli state Like Boris Johnson and Simon Coveney have felt obliged to deplore it. But we in People Before Profit do not trust these purely formal declarations.

In Ireland we call, as a bare minimum for a) outright condemnation of the annexation by the Taoiseach; b) the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador; c) the passing of the Occupied Territories Bill and the boycott of Israeli goods.

We urge support for the following Irish-Palestine Solidarity Campaign protests across Ireland:

Saturday 4 July 

Dublin           1pm The Spire, O’Connell Street

Omagh           12pm Town Centre

Ennis              1pm O’Connell Square

Derry             2pm Free Derry Corner

Limerick        2pm  Thomas Street.

PLEASE NOTE These will be socially distanced protests and people are asked to wear masks and bring hand sanitizer if possible.

The post No To Israeli Annexation Of Palestinian Land appeared first on People Before Profit.

Nationalise The Private Hospitals

By People Before Profit

Even before Covid-19, the privatisation of health was the major obstacle to an efficient public health system.

The Irish state has long protected private health care. Generous  tax reliefs for the building of private for-profit  hospitals, allowing publicly paid consultants to double-job as private consultants,  dishing out tax credits to individuals to encourage private insurance:  all these have bolstered private healthcare and resulted in the chaotic public-private mix of Irish health policy.

The Covid-19 crisis forced a single public approach to dealing with the pandemic. GP’s were paid a fee from the state for some of their consultations. Step down facilities were expanded through the public requisition of private hotel facilities.  Private hospitals were taken over by the state – at a huge cost – for much needed bed capacity.

Programme

But, as the new Programme for Government makes clear, for-profit health care, post Covid-19 has no need to worry. The Programme reaffirms the principle ‘choice in healthcare’ (p.47), coded market- speak for a two-tier system. The National Treatment Purchase Fund will continue under the Sláintecare regime. The scheme ‘buys’ private beds to treat patients on public waiting lists (up to 800,000 at the last count) and thus pours more public money into private health care.

 After the biggest health crisis in living memory,  the Programme  argues for the  continuation of a health policy which saw us going into the pandemic with half the bed capacity that we needed and our intensive care facilities only able to cope with just 5.6 people in every 100,000 needing to be hospitalised. This was the lowest level in Europe.

Mater Private

Worse, the Private Hospitals are not even prepared to cooperate with the demands of the crisis.

The Mater Private Hospital Group has recently warned staff that its ability to pay wages and its debts was ‘under threat’, that the danger to the Mater Private’s future is ‘real and immediate’.

In a communication to staff, Mater Private CEO John Hurley, on an undisclosed salary,  urged them  ‘to discuss with your families, and to continue to be prudent with personal finance’ because the Mater Private ‘cannot escape  the reality of a severe recession’.

The Mater Private Hospital group consists of two hospitals, in Dublin and Cork, and several other cancer treatment facilities. The group was bought for €495 million in 2018 by giant French investment fund, Infravia’s Capital Partners.  Globally acquisitions have multiplied since 2008 and Ireland’s private health care sector was a lucrative target. In just five months under Infravia, the Mater Private Group had revenues of €100 million.  Their warning to staff is based on nothing else but the risk of their hefty profits falling.

Infravia also owns Carechoice nursing homes, which has 500 long term residential care beds in Dublin, Cork and Waterford, and is still proving reliably profitable. Private for-profit care homes, we will remember, were able to escape full scrutiny regarding PPE and testing, at a tragic and scandalous cost to the patients. Infravia, it is also worth adding, also owns gas pipelines, mobile phone masts and other infrastructural projects and manages €3 billion worth of this mixed bag of assets across Europe.  Medical treatment is not particularly its thing: profits are.

Health inequality

The profit motive not only by-passes issues of public health but also allows the continuation of health inequality.

The Irish health care system, in its failure to provide universal, equitable access to either primary or acute hospital care, makes it one of the most unequal in Europe.

Access to treatment is based either on having the money to pay for it or on means based eligibility.

And not many people are eligible. Even after the extension  of  the GP visit card to the under six-year-olds and to the over 70’s,  according to the Deptartment of Health’s figures, in 2016, 10% of the population had a GP visit card and 36% a medical card.

On the other hand, from fear and awareness of the inefficiency of public hospital system, more and more people feel forced to go the private health route. 43% of the population pay out Private Health Insurance to access private hospital care, which is provided in both public and private hospitals.

Policy change

This inequitable and illogical public-private health service must go. Now is the time for a radical policy change. The pandemic has shown up Sláintecare’s compromises with private health care and its snail’s pace progress as no longer acceptable.

Policy must be made based on what is best for public health and universal access, not private profit. We need a much larger bed capacity to deal with the current dual hospital crisis – of the new socially distanced reality and of even longer patient waiting lists.  Unlike the Mater Private’s attitude to healthcare workers, we need many more, better paid nurses and everyone in the health sector on stable public sector contracts. They are our essential workers and the new government needs to recognise this.  A first step for the implementation of a new public health policy must be the nationalisation of private hospitals.

If you are interested in the Campaign for an All- Ireland National Health Service email the campaign at campaignainhs@gmail.com    

See also  https://www.facebook.com/Campaign4IrishNHS/

The post Nationalise The Private Hospitals appeared first on People Before Profit.

Let’s Bring The Left Together To Fight This Government

By Eoghan O Ceannabhain

The new government of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party is a huge disappointment for the many people who vote for change. The two right wing parties got only 43% of the vote but now they dominate the cabinet. Many voters wanted to break the cycle where they ran both government and the opposition.

The new government will attempt to put on a vaguely progressive mask but few will be fooled. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have a long record of looking after the privileged and the Greens will be used as a mudguard to cover their tracks. It should be remembered that the new Taoiseach, Mícheál Martin sat in a government that landed the people of Ireland with a €64 billion debt – which we are still paying off.

This coalition want to lock themselves into office for four and a half years – so that they have space to take unpopular measures. They will soon mount an attack on the Covid payments for workers and the unemployed. They will do little to protect construction workers who have just witnessed a High Court judge removing their legal protections. They will go back to a two-tier health system – and pay huge sums to the private hospitals. They will not impose rent controls or build enough council housing. In short, they will be an anti-working class government.

But they will have significant weaknesses. They do not have a  big enough support base  in Irish society to carry through unpopular attacks. They can be driven from office by mass mobilisations on the streets.

The coming together of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will also re-shape Irish politics on left-right lines.  As these battle-lines are drawn, we urge those members of the Greens who voted against coalition to leave that party now. Nobody with an ounce of left-wing ideas should play any part in supporting or excusing this dreadful government.

We need a left that will work with Sinn Féin but also offer a different, stronger politics. While Sinn Féin won considerable support from working people, they have a poor record on climate justice and actively supporting militant workers’ struggles. Their embrace of neoliberal policies in the North  stands in contrast with their rhetoric in the South. They have not ruled out the possibility of being in a coalition with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael in the future.

This is why People Before Profit are reaching out to left wing activists from different backgrounds to invite discussions on how we can build a big, broad radical left party or co-operate with each other more closely.

In any such discussion, People Before Profit advocate for a number of key issues;

  • That the modern Irish left needs to operate on a 32 county basis, standing in the tradition of  James Connolly in advocating an end to partition through building a radical new Ireland.
  • That we should support grassroots workers in their struggles to build strong fighting unions that break from social partnership. 
  • That the mobilisation of people power is the surest way to effect change.
  • That the left must be strongly identified with fighting racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
  • That system change must be our guiding motto in saving our planet from climate chaos. 

The post Let’s Bring The Left Together To Fight This Government appeared first on People Before Profit.

Victory Against Racism In Our Councils

By People Before Profit

After the last local election a ruling pact was formed on Galway City Council consisting of the two Green Party councillors, one each from Labour and the Social Democrats and all six independent councillors. As a result of this pact independent councillor Noel Larkin was set to become mayor on Friday.


People Before Profit opposed the nomination of Noel Larkin due to a number of racist and classist stances held by the councillor, targeting Travellers, foreign nationals, council tenants and homeless people.

Larkin was quoted in the local media recently as saying: “Councils should be given the power to evict tenants – without court appearances and without having to supply alternative accommodation.” This call for councils to evict people into homelessness, without due process, during a pandemic and a housing crisis is the latest in a long line of disgusting racist and classist statements from the councillor. He has repeatedly attacked and scapegoated the Mincéir/Traveller community and opposed their right to housing. He hired a drone to fly over Traveller families’ homes and record footage. He has called for who he deems to be “problem tenants” to be put into Direct Provision centres. He called foreign people “Zulu tribes”. He stated that homeless rough sleepers choose to sleep on the streets and that they have “some inherent problem”. He accused migrants of freeloading on Ireland’s social welfare system and contributing nothing to the state.


People Before Profit Galway had campaigned on this issue for a number of weeks leading up to the vote. We raised awareness of the type of beliefs Larkin had been espousing and found there was widespread opposition in Galway to him becoming mayor. More than 1,500 people signed a petition rejecting Larkin. We were invited to speak on RTÉ Drivetime about our campaign. This campaign culminated on Friday in a protest organised by People Before Profit outside the mayoral vote.
The protest was well attended by a number of community groups including the Galway Traveller Movement, Galway Anti Racism Network and Amach LGBT, as well as young people involed in the Black Lives Matter movement in Galway.


On Friday, People Before Profit Galway’s campaign to stop Larkin from becoming mayor was successful. The councillors on the pact relented to mounting public pressure on them to oppose Larkin. Instead they nominated the incumbent independent mayor to remain on for a second term.

It was brilliant to see the people of Galway stand up against Noel Larkin’s hate-filled divisive rhetoric, and that their voices were heard.

There are still, however, questions to be answered by Labour, the Green Party and the Social Democrats. A year ago these parties entered into an agreement with Larkin, and several other right-wing independents, which included Larkin having a term as mayor. The councillors on the pact tried to justify voting for Larkin by saying the pact limits the influence of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on council committees and budgets. However, we have proved that it was possible all along for them to exclude Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael without making Larkin mayor – if the political will is there. 


Despite talking about anti-racism, their words were once again betrayed by their actions. Undoubtedly, Larkin’s nomination for mayor would not have been in jeopardy had it not been for PBP’s work and the ensuing public backlash against Larkin and the pact. Time and again these parties have progressive sounding rhetoric to appeal to the left, but ultimately betray the working class. This is particularly relevant as on the day of the mayoral election, the Greens have once again sold the working class down the river by endorsing the programme for government, and Sinn Féin have nominated a racist and sexist in Paddy Holohan for mayor of South Dublin County Council.


The rejection of Cllr Larkin on this occasion also does not erase the issue of systemic anti-Traveller racism within Galway City Council. For example, in 2019, Galway City Council was one of only three councils in the state (along with Mayo and Laois County Councils) who did not even apply for Traveller accomodation funding. This is a disgraceful reflection on our political representatives, and further compounds the discriminatory treatment of the Travelling community which has led to more than 1,000 Traveller families living in unsafe, insecure or overcrowded conditions.

The post Victory Against Racism In Our Councils appeared first on People Before Profit.

No, Judges Are Not Independent

By Eoghan O Ceannabhain

The political establishment are up in arms because  Bríd Smith TD had the temerity to question the role of a judge in attacking workers’ rights. 

Even worse, she pointed to the fact that the same learned judge earns €200,000 a year while issuing a ruling that will lead to the reduction in salaries of electricians who earn €44,000.

Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, described Brid Smith’s remarks as ‘sinister’ and the Chairman of the Bar Council of Ireland said it amounted ‘to an attack on our democracy and is something that all of society should be gravely concerned about.

Brid Smith has hit an establishment nerve. Their much vaunted talk about the independence of the judiciary and their doctrine of a ‘separation of powers’ has been questioned and they are rallying together. The upper class, it should be noted, are the most class conscious element in society, well tuned to protect their interests and sense of entitlement.

Just how ‘independent’ is Judge Garret Simons himself?  As Senior Counsel he was commissioned with another legal expert by Irish Water to give an opinion on whether or not water charges could be stopped. 

He stated that ‘In our opinion, the Irish State is obliged to continue to impose charges for domestic water services.’ Two years later he was appointed to the High Court by the Fine Gael government.

Does anyone seriously think that if he had stated that the Irish people were perfectly entitled to get rid of water charges, he would now be sitting on the High Court?

But it is not just one judge. Justice Peter Kelly, the former President of the Court, stated in 2012 that appointments to the High Court are ‘purely political’. 

In 2011, the Irish Independent revealed last year that at least a third of the country’s judges had personal or political links to political parties before being appointed to the bench.

However, it is not merely a question of direct political links. Judges are drawn from a particular social class, mix in very distinct social circles and rarely if ever experience working class lives.  They operate within a legal system that protects the wealthy while disadvantaging the poor.

During the most recent Covid-19 crisis, hundreds of meat plant workers were infected. But nobody ordered the closure of the plants – because profits came before workers’ lives.

Or look at what happens when company negligence leads to the death of a worker. Cases tend to be heard in the lower District Court and in a recent case in Cork, the company was only fined €21,000. 

The very idea that a banker who charges mortgage customers fraudulent or extortionate fees should be jailed is considered outlandish. Bankers who deliberately defrauded their customers walk free – while petty thieves are jailed.

This whole structure means that those who are imprisoned are more likely to come from the poor. One study, for example, found that 80% of prisoners were unemployed before their imprisonment.

There is no real separation between the different branches of the ruling elite. The independence of the judiciary is a myth. And for daring to say that, Bríd Smith TD has been targeted by the establishment.

It tells us one thing: talk about social class in Ireland is what really gets up their nose. Let’s keep it up.

The post No, Judges Are Not Independent appeared first on People Before Profit.

PFG: A Cynical Power Grab By The Right

By Eoghan O Ceannabhain

The programme for government (PfG) is a cynical attempt to steal the result of the last election from voters demanding progressive change. The backdrop to the document is a historic defeat for Fine Gael (FG) and Fianna Fáil (FF), who between them, received just 44% of the popular vote. This was the first time that Ireland’s two right wing parties got less than 50% and their difficulties are compounded by a health crisis that has exposed the bankruptcy of austerity politics and a climate crisis that grows increasingly ominous. Ireland entered the Covid-19 pandemic with among the lowest levels of intensive care beds in the OECD and among the worst hospital waiting lists in the European Union. Nurses recently had to strike to meet the cost of living, while the country is at the very bottom of European league tables in spending on public services and in the fight against climate change. These facts help to explain the disastrous election for Ireland’s two main austerity parties, as hundreds of thousands voted for a government without them in it. Sworn enemies when they could take turns at managing Irish capitalism, this has forced FF and FG into an alliance designed to protect the interests of the establishment. It has also forced them to create a PfG that cynically uses progressive rhetoric to chart a pathway back to office. The PfG presents itself as a ‘new social contract’ to ‘improve the wellbeing of everyone who lives here’. In reality, it is a strategy by the Irish establishment to hold on to power using the Green Party as political cover.

Right-wing parties regularly make a virtue of campaigning in poetry and governing in prose. In other words, they make promises to secure their place in government and then pull back on them once firmly in office. There are two important reasons why this is likely to be the pattern that unfolds over the coming months. The first is the scale of the economic crisis associated with Covid-19. The Irish government projects a shortfall of €22 billion in the public finances, making it extremely likely that they will renege on many of the more progressive measures in the document – claiming a lack of funds. For example, the document explicitly ties the upcoming pay deal with public servants to the state of the public finances, which is another way of pulling back on previous commitments. Secondly, the underlying economic framework maintains the same slavish adherence to the neoliberal policies that created the climate damage, inequality and deprivation in the first place. In the years after the Great Recession, Irish governments strategically used austerity budgets to reduce the size of the public service and reduce social welfare provision. They also forced through regressive pay agreements that helped to increase labour productivity by 34%, at the same time as nominal unit labour costs fell by 17%. This resulted in Ireland having Europe’s fastest growing economy from 2013-2018, with profits more than doubling and private household wealth increasing by an amazing €350 billion. In other words, working people paid for the last crisis while businesses reaped the rewards from increased competitiveness. This time around, the government claims it will do things differently. There is talk of a Recovery Fund to stimulate the economy and a National Recovery Plan to promote development into the future.  Yet throughout the PfG, the same neoliberal priorities come through again and again. Instead of using the vast wealth built up since the last recession to chart a course out of this one, the PfG commits Ireland to its ultra-low corporation tax rate and promises to keep the tax and regulatory framework ‘stable and sustainable’. Ireland is now one of the world’s major corporate tax havens with the PfG confirming that this policy will not change at all under an FF-FG-Green coalition. There is also an ongoing commitment to a ‘pro-enterprise policy framework’ to ‘increase competitiveness’ and ‘encourage entrepreneurs’, meaning more handouts for business owners and further wage restraint for ordinary workers. The document also claims that “climate change is the biggest threat currently facing humanity” at the same time as it continues to pursue capitalist growth for its own sake and fails to impose any binding targets on corporate polluters in agriculture and aviation.  

People Before Profit agree with the PfG when it states that the “actions taken over the next five years will define this nation’s future direction for decades to come”. But on the basis of the evidence presented in the document, the incoming government will set Ireland back in terms of its climate initiatives, erode public services and undermine the solidarity shown since the outbreak of Covid 19. If we are truly all in it together then now is the time to use the vast resources built up since the last crisis to tackle the aftermath of this one. This means putting the costs of Covid-19 onto millionaire households and major firms most able to afford it – but we must go further, much further. Capitalism is a deeply destructive system that is wreaking havoc on the world’s people and the planet. A programme for government that remains wedded to a neoliberal version of capitalism will do nothing to solve the problems Ireland currently faces, as we seek to explain in the following pages.

A Renewed Assault On Workers

The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated many of the existing problems in our society and has triggered a massive global recession. Yet at precisely the time that workers need to be protected from the fallout, this Programme for Government is set up to facilitate further attacks on workers.

  • There is no provision for union recognition.
  • There is no provision for equal pay for new entrants into the public service – they will still be paid less than those who started before 2011.
  • There is no provision for mandatory sick pay. The rate of sick pay is now €203 – the third lowest in Europe. Workers in the private sector must also wait 6 days (twice the EU average) before being paid state benefit
  • There is no guarantee that a Living Wage will be reached over the term of this government.
  • There is no protection for workers made redundant through liquidation, like the Debenhams workers and many others.
  • Workers will be made to pay more regressive taxes such as carbon, sugar and plastic tax. There are no substantial proposals to tax wealth or profits.
  • Public sector workers will be squeezed again. The PfG wants a new public pay deal, which will seek “general productivity gains and effectiveness based on measurable outcomes” – in other words, this will mean increased work hours without extra pay.
  • The increase in the State pension age to 67 will be deferred – but this deferral is only guaranteed for a year, when a commission on pensions reports back in June 2021.

These proposals are being made at the same time that the High Court has removed the Sectoral Employment Order for electricians, paving the way for the further undermining of workers’ wages and conditions – a portent of things to come.

All of this indicates that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will look to pay for the Covid-19 crisis in the same way they paid for the 2008 financial crash – by piling austerity onto workers, by further deregulating the workplace, and by maintaining the tax haven policies that is the underlying cause of the vast inequalities in our society.

Greenwashing, Eco-Austerity & Non-Binding Targets

The cudgel being used to beat Left Green Party members at the moment is the fact that Climate Emergency and that we have very little time to take radical action. This is highly ironic, because there is no discernible radical action to be found in the Programme, and much of the action promised will be left for the next government to deal with.

  • The Programme says it is targeting an average of 7% cuts in emissions over 10 years, but says that most of this will happen in the second 5 years – after the term of this government. This, as Green Party Cllr. Lorna Bogue has said, is “kicking the can down the road”.
  • Agriculture, which accounts for 30% of all emissions, is barely touched. The Programme will not challenge beef barons like Larry Goodman or reduce the national herd. The Mercosur deal will continue unopposed.
  • The programme will not stop the building of LNGs. It only commits to withdrawing the Shannon project from the list of EU Projects of Common Interest. Varadkar himself has said that the project can still go ahead if it receives planning permission from An Bord Pleanála.
  • It will not stop the growth of Data Centres. It is estimated that these will consume 30% of all electricity produced in the state by 2030.
  • It leaves a mass retrofitting programme to the private sector to deliver – this will mean retrofitting will be unaffordable to many and will not be rolled out at the level required.
  • Just as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael gave away the state’s oil and gas, now they plan to give away Ireland’s renewable energy. This will mean that reaching targets will be decided not by the science of what is necessary to combat climate breakdown, but by profit needs and investment choices of private companies.
  • There are no figures for the number of extra buses or trains that will be provided and no commitment to free public transport – merely a review of the fare structure. A greater role is promised for the NTA, which has already sought to erode state public companies like CIE and privatised bus routes to UK-based private operator GoAhead.

A genuinely transformative programme for government would map out emission reduction targets for the next 5 years and a pathway for doing so. This could include:

  • The nationalisation of the major agri-corporations
  • A Just Transition for small and medium farmers that would see them transition some of their land away from beef and dairy and lift them above poverty incomes.
  • Free and expanded public transport.
  • The establishment of a State renewable energy company that would massively scale up offshore wind production.
  • The establishment of a State building company for the mass retro-fitting of homes.

However, implementing these kinds of changes would require a challenge to the corporate power of the major polluters – the agri-corporations and the fossil fuel industry. This is something that this government will absolutely not do.

Healthcare: Back to the Bad Old Ways

On the first page the proposed programme claims that our public health system ‘responded well’ to the Covid Crisis.  We entered this crisis with half the bed capacity that we should have had. Our intensive care facilities could cope with just 5.6 people in every 100,000 needing to be hospitalised, the lowest level in Europe according to European Centre for Disease Control.

The health system ‘responded well’ only insofar as it had to radically alter the way our health service was run. It was forced to switch overnight to a one-tier public system to meet the challenge of the crisis. 

The programme for Government declares that it will consider how best to ‘reshape our public health system to ensure an agile and well-planned response to future epidemics’.   ‘Implementing Sláintecare’ is its policy. In other words, it is reverting to pre-crisis policy. Nothing has changed.

Worse, it has watered down the stated aim of Sláintecare, of universal healthcare, to ‘affordable’ healthcare’ (p.46). This means a continuation of the two-tier system and the continued underfunding of the public system:

  • The Programme will “create partnerships with our private hospitals to avoid placing increased pressure on the public system”. This will mean the kinds of deals that lined the pockets of health profiteers like Larry Goodman and Denis O’Brien over the past few months.
  • The Programme proposes ‘a continuation of the Nursing Agreement’. This means that despite hailing nurses as heroes for months, this government does not see fit to tackle the poor contracts and pay that have caused a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession.
  • There are no concrete targets for increased capacity in the public system.
  • Staff recruited through the “On Call for Ireland” initiative and other channels to deal with the Covid-19 crisis will not be retained, despite short-staffing in almost all health professions. 

The Covid-19 crisis showed more than ever that we must urgently move towards a properly funded, single tier health service. Professor Paddy Mallon has said we “got away by the skin of our teeth” with the crisis, and that we cannot operate safely with the current staffing levels. Yet the PfG makes it clear that rather than learning the lessons from the crisis, the new government will revert to the status quo as quickly as possible.

The Housing Crisis Will Continue

The PfG does nothing to address the disastrous failures of FG-FF housing policy and Re-building Ireland, which have left us with an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis.

The PfG re-commits to the failed policy of relying on private developers and corporate landlords, particularly with its focus on the Land development Agency, which is nothing more than a vehicle to privatise public land.

The target of 50,000 social houses is simply a re-statement of existing and inadequate targets and there are no targets at all for affordable housing or definition of what actually is affordable.

There are no new or radical measures to deal with extortionate rents, evictions, property speculation, land-hoarding or the behaviour of vulture funds.

What we need is:

  • A commitment for the state to directly build at least 100,000 new social and affordable homes on public land.
  • An immediate halt to any sales of public land and property.
  • Real rent controls, rights for tenants and an end to economic evictions into homelessness.
  • A definition of affordable housing that is genuinely affordable based on income not market prices and affordable housing built on public land must remain affordable in perpetuity.
  • An end to all property speculation and land-hoarding and the expanded use of compulsory acquisition powers to bring empty properties and vacant building land into use for social and affordable housing.
  • Establish a state construction company which directly recruits building workers, tradespeople and apprentices to deliver and maintain social and affordable housing in conjunction with local authorities.

Education: Boxes Ticked, But No Commitments

The section on education is highly general and vague. There are references made to the many problems in our education system, but this does not disguise the lack of real commitment for improvement:

  • There is no commitment to reduce class sizes in primary schools, merely the vague ‘seek to make further progress’. Ireland has one of the worst teacher-pupil ratios in the OECD.
  • There is talk of encouraging ‘critical thinking’ but no commitments for investment in science or proposals on how to reduce rote learning.
  • There is reference to the need to help ‘gifted and talented pupils’ but few specifics on how to help students to overcome disadvantage, particularly in relation to the digital divide.
  • The Programme says it will ‘increase the capitation grant’ – but gives no commitment to move to 100% funding of schools.
  • There is reference to an audit of school buildings, but no policy to stop use of bogus self employment in construction or end the policy of Public Private Partnerships.
  • The Programme only commits to a pilot scheme for free school books. Despite rising costs, there is no move to stop publishing companies bringing in ‘new editions’ to prevent transfer between pupils. There will be no state scheme for free books for all.
  • The Programme commits to a small target of 400 multi-denominational schools by 2030 – long after this government is gone. This will still leave the vast majority of schools in the ownership of Catholic church.
  • It advocates for ‘a  curriculum of multi-religious beliefs’, but gives no defence for students who do not want any religion. There are no moves to stop the Catholic Church using schools to push its own religious ethos.
  • It places emphasis on teachers delivering ‘measurable improvements’. This will mean teachers will have to spend even more time on paperwork, rather than focusing on teaching.
  • The Programme states it will “support continued investment in our Special Needs Assistants”. There is currently a severe shortage of SNAs, but there are no figures given for any kind of increase.
  • It says it will ‘improve access to supports for positive mental health in schools’. Yet without substantial and sustained investment in youth mental health services, there can be no improvements.

Higher Education

  • There is no commitment to abolish fees or even a commitment to reduce fees when higher level education moves online due to Covid-19.
  • There is no commitment to a reduction in the outrageous level of fees for international students, which can be three times the EU rate for those outside the EU.
  • The Programme emphasises upskilling, but makes no specific arrangements for education leave for workers.
  • It commits to expand apprenticeships to 10,000 a year. However, there is no commitment to ensure apprentices get proper rates of pay.
  • It states that the new government will ‘Expand linkage between  research and enterprise’  Research in universities is already too business focused – we need more impartial research in public interest, particularly in areas such as pharmaceuticals.

Protecting The Elderly?

Simon Harris said in April that “at the end of this pandemic there’s going to be the need for a real policy discussion about how we care for older people”. This appears to be forgotten now. The PfG will leave intact the provision of elderly care by private for profit companies. In Ireland, long term residential care is run overwhelmingly (80%) by private firms. Similarly home care hours are increasingly provided by private companies. This means many workers on poor pay, long hours and precarious contracts. It also means the service suffers and staff ratios are lower than they should be. The massive death rate from Covid-19 in our nursing homes shows that the state has abandoned many of our elderly and that leaving elderly care to for profit companies is a disaster. Once again, this Programme shows that Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens have learnt nothing for the Covid-19 crisis.

Childcare Costs Will Remain Unaffordable

The PfG attempts to spin the policy on early childcare and education. In reality it will maintain the system of largely private early childcare and education. This system failed miserably to provide affordable childcare for parents. The Government itself failed to even provide childcare for our front line workers because of this fragmented private system. This failure comes from the privatised nature of the system. Ireland has the highest level of private provision of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECEC) in the OECD, along with low Government investment, low wages for educators and high fees for consumers. We spend less than any other EU country on early childcare. despite the relatively high fees, the wages of workers in the childcare industry remain low. The average hourly rate for Early Years Educators (Assistants) is €11.44 which is below the living wage of €12.30 per hour. There is a huge turnover of staff in the sector (over 23%) because of poor pay and conditions. Public provision in other countries shows childcare tends to be more affordable, accessible, and of higher quality than in countries where it is reliant on private provision.

The PfG means we stick to neoliberal, for profit provision of childcare, health services and care for the elderly.

Disability: A Rehash Of Old Policies

The disability section of in the PfG is a rehash of policies that the state has failed to implement over the past 10 years. Nowhere in the Programme does it offer a solution to the fact that 36.5% of people with disabilities aged between 20-64 are unemployed compared to 73% of their able bodied counterparts. The PfG makes reference to the promotion of awareness among employers to help them engage people with disabilities. However, there is very little substance and very few solutions as to how that can be achieved. There are references to the development of initiatives like “remote working”, which could further exclude and isolate people with disabilities who wish to participate in society as equals.

The long awaited personalised budget scheme is mentioned, but once again there is no timeline given for its implementation. Rather than a state led system the PfG talks of using “service brokers”, once again monetising people’s medical needs to benefit the private sector.

There is the brief mention of recruiting the additional supports needed to fulfill the state’s responsibility for tackling the issues around assessment of need. Previously it was stated that up to 400 Occupational Therapists would need to be recruited to meet the waiting list in Munster alone, but the programme only looks to meet a one year target. People with disabilities are isolated and vulnerable due to the continued under-resourcing of the sector. Lack of recruitment compounds the situation, but the PfG offers nothing in the way solutions to rectify this. Overall, the PfG actions in relation to PWD are more about than real substance. Those struggling with disabilities will once again find themselves wanting when it comes to inclusion and equality.

More Lip-service On Arts & Culture

More than ever before during the Covid-19 crisis, our society relied for its well-being and mental health on the arts, music, books, film, TV and culture generally. The health crisis reminded us that life would be unthinkable without art, music literature and culture.

Yet like every previous government in recent years, the new PfG simply pays lip service to the need to support the arts and culture without making any tangible commitments to address the dire underfunding of the arts sector and the income and employment insecurity faced by the majority of artists, performers, arts workers and crew.

Incredibly, the document actually drops the commitment of the previous government (which it never delivered) to double arts spending.

Instead the new PfG recycles vague commitments and aspirations seen many times before with no tangible commitments on the funding, resources and legislation needed to make any of it happen.

What we need:

  • An immediate commitment to double arts spending and a rapid move towards increasing overall arts spending from the current 0.1% of GDP to the EU average of 0.6%
  • A guaranteed living income and legal minimum payments for artists, performers, arts workers and crew.
  • Retention of the €350 pandemic payment and its extension to all unemployed arts workers at least until the arts and live performance sector have fully recovered.
  • A minimum requirement on broadcasters for 30-40% of output in music, drama & cultural output to be domestically produced.
  • Major increased investment in community and youth arts programmes and expansion of arts education in schools and increased employment opportunities for arts workers in these areas.
  • Payment of artists and performers for on-line output and restoration of residuals and royalties for repeat showings and broadcasts.
  • Establish a proper training, accreditation and qualification structure for all categories of arts workers and crew, strengthen employment rights and career pathways and set up an artists and arts workers pension scheme.
  • Impose a special profits tax on digital companies & on-line media & broadcasting corporations to fund arts, culture and public service broadcasting.

Conclusion

Far from being the transformative programme we urgently need, the PfG is a cynical attempt to paint the same old Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil policies with a Greenwashed, progressive tint. Moreover, it is clear that these parties intend to pay for the Covid-19 crisis through the same old methods of borrowing on the bond markets and inflicting austerity on workers and the poor in order to pay back the loans. There will be no effort to tax the enormous wealth in this country or to challenge the power of the agricorporations, the investment funds and the corporate landlords.

The one positive note is that if the PfG is voted through, there will be no honeymoon period for this government. Workers and those who are struggling have no illusions over what FG and FF are about and know that the presence of a Green mudguard will do nothing to protect them. It is imperative that workers get organised – in unions and on the streets – to resist the coming attacks, to protect the most vulnerable and to fight for a decent society that looks after us all.

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Greens Urged Not To Cave Into Establishment Pressure

By People Before Profit

TDs from People Before Profit and RISE have urged the Green party members not to cave to establishment pressure by signing up to a regressive and conservative Programme for Government.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD said: “The driving factor in the historic vote on February 8th was the demand for radical change to address crisis’ in housing, health, climate and the cost of living for workers and families. This Programme for Government fails utterly to achieve any of this. It is nothing but a rehashed version of failed policies of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil with a light green gloss. All the Hollywood glitz in the world cannot mask that fact.

“For example, on housing instead of breaking from the failed policy of relying on private developers and selling off public land it recommits to the Land Development Agency (LDA) which is nothing more than a vehicle for the privatisation of public land. The targets for social housing output are desperately inadequate and a continuation of existing policy and there’s also nothing concrete, tangible or radical to address the lack of affordable housing for working families and the extortionate cost of rents.

“There is also nothing in this for workers and ordinary families in terms of addressing low pay, the high cost of living and unaffordable childcare.”

Bríd Smith TD said: “Despite the spin the actual gains on key environmental issues are largely illusory in the PfG. It is clear that privately built LNGs using conventional gas will not be affected. It’s clear we will see nothing like a 7% CO2 cut in the lifetime of this Government nor really any challenge to the agri food policy that is determined by the interests of the Lary Goodmans and large corporate entities. Incredibly, the programme actually accepts the crazed plan for data centres that will burn up any increase in our renewable energy output while it is quietly accepting of the privatisation of our national  renewable energy resources by leaving its development to private finance and investment just as our national retrofitting schemes will be dependent on private companies for delivery.”

Gino Kenny TD said: “What is needed for this country to deal with historic overcrowding in our hospitals and have the capacity to deal with a potential second Covid wave is a single tier National Health Service where people can be treated based on their medical need and not their ability to pay. This pandemic has exposed the huge weaknesses and gaps in vital public services in health. We are overly reliant on private for-profit providers in our general health system but also in providing early childcare and elderly care. This fragmented, fractured privatised system has failed and must be changed.

“Already we have seen today that a number of hospitals across the country have no spare capacity because of non-Covid related healthcare returning. The decision to allow the extra capacity that we had be returned to the private sector is madness. It is also unbelievable that the government, having secured the services of amazingly brave healthcare staff, who answered the Call for Ireland, decided to give these workers essentially hire and fire‘em contracts designed so that they could be thrown on the scrap heap whenever the government decides.”

Paul Murphy TD said: “The pressure being placed on the Greens to vote for a bad Programme for Government is incredible. It’s been reported today that Lorna Bogue was suspended as a member at the start of May for openly opposing the opening of coalition talks with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

“Regardless of the pressure applied, the deal remains a bad deal for workers and for the climate. Grassroots Greens should resist that pressure in the knowledge that there is an alternative – to join with the eco-socialist left in campaigning for real climate action and to fight for a left government which would implement a socialist Green New Deal.”

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System Change, Not Greenwashing

By Eoghan O Ceannabhain

The Programme for Government from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party is not a radical or far reaching document and will not deliver what we need on climate. It remains committed to neoliberal economics and relies on private investment and private business to deliver renewable energy and retrofitting of homes. This is fundamentally a continuation of the failed Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil policies of the past, with the Green Party being asked to step up once again to be their mudguard.

This deal is built to fail.

It won’t deliver 7% cuts in Co2:

The document accepts that cuts to emissions will not feature significantly until after 2026, i.e. after the next election. This is not because of some technical point or because the ground work has to be laid first for future cuts.

It is because there is no way of tackling the systemic cause of emissions without tackling the corporate interests embedded in the current economic system, and that is what this government will never do.

As such this is a fig leaf to hide the predictable failure to deliver any cuts between now and the next election. Failure to reach targets in the next 5 years makes the task of cutting CO2 by 50% by 2030 next to impossible.


It won’t stop the growth of the national herd or tackle the corporate agri-food giants like Larry Goodman:

Agriculture is hardly touched at all, even though it accounts for 30% of emissions. The programme states that, “The special economic and social role of agriculture and the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane as described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be fully recognised in plans to achieve these targets.” (30)

This is an attempt to downplay the role of methane in climate mitigation policy. The claims made in the programme have been refuted in a recent document from Stop Climate Chaos.

The programme’s main proposal for agriculture is: “Building on Ireland’s relative carbon efficiency in food production and ensuring the delivery of the measures identified by Teagasc to the fullest extent possible.” (32)

Stop Climate Chaos state very clearly:

“The 2019 Climate Action Plan launched by Minister Bruton set indicative targets for greenhouse gas mitigation from the agricultural sector. However, the achievement of these reductions will depend on the effectiveness of on-farm advisory services, and  the voluntary uptake of Teagasc efficiency measures which to date have not delivered promised absolute emission reductions. If current policy is not working, it needs to be changed.”

Moreover, the estimated reductions for agriculture from the Teagasc proposals, is a total of 17.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent for the period between 2021 and 2030. Yet, emissions in Agriculture are 20 million tonnes per year, meaning over 200 million tonnes by 2030 if business continues as usual.  A 50% cut by 2030 would require a fall by 100 million tonnes. This programme goes nowhere near that and shows no ambition to even aim for those kinds of cuts.


It does not stop the building of LNGs:

The programme only commits to withdrawing the Shannon project from a priority list of projects in the EU and says it will not support the importation of fracked gas. It says nothing about other non-fracked forms of gas. While fracked gas is a particularly dirty form of fossil fuel in terms of CO2 emission, this is not the only issue. Gas is a problem in all its forms.

The boom in gas production worldwide is driving a rise in methane and CO2 emissions globally and is making any reduction in levels next to impossible. Both Next Decade and New Fortress energy who are the US based company’s pushing the Shannon and Cork projects have huge interests in gas fields across North America.

Much of these are fracked, but many are not and it is conceivable that this agreement would allow for LNGs to be built if they commit to importing non-fracked gas into Ireland.

It won’t stop the growth of Data Centres:

It is estimated that data centres will consume 30% of all electricity produced in the state by 2030. There are major plans for their proliferation across the country, driven by FDI and the needs of big business. They are utterly unsustainable and will consume most of the renewable energy forecast to come online by then, as well as vast quantities of water.

They provide few jobs and are pushed only as a sop to the multi-nationals here who need data centres for their business and growth model. Incredibly, this programme supports and plans for their growth, stating that the Government will endeavour only to make sure they use energy efficiently! Data centre growth is not compatible with Ireland reaching the emissions cuts needed.

It leaves a mass retrofitting program to the private sector to deliver:

Retrofitting homes to a high standard, preferably to an A-energy rating is a necessary step if we are to reduce our energy use, reduce CO2 emission and make our homes healthier. The programme rehashes previous targets and is actually less ambitious than last year’s all party Climate Action plan.

But the real problem is that the role of the state is minimal. The proposed Government is merely proposing a range of incentives for businesses and individuals with vague promises for dedicated apprenticeships who will then find work with private companies to undertake the retrofitting.

It will not be possible to deliver the scale and pace of retrofitting needed if it is left to various private companies competing for the jobs. It will also leave most ordinary workers with impossible costs that cannot simply be deferred onto future energy bills. The voluntary take-up of such a scheme will not reach the levels needed when the cost is to be borne by people already struggling in the middle of a recession.


It plans for the privatisation of Ireland’s renewable energy:

The suggested targets for offshore wind energy show no real ambition and are completely at the mercy of the decisions of private investment and business. They mention exploiting 30GW of offshore wind in deep waters of the Atlantic – but they only plan to develop 5GW by 2030.

Again, the state is only an enabler; it will fast track planning and provide the legal framework while the end goal is a system of privatised energy extraction. Just as both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael gave away the state’s oil and gas, now they plan to give away our renewable energy.

But the betrayal here is even worse. This programme means that reaching the targets and tapping the country’s huge potential will be decided NOT by the science of what we need to do to combat climate catastrophe, but by the profit needs and investment choices of private companies.


There is no radical transformation in public transport:

There are no targets or figures for how much will be invested in public transport, no figures for the amount of extra buses or trains that will be provided and no commitment to free public transport – merely a review of the fare structure. The NTA, a neoliberal quango that has sought to erode the state public companies in CIE and has privatised bus routes to UK-based private operator GoAhead, will be given greater powers and an even greater role. There are only vague commitments to electrifying the bus fleet with no figures or targets.


System Change Not Greenwashing

This Programme for Government is not a Green New Deal, but greenwashed neoliberal politics. A Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael led government will not come close to taking the radical steps needed to address the climate emergency.

People Before Profit call on the members of the Green Party to reject this deal. The policies presented are seriously lacking as solutions to the crisis. A coalition with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is fundamentally a betrayal of the movement. Workers and the planet will be sacrificed in their defence of major corporations and the profit motive.

In facing this coalition led by the two major parties of the right, the climate movement must continue to build strength on the streets, in our workplaces and in our communities and loudly make the call for genuine system change.

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1,000 Irish Scientists Warn It’s Too Soon To Re- Open

By Siomha Ní Aonghusa

1,000 scientists, doctors and academics have all signed a letter that strongly opposes the governments plan to accelerate the opening up of the economy, warning that we risk a second wave.

The scientists have made the valuable point the risks to the economy from a second wave of Covid- 19 would be even more drastic.

But big business should not be in the driving seat here, either way, and it’s clear that Leo Varadkar is taking his lead from the likes of ISME and IBEC (both of whom have had meetings with the government this week), instead of the medical and scientific experts who have been sounding the alarm since the start of the pandemic.

There are unique risks associated with a return to work indoors, in tight spaces, with poor ventilation or air conditioning that can carry and re-circulate the virus for hours on end.

We have already seen the virus take hold in meat plants, and an accelerated re- opening of the economy risks this occurring at a much greater level.

Fine Gael cabinet ministers continue to emphasise the economy in debates with health officials.

But scientists are arguing that instead of just ‘’flattening the curve’’, we should aim to ‘’crush the curve’’, as they managed in New Zealand.

The opening up of non-essential work should be delayed and crucially, any return to work must be paired with massive investment in testing and tracing.

Equally importantly, there must be continued financial support for all those out of work. The 350 pandemic emergency payment must continue as long as necessary, and there should be a mortgage and rent amnesty as well.

For those who say the state can’t afford it- the banks were bailed out with €64 billion. In comparison, three months of pandemic payments has cost €5 billion. If the same bail out that was given to the banks was given to people who need it, we could continue this payment for six years! How about a bailout for workers?

Nobody should be forced back to work a minute before it is safe.

The government must pay heed to experts warnings, and put health before profit.

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Racism & Classism Rife In Fine Gael

By Eoghan O Ceannabhain

Fine Gael Councillor Jim O’Leary made headlines yesterday when he tweeted about his “love” for a photo of the Blueshirts engaged in a Fascist salute. And indeed, this isn’t the first time he has said something like this. A few months ago, he tweeted, “Thank God for the Blueshirts, who saved us from working class republican socialists, communists and anarchists”. 

Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael make no secret of their hatred of the working class, but will they allow open support for the Fascist Blueshirts to stand? Thus far, O’Leary has stood by his comments and Fine Gael have declined to comment.

O’Leary’s latest outburst comes only a week after Varadkar’s speech last week where he described racism as “a virus”. How can anyone take him seriously if representatives are allowed to declare their support for a Fascist group that railed against “foreigners and Jews” and at one point was hoping to establish a Fascist dictatorship?

But once you take a look, you find that racism is rife in Fine Gael. In recent years there has been a veritable litany of racist incidents involving their representatives, many of whom have stoked up racism to appeal to their base and to divide workers against one another.

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan not long ago campaigned against the provision of accommodation for Travellers in Mount Anville, with a leaflet saying that this would be “a waste of valuable resources”.

Varadkar himself declared last year with no evidence whatsoever that people were coming to Ireland from Albania and Georgia with fake documents.

Then there is Verona Murphy, who said that asylum seekers would need to be “deprogrammed” for fear they might have been “infiltrated by ISIS”. She was supported by Fine Gael until she didn’t win a seat in the bi-election – only then was she removed as a candidate.

No action was taken against Limerick Councillor Stephen Keary, who said that “non-nationals” and “Eastern European benefit tourists” were responsible for hospital waiting lists a few years ago.

Kildare Councillor Darren Scully was expelled from Fine Gael for saying he wouldn’t represent Black Africans back in 2011. He was welcomed back into the party two years later, and in 2015 declared that the drowned Syrian refugee toddler, Aylan Kurdi, and his family, “were not fleeing for their lives”.

More recently Councillor David McManus of South Dublin said that those who attended Black Lives Matter protests should have their €350 Covid payment stopped. McManus has had absolutely nothing to say over the scandal in Direct Provision where asylum seekers have been prevented from social distancing. Nor has he called for sanctions on meat plants who have put their workers in danger. Instead, he has targeted anti-racist protests and taken the opportunity to engage in some welfare-bashing at the same time.

Jim O’Leary is not an anomaly in Fine Gael, therefore. Fine Gael stoke up racism on a regular basis, and they do so for a reason.

It is Fine Gael and their counterparts Fianna Fáil whose policies are responsible for the housing crisis. It is them who are responsible for the health crisis. It is them and who are responsible for the immense inequality and suffering in our society.

Challenging any of these issues would require tackling the big corporations, the landlords and the elite interests that Fine Gael represent. They have zero interest in doing this, so instead they stir up racism to appeal to the most reactionary elements of their base and to pit workers against one another.

Varadkar is right to say that racism is a virus, but what he did not say is that it is also a weapon – a weapon that Fine Gael often wield when it suits them.

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People Before Profit Td Raises Concerns About Cork Lng And Government Formation Talks

By People Before Profit

Bríd Smith TD of People Before Profit received an answer to a parliamentary question in respect of future plans for an LNG terminal in Cork harbour which raises some interesting political questions concerning government formation talks.

Bríd Smith TD asked: “Does Eamon Ryan and the Green Party know about the stated plans? If not, why weren’t they told by Minister Bruton? But crucially how strong a commitment on stopping the importation of fracked gas has been given in the Program for Government by Fine Geal and Fianna Fáil?”

“This raises serious questions for the climate movement and the ongoing government formation talks.”

To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the status of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Port of Cork and a company (details supplied) to develop Cork LNG specifically; if the memorandum is still operating; if his Department has had communication from the Port of Cork on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) Details supplied: US energy company NextDecade

REPLY


At the outset, I wish to point out that this is a commercial operational matter for the Port of Cork Company.

I understand from the Port of Cork Company that they signed a Memorandum of Understanding  with NextDecade  in 2017 to attract new LNG business into Ireland from the USA. Next Decade is a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) development company which is focused on LNG export projects.

Next Decade propose to import LNG through a FSRU (Floating Storage and Regasification Unit) which acts as a floating storage LNG terminal which will be moored permanently in the harbour. A new FRSU will most likely be commissioned and built for this purpose.

Next Decade and the POCC have had preliminary meetings with the relevant Departments and stakeholders. They have met with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) and Gas Networks Ireland (GNI).  DCCAE and GNI indicated they are supportive of the project which will feed gas into the national pipeline located beside the proposed site of the new facility. This would give security of gas supply nationally into the long term and in the context of Brexit.  

It is also planned that the FRSU facility would be able to provide an LNG refuelling and bunkering facility for ships at the Port of Cork, which would meet the requirement under the EC Alternative Fuels Directive for TEN-T ports. This facility would also be able to provide competitive bunkering to all Irish ports.  

A feasibility study is currently being undertaken by Next Decade on where the vessel should be moored and environmental and regulatory matters are being examined. The site chosen will most likely be near the Whitegate refinery, with Bord Gais and the ESB facilities already located in the port. The development will be subject to all the normal planning requirements and compliance with all necessary consents. The proposed project falls under the remit of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

I understand that the project has not progressed at the pace the Port of Cork Company originally envisaged. One of the factors for the delay is the worldwide economic climate and in particular the drop in oil prices internationally. The Port of Cork Company advise that the project remains at a very preliminary stage and the Memorandum of Understanding expires at the end of this year.

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By Siomha Ní Aonghusa

Despite a concerted attempt to stop protests, the Black Lives Matters movement drew thousands
onto the streets over the past few days with social distancing. The worst attempt to prevent protests occurred in the North where police staged roadblocks, called to the houses of organisers and issued on the spot fines. This followed a joint executive statement
signed by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

But an aerial photograph showed that during Belfast protest participants stood in squares apart from
each other. Despite this, police in Derry and Belfast issued on the spot fines. In sharp contrast,
the PSNI failed to visit any of the meat plants where many workers contracted Covid-19 due to the lack of
proper social distancing.

In Dublin, there is a criminal investigation under way into the Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Dublin on Monday June 1st. the targeting of these protests under the pretext of safety concerns is all the more outrageous when you consider that the state has not found it necessary to pursue the flagrant flouting of Covid safety restrictions by bosses on building sites, of Keelings, or in the meat plants.

Seems there’s one rule for big business, another for ordinary people trying to assert their human rights.

Despite this intimidation by the state, the sheer scale of the protests shows how strong feelings are running – and it is not just about
events in the USA. At every protest there was a call to end Direct Provision in Ireland where 6,000
people are being held in cramped conditions run by business people whose main concern is profit.


As well as Derry and Belfast, protests were also held in Dublin and social distance measures were taken at the SPIRE on O Connell
Street and the US Embassy. In Waterford, 700 people marched through the town in an unofficial protest after original organisers
cancelled the event. A big protest also occurred in Galway where participants adhered to social
distancing rules. In Carlow, protestors met in a wide-open space and kept well apart from each
other.

200 people attended a protest in Bray. 50 came to one in Balbriggan. About one hundred came to
one in Kilkenny. 150 turned up in Sligo. Scores of people turned up in Monaghan, Navan, Dingle,
Castlebar, Westport, Ballina.


For the first time, young Irish-Africans played a leading role in protesting and many spoke of how tired they were
of racist abuse and racial profiling.

In almost every area, a high level of responsibility was shown as people every effort was made to
keep social distance.

This movement shows no signs of abating and we should all support it. An injury to one is an injury to all. Please sign this petition calling for all fines and charges against BLM activists to be dropped.

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US Revolt: No Justice – No Peace

By People Before Profit

America is experiencing its biggest uprising since 1968 – the year Martin Luther King was assassinated.  Despite the threats of more shootings, tens of thousands have joined in protests in scores of cities.  The racist bully, Donald Trump, was forced to go into a  White House bunker as hundreds gathered outside his residence.

The uprising is being fueled by two  causes which are now intertwining.

The first is the open racism of US police forces. The public lynching of George Floyd, who was murdered in broad day light as he shouted ‘I can’t breathe’, has brought home the reality of that racism. Black people are nearly four times as likely to be killed by police officer as white people.

This arises because there is a  deep structural racism  at the heart of US society that stretches back to the era of slavery. Even after the slave owning states of the Southern confederacy were defeated in a civil war, their ruling class came back by using open terror. They resorted to lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan to drive black people back into a subordinate position. The poison of that racism has spread throughout US society and is typified by the remarks of Trump.

The second cause of the anger is the death of 100,000 people from Covid-19. Trump’s insanity in telling people to drink bleach symbolises the total ineptitude of the US state. The wealthist country in the world could not mobilise its resources to protect the poor, because it cares far more about profit. As a result, black people and poor people have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

In order to stop the uprising, Trump has taken to denouncing the radical left and Antifa as terrorists. But the real terrorists are racist police officers with guns who seek to intimidate and promote white supremacy.

Nor should anybody be taken in by the constant media focus on ‘looting’. The reality is that tens of thousands are taking part in peaceful demonstration and looting arises because there is deep inequality and poverty in the US.

The only reason why a white police officer has been charged – albeit with third degree murder- has been because militant action led to the burning of police stations. The US ruling class are frightened -and they need to be.

People Before Profit in Ireland  extends its full solidarity to the US protestors and the Black Lives Matter movement.

We want to build a world that is cleansed of racism, Trumpism and white supremacy.

In the meantime, please join the many protest that are being organised rapidly:

Saturday, 6 June 3 PM The US Embassy, Dublin
– Saturday, 6 June 3 PM The Spire
(These two are simultaneous events to give people a better change to attend – #Covid19 restrictions)
– Saturday 6 June 2PM Limerick, Arthur’s Quay Park
– Saturday, 6 June 3 PM Sligo Doorly Park

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Wed June 3rd: Support An All-Ireland National Health Service

By People Before Profit

There will be a day of action in support of a 32 county NHS on Wednesday June 3rd. This is timely as there is already pressure building up to return private hospitals to the two tier system. They should be taken into public control on a permanent basis and integrated into a 32 county NHS.

To coincide with the Day of Action, there will be a protest at the Department of Health in Baggot St, Dublin at 4.30 on Wednesday June 3rd.

A similar protest will also take place the Department of Health in Belfast.

There will also be regional protests at some hospitals. For updates on locations see https://www.facebook.com/pg/Campaign4IrishNHS/events/

We are urging all People Before Profit members and supporters to engage in a thunderclap at 6pm. You can use two hashtags ‘All Ireland NHS Now’ and ‘No Going Back’. We urge you to take a picture and share this or similar slogan on your social media.

People Before Profit have successfully moved a  motion at the Derry & Strabane Council meeting calling for support to the campaign for an All-Ireland National Health Service.

This link will give you access to placards supporting the campaign. Feel free to download and print them. There are four different placards both in formats that you can print on one sheet of paper, or print on two sheets and join them together to make a bigger poster.

The full text of the motion was:

‘The COVID-19 crisis presents an unprecedented threat to public health. The scale of the crisis clearly demonstrates the critical role of a fully funded and protected public health service.

Council agrees that two divergent public health strategies to deal with a pandemic on the island of Ireland, North and South, is irrational, impractical and dangerous.

Council calls for a fully integrated all-Ireland public health strategy.

Council supports the campaign for an all-Ireland health service free at the point of delivery from the cradle to the grave.

Council agrees to invite representatives from the all-Ireland health service campaign to make a presentation to Council.

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The Murder Of George Floyd: No Justice – No Peace

By People Before Profit

The murder of George Floyd, a 46 years old black man, in broad daylight in Minneapolis shows the shocking racism  at the heart of US society.

George Floyd was pinned to the ground while a white police officer pushed his knee into his neck. It lasted seven minutes and even though George was shouting ‘I cannot breathe’ and ‘I am about to die’, a public murder proceeded.

Minneapolis has a long history of police racism against black people. In November 2015, a twenty-four-year-old African-American man named Jamar Clark and shot dead while he was on the ground.

But it is not just Minneapolis. Throughout the USA, the probability of being shot by the police as a black, unarmed person versus as a white, unarmed person was 3.49 times higher.

The US President, Donald Trump, is an open inciter of racist violence. He has denounced protestors as ‘thugs’ and then in an ominous phrase, tweeted, ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’. It was a phrase used by a Florida police chief who declared “war” and pledged a violent reprisal on black people in Miami Beach, Florida, in 1967.

Trump is now itching to send in the military to exact punishment on the protestors.

The police officers who murdered George Floyd will probably not be prosecuted. No charges were ever brought against Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, on Staten Island, whose arrest was also recorded on video by a bystander.

This is the real story behind an uprising that is now underway in many parts of America.

One police station has already been abandoned and then set alight because protestors know there will never be any justice.

Socialists in Ireland give their full solidarity to the protestors who are seeking justice for the murder of George Floyd.

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Tension In Greens -Just Stay Out Of Coalition With FF And FG

By People Before Profit

Tensions are rising in the Green Party as councilors and more than 60 members have urged Catherine Martin to run for leadership.


The current leader, Eamonn Ryan, was part of a previous government with Fianna Fail and supported the bail out of banks and cut-backs on public transport.


Many Green Party members think that he would be a push-over in any deal with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.


Catherine Martin is a more ambiguous figure. She voted against entering talks with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael but has subsequently played a key role in negotiations. According to media sources she is playing a ‘constructive role’.


The reality, however, is that no matter who leads the Greens the key issue is whether they join the righty wing parties in coalition. Some Greens think that the economic recession that is set to follow Covid-19 will create favourable conditions to help the environment.


But they are wrong on two counts.


First, the class basis of FG and FF is to support the most privileged in Irish society. Neither of them will take private hospitals into public ownership to solve a looming health crisis. They will not tackle BIG Pharma to ensure that vaccine and testing equipment is made available to the population. They will inevitably attack the living conditions of working people.


Second, both parties are wedded to support the beef and dairy barons. They think that an expansion of global exports will help bolster Irish capitalism. But unless, there is a radical re-orientation of Irish agriculture – which will include major support of small farmers – Ireland will continue to be an environmental laggard.


Green Party members should first ensure their party stays out of coalition – and then choose whatever leader they want.

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UCD Imposing Rent On Trapped Students: Why We’re Not Surprised

By Eoghan O Ceannabhain

Throughout this academic year, UCD have rightly faced much criticism about the cost of renting on-campus accommodation. The cost of the rooms on offer, which is already the highest in Ireland, will be raised by 4% per year for the next three years. As the UCD campus falls within a rent pressure zone (RPZ), this is the highest amount legally permissible. By 2023, it will cost between €8,000 and €9,900 for 38 weeks of a single bed, a small bathroom, and a shared kitchen with facilities widely criticised by residents.

The student body was united in outrage against the continued running of an educational institution as a for-profit venture, organising many protests, setting up independent campaigns such as Fix Our Education, and contacting every TD we could. UCD President Andrew Deeks, who personally approved the spending of €7.5 million on his own office refurbishment mere months earlier, called the reaction to the rent hike “emotional”. I think most of us would be emotional if our rent, which was not cut during austerity, had risen by 76% since the start of the decade against the backdrop of controversial vanity projects.


Our rent protests were sadly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is set to bring with it a crippling economic recession and rampant unemployment. Other universities soon realised that complete economic collapse would be a poor time to bring in rent hikes. DCU, NUIG, and Maynooth have all cancelled their planned 4% annual rent increase.

UCD have unfortunately chosen to go in a different direction. Students were initially moved to vacant, and cheaper, accommodation to provide room for others to self-isolate, with little warning, no consultation, and no compensation. Once it was clear that in-person lectures and practicals would not be resuming, students were free to leave their accommodation and return home.

However, not all students could do so. Many are from abroad and could not leave due to restrictions on travel or the price of flights. Others had family members who were considered at high risk for the virus, and as such they chose to remain on the campus. UCD responded in predictable fashion and “offered” students two choices. They may either extend their rental licence for the full summer period (74 days) at a cost of €2002.44 or extend in two-week blocks on a rolling deal for €378.84 per block. Remember that these are students with no alternative who did not plan on a pandemic-enforced lockdown, so let us call this what it is: strong-arming.

The board are essentially taking €2,000 from people who have not budgeted for this expense, cannot find alternative accommodation, and may find themselves out of work, working a stressful essential service, or depending on a government subsidy. This will put unnecessary strain onto students far from loved ones and under the pressure of exams in unfamiliar circumstances.

I also worry what the repercussions will be for a tenant who cannot or does not pay. The very action of demanding this payment implies that students will face some form of punishment if they do not pay. Once you realise that evictions are not permitted for three months, the alternatives that spring to mind are a combination of PR disasters and complete breaches of ethics.

At the time of writing, UCD has yet to comment publicly on anything related to this payment. The solution is simple: charge less! The board and estate services must liaise with students to learn how their income and personal circumstances are affected by COVID-19 and adjust rates accordingly. These rooms would likely lie empty over the summer, and at €189.42 per week, would take up a majority of the €350 emergency welfare payment. Many students are not there because they want to be, they are there because they have to be. I would question why the students should foot such a hefty bill at short notice and in such precarious circumstances, while the college continues running social media ads and staff members on €200k+ salaries have not publicly committed to a pay cut.


It is truly saddening to see an internationally renowned institution with such wonderful people and such dedicated workers run by a board with endemic communication problems who value profit margins above student welfare. UCD should be known for its academic innovation, influential alumni, and greater role in Irish life. Instead, many current students feel the college sees them as nothing more than statistics and cash cows.
We enrolled in a university, not a business.

______________________

Jack Chester

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Disabled And Vulnerable In A Pandemic

By People Before Profit

These past months have been a strange and stressful time for our society and its people. We have had to adjust to new social norms which consists of social distancing and cocooning both to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens. During this pandemic,  the measures that government introduced to fight the spread of the virus were extreme and tough but people were willing to do what was deemed right for our society.

As hard as it has been, groups that have suffered hugely during these emergency pandemic measures, include our disabled, those with long term illnesses and our elderly community. Services that are essential in the lives of these groups, have been abruptly halted and removed with very little warning or consultation. People received emails or letters advising them that their services were to be suspended for the foreseeable future and that in the case of an emergency to contact their local HSE offices. Many of these offices have been closed or at best have had their services reduced to the minimum. Essential staff providing care and supports to

our disabled, vulnerable and elderly community, were redeployed without the full implication of the impact this would have on people who are already reliant on these often minimal services. In some cases people who are reliant on home help supports for their personal care were abandoned in the hope that family members would take over this responsibility with very little if any consolation.

With the sudden removal of these essential services, our societies most vulnerable were left feeling abandoned, lonely and forgotten.

Lack of communication and direct engagement has been one of the major issues facing vulnerable people throughout this whole crisis. Many have yet to receive any information on when they will see the return of their vital services.

What we have seen throughout this pandemic is that people with disabilities, complex medical needs, the elderly and those on the margins of ours society are all but an afterthought for those in power. When new recommendations were made in realation to critical care provision and prioritising patient care, disability activists and disability rights organisations had to step in to get clarification and guarantees from government that all patients would be treated equally . This led to the rewording of the protocol so that those with complex medical needs or a disability would not be excluded from accessing critical care due to their condition. Imagine that, at the beginning of this pandemic families were left worrying that if their vulnerable or disabled loved ones contracted Covid-19, they might not be given equal access to life saving medical interventions. This all stemmed from a belief that after years of neglect and mismanagement of our public health care system by successive governments it would not be able to cope under the pressure.

If anything, this pandemic has shown us that our health service needs to be a fully inclusive and accessible public healthcare system, one that is based on patients needs rather than their ability to pay. We cannot have a healthcare system designed to enrich a small few elite individuals, or one that is geared towards investment funds whose priority is solely to their shareholders.

We should never allow the healthcare of our people, the healthcare of our children and the healthcare of our most vulnerable to be commodified and sold off to the highest bidder. As a human right no one person should have priority above another person for the best care just because their wallet is fatter. We should measure our success during this pandemic on how we have protected our most vulnerable, our elderly and our disabled communities. At this moment in time,  that report card doesn’t look too healthy.

By Bernard Mulvany
People Before Profit Representative
Dublin Bay North

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Varadkar’s Logic: Risk Covid-19 Or Starve

By Eoghan O Ceannabhain

Ireland’s low wages are proving to be a real problem for Leo Varadkar. Yesterday, he once again talked about people “getting more on the pandemic unemployment payment than they got when they were working part-time”. The Taoiseach who won’t take a pay cut on his €211,000 a year salary for the duration of the crisis can’t stand the thought of struggling people having a few extra quid in their pockets to help them get through this.

So yesterday he proposed the following:
“When you are offered your job back, if you refuse it you actually lose your pandemic unemployment payment but your employer will be able to take you back on the wage subsidy scheme.”

It’s important to grasp what is happening here. Fine Gael are presiding over a reckless plan to prematurely get people back to work without being able to “test, track and isolate” every case of COVID-19, as per WHO guidelines. They are running the risk of a second wave of the disease, which could be more devastating than the first.

Workers are already being asked to come back to unsafe workplaces. This push will intensify in the coming weeks and months.

Now Varadkar is proposing that anyone who refuses to risk going back to unsafe work will lose their income supports.

What does Varadkar have to say to those who fear going back to work because they have a medical condition? To those who live with parents and could risk passing the virus on? To those who cannot work because they cannot find childcare?

Not only this, but many employers have used the Wage Subsidy Scheme as an opportunity to slash their employees wages already. Will workers be thrown off Unemployment Benefits if they refuse to come back for reduced wages?

Make no mistake: this is a cold and calculated move by Varadkar to use the whip of hunger to drive workers back to unsafe working conditions, no matter the risks to them or their families. It is also a clear strategy to help the bosses in their assault on wages.

We should resist this with everything we have. As a first step, we are looking to gather as many signatures as possible on our petition below to expand and extend the €350 payment. We must then begin to organise resistance to this vicious attack on workers:

https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/no-reduction-to-covid19-eu350-payment-1

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